Every Monday, the FTR crew will review the biggest hockey news from the past week.
-The NHL isn't blinking when it comes to questions about the 2014 Olympics. Should they be involved?
Cory Lavalette: If the players want to be there, I think you continue with it. And we know they do want to be there. Olympic-related injuries have been minimal, and the buzz surrounding the games is great.
Bob: They should definitely be involved. The two week disruption within the season is a big deal and I think the commissioner should hold firm and make sure the players give up something in future CBA negotiations if they truly want to participate. The players should be more loyal to the folk who sign their checks. The NHL loses the All Star game, which is a money maker for them. They lose two weeks of income because the games are crammed in a shorter time frame. Bottom line, if the players want to participate badly enough, they should make a major concession in the new CBA. Then everyone is happy.
Joe F: Even more important that the two week disruption is the impact that it has on the NHL schedule. The games become incredibly compressed and then it feels like a mad race to the finish of the season. There is also the fear of injuries, and to be honest the teams are more important than the countries. Bob hit the nail on the head the USA doesn't sign their checks the teams do. I think that the NHL should at least have a say in the matter, especially because it has so much bearing on the season.
FrankD: Yes. Lately the NHL has opened up seasons overseas in an effort to increase the NHL market. Why wouldn't you use the Olympics as a platform to further market the league's best players?
Mike: I always go into the games thinking no, that I hate the interruption in the season despite the magnificent play. Right now, I'm swept up in it and I'll admit that my opinion has changed. Still, if we could get this level of competition for a World Cup in the summer, I'd still support that as Plan A.
-An informal survey put 2014 involvement at about 90% support from the players. How will the league use this as a bargaining chip in CBA negotiations?
Cory Lavalette: I think this is all posturing for the CBA talks. The IIHF wants the NHLers there, the players want to be there — Gary Bettman and the owners will concede this so they can land another concession in negotiations. Who knows what that concession will be — I don't think this is a big enough issue in the grand scheme of things to lead to changes in contract length or RFA extensions — but it will no doubt be used to get something back from the NHLPA.
Mike: I'd say it's major but the league is going to look at branding, marketing, and the TV carrier for the 2014 Olympics too. To say that they've been second-rate citizens on NBC -- their own broadcast partner! -- is stating the obvious, and I think the league considers that to be as much of an issue as CBA blustering.
Joe F: I would agree that the NHL has bigger fish to fry (when it comes to the CBA) than the Olympics. But it will probably be used for the NHL to get something they want.
-With 8-0 blowouts in the preliminary round, should teams like Latvia and Norway be let into the tournament?
Cory Lavalette: Absolutely. In hindsight, it's easy to say the lesser hockey nations are overmatched, but you never know what can happen in a tournament like this. A hot goalie can always lead a team to a monumental upset.
Bob: While the blowouts are hard to watch, the present format is a good one and upsets are always possible. A team can always forfeit if they don't want to play against a powerhouse.
FrankD; I believe the "lesser" countries deserve just as much a shot as any other. They may not have the firepower or NHL roster like Team USA or Canada but as Corey said above, anything can happen.
Joe F: Yes, because you never know what will happen. If you really wanna be a big player in the Olympics (USA USA USA USA!) you have to beat the "little guys."
Mike: I think so, for two reasons. First, you can always have a Tommy Salo vs. Belarus moment. Second, the one advantage those teams have is that they've been playing together while the "superpowers" are literally thrown together. Those two games allow for some chemistry to develop and act as more or less a preseason. I think it's necessary so you get teams going by the time they face the big boys.
-There has been much criticism of NBC's "screwing" of hockey. Is it valid given hockey's somewhat niche popularity or should the network cater to its business partner?
Cory Lavalette: NBC's obligation is to one thing: the bottom line. They need to determine what gets them ratings and, therefore, advertising money. They are already resigned to the fact that they will likely lose money covering the Vancouver games, so catering to the hockey and the NHL is probably far down on their list of concerns.
Bob: The entire Winter Olympics is comprised of niche sports, why should hockey be put on the back-burner? It's hard to believe that hockey ratings are worse than some of the other sports. But regardless of the specific channel the coverage is on, it's inexcusable to show partial coverages of games, preempt a game for other sports, or intentionally schedule to join games already in progress. If NBC had true respect for sports in general or had any sense of how to do things properly, they would make a better attempt to show games in their entirety.
Joe F: It seems that hockey has been kind of thrown to the wind but the games have actually been brilliant, and they have really caught the attention of everyone watching. The USA Canada match-up yesterday was HUGE, and I just feel like they should be focusing a little bit more on the puck.
FrankD: Well, as a hockey fan interested in watching games in their entirety, I'd rather see the broadcast hit MSNBC. But if we're talking about marketing the game, potentially to new fans, then I say give it some love on NBC. Sunday's Canada-USA game was such an intense game that it likely could've carried NBC for the night, but we all know the network had plans on cracking into the broadcast with updates from around the games anyway.
Mike: I don't have a problem with entire games being displaced on to the cable channels (but seriously folks, PLEASE use the ones that have the most HD distribution). It's the overall lack of promotion that doesn't make sense. There's a certain apathy that seems to come up during the general broadcasts, and I just don't get why they're not treating hockey with some sense of big-time reverence. Maybe they don't actually believe it, but presenting it in that context helps hype up the games now and the NHL on NBC broadcasts down the line. If it really is about the bottom line, then maybe NBC's left hand needs to talk to its right hand more.
-There are plenty of rumbles of GMs actively discussing trades during this freeze. What do you expect in the days following the lift of the trade freeze?
Cory Lavalette: I think there's going to be a lot of activity. With all this down time, general managers have more of an opportunity to hammer out deals with the day-to-day concerns of the normal hockey season. Many teams — Florida, for example — used the lead in to the Olympics as a barometer for whether or not they should be buyers or sellers, and now instead of having just a few days to make deals, they can shop around and either add or unload assets.
Mike: The dismantling of Florida could be entertaining on its own. I think a few trades are going to happen instantly once the ban is lifted, then we'll get the usual shenanigans on deadline day. The have-not teams own enough bankable assets to make it interesting, and there are enough top-tier teams to turn this into another ridiculous arms race of overpayment.
Joe F: General Managers can actually make trades during the Olympics they just can't announce them. So expect insanity.
Bob: All hell is going to break loose on March 3rd.
FrankD: I don't know. I can't believe a lot of big moves are in the works but I can see a few smaller, role-player like moves hitting the wires right out of the gate. I guess it's a wait and see game.