Thoughts After the First Round of the 2019 Playoffs

jets-gm

Note – I did not watch a single game of the Dallas Stars/Nashville Predators series or Game seven of the Washington Capitals/Carolina Hurricanes series so it won’t be included in this article.

  • Worst.  Officiated.  Opening.  Round.  Ever.
  • If there’s one GM that needs to be immediately put on the hot seat following their team’s ouster from the playoffs is Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Cheveldayoff has spent years building from within while removing the stench and ineptitude of the Atlanta Thrashers personnel.  For years and years, we’ve waited to see what he can do to build a winner and after these playoffs people are still waiting.  Kevin Cheveldayoff has had more than enough time to build a winner as he’s been too afraid to take a chance on a trade (non-trade deadline deal) that can help his roster.  The team is horrible 5 on 5 and they just don’t have the depth to go deep in the playoffs.  The Jets ouster from the playoffs isn’t a coaching problem, it’s a GM problem.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in four straight games because they thought they could take their one-dimensional game plan and apply it to the post season. What the team didn’t seem to realize is that you need to have a Plan B, C, D, E, F, G, etc when your opponents solve your primary game plan.
  • The San Jose Sharks have an All-Star caliber roster and yet they put on the laziest, most sloppy playoff performance I’ve seen in a long time. If they have injuries to key players, that would go a long way to explaining their pitiful performance.
  • Martin Jones is the main reason that it took the San Jose Sharks seven games to win the series instead of winning it in less games. He also led the NHL in goals allowed in the first period (50+) this regular season.  And the Sharks turned to him in the playoffs?  Really?
  • Brent Burns play in the opening round proves that his Norris Trophy Nomination is a complete and utter joke. Drew Doughty was right in this tweet from this past season.
  • For years I’ve been following the New York Islanders and been hoping for that one moment when everything clicks for the team.  The Islanders of the 2019 playoffs are playing like the team I always through they would become.  Credit that to their GM Lou Lamoriello and their head coach Barry Trotz who changed the team philosophy across the board.
  • Following the Toronto Maple Leafs ouster from the playoffs, the part of the Canadian media who just stir the shit pot to sell product or boost ratings fail to realize one simple fact – The Leafs do not have a good enough team to go deep in the playoffs. That’s not Mike Babcock’s problem.   That said, if there’s one really bright spot for the Leafs moving forward its goaltender Frederik Andersen who was on fire during the opening round.
  • Calgary Flames Goaltender Mike Smith doing Mike Smith things….again… However, the Flames are woefully inexperienced in the playoffs so it’s probably not ALL Mike Smith’s fault…probably.
  • In case you haven’t heard, the officials from Game 2 of the Boston/Toronto series and Game 7 of the San Jose/Las Vegas series are not calling games in the second round.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins had zero depth scoring in round one and changes to that team need to be made. However, in an Article from The Athletic today, the problem points to challenges with the players themselves.  Changes to that team are coming.  I’d also add, they do not have any depth beyond the first line to help in scoring when the main scorers get shut down as they did against the Islanders.  If you shut down that Pittsburgh first line, the rest of the team can’t score.  Given that, the chances of the Islanders winning are pretty large.
  • In case you missed it – The NHL apologized to the Las Vegas Golden Knights for the atrocious Game 7 Vegas officiating.
  • One thing I have a problem with is given that Hitting part of a game plan in the playoffs, the NHL needs to decide where the threshold is for refs to step in and when not to step in….now.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets are an example of that team that just ‘clicks’ when the playoffs start.  The team was firing on all cylinders and their solid mental discipline is something that GM’s dream of their teams having in the playoffs.
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Things to keep in mind as the season progresses

NHL: All Star Game

If you’ve followed my writing over the years I analyze the NHL  (and filled in the gaps with the Coyotes coverage during my beat reporting days) and its goings on.  I never passed myself off as an insider and that won’t change.  My observations so far this season is analysis based on writing, research, and reporting on the NHL for many years including this one.    These are some things you should keep in the back of your mind as the season progresses.

Gretzky’s NHL Blackballing – It’s clear with the announcements of the inclusion of Wayne Gretzky in the NHL’s 100th season celebrations, their blackballing of him (for driving the Arizona Coyotes into the ground forcing the NHL to take over ownership) has been lifted.  Yes, he is the greatest NHL player of all time.  That cannot be disputed.  However, I wouldn’t give him the keys to my shed let alone the keys to another franchise’s hockey operations…at any professional level.

The.  NHL.  Is.  Faster. – If you’re wondering why a team may be hot one second and cold the next, one thing to keep in mind that even in the last three to four years the speed of the NHL has risen astronomically.  I’m not talking about fast skating and such.  I’m talking about the way players process the game moment to moment, pass to pass, and shift to shift.  Some players and teams may have NHL level skill sets but they may not have the ability to process lightning fast decisions that need to be made over the course of a game, a week, or a season.  Before judging players or teams in the negative (the Vancouver Canucks come to mind) ask yourself if the reason for their poor performances is because they do not have the ability, as a team, to make lightning fast decisions game in and game out.

John Scott All-Star Game fiasco – If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was one of the most vocal parties when it came to how things transpired.  Let’s face it, this was the public relations cluster fucks of all cluster fucks not only with the Arizona Coyotes but the NHL as well.  When this whole mess started, the way the Arizona Coyotes handled it was right out of their archaic steeped-in-old-school-media playbook.  After working with the PR staff for the Coyotes over the years they have shown me that they don’t know the difference between their butts and their elbows when it comes to a gift of positive online based PR with the John Scott All-Star game voting.  The Coyotes reaction as well as the NHL’s reaction (along with the asinine John Scott Rule they just implemented) showed one of the main reasons why the NHL hasn’t risen to the level of the NBA and NFL in popularity – they aren’t ready, open, and willing to move out of their ‘old school’ thinking and ways into the modern era.  The All-Star game is one of the most boring events in sports and fans know this.  The fans showed the league they wanted to make the game fun by adding a different element to the game.  The league responded by showing that they don’t like fun (to say they were really pissed off over this whole John Scott All-Star Game fiasco is the EXTREME understatement of the century).  This has to change.

The NHL and the Arizona Coyotes had the gift of all positive Public Relations gift dropped square in their laps and they let it slip through their fingers.  The way the NHL and Coyotes handled the situation and John Scott’s trade was like watching a spoiled child’s tantrum and then getting his way.  Scott handled the whole incident like a professional and his performance in the All-Star Game was watching Karma in action (especially with the Coyotes rightfully not having anyone represent them in the game).

The Vancouver Canucks – As noted above due to the insane amount speed in the game currently, one of the things people need to keep in mind is that the Canucks simply do not have the bodies to be able to process the game at which the speed is moving.  Willie Desjardins has a job of taking lemons and turning them into lemonade and in a hockey rabid town like Vancouver, the Fans in the Lower Mainland and across British Columbia are quick to set fire online to players, coaches, and front office staff on a regular basis.  Trevor Linden inherited a mess that was left neglected dating back to the Brian Burke era (below) and its going to take sometime to get the team back on the right track.

The Canucks history – I’ve been following the Canucks very closely since the Burke era, especially when it comes to the hockey operations of the franchise.  The mess that the Canucks have across their franchise started back when Brian Burke was at the helm trying to turn around an almost exact scenario that they have now – Fans not coming to games, the franchise lacking talent and prospects and a need to turn it around NOW.  Burke’s job was to put butts in seats with a budget and he did that…at a cost.  The cost was to mortgage the future for success in the present.  A cost that is being dealt with by Trevor Linden today.  The GM’s between Burke and Benning (Dave Nonis and Mike Gillis) didn’t really do much as one never got to put his stamp on the team when presented with a literally empty prospect cupboard (Nonis) and other (Gillis) pissed away assets and never retooled the team following their Stanley Cup final run.  Needless, to say Trevor Linden inherited a complete and utter mess that is almost on the level of how Wayne Gretzky drove the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes into the ground.  Most fans don’t get this and probably won’t.

Vancouver Canucks are projected to finish dead last in the NHL.  I stand by my tweet from earlier this season where I said that they will finish higher than the Flames in the standings.

Glendale, Arizona – What a mess this whole Coyotes/Glendale/Westgate thing has become.  Instead of rehashing the story yet again, I offer a different angle.  Pretty much everyone doesn’t know what the whole purpose of this project was to be.

The Greater Phoenix, Arizona is unlike normal metropolitan areas in that they don’t have centralized downtown (or anything centralized for that matter).  Everything is so spread out across the valley and that includes destinations for people to spend their time.   Back in the 90’s the City of Glendale and business leaders had a vision to make the Westgate area a destination like Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler etc was and is today.  The original vision of the Westgate area stretched out way beyond the Stadiums and shopping complexes and was to include much, much more housing, entertainment and so on.  However, 9/11 pretty much derailed the full vision of what Westgate was to become and the powers that be decided to make a smaller version of their original plans.  The main item that the City of Glendale (along with everyone else) lost along the way was to make their city a destination for the region.  In the Glendale City Council meetings that pertained to the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes ownership battle, the City leaders clearly did not demonstrate this vision which tells me that original vision of making Glendale a destination got lost along the way.

Off Topic

Arizona State University football – This marks year five of the tenure of Coach Todd Graham.  During his introductory press conference (below), I asked him if the goal of the program was to win a national title.  I asked him that question for a reason.  Given the point in time that he was hired, mediocrity in the entire program was accepted year in and year out.  Kids growing up in the greater Phoenix area didn’t grow up playing football imagining they were playing for ASU.  They grew up pretending to play for other national powerhouses.  Top talent in the state were going to the bigger schools and not staying in state.  This was a problem with the program and the Athletic Department.  For ASU to be a winning program, they had to start at the grassroots level with kids camps and community outreaches to build a winner.

If there’s one thing regarding his performance that he should be judged on (this past seasons on field performance should be ignored due to the insane amount of injures they had) is how the program across the board should be judged in reference to building a sustainable championship program for years to come.  Arizona State has done just that but it will take some time before they see the fruits of their labor.

Autobiographies – As I’m writing this I’ve got a collection of Genesis live albums playing on the headset (‘Duchess’ on ‘Three Sides Live’ is wicked and hearing Phil Collins sing the 24 odd minute ‘Supper’s Ready’ and not Peter Gabriel is oddly satisfying) as a result of reading the new autobiography by Phil Collins.  I recommend the book but my only knock on this book so far (up to the 80’s and his Live Aid performances) is the lack of detail about how the Genesis albums from ‘Duke’ through their self-titled album came to be.  His solo albums are written with great detail, especially how ‘In the air tonight’ came to but his Genesis albums lack the detail of the writing and recording process and seem to be just blips on the radar.

I’m also reading the autobiography of Bruce Springsteen and he’s as good or better of a writer than he is a storyteller in concert.  I’m up to the recording and touring of the ‘Born to Run’ album and I’ve also been exploring his studio and live back catalog which is amazing given the detail of how his life up to the points of his albums came to be.

I HIGHLY recommend both books if you’re fans.

On East Coast time – I gotta admit after watching about ten seasons worth of games on the left coast and In Arizona it’s weird watching games on the right coast and adjusting to the times that games are on.  It could be worse, you could be a Pac-12 fan like myself where games have started as late as 10:30 PM in the East.

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Steven Stamkos joins other Pro Athletes for a Nike ‘Snow Day’

snow-day-gronk

During tonight’s Thursday Night Football game with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, Nike will debut their creative and fun ‘Snow Day’ campaign which features Tampa Bay Lightning Forward Steven Stamkos among a cast of other professional athletes.

 

 

While this is an insanely creative ad, when it comes to marketing the NHL in the US is falls way short of other campaigns that have been successful in Canada.

Campaigns like this one with Jarome Igilna and Markus Naslund

Or this Classic one with Markus Naslund and Ilya Kovalchuk

Or even this classic Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs one

One has to wonder what can be done to market the NHL and it’s players more effectively in the United States.

‘Snow Day’ also stars – Odell Beckham Jr. (NFL – New York Giants), Le’Veon Bell (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Eugenie Bouchard (Canadian Pro Tennis Player), Antonio Brown (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Elena Delle Donne (WNBA – Chicago Sky), Marlen Esparza (Women’s Boxing), Paula Findlay (Women’s Triathlon), Lauren Fisher (CrossFit Games), Paul George (NBA – Indiana Pacers), A.J. Green (NFL – Cincinnati Bengals), Draymond Green (NBA – Golden State Warriors), Luke Kuechly (NFL – Carolina Panthers), Sydney Leroux (US Women’s Soccer Team), Carli Lloyd (US Women’s Soccer Team), Marcus Mariota (NFL – Tennessee Titans), LeSean McCoy (NFL – Buffalo Bills), Ben Roethlisberger (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Eric Weddle (NFL – San Diego Chargers) as well as Steven Stamkos (NHL – Tampa Bay Lightning).

 

Source: Creativity

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Ducks Getzlaf out 4-12 days with appendicitis

ryan-getzlaf

 

Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf will not play tonight in Dallas against the Stars due to appendicitis.  The Ducks and Pucks blog first reported he flew back home to Orange County today for his surgery which is scheduled for tomorrow.  According to the Anaheim Ducks press release, Getzlaf will be out for approximately 4-12 days.

The Anaheim Ducks also said that Getzlaf has had ‘discomfort intermittently over the last six weeks’.

In eight games this season Getzlaf has scored one assist on the struggling Ducks roster who are 1-5-2 and only six goals scored this season.  This begs the question, if this is his problem with his lack of production, why wasn’t this discovered earlier in training camp?

 

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What Happened With the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

By the time you read this, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have started the 2015-2016 NHL season 0-7.  They have allowed 34 goals and only scored 13 through these seven games.   It’s amazing that a professional hockey team has started the season 0-7 in such dramatic fashion.

The question everyone is asking is…

What’s wrong with this team?!?!?

Now I’m sure you can pick apart players and come up with line combinations until the cows come home.  However, the Blue Jackets problems break down into three areas (below).  Until these three areas are fixed no General Manager will be able to fully determine what Blue Jackets positions need upgrading.  Until the team turns the three areas noted below around first, they’re not going to be able to do much of anything productive on the ice.

Defensive Zone Coverage

After allowing 34 goals in just seven games it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Blue Jackets could not stop pucks going in.  If ever there was one goal that summed up their defensive zone issues, it’s this one from their home game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.

At the five second mark I want you to watch how ALL five players are down in one area leaving the Leafs point men wide open.  Also note how the defensemen are watching the puck and not the players behind them.

Now imagine this happening 34 times over seven games and you’ll get the picture of why the Blue Jackets are in the mess they’re in right now.  Normally, a defending player would take a quick glance back to see if the opposing players away from the puck (left side of the screen) are sneaking into a scoring position like they did here.

THIS kind of defensive lapse is a coaching problem especially if it happens repeatedly over seven games.  Todd Richards and his coaching staff could not stop goals like this from happening.  This alone was justification for his termination.  This is some of the worst case defensive zone discipline I’ve ever seen on an NHL team.

Goaltending

It’s well known Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky told the media that he’s lost his confidence.  Let me show you an example of this.  Just watch and note how he wasn’t ready for this shot on goal and how he reacted too late.

There’s not a lot that can be done here as it’s up to Bobrovsky to work through his confidence issues.  He’s a great goaltender but he needs to get back to believing he’s a great goaltender.

Mental Game is Off

The Blue Jackets lack of mental strength or confidence is a team wide issue.  Over the course of the first seven games you could see the confidence of the entire team erode as each of the 34 goals the Blue Jackets allowed were scored.  A goal would be scored and the team’s confidence and their performance went down hill quickly.

It’s tough righting a sinking ship when the ship has so many holes in it that have been ignored.  Until the new coaching staff solves this, there’s just going to be more of the same.

New Coach In Columbus

With the hiring of John Tortorella as Todd Richards replacement, people are speculating if this is the right hire for the team because the franchise has been sinking hard and fast for a few years now.  This team needs a winner now.

I personally don’t think he is the man for the job based on his performance in Vancouver along with the stories from other members of the NHL media (specifically TSN’s Gary Lawless on the radio yesterday) I’ve heard from about the way he coached (or didn’t coach) there.  He was also an extremely poor assessor of talent and wasn’t able to put together lines to help alleviate the scoring pressure off the Sedin Twins line.

To stop Tortorella’s Canucks, all you had to do is shut down the Sedin Line and watch lines two through four not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a puck.  The Canucks had talent to provide some help but Tortorella could not figure out who could do the job for him.  HUGE red flag here.

What people should look for here is to see if he’s changed his ways from his time with the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks.  The Blue Jackets need a coach to crack the whip and lead them out of the darkness of losing while developing young talent.  The Blue Jackets don’t need a coach who can’t relate to players or properly assess the talent he has on his roster.

“I need to have better listening skills,” Tortorella said during his press conference in Columbus Wednesday. “I want to know what is going on here and then act accordingly as we talk as a group. It’s so important that we do it collectively here. We need to have some honesty amongst ourselves so we can get on the right road.”

Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets need a coach who can teach and guide the players through the challenges of the three points I made above.

Can John Tortorella do this job?  That remains to be seen.

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Coyotes New Marketing Plan – A Good First Start

Photo - Arizona Coyotes

Photo – Arizona Coyotes

As you may or may not know, I covered the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes as the first non main stream media beat reporter and later the NHL (current coverage). Throughout the Coyotes ownership circus, the marketing of the team was basically some gruff slogan set to some up tempo music that appeared in ads and that was it.  That was the best they ever did with marketing plans (pre-new ownership). The team just basically threw money into the wind with their marketing dollars and poorly thought out plans which was really sad to watch happen.  Sure their budgets were limited, but there was no evidence of the marketing team stretching what little money they had for a given season if they even executed their marketing plans at all.

In addition, the Coyotes social media (prior to the new ownership group) was even worse as it was basically an extension of the PR department, which should never happen anywhere.  The concept of the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’ was foreign to all not to mention leveraging social media marketing practices.  For a long time the Coyotes, as well as much of the NHL, didn’t get the ‘social’ part of social media. It’s taken a few years for the league and it’s teams come around into the modern era but now it’s really fun to see some of the things that teams have been doing the past few seasons.

Anyways, I’ve been reading, watching, and in some cases, actually witnessing in person the Coyotes marketing over the years.  I think it’s time to write something about the topic since they’re doing something more than throwing money at a gruff slogan again.

My Background

Over the years, I’ve studied numerous US and Canadian NHL fan bases (for marketing reasons) including Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, and Edmonton.  Over time I learned the nuances of the different countries but cities as well and have used it when writing articles past, present, and future.

I started my AZ Vibe website and social media sites (The domain name has since been hijacked even though I own the name – Long story) from the ground up (start up) to a following, at its peak, of over 500,000 unique visitors a month. I implemented numerous marketing campaigns for years with a bootstrap budget.

Part of my approach to the Coyotes coverage was to fill in the gaps in their coverage, which was and in some cases still is pretty big.  When I started, the team didn’t have the amount of coverage they have today and the demand for Coyotes news was and still is pretty high.  I provided behind the scenes stuff, information that was available in other NHL markets, along with articles that fans wanted. Pretty much a lot of what you see today from the team they couldn’t or didn’t know how to do back then.  It took a lot of feedback and research before I was able to find exactly what the readers wanted.

In 2012 I was hired by Hensley Beverage Company’s Marketing Department to run their Social Media across all their divisions (Anheuser-Busch, Craft Beer, Food, Spirits, and more) as well as learning traditional marketing and advertising (TV, Radio, Print, etc). I brought all I learned from my AZ Vibe experiences and was able to successfully adapt and promote numerous different brands with different campaigns across all their divisions and products. You can see many samples of my work on their Facebook, Twitter, and their website throughout 2012 (More samples below).

Fast forward to 2015….

The Coyotes kicked off their new marketing campaign for the 2015-2016 season that ‘Celebrates the Unique DNA of Hockey in Arizona’. At first I thought “Oh great another ‘throw money at a catch phrase and hope people buy tickets’ campaign”. After years and years of the same thing over and over again, you would probably have the same reaction too.

However, there isn’t a catch phrase this time. There is a multi faceted plan covering numerous traditional and online marketing methods.

According to the Coyotes website…

The multi-channel campaign will consist of outdoor, digital, broadcast, theatrical, social and event experiences, and will honor the uniqueness of the Coyotes’ authentic and inclusive hockey culture.

“This proud campaign is a celebration of our extraordinarily loyal fans who are arguably the most devoted in the entire NHL,” said Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “This campaign focuses on our very bright future on and off the ice and our commitment to Arizona.”

This link has more details on what their initial plan is if you want to learn more. I’m not going to waste your time regurgitating it here.

The main point you should pay attention to in this campaign is that their new marketing plan finally captures the one bit of the culture here in Arizona that has been missing from the weakly thought up and poorly executed marketing plans of years past – The Coyotes finally are showing that they ‘get’ that this market doesn’t have deep roots of hockey tradition like most Canadian NHL markets and many US NHL markets. The thing with Arizona, compared to the rest of the NHL markets in North America, is that the traditions of hockey are just starting to spring roots that will soon grow deep.

No one outside the state of Arizona gets this. No one.

People judging the team have just looked at the surface of the team, which was (and sometimes still is) the ownership circus, as the measuring stick of how successful or bad hockey is Arizona.  Of all the articles that have been written about this marketing plan, most of them were written by great sports reporters who don’t know anything about marketing or business reporters who don’t know a thing about hockey.   Neither of these groups really have shown they have a grasp on the history of hockey in Arizona or what it takes to grow the sport and how it applies to properly marketing the team.

This is why the NHL has fought so hard to keep the Coyotes in Arizona – to keep the traditions of hockey alive and growing at a productive rate.

That said, I have to say this is new marketing plan is a good beginning and a great sign that the Coyotes are indeed here to stay (knock on wood).

What’s missing here?

Even though the marketing plan is a good start, there’s lots of key aspects of marketing this brand that is missing. I’ll explain some of the big ones below.

Marketing to fans OUTSIDE of Arizona

It’s not clear the team gets this or not with the new plan but in the past it’s been ignored. The team’s fan base extends to the 49 other states in the US and provinces in Canada as well as around the world.

For example, how many people in the Coyotes organization know that even in Manchester, UK they have a fan base?

I was chatting with a Coyotes fan from California (before their game with Anaheim last week) about the new marketing plan. He loved the plan but when it comes to people outside Arizona he basically said ‘What about me?’. It’s a fair question that deserves an answer.

One suggestion I made to ownership via Twitter is to create a message board for fans around the world to connect and talk about Coyotes hockey. Twitter and Facebook can only do so much for the average fan. The Coyotes NEED a message board badly. This is a step in the right direction on how you can connect with your WORLDWIDE fan base. Besides, I’m willing to bet that the team truly doesn’t understand the power of a unified online fan base.

I’ll give you a couple examples of the power of a unified online fan base from the Vancouver Canucks Message boards, one of the oldest, and for a time, the most powerful message board in the NHL.

In the 2004 the Vancouver Canucks met the Calgary Flames in the playoffs and little did everyone know the havoc the fan bases would wreak on each other online.

Example 1 – The Flames IP ban ALL of British Colombia from connecting to their site

That’s not a misprint. When the seeds were set for the playoffs the Calgary Flames forums were overrun by Vancouver Canucks fans to the point to where the Flames took the extraordinary step to block ALL of British Columbia from connecting to their website. Yes, the ENTIRE province.

Example 2 – Rallying the troops

One member of the forum during this series worked at the hotel that the Flames were staying at in Vancouver.  He and others helped organize fans to come outside of their hotel and wake them up with horns honking and other partying noises.  The troops were rallied via the message boards and they did their thing.

Granted, these examples are a little extreme and given what happened after the 2011 final (Vancouver Riots) this probably isn’t surprising to you all. The point is that the fan base has a way to interact, unite, talk hockey and be able to connect with other fans from around the globe. The Coyotes simply just don’t have that available for their fans right now and I know a lot of them (having met many of them over the years) would LOVE this.

So how do the Coyotes plan to market the team to fans who live in away game cities and around the world?  That remains to be seen, if at all.

 Latin Marketing

One of the biggest things I learned at Hensley was marketing Bud Light/Budweiser to the Latin population. It’s a completely different ball game than standard marketing of Bud Light/Budweiser and marketing something like Craft Beer. I’m not sure if the new ownership noticed but there’s a HUGE Latin population within a stone’s throw of Westgate. That is an insanely huge market that is untapped by this or any NHL team in other markets if memory serves.

Is this part of the Coyotes ‘grand’ plan?

Marketing/Merchandising to Women

What’s the plan here? How do you plan to bring new female fans into the fold in addition to the current fan base? Also, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard over the years from female fans is the lack of and extremely poor choices of female Coyotes items to purchase (Hint: sequins = bad).  I’ve been told by the NHL in the past that the teams control the merchandising of their products to the fans.

What’s the plan here?  This is a HUGE need for current fans and will be a need if they want to attract new fans.

Get the PR out of the Marketing/Social Media

Historically, the Coyotes social media has been just a boring extension of the PR department. Lame. While the prepared news is part of what needs to be released to the masses, they in no way should have a say in the marketing of the team. They can provide input and send prepared tweets or press releases to the Social Media team to publish.  The PR team in no way should control what’s being sent out via Social Media. That may or may not be the case now but I’ve seen it in the past.  From what I’ve seen this season, their social media accounts are actually social….somewhat.

Lack of being a point of contact for the team

A few days ago a Coyotes fan on Twitter had a question about an electronic ticket and if it was able to be used at recent game. I told her to Tweet the team and see what happens as this is one of the primary functions of any social media team.

No response.

One of the primary functions of the Coyotes social media account is to be the online point of contact for issues such as these. I like the LA Kings solution to this problem (Hint) in their Twitter description.

Again, this marketing plan is a good beginning and foundation for the team moving forward but it remains to be seen if they ‘get’ the bigger picture for their marketing or not.

Samples of my Facebook posts at Hensley

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151258759253383.515506.109497868382&type=3

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150722666013383.455156.109497868382&type=3

Original Coyotes Press Release for their current marketing plan.

http://coyotes.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=781884

Coyotes Marketing Articles

http://arizonasports.com/story/407083/coyotes-new-marketing-campaign-we-want-your-kids/

http://www.foxsports.com/arizona/story/coyotes-marketing-campaign-at-95-degrees-there-s-zero-room-for-fair-weather-fans-101615

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=783276

http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/news/2015/10/07/arizona-coyotes-go-after-kids-in-new-ad-campaign.html

http://www.foxsports.com/arizona/story/arizona-coyotes-brand-campaign-dna-of-hockey-in-arizona-100615

http://arizonasports.com/story/399636/coyotes-release-new-video-celebrating-hockey-in-arizona/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2015/10/19/coyotes-rebranding-effort-shows-theyre-not-hiding-desert/74232234/

 

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2016 All-Star Game Commissioner’s Selection – Shane Doan

shane-doan

As you may or may not know, Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan is the final year of his contract, and is in his 19th NHL season.  Doan is also the longest active serving Captain in the NHL and is in the last stages of his storied career. While Doan has spent his career with the same organization the chances of him lifting the Stanley Cup are getting slimmer and slimmer as this season progresses.

Many of you may have seen some of his great performances for the Jets/Coyotes as well as playing for team Canada.  What you haven’t seen over the years is how he has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the team and the Greater Phoenix area.  During the Coyotes ownership circus, he’s spoken up for the team and their fans so many times that I’ve lost count.  There’s been many times over the course of this circus that he could have bailed for a different team.  Each time he’s stayed put in Arizona.

Then add to that the undying support of all the Coyotes fans near and far while having to endure the constant barrage of whether the team will be staying or going. With that don’t forget the sensationalist Canadian media timing negative articles to damage the team as they’re trying to rebuild the franchise.  Some of the articles that came out of Canada over the years bordered on lunacy and the abuse the fans have taken was and sometimes still is pretty brutal.  I’m not going to link any of these articles as you can find them all on Google pretty quickly.

On top of that, there’s a possibility that Shane Doan may not re-sign with the Coyotes next season (this is just speculation).

Finally, let’s not forget that for over six years now the NHL has promised an All-Star Game to Coyotes fans after the 2006 All-Star Game in Phoenix was cancelled due to a work stoppage.

NHL needs to find a way to not only thank Doan for going above and beyond the call of duty during the past six years of the ownership saga but also come up with something for the fans who have gone through insane amounts of abuse and trials during this time.  I mean most fans would have bailed during the unprecedented ups and downs of the ownership saga yet they didn’t.  They stayed and they’re happy now that the team is staying.

So here’s my proposal.

Mr. Bettman, make a ‘Commissioner’s Selection’ to the 2016 All-Star Game for Arizona Coyotes Captain Shane Doan.

Since the logistics involved with bringing the NHL All-Star Game to the Phoenix Area probably won’t happen during Shane Doan’s career why not have him be one of the Coyotes representatives to the All-Star Game?  Plus, have him be one of the Captains during the player selection process.

Everyone outside the State of Arizona may not ‘get’ why this is needed Mr. Bettman but the Coyotes fans, many of whom you’ve met personally over the years, need this.  They deserve this.

Shane Doan – 2016 All-Star.  It’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

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Five teams that need to have a better 2015-2016 season

buffalo

Now that the new season is underway it’s time to take a look at five teams that need to have a better season than their 2014-2015 results.  For whatever reason last season, these teams couldn’t put things together and fulfill their maximum potential.  Keep an eye on the teams below as the season progresses.

Anaheim Ducks

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 16: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks dives as he knocks the puck from Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks won 4-2. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 16: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks dives as he knocks the puck from Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks won 4-2. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Ducks are at the top of my list for one reason – they were built to win it all last season and failed to do so mostly because of their own laziness.  With about a third of the season remaining and the playoffs clinched, the Ducks took their proverbial foot off the pedal and coasted into the playoffs.  The coasting and just plain lazy habits that resulted in inconsistent play was so bad the Ducks TV broadcast team brought this topic up regularly during games.

What happened come playoff time shocked even me – their laziness and inconsistent play carried into the playoffs.  The Ducks never played a full sixty minutes of hockey coasting for 20 or more minutes per game.  As I see it, the Ducks got lucky in the first two rounds as they faced Winnipeg and Calgary who had way too many injuries to field even the slightest opposition to the Ducks.  Had either of these teams not have any injuries, its quite possible that the Ducks would have been eliminated in these rounds.

This may not be related but it needs to be said.  One of Ryan Getzlaf’s biggest knocks against him when he was drafted was his inconsistency.  It makes one wonder if this habit has seeped into his captaincy in the playoffs last year and if the Ducks can overcome this laziness if it happens again.

The Ducks this season need to figure out if they’re really the fierce team they appear to be on paper or the lazy team that we saw the last third of last season and the playoffs.

Winnipeg Jets

ducks-jets

The Winnipeg Jets are an average team.  There.  I said it.

They have an average roster, average goaltender, and an average General Manager who seems happy with his average team’s mediocrity year in and year out.   Not really fair for one of the best fan bases in the league to have to deal with this year in and year out.  This team seems to be happy with mediocrity as opposed to wanting to win a Stanley Cup this season.

What is Winnipeg’s goal this season?  More of the average?  Because if that’s the case, it’s not going to be long before the fans will speak their minds by not purchasing tickets.

It’s time for the Jets front office to grow up, take this team mired in mediocrity, and take the next step up.  Upgrade the roster, replace their goaltender, do something to show their fans that the Jets are here to win it all and not just play average hockey year in and year out.

Edmonton Oilers

oilers-mcdavid

Now let’s be real here.  I am not (and I’m sure no one else is) expecting the Oilers to make the playoffs this season.  Given how messed up the franchise was for the past eight plus seasons the bar needs to be set really low here.  While everyone will be focusing on Connor McDavid (the Oilers 2015 first round draft pick) they need to watch how the team around him progresses, especially the forward depth.

The expectation for the Oilers this season is to compete on a nightly basis and show everyone they have turned the corner from the train wreck they were in seasons past.

I have a feeling the corner has been turned with this team for the better.

Dallas Stars

jamie-benn

Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Tyler Seguin, Ales Hemsky, Jamie Benn, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi.

This team is built for one reason – to leave a path of death and destruction on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  This team can win it all.  However, last season they fell short of making the playoffs for numerous reasons including the shoddy play of goaltender Kari Lethonen.

Missing the playoffs is inexcusable this season.  So is an early round exit from the playoffs.

New York Islanders

islanders

I’ve been watching the Islanders closely for many years while General Manager Garth Snow has been slowly and patiently rebuilding the team from within.  The Islanders have turned a corner from being the leagues door mat to a team that has the potential to not only make the playoffs but do some damage in the deep rounds.

At this time in the history of this franchise the Islanders are in the perfect moment that they’ve been working so hard for many years to attain.  They’ve changed the culture, they’ve built a winning roster, and now they’re playing in a new arena.

This season it’s time for the Islanders to not only win the division but to go deep into the playoffs.   Sure it’s a tall order given the competition in their division but with the potential of this season’s roster, its a very realistic goal.

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Follow up: 5 People Who Need To Have A Huge 2014-2015 Season

Last year around this time, I published the following article “5 People Who Need To Have A Huge 2014-2015 Season” I think it’s about time for a follow up and see where things are at.

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Ondřej Pavelec – Goaltender – Winnipeg Jets

Last season was a year that Pavelec needed to prove his worth not only in the regular season but in the playoffs as well.  After an average 2013-2014 season Pavelec didn’t fair much better in the 2014-2015 campaign.

Pavelec ranked near the bottom of the league as a goaltender in the regular season and was unable to help the Jets in the post season getting swept by an extremely lazy Anaheim Ducks roster in the first round of the playoffs.

However, it should be noted that according to this article in the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets were not playing with as healthy of a team as possible.

After being swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, head coach Paul Maurice said eight of his players were dealing with “significant” injuries.

Then add into the mix the inability for the Jets to improve their roster last season.  It’s been clear after watching numerous Jets games over the course of last season, the Jets Front Office does not seem to understand that their current roster is pretty much performing at their maximum capabilities.  This includes Pavelec who seemed to regress last season, statistically speaking.

It’s clear to me that Pavelec’s maximum potential is just a journeyman goaltender and doesn’t have the chops to be a #1 goaltender in this league.  He can’t win games or steal games on his own…especially in the post season.  Time for the Jets to trade him while they can.

 

Dallas Eakins

Dallas Eakins – Head Coach – Edmonton Oilers

If ever there was a poster child for dysfunction in the NHL (since the Gretzky era Phoenix Coyotes) the Edmonton Oilers were it (see previous article linked above for more details).   The Oilers hired Eakins into a situation where he didn’t have much say or room to hire his own staff.  Then add into the mix the Oilers (Pre-Eakins) not knowing or teaching simple development fundamentals that prevented the players from knowing how to succeed in the NHL.

Eakins was surely over-matched in Edmonton. In his first season, he tried to introduce a more complex defensive system when his players still hadn’t mastered defensive fundamentals. The entire team went backwards in a major way. Almost every top player on the Oilers saw his development go sideways or backwards.

David Staples, Edmonton Journal

Eakins became the Oilers whipping boy for all their historical problems since their 2006 cup run but lets face it, this was the right coach in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fortunately, the Anaheim Ducks named Eakins their new AHL coach (San Diego Gulls) and is in the right situation in the right organization to get another crack at succeeding as a head coach.   I’ll be sneaking off to San Diego before too long to see how he’s progressed.

 

vlarmov1

Semyon Varlamov – Goaltender – Colorado Avalanche

If there’s anyone who deserves a pass for their performance last season it’s Semyon Varlamov.  After an incredible 2013-2014 season (41-14 W/L) he followed it up with an injury plagued season that sent him on multiple trips to the injured reserved list with groin problems.

The only real concerns here going into this season is the degree of the groin tear Varlamov healed from and staying healthy this season.  In the NHL, there’s generally two types of groin tears – the small tears that can be easily healed or the deep tears that become a reoccurring issue down the road (See Marion Gaborik’s time in Minnesota for examples of the latter).  If Varlamov’s tear falls into the small tear category, the Avs could see a career year from him.  However, if Varlamov’s groin tear falls into the other category, it could be another long season for the Colorado Avalanche.

As of right now, Varlamov looks like he’s in for another great year:

Semyon Varlamov got his second start in the Colorado net in the three exhibitions so far, played the entire game this time and looked in prime midseason form.

Terry Frei – Denver Post

Keep an eye on Varlamov this season folks.  He’s due for another monster season as long as his groin holds.

doug-wilson-sharks

Doug Wilson – General Manager – San Jose Sharks

For years I’ve been saying that Wilson isn’t the man for the job in San Jose.  This is simply because of the fact that he can’t build a team that is mentally strong enough to withstand a deep playoff run.  Sure he can build a regular season winner, he’s proved that for years.  However, you don’t become and stay General Manager in the NHL (or any league for that matter) if you can’t win it all.

However, it seems that the Sharks aren’t going to blow it all up and start all over from scratch like the Arizona Coyotes are doing this season.

“We were crystal clear about what we were doing last summer. We used the exact same terminology that the Detroit Red Wings used. We expected to be able to rebuild and compete at the same time. We did the exact same thing after 2003,” Wilson said.

(So much for “a phase that this organization has never gone into in the past.”)

“Make no mistake about it: We expect to make the playoffs and compete every year,” he said. “Coming into this year, we had some cap space. We were looking at three important pieces for us. We wanted to secure a No. 1 goalie, who could fit for now and for the future, and that’s Martin Jones. He’s 25. We wanted to find a find a defenseman who could complement [the Sharks’ other D-men], and hopefully a left-shot guy who could play with Brent Burns.”

Doug Wilson – San Jose Sharks General Manager

Plus Wilson has the blessing from ownership for this rebuild on the fly.

“We are in this rebuild process. Reset, rebuild. There’s no question. Everybody knows when you look at our players, two top stars are getting older. They are both fit. That’s the good news. They haven’t had any major injury like other players. We hope that they can continue to play at that level, or even beef it up a little bit and lead the young ones we have put in to become a strong team.”

Hasso Plattner – San Jose Sharks Owner

Wilson gets a pass but he needs to show improvement on the roster that are beyond the X’s and O’s but in the playoffs as well.

 

pk-subban1

PK Subban – Defenseman – Montreal Canadiens

I watched Subban’s progress this season  on and off the ice and I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t expecting a superstar Duncan Keith-like season.  The main thing I was looking for was how he conducted himself on and off the ice with the new pressures of his huge new contract.

But Subban surprised even me with a monster performance this past season that caught the eye of just about everyone in the league:

As one NHL executive told Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman in March, “Subban is so much better a defenceman now than when he won the Norris Trophy. It’s not even close.”

Eric Engles – Sportsnet

Subban keeps turning in career best performances in the regular season but his game took a step back in the post season…just a tad.  However, that still makes GM’s and coaches notice what he’s doing.

In a nutshell, Subban produced the type of season every GM lays awake at night hoping for; a strong presence in his own end, combined with great numbers on offence.

Marc Dumont – Eyes on the Prize

THEN you have his performance off the ice as with great contracts come even greater responsibilities in the public eye.  Subban did not disappoint with even more career defining moments by pledging to donate $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, poking fun at ‘Hockey Night in Canada’s’ Don Cherry, and a light hearted bout with teammate Carey Price.

Subban silenced a lot of critics last season with his performance on and off the ice.  The question now for this season is not how good Subban is but how much better can he get?

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30 thoughts….my version

sportsnet-set

I don’t write as often as I used to (life sometimes takes me away from that) when I covered the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes four years ago but I’m planning on making my articles more frequent. With apologies to Elliotte Friedman I’m going to use his ’30 Thoughts’ format to play a little catch up and focus on some things that have caught my eye or have been wanting to write about for some time.

This has turned out to be an amazing year for hockey across the board and the playoffs are looking to be some of the most competitive I’ve seen in many, many years.

Let’s get things started, shall we?

  1. USA at the World Junior Tournament – I wanted to start off with this as I was completely and utterly disgusted that a roster with pretty good talent was wasted by a coaching staff who could not teach these kids to play a team game and make adjustments from their one dimensional offensive zone game. This was a pathetic performance by Team USA. USA Hockey should be ashamed.
  2. So I’m watching the Sportsnet feed of the Flames/Devils game the other night and during the intermission I’m expecting to see long time Flames reporter Roger Millions but instead I see Elliotte Friedman. Why oh why are his talents being wasted doing intermission interviews?   He belongs in the studio doing analysis and NHL reporting updates.
  3. Which brings me to my next thought – Sportsnet coverage in general this season.  It seems to me that they’re just the same old average broadcast as last season but with bigger and more expensive sets (see photo above). They have some serious problems when they have people like Friedman doing intermission interviews and Nick Kypreos bumbling his way through intermission segments. Right now the top three Canadian NHL broadcasts are 1) TSN 2) CBC (last season and prior) and 3) Sportsnet this season.   Sportsnet needs to re-adjust their priorities. Perhaps watching broadcasts from #’s 1 and 2 would help to get their broadcasts on track because it’s really hard to watch what they pass off as a broadcast at times.
  4. One player to keep an eye on the rest of the season is Calgary Flames goaltender Karri Ramo who has re-ignited his career after having a glove side that was almost as bad as Chris Osgood’s used to be. His ‘goal of the year’ candidate the other night in New York is a huge example of how improved his game has become.   Now if the Flames could only get their offensive zone game together.
  5. One story that doesn’t surprise me is the New York Islanders. I’ve been watching their progress for years and have said before this season that they were just a few pieces away from doing something special. Look at them now. They have the pieces on paper to make a deep run in the playoffs. However, it remains to be seen if they have the mental strength to withstand the onslaught of a deep playoff run.
  6. While on the topic of the Islanders, I’m curious to see what General Manager Garth Snow is going to do (or not do) at the trade deadline
  7. In case you haven’t noticed the Arizona Coyotes are neck and neck with the Edmonton Oilers for a high draft pick at the next entry draft.   No they don’t have the talent they used to but what I’m noticing is that they’ve quit not on coach Dave Tippett but themselves.
  8. Arizona Coyotes Goaltender Mike Smith – I’m not sure what happened to him but he’s a shell of the player he used to be. He’d be a good backup for any team at the deadline but in no way is he ready to take the load as a starter. Look at the work that Goaltending coach Sean Burke has done on Devan Dubnyk and Ilya Bryzgalov (when he was with the Coyotes). If he can’t work his magic on Smith, there’s something wrong with the player.
  9. Trade deadline is a few days away. One thing to keep an eye on is what the playoff bound teams up against the cap ceiling are going to do. Keep that in the back of your mind as the trade deadline approaches.
  10. You know when it comes to the Bruins performance this season there’s one thing that hasn’t been brought up for discussion. Have so many years of playoff runs (some deep) and short off-seasons finally caught up with the core of their roster? Do they need a full off-season to rest and relax?
  11. I’ve seen so many dumb articles about the NHL in Seattle that it makes me want to vomit (Disclosure: I spent a good portion of my life living in Seattle so I know how the politics work there). Until an arena deal is done, dream and wish all you want.  No professional league is going to touch Seattle with a ten foot pole. End of story.
  12. Speaking of the NHL in Seattle it looks like the environmental review will (FINALLY) be done May 7th AND the City of Seattle is willing to change the Memorandum of Understanding to allow NHL be the first tenant in the arena. This is huge as the City of Seattle saved themselves from a third round of ineptitude of poor arena related decisions (the others being allowing Key Arena being built as an NBA only arena and allowing the NBA Seattle SuperSonics to leave town). Source
  13. If ever there was a prime example of how former Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella was a poor assessor of talent, look no further than the performance of Jannik Hansen this season.
  14. Even all the months after his firing, Dallas Eakins is still the whipping boy for the Oilers problems. Wake up people. He’s not. He should have never taken the job if he had to take the assistants that the Oilers forced upon him.
  15. You have to wonder when the Edmonton Oilers are going to realize that they don’t know the difference between their elbows and their feet when it comes to developing players.
  16. Dear Winnipeg Jets, it’s time to take down the Manitoba Moose banners from the rafters. They don’t play there anymore and it’s time to start making new traditions with the Jets.
  17. So at this point in the season, is Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban worth the money he’s making? Ask me again at the end of the season.
  18. If ever there were good signs that the Coyotes are staying for the long term, they are investing in local hockey in the area as well as wanting to bring the Frozen Four and the 2018 World Juniors to Phoenix.
  19. In case you haven’t heard one of the biggest stories in Arizona Hockey history is that Defending National (Club) Champions Arizona State University Hockey will become a full Division 1 Varsity sport next season. They’re already poaching key NHL prospects from other big schools mainly because of the weather. Keep an eye on this story. This is an amazing program that finally gets to take the next step forward in its history.  I’ve been watching this team grow from nothing to where it’s at today first hand.  Source 1 Source 2
  20. If there’s one thing the Arizona Coyotes are completely and utterly failing at off the ice, it’s the online marketing. They. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
  21. At the beginning of the season the New York Rangers were a defensive sieve. Everyone was worried about defense and how they can fix it. What most Rangers fans didn’t know at the time, head coach Alain Vigneault is master of not only assessing talent but getting the most out of the players on his roster from snipers to fourth liners.
  22. Face it, the San Jose Sharks are a mere shell of who they used to be. Time is running out for the main architect of this team, General Manager Doug Wilson. This team has been mentally weak in the playoffs and Wilson has never addressed this problem dating back to 2006.
  23.  In (Ottawa Senators goaltender) Andrew Hammond’s last two games he earned two shutouts against the Ducks & Kings in his third and fourth NHL starts. His shutouts were a team accomplishment but when he had to, Hammond made the stops and looked like a seasoned veteran.
  24. Trade Deadline – Yes I’ll be up watching this all day long as I’m curious to see how the make up of the NHL will be after the deadline passes.
  25. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not only cutting dead weight from their roster but General Manager Dave Nonis finally gets to put a bonified thumbprint of his own on this team.
  26. Who called it? – The Canucks, the Predators, and even the Coyotes. Who could have guessed these teams would have been where they are now at this point in the season?
  27. Dear NHL, you promised (on the record) to the people of Arizona an All-Star Game once the ownership circus was over. The fans are still waiting to see this happen.
  28. Coach’s Corner – I’m still shocked that this segment is shorter than last season. Really Sportsnet? Do you not get what the term ‘ratings’ mean?
  29. Winter Classic – Stop with the regurgitation of same teams for these games. Ratings are down because of this. Time for some new blood. We want to see a Winter Classic in Minnesota.
  30. Defenseman Brent Sopel announced his retirement from the NHL today. While the majority of you know him as a Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, my memories of him are with the Vancouver Canucks seeing him play in person and on TV. He wasn’t a Chris Pronger but he was an even keeled player on the ice that was smart  and played his role well.
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