Kukla's Korner Hockey
With the conference finals set to start Sunday, our experts ponder what lies ahead. ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun and ESPN The Magazine’s E.J. Hradek answer these 10 burning questions:
There have been a few controversial calls/noncalls in the first two rounds. How would you rate the officiating in the playoffs so far?
Burnside: I think there are always going to be complaints about officiating given the personalities of the teams and the officials involved, so I’m not troubled by what I see in terms of in-game calls. What still boggles the mind is how often the NHL makes itself look cartoonish by failing to even enforce its own rules, as was the case when league officials decided not to suspend Game 7 overtime hero Scott Walker for sucker-punching Aaron Ward earlier in the Carolina/Boston series. Unbelievable.
Hradek: I’m not big on beating up the refs. I think they have an incredibly tough job. On the ice, things are happening so fast and they don’t get a second look (usually). On the whole, they have done a very good job. Do they get every call right? No. But I think they officiate their sport better than what we see in the NFL, NBA and MLB.
LeBrun: I think it’s been decent. People get upset because there’s so much on the line and they believe their team is getting slighted, but obviously there’s no such thing….
via the Mailbox of Ray Stein of the Columbus Dispatch,
Editor: In 1980, the U.S. was crushed with economic despair and had been thrust into a de facto war with Iran. It was a low point for our nation. The unlikely turning point was a group of kids who, against all odds, beat the Soviet Union national hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. They gave us hope. Hockey gave us a turning point.
Fast forward to our current economic despair and war in the Middle East. Detroit, being the undisputed epicenter of economic pain with more than its fair share of men and women bearing the brunt of military service, has new hope. Let’s go, Red Wings! Let’s go, Detroit!
—Craig Yeack, Dublin
Craig: It would be easy to say, “Let’s not get carried away.” But it would be easier to point out that the U.S. hockey team didn’t have a fraud in goal and a cow parked in front of the net in a Holmstrom sweater. C’mon, ‘Hawks.
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
If the first two rounds of the playoffs have been a showcase for the NHL’s greatest young players—start with Crosby and Ovechkin, go directly to Evgeni Malkin, then to Eric Staal, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews—it also has exposed the folly of Gary Bettman’s love affair with Versus and the grudge he carries against ESPN.
It has exposed the NHL’s empty approach to a television strategy, even as Bettman risks dislocating his shoulders in patting himself on the back for his league’s innovative approach to blacking itself out.
The commissioner may have been justified in not taking ESPN’s crumbs coming out of the lockout. He may have been justified placing the league’s immediate future into the hands of Versus, owned by Ed Snider’s Comcast, by the way.
But Bettman was not justified in granting Versus a contract that included unilateral options for the network to retain exclusivity through 2010-11—a six-year commitment as crippling in its own way as the Rangers’ six-year commitment to Wade Redden.
more plus other hockey topics…
from Spector’s Hockey,
Chuck Gormley recently reported a rumor that has the Flyers trading either Daniel Briere or Joffrey Lupul and a top prospect (either James VanRiemdyk, Luca Sbisa or a 2009 first round pick) to the Montreal Canadiens for goaltender Carey Price and the rights to impending UFA blueliner Mike Komisarek. Another has the Flyers peddling a similar package to Vancouver for goalie Roberto Luongo and the rights to Mattias Ohlund although the Canucks are pushing hard for Jeff Carter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No offense to Gormley who’s only reporting what he’s heard, but in the words of the late, great Ricardo Montalban: Welcome to Fantasy Island!
more rumor talk…
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune,
The Red Wings won the Wrigley game 6-4, and they looked like men playing against boys. But the boys have matured. They’re different than they were in January. They’re better and tougher. They won the last two meetings between the two teams after losing four straight….
Let’s not kid anyone. The Red Wings are the defending champions. They’re experienced, and they’ve seen everything there is to see. They rarely make mistakes. And they’re tough too.
Other than that, the Hawks have the Red Wings right where they want them.
But Detroit looked tired at the end of its seven-game series Thursday night against Anaheim.
The Hawks’ legs might be a little fresher.
The Red Wings don’t appear too concerned about it.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
• So here’s how it works in Mr. Bettman’s NHL. You falsify documents, you defraud banks, you run shell games with financial institutions, you fake having money, and if you do it well enough, they make you chairman of the board of governors, as Bruce McNall was. Reading the details of the Boots Del Biaggio guilty plea for fraud reads like McNall Lite. Phony documents, a Ponzi scheme, and stealing from the bank his own father started, and to think, Bettman wants nothing to do with BlackBerry king Balsillie, who has real money, when under his watch as commissioner five different NHL owners have gone to jail or are about to go to jail.
• Johan Franzen of the Wings has scored 21 goals in his past 27 playoff games, which are all-time kind of numbers: Rocket Richard once scored 19 goals in 20 playoff games over two seasons.
more hockey notes…
The Biz of Hockey has posted many of the documents pertaining to the Phoenix Coyotes…
Various Documents Pertaining to Coyotes Chapter 11 Filing by Jerry Moyes, and His Attempt to Sell the Club to Jim Balsillie, Who Wishes to Relocate Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario Canada
from Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic,
If a franchise falls in the desert and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?
Yes, and it comes across as something like this:
Hockey in Phoenix is nothing but dead air right now. Wayne Gretzky isn’t talking. The team held a “Save the Coyotes Rally” on Saturday in Glendale and attracted several hundred without a single player or team official in sight. It’s a sad turn of events for a brilliant sport and raises important questions about Gretzky’s accountability.
Quenneville, Kane, Toews, Campbell and Seabrook met with the media today…
Q. We were talking a little bit earlier with some of the Wings and Mike about the youthful exuberance of your team. Dan Cleary said it could be very dangerous, they’re playing with a lot of confidence. Can you talk about the comparison of the youth versus experience in this series and who it might favor.
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: Well, I’m not going to predict favoritism. Certainly we liked the experience we gained in the first two rounds. We didn’t know how we were going to handle the playoffs for a first time for a lot of the guys. I thought we were on?the?job training every day, gaining experience, preparing in different situations in games, coming out of games, trying to find out how to close out a series. I thought both times we handled those assignments very well.
But I just think as we go into games, the excitement and enthusiasm on our team has been real. We’re getting a lot of good contributions from across the board whether they’re young guys or older guys. The guys are excited about this challenge and this opportunity. Should make for a great series.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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