Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"New NHL"...until the TV schedule comes out

OLN has released the games they are going to air in the "New" NHL. Seems they picked the same old teams that the Old NHL liked to promote.

I get how TV ratings work, and how you want the most eyeballs possible watching those games, so it makes sense to put the bigger markets on nationally. So, seeing Detroit, the Rangers, Boston, the Avs, and St. Louis on the schedule 8 times each isn't so shocking, from a market standpoint. From an "exciting hockey" standpoint, the Rangers haven't been to the playoffs in 7 years, the Blues are shadows of what they were the last time the NHL iced a game, and the Avs have lost some luster as well.

On the flip side, the NHL is out to market some of its new stars, and it should. Sidney Crosby's Penguins get 7 appearances and Alexander Ovechkin's Capitals get 6, so the last two first overall picks will be seen plenty. 2003's first overall pick is a Pen, so if Fleury sticks in Pittsburgh he'll be on TV with Crosby. First overall pick from 2002, Rick Nash, is on OLN once. (NBC, never.) This is the same Rick Nash that was all the talk in this year's World Championships...which is another event in which nobody in the US saw Rick perform. 2001's top pick, Illya Kovalchuk, is on OLN twice, so the top pick theory goes out the window pretty quickly.

Maybe OLN meant to showcase young American hockey stars: Zach Parise 2 appearances with the Devils, Ryan Suter 1 with the Predators, Ryan Kessler 1 with the Canucks. Nope, guess that wasn't it, either.

No, it seems OLN looked at the standings from the last season, tossed in the Rangers and the hockey hot bed of Minnesota and put them on TV. But, that can't totally be true, either, because the defending Western Conference champion Calgary Flames are on OLN one time. Playoff teams Toronto, Ottawa, and Nashville are on a combined one time.

So, the criteria for who is on and how many times aren't real clear. I was hopeful that when the contract went away from ESPN, that ESPN's favorite teams would cease hogging all the ice time. Guess that didn't happen. With 58 games on the air, that's 116 possible teams to make the schedule. Getting all 30 teams to air two times should be fairly easy, and a good way to expose the entire league, which is in DIRE need of exposure.

Thank God for Center Ice.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Why the Wings?

Since the FA season has opened, it seems plenty of prognosticators are still picking the Wings to win the Central. Why?

Osgood back in net? Datsyuk is in Russia, and may not come out of Russia. Zetterberg is as yet unsigned, too. That leaves the Wings with a veteran core. A core that has won the Stanley Cup, which isn't to be denied, but won it four years ago and before the "off year."

Chelly is 43, Yzerman 40, Shanny and Schneider 36, and $7 million man Lidstrom is 35. Kirk Maltby is a relative youngster at 32. Buying out McCarty seemed to be buying out a bit of the heart of the Wings, not that they'll be short on leadership.

But, here's the question: Can the aging Wings hang in the "New NHL" where the game is to opened up and speed to be a bigger factor? Can the perfectors of the left wing lock win in a non-left wing lockable NHL? The last time we saw the Wings they were getting bounced from the playoffs by a quick forechecking Calgary team. In round 1, the speedy Predators gave them fits for 6 games. Now, this type of game will be coming at them more often than not.

If obstruction truely goes away this year, can the Wings still stay on top of the Central? The Predators improved their playoff roster, the Jackets youngsters are all a year older and have been complemented by some solid free agent pick-ups, and Chicago seems to be putting together a solid team.

I don't think the Central is the toughest division in hockey this season, but it's not getting any easier for the team whose big acquisition was Andy Delmore.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

It's about time...

This blog thing sounded like a good idea at the time, but keeping up with it has been a bit tougher. And, getting caught up in the fun that has been the return of the NHL has kept me occupied for a while. So, we'll try this again...

Quite a few things have happened in the hockey world since my last entry.

In March. :)

Previously I wrote about things covering the NHL as a whole, as it seemed appropriate at the time. Now that the NHL has decided to grace us with their presence again, time to go back to being All Blue Jackets, All the Time. (OK, most of the time.)

As a Jackets fan, I am absolutely THRILLED with the way we're shaping up for this season. The roster it looks like we're going to camp with is hands down the best collection of players we've seen in Columbus in our short history. Top of that list is none other than Rick Nash. I can't wait to see what our little Ricky has grown into in his year away. His exploits on the other side of the pond last season are well noted, and he apparently lit it up at Team Canada's Olympic training camp. What do we have in this kid? And, big thanks to Doug, we have it for another five years.

Beyond Nash, it looks like our season is going to hinge on how well our kids come together and play. Can Klesla toughen up, use his size, and play like his 130-ish PIMs in the Czech league last year indicate? Will Zherdev continue the mind-boggling moves? Does Fritsche use his extra year in juniors and Memorial Cup winning experience (and giving Crosby all he wanted) to come into the NHL and make an impact? Does Picard stick on the big team? (This is a big question for me personally, I'm not sure I've ever seen the kid skate.) And, what about Brule? Can he drop jaws in camp to earn a few games once the season starts? And will those games earn him more? I've heard it's possible.

All these questions and more will start to be answered in just a shade over two weeks. This is going to be the best training camp we've ever seen. The competition for positions is going to be awesome to watch. Who earns the spot with Vyborny and Nash? Who gets to set up Zherdev? Which rookie is going to put a veteran down a line? Damnit, more questions!

Are you ready for some football?

My other love this time of year is high school football, just for fun I'll toss out scores for at least three games: Hilliard Darby (where we live), North Union (where I played (many, many years ago)), and Waynesfield-Goshen (where my brother is assisstant coach).

So for last night's update...

Hillard Darby - 39
Westland - 7

North Union - 32
Fairbanks - 15

Waynsfield-Goshen - 41
Lockland - 27


Sycamore Mohawk - 28
Elgin - 7
(Any guesses on where my wife went to high school?? :) )