Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Donald Fehr's the man, plus touching upon possible NHLPA decertification

Granted, he's no angel, but the NHLPA did well hiring him.

Yeah, the haters can let loose and talk about baseball and the loss of the 1994 World Series, but has there been a work stoppage since?

And for those who say the players should just take what's been offered and get back to playing, put a sock in it...

and get a life.

Sorry that you have no focal point for you docile life now that hockey's gone, but that's not the fault of hockey. There's plenty of hockey outside of the NHL to watch as the AHL is stronger and the minor leagues offer glimpses of future NHL greatness.

Oh, you're not interested in that? Not interested in what those have to offer? Won't pay to see second and third-rate hockey?

Thank you. You justified why the players make what they do. The average AHL attendance for last season was 5638. The Phoenix Coyotes, whipping-boy for everything that's wrong with Commish Gary Bettman and the foibles of NHL owners, had an average home attendance of 12,420.

"The players are spoiled millionaires," you say, "while I bust my ass just happy to have a job and make what I make."

Dump that thought.

Once again, any comparisons between professional athletes and "Average Joe" need to stop immediately and y'all need to get your head straight. Nobody in their right mind would spend money to watch "Average Joe" unload a truck, crunch numbers at an accounting firm, design a building, or flip a cheeseburger. About the closest thing is watching a "Cocktail"-like bartender ply his trade or a Japanese chef swirl his knives while cooking your dinner. In which case, there's no admission charge as the entertainment is paid for by tips. (btw, the better the bartender or chef, the more they make which might be construed as a Pro athlete/Average Joe comparable)

So get over yourself. Sidney Crosby should never be compared to "Joe Schmoe." Nor should the NHL be compared to any other business in the "real world."

Jeremy White is a world-class owner apologist whenever the lockout comes up on WGR. "The players are paid well, they should take their cut and play hockey," he says. And he also says that there is no partnership, the owners own the business and they're in charge.

White, like many of us "Average Joe's," doesn't fully understand the relationship of owners, players and U.S. anti-trust laws either.

A caller on The Hockey Hotline yesterday laid out the relationship very well, and here it is in a nutshell:
  • There are anti-trust laws in the U.S. that say there cannot be a monopoly in an area of business.
  • The NHL (like the other major U.S. sports) have a monopoly on their sport.
  • They dictate the professional life of an NHL player from being drafted, to the minors to his entry-level contract, to restricted free agency to the point of unrestricted free agency.
  • They also, as a group, the owners say how much a player can make on his entry-level contract and through the cap, at all stages of his career.
  • The NHL is in complete control, and it would be illegal in the United States except for the existence of the players union and the negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the two sides.
  • Through that agreement, the players allow the league that control as long as they are compensated (in their eyes) fairly.
The fact is, there is a partnership between the NHL and NHLPA and it exists because of the CBA. If the NHLPA union decertified, like the NFLPA did a little while back, the NHL would be in violation of United States anti-trust laws in terms of monopolizing a business. (*quick note, those laws seem to be softening in favor of the owners)

I'd bet that most fans never even considered the aforementioned partnership of pro sports ownership and their respective unions.

As for Fehr, he knows what he's doing. He knows how to decipher offers, how to bargain (if the other side is ready to sit down at the table) and he's a great communicator with his constituents.

From the get-go, he knew what was coming and told the players to put money away (two years salary) as the owners were serious about this lockout.

From the first offer made by the NHL, he explained to the players what the offer was and how it would affect their career (not that much needed to be explained with that nonsensical offer.)

He's a shrewd negotiator and has kept his agenda on the table, much to the consternation of the NHL, knowing full well where the NHL wants to be.

Fehr keeps the players informed and will travel anywhere they want him to as evidenced by his trip to Minnesota in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

But, through all of this, his biggest task will be to keep his 700 constituents together as one. Right now, any cracks in the union are hairline, as the players won't feel the full affects of the lockout financially until next month when there will be no income coming in ( they just received their one and only escrow check.)

Fehr was in Minnesota briefing players on the lastest developments and sat down with Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Mike Russo (via CBSSportlsine's Brian Stubitz) and admitted that there are some fractures in the union but said, 'it doesn't mean you make a bad deal because of it.'

He also knows (and has always known, one would think) that there eventually be a 50/50 split of revenues between the NHL and the players. How they end up there remains to be worked out as well as a bevy of other "smaller issues" that are on the table, but he is willing to work and to keep the best interests of his constituency in mind.

Former NHLPA reps Bob Goodenow and Paul Kelly opened the door to the salary-cap world in 2004. With that in place the owners seem hell-bent upon wringing everything they can out of the players, not only to increase revenues but also to cover their own foibles and constant missteps.

With those salary-cap floodgates open, Fehr is trying to place the responsibility of the owner's problems in it's proper place, right on their laps, not where the owner's want to place it, with the players.

If there ever was a negotiator to get the job done on behalf of the players, it's Donald Fehr.

Addendum from the Washington Post, November 21, 2012 by Thomas Boswell on Donald Fehr

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jeremy Jacobs takes his hockey net and stomps on home

"I wanna play center!"

"No, you can't."

"If I don't play center, I'm taking my net and going home."

"Go ahead."

*stomp, stomp, stomp*

Anyone who's played street hockey knows the scenario, and it's exactly what the NHL owners' reaction to the NHLPA "counter offer" sounded like to me.

It took 10 minutes for the NHL to take their net home. Apparently Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs just walked out followed by his younger "brother," Commisioner Gary Bettman, and his "cousin," Deputy Commisioner, Bill Daly.

We also know what happens after they leave. We continue playing on with what we have.

Eventually there's an agreement somewhere down the road as he's allowed to play some forward and everyone gets back to playing hockey.

Seems like the NHL is locked into bullying their way into an agreement that, in the words of Phoenix forward, Shane Doan, not only demands the money from the players, but hurts them as well.

“After the proposal was made, they did what they’ve done before,” NHLPA Director Donald Fehr said. “They take a very few minutes - they don’t think about it very much, they don’t analyze it, they don’t talk to the other owners, they don’t do anything. They take less than 10 minutes, maybe it was 15…and we are told two things. All three proposals are rejected in their entirety and secondly, the proposal we recently got is their best offer."

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News puts it plainly, "This is going to get nasty now," in his fine piece on the NHL rejection of the NHLPA's offers.

No matter what happens, the picture I get from this latest session is Jacobs, Bettman and Daly stomp on home saying, "I want to play center," and the players say, "Go ahead."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NHL cranking up the propaganda machine trying to sway public opinion

Let's face it, during the last lockout the NHL clearly had the public on it's side and proceeded to win by a landslide the last contract.

This time 'round it's a little more complicated with the public squarely on the players side.

The NHL is trying to sway the public to it's side. It's latest tactic is it's surprise contract proposal. This was after they hire noted focus group guru/pr/marketing/Republican strategist, Frank Luntz.

In my post yesterday, I was hinting that the NHL was twitching and getting ready to blink. Maybe it is that, or maybe they were readying themselves for the big offensive.

The league touted it's latest proposal headlining it with a 50/50 split with the players. Which is all well and good. In fact I'd hazard to guess that most players see the writing on the wall and are planning on that as part of their future.

But, like with all things, "the devil's in the details," and the big question is, "50% of what?"

Then there are the other issues that you can read here as the NHL posted their proposal on their web site.

You can read all the gobbledy-gook you want, take in all the numbers and do all the calculating you want, but the second line should give you all you need to know, "HRR Accounting: Current HRR Accounting subject to mutual clarification of existing interpretations and settlements."

"Mutual clarification of existing interpretations and settlements." Which means that they have not clearly defined HRR, which means that the question remains, "50% of what."
Upon further review, most everybody who reads this proposal sees it heavily weighted in favor of the owners.

But...All they had to do (thanks to Frank Luntz) was throw out that 50/50 split, and the PR campaign to sway hockey fans was on. Didn't matter what was in the details,"50/50" was all they'd need to get the propaganda machine moving.

Union Chief Donald Fehr countered in his letter to the players, outlined here. Once again, feel free to look it over, but it's safe to say that Fehr didn't like the details.

Sure, both sides got their message out via the electronic media. And in this day and age, message board instantly fill up.

But it's interesting to note that the NHL must have some serious plants working the boards.

For instance, as I was typing yesterday's piece, I grabbed some early message board reaction to the contract proposal and added their like/dislike +/-.

Even while I was copying and pasting, their plus/minus doubled or tripled, now it's off the charts. Some responses I charted yesterday with where they are today (pgs. 68, 69 on the message board):
  • '50/50 is a great offer and the players should take it - if they refuse, they can kiss the little public support they have goodbye!! Well done NHL!'---Yesterday +50, today +633
  • 'TAKE IT!!!!!!'  +46, +423
  • '50/50 split and salvage all 82 games. Sounds fair to me. Take it and lets play some hockey' +44, +474
  • 'NHL just made a 50-50 revenue split offer. If they PA doesn't accept this offer I don't know anymore' +35, +347
And if you go through the messages, you'll see large, weighted pluses next to anti-Fehr/anti-player posts.

Same thing with Fehr's notes to his players on TSN. Look it up:
  • Every time i hear Fehr speak or write something down, my disdain for him and the players position
  • In other words: Lost season. Tables are turning. Fehr now looking greedy +223
Etc. etc.

They even went to the negative:
Interesting about the Make Whole concept. Owners are still offering malarkey. Fehr should continue to wait for better proposals -165
The NHL is on the offensive, and Frank Luntz gave them direction.

Don't be fooled. The NHL didn't hire the master of marketing propaganda, Frank Luntz, for nothing.

And they'll use every means necessary to get what they want.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Hiring Frank Luntz is yet another twitch by the NHL in the lockout standoff

    Not much has happen in the month since the owners locked out the players. It would seem as if both sides are in a staring contest waiting for the other to blink.

    Although the owners have yet to blink, over the last couple of weeks it looks as if they're developing a severe twitch.

    NHL Deputy Commisioner Bill Daly has been parading out financial numbers since this thing began. The first of which was that the teams missed out on $90-100M in revenues from lost preseason games.

    Next, after the owners cancelled the first two weeks of the season, Daly comes out last week and says that the NHL was in jeopardy of a cumulative $240M loss without those regular season games.

    And the NHL is making sure that the world knows the players are losing out too. Said Daly, 'That's 240 that we both lose. It's not just the league that's losing that money. The players are sharing on some basis in that. Some substantial basis. Whether that's 57 percent, or whether that's 50 percent or whether that's 47 percent. It's some basis and it's a significant basis.'

    Yes, that's true, kind of. The players are still receiving checks, for now, via the escrow they paid last season, but we get the point.

    And looking at this from last week, it would seem as if the NHL's getting a little antsy, 'We're encouraging [the NHLPA] to make a proposal," said Daly. "We've suggested to them to make the proposal because any movement is better than no movement at all.'

    All well and good. The verbiage in the above statement dictates a stronger sense of urgency, but the NHLPA, lead by veteran negotiator Donald Fehr, is sitting back and taking its time. It was said that they have a counter proposal, but Fehr hasn't released it, for whatever reasons he has.

    In the meantime, the court of public opinion seems to be on the side of the players in all of this. Fans of the sport saw a giveback by the NHLPA during the last lockout. They're also well aware of the enormous contracts given out to players this past summer all while the league is crying poor.

    The NHL doesn't like that, especially when the fans were clearly on their side in 2004. So to steer their campaign in the proper direction they hired Luntz Global to put together a focus group. The group of 30 NHL fans was greeted by Frank Luntz, top-Republican strategist and frequent Fox News contributor. He's the guy who has his focus groups hold that little gadget in their hands for instant positive or negative reaction to what's unfolding before them.

    One of the participants of the NHL focus group shared photos of the questionnaire with Deadspin who proceeded to jump all over it. ' Here's a look at the bullshit on the menu before the league serves it to you,' wrote columnist Barry Petchesky as he laid out the forthecoming "propaganda" campaign from the NHL.

    Petchesky also gave a little background on the Luntz Group complete with a multitude of links.

    The piece stands on it's own so take the time to read it (and in this election year, take even more time to click on the links in the Luntz Global paragraph.)

    Whether the focus group is looked upon as more strategy than desperation on the part of the NHL, it does show that they're starting to twitch in this stare down.


    TSN is reporting that the NHL put an offer on the table to the NHLPA "which includes a 50/50 split."

    No further details were reported as to the length of the agreement, when the 50/50 split begins or whether or not they've come to a definition of hockey related revenue.

    Methinks that the leak of the above mentioned focus group helped spur along the process. Methinks also that they will tout this, as noted in the Deadspin piece, as "shared sacrifice."

    Without details of the offer, right now public opinion is swaying in the direction of the owners.

    Some of the responses (as of 1:05PM) from the TSN article:

    • '50/50 is a great offer and the players should take it - if they refuse, they can kiss the little public support they have goodbye!! Well done NHL!'  +50
    • 'TAKE IT!!!!!!'  +46 
    • '50/50 split and salvage all 82 games. Sounds fair to me. Take it and lets play some hockey' +44
    • 'NHL just made a 50-50 revenue split offer. If they PA doesn't accept this offer I don't know anymore' +35

    Once again, there are no details being shown. But it looks as if Luntz has done well for the owners.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    SpongeBob may hold keys to Ryan Fitzpatrick's inaccuracies

    Artist Unknown is an episode featuring that little yellow sponge, SpongeBob, taking an art class.

    Not unlike Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, SpongeBob approaches "learning" art with glowing admiration for the teacher.

    Early on the teacher, Squidward, introduces Spongebob to the class by saying, "Art is not all fun and games, it's a lot of hard work" as he plops a ton of "art" books on the teachers desk. Then follows that up by having SpongeBob repeat, "I have no talent."

    Despite displaying an natural talent that leads to a perfect statue of David, Squidward insists "you gotta go by the book, follow the rules."

    It's not that Fitzpatrick has been perfect throughout his football career, nor is it that he has the tools to pull off a Aaron Rogers-like 6 TD, 0 INT, 133QB rating, long-ball performance. He can't.

    But what he had shown over the past few seasons is that when he gets in a zone, he can dissect defenses and get the ball to the receivers. The deep throw is still a problem, but starting in 2009 his completion percentage has gone from 55.9% to 57.8% to 62.0% last season. Thus far he's back down to 57.9%.

    Another truism about "Fitz" is that he cannot carry the team on his shoulders to victory ala Rogers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. There are a host of quarterbacks in this league who are in the same boat. And some of them like Alex Smith (49'ers,) Mark Sanchez (NY Jets) and Tony Romo (Dallas) are very similar to Fitz, but happen to be surrounded by and excellent team and/or excellent coaching staffs.

    Fitz is what he is. We know that.

    David Lee is touted as a "quarterback guru," and everyone in Buffalo, including Fitz and Head Coach Chan Gailey, were excited to have Lee iron out the wrinkles in Fitz's delivery to make him a better QB.

    But, in the process, Lee seems to have gotten the 29yr. old to think too much nullifying any positives that the QB once had. Just like Squidward did with SpongeBob. And what's left is something worse than before.

    Some allude to working on golf-swing mechanics and that often times things will get worse before they get better. But six games into the season Fitz still has trouble throwing the long ball and his throws to the outside are still weak, just like before. About the only thing to change is his short pass accuracy. During the last few weeks he's been off the mark way too much.

    So, is QB guru David Lee actually harming Fitz? Is he thinking too much? The QB was asked those questions on the Howard Simon Show this morning and he did a little dance around the question. "The mechanics and fundamentals are so important," he said.

    Fitz started to talk about how he's been throwing a certain way all of his life, alludes to his 65-plus completion percentage to start last season, then veers off the mechanics question by saying, "A lot of being a quarterback in the NFL is decision-making and confidence.

    Simon asks him about "over thinking" to which Fitz replies, "I don't think so, I'll continue to look at it and work on it but when you get out there you just gotta go out there and play."

    Which is something that seems to be eluding him at this point.

    And when Simon asked about his confidence level, Fitz said it was fine and that there was a level of frustration to the point where he feels he's not playing anywhere near his capabilities.

    Lee has stressed mechanics and fundamentals to a player who'd never had that before, not unlike SpongeBob. Any positives prior to this year seemed to have been nullified.

    Has QB "guru" David Lee hurt Fitz by making him "go by the rules?"

    There's a strong case to be made. 

    How they approach the rest of the season remains to be seen, and the future of both Fitz and Gailey may be in the hands of the QB as he tries to balance the tools he's been given with what he's now being taught.

    Not so sure they can continue on this path, but one thing's pretty much a given, should the team not improve, both Gailey and Lee could be out the door with Fitz not far behind.


    In the six games (Bills record 3-3) prior to this writing, Fitz was a combined 106-183 (57.9%) 1510 yards (252 yards/game,) 12 TD, 8INT.
    In the four games since (1-3):  96-130 (73.8%) 969 yards, (242 y/g,) 5TD, 2INT (of note:  both INT's, one vs. Tennesse, one at New England, were late in the game with the a win on the line. Both games ended up in losses.)

    The question was posed to Fitz on the Howard Simon show as to whether David Lee and his teachings are working. Or whether he reverted back to his other self.

    Fitz's response, "I know I had two games--the Jets game and the Patriots game--where I had seven interceptions. I think part of it is a change in my mindset a little bit, but the mechanics, I do feel like I've been able to feel consistent with some of the footwork and some of the stuff we've worked on and I feel like it has helped. But at the end of the day you just gotta go out there and produce plays by any means necessary. I definitely think I've been taking care of the ball better over the last five games."

    In a follow up where Simon brings up the "changing the golf swing" analogy where there's so much in your head it messes you up.

    Said Fitz, "I think as a quarterback in the NFL, your head is never clear. In terms of my mechanics, physically, I'm not putting too much thought into that. Whatever happens out there, however I'm reacting to things, that's just how it's gonna go. It's been positive. There's definitely some changes that have been made this off season that have stuck with me."

    No ringing endorsement of Lee and his teachings, yet some (minimal?) changes taking affect.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is what he is and at his age, how many new tricks can you teach that "old" dog?

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    The Dominator is done, (or so he tells the hockey world...again,)...

    plus other notes.

    Will those be Hasek's colors
    when he enters the hockey
    Hall of Fame?
    Dominik Hasek is calling it a career.

    On Monday one of the greatest (arguably the greatest) goalies of his generation, if not all time, decided to hang up his skates.

    Hasek was trying to get back into the NHL and would've played in the AHL if that's what it took, "There were training camps starting in the AHL and I wanted to participate," he said. "I needed to play pre-season games, to be part of the hockey environment [in North America]. I was in touch with one NHL club and I had pretty good feelings about it, but then they called my agent and told him there was no interest from their side anymore."

    Six Vezinas, two Hart's and two Stanley Cup Rings (both with Detroit) and a Olympic Gold Medal For Czechoslovakia in 1998 (the first time pros were allowed to participate) highlight his outstanding career.

    "Unorthodox." A "slinky." "The Dominator." All accurate descriptions of Hasek throughout a stellar career that spanned 735 games. He finished with a career 2.13 GAA and a .913 SV%.

    A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Hasek's ties with Buffalo are deep and seem fully recovered from a rift that occurred when he demanded a trade.

    Sabres President Ted Black has been waiting for Hasek to officially retire so that the team may retire his jersey.

    That's good. But now the real question, which hat will Hasek wear in immortality--The Detroit Red Wings or the Buffalo Sabres?

    For a bit more on Hasek, click here. Some insight from former NHL goalies Darren Pang and Darren Elliot via USA Today.


    The NHL and NHLPA still haven't gotten it done. But their meeting today and discuss secondary issues.

    Let's face it, there's a serious stalemate.

    Player Rep Donald Fehr was in Toronto meeting with the Toronto Star Editorial Board, and he seems to be getting flustered, "“If this goes on for an extended period of time, I don’t know what they (the players) are going to do. But I think it’s safe to say, they would be exploring all options,” he said.

    That statement is now beginning to take on a life of it's own as some have it meaning that the salary cap will be on the table, as the title of the above link reads, 'Donald Fehr says longer work stoppage could lead to unrest over salary cap.'

    But, what's at the core of the lockout is revenue and the revenue generated by hockey and what is derived from the sport. And for all those railing against the players saying take the offer and let's get on with hockey, here's the core issue that Fehr is getting at.

    This is taken from a follow up Q&A from

    Question from Anthony Alexopoulos: Why does the NHLPA think the players are entitled to more (money) than the owners?

    Donald Fehr: It’s not true. We’re dealing with HRR, hockey-related revenue. That is much less than all revenue. We estimate, when you calculate all revenue, the players are between 50 and 51 per cent. Secondly, there’s a whole lot of things the owners don’t share on franchise values and franchise sales. Or a lot of related businesses the owners get into because they own hockey teams, like the tall apartment buildings (Maple Leaf Square) outside the arena a block and a half away. It’s not a sense of entitlement in that there’s some law or religious edict that this is what you should get."

    It's getting to the bottom line numbers of what constitutes a revenue split for the players, who are the game. Fehr continues with this:

    "It’s a question of what you can negotiate and what is the value to the league that the players bring? I tend to answer that in the following way: If you changed all the people in the suits tomorrow, all the front office people, all the officials, the scouts, the entire players’ association staff, and you still had the same players, no one would know the difference. If you kept all the people in the suits and got the next best 750 players in the world, everyone would know. The only reason anyone generates any money in this league is because the players do what they do."

    There was a great call to HockeyHotline on WGR today. The caller said that the salaries are commensurate with what the top 750 lawyers in the country make. Or maybe what the top 750 actors make.

    Once again, please refrain from "Average Joe" comparisons, nobody will pay to see Joe flip burgers, make pizzas or even build a house. That's not entertainment.


    Originally, it was thought that the Buffalo Bills would be a welcome distraction to the lockout.

    Ummmmm...not really. Unless you're extremely bi-polar.

    The Bills have been a case of extremities, with the last two games being blowouts by Super Bowl-calibre teams--New England and San Francisco.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is taking the heat on offense. He's been missing wide open receivers, which is not unusual, and can't seem to hit receivers deep (still.)

    But the brunt of the ire of the media and fans lies with the defense.

    They cannot stop anyone. They gave up nearly 600 yards of offense to the Patriots and, not to be outdone, they surrendered over 600 yards to the 49'ers. They made Niner QB Alex Smith look like Tom Brady as he scorched the Bills for over 300 yards passing.



    The Bills linebacking corps is in really rough shape right now. It's to the point where rookie, Nigel Bradham (4th-round) is set to replace Arthur Moats. Which is no big deal. Could be he any worse?

    Bradham was inconsistent, but one thing he showed is that he's a ball-hawk and plays with intensity, something GM Buddy Nix called for when he said the Bills D must step it up.

    Linebacker isn't the only problem (feel free to salute Captain Obvious,) the corners are having some serious trouble as well.

    Rookie Stephon Gilmore is doing OK, but is still getting burned on plays he should have learned from. His development is probably right on track, but is being seen as a little slow in the light of the last two games.

    On the other side there's second-year CB, Aaron Williams.

    Williams is getting torched, regularly. It's to the point where Leodis McKelvin might be an upgrade. Paul Hamilton is adamant that Williams is not a corner--"he can't turn his hips." (2:00-mark)

    Insult to injury, Aaron Williams was taken in the 2nd round with the 34th-overall spot ahead of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

    Also taken in that draft was DT Marcell Dareus the #3-overall pick. He and DT Kyle Williams, a former Pro-bowler, are getting blown off the line of scrimmage.

    And no one has an answer why. There's no way in hell that they are that bad.

    WGR's John Murphy had former NFL lineman Ross Tucker on the show and the two dug right into the defense.

    Tucker called their performance "disheartening" and said that he, like most others, had high hopes for the Bills this season.

    He looks at the talent on the defense and says that he can only come up with two plausible explanations, "One, there are some guys that are not putting forth their best effort, or the other one is that they're at a decided schematic disadvantage [read getting outcoached]."

    He continues by saying it's hard for him to imagine some of those players laying down, but is just flabbergasted at how, at the littlest sign of adversity, "the roof falls in." (kinda sounds the the Sabres with "the core," doesn't it?)

    Tucker says that the Bills do not have enough of the type of players who are willing to make a difference and that it's during blowouts that you really "identify the guys who you want to go to war with." And he encourages the Bills to watch the fourth quarter of the last two games and see "who's giving maximum effort on every play."

    My guess is that there may be one or two.


    The defensive front four, who were considered one of the best in the AFC on paper, are looking like wet paper bags.

    DE Mario Williams has been largely ineffective (and seems to be healing from a wrist injury) while his counterpart on the right side, Mark Anderson, has been largely invisible. Couple that with the troubles of the aforementioned K. Williams and Dareus, plus the questionable scheming of Defensive coordinator Dave Wanndsedt and it's no wonder the defense has given up over 1200 yards in offense over the last two games.

    Yeah, He was a bad man, and I'd
    listen to him.
    But, Hall of Famer Bruce Smith says that there's something else that seems to be the root of the problem, the d-line needs more time. 'I see these guys are not on the same page just yet," he said, "whether it's the trust factor, their trusting in the scheme, doing more than they should be doing when the play is called.

    There's a tremendous amount of talent. We're going to have to give them some time to be able to jell together and trust one another. The good thing is they're young, so they have some time. Unfortunately, we may have a half-season of some growing pains.'

    It's a pretty strong backing, as well as a belief in, the defensive line. Funny. When asked about Wanndstedt, Smith said it wouldn't be fair to scrutinize a game plan from afar but did say, "I know a game plan doesn't allow a team to go out and score 45 points in the second half."


    Speaking of Mario Williams, players in Houston don't really seem to care that he's gone, in fact most don't have anything good to say about him. Mostly they seem to be saying he was a primadonna for the Texans and they're doing better without him.

    Evidence suggests that as well. Williams' replacement, JJ Watts is having a tremendous All-Pro calibre season thus far. But...

    The Texans suffered a serious blow when linebacker Brian Cushing went down for the year after suffering a torn ACL.

    Not that they'll completely crumble, but it's a big hit. Cushing is a former first-round pick in 2009 who was an All-Pro last season.  Former Bills head coach Wade Phillips is the defensive coordinator for the Texans and is doing an outstanding job and Houston looks to have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.

    Two former Bills head coaches have already won Super Bowls as defensive coordinators with other teams--Greg Williams, New Orleans and Perry Fewell, NY Giants.

    But, getting back to Cushing, he was selected with the 15th pick in the 2009 draft, four picks behind former Bill, Aaron Maybin.

    Just sayin'.

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    You want replacement players?

    Why? when you can catch an AHL game for a lot less and have nearly equal talent.

    WGR's Matthew Coller was on the Howard Simon Show reviewing last nights Rochester Americans preseason game. Aside from his analysis of the game and individual players he notes that the AHL will have some extremely talented players in the league during the lockout.

    Starting with the Buffalo Sabres/Rochester Americans connection, the Amerks will be boasting the likes of Marcus Foligno, Cody Hodgson and Brayden McNabb. Plus, we'll get introductory pro seasons from Zemgus Girgensons and Mark Pysyk as well as the opportunity to see goalie David Leggio play against an array of NHL talent from across the AHL.

    And talent there is.

    How about the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton's AHL team with the likes of Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? And if that wasn't enough, Taylor Hall will be joining them when he's cleared to play. They also have highly touted Justin Schultz on the back end.

    Philadelphia's AHL club, the Adirondack Phantoms, will have young gun Sean Couturier at their behest. Joining him are Brayden Schenn plus defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon.

    Other AHL teams have some star power as well. The Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) have  2010-11 Calder winner Jeff Skinner and defenseman Jared Staal on their roster.
    Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson will be suiting up for the Albany River Rats (NJ Devils.)

    Other NHL names heading to the AHL:
    • Nick Leddy, Marcus Krueger, Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago)
    • Jordan Caron, Providence Bruins (Boston)
    • Brett Connolly, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)
    • Emerson Etem, Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim)
    • Jake Gardiner, Toronto Marlies (Toronto)
    • Simon Despres, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)
    • Nino Niederreiter, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders)

    Put it all together and why would anyone want to go see an NHL game with replacement players when any number of AHL teams have the talent to beat an NHL replacement team?

    Or, maybe the commish could replace the Winter Classic with the Replacement Classic and pit an "All star" replacement team vs. an AHL all star team.


    No skin off of my back.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    It's starting to get a bit wierd in the NHL because of the lockout

    The NHL lockout is beginning to take it's toll. Inanity is starting to rear it's misguided head as NHL media is starting to look for stories.

    Buffalo, though, is not. Fans in Western New York have their own worries as fans are really in a foul mood after what transpired over the weekend.

    I'm with ya.

    Kinda makes me want to vent.

    And vent I shall.

    ***Pooh, poohing from Bill Daly

    Deputy NHL Commisioner Bill Daly came out yesterday and said that the cancellation of the entire preseason due to the lockout cost the NHL $100M.

    After emerging from talks with the NHLPA saying that "he didn't have any progress to report, Daly went tugging on heart strings, "That [$100M] is not going to be recouped and that's going to cost both sides," Daly told reporters in New York. "That's unfortunate but it's a reality of where we are."

    C'mon, really? You want anyone outside the ownership circle to feel sympathy? Go screw yourself.

    NHLPA rep Donald Fehr summed it up nicely, "If this is a loss, this is a loss that is entirely of their own making," Fehr told The Canadian Press in an interview. "They're the ones that did this, nobody told them to."

    The two hour talks on yesterday were directed towards defining hockey related revenue, which is a logical first step. How can you get a definitive split of the pie if the pie is ill-defined.

    There are so many loopholes and clauses, just like the U.S. tax code, that it might take an army of accountants and lawyers to figure it out. Unlike the Average Joe, former NHLPA counsel and the players, the last CBA--and everything it entails--makes sense to Fehr. He sits across the table, looks Commisioner Gary Bettman in the eye, and says no, the players really aren't making 57% of HRR.

    Maybe that's why Daly said, "Unless they show some willingness to compromise, I don't know how we get this done," he told reporters.

    Hey, jackass, Fehr and company didn't just fall off of the turnip truck. You ever heard of Major League Baseball?

    ***Lindy Ruff and Derek Roy

    "First and foremost, if you look at Derek's ice-time, you know what I thought of him as a player."--Lindy Ruff

    Taken from a piece by WGR's Paul Hamilton entitled, Sabres Ruff will miss Roy.

    He might, but most Sabres fans won't.

    Sure, Lindy, you might miss his "playmaking skills." But this Sabres fan will not miss his dipsy-doodle turnovers, his attempt at showmanship, and his tendency to fold under pressure.

    He's a top-six center at best who really thought he was a Daniel Briere-type top-liner.

    Yeah, Ruff put him in tough positions on the ice, but he really had no one else down the middle. And Roy simply couldn't get 'er done.

    All you need to know about Roy's character and why he was moved is encapsulated here:

    “We had high expectations at the start of the year. We knew that,” said Sabres center Derek Roy, who has only eight goals and 24 points. “Going forward now there’s low expectations. So now it’s easier to play. We just play loose, play fun. Go out there and play hard.

    The era of "The Core," or as Sabres President Ted Black puts it, "The Rochester Guys," was defined rather simply:  they were great when it was easy, folded when it was tough.

    And Derek Roy was one of the leaders of that.

    Adios. Take your sorry ass to Dallas, Derek. And by all means, make sure you never lose your cuteness.

    ***Cody Hodgson starts the year with the Amerks

    One of the reasons that the Sabres could deal "cutie-pie" Derek Roy was the trade for center Cody Hodgson last season.

    Hodgson will be looked upon to fill a top-six role on the team at the center position (along with Tyler Ennis.)

    And he's happy to be gearing up for meaningful hockey.

    SlamSports' Rob Longley did a piece on Hodgson calling that latter a "budding Sabres star." Which is cool.

    What's even cooler is that Hodgson is not taking his hockey career lightly. He may not have the "dipsy-doodle" prowess of Roy or deft skating skills, but he seems to be willing to do the work necessary to make himself the best player he can be.

    This summer he completed yet another workout with the renowned workout guru, Gary Roberts, and he says that he's coming into the season in the best shape of his career.

    He seems willing to do whatever's necessary during the NHL lockout and for right now is simply looking forward to getting back into a "competitive atmosphere."

    Somehow, there's got to be a lingering animosity towards the Canucks and their handling of his injury in 2009. And somehow I'd like to think that Hodgson would really like to stick it to his former GM Mike Gillis who threw him under the bus this past summer.

    Gillis, if y'all recall, said he spent more time on Hodgson's "issues" than the rest of the team combined over the last three years.

    And if that wasn't enough, he continued to rip Hodgson saying that the latter didn't want to be in Vancouver and that he "built [Hodgson] into something he could move."


    Roberts took issue with Gillis' shot at his pupil, "For me, I'd like to be the guy that looks at Mike Gillis and says, 'You're a moron,'" he said.

    Oh, and by the way, where's Marc Andre-Gragnani these days, Mike? And how's Zack Kassian doin'?

    ***Stupidity from Canoe

    Speaking of morons.

    Steve Simmons of the same SlamSports had this brilliant article, What if the NHL cut salaries and ticket prices in half?.

    What if you had half a brain, dumb ass.

    How about if your bosses cut your salary in half. Maybe they should for the inanity printed in that piece.

    The only thing worse is the lemmings following your lead at an 86% clip.

    Must be all Maple Leaves fans. The highest ticket prices in the league for a sorry ass product.

    That's the ludicrosity of the lockout and just how far people need to go to find an original thought.