Saturday, August 13, 2011

Silly Little Dreamer We Be

While it is great to see how many of the 1994 New York Ranger Stanley Cup roster have gone on to post-playing careers; there are just some dreams we would love to see in our "perfect" hockey world.

Our Commissioner

For example if we had our way then the first thing we would do is name Mike Richter as the NHL commissioner. Yes yes we know better chance of hitting the lottery than this but it is our fantasy do allow us to enjoy it.

The owners would totally hate the idea of Mike Richter as the NHL Commissioner because Mikey would put the good of the game above the owner's desires. The players would hate Mikey because he would close off a lot of the loopholes that exist in the CBA.

We could see Mikey as the NHL Commissioner because nothing is more frightening than a commissioner who actually played the game but also understood the politics that govern it. A commissioner who knows what it feels like to be hurt in a game is equally at home understanding the economics that drive the market.

The term "revenue sharing" would make Richter popular in the smaller markets and hated in places like Toronto. But those same smaller markets would have to do what many would not want to do which is demand that they earn that very revenue sharing by proving that they are investing that money in improving their franchise and not into their pockets.

Open up your books or pass on the revenue sharing the choice is yours. We would also give back web content control back to the teams unless there is a specific request by a team.

Internet and Media Issues

James Dolan does have a valid point that the Rangers have to market the team in a tougher competition for the entertainment dollar than a Columbus or Edmonton does. The NHL can retain control over the special events but the Rangers used to be light years ahead of the rest of the NHL when it came to web content.

At the same time the granting of media credentials will be taken away from the teams and the NHL will be the ones issuing credentials. In fact the person we would select to come up with a fair policy as to what standards need to be met to earn credentials is Eric McErlain.

For those who do not know McErlain is the pioneer of creating the guidelines as to who should be given credentials. This might hurt some people's feelings but being granted credentials is a privilege not something anyone with a blog should be granted.

(On the serious side those guidelines have been what has been used here since day 1 and will continue to be the guidelines followed here)

A team will have a right to voice objections to those granted access but the team will have to show cause as to why someone should have credentials revoked or not granted. Simply writing nasty things about the team is not reason enough but if a team can show that someone is abusing their credentials (and we would turn to McErlain to write up said ethical standards) then yes revoke them.

Officiating, Safety and NHL Justice

Back to the game though as this one might catch people off guard but we would hire guys like Ken Hitchcock and John Tortorella to come up with one standard for use by on ice officials at all levels from bantam to the NHL. The coaches would have no way to argument since it would be they who have developed the standards used in games.

Yes the NHL should foot the bill for this as just like players having to work their way up to the NHL so do officials and doubt anyone would argue with us that NHL officiating is in a bad need of an overhaul.

The quality of officiating it is not very hard to argue has declined rather than improved in a large part because of a serious lack of candidates who want to become officials. The original decision to add a second referee in hockey was poorly thought up and rushed.

Since that decision the game simply has not caught up and because of that officiating at every level has suffered. One standard taught from the bantams on up needs to happen in the real world as well as our dream.

Sorry Brendan Shanahan is not the person who we feel comfortable as the replacement for Colin Campbell. The unspoken reason why the NHL hired Shanahan in the first place was to keep Shanahan from being hired by the NHLPA.

So for us then the answer is someone who has no agenda, has been a true ambassador of the game as well as one of the few true players universally liked. Leetch was as close to a gentleman as you can find in the game. Leetch will not let outside influences cloud his decisions as he will rule on the incident and take everything good and bad into account.

Since we are dreaming then we would create a "safety" committee consisting of players, coaches and officials and charge them with looking at safety of the game not only at the NHL but all over the world too. We would also invite the Europeans as well as the NCAA and CHL leagues to offer input since they seem to be way ahead of the NHL when it comes to shots to the head.

The NHL is where everyone dreams of playing so it should be the NHL who should be setting the standard for player safety not making excuses for being the last one to show up. How do you tell a 10 year old to play clean and not take cheap shots when Sidney Crosby can sucker punch a player to the groin?

Our silly dream says that when a player takes a blow to the head that an independent group of medical staff have to clear that player to return to action not a team doctor or trainer being pressured by a GM or coach trying to win a championship. It is time to stop with the "Macho Madness" and put the long term health of the player first.

We are tired of and frustrated at seeing too many stories of young players 15 and 16 having to give up the game because of repeated concussions. We believe the NHL should be proactive not reactive to kids who are suffering blows to the head.

And we would ask Mark Messier to concentrate his efforts on the Messier project as it should be more than JT Miller wearing the M11 Helmet at the prospect camp .  We know from firsthand experience that when Mark Messier speaks that hockey people at all levels listen and this helmet is just the first in many steps to make hockey equipment safer for both the wearer and the player facing him (or her).

TV Coverage

We would dump the current broadcasters used by Versus/NBC and put guys like Kevin Weekes, Pat Foley, Gord Miller, and Randy Moeller (our studio host). The NHL needs guys who can inform, teach and be entertaining at the same time rather than the smug garbage of the Milbury and McGuires.

The game is what is supposed to be the focus not feeding anyone's ego and that is why we clean house and bring in people who will not bring attention to themselves over the game being telecast.

The NHL Network will truly become the face of hockey as our version will feature games of the week from the CHL, NCAAs and International leagues. During the summer time than replaying the playoffs over and over and over then we toss in instructional blocks during the summer.

Why not show fans as well young players the kinds of drills that NHL players use in order to improve themselves during the off-season?

Or better yet there are several international competitions featuring the Under-18 and Under-17 players as even if they are on tape delay it would be better than 15 showings of Game 1 of the first round. Traverse City we have not forgotten about you as we would take it and expand it to a new concept.

We break it into 4 regional competitions involving all 30 teams and since Traverse City was first then just like the College World Series then we have a championship round with a real trophy awarded there. Yes we believe hockey fans will support this kind of summer event since it will be limited to players who have no more than 1 year of professional hockey.

We rotate the home arenas for the 4 regional competitions and it does not need to be played in front of 15-20 thousand but rather the smaller arenas to help keep the ticket prices reasonable. If anyone does not think that Traverse City does not mean something for these kids then imagine a mini-cup featuring the future?

As a favor to John Tortorella, we would do away with those in game "coach on the bench" interviews. Really the next time somebody goes up to a coach who is trailing in a game 7-0 and asks "Coach are you disappointed in your team's effort tonight?" then said coach will be allowed to take said interviewer out to the bus stop and beat the heck out of them.

Same thing for that between bench commentary as if players and coaches can not see all the action then it is doubtful these experts can either. Not to mention if the players and officials wear helmets at ice level then you would think somebody would tell these guys that sooner or later someone is going to take a puck to the head.

But at the same time due to requests from the Anaheim Duck players we would rehire Lindsay Soto to interview players on the bench. The Duck players feel that NBC/Versus was very unfair when she was let go after the NBC/Comcast merger and think she offers way more than Pierre McGuire.

Do not feel bad if you do not get the joke here as it is an inside one for hockey media watchers.

But don't worry Pierre there is still a place for you in our dream NHL as the "Pierre McGuire Drinking Game" would be recognized as the official drinking game for NHL fans. For those of you who have never played then here are the official rules.

Not to worry hockey fans as there would be local versions featuring your favorite annoying announcer for say at team shops everywhere. Matter of fact the Rangers will be the only team in the NHL to offer 4 different versions as you can take your pick of the Al Trautwig, Joe Micheletti, Stan Fischler or Larry Brooks.

And our final dream is our Ranger's staff as we start with Adam Graves as our General Manager. Graves has always been behind the big three of Messier, Leetch and Richter but as a hockey mind he beats all 3.

When we ask prospects who has been a teacher for them, Graves turns out to be the name said first and often. Graves also has shown an eye for talent which is key to keeping the prospect pool filled to the top.

Our coach we would have to bring back from Europe and no it is not Mike Keenan but rather Ulf Samuelson. A big part of why Phoenix was able to transition to Dave Tippett as coach was the work of Samuelson.

Ulfie has shown himself to a very good teacher as well as a tactician but he has come very close to getting an NHL job in the past. He is over in Europe now but for the Ranger job he comes back.

His assistants will be Jeff Beukeboom (defense), Travis Green (offense) and Ian Clark (goalie). Beukeboom is kind of easy no need to explain. Travis Green is one of the big reasons why the Portland Winterhawks are where they are today as smart very smart describes him.

Ian Clark was just hired by Columbus but is well known among hockey circles as the founder of the Goaltender Development Institute. His work has been used by goalies at every level from the CHL to NCAA and the NHL.

His students included Roberto Luongo, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury, Cory Schneider, Andrew Raycroft, Johan Hedberg and Mathieu Garon. Keep your eye on Clark as he is going to improve the Bluejackets goaltending corps.

As for us we will continue to dream about the perfect hockey world as the current world we fear is heading down another dangerous path next year.

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