Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lepisto Enters

The Caps today signed their 3rd round pick from the 2004 draft, Sami Lepisto, today to an entry level contract.

JP has a lowdown on the kid and if nothing else, he gives the Caps more flexibility when it comes to moving a young defenseman or two for a needed part as such a move won't entirely clear out the cupboard now.


Game 2 In The Books

Memo to the Ottawa Senators: Nobody serious is accusing you of being soft anymore. We get that you won't be physically intimidated, runover, and run out of buildings in the playoffs. We get that. You don't have to prove it to us anymore.

From watching the game last night it seemed to me that Ottawa had two big problems. First they came out and tried to beat Anaheim at their own game. Ottawa isn't going to do that because Ottawa is not built for the hit-everything-that-moves game. Once again that's not to say that Ottawa is bunch of lightweights, but they have to play their game if they expect to beat Anaheim. Because the Senators tried to play the Thug Ducks game, the Senators were unable to take advantage when the game settled in during the second period. While the pace of the first period that carried over from Game 1 was fun to watch, you knew that the two teams could not keep up that breakneck pace. Ottawa looked gassed because they had been running around trying to hit everything in black. Hopefully with the extra day of rest and home ice advantage, they'll be better able to play their game.

Secondly, despite not playing their game, Ottawa didn't get any bounces or breaks last night. They missed all sorts of wide open nets and at this stage of the season, that will come back to haunt you more often than not. The Senators should have two maybe even three goals despite being brutally outshot by the Thug Ducks.

Now the series shifts to Ottawa and the Senators face two must win games. If Ottawa does not win both Games 3 and 4 on home ice this Stanley Cup Finals is all over except for the shouting. I hope for the sake of sheer entertainment value that the Senators can tie the series up and make it more interesting but I think it should be pretty clear now who is going to win the Cup and it happens to be the Anaheim Thug Ducks.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Small Word of Advice

First of all let me say that I admire and respect Ted Leonsis (even if I seem to have fallen out of favor with him) despite the fact that I don't agree with some of his views.

But Ted, you would do yourself rather well to remember the old quote "never pick a fight with somebody who buys ink by the barrel."

It is difficult for somebody such as myself buy the line that you're selling that the NHL is alright when the evidence is decidedly going to the other way barely two weeks removed from having an NHL Playoff Overtime Period getting scrubbed for a Triple Crown Race.

Another reader sent me this article by e-mail last week and it is just about dead-on. And this passage is a shot right across your chops Ted:

And don't you dare give me any of that "revenues have never been better!" claptrap. Those who have been to games in St. Louis, Florida, New Jersey, Washington and about eight other NHL locales know how dire the league's straits are. Just because owners push their luck pushing up ticket prices doesn't make them sports visionaries of the highest order.

And from where I sit, he's right. You can't equivocate this by calling him a "doom and gloomer."

As for the Red Herring about circulation, how much clout does the New York Times and Washington (Com)Post still posses despite layoffs, despite declining circulation, despite declining ad revenues?

A whole heck of a lot more than the NHL does. The NHL's self-proclaimed "Hockeytown" can't even sellout a playoff game. What does that tell you Ted despite record high revenues for the NHL (which are mostly based upon ticket prices)?

Better yet, how is it that when I get link from Dan Steinberg (who BTW, asked me among many others for advice when he first started blogging despite the fact that I was just three months into blogging myself) I get more traffic over to this website than when I get a link from the Venerable Off Wing Opinion?

Very simply, Dan has a major media corporation backing him. The VOWO is an independent blog. I've said before and I'll say it again, blogs preach to the converted (not to detract from anything that the VOWO or anyother blog does).

While it is nice to go ahead and give an empty seat in your press box to the local blogger who puts in a serious effort at running their site, you shouldn't think for a second that they are reaching an audience that you haven't already gotten in touch with. And even if these guys have sat in the Press Box all season, in my opinion they shouldn't be given priority over a media outlet who can and does reach more people than the common blogger does. If the NHL wants to put an end to its long term problems, they need to reach beyond the converted because the fanbase it has right now clearly does not support the league. Bloggers are not going to do that for you right now, major media outlets will and shunning them is just suicidal.

I myself only subscribe to the dead tree version of the (Com) Post because I don't care to try to read some 20+ comic strips online and I do clip the coupons that come on Sundays. If it weren't for that, I would read the (Com)Post online like I do with Washington Times. How many other people out there read their local paper online for free instead of paying for a dead tree copy?

If these newspaper companies could figure out a way to make the Internet profitable, there wouldn't even be this discussion right now about the fate of the print media. The New York Times has placed their opinion writers behind a paid subscription wall and many newspapers like the (Com)Post require free registration (which can be defeated) to read print articles. If the NYT can make their paid side work, you watch how quickly the rest of the print media follows. But the Times have had their op-ed pieces behind the paid wall for sometime now and it hasn't turned out as well for them as they had hoped because nobody else is following suit and the rest of the paper is still available for free online.

But even if newspapers don't buy as many barrels of ink that they used to (or even stop buying them altogether (but even if newspapers don't buy as many barrels of ink that they used to (or even stop buying them))), they still have a considerable amount of clout when it comes to shaping popular opinion. Clout that the NHL wishes it had.

Maybe This Will Make Him Happy

As announced yesterday, Dave Fay will be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame. Dave of course has been a curmudgeon for awhile and his sunny and cheery disposition as been pointed out here time and time again. But in spite of all of that it is a great honor for the man and he deserves it so I add my voice to the chorus of Congratulations coming into the cancer survivor.

One story I would like to relay is one story that Dave Fay put in the Hockey News' "Lighter Side" magazine that they sent out to subscribers who dropped during the lockout (which I did and no I haven't come back). Dave was recounting his experience after Game 5 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals. The Montreal Canadiens had defeated the Calgary Flames in 5 games and after spending the rest of the night "celebrating the end of the hockey season." Dave along with a number of other east-coast based writers headed to the airport to catch the first flight out of Calgary to head back east.

Dave said he went into the restroom to "freshen up" and as he was washing his face he saw a woman come out from one of the stalls. Dave said something to the woman about being in the men's room and according to Dave she was unfazed by him as she adjusted her clothing in the mirror and said to Dave "Do you see any urinals in here?"

So the next time you run into Dave Fay and Congratulate him on his induction, ask him if he ever found any urinals...

Holding College Athletes to a Higher Standard

A reader took me to task for my comments about the Dook Lacrosse team this past Sunday and as luck would have it, Sunday was also the day finally ran their "Maryland Athletes Behaving Badly" article that had the Maryland Athletic Department running a Preemptive strike a couple of weeks ago now.

Reading the Bhawlmuher Sun article, it isn't as one-sided and negative as the rumor mill reported heading into the preemptive strike. But because they still slant things in a negative way; I do want to address this article and also clarify my comments from Sunday which were written in haste at the end of a very long Sunday.

In general I am one of those who believe that College Athletes should be held to a higher standard than the general college student population. College Athletes represent their institution everytime they compete because they are wearing the school's name across their chest. Rightly or wrongly, that makes them as much a representative of the institution as the coach or any school Administrator including the President.

Additionally, many College Athletes are being given a free education in exchange for putting their athletic ability to use for the institution that they are attending. That is not a cheap proposition in spite of some people who think they should also draw a salary in addition to free room, board, books, and tuition.

David Carter of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute has a $$$$$ quote that drives this home:

We don't hear about the chemistry major, but we certainly hear about the DUI of the starting quarterback.

Of course there are other reasons that College Athletes are held to a higher standard, the TV exposure and the $$$$$ wagered on college athletics legally and otherwise are front and center. I also think it is a legitimate debate to whether or not College Athletes should be held to a higher standard. They are after all college students and college students are world famous for doing stupid things. You could argue that doing stupid things is part and parcel of the college experience and I wouldn't disagree with you. I just believe that College Athletes have to forgo some of that stupidity as a part of the implied or explicit contract they are attending college under.

While the infamous Dook three did NOT rape the woman they were accused of raping or any other woman that night. It does not whitewash the actions of their teammates who misbehaved. The "college boys will be college boys" excuse does not fly with me for the reasons I just stated as does the "two wrongs don't make a right" which applies all over the place. NOBODY from the players, to the Dook faculty, to the "unbiased" media, to the race hustlers, to the accusers, to the District Attorney's office conducted themselves properly in that situation including the players who built a reputation and put themselves into a situation that made the allegations believable at first blush. While wild parties, underage drinking, racist comments, and violent e-mails are nowhere near equal to rape, they aren't the actions of fine upstanding gentlemen either.

Now for the Sun article... I would be very interested to see what the original version of the article contained. Maryland launched their preemptive strike just over two weeks before this article appeared and what was published is heavy on steroid testing, or complete lack thereof. It is mentioned that Maryland spends the extra $$$$$ on testing for steroids which is included in a separate test. While I disagree with the contention of the State Penn expert that steroid violations should always be treated with harsh punishment, I do think that Maryland is wrong not to have a standard that is in-line with the NCAA. A Maryland athlete who tests positive for the first time is subject to further testing in addition to the counseling and education. The NCAA mandates a one-year suspension for a first-time positive steroid test. Maryland's academic standards for freshman admissions are tougher than the NCAA and/or ACC requirements and Maryland has lost high-profile athletes to other schools because of this. I would like to see all of Maryland's policies tougher than what the NCAA and/or ACC mandates.

I also question the article's suspicion of the drug testing policy that Maryland has. I think it is a good thing that Athletic Department had no hand in developing the drug policy they follow. I think a further level of disassociation in allowing the University to conduct the tests would be an even better idea. What the article also fails to tell you is that the general student population is not subject to random drug testing. The drug policy is almost exclusively conducted on the athletes at Maryland. But again, this does not bother me because I think that College Athletes should be held to a higher standard.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What No More Ten Year Contracts?

Mike Milbury out on Long Island.

Just how good Milbury has been for the Islanders will be debated for a very long time. It should be remembered however that he's been saddled with less than stellar ownership during his tenure. But I would have serious reservations about bringing him in as GM of my team.

The one positive out of this is that he is now free to return to TV work which is what he was doing before he latched on in Long Island. I thought he was better than Mullet Melrose and I think he would be a great replacement for either of the clowns currently on NBC.

The only thing is though, he may not be gone for good from the Islanders...


Game 1 in the Books

I have to limit these comments to the last 15 minutes of last night's Game 1 as that was all I was able to watch because I was out visiting friends who aren't hockey fans.

And it is a good thing that I did watch the last 15 minutes of the game and didn't rely upon the headline writers at the (Com)Post who on Page E1 this morning along the left side rundown say "Game 1 to Senators: Trailing by one entering the finals period, Ottawa wins the Stanley Cup Finals opener on a goal by Travis Moen." They even list the score as Senators 3 Ducks 2.

The guys at On Frozen Blog now have a legitimate gripe with the (Com)Post and can stop bashing the irreverent sports blogger for blogging about irreverent sports for at least one day. At least inside the (Com)Post, they have everything right.

But I digress, what impressed me the most was the way that the Thug Ducks seemed to physically impose their will on the Senators, especially after tying the game up. The Senators were getting dominated for most of the third period and you just had a sense that Anaheim was going to pull the game out which they eventually did.

To their credit, Ottawa did not curl into a little ball and die under the pressure. They tried to fight through the forechecking and did not back down in front of their own net. Ottawa will be fine if they can get away from the Bryan Murray "sit on the lead" brand of hockey.

Two things that stood out to me though was the way Anaheim was unwilling to let Ottawa generate any speed through the neutral zone. The Thug Ducks were hitting everything in white on the forecheck and that made the Senators' lives miserable. You could especially see that some of the Senators' forwards were not used to getting hit in that part of the ice. Finally, when the score was tied at two and goal mouth scrambled developed in front of the Senators' net, there were three to four Thug Ducks digging for the puck and just as many Senators trying to clear out the crease and protect their goaltender. When Ottawa was down a goal with the game winding down, a goal mouth scramble in front of the Anaheim net had only two Senators digging for the puck and four Thug Ducks clearing out the crease. One could interpret that as Anaheim wanting the game more than Ottawa, but I don't think that was entirely case. I haven't seen the Thug Ducks as much as the Senators but it certainly isn't the Senators game to create chaos in the crease.

Overall the last 15 minutes of last night's game was very entertaining. It almost makes me wish that I had seen the entire game (I hadn't seen these friends since their wedding and they have been inviting over to their place since late last year and had already delayed my visit twice). I'll certainly watch Game 2 and it will be interesting to see how the Senators respond not only to the adversity of being down in a series for the first time this spring but how they also respond to the physical beating they took last night as well. Ottawa has shown in recent years that they can't be bullied and pushed around anymore and they'll have to demonstrate that again in Game 2 to get the series tied up.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 5-27

  • Yes I vowed to keep politics off this board as much as possible but I find the reaction to Clinton Portis' comments on dog fighting rather interesting. Yes, dog fighting is a felony and despite this fact, it continues to take place. So all of you decrying Portis "advocating" of a felony I assume are in lock step opposition to the illegal immigration amnesty bill being pushed through Congress right now? Repeated Illegal Immigration is a felony too. And don't get me started on the drug laws either. Though Portis may catch a break because apparently Vick is not an innocent victim of circumstance.
  • On Thursday, Brian Leetch announced his retirement to the surprise of no one because he couldn't find any team to play for during the previous season. I can't be the only one to find the references to him being a "defenseman" odd. He only lined up on the blueline for faceoffs taken at center ice as thought he was a forward more than a defender.
  • The Mighty William Yurasko talks about Joe Paterno punishing his State Penn football team for a brawl they took part in this spring. Paterno is receiving praise for the punishment. But let me once again pour cold water on this celebration by asking this question; why weren't these kids suspended and/or kicked off the team for their transgressions like they would have been had they done this at any other school? Look, many moons ago I participated in cleanups of Byrd Stadium to help raise funds so I know just how unpleasant those things can be and they are very unpleasant. But the fact remains that the kids started the altercation and those who responded to the cavalry call will continue to be members of the State Penn football team and will face no other sanction. Two years ago now when Maryland football players started a brawl in College Park, players were suspended and ticket privileges were revoked. If Paterno is doing the cleanups in addition to suspensions, then and only then does he deserve credit. Otherwise he's taking the easy way out.
  • On the heels (or should I say "hoofs"???) of the "Horse Gate," the NHL has scheduled a potential Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the same day as the last jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont. However, the Belmont will be run hours before the faceoff of Game 6 on June 9th. One last point that recently occurred to me, scheduling Game 5 of the Ottawa-Buffaslugs series for Saturday night instead of Saturday afternoon would have produced the same result (game being exiled from NBC to Versus) because of May sweeps. Sweeps are now over so NBC doesn't care if an NHL Playoff game registers only a 1.1 share in prime time.
  • More proof that Lacrosse is "nerd hockey", Johns Hopkins will face Dook for the National Title tomorrow in Bhawlmuher. Did you know that Lacrosse is the ONLY Division 1 sport at Hopkins? And before you praise the Dookies for their "accomplishments"; Mike Wise reminds us what scumbags some of those kids really are. Seriously, read that article and remember some very disturbing facts about the Dook Lacrosse team that got whitewashed by the inexcusable actions of an overzealous prosecutor. The fact that they did not rape the woman in question does not excuse the actions they did undertake on and before that fateful night.
  • D.C. United seems to be on a roll now after their third consecutive victory last night when they defeated Houston 2-1. Finally a win over what can be considered a quality opponent and scoring the first goal of the game for once this season surely helped matters along as well. What is also notable is that D.C. did this without the services of Jaime Moreno who was in Foxboro, MA playing for his native Bolivia against Ireland. No I'm not saying dump Moreno, he still has some good soccer left in him, but counting on him to carry this team for 90 minutes a night is no longer possible. Last night's win gets D.C. United into a tie for fourth place with Chicago with a game in hand on the Fire.
  • Ok folks, time to break up the Nats. After posting a 7-3 homestand last week, the Nats went out and posted a 5-2 road trip with today's win over the defending World Series Champion, St. Louis Cardinals. Not only are the Nats no longer the worst team in all of Major League Baseball, today's win gives them more wins on the season than the Cardinals. They've done this with four of their regular starting pitchers on the Disabled List. Now don't go making plans for baseball in October; only the Reds, (whom the Nats took 3 of 4) Rangers, and Royals have worse records than the Nats and the Nats are 12 games out of first place in their division and 2.5 back of the fourth place Florida Marlins.
  • This week, the Nats have Memorial Day off before the Los Angeles Dodgers come into town for a three game series at RFK. The San Diego Padres then arrive in Washington for a three game weekend series against the Nats. D.C. United heads out west to play the Los Angeles Galaxy before their international superstar arrives.
  • As always please send all comments, criticisms, complaints, corrections, questions, suggestions, and Tributes to our Men and Women in uniform who have served this country to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


2007 NHL Playoffs Round IV

Series O; Stanley Cup Finals: Anaheim Thug Ducks (60-38; 110 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 4th Overall) vs. Ottawa Senators (60-37; 105 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 9th Overall)

And so once again the NHL playoffs play to an anti-climatic conclusion. Well, not really but sorry folks, as I pointed out last month, no team that has finished lower than 7th overall has ever won the Stanley Cup and only twice has a team that far down in the overall standings taken the top prize. While I admit that it would be a nice and sentimental to see a Canadian team win the Cup for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens did it in 1993, it just isn't going to happen folks. Sorry but slow starts do have a penalty. And as I said before, it has nothing to do with my irrational hatred of Bryan Murray but Murray now has to face an Anaheim team that is bigger, stronger, and more physical than any other team they've faced this playoff season so on that count, Ottawa is going to need their 8 days off in order to be ready for this series. However, the longer layoff means more rust for the Senators. The Senators are also traveling a long distance for the first time in this playoff season while Anaheim is used to long plane rides to playoff games.

Do I think that this will be a quick and easy series win for the Thug Ducks? Hardly. The Senators are playing their best hockey this season but that doesn't mean that Anaheim will be out for the count. The Thug Ducks were all but written off after Game 3 against the Red Wings after going down 2-1 and having Chris Pronger suspended for Game 4. The Thug Ducks responded by winning three games in a row and Detroit still does not know what hit them. Anaheim has faced adversity this playoff year and they have come through in spades. In ringing up a 12-3 playoff record, the Senators have not yet faced any kind of real adversity and have yet to trail in a playoff series this spring. How they handle a real fight on their hands will be interesting to watch.

All of that being said, I think this will be a rather entertaining series once both teams shake off the rink rust. I would be rather surprised to see this being a quick series of either four or five games but Anaheim has just too much for Ottawa to handle and when the chips are down, I have to like Anaheim's lineup compared to Ottawa's when things get tight. The Senators won't go quietly but they aren't getting the Cup. Thug Ducks in seven.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

That Should Solve The Problem

You're the Tampa Bay Lightning and you've flamed out in the first round of the playoffs in the last two seasons after winning the Cup.

You have a maniac coach who creates a goaltending merry-go-round.

You have an untenable salary cap position where your top three players are consuming almost half of your cap space.

So of course to remedy all of this you fire the assistant coach.



We Don't Call Them Crackberries For Nothing

The news broke last night that Jim Balsillie is attempting to buy the Nashville Predators and this morning I see that the Venerable Off Wing Opinion has a Nashville Post story confirming the sale. There's a Presser scheduled for later today.

If the name Jim Balsillie sounds familiar to you it is because he tried to buy the Penguin Scum but walked away when he wasn't allowed to move team. Speculation is running rampant right now about the potential of Balsillie moving the Preadtors to Hamilton, Ontario because that's where he wanted to take the Penguin Scum.

Personally, I think that would be a bad idea.

First of all, the NHL would be replacing one small market franchise with another small market franchise in Canada. Of the six Canadian teams that currently exist, only two of them are on solid financial footing on their own. The other four are dependant upon the salary cap and revenue distribution to remain afloat. Adding another Canadian team in a small Canadian market will not solve the financial problems of the Nashville Predators or the league.

As a matter of fact, putting them into the Toronto Maple Leafs orbit would be even worse than keeping them in Nashville. The Leafs (along with the Canadians) can clearly support themselves but every time the Leafs play in another Canadian city, their fans are very well represented. It would be downright foolish to think that you could put another team into that area and that they would take off right away with a strong fan base. And if they did carve out a strong fan base, it would come at the expense of the Maple Leafs. Why should the NHL jeopardize one of the few franchises they have that can easily support itself? Like it or not, the Canadian market is tapped out and on the off chance that it isn't, adding a team to Canada isn't going to help the league grow in the United States where the real $$$$$ is to be found.

While the Nashville market has not turned out the way the NHL hoped, writing them off right now would amount to an admission that Bettman made a mistake in putting the team there in the first place (I think the bigger mistake was hiring David "Bud" Polie as GM but that's another story). Morons like Larry Brooks will write for days on end about it and never bother to get the facts straight no matter what happens to the franchise in its new city. Bettman has also taken hits for fighting the potential moves of the Ottawa Senators, Buffaslugs, Pittsburgh Penguin Scum, and other teams in financial distress since the Hartford Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina. He of course was also blasted for allowing Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets to move to Raleigh, Denver, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona respectively. So no matter what Bettman does, he's going to hear about it.

What will come of all this remains to be seen, but according to the lease, Nashville will have at least one more season to right the ship before the team can be moved.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Are They On The Way?

Filling out a fan survey the Caps sent my way I'm faced with this question:

How interested would you be in seeing each of the following topics featured on a regular basis on Please rate each feature using a 1-5 scale, 5 being "extremely interested" and 1 being "not interested at all".

Cap Girls Profile: Learn more about the members of the Caps cheer/pep squad.

I think my thoughts on this idea should be pretty clear. Though why are they asking a question about a group that, as of right now, does not officially exist?


TV Coverage Controversy

Let me start out by making perfectly clear that while I understand the decision of NBC to cut away from the Ottawa-Buffaslugs Game 5 OT in favor of the Preakness. I can't blame their business decision and I will also now at this time disclose that I directly own shares of General Electric stock, NBC's parent company.

Once again the Venerable Off Wing Opinion is doing the heavy lifting of chronicling the outrage of hockey fans and non-outrage of the non-hockey fans but let me interject here with a few things to ponder.

#1. This "horse race" is anything but the common ordinary horse race. It was the Preakness. Everybody knows (or should know) that the Preakness is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown are big races that bring in over 100K spectators to the tracks and millions to their TV sets. If the NHL and/or the Stanley Cup Playoffs had the kind of following that the Triple Crown does, we wouldn't have half the conversations about the NHL that we currently do. Two years ago my older sister got married on the day of the Preakness and about half of the wedding reception (including myself) went to the hotel bar to watch the race. I doubt that would have happened for a playoff hockey game unless the Caps were involved because once the race was over, just about everybody went back to the reception (except for our Great Aunt who went to her room to watch race and fell asleep).

#2. NHL Playoff overtime does not have any TV timeouts to run commercials. Under the current contract, NBC and the NHL split the costs of production and commercial ad sells are split between the two to defray the costs and any profits are split the same as well. However, because NBC cannot run commercials during OT, they can't make any extra $$$$$. So it isn't as if NBC cost the NHL ad $$$$$ because there wasn't any ad $$$$$ to make. NBC however could run commercials during their Preakness coverage and make $$$$$. As a business decision, it made perfect sense.

#3. What is forgotten is that NBC gave their affiliates the option of staying with the hockey game or going to the race coverage. From what I understand, the affiliate stayed with the game. Though according to Dump and Chase, the Bhawlmuher (where the Preakness was being run) NBC affiliate didn't even show the regulation periods of the game. Except for the folks in Bhawlmuher (who couldn't hold onto two Minor League hockey franchises) who saw none of the game, you could switch to Versus to watch the conclusion of the game. Now I will admit that NBC was woefully inadequate in making this clear to everybody. The least they could have done was put a crawl across the bottom of their Preakness coverage and I don't think it would have killed them to "send it back to New York" so that Bill Clement could talk through the highlight of the series ending goal. But I don't think NBC left people entirely high and dry because they did make the game available on a league partner network.

#4. I think hockey fans have to shoulder a fair amount of the blame here. We hear and see all the time from fans, bloggers, columnists, and others about how "boring" the game has become. We hear about how the game now lacks "passion," "emotion," and "intensity." There are complaints up and down the street about the constant parade to the penalty box in a vain attempt to end the clutching and grabbing and hooking and holding but there are also complaints up and down the street when the game gets bogged down by the clutching and grabbing and hooking and holding. Hockey fans are dumbfounded by the inability of the self-proclaimed "Hockeytown" to sellout playoff games. And yet at the same time we're screaming bloody murder because we get preempted for one of three high-profile horse races? While I plead guilty to bashing the NHL myself, us hockey fans need realize that it has a detrimental effect. Why should NBC (or any other broadcaster for that matter) think that we really care about watching the game when us diehard fans are constantly complaining about how boring and unwatchable it is and aren't bothering to show up in the arenas?

#5. It doesn't just happen to the NHL, a few weeks ago I complained about what happened to the MLS on ESPN2. For what it is worth, at least an NHL Playoff OT being preempted for a Triple Crown race makes news while an MLS game being held up for a Men's College Volleyball Semifinal didn't even register a ripple.

Finally let me close this out by once again saying that I think NBC could have stayed with the hockey game through at least the first OT before switching over. That period would have moved quicker because of the lack of TV timeouts and it start around 5 pm. The Preakness didn't get off till about 6:10 pm and the hockey game was long over by that point. However, hindsight is 20-20 and I can't blame NBC for the decision that they made. Don't forget Game 3 of the Buffaslugs-Rangers series which went into Double OT on a Sunday afternoon. NBC stayed with that game until its conclusion and scrubbed the Barbaro tribute in the process. That my friends, would have been a true outrage.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Now It's Official

Mr. Sunshine (aka Dave Fay) is a fool.

Didn't bother with a correction or a retraction last week so don't expect one tomorrow.

Tarik gives us details (in spite of club policy) while the news of the new arrival was enough to get Dan Steinberg to write about the Caps again.


Don't Make Me Go Lexis-Nexis On You...

I have to say that I feel like the caveman in this clip after reading the Venerable Off Wing Opinion's response to the question I asked last week. (Which of course really wasn't answered...)

Maybe I'm misreading the post but it seems to me that the VOWO is advocating MORE bench clearing brawls in the NBA and MORE on court fights.

This becomes even odder when in the original post he talks about how far the NBA has come in the 30 years since the Rudy Tomjanovich-Kermit Washington incident.

Once again I happen to think that the VOWO was dead on his in explanation of what happened in the Suns-Spurs series. The Ultimate Fighting on Ice fans are quick to point out the "thug nature/culture" of the NBA in their attempts to equivocate the NHL's thuggery. They increasingly have to point to off-the-court incidents (same for the NFL, who BTW is now severely cracking down on their player's off-the-field conduct) in order to make their case because the NBA has made it well known that on-the-court thuggery will be punished harshly, even if no actual thuggery takes place.

Furthermore the NBA worked Double OT to make sure that video of the Knicks-Nuggets brawl last year was pulled from YouTube and other video sharing websites as quickly as possible. The thug culture clearly isn't the image the NBA wants to portray and Stern's suits for scratches crusade is even further evidence of that fact in case anybody had any doubts. Mark Cuban is right, when you allow for exceptions and "spirits of the rule" to reign supreme, you take the teeth out of the rule and you end up solving nothing.

I'll also bet that every single columnist who is complaining about this strict enforcement of a clear rule has nothing but kudos to the NBA for their handling of the Knicks-Nuggets and any other brawl that has occurred in the NBA in recent years. I'll do the Lexis-Nexis searches if I have to.

People don't go to NBA games wanting or expecting to see brawls on the court. People however do that in the NHL. The NBA has a US National TV contract that pays $$$$$ upfront for the rights and is on the "Worldwide Leader" ESPN. The NHL doesn't get paid in the US for their National TV rights, isn't on the "Worldwide Leader," and most wish that they were in both instances.

BTW, that last development occurred after that "perfect storm" of March 26th, 1997. As a matter of fact, Mark Cuban suggests the NHL pull slight-of-hand tricks with their TV ratings. Tricks the NBA does not have to resort to. Who would you rather be right now? The NBA or NHL?

I think once again it is pretty clear, the NBA does not think that videos of their players brawling on the court are good for the image of the league. It is also pretty clear that videos of stick swingings and brawls on the ice aren't good for the NHL either. How anybody can argue otherwise is beyond me because my friends, the proof is in the pudding.

Considering where the NBA and the NHL are today, I have to seriously wonder about anybody who longs for the NBA to return to the days of Rudy Tomjanovich-Kermit Washington. They clearly don't have the NBA's best interests at heart.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 5-20

  • Not content to be smacked down every year in the ACC Annual Beatdown of the Big "Ten", the Big "Ten" has agreed to allow their women's teams to be similarly humiliated. The Terp women will host THE Ohio State University Buckeyes on November 30th. Last year, the Terps smoked Michigan State at the Cable Box. What this is supposed to prove or do, I don't know but I do know enough to chalk up another victory for Title IX.
  • More bad news for Versus. The America's Cup no longer has an American team. Is this yet another lesson in assembling an All-Star team with the largest payroll? With the U.S. now out of it, there's likely to be no interest from a U.S. TV audience.
  • Another year, another Triple Crown bust. Though at least this year no horse ended up dying as a result of the race this year. (That happened earlier in the day.) Not only was it a fast race yesterday, it was a thrilling race to watch as both Curlin and Street Sense made moves late and Street Sense's move looked especially bold even though it wasn't enough.
  • It was a solid win for D.C. United yesterday as they downed Toronto FC 2-1 north of the border. Last year the book on D.C. United was that they did not respond very well to physical play and Toronto tried playing that way and came up short. They came up short because unlike last year, D.C. didn't lose their composure and played through the rough stuff which is a good sign. Congratulations also to Jaime Moreno who is now tied for the most goals in MLS history. Sadly though, it is becoming apparent that Jaime's best days are long behind him.
  • Waiting almost 11 months to do so, the Reds finally file the grievance over the Majewski trade. Is it me or is this almost anti-climatic? They've been threatening this since he went down last August and now the guy isn't even in the major leagues anymore. We'll have to see how this all shakes out but why did it take the Reds so long to file the grievance in the first place?
  • And since we're speaking of injured Nationals pitchers, Jason Bergmann joins the party on the 15 day disabled list. Maybe we should admit that Jim Bowden knew what he was doing when he invited just about every professional pitcher to spring training. This is getting more ridiculous than the 1996-1997 Caps. Anyway, the Nats continue to muddle along. They closed out a 7-3 homestand today with a win over the B.O.'s avoiding a 3 game sweep. While the Nats are still sitting in last place, I have to say that Friday and Saturday's games were rather thrilling despite the fact that the Nats lost. Oh and somebody get a memo to the groundscrew at RFK to please stop cutting the curly W into the centerfield grass. The Nats have only won twice in the 10 games you've done that.
  • Goodbye to the Buffaslugs and now the Red Wings are on the ropes as well. Two overtime games this weekend for NBC and unfortunately, yesterday's game was exiled to Versus in favor of the Preakness. I really can't say that I blame NBC for the decision because the horse race was going to bring in a larger audience than the hockey game did. However the race itself wasn't scheduled to start until after 6 pm and didn't get off until about 6:12 pm last night. Why couldn't have NBC stuck around for the start of OT and then switched over to the race? The game ended well before the horses came out for the call to the post and the signing of Maryland My Maryland so what action was really missed?
  • This week, the Nats head out on the road to play four games against the grieving Cincinnati Reds and then head to St. Louis for a three game weekend series against the Cardinals. If the Nats are on the road, that more than likely means that D.C. United is at home and they are this Saturday against the Houston Dynamo. Finally don't forget about tomorrow's presser.
  • As always, please send all comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, and new crazy Ninja Warrior obstacles to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Ah, Memories...

Tarik tells us that Nicklas Backstrom will wear #19 for the Capitals and lists the players who wore the number before him. Reading through that list and thinking of the playoffs at this time of year; it brought back some fond memories and not ones of Brendan Witt or Enrico Ciccone.

But of John Druce in the spring of 1990. At that point in time he lead Caps fans on what was the most thrilling playoff run ever. He unloaded for 14 goals and 3 assists in 15 playoff games. Clearly the best playoff performance of his life in what was his rookie year after playing 45 games and scoring 8 goals and three assists in the regular season.

Druce of course is remembered more his work in the series against the Rangers in the second round when he scored two game winning goals including the series clincher in OT in MSG in Game 5.

The Caps that season the Caps finished third in the Patrick Division and dispatched the second place Devils in six games and then bounced the first place Rangers in 5 before falling to Adams Division Champion Boston Bruins in 4 games. The Caps never had home ice advantage that year but got further than they ever had before.

But what sticks in my mind the most that spring was that Rangers series, especially the last two games of it. Game 4 at the old Cap Centre went to OT and Rod Langway stole the puck from none other than Mike Gartner at the Rangers blueline and skated to the top of the circle before unleashing a wrist shot that snuck under the bar past Mike Richter. It was at that point there was no doubt that the Caps were going places. Langway hadn't scored a goal all season before that night.

I remember my father picking up some of the newspapers out of New York and bringing them home to show me. The one cartoon I remember the most was a Ranger showing off a huge cup of coffee and the caption read something like "So when they said to go for the cup they meant coffee????" Imagine if we had that kind of sports press around these parts.

Druce capped off the Rangers (and his run) with a goal in OT after Dale Hunter (of all people) wiffed on a puck bouncing on the goal line that could have ended the series sooner. The Caps seemed content with their progress and got swept in the Wales Conference Finals by Boston. But Caps fans didn't care very much. After being bounced by lesser teams year after year we felt that the monkey was finally off our back. The Cup that we had longed for would be coming sooner rather than later. It didn't turn out that way as we're still waiting for our first turn with Lord Stanley reigning over Washington.

If you're wondering about John Druce, he only scored three more goals in 38 playoff games for the Caps and Flyers before his NHL career ended in 1998. As a matter of fact I remember sitting next to a guy at Game Six of the 1994 playoff series against the Penguin Scum (when we actually eliminated them) at the Cap Centre who had a receding hairline, was wearing a John Druce jersey, and thought he was both Beavis AND Butt-head. (It was the only thing that ruined what was a glorious night.)

Backstrom has yet to play an NHL game so I think it is a tad bit early to anoint him the "best #19 in franchise history." But I think he does has a very good shot at it, especially if he plays like John Druce did in the 1990 playoffs.

Caps Fans Take Note

I know most don't bother or care to listen to me but once again there's a cautionary note out there in spending $$$$$ just to spend $$$$$.

In previewing the start of the Nats-B.O.'s series at RFK, the (Com)Post points out the B.O.'s payroll follies. Now I will admit that both teams are as bad as the Caps are right now. However the Nats are spending $62 million less than the B.O.'s are but with a sweep this weekend (not entirely out of the question with the way both teams have been playing recently) the Nats will be tied with B.O.'s.

Long story short, spending freely does not equal winning.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good Point, Why Doesn't It Apply To The NHL?

The Venerable Off Wing Opinion jumps into the fray of the Spurs-Sun suspensions in the NBA playoffs and I have to give kudos to his wrap up:

One thing Stern knows for sure: Any video zipping around the world of a group of predominantly African-American men brawling on a basketball court will be judged harshly and unjustly by the league's sponsors.

So, in a way, Stern is committing a minor injustice today in order to avoid seeing the league's sponsors and advertisers inflict a greater injustice upon the NBA and all of its players tomorrow.

And of course, he's exactly right.

But as you can tell by the title of this post, why doesn't this apply to the NHL? How are videos of stick swingings and brawling on the ice zipping around the world a boon to the NHL?

Please don't give me the long-discredited lectures about "tradition." It hasn't worked for the NHL before and won't be working for the NHL in the future. If you want to make an argument about racism, please be my guest but I'm not jumping on that bandwagon either simply because of the NHL's own past and present.

I've outlined here numerous times how the NHL needs to clean up its act if it ever wants to join "the big boys" club and in the interest of levity, you can just click on the label below to get a full rundown of where I stand and why.

Of course the other interesting thing of note here is reaction to this. Some of these guys sound exactly like the Ultimate Fighting on Ice (UFOI) fans that plague the NHL. Statements like "sticking up for team mates" and "natural reactions" are bandied about. The embarrassing Stephen A. Jackson on ESPN sounded like he cribbed his entire diatribe about the suspensions from Ultimate Fighting on Ice I wonder how many of these guys when confronted with a similar situation in the NHL (take your pick) responded "eh, business as usual in the NHL"?

Yes I'm nitpicking the VOWO here (and he may not actually think this), but how did Stern committ a minor injustice here? The rule itself prevented an ugly incident (a pretty blatant hip check in the open court) from getting even uglier because instead of both benches emptying onto the court, only two players were stupid enough to do so. Secondly, he carried out the rule and issued the suspensions that the rule called for because nobody is willing to argue that Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw did NOT violate it. Instead we get wonderful statements like "spirit of the rule" and this humdinger from Jon Barry who says coming off the bench but NOT joining an altercation should be allowed. For what Jon? A better view of the altercation for those on the bench? How far should they be allowed to come off the bench for a better view? Can they get say within five feet of the altercation before they get suspended?

I also love this sacrosanctification of the playoffs. Why, why the playoffs are soooooo important that you can't possibly even consider disciplining a player who violates a rule that calls for discipline. You'll irreparably harm their team, the fans, and the game itself if the best players aren't playing in the biggest games of the season.

Well maybe these players should consider that before stepping off the bench, even if it is just for a better view of the altercation. The other question that begs, what other infractions should be ignored during the playoffs?

Simply put, Stern did the right thing here and no injustice was committed. The rule is in place for a reason and once you start taking "extenuating circumstances" into account, you take the teeth out of the rule. Once that happens, the problem that the rule was intended to correct in the first place never gets solved.

I kinda wish the NHL was willing to do this.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gee I Wonder What This Is All About?

The Caps have just announced a Presser on Monday with Nicklas Backstrom at the Kettler Capitals Ice Complex at High Noon. Ted Leonsis, Dick Patrick, George McPhee, and Glen Hanlon will be there as well.

Per club policy, terms will not be released....


Maybe The Nats Should Have Fired Their Trainer?

"Southeast" Jerome Williams heads (back) to the DL. A team that has thin starting pitching depth as the Nationals do, they can ill afford having four starters on the DL (Williams, Shawn Hill, Michael O'Connor, and John Patterson).

You have to start feeling sorry for Manny Acta, while he knew that he was taking over a rebuilding team with nothing in the pipeline, there's no way he could have been prepared for the absolute train wreck that the starting pitching staff has become because of injuries.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Flipping between the the Buffslugs-Ottawa game and the Nats almost no-hitting the Braves (and handing John Smoltz his second loss of the season, both losses now are to the Nats) I like many people were flat out stunned by the performance, or complete lack thereof, of the Buffaslugs.

Is this simply another case of another President's Trophy winner not getting the job done in the playoffs? Did the Buffaslugs get too cocky and arrogant before actually winning anything? Did the Buffaslugs peak too soon? Are they simply cursed by playing in Or is that the Buffaslugs simply weren't as good as people thought?

A case could be made for all of those and I happen to think that it is a combination of all five but I found something rather interesting.

When the Buffaslugs got off to a 10-0 start this season, they did so with the help of three gimmick wins including gimmick wins in their first two games. In the old days, those would have been ties. Six of those ten wins came against teams that wouldn't make the playoffs. After winning ten in a row to start the season, the Buffaslugs took a gimmick loss before winning again in a gimmick. Their first regulation loss came on November 4th vs. Toronto.

When the Buffaslugs slinked into D.C. last December, they were 20-5 and got trapped by the Caps who got the jump on them and held on for a 7-4 victory. In the wins wins leading into that game. Buffaslugs had won another gimmick and three straight games in OT.

But there's something else that's noteworthy. In those first 25 games before D.C., Ryan Miller played in 17, Martin Biron played 8. While that isn't exactly 50-50 split, Ty Conklin (who Mr. Sunshine called an improvement over Biron) had only three starts and 5 appearances overall in 19 regular season and 14 playoff games. Biron started 18 games overall for the Buffaslugs this season. Had Biron stayed in, he would have gotten more starts than Conklin did.

There's no doubt that Ryan Miller is the #1 goaltender in but considering that he's been out dueled (despite playing some great games like last night) you have to wonder if he's wearing down or if he just needs a kick in the pants that a Ty Conklin can't give him. If you're Lindy Ruff right now would you have rather Martin Biron or Ty Conklin to bring in off the bench for Game 4 saying "desperate times call for desperate measures?" Clearly, the Buffaslugs lost a lot when they traded Biron.

Another thing that struck me was the lack of urgency in the play of the Buffaslugs. Down 2-0 and playing Games 3 and 4 on the road, Game 3 is a must win. I saw that scumbag Danielle Briere get a golden opportunity just 20 seconds into the game and that scumbag didn't even get a shot on goal. (This is one of their leaders?) Yet that was about it from the Buffaslugs in the first period. Only four shots on goal in the first period against 13 for Ottawa and only 15 for the entire game. Folks, that won't get it done against anybody lettalone a Bryan Murray coached hockey team in the playoffs.

The Buffaslugs did throw everything they had at the Senators in the final minutes but even then, it simply looked as if the Senators STILL wanted it more than the Buffaslugs did at that point. Folks, the Senators got a 2 on nobody, PENALTY KILLING. Only the goalpost saved the Buffaslugs in that situation.

Now, this series isn't over, not by a longshot. But the Buffaslugs have a huge mountain to climb and have to hope that the Senators come up with one of the biggest chokes in the history of the NHL playoffs to win this series. They won't get a chance to play the Caps, or the Flyers, or the Bruins, or some other lowly team to pad their record and get some confidence. They can force OT but can't count on the gimmick to hand them a victory. They have to find a way to beat a team chock full of confidence right now.

This is why playoff hockey is such a different animal from the regular season. The Buffaslugs caught a break in playing the undermanned Islanders in the first round and the overrated Rangers in the second. Now they're playing a team that can match them and they're clueless as to what to do.

Quite frankly, it couldn't have happened to a better bunch.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Backstrom On Board

J.P. has the lowdown.

Now of course the kid has to prove himself over here, but this is good news for the Caps. Should he be as advertised, he'll help out right away and fill one of two holes at center for this team.


Mo $$$$$, Mo $$$$$, Mo $$$$$, Just not yo $$$$$

You gotta love Union-Thug mouthpiece Larry Brooks. We've already established that what Ol' Lar says one week has nothing to do with what he'll say next week.

Of course he does this again because about a month ago he wrote about a check the Rangers didn't want to write and what was even odder about that was that Ol' Lar seemed rather fine with the Rangers stiffing Holik.

This of course makes perfect sense in light of yesterday's screed where he dictates that the NHLPA ask for the maximum amount of money under the CBA terms for the upcoming season. As you can see from Ol' Lar's numbers this is a difference between between a salary cap of about $49 million to one over $51 million. While that $2 million or so difference may not seem like a lot it could end up being the difference in keeping a player on your team or losing him to somebody else's (resident Genius Lou Lamoriello would love this too).

And of course as you can tell by the tone of the article, Ol' Lar wants this not only because he's a Union-Thug mouthpiece but to also help keep the Rangers together along with adding guys like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and/or that scumbag Danielle Briere ( all three if they could). He's sweating it out a little bit because the Rangers were about $3 million under the cap this season and a $51 million+ cap next season will immediately give the Rangers $10 million to play with right away before they make decisions on their 12 restricted and unrestricted Free Agents. Count on players like Brendan "I and I Alone Know What Is Best For The NHL" Shanahan, Marcel Hossa, Sean Avery, Sandis Ozolinsh, Karel Rachunek, Kevin Weekes and Henrik Lundqvist looking for their share of that increase as well.

But there's a big problem with Larry's big plan to push the cap as high as it can go. Yes, it will directly benefit the players in the short-term there is no doubt about that. But we are regaled constantly about the low TV ratings, low ticket sales, and small crowds even in hockey hotbeds like Detroit and Minnesota. The NHL still does not have and won't be getting a lucrative U.S. National TV contract anytime soon to really bring in the $$$$$. So the NHL will have to sell a metric ton of redesigned jerseys in order to keep their revenue streams increasing the way they have been. It is these revenue streams that the cap is based upon and the salary cap has gone up every year now since the NHL has come back from its lockout.

CW says that if TV revenues along with ticket sales and attendance continue to decline, the NHL is going to have a very difficult time in growing their revenue. At some point in time, this Eronesque accounting is going to catch up with the NHL and revenue projections are going to be readjusted in the negative direction. That means lower salary caps and it means players get pinched and pinched hard.

Way to set them up for the fall Ol' Lar!!!!

But if one is a true student of Larry Brooks, they'll remember this gut wrencher from almost years ago now talking about the "triple cap":

"This system will yield less parity, not more. Bank on it. It will yield a tiered league in which the most attractive 12-14 teams will attract free agents willing to take somewhat less money to fit under a cap in order to play in desired locations and for desired managements.

Can't you just imagine the Oilers' recruitment campaign?

Edmonton: When There's No Cap Space Anywhere Else."

So why do the Rangers need the extra cap space Larry? Can't they sell playing on Broadway with Jagr and you covering them on a daily basis?


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 5-13

  • Pro boxing is dead right? That's what some want you to believe especially with Ultimate Fighting (aka, "Mixed Martial Arts") growing by leaps and bounds but last week's Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fight set records for buys and revenues. That $120 million is 70.5% of HBO's boxing Pay-Per-View from last year (in 11 events) and about 60% of what the UFC and WWE did last year (in 10 and 16 events respectively). Of course, reading this article you realize that MMA took off because they cleaned themselves up and became, well, more like boxing. But what has driven boxing down more than a lack of stars was the rampant corruption among the dominant figures of the sport, it is only a matter of time before they show up in MMA. But as long as boxing can continue to set records, they'll stay at home.
  • I have to say, I am getting rather tired of this whole Floyd Landis saga. Now Landis is claiming that USADA wanted him to rat out Lance Armstrong. The question I have is, why now? Why did Landis wait so long to make this accusation? Better yet, is anybody surprised that the real "target" is Lance Armstrong? Quite frankly, nothing about this sordid tale is very surprising to me any more and both sides have the ugly stench of corruption all over themselves.
  • D.C. United's Bobby Boswell has been getting some attention for claiming that he plays simply for the love of the game. I'm not in any position to say that really is or is not the case but, like others, I will point out that Boswell could end up getting a megadeal from a European team after this season. At that point, will his love of the game, team, or the ability to be financially set win over? (On a side note, Ben Olsen writes 100 year old checks???????)
  • I went to my first Nats game this season on Friday night and saw the end of the eight game losing streak. I also saw the seeds being planted for another long slide as starting pitcher Shawn Hill went down to injury before the sixth inning. It shouldn't be too surprising that the Nats swept the Marlins for their first series win of the season and the first sweep of series since last September against Arizona because the team has not been getting blown out by their opponents. So far they've lost by more than 4 runs nine times but only twice in their last 10 losses. The biggest problem for the Nationals is their razor thin depth and even smaller margin of error though a number of breaks went their way this weekend. This three game streak actually puts them a half game ahead of Kansas City for dead last in MLB overall.
  • BTW, what's the deal with playing the bottom of the ninth inning after 1:30 in the morning local time in May? Don't these umpiring crews have any sense of decency? If I hadn't still been awake after helping my church raise over $6K for a non-profit pro-life OB/GYN center (deal with it) I certainly wouldn't have been watching. As a matter of fact, I was trying to go to sleep at that point.
  • I've been watching most of Game 2 of the Detroit-Anaheim Western Conference Finals and I am shocked and amazed as to how quiet it is in Joe Louis. You'd think these two teams were playing a game in the middle of December and not for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. (So I don't ever want to hear about how quiet the Phone Booth is in December ever again.) There has been wide mention of the problems Detroit has been having with playoff ticket sales this year. Could it be the same complacency that hit the Atlanta Braves? In winning 14 straight division titles, the Braves couldn't give away tickets for the first round series for good portion of that streak. Could that be a part of Hockeytown's woes?
  • And speaking of the Braves, this week the Nats stay at home by hosting Atlanta for four games starting tomorrow and then the stench of the B.O.'s and their fans infect RFK over the weekend. D.C. United heads up to Toronto for their first game against the newest MLS franchise. Toronto BTW not only got their first win yesterday, but finally scored a goal. Street Sense heads to Bhawlmuher to run in the Preakness and the America's Cup Challenger Semifinals will hopefully start in the waters off of Spain this week with the lone American entry, BMW Oracle, taking on the surviving Italian entry, Luna Rossa.
  • As always please send all comments, questions, suggestions, corrections, criticisms, and suggestions for a really late Mother's Day gift to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Pre-emptive Strike

More from the land of press releases in my mailbox...

May 11, 2007

Dear Friend of Maryland Athletics,

One of the types of interactions that occur routinely in intercollegiate athletics is communication with various media outlets, both print and electronic. The majority of those interactions result in balanced and fair reporting of competitive, academic and civic-related activities of our student-athletes.

Today, I write to share with you the intentions of the Baltimore Sun to print an article about the University of Maryland student-athlete population and their violations of the “Student Code of Conduct” and the “Student-Athlete Code of Conduct” that have occurred between 2004 and 2006.

Our concern is that the report of such activities be provided in the proper context. Since we ultimately have no control over which facts will be selectively presented or the fairness with which they will be presented, it seemed prudent to share some information with you ahead of time.

Our Culture

One of the goals of our Athletics Department is to support a culture for student-athletes and staff whereby we pursue victory with honor. In order to achieve this goal, we vigorously promote character development, leadership qualities, sportsmanship and academic excellence in our student-athletes, as well as competitive excellence. Toward that end, our student-athletes are expected to engage in appropriate behaviors and to be disciplined remedially, when appropriate. Attached, for your information, is a document that reflects this philosophy. It was also provided to the Baltimore Sun writers and is discussed often in our monthly coaches meetings.

No system or policy can guarantee that there will be no isolated instances of inappropriate choices by student-athletes. As such, the University has in place a specific process for reporting and managing any alleged violations of the “Student-Athlete Code of Conduct” and the “Student Code of Conduct” to insure that any inappropriate behaviors are addressed with integrity. This plenary process is implemented in concert with the University’s Office of Student Conduct, the University Legal Office and is shared with the Faculty Athletics Representative, the President’s Office, the Vice President for Student Affairs and the head of the University Health Center, when appropriate. Our consistent goal is to be interdictive, educational and remedial in our response to inappropriate behaviors.

The Request

Violations of such campus policies and corresponding disciplinary actions are maintained in individual student-athlete files, which are protected by law. However, we are expected to share that information with a few individuals who provide campus oversight to the Athletics Department. This checks and balances system has been in place for many years. One of the campus individuals serving in this role requested a list of such violations/discipline for review last Fall (subsequent to a highly publicized issue on another college campus).

During this brief period of time, the individual was interviewed by a Baltimore Sun sports reporter, who asked whether or not such information was shared on campus, to which he innocently replied that it was and that he had seen the list of violations/disciplines quite recently.

Within 48 hours of that conversation, the campus received a formal request for the list from the Baltimore Sun. The campus legal office ultimately provided it, with appropriate redactions to protect the identity of the student-athletes.

This request occurred in September 2006. Over the next eight months, we graciously agreed to multiple interviews as requested by the Sun, to speak with coaches, Athletic Council members and athletics administrators. Later, we discovered that a Sun reporter had tracked down two student-athletes to interview, without going through the Media Relations office of the Athletics department.

The results detailed below reflect the high and consistent standards to which we hold our student-athletes, the consistent levels of appropriate discipline we administer when those standards are not met, and, most importantly, the overall concern all of us on campus have for the well-being and personal development of our student-athletes.


1. Drug Testing

The article will include the number of positive drug tests from 2004 through 2006 for student-athletes.

· Out of 1,833 tests conducted by our University Health Center for student-athletes, 39 tested positive (29 first positives; 8 seconds; 2 thirds). As our general student population is not subjected to drug tests, there is no data for comparison. Although we believe that the 2.1% rate of positive tests is not indicative of excessive use among our student-athletes, we take this very seriously and have made the following improvements to the drug testing policy for the benefit of our student-athletes’ health and well-being.

· We have dramatically increased the number of tests administered (113% increase); decreased notification times, implemented 100% direct observation of testing and made improvements in identifying masking agents from 2005 to 2006.

· Even with more stringent testing procedures in place, the rate of positive tests decreased to 1.5% in 2006.

· Our student-athletes across all 27 varsity sports are also randomly tested for steroid use. Additional testing is in place for sports that have nationally reported an increase for steroid use – football, wrestling, baseball, track and field, and men’s lacrosse. Also, all student-athletes are subject to random drug tests conducted by the NCAA, including the screening of steroids. From 2004-06, we have had only one case of a positive steroid test. That individual never participated in any collegiate competition for Maryland.

· These results make it clear that the campus drug testing policy is effective in limiting the use of drugs among our student-athletes.

2. Misconduct

For the period of 2004-06, our 647 student-athletes comprised about 2.8% of Maryland’s total undergraduate student population.
During this same time period, the Maryland student-athlete rate of misconduct was less than that of the general student population rate. This includes Academic Misconduct, Non-Academic Misconduct and Residence Hall Incidents, as listed below.
Total # of Academic Misconduct Cases 594
Student-athlete Cases 11
% of Total for Student-athletes 1.8%

Total # of Non-Academic Misconduct Cases 1027
Student-athlete Cases 12
% of Total for Student-athletes 1.1%

Total # of Residence Hall Incidents 2663
Student-athlete Cases 12
% of Total for Student-athletes 0.4%

The information above represents a true “apples-to-apples” comparison. Maryland Athletics also tracks violations of team rules, like a fight in a locker room, which violate team rules established by our coaches. That type of incident is not a violation of the “Student Code of Conduct.”
Per the “Student-Athlete Code of Conduct,” a student-athlete is required to immediately (within 24 hours) notify his or her head coach when he or she has participated in any activity that violates the “Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.” Failure to do so can result in more serious discipline.


It is important to note that an overwhelming majority of our student-athletes have never been cited for misconduct cases or residence hall incidents. There are other positive indicators regarding the conduct of our student-athletes:

· Over the same three-year period, the total campus-wide number of misconduct cases and residence hall incidents was 4,284. Maryland student-athletes comprised just 0.8% of these infractions, despite representing 2.8% of the total student population.

· The University’s long-standing health education-first drug policy is administered independently by the University Health Center and features mandatory counseling for all first positives. In addition to continued counseling, a second positive drug test results in a mandatory two-week suspension from all team-related activities. A third positive results in an indefinite suspension and potential expulsion from the University.

· As part of our culture of accountability, Maryland Athletics regularly shares all such information with appropriate individuals, including the Faculty Athletics Representative, the President’s Office and the University Legal Office.

Over the same three-year period of 2004-06, many of our student-athletes have been outstanding examples of good behavior and model citizenship:

· For the first time ever, Maryland has the greatest number of ACC Honor Roll selections of any public institution in our conference;

· Our recent graduation rate of 76% is the highest of any public institution in the Atlantic Coast Conference;

· Josh Wilson (Football) was recently awarded the ACC’s James E. Tatum Award, given annually to the top senior student-athlete in the conference in any sport;

· Over the past three years, Maryland student-athletes have served over 140,000 hours of voluntary community service, including projects with the Capital Area Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the American Cancer Society and various local elementary schools.

· The student-athletes in Field Hockey and Competitive Cheer celebrated National Championships in 2006 – for a total of six championships in the past two years alone;

· Almost 61% of our student-athletes carry a grade point average over 3.0.

Maryland Athletics is focused on reinforcing a culture of integrity in all competitive, academic and civic areas, with our coaches and staff members, as well as our terrific student-athletes.

Hopefully, the Sun will provide a fair and balanced characterization of our student-athletes, though in the interview process, some of the reporters have focused a great deal on any possible negative issues, while showing minimal interest in the many strengths of our student-athletes. If these facts are not cogently and fairly presented, it would seem reasonable to share those concerns with the Sun’s managing editor. Rarely do we respond as we are doing now by sending you this information in advance of the printing of the article. But, we are genuinely concerned about the possible mischaracterization of our student-athletes as a whole. They are simply terrific people, by and large. What they deserve are articles about their many academic and community service achievements, all of which make us very proud indeed.

For those who fall short of what is expected of a Terrapin student-athlete, we pledge to continue to work with the campus to implement remedial actions appropriate to the offense.

Being a Terrapin student-athlete is a privilege. We are here, in large part, to help guide our student-athletes in making wise choices during their period of growth and exploration, hopefully culminating in graduation from one of our country’s best public institutions of higher education.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of the contents of this letter and for your support of our coaches and student-athletes.

Go Terps!

Deborah Yow
Director of Athletics

Sorry for the long post here, but I find it interesting that an article that hasn't even been published yet is getting this kind of rise out of the Athletic Department. Either the article they're seeking to refute is a true hatchet job or they're attempting to defend the indefensible. By looking at some of the weasel wording and the admitted preemptive strike, they're clearly on the defensive here and that really makes you wonder.

If what the Sun was trying to do is on the level and balanced, a preemptive strike like this wouldn't be needed. Heather Dinich doesn't have anything up on her blog yet.

I (and the UMD Athletic Department) could sink into the fever swamps and start listing the transgressions of other schools but when UMD lacks a clean record themselves, that isn't a valid defense and I am glad to see that they did not do that.

Student-athletes are not angels, they are going to make mistakes and think that they can get away with more than other students because of their status but the reverse is actually true. If the Sun could somehow prove though that there are bigger problems with the student-athletes at UMD than in other comparable institutions, then they might have a point. But they've clearly got the Athletic Department on the defensive so we'll have to see what comes out when it comes out.


Unvieling News

I got the notice from my season ticket account and didn't pay much attention because I'm not interested in going, but the Caps just sent this out:

The Washington Capitals will distribute free exclusive passes to their special Draft Day Party and new uniform unveiling, to be held Friday, June 22, at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. Capitals ticket plan-holders will have priority access to passes for the event, which will be required for admission to the building.

Plan-holders will have the opportunity to reserve and print passes online in an exclusive window from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, May 14. All plan-holders will receive emails on Friday and again on Monday with instructions how to obtain tickets through their online account manager, with a limit of two tickets per account.

The general public will have the opportunity to reserve and print passes beginning at 2 p.m. Monday, pending availability, also with a limit of two passes per person.

Two types of passes – Red Rink and Blue Rink – will be issued for the event, with Red Rink passes issued on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning with plan-holders. Fans with Red Rink passes will receive priority access to the Capitals practice rink for the uniform unveiling. After Red Rink passes are sold out, Blue Rink passes will be issued that will provide access to the rest of Kettler Capitals Iceplex. All fans in attendance, including those with Blue Rink passes, will have the opportunity to watch the unveiling on closed-circuit television via a 19-by-26-foot video screen, see the jersey in person after the unveiling and participate in all of the Draft Day Party activities.

Doors will open for the event at 5:30 p.m. Fans are asked to be seated by 6:30 p.m. with the uniform unveiling beginning at approximately 6:40 p.m.

So can I scalp my two free passes?????


It's Their Party...

and Ted isn't invited anymore.

Far be it from me to tell these guys what they can and cannot do with their union but unless there's something more than e-mail snooping (which isn't a violation of privacy) going on the NHLPA is making a big mistake in getting rid of Saskin.

Here is the guy who negotiated a deal that gives them a guaranteed $475K a year (which will grow to $525K at the end of the deal). He saved the mandated 10% raise for players making under $660K and a 5% raise for players under $1 million. (I on the other hand, didn't receive any kind of raise this year because of a situation that had nothing to do with performance).

Yet the players are throwing him under the bus because of e-mail snooping? I'm sure some of them are angry about the salary cap, but consider this, the Salary Cap started out at $39 million for 2005-2006 and is projected to be about $47-49 million for 2007-2008. That would be a $10 million (26%) increase in just two years in a league that relies entirely upon ticket revenue. That my friends, is nothing short of incredible especially when CW says that the NHL shouldn't have been able to grow itself that quickly after throwing an entire season away the way that they did.

What is even more mystifying if you ask me is that these guys put up with (and in some cases even idolized) Bob Goodenow who by all accounts was an overbearing tyrant. I guess they preferred an in-your-face guy over a guy who conducted his operations in secret or were just tired of having their lives and contracts micro-managed.

But if the players want to be stupid, they can be stupid. Just remember this the next time your favorite team raises ticket prices or you lose a star player not so much because of cap considerations but because they're asking for a salary that the team cannot justify.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Odd Choice

Rooskies opt out after all.

This shouldn't be much of a surprise to anybody. Obviously $200K > $0 but the Rooskies say they will stand on principle. Their loss...

Of course don't forget this,

Tretiak also indicated that the labour law that allowed Malkin to break his contracts with Russian team Magnitogorsk Metallurg would soon be altered. Under Russian law, hockey players are treated the same as any other worker and only two weeks notice is required to quit a job.

The new law will enforce the terms of all Russian hockey contracts and will require that those contracts be bought out if a player wants to leave.

"If a player runs away, there will be serious financial reprimands," said Tretiak, a member of the State Duma in Russia. "He will think twice about doing it."

Since our courts are unwilling to upholding Rooskie contracts, the only place for the Rooskies to go is the IIHF. I'm not surprised though, I thought the NHL would have a tough time getting the Rooskies to come around after flat out stealing players last year. That the other Federations have signed on with little protest shows that the Rooskies didn't bang enough heads into radiators.


2007 NHL Playoffs Round III

Before we get to the picks, have you ever seen a Cup contender self-destruct the way the San Jose Sharks did? Now that I am out of The Venerable Off Wing Opinion's pool, it looks as if I'll need a new pick for the Cup going forward. I can tell you who it won't be because of the four teams now left, only three of them have a real shot at the Cup.

Now despite what you might think, this seriously has nothing to do with my irrational hatred of Bryan Murray but his Ottawa Senators are non-contenders. Why? Well no team that has finished lower than 7th in the overall standings has ever won the Stanley Cup. And only two teams have ever done it from the seventh position with the 1991 Penguin Scum being the first and the 1995 Devils in the lockout shortened season being the other team. Ottawa finished 9th overall, so should the Senators pull off the upset over the Buffaslugs, the Detroit-Anaheim winner has locked up the Cup.

Anyway, after compiling a .500 record for the second round dropping my record in the postseason to 7-5, I enlisted the help of the blind cat that lives behind my building to pick the upcoming Conference Finals. She (at least I think it is a she) can't do any worse than I've done so far...

Series M; Eastern Conference Finals: Buffaslugs (61-32; 113 points; 1st Northeast Division, 1st Eastern Conference, 1st Overall) vs. Ottawa Senators (56-36; 105 points; 2nd Northeast Division, 4th Eastern Conference, 9th Overall)

After sleepwalking through another round, the Buffaslugs advance once again to the Eastern Conference Finals. This is the fourth time in seven playoff appearances that Lindy Ruff has gotten his team this far. But you can't say that his team is playing their best hockey right now and you have to like the matchup that the Ottawa Senators have against the Buffaslugs. Ottawa has the speed, the scoring depth, and the goaltending to match the Buffaslugs as evidenced by them winning the season series between the two teams 5-3. The Neanderthal set is creaming themselves in breathless anticipation of this series as everybody remembers the brouhaha between the two teams back in February. If this series gets gooned up, it plays into the hands of the Senators who have made it clear that they won't be pushed around. Furthermore, Ryan Miller has been out dueled so far in the playoffs but somehow keeps coming up with the wins and you have to wonder if the Buffaslugs will ever "turn it on" like people keep expecting them to. If they don't do it this series, they won't ever get the chance and thanks to my buddy Sparky, I see that the Buffaslugs are getting cocky before winning anything. Senators in six.

Series N; Western Conference Finals: Detroit Red Wings (58-36; 113 points; 1st Central Division, 1st Western Conference, 2nd Overall) vs. Anaheim Thug Ducks (56-36; 110 points; 1st Pacific Division, 2nd Western Conference, 4th Overall)

Where in the East you have a team that has slept walked (Buffaslugs) against another that has overachieved (Ottawa) in the West you have team that hasn't been challenged (Anaheim) against a team that has had a couple of gift wrapped series handed to them (Detroit). The Thug Ducks have been rather efficient in dispatching their first two opponents while Detroit has benefited from playing an imbalanced team and a self-destructing team. Detroit is missing three regular blueliners and that is certain to increase the load on Hasek's back. The Thug Ducks better not think that they can bully the Red Wings here because Calgary already tried that and failed. Unless Anaheim decides not to show up for this series or Detroit plays way above their heads, it shouldn't be very close. Thug Ducks in five.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

You're Kidding Right?

Lots of talk yesterday about A.O.'s ejection and suspension in the World Championships. And despite unprecedented coverage of the event from the Caps (and tip-toeing on the line of "conflict of interest" in the process) J.P. is the only one with a video clip (I'd put here myself but I can't get YouTube to cooperate with me anymore). Kudos to J.P.

So now taking a look at a what really happened on the ice and ignoring the AP's misinformation, we see that the hit A. Wasn't "from behind" or a "head shot" at all and B. Legal (last time I checked, you were allowed to hit the player with the puck even in European hockey). Just because the other player had his head down doesn't make it dirty. Keep your head up and those things won't happen to you.

But what is done is done and there's nothing that can be done about it. However a great player's reputation is being sullied and for what reason? I'm not saying that A.O. did nothing wrong because it is A.O. He did nothing wrong and is being severely punished, period. Without a doubt hockey needs to be cleaned up, but we need to get rid of the cheap dirty stuff and leave the clean stuff alone. There's no sense in throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that's exactly what happened here.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Smorgasbord 5-6

  • College basketball will become harder to watch as they move the 3-point line one foot back for the men but not the women. The additional one foot will cut down on the hacks who think they can shoot threes but will in the end create more space down low for the post players. Teams who can dominate the inside-out game will gain the most but still having the gimmick of the three-pointer will still allow the sacred mid-majors to compete with the big boys.
  • I have had some time to catch bits and pieces on the Nationals on TV (I'm not using those letters, sorry) and I have to say, I really do like the announcing team this year. Growing up in Washington, D.C. without a baseball team means that I don't have a really solid knowledge of the game. After listening to Bob Carpenter being teamed with Don Sutton for a few games I began to understand the game a lot better than I did before. Tom Paciorek was fun to listen to (when you could get the game on TV) and Mel Proctor and Ron Darling stunk but there's no doubt that Don Sutton knows baseball and I am glad that he's here to teach the game to fans who weren't allowed to have it for 34 years.
  • I read through the articles on the dysfunctionalty of the Nats that William Yurasko mentioned on Thursday and they struck me as "so what?" First of all, it was common knowledge that Major League Baseball ran the franchise into the ground on purpose even after they moved it to Washington, D.C. Secondly, the Lerner's didn't make their $$$$$ by being foolish with it. While there are some things of concern with regards to them asking questions and trying to be frugal, the articles point out that there are things that they have to learn. Don't forget people, the Lerner's didn't take over until after last year's All-Star break. Let's give them more than a year before we start complaining about the job that they're doing.
  • On the field though, the Nats are continuing to uphold the grand tradition of baseball in Washington. Forget problems with pitching, the Nats also don't hit, field, or throw the ball very well as the Nats have now dropped five games in a row including getting swept by the Cubs this weekend. It is going to take more than a brand new ballpark and a few splashy free agent signings to reverse the damage done by Major League Baseball.
  • On the same day the (Com)Post ran this article, ESPN pushed back the start of the D.C. United-New England Revolution game 15 minutes because of Men's College Volleyball. That's right, Men's College Volleyball is the reason why the game started late. And to be honest, with the crew that ESPN put into the booth, we really could have done without that 15 minutes because it is less airtime for Eric Wynalda who gets outshone, outclassed, and simply outdone by Tommy Smyth. But if this is how ESPN is going to treat a domestic professional sports league that they are trying to partner with, then why in the world are hockey fans still complaining about the NHL leaving ESPN? Remember, in the last year the NHL was on ESPN, they were relegated to ESPN2 until the Conference Finals (where Men's College Volleyball takes precedent over a regularly scheduled professional sports league). Now they're saying that MLS matches (which aren't drawing larger audiences than the NHL playoffs were) aren't as important as Men's College Volleyball. ESPN needs to be taken down a peg or two or three.
  • And speaking of United, they are off to another slow start but finally got their first win today and are now 1-3-1 on the season. A lot is being made over Jaime Moreno coming off the bench in Thursday's 1-1 tie with New England, but we need to remember that the team is in transition. Two key players and the head coach left during the off season and D.C. is still trying to incorporate new parts and a new system. Speaking of the departed players, Alecko Eskandarian and Freddy Adu have just one assist between them in 9 combined games for Toronto and Salt Lake City respectively. Adu got the lone assist on the game tying goal last night against the New York Red Bulls in stoppage time. Adu of course is now playing under his third coach in less than year after Real Salt Lake fired their head coach earlier this week. You might remember Freddy wanted to play for this guy after escaping the clutches of the evil Peter Nowak here in D.C. Of the three teams, D.C., Toronto, and Salt Lake, D.C. has the only win so it is way too early to tell who got the better of the deal.
  • After firing their trainer, the New York Yankees have turned to 44 year old Roger Clemens to bail them out of their horrible start. Am I the only one offended that this guy can find somebody to pick him up two months into the season three years in a row?
  • Finally, this week, the Nats stay on the road for a three game set in Milwaukee starting tomorrow night. The Nats are off on Thursday before hosting the Florida Marlins at RFK for a three game weekend series which starts a 10 game homestand. D.C. United off this week.
  • Please send all questions, comments, corrections, suggestions, complaints, and answers as to where in the world IPFW is located to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com.