Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The NHL is at it again!

In what can only be described as another hair-brained idea, the NHL has come out with "The Guardian Project" in collaboration with 88 year old comic lord, Marvel's Stan Lee. I have nothing against the 88 year old Lee, but being 88 years old means his mental faculties are probably no longer all there, dooming this project from the get-go. The premise behind the NHL's latest in a long line of failed marketing ploys ("It's effing Tinkerbell!") is Lee and his team at Marvel created a super hero based on every NHL team. These 30 super heroes will take on some mysterious villain threatening the world and the NHL (ZOINKS!).

While this is undoubtedly a ridiculous under taking, it has become even more farcical than we here at Through Your Earpiece could have ever imagined. A quick look at bio snippets from our favorite Guardians reveal how strange this project is.

From The Blackhawk: He prides himself on being the guy who the others look to when situations look bleak. In his words, "Jump on my big shoulders and let's get it done."

Come on! Do I even need to explain this?

From The King: He's comfortable on the red carpet but far more likely to be found at a director's house discussing his latest film.

Yeah right... as long as the director is Roman Polanski.

The Oiler: He's gritty and tough like the roughneck oilrig workers he mostly associates with. He loves getting his hands dirty and not only doesn't he shy away from hard, physical work, he relishes it.

Uhhhh... why does this sound like a giant 950-pound behemoth trolling the Edmonton gay night life?

The Wild: The Wild isn't so much a superhero as he is a force of nature... the Wild chains himself up at night so as not to cause any unnecessary mayhem.

So the NHL Guardians are into porn fetishes?

Since I could do this about every guardian, but would rather not I'll leave you with this from the Shark: the Shark can change his demeanor at a moment's notice and exhibit a more tenacious side... and like actual sharks, poor eyesight (in fact he's almost blind).

But don't expect this hero to be around come May, he'll probably be on the golf course.

While the NHL has yet to reveal their menacing villain, we have some ideas as to what plagues the NHL which we will reveal in the near future!

Stay tuned! Same blog-time! Same blog-channel!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Punting Wins Championships

Ok, maybe not championships. But while I was writing a season-ending tirade against the Giants, I noticed something. A couple of very good teams, better than the Seahawks, (both in wins and losses, offense stats, and defense stats) all have a common thread. The Giants, Chargers, Bucs, and Jaguars were all in the hunt during Week 17. The Rams were as well, but let’s just chalk that up to the anomaly that is the NFC West. All four of these teams fell short. Their offensive and defensive stats seem to vary, but there is one constant - bad punting.

A key punting stat is Net Punting Average, which demonstrates the resulting field position after the punt. While, of course, punt coverage must be considered, a punter has a significant affect on this statistic. A failed pooch punt into the end zone, a shanked punt out of bounds, low kicks, and short kicks, all will affect this statistic. The Bucs (#23), the Giants (#26), the Jaguars (#29), and the Chargers (#32) are all in the bottom ten in the league in this statistic.

Two of the top teams in offense and defense, the Giants and Chargers, also rank at the bottom of punts inside the 20. This can be a measure of distance but more often that not, it is the ability to avoid touchbacks and pin teams deep in their own end. The Chargers rank #32 with 13 punts inside the 20. This suggests that fewer than one time per game (barring a red zone turnover) that Chargers opponents started deep in their own territory. The Giants, ranked #27, had 20, which is more than once per game, but a far cry from the league leading 42 (Jets). The Jaguars (#15) and Bucs (#17) were not as dramatic but also in the lower echelon of the league. It is worth noting that both the Chargers and Giants were in the bottom of the league in total number of punts.

The most glaring example of punting issues was, of course, Matt Dodge against Philly. In the closing seconds of the game, Dodge needed to kick the ball out of bounds to give the Eagles one or two long plays to score. Instead, Dodge kicked it to DeShawn Jackson who took it to the house.

Alright, there is certainly more in play here. Maybe punting does not win championships. You could always take a page out of the Packers-Falcons game and just not punt at all. Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Proof the NHL is Behind the Times

I'm all for edgy rock music being used it commercials.. it adds another layer of texture to the spot. Let's take the latest commercial for the NHL All Star game, taking place on January 30th here. A pretty cool bit showcasing some of the NHL's biggest stars. Listen closely to the music. The song that plays is Switchfoot's "Meant to Live." A catchy song that helped the band achieve mainstream success. Want to know what year this song was released? 2003. That's right. 2003! Marc Messier was still in the league in 2003. Sidney Crosby, the NHL's biggest name, was still playing at Shattuck St. Mary's before playing juniors in Canada. Couldn't the NHL have found a more recent song to go along with their commercial? Don't even get me started on the fact that Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, while featured in the commercial, isn't even participating in the game itself. Once again it's one step forward, two step back. I guess Robin Scherbatsky was right when she said, "The 80s didn't come to Canada til like '93." The trend continues.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Forbes should avoid sports

So I realize sports is not Forbes' forte, but what is this? Any list that includes "Garth Snow" and "Best" should also include "at being a terrible GM" or "driving a franchise into the ground." Shockingly, this list considers Garth the 9th best at being a bang for your buck. Allow me to let that sink in. There are 30 GMs in the NHL, and Garth is ranked higher than 21 of them according to Forbes. Yeah, that doesn't make sense to me either. I can't argue with Dave Poile at #1 because the Preds are consistently competitive without having a large payroll, but how does Doug Wilson rank ahead of Ken Holland? Holland has 3 cups as a GM, one as an assistant GM, and the Wings are the hallmark franchise in the league. I'd say that is a good bang for my buck. Wilson? 0 cups, but 6 years of playoff disappointment... Ouch. I could nit pick every GM on this list, except Brian Burke, because he can do no wrong, but I will refrain from that diatribe. At least Don Waddell and his 1 playoff performance made the list. Dude had Heatley and Kovalchuk on his roster and couldn't build a team around them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Scoring In Your Own Net

The on-ice play of the New York Islanders is just depressing. As Chris Botta recently pointed out, one day it’s a couple bad bounces, next day is bad goaltending, and next day is no offense. The Islanders are continuing a historic slump, which simply cannot be explained beyond, “simply being outmatched and outplayed.” It is safe to say that this meager blogger cannot begin to confront how to turn around this struggling team. What I can say is the New York Islanders have had more than their fair share of blunders off-the-ice that should never have happened.

The Isles 13 game losing streak has been eclipsed by their recent treatment of writer Chris Botta. As Misconduct noted below, Botta’s press credentials were revoked from the Islanders for being overly critical of the team. In an interview on WFAN, Botta explained that the team accused him of centering the story around himself and not the Islanders. This was a reference to a comment he made during the draft last summer when Garth Snow denied Botta an invitation to hear his comments about the draft class, while other reporters were granted access. Botta, dutifully reported, that Snow refused to comment to him.

The fact is hockey is not what it was in the United States, and most certainly, the New York Islanders are not the team they once were. This certainly put the organization in a tenuous position for fans. Diehards (yes, we are still out there) cry themselves to sleep each night, while the casual fans get driven farther and farther away. If the Isles PR continues on the track it has right now, they will literally not have enough people in Islander country to fill the NHL’s smallest arena – which is incidentally the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The excommunication of Christ Botta may seem like a fleeting PR problem, but it really is indicative of a much deeper problem:

1. Losing an Ally - First, and most importantly, the Islanders lost an enormous ally in Botta. Botta had been with the organization prior to becoming a national sports writer. His passion for the Islanders was reflected in his blog, which gave more analysis and reporting on the Isles in the last two years than ESPN has done in the last decade. It was nice to know that there were a national sportswriter looking out for our team.

2. Shortening the Bench – The Isles beat writing staff is down to one. With the revocation of Botta’s credentials, Newsday’s Katie Strang remains the last beat-writer standing. This is particularly troublesome since Newsday limits its content, even access to Strang’s blog, to Newsday and Optimum subscribers. If the Islanders are hoping to better reach out to fans this is not a good way to do it. Especially when beat-writer blogs have become the best way to get up-close access to your favorite teams. I get plenty of insight from the 3 Yankee Blogs and 2 Giants Blogs that I read. As for the Isles? Botta really was the only/best game in town. We can only hope that he continues to post despite this diminished access.

3. Driving Away Talent – The current organization does not discriminate when it drives talented people away from the team. We have lost free agents (Ryan Smyth), coaches (Peter Laviolette, Ted Nolan, and Scott Gorden), front office staff (Neil Smith and Pat Lafontaine), and now they have turned on the members of the media. In the off-season, we saw the Islanders interceding on contract negotiations between MSG and Billy Jaffe. Sources said that Jaffe had been overly critical of the team and asked that his contract not be extended. I thought Jaffe was a gifted commentator and so did Versus and NBC who picked him up for national telecasts. Now Botta. Let’s hope Howie Rose is not next after his comments, which, frustration aside, I tend to agree with. With this circumstances, how can the Islanders expect to attract quality writers and commentators? It's hard enough to find the Isles on MSG+, MSG+2, or The Ocho or wherever they are for TV and Hofstra University Radio!

4. Troubling Fans – Fans are and should be concerned with the way the Islanders handle these situations because it is indicative of how the franchise is run. Fans, before even wins, want to know the franchise is stable and not say…moving to Kansas City. They want to know the team is more than just a bargaining chip for owner Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project. Who else but the Isles’ enemy #1, Chris Botta, defended Wang as an involved owner who genuinely cares about the team. But we need to hear it from Wang, Snow, and the organization. Good PR goes a long way on this front.

5. Appearances Help – We know the team is sucking money – like many NHL franchises. But come on! There is a dirty little secret about the Isles’ payroll that we should acknowledge. Without the buy-outs of Alexei Yashin and Brandon Witt (over $5M), the Islanders would be under the league minimum. Similarly, the Isles continue to pay injured players Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit instead of putting them on the injured list in order to stay above the salary floor. This may make good business sense, but let’s at least try to make it look like the Isles are focused on winning. Coughing a few extra bucks on players certainly is better than firing a talented Scott Gordon and talking about making the playoffs in the midst of a historic losing streak.

Have fun with unemployment Howie Rose

I apologize to our Islander fan readers, but this team is so bad even the announcers don't want to watch anymore. In fact, Howie Rose would prefer watching the Mets... in spring training. Yes, those same Mets that have been ridiculed in Family Guy multiple times. Considering Chris Botta had his press credentials revoked for being too critical of the team, this does not bode well for Mr. Rose.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Movember Madness – First Round, Yosemite Sam Bracket

#1 Lanny McDonald


#8 Bobby Valentine

Outlook: Hall of Famer whose 'stache dominated the NHL for two decades. But did it have more utility than Bobby V's?

#2 Dennis Eckersley


#7 Steve Prefontaine

Outlook: Eck's world-famous 'stache has taken him to the Hall and to the TBS Baseball Studio. It faces a tough competitor in Prefontaine's clearly aerodynamic look, which sent him to the 1972 Olympics.

#3 Mike Ditka


#6 Jeff Fisher

Outlook: The most tenured coach in the NFL presently takes on "The Coach" whose legacy and 'stache have won Superbowl, made movies, and a studio job on ESPN.

#4 Randy Johnson


#5 Don Mattingly

Outlook: The 'stache tells the story here. Mattingly's classic and consistent look was a metaphor for his on-field play. Johnson's look could often be entirely dominant, but not always what it used to be, he also killed a bird.

Remember to place your votes in the comments section! Let's get it on!