Monday, February 16, 2009

Morning cycle: NBC drops the ball again

  • To the surprise of few, NBC indeed picked the wrong game on Sunday.
The peacock decided to go for a yawn-inducing big market game we've seen five million times (New York Rangers vs. Philly Flyers) instead of a game featuring two of the five best teams in the league. What did they get? Henrik Lundqvist getting pulled in the second period of a matchup that probably was decided well before that.

San Jose Sharks at New Jersey Devils, aka the game that NBC should have chosen, ended up being a wild 6-5 game. (At least, that's what highlights and recaps indicate) Judging from the great audience attracted by the big Boston Bruins - San Jose Sharks last Tuesday, it seems that NBC misjudged demand.
It goes further than that. This is the another reason that the NHL needs to think seriously about the quality of its coverage beyond dollars and cents, even if Versus provides bush league coverage at times. How many times can the league tolerate NBC's "whatevah, hockey" approach? Shouldn't the NHL do everything it can to introduce the San Jose Sharks (easily one of the three favorites for the Cup) to casual viewing hockey audiences? Is the league really going to stick with a network that relocated an intense overtime playoff hockey game for the PRESHOW of a horse race?

(Let that last sentence marinate in your soul.)

As usual, Puck the Media features great coverage of NBC's short-sighted decision.

We know, we know, it’s a small-market game, and Sharks fans would be forced to awaken at the ungodly hour of 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning for a hockey gam(Something we, mind you, have always dreamed of). But this is the PERFECT weekend to try it out. Competition for the audience that’d be watching a hockey game is pretty slim. The NBA All-Star Game isn’t till primetime, and the Daytona 500 doesn’t feature much of a hockey-friendly audience (Prove me wrong, Raleigh). This is the one chance the NHL has to experiment with a game that might just draw the passing fancy of some channel-flipper and they missed.
  • Moving on to happier news, Mike Green managed to break the record for consecutive goals scored by a defenseman.
Could it be safe to say already, even counting their Cinderella run to the Cup Finals in the Bondra era, this might be the best season for the Capitals? Beyond that, the Capitals remind me of a revamp of the '90s Detroit Red Wings teams.

Look at all the Russians in high-ranking spots. Obviously, it all starts with Alex Ovechkin, but there are a lot of big responsibility guys on that roster who are Russian. Whenever he's healthy, Alex Semin is blossoming into an elite forward. Viktor Kozlov might seem like an underachiever but he's a nice addition (or as Japer's Rink called him, "a Lebowski rug") to the Capitals. Hell, they even employ former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov.
  • Which team is third best in the Western Conference? Because of divisional playoff seeding, the Calgary Flames should slip into the third spot. That being said, the best team after juggernauts in Detroit and San Jose might just be the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago destroyed the Dallas Stars 6-2 after putting together a nice 5-3 record during an eight-game road trip. After facing three more road games in a row, the Blackhawks won't face more than two back-to-back road games.

It probably won't allow Chicago to put any pressure on division-leading Detroit. However, the easy road ahead might allow the Blackhawks to go into the playoffs with some momentum and relative good health.
  • The Penguins fired Michel Therrien this weekend.
Normally, it's ridiculously unfair to fire a coach who managed to lead a team to the Cup finals the year before but context is important. My guess is a highly trained dolphin could coach last year's Penguins team to at least the Conference finals.

At the same time, Therrien deserves credit for shepherding the young Penguins from cellar dweller to contender. Who knows how much of it was Therrien, but at times the Pens looked to have "good defensive team" potential, a rare sentence even for Pittsburgh's golden era.

One thing that bothers me (and usually, only NBC guys say these kind of things) is how much certain pundit-idiots weigh Marian Hossa's absence for being a big reason for the Penguins missing the playoffs.

Hossa played 12 regular season games for Pittsburgh, so ease off the accelerator on that one. He gave the Penguins an extra gear, but that mattered in the post-season, not in making the playoffs. Just a pet peeve.

Therrien's firing is justified but seemed like it could have waited until the summer. It's not the fault of HCMT (credit Pensblog) that the Penguins are having a miserable season. That falls on the players shoulders first, Ray Shero's next and then HCMT. But HCMT is the easiest guy to fire and that's that.

It's looking more and more improbable for the Penguins to make the playoffs. The question is: does it even matter if they make it? It seems hard to imagine this team making a Cinderella run right now.


Vance said...

I watched 7 games yesterday, by far, byyyyyyyy farrrrrrrrrrr, the most entertaining game was Devils / Sharks.

But Newark/San Francisco tv markets simply don't equal the Philly / NY markets.

Though once all of New York turned off their tvs halfway through the 1st, I bet it was pretty close.

jamestobrien said...

To me, the market argument is less significant for hockey. Versus/NBC telecasts will still be seen mostly by niche audiences. More non-NYR/PHI fans would be likely to tune in to NJ/SJS. I see NBC's logic, but sometimes you need to sacrifice ratings for building up a product.

What happens when the Sharks make the Finals and NBC audiences don't have a clue who they are?

Chris Kontos said...

I'm just excited about former Kings 4th liner Dan Bylsma being named the Penguins interim coach. Here's hoping Warren Rychel takes over the Rangers!

Chris Kontos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Kontos said...

stupid double posting!

jamestobrien said...

Took care of that for you Chris :-)

Unknown said...

NBC can have a "whatever" approach to hockey because they don't pay to air it. The NHL and NBC have a revenue sharing agreement where they both get a piece of the revenue from national spots that air during the broadcast instead of NBC paying for the TV rights to air NHL games.

Moral of the story: the NHL needs a real TV deal.

Unknown said...


Newark isn't its own TV market, It is part of the New York City DMA. Also San Jose is part of the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose market (market #6). If you added up the TV households in NYC and SF/OAK/SJ they would be pretty close to NYC and Philly.

NYC + SF/OAK/SJ = 9,910,270 TV HHs
NYC + Philly = 10,384,040 TV HHs

I would think that the Sharks would draw decent numbers. The B's-Sharks game on Versus last week was the highest ranked game in Versus history.

In case you haven't notice, hockey and broadcast media are my two passions.

Unknown said...

rated not ranked

jamestobrien said...

Yeah, the NHL really gave NBC a sweetheart deal. Maybe it's because I've had cable since age 10, but to me if network TV won't give the NHL true coverage then cable it should be.

Vance said...

@ evan.

Haha, that would've taken me at least 3 hours on wikipedia to figure that out.

But, I categorized Newark unto itself because Rangers fans would have watched the concurrent MSG broadcast of their game over a NBC broadcast of a Devils game, all the while the 4 remaining Isles fans went to AC.

As for the Oakland/SF/San Jose crowd, yeah that makes sense. The Sharks fans are rabid, that is, if they've discovered hockey. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I'd say a higher percentage of NYers would tune into a hockey game than San Franciscans.

That's all I really meant by those statements.

Moral of the story: The NHL needs a real tv deal.

jamestobrien said...

When I heard that NBC chose NYR vs. PHI it wasn't surprising. I could see it from a "small picture" perspective being the "smart move."

But the problem for NBC and the NHL is that all the eggs are placed in the Detroit/Pittsburgh basket. They haven't put nearly enough effort into promoting more than just a couple players.

It's pretty disturbing that the Pitt-WAS commercial on the other day still avoids mentioning ... who was that guy again?

Oh yeah, Evgeni Malkin, the guy who's WAY ahead of Crosby and Ovechkin for the points lead.

It's frustrating because the NHL is just absolutely bursting with fantastic players but only diehards know it. That's probably why Crosby's marketing is so polarizing. He should get one of the biggest slices of pizza (after all, he still IS a great player) but instead he gets the whole pie.