Pass/Fail: Darren Helm

The traditional method of ranking individual player performance is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white. This is “Pass/Fail.”

Statistically Speaking
[table id=20 /]

The Good
Where do you even start with this kid? He played in every game for the Wings this year. He was top 20 in the league in shorthanded goals. He has speed for days. And he’s only 24 years old. For Darren Helm, this season couldn’t have gone much better on an individual level, as his improvement continued for yet another season. There’s no doubting his speed, and watching him wind up and take off gets the heart racing every single time it happens. 32 points and a +9 regular season rating from a 3rd/4th line center is something that any team in this league would love to have, and one can only wish that Helm’s work ethic would magically seep into the pores of every guy in the lineup. He was a nasty forechecker all season long, did the dirty work that a mucker is supposed to do, and flashed his brilliance on numerous occasions. He’s turned the dump and chase off the half-boards into a science and it paid off not only for him, but the guys on his line as well. The Draper-Helm-Eaves line was a pleasant surprise throughout the entire year, and Helm reaped the benefits as he scored a career high 12 goals. He’s quietly turning into one heck of a playmaker and the future remains so, so bright for this kid.

The Bad
Sadly, for all the good in his game, poor #43 still can’t seem to finish on the breakaway. It’s been a problem for him ever since he made the big club, and every time he gets stoned, I half expect him to wind up and smash his stick along the boards. He’s the Luis Mendoza of this club: Mendoza couldn’t stop in D2: The Mighty Ducks, and Helm just can’t finish when he’s all alone on net. It’s almost comical at this point, but it is a real issue and he’s trying to work it out. Apparently, Helm (by his own admission) was playing “too fast” this year. He said he was working on slowing his game down a bit, but that sounds more like a mental crutch than an actual problem. He just needs to relax and work on adding a move or two to get goaltenders to bite, and I’ll bet the puck will start finding the twine more often. He’s also got some work to do on the penalty kill, as he has a tendency to wander out too far on the point and leave the back pass open. That’s something that will come with time and experience, but if Helm really is looking to slow his game down a bit, his patience and positioning on the PK is a good place to start.

Extra Credit
The picture says it all. Anyone who can pull off Todd Bertuzzi for Halloween gets major bonus points.

Grades
Disch: Pass
Petrella: Pass
Hollis: Pass

The Reasoning
Disch: If the man had a scoring touch he’d be on every shit-eating reebok ad in the country. Just not the man’s game, and I’m fine with that. Does everything else you ask of a hockey player except put the puck in the net on a clean breakaway. Never pictured him as more than a great fourth line guy leading into this season. Assume a lot of people, like me, are rethinking that position if they’d previously held it.
Petrella: The man can do everything. Except score on breakaways. But he is so damn good…and only getting better.
Hollis: He’s just such a weapon on the ice and one can only imagine that he’s going to get better. His work ethic is second-to-none and that should never be taken for granted.

Final TPL Grade
PASS (Duh.)

Past Reports
5/24 :: Niklas Kronwall
5/23 :: Valtteri Filppula

Up Next: Jakub Kindl

Pass/Fail: Niklas Kronwall

The traditional method of ranking individual player performance is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white. This is “Pass/Fail.”

Statistically Speaking
[table id=18 /]

The Good
As far as NHL defensemen go, Niklas Kronwall’s season was pretty solid. A second pairing guy, Kronwall spent plenty of time on the ice, averaging almost 29 shifts per game and failing to hit the 20 minute mark in TOI only a handful of times during the regular season. Durability wasn’t as issue for the 30 year old defenseman, missing only five regular season games and playing in all 11 playoff contests. His ice time skyrocketed in the postseason as the Wings opted to rest Lidstrom a bit more, yet Kronwall never missed a beat. In terms of production, Kronwall’s 37 points left him one spot outside of the top 30 point producing defensemen in the league, and his production was the second best output of his career (51 points in ’08-’09). That said, his 11 regular season goals this year was a career best, almost doubling his second-best output in ’08-’09 (6 goals). On the back end, Kronwall’s play showed an increased level of responsibility, focusing more on fundamentals and positioning and less on the big hit and offensive production. Given all of his time on the ice, +5 ratings for both the regular season and playoffs are nothing to scoff at.

The Bad
All in all, it was a very solid season for a guy who the Wings were hoping would make a case for a top-line billing. That said, Kronwall did have a number of defensive lapses throughout the year, resulting in unfavorable comparisons to the Niklas Kronwall of yesteryear. For some reason, his mistakes just seemed to be worse than the rest of corps (save Salei and Ericsson). When he was out of position, he was out of position badly. When he got beat, he got beat badly. The odds favor a Franzen-esque mental lapse over an 82 game season since the skill level was there for Kronwall to compete and play well every night. While his game felt more consistent throughout the course of the season, there’s still work to be done in terms of putting it together over 60 minutes on a nightly basis.Kronwall also had a tendency to wander on the PK a bit, often stretching his zone and chasing the play when he should have stayed home in front of the crease. It proved costly a number of times, and an increased emphasis on PK responsibility should be on the docket this offseason.

Extra Credit
It’s almost impossible to state just how important Kronwall’s regular season to postseason leap in overall play was. He found the extra gear on the blueline while also picking his spots perfectly when laying his patented bone-rattling hits. He about knocked Dany Heatley’s noggin’ into the third row at JLA, bringing the crowd to life at a time when doom and gloom littered the walkways.  His ability to jump into the play and be an offensive threat was perfectly timed and executed on multiple occasions. And, of course, his ascension into the defensive TOI leader during the playoffs was absolutely flawless, paving the way for what should be a lock on the top pairing this coming season.

Grades
Disch: Abstain
Petrella: Pass
Hollis: Pass

The Reasoning
Disch: Abstain
Petrella: Really tempted to go FAIL based on regular season defensive lapses, but proved in the playoffs that maybe he IS the future of the blueline, after all.
Hollis: I’ve never made any bones about the fact that Kronwall’s responsibility on the ice makes me nervous, but this year was a pleasant surprise and I’m almost completely off the ledge with him now. If he can carry this into next season – and mix in some of that playoff explosiveness – he’ll finally be the defenseman that the Red Wings have been hoping he would turn into.

Final TPL Grade
PASS

Up Next: Darren Helm.

Pass/Fail: Valtteri Filppula

Now that we’ve all had a chance to decompress a bit and soak up the fact that there is no more Red Wings hockey to be played, we can finally get down to the summer long business of breaking down what went right and/or wrong in Hockeytown this year. Petrella and J.J. are already cruising along with the “Pro/No” series that focuses on the Red Wings upcoming free agents, which is definitely going to be a hot topic in Motown this offseason. But what about the rest of the guys?

The traditional method of ranking individual performance for the MSM and bloggers is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white.

So with that in mind, we are setting out on what will surely be a long and arduous journey of offering up our individual player “ratings” in a simple and easy-to-digest (especially after six or seven beers) format that we like to call “Pass/Fail.” We’ll outline the numbers. We’ll share what we think went well. We’ll highlight all of the boner (not the good kind) moments that made you cringe. And we’ll even offer up a shot at some extra credit. Once the arguments have been laid out, the TPL triumvirate will head to the deepest, most secure area of TPL Headquarters – known around these parts as “The Sitch Room” (no Wolf Blitzer…yet) – and we’ll vote on whether every single player that hit the ice for the Wings this year was a “Pass” or a “Fail”. Three votes. Whichever argument gets more votes is the final grade for each Wing.

Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments are for and we expect you to use them. Let us know if you think we are wrong. Let us know if you think we are right. Let us know if you think we need to go drink another beer. Our cards are on the table and we want to hear what you all think as well.

Don’t worry: we’ll cover all of the guys from this year, including those that are also doing their time in the “Pro/No” circle as well. However, there will be no future projections here. We live in the past and the past alone. But for now, let’s get this thing going with one of the more controversial players this season: Valtteri Filppula.

Pass/Fail: Valtteri Filppula

Statistically Speaking
[table id=17 /]

The Good
Following a season that saw the Finnish forward miss 27 games due to a broken wrist, Filppula was surprisingly durable this year, logging 71 regular season games and appearing in all 11 postseason contests. He finished in the top 10 in points (#8), goals (#8) and assists (#9) for the Wings, and fell one point short of tying his best regular season points output (40 pts in ’07-’08). Despite a sluggish start in the postseason, Flippula ended up tied for 2nd in playoff points for the Wings, with his most important contribution coming in Game 6 against San Jose when he broke a 1-1 tie in the third period. That goal would eventually stand as the game winner, which is where Filppula earned his money during both the regular season (5 GWG, 31st in the league) and postseason (2 GWG, 4th in the league.)

The Not-So Good
Despite a solid statistical season, Filppula remained mired in in the middle of the statistical pack in the NHL. Besides the aforementioned prowess for scoring game-winning goals, Flip’s only other “Top 100” placement in the league was placing 92nd in shooting percentage. Granted, Filppula is a 2nd/3rd line guy who isn’t expected to post major numbers, but this is the third straight year we’ve heard the coaches say he was primed for a major step forward and subsequently the third straight year he failed to post the numbers to back it up. While not expected to be a disruptive forechecking force, Filppula was often soft along the boards, failing to win battles for pucks and maintain the zone. The biggest complaint, however, may be his lack of shooting. The coaches have harped on him to take more shots, yet Filppula still continued to pass first and shoot second. Offensive JUGGERNAUT Justin Abdelkader finished the regular season with more attempts at the net than Filppula, which left the fair-haired Finn outside the Top 10 in shots for the team. While not awful, finishing -1 over 71 games also isn’t exactly inspiring. Consistency remains an issue.

Extra Credit
When the game is on the line, Filppula knows how to finish. Of the seven Wings postseason wins this year, Filppula had the GWG in two of them and none bigger than in Game 6 against San Jose.

Grades
Disch: Pass
Petrella: Pass
Hollis: Fail

The Reasoning
Disch: Thought Flip did well during the playoffs and not expecting him to be the next “great.”
Petrella: It’s not Flip’s fault that fans expect him to be another Henrik Zetterberg. On his own merits, Valtteri Filppula is spectacular.
Hollis: If Bertuzzi is hitting 40+ points, I find Flip’s 39 to be completely indefensible. He was great during the playoffs, but his lack of consistency is concerning. The fact that we are on Year 3 of the “breakout” discussion really hurt his grade. He’s borderline underachieving now.

Final TPL Grade
PASS

Check in tomorrow when we grade Niklas Kronwall.

Retrospectacus IV: The Kids are Alright




Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a Wings blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans.

For today’s installment, we’re proud to present Jeff Hancock of The Good Old Hockey Show – a kickass program that has had me on as a guest twice. Though he has to be fairly impartial co-hosting such a show, Jeff makes no secret that he’s a Michigan boy and a Red Wings fan. And with that, his post:

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I might be in the minority here…but the kids are alright. 



With the real possibility of Mike Modano (who went to the same elementary and middle school as me; we both had Miss Bowman [no relation to Scotty] for Language Arts as 6th graders. Not at the same time of course. He’s 40 and I’m 22. Different high schools though. His family moved to Livonia, but this is all beside the point)

Where was I? Oh yeah…

With Modano possibly signing with the Wings, there has been a lot of speculation about Kenny having enough money to sign a 6th/7th defenseman.

Well to that, I say who cares?

After spending some time over at one of my daily internet stops — the Snapshots blog to read some of Malik’s fine work — I stumbled upon a few little quotes that made me touch my chin, look up to the ceiling, and pause and think for a moment.

The first from Mr. Brendan Smith himself:

“I know the motto here (for rookies) is to go to Grand Rapids and get a year under your belt,” said Smith, who is taking part in the Wings’ development camp Thursday through Sunday. “But Ken Holland (general manager) has told me the sky’s the limit. I can come in great shape and prove myself and put myself on the squad, or I can do the opposite. I am excited.”

And the second from Mr. Kenny Holland:

“I want to see where he’s at,” Holland said of Smith. “Do we go with kids or do we sign a veteran? If the right free agent comes along at the right price, well sign him. If not, I am comfortable going to training camp and letting these guys sort it out. If they aren’t up to the challenge, we can always look to add a veteran in October or November  But I am OK letting this play itself out over the summer and then again in October.”

Could this actually be happening? Could the Wings give this kid a legit shot to make the team and play in Detroit this year?

I sure as hell hope so.

Pass this kid the puck and tell him to give it his best shot.

Smith was a stud in college last season and led all defenseman in points. He was a top 10 Hobey Baker finalist and had a ridiculous 5 assists in an 8-1 Frozen Four victory over RIT.  I want to see what this kid can do at the pro level.  

Now, I know the Wings have their strategy of letting prospects spend years in juniors and the minors, but every now and then I wish they’d let one of these kids loose and see what happens. We’ve seen plenty of young hockey players make the jump since the lockout. Just last year Tyler Myers and Matt Duchene jumped directly from the WHL and OHL to the big leagues. Of course for every Myers and Duchene you have 10 other players who don’t make the cut, but consider that Smith is older than both those guys, so why not? It’s not like he can’t go back to Grand Rapids if things don’t work out perfectly.

Of course Smith had his little off the ice incident just shortly after signing his contract with the Wings. In no way do I condone his actions, but hey, maybe this kid has a little snarl to him? A little aggression? Likes to throw his body around a little bit? Which is something I think wouldn’t hurt the Wings defense these days.

I hope Kenny is serious about giving this kid a shot. Who knows how much longer Lidstrom is going to be around.  I’d love to have Smith spend a season in the big leagues learning directly from the greatest defense I have personally ever seen play the game.  Let Smith, Kindl, and Ericsson all battle it out for the 5th/6th/7th defense spots and send Meech packing to join Lebda in Toronto.  Smith has all the potential in the world to become a big name on this team in the future and Kindl has been in Grand Rapids for long enough. Give them both a shot and in the end if it doesn’t work, send Ritola down and sign that veteran bottom pair defenseman in October or November.

I’m genuinely excited to see this kid play for the Wings and, I’ll say this, if Smith makes the team, I’ll be the first in line to buy my #2 Red Wings jersey.

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If you’re interested in keeping up with Jeff, follow him on Twitter. While you’re at it, follow The Good Old Hockey Show, too, to stay up-to-date with their broadcasts.

Retrospectacus III (and a half): From Business to Pleasure

Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans. 

Just to be clear, we don’t censor any of these posts. Anyone we felt comfortable with offering this opportunity to, we felt comfortable posting their words. We don’t necessarily agree with any of their stances or views — we merely provided the vessel through which to make their voices heard. Conversation is — like always — encouraged, but the views expressed are those of the author, and not of The Production Line. 

In a bit of “to be continued” kind of fashion, we offer JJ’s second half of his guest post. 

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There’s a lot of talk out there right now about how the NHL is a business and business is good. All the numbers are on a positive swing and the future is looking so bright, Gary Bettman has to stand in the shade (fortunately, he’s small enough to fit into anybody’s shadow).

As a fan of business, as I am, I give this news a heart whoop-de-fucking-doo. I’ll get out the streamers and noisemakers and Bartles & James later, but first let me tell you why I hate that news.

I’m a hockey fan.

Can anybody please explain to me why I would want hockey to be twice as popular as it is right now? Would that make the Red Wings a better team? Would my viewing experience significantly improve? Would it make the on-ice product any better?

No.

Hockey, as a business, is not an issue of supply and demand, it’s an issue of price and demand. I spend $160 per year for a subscription to NHL Center Ice, which gives me every single hockey game over the course of a season (and quite a few baseball games, since those channels share space with MLB Extra Innings). Well, the supply of hockey never goes down, but the price still goes up when the demand does. In America, the holy grail of sports is the NFL, where you’re looking at $250 if you want to see every game. I like hockey, but I like having 90 more dollars at the end of the year, too.

Second, new fans = bandwagon fans. Listen, there’s always a lot of talk about bandwagoners and how they’re annoying. This is because bandwagoners are fucking annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve brought my brother-in-law into the fold of Red Wings fandom and I got a lot of enjoyment out of that. This is because I love my brother-in-law. But, chances are I probably hate yours and would rather bean him with a beer bottle than explain icing to him. The Wings getting a shitload more fans wouldn’t mean I’d have a shitload more friends with whom to share the enjoyment, it means I’d have a shitload more embarrassing dickweeds hanging around. If you’re like me and believe that 80% of the population is dumb, then it stands to reason that 80% of hockey fans are also dumb and that only 2 out of 10 new fans won’t be blathering idiots. I’m glad I have a lot of sites where I don’t have to read somebody saying things like “LOL IMHO trade Franzen and Zetterberg for Malkin” just because there are people out there who believe their idea must be extra-special and clever because nobody else brought it up (hint: nobody else brought it up because it’s a stupid idea and they don’t want to look stupid).

If you think coverage of the game will drastically improve the more popular it becomes, you are simply wrong about that. How many football or baseball announcers can you even stand?

But hey, maybe the game will get better. If enough people see the horrible supplemental discipline policies or reffing standards, maybe there will be enough pressure on the league to change. Yes, that’s very possible. Another solution is to replace the people responsible for the terrible supplementary discipline policies and the stupid reffing standards with people who are competent at their jobs. Have you ever had a restaurant that you loved to go to because it was kind of your little secret? You loved their spicy jambalaya and were on a first-name basis with the wait staff there to the point where you didn’t even need a menu when you came in? Well, imagine what happens when that place gets popular in town. Suddenly, they have to bring in new and inexperienced servers who don’t know your name or how many ice cubes you like in your drink. Suddenly, the spicy jambalaya is milder than Danny Tanner on tranquilizers because all the new bland assholes who showed up that shouldn’t be ordering spicy food in the first place complained that the dish was too hot for their delicate mouths. Suddenly, the nice, quiet atmosphere you shared with your friends is a bustling mess where you have to scream to be heard and wait 40 minutes for a table to open up (you can flat out forget about your favorite table, you’ll take what they give you, damnit). Yeah, you’re kinda happy that the guy who owns the restaurant is now financially better off, but you wish you could go back to the way it was.

Hockey is my favorite little secret and I’d rather deal with Sportscenter anchors using the tired “haw….key?” line where they fake ignorance than deal with the real ignorance of thousands more people calling for them to make my jambalaya more bland so they can stomach it.

Retrospectacus III: Parity Up in Here!

Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans.

For the third installment, we received a hell of a well-thought out post from a man we’ve never met — but feel is an honorary member of our troop. If you’ve been around TPL since the beginning, you know how much we love J.J. — so without further ado: 

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A great man once told me “Ya’ll bout to make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here.” That great man went on to get arrested for impersonating a federal officer and…oh shit, I’m off track already. I’m sorry, it’s just that this topic is kind of dry and trying to wrap my head around it has been a test of sanity (but more a “running down main street naked with an ear of corn stuck in my ass” crazy than “old rapper releasing song after song which is the equivalent of telling young rappers to get off his lawn” like DMX crazy.)

Ya damn whippersnappers!

Sara set the bar high a few days ago when she posted her thoughts on the league as a business and how much business decisions impact the sport. As a companion to that, I’ve been trying to learn the Collective Bargaining Agreement and what exactly it means to everybody involved. Not surprisingly, my findings pretty closely mirror what we all already know and the scope leaves big questions as to whether the framers of the current CBA are hopeful yet careful bastards or devious and cunning evil geniuses.

Invisible nun-grope

You see, Gary doesn’t actually want parity, at least not in the way we’ve said all along. Sara hinted at this in her post, but I think it bears saying in plain English. The Commish only wants parity among the teams with the largest fanbases. Gary wants the large markets competing year in and year out for the Cup; he doesn’t want a level playing field where teams like Carolina or Nashville have the same power to compete as Chicago or Los Angeles. So, how do you set it up to give a small, but important advantage to large market teams while getting the smaller guys to sign on? Well, you create a salary-capped system where revenue sharing brings the promise of everybody rolling in dough, but actually serves to create a system of two salary caps.

Still with me? Good. Everybody knows that there’s a maximum cap on spending, so when a team like Atlanta doesn’t nearly approach that, it must be their own damn fault for not having the commitment to spend enough to ice a winning squad. Those jerks are ruining the competitive spirit of our sport! Well, yeah, in a way they kind of are doing that, but I think you’d find it pretty convincing for the sole purpose of the integrity of the game.

INTEGRITY!

The biggest myth going is that the CBA and salary cap is designed to keep teams from spending more than 57% of their revenues on players. It’s a small, but important distinction to point out that the reality is that it’s designed to keep the LEAGUE from spending more than 57% of their revenues on players. An individual small market team is more than welcome to bankrupt themselves spending on talent, but has very strong reasons to spend less (and therefore compete less).

Taking a quick detour here (sorry, I promise I’ll jailsex you with some exciting numbers and percentages in a bit where I explain the dual-cap), but there’s a counter here that I want to nip in the bud (the best of all possible places for nipping, except at a wet t-shirt contest). The argument is that you can’t tie payroll to success. Teams have tried that and it doesn’t work. My point is that the cap has created a very tight range for players’ and GMs’ choices are how to play around with the combinations, rather than how to get the best guys to come play for you. Before the cap, nobody had any idea what a top-level defenseman is worth. Now, everybody knows that $7.5M should land you a Norris Candidate (insert Brian Campbell schadenfreude joke here). Known talent is at a known salary plateau and therefore you have to spend near the cap for a better chance at winning. Sure, there are still overpaid guys, but the formula is the same for success throughout the league. You have to pay relatively big money for your core, about half that for 2nd-tier guys and get good performance out of criminally underpaid players who later move onto the 2nd-tier level pay.

and tell their national team’s leadership to fornicate themselves

Here’s where it gets goofy; the way the cap is set. You’d figure that if the league wants players’ salaries to be no more than 57% of revenues, then they’d set the cap at what they figured 57% of their revenues would be. Well, my friend, you fail tricky math. Instead, they set the cap $8 million over what they figure the league average revenue for a team will be and call the assumed revenue limit the salary midpoint. Detroit’s cap is $56.7 million because they figure the average club will only be able to spend $48.7 million on talent. This gives the Wings some leeway to approach spending up to their 57%. This seems pretty reasonable, and it is, until you look at what that means for a team that’s on the lower end of what the average assumed revenue will be and what revenue sharing gives them incentive to spend.

A team on the lower end of the earnings scale (provided they’re not in a large market like L.A., Chicago, or Anaheim) can qualify for revenue sharing which will cover their salary spending, but not their earnings defecit, up to the midpoint, which is still one Norris Trophy candidate defenseman under the cap (or three 2nd-tier players, an entire line). After they’re revenue-shared to the midpoint, the rest of the league sharing is split among all the teams. The dollars go to the teams whether they spent the  money or not, so there’s not proper incentive to actually spend it. The only way a small-market team can spend to the cap and still make profit is if the league has an insanely high-earning year where the early share gets them to the midpoint and the league share makes up the rest of the difference. Of course, this would mean that the cap would also go up an insane amount the next year and put that team right back where they started relative to the rest of the league. Of course, there’s also a part of the CBA where 50% of every dollar that the league makes over $300 million goes into the revenue sharing pool (as a note, the league has not once made this threshold… they need a large and lucrative national television contract to make this possible… big television markets demand large and and lucrative television contracts).

It’s OK, we got a 10 share in Raleigh-Durham, we can afford it!

On top of that, if the league makes less money than expected, the big-market teams catch a break. They’ve spent over 57% of the league average, but not necessarily over 57% of their own profits, but they’re not the ones who foot the bill for revenue sharing that the smaller teams demand. In rare cases like that (you know, like last year), the players’ escrow covers most of that. Yes, you read that right, the players are the ones who prop up small-market struggling teams. On a long enough timeline of this, the players get tired of footing the bill, the small-market owners get tired of not making profits, and the league is maybe forced to relocate to a market that makes sense, just to appease all of the whiners who aren’t rolling in more dough than the Pilsbury spokesman during an orgy. The league can slyly force these bottom-feeders and profit anchors into relocation and it won’t be the league’s fault, it will be their own for not having the desire to field a winning team (despite that they can’t realistically afford one) for long enough to drive off their fanbase. This is basically the line that Nashville Predators ownership toes. If you moved that same franchise to Los Angeles or Anaheim, I guarantee you that with management and coaching in place there, that team would have a cup by now and I’d be happier for them than I am for th shitsacks in Chicago.

“But Nashville would possibly stand to increase their market share and make enough profits to actually spend tot he cap if they had playoff success, so they should spend to the cap” you say? Well, that’s a long sentence and oddly fits perfectly Mr. Straw Man, and you might be right. It’s possible that Nashville with some long playoff runs would make a ton of money AND not need to rely on big club handouts, but why the hell should they? Thanks to the big clubs (Detroit being one of them) who wanted to make it so they didn’t have to rely on long playoff runs for financial success, playoff games are worth less to a club than they used to be. A big part of what goes into the revenue sharing pot is taken from a tax on all playoff tickets sold. Large-earning clubs pay 50%, middle clubs pay 40%, and small clubs pay 30% into the revenue-sharing pool. So, the Preds now keep only 70% of the money from long playoff runs that they otherwise would have and would disqualify themselves from a portion of their revenue-sharing dollars. For that to work, they have to cap their overhead, which is exactly what they do.

Oh, I see!

This whole system in place gives the big market guys the means to buy what is now generally known quantities of talent in ways that their smaller competitors can’t. Random fluctuations among players, bad coaching, management decisions, and the generally unpredictable nature of sports creates for some unique results, but on the average, it means that parity will exist where the league wants it to and will not bother the large clubs where the league doesn’t want it to. The salary cap creates smaller salaries and salary ranges for a wide range of skills, while the escrow makes the players a de facto insurance policy against falling league profits. My favorite part of the revenue sharing wording is that, in trying to create a system significantly different from MLB’s system where a team can intentionally tank and still remain profitable, they’ve enacted rules that take away dollars from small-market teams who don’t outpace the NHL average for revenue growth (which must be really easy to do as the bandwagon of the 3rd largest city in America fills up) or who can’t sell enough seats in their arena. Unfortunately, in punishing the ones who aren’t trying, you’re also unfairly punishing those who are trying but failing thanks to the unfair limitations you’ve set on them. They shouldn’t even call it revenue sharing, they should call it No Team Left Behind.

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To get a dose of J.J. from Kansas more often, following him on Twitter by following this link. Thursday, the second half of his manifesto will be up gracing TPL’s pages. 

Retrospectacus II: The Old Swede’s Granddaughter

Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans.


Following Sara’s excellent post last week, round number two was written by Andrea Hedlund, a lovely Wings fan we had the pleasure of meeting at H2H. 

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With two minutes left in Game 5, I may or may not have been in the fetal position shaking, crying, clinging to a stuffed animal, and making ridiculous bargains to the hockey gods- like I’d never make fun of Lebda, Tuzzi, or Pookie again if a miracle could happen. Unfortunately, I was left jailsexed and alone on the floor. How in the hell did it ever get to this point?

Truth be told, I was an obliviously happy person back in October and early November. Here is my best kept secret secret: I wasn’t a real Red Wings fan until this season. I had always enjoyed hockey and very loosely followed the Red Wings, but that’s not being a fan. This year, though, with the powerful influence of my best friend (aka MauvaisGardien aka Leslie), that changed. It started with an epic roadtrip that included a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame and my first ever NHL/Red Wings game. As weird as it may sound, it wasn’t the game or seeing all the Stanley Cups or the interactive games that turned me into a fan- it was a jersey. Sure, all of the previous things helped, but it was a jersey that made everything click. And, no, it wasn’t even a Red Wings jersey. My die-hard love for hockey started the moment I saw the team Sweden jersey. You see, my great-grandparents on both sides of my family hail from Sweden and my grandfather even called himself ‘the Old Swede.’ That jersey made some connection deep inside of me and it’s been downhill for me ever since.

When I got back to New York, I immediately bought ice skates and started learning how to skate and play hockey. I also started watching the Red Wings religiously. In between those activities, Leslie started teaching me Red Wings history. And dar God there A LOT of it to learn. By December, I was hooked. By February, I had experienced the ups, downs, frustrations, heartbreaks, and celebrations of a true fan. By April, having experienced Herm to Hockeytown, I started to understand what it meant to be a Red Wings fan.

And now, despite feeling like shit from being jailsexed and left alone on the floor, I am going to choose to focus on the positive. I feel lucky because I was ushered into following the best organization. I would never want to follow anyone else. Nowhere else do hockey fans have communes and tin foil hats (or tin foil flash mobs!). Nowhere else would fans fly another fan across the world to see a game. Nowhere else would fans pay to bail out fellow comrades from jail after they were so unjustly put there for participating in traditions that are older than most NHL franchises. Only when you’re from Hockeytown.

I have survived my first season as a Red Wings fan. I don’t know about you, but despite the ups and downs, I am pretty damn excited to do it all over again next season. Next year is full of new possibilities. We never would have made it this far if it weren’t for Jimmy (Jimmah fucking RAAAAAAAAGH). Just imagine that kid next season and next playoffs. And think what our team can do if they have all season to build chemistry rather than fighting to stay alive after devastating injuries. Aside from that, I’m not even going to pretend to be an expect on the 2010-11 Red Wings… until Traverse City when I think we need to start a Red Wings Commune North… cap ou pas cap?

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Jump on Twitter and follow Andrea by clicking here

Retrospectacus: A Voice from the Flash Mob

Over the coming weeks, The Production Line will be publishing guest posts from our very favorite readers, commenters, and Tweeps — those that don’t have a blog to call their own, and might appreciate a place to vent, praise, bitch, or jailsex it up. We’re proud to offer up this space to some good friends, great writers, and incredible hockey fans.


If you are interested in contributing a guest post, and match the description above, send us an e-mail and we’ll get you the details. We did our best to track down nearly all of our commenters and Twitterfriends, but some of you were more difficult to find than Ville Leino in a Red Wings uniform (heyo).


Our first such post was written following the Blackhawks victory on Wednesday night. Our dear friend Sara may not have been the first article submitted, but it was timely and it was emotional and it seemed like a great jumping off point. 

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It’s the very early morning after the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup, and all I can think about, besides the disgust at 20 cent and his Mullet (it deserves a capital M, by now, doesn’t it?) is that I sadly, sadly saw this coming. Ages ago.

See, the NHL as much as it’s a sport, is also a business and is being run as one. Money is the name of the game, not hockey. You have to put out good quality hockey, to make money, thus why they’re committed to changing the game. And they’re not above randomly monkeying around with it, if they think a rule change will bring in more viewers. New viewers.

The NHL panders to NBC, and to their own objectives. I didn’t realize how much  NBC had a say in what the NHL produces until Jeff Marek tweeted that NBC had a hand in picking out the Winter Classic teams. That tweet marked a very big step in my disillusionment.

In general, the NHL will want success of larger market American teams, teams that can bring in the most money. They will want L.A., NYC, and Chicago to do well. They will want larger market teams to succeed, however larger market teams who have loyal fanbases can be neglected, like Toronto, Montreal, Detroit & Vancouver. Unless, of course, those teams have superstars.

The NHL wants parity. They want superstars. They want rivalries.

First point, Gary craves parity. A blogger, back when I was Tin Foil Flash Mobbing, argued in the same post in which he maligned me, that dynasties make sports more marketable. I find that point open to interpretation, weak and not applicable to the NHL.

It takes a whopping one line of argument to refute his claim: if the NHL wanted dynasties, there would be no salary cap.

Second point, the NHL bases a lot of its marketing on superstars. They think that’s the way to go. They wand Sid to be as recognizable as Kobe. They clearly allow marquee players to get away with things that ordinary players are suspended for, because they do not ever want to remove marquee players from the game. They, and their national television stations, mention the superstar players even when they’re not playing.

And, of course, teams with superstars, even the Red Wings back in 2008, with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, have been favored by Gary. Kane & Toews. Sid & Geno. And Ovie. Oh, Ovechkin. His Cup is coming, kids, mark my words.

Third point, the NHL is selling rivalries. Sadly, they’re not selling those that are naturally made, born of skill and proximity and pure old fashioned hatred. They’re selling a spawned rivarly, artificially created in their own hype. They take their beloved superstars, and shove them down our throats. Why else did the NHL and NBC pick Washington and Pittsburgh for the next Winter Classic? Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin. It’s clear, and bright as day. We’re being fed a synthetic rivalry, wrapped in a laughable facade of a “Winter Classic.” Winter, sure, it will be. But Classic? Please. Where’s our Toronto/Montreal game?

The NHL wants these things, but we are very lucky, because the NHL is not infallible. Hockey IS a game. Outcomes can be steered and shaped, but they cannot be controlled. Each individual team is also struggling along, trying to win, because winning makes money.

As fans, we love hockey, a glorious sport that in it’s purest form is honorable, classic, incredible and intense. But we are also NHL fans, and therefore we are business fans. We must remember that the game we are so passionate about is a product. We love the players, who grew up playing the pure, classic, incredible game, many of whom do it for skill, enjoyment and competition. But of course, we dislike those who sell out for money, and treat the game like what it is, a lucrative business.

So you can call me a conspiracy theorist and poke fun at my tin foil hat. You can laugh, and assume that the NHL has character and integrity in mind, when they make their decisions. You can scoff, and call me a whining Wings fan. My answer is only this: I fail to see why it’s crazy to think a business is trying to execute a business plan.

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If you’re interested in keeping up with Sara (and we know you are…and probably already do), follow her on Twitter by clicking here