POINT BLANK: Ramblings for the Weekend
Put Howie, Sam and Jeanneret on NBC...How Rumors Get Started...Torts Lets Loose
Let the local announcers do the national games
Picture this: Stanley Cup Playoffs 2008. Second round, Penguins at Islanders. Game's on NBC.
The announcers? Devils play-by-play man Mike Emrick, Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk. Traitor Joe Micheletti is the "Man in the Glass."
This is what hockey does for its national broadcasts when the game is on its biggest stage, but it doesn't have to. This is not the NFL, where every game is handled by a network partner.
For playoff games on NBC and VERSUS, I propose having the play-by-play man and analyst of that game's home team in the booth with the announcers of the opponent serving as sideline commentators. Should the Islanders host the game at the Coliseum, fans across the country would have Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe in the booth, Bob Errey and Paul Steigerwald on the sidelines. Think about the chirping that could go on if the game got nasty or there was a controversial goal review. Good for hockey.
There's something special about the tradition of home team hockey announcers. If we are truly trying to "sell stars" and spread the gospel of our great game, there's no better way to do it than have Rick Jeanneret call Sabres games, Ken Daniels do the Red Wings games at the Joe, Sam Rosen the games at the Garden.
The way it is now, it's screwy. Mike Emrick couldn't do Game 6 with his Devils against the Sens for FSN because he was on assignment for NBC. The following day, Sam was unemployed for Rangers-Sabres Game 6. Who called the game? Doc Emrick, naturally.
There's no doubt the national hockey audience would be better served by the enthusiasm of the broadcasters who know the teams best. After all, it's not like it's going to hurt the ratings.
(Oh, and I was just kidding about Joe Mich).
Spring: The Silly Season
This is the time of year when you'll read in blogs and newspaper notes columns about how this team is targeting these unrestricted free agents and how this player is the focus of these seven or eight teams. The rumor mill is good for hockey, but the legitimacy of these reports is about as shaky as the Blue Jays' bullpen.
Every good reporter has his sources and, yes, every team in pro sports has its share of leaks (except your NYI, of course). But do you really think a legitimate NHL team management source is sharing his team's plans for July 1 with a reporter in May? More often than not, it's one of two things:
* an agent drumming up interest for his client
* the "journalist" listening to the voices inside their own head
And by the way: Anaheim, Detroit, Ottawa, Buffalo. Which blockbuster free agent signings did they make last July?
For a team that some clueless folk like to write off as the little team in the ‘burbs, the Islanders seem to be making quite a mark on this new thing called the Internet. In the NHL webosphere, our team site is No. 8 in both the United States and in Canada in viewership among the 30 teams. Worldwise, newyorkislanders.com ranks tenth.
The Islanders blog of our very own CHRISTIE BRINKLEY – I love saying that – had 233,929 page impressions on nhl.com. In second place among celebrity bloggers on the league website was Lil Jon, who did roughly half Christie's number. Way to go Christie, who turned out to be as gracious a person as she is, you know, uh, good-looking.
And speaking of attractive hockey bloggers, GREG LOGAN set records at Newsday with his Islanders blog. When there was big news – especially around the Smyth deal, which Logan broke – his hit stats were off the charts. Not that the Newsday execs needed any more proof the Islanders were worthy of more coverage.
What Was Said: @#%&@#%&, Brooksie"! – Tampa coach John Tortorella to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, after Game 5 of Lightning-Devils at the Meadowlands.
What It Means: In this You Tube instant classic, two high-flying acts get into it in a public setting and everyone comes out a winner. Seems Larry was understandably annoyed with Torts' robotic answers of "We know what we did" to every question after his team's loss. So Larry says, "Then what are we doing here"? That's when the Bolts' coach unleashes his Shakespearean sonnet and Brooks fires back with, "No, you @#%&@#%&"!
This was wonderful theatre – two passionate people with a love for the game getting into it at the sort of fever-pitch the NHL needs more of. Better still for Tortorella, he was able to deflect from his team's lackluster performance.
And don't for a moment think this is some kind of bubbling rivalry. Going back to his days as a Rangers assistant, Tortorella has always had a professional, friendly relationship with the Post columnist. Brooks has touted Tortorella for years, ripping on USA Hockey's selection of Peter Laviolette over him for the Olympic job. Two enthusiastic thumbs up, boys!
DEED OF THE WEEK
This Saturday in Long Beach!!! Great Strides Walk for Cystic Fibrosis
The biggest fundraiser of the year for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is their Great Strides Walks, which take place all over the country. This Saturday, May 20 at 11:00 am at the boardwalk in Long Beach, there will be a large number of Islanders/Dragons staffers participating on a walk team formed by my colleague Michael Sciortino, as well as Ice Girls, FireDancers, Sparky, and even some Dragons players. Registration begins at 9:30 am.
If anyone would like to join Mike's "Fire and Ice" team, or just donate to the cause, please log on to www.cff.org/great_strides/MichaelSciortino. Or if you would like to create your own team for the Long Beach walk, the Holtsville walk on Sunday, May 20 or any other walk throughout the country, go to www.cff.org/great_strides/.
"Malakhov's in Back"
I miss those car trips to Islanders-Whalers games. At one game sometime in the mid-90s, Vladimir Malakhov sprained his knee and had to come back to Long Island for an MRI. Since the Islanders were leaving Hartford for another road game, then-GM Don Maloney asked my colleague and me if we had room for Vladi in our car. So there was 6-foot-4 Vladimir Malakhov stretched out, knee up, in the backseat of my buddy's compact vehicle.
But what's a Whalers road trip without a stop at one of the countless McDonald's on 95 on the way home? We go in to order and there's a bunch of guys from Long Island there, barely old enough to be driving. They all had Islanders jerseys on, one of them with MALAKHOV stitched on the back. We said hello, offered them tickets to a game at the Coliseum and then my associate said, "Ya know, we have Malakhov in our backseat." Of course, the kids didn't believe us, so we got our burgers and led them to the car. A few autographs and some conversation over Mickey D's with Malakhov later, the guys drove back to Long Island with a story I'm sure their friends to this day still don't believe.
Thus called because it's the biggest cliché you'll hear on draft weekend: "The draft's a crapshoot." If I owned an NHL team, I wouldn't love hearing this. Teams spend a big chunk of their hockey ops budget on scouts and travel to get an edge, only to have their GMs declare the whole thing is like shooting fish in a barrel. So Garth, please: call it...hmmm...let's see...a science!
But I digress. I have this friend in the scouting business. He's got a pretty darn good batting average, so I asked him to give me his top 5 overall for the June 22-23 draft in Columbus. He obliged, although I'm a bit ticked his list didn't exactly go out on a limb:
1. Patrick Kane, London (OHL)
2. James VanRiemsdyk, US Under-18 Team
3. Kyle Turris, Burnaby (BCHL)
4. Alexei Cherepanov, Omsk (Russia)
5 .Jakub Voracek, Halifax (QMJHL), Czech Republic native
For what it's worth, my buddy says this year's draft is not very deep. (He claimed he wasn't "just saying that" because the Islanders traded their first-rounder in the Ryan Smyth doozie). He also said to watch out for what happens starting around the 8th pick overall, that from picks 8 – 30 "it will be all over the place. More than any other draft I can remember, nobody can predict what's gonna happen."
In other words, it's going to be a...never mind.
ISLANDERS NEWS LEAK OF THE WEEK
NHL sources tell Point Blank the Islanders are planning an extravaganza weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the team's dynasty, which culminated with the fourth consecutive Stanley Cup championship in 1983. The goal, our spies tell us, is to shine a light on the 17 players who were a part of all four Cup teams, plus GM Bill Torrey and Al Arbour. There will never be another team like it, and apparently the Islanders are going to give the 19 men the kind of celebration they deserve. One source tells us the Islanders have asked for back-to-back matinee games at the Coliseum in early March as part of the event, but we've yet to receive confirmation from an "impeccable source." Stay tuned.
Pacino's Greatest Hits
Alfredo James Pacino of the Bronx is now 67 years old. I went to see him in a David Mamet play called "American Buffalo" about 25 years ago. The play is about nothing, but it was worth it to see Al strut and fret across the stage for 90 minutes, chomping on every inch of the scenery. My friend and I waited for him at the stage door after the show, but instead he had his enforcer collect everyone's Playbills, signed them and then had them handed out. About 30 minutes later, he jumped quickly into a limo. Ah, memories.
With Pacino cashing an easy paycheck with "Ocean's 13" this month, here's one man's take on the best movies he's ever made. Not necessarily his best performances, but his best flicks. For the record, "Serpico" has not aged well and I thought "Any Given Sunday" was obnoxious.
10. "Scent of a Woman" – About an hour too long, but Al tangos his way to his only Oscar.
9. "Heat" – Billed as a big showdown with DeNiro, which turns out to be nothing special. Good heist flick, though.
8. "Looking for Richard" – Pacino's vanity project, a documentary he financed and directed about him and his acting buddies trying to pull off Shakespeare. If this had come out when I was young, I wouldn't have needed Cliff Notes to understand the Bard.
7. "City Hall" – He plays the mayor of New York in 1996 and you can't help but think Rudy Giuliani was inspired.
6. "Sea of Love" – Al and Ellen Barkin, in their primes. ‘Nuff said.
5. "Dog Day Afternoon" – Made in 1975, about Pacino and friend robbing a bank. That's about all I can say.
4. "The Insider" – Pacino restrained, opposite Russell Crowe in a tale of "60 Minutes" and big tobacco.
3. "Scarface" – Lost a fortune when it came out at the movies, now cleaning up on DVD.
2. "Donnie Brasco" – GM assistant Kerry Gwydir rented it for the bus ride back after the win in Philly in March. Forgot how good it was. An underrated classic.
1. "The Godfather Trilogy" – Okay, "3" bites a bit more with each passing year, but the original may be the most perfect movie ever made.
My invaluable associate Corey Witt has three things he'd like to get off his chest:
"If you haven't already, make sure you check out Evan Grossman's daily Water Cooler Notes on NHL.com. The former Islanders beat writer for the New York Post cleverly streamlines the hot and often odd news stories into hockey-related banter.
"Trent Hunter: Fifth in the NHL with 252 hits with just 22 penalty minutes. If that's not Lady Byng material, then what is? Even though he'll hit you over and over again, Hunter is the cleanest player in the NHL today. The NHL Writers Association clearly missed this one when voting for the yearly awards.
"Our man Bruce Bennett, who photographed the Islanders even before the Dynasty Years, finally got some due recognition. Last week the NHL entered into a multi-year agreement with Getty Images, the mega image-sharing company which Bennett works for. In the NHL's press release, they highlighted that one of the many pros they receive from the deal is Bennett, and of course, his great work with the Orange and Blue."
A VERY NOT SPECIAL PLAYER
You learn a lot from watching those post-playoff handshake lines. After the Sabres got by the Blueshirts, Henrik Lundquist was the recipient of plenty of well-deserved pats on the chest. Jaromir Jagr received those half-hugs that come with respect for a great player who gave everything he had. Brendan Shanahan, warm handshakes all around. Sean Avery? Not one Sabre felt he deserved to even be looked in the eye, instead opting for the wet-fish handshake, aka The Belichick. It's too bad. My 5-cent psychoanalysis is that Avery is a better hockey player than he believes he is and feels he has to resort to garbage to compensate. As his recent comments about Roberto Luongo and Sidney Crosby prove, the boy's got issues.
I doubt you could find an Islander player or coach who would have a problem with the Sabres' universal show of disrespect. As for Avery, he might convince himself today this comes with playing the villain. But as if going 0-0-0 and minus-5 in six games after talking big before the Buffalo series wasn't enough, you wonder if deep down he'll be embarrassed when he's 64.
Presenting the average time on ice for each key Islander in the 2006-07 season.
|10||D||FREDERICK MEYER IV||60||17:27|
In case you missed it, the best hour of hockey on TV this season came after New Jersey dropped Game 6 to Ottawa. Stan Fischler's "exit interviews" with Devils veterans Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski and Patrik Elias were candid, informal, enlightening and priceless. I've known Stan close to 20 years and have barely resisted the urge to strangle him at least 20 times, but this was vintage Maven. The whole thing came off as his way of saying, "Look, guys, before you go to your marathon end-of-season party, get in my studio and explain what went wrong to Uncle Stan." A pained Ken Daneyko – the Devils' Bobby Nystrom – was there for the ride, adding more delicious angst to the proceedings. Props all around not just to Stan, Ken and FSN producer Roland Dratch, but the Devils for their accessibility and accountability.
To the list of playoff-playing wounded already including DiPietro, Asham and Hilbert, add RICHARD PARK. Rich recently had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and will be ready for the opening of training camp...
The hunch here is KYLE OKPOSO stays in college for at least one more year, and that's perfectly fine...
Take care, DANNY FLYNN. Thanks for a season of hard work and doing those in-game interviews with Deb. Fans can expect the Islanders to add at least one new member of the coaching staff sometime around the draft...
For all the inconsistent officiating and head-spinning goal reviews, it's tough to argue the four most-deserving teams didn't make it to the Conference Finals. So besides staying healthy, being committed to a team game and getting the best goaltending, teams must be prepared heading into the start of the playoffs to handle the adversity of things not going their way...
The quotes from DUBIE about how he feels the fans played a part in his new NHL contract were beautiful. They were in contrast to my Yankees after the Clemens contract. Brian Cashman rightfully said over and over the deal would never get done without the support of the Steinbrenner family. But it would have been nice if my Yankees acknowledged their biggest partners – the fans. Without 4 million fannies going through the Bronx turnstiles and immense viewership on YES, even the Yanks couldn't reach that deep for the Rocket...
Will some NHL team in the next ten years crack and allow a star veteran goalie to be away from the team for 3-4 days at a time when his backup is going to start the next game? Will we ever see a hockey player get forget-the-team-concept kind of perks? Not in this lifetime...
RAY EMERY once ate a cockroach as a rookie dare for $500 and spent the money on a tattoo. Then he let the media chronicle his visit to the tattoo parlor. He has dyed his hair blonde and wears suits that, as one reporter put it, "even Don Cherry would think over-the-top." Although 99% of the traditional hockey world is tsk-tsking with disapproval, fact is hockey could use a few more Ray Emerys.
CHARLES WANG – With a busy off-season ahead, it's worth repeating what I told a group of die-hard fans in late March. Question just about whatever you want. Go ahead. No one is above that. But never question the dedication, commitment and, yes, generosity of Charles Wang to the Islanders, their fans or Long Island.
MIKE BOSSY – One thing I never thought I'd say in my lifetime in a business meeting: "As Bossy just said..." Mike just finished his first season in the NYI corporate sales department and it was an honor and a delight to have him here. Unlike most legends "working" for teams, Boss dug right in, worked his tail off and asked to be treated like everyone else.
DAVID McNAB & Al COATES – McNab is the assistant GM of the Ducks and an original club employee. Coates is a senior advisor and is in his 35th year of pro hockey management, starting as a PR guy in Calgary. While not everyone in the Duck pond is easy to root for, these two class acts are.