Tuesday, August 02, 2005Finally the NHL...
Onto the NHL. I've sort of let the hoopla from the hockey fan(s) die down after a couple of weeks of celebration. Believe it or not, the NHL is still on a major lifeline.
The best things about the new agreement is obviously the salary cap. Hockey players were making an obscene amount of money before, ridiculously overpaid. Think about it, we're in the free-agent signing period right now and you've got decent defensemen like Adrian Aucoin making $15-16 million over four seasons. Before the new agreement that number is $28 million over four seasons. Does anyone think Adrian Aucoin deserves $7M per? Does Adrian Aucoin think he deserves $7M per?
So new agreement puts hockey players from ridiculously overpaid to grossly overpaid. The next best thing are the new rules...I'm apprehensive about this because the NHL is notorious for not enforcing anything classified as new. For the last five years they claimed they were going to call obstruction and they haven't done it yet (a new officiating crew as part of this new agreement wouldn't have been a bad idea by the way).
Getting rid of half the lines and moving the dimensions 4 feet wider is nice. The best part is totally restricting the goalie's area of work. The days of Marty Brodeur skating 30 feet outside of the net to play the puck is over. Thank god. I agree with Bill Simmons when he says that goalies should be chained like dogs [Link].
Shootouts are the best of the new ideas though because that will actually get the fans excited to see overtime. Hockey is the only sport that has the opportunity to make overtime games more appealing than regulation ones. The NBA couldn't have both teams line up for a sudden-death shootout from half court. This is one of those ideas that was so obvious that it's further proof that NHL owners and players lost all their grip on reality. The shootout should've been implemented 10 years ago.
And yes it should also be implemented for the playoffs. NHL playoff hockey is about as overrated as "Friends". The last good NHL postseason was 1994, ever since then the playoffs have sucked because instead of three hours of neutral zone trap hockey, there were six hours and five overtimes. I remember a game a couple years back that went five OTs and the shot count for both teams was in the upper 50s. Less than eight shots a period! That's BORING. At least TRY to score. In the playoffs give them two OTs max and go to a shootout. The world is moving quicker these days.
The bad of the new agreement is the fact that despite all these new rules, the league still doesn't have a decent national TV contract AND they didn't cut any dead wood.
The bad side of no national TV is that there won't be any promotions of opening night on ESPN, TNT, FX or anywhere else. And there's no guarantee that the NHL will be back on ESPN. Why should they? The Worldwide Sports Leader can easily slip in a tape of Poker and quadruple ratings. The NHL should agree to a deal with anyone who will take them and quickly. If Bravo offers them a deal but wants locker room access for the guys from "Queer Eye", the league needs to accept it.
This also doesn't allow the NHL to immediately capitalize on the 2006 Olympics. So there remains much work to do for hockey to survive. A new agreement put life into a dying sport, now the NHL needs to go through full reconstructive surgery.