|English: NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Say-Oh Nara Pittsburgh
Sad day for Gary Bettman, the NHL PR office, and the city of Pittsburgh. Their glorious flagship franchise and their face of the NHL is now hanging up their skates for the offseason. In truth, with the exception of Matt Cooke, there isn't a lot to NOT like about the Penguins... if you forget about all the media hype and attention lorded upon that franchise for seemingly no other reason other than Sidney Crosby.
The truth is, the same thing that haunted the Pens since Crosby was drafted reared its ugly head again: Bad Team D and spotty goaltending. The Penguins defense simply ISN'T GOOD. In many regards, UND fans can understand this by stating the following: Pittsburgh plays a similar game to Minnesota Gopher hockey. The Penguins, like the Gophers, are a slick passing, great puck handling, finesse style team that can be disrupted and handled if you can play solid D and be physical. The Bruins are solid defensively and played very physically. They swept the Pens. It was that simple.
The Bruins weren't flashy. They weren't especially fun to watch (sorry Goon and B's fans). They were sturdy, lunch pail type players... and Gregory Campbell wins the word for Oh my Goodness fortitude. Good grief. They don't nearly have the hype surrounding them as the Pens do. And the B's let the Pens keep the hype. I'm sure the media covered the victors only because they had to while really pining to get to the Pens lockerroom to see what the Golden Child had to say.
As for goaltending I don't know what to say about Tomas Vokoun. I REALLY like Tomas. I thought he was one of THE most underrated goaltenders in the entire NHL for about a 5 year stretch (until Halak stole that title from him while with Montreal). It's sad that he's on the decline of his career and he'll have nothing to show for it. Vokoun and Iginla (again, sorry B's fans) are two of the only players on the Pens I sympathize with.
As for Fleury, I said it before and I say it again: Fleury is in the top 3 for most overrated goaltenders in the NHL. The other two being Carey Price (Montreal) and Roberto Luongo (Vancouver), though Luongo is fading from this list because his career is fading as well. I think Jonas Hiller of Anaheim may take Luongo's spot before long. To be nicer to Fleury, though, Price is still #1 in this category. But there's time left despite Price holding the edge in age.
Where do the Pens go from here? To the Golf Course.
Good riddance. Now Mr. Bettman... Now's the time to start marketting a team OTHER than your beloved. Are you going to have the cahones to do it or are you just going to sit back in your office and sulk?
An Interesting Comment by a Blowhard
Speaking of Gary Bettman, I was listening to ESPN Radio blowhard Colin Cowherd the other day and he actually made a decent point (in between fluffing himself up as some sort of uber objective yackityyacker which only his fans actually believe is true). He commented on the popularity of sports other than the NFL (he said that the NFL is far and away the most popular and there's no sport out there that will come close... and he's right) the NHL has a marketable product that is interesting and entertaining. However, they don't market the product at all. They don't make the media talk about the NHL at all. They hide it away on a cable TV station (Versus) for a long time and then benefit by the purchase of Versus by NBC, which has the rights because they cannot wrest the rights to the NBA from the other networks. They marketted themselves by saying "We're back" when that was outwardly foolish.
I agree. I can't believe it but I agree with Cowherd. ESPN doesn't care about hockey. He says its because of this failure to make themselves marketable and in the mainstream. That's probably most of the issue but not all of it. ESPN's bread and butter is the NBA. And whenever it mentions the NFL ratings go through the roof. So, that's where they focus. ESPN did put in a bid for the NHL TV rights but the bid was low and the priority was such that the NHL would invariably be buried or preempted if something they felt was more important was on. I have no confidence that, outside of the NHL playoffs (provided they didn't conflict with the NBA playoffs or finals), would even appear on ESPN itself. Mostly likely it would have been ESPN 2 or 3. NHL Tonight, even during the years that ESPN did air NHL games, was aired closer to midnight than to primetime. Why would Bettman, as questionable as his intelligence is at times, want that for his league?
But in truth, Cowherd is right in that the NHL does a VERY VERY VERY VERY bad job of marketting itself. They put commercials on NBC and the NHL Network and NHL Center Ice does get some Ad time but that's it. I bet they could find ways to get Crosby on ABC or Ovechkin on Fox Sports pushing the NHL. I'm sure they could find storylines to push for just about every NHL team if they wanted. But they don't. They focus mostly on the Penguins, Crosby, and the Finals and let the rest twist in the wind.
Let's face it: The NHL will NEVER EVER be as popular as the NFL. I'm not suggesting they even try to compete with even COLLEGE Football. But I'm pretty darn sure they could garner more of the viewership market than they are getting now. Baseball is a slow, tedious, and downright boring sport to watch. It takes FOREVER to get through a game... heck, it takes too long just for the pitcher to decide upon a pitch and then start his windup. The NHL is fast, exciting, physical, challenging to play, and ENTERTAINING to watch. It's time it was marketted that way.
A Final Interesting Factoid
I'll leave this rant with an interesting factoid. Unless my research is off, if Chicago finishes off L.A., this finals will mark the first time Boston has faced Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals. How mindblowing that you could have two Original Six teams that have NEVER faced off since the Stanley Cup finals began (1927)