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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.

Prime Minister Harper’s Hockey Book

I have been hearing for a while that Harper’s book on hockey is quite good

The prime minister is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. He helped the group erect a memorial to James Creighton, one of the fathers of the game, and has invited several historians to 24 Sussex Drive to discuss his book and show off his collection of sweaters and hockey books.

The book was first mentioned publicly in 2005, when a friend told the Globe and Mail it was a hobby Harper became more serious about over time.

In 2006, Harper told CBC that he had hoped to finish it by then, but found it hard to put in the time. He described the research as “an escape from the pressures of the job.”

In 2010, a friend told a hockey researcher that Harper had completed a manuscript, but that he was unhappy with parts of it. He had personally hired (and personally paid) a full-time researcher — Greg Stoicoiu of Calgary. He has made several visits himself to the Hockey Hall of Fame Resource Centre in Toronto to dig through its collection.

In 2011, Harper said the book would be published in 2012 after eight years of working on it for 15 minutes a day.

It sounds like a cool project and until I read Stephen Maher’s article on it, I had no idea that there was a Society for International Hockey Research.  I hope the publishing of the book coincides with a political lull to allow him to hit the sports talk shows.  As good as the book is, I would love to hear the Prime Minister sit down with Bob McCown and the Prime Time Sports team for an hour and talk hockey.

A Clean Sheet

 

 

Cooper XL7

I got one of these for Christmas in 1986 or 1987.  Cooper XL7, Cooperalls, mullets… it was a dark time for hockey fashion.

Christmas

Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together.  It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out.  We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.

Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie.  Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.

Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day.  This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail.  I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys.  We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up.  While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at  Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.

Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve.  While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more.  In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom.  He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.

Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet.  There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place.  While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay.  It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.

Mark

Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire C Android Smart phonewhile I got him a Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod).  I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday.  We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go.  Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today.  I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne).  He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel

In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle)  Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones.  The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better. 

Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it.  Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started.  He was pretty excited with that.  Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.

He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself.  It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee.  To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.

Oliver

All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com.  I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet.  I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him.  Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks.  He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.

Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas.  I immediately thought of this.

Stewie Griffin's tricked out

What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.

His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else.  He was quite jacked about it.  

Wendy

With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume.  We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about).  Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rod which she was horrified of.  Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake.  We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones.  If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas.  The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale.  Not sure where they got the money to get those.

Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day.  She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.

Lee

I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitool and case.  Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine.  Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck.  Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5.    “Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much.  

He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open.  Once he got it open, he cut himself.  

Wendy put together a great beer can chicken gift set of a roasting pan, rubs from Cabela’s, and a grilling recipe book.  I expect some good beer can chicken this summer.

Because Lee was so insistent on lasagna for supper, we gave him a MRE lasagna and a spork as well.  He can now have lasagna while camping.  I think that was his favourite gift.

Brittany

Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card.  Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well.  Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know).  It just seemed to work well for us.  Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating.  It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.

Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked.  As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.

My Haul

I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals.  Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption.  I also got a Leatherman Skeletool.  To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure.  Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter.  It flies and crashes quite well around the house.    Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne.  Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.

The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them.  

Perhaps the purchase the surprised me the most is that the boys gave me Neptune’s Inferno which is a book about the naval battles at Guadalcanal

I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.

The photos can all be found here.

Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner.  I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold.  We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.