Mock (YEAH) Expansion (YEAH) Draft (YEAH)

The day that we all were waiting for is finally here– probably the last Expansion Draft of our lifetimes in the Seattle Kraken. For myself, I ran through plenty of mock drafts– mostly for shits and giggles and with not much real logic thrown into some of these picks. It’s really what I want to happen rather than what I think will happen.

The first draft was for the June 30th show of Face Off Hockey Show, when we all did drafts and NBC’s Sean Leahy judged them– mostly siding with Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey because those media elites stick together. For me, the big pick was PK Subban going to the Kraken because they needed a face to the organization and he is going to a contract year which he’ll probably do all he can in order to get a last contract.

I only made a second draft because the news of Carey Price being left unprotected in this draft was put out there. Sure, a lot of injury concerns coupled with an $11M bonus in September aside– why wouldn’t want to pick a goalie and build from the net out??

After talking myself out of it and plenty of free time to do it– a third draft pick was in there. For the Price draft, I had to get rid of Subban on there, but he’s definitely on there now with Price not in the picture for the third draft.

My final pick is what I’m going with. It’s without Price, and tweaks here and there.

It was a fun thing to do. This is something I’m not going to take seriously because I’m not getting paid to take it seriously. I’m not getting paid personally at all– just through the FOHS Patreon and that mostly goes to show things. So, sit back, enjoy the show tonight– should be a hoot.

Tepid Take: Somehow, Pierre McGuire Got His Front Office Gig

It’s taken a minute, but the Pierre McGuire news has calmed down a bit– so thanks to the wonders of having a day-job, my take is beyond late. Hence, a Tepid Take scenario. People were dumbfounded bu this move of Pierre McGuire going to the Ottawa Senators as Senior VP of Player Development. Many mocked the Senators for this move, many Sens fans were severely distraught, some Senators loyalist/media people are wondering who let the peanut gallery have a voice on who is and isn’t a good hire.

When it comes to this move…I’m optimistically skeptical. It’s a deal that would work out big, it could be a deal that works out horrible. There’s a lot of me who leans towards the latter outcome, but there’s some shimmer of hope that because the Senators haven’t been the best over the last couple years, this could be some kind of move that could turn the ship around…or not.

The only comparison I liken this to is when Tampa Bay hired Barry Melrose during his ESPN stint. Melrose was away from coaching and on TV for 13 years, coached in 16 games– in which he didn’t like Steven Stamkos being on the roster apparently– then he went back to the booth. McGuire could have that same fate, but at the same time– he might have a longer leash not being in the direct public eye.

For the gimmick that McGuire plays, he does know the players and prospects. The character of Pierre is over-the-top to a fault and trying to let people know where a player grew up– even if it’s hokey as all hell. But when you listen to him in other interviews out of character; he’s more toned down, more direct to his point, and does know how the game was played. And there’s a reason why I put a past tense there.

I make no secret that I’m not a big analytics guy as personal preference.I can see some of the points for its use in the game, but I’m not an overly math guy for fun. My day job throws enough numbers at me that my leisure time, I don’t want to be bogged down in equations and such. This, however, is McGuire’s job and whether or not he embraces the new way hockey is scouted will probably determine his tenure and legacy as front office guy.

During his media car-wash, he quote was “It’s not that I hate analytics, it’s that I believe in scouting. I don’t hate analytics. I think it’s a tool that can be utilized in any kind of scouting, but I’m a big believer in boots-on-the-ground scouting.” Daps and head-taps to Stephen Whyno on the transcription.

The whole “old school hockey guy” is dying out and McGuire could be what fully kills it if he messes this up. I understand his whole ideal of the “eye test” when it comes to scouting and maybe some analytics aren’t up his alley– but that’s the way it is now and you either adapt or go back to the booth. The key to McGuire is whether he completely dismisses analytics out-of-hand; which is a big mistake these days. Sure, there’s analytic darlings of the past who didn’t amount to much but folk-hero status; but that side of things could make or break a person in the player development role if they sign a guy for big bucks who passed the eye-test, but couldn’t hold up in certain situations on the ice.

While people dance on the grave of the NBC muppet going to the front office, it’ll be very interesting to keep track on the make-up of the Senators going forward. Maybe Eugene Melnyk is going all “Major League” on this team and hiring the worst possible people to sell the team and have it move somewhere else. It almost seems that way on the surface.

Fare Thee Well, NHL on NBC

With the Lightning’s 2nd straight Stanley Cup win on Wednesday, the NBC era of NHL TV history has paused with ESPN and Turner Sports coming into the fold next season. What start as an exclusive three-year, $200 Million TV deal with the Outdoor Life Network turned into a deal that will net the NHL over $4 Billion in their incoming deal with the new networks.

It was a joke to start, many fans in the US– already reeling from a season that was cancelled– now had their sport in one of the least attractive channels they could have thought about and one many didn’t know if they had or not on their cable provider. Don’t even get started on hotels having it for people on the road– even to the end of days with NBCSN.

But it progressed for the better. While the production was one that was nothing too different from other productions, the deal with NBC spawned many things like the outdoor games people can’t get enough of and more dedicated coverage to the game, as it was the first major sports property for OLN. Of course, it also gave people the horrid Tuesday All-Star Game and the beta-version of a rail cam for that event. Then it turned to Versus, a little more interesting of a name for a sports network, but it’s something that didn’t make people think it was just hockey, hunting, and (according to my friend and mentor Sean O’Connor) fish racing.

Versus allowed the NHL to have multiple games per week on the network, plenty of coverage around the game times, and possibly a new voice for things to come. NBC Universal saw the potential and bought up the Versus property, turning it to NBC Sports Network while signing the NHL to a 10-year, $2 Billion exclusive deal. Not without its hiccups, the NBCSN was still something the normal layperson had trouble finding, playoff coverage got bumped for horse racing on the main NBC network, and while some new personalities were able to shine– familiar voices, both good and bad, were around for the duration of it. Not to mention, more features happening like more mic’d up players and commentators between the benches. NBC did all they could to make some more entertainment for folks watching the games.

If nothing else, the NBC/NHL partnership allowed the league to have a dedicated spot for a long amount of time. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to dislike NBC and what fans wanted out of it– but when a media company as big as NBC Universal invests that much into the league, in the grand scheme; it helped with revenues for the league and was a hub for hockey in its tenure.

Fans are a fickle bunch when it comes to the presentation they want to have on their screens. Everyone is sick of the same teams over and over– but in the TV business, that’s the way to get ratings and advertising dollars. Will we see a change for ESPN and Turner?? Maybe not at the start of things. But that’s why ESPN+ exists for whatever their Center Ice parallel will be on that platform; all the games will exist from the local markets doing them.

The NHL on NBC didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, they just had to keep the vehicle of the NHL going. It put trust in the league with their long-term deal and in-turn, the league didn’t need to worry every other year where their national games were being held. People shouldn’t expect the wheel to be reinvented with ESPN or Turner either. Just keep the vehicle moving, be entertaining, and be informative– people are going to shout their hate for something into the social media void regardless of what’s put out there. Just keep things rolling and see what happens in seven years’ time.

NHL and ESPN Are Together Again

According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, NHL fans may be getting what they want with ESPN signing a new deal with the NHL to become on of their media partners starting next season. ESPN will get rights to four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028 and streaming rights to the league. The NHL and NBC deal ends at the end of this season and plenty of people were clamoring for the NHL to go elsewhere. It may look like they’ve partial gotten their wish.

The NHL hasn’t been a regular entity on ESPN’s family of networks since 2004, they have had games on ESPN+ over the past couple of seasons, as well as beefing up their coverage of hockey thanks to the work of Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski, as well as Chris Peters– who was let go from ESPN during the pandemic. With NBC Sports Network going dark in lieu of PeacockTV, it only makes sense that ESPN would pick up the lead in this for the TV side.

While this does seem like a step in the right direction, the issue remains whether or not it’ll tip the scales all that much and if we’ll actually get a change in the teams being broadcasted. The biggest issue when the NHL spurred ESPN for the old Outdoor Life Network was because ESPN didn’t see the NHL as a money making entity and low-balled them on a new deal. Has that sentiment changed at all?? Maybe. Honestly, though, I don’t see the NHL getting as much screen time on a network that is jammed up with other, more profitable for the network sports.

It would be great to have the ESPN talking heads be all about the NHL and yell and bitch on their overpaid showcases of hot takes that mimic a talk show– but I don’t see that happening. If nothing else, the NHL gets more exposure due to the notoriety that ESPN has over other sports networks. That said, I don’t see it really tipping the needle in terms of exposure to the sports for people since the NHL will move to fourth on the depth chart of sports over the defacto top spot they had on NBCSN. Granted, it was the NHL or Meecum Auctions, so the competition of the networks wasn’t that stiff.

Yet, when you think about it– the numbers could be slightly better just due to reach, but outside of that– who knows what that could bring. You have to think that an NHL Tonight type show will be around; but outside of that– what’s it going to take for people to notice the NHL on ESPN?? More importantly– how long before NHL fans bitch about not receive the coverage they think they should get on the World Wide Leader??

In the grand scheme, this is an upward move– how can it not be?? ESPN is everywhere and they have a multitude of platforms on the TV side that people can get to on cable and whatnot. Streaming rights are what they are, which makes me wonder if things don’t go swimmingly or other leagues start to demand more, if that was a safety net installed to put the NHL on ESPN+ when all is said and done and only use ESPN or ESPN2 for the bigger events. This also doesn’t account for who the other partner would be for the other half of the NHL rights and how those two will co-exist.

But for not, strike up the National Hockey Night theme and relive the good-old days of hockey on ESPN.

NHL Outdoors Was Great, Don’t Expect It Again for a Bit

The Lake Tahoe games happened. Aside from the sun being the mortal enemy of ice on Saturday– you’d have to say it was ultimately a success. The sights, the sounds, the kayaks– all of it was solid for the viewing public. That was ultimately ruined by Rutledge Wood, but we take what we can get with NBC’s budget on hockey for sideline reporters. It was super enjoyable, especially in a year we didn’t think an outdoor game would happen.

Odds are we won’t be seeing that for a good while.

With this “NHL Outdoors” branding, there are four different outdoor games that can occur now: Outdoors, Heritage Classic, Winter Classic, and Stadium Series. The only one that you can’t utilize in a league that needs all the money it can muster is the Outdoors concept. The rest of those are in over-capacity venues that will provide solid revenue for the league, while this Outdoors concept seems to be the one that is where there’s little to no fans. That way, the ad wizards at the TV license holder can pat themselves on the back when they keep using the ideal of “taking the game back to its origin” and remind us of all the players starting out on the pond playing hockey.

There’s a good chance that next season, we’ll have PLENTY of outdoors games– assuming people will be let into buildings to watch sporting events. When the NHL had the shortened 2012-13 season, they made up for the lost half-season by holding six outdoor games the next year and made some good cash off of that to put into the Hockey Related Revenue. For some reason, I could imagine that number at least doubling because of all the lost revenue from the pandemic not allowing capacity crowds into the buildings. They need to start to break even some how.

Which is why the Outdoors idea will only come into play when the league has the money it need and has a setting and teams that are remote enough that little to no fans will be in. We’ve joked on the Face Off Hockey Show about the idea of the league putting the game on an aircraft carrier like the NCAA did with the Carrier Classic or the WWE did with trying to slam Yokozuna. I mean, if they can make ice anywhere, the aircraft carrier is far too perfect, while also serving their want/need to hold games at military venues as they did at the Air Force Academy and Naval Academy.

Everything was perfect for this event to take play and give a way to have an outdoor game in a pandemic. But it’s only because they couldn’t have fans anyway and the golf courses weren’t actively being used in February. Just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t happen for another five years or so and everything is stabilized. Then you can have stories of how people tried to break into the closed event.

Divisional Sponsors Are My New Favorite Thing in the NHL

The NHL is getting that bread, gamers, as they announced divisional sponsors for the upcoming shortened season. Scotiabank (North), Mass Mutual (East), Discover (Central), and Honda (West) will be the presenting sponsors of the divisions in a move to not only recoup losses from lack of box office, but maybe add another way to get hockey related revenue into the game.

Rumors have this as being a one-and-done thing given the oddity of the upcoming season…but why?? Why turn a potential money-maker into a one-year events when you have to think there’s sure to be hiccups going into the 2021-22 season, as well, when it comes to attendance.

As someone who covers NASCAR, I love the idea of sponsorships being a thing. Do they run sports?? Sure, just look at how arena naming conventions are and then try to debate me on this and helmet decals ruining the purity of the game. It’s also some more money coming into the league. Like I said with the helmet decals— until capitalism dies, this is the way to go. And what a smart way for the NHL to go about it by pretty much selling everything they can and say it’s only for a year. If it gets people talking, if it creates more marketing opportunities, if it’s generating dollars…why kill it after one year.

The NFL doesn’t do this, nor the NBA and MLB. But you have to wonder if the NHL is going to blaze the trail for getting money out there in a new way.

Sure, these sponsors are already in the NHL’s pockets with other deals and this was probably a small raise to their rate already, but it’s a start. If this could garner interest in new sponsors coming in to the game, why not?? Plus, the intrigue of whether or not a company will renew their divisional rights and who could swoop into getting them. In NASCAR, this happens all the time, it’s a hoot to see where companies are going and what companies come into the fold. Not only that, but think of the trickle down in the minor leagues. The AHL and ECHL probably would want some of that money into their leagues.

I’m all for this being a thing always and forever. If this league relies on money to stay alive, why not search out every avenue in which to make it?? If it flames out after a year, fine– you made the money you needed. If it keeps going, however, I think it’s the best for business because once that money goes into HHR; every then will benefit in some way, shape, or form.

Helmet Ads Are Here and They’re Fine

Photo via Washington Capitals

Stop bitching about company logos on helmets. Stop bitching about the idea of company logos on jerseys. This is the 21st Century and it’s an inevitability it was going to happen in hockey– so just sit back, grit your teeth, and let it take you in. The NHL is going from ads on practice jerseys to helmets and it’s just another evolution of the sports business. You’re not a traditionalist, calm yourself.

The Washington Capitals announced they’ll be one of the first teams to have sponsors on their helmet, with Capital One on their helmets. The New Jersey Devils also announced they will have Prudential on their helmets. Both of those sponsors are the sponsors of the team’s arenas.

The minor leagues have done this for decades and it’s what has kept them alive. Many minor league hockey fans may not even notice them today because they’ve been such a part of the uniform. Some junior league teams have ads on jerseys to help off-set costs and get their name out there more in the community. It’s how brands do things and it’s just a small part of how sports are done masquerading as a game and being more open about being an actual business– if you hadn’t figured it out before.

Nathan Fournier of the Lewiston Sun-Journal made mention of NASCAR drivers and if those fans were pissed off when company logos were displayed on cars and fire-suits for the first time. I counter with the fact they probably weren’t mad; but felt closer to the driver and team because they bought the certain sponsor or ate at the restaurant on the fire-suit.

Yes, the European sports leagues have logos every which way but loose, though that’s more of a situation where sports aren’t the big moneymaker there and the teams need everyone dollar to pay the players and survive from year to year. North America doesn’t necessarily have that problem, so they can make small patches doable. Of course, you’ll have people out there trying to make a mountain out a mole hill claiming traditionalism and the sanctity of the sports– but it’s a business. It needs to make money to survive. Until capitalism dies, this is how it’s gonna be. I will say, I don’t think the NHL is as stupid than to make their member teams have their crest be dwarfed by a sponsor on the jersey. They’re silly geese in the NHL offices, but not that silly.

The NBA has made plenty of money with it and the MLB have tried to dip their toes into the waters, why shouldn’t the NHL; especially considering the times we’re living in and the unknown of when they can have full arenas of people– not only by lifting of restrictions, but people’s willingness to spend money they may not have budgeted for and go out in public during a pandemic.

Your team is going to have the same color and pattern to their jerseys, they’re going to still have the same players out there, there’s just addition Hockey Related Revenue on their person to make the game more profitable, which raises the salary cap, which allows more players to get paid, which allows less transactions due to a stagnant salary cap.

To quote Gandhi (or was it Ric Flair), “Whether you like or don’t like it, learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going today. WOOOOOOOOOO!!”

Pretty sure that was Gandhi.

NHL, PA Agree To Season Start Time

Alright, here we go, the NHL is coming back with a vengeance on January 13th and it’s going to be…something.

When the 56-game season was announced Sunday, the people rejoiced, and why wouldn’t they?? The idea that a season would happen this early (if at all) was a welcome surprise. For me, the biggest eyebrow cocking moment was the length of season, with eight more games added than past shortened seasons have been. I understand that the NHL wants to get the most games out of the season, but for some reason, the idea of 56-games is a little odd to me given past history.

The revamped divisions will have all the Canadian teams in one, then as much regional content as possible.

Chaos happens in the Central with a nice mix of Midwest and Southeast content, which will really make travel fantastic for them. Along with the Canadian teams, these squads will be either battle-hardened by the playoffs or completely exhausted.

All the games will be within the revamped divisions for this season divisions with the playoffs almost being the same format until the final four teams are there. There’s not going to be any conferences this year and the final four teams out of their divisions will be reseeded on regular season points– which could create an all traditional Eastern or Western Conference Stanley Cup Final. The idea of that could be one of the better ones to come out of this whole season. If the NHL really wanted to shake things up…do that every year. To hell with the idea of Eastern vs. Western, just make the final four reshuffle and go from there. If it goes to a traditional match-up, sobeit– but the idea of a non-traditional Final is pretty solid to me.

In some locations, there will be fans. Dallas has hinted at going for the amount of 5,000 fans in attendance, which other teams haven’t been as clear on their plans. More over, the California teams can’t play in their home arenas due to restrictions in the state, while the British Columbia health ministry will stay strict when outside teams to come into the province to play. The NHL has said neutral location games might have to happen, while the idea of a baseball style series– three games in three days in the same location– could be a very prevalent look for the NHL this season.

No one knows what will come of this season, there are some on the fence on whether it should happen at all with the vaccines just rolling out into the world. That said, it gives people some joy in an otherwise dreary Christmas season.

Reverse Retro or BS Cash Grab 2020

When in need of revenue– make a new jersey.

That seems to be the tactic the NHL and Adidas are going when it comes to the new “Reverse Retro” jerseys that will be coming out for all 31 teams this upcoming season. Each team will have an imaginative retro jersey that will be a retro design, but the colors reversed. It’s not just a clever name.

While we’ve had some purported leaks when it comes to the idea of what could come from these (Pens, Flyers, Knights, Ducks, Bruins, Blue Jackets, and Caps), Adidas rolled out a teaser for every team. Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.net made a video about each team’s possible reverse retro garb.

There will be some hits, but there will be plenty of misses. I’m sure when it comes down to it, the idea of these will be in the eye of the beholder. Granted, this is great for the Hockey Relater Revenue that the NHL will need with the lack of fans in the stands, I don’t know if I like the road they are going down in terms of saturating the market with jerseys. It’s almost akin to the NBA and their “City” jerseys that Nike puts out every year for those teams.

I will concede that this is a new way to look at a retro jersey and that the actual retro jersey fad has been lacking any kind of excitement, I don’t know if this idea is any better or worse than the Stadium Series jerseys which basically are a “Turn Ahead The Clock” gimmick for teams playing in it. There’s only so many jerseys to look to and NHL has a lot of people claiming to be traditionalists that hate the idea of going too far outside of the box with retros.

Granted, I could be put into that latter box; but I feel myself more of the idea that these are going to look hideous and it’s just a Bullshit Cash Grab by the NHL and Adidas because they know people will clamor to these to be apart of the next wave of things.

Maybe it’ll be like the alternate jersey program in the mid-90s when it was just no-holds-barred and what was silly then will hold some kind of prestige after the fact. Hell, they may even be really, really good. But I won’t hold my breathe on either as of yet.

Could the IceRays Suspension Start a Lower Division Trend??

On Monday, the Corpus Christi IceRays suspended operations for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID pandemic and the concern for their team, fans, families, and the like. The positive cases in Nueces County is probably a cause of this, with 18,000 positive cases and 303 deaths; while also having severe outbreaks at living facilities and even the Houston Astros’ alternate site.

While this might usually go to my Clutch And Crab Hockey blog since it’s about the NAHL, this is something that could be the first of several teams making the tough decision to shutter down for the 2020-21 hockey season. Not just because of the ramifications of COVID, but also the uncertainty of the border opening for some leagues and differing regulations from state-to-state in regards to people needing to quarantine before being able to move about the area freely.

For the vast majority of minor league and junior teams, the box office is the biggest contributor for survival. Depending upon the regulations for the area, I would not be shocked to see more of these announcements coming out and leading to a big shuffle for teams and leagues to change schedules and for parent team– finding a spot for their prospective players. You see some NHL teams loaning out prospects to European clubs.

Could there be an off-chance that league make some kind of bubble season?? It’s an outside chance, sure. You have to think that they’d need to find a locale that could handle that sort of thing and then figure out logistics for it. Whether it looks like the NHL bubble or the MLS’ round-robin type tournament, a kind of season or tournament could be had for players and leagues to stay up and running; though it wouldn’t bring in as much money for the team or leagues that they would have hoped…it’d be at least something so they wouldn’t need to shut down for another season and have to deal with being without an end to two seasons of play.

Even with these measures, you never know what teams could still opt out because it’s not in the best interest of the team or community or anyone involved. That’s always a fear for some teams to get into a bubble and then have issues arise that set them back a little more than just opting out. We’re headed for a very odd time for lower division hockey, mostly because they are community based and provide a service to their area and should have a civil duty to help protect their community. Because of that duty, you’d have to think we’ll hear more suspension of operations due to playing not being in the best interest of the team and the area due to this pandemic.