Monday, August 31, 2009

The NHLPA, rudderless again.

For those of us who hate NHL work stoppages, how scary is this?
The NHLPA fired its executive director Paul Kelly less than 2 years into the job, on the eve of new CBA talks in 2011.

NHLPA ombudsman Buzz Hargrove told the Team 1040 in Vancouver that he spoke with all 30 team reps and the players didn’t feel Kelly was the right man to “unify and pull the group together and get them all working together. 'Trust and confidence' were the words they used and I think that's used appropriately.”


They admit to having no candidates for the job. A search will begin immediately.
This is either a very bold move or an incredibly stupid one. Clearly the players believe it’s a move that had to be made. If there were any dissenters, they have not gone public with the exception of former player and union worker Pat Flatley who has resigned.

The NHL players have proven historically to have no clue as to who should lead them.
Alan Eagleson went to jail, Bob Goodenow was run out of office, Ted Saskin was canned after allegations of spying on player e-mails and now the chosen one, Kelly, has been unanimously fired. Will anyone ever retire after a successful career running the NHLPA or will all of them eventually have a grenade shoved into their pants?

My greatest fear is that somehow Buzz Hargrove will move from NHLPA Ombudsman to executive director. I don’t know Mr.Hargove and I have never met him. All I know is that as the leader of the UAW in Canada he played a major role in making the auto industry in this country unprofitable and as we have all witnessed, virtually bankrupt.

As someone who makes his living working in the NHL, this is a scary day.

See you at the rink.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Is this really a story?

Maybe we are all getting a little too sensitive.
Alex Kovalev was at a charity golf tournament in Montréal and told reporters he loved Montreal, never wanted to leave Montreal and would likely return to Montreal if he has the chance once his 2 year deal in Ottawa is over.

That seems pretty straight forward to me. Is that a slight on Ottawa? I can’t see how.
The entire time he was playing in Montreal he talked about how much he liked it there. No flip flop so far. When his contract was up he talked publicly about wanting to stay. No flip flop there. When the Habs wouldn’t give him a multi-year deal he signed in Ottawa because at the time Ottawa was the only team offering him more than 1 year. No flip flop there.

I don’t get what all the commotion is about. The guy likes Montreal. That doesn’t mean he hates Ottawa. When Todd White was not offered a deal to stay in Ottawa he said almost all the same things as he left but the people in Atlanta didn’t get all upset. He liked Ottawa and wanted to stay but that wasn’t an option and he still plans on living here when his career is over. Does that make him a bad Thrasher?

Ray Bourque did not want to leave Boston. The Bruins did offer him a deal to stay but his reasons for leaving had to do with wanting to win a cup. Did the people of Denver assume he was going to live the rest of his life in Denver? Did they believe this life long Bruin was now a life long Avalanche?

We wonder sometimes why pro athletes won’t be straight with the media and fans. This is one of the reasons. Kovalev was asked a straight question. He gave a straight answer which did not differ from what he has said publicly in the past but now for some reason people are questioning his commitment to Ottawa?

I believe he will play as hard for Ottawa as he did for Montreal. He will play his 2 years here and if there is a deal to return to Montreal to finish his career he will take it. Just like hundreds of other NHL players who find themselves playing in places other than their first choice.

Do Ottawa fans think Kovalev grew up in Russia dreaming of one day being a Senator? Do they believe Jason Spezza grew up dreaming of being a Senator? Start adding names as you like to this question.

Alex Kovalev did not say anything new, outlandish or inappropriate. This is being blown completely out of proportion. Maybe we are all just so tired of talking about Dany Heatley we need a new distraction even if we have to engineer it ourselves.

See you at the rink.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dany has "enjoyed" his summer??

In today’s Ottawa Citizen there are more quotes from Dany Heatley and for me, more head scratching. I can’t figure out how a guy as smart as Dany just doesn’t get it.

"It has been a fun summer," Heatley said. "I've enjoyed it. Been out at the lake and getting ready for this season. It hasn't been unlike any other summer, really."

If Dany has found any of this “fun” then he is the only one. If this summer hasn’t been much different than other summers then he is living on a different hockey planet. Dany was asked if all the words from commentators and columnists calling him selfish, petulant and immature are unfair criticism.

"Yeah, I think so," Heatley said. "Any time when you haven't met the person or heard the whole story, I think it's tough to jump to conclusions. That's what we have to deal with sometimes, but the summer has been fun. I haven't really been listening too much. I'm just getting ready for the season."

"There's a process that has to take place," Heatley said. "I don't want to get into it. When I find out where I'm going and it's all said and done, I think then will be the time to talk about it."

Well Dany pretty much everyone in hockey has met you even if you don’t remember them. The reason no one knows the whole story is because you won’t tell it. You can’t claim to be the victim of unfair criticism and blame it on a lack of knowledge when you are the one refusing to impart that knowledge.

Hold on a second, how could you know about the comments since you haven’t paid much attention to it?

Dany has spoken publicly 3 times now since his prolonged summer silence ended. Each time he has damaged himself in the areas of public perception and character. Nothing Dany has done or said during any of this has caused anyone to change their mind about what they think Dany is both as a player and a person.

Stacey McAlpine and JP Barry are his agents. They might want to spend a little money on a public relations expert. This has become the gold standard as an example of how to assassinate your own reputation.

I am now tingling with anticipation to hear the “whole story” after Dany’s trade is completed. Judging by the way he and his people have mapped out their strategy so far, they might want to pre-book the noose and gallows right now for the death of what’s left if his reputation.

See you at the rink.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What diminished role?

I was tweaked by Dany Heatley’s claim that he wants out of Ottawa because of his self diagnosed “diminished role”. When Corey Clouston took over as head coach there were a few games where Heatley got only 13 or 14 minutes of ice time but for the most part nothing much changed.

Last season Daniel Alfredsson got more ice than any other forward and deservedly so. He averaged 20:52 minutes per game. Guess who was 2nd? You got it! Dany Heatley at 20:06. On average he played only 46 seconds less per game than Alfredsson. In other words one shift. That puts both of them in the top 30 in the NHL for ice time amongst forwards.

Here is a very short list of some very good players who averaged less ice time than Heatley last season:

NHL Rank /Player/ TOI-GM
#32 Henrik Zetterberg 19:52
#33 Jordan Staal 19:50
#36 Jason Spezza 19:41
#37 Marc Savard 19:32
#40 Joe Thornton 19:27
#43 Alex Kovalev 19:25
#45 Alexander Semin 19:14
#46 Pavel Datsyuk 19:12
#60 Zach Parise 18:45

The two names of particular interest to me are Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Both are integral players in Detroit. Both have won the Stanley Cup. Both at times play on the first powerplay unit. Both at times play on the second unit. Both at times kill penalties. They quietly do what the coach asks them to do for the good of the team. Neither, to my knowledge, has asked for a trade because they feel their role has been diminished and their ice time is not in keeping with their status as super stars.

Dany Heatley it appears is not pleased with being taken off the penalty killing team early in the season and being relegated to the 2nd power play unit in the last third of the season. Well the team was terrible early in the season and the penalty killing was awful. It improved when Heatley was taken off. It didn’t improve because he was replaced, but he didn’t make it better when he was on it. For 8 million dollars a year isn’t he supposed to be a difference maker?

The power play improved after Clouston came in and the number of important goals also increased. This was after Heatley was moved to the 2nd unit. It didn’t help his personal stats but it did help the team win more games.

The worst thing for Dany is that the longer this goes on, the more people are going to put his contentions under a microscope. The more that happens the worse he looks and sadly for Bryan Murray, the harder he is to trade.

See you at the rink.

Dany is a "team guy"

So Dany Heatley has finally broken his silence.
We know a bit more, but not much more. Let’s run through some of the answers.

He wants a trade primarily because he believes he should be an integral part of the team and he feels his role has diminished.

He still wants a trade but will show up at Senators training camp and fulfill his contract if he is not traded before camp.

He says he has nothing against Ottawa or Senators fans and that this is a straight hockey issue and not a life issue like his departure from Atlanta.

He claims neither he nor his camp released the information to the public and he has not spoken until now because he didn’t want to make it more of a circus. Dany says these things are a process and he didn’t want to disrupt that.

Dany says he has nothing against Edmonton but turned the trade down because it was and is the only option presented to him. He wants multiple options to choose from. Heatley says he knows there are teams out there which are interested.

The entire conference call lasted just under 17 minutes and was cut off before all questions had been answered after Heatley’s agent Stacey McAlpine said Heatley had another media event to attend.

That one was a bit surprising since he hasn’t spoke in 3 months and now has 2 media events planned so tightly together he can’t fully complete one before heading to the other?

There were a few questions which were partially answered but not fully. That’s where the media training really helps in deflecting and sliding on questions. One late question from the Sun’s Don Brennan was interesting. Don asked if Heatley will turn in his “A” if he is a Senator to start camp. Heatley’s only answer was “I’ll be at camp ready to go”.

I guess he still wants a leadership role on this team even though he doesn’t want to be on this team.

Another puzzler is this “diminished role” issue at the centre of it all. In Edmonton he would have been their best and most important player the day he arrived. He would have been far more “integral” there than almost anywhere else with the ice time and situational ice time he desires, but he said no.

Although not said, I believe Dany wants to be a stand alone superstar but he wants that role in a cool city. New York or Los Angeles where there is more glitz, more trendy places to spend his millions and a greater ability to be anonymous when the spotlight starts to burn. If this was a straight hockey situation as he says, then why should the location of a trade matter if it means the criteria of him being an “integral” player is met?

For me the most telling questions and answers were about character and his battered public image. Dany says he doesn’t worry about questions about his character. When asked about being selfish he said you can ask anyone he has played for or with and they will tell you he’s a team guy.

I don’t believe Dany fully understands that one of the major reasons Bryan Murray can’t make a trade is because too many people in the NHL think he is selfish, has character problems and in fact is not a good team guy because he asked to leave his last 2 teams. Ron Hextall from the LA Kings said red flags went up for them as an organization because Heatley apparently had problems with his coach in Atlanta, Craig Hartsburg and now Corey Clouston. Leaders look for answers others look for exits and Dany has been too quick to look for his.

I think today’s conference call didn’t do much to help a GM feel better about making a possible deal for Heatley because the questions that dogged him during his silence were not answered today. Dany is about Dany no matter how well he gets along with his team mates.

Everyone I have talked to on the team echoes Dany’s claim. They like him and he’s a good team mate. But simply not hating a team mate doesn’t make them a good team guy. Being a team guy means putting your team mates and your club ahead of yourself. That has not been the case for Dany and it appears he is confused about what constitutes a good team guy.

Dany says he knows there are teams out there that are interested. Sure they are if they can get him for the value of a journeyman and not the value of a 50 goal scorer. That doesn’t make a trade any more feasible for Murray.

I may be wrong but my guess is that Dany Heatley will start the season as a Senator and may be in Ottawa for longer than he hopes. Today’s media conference proves there is a great divide between what Dany believes the reasons are that a trade hasn’t happened yet and the real reasons a trade hasn’t happened yet.

The problem is not the coach or an over demanding GM or a cautious business environment in the NHL. The only reason nobody has stepped to the plate to snag a 50 goal scorer is that there are too many GM’s who fear he will hurt their team more than his goals will help their team. Biggest of all the concerns are, giving away prospects, players and draft picks for a player who may walk out on his 3rd team and you are the GM of team #3.

See you at the rink.