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Can someone help Kevin Lowe up from under that bus

Well that was an awkward press conference

Is it MacTavish’s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that ….

… no.

No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.

When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilers’ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.

 “I’ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in … I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So don’t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,” he said.

MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didn’t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here he’s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavish’s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.

But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchise’s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an “outsider” that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isn’t his mess – and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the team’s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially – helps establish that persona.

“I’m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,” said the Rebel GM.

“We’re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that we’re in.”

No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players. 

More of the same. Another year in the basement.

RIP Pat Quinn

I learned this about Pat Quinn today

He was much more then the “Big Irishman” from Hamilton.  He was a well educated and big thinking coach.  In many ways he was hockey’s Phil Jackson.

Quinn for me was always the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Canucks but he had a great run in Philadelphia.

Quinn twice won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach. The first came in 1979-80, his first full season on the job, after the Flyers fashioned a record 35-game unbeaten streak that is unlikely to be broken now that shootouts are used to settle tied games. The Flyers also reached the Stanley Cup final that year.

His second coach of the year award came after the 1991-92 season with Vancouver. Two years later he guided the Canucks to within one victory of the Stanley Cup before they fell to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the final.

Quinn also served as the general manger of the Canucks and the Maple Leafs.

One of my favourite coaches of all time, even if his Canucks broke my heart by beating the Flames in the playoffs.

Saskatoon is Winterstrong

Saskatoon in Winterstrong

I have long said that Saskatoon could and needs to do winter better.  Instead of complaining about it, we need to embrace it like Edmonton has done.  With the arrival of winter today in Saskatoon, I decided to come up with a list of 30 awesome things to do in Saskatoon this winter (actually it is 28 things, one awesome thing is in North Battleford and one in PANP).  If you have any ideas, let me know on the page.  I’ll add them all.

What every professional sports league can learn from Donald Sterling

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is talking about the NFL learning from the debacle that is Donald Sterling but the lessons are universal.

While it remains impossible to open a window into a person’s soul to see whether the poison of racism resides there, it is possible to screen those whose words and actions suggest that they harbor such beliefs.

Donald Sterling’s words and actions suggest that he does. And the evidence existed long before TMZ published its tape of his voice.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling agreed in 2009 to a $2.765 million settlement of charges that he discriminated against African-Americans and others at an apartment building he owned. The Times also reports that a lawsuit filed in 2003 accused Sterling of saying “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and that “black tenants smell and attract vermin.” The case was resolved with a confidential settlement, but Sterling reportedly paid $5 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs.

Amazingly, those claims and the settlements of those claims generated little or no publicity or scorn of Sterling. If an NFL owner were accused of such conduct, the mere allegations would become major national news. If an NFL owner ever settled a case involving such allegations, the league office undoubtedly would be forced to take decisive action or face strong contentions of the existence of a double standard.

It’s all the more reason for the NFL to treat this occasion as the catalyst for ensuring that its house — specifically, its 32 houses — are in order. Existing owners should be warned clearly about the potential consequences of such conduct. Potential owners should be screened even more carefully to determine that they have done or said nothing that would suggest that their hearts are rotten with racism or other qualities that could result in their wealth and power being used to violate the rights of others.

Per a league source, NFL owners already expect Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the situation in some way at the next ownership meetings in May.

It’s often impossible to get to the truth of a person’s attitudes regarding matters of race. But the Sterling situation underscores the importance of taking all reasonably available steps to ensure that the country’s biggest sports business is doing business with people who have not only the wealth to assume such an important responsibility, but also the character.

The train wreck that is the Saskatoon Blades

This column by Kevin Mitchell is why I won’t care about the Saskatoon Blades next season.

New people coming in will have to accept the Priestners’ hands-on approach, which is a direct contrast to the laid-back stylings of previous owner Jack Brodsky.

The new proprietors made it clear right from the start that they won’t, for example, allow a coach on their team to play a dull, trapping style of hockey – they want their fans to be entertained. Colin Priestner told reporters after dad Mike bought the team that while he wasn’t qualified to make trades or scout talent, “I will be actively involved within the dressing room.”

He kept that promise, maintaining regular dialogue with players within the locker-room, and it didn’t sit well with assistant coach Curtis Leschyshyn, a longtime NHLer who left the team last week.

“Those were some of the things that, as a player, I never saw in my career, nor do I think is part of the game,” Leschyshyn told our Daniel Nugent-Bowman when speaking about those frequent locker-room forays. “The room is a very special place for the players. It always should be that way.”

Those dynamics have been laid bare, the working conditions made readily apparent, so here’s the deal as the job hunt commences: If you’re uncomfortable with members of the ownership team hanging out in the locker-room, if you’d chafe at the hands-on approach the Priestners prefer … then Saskatoon’s not for you. Stay far away.

If you don’t see it as a big deal, then send in your resume and join the competition.

Molleken talked quietly Tuesday about “passing the torch.” while Hogle said the search crew will seek “candidates that have a rich hockey history, a tradition of success in the playoffs, who are leaders of culture.”

The new owners, while far from universally popular, talk a bold game when it comes to the Blades’ future. Much of the old guard has been swept away. A fresh canvas waits for either a masterpiece or a dud.

This 16-51-2-3 team is keeping things interesting, if nothing else.

I can’t think of a single successful owner who is doing what Colin Priestner is doing here.  Lots have tried it his way (Dan Snyder, James Dolan, Al Davis, George Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban in his early years) and it has never worked out.  The owners job is to hire good people, set expectations, and let them do what they know how to do.  Priestner’s way undermine the very thing that he says that he is trying to do.

At the press conference he said that he is going to be advised by ex Flames GM Craig Button.  Really.  Was Gord Stellick too busy?  Button had a horrible run as Flames GM.  In addition to not being able to assemble talent on the ice, his management tree doesn’t have any notable limbs on it either.  He struggled to find talent on and off the ice and now we are bringing him in as a consultant.  

If Priestner isn’t careful, he is going to so damage a product that when the AHL comes calling (and it will), the Blades will be looking for a new home.

Knuckler

What a brutal shot.  It goes high and then low.  I feel for Tuukka Rask who will mocked by this team mates for decades for letting this goal in.

I do love this Gerry Cheevers type response.  He just shrugged his shoulders and didn’t seem to let it bother him.  If I was him, I may have been tempted to take a chopped Zdeno Chara who broke the rule of never putting your stick down in front of a shot. 

With slim chance of landing NHL team, Markham arena project somewhere between risky and outright insane

Bruce Arthur points out the insanity of the Markham stadium plan

Which brings us to the city of Markham, which hopes to stake a claim. The city has been wrestling for some time with a proposal to build a $325-million arena that would hopefully house an NHL team. Mayor Frank Scarpitti revealed a modified version of the funding structure on Friday with a murky new $70-million extracted from unnamed developers. The plan is still full of holes, with at least $50-million not covered, and council is expected to vote on a previous version of the funding structure Monday or Tuesday. And between now and then, someone should tell them that they are risking an enormous amount of money for a project that is somewhere between risky and outright insane.

“We have never been encouraging of this project,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, reached by phone on Saturday. “And we have repeatedly said that if this building is built, it should be built with the expectation that they will not get a team.”

Bettman was otherwise loathe to comment on the project, or any other one. Yes, he has always repeated a version of that line to those who hope to join the list, because the NHL does not want cities to bankrupt themselves in the faint hope that they might jump to the front of a queue. Yes, Bettman is widely disbelieved when he says, for instance, that Quebec is not necessarily getting the Nordiques back anytime soon.

But in this case, right now Markham is chasing something that isn’t there. One NHL source with knowledge of the league’s thinking called the Markham project “delusional,” and pointed to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, already outdated, as an example. The source added that Markham is not a priority for the league, and that building an arena will not make it one. The NHL loves to insist there isn’t a list, but if there is, Markham isn’t on it.

What’s even more delusional are those that say that Saskatoon is going to get a NHL team.

Saskatoon Afternoon Show 5:15 Rountable

We had a good discussion today on the Saskatoon Afternoon Roundtable about hockey fights and the Mayor’s lack of leadership on active transportation and cutting congestion on Saskatoon City Streets.  I may have called him “clueless”.  If I would have brought my “A” game, I would have called him the “Gary Bettman of Mayors” and bridged the segments.  Next time (we talk municipal politics and hockey in the same segment).

Listen.

Mark Messier’s Dilemma

I am not a fan of the The Captain and this post does little to change my mind

But NHL coaches aren’t born, they’re made. Adam Oates is a great example: Extremely intelligent, a student of the game, and a player with name recognition for generations of talent that came after him; but he needed some time as an NHL assistant coach before he could earn a head coaching gig with the Washington Capitals.

Wayne Gretzky is another example, and one Messier shouldn’t follow: He hadn’t coached a game before taking over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005-06, and proceeded to miss the playoffs for four consecutive seasons – losing 161 games and much of his luster as a man that could master every facet of hockey.

Messier’s coaching experience is limited to coached the Canadian national team in the Deutschland Cup and Spengler Cup in 2010. This hasn’t stopped teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Rangers from inquiring about his services as a head coach, but in both cases that’s as much about name recognition as it is coaching acumen.

So if the former captain is serious about this stuff, he needs to understand that his name is a foot in the door but that it doesn’t automatically get to appear on that door next to “head coach” just because he’s Mark Messier.

He can take the Oates route and work as an assistant. He could be a rock-star AHL coach, honing his craft and earning experience as a bench boss. He can learn the ropes like any novice and become a better coach because of it.

Or he can just admit that this was about being HEAD COACH OF THE NEW YORK RANGERS and nothing else will do. That’s fine. Leave the other 29 jobs to those with the hunger for the job rather than the job title. Hey, the Rangers will probably be hiring a GM soon.

If you recall, Messier wanted to be named the New York Rangers GM before despite having no experience scouting, coaching or really anything than being a team captain.  He doesn’t seem to be willing to do the work to succeed as an executive that he was as a player.

I know he won those rings but it’s almost as if he forgot how he got them.

The greatest comment in the history of the Internet

It’s in response to this blog post on Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy blog.

Comment on John Tortorella's firing

I challenge you to find one weirder.

Tortorella the worst kind of coach

Michael Grange has a fantastic column on the firing on John Tortorella.

News that he was fired as head coach of the New York Rangers Wednesday was an excellent excuse to collect ‘best-of packages’ of his worst moments. They are fun in their own way.

But they tend not to capture some of the quieter moments such as when he’d look to a guy making a miniscule fraction of his salary and needing a clip for the news about … anything … and respond by using the power of his pulpit and his status as the head coach of the mighty Rangers to make whoever it might be feel about two inches tall for doing his job.

Cut ‘em down, smirk, do it again. Up close it wasn’t fun or funny at all.

He’s been the subject of a Steve Porter remix. His explosive rants about the ‘whiny Pittsburgh Penguins stars’ or his battles with Larry Brooks of the New York Post are YouTube classics.

Good for him and undoubtedly good for fans who enjoy a little pepper with what is normally a pretty bland soup.

But from where I sat during the Rangers-Senators series last season, when Tortorella took his obstinacy to a new — low — level that he carried through the playoffs, he was a bully who enjoyed turning convention on its head for no apparent reason — like a kid picking legs off a spider.

Make sure you read the entire thing.

Updated: Make sure you check out this video with Nick Kypreos on Tim and Sid on Tortorella.  If you are still thinking about the New York Rangers, Doug MacLean, Nick Kypreos and Daren Millard discuss the New York Rangers firing coach John Tortorella and the reaction from the players.

It’s been a mediocre ride for Lorne Mollekan

The Saskatoon Blades won one game this entire post-season which is one more game than they won last post-season.    It’s not exactly out of the ordinary for Mollekan, the Blades almost always flame out quickly in the WHL playoffs as you can see in the table below.  The team motto could be, “If its spring, we are golfing”.

NewImage

Regardless of whether or not we have home ice advantage or not, the Blades lose in the playoffs.  Even this year where we went all in, traded young players and draft picks away, we still managed to get swept in the playoffs and only win one game in the Memorial Cup.  Mollekan’s teams don’t win the in the playoffs or when the games matter.

Despite having one of the largest teams in the WHL, a profitable team, lots of resources at his disposal, and a city where people want to play in, we still can’t win in the playoffs.  After a while it’s time to look at the coach.

The upcoming season, the cupboard is bare.  Our top taken is playing elsewhere, we have no draft picks (although that can change with the need to ship out so many overage players), and we have ask, if Mollekan the right guy to do this again.  He can coach us to the first round of the playoffs but then what?  

The Blades need to look elsewhere.  They went all in this season and look at the result.  A long winning streak and one playoff win.  That isn’t good enough in most markets.

Mike Smith’s Smashing Comeback

As a former goaltender, Mike Smith was totally in the right.

The delusion of the Calgary Flames

Great piece by Eric Francis.  If Edwards’ statements are accurate (rather than just marketing talking) then it is going to be a bad stretch ahead to be a Calgary Flames fan.

Just when it appeared the Flames were finally ready to move wholeheartedly in the right direction, Edwards issued the type of directive that got this franchise into this mess in the first place.

Instead of building slowly towards something the city can eventually be proud of again, comments like that suggest the organization is destined to, once again, ignore the virtues of patience and better judgment by aiming for something that is not only completely unattainable but counterproductive.

Not so, argued president Ken King, who heard the rapid backlash.

“Trying to win and rebuilding are not mutually exclusive,” insisted King.

“We are not straddling the line of trying to balance — we are completely committed to the rebuilding process and should be judged on our recent and future moves.”

To think a team can jettison Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and likely lose Miikka Kiprusoff to retirement and somehow snap a four-year playoff drought despite receiving no NHLers in return is beyond nonsensical.

It’s delusional.

Intellectually dishonest.

So, why even float the idea out there?

While it’s important players continue to strive for wins throughout the process, standings should be irrelevant the next year or two. Improving with a re-stocked lineup should be the goal, however long it takes.

Feaster admitted Monday he hadn’t been as intellectually honest as he could have been the last two seasons by mortgaging the future to help a bad team. Edwards’ stated goal promotes more of the same.

The stage finally appeared to be set the last week for a prolonged rebuild fans have been screaming for. Calgarians are willing to sit through the growing pains absolutely necessary for every organization in pro sport to endure before going from the basement to Cup challengers.

The Flames’ age-old mandate calling for a team to challenge for the Cup every year isn’t realistic. Every franchise in every sport has to eventually take a step or two back to take one step forward.

By trying to emulate the Harlem Globetrotters, the Flames have looked more like the Washington Generals by advancing past the first round of the playoffs once in the last 24 years.

 

25 Years

Saskatoon Blades

25 years ago the Saskatoon Blades opened Saskatchewan Place with a game against the Brandon Wheatkings.  That night I got a phone call with an offer to go to the game.  Later that week I watched the Canadian Olympic Hockey Team practice in anticipation of some exhibition games they played at Saskatchewan Place.  It was a big deal and an amazing stadium.  Over the years I have seen a bunch of concerts, hockey games, World Junior Hockey Championships, and even some curling at now Credit Union Centre.  The stadium is rather sterile but it’s ours and it’s fun to go tonight with some friends to watch the Blades play the Lethbridge Hurricanes (who when they were the Calgary Wranglers, where the first WHL team I ever saw play).  It should be a fun game night.  Monday I have a column out about Saskatchewan Place and stadium economics today.  A lot has changed although I am glad the famous Blades Pac Man logo still makes an appearance from time to time.