31 October 2011

Working with the Eastern Bloc in Realignment...

The four conference realignment topic has made a comeback. A Puck Daddy post yesterday included a CBC video (first two minutes or so focus on the realignment issue) in which analyst Elliotte Friedman reported a four conference realignment that is apparently gaining steam despite TSN's Bob McKenzie's report earlier this month that a six division NHL may be here to stay.

The proposal is to align like this...
(Division names are my assumptions, as they are omitted from the graphic in the video)

Pacific: ANA, CGY, COL, EDM, LA, PHX, SJ, VAN
Central: CHI, CLB/DET, DAL, MIN, NSH, STL, WPG
Northeast: BOS, BUF, CLB/DET, MTL, OTW, PIT, TOR
Atlantic: CAR, FLA, NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, TBY, WSH

Each team would play home-and-home against each team outside of the division (44 or 46 games), and the rest of the games would be divided among division opponents (38 or 36 games).

As a fan of the Western Conference team, I think realigning the Western Conference into two divisions along the lines of the proposal above makes all the sense in the world. For most teams, they would cut the road games that start at 9pm or later local time by at least half, which would be great for TV.

The problem is there is no good geographic way to split the Eastern Conference in such a way without separating someone in the Atlantic Division. The proposal above seems to split Pittsburgh from all of their rivals.


25 October 2011

Pronger Schadenfreude...

I should point out that despite the title of this blog being "The State of the State of Hockey", I feel the need to point out I have no reason to believe the following opinion is in any way representative of fans opinons in the State of Hockey.

In case you missed it Pronger took a stick to his face in the Flyers' game against Toronto last night.



I for one cannot feel the least bit sorry for the man who once did this...



(low volume, and skip to about :23 if you want to go past the talking).

In fact if you search "Pronger Elbow" on Youtube, you'll find an alarming number of results.


10 October 2011

My take on Bouchard suspension...

Here is NHL player saftey VP Brendan Shanahan on Bouchard's two game suspension:



Click here if the video doesn't show correctly on the page.

At first glance I think this is too harsh for the incident, but if Shanahan is consisent, I don't really have a problem with him setting this standard.

At 1:10 of the video, Shanahan says "His [Bouchard's] reckless swing regardless of where it was intended did in fact cause an injury"


08 October 2011

My Wild Preview...

So it was a busy summer for the Wild, here's what's new...

New Coach Mike Yeo

GM Chuck Fletcher passed on some bigger names to roll the the dice with the AHL's Houston Aeros Head Coach Mike Yeo. The Aeros of course made it all the way to the Calder Cup final, and many players from that team Fletcher expects to be with Minnesota within a year or two. Again Fletcher decides to give a guy his first gig, passing on experience, but again, I think Yeo might have more upside than Richards' had.

Burns trade

Fletcher made San Jose pay dearly for the much loved Brent Burns, sending Minnesota forward Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle, and another first round pick in this past summers' draft. Setoguchi brings a shoot-first mentality and has been part of a top line that has been stellar in the preseason (see below).

Havlat for Heatley trade.

The Wild took a problem contract in exchange for dumping what proved to be a problem contract with Martin Havlat. I'm skiddish about Heatley because he hasn't lived up to his $7.5M contract, and that's kind of a sore number for Wild fans that remember the whole Gaborik saga. But after this initial concern, I have warmed to the deal, and he, Koivu, and Setoguchi have found some chemistry in the preseason so far. Havlat and Koivu seemed to be crossing one another, and agent Allan Walsh certainly wasn't helping matters. The worst case is the Wild took on an extra $2.5M to get out of a contract one year sooner, if Heatley doesn't work out. That said, it really seems Heatley, Setoguchi, and Koivu have a lot of potential if they can carry over their pre-season chemistry.

So what does all of this mean for the Wild's chances this year?

I certainly think the Wild will be better than last year. I think losing Burns is a bigger deal than most homers are making it, unless the other 5 D improve, the back end will struggle to match up well. Though I'm excited about Scandella's chance with the team, it may be a season or two before he adjusts to the NHL game. That said it's not as castostrophic as this Harrison Mooney idiot makes it out to be. That said BRenylods at Hockey Wilderness wrote a good rebuttal.

There is no doubt this first line is certainly the best since the Gaborik era. The second line should be better. Latendresse has reported to camp in better shape than last season and he seems to have his speed which will hopefully result in a good counter-attack. The question is who will center this line. Matt Cullen appears to be slotted in this role for now. Despite his disappointing stat sheet last year, I love Matt Cullen. He plays very hard, he wins pucks in corners, he makes good passes, and he just plays smart. But he's got to find a way to finish. He should benefit from playing with Latendresse and Bouchard, but if he doesn't this team is going to look rather thin offensively beyond the first line.

The goaltending picture is the same as it was two years ago. Harding will return to backup Backstrom, and I'm sure Yeo will be comfortable giving Hards starts when he wants to rest Backstrom or if Backstrom's isn't consistently great. I like them both, I'm glad Harding will be in the lineup tonight despite the injury scare during this week's team-building trip to Duluth.

So where does that leave the Wild. As they sit right now I think they're just slightly more likley to end up on the wrong side of 8th this year. They could still be the second best team in the awful Northwest division, but the defense doesn't match up well against too many Western Conference opponents. That said the Wild have about $9M in cap space, so Fletcher has options. I think he's demonstrated he'll make moves if he believes it'll make the team better. That said there really aren't any appealing free agent D options right now, and Fletcher knows first hand how hard it is to get a top defender, since he basically set the market quite high in the Burns trade.

But there's room to move, and if the Wild are in contention in February, Fletcher might find the deal that could put them in. Fletcher has avoided putting himself in a corner, very much unlike his predecessor (anyone else shocked I got to paragraph number eight before slamming Dough Riseborough?).

But if I had to wager, I'm saying the Wild get better, but again miss the playoffs this year. Then again if I had to wager, I think over 82.5 points for this team would be a good speculation :).

Let's Play Hockey!






06 October 2011

One Line Predictions...

Time for my one line league predictions, I rank the teams, I type the first thing that comes to mind.

Here we go...

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1> (N) Vancouver - Don't think this years team is as good as last, but good news, they're still in the Northwest division
2> (P) San Jose - If Burns doesn't stay healthy, it could be trouble, but there's no reason to doubt the Sharks
3> (C) Chicago - A team built to be back on the rise
4> (P) Los Angeles - Richard's provides good offense
5> (C) Nashville - They could sneak into round 2 again
6> (C) Detroit - Think the wings could be in for an awakening
7> (P) Phoenix - Will need good goaltending post-Bryz
8> (C) St. Louis - I'm not sleeping on the Blues
9> (N) Minnesota - Better, but not quite enough strength in back
10> (P) Anaheim - Did Teemu come back?
11> (N) Colorado - May have better goaltending, but they overpaid
12> (C) Columbus - Wisnewski might be helpful, when his isn't suspended for being a jag-off
13> (P) Dallas - Rebuild
14> (N) Calgary - see below
15> (N) Edmonton - Good hockey must be against provincial law in Alberta.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
1> (A) Pittsburgh - That's what everyone else tells me
2> (S) Washington - C'mon they can't choke forever
3> (N) Boston - No reason to like anyone else in northeast, they're the most complete team
4> (S) Tampa Bay - They'll nip on Washington, and they'll be close to my next choice
5> (N) Buffalo - Added some goals, they won't be an easy first round
6> (A) Philadelphia - Who to root for if they play Boston in the first round?
7> (A) NY Rangers - If they stay healthy they'll do better, but Gaborik is still on their team
8> (S) Carolina - They were close last year, I think they'll finish on the right side of the 8 line
9> (N) Montreal - At least Habs fans have a history of taking failure well.
10> (A) New Jersey -They'll be in the hunt most of the way this time
11> (N) Toronto - They'll still sell out every game
12> (S) Winnipeg - Me thinks this guy overstates the importance of home ice advantage
13> (S) Florida - An expensive failure
14> (A) NY Islanders - Out of the conference cellar at least
15> (N) Ottawa - Yeah...

05 October 2011

Fun Minnesota Wild things to do in the off season...

1) Ticket onsale day

I like going to the X the day tickets go on sale. I'm not a season ticket holder, but I don't mind getting in line and getting first dibs on the games I want. I have made every home opener since 2006.

And the folks at the X are always nice to people waiting in line. There are always free cookies, muffins, donuts, juice, milk and soda from the good people at Kwik Trip. My mom and I arrived about 7:45am (for 9am onsale) and we were about 60th in line. We got to the windows about 9:30 and it we had our tickets.

Oh and some guy from "Becoming Wild" asked us some questions. And used one of my mom's answers.


(Mom is answering a question at :27, that's me giggling in the background).

2) Training Camp Scrimmage

The first chance to see all the players likely to make this year's team. It's fun and it's free. I went to both days. Yes, there was only one goal scored in the two days, but that could be a good thing right? After all, all the critics are questioning the team's ability to defend this year.


Yes it lacks the intensity of an actual game, but this is a welcome respite of surviving a whole summer of not watching hockey. And imagine how wound up I'd be if I actually were a baseball fan.


My lovely wife Heather took these pictures :).

3) Open House

I don't know if the team does this every year. It seems to me I remember this a few years back and I couldn't attend. But again, it's a chance to get a close look at the X and skate on the ice :)! There was a scavenger hunt (which we didn't win :( ) for a chance to win a 10 pack of tickets. A very informative Q & A with GM Chuck Fletcher and Head Coach Mike Yeo. My wife and I were also able to tour the press box, the video room, and the fishing lodge club under the lower bowl.




It was a fun day, and they let us do it all for free!

4) Preseason game

Well seeing as how season ticket holders are just trying to give their preseason tickets away, my brother and I took my wife and our mother to the Wild's preseason game against St. Louis. By the way, I recommend using Ticket King to buy tickets on the aftermarket. They had prices as low as craigslist for this game, the pickup is convenient, and they didn't charge any hidden fees.

So I scored 3rd row in the corner for $24 each :)! And as you can see below, I enjoyed Mikko Koivu's goal in the game



So much video this summer of me looking ridiculous.

Obviously, all of these things don't compare to when regular season hockey starts, and hopefully there will be playoffs in the Wild's future (Wild preview on Friday).

But before October comes around, I enjoy taking advantage of the things like the open house, or open scrimmage. And I enjoy taking advantage of cheap tickets, even if its for exhibition hockey.

I don't recall making all of these things in one season before, but now that I have, I hope to do most of these things every year :).

It's back to the 200 level with me on Saturday, but I can't wait to be there!