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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dallas Stars Announce New GM, Joe Nieuwendyk

Per stars.nhl.com, the Dallas Stars have replaced co-GMs Les Jackson and Brett Hull with former Stars Stanley Cup MVP, Joe Nieuwendyk. Both Jackson and Hull remain with the organization in new positions.

Nieuwy returns to Dallas after having spent the previous season as Special Assistant to the GM in Toronto.

Having won the Cup three times with three different teams, the Stars hope Nieuwyndek, 42, brings his winning ways to his latest passion...the hockey Executive.

The 1999 MVP was and still is immensley popular in Dallas and the move, as it ripples through the fan base, will surely help the enthusiasm for the return of regular season hockey in Dallas, TX.

Go to the Stars website and read the rest here.
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If I Was Evil And It Was My Arena

I recently had some conversations with my brother about what I would do if I were a Hockey arena owner in support of my team and rules be d---ed. These are offered in the spirit of fun only. Here are my suggestions, and I know you likely have some of your own:

Pre-Game Foreshadowing

It is important to set the psychological tone with your opponent from the moment they arrive. You know, to let them know what they might be up against. So whether they flew into the town or drove, they are going to arrive in either a bus or some form of limousine. That being the case, visitor parking for incoming team vehicles would be at the farthest possible end of the parking lot and explained away as poor arena engineering that would be the first deficiency fixed once I began turning a profit with the team.

In The Locker Room

These ideas are either dreamed up by me, are a compilation of the first-hand jokes, or are from historical records from PUL (Pick-Up League), the WHA, and/or the NHL.

The Visitors might not have a Locker Room. This was the case with the WHA’s team in New Jersey, which forced the visiting team to get dressed in their hotel, then ride over and back from the game in uniform. This shortcoming would, of course, be a result of poor arena engineering that would be the first deficiency fixed with the turning of profit thing. If there was no dressing room, I would, of course, have benches in a hallway for them to use in between periods. (The hallway temperature would be set in the 85-to-90 degrees Fahrenheit realm, there would not be enough benches for the entire visiting squad, and, of course, bathrooms would be plastic port-o-johns, outside of the building, and not regularly cleaned. With my increased profits, I would turn on the air conditioning and clean out those –johns at least weekly.)

But if the visitors DID have a Locker Room, it would be 1/2 the size of the home team’s, again with the little-to-no air conditioning situation, possessing of a broken ice machine, missing a skate sharpener, and with stalls that you could barely squeeze into and that, again, did not accommodate everyone on the visiting roster. I might even pump in very loud, annoying music that either jumps from one genre to the next with the end of every song, or repeats, say, The
William Tell Overture in a never-ending loop.

Getting To The Bench

This would be ‘special time’ for the visiting team. You could go with the old Madison Square Garden theme where the visitors had to go up and down a flight of concrete stairs to get onto their bench. You know, just to test the tensile strength of their skates.

I am a personal fan,
however, of making only one access point onto the Visitor’s Bench that require a long, winding stroll along the same concourse as the home crowd going to their seats. It would not take long for the home fans to join in the revelry of the ‘Walk of Shame.’

Game Conditions

Like in the old Boston Gardens, the visiting bench would be shorter than the home bench. It would also be made of the most uncomfortable pine-like, faux wooden substance known to man, and the boards would be about two inches higher on their side than ours. This is all so they wouldn’t forget they came and played in our building.

The row of water bottle holders on their bench would be heated. Their floor would also be thin enough so we could pump some heat onto the visiting bench as the game went on, providing a good old fashioned ‘Hot Seat’ welcome.

There would be some form of direct signal interference focused at any audio devices being used by the Visiting Coaching Staff. Oh, and doors to that bench would stick an awful lot of the time. This would be remedied once profits, well, you know.

The Jumbotron scoreboard would be constructed and hung in such a manner that the Visitor’s bench would have their own, private view of the display from where they sat/stood. That view would include a time clock that was slower than all others in the arena by a good 30 seconds, and scores and penalties would never display correctly. The video picture would also always only show on one-half of their screen.

There would be no children allowed in the three rows of seats behind the opponent’s bench. That is because we would scout as heavily as the Chicago Blackhawks do for their in-between-periods puck shooting contestants, but instead, for a home town crowd imminently qualified to sit in the ‘Rehabilitation Section’ – the ‘R.S.’, one of our projects designed to ‘give back to our community.’ That’s right, the best local felons we could muster would sit for free in this area and tell the visiting team how much they are respected throughout the contest.
The ‘R.S.’ would share the visitors’ bench view of the Jumbotron which would not make them happy, right up until the moment in a game where we scored. Once we potted a goal, the brightest durn halogen lights you can legally purchase would flash in time with the most annoying siren built by man directly down on the visiting goalie AND his bench. This would surely make the players on the bench cringe, and violently crank up the ‘R.S.’

Finally, as the piece de resistance, in the late third period, with us possessing at least a couple of goals’ lead, I would heat up the ice surface just enough to ensure slushy conditions affected the puck’s and skaters’ performances. Bounces and puck stoppages without anyone touching the puck would accompany a tougher skating requirement when players are most worn out.

Talking about putting your heart and soul into a Win…


Such would be the psychological beating I would put on the visitor’s to my rink. As they sing in Fiddler On The Roof, “…If I were a wealthy man…” would be my cover for the true home ice advantage. Not to worry, however, Mr. Bettman. When the dust settled last weekend, they failed to call out my set of numbers for the $222 Million Powerball, again. So there is no jeopardy of the above coming to fruition.

Ah, but a fella can dream, can’t he?

Take me to http://www.ongoalanalysis.com/
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Friday, May 22, 2009

DETnalysis: Finding a Chink In The Armor

We at On Goal Analysis (OGA) are rooting against the Red Wings tonight because we don’t want our Hockey season to end too quickly. A 3-0 deficit for the upstart Chicago Blackhawks would be too much of a hill to climb in the playoffs, and we don’t want to see a four-or-five game series here. So we took a hard look at Detroit to see where they are truly weak.

There is not much to find in this search. Where we could find these potential chinks in Red Wing armor, we provide notes below in the hopes the ‘Hawks can extend this series for a while.

The Breakdown In Minutes

Looking at scoring minute-by-minute over Detroit’s 13 contests, we found three points in time when they have issues:

1. The 2nd Period overall. Admittedly, the Wings are 7-3-3 (leading-losing-tied) in terms of outscoring their opponent in this period. Not much of a margin. But consider they are 15-1-8 in outscoring their opponents in the 1st and 3rd stanzas.

2. Specifically, in the last three minutes of the 2nd Period. This is the only stretch in a game where they have been outscored (4-0) by their opponents. This point and number 1 above suggests their characteristic of play – their hustle – has some kind of a minor letdown in the 2nd Period which is exploitable if the ‘Hawks can ramp up their play at this time.

3. The 3rd Period ‘Dead Zone.’ The Wings have been outscored 3-0 in the 9th through 15th minutes of the third period. In terms of the game’s lead, going into that 9th minute, the Wings sat at 7-2-4, or with just under half of the games still undecided. On average, their lead at that point was only an overall 1.08 goals. Scoring in this goal ‘Dead Zone’ might turn the tide and should be thought of as ‘storing up nuts for winter’ considering the ‘Wings have outscored their opponents 9-0 in the last four minutes of regulation.


A full 56.3% of all Detroit goals have come off the sticks of four players: Franzen (9); Zetterberg (7); Cleary (6); and Samuelsson (5). So there are two, and possibly three lines to subvert. No team has three checking lines, BUT there are specific times in a game when this quartet has been dominant:

1. Cleary – 3 of 6 goals after minute 7 in the 1st Period.

2. Franzen - 3 of 9 goals after minute 10 in the 1st Period; 2 of 9 goals in minutes 3 through 5 of the 3rd Period; and 2 PPGs in minutes 17 through 19 of the 3rd period.

3. Samuelsson – 3 of 5 goals from minute 16 of the 2nd through minute 7 of the 3rd Periods.

4. Zetterberg – 3 of 7 goals in minutes 13 though 15 of the 2nd Period; 4 of 7 goals in the last three minutes of the game (3 empty netters).

Said another way, Detroit Playoff performance indicates: Cleary is strong later in the 1st period; Franzen in the last half of the 1st and early/late in the 3rd; Samuelsson late in the 2nd into the early 3rd; and Zetterberg in the middle of the 2nd and at the end of the game. Admittedly, the above is tactical knowledge only the coaches on the bench could fight with by adjusting line combinations as appropriate. But it also potentially indicates WHEN Coach Babcock has these players putting out more effort on the ice.

It is important to also note here that the above mentioned players have NOT been dominant on the PP, accounting for only four of Detroit’s 15 PPGs. A full six, or 40% of, PPGs have come from defensemen indicating more pressure needs to go out on the points. This is something the ‘Hawks can do with their speed.

And finally, there is the ‘Two Goals In A Row’ rule. Detroit has a habit of shooting for what we call the ‘Surge Goal’ – a score within five minutes of an opponent’s goal in order to swing the game’s momentum back in their favor. When an opponent scores, they counter with Hitting and SOG pressure with a design to put something in the net and give them back their comfort zone. In only five of 13 contests did they let the opponent score two goals in a row. One was Game 4 versus Columbus which they almost lost. They did so in all three losses to the Ducks. And they did it again in Game 7 versus Anaheim which came up one goal short of seeing their departure from this post-season. Chicago needs to therefore score, and then INCREASE pressure to score consecutive goals versus resting on any laurels as this will take Detroit out of their mental comfort zone.


In doing a minute-by-minute analysis of the Red Wings this post-season, their margin of victory has not been as great as their 10-4 record says. Since we at OGA are rooting for a longer series, we hope the ’Hawks exploit: the 2nd Period overall; the 3rd Period goal ‘Dead Zone’; selectively, Detroit’s top four scorers when they are strongest; the points on the PP; and consecutive goal scoring to defeat the ‘Wings and guarantee us a longer Conference Finals out west.

Take me to www.ongoalanalysis.com
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

One Question, Mr. Balsillie...

Those who read below may think I am anti-moving Phoenix to Eastern Canada. That is not necessarily so.

I believe in two things: 1) Growing the sport of Hockey; and 2) from my military background, order and discipline equals success more often than not. I also believe in fairness, so I know some good hard questions help you make a proper choice and I am not yet 100% sold on a personal stance in this matter.

I think the Pro's are:

1. Canada is a proven market for the game and Phoenix is in financial distress, so moving the team to Canada makes better business sense in terms of getting butts in seats, the game on TV/cable/satellite, and producing a money-making franchise.

2. The kind of money Mr. Balsillie is offering goes a long way toward solving issues with paying back Phoenix's creditors.

The Con's are:

1. Mr. Balsillie is an outsider, Bill Gates-type personality. I am a Microsoft fan because I think they have great products. But many think Bill Gates, the biggest software insider, is a bully who finds new pieces to his software empire in small tech companies and buys them out to assimilate their parts into his whole. Mr. Balsillie is an NHL management outsider who is attempting to circumvent the system, buy himself a team, and by default become an insider. Both Mr. Gates and Mr. Balsillie are passionate about that which they seek and are either good for their overall sector, or could potentially be good for it. But there are procedures to follow with respect to the NHL and Mr. Balsillie is not following them.

2. As we know from the Lockout days and other incidents in the NHL's history, the League is most healthy when management, owners and players all work in concert. A maverick buying his way in with discontent, not just disagreement, from all three of those entities is not good for the League's overall health.

That said up front, I have a question for Mr. Balsillie I have not heard asked yet which would sway my personal feelings in this matter.

If you are as intent on securing a franchise in Canada as you say, how come your name is not seriously mentioned in the potential sale of the Montreal Canadiens?

I'm just asking. Because if the answer is that he is just not interested in purchasing that successful team, then it looks like his sole purpose for buying Phoenix is to get his team, his way, and move it where he wants to. The only places that works are when you are either starting your own business, or you are the top dog on the food chain of a particular business sector. If he is not equally interested in the Canadiens, then I would have to say I am completely against his actions like it appears Mr. Bettman is because he is trying to do something he wants to do his own way, something unhealthy for Hockey. And at a time when Hockey is on the rise in popularity, this could sour potential, new fans on our sport.

If the answer on the other hand is simply that such a purchase is not in his own financial best interests for some reason, then, with some compromise, there might just be room for Mr. Balsillie in the NHL. The compromise has to come on at least two levels:

1. Don't attempt to bully the NHL into letting you in. If I had a bazillion dollars, I'd want to own a team myself. But I am sure the best route is to declare your intentions and work with the League to secure one because you are going to have to work with the League and all 29 other ownership groups to be successful. Web sites to incite eastern Canada against the League offices, and attempts to storm the courts to force your way in endears you to nobody.

2. If my goal is to grow the sport of Hockey, then I would want to find the best place to put a team in the United States. No offense intended, Canada, but there is not much more growth you can achieve except by population explosion - the vast majority of your nation considers Hockey a religion. The United States is ripe for harvesting, however. For example, the fact that you can see youth programs and high school Hockey now being played all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex 16 years after the Stars moved south attests to growth of our favorite sport. That is a population area of millions who, prior to the Stars, only had Dallas and Ft. Worth minor league teams. Any kind of youth program was the very biggest of exceptions to the rule.

Putting those two tactics to use might just land you a team, Sir, and bring one of the most financially viable candidates to own a franchise into the League. I fear not doing so will see you 0-3 against the League and likely never secure the other 29 owner's simultaneous support.

So Mr. Balsillie, is it that you just want it your way, on your terms and where you want it?

If the answer to the above is "Yes!" Burger King is down the street and always lets you have it your way. We will see you in the ticket line like the rest of us because that is how you are going to get into a building.

And if compromise is indeed on your mind, I would offer that the League needs to give you due consideration.

Take me back to www.ongoalanalysis.com

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Playoff (Series) Winning Percentages And What They Mean

One of the most difficult things to do is predict Wins in the Playoffs. Or so it seems. What kind of effort it takes on average to win series is not as simple as saying “…It takes 16 to lift The Cup….” Just look at the first round of this season’s Playoffs with three, four-game series when the average is one, and three, seven-game series in the second round when the average is just a bit under one (1). Bedlam, I say! Mayhem, even!

So just how have the Playoffs looked since the Lockout? (We can do the math for all series up through and including the second round of this post-season because we know there are three match-ups left which all go to a Game 7.)

The average winning percentage for teams who conquer a series is 71.25% (228 Wins out of 320 games played). Translated into the ‘W,’ this means on average the team winning a Playoff series is the victor a bit less than three-out-of-every-four games. It is noteworthy to point out that, based on that same average winning percentage, it also takes 5.61 games to take a series.

Prior to this post-season, however, the average winning percentage was 72.29%, it took 83 total games for series winners to decide matchups each season, and the average number of games to win a series was 5.53.

What has caused change to the overall averages?

Despite having two more rounds to go before we declare a Stanley Cup winner, we have already tied or surpassed the number of losses teams have suffered prior to winning their series. In layman’s terms, there are more Playoff games being played. The average number of first round games played is 45. This season saw just 44, due in large measure to the three series that only stretched to four games each. Second round series averaged 20.67 games leading up to this year, but we will have seen 27 games by the end of the night on May 15th. In 2009, and due in large measure to a total of five, 7-Game series played so far, the average winning percentage has only been 67.6%, with a required minimum of 5.91 games to clinch a series.

What does this tell us?

Overall it is a key indicator of the parity so sought after and now more prevalent in the League than in any year since the Lockout. That means the experiment has been successful. But it also means:

1. More games for fans to watch
2. More excitement and its spinoff, trash talk, so more media is in play/use
3. More television/cable/satellite viewers than in previous seasons
4. More new fans brought to The Great Game!
5. More revenue from advertising and Hockey product sales
6. And as a bottom line, a much healthier NHL.

I am right here, rooting for that young fan having the 1980 moment I had – the point where he or she discovers the game of Hockey, and hopefully in a developing market area. This, after all, is how we evolve into a sport that surpasses American football, basketball and MLB.

We want more! Play on, NHL, play on!
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mike Modano is Returning...

Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars made it official today...

“I’ve made my decision and I’m coming back to play,” Modano said. “I think everyone eventually knew I was going to come back, but I still wanted to take some time and think about things. Watching everyone else playing in the playoffs helped push me to make the decision."
Hockey is so in the blood. Modano will compete in his 20th season in the NHL in 2009-10.

Good news for Stars' fans and for the NHL as a whole...

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.com
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Friday, May 8, 2009

More PP in OT, anyone?

I read this week that the NHL Competition Committee was just one vote shy of changing playoff OT to 4-on-4 (H/T to Puck Daddy). In the words of Wayne Campbell, "Are you mental?" In the playoffs, does the NFL play 10-on-10 in OT, or maybe resort to a field goal kicking contest? Does the NBA play 4-on-4? Does MLB put in coaches to toss batting-practice balls to the hitters? HELL NO! Only soccer (football, footie or futbol if you're reading this outside North America) resorts to penalty kicks, but that's merely a nod to the reality that futbol matches could literally go on for days before a goal is scored. Simply put, hockey ain't soccer.

Here's a radical idea for the Competition Committee: Guys, instead of focusing your efforts on bastardizing The Great Game, why not call on NHL Officials to call effin' penalties in OT the same way they do in the first effin' period? Ducks-Red Wings went to triple-OT the other night, and only ONE penalty was called in the first two overtimes? Seriously? Did the players really clean up their acts that much for OT? If you believe that, I've got an NHL franchise in the desert I'd like to sell you (sorry, 'Yotes fans - I couldn't resist).

If the refs, who have long held the opinion that "we don't want to decide the game", could understand that by not calling obvious penalties in OT, they are giving the guilty team an unfair advantage and potentially influencing the outcome of the game, while certainly prolonging said game, I think we would see more PP in OT, which would result in fewer multi-overtime games. Problem solved(though whether or not a "problem" even exists is debateable).

Take me back to On Goal Analysis
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What Canada Doesn't Understand About Hockey

Undoubtedly, hockey fans across Canada are in high spirits today: Not only did their Canucks defeat the Blackhawks, 3-1, to take a 2-1 series lead, but the Phoenix Coyotes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Since the franchise relocated to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996, many Canadians have been rooting/hoping/wishing/praying for its' failure. I've been a fan of The Great Game long enough to understand and appreciate the Canadian view of hockey (which, in many respects, is quite similar to the Texan view of football - somewhere between sport and religion, and closer to the latter). With all due respect to the country that gave birth to hockey, Canadians who would dance on the Coyotes' grave, and who would like to see the other "non-traditional market" teams - Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and Florida in particular - fail are, themselves, failing to see and understand the big picture.

Here's a (not so) crazy idea, Canada: Instead of focusing your efforts and prayers on the demise of the NHL in the southern U.S., why not cheer for the success of those franchises? If the Nashvilles, Atlantas and Floridas of the league can remain viable, the door can be opened for expansion. What did I just say? You heard me: EXPANSION.

Provided the southern U.S. franchises can stabilize and remain viable, I see the door opening for expansion to a 32-team NHL. Where would those new franchises go? While Las Vegas and Kansas City are most commonly mentioned, I think the league would be foolish not to pursue the recently-floated idea of a second franchise in Toronto, and on a personal level, I'd love to see the Jets (as an expansion franchise) flying high over Winnipeg again.

Why not simply relocate, say, the Coyotes and Thrashers? Because abandoning those (or any other) markets would be a step backwards, a defeat, for the NHL and for hockey itself. The truth of the matter is that any non-traditional market team can be viable - successful, even - provided they are successful on the ice. Even the Coyotes, whose previous owner shot them in the foot by building the arena across town from their fan base, could get fans to make the drive by putting up Ws and making a little noise in the playoffs. As General Patton (George C. Scott) said at the beginning of his biopic:
"...Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser."

Won't expansion dilute the talent pool, lowering the quality of play and dragging the NHL back down the path toward the "dead puck" era? No, it won't, and here's why: Thanks to the NHL's expansion into non-traditional (southern U.S.) markets, the talent pool is now expanding. Look, for example, at the US National Team Developmental Program's Under-18 team: The roster features a goalie from Florida and two skaters from Texas. The US NTDP U-17 roster is even more diversified, with four forwards from California and one each from Texas, Colorado, Las Vegas and...wait for it...Arizona. Kids who grew up playing hockey in Texas and Florida are now popping up in Canada's major junior leagues and in big-time NCAA Division I programs. Kids across the southern U.S. (like Tex Jr.) who would otherwise be playing football, basketball, baseball or soccer, are now choosing hockey...and it's all because of the NHL's expansion/relocation below the Mason-Dixon line.

So Canada, I'd like to invite you aboard the NHL Expansion Train. Remember, though: It's because of the non-traditional market teams that the talent pool is growing, which will only improve the quality of play, which will, in turn, bring in new fans (increasing TV viewership and league revenues accordingly), which will allow the NHL to expand to 32 teams...And a note to Gary Bettman: When the NHL does expand again, it's time to reward the country that gave birth to The Great Game, and Toronto and Winnipeg would seem to be most deserving.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pierre McGuire and Fighting in the NHL

It happens. We sit there listening to the TV with pre-conceived notions and those thoughts mutate what is actually processed in the brain. Such is the case with many listeners to TSN and NBC as regards Pierre McGuire.

Hockey purists and fans ranging from brand new to seasoned veterans become highly charged when they see a brawl. It draws in new fans, is an accepted practice with the seasoned observer, and is revered as a piece of the very fabric that is our favorite sport. I’m not gonna lie to myself or any of you, it also sells tickets.

Over the course of several telecasts, however, a growing impression that Pierre McGuire is against fighting totally and completely has emerged.

On Goal Analysis’ Colonel put Pierre on the spot and asked him what is acceptable. His response was, “…I am against staged fights. No problem with fights that happen out of reaction…” (email message on 2 May 2009, 9:21am).

Hard to argue with that. In our analysis, and not from further expounding by Pierre himself, this man is a dedicated analyst and true advocate of all things Hockey. You know, as in terms of faceoff skill, hard skating, good passing, great shooting and spectacular saves or magic goals. Two players, both over six feet and 220 pounds, coming onto the ice merely to drop gloves and pound on each other for the simple reason they are on the payroll to chuck knuckles, wouldn’t be considered Hockey to this man. On the other hand, a player in the heat of the moment, at the edge of the crease, and down by a goal, taking liberties by whacking at a goalie who has captured and is holding onto the puck which results in a donnybrook? THAT is a result of the emotions of Hockey that say on one hand ‘WIN!’ and on the other, ‘Defend your goalie and your potential victory.’ Such a scrum is a result of the elusive chase for the bottom line we all understand – win or go home with your tail tucked between your legs, and that is an acceptable part of the game.

Is Pierre McGuire completely against Hockey and therefore a heretic run amuck in our favorite sport? NO! That is most decidedly not the case. He just believes there is a proper time and place, and removed from the circumstances of the emotions governing game performance just to ‘do it’ is neither.