Monthly Archives: May 2007

Tom Benjamin’s NHL Weblog: Soon to be the Former

Tom Benjamin’s NHL Weblog: Soon to be the Former:

Rick Westhead apparently has a copy of the report lawyer Chris Paliare completed on the Ted Saskin email scandal. He figures the players will have to pay Saskin about a million bucks to fire him for cause. Since that’s basically his accrued vacation pay, a pension contribution and something called a “surplus fund share”, Paliare seems to be saying the players do have cause to terminate Saskin.

Why?

# For conducting a “wholly improper” email surveillance over an extended period of time. “The surveillance was not aimed at protecting the interests of the players. It was not in the interests of the PA. Rather, in purpose and execution the surveillance was principally in aid of Mr. Saskin’s personal interests.”

Saskin got fired today, for cause. The compensation package he’s being given is for things like accrued vacation and his pension plan — not a going away “bonus”. Those are things taht you basically can’t not give him, they’re things earned but not issued before termination.

Interesting.

I have to admit that I felt for a long time that this would blow over, and that it was a small buy noisy group of users that wouldn’t let it die and get over it.

that latter part was true — but it also turns out they were justified, and correct, in not letting it go.

I did want to add one comment on the email surveillance. If you go back to way earlier in all of this, you’ll find some comments from Arturs Irbe (at that time part of the NHLPA group and involved in all of this) saying he was convinced someone was watching the emails, that people on the other side of the NHLPA power struggle were acting on information they had no legitimate way to have access to.

Turns out that Archie was right. And now the NHLPA has to pick up the pieces and rebuild itself (again). I wonder if it makes sense for them to reach outside of hockey for a new leader, perhaps from major league baseball’s union; someone with a strong labor background in sports, and then use the player reps adn management committee to help them understand the issues that are unique to hockey and the NHL. The history of the NHLPA grabbing people from within itself and within the hockey world is, well, a bit spotty.

Third round predictions…

Time for Conference final predictions.

I was 6 of 8 in the first round.

In the second round, I picked:

I picked San Jose in 6. sigh. whine. moan. grump.

Actually, I said:

Detroit/San Jose: San Jose in 6.

Going to be a fun series, but I think San jose is better. but Detroit worries me if the Sharks falter a bit, and Hasek is, well, Hasek.

Which hit it on the head wonderfully, except for the fun part. the Sharks DID falter, the Red Wings didn’t, and Hasek was, well, very Hasek-like. Damn him, anyway.

Anaheim in 7: thanks to Luongo, it was almost that close.

Buffalo in 6: but congrats to the rangers for a great run.

Ottawa in 6: and New Jersey found it was just not like the good old days, Lou behind the bench or no. Ran out of pixie dust, Lou.

So I ended up 3-4, missing the one series I really wanted to get right. Of course.

So, I’m 9 for 12 for the playoffs, my best run in years.

The two conference finals:

Anaheim/Detroit: Anaheim in 5. Hasek can’t be hasek-like enough to beat the Ducks, and with Schneider out — I don’t know about you, but Chelios playing 25 minutes a game doesn’t worry me, but after seeing him in game 6 against the sharks, Chelios on the power play does. I don’t think this’ll be as close as some people do.

I heard on XM today that one of the ways Chelios stays in shape is that he spends a lot of time on the exercise bike — in a sauna. Holy hyperbaric chambers, Batman, I get heatstroke thinking of watching him…. Kids, do NOT try that at home.

Ottawa/Buffalo: I have very good friends who are senators fans. I very much want to see the Senators move on. The Sabres haven’t shown their best hockey yet (but win). This one can go either way. My heart says Ottawa, my head says buffalo. I’d call it a coin flip, but I can’t, so I’ll pick Buffalo in 7. (now, watch Ottawa sweep…)

News – City Council Approves Upgrades For HP Pavilion – San Jose Sharks

News – City Council Approves Upgrades For HP Pavilion – San Jose Sharks:

In a meeting earlier this afternoon, the San Jose City Council voted in favor of the sixteen-and-a-half million dollars worth of proposed improvements to be made at HP Pavilion. The upgrades include a larger scoreboard and sound system that will enhance the experience of the nearly 1.75 million people who attend sporting events, concerts, family shows and other events at HP Pavilion annually.

An artist rendering of the new scoreboard set for installation this summer.Under the agreement, signage around the interior of the Pavilion will be upgraded with LED displays, a new and state-of-the-art center scoreboard will be installed, the sound system and acoustics would be enhanced and the video system will be upgraded to support high-definition.

They’re finally going to fix the sound system and acoustics. Maybe now game announcements will stop sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher….

Seriously, these are going to be welcome improvements, and I know the Sharks have been planning this for a while, since Greg Jamison and I talked about it prior to the lockout. Part of it came down to this cost being shared with the city since this IS a city building and to date the Sharks have funded almost all capital improvements since opening. And getting the city to share in the improvements had to wait for a mayor with a clue…

The new mayor, Chuck Reed, is clearly going to be more open to working with San Jose and the sports community of the city; he’s grabbed Dean Munro, who was president of the San Jose Sports Authority (the people who work to bring in key sporting events like the NCAA regionals to the city) as one of his key staff guys; Dean’s taken a leave from SJSA for the duration to avoid conflict of interest issues.

(in a side note, since San Jose State nixed the upgrade of the stadium for soccer (STUPID!), the word is now filtering out that they’re looking at the old FMC manufacturing plant land as a possible site for a soccer stadium. that land is at the 880 and Coleman at the end of the runway, so that would be an interesting and practical use of that property…

And we’re down to six…

As of today — there are six teams playing hockey, out of 30.

The Sabres are playing the Rangers in a couple of hours, and may send the rangers packing (or not).

Monday, there’s a very good chance the Sharks will play their last game of the season — Detroit is simply outworking the Sharks, and deserves to win this series. In a series that’s gone 3-2, the team with 3 wins moves on 80% of the time, and to be onest, I’m surprised that statistic isn’t higher.

If the Sharks do go out Monday, or even if they make it to Wednesday, fans will consider this a disappointing end to the season. It will be, too; this team has the capability to go further, but they’ve also shown some weaknesses that fans and team both will be able to spend a lot of time and energy analyzing….

But frankly? I think what we’re seeing has more to do with what Detroit IS doing, and less to do with what San Jose is NOT. That will get lost in the post-series griping, but I wanted to call that out and give the Red Wings some deserved props.

Going into the season, most of us, I think, looked at the Sharks as one of the top 3 teams in the league, along with Buffalo and Anaheim. In reality, they’re part of a group of six that also includes Detroit (no surprise), Ottawa (only a tiny suprise), and New York (very much a surprise).

That’s not bad. It’s not good enough — but it’s not bad. And I figured I’d note just how well they did this year now, because I know (myself included), once they DO lose this series, we’ll be spending too much time griping and pondering to notice the successes much.

Honestly, though, watching the Sharks and Ducks in this playoffs, I don’t think the Sharks would have gotten past them anyway. Anaheim still seems to be coasting a bit. almost scary, but that’s one heck of a team.

And heck, you know? If the Sharks surprise me? I’d love to find out. But right now, Detroit’s clearly playing a better game of hockey than San Jose is. But as we know, in the grand scheme of things, Sharks fans will have to blame either the refs or the Sharks for the loss, and ignore the Wing’s success as a factor… (grin)

Mike Chen’s Hockey Blog: Wavering on OT

Mike Chen’s Hockey Blog: Wavering on OT:

Apparently, the tide is turning on keeping overtime the way it is. I see the logic of going to 4-on-4 — I mean, you keep things in the hands of the teams while freeing up the ice for more plays and more scoring chances which means less nights of crazy game times. And it’s not like players are going all out during their sixth period of hockey; hell, some guys can barely skate at that time. As a West Coaster, I love East Coast insane overtime games because they finish up in the late evening and I can get to bed at a sane time. Going to Sharks home playoff games, there have been many times I specifically thought, “God, I hope this doesn’t go into triple overtime — I have to work tomorrow.” At the same time, though, I’ve never experienced the delirious exhiliration that comes with a home-team triple overtime win (or, thankfully, the sheer depths of hell that comes with a home-team triple overtime loss).

Frankly, I’ve come to think that moving to 4 on 4 starting with the 2nd overtime is a good idea, and Mike sums it up well. Game 4 was a great example — Laurie and I set a curfew as soon as we realized we were going to overtime, because the alarm goes off at 6AM no matter what. I don’t want to go so far as to say we were happy that Detroit won it rather than see the Sharks win in the 2nd or 3rd overtime — but there is some aspect of that.

Now, I love watching overtime games, but they do become more of a test of endurance (for fans as well) than a game of skill. I remember even staying up until some ungodly hour during a trip to Victoria when a Memorial Cup game went five overtimes. Laurie, being the rational one, went to sleep and told me to tell her who won in the morning.

If there’s an argument for NOT doing this, it’s that these long overtime games impact a team’s performance down the road; they tire a team out, suck life out of legs, build up the lactic acid. It’s a part of the fabric that makes the NHL playoff such a touch thing to get through alive for a team. But, honestly, the more I think about it, the more I think that this comes down to “to win the cup, we have to avoid these long overtimes” is not a good reason for having them (and honestly, I think that’s true. If you look at the playoffs, teams that play a lot of OT, and play multi-OT games, struggle to get deeper into the playoffs and win the cup).

Frankly, anything that shuts the door on shoot-outs I’m for, too. Even in the regular season. I’d much rather seem them play 10 minutes of 4-4 in the regular season, just because that’ll reduce the number of shoot-outs significantly. But that won’t happen.

It’s time for players to decide games, not refs

It’s time for players to decide games, not refs:

The difference between referee pairings is what gets you,” says Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “Some guys call everything to the letter, other guys will let them play a little bit. The little touches are often called as restraint and we as hockey people know they have no effect on the game, no effect on your ability to keep skating. But I don’t want to go back to the way the game used to be played either, because I’m telling you, the speed on the bench is greater than it’s ever been.”

Herein lies the disconnect between the players and coaches in the NHL and at least the more traditional spectators who watch their games.

The speed Carlyle describes is certainly not producing any more goals and often not a helluva lot more entertainment either, particularly if you happen to be watching in the West.

How you can get the kind of talent both San Jose and Detroit have in their lineups on the same ice and produce games with so little happening is nothing short of astounding, although that’s more the coaches’ fault than anything else

There’s a basic fallacy to this complaint. That is this: nobody should claim, at least with a straight face, that in the “good old days”, different referees all called things in a league-wide consistent way.

Think back to the days of the one referee system. Remember the time when in three consecutive games, Andy VanHellemond, Paul Stewart and Kerry Fraser came to town and called a game in your building.

Yeah, they all called the games the same way, right? Yeah, right.

No, this is a strawman argument. There IS inconsistency between referees and among referee pairs. There is, IMHO, a lot less than there was in the Good Old Days. But there’s a lot less of that than their used to be.

In fact, what this is is a two-fold complaint: dislike for the emphasis on obstruction fouls, and a fond memory of the “let the boys play” days, when the referees weren’t in fact allowed to referee the game, but were there merely to keep the players from killing each other. Mostly.

The reality is, the league is transitioning from being a league where rules were optional to one where the rules define the game, moving from the “pond hockey” mentality where two teams are fighting over who pays for the keg and it’s all okay unless an ambulance needs to be called, to a real, professional league like the NFL, where something that’s a penalty in the first period is a penalty in the last.

“let the boys play” is code for the good old days, and there’s an old-school group that remembers it fondly, and a new-school group that is seeing how once this transition is done, the game will be better, faster and more interesting.

The difference, by the way, isn’t THAT significant. It’s the difference between “do what it takes to win”, and “do what it takes to win — within the rules”. And one only needs to look at a guy like Chris Chelios to see how players can adapt — and adapt successfully — to the new reality. The high talent players will thrive in it, because they’ll be allowed to.

The new rules are about this league being a first-second line league, not a third-fourth line league.

Do the rules and interpretation need tweaking? yes. Does that mean going back to the Good Old Days to do it? no.

But for the league to succeed, the FIRST thing that needs to happen is for us to all get over the “let the boys play” mentality, because that’s the exact mentality that led to the days of the goon and the agitator, and the 1996 Panthers, which to me was the ultimate form of the monster created by “let the boys play”.

I’m working on some longer essays on this (I had to take a side-trip into doing some research to understand some things better; I realize that’s against the blogger’s rules where opinions matter, not informed ones, but nevermind).

But this is the key message: when “let the boys play” appears, the folks yearning for the Good Old Days are saying they want to go back to the days of the 1985 Oilers or the 1981 Islanders. And that’s a laudible goal (and it’s not coincidental that most of the folks calling for this were in the league at the time).

The problem is — that era died, and was replaced by the late 80′s and 90s — and ultimately the 1996 Panthers. It was killed by guys like Ryan Holliweg and Essa Tikkanen and Darius Kasparitis, and coaches like Scotty Bowman and Roger Neilsen and Lou Lamoriello, who understood that “let the boys play” gave them options that let them not have to out-skate Wayne and Mario, but merely grab on and pull those guys back to the pack.

The new rules are designed to force teams to get better, not merely prevent the other team from being better. And it’s working.

The problem (or perhaps “problem” is more appropriate) with scoring in the playoffs this year isn’t the new rules or the refereeing. It’s that the goaltending is do damn good. No offense to Grant Fuhr or Bernie Parent, but how would the 1981 islanders have fared against Roberto Luongo last night? AND HE LOST that series.

More on this, hopefully soon. But for now, realize this for what it is: a war for control of the game between two philosophical factions, those who want to go back to the “pond hockey” mentality (but refuse to understand that this is what lead to the 1996 Panthers), and those who are trying to move the game forward. The funny thing is, what the “let the boys play” group wants is not incompatible with where the league is trying to go. But they’re too involved with their fond remembrance of the Good Old Days to remember all of the bad stuff that went along with the parts they want to remember….

(*hat tip: kukla)