DKM Hockey Podcast

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sum of the Parts

Rick Nash has been traded.  The all time everything for the Columbus Blue Jackets will now be taking powerplay feeds from Brad Richards instead of digging hospital passes from (insert joke here) out of his skates.  I still find it it disappointing that Doug MacLean did more to try and find Geoff Sanderson a center than Howson ever did for Nash.  There, I said it.  Am I calling Howson a bad GM?  Dunno, but after Carter washed out and Arneil was canned, Nash had every right to ask to be traded.  10 years is enough.


The Saga.  More like the Horror.  I find it completely unprofessional that while Howson had no problem at the deadline letting everyone know that Nash asked for a trade, that he was virtually tight lipped about everything else regarding the trade since.  It makes it easy to say good-bye when you demonize someone.  You can tell us he wanted out, but can't tell us anything else?  This was all handled poorly.

This was funny when it was just a joke...

If you've read anything else I've written, I hold all NHL athletes in the highest regard.  You're a hell of a hockey player to even get a cup of coffee in the NHL.  This isn't the 80's any more.  But let's look at the reported trade:

Brandon Dubinsky - a guy who had to rediscover his scoring touch at the tender age of 23.  I didn't write the articles, the New York Post did.  I think Dubinsky will quickly become a fan favorite.  Not for his stellar Jacob Voracek like numbers (look them up), but for his emotion on the ice.  It's been a while since the Jackets had anyone who regularly took bad penalties, so this will be a breath of fresh air.  But, Dubinsky's point output should be similar to that of Jack Johnson, the defenceman.

Artem Anisimov - Another long list of acquired 2nd or 3rd line centers for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Not sure why the CBJ would have picked up another center 'OK' 2nd or 3rd line center.  Unless... unless they plan to dump Brassard.  Because really, you want your number 6 forward to have at least 40 points, something Anisimov has done once.  But hey, passing to Derek Dorrest for 82 games gets you 55 points easily.

Tim Erixson - he refused to play in Calgary, so I'm sure Columbus is right up his alley.  Wisniewski and a first to Edmonton for Nugent-Hopkins anyone?  Remember Columbus, we don't like guys who are tired of losing in Columbus and want out, remember.  It's ok if they come here because of the Malls, Public Schools, and Country Clubs.  Erixson = too good for Calgary, just right for Columbus?

1st round pick - see "Columbus Blue Jackets Draft Success" then see "Nash Traded to New York Rangers."

What every pee wee says, "I'd like to spend my entire career with the worst team in pro sports!"

I have always said a trade for Nash couldn't be a 'sum of the parts' trade.  By that I mean, you can't replace a 30-40 goal a year guy with a couple of Jacob Voracek's and expect to remain competitive.  If this were true, a team of 12 Jason Chimeras would beat the 1991 Penguins every time.  There is the slimmest of chances that the no pressue atmosphere of playing for the Columbus Who Jackets will perk those guys up.  I'm having a hard time finding guys who's production went up as a result of playing here, exception to RJ Umberger.  Two second line centers, and also ran young defenseman, and a 20-something first rounder for Rick Nash.  Say it out loud.  Say it again.  Now are you glad he's gone?
Did I mention that Rick Nash goes to the New York Rangers with a minimalized set of expectations?  Who did the Rangers give up to get Nash.  Dubinsky?  I've sure there's the 2% on twitter saying to themselves how can you trade Dubinsky for Nash?  Quiet easily and any day of the week.  The NHL is full of 40 point a year centers, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Yes, Nash comes with an exceedingly high cap hit and that in itself carries a lot of weight.  Richards, Gaborik, and Nash on a powerplay?  Those expectations just got a little easier to handle.  What, that doesn't sound as good as Nash, Umberger, and Prospal?

So, this leaves the reasonable Columbus Blue Jackets fan with some sobering thoughts.  Nash is gone. You're left with Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov.  Who is the face of your franchise now?  Who's jersey number will every 8 year-old argue over at the first hockey practice of the year.  When you're at an airport in Boston, people aren't going to be able to name one player on your team.  Will there even be a #CBJ player on an All Star team hosted IN YOUR CITY?  But remember Blue Jackets fans, theirs been more passion over Rick Nash wanting out than there has been passion over the Blue Jackets being the most losingest franchise in major pro sports since 2000.  The new era begins today and it starts without one of the most consistent goal scorers in the game today.  Again, I could be wrong as sometimes I am - Dubinsky and Foligno hook up for 100 pts and Bobrovsky is a Venzina finalist; playing in Columbus was the one thing it took to make it all happen.  Join the Battle.
PS - spell check had a hard time with "Losingest."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Perspective: The NHL CBA

The opening salvo, the first salvo, the pending lockout, doom and gloom for hockey fans.  The NHL is not popular in the United States where 23 of it's franchises are located.  Yet, the sport is as popular as it's most likely ever been.   At then end of 2011, 18 of the 30 teams lost money, up from 16 at the end of the 2010 season.  And these aren't clever accounting numbers, they are revenue over expense.  In fact, if taxes, interest, and depreciation were considered, I'd be shocked if more than 8 NHL teams are actually making money, and that's with the NHL's version of a government assistance program. Yet, the sport is as popular as it has ever been.

 The first thing any business enterprise does when it's not making money is change benefits and compensation to employees.  It is not always the right thing to do, but it is typically the largest expense and the only non-question mark on a balance sheet.  Right now the United States' most unpopular of the 4 major sports, the NHL, awards 57% of generated revenue to the players.  The worlds most popular sport, which has probably the least player friendly CBA, gives 48% of the revenue to the players.  The NHL's last labor stoppage, Commissioner Gary Bettman's second, was all about 'cost certainty' for the owners.  The owners got their cost certainty in the form of a hard salary cap.  The players actually got an impressive amount of revenue at 57% and a generous salary floor, albeit a good portion of their salaries go into escrow with no certainty they will see it. 

Since Bettman's last labor stoppage, the average worth of an NHL franchise is up 47% more than what they were before the lockout 04-05 lockout, yet more than half the team's franchises lost money in 2011.  The NHLs "worth" has gone up 47% while over the same time NHL revenue has increased 29% and inflation of roughly 20%.  If you watched the news in 2008 or 2009, this should sound eerily familiar. Bubble economy.  9% real growth (excluding weakening US dollar against he CAD) and 47% increase in value.  Sounds like a Clinton-era policy.  The top five income generating teams would be hurt by a lockout, they made heaps of money and will continue to do so under just about any CBA.  This CBA is about teams with bad arena deals, weak TV markets, and fan apathy leading to an inability to be profitable - and they're taking it out on the players.   It's worth noting that teams in Toronto, Detroit, Vancouver, Boston, and Montreal make tens of millions a year while teams in Tampa Bay, Miami, Phoenix, Columbus, and Raleigh combined to lose 58.9 million in 2011 and take league money generated from those top teams.  Which of those 10 teams sound like 'hockey cities' and which don't?

So fans, what to do?  Remember, owners got what they wanted in the last lockout in the form of a hard cap, you lost a year of hockey.  They got their cost certainty, you got made fun of at work.  NHL revenues are up 29% since the lockout outstripping inflation so there is legitimate 'growth' in the NHL's revenue.  The owner's ability to turn a better profit did not have an affect on revenue, your interest as a fan did. 7 years after the owners got their cost certainty, which above all else, would provide the Columbus Blue Jackets with the same opportunity to succeed in the market place as the Toronto Maples, now sees those two cities $100 million dollars apart in profitability for 2011.  That's what brings us to the pending CBA negotiations.  This CBA is all about the owners ability to make a profit, forgetting they have terrible arena deals located in markets where hockey is foreign to the populace.  If revenue was down, attendance was down, and all of hockey was at the brink of ruin, I'd expect a CBA like this and I would expect the players to sacrifice.  Hockey, while not vastly popular, is as popular as it's been in decades in just 7 years after a season was wiped out.  Baseball has NEVER recovered from it's lost time, so don't get too over zealous NHL owners.

So my advice to those glaring sticking points in the latest CBA offer:

Players - NFL and NBA get 48% of revenue and they are more popular than you, it's time to accept that fact.  If you get to 49%, take it and don't look back - assuming of course you no longer have to put 17% of your salary into escrow.  Don't accept a 10% revenue cut without fixing the escrow problem.

Owners - you don't like 13 year contracts?  Then DON'T offer them. A reduced amount of revenue, a hard cap, AND max 5 year contracts with UFA after 10 years?  Does Vaseline come with that Mr Sandusky?  A reduction in revenue is a good place to start, but lets be fair.  How about a little RETRACTION if things are that bad (counter intuitive, I know but a move I support).  You put out a product for 10 years that no one wants, but you worth and revenue is up?  Shame on you and it's not the players burden to bear 100%

NHL - 1) change you're freaking transfer agreement with the CHL so your top draft picks have another option for development.  2) If a player gets their hands, elbow, or stick up on a check - suspend them.  3)Go to no-touch icing. 4) If a team can't make money and wants to move, let them.  5) How about a little marketing, that might help.

#CBJ - changing the revenue split won't help the fact that you're attendance is down 25% since 2002, that your team will still not make any money without NHL assistance, and your front office is made fun of by every other front office in the NHL.  You hit the lottery with the Nationwide Arena deal.  The new land lord is motivated to keep collecting the lucrative sin taxes from the arena district on game nights and bought the arena for pennies on the dollar.  Make the most of this opportunity and lose the front office, STAT - assuming of course affable, capable, and knowledgeable replacements want to come to Columbus.

PS - Gary Bettman, your number one job is to make sure progress is being made on the CBA and that not one second of the 2012-2013 season is lost regardless of where the CBA is.  Don't screw the fans out of hockey because a niche product can't turn a profit in markets where 'play hockey' is 8th or 9th on a list of a sports to play.  However, you will remain commissioner as long as you fight the good fight for the ownership group and continue to use the same marketing plan as the Turbo Grafx-16 and Pepsi Clear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

December 4th, 2010 - A day that will forever live in #CBJ infamy.

I hear a lot of Blue Jackets fans talk about how Columbus is a great hockey town.  I'm from New England, went to High School in Northeast Ohio, and lived in the Detroit Suburbs for 4 years.  I've lived in good hockey areas.

I think Blue Jackets fans confuse "great hockey town" with "We have 2000 really, really loyal fans."  A hockey town means your town appreciates hockey.  Your town loves hockey.  Hockey is one of the things your town does well.  A hockey town means you can name the high school head coaches like you can the second line center in Springfield.  Columbus is a great football town.  Want to know how I know?  I have to schedule my TRAVEL HOCKEY practices around house league pee-wee football in September and October.  Half my team plays football.  Football is what this town lives, eats, and sleeps.

But, don't let my observations be the only guide.  Let's look at some metrics.  The metro area population of Columbus is 1.8 million people.  I believe that is the 32nd largest metro area in the US. 

Of those 1.8 million people,

 - less than 0.001% of the population is registered to play youth hockey (per CAHA, CCYHA, and EYHA).  Wow, not even 2,000 kids.  2,000 kids play football in Marysville alone.

- less than 0.01% of the population would pay to see 41 home games of the Columbus Blue Jackets in a single season. (Respectable, but Edmonton, Toronto, and about 8 other teams have 4 and 5 digit wait lists for season tickets and they suck too.)

 - less than 0.004% of the population is registered with an adult league hockey on 9 sheets of ice at 6 rinks. You can figure this out sitting in the upper bowl halfway through the first.

However, for me, the most eye opening moment was on December 4th, 2010.  It was on this night where the Columbus Blue Jackets played the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena. Since I started coaching travel hockey, most of my discretionary time is spent at the rink coaching.  But, my father was going to be in town and I was able to score seats in section 102 from a friend, the boys only had one game that day, so we went to the Blue Jackets game that night.

My father and I are students of the game.  We don't say much to each other besides, "nice hit" "great pass" "I thought he had that" "When is Nash going to get help"  "he'll get him back later in the game."  We talk between whistles, stand for fights, cheer when the Blue Jackets score goals, and grab drinks during the intermissions.  We're there to watch the game of hockey in the venue of a team we like.  Seldom do we engage other fans or partake in fandom, except for my obligatory explanation to a CBJ fan within earshot that a 1-2-2 is not 'The Trap.'  This night in December, we were really looking forward to seeing Malkin and Crosby, and were hoping the Jackets would win 5-4 with Crosby getting a hat trick.  Alas, Malkin was hurt, but Crosby was sans concussion.

We had our dinner and headed to "the rink."  We still call it 'the rink' or 'the ballfield' no matter who's playing or where it's being played.  When we got the rink on this night, things seemed a little strange.  We couldn't quite figure out what it was at first, but we soon figured it out.  There were about 12,000 Penguins fans at Nationwide Arena that night.  Now, the Leafs travel well, the Wings have fans everywhere, but Penguins are creepy.

December 4th, 2010

Being raised by, in, and around professional athletics it was the "professional" part that I was taught and understood.  Professional like you're at a job interview, always honing your craft, learning, and asking questions.  Not professional as in "I can do what the hell I want, people idolize me."  My father who taught me that was sitting next to me when we took or seats along the isle in section 102 surrounded by mouth-breathing Penguins fans.  If you've read any of my posts, you know my loathing of blindly loyal fandom.  My father and I were completely surrounded by stereo-typical Penguins fans. He is a bazillion times more tolerant of belligerent fandom than me, he's actually had to exercise grace and compassion to fans.

4th of December 2010

The two guys seated directly behind my father and I were the biggest of #Pens superfans.  Before the puck dropped, they were making fun of the arena. the parking, the cannon, then Boomer came out. They were even making fun of the Jumbotron.  Well, I've seen about a dozen games in the dump formerly known as the Civic Arena.  How quickly the Pens fans forget their past after only two months in a new arena (built by a rigged selection).  I find nothing wrong with passionate fans, I have nothing wrong with zealous fans.  But when you travel to a great venue like Nationwide and start making fun of it after you've watched games in a dump for 40 years you've got something wrong with you mentally (and are probably single for life). 


It just wasn't my father and I surrounded by Pens fans.  It was the whole arena.  The laughter that erupted when Boomer was on the ice was embarrassing.  There were penguins fans EVERYWHERE .  The cheers when the Pens scored were loud!  The handful of CBJ goals were even more embarrassing when the Cannon and AC/DC blared to the din of scattered fanbase cheer.  The guys behind me figured out they were getting to me when I laughed aloud every time they called D to D passing "the cycle."  They kept making fun of players, using Pens players nicknames, and razzing goalies when the score got to 4-0 and Mason got pulled.  To stop the chatter behind me, I turned to the mouth breathers and said, "until this moment I thought the Flyers has the worst fans in pro sports.  Please be respectful and let me enjoy watching the game of hockey."  They capitulated, felt shame, and ate Nachos like they cured fatness.

4.12.10 (WTF Germany??)
My father is a pretty understanding guy, tolerant, wise, and good with the ladies (but he loves my mom).  We left the game and he asked me, "The fans want the team to play in a division with these guys?  Why on earth would you want to get another team 3-4 more home game a year?"  And that's the point of this post.  Columbus is a great hockey town?  No.  Columbus has a great core of 5,000 or so fans who support the team to all ends.  But Columbus is not a hockey town.  A hockey town would not allow Penguins fans to overrun Nationwide Arena because they themselves would be at the game to root for the CBJ and see a great team like Pittsburgh on a SATURDAY NIGHT.  The Penguins fans were at Nationwide Arena like Buckeye Football fans are at Bowl Games.  Black hawk fans do not dominate Joe Louis Arena when they visit Detroit.  I'm pretty certain the MTA in New York closes tunnels, bridges, and ferries when the Devil play at MSG.  Boston said to the Whalers they had to drop "New England" from their name in 1980.  Those are hockey towns.


So please Columbus, don't call yourself a hockey town until your season ticket wait list gets in the neighborhood of at least Edmonton's.  I'm pretty sure the Leaf don't schedule Saturday broadcasts around Argonaut's games either.  Again, there is a commendable small core of fans that are fantastic, but you're not a hockey town until 51% of the people in attendance (not bogus paid attendance) are there to root, root, root for the home team 41 games a year.

I put this on for a game against the Blue Jackets?  Really?  Can someone bring me a flannel oxford and a fleece hoodie?