Daniel Carcillo: Best Goon or Dumbest Goon?

I’ll admit here that I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the goons of the NHL.  It sounds really effeminate to say that being as how I’m a dude, but it’s true.  I’ll sit around with my friends and we’ll throw out the names of legendary 1980s and 1990s goons and try to one-up each other.  Sure, most of these guys weren’t very good at hockey (Dennis Vial) and those that were had major issues of their own (Bob Probert).  For some reason, for those of us that grew up in that highly impressionable era of hockey through the 80s and early 90s the guys that dropped the gloves were always memorable and with the way the NHL has gone out of its way to try and “clean up” the game in recent years, they’ve taken on an aura all to themselves.

From the moment that Tie Domi ended his NHL career, the NHL landscape for pugilism seemed barren and it looked as if fans of the dirty side of hockey were going to have to keep a wandering eye towards the AHL to get their mixed martial arts of hockey fix.  After all, when you’ve got characters like Dennis Bonvie and Brian McGrattan accumulating over 500 PIMs in a single season, you have to respect the effort that goes into being that damn disruptive.  After all, not everyone is going to be a Crosby, Zetterberg or an Ovechkin – some guys are going to be Stu Grimson or Tiger Williams or Chris Nilan.

This is where Daniel Carcillo stepped in.

Two years ago, Carcillo was getting ice time in Phoenix when he made his NHL debut.  He played in just 18 games, but piled on 71 penalty minutes in that time, a pretty hefty haul considering the NHLs PIM leader in 2006-2007 was Philadelphia’s Ben Eager with 233.  Phoenix had another guy doing dirty work that season in Josh Gratton so Carcillo’s road to eventual goon-borne glory was blocked.

Come 2007-2008, Carcillo was a man on a mission accumulating an astonishing 324 PIM in 57 games.  Think about that.  He missed 25 games that season and still out-PIM’ed the second place finisher Jared Boll by 98 minutes.  That’s historic goonery not seen in the NHL since Peter Worrell of the Florida Panthers went bizonkers (thanks Gary!) and loaded up with 357 PIMs in 2001-2002.

The difference between the goonery back in the day and the goonery now, however, is how it gets put together.  Back in the 1980s, it’s fair to say that the big gun goons were all out to get after each other.  Most teams were able to pile up PIM totals that would make Lil’ Gary Bettman wet his pants and cry if they were to happen these days.  Well, moreso than he does nowadays anyhow.  I’ll just pick out a season at random and take a look at the PIM leaders from that season.  Let’s check out 1987-1988.

PIM Leaders

  1. Bob Probert 398
  2. Basil McRae 378
  3. Tim Hunter 337
  4. Richard Zemlak 307
  5. Chris Nilan 305
  6. Jay Miller 304
  7. Gord Donnelly 301
  8. Rick Tocchet 299
  9. Torrie Robertson 293
  10. Steve Smith 286

Now for those who were critical that the NHL was a goon league back in those days, keep in mind that Mario Lemieux scored 70 goals that season and lead the league in scoring (yes, even over Gretzky) with 168 points.  That season saw 12 players score over 100 points.

Now?  We’re lucky to see five players get 100 points in a season.  The first two seasons after Gary’s sport-crippling lockout are exceptions thanks to the insistence to help goal scoring via the power play.  Guys that rack up tons of penalty minutes are even more rare, whether you want to pin the cause on that to the incredibly bogus instigator rule or to the possibility that the game has moved beyond having guys out there strictly to enforce the “code” on the ice.  I don’t really subscribe to one idea or the other, but I am a firm believer in the instigator rule being totally bogus.

carcillofarvaOfficer Carcillo doesn’t want a God damn liter of cola.

Where this all came out to the forefront was last night when Daniel Carcillo managed to find a way to put his Philadelphia Flyers on a nine minute penalty kill, thanks to him trying to punchasize Washington Capitals Matt Bradley’s face.

Carcillo received a five-minute major for fighting, a two-minute instigator penalty (duh) and a two-minute minor for cross-checking. That’s a pretty hefty effort, especially when Matt Bradley picked up nothing… Since all he did was body check Daniel Carcillo cleanly.  Carcillo also got spanked by the Wheel of Justice to the tune of four games, a number that somewhat makes sense because Carcillo is a rather notorious character at this point.

I get that it’s Carcillo’s job to fight and inspire his teammates and certainly that kind of play isn’t exactly frowned upon in Philadelphia but Carcillo is developing a bit of a habit of not choosing his moments wisely. Take a look at the playoffs last season where he decided to fight Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot and managed to not only inspire the Penguins but also the entirety of the Pittsburgh fan base. That kind of stuff is not what you’re paid to do if you’re Dan Carcillo.

I will say that my friends and I were initially amazed and impressed with Carcillo’s ability to consistently find his way to the penalty box and act out like an “old school” goon and while I’m not about to speak for them here, Carcillo isn’t from the same class of goon as those legends from the 80s and 90s.  He’s a different sort of creature, perhaps a guy who came along 10-15 years too late, but it’s tough to even make that assessment about him because he plays the game with such little respect for others on the ice.

Let’s face it, Matt Bradley was about another five seconds away from dropping the gloves with him and indulging his wont to fight… but he didn’t wait and cold-cocked him instead.  Much like Officer Farva from the movie “Super Troopers” Dan Carcillo’s shenanigans are cruel and tragic and above all else, ill-timed.  Flyers GM Paul Holmgren can talk all he wants about how he disagrees with Carcillo’s suspension and there are some intriguing arguments to be found as to why it’s “too much” but the Flyers knew exactly what they were getting when they brought him aboard and to be surprised at all that he does things like this or to get kid glove treatment from the league is just completely stupid.

Perhaps someday the Flyers will get their act together and stop appeasing the meathead part of their fanbase and outfitting the team with more goons than talent but as long as Bobby Clarke’s shadow looms around the organization, the Broad Street Bullies image is going to be impossible to shake.  Would Carcillo have fit in well with Dave Schultz and Bobby Clarke in the 70s?  Absofrigginlutely.  In today’s NHL though… Carcillo is a man out of his element and comes off more like a clown than an intimidator.

Thanks For Playing: Phoenix Coyotes

I feel bad about writing this one.   I like the Coyotes.  I like Coyotes fans (and yes, they do have fans).  I like what GM Don Maloney has done on what amounts to be a bare-bones budget/being under Gary Bettman’s thumb.  Maloney has also been able to do pretty well in the draft for the Coyotes and it shows with their current lineup.

All that aside, the ownership fiasco that’s been covered ad nauseum elsewhere across the Internet and semi-ad nauseum here has derailed any kind of happy thoughts about this franchise.  Of course, on the eve of the start of the season, things have come to a head and Judge Redfield T. Baum has declared that both Jim Balsillie’s and the NHL’s bids for the team are no good and have thrown out Balsillie completely by saying that the NHL has every right to decide who they want to own a team.gretzkycoach

With that fiasco aside for the time being, it’s time for the team to hit the ice and the product they’ll hit the ice with isn’t overly terrible especially now that one of the people more responsible for the lack of forward development is out of the way, part of the collateral damage of the mess with Jerry Moyes.  That person being former head coach Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was a no-show for training camp this year, leaving assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson in charge.  Also tossed out was goaltending coach Grant Fuhr and replaced with former Hartford Whalers super goalie Sean Burke.  Former Blue Jackets coach Dave King was brought in to be an assistant coach to someone and then finally a foregone conclusion was reached when Wayne Gretzky announced he was stepping down as coach of the team.

Much the same way that Odin Mercer at SBN’s Five For Howling feels, I too think this is a move that was overdue and will help the team.  After all, the old saying goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.”  Well Wayne Gretzky did everything in the NHL and there’s not another player alive right now that sees or plays the game at all the same way that Wayne did and every person that walked into the Phoenix locker room had to be starstruck having him as the coach.  After all, he’s only the greatest hockey player of all time – how do you handle getting instructions and teaching from a guy that sees the game on a completely different level than every human being alive?  You don’t, that’s how.

wile-e-coyoteDon’t worry, help has arrived… But it’s going to take time.

Enter new head coach Dave Tippett.  Tippett is the former coach of the Dallas Stars and for six seasons he lead the Stars to the playoffs, peaking in 07-08 in the Conference Finals and then indescribably getting the boot after failing to lead the Stars to the playoffs last year, and that’s after the Stars were stuck with a miserable start of  the season by Marty Turco and that whole Sean Avery thing.   Tippett gets the job done, Tippett teaches winners and better yet, young guys won’t totally crap their pants every time he barks out orders.

With all that aside, I like how the Coyotes are made up and I have enjoyed what they’ve been doing for the last couple of years now.  The Coyotes and the Kings are my not-so-secret crushes in the NHL and while the Kings don’t have the off-ice problems (and may actually get Gretzky back in some capacity) they too have been able to capitalize on years of poor play and making the draft work for them.  The Coyotes have been doing the same thing but just haven’t been able to land a guy as awesome as say… Anze Kopitar.

Instead, the Coyotes have loaded up on highly-touted young forwards.  Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, Kevin Porter and Kyle Turris (currently in the AHL) make up a great group of talented skaters up front that Desert Dogs fans have been patiently waiting to blossom.   Among them, Porter should get his first real shot to break out this year after spending last season riding the bus between Phoenix and San Antonio.

Guys like Mueller and Hanzal are the “veterans” among them and Boedker had a solid first season last year.  Turris is the interesting guy to watch as he’s touted as the guy with the biggest upside and the most talented of them all. Yet last year he spent his time getting sent up and sent down to the AHL and this year he’s starting off the season right out in San Antonio.  GM Don Maloney said that he wanted to see how Turris would develop and with him coming off back surgery in the off season, perhaps going to San Antonio to start the year might not be the worst idea.

Then what to do about the center spot?  After all, who is going to be there to play alongside blue-collar man of the franchise Shane Doan?  This is where the Robert Lang signing comes in.  Lang is coming back after an injury-shortened 2008-2009 season with Montreal and while he did not participate with any team in training camp, the Coyotes and Maloney used this as an opportunity to bring in solid scoring veteran.  Savvy move indeed and it takes the pressure off the front office to play the shuttle game with Turris this year, provided Lang can stay healthy.  Adding Lang to another crafty free agent signings like Taylor Pyatt, Vernon Fiddler and Lauri Korpikoski and suddenly the mix of youth and veteran leadership up front doesn’t look so bad.  Peter Prucha and Radim Vrbata (returning from a year wrought with moving from Tampa Bay to the Czech League) add depth to the forwards and provide a full line of Czech Madness (with Martin Hanzal centering).

What about the defense though?  Ed Jovanovski is still here and youngster Zbynek Michalek continues to improve.  Veterans Adrian Aucoin and Jim Vandermeer were acquired in the offseason and help add some steadier veteran play on a blueline that remains mostly unspectacular with Kurt Sauer and Keith Yandle filling out ranks.  Sami Lepisto gets to play the part of the plucky youngster looking to carve his niche in this group of veterans.

In goal, Ilya Bryzgalov is the man – plain and simple.  His stats last year were a bit subdued but on a team that played as sketchily as the Coyotes did last year… You can understand why.  Should things for Bryzgalov go sour, the backup situation isn’t quite so appealing as the Coyotes signed journeyman Jason LaBarbera to back him up.  Al Montoya lurks in the AHL waiting for anyone to slip up so he can attempt to fulfill the prophecy as a first round selection to play goal.

Should the Coyotes goaltending come down to calling on either LaBarbera or Montoya for an extended period, perhaps getting the Vancouver Canucks on the phone to ask about Cory Schneider’s availability might be a good plan of action.

Much like I said last year in talking about the Los Angeles Kings lack of opportunity to make the playoffs, I make this choice for failure with resignation because I like what’s happening here, at least on the ice.  I like the young make up of the team, I love the youth that are in place, I’m a fan of Ilya Bryzgalov and I’m a huge fan of the Dave Tippett signing for the coaching position.  So why won’t they make a run at a playoff spot?  It’s the Western Conference and they play in what may prove to be one of the toughest divisions in the NHL.  Anaheim and San Jose will fight to the death for the top spot, Dallas should be more improved and Los Angeles is on the verge of upsetting the balance in the West.  Phoenix, for now, is going to have to tough it out this season.

With that said, this may also prove to be the team that by the end of the year, they could be threatening to prove me wrong if everything breaks correctly.  Most publications and prognosticators are eager to write off the Coyotes (except for the Two-Line Pass that haikus them in eighth) completely based upon what’s happened off the ice and while I admit I’m doing the same thing here… If the Coyotes go all St. Louis Blues on me and prove me wrong I’ll happily eat my bowl full of crow.

Jim & Gary: The Final Showdown

jimandgaryfaceoffA true summer blockbuster if there ever was one.

There have been many classic showdowns in history.  Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, Gargamel and the Smurfs, G.I. Joe and COBRA.  Hell,  Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker as well as Batman and The Joker even managed to do it over the course of two different movies in each series.

It only seems fitting that with today (and tomorrow) being Franchise Auction day in Phoenix that there’s only two bidders left for the team now that Ice Edge Holdings has dropped out of the auction.  A real mano y mano showdown in the Old West, fitting of a Spaghetti Western.  Of course, in this movie, we’ve got the henchman from Face/Off going up against Billy Barty.  That’s the beauty of the NHL, they give rise to the thoughts of many of the greatest talents of Hollywood.

Enough has been made of this ridiculous vendetta-driven (by both sides) duel for the Coyotes already and Balsillie, to his credit, is putting Gary Bettman and his NHL bid in a very bad place as far as public opinion goes.  After all, Balsillie raising his offer by $30 million dollars makes even the most casual of NHL fans and non-fans alike wonder what in the blue hell Bettman and the Board of Governors have against a guy so obviously desperate to own an NHL franchise.


Jim Balsillie vs. Gary Bettman… In Hollywood

These wonderings and out-loud thinking I’ve done over and over and over again here and you folks know where I stand.  I’m pro-Balsillie as an owner, I am pro-having another team in Canada and I am pro-sticking it to Gary Bettman and making him have to deal with it.

The peril for me is that I am also pro-Phoenix and pro-Coyotes if for no other reason other than the fans that DO care about the team there.  The fans are almost always the folks caught in the middle of millionaire in-fighting in sports, Lord knows we know enough about that being the saps that are fans of the NHL.  The dedicated thousands in Phoenix have been wrongfully taken for a ride by their gutless puke of a soon-to-be former owner Jerry Moyes.  While I don’t blame Moyes for trying to sell the team, the guy has the ability to handle delicate situations about as well as a five year-old wound up on Pixy Stix would handle sitting still.

What sucks most for the fans in Phoenix is that the guy they’ve got to rely on to help them out is the diminutive dictator whose pride and miserable plan for domination of southern culture is on the line with the Coyotes.  The same guy who, if he and the NHL do succeed in winning the auction and the courts, is going to spin the team off to someone else to let it be their headache and marketing toy, to someone else that will likely be forced to move in the future no matter how hard they try to make it work in Arizona.

I don’t say that to break out the hyperbole and be a worrywart about the matter, but the NHLs plans if they win don’t exactly look all that sparkling and they’ve left themselves a lot of ways to get the hell out of Dodge.

In other words, the league has no intention of assuming this lease (for obvious reasons) and is apparently using a “transition services agreement” in order to leave it in Moyes’s hands for up to nine months after closing. Prior to the termination of that TSA, the league “may elect in their sole discretion to treat any Glendale contract as an excluded contract” and “the sellers [Moyes] shall be entitled to reject such a contract.”

The issue here for the judge will be that the NHL’s bid could easily become a relocation one by June, 2010, depending on how negotiations go with Glendale. What the league’s really after here is to buy time to find more suitors for the team and put pressure on the city to capitulate to its demands.

So the NHL is stalling so they can hand pick their own future criminal they approve to be owners.  After all, if it’s already broken why try to fix it?  It’s so much easier to just to throw rocket fuel on a smoldering fire.

The people in charge of the game seem to wonder why the sport gets laughed at.  At least with the other three major sports the criminals are on the field easily deposed of and not in the owners box where they continue making everything more corrupt and broken.

It’s far too late/early for me to let this nonsense get me riled up and thankfully the festivities in Phoenix operate on western time.  If you’re not on Twitter, first of all why not?  Secondly sign up immediately so you can follow along with those who will be in attendance on Thursday and Friday for the auction and hearings. For what it’s worth, CBC’s Tom Harrington reported on Twitter last night that Friday will be the day to be there as both Balsillie and Bettman will testify and be cross-examined.  What I wouldn’t give to witness this.

Here’s a list of the folks to follow in the next two days (if you’re not already):

@brahmresnik – Brahm Resnik is a News 12 anchor in Phoenix who has been instrumental in covering things with the Coyotes.

@TheYotesDiva – Founder of Save The Coyotes and avowed Jim Balsillie hater.  You’ll love her if you’re pro-Coyotes.

@OdinMercer – The head man and guru of SBNation’s Five For Howling.  Oh yeah and he’ll be hosting a courtroom drinking game while following along with the proceedings on Twitter. Giddy up!

@JeffMarek – Jeff Marek is a CBC sports reporter offering solid straight-forward reports with a slight bent for Balsillie.

@reporterchris – Chris Johnston is a reporter for The Canadian Press. You can bet that he’ll also be rooting for Jim Balsillie.

@cbctom – Tom Harrington, another CBC reporter in Phoenix to cover things.

@HKYFN – Larry Halliday, a devout Coyotes fan who has been dedicated to keeping fans on Twitter up to date on things and a true credit to hockey fans in Arizona.

Now you’re all set and if you’re not following me yet, well why don’t you just go ahead and do that already, mmkay?

Sailing The Financial Failboat In Tampa Bay

I’m going to quote a piece from David Shoalts of the Toronto Globe and Mail and I’m going to remove who they’re talking about and I’ll quiz you after it to ask you who you think it’s about.  Pretend it’s a really bad mad lib.

(noun) took money improperly from the (other financial operation) and its investors in order to pay for his share of the (NHL franchise), according to a member of the real-estate development’s executive committee.

Reading something like that, given the recent history of upstanding owners in the NHL and all, doesn’t really help clear up who this could actually involve, right?  After all, it could be Phoenix with Jerry Moyes.  It could be another story about Boots Del Biaggio and his ham-handed work with the Nashville Predators.  Perhaps it’s a long dormant story about John Spano, former Islanders owner and how he’s enjoying life as a convicted felon.

Or… It’s about one of the knucklehead co-owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning and how he used money from his Bear Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada to help pay for his stake in the team.

garytpirTampa Bay Lightning – Come on down!  You’re the next contestant on The Price Is Wrong!

It’s quite amazing that characters like Barrie and all of the others I mentioned previously have all managed to pass the NHL Board of Governors sniff test to be an owner, yet Jim Balsillie, the guy actually with money, is always left out in the cold.  It’s just silly.

Adding to the fun of this nonsense with Barrie, Bear Mountain and the Lightning is this analysis from Tom Benjamin of Canuck’s Corner.

Palace Sports and Entertainment – owned by the estate of Bill Davidson – had been trying to sell the team for a year before Koules emerged in the spring of 2008. Unfortunately, Koules had neither the money nor the partners to swing the deal. Even after hooking up with Barrie, Koules could not get financing. It is a mark of how desperately Palace wanted out that they agreed to temporarily carry the mortgage. After Koules failed again to get alternative financing, the arrangement became more than temporary.

It now appears that Koules and Barrie’s falling out happened when the team ran out of money early in 2009 and Barrie couldn’t answer the cash call. Koules (and the league?) carried the Lightning through the season. If the news reports are correct, Koules is back knocking on the Palace door because Len Barrie has to be bought out, because the team will probably run out of cash at some point during the season again, because Koules doesn’t have the money and because Koules can’t borrow it anywhere else.

Yes, that’s right – the eccentric pair of Koules and Barrie could end up sticking the former owners of the team with the bill because their money pot could be empty.  More from Benjamin:

What can Palace Sports and Entertainment do? I’m sure the executors of Bill Davidson’s estate want out of the hockey business, but they have a substantial amount of money at risk. If Palace goes along it will be becarepomanuse the alternative is bankruptcy and they will be effectively repossessing the team.

Imagine being the folks in control of Bill Davidson’s estate and having these two losers showing up on your doorstep to say, “Uh, well, if you don’t give us a hand with this problem, this problem is yours in a much bigger way.”  Damned if you do, really bent over a barrel if you don’t.

I don’t think Bill Davidson had being a post-mortem repo man in mind for the afterlife.

As always, the man bringing things to life on the Internet of this situation is From The Rink’s James Mirtle, and Mirtle has been on top of these slimy worms since the get-go in Tampa Bay, just check this list.

This time around, Mirtle comes out guns blazing on this situation with graphs and everything to show that the problems with Tampa are just the tip of the iceberg for our good friend Gary Bettman.

All that said, my guess is there are really only nine or 10 NHL teams which make a significant profit on the hockey side of things most seasons, with roughly another 10 breaking even depending on their playoff success. It’s amazing that, even with a cap that is effectively only about $47-million** after escrow, the economics of hockey are broken, with the perennial losers (like the Coyotes) doomed to incredible losses.

** N.B. Nine teams were spending more than that in 2001-2002.

Sounds like an incredibly fun situation around the league, doesn’t it?  Meanwhile, the NHL is busy putting in a bid for a financial albatross in Phoenix to keep it out of the hands of one over-zealous BlackBerry guru.  I don’t think that the NHL wants to really get overly involved in this kind of do-gooder action while trying to save face for what appears to be failed market experiments.

I’ve stated since the beginning that what’s happened with Tampa Bay isn’t a failure of the NHL.  Tampa Bay was a successful market and one that was thriving… Until Tweedle-Barrie and Tweedle-Koules took over and made hockey in Tampa Bay a joke.

From the chasing out of John Tortorella to the hiring of Barry Melrose and how they’ve curiously handled their player moves the last two off seasons, you have no need for further evidence as to why the fans in Tampa Bay have stopped showing up in the crazy numbers they once did.  After all, would you pay crazy NHL prices to watch a team with no direction, no leadership and no respect for its new fanbase?  Absolutely not, especially when the owners have no idea what they’re even doing.  Bill Davidson and Palace Entertainment knew what they were doing but then again, Davidson had it going on with the Detroit Pistons as it was.

Tampa Bay was once, briefly, a very successful NHL market and it can be again but not until Koules and Barrie are gone and should things shake out grimly there it could be a very ugly situation very soon for the Lightning.  Maybe these jokers shouldn’t have thumbed their nose at college hockey and brought down the wrath of the hockey gods.

Or maybe they should’ve actually had money to make a purchase instead of being shifty real estate shysters.

The Most Interesting Free Agent In The World

Free agency season has died down and while there are still quite a few intriguing names left floating about while teams figure their cap situations out, there’s one man out there who remains and his legend now grows as the pickings get slimmer.

His reputation is expanding faster than the universe you might say.

He’s a man who has played in the NHL for nine seasons, almost all of them healthy… Except for his most recent when he got injured more seriously just to see how it felt.

He’s never scored more than 30 goals in a season but passes with the greatest of ease despite being a left wing.

His blood smells just like cologne.

Darryl Sutter once traded for him because he was intrigued by how he might work with Jarome Iginla.

His hairless face has experienced more playoff success than the San Jose Sharks.

He’s been known to cure a struggling offense just by walking into the room.

If you’re the GM of the Coyotes, Panthers, or a host of other NHL teams perhaps you too would be interested in the most interesting free agent in the world.

When Alex Tanguay drinks, he prefers something with an umbrella in it.

Or perhaps you’d just rather have a shitty Mexican beer.

Alex Tanguay is certainly getting a lot of attention and sure, much of it is deserved. He played 50 games for the Canadiens last year and scored 40 points. Not bad. Not great, but not bad either. Teams that are in the hunt for him, the aforementioned Panthers and Coyotes could sure use a big point producer to help out. Florida in particular would make for a great destination with the emerging David Booth and the host of snipers situated in Miami right now.

These teams in the hunt for Alex Tanguay had better know what they’re getting though.

They’re not getting a big goal scoring winger.

Tanguay is a set-up guy and would fit in ideally on a team that has a center that likes to score goals (well hello Tampa Bay) or on a line with enough offensive talent to make sure that Tanguay’s short comings (doesn’t play physical at all) don’t short-circuit the entire line (Ottawa, Dallas, even Phoenix perhaps).

Alex Tanguay is the ideal support piece for a team’s offense but he’s not the main event scorer. Of course, now that just about every main event scorer is off the market, Alex Tanguay is the last guy out there who has put up big offensive numbers in the past and will, likely, be able to get (over) paid by someone desperate.

Buyer beware because the Most Interesting Free Agent In The World is a lover not a fighter… But he’s also a fighter so don’t get any ideas He’s a total pansy, have at it.

Stay thirsty, GMs.

NHL Awards Summary: Epic Failure

I’ll keep this short for you. The NHL had their awards show in Las Vegas to try and sleaze things up a little more for everyone and while this event is generally really awkward to watch, the NHL outdid themselves this year.

Want to stay in touch with the fans of the NHL and try and generate positive buzz? Yeah, go to Las Vegas – great. Everyone loves Vegas, after all it’s a city that has zero ties to the NHL aside from crazy Jerry Bruckheimer who someday wants to own a team.

Say, I hear there’s a team that is nearby that’s in some sort of financial tangle. What’s that Jerry?


Right, right. Boom. I get it. Explosions sell. I know.

Oh, hey, let’s book Chaka Khan and Robin Thicke to perform. Yeah great, cause that makes fucking sense – about as much sense as getting Def Leppard to play your kickoff event. Old, washed up and NHL fans and players couldn’t give a shit about them.

Then we’ll get comedian Gerry Dee to do sarcastic interviews with NHL players and legends and it’ll be a laugh riot!

Who the hell is Gerry Dee?!

To top it off, we’ll have guys like Jeremy Roenick and Glenn Anderson make asses out of themselves!


Well thought out Gary, you aimed as high as you could and hit yourself in the nuts.

I can’t wait to see Hootie and The Blowfish headline next years awards with Jim Belushi hosting.

Fuckin’ stupid.

Only the NHL would find a way to take their most awkward event and make it somehow worse while adding “laughably bad” as a good adjective.

There’s only one way to describe how this came off tonight:

…of epic proportions.

As for your award winners, here you go:

Hart Trophy: Alex Ovechkin
Norris Trophy: Zdeno Chara
Vezina Trophy: Tim Thomas
Selke Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk
Calder Trophy: Steve Mason
Lady Byng Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk
King Clancy Trophy: Ethan Moreau
Jack Adams Trophy: Claude Julien
Jennings Trophy: Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez
Masterton Trophy: Steve Sullivan
Pearson Award: Alex Ovechkin

The only one I really take issue with is the Masterton Trophy. Never mind that Chris Chelios was a nominee solely for being an old guy but the other finalist was Richard Zednik who overcame getting his throat cut open last year to come back and have a stellar season for the Panthers.

Don’t get me wrong here, Steve Sullivan is a deserving winner and he too has come back from a terrible injury, but after this scene:

What the hell does a guy have to do to get an award for perseverance these days?


Hopefully the NHL Draft will be able to put the pieces together and give the league something to hold up as a great post-season event.

No pressure there Montreal, just try to keep Chaka Khan away.

Court to Balsillie: GTFO

Everything’s coming up Bettman, but this isn’t a surprise:

The Coyotes are staying in Phoenix.

A bankruptcy judge has rejected the proposed sale of the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who would have moved the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

Judge Redfield T. Baum issued a 21-page ruling late Monday afternoon, concluding that the June 29 deadline imposed by Balsillie did not allow enough time to resolve the complex case.

“Simply put, the court does not think there is sufficient time (14 days) for all of these issues to be fairly presented to the court given that deadline,” the judge wrote.

If this shocks you that the court didn’t approve the sale to an owner looking to supersede the rules of the NHL, then you need to go back to school.

I’ve said from the get-go of this drama party that there’s no way the courts would see things Balsillie’s way, especially after he put a deadline on getting a sale done when it was clearly out of his, Jerry Moyes and even the NHLs hands.

Not coming to a Jobing.Com Arena near Glendale.

Of course, this is all just window dressing on the larger problem at hand for the NHL in that they have a franchise that is bleeding money yearly and something needs to be done to rectify that situation sooner than later. In this situation, however, it appears that Jim Balsillie and his moving van won’t be coming to Phoenix to take them away.

What happens with the Coyotes next will be very important to see how dedicated Herr Bettman is to actually keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix or if all of his talk about keeping the team there was just that.

Herr Bettman’s State of the Reichstag

I’ve held off on this piece for a bit because, well, there’s a big series going on right now. That said, I couldn’t allow for Herr Bettman’s yearly, rambling spin doctoring speech which he calls the State Of The League address go without giving it proper roasting.

Now I know that some of you may think that the harping on Bettman goes over the top and that’s fine and a fair criticism to which I just ask that he not make it so easy to find ways to hammer him. That said, it’s getting more popular to needle the man as Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy did quite nicely with his piece examining the NHL constitution and bylaws. If you haven’t given that a look over you should because the NHL constitution goes over about as black and white as the rules interpretations do for officials.

No wonder this league is such a mess.

What we’re going to focus on here, however, is Bettman’s May 30th press conference about what he thinks of the league and its many sticky issues and why he’s the kind of lying liar lying about lies that drive us crazy.

Black and White makes this blog classy-ish. It also opens the door to break Godwin’s Law.

If you’ve watched or absorbed sports enough in your life you know that when you get a talk from or an interview with someone involved in the game either they’re going to bore the crap out of you with the standard athlete/coach speak in which they offer up little to nothing informative or interesting.

If you’re dealing with someone in an executive position you’re probably going to get lied to a lot and if you’re on to their game and understand that they’re lying to you to mess with you, it’s fun.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is a superstar at this because he not only flat out lies, he twists reporters in knots with a British comedy-like dry wit in which allows him to both insult and take down a reporter who thinks they’re ahead of the game.

You also have guys like John Tortorella who don’t mind actually taking you down a peg or twelve and believe me, that’s quite the moment to have.

For Gary Bettman though… We know he’s lying, we know what he’s lying about and he thinks he’s being cute with us while others are more than happy to eat up what’s spoonfed by the Lying Mouth That Fails.

Honestly, do you think anyone out there believes it when he says this:

With regard to Phoenix, there has been a lot of commentary on the subject. So let me spend a brief moment on it.

The team was never in jeopardy. It was literally 20 minutes away from being fixed in a way that we thought was going to work quite well, and it’s our view, my view, that the Coyotes should not be in bankruptcy.

Give me a freaking break.

“Literally 20 minutes away from being fixed” – if you believe that I’ve got a team bridge to sell you.

Considering that the incredibly awful situation in Phoenix has now allowed for the soft underbelly of the NHL to be out in full display opening the door for every crazy canuck with lots of money to come running out to make a claim, how is it possible that the league was that close to righting the ship when they can’t even get out of their own way in the first place?

How difficult would it be for Bettman to be up front from the get-go to say, “Listen, things are in a bad way in Phoenix. Jerry Moyes has come to us with concerns and has asked for the league to help out in finding a buyer for the franchise interested in keeping the team tied to the city.”

At worst, the league takes a hit for playing things parallel to what goes on in corporate America with financially miserable companies getting a taxpayer bailout but at best everyone in the situation comes out looking like they’re trying to do the right thing for everyone concerned. Not only does it allow for everyone to look good, it’s solid PR for the league and for Jerry Moyes.

NHL Planning: It’s fannnnnntastic!

Instead you get this from the press conference following the State of the Game address:

Q. Publicly you’ve painted a fairly optimistic portrait of Phoenix’s financial health all season, yet court documents relating to the bankruptcy suggest there were some serious issues all year round. How do you imagine it turning around in that market?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: First of all, I know there have been suggestions that either Bill or I have been optimistic. That was not the case. What we’ve always responded to has been the notion that the club was not in any jeopardy. The club’s losses are comparable to what they’ve been.

The City of Glendale is prepared to work with the club in terms of building arrangements. And we believe there are buyers out there who are willing to step up, invest and make it work. This is a club that needs new ownership and a change in management and needs to perform better than it has. As long as there are people prepared to invest in doing that, we think the prospects can be optimistic and should be. At least some of the people that I’ve spoken to believe that it can be turned around and turned around rather quickly by doing a lot of the right things that haven’t been done.

Spin, spin, spin away.

The best part about reading this transcript is that you can see Bettman’s mood change from the start of the press conference to the end of it and he knows that what he’s shoveling isn’t being bought by those in attendance and hey, when you go into one of these things knowing full well that the reporters are going to come at you armed with a litany of hot-button topics you have to think he’d be prepared for this or more media savvy about it.

But it’s great to read an exchange that goes like this:

Q. Having said that, you’ve been in the south now, and your southern expansion, you’ve been 30 teams for, correct me if I’m wrong, 7 or 8 years now – the goal to be to get the big U.S. TV contract. The reward has never come. You don’t have the big TV contract?


Q. Is there any shelf life on being in these cities where across the board down there you’ve got financial problems. Do you ever pull your horns in on this whole 30?team thing and bring it back a little bit?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The answer is I don’t agree with your premise. It wasn’t all about just the big TV contract. It was about expanding our footprint and connecting with fans in more places than before. If you count, I don’t have the exact number, but the number of people that have attended games in the new markets since they’ve come into the League goes into the tens of millions. We have a number of Stanley Cup champions and/or finalists who have come from the so?called Sun Belt.

To use your methodology of seven years, I’ll make it 10 or 12 years, that’s a relatively short period of time in the life of a franchise.

We like where we are. And this is not something that you take a snap shot over. We believe that our franchises can all be successful where they’re currently located. And somebody could have asked me the same question that you just asked eight years ago about the Canadian franchises. They could have said; ‘Why do you have any franchises other than Toronto or Montreal?’ eight or ten years ago, because the buildings in all the other places were two?thirds to half empty. And the answer is because that’s where we belong having franchises. We’re working with our fans. And we don’t run out on cities. We try to make it work. I think at this stage to pronounce that our expansion and the places where we are isn’t working is premature.

With respect to television, the television landscape is a lot more complicated than the discussion about it. Taking the year off that we took had an impact on where we are and who had what needs when, and the perceived value of our product.

The fact is we decided coming back to go in a certain direction in the United States. Our ratings are growing very nicely with a partner who is growing with us. And it’s playing out pretty much the way we planned. So if it’s not living up to the standards, perhaps, that you’ve set for these franchises, I apologize. But we think we’re doing okay.

Freaking hilarious.

I can picture in my head how Herr Bettman pouted over this and about how no one believes what he says when it comes to just about anything having to do with the league.In fact, I don’t have to imagine it.

Gary’s head being this cartoonishly large makes my Photoshop work all the more realistic.

I can just look at this and feel a lot better knowing that this is the look on his face.

With regard to what he’s saying about Phoenix, I doubt there will be any deviation in how things go at tomorrow’s hearing in the desert even though the Toronto Star seems to think that Balsillie has a good enough case to win out over the NHL. While we’re talking about super-wealthy rams butting heads here, I doubt that the courts would ever go with someone trying to back-door their way into owning a team and violating the way the league does business.

Then again, you just never know – law is funny that way. For my own greedy purposes, I’d love to see Balsillie win out in court tomorrow. Getting a judge to help me and others across the Internet give the NHL and Bettman the finger is something I pray will happen some day, I just doubt beyond anything else that tomorrow is going to be that day.

Of course, should it break down like that, the NHL already has the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on stand-by ready to smack that down just in case Judge Baum wants to get frisky.

At least the league is always ready with a backup plan.

Er… Right.

Jerry Moyes to Gary Bettman: Up Yours

Yesterday was a huge day as far as the Phoenix Coyotes saga goes as the NHL and Jerry Moyes headed to court to hash out this whole bankruptcy issue. When they got there, however, the big dust up was over who, exactly was in control of the team to decide it’s future.

And you thought this would be easy, didn’t you?

Apparently since that entire issue is still a sticky mess, like I was talking about a little bit here the other day, Judge Redfield Baum said, “Screw you guys you’re going to mediation.” Well not quite like that, but he did say that’s how this thing will get squared away.

In the aftermath of that decision as well as the choice by Judge Baum to have a relocation hearing in June just a week ahead of the draft has turned this already ample PR game into a sideshow of Bearded Lady proportions.

The good news out of this for fans in Phoenix is that their team probably isn’t going anywhere next season. The bad news is that their maybe/maybe not owner Jerry Moyes is busy scorching the earth to make it impossible for anyone with the money needed to make hockey in the desert work to make the investment.

“Even a winning team would not stop us from losing money unless we received some concessions,” Moyes said in his letter.

He made no apology for trying to abandon the Phoenix market by selling the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, whose $212.5 million (all figures U.S.) offer is conditional upon moving the franchise to Hamilton.

“I have a responsibility to all of the creditors of this business,” said Moyes. “No one other than Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie’s company has offered enough to pay the creditors, which led to my initiating a court-supervised sale process. This process will be open and transparent, and all offers current and future must be fairly examined; guaranteeing an equitable offer.”

In other words, Moyes had this to say to Gary Bettman for butting in on his attempt to backdoor Jim Balsillie into owning and moving the franchise:

Dear Anyone Trying To Keep Hockey In Glendale: Up yours!

Unfortunately for Jerry Moyes and NHL fans in southern Ontario, the NHL and Gary Bettman are always able to unearth someone who wants to keep the show around locally. In this case, word has come out that Coyotes minority owner John Breslow wants to right the ship in Glendale and keep the team there.

Well if that ain’t a spike strip on the highway for the trucking magnate.

Of course, since Breslow is a bit late to the party and given how well him stepping up to save the franchise in Arizona would work out for Bettman, you’ll have to forgive me if I worry about his full-fledged financial credentials.

After all, the last guy that stepped up this big to keep a team in a struggling market seemed to have some issues of his own.

I certainly don’t think that Breslow is a crook here, but this is the bed Herr Bettman has made for us by putting his faith in people who are scumbags, scam artists and all around pricks.

That’s not even taking into account Len Barrie and Oren Koules in Tampa Bay who have made it their mission to ruin Tampa, Florida as the shining example of how the NHL can work in a non-traditional hockey market.

I know that sounds goofy and all, but the attendance figures speak for themselves in the case of the Lightning.

2009: Lightning were 22nd in average attendance (out of 30) filling up at an 85.6% rate and over 16,497 per game.

In previous seasons?

2008: 8th (18,692 per game)
2007: 3rd (19,876 per game) filling at 100.6%
2006: 2nd (20,509 per game)
2005: No Season – Thanks Gary

Forgive me if I don’t completely buy into John Breslow being the knight in shining armor for the Coyotes because Gary’s track record in being able to pick a winner is less-than stellar.

Even better still is that Jerry Reinsdorf was the guy Bettman was pushing as the guy who would get the sweetheart deal even though his plan was to fire Gretzky and move the team to Las Vegas in two years.

That makes me wonder if Bettman refers to Reinsdorf as “Boots” just out of habit. You know, since Boots Del Biaggio’s whole plan with the Predators was to supposedly move them to Kansas City yet Bettman was completely unaware of all this.

What a joke.

Bettman’s Cloak and Dagger in the Desert

It’s quite amazing what this hurricane of scheisse that is the Phoenix Coyotes and Jim Balsillie Dance has done for the appearance of Gary Bettman the commissioner.

To the folks in Canada, he solidifies his position as the most hated man in the country by continuing to apparently deny Canada their seventh professional hockey team. Never mind that 15 years ago Canada used to have eight, that’s beside the point here. Canada wants to bring a seventh team back “home” and Jim Balsillie is their cult leader at the helm.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against Canada getting another team or two – I want it to happen and I want it to happen badly. My issue is with Jim Balsillie going about things the absolute wrong way to make it happen. That’s all. I think Jim Balsillie would be the most fun owner to join the “club” in a long, long time and would help draw more attention to the league and for good reasons.

I maintained a couple of weeks ago when this story broke that there was something really wrong with how things broke down with the situation in Phoenix and while onwer Jerry Moyes being desperate to get out of owning an NHL team that’s bleeding money is part of that and Jim Balsillie looking to grossly overpay for a team and move them back to his home is key here, there are other parts to this story that aren’t getting the airtime or notice and guess who that all falls on?

That’s right: Herr Bettman.

Who am I not going to take issue with here are the folks in Phoenix who are the tried and true fans of this team and are caught in the middle of this mess like kids in a divorce settlement. There’s only one way the kids really win out here and that’s if their parents can reconcile and get a solution worked out and that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

After all, when you’re a fan in this situation you’re completely helpless and you have to hope that a solution that works well for you can be had. Let’s face it, this is an ugly and dire situation in Phoenix and a team that loses this much money isn’t marketable to other owners in it’s current location and a solution to make money has to be found to be able to pawn it off to some other sucker, I mean owner.

What sucks about this situation for the fans in Phoenix is that their hero is also the guy looking to save his own skin and why he’s operating a sick sort of cloak and dagger operation.

80s movie reference so deep Dennis Miller is at a loss for words.

Leave it to Gary Bettman to play the part of the parent who bad-mouths the other parent to the kids to show how much he loves them while saying things to his attorney (PDF), in this case Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, that contradict those sentiments completely.

It would figure that Bettman would manage to find a way to drag fans that had their team run away from them as part of the Great Southern NHL Manifest Destiny and get them all excited all over again all in a means to save his own skin while chapping the ass of the guy that’s looking to fork over nearly $100 million dollars more than what’s being asked of others for a team that’s been losing $30-$40 million a year.

It would also make sense that Bettman would make sure to keep it a big secret that the NHL has been in control of the Coyotes since November 2008 while it sniffed around to find other potential owners of the club.

Meanwhile, in this story from AZCentral.com dated April 29th, the Coyotes denied that the NHL was in control and that everything else was just fine. Well who in the world would ask them to stay hush-hush about this because it might hurt the prospect of finding new buyers for the team?

Oh, right.

Look at this quote, it’s amazing considering that it would just be days later the truth would be revealed.

Coyotes President Doug Moss refuted that report late Wednesday night, saying the league has not assumed control of the Coyotes.

“We are not reporting to the league,” he said. “We report to (owner) Jerry Moyes. I’m dealing with things in my area, the business side, and Donnie (General Manager Don Maloney) is dealing with the hockey side.

“It’s business as usual. He’s preparing for the draft. I’m preparing for next year on marketing and sales.”

This is stunning that a team could just spin the tires in the mud like this. This portrays the Coyotes management acting like the Wizard of Oz after they’ve looked behind the curtain.

This means that since November, since the second month of the season, the NHL has been pulling the strings of the Coyotes, a team that wasn’t fully out of the playoff hunt until there was about a month left to go in the season, you know, around the trade deadline when Phoenix started lopping off valuable baubles like Olli Jokinen and Derek Morris.

The catch here is that Coyotes GM Don Maloney isn’t a sham of a general manager and was able to get a nice return or else everyone’s red flags would be waving all over the place, especially after how well Olli Jokinen and Derek Morris worked out for the Flames and Rangers respectively. It still doesn’t sit well with me that a team that was still within a distant shot of the final playoff spot decided to pack it in rather than empty both barrels and go for the playoffs.

It’s all water under the bridge now and Phoenix will help load the youth coffers in the draft yet again, something that a smart and wealthy person will recognize with the Coyotes. Something that one disturbingly wealthy Canadian has already recognized and is willing to throw money at anything possible to bring his team home.

If I’m on the board of governors and I’ve got some wild-eyed Canadian crazy man who is busy sponsoring just about everything that he can on the United States network that covers the NHL (that being NBC) and even starting up websites like Make It Seven to serve as the PR mouth of his operation… Isn’t that the kind of attention-getting guy you want to have on your side rather than working against you?

Instead, the NHL chooses to look at Balsillie as an enemy combatant looking to horn in on their Good Time Fun Club any way that he can. Balsillie thinks that money can buy his way in and the owners tell him to get lost, meanwhile Bettman operates behind the scenes to try and play the role as Savior of the Coyotes meanwhile coming up with a contingency plan that finds a way to stick it to Balsillie and still find no one interested in buying the team to even move them to Winnipeg or Kansas City or anywhere else.

Well, maybe Jerry Bruckheimer can be convinced to bring them to Las Vegas for that other AEG tie-in, but that’s just an even goofier side-plot.

Is this really how things operate in the big grown-up world of professional sports? Amazing.

What’s hilarious here is how the public relations game played itself out from the get-go. Balsillie rides in to save the day for Jerry Moyes and his failing and bankrupt empire and Balsillie is set to ride off to Canada.

Meanwhile Bettman and gang step in to say that’s not going to happen (and legally that’s absolutely correct) and rather than be completely upfront about the situation in Phoenix all along, the league says all is well and that everyone will stay the same. And yet, all along, Bettman is searching around for someone to swoop in for the save (namely Jerry Reinsdorf) and keep the team in Phoenix so he doesn’t suffer an epic PR hit for taking a team out of Canada and moving them to the desert where they ultimately failed and then had to tuck tail, literally, to move back to Canada.

Got all that? I’m sure there’s a run-on sentence in there somewhere.

Unreal. No one is being truthful, at least no one was before all of this shit was thrown into the fan, and now that attention has been turned to the entire fiasco the scramble is on to save face and make sure no one is turned off to the NHL… at least in Phoenix.

Canada? Yeah, well, they’re the ace in the hole Gary can count on. Canadians love hockey no matter what and they’re not going to give up on the game. He can suffer the PR hits in Canada all he wants because he knows that Canadian fans aren’t going anywhere and that they’ll stick to the NHL for life. For fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba or Hamilton, Ontario they’re going to be watching the Maple Leafs or Flames or Oilers every Saturday night on CBC and all season long on TSN whether there’s a team in their backyard or not.

The Canadian NHL Fan is the closest thing Bettman has to a sure thing in his operation, they are his easy money. Getting more money out of Canadians by putting another franchise there doesn’t excite him, especially if it means a team playing in an arena that doesn’t pass the sniff test (like Copps Coliseum in Hamilton) or one that doesn’t hold as many folks as they’d ideally like to see (MTS Centre in Winnipeg).

What can’t Bettman afford to do? He can’t afford to do what David Stern did so egregiously with the Seattle Super Sonics and just pick up stakes and move to an out-of-the-way place like Oklahoma City all while giving Seattle the finger and lecturing them about how to cave into the NBAs demands.

After all, we’re not talking about the Coyotes demanding a new arena they’ve got that in Glendale with Jobing.com Arena. We’re talking about a team that is bleeding money in a market that, media-wise, didn’t give a damn about the Coyotes until they were about to run out of town and leave a hulking monument to failure in their backyard.

Bettman and the NHL can’t afford (literally and figuratively) to have an empty year-round Jobing.com Arena stand as their legacy and run out of town screaming leaving one of the United States largest cities franchise-free with any and all of the fans they had left behind pissed off and hating the NHL forever. This isn’t the kind of situation that happened when the Cardinals of the NFL left St. Louis for Arizona only to have the Rams move from Los Angeles to St. Louis later on.

If the NHL leaves Phoenix, this is what they’ll be doing: Not just burning the bridge down, but blowing it up.

There may be a lot of fans in Phoenix and surrounding cities that love hockey, but they will never trust nor care about the NHL ever again should they leave town and every bridge out of town would be exploded and set ablaze to never come back to again. Phoenix would be Gary Bettman’s failed experiment in expanding the NHL to new and unthinkable locations.

This is what is at stake here for the NHL and the fans in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Glendale are all caught in the middle. Bettman’s e-mail to Bill Daly expressing his thoughts of going back to Winnipeg are a sign of fear.

After all, if things cannot be sustained or saved in Phoenix you might as well bring the team back home before exploring something new and different in Canada and deal with the legal wrangling that would have to take place with the Maple Leafs and Sabres not to mention potentially screwing Jim Balsillie out of his wishes to join the ownership club.

If Bettman were to take the Coyotes back to Winnipeg, he’s viewed as a hero and a humbled one for righting a wrong and bringing a team back to Canada and back to a place that once had a much beloved franchise. If things are saved in Phoenix, then it’s all status quo and the financial eye just locks in on the Coyotes even more for the time being and the new owners that come in get to play the part of saviors all at Gary’s urging.

The only thing that will stay constant in all this is that Jim Balsillie will not be the knight in shining armor for southern Ontario because that’s the side in all this that everyone wants no part in…

Unless your name is Jerry Moyes and there’s $215 million at stake in the matter for you.