Author Archives: Blake Woods

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

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.

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.

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….

“Too Old and Slow” aka The Broken Record

Well with the Wings down 3-1 in their opening series against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators, it is no wonder that the annual “too old and slow” critiques begin falling from the sky in Hockeytown.

The Wings have apparently been “too old and slow” for the past 15 years, despite earning 100+ points in each regular season since 1999, by far the league’s longest streak.

This “old and slow” comment is a obvious sign of someone who watches Twitter, and not the game. Clearly, anyone who actually watches the NHL, will know that puck movement trumps speed in all cases. If speed was the only indication of a good team, Apollo Anton Ohno would be taking home his 8th straight MVP this season (but no Lady Byng, he’s been known to trip).

Moreover, the Red Wings are not the grey beards of years past. Their average age is under 30. Abdelkader, Howard, Emmerton, Nyquist, Smith, Kindl, and the list goes on of younger talent within this organization.

Come playoff time, age turns to experience, which often translates into wins. 10 of the 15 oldest teams in the NHL by average age are still fighting for the Cup today.  Meanwhile, only 3 of the 11 youngest squads remain.

That’s not to say the Wings don’t have problems. They’ve scored eight goals in four games this series, have gotten very little production from top scorers and have lost too many pucks in their own end. But please, be better than the parrots on talk radio and social media, who are simply repeating something they overheard at the urinal.  It is far from the truth.

Poll: Will Shea Weber Be Suspended?

The Predators took a slow and chippy Game 1 from the Red Wings, but all the reaction is surrounding Shea Weber’s postgame incident with Henrik Zetterberg. I’ll let the the video do most of the talking on the play, but a key thing to note is that the head is targeted, the game is over, and the puck is gone.

Following the game, Weber found himself trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons and many analyst are predicting he will face a suspension from Brendan Shanahan. One thing to keep in mind is that Shanny recently explained his thoughts on playoff suspensions being far more significant than regular season suspensions. So by this line of thinking, I have trouble imaging anything greater than two games of Mr. Weber. But I will pose the question to you, how many games do you think Shea Weber will be suspended for his cheapshot on Henrik Zetterberg?

PS My guess is 1

What seed best suits the Red Wings playoff chances?

With a week left in the NHL season, both conferences have some interesting races for playoff seeding. The Red Wings find themselves currently in 5th place. They have four games in the next seven days and move as high as four and as low as the 6th seed. Below are the standings as of noon today:

 

WESTERN GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
1 y – Vancouver 79 49 21 9 107 42 7 7 25-10-4 24-11-5 239 191 +48 7-2-1 Won 6
2 y – St. Louis 79 48 21 10 106 44 4 9 30-5-4 18-16-6 204 156 +48 4-3-3 Lost 2
3 Los Angeles 79 39 27 13 91 33 6 8 21-14-4 18-13-9 185 170 +15 7-2-1 Lost 1
4 x – Nashville 79 45 26 8 98 41 4 5 24-10-5 21-16-3 227 208 +19 4-5-1 Lost 1
5 x – Detroit 78 46 27 5 97 39 7 2 30-6-2 16-21-3 240 195 +45 2-6-2 Lost 2
6 x – Chicago 79 44 26 9 97 38 6 5 27-8-5 17-18-4 240 229 +11 7-1-2 Won 2
7 Phoenix 79 39 27 13 91 33 6 10 21-13-6 18-14-7 206 202 +4 5-2-3 Won 2
8 San Jose 79 40 29 10 90 32 8 5 25-12-3 15-17-7 214 201 +13 6-4-0 Won 1
Dallas 79 42 32 5 89 35 7 4 22-14-3 20-18-2 207 212 -5 4-6-0 Lost 2
Colorado 80 41 33 6 88 32 9 2 22-15-2 19-18-4 205 209 -4 5-3-2 Won 1
Calgary 80 35 29 16 86 32 3 9 21-12-6 14-17-10 194 222 -28 2-4-4 Lost 3

x – cliched playoffs, y – cliched division, courtesy of ESPN.com

The question now becomes, what seed best suits the Red Wings title hopes? A simple answer is the 4th seed, and guaranteed home ice in the first round against either of their Central Division rivals – Chicago Blackhawks or Nashville Predators. A 4th or 5th seed would also eliminate to possibility of a West Coast first round trip, which many believe hurt the club in the 2010 postseason (The Wings won in Phoenix in 7 games, only to lose to San Jose in game 5.

However, the sixth seed would ensure a matchup with the winner of the weaker Pacific Division champion, which today has four teams separated by two points with all teams having three games to position themselves.  As of today, Los Angeles leads, but based on schedule alone Phoenix is sitting pretty. It may come down to San Jose, whose final three games are @DAL, @LA, vs LA.

All that being said, I would think you would want to avoid Nashville at all costs. They are getting plenty of production from KHL pickup Alexander Radulov, plenty of talent on the blue line and perhaps the leagues best keep in Pekka Rinne. Nashville made better additions than any club at the deadline, knowing that this could be the last year with the current core of talent as both D men Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are free agents this year. Nashville has been ousted from the playoffs by the Western Conference champion in three of the past four years, and each of those series went six games.

A drop to sixth place would all but ensure a second round date with either St. Louis or Vancouver, while a fourth or fifth seed could produce a more favorable matchup depending on upsets. I find myself torn, but the one thing I think we can all agree on, is a few wins heading into the postseason would be big in terms of confidence.

So I’ll leave it to you:

Should be a fun one against the Panthers today, who are clinging to their Southeastern Division lead. 4pm at the Joe.

 

 

Only 20 Days…

The playoffs start in just 20 days! The Wings currently find themselves in a battle for home ice with division rivals Nashville and Chicago. Although the six seed and the right to play the Pacific Division champion might not be a bad spot to wind up.

Now enjoy this magic!

Lidstrom’s Slow Recovery Raises Questions On Future

There’s not much more I can say about The Perfect Human that hasn’t already been said. His value to Detroit has shown as the team has struggled the past few weeks without his steady presence.

All year, Detroit fans have speculated on whether this would be Lidstrom’s final season. Sure he’s got 10 goals, 31 points and a +25 rating. But the Captain is facing the lengthiest recovery of his extensive NHL career, and the first significant layoff since taking a severe hit from Ian Laperriere in 2008 (Click the link to watch the video, reaction, plus Aaron Downey doing what he did best.

So go figure both incidents are against the Avalanche, but you really have to wonder how much more a soon to be 42 year old can take.  He told the Free Press today, “It’s discouraging that I haven’t started feeling better, as it’s going on two weeks now.” On the plus side of things, Nick’s MRIs (he’s had at least two) have revealed no fracture, so the team is hoping staying off the leg will get Lidstrom back on the ice.

Another big factor might be the future of longtime teammate, countryman, and best friend Tomas Holmstrom.  While the winger surely has lost a step from his 2009-10 25 goal output, he still has been serviceable on the fourth line and power play. Tomas turns 40 next year, and the front office will have a big decision to make on the soon to be free agent. Especially when considering how it may effect Lidstrom’s thinking. With the Power Play in peril, is it time the Wings let go of their longtime front of the net force?

With all of the festivities set around the New Year next year, it is hard as a fan to not be selfish and hope we may be blessed with one more year of blueline bliss. In the end, I think we will all respect Lidstrom’s choice, and consider ourselves lucky to have watched him this long.

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