Author Archive

Shakeup in Canadian NHL broadcast coverage?

- November 26th, 2013

Will TSN no longer be known as the “Toronto Sports Network” if they no longer show Leaf games?

Is the landscape of televised NHL broadcasts in Canada about to change, with TSN left out in the cold?

According to a tweet fired off just after midnight Tuesday morning by TSN puck guru Bob McKenzie, one of the most respected people in the business, that might very well be the case.

Tweeted McKenzie: “Official announcement expected Tuesday by NHL: CBC and Rogers have exclusive English-language NHL rights deal. Believed to be 12 year deal.”

At this time, the NHL nets about $190 million each year in Canadian TV deals with CBC, TSN and RDS — contracts which expire after the 2013-14 season. There is speculation claiming that figure could mushroom to about $350 million US annually, if not more.

A report in the Sports Business Journal suggested that Sportsnet was the frontrunner in negotiations for a new national Sunday Night Game of the Week.

Sports Business Journal also reported that that CBC will fork over $175 million annually — a increase of $54 million US
per year for what they are shelling out now – in order to maintain the Hockey Night in Canada tradition.

For what it’s worth, TSN employs some of the best hockey insiders in the country, a list that includes McKenzie, Darren Dreger, James Duthie and Pierre LeBrun.

Stay tuned.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca
twitter.com/zeisberger

Leafs defensive woes finally exposed

- November 3rd, 2013

VANCOUVER – That the Maple Leafs grabbed four of a possible six points on their three-game swing through the Canadian west must be considered a successful week.

It is also very misleading.

Consider that the Leafs, who posted wins in Calgary and Edmonton before losing 4-0 in Vancouver on Saturday, allowed 133 shots on this three-game journey – an average of about 44 per game.

Given that number, it’s remarkable that Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer only allowed six goals – an average of two per game.

And while the team is off to a successful 10-5 start, the train could quickly derail off the tracks if they do not tighten up defensively and help stop their goalies from being pelted with rubber every night.

The team’s warts were very much exposed in Vancouver by a Canucks team that outplayed Toronto in every aspect of the game.

“It was a terrible game for us,” said Carlyle. “Probably the worst game we have played this year.”

The Leafs do not play again until Friday when the Devils come to town. With Carlyle boiling at the team’s inability to limit the opposition’s shots, count on there being some tough practices in the coming days.

Carlyle Lovin’ Goalie Battle – For Now

- October 30th, 2013

EDMONTON – When Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis dealt for goalie Jonathan Bernier during the offseason, the thinking was that the ex-Los Angeles King would push James Reimer to be better.

So far, the plan has worked to near perfection.

After Reimer’s 4-0 shutout over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, his record is a perfect 4-0 on the season. Bernier, meanwhile, might be only 5-4 but his 2.35 goals-against average and .930 save percentage ranks him among the better goalies in the league.

“At some point, as we approach the playoffs, if we get there, one of them has to emerge,” Carlyle said after watching his Leafs improve to 9-4-0 on the season.

“But for the time being we have a 1A and 1B. We are getting criticized in our market for not picking one guy. But right now, we are fine with 1A and 1B.”

Given the way these two have been keeping pucks out of the net, why wouldn’t he be?

No Richards, no Nash. no problem for Leafs

- April 10th, 2013

As the Maple Leafs attempt to jump eight points ahead of the Rangers with a victory over the Broadway Blueshirts on Wednesday night, perhaps the sting of losing out in both the Brad Richards and Rick Nash sweepstakes the past two years is now a distant memory for Toronto management.

With both Richards and Nash in the lineup, the Rangers are in real danger of missing the playoffs, a bitter pill to swallow for a team that many of the so-called experts picked to win the Stanley Cup prior to the season.

Nash is signed through 2017-18 at an annual cap hit of $7.8 million US. Given the outstanding way he has played in New York – if you have issues with that statement, just watch the video of his two highlight reel goals in a 4-3 loss to the Leafs Monday – Nash and his contract are digestible.

Richards and his deal? Not so much.

The veteran centre, who has struggled all season, carries a cap hit of $6.667 million US through 2020. There already are rumblings out of Gotham that the Rangers might consider buying him out.

With the cap going down to $64.2 million next season, the $14.466 million taken up by the Nash/Richards contracts takes up 23% of the Rangers cap space – a significant chunk for just two players.

The Rangers issues have come from the fact that, with top-end players like Nash, Richards and Henrik Lundqvist earning top-end salaries, there is an absence of middle class players – the Dubinsky “B” and “C” class players. In other words, a lack of depth.

The Leafs, of course, took turns trying to woo both.

In the summer of 2011, Richards turned down teams like the Leafs, Flames and Kings to sign a free-agency deal with the Rangers. One summer later, Nash opted to go to New York in a trade from Columbus, leaving the Leafs in a logjam of runner-ups.

Would either of those players have looked good in Leafs blue-and-white? Of course. Richards would have plugged a hole at centre while Nash, well, he’d be a force on any team in the league.

In the case of Richards, however, his skills seem to be eroding. Who knows if a kid like Nazem Kadri would be getting the ice time he is right now if Richards was on the scene.

Meanwhile, with Nash out of the scene, the Leafs pulled off an astute deal by acquiring James van Riemsdyk from the Flyers for Luke Schenn.

JVR is no where near the force of Nash. Not yet. At the same time, he is much younger and has a big upside.

Seeing either Richards, Nash or both in a Toronto jersey would be quite pleasing for Leaf fans. At the same time, judging by the standings and with the Leafs on the verge of their first playoff appearance since 2004, losing out in the Nash and Richards sweepstakes haven’t proved to be the crushing blows to Toronto that many expected.

Gardiner’s agent speaks out … sort of.

- March 13th, 2013

Less than 30 minutes after the Maple Leafs had suffered their third consecutive loss, Jake Gardiner’s agent used twitter to let the world know what his solution to the team’s woes might be.

Following the Maple Leafs 5-2 loss to the Jets, Ben Hankinson, whose twitter handle is @benhankinson,  tweeted a single hashtag, “#FreeJakeGardiner.”

Hankinson’s tweet quickly became all the rage of social media. Fans wondered whether the Minnesota-based agent meant his client wanted a trade or was offering the advice that Gardiner should be called up from the AHL, which is the more likely message.

The Leafs defence looked awful in Winnipeg, turning pucks over time and time again. Toronto has now allowed at least four goals in each of its past three games, poor numbers that can’t just be attributed to goalies James Reimer or Ben Scrivens.

Either way,. why not bring a smooth-skating puck-carrying defenceman into the lineup? Either call up Gardiner, who has 30 points in 40 games with the Marlies, or insert John-Michael Liles, who regularly has found himself a healthy scratch.

Whatever the case, general manager Dave Nonis isn’t about to trade Gardiner, especially for a rent-a-player. Nonis was quite clear on that during an interview with the Toronto Sun on Monday.

Hankinson caused quite a stir with his tweet. Whether Gardiner does get called up remains to be seen. But the Leafs do have issues on the back end, and perhaps its time to address them, whether via Liles or Gardiner.