Kukla's Korner

Rule Changes Impact the Game

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Fox Sports,

With the excitement generated by Friday's "Game On" pronouncement out of New York, who can wait to see how these new rules will develop? Here is one set of opinions on the major revisions introduced to the NHL's on-ice product. Remember, however, that these rules are a package deal, with one change reliant upon several other alterations to succeed. "The changes all run into one another," explained Lou Lamoriello, the general manager of the New Jersey Devils. "They are all interdependent on each other." So, in the end, the package will be judged on its merits as a whole. Until then, however, here is a look at some of the major components of hockey's new look.

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Comcast and the NHL

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

via the Philadelphia Inquirer,

Now that there is linkage between revenues and salaries in the NHL in the new collective-bargaining agreement, broadcast rights are more crucial. What would happen if Comcast were to outbid ESPN for the rights to televise nationally? Is the league obligated to accept the higher bid? "There is not a contractual obligation," said Ted Saskin, NHL Players Association senior director. "But you still have to make good business judgment. We have a joint committee who will now consult on marketing and broadcast issues. Hopefully, you don't always take the offer that's the most money, but what is right for the sport. I am sure that is something the league will focus on, and we will have input in those discussions." That certainly means the NHL will likely do all it can to woo ESPN back to the table for 2005-06 and beyond because of its long-standing relationship. Still, you wonder whether the NHL would turn Comcast down if its offer were tens of millions of dollars more than ESPN's.

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Yzerman Expected Back

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun,

The future of Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman will be decided this week. It's expected the 40-year-old will play one final season with the Wings -- although it has yet to be announced -- and will sit down with GM Ken Holland sometime next week to discuss his future. The Nepean native has kept himself in good shape during the lockout and still has the desire to play. He also received an invite from GM Wayne Gretzky to attend Team Canada's Olympic training camp in Kelowna, so another shot at winning a gold medal in the upcoming Games in Turin, Italy, is also a good motivator to return for another NHL season. It would only make sense for Yzerman to come back. Detroit fans deserve the chance to say a proper goodbye and the vision of Yzerman, laying on the ice with a bloody towel over his face after getting a puck in the eye against Calgary in the 2004 playoffs, is not the way he should be remembered.

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NHL Rules Must be Clarified

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun,

Now that the board of governors has approved the National Hockey League's new rules, it's time to take the next step. Figure out how to implement them. To that end, NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell will be convening his competition committee in Toronto this week to work out the whys and wherefores. It's not as easy as it seems. The intent of each new rule is clear, but the way it will be imposed and enforced has to be determined. Take, for example, the shootout. The league confirmed on Friday that it will use that method to settle games that haven't been decided in overtime. It's a popular decision. As Brendan Shanahan, one of the committee members explained, "Nobody said he wanted a shootout, but everybody said he didn't want tie games. This seemed to be the best way to do it." But what shootout format makes the most sense? Each team will use three shooters, but how do you decide which team shoots first? If the score remains tied after those three have taken their shots, the shootout moves to a sudden-death stage. But as recently as Friday, the governors were still debating whether, if a team scored on its fourth shot, the other team, which had shot only three times, would have another chance.

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Brodeur Baffled

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Sun,

Martin Brodeur finds it "ridiculous." The National Hockey League's best stick-handling goaltender said yesterday he cannot understand why the league's powers-that-be would strip him of that skill by limiting the areas in which he can play the puck. "I don't want to complain but I really don't understand the logic of taking away a talent that only a handful of goalies around the league really have," Brodeur said during a phone interview yesterday. "All the general managers who didn't have good puck-handling goalies voted this rule in, I'm sure. "I think it's ridiculous. It takes away from the few goalies who do it." Under terms of the rules ratified by the league's board of governors on Friday, goaltenders may play the puck behind the goal line only in a trapezoid-shaped area defined by lines that begin six feet from either goal post and extend diagonally to points 28 feet apart at the end boards.

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Nashville Owner, We Could Win the Cup

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

Craig Leipold, owner of the Nashville Predators, is right. Any team can win the Cup this year. from theAP via the Daily Times,

Craig Leipold helped negotiate the NHL's new labor agreement, so it shouldn't be any surprise he thinks his Nashville Predators likely will benefit the most. Leipold had been among the most vocal of the small-market owners in wanting to give teams a chance to compete with the league's biggest payrolls. He had a perfect role on the owners' executive committee, which worked out this new six-year deal. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman even thanked Leipold among others for his help at the start of his news conference Friday in New York. ``We're obviously one of the big winners, maybe one of the biggest winners in this new CBA (collective bargaining agreement),'' Leipold told reporters by telephone en route to the airport in New York. ``When we get on the ice in our preseason game ... we're going to feel like we can not only compete for a playoff position, we're going to feel like we could win the Stanley Cup.''

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A Time for Reflection

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

I have been reading numerous stories about the re-birth of the NHL in the last 24 hours or so and how great it is to have hockey back. But for some reason I keep on reflecting on a few key points Larry Brooks (reg. req.) brought up in his column on Thursday.

Indeed, not only don't owners and the league have incentive to increase revenues, they have incentive to depress revenue. That's because the players' share increases to 55-percent when revenues hit $2.2B; to 56-percent when revenues hit $2.4B; and to 57 percent should revenues ever hit $2.7 billion. This year's payroll range of $21.5 to 39 million is based on a revenue projection of approximately $1.8 billion that is almost certainly optimistic, given both the effects of the cancelled 2004-05 and the widespread cut in ticket prices around the league. If this year's revenue is in fact $1.6 billion, the range next year will be set at $18.8 to 34.8. But if revenues were to grow to $2.4 billion, the range would become $34.8 to 50.8 million. And understand, if revenues grow, it will because they're driven by big-market teams with a selfish interest in increasing the cap. The lower revenue teams - half the league, if not two-thirds of it - have no interest at all in adopting a floor of nearly $35 million. Who's kidding whom here? The more the league generates, the more the players make, the less the small-market teams clear. That's the partnership the league has achieved. I understand, you fans are so happy to have hockey back that you don't care about the details and you certainly don't care if the players make less money. But you will care about the details when progressively lower caps mean your team can't keep its core players together for more than a year or two.
In the next week, a few teams are going to buy-out some of their players. Most of these players are in their mid-to-late 30's and many of them do not deserve the treatment they are about to get. Just read what John LeClair said after receivng notice that he had been bough out. "Obviously I'm disappointed," LeClair said. "But it was something I was prepared for. "I knew it was a very realistic possibility for over a year now. My disappointment comes from knowing my years with the Flyers are over." We should all question if the new NHL was worth it?

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Mario on Crosby, “This is Huge”

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the AP via MSNBC,

Mario Lemieux, leaned upon so often for so many years by the Penguins he even had to buy the team to keep it from leaving town, now has a successor in place — a star in waiting, a potential franchise-saver, just as he once seemed to have in Jagr. The player for whom future teams will be built around, just as every Penguins team that Lemieux has played for was built around him. “He’s going to have a major impact,” Lemieux said. “This is huge,” Lemieux said, relating how the momentum generated by Crosby’s presence could spur the arena effort. “We’re on Cloud 9,” team president Ken Sawyer said. “This has probably been the greatest 24-hour period of building a team here since 1984.”

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Will Some Cities Ever Care

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the East Valley Tribune (Arizona),

It took an act of attempted suicide, but the league has finally come to its senses and recognized that American hockey fans aren't enthralled by ties, low-scoring games, and goalies who wear more padding than attack dog trainers. Players will be allowed to make two-line passes across the red line. The size of the offensive zone will be changed to encourage more offensive play. And, in an astonishing moment of clarity, a shootout will occur if a game is still tied after a five-minute overtime session. Thank goodness. No more 19-12-10-8 records for teams. The NHL hopes the changes - and an increased emphasis on marketing - will enable the sport to recover from its work stoppage and grow to unprecedented heights. Sorry. Won't happen. Hockey is a wonderful game, but it's never going to step onto the same podium as football, basketball and baseball. It's a regional sport that plays well in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest - where kids grow up skating on frozen ponds - but in too many sun-splashed states hockey is and always will be an afterthought. More importantly, until someone can figure out how to translate hockey to television - thus assuring better ratings and, in turn, bigger rights fees - the NHL can't attract the widespread attention it needs to grow. There has been considerable speculation the last few weeks about whether fans will return to the rinks this fall. Of course they will. Hockey's core fans are incredibly loyal and passionate. They'll forgive, forget and scoop up season tickets because they love the game. But the millions of sports fans who never cared for hockey in the first place aren't going to rush to the game just because commissioner Gary Bettman has instituted a few rules changes. "Let's drop the puck on a fresh start and a wonderful future for the National Hockey League," Bettman said Friday. A wonderful future? At this point, the best the NHL can hope for is that it won't be ignored.

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Capitals Plan to Spend around $25 Million

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

via the AP,

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis answered 17 e-mails from fans before 6 a.m. Saturday, then immersed himself in a crash course in the hundreds and hundreds of pages that make up the NHL's new financial rules. "Now is the time I wish I had taken Evelyn Woods' speed reading classes," Leonsis said. While there is much to learn, Leonsis quickly made one thing very clear: The Capitals will not be among the big spenders when the league resumes play this fall after a lockout that canceled an entire season. The league's new salary cap is $39 million, but Leonsis said the team's spending will hover between the $21.5 million minimum and $25 million — far before the big-money standard he set a few years ago when he signed Jaromir Jagr to an $11 million-per-year deal. "The key element in this new system," Leonsis said, "is the ability to act at the right time with the right player."

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