Damien Brunner: So hot right now.

The Great One once said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” and newcomer Damien Brunner sure seems to take that to heart. Two of Brunner’s greatest assets are that he isn’t scared to shoot the puck and he keeps trying until the very end (and it doesn’t hurt to have an amazing set of hands to go along with his persistance).

He had 2 goals and 2 assists in Sunday evening’s spanking of the Vancouver Canucks. He also has a team-leading 66 shots on goal this season, a 15.2 shooting percentage, and leads the team with 10 goals.

Here are a couple clips that demonstrate his awesomeness:

This Datsyuk-esque airhook goal is jaw dropping:

Now watch him dangle…

His chemistry with Zetterberg is incredible (he has assisted 7 of Brunner’s 10 goals), and their bromance is adorable. The captain always looks so proud of his rookie.

I can assure you that there’s much more to come. And for those of you who think Ken Holland would ever let this gem go…tsk tsk.

stats from redwings.nhl.com

Recent Playoff Success: Yes, we’ve had it!

So I was doing a usual round of late night heckling of a friend who sadly cheers for the Avs. I told him to remember his team had just “six playoff wins in the past six years”. I quickly pulled up the Wings number to compare. I was shocked to add up the numbers to 54. That’s nine per season, or by average, a trip to the Western Conference Finals every year.

I quickly began looking at a list of our rivals, mostly in our division. If nothing else interesting. Sure it is a abstract and arguably meaningless stretch of time. But I think if you listen to talk radio, or water cooler talk about the Wings, it would be tough to imagine the Wings far and away the leaders (next closest team I found was the Penguins with 43).

Anyways here’s a list. If nothing else, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, smile. It’s great to be a Wings fan. And when you have a Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Helm down the middle, you’re going to be in most games you play.

Central Division & Other Rivals Playoff Victories Since 2007

  • Red Wings 54
  • Penguins 43
  • Canucks 33
  • Sharks 32
  • Blackhawks 30
  • Predators 16
  • Coyotes 12
  • Avalanche 6
  • Blues 4
  • Blue Jackets 0
  • Maple Leafs 0

Holm is Where the Heart is

When Nick Lidstrom announced his retirement last Spring, many people assumed his partner in crime would soon follow. Anyone who watched Lidstrom’s NHL 36 knows that he and Tomas Holmstrom are besties. The fellow Swedes had their game day tradition of eating at Andiamo and would even drive to the airport together when the Wings would travel. Plus, with Nick no longer around, who would translate Holmer’s Swenglish?

Every goalie in the league knows Holmstrom’s ass all too well. He was best known for his screening ability–partly because it led to many goals for the Wings, and partly because it resulted in many being taken away. How many exactly? No idea. But a lot.

He was also incredible at deflecting and stuffing pucks into the net to finish the job.

Besides for his famous work in the crease, he had plenty of other beauties. He scored 243 goals and had 287 assists in his 1,026 games with the Detroit Red Wings and won four Stanley Cups.

So long, Tomas. Salut. Hockeytown is already missing you, your broken English, and most definitely your ass. Much love.

Fresh Faces: Jordin Tootoo

This edition of Fresh Faces will look at Jordin Tootoo (#22), a 29-year-old right winger and Manitoba native. After playing four seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Tootoo was selected by the Nashville Predators in the 4th round of the 2001 NHL draft.  He played there for 8 of the last 9 seasons (played for the Preds’ AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals during the 2004-2005 lockout).  Jordin won a gold medal as the captain of Canada’s under-18 team at the 2000 Four Nations tournament, and helped Team Canada win silver at the 2003 IIHF World U-20 Hockey Championship. Of Inuit and Ukrainian descent, he is both the first Inuk player and the first player to grow up in Nunavut to participate in an NHL game (Nunatsiaq News).

While only 5’9, Tootoo is best known for his physical play and being more than willing to drop the gloves.  He has recorded two Gordie Howe hat tricks during his career—my fav!!! Even though he draws a lot of penalties (725 PIM in 486 regular season NHL games), the Red Wings will greatly benefit from having a guy like him on the roster. Check out some of his fights from last season…but not before you mute the sound. Nice montage, weak song choice.

“His gloves dropped faster than panties on prom night!” –My mom

There is a softer side of Jordin that tends to be overlooked due to his badass persona—he is an active community member and avid philanthropist. He established the Team Tootoo fund, which helps support nonprofit organizations that address suicide awareness and prevention, as well as nonprofits supporting children and teens in need. He established the fund in 2011, after receiving treatment for alcohol addiction through the NHL/NHLPA’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

Welcome to Hockeytown, Jordin… we’re very happy to have you. Be prepared for some changes—most Wings fans eat, breathe, bleed Red Wings hockey. And when the crowd at the Joe cheers, we’re actually cheering for YOU, the players…not because they showed Carrie Underwood on the jumbotron.

Make sure to follow Jordin on Twitter: @JTootoo22, @TeamTootooFund
and Instagram: kudluk22

hockeydb.com, hockeyfights.com, cfmt.org

Ten Things The NHL Can Do To Win Back Its Fans

Damage control time. Here’s ten ways Gary and the boys can win back the fans

  1. Free Game Center Live – We’ve heard a few different reporters claim that giving away NHL Center Ice would be a nice give back to fans. Not going to happen. As detailed here, the NHL does not own the channel exclusively.  And it would require cooperation among all cable and satellite companies. Not gonna happen in ten days. BUT, the NHL could give away the premium version of their Game Center Live app. This would allow fans access to live video, radio, highlights etc. 
  2. Apologize - Bettman and Fehr need to apologize. Not just to the fans. To the employees, the bar owners, the vendors. Everyone. This was too long without pay for too little progress. It’s unacceptable  and both need to publicly apologize.
  3. Hockey Backgrounds at the Helm – Both NHL and NHLPA need to start grooming leadership successors. This lockout was frustrating as the main parties involved have never played a game of hockey in their lives. Both groups need to make sure they have strong leadership with hockey backgrounds moving forward. Former wing Brendan Shannahan seems a likely candidate to fit the mold.
  4. NHL Network Upgrade – How could the NHL Network not put a few suits in a studio to break the end of the lockout? It’s unacceptable. Put some real programming on there, get some non-infomercial advertisements and let’s go. I’m embarrassed to watch that channel when company is over. There’s plenty of bloggers and wannabe sportscasters that need some tape. Pay them peanuts and make some TV.
  5. Social Media – Any messaging should be announcing giveaways, incentives or “thank you” to the fans. Everything else you post is just going to be ripped apart. Look at any post in the last four months for proof
  6. Don’t Write Something Stupid On The Blue Line – It was nice first go around. Now it would be insulting. Please don’t remind us that this happens regularly.
  7. Better National Broadcast Team in the States – NBC’s crew, and I’ll just come right out and say it, Pierre McGuire, seem to be universally disliked by the fans. I respect Doc and Eddie O, but we’ve had the same crew since 2006. Let’s try something new. There’s plenty of talent out there.
  8. Allow Players To Continue To Play For Country – We deserve it. The world deserves to be able to watch it. Continue to grow your game internationally. Improve the likelihood of players to participate in the World Championships. Or improve coverage for fans of teams not in the playoffs.
  9. Consistency On Suspensions and Fines – I thought last year, Brendan Shannahan’s use of video to explain suspensions was tremendous. However, to fine Shea Weber a few grand and suspend Raffi Torres 25 games is inexcusable. We need more consistency.  I get that lots of factors go into these decisions  I thought the Dept. of Player Safety had a terrible postseason. In the words of Mr. Cherry “Smarten Up!”
  10. Deport One Of The Following  - Bettman, Fehr, Pitbull, Ice Cube, the guy who books Pitbull and Ice Cube’s advertising gigs.

Disputed Revenue Should Be Used To Sustain and Grow Hockey

As the deadline for a full NHL season passes, I sit back and wonder how could we ever let this happen to the game we love again? Here we are, coming off record years of attendance, ratings and revenue – yet the two sides cannot even sit down to discuss how to divvy up millions of dollars in a billion dollar industry. I’m not going to bore you with the financials, and I’m not going to sit here and write another “Shame on the NHL, NHLPA” article (not that they don’t deserve it.) But here’s my plea for both stubborn sides to think outside the box, which I think is not only possible, but essential to saving their future at this point.

First off, let’s dispel some rumors and PR talk. The NHLPA has claimed “we will stand together” and “we gave up everything last time”. First of all, you’re playing with fire. You will break. This fight is not worth it. The average NHL career is a median of 4 years. That’s right, 54% of your union will sacrifice 1/4 of their lifetime earning potential with a full season lockout. To expect the union not to break is unfair, and frankly dumb.

Now I understand the NHL bent you over and spanked your bottom in 2005. It hurt to give up so much. But you did not give up everything. Not even close. All over the world, companies are restructuring compensation. Welcome to economic reality.  My friend who works for the City of Detroit – and again, I’m not going to bore you with every journalist’s favorite three lines on despair we’ve faced in Michigan – was recently forced to give back 10% of his yearly salary. On average you make in 24 minutes of ice time what he makes in a year. That’s sacrifice.  So no, we’re not sympathetic to the 7% you stand to lose in a system where the league average yearly salary was $2.4 million as of 2011-12. Take your sob story somewhere else.

And the owners are just as bad. For every Phoenix there’s ten franchises that made money. And let’s remember that this is the system YOU designed. If you cannot make money in your own system, why should the players trust you to build another one? You lost your credibility with your irresponsible fifteen year contracts and colossal mismanagement of your own financial framework. Again we don’t want to hear it. We’re in a economy of small business failure. If you can’t make it work, sell your team to someone who can.

Now, I like to view myself as a problem solver, so here goes nothing. Neither side deserves the disputed revenue. That’s painfully clear to me. I propose we sign a short term agreement, and allow a third party organization - comprised of hockey minds from all sides of the game –  to invest that money back to the sport.

How does that look? Well for starters, we need to consider the future of the game. The NHL is not at the danger of becoming a regional fringe sport, it is one. Let’s invest money in non-traditional areas and grow the game we love. Unbelievable organizations, started by true fans and caretakers of the sport, have started that movement. But they need our help. Let’s invest in organizations like Pure As Pond, who are working right now to bring Hockey to inner city youth in Detroit. Companies around the country mandate their employees to grow their brand, community development, and after hours programs. The NHL needs to do more of the same.

We need to think about the hurt the two sides have caused to the rest of the hockey world. Arena staff, broadcasters, concession workers and beat writers depend on the game for their livelihood. We need to invest in our partners, not drive them away from the game. A fund needs to be set up to support these individuals. How can we grow our game if we have no one to write about it? How can we expect people to wake up every day not knowing if they have employment? There’s selfish, and then there’s this. It’s embarrassing how you’ve ignored this vital group.

Lastly, we need to make the game affordable again. Hockey cannot hold itself to the standard of the other major sports. The product does not match the cost at this point. The owners  simply should not be trusted to lower ticket prices. We need to freeze tickets where they are at for the length of the new deal, and use some of the disputed millions to discount ticket prices by a fixed percentage.

Hockey fans are the best fans in the world. There’s no denying it. We sell the game wherever we go,  fueled by a blind love we have for the sport that defines most of us. But the act is becoming tough to defend. I’m tired of calling cable companies to buy ridiculous channels – while the WNBA is on ESPN prime-time. I’m sick of supporting a sport that is only talked about when one of the “united brothers of the NHLPA union” drives his own co-worker headfirst into the boards.

I’m not sure how much more I can stand. And if you lose me, forget the casual fan, because you’ll have lost everyone. I hope both sides have the foresight and the intelligence to see what lies ahead of them. I pray that this era of hockey becomes the start of a bright future for the NHL, and not the beginning of the end of a once great thing.

Studying Abroad

It’s been 175 days since the Detroit Red Wings played. 175 days. That’s an awfully long offseason for the Detroit Red Wings and their fans. I’ve attempted to keep busy by taking up 12 new TV series, getting a real job (ew) and pretending to like baseball (Wait—how many innings are there? How come there are 4 bases? Oh. Go Tigers!)

Over the last month, 9 Red Wing players have signed contracts overseas…and 1 in Denver (Oh Quincey…you WOULD). I’ve spent countless hours looking for illegal websites so I can livestream some hockey and get my fix. I’m pretty bitter that I didn’t see Datsyuk’s header goal live. ESPN2 airing KHL games??? Best news I’ve heard in months.

Let’s sum up what we’ve been missing:

Valtteri Filppula – Jokerit Helsinki (Finland) – SM-liiga
8 GP, 9 pts, 4G, 5A, 2PIM, +5
(Out indefinitely with UBI)

Jan Mursak - HDD Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia) – Erste Bank Eishockey Liga
4 GP, 10 pts, 0G, 10A, 0PIM, +9

Pavel Datsyuk – CSKA Moscow (Russia) – KHL
7 GP, 9 pts, 3G, 6A, 2PIM, +6

Damien Brunner – EV Zug (Switzerland) – National League A
8 GP, 11 pts, 4G, 7A, 6PIM, +2
Fast forward to 1:07 – game against EHC Biel (Tyler Seguin’s team)

Jakub Kindl – HC Pardubice (Czech Republic) – Czech Extraliga
7 GP, 1 pt, 0G, 1A, 0PIM, -6

We haven’t missed anything yet from Cory Emmerton (signed with SaiPa in Finland this week), Jonathan Ericsson (Vita Hasten in Sweden), Drew Miller (Braehead Clan in Scotland – EIHL), Zetterberg (joining Damien Brunner on EV Zug in Switzerland), or Kyle Quincey (Denver Cutthroats…have I been watching too much Dexter or is that really graphic? – CHL).

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with what (4/5 of) the guys have been doing abroad and am interested to see how the other 5 look after a long summer. Wishing Filppula a quick recovery.

 

stats from hockeydb.com 

NHL Lockout 3D: The Blame Game

Okay I’m back from a summer of travel and boating to bring my deflating and borderline jaded views on all things NHL to you via this blog. And really what else could I really get into today besides the lockout?

We’ve heard the threats from both sides. “The NHL has cancelled the first week of preseason games” “Players are united this time, we won’t break” “The Winter Classic will be chopped if no agreement is reached by November”.

Not again! How can this be happening? We just did this didn’t we? Well I suppose 2004-05 was quite sometime ago when you really stop and think about it. And as I argued in a past post, Bettman emerged from that mess as perhaps the strongest commissioner of all 4 major pro sports in America.

But as the start of the season, or what should be the start of the regular season draws near, we’ve seen the Fire Bettman hashtags, t-shirts, and verbiage be mass re-produced all over the interweb.

Here’s a few reasons why you cannot just blindly blame Gary Bettman for a potential lockout:

1. Player Pride There’s no two ways around it. Last time around the players, some of the toughest men on the planet, had their pants pulled down and got spanked. In a big way. The deal they ended up taking was worse than the original offer on the table. Quite frankly, they dropped the mitts with the wrong foe, and in the end, the owners broke the union, got everything they wanted and then some. The NHLPA wound up firing two executive directors in the fallout.

So let’s consider the NHLPA now. This collection of men is a group not used to losing. They are a select group of society who had a dream, and are realizing it everyday. That’s a powerful concept, something that I’ve personally had a chance to interact with. I can share with you that due to that mentality, many of these players are naturally very optimistic and motivated by nature. They do not simply take no for an answer, and sometimes to their own detriment.

It is hard to imagine the players folding their hand until necessary. And that’s not Bettman’s fault. Regardless of who brought us to the current situation, the fact of the matter is that the league needs tweaks. Not an overhaul like the past lockout, but tweaks. And it certainly is not Gary Bettman’s fault that the player’s pride is standing in their way of conceding that.

2. Gary Bettman is essentially a puppet I don’t mean to take anything away from him. He’s done wonders for the league. As I mentioned in an earlier post, league revenue is up 750% since he took the reigns. Now I work in finance, and understand inflation, but that certainly is growth. The league is healthy. The rule changes have improved the game more than I could ever expect. And the game has set attendance and TV records throughout the last decade.

Now, you can argue that the league has succeeded in-spite of  GB (you’d be wrong), or second guess the commish all you want, but from the paragraph above, even the most radical of Fire Bettman supporters would have to admit he’s done an adequate job at the helm.

His biggest stain on the resume. Trilogy of lockouts!! Well let’s remember Gary’s job is to serve the owners. And if the owners want more than 43% of the revenue (which currently is lower than NBA and NFL owner cuts) then he does not have much choice but to carry out his employers wishes. In reality, those 30 owners don’t force his hand, they deal, organize and play his cards for him.

3. Serving Privileged Hypocrites Which segues nicely to the final point. GB has a tough job. He’s serving an ownership group that does not follow its own potential rules. As Greg Wyshynski argued on Puck Daddy, the league owners spent $200 million on contacts in the two days before the lockout.  How could a group arguing for max deals and salary reductions do such a thing?

The answer is pretty simple. The NHL owners are the cool girls at the party. And Gary is doing everything he can to keep them happy. While the league has taken steps forward in the past decade it is still, and forgive a terrible pun, on thin ice. In the NFL, Roger Goodell lay fines, suspend coaches for seasons or trot out referees from his neighbors flag football league. Why? Because if those 32 owners don’t like it, there’s 100 of others lining up to join on the money grab.

The NHL has no such luxury. Sure, the owners in key markets are almost universally guaranteed profits. But ask yourself this, would the Red Wings sell out if the Wings were a perennial loser like the 90s Lions. You can call this place Hockeytown all you want, but the answer is no. And that is the difference between the leagues. The Lions could trot out a JV team, go 0-16 and still turn a profit (oh wait, they did that!).

So in conclusion, you see it is not the easiest job for Mr. Bettman. While he’s certainly made some mistakes along the way, there’s no way he deserves the blame for the upcoming labor strike in the NHL. He’s caught in the middle of some prideful players and some entitled ownership. And what’s more, his hands are pretty tied.

So if you’re looking for someone to blame this extended offseason, take a look at the two sides pulling on either side of this tug of war. To me, an elementary approach of 50/50 would seem like a pretty fair middle ground. But given the attitude of the parties involved, we may be waiting awhile to get there.

The Post-NHL Awards Awards

The awards that really matter…

Best Dressed: It’s a tie: Henrik Lundqvist and Erin Andrews (I can see your hoohah!)

Biggest Upset: Patrice Bergeron taking the Selke over Pavel Datsyuk. He’s good, but Datsyuk is better.

Best Acceptance Speech: Henrik Lundqvist follows the trend of dropping f-bombs on live TV while accepting the Vezina Trophy

“Damn, You Clean Up Nice” Award: Erik Karlsson, Norris Trophy winner.

“Someone Had To Do It” Award: Matthew Perry got stuck with the awkward job of honoring Nick Lidstrom, the best defenseman of all time, right before announcing the winner of the Norris Trophy. Lidstrom wasn’t even a finalist this year…which is total bullshit. We all know who the real winner is. Check out 6:15:

Is it July 1st yet? I see Ryan Suter every night in my dreams… LET’S GO WINGS!

This Day In Red Wings History

On this day in 1997 the Wings record 73 shots on goal, 28 in overtime, as they defeat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 3-2, in double overtime to advance to the conference finals. How this is not interference on Shanny I will never know….

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