Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adding Some European Flavor to NHL Coverage

Canadians and Americans.

Everywhere you look, NBC, TSN, the NHL Network, those are the only ex-players you see talking about hockey.

Watching the World Cup, ESPN has expanded the field by including Germans, Brazilians, Englishmen, Frenchmen and Americans in their coverage. They all get to talk about the game they love and all add a unique aspect into the conversation. The game is different in their respective countries and it can be seen in styles teams and players play.

So I can't help but wonder what it would be like to hear different voices during the coverage of hockey, specifically the European side of hockey. Bringing in a Nicklas Lidstrom or Saku Koivu-type player, someone who is very articulate about the game but who grew up and learned the European style of the game, would help us North Americans understand the game more. I would love to hear their side of the argument when folks like Mike Milbury or Don Cherry decide they want to dump on the European ideals of the game. Wouldn't you have loved to see Alex Ovechkin alongside Jeremy and Mike during last season's playoffs? The back-and-forth alone would keep people in their seats during intermission.

I know, I know: the North American audience doesn't want to hear what Europeans think about hockey in the same way that Sidney Crosby makes a better NHL ambassador than Alex Ovechkin. But the educated hockey audience wants to hear what these players have to say about their game. It would be a side of hockey we rarely get to see and might bring about a greater appreciation of the speed and skill of the game.

Hockey is a world game. Isn't it time we invited the world in on the conversation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ten Thoughts Concerning Dan Bylsma Coaching the Caps

1. Based on his playoff coaching record, the Caps would be better off hiring someone else. One measly Stanley Cup? What a bum.

2. Well, at least that awkward moment of having to deal with Michal Neuvirth wouldn't be an issue any more.

3. If the Caps made Bylsma their next head coach, he would be the first American-born coach in their history (Ron Wilson is Canadian-born, but American). Also, John Carlson would get all the ice time he wants.

4. Given his coaching record against the Caps, maybe he'll have some insight to share on what he sees that makes them beatable. "I had Sidney Crosby and you didn't" probably won't go over well here.

5. in 1989, Blysma was drafted 5 spots ahead of Pavel Bure. Great draft there by Winnepeg... Blysma is obviously the better coach of the two!

6. Bylsma inherited a very good, but underachieving, Penguins team and won a Cup with them. Maybe the Caps should put him on retainer and hire him mid-season to rekindle that magic.

7. If Byslma joins the Caps, expect "Caps Interested in T.J. Oshie" trade rumors once a month.

8. When your (possibly) former owner is Mario Lemieux, any other interview is likely to be far less intimidating... unless of course this guy gets the Caps GM job.

9. Somehow I think Bylsma would be asked to leave this monstrosity at home. Hey, at least it has the Caps logo on it...

10. Bylsma's nickname is 'Disco Dan'. Washington already has a Disco Dan, and he was pretty "Cool".

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Caps Search for A New GM: This Isn't Moneyball

So, the Washington Capitals are looking for a new General Manager. Good for them! The list of available people is deep in experience and name recognition. But do you really want to go in either of those directions? After all, it's not like the experienced guy got bored by easy success and went looking for a challenge, or the the well-known guy has any management experience other than assembling essentially an All-Star team for a three week tournament (unless you count not making the playoffs in 4 seasons as a coach). Can we think outside of the box here?

Would it be so bad to follow in the footsteps of the early 2000's Boston Red Sox and find a young, talented individual, maybe even on without a lot of inside hockey experience, and give him or her the people and tools needed to build a successful team? The Theo Epstein of hockey.

The guy can't do this alone. He'll need a good scouting department, A HOCKEY ANALYTICS DEPARTMENT (does that sound like yelling, because it is), and a coaching staff that can work with the players and philosophies of the team. But everyone has to be on-board with the plan and the reasons for it.  We're just looking at finding the best people and the best system and allowing them to succeed.

We're not looking to do what Billy Bean did with analytics in Moneyball here; there is money to be spent on good players. The Caps aren't trying to put a cheap team on the ice, they're looking at how to add to (or subtract from) the current team to allow every line and every defensive pairing to play well together. It might mean spending near the cap. The best players for the team, not necessarily the best value in the market. BUt you still need new ideas to find those players.

I won't even conjecture about whether such a person exists. The NHL is rife with "hockey people" who have been in and around the league for decades. What we need is new blood and new ideas. The hard part is going to be finding that person.

Good luck Ted!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hold The Calder

With his winning resume, John Carlson's first full season in the NHL has been greeted with hope and quite a bit of fanfare. His offensive performance in his first 4 games of the season is nothing short of impressive, as he currently leads all rookies and is tied for the lead among defensemen in scoring (the 'P.K. Who?' shirts will be printed shortly).

But lost in the hype is the inexperience in Carlson's game and his frequent positioning issues (hint: he's in the 'Bad' section). So far this season, the Capitals have surrendered 9 goals. Carlson has been on the ice for 6 of those goals (67%), highest on the team by 2 goals. By comparison, Mike 'no defense' Green has only seen one opposition puck behind Michal Neuvirth while on the ice. Jeff Schultz is still defensively perfect on the season.

Much like Green, things happen when Carlson is on the ice. Of the 23 total goals scored for and against the Caps this season, John has seen 13 while on the ice (56%). Tied for next highest? Yeah, the Alexes, with 9. For reference, last season Mike Green was on the ice for only 44% of the total goals scored in Caps games. And in Paul Coffey's most adventurous season, he was also on the ice for 56% of all goals scored.

We simply need to remember that, despite winning a WJC, 2 AHL Championships and playing big in last year's NHL playoffs, John Carlson is still a rookie with only 33 NHL games under his belt. He'll get better, but he's going to be a bit of an adventure in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Commercial Break

In the announcement from the Washington Capitals indicating postponement of the annual Season Ticket Holder Party, one bullet (probably the one that will upset the most fans) jumped out at me:
The Capitals would like to apologize in advance as Alex Ovechkin and Semyon Varlamov will not be in attendance on this date due to a previously scheduled commitment.  Both players will be at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, shooting a TV commercial for ESPN.
Ovie and Varly? Together in an ESPN commercial? While I'm guessing the plot will have something to with being Russian, knowing ESPN it could be absolutely anything. If it's a SportsCenter commercial, it's sure to be comedy gold. Some ideas for the shoot:
  • Ovie and Varly getting ready to take on Lebron and Dwayne Wade in a game of Scrabble, complaining about the lack of Cyrillic tiles.
  • Alex painting Varly's new mask with butterflies and bunnies. Varly is ecstatic.
  • Varly shooting pucks at Ovie (in Varly's gear) while laughing manically and yelling 'FIVE HOLE!' over and over again.
  • Ovie, Varly and Barry Melrose discussing how The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a methaphor for the left wing lock.
  • Ovechkin: "Russian machine never breaks!" Varlamov: "I'm Russian, and I break..." Ovechkin: "Are you sure you're Russian?"
  • Ovie working with Varly on his English, having him repeat the phrase 'I'm Siiiicck!' over and over again.
  • Ovie jumping against ESPN office windows while Varly holds up scorecards. None of them are over an '8'.
  • Ovie, Varly, Crosby and Fleury discussing warm clothing options for the Winter Classic. Ovie keeps recommending feather boas to Sid.
  • Ovie and Varly as SportsCenter anchors, showing only hockey highlights while Stuart Scott and Steve Levy are tied up in the corner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Affordable solutions for better living"

This afternoon, Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner Tweeted the following:

Is there an IKEA anywhere around here?
For a player who shuttled from Hershey to Washington multiple times last season, finally being able to say you have a place to call your own is a big deal. Much like graduating college, you find yourself with the sudden need to turn your new space into your home.

Since Karl's tastes clearly fall into the realm of 'Scandinavian modern style furniture and accessories', we're here to offer some suggestions from the blue and gold catalog of goodness.
  • Get a nice rug, like this one. It'll make a room!
  • Practical storage is a must. If you're looking for something modern, check this out. Just be careful... these things are known to have weird things in them...
  • I understand you recently got engaged. Congrats! Just make sure your fiancee doesn't make you buy this. Call me old fashioned, but it just doesn't scream 'rugged defenseman'.
  • Did you know Ikea does whole kitchens? Did you know you can make your whole kitchen RED!?
  • Actually, almost everything at Ikea is offered in red. Something like this is always a good bet to store all those trophies you're gonna win.
  • A tip: having two sinks can save a relationship, especially if you're always clogging the drain when you shave your playoff beard.
  • Lastly, when you're at Ikea you may be tempted to check out the cafe, featuring all sorts of Swedish food. STAY AWAY FROM THE CINNAMON BUNS! You'll put on 20 pounds before you know it! If you don't trust me, just ask Mike Green.