Kukla's Korner

Team USA’s Personality Experiment

What’s going to happen when snarky Ron Wilson, explosive John Tortorella, and Scott Gordon get together to run Team USA? Here’s a secret transcript from the future as the three coaches have their first meeting to discuss playing style. Let the wackiness ensure…

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Filed in: International Hockey, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: team+usa

Bidding War? No Thanks

Now that we’re a few years into the salary cap, the notion of long-term (5+ years) contracts is the big thing with free agents, yet so many of these teams are hit with buyer’s remorse even one year in the deal.

Scott Gomez. Brian Campbell. Wade Redden. Ryan Smyth. All name players of varying quality, but the anchor of a team? Nope, not by far, but they received contracts like such and have failed to live up to expectations.

(A short aside—if we look at the past decade, including pre-lockout moves, how many of these headache contracts from the desk of Glen Sather? Just sayin’.)

Will this year’s group be any different? A quick review of the available free agents shows a crop of good players but no true elite players. The best players available are great supporting pieces but they’re not the stars of the show, yet you know some impulsive GM will overspend to get their rights. If I could play NHL GM for a day, I’d have a hard time getting into a bidding war with any of the top-tier free agents. In fact, I’m betting that you’re going to get a lot of buyer’s remorse in the near future because each of the top guys comes with at least one significant question mark.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: daniel+sedin, free+agency, glen+sather, henrik+sedin, jay+bouwmeester, marian+gaborik

You Can Take The Awards Show Out Of Toronto…

How does the old saying go? You can put lipstick on a pig (or an Iowa Chop) but it’s still a pig? Yeah, something like that.

For a more appropriate version of that, you can put Carrie Milbank on the NHL Awards Show but it’s still the NHL Awards Show.

The very strange thing about this year’s Las Vegas not-so-spectacular is that I found the run-up to it to be fairly entertaining. From the outdoor skating with Alexander Ovechkin to the pretty amusing red carpet interviews with the lovely Carrie Milbank, it seemed like just about all of the players were in a relaxed, goofy mood and willing to joke around. One of the best things I heard out of Vegas was Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg on the NHL Hour, where Kane told the story of how he wasn’t allowed near the gambling tables because of his age.

Then came the actual Awards Show.

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Filed in: | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: awards, jeremy+roenick

Jim Balsillie’s Flaming Bag o’ Dog Poop

James Mirtle dug up a little thing about Jim Balsillie’s followers being prompted to spam Gary Bettman’s inbox. During this whole process—heck, even going back to when Balsillie tried to buy the Predators—I kept wondering how a guy who’s obviously really freakin’ smart in one way could be so dumb in another.

Or maybe not dumb, but petty, impatient, and childish. This “Spam Bettman” campaign is the virtual equivalent of toilet-papering the NHL offices (or perhaps the good ol’ flaming bag of dog poop). Annoying, attention-getting, but ultimately fruitless.

Jim, listen to me. What you’re doing is a collective waste of time. Bettman and the Board of Governors don’t bend to spam campaigns, online petitions, or public begging and pleading. How many online petitions did we see during the lockout? Heck, even local mayors got involved with letter-writing campaigns to beg and plead their part about how NHL games boost the local economy. What did that get them? Absolutely nothing.

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

Picking Conn Smythe

If the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup tonight (and if you’re going by history, that if comes with about 90% certainty because of home ice), I think we’re all in agreement about giving the Conn Smythe to Chris Osgood. He’s been surprisingly steady, and other than Game 4 against Columbus, hasn’t really had a bad game that I can think of.

On the other hand, should the Penguins beat the odds and win, everyone’s handing the Conn Smythe over to Evgeni Malkin.

Now hold on a second. While Malkin was, to use a Pierre McGuire term, a monster during the Carolina series and has been very strong against the Red Wings, am I the only one who remembers that it took about two series for him to really get going?

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Filed in: | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: chris+osgood, conn+smythe, evgeni+malkin, sidney+crosby

On Apologies & Bar Tales

As Bill Guerin found out earlier today, the power of the inter-webs is, well, powerful. And a little tale about an old co-worker who supposedly knew Dany Heatley in college went way farther than I thought it would (or should).

But that’s my fault for being naive (and a testament to the wide reach of KK). While I felt I’d properly framed the post as “I think of something goofy when I hear his name and this is why,” I could understand why it would offend some people. As our old friend The Forechecker put it, stories retelling stories are probably best left for joking about over a pint at the pub. Of course, KK isn’t a random bar that I used to work at, so this sort of thing probably doesn’t belong here. My fault for a lapse in judgment.

So it wasn’t meant to be malicious or hurtful but I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way. I’ll be deleting the post from the archives to protect future generations from stumbling upon it and thinking that tall tales are necessarily fact.

It’s important to note that no one’s asking me to do this or forcing me to do this, it’s just what seemed to be the more reasonable thing to do at this time.

Feel free to call me an idiot in the comments. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: dany+heatley, ottawa+senators

Something We Can (Hopefully) All Agree On

I haven’t written too much on the Cup final as Tony and the Chief carry their respective flags pretty well, and most of the other media attention is thoroughly covered on the main KK page. That doesn’t mean I haven’t watched, though, and I think we can all agree on the fact that the officiating’s gotten worse as the playoffs have gone on.

There was a time after the lockout when it wasn’t like this. If you’ll recall the 2006 Final with Carolina and Edmonton, the level of officiating wasn’t at the regular season level, but fairly close.

Instead, this has gotten to a point where the refs (and their overseer, Stephen Walkom) have established a precedant and now they can’t seem to go back on it. Interference, hooking, cross-checking, all of it goes uncalled by both teams except for either really blatant fouls or random “statement” calls.

Obviously, you’re going to get officiating complaints from fans involved with any playoff series. Maybe the magic powers of the internet have made them all the more vocal, but I get the sense that people are more disgruntled with officiating than in previous years. And I know I’ve seen more mainstream articles calling out the officiating in previous years. The fact that ref complaints are so loud and so numerous, not only in the typical fan situation but as observations from general hockey media, seemingly points to a desire for the standard to be upheld. In other words, as much as there’s support for the notion of “let the boys play,” ultimately, most people want the rules to be called.

I’ll say that again in hopes that Walkom is somehow paying attention: ultimately, most people want the rules to be called.

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Filed in: | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: officiating, stephen+walkom

“I’m hungry and have to pee.”

That direct quote is from the poor soul who is stuck in a Phoenix courtroom. The full quote: “This is going non stop. I’m hungry and have to pee.”

Earlier, the boss pointed out that Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star was liveblogging the court hearing regarding the neverending Balsillie v. NHL battle. Now for us hockey fans, waiting until the puck drop for a game where Lord Stanley might be handed out is bad enough as it is. Now try imagining that wait while sitting through a court session where lawyers make petty arguments against each other.

What’s happened so far? Um…not a lot. In fact, between 1:30 PM and 2:45 PM (Arizona time), McGran had a total of five updates: one indicating he made a post on the Toronto Star’s website, one talking about the endless lawyer debates, one on his need to eat and relieve himself, and two—count them, two—on actual court happenings.

Perhaps the judge himself summed it up best: “If this is an endurance contest, I’ll concede.” Hang in there, Kevin; your diligence is much appreciated.

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

What Does Gary Bettman Actually Do?

For longtime readers of my hockey writing, you know that I’ve constantly tried to illustrate the point of what Gary Bettman does and what the Board of Governors does. This whole Phoenix situation is putting a bigger spotlight than usual, so it’s important to note that while people will put up websites like FireBettman.com, the actual act of jettisoning Bettman probably wouldn’t have the effect they wanted.

What are Gary Bettman’s actual responsibilities (besides hosting the NHL Hour to talk about his favorite bands)? He’s a negotiator, advisor, and facilitator all wrapped up into one.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: gary+bettman

Even Canadian Attendance Dips When Teams Lose

From Gary Bettman’s State of the League presser before Game 1:

We believe that our franchises can all be successful where they’re currently located. And somebody could have asked me the same question that you just asked eight years ago about the Canadian franchises. They could have said; ‘Why do you have any franchises other than Toronto or Montreal?’ eight or ten years ago, because the buildings in all the other places were two-thirds to half empty.

Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration…but it’s not totally false. Though perhaps Bettman got his tongue tied and meant that the buildings were 2/3 full to half empty. A 2/3 empty building is pretty freakin’ empty.

Andrew’s Stars Page has attendance numbers dating back to the 1980s, and you can see that Canadian strongholds Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver went through their own lean stretches. As with most attendance woes, a lot of this was based on performance. Even for the most die-hard hockey fan, it’s hard to consistently shell out cash for a crappy product.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: attendance, calgary+flames, edmonton+oilers, phoenix+coyotes, vancouver+canucks

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