Monthly Archives: March 2011

DRAFT THOUGHTS

All the mock drafts in the world can’t really predict the way the draft will turn out.  With mere speculation, analysts will tell you which players teams will choose.  Sure some will be right on, but really they’re wrong more times than right.  It’s just feeding in to our excitement as fans as to which direction our favorite teams will go.  As a San Francisco 49ers fan, I can’t wait to see who they land in the draft.  Many draft experts are thinking the 49ers will choose either a pass rusher or cornerback with their first pick and then look for a quarterback in the second round.  I am in agreement with this depending on who’s available when it comes to the seventh overall selection.

If Blaine Gabbert is there when the 49ers choose, I think no matter who is on the board still, whether it’s Patrick Peterson or Von Miller, Gabbert is the choice.  I know there have been hidden gems in the later rounds, but statistics show the quantity of successful quarterbacks chosen have been greater in the first round.  Though the 49ers need a skilled pass rusher and cornerback, quarterback has to take priority in this situation.  It takes the longest to develop and is the most important position in football.  That being said if Gabbert isn’t there when the 49ers draft and it looks that way, then by all means choose the best player available at a position of need.

They can look to draft Christian Ponder, who I believe would be the next best quarterback, but it’s likely they would have to move back in to the late first round to get him.  Gabbert is the only quarterback worth taking in the top 10.  He has the size, strength and mobility to be a star in this league.  The best thing he has which a quarterback needs most is moxie.  Gabbert has that quality; he is a leader.  I don’t think Cam Newton is worth a pick in the top 10; he looks too much like a very risky project.  This is what the 49ers had in Alex Smith.

Smith was a project and played the game too safe; he never had that moxie which is why he is a bust.  Aaron Rodgers had that quality and had Mike Nolan and Scot McCloughan not gone for the safer choice, their puppet to be molded, the 49ers would have drafted Rodgers and been in a much better position now.  Who knows, they might have been contending for a Superbowl.

Either way things work out for a reason and though us 49er fans have suffered for the last eight years, I do believe the team has turned the corner.  Jim Harbaugh will deliver the right quarterback; he will deliver a winning team; he will bring the 49ers back to relevance in the National Football League.  With a strong draft and the right quarterback, I truly believe this team will contend again.

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

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GO HABS GO

This weekend my family and I went on a trip to Montreal.  While there we visited family, went on a few tours and watched the Canadiens play the Washington Capitals.  I have been a Canadiens fan for nearly 22 years and had only been to one game, back in 1998, until now.  My brother, who came with me, became a Habs fan over the last 3 years.
It was a true honour to see the statues of the Habs greats outside the Bell Centre; players like Richard, Beliveau and Lafleur stood tall as I photographed each of them.  As I walked inside the Bell Centre, I felt like I was an 18 year old seeing the place for the first time again.  It was absolutely an amazing experience looking up at the rafters seeing all the retired numbers and Stanley Cup banners.  It didn’t hurt that we were 6 rows from the ice, near the centre.  The atmosphere inside was electric; chants of “Go Habs Go” and “Carey, Carey, Carey” echoed throughout the building.
The actual game itself wasn’t so great.  The Canadiens were sleeping from start to finish.  Only Carey Price was on his game stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 2-0 loss where Montreal was outshot 33-18.  It’s the third straight shutout loss for a Canadiens team struggling to stay in the playoffs.  Their playoff future seems secured but if they continue playing like this, it is possible they won’t make it.  They need to wake up and start playing better.
At the end of the game, Price was named the first star and as he came out he was tossing souvenirs to the crowd.

Overall in spite of the loss, it was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

CAMPBELL SHOULD BE COOKED

How is it that someone with only a high school diploma, is the Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the National Hockey League?  It is clearly evident through his actions recently, he is not qualified and should be let go.  He has shown favouritism to certain clubs, like the Boston Bruins, over the years.  How he has lasted nearly 13 years is beyond me.

On November 15, 2010, TSN and various other media outlets reported on a string of emails from Colin Campbell. The e-mail correspondence became a matter of public record in the wrongful dismissal case of referee Dean Warren against the N.H.L. and the emails were entered into evidence in the case, although specific references to names and dates were blacked out.  In these emails, Campbell calls Boston Bruins centre Marc Savard a “little fake artist” after Warren assessed Colin Campbell’s son, Gregory Campbell, a high-sticking minor on Savard and sending further emails to director of officiating Stephen Walkom complaining about the work of referees who gave Gregory a late-game penalty that resulted in a tying goal.  It’s funny how he considers Marc Savard a “little fake artist” when Savard’s career has been ruined with several concussions, the last coming from an illegal hit by Matt Cooke.  That’s the mark of a great VP; criticize a good hockey player who was hurt by his own son.

Campbell dropped the ball again with his “expertise” in the Zdeno Chara ruling with Mike Murphy nearly two weeks ago, which saw Chara get away with an illegal hit to Max Pacioretty; a hit still talked about today.  Now again he had another chance to right the ship.  Though I still believe Campbell is not fully qualified to be in the position he’s in, at least he handed out a pretty severe suspension to Cooke today.  The incident with Cooke occurred less than five minutes into the third period of Sunday’s Rangers and Penguins game, when Cooke went high and landed an elbow on Ryan McDonagh‘s jaw.  McDonagh had his back turned to the Penguins forward, and was in the process of shooting the puck into the offensive zone.

“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said Campbell. “This isn’t the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response.”

Matt Cooke represents everything that’s wrong with this league.  He’s injured so many with his illegal hits and it’s time the league does something about it.  Enough is enough with this guy!  If it were up to me, I would banish him from the league!  I don’t think 14 games is enough of a suspension.  He’s already been suspended for minimal time and no progress has ever been made.  Simply put, Cooke hits to injure.  He’ll deny it but the evidence is all over.  So many injuries have come at Cooke’s expense, so why is he still allowed to play?  At least Campbell should have suspended him for the rest of the season with a hearing scheduled at a later date to discuss if Cooke should be allowed to play again.

If I were Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, I would release him.  I wouldn’t want him playing for my team or any association with him whatsoever.  Lemieux expressed his disgust with the punishment of the New York Islanders after a fight-filled game February 11, 2011 against Pittsburgh.  Lemieux called the game a travesty, said the N.H.L.’s suspensions of two New York players did not send a strong enough message to deter on-ice violence, and he implored the league to do more to protect player safety.  Well take a stand Mario; fine your player for his behavior!  If Lemieux does nothing, he’ll just be joining the list of the hypocrites running the N.H.L.

It’ll be interesting to see what the reactions, if any,  from Lemieux are and the response from Campbell’s decision.

Sources:  TSN, Wikipedia, National Post, Toronto Star

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

BILLIONAIRES VERSUS MILLIONAIRES

So the war of the Billionaires versus the Millionaires continues.  The N.F.L. lockout, barely over a week old, continues to be the hot topic in Football.  It’s kind of hard to have any sympathy for these guys when the N.F.L. is the most profitable league in North America.  So the players union decertified and certain high profile players like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are suing the league.  What a mess.

Realistically the only people hurt by all this are the fans and the behind the scenes workers; I’m talking about the concession stand workers, the stadium maintenance workers, the people who deal with the experience of the game without touching the game itself.  Obviously the fans are hurt, but it’s those workers who will suffer the most.  Their livelihood is put on hold for some ridiculous fight for more money when both sides clearly have enough.  The funny thing is those employees have been brought in to this war.  They’ve been used as selling points to aid in the battle.  For anyone to say this lockout is about them, it’s just plain garbage.  This lockout has nothing to do about them; it has nothing to do about the fans.  Everything this lockout stands for is about more money.  Whether it’s $1 Billion or $1 Thousand, no matter because both parties want more of it.  It’s out of control.

Every major sport in the past decade or so has had a lockout or some form of strike for money control.  There is no such thing as “for the love of the game” anymore.  The funny thing is I wrote about this 11 years ago and nothing has changed; it’s only gotten worse.  So what can we the fans do?  Do we stop watching?  Do we stop going to the game?  Realistically that’s not going to happen.  We’re fans for a reason, we genuinely love sports.  So all we can do is sit here and take it on the chin every time some league fights over more money, which seems to be a 10 year thing.  When will they realize, eventually the fans will not agree with what I just said; eventually the fans will turn.  Many fans are the “average Joe’s” of this world, working a job which affords them a decent life and the ability to attend a few games here and there.  If they keep raising ticket prices, which is what they’ll keep doing in order to pay these ridiculous salaries, eventually the average person will stop attending.

The best bet for any sports league is to maintain a strong public profile where everything is running smoothly.  At best, even when they raise the ticket prices, the fans won’t grumble so much and still feel good about attending.  When there are constant battles between the owners and players, it just angers everyone, reducing the moral amongst the people who matter the most, the fans!

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

BRING BACK THE GLORY

With all the talk surrounding the National Football League (N.F.L.) lockout, the players union decertified and now the prospects boycotting the draft, I thought I’d leave that for another post and talk about my beloved San Francisco 49ers.

I can remember the incredible performance by the 49ers in Superbowl 24, it is the first game I remember watching.  A lot has changed since then, where the 49ers were always expected to be in the hunt for the Superbowl, now they are just trying to get back to a winning team.  It has been nearly a decade of futility filled with incredibly terrible coaching and poor personnel decisions.  Much of the blame has been directed on their owners, the Yorks.  Whereas the previous owner Eddie Debartolo Jr. did what it took to build a winner and remain a winner for 17 seasons with players like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, John York has taken the inexpensive route and produced 8 consecutive seasons without a winning record.

In the last couple of years John has turned over most of the control of his team to his son Jed.  Jed York is a brash young executive with the same passion for the game as his uncle Eddie had.  His problem is he is young and inexperienced which led to him hiring, quite possibly one of the worst head coaches ever, Mike Singletary over two years ago.  That coaching situation ended badly as has every other coaching situation since 2003.  Still though he will have growing pains as an executive, I believe Jed will bring the 49ers back to relevance in the N.F.L.  It all starts with the head coach he hired this year and his name is Jim Harbaugh.

When the 49ers hired him on January 7, 2011, it gave hope to a starved fan base longing for the good old days.  49ers fans can only hope this Stanford coaching product can be as good as his predecessor and mentor, Bill Walsh.  In Harbaugh I see a smart, confident coach who truly believes he can turn this franchise around.  I see a coach very knowledgeable in the x’s and o’s of football.  He does inherit a team with quite a bit of talent, only a few pieces away from being a playoff caliber team and dare I say, Superbowl contender.

Bringing the score to you,

Nick

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Boy oh boy this kid is playing phenomenal!  Carey Price is going to be 24 this year and already looks like he is one of the best goalies in the N.H.L.  In a big game against the Boston Bruins this week, he was as sharp as ever stopping 30 of 31 shots.  He continued his success Saturday night with a 26 save shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s been sharp all season with flashes of greatness.  He leads the N.H.L. in wins, games played and minutes.  He is second in shutouts with eight and is in the top 10 in nearly every other meaningful category for goalies.  He is definitely a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy.  When you think of all the ups and downs he’s gone through over the last 3 years, and especially in the hockey mad city of Montreal, it’s truly remarkable how he’s responded this season.  We’re talking about a city where hockey is life and some players choose not to play there because of the immense pressure.  Price lives on and is beginning to fulfill his destiny as a franchise goalie and dare I say world class goalie.  He is adored by the fans now and could potentially “steal” a few rounds in the playoffs.

When you look back at his brief career so far only one saying comes to mind, “What doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”.  Well that is definitely the case here.  He’s gone from being cheered in 2008 to being booed in 2009 and replaced with Jaroslav Halak in early 2010.

Halak, who was a key part in the Montreal Canadiens reaching the Eastern Conference Final in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was traded in the summer of 2010.  Many Canadiens fans were outraged over the deal and showed their displeasure while booing Price after a poor performance in an exhibition game this season.  I, for one, had never lost faith in Price.  I was and am happy they chose him over Halak even if Halak won the first meeting of the two Thursday night.  The Canadiens chose to keep the right goalie.  In my opinion, all he needed was a veteran presence to learn from, which he wasn’t getting with Halak.  Alex Auld has been that great influence on Price.

Now the chants of “Carey” in the Bell Centre are deafening and will continue throughout the playoffs should the Canadiens go on another run like last spring.

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

END OF THE ROAD FOR THE COYOTES IN PHOENIX?

Relocation continues to be a hot topic in the N.H.L. the last few weeks. More specifically surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes and the rumour of the team’s potential move to Winnipeg. The fall out of the deal between Matthew Hulsizer and the city of Glendale is being blamed on the Goldwater group refusing to release bonds of $116 million towards the $170 million deal to keep the coyotes from abandoning the Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes have been losing money since day one when they relocated from Winnipeg in 1996 and it appears it’s only getting worse. Gary Bettman is fighting to the bitter end to come to some kind of agreement to get this deal done. It appears it may never happen and of course the city of Glendale’s major concern is the possibility of several bars, restaurants and jobs around the arena will suffer and weaken an already unstable economic condition there.

Lets say the Coyotes move to Winnipeg next season, well they have buyers already lined up there. There’s a N.H.L. friendly arena which seats about 15,000 which was originally designed for the American Hockey League‘s (A.H.L.) Manitoba Moose, but could easily be converted to a NHL arena when they potentially add a couple thousand more seats. Lets face it Winnipeg is starving for hockey and they should have no problem filling seats night in and night out something they couldn’t do in Phoenix.  Phoenix is a much bigger city then Winnipeg however the interest in hockey is far greater in Winnipeg where hockey is religion. It is a Canadian city that absolutely cherishes the game and is equipped with a strong Canadian dollar, a brand new arena and a billionaire investor waiting for the green light to return hockey to Winnipeg. All this was working against Winnipeg nearly 15 years ago when they moved the Jets out to the desert. Now they are prime to land a N.H.L. franchise like the Coyotes.

Gary Bettman has run out of options and time is running out on the Phoenix Coyotes. This team has simply lost far too much money year in year out to ever make this thing work in the desert. I think we all agree that it’s about time Bettman pulls the plug on this franchise that has been a financial burden on the rest of the league. I assure you, they move this team back to Winnipeg and it will be far more successful and profitable then it ever could be in Phoenix. They will have great attendance, which in turn will bring in great revenue, not to mention making the league more money and run a lot healthier. It’s a no brainer Gary Bettman. Personally I think the coyotes have let out there last howl in the dessert! Bring back the Jets!!!

And that’s my two cents,

Domenic

WHAT HAPPENED TO ACCOUNTABILITY?

Tuesday night  I, along with many others, watched as Zdeno Chara‘s hit sent  Max Pacioretty‘s head into a glass stanchion, knocking Pacioretty out cold.  I watched as he laid motionless for several minutes.  I watched as he was taken out on a stretcher and sent to the hospital.  According to Montreal coach Jacques Martin, Pacioretty, 22, suffered a severe concussion and a fracture of the 4th cervical vertebrae when Chara ran him into the end of the glass that divides the players’ benches, late in the second period at Montreal’s Bell Centre.  It was an unfortunate play which very well may end Pacioretty’s N.H.L. career, which is a shame since he had been playing so well for the Canadiens.  Chara received a penalty for the interference and a game misconduct with a ruling set for Wednesday.  Many sports writers were certain Chara would be suspended, some even condemning his actions .

Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun wrote “Did Chara know the support post was there?   Almost certainly.   It was right beside the Bruins’ bench, past which both players were skating when he began to shove Pacioretty.  Did he maliciously push Pacioretty into the post?  Speculative, but not out of the question.  The two had clashed when Pacioretty scored the winning goal in a January game, and shoved Chara in the back afterward, as he celebrated.  But now, the league is into mind-reading, trying to put itself into Chara’s head and determine whether he meant to cause serious injury.  And it just doesn’t matter.  He did.”

There has to be a level of accountability when it comes to the players and their actions especially when it is perceived to be an “accident”.  I am in total agreement with Cam Cole’s statement.  Even though Pacioretty should have been more aware of where he was, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have his head shoved into the stanchion.  I just don’t buy into the ridiculous idea “it’s part of the game”.  I understand that it’s a rough sport, but when it comes to situations like this, when is the N.H.L. going to take a stand and hold players more accountable for their actions?  They had the chance Wednesday and they blew it.  They didn’t suspend Chara at all which is an outrage.

NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a news release.  “This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards.  I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.”

When is enough, enough?  What’s it going to take to get through to these people?  Does a player have to die to get through to them?  I’m sure Mike Murphy would think differently if it were his son or Colin Campbell‘s son.  Wait, Colin’s son does play and what a coincidence, he plays for the Boston Bruins same as Chara.  Barely three years in, Pacioretty may be forced to retire because of this unfortunate incident where a player was not mindful of his surroundings!  That’s what it all comes down to, being mindful of your surroundings.  Had Chara paid attention to where he was, he most certainly would not have driven Pacioretty’s head into the glass stanchion!  So where’s the accountability?

Bottom line, the hit was late; it was interference; it caused injury and while the design of the boards and glass were largely to blame for the severity of the injury, the responsibility is still with the hitter.  Chara should have been suspended, even if for a measly two games, though I think he deserved more.  To those reporters who agreed with the N.H.L.’s decision, I ask this:  Where is your humanity?

Sources:  Vancouver Sun and TSN

Until the next puck drops,

Nick

N.H.L. Relocation

The rumours continue to swirl around the fact that about a half dozen N.H.L. teams if not more are in red ink when it comes to running their franchises. More specifically in the sun belt, teams like Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville and Florida to name a few are repeatedly drawing poor attendance and losing tens of millions of dollars a year in running their franchises.

This is a concern that needs to be addressed. N.H.L. commissioner Gary Bettman has on many occasions said he would prefer not to go the direction of relocation and instead try to fix the problem in these struggling markets. The problem is not getting better its only getting worse. The obvious solution, and this is coming from a fan’s point of view, is to move a few teams north of the border where hockey is religion in every corner of the country.

Here are a few scenarios that would make the N.H.L. a more healthy and successful league on a whole:


Phoenix Coyotes -Moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg and bringing back the Jets would be a great move. They have a N.H.L. ready arena and an ownership group in place ready to put the deal together. Don’t be surprised if the Coyotes are playing in Winnipeg as early as this fall. I say cheers to that!


Atlanta Thrashers– A second Canadian city that would be a great fit for the cash strapped Thrashers would be to move them to Quebec City and bring back the Quebec Nordiques. Quebec City is in the process of building a new state of the art N.H.L. arena that should be ready by 2015. In the mean time, they could play out of the old Colisée arena. Bottom line here, it is a great market, very profitable and a new arena is on the way. Bring back the Nordiques!

This is where it gets a little difficult, teams like Nashville, Florida and even the New York Islanders are in trouble. The problem is there is only so many strong markets to replace these struggling franchises with and when I say struggling I don’t mean their performance on the ice, I mean poor attendance, out dated arenas and poor revenue. You could move them to other U.S. cities like Kansas City for example where they have a brand new N.H.L. ready arena just sitting there waiting to land a team, however the N.H.L. has been in Kansas City before in the 1970s and failed miserable there.  They only lasted two seasons, then called the Kansas City Scouts, before relocating.

So I guess the question is, does the N.H.L. really want to go back to a market that has already failed? The obvious guess is no. Other U.S. markets that have shown interest are Seattle, Houston, Oklahoma City, Cincinnati to name a few. All questionable markets for hockey if you ask any expert. Another potential solution would be to contract a few teams. It’s a 30 team N.H.L. but with so many struggling franchises and so few great markets to go to, maybe contracting a few teams would be a feasible solution.

Which ever way you shake it the N.H.L. more specifically Gary Bettman needs to seriously assess some of these struggling markets and make a move if the N.H.L. wants to be a profitable league once again, something that has truly been lacking since he took over as N.H.L. commissioner some 18 years ago.

It’s about time The Commissioner takes action!

And that’s my two cents,

Domenic

PLAN BETTER MAN!

How much longer will he survive?

Oh Gary when will you learn!  Gary Bettman, the beloved National Hockey League (N.H.L.) Commissioner for the better part of the last 18 years, has failed to realize the error of his ways.  He’s sent the N.H.L. in such a downward spiral, it may never recover.  The continuous expansion into inferior markets has crippled this once prominent league.  In June 1994, just over one year into his term, the N.H.L. was considered one of the top four sports, possibly surpassing the National Basketball Association (N.B.A.) for number three.  In June 1994, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story headlined: “Why the NHL is hot and the NBA is not.”  Now, nearly 17 years later, the sport ranks near the bottom of the top 10.  What baffles me along with many other fans and reporters of the N.H.L. is that he continues to keep teams in these markets where they are constantly losing money and holding the league back.  He is even considering relocating a franchise to Kansas City, a market which failed miserably in the 1970s.  In the late 1990s he expanded into two markets which failed in the 1970s, those being Atlanta and Columbus.  Those markets continue to fail today.  There is a lot of speculation this will be the last season in Atlanta, possibly relocating to Winnipeg or Quebec City.  Phoenix is another location whose future is in jeopardy and could be relocated this year.  Here is the main difference between Bettman and his predecessors Clarence Campbell and John Ziegler Jr, who ran the league in the 1970s.  When the N.H.L. tried expanding the game in to different markets, both acknowledged the failures of those markets and either relocated or folded the franchises in less than a decade.  Bettman continues to keep them running for over a decade even though they lose millions a year.  He insists on keeping teams in Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Miami, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh and Tampa Bay when they should have never been there in the first place.  His reign has been, in the words of television broadcasting legend Ralph Mellanby, “a disgrace”.  Mellanby, the brains behind CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada for two decades, was exacting when he said:  “He’s done so much damage to hockey it may never recover.”  In summary, 18 years of glowing pucks, mid-week all-star games, uneven schedules, bankruptcies, horrific TV exposure, lockouts and lost seasons.  This league will not get better until Bettman is gone.  Hopefully that happens one day soon and the N.H.L. can flourish once more.

Sources:  Montreal Gazette and Sports Illustrated

Until the next puck drops,

Nick