Kukla's Korner

The Ron Wilson Pattern

Don’t look now, but those Toronto Maple Leafs—the team left for dead about a month ago—are within two points of a playoff spot (of course, they’re tied with five teams, but that’s parity). All of this happened despite having a horrific goals-against and an ungodly 70% penalty kill rate.

Part of this coincides with the arrival of Phil Kessel, but part of this seems to follow a pattern Ron Wilson had when he first arrived in San Jose.

In his first year with the Sharks (2002-03), San Jose was on the tail-end of an implosion that started with Stanley Cup aspirations and ended with the trade of Owen Nolan and the free-agent departure of Teemu Selanne. The next season didn’t start out much better with a horrific October (one win and an inability to keep the puck out of the net).

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  Tags: ron+wilson, san+jose+sharks, toronto+maple+leafs

Demographics, Not Hockey

With the Ice Edge group on the brink of purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes, small details have begun to be revealed about the fine print, such as apparent games in Saskatchewan, a retooled lease, and (currently denied) rumors of escape clauses to Quebec City or Winnipeg.

If this is the only way the NHL could get a buyer, then I suppose these concessions makes sense. Will Ice Edge give the team a genuine go in Glendale or will this be a true Major League scenario, where Shane Doan is traded for a player from the Slovakian prison system? (“I’ve never heard of half of these guys.” “This guy is dead!” “Cross him off the list then!”)

The thing is, as brutal as this season’s attendance has been for the Coyotes, it’s unfair to judge the market solely on that snapshot. During the Jeremy Roenick/Keith Tkachuk years, the team was actually doing decent at American West Arena—despite the obstructed view section in the upper deck. Years of putting out an awful product will have that impact on a market. (Even Canadian teams; see the 1995-96 Oilers attendance when the team went four years without making the playoffs.) What matters now is what happens after the team consistently wins.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: phoenix+coyotes

Who’s Your Favorite Broadcast Team?

Last Saturday, San Jose Sharks play-by-play man Randy Hahn broadcasted his 1000th game for the team. 1000 games—now that’s quite a while, and they showed a retrospective of some of Randy’s past color commentators besides current partner Drew Remenda.

That montage brought back some good and bad memories, and at the risk of sounding like a homer, Randy and Drew are my favorite broadcast team to watch, and I’ll get into why down below. However, when you paired Randy with other color guys, that special element disappeared and it became just another game.

That got me to thinking: in this age of Center Ice, who is your favorite broadcast crew? Here’s why I think Randy and Drew are the best.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: drew+remenda, randy+hahn, tv+broadcasts

Unlucky 13

In ten years, I’m guessing that NHL inflation wouldn’t have accelerated to a point where $5 million is an average salary. In other words, it’s still going to be a premium price for a premium player.

Knowing that, the Chicago Blackhawks, the king of the bizarre long-term contract, are poised on signing Duncan Keith for a lucky 13 years. He’ll be 39 at the end of the deal.

Maybe they figure 40 is the magic number, or maybe this was the only way the could re-sign Keith at a cap hit that fit ($5.5 million). Of course, if they never put forward the insane Brian Campbell contract, none of this would have happened.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: chicago+blackhawks, duncan+keith, salary+cap

Fun With Google Image Search

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what does that mean in the age of today’s Google Image Search? Well, it probably means that you’ll find a hodge-podge of randomness when you type a player’s name in and hit “Search”—most of it good (action shots or media photos), some of it not, and some it just downright bizarre. Join me on a journey through search-engine fun as we take a look at how Google views your favorite hockey heroes. All of the following pictures are on the first page of Google Image Search when you typed a player’s name in.

We have to start with Ed Belfour, whose photo isn’t worth a thousand words; instead, it’s currently valued at a billion dollars. This lovely photo (which I’m sure we’ve all seen before but who can get sick of this one?) was number two in search results. I’m sure The Eagle’s glad that’s what he’s known for.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: barry+melrose, brian+engblom, chris+pronger, ed+belfour, jonathan+cheechoo, olli+jokinen, patrick+marleau, stephen+weiss, todd+bertuzzi

Putting Rules On The “Intent” Rule

I might be in the minority here, but I support the idea behind the “intent to blow the whistle” rule. Refs are human and that means that they need to take time, however minuscule it is, to comprehend what they’re seeing, grab the whistle, and blow it. That part makes sense.

That being said, I think last night’s Brad May no-goal was a pretty spectacular job of backpedaling by the league. The problem with a rule based around something intangible like intent is that there’s no real way to quantify it. When you take intent and interpretation and third-party input, there’s no way it can come out clean. Because of that, close (or in May’s case, not so close) calls get tossed into this gray area where nothing good comes out of it.

But maybe there’s a way to add a little black-and-white to that gray area. Cue up your Thomas Dolby LP here.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: brad+may, officiating

Hockey Songs Vs. Cricket Songs

The boss sent this piece from British paper The Guardian over to me yesterday. It’s a view of puck rock (the punk sub-genre, not the occasional feature I run interviewing hockey folks about their music tastes) and Vancouver’s punk pioneers DOA from across the pond. This particular passage amused me:

Our introduction to the genre comes courtesy of Vancouver punk veterans DOA. Hold on, there’s a story, courtesy of their label’s website: “A short time ago, Canadian-punk godfather Joe “S***head” Keithley was sourly contemplating the namby-pambyness of the new National Hockey League style. As he reached for the solace of a beer, he thought: “Hey, damn this corporate NHL crap! Let’s give the people some real rough and tumble on the ice!”

...

If you’re really into ice hockey, this is probably a massive laugh. As a Brit, however, it is all slightly bewildering. Here, hockey is a game played by public schoolgirls with bruised ankles, so it’s easy to lose track when watching the New York Raiders battle the Chicago Blackhawks. Luckily, we have a regional alternative – step forward Leeds band Geoffery Oi!Cott, cricket-themed punks who lovingly translate the gentle thwack of leather on willow into rowdy terrace anthems like (Cricket) Bat Out of Hell and Dawn of the Dickie Birds. Proof, again, that if you can think of a topic which might be amusing to cover through the medium of song, punk has probably already got there first.

Is it just me or is there a huuuuuuuuuuuuge difference in a punk song being inspired rough-and-tumble old-time hockey and…the gentlemanly sport of cricket? This might get me in trouble with some of our readers over in the UK, but punk’s always been about speed and attitude. You’d think the land of Sid Vicious would know this. Cricket’s like baseball except it can literally last all day, and I don’t know about you guys, but as much as I like baseball, there’s very little that’s punk about it. Here’s an example of cricket:

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  Tags: music

Off Topic: Writing About Writing

Disclaimer: This post is way, way, way off topic, so if you have no interest in writing or publishing, feel free to politely ignore this. Otherwise, read past the jump.

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Filed in: Non-Hockey, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
 

Triple-Dipping On Ticket Prices

We all know that the NHL is a gate-driven league, and that depending on which market you’re in, tickets can be extraordinarily high. It’s all supply and demand, and what many North American pro teams have done is partner with TicketMaster to create what is in essence a legalized scalping system. It’s generally known as TeamExchange, though some teams have branded it something different, like the Sharks and their Power Play Ticket Trader.

How does TeamExchange work? While much of it is driven by supply and demand (you’re not going to find many, if any, of these tickets for teams that aren’t regularly sold out), there is a model to help the rich teams get richer. It’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a club-specific way to gouge the fan; it’s just the way tickets are going in pro sports and live events in general. In other words, this isn’t something to blame a certain team or a certain league or a certain commissioner about (but feel free to if you want.)

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: ticket+prices

Should The Sharks Re-Sign Patrick Marleau?

He’s been their best player so far this season, and was the team’s MVP from last year. He’s the all-time leader in franchise points, a consistent short-handed threat, and one of the team’s faceoff leaders. Tally that all together and it makes sense for the Sharks to re-sign Patrick Marleau before he hits unrestricted free agency status this July. Of course, logic doesn’t always come into play in the salary cap world; more importantly, does Marleau even want to stay in San Jose?

Since the beginning of his NHL career, Marleau’s been in and out of the Sharks doghouse, either with the fans or his coaches. Both Darryl Sutter and Ron Wilson had their moments with Marleau, though Wilson at least recognized how to properly develop Marleau to his full potential. Fans and media have slagged him off and on throughout his career, usually for either being too soft or too quiet. The bulk of the blame from last year’s first-round defeat against Anaheim was shared between Marleau and Joe Thornton, despite most objective pundits’ views that the series was far from the usual 1 vs. 8, and that Marleau was playing with a bad MCL.

That being said, Marleau didn’t talk publicly about his no-trade clause or contract status this summer other than telling season ticket holders that he wanted a chance to “prove the naysayers wrong” in San Jose. He’s lived up to his end of the bargain, but is he simply driving up his asking price this off season?

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: patrick+marleau, san+jose+sharks

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