Sunday, September 14, 2008

Keeping Things In Perspective

OK so the Ranger prospects lost both games this weekend at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. Yes, we can find a lot of things not to like about what happened this weekend from the prospects but that would be defeating the point about why the Ranger prospects are here in the first place.

This is not about winning or losing but rather about the bigger pictures which is to try to measure the Ranger prospects under some game conditions. It is about looking at what a prospect needs to work on, how the prospect reacts under game conditions against those who are close in terms of stages of development.

Winning as we said over at the Blueshirt Bulletin+ is a nice bonus but truth be told even if they lose all 3 games the bigger picture is about prospect development. If the kids can come away from this with a better understanding about what they have to do in order to become NHL players then it is a win.

If the kids can learn what to expect from a Ranger coaching staff then it is a win. If the staff can learn what a kid can do under game conditions then it is a win for everyone.

Sadly the hype machine from both the Rangers and NHL makes the games at tournaments like this one can make or break how good a prospect class they have. That simply is not the real goal of these games otherwise the Rangers (and other NHL teams) would bring the prospects in with more than a one day camp.

We would bet that the folks who run player development would rather not have the microscope on what they are trying to accomplish here. There is a concern that if a prospect does not play well here then fans will get the idea that the prospect is a bust.

Traverse City is more about learning than it is about winning; yes winning is nice but there is a much bigger picture to look at. It is about the prospects getting to learn about the Ranger coaching staff as well as possible future teammates.

Just like the Rangers have held team bonding exercises at West Point, Traverse City is about getting these kids to know one and other. It is a chance for these kids to make friends and form bonds for the future.

It has worked in the past as we have talked to some of the prospects when they return back to their junior teams; they talk about not only staying in touch with those they roomed with but also encouraging each other during the season. The prospects start thinking of themselves as Rangers.

We can understand how Ranger fans are disappointed with the results of the first 2 games. Nobody likes losing not even these kids but the main focus has to be not the score but the effort.

At the same time, it is also about realizing just how far the Ranger prospect program has come since the lockout. Once upon a time the Rangers did not have 23 prospects in the system to field a roster like this. Now they can pick and choose who they want to bring to a tournament like this.

Maybe it is the Ranger's own success with the kids last season is causing so many to think that what has happened is a failure. We really urge people to not look at the win/loss that comes out of the tournament but try to think 3-5 years down the road as we are.

Think about when it is Del Zotto and Sanguinetti manning the power play point and they mesh together. Think about it when you realize when they first got a chance to play with each other.

Think about it when the DAG line (Dupont/Anisimov/Grachev) are leading the Rangers as it was here at Traverse City when they first tried the 3 players together (reports said they played well together) as a unit.

We look at Traverse City as nothing more than a tree farm as you are planting seeds for the future and hope that they take root.

Congrats to SC Bern

We got the word over the weekend that the Ranger's opponent on September 30th, SC Bern won their Champion's Hockey League Qualifier. SC Bern is the 12th and final team to earn a place in the league that is made up of all of Europe's best teams.

We want to bring this up because as the Rangers have not even begun training camp, SC Bern has already had their training camp, has already played what they are calling 2 playoff games and will have 5 more games under their belt before facing the Rangers.

SC Bern will have 4 days of rest before they make their attempt at the Swiss version of "Miracle on Ice". To the Rangers and the NHL the games of the Victoria Cup are just exhibition games but do not tell the folks who root for SC Bern that.

To the folks who root for SC Bern, the NHL may be the best league in the world but this is their house and their team. The best way to describe the fans of SC Bern is to call them the Ranger fans of Europe. SC Bern leads Europe in attendance win or lose and the Rangers are going to skate out onto a ice where close to 18,000 singing, chanting and very loud fans will be rooting their team on.

Speaking of the CHL

While everyone seems to be arguing over whether the NHL or Russian KHL are going to take over European Hockey by expanding to Europe; there is a side that seems to be ignored and perhaps that is a huge mistake.

The reason why the Champion's Hockey League was formed by the IIHF was to give all of the European teams a chance to play for a unified championship. For those of you who follow the UEFA Champion's European Football League, the hockey version is being run by those same folks (Ovation Sports).

The folks who built up the Football (or soccer to you North Americans) league did it slowly and smartly which appears to be their game plan for hockey as well. Yes attendance struggled during this past weekend's qualifier but just like any new product it will take time for acceptance in the market.

We keep hearing about how the KHL is going to expand into Europe but what people seem to be not listening to is how those in Western Europe would want a say in how any league they join would be run. That is why several are more interested in the CHL than KHL because while the Russians are talking big the folks in charge of the CHL are quietly working at building all the needed elements of a league that makes it.

Want TV? The folks at the CHL have been signing up broadcasters all over Europe to cover their league. Want an official supplier then how about Reebok who signed on to become the CHL's first supplier.

The work being done on the CHL is in many ways something the NHL needs to be sitting down and taking some serious notes on marketing. We have been reading the CHL newsletters that they have been sending out and the more we see the more we are liking their plans.

Everything we have seen so far is well thought out, it has a mass marketing appeal that does not insult the senses (yes please NHL read that part) and it is big on visuals and music.

We can not wait for their first commercial to come out as we have seen the design boards of it and it is pretty slick.

The NHL will not make it in Europe simply because they would price themselves out of the market. As for the KHL, while everyone is talking about the deep pockets that the league has what they keep forgetting is that the next time the Russian Hockey world goes more than 5 years before fighting among themselves it will be the first time.

If anything we see the CHL as the true viable option for European hockey if for no other reason that it is treating all the teams involved as equal partners something that neither the NHL or KHL have shown that they are capable of doing.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Sure it's not the end of the world,and it's definitely for more evaluating than anything else but no goals in 120 mutes in a prospect tournament!

I don't think it's time to re seed the whole orchard but maybe some of the seedlings got washed away by the heavy rains and may need to be cultivated.