blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: July 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making The Coyotes Everyone's Team

The solution to the Coyote Ugly that is the NHL in Phoenix is to share this troubled team with everyone who wants it. How so you say? Send them on the road, forever.

Rather than saddling another Sun Belt settlement with a perennial loser or forgoing lucrative expansion fees by relocating the desert dogs to a hockey rich pasture, the NHL should find an ownership group willing to be bound by a two-year movement clause for the club. That's right, you must agree to move the team every two years.

It's a simple plan. Second tier hockey hungry cities would bid for the right to host the Coyotes for a two season stint. Beauty contests headlined with season ticket deposits would determine the team's next 730 day residency before moving again on a biennial basis.

With a short fuse on each stay fans would embrace the novelty and excitement of a time limited team praying for playoff success during their terse tenure. Hamilton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Quebec, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, eat your heart out. If you pay, they will come.

Undoubtedly laughable at first blush the concept of the roaming Coyotes deserves a serious look. The ability to test numerous potential markets without a major commitment while turning a tidy profit is invaluable. Moreover the transient nature of the team would yield fans across the continent for the franchise from everywhere and nowhere at once.

Circusesque perhaps, but didn't the league cross that line years ago? How different, after all, is Barnum & Bailey from Bettman & Daly.

We'll run 'til we drop, baby we'll never go back.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Mileage

The road to the Stanley Cup is an intense and exhausting one regardless of route. It's length in miles, however, varies greatly according to matchup.

The chart below shows total miles and average miles per round accrued by teams in the 2009 NHL playoffs. All figures include a trip home after each round save Chicago's direct route to Vancouver from Calgary between their first and second series.

Total Miles-----Avg/Round
ANA: 13,120----''ANA: 6,560
CHI: 10,924-----'CLG: 5,596
VAN: 10,642-----VAN: 5,321
DET: 9,510-------CHI: 3,641
CAR: 6,814-------STL: 3,550
CLG: 5,596-------DET: 2,377
PIT: 4,062-------'CAR: 2,271
STL: 3,550-------'NJD: 1,672
BOS: 2,934-------'SJS: 1,312
NJD: 1,672-------NYR: 1,236
WAS: 1,580------'PHI: 1,016
SJS: 1,312--------'PIT: 1,015
NYR: 1,236-------BOS: 978
PHI: 1,016-------'WAS: 790
MTL: 502--------'MTL: 502
CLB: 328---------'CLB: 328

This postseason Anaheim managed the most total miles (13,120), miles in a round (11,808), and average miles per round (6,560). Columbus ended up with the fewest in each category (328) falling prey to a seven day perfect sweep by Central division rival Detroit.

The Ducks' second round travels alone amounted to more than any team gathered in the entire playoffs and 1,228 more than the lowest eight team totals combined. In fact, their two round total travel was only 452 miles shy of the Cup Finalists two month combined mileage.

Pittsburgh was perhaps the luckiest of all logging less than half that of their rematched Finals foes posting 5,448 fewer than Detroit to be precise. Amazingly they collected 1,534 less in their 58 day playoff run than Calgary did in their 11 days, averaging a modest 1,015 miles per round.

Whether this schedule bliss led to the extra Game 7 goal they needed to win it all we'll never know. Suffice to say, it certainly couldn't have hurt.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2010 NHL Regular Season Mileage

Ever wondered how many miles a NHL team will rack up on the 2009-10 regular season road? Last week statistical masochist Dirk Hoag did the math. His figures have been posited below in a Puck Report preferred format.

--'WEST---------------'EAST
Pacific--------------Southeast
DAL: 51,182---------FLA: 47,873
PHO: 49,707--------TBL: 41,842
ANA: 49,068-----'''''CAR: 38,360
SJS: 46,415----------ATL: 37,768
LAK: 45,682--------'WAS: 33,561
Avg: 48,411---------'Avg: 39,812

Northwest---------Northeast
CGY: 55,331---------MTL: 38,029
EDM: 49,191--------OTT: 37,523
VAN: 48,221--------BOS: 34,969
MIN: 43,599--------TOR: 32,313
COL: 43,405--------BUF: 25,911
Avg: 47,377---------Avg: 33,749

Central-------------Atlantic
STL: 44,971---------NYR: 37,361
CHI: 43,417---------PIT: 33,154
DET: 42,477--------'NYI: 31,550
CLB: 40,410--------'NJD: 31,340
NSH: 39,749--------PHI:29,087
Avg: 42,102---------Avg: 32,379
_________--------_________
Avg: 45,963--------Avg: 35,313

Applying averages, the West travels 10,650 more miles than the East with the Pacific division leading the Atlantic by 16,032. In terms of teams, Calgary posts the most (55,331) and Buffalo logs the least (25,911) yielding a difference of 29,420. Individually, Luongo will best Brodeur by 16,881, Niedermayer notch 19,981 more than Pronger, and Zetterberg collect 9,323 more than Crosby.

In addition to counting miles, Hoag's Super Schedule shows the number of back-to-back games; Chicago and New Jersey lead the league with 19 while Edmonton and Ottawa have the fewest at 11. Arguably the most interesting facet of the fodder is the display of differentials from last year to present as well as an estimation of the 10 toughest 24 hours.

A long road lies ahead for all, though travel is far worse in the West.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hitler Reacts to NHL Happenings

Among the most remixed viral videos on YouTube is a spoof of an integral scene from the 2004 Academy Award nominated drama Downfall. The parody appropriates Bruno Ganz's Hitler learning of his fallen empire with subtitles suggesting the F├╝hrer's displeasure for something comparatively pedestrian.

The original has been reworked to comment on football (Cowboys' loss, Owens' signing, Favre's rejection, Plaxico's shooting, Lions' winless season), current affairs (mortgage crisis, Obama's win, Hillary's downfall, McCain's loss, Jackson's death), movies (Star Trek, Phantom Menace) personal issues (Twitter, Xbox, Ebay, online poker, Wikipedia, Vista, stolen car, visiting mother, sexuality, ordering a pizza, attending burning man,) and the joke itself (subtitles changed, YouTube phenomenon). The NHL has not been spared.

In addition to Heatley's trade request, Hitler has been subtitled to sound off on Crosby, Koivu, Sundin, and McTavish as well as the Canadiens, Devils, Flyers, Avalanche, and Canucks addressing underperformance, botched signings, brushes with the law, and playoff collapse.

Bravo Bruno for delivering a performance worthy of endless replays. While writers retread often tired lines your portrayal remains fresh.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fixing the NHL Regular Season Schedule

Charged each year with setting a regular season schedule of 1230 games in 184 days, the NHL's July offering typically sends teams on excruciating road trips, squeezes back-to-back games with travel into 24 hour periods, and prevents clubs from visiting every rink. The following six tips offer a fan-friendly upgrade to this flawed scheme.

Fewer Games Each Season
Though owners and players would likely prefer to skate through the motions for 82 games so as to not surrender a dime, the majority of fans would happily settle for something less than the watered-down six month marathon of multiple meaningless matches.

Carving out 10-20 games from the regular season would allow for more time between games, yielding better-rested combatants and lessening the likelihood of injury, while heightening the importance of each match as point collecting opportunities become more precious. Less is more.

More Rest Between Games
To ensure players are performing at or near 100% every night, no team should play twice in 24 hours. Watching the home team twice in two nights is boring and forcing a team to travel between such tightly spaced affairs is unnecessarily onerous. Rested participants precipitate more competitive and exciting games. Spread it out.

No Hockey In June
The regular season should begin in October and end in March so the Stanley Cup may be awarded come May. To skate beyond Victoria Day, let alone Memorial Day, is uninspiring and untimely. Let's give June back to baseball. The boys of summer NHLers are not.

Every Team, Every Rink, Every Year
Though an improvement upon the post-lockout 8, the current division-heavy 6/4/1 (+3) division/intra-conference/inter-conference structure still fails fans. The fact that this redundancy keeps every team from every rink is an outrage.

A revised 5/3/2 division/intra-conference/inter-conference setup ensures an outright winner for division and intra-conference season series, puts each team in every rink, and eliminates the nonsensical three game wildcard offering. Moreover, the 5/3/2 balances the regular season at an even 80 games, shaving six periods off the existing 82. Fewer games and each team in every rink? Yes please.

More Home-And-Home Games
The best way to instill a rivalry is to match the same two teams twice in three nights. Every fan should endure this intense imposition upon their faithful with division and intra-conference foes pairing in such proximity at least once a year.

Further, at the end of each home-and-home regular season series all players should lineup and shake hands. The combination of competition and class needn't be the province of the postseason alone.

Rematch Stanley Cup Finalists To Start Season
Finally, the regular season should open on a Thursday with a single game featuring the Stanley Cup champions hosting their Cup Final partner. The prize would be paraded, banners raised, and rivalries renewed as the bridge spanning summer connects the seasons.

Two nights later every team in the league would faceoff as the pair polishes off the back-end of their home-and-home series. An opening night spotlight on the Stanley Cup would set the season ablaze.

Six small steps for scheduling. One giant leap for fankind. Lock it up.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rethinking NHL Player Salary Structure

As the NHL braces for a future of economic uncertainty punctuated by failing franchises, GMs and player agents continue to bind their clients to onerous long-term fixed-dollar arrangements. Now partnered through the CBA's tying of team payrolls to league revenues, the NHL and NHLPA need a more imaginative mechanism to reward players and insulate owners as revenues expand and contract accordingly.

The solution lies in revising the standard player contract to state salaries beyond the present year as a percentage of the team cap limit rather than sums certain. For example, if a player signs a 5 year deal for $25m when the team cap limit is $50m the contract would be expressed as a '50% of current cap' contract spread over 5 years. The parties could then structure the percentage payout as they see fit (e.g. 15%-12%-10%-8%-5%, 10%-10%-10%-10%-10%, 6%-8%-10%-12%-14%) provided the total does not exceed the bargained for 50% over 5 years and the terms fall within the prescribed league minimum and maximum salary guidelines. Although the player's pay would likely vary from the contemplated $25m (unless, of course, the cap remained fixed for the 5 year term), their percentage of the signing-year salary cap would be constant.

The proposed 'percentage of current cap' contract serves to strengthen the existing owner/player partnership by building equity and elasticity into player contracts. Undoubtedly players will pine for fixed dollars in downturns and owners will miss pocketing profits when revenues rise. But the arrangement offers a sustainable financial future for all concerned, protecting against economic fluctuations and from reckless team representatives committing more than 100% of the salary cap pie.

Reluctant as they may be, further embracing and bolstering their inevitable association is the best course for fiscal health moving forward.

Comprehensive current and forward-looking team and individual player salary information may be found here. Present year only data is available from the NHLPA here. Historical team and player salary information is available at the USA Today salaries databases here.

* See also NHL Highest Paid Players By Year.
* See also NHL Minimum Wage & Maximum Wage By Year.
* See also NHL Highest Player Salary & Cap Hit By Position.