Friday, April 18, 2008

The State of Canadian Hockey

Alright as round one of the NHL Playoffs are winding down I felt it time to talk a bit about the state of Canadian hockey. Well, to be more specific, the state of hockey within the six NHL franchises based in Canada.

We had a 50% success rate in making the playoffs, although we were really really close with two others, and currently appear to only be leading the NHL in General Manager searches, Vancouver, Toronto and can Ottawa be far behind ?

There is very little coming out of the Toronto media regarding the ongoing search for MLSE's new whipping boy. Personally my money is on Colin Campbell with Brian Burke a dark horse. Ottawa has not actually fired a General Manager in almost a whole calendar year but given their stunning fall from grace this season you have to figure Bryan Murray has his resume updated.

Then there is the Vancouver situation, but I'll get to that later.

Of the three Canadian based teams that made the post season tourney Ottawa is already gone in four, Calgary are trailing San Jose 3-2 and Montreal leads Boston 3-2. Calgary have played great hockey against San Jose, using their speed and physicality to stay even with a more talented squad. Strangely Calgary's downfall has been goaltending, Mikka Kiprusoff has been solid but he needs to be spectacular if the Flames are to advance, still I think it's even money heading into game six.

Sadly I also think it's even money for Les Habitants over Boston after Montreal's brutal collapse in game 5. With a chance to advance, on home ice, Montreal played one of the worst periods of hockey I've seen in a while to give the Bruins new life. Still, if nothing else, this series has given me new appreciation of Alexei Kovalev.

Of the four teams eliminated Edmonton has the brightest future, but I'm sure they'll find a way to screw up.

Now on to the saga of the valiant Vancouver Canucks. After they coughed up a virtual lock on the playoffs by losing a bunch of games, often in embarrassing manners, down the stretch there was much wailing and moaning about how to fix the squad. Personally I knew that Francesco "rhymes with wienie" was going to fire Dave Nonis. How did I know this you ask ? Well on the last night of the regular season I shared a beer with our sous chef at a local Hotel watering hole and was apprised by the waiter that "A couple of hockey guys were in here tonight and they said Nonis is done". If you think that a comment from a waiter in a hotel bar isn't much to go on then you are sadly unaware about the workings of:

A) Waiters
B) Bars in General
C) Hockey Guys

Sure enough a little more than a week later Nonis is canned and the search is on. Now much has been made in the local media praising Aquilini for moving forward so quickly to find a replacement. Excuse me but when you fire the top guy in the company don't you always look for a replacement pretty quickly ? In fact in most business environments wouldn't you already have a replacement selected ?

A couple of points about how "L'affaire Nonis" has been handled by the local media.

1) Francesco Aquilini's asshole called me yesterday to see if I could come over and remove Tony Gallagher's tongue.

I mean seriously could the fawning by the "pale white Duke" be anymore embarrassing. Given the way Gallagher writes you'd think the Aquilini family were modern day Rothschilds, what with Tony waxing on about their business acumen when we all know they made their money as slum lords. It doesn't take great acumen to make money as a slum lord, just greed and a general disregard for the well being of your fellow man so stop with kissing up.

2) Apparently Francesco is unhappy with the way The Province is treating him in the press.

This despite the fact that Cam Cole blasted him on the front page of The Vancouver Sun in much more scathing ways than anyone in the tab has. I guess Francesco has trouble with all that folding and arranging you have to do with the "big boy paper" so doesn't bother with it.

In fact I think firing Nonis was a bold stroke, and probably the right one. The Canucks are simply not very good and the current management group must be held responsible for that but please let's keep it in perspective. The long term future of this club is almost entirely in the hands of Francesco Aquilini, and if I was a Canucks fan that would make me very, very nervous.

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