“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Monday, February 12, 2007

02/12 Hockey Thoughts

Who would have thought Nashville would be leading the West? For that matter, who expected to see the Flyers owning the basement? Don't you know the landing after falling from 5th in the East last year had to hurt. There is also the continuing saga of Forsberg trying to find a place to land. The debate is also still open on whether he will be able to play to any measure of his past performance.

Personally, I expected the Hawks be the basement team, again. The real surprise there is how far the Hawks have come with such an awful powerplay.

While I would be surprised, I wouldn't mind another small market dual for the Cup. Except for what it would do for atttendance. How about the Sabres and Predators? I'm still strong on the Ducks to go for it again, though--if solve this slide problem they're in.

On the list of no surprises, the Stars are once again proving the value of a stingy defense. But, unless their offense can get jump started, their payoff hopes will be very short lived. (...dare I mention giving up 5 goals against the AVs!...) Maybe with everyone getting healthy again that iwll change. Still, with Edmonton likely to be out of it, too, that won't be so bad. (...it just isn't the playoffs without Dallas and Edmonton duking it out for seven games...)

Speaking of injuries, once again, from The Hockey News, comes the injury reports. The EAST. And the WEST.

Sports Illustrated is billing the Kobasew-Stuart deal as a pump primer for Calgary to run in the playoffs. I have no doubt the Flames got the better end of the deal. And, there's no question that Stuart has upped his play level. But, I don't think it will be enough for a Cup run.

I happend to like John Buccigross' column last week. He had a lot of interesting thoughts. But, I kind of liked his ideas for how to improve the league.

1. I would add two Canadian teams to the league. Another team in Ontario, for sure. Probably Winnipeg or Quebec City for the other. The passion and interest are there. Why wouldn't you expand there?

2. I would play four-on-four for 10 minutes before the shootout. The games are not too long and it would keep the shootout special. It would also give the NHL a good sample to explore the possibility of going to full-time four-on-four sometime this century. I really believe it is something that should be looked at. How many times have we seen four-on-four scenarios where we say, "That was unbelievable!"? Why not have the entire game be like that (four-on-four leaves the game with fewer people to trap and collapse)? The NHL used to have six skaters. Then, it went to five. Maybe four-on-four will be the final frontier.

3. I would start the season Thanksgiving weekend and play 10 fewer games. At that point, some NFL teams are out of the playoff race. There is a reason NHL attendance goes up in January. Having half the NHL season coincide with the NFL is a losing proposition in the States, and a September training camp is too early even for Canada, too. I would play preseason games in October and November and have the All-Star Game kick off the season. Players need a rest in the middle of the season.

The All-Star teams would be based on the previous season, because who cares about fan voting? I'm a huge all-around sports fan, but All-Star voting means zero to me. The NFL doesn't have exclusive fan voting and it's the planet's most successful sports league. An "Opening Day" preseason All-Star Game would get people's attention and you wouldn't have to interrupt the season later on. Maybe the All-Star Game could be on a Sunday before the NBC Sunday-night NFL game. Make it a doubleheader. It would get heavily promoted and help both the NHL and NBC. Or have it on a Saturday night. After watching the effort in the YoungStars Game last month in Dallas, I would tweak the format and add that the losing team will be eaten by lions.

4. The NHL needs to make a leaguewide and countrywide commitment with USA Hockey that will get more kids to play the sport. The league won't grow the game in America until it grows and enriches the culture of hockey. This will take millions of dollars and years of attention, but it must be done. Get those kids on the ice for just one year and you'll keep nearly every one of them for life.
What I really enjoyed was his focus wasn't just on the NHL, but how to grow the game in general. I thought that was pretty refreshing.