Friday, November 28, 2008

Sad-sack Sens survive despite sartorial sins

I don't even have anything to say! The Ottawa Senators have an awful third jersey. It is lazy and boring and unpleasant to look at, but then, I guess it is pretty appropriate for the team that wears it, huh? Hah hah!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Committed Quebecers collude to cook corporate cook off

Oh dear, another year, another tale of NHL All Star drama. I know! People say the All Star game is boring, and obviously it is, because it is an All Star game and I am not going to sit here and argue first principles with you, but suffice it to say that though the actual game may be unwatchable, the NHL is developing a decent knack for making the runnup at least notable. A couple years ago it was Rory Fitzpatrick buoyed by fans having fun with the NHL's vote now, vote often voting system (still waiting for that recount). The hockeystocracy was aghast of course, that is the twenty or so people left in the NHL who still attached any symbolic value to the honourific of "All Star." 

And wouldn't you know it, those gosh darned fans are at it again, messing with the institution we(?) all hold dear. And this time most of them don't even speak English. It's Montreal Canadiens fans stuffing the ballots now, trying to pull off a ballsy All Star starting line sweep, six for six, all Montreal. Zut Alor! It's like, don't fans even care about hockey? Don't they take this stuff seriously? Do they think online balloting is some sort of joke

Power to the people, sez I. Haven't you ever popped in an NHL game and squared your colours off against say, an All Star squad, or even Team Canada? (Personally, I haven't but it has more to do with existential issues than anything else. Mats! You can't be in two places at once! etc etc) Haven't you ever shot the breeze, arguing whether your team could actually take on a team of All-Stars? People talk like that, right? Well anyway, Montreal fans have a chance to find that out now, and people want to take that away from them? Every time something interesting threatens to happen in this league, somebody has to suck the air out of the room and kick a few puppies for good measure. It's Montreal's 100th anniversary. The All Star game is unthinkably boring. Why don't you lighten up. So what Tim Thomas starts the second period and not the first. So what Kovalev is a bum. You don't want to see Montreal fans - Montreal fans in Montreal cheering for six Montreal players because it maybe ruins some sort of tradition? Hey, you know where to cast your vote. Write your own voting program and put it to work. This is democracy, deal with it.

Ok! That's another strawman torn to pieces. Carry on. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leafs Lob Lollygagging Layabouts To 'Louis for Lee

Lee Stempniak for Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen.

My gut reaction was positive. I don't know much about Stumpy II but I know enough to be glad he's Leaf. A legit First Line player even. 3 goals, 10 assists 14 games. 11 of those points in his last seven games. Stempniak is a good addition.

But, this is Toronto so no deal is ever simple. It's fair to ask why this trade happened at all with the eminent hiring of a certain Brian Burke looming over the city. Why is Cliff Fletcher dealing players now?

It's also sad to see that the two players who are shipping out were, if you'll recall, as recently as October of this year, a big part of the future of this team. Colaiacovo and Steen are both first round Toronto picks. It's disappointing that Colaiacovo will never got the chance at a full season as Leaf. It's disappointing that Alex Steen will never be that franchise stabilising captain in Toronto. Both players are under performing magnificently this season so in that sense Fletch might have pulled off a steal here. Or should we read this as just another repudiation of Toronto's poor drafting abilities? Stemp the Nak was drafted 148th overall in 2003.

I don't know whether this was a good deal or not. It is a symptom of being a Leaf fan, I think. We have not had the benefit of competent leadership for so long that every move now looks like a questionable move. I don't know. Ok. I like the trade. That is my official opinion.

Postscript - Darren Dreger says John Ferguson Jr played a role in drafting the Stemp, which is poetic, I suppose. Also wondering why St. Louis would want to make this trade? Short term this seems a pretty obvious Leaf win and long term is murkier, but Leafs still have good chance at coming out ahead. Anyway why does someone need to win a trade?

Can't we all

just be friends?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Easy Dirty Ugly Dirty Money

I am always always happy when people start talking about a theoretical second Toronto team. As I see it, it makes sense, it makes a lot of sense and the only people in the NHL who disagree with that are the guys in charge of doling out the franchises. The NHL has its own plans for relocation but they don't involve Canada. It's an open secret that the Hockey Establishment wants a team in Kansas City, for all their secret and probably nefarious reasons. If anything has given me joy over the last few months (and it hasn't been the Leafs) it's been watching the NHL stumble around, caught with its pants down over its involvement with William "Boots" del Baggio and the sale of the Nashville Predators.

Have you been following this? I hope so because it is a good story. I hope so because this gets dirty. I hope so because this is the kind of stuff people lose important high up hockey jobs over. Maybe this story is familiar to you. You remember Jim Balsillie and his attempted takeover of said Predators and you remember Gary Bettman's ham fisted refusal of all that good Canadian money. He didn't want Balsillie's money because Ballsy was going to uproot the team and take it to Hamilton, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario is not a city where any self respecting hockey franchise would find itself out past dark.

So the NHL turns down Balsillie and his guaranteed millions and instead turn to Boots del Baggio because Boots is buddy buddy with the hockeystocracy and Boots understands that the correct place to put an uprooted hockey franchise is not in Canada, where they probably already have enough hockey anyway, but in Kansas City where it is well known that local hockey fans have been in steep withdrawal-like symptoms since 1976, the year the Kansas City Scouts up rooted and headed for the snowier slopes of Colorado. (The Kansas City Scouts would be a pretty good name for a team if it was supposed to be parsed "the Kansas City Scouts," you know?). A hockey team in the KC is in line with NHL thinking and though Boots can't scrounge up quite as much buillion as certain Canadian billionaires, he gets the coveted Nashville stake.

This seems so obvious in retrospect, I'm sure the NHL is now realizing, but selling shares of their business to a man nicknamed "Boots" was a Bad idea (what are boots made for?). There is a new sports arena in Kansas City, built specially to attract any misplaced major league sports teams that might wander by and you maybe already know who owns that new arena. It's owned by Phil Anchutz, who also owns the LA Kings and probably a bazillion other things. So Anschutz owns an empty stadium in Kansas City. This story is great and it keeps getting better. This is the kind of Woodward and Bernstein stuff makes me want to enroll into j-school right now.

You will or will not be surprised to learn that a man named "Boots" did not actually have enough money to buy his own hockey franchise. And by "enough", I should say "any". But gosh darn it this is America pre-credit crisis and there is always someone willing to give an enterprising entrepreneur with a questionable nickname a line of credit. In this case it was our friend Anschutz who stepped up to the plate, along with buddy Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild, both of whom have probably played more than a few rounds of golf with Gary Bettman, if you catch my drift. Now we have two NHL owners lending money to a third soon-to-be-owner. And that third owner is one or two bad season in Nashville away from flipping the team into another city, into a building owned by his creditors.

Business as usual until Boots del Baggio's con man act runs dry and he files for bankruptcy and we find out's he's in the hole for almost $60 million dollars. This wouldn't be so bad if Bettman's NHL didn't already have a track record of selling franchises to insolvent fraudsters and if the other guy offering to buy the Predators hadn't been so obviously a better choice.

This is all of course, I hasten to mention, all pure SPECULATION and should be treated as such as it's all before the courts as we speak. Boots is up on fraud charges plus a messy bankruptcy. If you want to read more, keep your eye on your local drugstore's literature section under legal thrillers, if you know what I mean.

It's also interesting to note that because Boots' creditors include two NHL owners in Anschutz and Leipold, those two may now theoretically own part of the Nashville Predators, which would obviously go against NHL bylaws. One more thing to think about.

I hope this gets ugly. This might have heavy fallout on Gary Bettman. This might cost Bettman his job. This might be the best worst mistake the NHL ever made.