Archive for May, 2007

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Dose of Reality #50

May 30, 2007

I’ve been pretty busy and didn’t have the right amount of time to state why I think the Ducks will beat Ottawa for the Cup. At the risk of sounding like someone who is writing history after the fact, I have always believed that the series will take seven games. It might come down to each team winning their home games, but it will go the distance.

I like Anaheim because they will not let Ottawa go unanswered. In the earlier series’ Chris Neil or Mike Comrie or even Daniel Alfredsson would slash or charge or cross check a Sabre or Devil and other than maybe receiving a penalty, that was the end of it. But the Ducks will gladly hit back frequently and with force, telling the Senators that if you want to hit us, fine, but you are going to get it back. It’s not just Chris Pronger or Brad May or Shawn Thorton who are returning the favors, either. All of the Ducks are and they enjoy doing it. They understand that Ottawa is trying to get them off their game, to distract them, and that if they are to win the Cup they have to respond in kind.

The Senators got good goaltending from Ray Emery in the first three rounds, but I don’t think he can hold his breath through the Finals. He is facing more shots, he is seeing more traffic in the crease, and he is facing more chances than he did earlier in the playoffs. Emery is good, but the team needs him to be almost perfect.

I enjoy seeing all the ex-Blue Jackets out there in Ducks sweaters, getting the chance that they never had here in Columbus. Even Joe Motzko is getting some ice time! Todd Marchant has become the main center for the team and is playing well. I start to cry every time I watch Francois Beauchemin take a shift, depressed about what we missed out on. Newell Brown must have found some smart pills out in California because it was thought that he wasn’t intelligent enough to coach here.

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I need to clarify my previous remarks about Nashville. Although I am sad to see them leave town and break the hearts of the hockey fans in their area, I fully support Jim Balsillie likely moving the team to Canada. Hockey is a mess in the U.S. and it’s probably best for the sport if it resides in cities that actually welcome it. Nashville was probably doomed from the start, but they got their chance and couldn’t make it work.

CBJ fans seem to have greater numbers than those in Nashville, but if the team keeps putting out a bad product and making bad hires, then the TV ratings will continue to slide, attendance will continue to drop, and that means revenue will fall. Will the fans be blamed? Will Columbus be called a bad choice for hockey? I don’t know, but it seems like the fans and corporate citizens have done their part, so it’s up to team ownership now. Mulligans are usually just for golf, but the McConnells are getting a fresh start in 2007.

-Truth Serum

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Stanley Cup Finals prediction

May 27, 2007

After shooting 75% through the first two rounds, I missed big time in the conference finals. Buffalo and Detroit are both cleaning out locker rooms, and Anaheim and Ottawa are preparing to duke it out in the Stanley Cup Finals. For the final time this spring, my prediction for the next playoff round.

Stanley Cup Finals

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t watched enough hockey in the last month and a half to really know who to pick in this series. But that’s never stopped me from jumping head-first into the deep end before, so here goes nothing.

The Stanley Cup

When the Ducks traded for defenseman Chris Pronger in the off-season, many were quick to place Anaheim at the top of the Western Conference. After a full season and most of the playoffs, the Ducks have done their part to make a lot of people look like they know a thing or two. They haven’t always been the prettiest team but in the end it doesn’t matter how you looked getting there, just that you’re still standing.

Ottawa lost Zdeno Chara to Boston, and more than a few wondered how this would affect their chances of going deep in the playoffs. Often criticized for not being tough enough, and being more flash than substance, the Senators have shown that they have what it takes to continue playing meaningful hockey into June. For Ottawa fans that have showed patience with their club, the rewards are piling up. After suffering though four straight sub-20 win seasons, loyal fans have to be enjoying this. Blue Jacket fans can afford to have a little hope when they see this story unfolding. Not to say that the situations have been comparable, but even the darkest days can eventually turn into something good.

So what do I think? Who’s going to win? I’m taking the Ducks in six. There you have it, a prediction void of meaningful analysis.

And finally, can I direct you back to a post a certain someone made back in September? Notice who the top two teams in each conference were? That said, feel free to ignore the rest of the predictions there (particularly the Flyers in the #2 slot).

Coming very soon (I promise this time), the Spotlight Series 2007.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.

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Dose of Reality #49

May 24, 2007

OK, we have Anaheim vs. Ottawa. I’m going with the Ducks for a few reasons; they are tougher, hungrier, and have more ex-Blue Jackets than the Senators. More about the Cup later.

NBC dropped the Buffalo-Ottawa game last Saturday to go with its scheduled programming, the Preakness Race. They can’t sell commercials in NHL overtimes, the ratings are low, and they had more viewers and sponsor money lined up for the horse race. It sounds like a no-brainer. So hockey fans, other than demand that NBC do a better job of communicating this next time a similar situation comes up, what should be done? Yeah, I know, that game should have been shown in the evening where it belongs. Yeah, I know, the NHL should have demanded that the game be moved to MSNBC or CNBC instead of the smaller Versus channel. But as someone told me long ago, don’t confuse hockey issues with business issues. NBC doesn’t. And this story is related to the next story:

Jim Balsillie, founder and CEO of RIM (Blackberry), bought the Nashville Predators. You can read more about it here and here. But I think you can agree with what is being said by a lot of hockey writers, that the team will soon be leaving Nashville. This might be the start of the game returning to Canada, reversing the migration to warm weather U.S. cities. Is Florida next? What about Atlanta, Tampa Bay, the Kings, Phoenix, or even the CBJ? I’m a positive person and always look for the silver lining and at this time I am positive that the NHL is hurting. When the jewel of your sport, the Stanley Cup, is moved off the air to a channel that features an Icelandic strong man contest, you’ve got problems. When a very successful Nashville team can’t get people to attend its games, you’ve got problems. When the vast majority of U.S. media doesn’t even report on you, you’ve got problems.

The Canadian people have had Hockey Night In Canada for a long time, but now they are forced to watch games played in the hot afternoons of May. They’ve had enough and there is going to be a lot less concern about the “American problem” and more assertiveness about making the game more Canadian again. Nashville, you had your chance but couldn’t make it work, so we’re going to take the team back. The U.S. dollar is not that strong anymore and market corrections will take care of the American problem. In a salary cap league, a huge percentage of costs are now fixed, so you better maximize your sources of revenue. If you can get more butts in the seats in Cambridge or Winnipeg or wherever, and you can get more television revenue from Canadian organizations, the future is not hard to see. It certainly doesn’t help when you schedule prime time games on warm, spring afternoons.

So when your local NHL franchise decides to renew the contracts of the assistant coaches who were part of the dismal past, you better take note and maybe let the local owners and management know that you value winning and competitiveness more than offering a nice place to work.  Wake up, CBJ owners!  You keep taking us for granted and you will be part of the American problem.

-Truth Serum

UPDATE

The dean of hockey writers, Eric Duhatschek, offers his view on the Nashville sale.

One, Nashville isn’t Pittsburgh – and while the NHL nominally wants to operate successfully in every one of its markets, it would have a far easier time seeing a team bolt from a small southern city that has been in the league fewer than 10 years than a franchise with 40 years under its belt and a couple of Stanley Cup championships to its credit.

To read the rest of this, go here.

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Dose of Reality #48

May 19, 2007

It has been some time since my last post, so I am overdue for a few issues that have been on my mind.

First off, it looks like Ottawa is going to be in the Cup Finals this year, unless they completely collapse and lose four straight. I predicted that it would be a Buffalo-Anaheim series, but the Sabres forgot to play their style of hockey and became passive. But if Ottawa does move on and draws Anaheim, I can’t wait to see Daniel Alfredsson try and run somebody from behind. The rink guys will be cleaning up his body parts for a couple of days if tries to run a Duck over the way he ran Henrik Tallinder last week. It was a cheap shot, worse than any Jody Shelley hit. It’s not the first time Alfredsson has done this in the playoffs. A couple of season ago he boarded Darcy Tucker of the Leafs, stealing the puck from him while most of the players stood around waiting for the penalty call that never came. I remember that incident well, but at the time I didn’t care much because, afterall, it was against Tucker and the Leafs.

Another thing I want to see and hear is Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada cheering on the Ottawa Senators and their captain, the same Mr. Alfredsson. For those of you who believe in conspiracies, once again the NHL is greasing the skids so that a Canadian team is in the finals. But over the years Don Cherry has made fun of Europeans and Alfredsson in particular, but with Ottawa receiving this year’s Canadian ticket to the Cup Finals, he will have to get in line. I’m sure it will be easier for Cherry if the Ducks make it to the finals, a team from a place that has no hockey heritage.

Does anyone else out there think that Michael Arace is doing a great job with his blog? It is nice to have an almost daily post from him with more irreverence than he writes for the print edition of The Dispatch, now that he does not have to cover the Blue Jackets on a daily basis. His one post, Bring Back Kinger, was terrific. I hope he can continue with this quality and quantity once the CBJ are back in focus.

It is a little disconcerting to not read or hear much about the search for a new General Manager in Columbus. Mike Priest is a quiet guy, but it would be nice to have more information or gossip to get through this period. I have a bad dream that it will be September and the team decides to re-hire Doug MacLean because he has completed his therapy and the owners are confident that he can handle the job again. As evidence of this change in personality, John McConnell cites the fact that MacLean has started buying his clothes at Kohl’s, drives a used Ford pickup, and is not planning any new minor hockey teams in the Columbus area.

-Truth Serum

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2007 NHL Third Round Playoff Predictions

May 11, 2007

I meant to get these up yesterday, but I’ll spare you the details and just say that it obviously didn’t work out that way.  I will state that at this time (10 AM), I have no idea who won last night’s contest.  So that in no way affects my picks, which will likely be wrong.  In the second round, I went (3-1) and brought my overall playoff prediction record to (9-3).  Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. Ottawa Senators (#4)

Drew’s take: This series would have been anticipated even without the hit Chris Neil laid on Chris Drury late in the regular season and the ensuing two-game free for all.  That’s like throwing another can of frosting on the cake.  I think Buffalo will eventually wear down the Senators by being a deeper squad.  Ottawa will play tough as nails, which will extend this series to six or seven games, but in the end the Alfredsson/Spezza/Heatley line will not be enough to carry the rest of the team.

Drew’s pick: Logo BUF

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (#2)

Drew’s take: I picked against the Wings the last round because I didn’t think they were tough enough.  Through four games of their series with San Jose, tied at 2-2, I thought I was right on track.  But Nabokov’s fatal clearing attempt off of Datsyuk’s stick that broke the tie in the game was the beginning of the end.  Detroit proved that they are tough enough and that they are in it to win it.  Anaheim overcame Roberto Luongo to dispatch the Canucks.  I won’t make the same mistake again, I’m picking Detroit to win this series and go to the Finals.

Drew’s pick: Logo DET

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Dose of Reality #47

May 9, 2007

Round 3 playoff predictions, fresh off the grill. As always, I should review my past picks and see how I did. Looks like I got them all again, but missed out on my forecast of how far each series would go. How did Drew fare?

Ottawa vs. Buffalo, Buffalo, 4-3. Ottawa did well against a not-prepared Marty Brodeur, who barely even got the Devils past Tampa Bay. This will be a tough series, no matter what platitudes the teams are now offering up to the press. I think the Sabres will win because they are faster than the Senators and will not take as many penalties as Ottawa. The only hope Ottawa has is if they pound Buffalo into the ice and come out with a bloody series win, which they are perfectly able and willing to inflict.

Anaheim vs. Detroit, Anaheim, 4-3. Detroit surprised me with their grit against San Jose. Their team discipline and intelligence was as strong as I expected, but Anaheim is even tougher, younger, and the Wings are missing Mathieu Schneider for the rest of the playoffs. It could go Detroit’s way if Anaheim takes way too many penalties and by that I mean more than a two to one ratio. If Chris Pronger gets carried away and plays out of control, it could be over in six games and the Wings will be in the Finals.

So there you have it, a Buffalo vs. Anaheim Cup. The games have been exciting, fast, and entertaining. We in Columbus could be part of a semi-championship in six years if things work out.

-Truth Serum

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Try not to read between the lines

May 4, 2007

I saw on CBS Sportsline today that the Blue Jackets signed goaltender Steve Mason to a three-year entry level contract.  The 19-year old netminder was selected in the second round of last year’s entry draft, and recently was named the OHL’s goaltender of the year.

While he had a heck of a year, I hope the Jackets management (whomever this may turn out to be) will let him season in the AHL before throwing him in the shark tank.  The article brings up the goaltending struggles of the big club, but I’d be more worried if the words were coming from a Jackets spokesperson instead of an AP wire report.  I need to stop looking at this so deep.

And in other news…

As seen in yesterday’s Dispatch, defenseman Duvie Westcott has finally received a clean bill of health and was cleared for takeoff this week.  Playing in only 23 games this past season, Westcott was out for much of the second half with post-concussion symptoms.  Duvie says he hopes to schedule regular workouts during the offseason to prepare for training camp.  Unless major changes are in place with personnel, I would assume that Westcott will compete for the 4-6 defenseman spot.  A year ago I said that Duvie could be the best D-man on the team in a few years, but I think that the injuries he’s suffered have set him back considerably.  I still believe he has that potential, but he will have to remain healthy to have a shot.

Stay tuned for the Spotlight Series starting up in the next week or two (or whenever… it’s the offseason!).  Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench, come back soon.