Sunday, April 17, 2011

Well Two Weeks Since My Last Musings Blog And What A Lot Has/Is Happening

First off what a lovely spring we are having excepting of course all these tornadoes - wow - it's clear "weather watchers" that Jim Cantore, you remember him, well it's clear to me that he must be walking around with a constant case of, well no other "politic" way to say it, a case of serious wood for the last three or more days. Me, my heart and prayers go out to all who are being or have been affected by these natural disasters/severe weather events of the recent few days. Some of these statistics that Cantore and others in the meteorological related media are talking about, are nothing but truly scary. This whole 2011/2012 thing just has to simmer on down - that's all I'd like to see.

Now on to mindless diversions for a few minutes before I actually get some work done and then take a break to watch the #Caps - #Rangers game three (3) from Madison Square Garden (#MSG). Yes it's official, in addition to being very busy lately, another reason for fewer blog posts of late is I've become "one of those" - you know I'm a #tweep - someone who #tweets on #twitter. It's really a lazy man's way to "put yourself" and "your views out there", IMHO. I say this because you really don't have to completely decompose your ideas and thoughts because you can always fall back onto the reason you are limited to 140 characters for each idea/thought you put up on line. It's a good excuse for why your ideas might not be fully distilled or backed up in some cases. However, when you do get a great thought or idea (aka: musing) fully distilled into something totally cogent down into 140 characters or less it's pretty darn powerful. That's why the #twitter form of social media is so seductive to me, well actually that's the biggest of several reasons, another is it's really easy to access and get - sort of like, no not sort of, it is, IMO, the "crack" of social media. It's also very fast and furious, if Blogging is the Baseball game of social media; then Twitter is an Ice Hockey game where the Ref's and Linesmen decided they were putting the whistles away.

So the regular season of the NHL ended on schedule last week and the playoffs started. A few teams, well the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks, pretty much had to hold their breadth and hope they made it in to the post-season. Others like the Capitals, the Flyers, the Sharks and the Canucks, and actually the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams, didn't know who they'd be playing in the first round until the season's final games were played and over. All in all that made for some interesting things to follow and track the last week of the season. To me that's all good since it kept fan interest up throughout the league pretty much until either the 81st or 82nd game of the season for all thirty teams. Now the playoffs are underway and that's the focus of most of my hockey related musings but I've got one hockey related musing to put out there before I turn to the playoff series in process around North America.

Here it is, another NHL season ends and we once again have a controversy involving should the Phoenix Coyotes stay in Phoenix next season or do they get moved so Winnipeg gets their team back? I say why not do both? You see I agree. I agree with everyone about every aspect of the debate between the NHL, the City of Glendale, the Goldwater Institute, the fans in Phoenix (yes there are NHL fans in Phoenix), the fans in Winnipeg, and even Matthew Hulsizer and Darcy Olsen. Now that I've got you scratching your head, if you care about this issue at all try on these ideas and tell me what you think. Here's the dots I've fashioned and I'll connect: a) Government should NOT take on debt "for the public interest" that doesn't serve truly broad, deeply rooted public need OR doesn't make straight business sense any more lightly than "businessmen" do it in the private sector. b) The basic business deal that surrounds the Coyotes and the Arena in Glendale today has a lot of hair on it - not because it can't be made to work, but because the original deal was poorly thought out and those original numbers probably "never worked." In other words in business terms it's a "turn-around" and/or "work out" situation. To think or say otherwise is in business parlance - doing nothing other than "putting lipstick on a pig". c) Any NHL expansion right now ought to be centered in and around Canada - those are the markets screaming most for teams and with the strength of the Canadian Dollar, and the presence of NAFTA likely to keep the Canadian Dollar strong well PAST the foreseeable future that makes business sense for the NHL in all aspects, except for a National TV Deal here in the US. d) A national TV deal for the NHL here in the US isn't likely to be much better than what the NHL has until all this sort of chaos about team locations, etc. settles down. Further a team in Phoenix is a good thing for such a deal and a league without a team there is even further away from such a deal. So think about this "solution" to make everyone involved with this deal "happy".

1) Expand the NHL by two teams. Locations: Winnipeg and either: Quebec City or Hamilton. Use the proceeds from the sale of the new franchises for the NHL to provide the relief and/or guarantees that Mathew Hulsizer feels he needs to live with the risk of the turn-around of the Coyotes financially, other than the rework of the lease with the City of Glendale. Bottom line for/to the Goldwater Institute (GWI) and the City of Glendale on the lease terms is simple - the real estate market and the economy has cratered in case you haven't heard and all landlords who are over-extended (and you guys in Glendale are) are being compelled to rework your leases, etc and extend the payback of your investments, adversely affecting your Returns On Investment. That's why Darcy Olsen and the GWI are right when they don't want to sink more public monies into that investment and they are wrong if they resist the rework of the lease to the point of driving away a team. It's also why the City of Glendale is willing to rework the lease, they know a property without a marquee tenant is an asset worth even less than the current value of the asset they own. It's simple business. However, the NHL and the ownership old, current (the NHL) and new (Hulsizer) all need to a) bear some responsibility for the current situation, and even more importantly need to have as much if not more "skin in the game" for this deal, "turn-around" to work. Turn-around deals that don't ensure the principles have more skin in the game then the financial institutions/resource sources backing the deals, all too easily, fail with the new principles walking away after the "can has been kicked down the road a while longer." It's pretty simple. So for the NHL and some of the folks who wanted the deal to happen to be pissed about the GWI raising the questions they are just doesn't make sense to me. Surely on both sides of the debate, the people who were backing the deal - basically the public taxpayers - had advocates and foes. If the GWI as a watchdog organization didn't raise questions, there would have been other organizations asking these questions. Here's the situation, in business terms as I see them: a)The NHL doesn't want to own the Coyotes any longer than it has to, makes sense but b) the NHL does own the team, if they didn't want to further participate in this turn-around they've have numerous chances and still do not to continue to do so. c) The City of Glendale was greedy in the original lease, either knowingly or unwittingly setting up part of the reasons for issues. d) The incoming prospective owners (Hulsizer, and others before him) have all looked at the conditions and business side of the situation and felt compelled to either plan on exiting Glendale or getting lease concessions - i don't think that's an idle threat or bad business on their parts.)

The answer is some level of "owner (e.g. NHL) financing" for the deal. Where better to get the monies to back the NHL's part of the deal than from the ready pool of buyers who want to put a team in other viable markets. Also bottom line is a 32 team league works as well or better from a scheduling perspective than a 30 team league. Further whether we American Hockey fans want to admit it or not, Ice Hockey IS the Canadian National Sport for all intents and purposes, so one more team each in Western and Eastern Canada isn't going to do anything but strengthen the league. Further, the reason I personally like Quebec more than Hamilton is the jurisdictional/market area issues with Hamilton's overlap with both Toronto and Buffalo are legally problematic AND the idea of reviving the inherent French-Canadian rivalry between Montreal and Quebec is great from a marketing perspective IMO. Okay now to my musings on the 2011 playoffs.

Well first off on this years Conference Quarter Final match-ups, all I really have to say is: WOW! Great hockey is getting played, eh? The match-ups in both conferences all have drama, rivalries, and feature teams playing well. Starting in the West:

1) Vancouver vs. 8) Chicago:
The President's Trophy winning Canucks against the reigning Stanley Cup Champs who have had their way with Vancouver in recent playoff history. No drama or undercurrents there. Seriously these two teams bring it all to the table, and now two games into the series with the Canucks leading 2-0 heading to Chicago, the stage is set for even more exciting hockey. The games or parts of games/highlights I've seen clearly showcase the Sedin Twins are playing "lights out hockey." For those not familiar with my use of the term - lights out anything - means FLAWLESS execution that is done in a manner that exhibits such flow and confidence you just shake your head in disbelief as you watch but you know the executor of the "lights out" performance has skill and can do what they are doing in their sleep. It's just a total joy to watch. That's what's going on from what I see and that's why I just can't see this series going more than five (5) games right now.

2) San Jose vs. 7) Los Angeles:
"The Battle of California" or at least one of them and the only one being played this round. That's drama in and of itself. Further after last night the series is tied 1-1 as it heads to Los Angeles, so the Kings have done what they needed to do to obviate the Sharks' home ice advantage. Can they hold on? Will the Sharks finally break through and deliver on the promise they seem to show ever regular season of late but fail to deliver on in the post season? Will the Kings break through and ascend to the the throne of West Coast Hockey Excellence and reach the end of the path they have now been on for the past three seasons? Will Batman finally put the Riddler away for good? Will going to Kings games became as much a celebrity spotting event as Laker games? Well only the shadow really knows so tune in to this one folks since in the first two games each of the teams playing has looked very, very different in each of the first two games. After last night's game though and with the Kings having taken one from the Sharks in San Jose, I'm calling this one - Kings in six games.

3) Detroit vs. 6) Phoenix:
Well unfortunately for the Desert Dogs so far this series has almost been entirely the Red Wings. Fortunately for Coyote fans their team did manage to get things together and make a run at game two after falling behind so all isn't lost yet. However, the Red Wings head to Phoenix with a 2-0 series lead, inspiration watching Johan Franzen play through face bashing injuries, and a wealth of playoff experience up and down the lineup, as well as at least a few guys thinking: "It sure would be nice to hoist the Cup one more time before I retire." So I expect that this series will be split 2-2 when it comes back the Joe Louis Arena just in time for the Red Wings to win it in 5 games; of course if for some reason the Coyote's play of the last two periods of game 2 are how they choose to play the rest of the series, I'd say all bets are off.

4) Anaheim vs. 5) Nashville:
This series heads to Nashville for game 3 at 5:00 PM today with the Ducks needing to win at least one in "Smashville" to recoup their home ice advantage as it's now tied 1-1. Full disclosure here - for some reason that I really don't consciously understand for the past three seasons, I really like the Predators and I root for them. I think it's because I feel like they are "the little engine that could." With that said, the Predators won game one of the series in Anaheim 4-1, even though they didn't really play their game that well because Pekka Rinne turned in a 0.964 SV% on the 28 shots he faced. The Predators lost game 2 by a score of 5-3 because a) they continued to be drawn in to playing undisciplined hockey by the Ducks thus took too many penalties and Rinne turned in a lackluster 0.852 SV% on the 27 shots he faced while the Ducks netted 4 goals - two of which came in the first six minutes of the game while the Ducks were on the power play; oh and Ray Emery turned in a 0.912 SV% in his first playoff game "in a while." This series is now too hard to call in my opinion. While the Ducks are the higher seed, I'd like to think that if the Predators play their game they should win it in 6 but I wouldn't bet on this series at all. The only thing I will say is the likely physicality of it makes every one of these games worth watching.

In the East:

1) Caps vs. 8) Rangers:
So I'm superstitious so no predictions here on either today's game or the series. We all know what I want to see and who I'm rooting for. The Caps play today at MSG at 3:00, they left for New York leading the series 2-0; they know they have a lot of hockey and work left to do to win the series. The sooner they do that, the better - I'm sure in their view and in all of we Caps fans views. MSG hasn't been a hospitable place for the Capitals this season so far, but the Caps are playing differently than they were the last time they were in NYC so here it goes:

LETS GO CAPS!!!! How about y'all kick some Ranger Butt today, please.

2) Philadelphia vs. 7) Buffalo:
This series heads to sunny Buffalo for game 3 on Monday evening, tied 1-1 by virtue of a Ryan Miller shutout in game 1 in Philly. Game 2 was to Game 1 as Dr. Jekyll is to Mr. Hyde. Game one was a tightly played, disciplined hockey game, decided by just one missed save by Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky at 5:56 of the third period. the Flyers played excellent disciplined hockey the entire game taking only 2 minor penalties to the Sabres 6 but they still ended up loosing 1-0 nothing. it was truly a game that Miller stole from them - he can do that, and will probably do it at least once more before this series is over. Game 2 was a melee - all around. The Sabres got out to a 3-2 lead before Flyers coach Peter Laviolette pulled the rookie they call "Bob" in favor of the vetran they call "Boosh" in Philly. That seemed to wake up the Flyers and they decided they needed to return to form and show why, for much of this season, they've been "Beasts of the East." The Flyers in front of Brian Boucher for the next 47:30 played like what they were - a very talented, very determined hockey team and the came back to win the game 5-4 in regulation, evening the series up as they go to Buffalo for games 3 and 4. Based on what i saw during the last 47:30 of game two, the Flyers should win this series, they can and will likely just overpower Buffalo. The wild card is discipline. As wilds as game 2 was - 9 goals and a total of 24 penalties, once again Buffalo took more penalties than Philly. If Philly's power play ever sorts things out and gets more effective this series will be even shorter than my prediction. of course given the Flyers took 11 penalties in game two - if the Sabres get a little more disciplined and also get a little more effective with the man advantage then this is a different series too. I'd take the Flyers in six (6) games in this series right now. regardless of who ends up playing goal for the Orange and Black.

3) Boston vs. 6) Montreal
Well this is nothing but a storied rivalry where right now the "underdogs" are on top two games to zip as they return to their home ice where so far this season, they've been twice as hard to beat as when they are on the road. What is there to say, lots of drama this series the whole Chara hit on Pacioretty controversy from the regular season between these two Original Six Division rivals, then the fact the Habs basically took the Bruins by storm the first two games in Beantown with stellar performances by their Captain Brian Gionta and their own star goaltender Carey Price has only made for even more drama, yet. Now the series goes to Montreal where, from what I saw in game 2, unless Zdeno Chara can come back into the line-up AND the Bruins get more offense from ALL their forwards, it's hard to see this series seeing another game played in Beantown. Since it's the playoffs and "anything can happen" I'll predict this series Montreal in five (5) games.

4) Pittsburgh vs. 5) Tampa Bay
This series is tied 1-1 and in game 2 Pittsburgh finally looked like most have been expecting them to look in light of the injuries they've had to play through the entire second half of the season. Right now, (i.e. following game 2) it's clear that as Marc-Andre Fleury goes this series goes for the Penguins. It also clear from where I sit, that in many ways, the Tampa Bay Lightning could well be the scariest team in the Playoffs in the East, at least when they are "on" like they were in game 2 in Pittsburgh, a 5-1 victory for the Bolts. I'm thinking that after Game 2 Lecavalier, St. Louis, Gagne, Malone, Stamkos, and the rest of Tampa Bay have the depleted lineup of Pittsburgh skaters figured out and should win this series. I'm thinking it will be the Lightning in no more than 6 games.

So now we head on over mentally to the Caps - Rangers game three; again all I have to say is two (2) down - fourteen (14) to go.


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