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If Fan Support Could Earn You Regular Season Wins, The Winnipeg Jets Would Have a Great 2011/12 Season.

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on October 10/11. Link here]

Now that all the Winnipeg Jets’ hype and nostalgia has worn off, and they’ve got the tributes, name and jersey speculation, and that season opener out of the way, I think it’s time someone said what a lot of hockey fans have been afraid to say for fear of lynching via Winnipegers….. The Jets might be really bad this year. 

Before I dive in here, let me iterate that I am very happy for the fans of Winnipeg to have their team back, and that their loyalty makes the MTS Centre a phenomenal venue for a team to play out of.  After getting throttled 5-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on October 9th (all the Habs had to do was raise the puck to beat Andrej Pavelec 5 times), fans were still standing and cheering in the final minutes, whereas most fans of most teams would have left early to beat the traffic and get home at a reasonable hour.  Winnipeg Jets fans are a special breed, and I dig that. 

"Man, it'd be great if we could just do stuff like this all year instead of playing, and get points for it. We'd make playoffs for sure!"

But let’s objectively look at this team and assess their odds:  The Thrashers finished 25th out of 30 teams last season.  The Jets’ were only a .500 hockey club through 7 pre-season games, where they were middle of the pack in Goals For (18), and near the bottom in Goals Against (19).  Their franchise players are probably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Nik Antropov; who, while all good players, aren’t exactly known to be mentioned in the same discussions as Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Toews, and the rest of the NHL’s elite.  Besides some draft picks, Tanner Glass and Kyle Wellwood would be the team’s only major off-season acquisitions; and neither of them earn more than $800,000, a fair indication of how valuable and talented the Jets feel they are (compared to the majority of NHLers, whose contracts all contain at least 7 digits).  Jets’ owner, Mark Chipman, has mentioned that Winnipeg will not be a team that threatens the financial upper boundaries of the NHL’s salary cap, so we shouldn’t expect any major signings either.  As I alluded to earlier, between Andej Pavelec and Chris Mason, their goaltending is suspect at best.  And to top it all off, they’re being led by AHL absorption/call-up coach, Claude Noel; questionably ready to be coaching at the NHL level.  Also, this band of players has a habit of having one or two of them randomly faint during games (Pavelec, Meyer). 

The only real “Ace In The Hole” that the Winnipeg Jets have is that fan base.  The MTS Centre will be loud and proud every night, no question.  But the problem is that they only play half of their games at home.  Subtract a few games where Jets fans may drive to (Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and snowbirds vacationing in Phoenix), and that intangible becomes null and void.  Combine that with the team’s Southeast Division travel schedule that contains multiple trips to Florida, and 2011-2012 may be one heck of a long season for the Winnipeg Jets and their fans.  My Stanley Cup predictions don’t feature Winnipeg in the equation.  For their sake, I really hope I’m wrong.

Hockey Talkie: Winnipeg Jets, Draft, Oilers – Smyth, Taylor/Tyler Trump, and the Creepy Keeper of The Cup.

June 24, 2011 2 comments

Do you remember in 1994 when the unnamed Baltimore franchise competed in the CFL, and then won the Grey Cup the following year? It looked like we might be getting to that point with the “Winnipeg NHL franchise”, until mercifully, they officially introduced themselves as the Winnipeg Jets at the 2011 Draft. Great move. I understand the arguments to have called the team other things to be more provincially inclusive, or go in a different direction; but in the end, the team did the right thing – they gave the people what they wanted. Gonna be awkward when the Phoenix Coyotes play their first game at the MTS Centre though. Now all they have to do is swindle Teemu Selanne out of Anaheim and they’ll be set. Also, jerseys and a logo would be nice.

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On the heels of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and with last year’s #1 overall, Taylor Hall, ascending the podium with the Oilers brass to announce the first overall pick, I had a thought a while back….with a Stanley Cup ring in his first year in the league, did Tyler Seguin check-and-mate the Taylor vs Tyler debate? Seems like the ultimate trump card, does it not? These guys are going to have long, successful careers in the league, and the debate will probably live on for years, but at this point, Taylor’s got a whole lot of catch-up to play; especially while still a member of the cellar-dwelling (albeit youthful talent laden) Oilers.

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Speaking of the Oilers…. You know you’re either Canadian or just plain nuts when you voluntarily request to move from +30° C LA beach weather to -30° C Alberta blizzard weather, as Ryan Smyth is trying to wiggle his way back to Edmonton. I really respect what Smyth has done in the NHL, and for team Canada and all, but where does he get this crazy notion he can play for anyone he wants to? Even though he’s following all Wayne’s team footsteps, Gretzky went where he was told in the end (PS – you should watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Kings Ransom” on the Gretzky trade for that whole story). It just seems a little arrogant for Smyth, which is extremely out of character. With LA nabbing Richards from Philly, I’m sure the Kings aren’t exactly clambering to pick up the pieces after his departure. It’s too bad, because he was one of LA’s more productive players last season, right into their playoff run.

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Good to see the Columbus Blue Jackets finally acquiring some talent to help out Rick Nash from doing everything.  I was seriously thinking of starting a FREE RICK NASH campaign to try and get him traded to team with a chance to win, but with these latest developments, I may have to sit on that one for a little longer.

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Phil Pritchard, aka the” Keeper Of The Cup” sure does polish the Stanley Cup a disturbing, creepy amount, wouldn’t you say? The guy is with the trophy every day of his life; have you ever seen him not rubbing that Cup down with that little grin on his face? I thought he might go all Smeagol/Gollum and run out and stab Zdeno Chara this year after Bettman took the Cup away from him and gave it to the Bruins’ captain. He probably could’ve claimed the riot tweaked him out, and gotten away with it.

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Brad Marchand is the NHL’s new Claude Lemieux, pest/irritation wise. With those babyface red cheeks of his and inability to grow facial hair, perhaps just less assuming, but just as ratty.

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And lastly, even if you didn’t like the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final, you gotta agree, seeing that Stanley Cup hoisted is absolutely extraordinary. What an exclamation point of a literal life-long journey for those fortunate enough to win it. The most difficult trophy in sports to win, and the biggest and most impressive looking for a reason. I wonder if any of this year’s draft picks will be lifting the grail above their heads, ala Tyler Seguin, at the conclusion of next season?

Hockey Talkie: Boston’s Beating Ability, BP’s Bandwagons, Bettman, and some Winnipeg Saga Thoughts.

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

So it’s become abruptly apparent that the Boston Bruins can beat the Vancouver Canucks. And I use the word beat with two definitions: one, mercilessly on the scoreboard; and two, physically mauling them all over the ice… Lucic slapped Burrows around, and even Tim Thomas hammered a Sedin. When I was debating who would come out of the Eastern Conference to play Vancouver, I reasoned that Tampa would offer a strong skating and finesse challenge, while Boston’s would be of a far more physical, bruising variety. I’m dumbfounded why it took Boston until game 3 to figure out the strategy to success, but nonetheless, here we are. With game 4 leading to either a 3-1 Vancouver lead, or a 2-2 series draw, “pivotal” seems to be an accurate descriptive term to use. I wonder which Boston team will show up.

An interesting tidbit I heard on Sportsnet was about how in Round 1, when Raffi Torres hit Brent Seabrook, and how that seemed to be an awakening point for Chicago. The Rome hit on Horton and the resulting game score doesn’t seem to be straying from that pattern.

Speaking of that hit (and the people who have to deal with it), why did they replace Colin Campbell with Brendan Shanahan mid-playoffs? Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a good move and Shanahan will be a great fit, but why not start with a clean slate next season? Now an inexperienced Shanny is thrown directly into the fire, and has to deal with this exact high-stakes scenario, instead of Campbell, who’d surely been down that road before, and probably has a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book to reach a conclusion through.  By the way, this is a clear late, blindside headshot, that he left his feet on.  Open and shut.  There’s no reason Rome should play next game, at the very least.

Also on NHL decisions, I want to know why they can’t strike a deal with the NBA to start one of the leagues one month earlier so the seasons and championships don’t overlap. Seems like a dropped ball in the ratings department, or in the how-can-we-make-Dave-care-about-basketball department. Wait a minute… didn’t Bettman used to work for the NBA??

I haven’t decided yet whether I think Tim Thomas’ laughy-smiles after making saves are Cool Hand Luke-like, or Joker-like.

PICK A TEAM ALREADY

Does Boston Pizza not seem like the world’s worst bandwagon jumper? First they “changed” their name to Montreal Pizza, now they’re Vancouver Pizza…. all the while, their ACTUAL NAMESAKE was in the playoffs the whole time, and doing just fine. If there’s any Boston Pizza restaurants in the actual city of Boston, I wouldn’t be surprised at a rise in police reports of suspicious arsons.

The gym I work at has the TV’s on mute and uses closed-captioning for shows while the satellite radio is playing. Fair enough. But I do have a couple of balks at the CC system…. one: closed-captioning spelled Ryan Kesler’s last name as “Koestler”. While his jersey was on the screen; namebar and everything. Are blind people CC writing for the deaf? And, two: Do sports closed-caption writers put the text boxes right over the score on purpose? It’s bad enough I can’t hear the game, must I be deprived of the score at all times too?

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“So you want me to pack my life up in Hot-lanta, and move to Winter-peg? No thanks.” said every Atlanta Thrashers player and staff member, upon learning of the franchise’s relocation.

So chasing the Coyotes franchise was just a gigantic waste of Winnipegers time, hey? Why did they not just pursue the Thrashers from the start? Was it just nostalgic sentiments that wanted the Coyotes franchise back? I mean, what would have even been the same, besides Shane Doan? All I know is, it’s gonna get awkward next season when the Thrashers are in Winnipeg masquerading as the Jets, and the Coyotes/real Jets still don’t have legit owners and need a new home. Also, the Coyotes playing in Winnipeg will be interesting too.

So Gary Bettman comes out at the True North press conference and says it’s not going to work in Winnipeg if the building isn’t sold out every night? What kind of deal did you make, Bettman? He’s so proud of himself for making stable deals, and doesn’t like to move franchises, yet he basically threatens to take away Winnipeg’s team again if there aren’t enough people in the rink? Good thing Winnipegers already bought 13,000 season tickets. Well done, Manitobans.

Interestingly, Bettman also said if True North wants the Jets name for the franchise, the NHL will make it available to them.

Forget rennovating the MTS Centre to seat more people, Winnipeg needs to immediately spend every dollar of its cap space on trading for Teemu Selanne.

LEAKED ALTERNATE ENDING to the NHL/True North Winnipeg return announcment press conference!

June 2, 2011 2 comments

Apparently the NHL and True North Sports filmed an alternate ending to the May 31/2011 press conference announcing Winnipeg’s purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and subsequent return to the NHL. After the deal concluded positively, this ending was trashed, and never meant to see the light of day…. Luckily for you, we here at The SDC Blogs employ the resources to find such material meant to be seen by the public eye.  Have a look at how much different that announcement may have turned out:

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