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.
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.