TEPID TAKE: The Best Possible Draft Lottery Outcome

After having time to think about it– the mystery Team E winning the NHL Draft Lottery is the BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME for the Qualifying Round of the playoff restart.

Yes, it sucks for teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators to not get a top pick after being terrible this past season. That said, some might say that getting Alexis Lafreniere isn’t going to be the cure-all for those teams. It would be nice, sure, but at the same time– it may not address the needs those teams need in the long-run.

But with Team E winning the Draft Lottery, it will get more people into the Qualifying Round and to pay attention to those who get eliminated. If the NHL and NBC marketing teams were smart, they’d have a little side promotion about how even if you lose out– you might still win with the 1st overall pick in the Draft. It might hook on some people who may not watch the qualifying rounds because it’s teams just getting back going after four months of a layoff, but it adds another thing of weirdness to an already weird timeline we’re living in.

Granted, there’s going to be plenty of conspiracy theorist that the NHL rigged this for certain teams to get a chance should they be eliminated in that qualifier, especially if teams who are already loaded– like Pittsburgh and Edmonton– get the first pick through fate. Even so, though– it would be a nice little touch for teams that are hated because they have so much talent to get more and for fans around the league to have a black-hat villain to look towards.

While this wasn’t the most unconventional Draft Lottery– that is held by the 2005 Lottery– this is probably the most fun. I’m all for chaos and schadenfreude in the the NHL, it makes watching it fun for me. This was the best outcome for the league because of the fact they need all the attention they can get, especially with the pause of the season. To get eyes on the game because the qualifiers will help determine who gets the top prospect of the draft is an amazing gimmick.

It’s easy to understand why people are butt-hurt. It may have looked like a bad idea for the league to have a Draft Lottery with teams who haven’t lost yet getting the top pick, but in the grand schemes– this is the best possible outcome and may translate into more people paying attention to the qualifying rounds when they may not have.

Though, let’s be honest, it might not be a concern at all if the NHLPA doesn’t agree to the season ending or the qualifying round getting stopped due to sickness– but it’s still a nice thought to have that it becomes Mario Kart rules where even if you lose in the playoffs– you could possibly win the top overall pick in the Draft.

Black Bears Getting Fresh Threads for ’20-21

With the auctioning off of the jerseys for the first two years, it became clear the Maryland Black Bears would have new ones coming– but no one knew the kind of design they would have. That got answered on Monday when Black Bears owner Murry Gunty dropped huge news on Twitter Monday, showing off the new jerseys for the Black Bears for the next season and beyond.

Both of the new jerseys are very Maryland-centric, with the flag being displayed prominently. As well, the Black Bears will use just the roaring bear for their jersey and not the crest from the first two season. The home yellows will have the Maryland flag completely across the chest and elbows, while the away blacks have a smaller, banner-like look to the flag across the hem and elbows. The shoulder patch is that of the original crest on the first jerseys.

They are quite the departure from the traditional jerseys that the Black Bears have worn to start the franchise, but this feels like the correct move forward. With the addition of the Maryland flag everywhere, it really puts it into the mind of others that this is Maryland’s hockey team. It will also stand out, with yellow being an unconventional home jersey color; but one that catches the eye across the league.

Personally, this is a great change, even if it seemingly came out of nowhere with the design change. I’m a big fan of the standing bear logo and though it would look great standing alone as the primary logo. While I did like the old ones for the traditional feel, the added Maryland touch is great progress for this team and the footprint they have with the community. There is one little critique I have and that’s the bottom hem of the black jersey and the Crossland flag being a bit cut off looking, which took me a little time to figure out what it was. Aside from that small thing– it’s tremendous and only hope the socks will have the Maryland flag on them in some way, shape, or form.

TEPID TAKE: The Reboot

Okay, let’s just take a step back to process the craziness about what the NHL rolled out Tuesday in regards to ending the 2019-20 season. I won’t get into the Draft Lottery too much because…well, I need a team of scientist to decipher it. But the reboot of the season– this is something that’s been polarizing with a good amount of people on the “what are you thinking side of things” for one reason or another.

Before it’s started, the biggest thing is that this can all be dissolved by the players, who will need to collectively bargain this roll out. If they say no, then it’s done and you can’t blame them because even with the NHL saying they’ve got enough kits to test every day…still some people are going to be apprehensive, rightfully so; especially with the failures of some tests and testing labs.

In any case, the regular season is done in the biblical sense. The NHLPA still said that the “qualification” rounds may have stats count towards the regular season totals before the post-season totals count. It’s a bit odd considering that it’s a playoff scenario, but not really a playoff since other teams are playing for positioning at the top of the table– but let’s not let that get in the way of a confusing roll-out.

Hub Cities (TM) are still to be determined with 10 finalists being there and waiting like it was an Olympic bid or American Idol. That’s going to be more interesting than how to figure out the draft lottery. I’m sure any city will be great to hold it in, though with no fans and probably players not going out on the town– doesn’t really matter outside of the facilities that those cities will bolster for the players.

I’ve been on the fence between doing a 31-team tournament to shutting the whole thing down. As we sit here with a 24-team format, I’m more okay with it. Nothing to do about being a completionist, but if you believe the NHL in having enough tests and saying the test will be every day….why not get it done?? There’s going to be some people upset the NHL got those tests, but if they bought it through legit means– very little to be done; just ask Larry Hogan about buying tests for the betterment of his state. Sure, the next season will be super late on the calendar and lack on because of the 82-game format they’re hoping for– but if there’s a chance to play, why not take it out for a spin??

The Draft Lottery is more convoluted because there’s two phases which include the teams that don’t advance in the play-in round. How the NHL couldn’t have just gone with the seven teams that didn’t make it be in the lottery and then the rest fall as they may– much like the other seasons when it comes to the Draft….but that’s too easy. Gotta mix it up, gotta go outside the box.

There’s A LOT to be done still. Like I said, if at any point the NHLPA feels slighted, then they can nix this deal and the whole thing is dead in the water. I don’t think anyone would fault them for it like it were some kind of labor strife. This decision can either go really right and nothing bad happens and people panicked over nothing though they were justified in doing so at the time. It could also go very sideways, very quickly and the NHL and NHLPA look like fools for rushing back in just to do so.

If nothing else– it’s making for a wonderful story to be told in a future “30 For 30.”

Remembering the Reebok Edge Rollout

The Rbk EDGE Uniform System (Photo by Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As I was going through YouTube, a clip came up from 2010 when the Flyers beat the Bruins after coming back from 0-3 down in the series. I didn’t think about the hilarious collapse of the Bruins, but more of how horrible those Flyers jerseys were. They came from the redesign of the NHL’s jerseys by Reebok and their Edge jersey system. Then I remembered the start of the roll out of those jerseys at the 2007 Draft in Columbus. With Reebok being the ultimate brand in the NHL, they needed to do something with the uniform system; especially after Nike came out with their Swift uniform system for the 2006 Turin Olympics (which had their own issues before the Games).

Before the big rollout, the NHL debuted the jerseys at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas– which happened to be the last time the NHL had a weekday ASG. The jerseys did away with the bulk air-knit jerseys of the past and make them more anatomical for the players, which was perfect for the new speed that the game had brought back post-lockout. Reebok touted the jerseys were 14% lighter and had moisture resistant technology, which absorbed 76% less moisture. There’s much more, including the core technology they had put together in this video here.

As for the rollout itself, it went team-by-team; though the NHL Draft hosts in Columbus debuted their look at the Draft itself, as did the Capitals There were some teams that did an entire overhaul– like the Capitals, Sharks, and Canucks; while other teams kind of fell into a templated nightmare with other teams. For instance, the Penguins, Senators, and Lightning used the same template as the All-Star jerseys; while the Predators, Oilers, and Panthers used their own template with the latter two having unnecessary piping on it. The piping was also noticed around the shoulder yoke of the Carolina Hurricanes, which stood out like a sore thumb. Not only that, but half the league went without the traditional bottom hem stripe on the jersey. The wide array can be found on the NHL Uniforms’ site.

Interestingly enough, the jerseys were starting to get leaked on the internet thanks to EA Sports putting out an unlock code for the game before teams officially put the jerseys out to the public. It was truly a fun time for people who were pining to see what their teams would do, but also a cringe time for some when their team underwhelmed in this situation.

I like to remember is how the first versions of these jerseys were trash. They only lasted about half a year before Reebok had to redo the whole thing because the first version was doing it’s job by repelling moisture…but into the gloves the players making sweat pool in their gloves. That made Reebok revert back a little to the airknit fabric and making them a bit less form fitting. We did have a glimpse into the look of the jersey, as the Ducks and Sabres each had a redesign in 2006-07 that was a format for what the new jerseys would look like with the collar being very pointed and where the NHL logo would appear on all the jerseys a season later.

Looking back, it was a huge step for the jersey era; especially with MSRP of jerseys going up because of the materials used. It was also a sigh of relief as rumors had the system using tucked in jerseys killing any kind of loose fit. The Edge system also was the start of the Icethetics website, where a lot of the leaks were posted for wider consumption.

The look itself may have turned off some people because it wasn’t traditional enough for them, but in the end; we all made it out and now move on with life in the Adizero era where the weight feels more like the older jerseys, which doesn’t seem to affect the play on the ice with the players.

Fair Thee Well, 2019-20 AHL Season

The AHL did what they should have done a while ago with the rest of the minor leagues and closed up shop on the 2019-20 season and playoffs. What along wild ride it was and it’ll be remembered throughout the annals of time. And with it, we’ve got some loose ends to tie up and away we go.

Happy Trails, David Andrews: Since 1994, Andrews has been the face of the AHL. In that times, he’s made the AHL the only AAA-level minor hockey league, he’s seen the absorption of the remaining successful IHL teams, he’s help the league move out west to get a reach into the pacific time zone, on top of getting 31 teams to match the 31 NHL franchises. Attendances has been a big boom under Andrews thanks to more markets, but also the media presence with TV in North America has been a big marker left by Andrews. His successor, Scott Howson, will have big shoes to fill– but he’s left with a great start from Andrews’ legacy.

We Hardly Knew Ye, San Antonio Rampage: The team that was partial owned by the NBA’s Spurs has been sold and will move to Henderson, Nevada to become the Golden Knights affiliate. The Rampage only had four playoff appearances with only one going past the first round, but they were a successful franchise off the ice with over 6,000-people in average attendance; a huge thing to do for a minor league team in a bigger market with plenty to do around it. Especially for not getting to the playoffs frequently, it’s a huge feat. Some notable players came out of the Rampage system like Rocco Grimaldi, Gregory Campbell, David Schlemko, and Keith Yandle.

Maryland’s Scoring Champ: Despite it ending early, Potomac, Maryland’s Sam Anas locked up the scoring title with 70 points (20g, 50a) in 63 games for the Iowa Wild. Having the chance to talk to Anas before the season, he seemed hell-bent on making the most of his off-season and getting more consistent with his play. Being an unrestricted free agent, Anas should have plenty of options come his way. The question is whether or not he wants to keep going with the Wild organization or go to a place that might give him a better chance to play at the NHL level.

Low-Key Solid Keeping: Three goalies in the AHL had sub-2.00 GAAs– Dan Vladar (Providence), Igor Shesterkin (Hartford), and Connor Ingram (Milwaukee)– while Kaapo Kahkonen in Iowa lead the league in wins with 25. The biggest thing is whether these guys will make the jump. We’ve seen Shesterkin move up to the Rangers, but the other three could be a part of the numbers game. Kahkonen is behind Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock; Ingram behind Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros; and Vladar behind Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. While Kahkonen and Vladar are RFAs, odds are their teams will try to keep them for an insurance policy moving forward and place them in their future plans…as they should.

Oh Admiral, My Admiral: It’s a shame the Milwaukee Admirals couldn’t finish out their season. Leading the league with 41 wins and 90 points, the Admirals could have had a record season with 15 games remaining. They have posted 49-win seasons twice in franchise history, but the way they had been paying, 50 wins was well within reach, as was the 108-point plateau they had in 2005-06 and was their AHL franchise best. Of course, the playoffs seemed to be the great equalizer, as the Admirals haven’t made it out of the first round since 2011, but with this determined squad– anything could have happened.

On the Topic Of Networking

I’m not good at networking.

Maybe that’s not the right thing to say, because I can network– but I think I’m not good at forcing myself to network. I’m sure that shows in where I might be in my career with all of this thing.

And maybe it’s because I see people who force their way into things and try too hard to network while looking super desperate in doing so. After seeing that, I’d rather not network than appear to be a disingenuous ass. Those people might get a spot here and there, but in my eyes– I don’t know if giving up whatever moral convictions I might have when it comes to this journalism career to be a boot-licker is the right route for me. I’d rather the work I put in be the determining factor in that.

Of course, maybe the work is the reason I’m in the spot I’m in– so it’s very much up for debate.

I’ve always been convinced that you do the work and you’ll get rewarded for it. If it’s one of those “eventual” things, then I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting after almost two decades. Stuff I think is great never gets traction while the dumb stuff is what blows up and makes me wonder what the fuck the algorithm is for any of this.

Back to the networking side of things, there’s a lot of people in the media that I consider friends or acquaintances and I think because of that, I don’t want to endanger that relationship to be an overzealous person in angling for a higher standing in order to make gains for my end-goal. There’s no space for that in a friendship that uses each other. It’s got to be symbiotic, baby.

Granted, at this point in time, probably the best I’m not in a bigger journalism job as a career since there’s little to talk about. Still, thinking in the bigger picture, I just wish I could have “networked” better when I had clout and popularity in order to actually have made something more out of this freelancing situation I’m in right now.

And that’s what’s up.

Now Hear Me Out, Practice Rinks

With the idea of the NHL coming back around July or whatever and so many weird scenarios being thrown out there, the location(s) of the events are going to be crucial. Of course, the idea of a big, vacant arena is a trippy situation that’ll border on the absurd to open up the venue when getting no revenue out of it.

But what about practice facilities?? This is something Captain Chaos Jonny P thought of during the April 29th edition of Face Off Hockey Show.

Sure, there’s going to be some players weary of it because the training facilities aren’t going to be up to snuff with the exception of the main weight room area, but why not think about going to the practice rinks in order to play these games?? It seems like something that’ll won’t really cost that much in comparison to the actual giant arena.

There’s not going to be fans in attendance, thus not going to be need for much arena staff, outside of bare bones security; the big time presentation on ice isn’t needed– just speakers. A temporary set-up for the media could be put up if need be, because most practice rinks don’t have the control center for big money productions. The rinks are all the same in dimensions and really the only thing that may not be up to snuff could be the system that holds the nets on– but you’d hope that’s been addressed when they built the facility knowing that a NHL team would be doing their training there and you want the game-experience there to not really mess up a rhythm.

Looking at all angles, it only makes sense because it’ll be low overhead when you look at going practice rink versus the big arena. It’ll already be unique in the situation we’re in right now, so why not double and triple down on the situations, while saving a few bucks for not having to open the big stage when not making any income from it at all. Just a thought to save some kind of money– which could really help everyone in the end going forward.

Pushing Back The 2020-21 Season

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 12: A goal sits on the empty ice prior to the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775376586 ORIG FILE ID: 1212022895

According to Pierre LeBrun, the start of the 2020-21 season will be in December; accounting for the idea that the NHL season will resume in July like some people are hypothesizing. LeBrun said that the league would hope to have a full 82-game slate for the squads, but is there a chance that isn’t feasible.

It’s hard for everyone right now being without entertainment as their cooped up in the house in this Schrodinger world we’re living in, but you also have to look out for common sense. Money is going to be lost by the NHL because the odds are good that no fans will be allowed for whatever’s left for the 2019-20 season. Yet, the biggest thing to look at is the idea that players will be very worn out from the summer hockey and then however short the offseason is for them and then right into the next season in December. The start and stop aspect probably isn’t the most ideal, especially when the goal is a 82-game affair and everything that would give breaks would be scrapped to get back on schedule for everyone.

Now, of course, there’s plenty of red-tape that the league will need to get through in order to go through with their plan of finishing the current season. The border of Canada and the US is closed, so teams there would need to figure out how the hell to get out and play if they indeed get this whole thing started up again. Then you have to hope the proper testing is in place because one setback could ruin the entire rest of 2019-20, despite what Bill Daly may have said. You also have to wonder how keen the players are to fit all those games in what looks like it could be an 11-month window.

As much as I miss live hockey, the idea that we need to push for it to come back in the most uncertain of times seems very short-sighted, the business aspect be damned. What’s gained by getting back on the ice sooner than needed?? What’s gained by further pushing the players’ bodies by keeping the schedule for next year the same, while giving them much less off-time for said schedule and taxing their bodies even more?? Is it worth rushing things for this season and then condensing next season in order to not lose as much money?? These are the questions that need to be asked when you look at the entire scope of things.

If the NHL is rushing back just to get back, then it could be a high-risk, high reward situation. If it pays off, they look like geniuses for getting back when they did and plotting out things to get back on track by the 2021-22 season. If it stumbles and turns out to be the worst thing to happen to hockey– they might not hear the end of it. I don’t envy those making these decisions, but they can’t make it in haste just because we’re all anxious and bored with no live sports.

On the Topic Of Virtual Playoffs

The NAHL is doing something pretty solid. They’re actually simulating the Robertson Cup Playoffs on XBox with NHL18 and using that as a thing to crown a virtual Robertson Cup champion. They modded the jerseys to somewhat resemble the team jerseys and use the player’s names on there.

With the whole world going to Esports, the way they’re going about this to give the fans something and maybe some closure to their season is fantastic. It kind of answers the “what-if” for some people, even though there are some teams I’m sure a little bitter they didn’t get into the playoff position with uneven games and what-not.

But the bitterness should be subsided– says the guy who’s team got into the playoffs– because it’s something for the fans. In this time of…well, who knows what the hell this timeline has become, it’s a great distraction for everyone involved. Plus, it gives the NAHL a little bit of an upside because– and I’m sure someone will correct me– this is the first league who had their season cancelled to do this. I don’t think the ECHL or SPHL have attempted, but it’s a nice marketing tool for the league to get some eyes on their product and have the teams a little something to hype up in a very down time.

It may not be solace to players to not be playing in a real playoff game, hell– I know it’s not. But maybe they can see this and take it all in virtually and hopefully hype up their virtual doppelganger to victory and more.

On the Topic Of the NHL in North Dakota

When you hear people talk about Ralph Engelstad Arena, you hear the chorus of how beautiful it is and how much it’s as good as or better than (in some cases) most NHL arenas. With a passionate fan base for the University of North Dakota, along with the tradition the program has; it’s easy to see why they would want to have such a top-notch facility for their student-athletes and be able to use that to bring in top talent.

Now, it could be time to see how it does shape up to the NHL standard.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped some knowledge Sunday night that the NHL is looking at options if they should get their season back together in one way, shape, or form. One of the options has been Grand Forks, North Dakota and The Ralph. Friedman says that nothing is eminent, but it’s been floated around due to the facilities and the low population density that North Dakota does have in comparison to other states with rinks. Considering places like Toronto and Calgary say that they won’t have games in those cities until June 30th at the earliest; neutral site games are a must.

Logistically, however, could be an issues. While the Greater Grand Forks area (Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, MN) has about 30 hotels— not all of them are the nice, five-star places players may be used to and some hotels may not want to have a sharp influx of people from out of town given the climate of things. Of course, adding to that is the US/Canada border being closed for the time being, on top of the leagues voting how their season should go along and what format it needs to be in.

Not to mention, whether or not the state would be willing to take people in given North Dakota has a 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers, then to decide if there should be fans in the arena for the events given the pandemic, how you put first responders into the arena while taking away from the hospital in town and other red-tape that would be necessary to have this happen.

Personally, living here– it’d be a huge buzz for the area and something that people wouldn’t forget if it were to happen. Emphasis on “IF.” There’s no doubt that the facilities of The Ralph are beyond comparison in some instances and that it does have the ability to house a regional tournament should that be the case. And it’s not like they haven’t hosted NHL game before, albeit preseason games— but the area has houses many IIHF events with multiple nations represented with teams and with fan bases.

While I’m still of the opinion the NHL should shutter the season for the sanity of everyone and not to give people false hope only to diminish that hope later, this could be interesting overall. It’d give the local economy a boost with lodging and food and such, it’d give people something to look out for when it comes to sports in the area, and it’d being back some kind of normalcy to the landscape a whole.

Plus, if I can get in to cover some of these games– I’ll take it.

But you also have to think about the long-term venture over the short-term solution. If it all makes sense and things are trending properly– then by all means, go with North Dakota and other neutral sites. However, if the states are cautious to it and don’t want it to happen– you have to respect their decision to keep the interest of their residents the top priority over the allure of a tick of normalcy.