By Sean Paddison… A puppet, a giant, and a man on a mission makes for an interesting test of wills.
THE PUPPET - GARY BETTMAN
It’s easy for people to target Mr Bettman and say he’s the cause of all the evil behind the “apparent” NHL blockade of another franchise in Canada. If we look at his role in the NHL it really is clear however that he is merely a puppet for the rest of the NHL brass.
There is probably no brass more powerful in the league than those “brilliant minds” at the headquarters of The Toronto Maple Leafs. Considering that they are a revenue generating machine for NHL and an original six team and also in what some might call the the hockey centre of the universe for the NHL, they carry tons of weight.
So if you see or hear Gary Bettman hard lining about this and that, remember he’s paid to voice the concerns of the existing owners as a group.
THE GIANT - THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS EMPIRE
Big money, big city, big egos, deep pockets, and greedy investors with big mouths. Welcome to Maple Leafs Sport & Entertainment Ltd.
It has been clear for a long time that the Leafs loath the idea of a team anywhere close to the GTA. To be honest, if you were a corporation who had millions of dollars worth of customer loyalty in the cities of Hamilton and KW you would want to protect those interests too.
Perhaps the problem is not MLS but, more so, the decision that was made years ago allowing the Rangers, Islanders and Devils to be allowed to be so close together.
Also it is possible that the addition of the Ottawa Senators not so many years ago slammed the profit margins of MLS more than they had anticipated, thus leaving a very bad taste in their mouths.
This might explain their reluctance to allow another team anywhere close to their market, not to mention during an economic recession. If you think the Leafs are going to budge from their position THINK AGAIN. Balsillie has a mammoth mountain to climb to convince the MLS that their pockets won’t be hit because the fact is THEY WILL BE.
MAN ON A MISSION - JIM BALSILLIE
To be honest, I must first clarify the use of little pigs was just a hook and not made in any way to reflect on Jim Balsillie. I mean, come on let’s face it, how can anybody not respect this man’s tenacity?
What Canadian born hockey player who ended up with billions in their bank account wouldn’t want to buy themselves an NHL hockey franchise? If there ever was a more suitable “David” to take down Goliath, I don’t think I can think of one.
Personally, I think if Jim can’t pull off buying the Coyotes and bringing them here, then his next step should be to go after the ultimate prize…THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS and give them an owner with guts and heart.
Perhaps this is just an early chapter in a long book that ends up with Balsillie owning the Leafs. We’ll have to wait and see, but it would be sweet justice wouldn’t it?
by Sean Paddison… All this hype about Wilson and Burke in Toronto got me thinking.
The NHL style game changes dramatically over a four-year period, especially in the last six years.
The trouble is that the people hiring new general managers and coaches are often individuals who make the safe play, or look for a “track record” of success.
The flaw in this style of thinking is that today’s heroes will be yesterday’s zeros within two years or more in the NHL. Just look at the trend. What happened to Carolina, Tampa, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh.
For ownership to really be successful moving forward, I believe they need to be one step ahead of what is happening right now. They need to be able to locate a GM and coach tandem that has enough forward vision to see what will be needed in the league three years from now.
Modern technology and research techniques allow coaches to develop solutions to help them beat previously-unbeatable teams. The Penguins record this year is a strong example of what happens when coaches have enough time to learn how to beat other teams.
Sure, Brian Burke found that perfect formula to take the Ducks to the top; however, the chances that that formula will continue to work “as is” are pretty remote. Since Burke surprised the NHL with a tougher, faster lineup, the copycat parade commenced.
However, Detroit found a different formula to answer Burke’s.
There will always be certain constants that help teams succeed, outside of the GM and coach influence. These constants are things like excellent scouting systems, fan support, and a patient ownership group.
This article obviously begs the question: Who out there right now has the vision required to win within the next three years?
I, for one, am not sure right who has that vision, as I’m not in daily contact with the sharp minds out there.
There are a few, rare GMs out there who have matured and adjusted their strategies to compensate for the game’s changes. Scotty Bowman comes to mind as a dynamic and intelligent hockey mind.
I’m looking forward to seeing who the next great mind will to be. I have my eye on Gilmour, Yzerman, and Nieuwendyk as having massive potential.
Perhaps pairing Wilson with Burke might bring about new ideas, personally, I’m not convinced.
by Sean Paddison… It was a winter evening in Greensboro North Carolina. My friend Joe and I had decided to enjoy a Greensboro Monarchs (ECHL) game.
On the way into the building a gentleman approached us and asked us if we wanted a couple of great tickets. We told him we already had tickets. He asked where our tickets were in the rink. He then noted that these tickets were right behind the visitors bench. He also surprised both of us by saying that the tickets were free because he needed to leave now because his wife just went into labour!
What luck… five minutes later with a cold drink in my hand we located the free seats, and yes, they were excellent seats!
Within a few minutes of sitting down, someone caught my attention.
“Is that John Brophy?” I asked my friend.
“Who’s that?” my North Carolinian friend asked.
“He used to coach the Leafs!” I answered in disbelief or should I say dis be-LEAF!
The person next to us quickly informed me that YES it was John Brophy.
I immediately thought to myself, “Why on earth is John Brophy coaching down here in the ECHL…hmmm how far they fall.”
I explained to my friend the tumultuous tenure of the white haired legend, as a Leafs coach.
Then the game began and I thought not much more of it.
Soon I was faced with the most entertaining live game experience I have ever witnessed.
Five seats over from us a Monarchs fan had a rather large team flag and was waving it over Brophy’s head just enough to be massively irritating.
It didn’t take long for Brophy to react. He quickly turned around and smacked the flag away and yelled at the annoying fan.
Within about a few seconds I saw a massive BIG GULP SIZED cup of pop flying through the air heading towards the coach.
I remember thinking “Uh-oh, this isn’t gonna be good”
I was right.
The pop hit Brophy in the shoulder and exploded all down the side of his suit.
The next few minutes could have been pulled right out of the movie Slap Shot. Fans yelling, players climbing into the stands…it was AWESOME! Things were eventually calmed down, with offending fans ejected.
I don’t remember the score but I couldn’t care less, I got to see Brophy lose it!
After that game I hadn’t thought much about John Brophy until one day I saw him on TV. He looked terrible!
What I hadn’t known at the time was that he was recovering from a terrible car accident that almost killed him.
I remember thinking, “Man that guy sure has lived an eventful life!”
I was even more surprised recently when I found out he’s STILL COACHING! If this guy isn’t a study in longevity, I don’t know who is.
The most amazing thing I also found out was the fact that John Brophy is SECOND only to SCOTTY BOWMAN in victories by a coach in professional hockey! Who would have thought?
John Brophy I salute your tenacity and ability to bounce back!
by Sean Paddison… Picture this if you will:
Alexander Ovechkin is on a tear in his division, and his team has two regular season games left. The Capitals are playing another conference team that they will be meeting in the first round of the playoffs.
Ovechkin hops onto the ice in the third period with his team up by four goals.
Seconds later a late season call-up jumps onto the ice. We’ll call this player “Meat-head.”
The play begins and transitions into the Capital’s defensive zone.
Ovechkin thunders into the corner to retrieve a puck. Meanwhile his right-side vision is partially screened by one of his own players.
Unknown to Ovechkin, “Meat-head” is flying in towards him at a wicked speed, using Alex’s teammate as a screen.
Seconds later, Ovechkin is laying flat-out on the ice enjoying a dream about some Swedish babe he got lucky with during a canoe trip two summers ago.
Ten minutes later, he’s startled awake by two loud clapping hands and the words “Alex, can you hear me?”
The next day the newspaper reads “Washington Tragedy, Ovechkin out for Playoffs.”
Two days later another newspaper article reads “Meat-head Gets Five Game Suspension.”
Sad thing is “Meat-head” is back playing on his AHL club.
This is the world that is reality in Gary Bettman’s NHL.
What logic or fairness is there in a player getting a five game or even nine game suspension when another player is out for weeks, months or even life.
The time has come to bring some real accountability to “goonism” in the NHL.
Even if an injury is accidental, there still needs to be some fairness in regards to compensation to the team impacted by such a serious loss.
If a player gets a penalty for high sticking, regardless if it’s intentional, then the same should hold true for hits causing injury.
If fairness is not introduced soon, we are going to lose one, maybe two great players to catastrophic injury any day now.
It’s time Bettman stop listening to whining offenders and start respecting the injured players and their teams.
I’m all for a good mid-ice demolition of a player, however, if an illegal hit results in a player being taken out of the game for a significant period of time, then I say the offender should be off the ice for MINIMALLY the SAME AMOUNT OF TIME as the injured player.
If this is not instituted, then coaches and scouts are going to build goon programs designed to take out LEGITIMATE talent.
I’m starting to think that Bettman doesn’t want fairness.
Angry fans = more press coverage for the NHL.
by Sean Paddison… Well, we now know the Leafs have speed. We also know they can check and fight back from being behind.
What I would like to know is why are they so lethargic in the beginning of most of their games?
I wonder if there is something that goes on in their pre-game rituals that is contributing to lulling them into some sense of duh-ness?
It’s like it takes them 13 minutes to wake up, sometimes as long as 25 minutes.
Maybe they need to get Tony Robbins to come in and find out a way to get them powered up for the start of the game.
One thing is clear, they play like they are disinterested when they first start the game.
Maybe some line juggling and starting the first shift of the game with the fourth line, might just shake up the team into realizing that they need to come out “guns a-blazing!”.
Perhaps coming from behind successfully the number times that they have thus far, created a false sense of confidence and possible laziness that they have plenty of time to catch up.
Let’s hope this problem can get solved quickly.
by Sean Paddison… It’s just a rumour, but it comes from a reliable source. The word is that Mats Sundin put on his socks sometime in the past 48 hours.
If this is true then it may reinforce speculation that Mats may indeed have warmer, more comfortable feet.
It could also be said then that with warmer feet, Mats then might feel a little more relaxed and feel like going for a walk!
If Mats goes for walk me may actually have to cross the street which may mean speeding up or even running to get to beat the fast lights in the city.
If he does end up running during his venture out, that might mean he may actually gain some more health points.
OH MY GOD…..MATS IS GETTING READY TO BE A LEAF…..STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!!!
Call up the TV stations!!!!!