The Instigator Podcast 6.30 – The Vegas Juggernaut

After a little time off we’re back with a slightly different approach to a Cup Final preview. Given that game one went down the day before we recorded, simply offering up a preview would be dirty pool. So instead we opted to discuss just how difficult this Vegas team is going to be to knock off. While Tyler isn’t as confident as I am that Vegas is fated to win this series, we revisited their roster construction and just what’s working for them as they steam towards a championship. We also hit on the recent signings by the Sabres and how Lawrence Pilut, Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund will affect the team’s pipeline this coming year.

NHL needs more network respect

Old people, an inevitably shitty sitcom and a two episodes of whichever Law & Order spinoff airs on Wednesdays. That is what will be appearing, nation-wide, on NBC tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, on NBC Sports Network, you can potentially watch the Los Angeles Kings end a franchise-long Stanley Cup drought with a series sweep of the New Jersey Devils.

Who wouldn’t want to watch an old people version of Punk’d?

In case, you haven’t heard, ratings for this year’s Cup Finals are down compared to the last few seasons. There are plenty of determining factors here. New Jersey has fallen behind fast, the Kings are a tough draw for anyone East of the Mississippi and the Devils are also far behind that of a team like Boston in terms of market share.  There has also been the arguments made for the lack of star power in the series. While that isn’t inaccurate, I don’t think it is a primary reason for the lack of attention. Think about it, the Bruins and Canucks don’t have any stars that register on a national level in the US either.While there isn’t one thing to blame, you could certainly point to the lack of access for those who do wish to watch the series. Starting on a weekday and then transitioning to the weekend opened a big game between games one and two and with games three and four being shown on NBC Sports Network, there isn’t much room for improvement.

One thing that isn’t different is the impact being made in the participating cities. While New Jersey has dwindled with their team, LA is building more steam as the Cup gets closer to their grasp. My argument that individual success in big markets is drumming up interest in the sport hasn’t changed. It is just the impact nationally that hasn’t improved this season. Perhaps if the NBC family realized that bumping a potential deciding game to a cable network only a fraction of the country has would be a major mistake. What is particularly pathetic is that the Finals will be pre-empted on the main network by yet another silly lineup of network shows.

After American Ninja Warrior and Grimm kept their slot on Monday, Off Their Rockers, Up All Night and a pair of Law & Order episodes will remain on NBC tomorrow evening while the potential clinching game of the Stanley Cup will be played on cable. It is no secret that the NHL still has a ways to go in order to reclaim part of the national spotlight, but things like this aren’t helping. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 1.12 – Golden Ticket

Eric and I are back in action with another Instigator Podcast. Before delving into our thoughts on the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, we have a brief chat about the upcoming Sabres New Media Summit (aka the Basement Brigade Summit).

Of course, we play plus/minus with a special Stanley Cup Final spin and look forward to adding some guests to the program for some coming episodes, yet again.

I almost forgot, Jeremy Roenick cried!

I should preface this post, and explain that headline, by saying I have loads of respect for Jeremy Roenick. I was lucky enough to spend time with Jeremy in Vancouver at the Olympics and he is truly a great guy. The morning production meetings were always a blast with him there.

So, I digress. The fact that Jeremy Roenick was so emotional over the Blackhawks winning the Cup shows the die-hard attitude the players have in the NHL. Roenick was so close, so many times and missed his opportunity. And to see him in that state shows his dedication to the game of hockey. I know a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun with what happened in studio after the game, but I respect him for it. I know if the Sabres ever win the Cup………….I will probably experience a wave of emotion. Plus, if I were to have the hockey career similar to his, and see a former team of mine hoist the Cup, I would be happy but heartbroken too. So, my hat’s off to you Mr. Roenick. But, for everyone else, here is the video.

Hawks win, cabbies beware

Pat Kane fired the shot heard ’round the hockey world. Well, it was more of a trickler that eluded Michael Leighton to give Chicago their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

It was a climactic end to a game that was rather frustrating to watch. Particularly the first period and a half. Scott Hartnell – first of all cut your hair, you look like an ass – ran around taking dives and just played reckless through the first period. I thought the dive that drew a make-up call on Brent Seabrook was far worse than the tumble he took before his first goal. Either way, he runs around every game and plays a dangerous style, so does Dan Carcillo. Of course, Carcillo couldn’t do too much damage in the press box could he?

I found more fault with the refereeing, particularly in the first half of the game. Chris Pronger plays a rather edgy style, but, he didn’t really deserve the call he got for roughing up Jonathon Towes. In the same hand Marian Hossa did not interfere with Leighton in the 2nd. In fact, that was one of the worst calls I have seen in quite some time. Thankfully, the zebras put away the whistles for the third period and overtime. The final 20 minutes and change was wildly entertaining hockey and rather poetic, thanks to the deflection off Marian Hossa’s shin pad that led to the Flyers tying goal. Of course, that was moot once Kane slipped the winner under Leighton from a sharp angle.

Continue reading

Is the NHL back?

In the mid-1990s a strong argument could be made that the NHL had surpassed the NBA in popularity. But, goaltender equipment grew, the trap gained popularity and hockey entered the dead puck era. All the while, the NBA had a surge of young talent and rapidly attracted casual fans.

Entering the early 2000s the NHL, armed with commissioner Gary Bettman, who was sent from the NBA, attempted to invade non-traditional, warm weather markets. Ten years later the Nashville Predators have been in a constant state of limbo, the Phoenix Coyotes are being run by the league and teams like Florida, Tampa and Atlanta have trouble filling seats. All of this is occurring while the Stanley Cup Finals draws new audience highs since the 90s with numbers comparable to the Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals. In fact, last night’s 7-4 Blackhawks win trounced the NBA Finals in the Chicago market. Of course, that is to be expected.

The trend nationwide surely would favor the NBA, and I would not argue that the NHL has again surpassed the NBA in popularity. However, hockey is a much more team-oriented sport that has seen less drama off the playing field than the NBA recently.  When it all boils down the NHL is still a few years away, but, the youth movement has spurred ticket sales and unique events like the Winter Classic. Plus, the high-scoring Finals that is developing not only will help draw casual fans hungry for goals, but it will have Gary Bettman doing backflips about high-scoring games.

If ESPN’s coverage was less biased towards the NBA and the NHL continues to grow, the league should see nothing but positive growth in the next few years.

Your call: