Friday, November 20, 2009

Conspiracy?


Over the last days there have been lots of talks about Wings fans being conspiracy theorists and thinking the league is against us (read the comments in the Abel to Yzerman links in my previous posts). We do not. Kris from Snipe snipe, dangle dangle, twittered something about that stating she couldn't believe the NHL were capable of pulling a conspiracy like that, they can't even manage to get goals right.

I agree with that. There is no conspiracy, the league is too incompetent to make a conspiracy and the majority of Red Wings fans agree with me on that. But of course Mr. Bettman as a businessman needs his southern markets to win, to let his golden boy win, and thus they tilt the playing field a little now and then when they get a chance by weird scheduling, the salary cap, bad (or really non-existant) refereeing in the finals, a certain missing suspension, a weird mid-season suspension, bad calls, blown goals and just little snipes here and there. I'm sure it happens to other dominating teams in good markets too, though Detroit is at top of the game and feels it hardest, while teams like Pens, Coyotes and Dallas gets it tilted a bit the other way.

The best that has been written about this, was left in a comment at Abel to Yzerman in this article and was written by someone with the username Misopogon, from Troy, Michigan. I hope he's okay with me reprinting it, because it's so excellent you deserve to read it in all its glory. Here we go:
The referees are just trying to do their jobs. Usually they do a better job than pretty much anyone else could do.

So are the guys in Toronto.

Put yourself in their shoes, the Toronto guys. On one side you have a team from Dallas, Texas, which has oodles of expendable cash to support an N.H.L. franchise but is very short on seat-filling fans. On the other side you have Detroit, which has next to zero in loose corporate cash these days but a fanbase deep enough to match a Canadian city six times its size.

And this Detroit team keeps [winning.

What are these guys supposed to do? What would you do if put in the league’s situation?

I mean, the N.H.L. puts itself through hell to get a salary cap system, and make sure its salary cap system could dismantle the “big spending” franchises and their obvious spending advantages. They weren’t talking about the Rangers, here. There was only one exempli gratia, just as there was one and only exempli gratia for the down-and-outs, Poor Pittsburgh, who had to trade away all of their talent to the point where Rico Fata was the best player in uniform, and “had to” leave their 1st overall draft pick, an obviously NHL-ready fella, in the minors for financial woes. And who “totally deserved” a 2nd overall pick (Evgeni Malkin) in the next draft, and “totally deserved” to “randomly” get the N.H.L.’s version of LeBron, and “totally deserved” to come out of lockout into the best free agent market in N.H.L. history spending like mad-mofos.

This wasn’t exactly a chain of events meant to be “fair.”

And what happens: a few years later these guys are hoisting the cup again!

And not just hoisting the cup, but doing it directly against the N.H.L.’s erstwhile e.g. of pre-cap woe, the purpose-rebuilt Pens and their savior child.

Have a little remorse for the league, here, guys. Their record of futility against Detroit’s hockey team makes Rush Limbaugh’s campaign against U.S. liberalism actually look moderately successful.

Take away every early-round pick from them, and THEN rig the salary cap so that teams basically have to play their draft picks early and often, and they find superstars in the 5th through 7th rounds. Like LOTS of superstars. Like, I dunno, a perennial Hart AND Selke trophy candidate, or like the best defenseman of a generation!

The league’s tried like, everything. Detroit was building by stockpiling raw players and allowing their skills to germinate in Europe, so the NHL makes a rule that forces franchises to rush players to North America or lose ‘em.

Really? An arbitrary rule that undermines the league’s talent pool, targeted at just one franchise?

Now Detroit’s turned to the NCAA to extend the development period for drafted players, and the league is actually working on a deal with the NCAA to stop this from happening, to allow more kids to play in Juniors, so instead of coached, conscious, developed players the league can keep having draft after draft of over-hyped, over-rushed, and utterly option-less 17-year-old pros.

Why? Because Bettman is Rod-the-God Tine (ref: Infinite Jest, basically Karl Rove but fewer ethics, more power, a better marketing mind, but much more generally inept). He has studies from his tutelage under Roger Stern that says fans don’t want to see well-developed 28-year-olds—they get most excited about the ups and downs of hyped up 20-year-olds, who make mistakes and do flashy crazy things while trying to impress. Slowly easing Ville Leino onto the ice is not that thing.

He has plenty of evidence that Detroiters will flock to a dump like the Joe for their team no matter how desolate the local economy becomes or how marginalized their team becomes. Hell, sales of Steve Yzerman jerseys alone could fuel the league for a year—we’re talking current sales, for a retired guy!

In other words, the N.H.L. has maxed out all the money it can make from Detroit. There’s nothing to protect. There’s nothing to lose.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of executive cash floating around south of the Mason-Dixon line. But that’s also where locals have never seen a frozen pond and transplants came to get away from the memories of such. This equals fickle, i.e. you need to keep dangling winning and exciting Top 5 draft picks and young, mistake-prone superstars and potential to get these people to Keep Coming Back. What you don’t need is an established franchise dashing their hopes by “being better at playing hockey.”

And cities north of the Mason-Dixon Line, too, which need to be protected, provided they play the Bettman’s game instead of, you know, playing silly games, like ice hockey.

And yet this franchise keeps finding new and more innovative ways of winning N.H.L. hockey games. They get players to sign for less than market value by—gasp—treating players like human beings. They make up for back-end talent deficiencies and age by working harder. They do their homework. What can other teams do to keep up? Their homework? You mean, like, everyone has to do homework now? How fun does that sound?

So if you are the N.H.L., what else can you do? It’s not like they’re omnipotent. Other than, like, waive off a goal or two when opportunity presents, or pick-and-choose playoff referees by how well they respond to the unspoken wink and nudge (another trick picked up from the Tutelage of The Stern).

Really, were you expecting a call from Toronto to go any other way? Has it ever?

This isn’t conspiracy. Conspiracy is way better organized than this haphazard sniping, this demolition job handled with the same ineptitude that Bettman’s N.H.L. has demonstrated at everything else it’s done.

So stop with the conspiracy theories. It’s not conspiracy, but policy, badly executed. The guys in Toronto are just trying to do their jobs, which jobs are meant to make the NHL as popular in the North American market as footba..[scratch] baseba..[scratch] baksetb...[scratch] Texas Hold ‘Em.

Could you do any better?


Amen to that

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