Friday, November 30, 2012

The lockout drags on and owner fracturing, but first, Bettman has an idea

NHL Commish, Gary Bettman came up with an idea that may or may not be better than taking two weeks off from negotiating.

It's been 75 days since the lockout started. The two sides agreed to federal mediation in an effort to get the process moving again. After only two days, it was all for naught as, "the presiding mediators," said Deputy Commish, Bill Daly, "concluded that the parties remained far apart, and that no progress toward a resolution could be made through further mediation at this point in time."

Not that anyone really believed that it would/could work. But it was a shot.

About the only thing to come out of it, as first tweeted by ESPNNewYork's Katie Strang, was Bettman suggesting that the owners and players, without league or union representatives present, get together in an effort to get negotiations going.

It's a very interesting scenario with a multitude of possibilities, like:  Roman Hamrlik and Michal Neuvirth facing off against Ted Leonis and Craig Leipold only to have Hamrlik and Neuvirth capitulaing on the next contract saying, "OK, not only will we give you what you want this contract, but to set up the next one for you; in the final year the NHLPA will go to 45% HRR and accept free agency at age 30. So can we please play now?"

--Or Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux getting together. "Hey Sid," says Mario, "do you believe this?" "Yeah, dad. What the hell? You think mom would mind if I borrowed the family jet?"

--Or Dave Bolland and Jeremy Jacobs in a winner-take-all, UCF-style cage match.

Now that would be entertainment.

The NHLPA would be wise to say, "Thanks, but, ah, no thanks." The players, all 700-plus are still unified, except for a few. Why would they want to risk further fractioning, however minimal?

On the owners side, however, some cracks may be starting to form.

About two weeks ago there was a report that Philadelphia Flyers Chariman Ed Snider, once considered one of the "hardliners" for the owners, was characterized as saying, "If this is the deal we are going to get, what's the point of dragging this out?"

Of course the owners are under a strict gag order from the commish with up to a $1M fine for speaking their mind concerning the lockout. Jimmy Develano of Detroit was  fined $250K for "neither constructive nor helpful" comments early in the lockout.

But other owners are speaking out. Ottawa owner Eugene Melynk said "We should be playing hockey by now." No word on whether or not Melnyk has been fined for that comment.

Interesting to note that those three are on teams that, according to Forbes (minus the slideshow,) all turned a profit last season:  Detroit--$20.8M; Ottawa--$14.5M; and Philadelphia--$10.9M.

Frank Servalli who wrote the piece about Snider for, said it's unsure where the Flyers Chariman stood amongst hardliners/moderates, but he does mention that initially, Snider was behind Bettman and his offer. He continues by saying that, 'Bettman and Snider have worked well together over the years - and Bettman is well aware of Snider's power, sensing a need to keep the Flyers' owner in his pocket in times like these. For Bettman, the Flyers are a linchpin.'

But Snider and the Flyers are losing profits, And not only that, if the league insists that there are severe limitations on player contracts, it goes directly against what they have done business the past seven capped years.

Having said that, it wouldn't be surprising if Snider is all in for the 50/50 revenue split but against status quo concerning player contracts. And, with the amount of money that they make every season, despite their extravagant expenditures, it wouldn't be surprising if he's willing to chip in a tad more in revenue sharing.

And if Melnyk and Snider becoming disenchanted wasn't enough, it would seem as if another ownership group, one of the "moderates" in this process, may be fracturing as well.

Comcast SportsNet Northeast Bruins Insider, Joe Haggarty, comes out and places the blame for the lockout squarely at the feet Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs,.

He outlines a 'self-interested, tyrannical leadership at play on the NHL’s side--the kind of hawkish, dismissive, bully mentality that's driving the bus for the NHL lockout .'

The story, according to the Haggarty piece, goes like this:  Winnipeg Jets representation at a recent NHL Board of Governors meeting piped up to say it was opposed to engaging in a long, bloody lockout sure to stymie their franchise’s momentum and hurt the game of hockey.

It wasn’t Winnipeg owner Mark Chipman, but rather one of the alternate governors representing the Jets.
Bruins Principal Owner and Chairman of the Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs answered by reprimanding the Winnipeg representative as one of the “new kids on the block” and informed him that he would know when he was allowed to speak in the NHL board room.

Players have been saying all along that the owners have had a "take it or leave it" mentality when it comes to the CBA. Apparently the "new kids on the block" owners, which includes the Sabres' own Terry Pegula, are on the same level with the players.

So Bettman and Jacobs, the same two who were said to have walked out on the NHLPA triple-proposal a month ago after fifteen minutes, have managed to alienate the NHLPA, a good owner in Eugene Melnyk, an owner "linchpin" in Ed Snider and the "new kids on the block" ownership in Winnipeg.

Would love to be a fly on the wall when the Board of Governors meeting convenes on December 5. If there's no agreement by then, sparks will be flying.

As for the players?

They've shown a willingness to bend, somewhat, and have given the "moderates" their day with the last offer they made. But almost to a man, they reject strong-armed, bullying, which is what they should be doing.

They should let the owners fight amongst themselves, sit tight and get ready for the fireworks to come.

Addendum:  From Josh Yohe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via
   'When I ask about Bettman, players kind of shrug. When I ask about Jeremy Jacobs, players get rage in their eyes.'

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maple Leafs worth $1B, Sabres come in at $175M on Forbes list

Forbes has released it's annual report on the net worth of NHL teams.

Lo and behold, Toronto tops the list. Of note is that the Maple Leafs are the first $1 billion team in the league.

And, in a nod to baseball's Chicago Cubs, they continue to be a veritable ATM for their owners despite their lack of a championship for four-plus decades including a seven year span between lockouts where they failed to qualify for the playoffs.

If that wasn't enough, the face of the franchise that Forbes put on their slide show was non other than former Sabre forward, Clarke MacArthur.

Not that he's a bad player, but he's no Mats Sundin, Borje Salming, or Johnny Bower.

Anyhow, despite "Mac" being the face, the Leafs are worth $1 billion, with revenues of $200 million and a profit of $81.9 million last season.

Where do I sign up for that?

The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, are worth $175M, about what Terry Pegula paid for the team in 2011. They had $95M in revenue and ended up losing $10.4M last season.

The Sabres are one of 13 teams that lost money last season (before revenue sharing.) On one end, the San Jose Sharks lost 900K while at the other end, the Phoenix Coyotes lost $20.6M. Total losses by those clubs--$130.2M. Total profits for the other 17 teams equalled $380.5M. Total league operating income for the 2011/12 season--$250.3M. Divided by 30 teams, that comes out to an average of about $8.5M per team.

For those of you who hate slide-shows (sorry, bleacher report, that's why I rarely visit,) I've taken one on the chin for the team, and with the patience of a saint while waiting for each slide to load like a 2002 dial-up, the following info was gathered for you:

Team--Net Worth, 2011/12 Revenue, 2011/12 Operating Income

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs- $1B, $200M, 81.9M
  2. NY Rangers-750M, 199M, 74M
  3. Montreal Canadians--579M, 169M, 51.6M
  4. Chicago Blackhawks--350M, 125M, 20.5M
  5. Boston Bruins--348M, 129M, 14.2M
  6. Detroit Red Wings--346M, 128M, 20.8M
  7. Vancouver Canucks--342M, 143M, 30.4M
  8. Philadelphia Flyers--336M, 124M, 10.9M
  9. Pittsburgh Penguins--288M, 120M, 9.1M
10. LA Kings--276M, 120M, 1.8M
11. Washington Capitals--259M, 106M, -1M
12. Calgary Flames--245M, 117M, 11M
13. Dallas Stars--240M, 100M, 3M
14. Edmonton Oilers--225M, 106M, 16.2M
15. San Jose Sharks--223M, 103M, -900K
16. Ottawa Senators--220M, 113M, 14.5M
17. Minnesota Wild--218M, 99M, -3.9M
18. Colorado Avalanche--210M, 91M, 4.5M
19. NJ Devils--205M, 122M, 2.8M
20. Winnipeg Jets--200M, 105M, 13.3M
21. Anaheim Ducks--192M, 91M, -10.8M
22. Buffalo Sabres--175M, 95M, -10.4M
23. Tampa Bay Lightning--174M, 88M, -13.1M
24. Florida Panthers--170M, 87M, -12M
25. Nashville Predators--167M, 88M, -3.4M
26. Carolina Hurricanes--162M, 85M, -9.4M
27. NY Islanders--155M, 66M, -16M
28. Columbus Blue Jackets--145M, 85M, -18.7M
29. Phoenix Coyotes--134M, 83M, -20.6M
30. St. Louis Blues--130M, 89M, -10M

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NHL news and notes

A mere three days after the word "decertification" was being seriously thrown around in the NHL lockout, federal mediators will now be a part of the negotiating process.

The NHL and NHLPA are allowing George H. Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to lead a team to help along the negotiating process.

According to TSN "[Cohen] has worked with the players' associations for Major League Baseball and the NBA, and was also an adviser to the NHLPA before joining the FMCS three years ago." He also, according to the the article, mediated during the 2010 negotiations in Major League Soccer and 2011 talks in the NFL and NBA, along 'with this year's dispute between the NFL and its on-field officials.

Said Cohen, 'I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement," said Cohen. "At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under our auspices.'

Although recommendations are not binding, they may smack enough heads on both sides of the table to really get the process moving.

Or maybe (probably?) nothing will come out of it. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail pointed out that it didn't work in football or basketball.

 Jeffery Kessler, a high-profile lawyer, was quoted by Mirtle concerning mediation, 'The reality is, in professional sports, you have very smart, sophisticated negotiators on both sides,' Kessler said. 'There’s no one who’s more experienced in negotiating labour agreements than Don Fehr [executive director of the NHLPA]. And equally so I’d say Gary Bettman [NHL commissioner] and Bill Daly are very experienced negotiators.'

I don’t know that the mediators are really the problem. The problem is the positions are so intractable.'

Doesn't sound as if mediation will amount to much, but it's something.


Speaking of the lockout, Washington Capitals defenseman, Roman Hamrlik, called out NHLPA director Donald Fehr last week saying, "I am disgusted. We have to push Fehr to the wall to get the deal. Time is against us. We lost 1/4 season, it is $425 million. Who will give it back to us? Mr. Fehr?" And followed up by saying that the NHLPA should have a vote "Four questions - YES or NO - then count it. If half of players say let's play, then they should sign new CBA. If there is no season he should leave and we will find someone new. Time is our enemy."

No, Roman, time is your enemy. At 38 years old, your time is limited and even if you play next season, signing a deal worth $3.5M (your current salary,) is about as far-fetched as Fehr getting run out.

Oh. And there's another veteran of three lockouts chiming in on the situation.

Future Hall-of-Famer, and three time Stanley Cup Winner, Martin Brodeur is 40 years old and after the final loss to the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals, it was said he was contemplating retirement. But he decided to come back and this lockout may ultimately lead to the end of the line for one of the greatest goaltenders of all time.

Brodeur wasn't too happy, calling Hamrlik's actions out of line and a sign of weakness. "I don't think (Hamrlik) has ever addressed it [internally] as far as the NHLPA is concerned," he said. "and he has to go out in front of the media and then show a sign of weakness from a player who should no better at his age."

He doesn't stop there, "When players talk about things that they don't know, then they're not well informed, it makes it like you're not informed. I think it's your duty as a player. And if you don't, you should just not talk about it."

Brodeur was echoing (more delicately) what Caps forward Troy Brouwer said concerning Hamrlik's comments. After Hamrlik was backed by fellow teammate, goalie Michal Neuvirth (“This lockout is not about majority of players," Neuvirth said, "I think. It is about several superstars with big contracts,”) Brouwer unloaded with both barrels:  “Those are two guys that have never been on a conference call, never been to a meeting, never paid attention." And then proceeded to lay into them, "For me, I think those guys selling us out, being selfish like that and making those comments … ” Brouwer said, trailing off. “Me being on their team, how am I going to trust them as a teammate from now on? Because you know they’re not going to support players in the big scheme of things when you go and you play on the team with them; it’s going to be tough to want to back those guys from now on.”


Is this a sign of the NHLPA fracturing?

San Jose' Sharks forward Ryan Clowe, who is spending this lockout as a coach of the ECHL's San Francisco Bulls, said that the union remains strong and that '95% of the players are on the same page.' and is adamant about the union remaining united, 'Sticking together, it’s very important,' Clowe said. 'You saw what happened last lockout. I think it’s easy to say that, but when you’re not sure what’s going on, then you start questioning.'

On Hamrlik specifically he said, 'Roman’s 38 years old. He’s in a different situation. He’s been through a few of these and he wants to play. I’m sure it’s the same with Alfredsson and Jagr.'


Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell says that the NHL should not underestimate "the Fehr factor."

Boswell has seen Fehr's work with the MLBPA. "After covering six work stoppages, a canceled World Series and three collusion cases during Fehr’s time in baseball," he wrote in the article, "I have a clear sense of how he acts at inflection points," or key junctures of a long negotiation process.

Fehr, he said, means exactly what he says. And Boswell emphasizes that it's the players deal, not Fehr's. There are recommendations, but Fehr does not decide, going as far to say that he'll "Fehr will reduce demands rather than negotiate without full support."

Despite saying that following Fehr throughout the years has given him a migraine, Boswell concludes with, "Hiring Don Fehr, the Sun Tzu of jock labor, to face NHL owners in a lockout is like getting the Godfather to help you fix a parking ticket. NHL leaders need to realize, in a fraction the time it took baseball, that if you go to the mat with a Fehr union, everybody suffers, but you might get it worse."


If things weren't bad enough for the Columbus Blue Jackets--one year of playoffs in 10, lost the lottery for #1 overall pick in June, forced to trade face of the franchise, Rick Nash--it just got a little worse.

(Edit:  bad news keeps rolling in. The Jackets #2 overall pick, Ryan Murray, is done for the season with a shoulder injury.)

Last week Commish Gary Bettman not only cancelled games through December 14, he also cancelled the All-Star Game in Columbus in January.

It's said that the city of Columbus will lose $12M for the event itself and as much as $50M in exposure.

Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch wrote of the financial impact the Blue Jackets and their home, Nationwide Arena, have made on the downtown businesses.

He points out that in 2008 there was a study by the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State stating that since the doors of Nationwide arena opened "$2B in economic activity have been generated by the Jackets and the arena with more than $1B generated by outside visitors."

Arace also points out some of the positives for the cancelled games and the All-Star Game.

He says that new President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, will have more time to put his fingerprints on the franchise and will have more time to plan for three first round picks in the 2013 draft. In addition, if the season is cancelled, the Jackets could, once again, be right at the top of the draft board with a chance at potential franchise player, Nathan McKinnon.

As for the All-Star Game, Arace points out that it's probably better this way saying, "Who wants to be the host in the middle of a shortened season, coming off a labor dispute?" he said, adding,  "Also, do the Blue Jackets even have an All-Star?"

Mike MacLean of the Cannon ponies on that last point saying that the Blue Jackets, "lack a true star currently on the roster to serve as the face of the event. Under the current format, a representative from the host team has been named captain of the 'home team' during the live team selection. Additionally, that same player serves as ambassador for the event, pulling triple duty with the media, and acting as the host city's number one cheerleader. That isn't to say that one of the players currently on the roster wouldn't do a fantastic job in those roles, but the fact remains Columbus doesn't have a marquee star player on the roster since [Rick Nash] was traded to New York. The hope is, that when Columbus gets another crack at hosting the event they will have a star player on the roster. A player that wouldn't seem like a stretch leading an All Star roster."

Maybe the stars will align for a (still) fledgling franchise with a pretty loyal core fan-base. Maybe the lockout will last the year. Maybe they'll get the #1 overall pick this year and grab McKinnon. Maybe the All-Star Game will still be in existence in 2015 and Columbus will get it. Maybe McKinnon will develop into the superstar/face of the franchise during that time period.


*Thanx to Puck Daddy for a blog featuring the above links.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The "Savior"

Yup. That's what I heard on WGR this morning.

Sal Capaccio, subbing for Jeremy White, used that word when talking about Syracuse QB prospect Ryan Nassib. Capaccio said that Nassib may not be "the savior," but a quarterback to develop over the course of two or three seasons. Really? You're looking for a "savior?"

He also used the term "prototypical size." At 6'2", 230, Nassib has excellent size, although, according to Capaccio, he's one inch shorter than "prototypical."



Those two terms--savior and prototypical--are the weights that will keep this franchise stuck in perpetual mediocrity.

Waiting for and/or hoping for and/or expecting "the savior" is a thought-process that runs throughout Bills-nation. It's the "damsel in distress" syndrome where they think that their straights are so dire and their suffering so long and hard, that somehow they deserve a "savior." It's a bunch of crap coming out of a loser-mentality that has gone on far too long.

Remember? Buffalo fans threw Drew Bledsoe a parade when he came over from New England--"all hail the savior!"


As for "prototypical?" Exactly what does that mean? The physical aspects of a prospect which, with the proper growth-cycle and attributes, can be enhanced by workouts to achieve the "specimen."

Aaron Maybin anyone?

The Bills, plain and simple, need more "football players." More guys like Eric Wood, Kyle Williams and the emerging Kyle Moore. More guys like we saw last night in the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game. More men you'd like to be in an alley fight with.

The Bills don't need a "savior." They don't need more "specimens."

What they need is a group of players that will look at Sissyphus' boulder and will do everything in their power, both individually and collectively, to push the damn thing over the top.

Got it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

C'mon, Gary. Really?

A two week "moratorium" on negotiating?

And just what, Mr. NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman, would that accomplish?

Exactly. Nothing.

'We are extremely disappointed in where we and the players find ourselves," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday evening. "And from our perspective, we have made repeated moves in the players' direction with absolutely no reciprocation.  Unfortunately, we have determined we are involved with union leadership that has no genuine interest in reaching an agreement. Regardless of what we propose, or how we suggest to compromise the answer is "no."  At some point you just have to say "enough is enough."'

Apparently, according to TSN, NHLPA director Donald Fehr called Bettman and said that, 'he didn't know how the sides could proceed from their current stalemate.'

Bettman's response? The two week "moratorium" which Fehr said he'll need to bounce off the membership.

And the posturing is on.

In response to Daly's quote above, NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr said, "We believe that it is more likely that we will make progress if we meet than if we don't," he said in a statement. "So we are ready to meet. If indeed they do not want to meet, it will be at least the third time in the last three months that they have shut down the dialogue, saying they will not meet unless the players meet their preconditions.

"What does that tell you about their interest in resolving this?"

It's looks like more bullying tactics from the owners? And that they'll only negotiate on their terms.

Sounds like it to me.

The players have made considerable concessions on the overall split going from 57/43 in their favor to agreeing to a 50/50 in hockey related revenue.

Even with the issue not fully resolved, as they're trying to figure out in what year that will take place, the sides have moved to length of player contracts and salary-variance within the contract. Here's where the league stands on that issue:
  • the NHL wants to limit contracts to five years
  • make rules to prohibit back-diving contracts the league feels circumvent the salary cap,
  • keep players ineligible for unrestricted free agency until they are 28 or have eight years of professional service time
  • cut entry-level deals to two years, and make salary arbitration after five years.
It's pretty obvious that for the good of the league in general, that something needs to be done concerning cap-circumventing contracts. And we know the culprits:  Marian Hossa (CHI,) and Ilya Kovalchuk (NJD,) even Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff.

The other points, not even including attempts to prevent teams from burying bad contracts in the minors--"The Wade Redden Rule"--are painting the players into a more restrictive corner.

This is the point of contention:  the players are collectively giving up a billion dollars with the 50/50 split and the league wants to them to pay for the egregious contracts signed this past off-season (the "make-whole" clause,) and they want to control how long they're signed for.

Anything else you want, Mr. Commish?

Theres to be no give on the part of the owners with the players saying, "are you kidding me?"

And it seems as if the owners are ready to lose the entire season in order to get what they want--again.


Monday, November 12, 2012

They're changing their tune on WGR concerning the Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick...


They'll pick the tune to fit their needs, like all the media-types in the Buffalo area.

While listening to WTAM's Mike Trivisonno here in Cleveland (a team and area very similar to Buffalo) he had the best idea whilst talking about the Browns loss two Sunday's ago--fire all of the media.

The premise was this:  The Browns last loss was unduly put at the feet of Head Coach Pat Shurmur. Cleveland's QB, Brandon Wheeden, had an atrocious game, yet all the talk was about firing Shurmur.

But the point Triv was trying to make was this:  there are no sports journalists left in Cleveland. They don't report the game or add valuable insight, (nor do they even seem to have a grasp on the intricacies of the game.) All they seem to do anymore is look for one bad moment for their tweet and/or blog and harp on that. They then take that and proceed to do an expose' on a player or coach and demean them until the next bad moment for another player or coach and continue the cycle. Tis not for the fan, the team and/or the sport. It's for their own ego, their own satisfaction.

The same could be said for the Buffalo media.

I'm a big fan of WGR's Paul Hamilton. I believed that he was one of the few who could rise above media masturbation and come through as a journalist. But he seems to be falling into the abyss, being pulled by the likes of Jerry Sullivan, Mike Schopp and Jeremy White.

His latest article, The final big play is rarely there, is a continuation of his whining about QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who he deems "the franchise quarterback as named by Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey." He concludes his article with that same sarcasm, "in the end the guy anointed the franchise quarterback got them down the field, but couldn't come through in crunch time to win the game."

About the only thing missing from his Fitz-disdain was the token "I've been saying all along" pat on the back that Hamilton falls into when talking about the QB. A lot of the times I truly believe that the media-types, and fans as well, hope that things go wrong so that they can say, "I'm right."

Look, we all get it. Fitz has his limitations, but you mean to tell me that he'd be looked at in the same light, and would have the same record, if he was on a team like San Francisco or Chicago, both with elite defenses? And that both teams would be 3-6 like the Bills? Is Fitz worse than Alex Smith, Jay Cutler or even Mark Sanchez?

And look at the "franchise quarterbacks" that the media wanted to draft the past few years with the Bills first round pick. How is Blaine Gabbert doing? Or Jake Locker? Remember those two names, the ones most thrown around by the media in during "the year of the quarterback" draft in 2011. You might throw Christian Ponder in there as well, although the Vikes are 6-4 and he seems to be managing the game well (with a probable Hall-of-Famer in the backfield.) But, even his stats would have the media saying Minnesota could/should be better.

And should we even go to the likes of Tim Tebow and Wheedon? Hell, even Matthew Stafford is having a rough year.

Quick note to all you media types: defenses figure out quarterbacks, just ask Cam Newton.

There's nothing I'd like better than for Fitz to prove Hamilton--as well as Bills-nation--wrong and lead this team to the playoffs this year. But, methinks that even that scenario wouldn't be enough. He'd need to take the team deep into the playoffs. Then again, anything short of a Super Bowl win would have the media and fans finding flaws and tossing the words "draft a franchise quarterback" around.

Fitzpatrick doesn't have a halo around his head. He's not the savior that the sorry-asses in the Buffalo media (as well as it's fan-base) desire. It wouldn't fit the "damsel in distress" motif. Jim Kelly had the halo and fit the scenario (and choked in the Super Bowls.) That's what they want and Buffalo fans are still looking for a hero like him (even though Kelly initially spurned the Bills) to come in and save the day.

Gotta have that "franchise quarterback." And not only that, gotta have the halo. Gotta be a savior.

Hamilton's is in lock-step with Howard Simon who has been ranting about a "franchise quarterback" for umpteen months, although with less certitude and vile as Sullivan, Schopp and White (who all should've been "fired" yesterday). As early as the second week of October, was already looking at the 2013 draft trying to find one. And just this past week Simon and White (for the second week in a row) pressed GM Buddy Nix concerning a "franchise quarterback" in this years draft.

Simon, I thought, was doing a stellar job as host up until that early season article, but it's easy to see he's being pulled into the black hole that is the Buffalo media.

The more those lunkheads press on the "franchise quarterback" issue, the more I'm in Nix's corner. The Bills, like Nix has been saying for years, need much more than that (as the defense has proven so far this year.)

Today, though, did mark a change, at least for this week. The talk was not on the quarterback and his last throw--an interception with the game on the line. It was on the defense, which is where it should be. And Fitz can thank rookie WR TJ Graham for that. Graham admittedly said he made the wrong decision and should've went underneath. (Which leads to another question, how many times this season have the receivers ran the wrong route or made the wrong decision on a Fitz interception or incompletion.) That statement turned the microscope away from Fitz to where it should be--the defense.

Let's face it, the Bills have no linebackers. And finally the WGR morning crew came out and said (finally realized?) that much. They don't have a right corner either, which is/has been pretty obvious. How does that affect the underperforming defensive line and Defensive coordinator Dave Wandstedt (who wasn't mentioned by name very much today?) Immensely.

Teams know they can throw underneath on the Bills because their base linebackers can't cover. They also know that they can go over the top on the right side because the right corner can't cover. And when the Bills go to a nickle with "the little people" (as Tom Brady described them,) teams simply run on them. When the Bills defense covers their face, they get punched in the gut. When they cover the gut, they get punched in the face.

We'll see what the evening crew has to say about it all. Bulldog, Schopp's co-host, will probably go on some lunatic rage and go back to his "last-call, drunken hook-up" analogy concerning Fitzpatrick. Maybe throw in a "my-god, what are they doing on defense!!!" rant for good measure. Schopp will probably find some obscure stat to undermine Gailey and probably question the validity of going to a rookie in a spot like that. Hamilton will come on and say "I told you so" and carry on about how Fitz is not a good quarterback--maybe a good back-up--even though he's lacking top-notch playmakers at WR (save for Stevie Johnson.)

None of them will say that GM Buddy Nix has actually done a good job of rebuilding this team in the trenches. None will acknowledge that the team needs to stress defense--corner and linebacker--in the next draft.

One thing all of WGR will agree upon:  CJ Spiller should be getting many more touches than he's gotten thus far. Spiller has put the "Thriller" back in CJ "Thriller" and the media types are starting to recognize it.

Oh. And by the way. This is the same CJ Spiller that those media types were calling a wasted #9-overall draft pick. Yeah, for years Nix was berated by the media for picking him but now, after they see what Nix saw, they're leading the "more touches for the playmaker" charge. (and, if you look at what's after that pick, it's even more apparent that Nix made the right move and that Spiller was unquestionably better than what was there.)

What a bunch of wafflers. Fire 'em.

Some players to watch in the 2013 draft for the Bills (assuming they'll end up with a pick in the middle third of the first round):

CB--Xavier Rhodes*, Florida State
OLB--Chase Thomas, Stanford
ILB--Alec Ogletree, Georgia

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This would be cool

According to Slava Malumud of QMI via Slam.Canoe, former NHL defensman and 2001 NHL Hall of Fame inductee, Viacheslav Fetisov, is dreaming once again.

His idea? Grow hockey globally via a proposed Euro-Asian hockey league.

Presently the KHL has teams in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with Spain, apparently, in line to join next season. He is presently working on a team for Vladivostok on the Pacific and has dreams of adding teams from Japan, Korea and China.

His 'world domination' would include having a world series of hockey featuring the Stanley Cup Champion taking on the Gagarian Cup (KHL) Champion.

That's awesome. A throwback to the Super Series between Soviet Union teams and NHL teams which lasted for 15 years (1976-1991) and provided tons of memories.

Fetisov is familiar with that Series having been a big part of it during the 1980's. He and fellow defenseman Alexi Kasatonov, along with the KLM line--Vladmir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Markov, the most feared line in Europe--formed a formidable five-man unit for years. Fetisov and Larionov would end up winning Stanley Cups for the Detroit Red Wings in the 90's.

None of the North American "big four sports" has a true world-wide following with truly world-class athletes able to compete with the best North American athletes. Except for hockey.

Right now the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin are in the KHL while the lockout drags on. 2012 #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov is Russian and Sabres 2012 first rounder (#12-overall,) Mikhail Grigorenko is of Russian decent. The Czech Republic gave us Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias, and David Krecji. Slovakia--Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara. And that's just a quick sample of the world-wide talent the NHL has on it's rosters.

It's also being said that the KHL is considering a strong effort to keep Kovalchuk, Malkin and Ovechkin. Fetisov even took it a step further in offering "material incentives" and thinks that ' if $1 billion were offered immediately to the NHL's brightest locked-out stars, it would create an exodus of players into the KHL that would pound Bettman into submission.'

Not that he would care. He likens Bettman a 'local lord-ling.'

And not that I would care either. Pretty sure most of the Crosby's, Stamkos', Miller's, Weber's Toews' and Kane's would stay in North America with an exodus of washed-up vets, money-grabbers and bottom-six-types cashing in.

As for the Russian's? For my money, I have no problem with the likes of Ovechkin and Kovalchuk heading home to the mother land to stay. Never liked their game. I love the North American game and would love nothing better than a return to Cold-War-era international hockey pitting the two styles against each other.

When this lockout is over and there's labor peace (however temporary,) I really hope that Fetisov's plan comes to fruition. Sorry New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington and Edmonton, money talks, especially tax-free money for mother-land Russians who are tired of being bullied by the 'local lord-ling.'