Kukla's Korner

Category: NHL-Commentary

Inside the numbers: those dismal Thrashers

Over at The Iceman Bloggeth, Bill Tiller breaks down the performance of all NHL teams over the course of the Atlanta Thrashers nearly 10-year existence.  He includes a simple, straightforward criticism of Atlanta management that speaks volumes about whether Thrashers fans should hold optimism about the short-term future:

So, can anyone guess which would be the one and only team in this group [the bottom ten teams] that has… despite the less-than-stellar record of the past decade… chosen to remain with the same GM?

Unfortunately for Atlanta’s hockey faithful, with the current ownership situation there it doesn’t appear that the will to drive fundamental change exists within the organization.

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The grass ain’t always greener

The exodus of some NHL talent (most notably Alexander Radulov) to Russia’s KHL over the summer caused some concern that perhaps the NHL would have to deal with the most threatening rival league since the old WHA in the 1970’s.  However, as the Russian economy has been among the hardest-hit in what is now a global economic recession, the bags of rubles being tossed around by KHL teams to attract talent may instead be turning into Fool’s Gold.  This update comes from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF):

After years of prosperity, the endless stream of Rubles by Russian entrepreneurs is coming to a halt. Hampered by the long arms of the financial crisis, the KHL faces its first existence test already halfway into its inaugural season.

Things are getting severe over the water; there’s even talk about unilaterally slashing player salaries:

KHL managing director Vladimir Shalayev confirmed the claim. “The teams do not want to wait until next season and most of all would like to see a central reduction of wages through a new agreement.”

A hat tip goes out to kivaerijo at the Predators’ message boards for pointing this story out.  And yes, Alex, this Predators fan would welcome you back to Nashville if you’d like some reliable American greenbacks in your paycheck.

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A better way to save the Islanders

Just in case anybody took my earlier tirade against the “New York Islanders deserve revenue sharing” idea as mere invective against a struggling NHL team, I thought I’d try to reframe this whole question in perhaps a more constructive light:

“What, if anything, should the NHL do to assist teams with upgrading their arenas?”

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Is New York a “small market”?

Good old Larry Brooks of the New York Post is at again, crying to the heavens that the NHL’s revenue sharing guidelines are “unfair”, because the woeful New York Islanders are unable to tap into those funds.  Specifically, since the Islanders play in a market with more than 2.5 million households (PDF), they are excluded from any distributions under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Larry understands this much, for as he says, “NHL owners couldn’t bear the prospect of giving a portion of their revenue-share money to the Blackhawks back in 2005 when Bill Wirtz was doing his very best to drive his historic franchise into the ground.” The NHL was, somewhat understandably, reluctant to dish out revenue sharing to a team that could tap into a major metropolitan market, but failed to do so purely through its own misguided policies.

Why, then, should the Islanders deserve anything different today?

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How to sell the Coolest Game on Earth

Have you ever found yourself at a loss for words to describe just what is so great about hockey to some unfortunate unbeliever? Take a cue from Guy Kawaski, a venture capitalist in high tech and a self-described hockey addict to boot.  This comes from an interview he did a couple years ago, but was passed around this morning by @Hate_Your_Team on Twitter:

Q: We’re both big hockey fans, does that increase my chances or raising money from Garage Technologies? No, I’m kidding. Can you tell the readers why hockey is so great?

A: Hockey is a great sport because it combines the physicality of football, the team play of basketball, the poetry of ballet, the complexity of mathematics, and the aerobics of soccer. There is only one activity that is more physically, emotionally, and intellectually captivating than hockey, and it’s not blogging.

Well said… for more, check out this Kawasaki interview with Risto Pakarinen over at his NHL.com blog in 2006, which includes Guy’s self-appraisal as a rec league player: “Slow and chippy, but I can shoot.


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The 2009 Bizarro All-Star Team

As the NHL’s best and brightest flock to Montreal to participate in the 2009 NHL All-Star festivities (at least the ones who aren’t faking injury to stay at home), most fans will look forward to events like the Hardest Shot competition, and of course the game itself on Sunday.  One complaint often heard about the ASG, however, is the lack of grit and toughness that make hockey so enjoyable for the fans.

With that in mind, I thought I’d leverage the detailed penalty information that I keep track of to nominate the 2009 NHL “Bizarro” All-Star Teams, a collection of villains and miscreants that would make life hard on any opponent who dares take the ice against them…

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Sports Illustrated’s NHL All-Star Selections

Fan balloting for All-Star roster spots is always a hot topic, and this year’s controversy has probably been the most heated, between the dominance of the Montreal Canadiens in the starting lineup, and the absence of Alex Ovechkin or any of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.  The natural result of this has been a variety of calls to eliminate fan balloting or restrict it in some fashion.

Until that day comes, we can at least consider the selections as they would have been made by relatively neutral observers.  For that, let’s take a look at Sports Illustrated’s choices for the All-Star starting lineups, as presented in the issue currently on newsstands…

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Americans taking the college route to the NHL

American collegiate hockey has had a long history of producing the occasional NHL talent, reaching back to the days of Red Berenson, but in recent years it has developed into a premier training ground for top-level prospects preparing to take their game to the highest level.  Dave O’Onofrio of the Concord Monitor brings us a profile of Colin Wilson (7th overall 2008 pick by Nashville) and James van Riemsdyk (2nd overall 2007 pick by Philadelphia), two elite talents who are honing their craft on campus:

“It played out great for me, and I think it’s playing out the same way for Riemer,” said Wilson, whose 26 points tie him with vanRiemsdyk for the most among Hockey East players. “We’re both developing now, and I think it shows, not just in our numbers but by the way we play the game. In the new season both of us have gotten better than the previous season.”

“That Riemer, especially, is back in college this year is a real tribute to UNH. It’s a tribute to college hockey,” [USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim] Johannson added. “And it’s a tribute to his belief that ‘I’m going to become a better player here, and I’m going to be more ready to play in the National Hockey League whenever I decide to do that.’ “

Read on for the rest of the story.  For further reading on the impact of American talent on the NHL, check out James Mirtle’s series “Where NHLers come from.”

Filed in: Nashville Predators, NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Alex Ovechkin gets his Twitter on

As I wrote last month, NHL fans are flocking to Twitter in huge numbers, using the micro-blogging service to talk about the game in both a public way with a broad base of fans, or in smaller groups centered around certain teams.  What has been lacking so far, however, is the legitimate presence of a star player to join in the discussion, like Jerry Rice or THE_REAL_SHAQ, who keep a steady dialogue going.

Now, the NHL has its first star representation in the Twitterverse; this is from Michael DiLorenzo, the NHL’s Director of Corporate Communications and a regular presence on Twitter:

So here’s the big news: we’ve convinced Alex Ovechkin to Tweet leading up to the All-Star Game. Follow him @ovi8. It’s legit.

So far the posts are few and far between, but it bears watching. Hopefully other players will get out here as well and give us something more than “the boys played real hard, just getting ready for the next game.”

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Jersey fouls in beer-league hockey?

Greg Wyshynski (of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog) has run a series of popular “Pass or Fail” articles, focusing on the question of whether NHL jerseys with pretty much anything other than a legitimate player name and number on the back is an offense against the hockey gods.  For example, today’s refers to a Calgary Flames fan with “Crosby 87”.  This morning I bring a slightly different question to the table.

Last night in a beer-league game, our squad (the Piranhas) played a team with their own jerseys (think Minnesota Wild colors with a different logo), but all of them had legendary NHL player names and numbers on the back.  Somewhat confusingly, they had Ramsey at center, Roy on the wing, and a Goring on defense…

Having never seen such a thing in nearly 20 years of beer-league hockey, I’ve gotta ask the question; is this a jersey foul???

Filed in: NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

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