Late 90’s NHL Marketing…Or Lack There of

It’s not like the Mike Modano retirement came out of left field, after a disappointing 2010-2011 injury plagued season with his home town Red Wings the writing was on the wall.  And in really the last year or so in reflecting on his career I always come back to the same thing….man alive did the NHL ever miss the boat.

Modano was never the Art Ross trophy winner, but from 1998-2003 you can make a pretty compelling argument that this guy was the top player in the league….and there is no doubt in my mind he was the most marketable.  In that time, the NHL didn’t have a face of the league.  They had a lot of guys that were ALMOST the face of the league.

Yzerman was started to decline offensively (though still elite), Sakic didn’t have the personality, Gretzky retired in 99, goaltenders and defensemen aren’t very marketable, and any player that had the offensive flare at that time were European.  It’s almost impossible to have a guy that has trouble speaking English the face of a North American league.

It’s nothing against guys like Jagr and Bure but it’s the truth.  Modano was the guy, and they whiffed.  American, played in a big US market, good looking guy, good personality, class guy, one of the most exciting players in the league, and played on a great team.  Literally no flaw.  How do you NOT make this guy the face of your league?!  He was hockey’s version of David Beckham.

Becks in his prime was only among the best in the world, not the clear cut best.  Yet the way he was marketed Beckham became the most well known European Football player on the planet.  This should have been Modano.

Formula to Scout Defensemen?

D-men are very hard to scout, very hit or miss when it comes to the draft…much like QB’s in the NFL.  And so one day I got to wondering if you could take what you look for in a QB and apply it to a d-man.  What is the one thing that all high end d-men have in common?  Intelligence.

Now, you could say this for most success stories in most walks of life, but I could give you A LOT more examples of successful forwards that aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.  I won’t…but I could.  Meanwhile name the top end d-men that didn’t have a very high IQ.  I’m sure there were 1 or 2, but as I always say don’t give me the exception to the rule, give me the rule.

Denis Potvin, very high IQ.  Larry Robinson, very high IQ.  Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios, Scott Neidermayer, Chris Pronger, Nik Lidstrom, the list goes on and on and on.  All top end d-men have VERY HIGH IQ’s.

So I came up with my own little 4 step program on how to look at d-men when drafting them.

1) High IQ – as I have already stated but I believe it is the number 1 thing to look for in a d-man.  Defense is a position where you have to react, not act.  That requires a high IQ to be succesful.

2) Skating ability – 2 and 3 are interchangeable but in the post lockout NHL if the player is slow he likely isn’t anything more than a 4th defenseman at best.  If he can skate however he likely will be more succesful with the way the game is currently being played.  He doesn’t have to be able to fly (though obviously that doesn’t hurt), but he can’t be a statue.  Dan Boyle and Lubo Visnovsky are 2 d-men that really only have these top 2 traits yet they are high end d-men.

3) Size – if you now have all 3, you are looking pretty damn good.  I believe size is pretty straight forward and like I said you could switch 2 and 3 and still likely be an ok d-man, but again I will take skating ability over size.  However if he has all 3 of these traits, this player will be a top 4 d-man.  Heck look at Tom Gilbert.  The guy has been pretty sub par since his rookie season, yet the Oilers continually give him chance after chance and the rumour mill suggests they could still get a nice return on him despite average play and a so-so contract.

4) Edge – if you have all 4 of these traits your name is Chris Pronger, or Shea Weber, or Rob Blake, or Scott Stevens and on and on.  A guy can be a stud d-man with only 3 of these 4 traits.  But if he has all four he is likely a BEAST…at worst a number 2.

There have been a lot of d-men that have lacked the edge needed to take there game to the next level (Tom Poti, Eric Brewer, etc), but they have had long careers and made a lot of money while being top 4 defensemen in the league for a long time.

Hey let’s face it, there will never be a day that we have a fool proof system.  But I really believe that if scouts look at these 4 qualities, in this order, that it would really help cut down the busts on the blueline.  And I’m very sure that despite coming up with this on my own that there are a lot of scouts and GM’s that follow this formula already in some form.

He Has a Concussion, not Cancer

It has gone well beyond absurd.  Sidney Crosby has PCS.  Right.  It takes time to comeback from that.  I had it just last year, it took a lot of months to get over it.  It’s tricky, somedays you wake up and feel great, then some days or even just at random times you will start getting migranes again and feel depressed.  But I mean come on!

Some media guys asking if he will play again?  Is he considering retirement?  Will he miss this season?  The season hasn’t even started yet!!!  Some of these guys need to admit that they are trying to make this bigger than it is.

It’s a player with a concussion.  Willie Mitchell came back and played a full season just last year, and Willie Mitchell plays a lot more gritty of a game than Sid does.  Pierre Marc Bouchard played a full season last year as well, and he’s a lot smaller and not anywhere near as solid on his skates as Sid is.

A scary site no question, but Crosby will return despite the media trying to make a bigger deal out of this story

Those of us who are also NFL fans had to go through this EXACT same thing in 2008.  Tom Brady tore his ACL in the first game of the season, and was lost for the year.  All of a sudden at mid season all these ridiculous reports came out about Brady’s surgery going wrong and he would need it again and he could be gone for 09 as well, it just got flat out stupid!  But the media was trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill and this is the exact same situation.

I get it, it sucks that the games top player can’t play and some have become impatient but he’s not suffering from a life threatening injury!  He will be back…THIS season, and he will go back to being the games top player.

I don’t want this to sound like I’m downplaying the severity of a concussion.  I understand just how serious they are, but at the same time it’s just not anywhere near as tragic or devastating as some of the members of the media are making it out to be.  Some of these people need to relax, and some of them need to start being professionals instead of attempting to making a bigger deal out of this than it actually is.