June 10, 2015

Pucks On The 'Net: Eagle, Beard and Quality of Hockey In Stanley Cup Final

Alan Eagleson - There has been a minor uproar about Alan Eagleson's presence in Chicago at the Stanley Cup final.

For those who do not know, Eagleson is the disgraced former head of the NHL Players Association who was imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement of the player's money. His clients included Bobby Orr and Darryl Sittler. He was once the most powerful man in pro-hockey, and even was once a potential candidate to become Prime Minister of Canada.

We can definitely understand why the many former players are upset about this. The current players certainly will side with them, though I suspect most don't care and may not even know who he is or was.

I'm not sure who is letting Eagleson into the building in Chicago. The story goes that he and high ranking Chicago executive (and former NHL player) Bob Pulford are still close friends. Eagleson was also once close to the late Bill Wirtz, former owner of the Hawks. Of course the Wirtz family still owns the Hawks, with son Rocky now in charge.

I was asked today for my thoughts on this matter. I'm not sure I really have an opinion. Eagleson has been at recent Olympic games, too, but that never seemed to be a big issue.

All I know is that if Chicago continues to let him in, the Hockey Gods will not likely look down upon that very well. The Hawks might not want to continue to let him in.

Beards - The playoff beard tradition has come into discussion, as players have been criticized as unmarketable heroes by NBC.

I hate the playoff beard tradition. Not because I'm concerned about endorsement potential of these players. I just think it is silly that the immortalizing photo of you hoisting the Stanley Cup should at least show a recognizable you.

Ultimately these players are not Samson, and they will not lose all their hockey prowess if they cut their hair. So go achieve greatness, and make sure everyone can recognize you when you do.

Hockey Quality - Is it just me, or does it seem like the quality of hockey being played this spring is not all that great?

Seriously - unless you have a rooting interest in who wins between Tampa and Chicago, it's hard to get too excited about the entertainment level in this Final and in these playoffs in general this spring.

Teams simply collapse in front of the net and block everything - shots and passes. Fans should almost celebrate when shots make it through to the oversized goaltenders. And the transition offense isn't there.

Scotty Bowman has long cited the problem and the solution. It is so blatantly obvious that he is correct and I can't for the life of me understand why the NHL doesn't listen to him. He's Scotty Freakin' Bowman, after all.

“What happened when they moved the blue-lines out four feet on each side toward the red line, they thought they were creating more room in the offensive zones where the goals were scored,” said Bowman. “But it wasn’t long before the coaches figured out that when defending in your zone, it’s now too big to do everything, so they said, let’s leave the points open and close down toward the net to take away chances closer to the net. Now you can’t get anything through.

“Before they changed it, the defending team used to play its forwards higher out toward the point, which meant once their team got the puck they were out of the zone quicker and there was more room in the neutral zone to make things happen on the rush."

The bigger offensive zone has not led to more offense - in fact it has led to more defensive play than ever. And the coming generation of point-men will be the next  It's time the NHL recognizes.

By the way, the same thing will happen in all zones if the NHL ever increased the rink size to International standard. People don't realize that when they watch the Olympics, and that's because the 20 best players from each nation are playing. But when you put the Carolina Hurricanes vs. the Buffalo Sabres on that big ice, prepare for a snooze fest. 

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