Monday, December 04, 2006

Stuff . . .

The Caps don’t play until Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean stuff isn’t going on . . .

First . . . reports that the NHL owners are meeting in Palm Beach this week to discuss a number of items:

- High on the list of yakkable topics is the schedule. Seems the owners might realize something the general managers didn’t . . . getting a Sidney Crosby or an Alex Ovechkin, or a Detroit Red Wings (with the Grateful Red traveling road show fans) or New York Rangers once in a Halley’s Comet sighting isn’t good business. Especially when that Florida Panther/Washington Capital rivalry doesn’t appear to have taken hold. Will anything happen? The Peerless’ magic eight-ball sez . . . not at this meeting, but something will be done for the 2008-2009 season.

- Playoff bracketing . . . the league currently employs the bracket/re-bracket method after each round to ensure that the “best” team faces the “worst” in each round leading up to the Stanley Cup championship. The proposal here is to go to an NCAA-style bracketing method, where the seeds are not re-sorted after each round. That could put a real premium on the first round – if an 8-seed beats a top-seed, for example, they get the winner of the 4-5 series, no matter what (they would not have to face the 2-seed if that club beat the 7-seed). Will this change? In the end, no.

- Revenues and TV . . . the owners will get a snapshot of projected revenues and an update on the television “landscapes” in the US and Canada. These issues are related. After a large, and largely unexpected, jump in revenues in the league last year, attendance is down this year (higher ticket prices will mean a modest increase in revenue seems to be the message). Television ratings, for all the bleatings from the league and its major TV partners that progress is being made, are anemic. It’s hard to put an evening gown on a pig, call it Miss America and have anyone say anything other than, “yeah, right.” These guys are the very flower of business acumen in the National Hockey League – they’d better figure something out, and that means something other than gimmicks (cough-shootout-cough).

Second, it looks as if Alexander Ovechkin will not do any time for his hit on Daniel Briere on Saturday. The 20 minutes in penalties and Benjamin appear sufficient in the eyes of the league. The Peerless disagrees, even as a Caps fan. Boarding is a big deal (ask Erik Cole . . . or Robbie Bina, for that matter). This is one of those “learning” situations that can be more valuable to a player than any drill in practice. In this case, a player who has steadfastly earned – deservedly so – a reputation as a supremely skilled, charismatic, tough-but-clean player, can see that reputation disintegrate into that of a “dirty” player in the blink of an eye. The Peerless did his own informal, unscientific survey of team message boards to take the pulse of the hockey fan yesterday, and most sites where the topic was discussed deemed the hit “dirty,” “gutless,” that of a “punk,” and worse. Alex isn’t that kind of player and gives no indication of being that kind of person (I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him), but that is how quick things can change, and it can take a career to dig out from under it.

The Peerless thinks one game was in order to press the point that actions have consequences, even for elite players, and to show the player (and others) in a tangible way that respect for one’s opponent is required at this level of play.

I would be shocked if this sort of thing were ever to appear again in the body of work of Alexander Ovechkin. In a career that is likely to span 15 years or more, this won’t rise to the level of footnote, but it – and suitable punishment -- could serve as a valuable lesson in the young man’s development as both a player and as an ambassador for the league.