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Does The NHL Need A “LeBron James” Type Player?

from Chris Lund of The Score,

... We know what a quality product the NHL is; any given night affords you the opportunity to have your mind blown by a thoroughly entertaining game. At some point though, the focus of the league has to be how to get additional interest in the daily goings on. The product is there, but the marketing plan is not. While it’s obviously a problem that cannot be solved overnight, there are cues to be taken from other leagues and applied to the game of hockey so this sport can be grown to its appropriate size in North America.

Step one won’t be easy, but it will be necessary. The NHL needs its LeBron James.

I’m not quite sure what it is about basketball that gets hockey fans in a tizzy, but it unlocks some sort of rageahol fueled machismo which combusts in spectacular fashion. Unfortunately, this means I probably lost a few of you after typing the words “LeBron James” and you won’t grasp the irony of flaming me in the comments because you skipped this paragraph.

read on

Filed in: NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink


Hank1974's avatar

The NHL will never have a “Lebron” until they change how the game is played.
As it is right now, in the NBA, when you watch a Heat game, a great majority of the time you’ll witness Lebron score 25+ points, add a number of assists and rebounds.
In short, he will nearly always produce every single night.

What player in the NHL can say the same? Too many times, in an NHL game, a star will go completely unnoticed for very long stretches.

It’s not like the 80’s when a team’s #1 forward would create an honest-to-goodness quality even-strength scoring chance on nearly every shift.
Today, most stars struggle to generate a real chance every shift while on ES. Even the great players like Crosby, Giroux and Stamkos.

If the NHL wants a Lebron, they need to make drastic changes; go to 4-on-4 full time, or make the nets and ice bigger.

Posted by Hank1974 on 11/03/12 at 04:03 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Paul, the link doesn’t seem to be working.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 11/03/12 at 04:16 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Thanks NHLJeff, my fault and fixed.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 11/03/12 at 04:19 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

a Choker who couldn’t win a Championship even with a Stacked deck & finally won 1

Posted by Evilpens on 11/03/12 at 04:59 PM ET


Did you not actually read the whole article since the link wasn’t originally working, Hank?  Because it’s about the NHL needing not so much Lebron the talent, but Lebron the polarizing figure that everyone has an opinion on.

Either way though, I say no.

As far as the LeBron producing every night, his 27.1 points a game last year was 27.5% of the Heat’s points per game.  Stamkos’ 60 goals last year were 25.9% of the Lightning’s goals scored.  Pretty close.  Throw in LeBron’s assists and he’s at 33.8% of the Heats’ points.  Stamkos’ assists push him up to being involved in 41.8% of the Lightnings’ goals (35.7% if you halve the assists for the sake of the 2nd assist, not caring to see exactly how many 2nd assists Stamkos actually had).

The NHL does have the talent of LeBron in its own way.  As far as the spectacle and grand douchebaggery of LeBron, no thanks.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 11/03/12 at 05:06 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Well well well ... now we know where Gary Bettman’s ‘parity’ scheme comes back and bites him in the ass.

If ‘superstars’ like Crosby or Ovechkin were on more domant teams year after year then maybe they get more recognition and/or more credit for being a “dominant player” or “superstar”.  If teams had the financial freesom to build a great team around their superstars then maybe we’d see a LeBron James type personality emerge.

But NOOOOOOOO .... Bettman wants team parity ... an even playing field for all.
Does 30 evenly mediocre teams make for exciting hockey or would it be better to have 3 or 4 dominant teams and 26 mediocre teams that get beat up on a regular basis ??

Having a few standout super teams would certainly be more marketable ... especially if one or two of the teams were say Montreal or Toronto or New York.

With parity, it makes it more difficult to market because all teams are evenly mediocre and no one player stands out that could be exploited commercially.

Nice plan Gary.  Yet another reason to be fired you suckass little troll.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 11/03/12 at 06:59 PM ET

henrymalredo's avatar

I don’t know if the NHL needs it….but it couldn’t the NHL to have a big personality dominating the league.  I think a high level superstar, preferably one that is American, with an over the top personality, but doesn’t get in trouble off the ice, would be a big boon to the NHL in the right market.  It’s never helped that the NHL’s stars have the charisma of a snail.

Posted by henrymalredo from Lansing on 11/03/12 at 07:32 PM ET


NHL needing not so much Lebron the talent, but Lebron the polarizing figure that everyone has an opinion on


I think we have one of those, his name is Crosby.

Posted by timbits on 11/03/12 at 09:19 PM ET


I think we have one of those, his name is Crosby.

Posted by timbits on 11/03/12 at 09:19 PM ET

Everyone doesn’t talk about every little thing Crosby does.  The media does, but most fans don’t.  If I go out to a bar here in Chicago when the Bulls are playing, even when they’re not playing the Heat, LeBron’s name will keep popping up from one idiot or another off and on through the night.  If I hit a bar when the Blackhawks are playing anyone but the Penguins, the only time Crosby’s name comes up is when it’s mentioned during one of the intermissions by, you guessed it….the media.

As a Wing fan, I despise Crosby and would like nothing more than to see him punched repeatedly in the face.  However, I would take a roster full of Crosby’s before I would take one LeBron.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 11/03/12 at 10:25 PM ET


Hey, if the best player ever in the sport was playing Jai Alai, would people start lining up in droves to watch that sport?

Come on.  Having a generational player is nice, of course, but unless the generational player is playing a sport people give a crap about it’s not going to change very much, and whatever it does change will be gone as soon as the player is.

Really, what the article is talking about is how nice it would be if people in general cared about the NHL, and then they had a great player as well.

That would be nice.  But… not exactly holding my breath on that one.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/04/12 at 05:37 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Crosby missed a hell of a lot of time and his exposure faded as a result of him not being on the ice, but before that, he was the kind of guy that Sportscenter actually tracked and mentioned with regularity.

He was every bit as polarizing in the hockey community as Lebron is; it’s just that the hockey community is smaller than the basketball community and now that he’s not constantly plastered all over, he’s simply not as polarizing.

Hockeytown Wax makes a good point about how to increase what is essentially the drama factor which creates those kinds of storylines that permeate households. The NFL gets away with a constantly-evolving parity storyline because they can. The NFL is so much more popular than hockey that they’re working off a completely different set of rules. The nationwide reach of the sport carries its own weight in a way hockey can’t.

For hockey, the best bet to get more recognition is to have standout players on standout teams.

Hank makes a good point too. The best way to make guys stand out is to allow for the widening of the gap between excellent players and pretty good ones. Like it or not, scoring does that. Garbage goals on rebounds as pucks bounce past the second level of defenders collapsing on their net are ok for hard-core fans who appreciate all the little things which had to go to create the score, but let’s face it, fans would rather see thundering dunks over big guys slowly backing their defenders into the key so they can pop a quick layup into the basket.

All hockey goals get fans out of their seats, but snipes, one-timers, and dekes on the goalies keep them talking about what they saw.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/04/12 at 09:39 AM ET


By the way, hasn’t the NHL already had a bunch of ‘Lebron James’ guys?  Gretzky, Roy, Hull, Lidstrom, Yzerman, Lemieux, etc etc etc.

What did any or all of those guys do to make the NHL a bigger game for longer than the second after they left the ice for good?  Pretty much nothing.

The individual talent is the icing.  Having an exciting game to watch that translates well to TV is the cake.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/04/12 at 04:49 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

And getting rid of the instigator penalty would be the lovely yummy jelly filling.

Most of the games these days (when they play), I sit in anticipation of a ref making a bad call influencing the outcome of the game.

Less penalties & less visible officials = heavenly hockey

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 11/06/12 at 02:57 AM ET

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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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