NHL + Media: Pekka Rinne, Overpaid and Underrated

Old narrative: Goalies are essential to winning the Stanley Cup. A mediocre netminder will just not cut it as your team tries to slog its way through a grueling second season.

New narrative: Elite goalies aren’t necessary to winning a Stanley Cup. With the exception of the most recent Cup match-up, look at the goalies who have back-stopped teams to the Cup Finals!

Side Effect of the Narrative Change: “YOU PAID WHAT FOR THAT GOALIE? ARE YOU CRAZY? I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY OR WHAT NUMBERS AND STATS YOU THROW AT ME. THE CURRENT ARGUMENT IS THAT YOU DON’T NEED ELITE GOALIES. THEREFORE, YOU’RE A HORRIBLE GM!”

In essence, that’s what every article written about Pekka Rinne’s contract with the Predators is getting at, right? (In fact, almost every mention of Luongo nowadays seems to hint at the same thing… see?) This was a stupid decision on the part of the Preds to pay Rinne so much money ($49 million) for so long (7 years) when it’s becoming clear that a world-class goalie isn’t a necessity in order to go deep in the playoffs. Also, let’s not even mention the fact that the Preds aren’t exactly swimming in money, and still have to figure out how to solve that small problem of retaining both Weber and Suter. Seriously, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

I’m going to venture a guess: “Hey, this Rinne guy? He’s pretty good! As a matter of fact, he’s been good for a while! Maybe we should keep him around!”

In all honesty, when did “not necessarily needing an elite goalie” translate into “who needs them anyways!?”

Don’t get me wrong, there are some legitimate criticisms to be made about Rinne’s new deal. An argument framed around the length of the deal, Rinne’s age and, yes, the whole Weber/Suter/Money question makes sense and is worth being made. But so much of the commentary has suddenly begun to devolve into knee-jerk reactions that feed the current, dominant narrative pontificating that superstar goalies aren’t as important as we once thought they were. And you know what, in some respects, of course that can be true. A team can definitely ride a mediocre goalie with a hot-enough hand–provided he is fronted by a stacked team–all the way to hockey’s Holy Grail.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to the Promised Land. I know, what an absurdly obvious thing to say. But sometimes it seems to get lost when another journeyman netminder puts his team on his back for what will inevitably be, at best, just a short burst of excellence in a pedestrian career. There’s suddenly a quick and itchy trigger finger waiting to mock a team’s “short-sighted” decision to hand out a “bloated” contract instead of using it to make “smarter investments.” Maybe it’s the product of the actual bloated contracts to undeserving players (you know who they are) that have been handed out in the past decade.

Regardless of what the case may be, it seems to get lost in the midst of all the punditry and back-seat quarterbacking that there is a legitimate feeling of comfort in knowing that the elite goaltender you have locked-up for the foreseeable future has a higher chance of producing in the postseason than the “Next Michael Leighton.” There’s no such thing as an assembly line for all-world goaltenders. And more importantly, there definitely isn’t an assembly line for the Antii Niemis of this world either.

So cool off, calm down, and focus on the fact that this is a bad contract–not because large deals for elite goalies are bad business, but because Rinne will be 37 when the deal ends.

Wait…

 

This Week in… Ross Greenburg, Can I Buy You a Drink?

Puck Daddy had an excellent article that took a look at what Ross Greenburg, the former president of HBO Sports, wants to cook up for the NHL in terms of future programming and original content. It’s hard to characterize how I completely feel better than: Yes. A documentary on the ’72 Summit Series? Yes. A “Day in the Life” series focusing on players? Do it. A whole host of long-form and short-form programming? Thank you.

In fact, the best way to illustrate how incredible of an initiative this is, and has the potential to be in terms of the NHL’s future within the American sports landscape, can be gleaned simply from the following passage:

A target of that documentarian advertising? Young viewers. Greenburg said he saw his own children fascinated by reality television, and knew it was a way to bring casual fans to sports programming.

“If that entire generation is mesmerized by that form of television, I want to dazzle that generation,” he said.

One of his ultimate hope for the NHL? That all the trappings that make a Ross Greenburg production work — the access, the intense emotion, the spectacular footage — can one day be found on any hockey game broadcast live on television.

“The most important thing to do is to do that in nightly game coverage,” he said. “I’ve said this for years. It’s time to analyze, across the board, [how to] bring people down to the ice. Hear the sounds and see the sights of hockey.”

[Source: Puck Daddy]

 

This Week in… David vs. Goliath

If you were able to catch the Twitter semi-fisticuffs between the diminutive Darren Pang and former NHL-enforcer-turned-pontificator-to-anyone-who-will-listen-or-has-a-pen Georges Laraque was quite easily the most adorable thing I’ve seen in quite a while. In short, among the many things Laraque dishes on in his “inspiring” memoir is how he believes Wayne Gretzky wasn’t too special when it came to leading from behind the bench rather than the ice.

Considering this wasn’t the first time in the last several months Laraque said something salacious in a thinly-veiled attempt to be considered relevant, it almost was inevitable that someone was eventually going to take the bait and call him out. However, I did not expect that someone to be Darren Pang. Take every other contextual thing within this war of words out right now and simply focus on the delicious image of Darren Pang standing face-to-chest with Georges Laraque.

Don’t get me wrong, Pang was absolutely right to call out Laraque—the man has been milking whatever inch of spotlight he can grab for too long. However, considering how the hockey media has stepped forward in the past week to construct both subtle and elaborate takedowns of the former enforcer already, it’s almost pointless to take Laraque to task outside of simply poking fun at him. So instead, we focus on what truly would have been a must-see David vs. Goliath tilt if the Pang/Laraque spat ever moved beyond the 140-character realm and into one that Laraque especially would endorse—pay per view.

 

This Week in… Math Isn’t TSN’s Strong Point

According to TSN, the Brad Richards signing has so far been a clear bust.

The biggest free agent in the pond this summer was forward Brad Richards, who made a high profile move from Dallas to the New York Rangers. He was expected to drive their offence but the 31-year-old has given New York less than a point per game and has just four goals in 13 contests.

[Source: The NYR Blog]

Let’s see, there are multiple ways to attack this. You know what, let’s ignore the fact that the publication feels it is important to make judgments on a contract just 13 games into the season, and the fact that it’s clear the writer hasn’t paid attention to many Rangers games (especially during their recent six-game winning streak). Instead, let us just laugh at the argument’s clear lack of research and insight by using the same angle he chose—statistics.

According to the wonderful one-stop shop of all sorts of hockey information, Hockey-Reference, Brad Richards has never topped 30 goals during any season in his career. In fact, his 82-game average for goals is 23.37. If we factor out his early years, and in fact start from his fourth season (the Cup and Conn Smythe season to be specific), Richards has averaged 25.16 goals per 82 games.

In his first 13 games in a Rangers uniform, Richards collected four goals. Let’s assume that this is what he is, and this average will remain intact for the rest of the season. If it does, Richards was on pace for 25 goals. If we factor in his two most recent games, then he’s on pace for 27 goals. So what does this tell us? TSN either needs some page views, legitimately believes Richards is a 100+ point guy, or just doesn’t have the time to actually look into something before commenting on it.

 

This Week in… ESPN’s Coverage of the NHL in a Nutshell

Just watch this brief clip. And remember, that this is being delivered by two SportsCenter anchors who are legitimate fans of hockey.

[Source: Awful Announcing]

 

Tweet of the Week

 

You can find Sahil Patel waxing idiotically on Twitter.

Topics: Brad Richards, Darren Pang, Georges Laraque, HBO, John Collins, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Pekka Rinne, Puck Daddy, Ross Greenburg, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber

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