Sunday, July 31, 2016

How the Chicago Blackhawks Saved the NHL

When Sports Illustrated put on the Chicago Blackhawks on the cover, after the lock-out of 2013, claiming they brought hockey back, one had to pause on that motion. I, for one, was a little skeptical that the Blackhawks could save the NHL. Though three years after the lock-out the ratings don't lie, the Blackhawks are running the show, and Chicago is loving it.

The NHL has enjoyed higher viewership when the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the Stanley Cup finals. Five of the ten most watched Stanley Cup Finals games have featured the Blackhawks. This includes the top rated Stanley Cup Finals game, Montreal vs. Chicago, from 1971.

Outside of the Boston -Vancouver series of 2011, in game clinching Stanley Cup Finals games, the NHL has struggled to get a rating above 7. In the years, that the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the finals ('10, '13, '15), the rating in similar games has not been below 8. What this means to the bottom-line is that, on average, one million more people are watching the Blackhawks' Finals compared to the rest.
Toews vs. Crosby

Not even Sidney Crosby can pull better rating than the Blackhawks. The 2016 Stanley Cup Finals lost out to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals in every game except one. The clinching Game 6 rating for 2015 was 8.0, and the rating for 2016 was 5.4. That means that more than 2.5 million more people watched the Blackhawks get the Cup, then the Chosen One get his second cup in 2016.

The nay-sayers will tell you that the NBA Finals brought down the Stanley Cup Finals ratings in 2016. They won't tell you that the same teams played in the NBA Finals both years (2015 and 2016). Personally, I think the hockey fans chose not to watch because they did not want to see the Penguins win the cup.
Stanley Cup Rally Chicago

It has not always been this way though. When the Chicago Blackhawks were not as good in the early 2000's, their attendance was near the bottom of the league. As the Blackhawks struggled, so did the ratings for the NHL. During the early 2000s, the Stanley Cup Finals struggled to get ratings better than 4.

Things began to turn around in 2008-2009, the Blackhawks were getting better and the league decided to push all their chips behind Crosby. The Stanley Cup clincher rating finally got 8 million viewers in 2009 with the Pens - Red Wings Final. They were topped the very next year though with 8.3 million viewers in the game clincher between the Blackhawks - Flyers. Crosby was no match for the machine that was the Chicago Blackhawks.
Taking Over Soldier Field

So why does this happen? Chicago is a sports town. The people love their teams especially the Cubs. Chicagoans show up for Cubs games even when they are terrible. Other big cities like New York and LA have their teams but the support is not always there. Example, the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals (Rangers vs. Kings) game clincher only drew six million views. This was two million less viewers than the 2015 and 2013 game clinchers. The numbers don't lie, Chicagoans show up and the rest find something else to do.

It doesn't stop there, this fall for the 2016-17 season, the Blackhawks will be featured in 21 nationally televised games which leads the league. They will play in their third Winter Classic, which also leads the league. The Chicago Blackhawks drive the ratings right now in the NHL. It is safe to say that a team led by Captain Serious and that kid from Buffalo, NY did save the NHL.

Stanley Cup Finals Ratings

2015-2016 NHL Attendance

Chicago Blackhawks Yearly Attendance

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Columbus Blue Jackets: Hunt For Green October

In the financial world, being in the green is where you want to be. Green means that your bottom line is showing a profit. Red on the other hand, means that you are at a loss. Clearly, if you want to stay in business being in the green is where it is at, and that has not been so easy for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets routinely struggle out of the gate, but they manage to play better over the rest of the season. This makes hardcore Blue Jackets' fans frustrated.

The last time the Blue Jackets had winning record in October, you have to go all the way back to the 2010-2011 season when Ken Hitchcock was head coach. He was fired mid-season, but he went on to coach the St. Louis Blues, made the conference final last year. Yet, the Blue Jackets were still last in their division. Just food for thought.
Todd Richards

Claude Noel served as the interim coach until he was replaced by Scott Arniel for the 2011-2012 campaign. That season turned out to be a disaster with a 2-10 record in October. Arniel would be replaced by Todd Richards, and the Blue Jackets coaching carousel continued to spin.

In the lockout-shortened season of 2012-2013, play started in January. The Blue Jackets stumbled out of the gate again with a 2-6 record. They rebounded very nicely and just missed out on the playoffs due to a tie breaker. So, even in the team's first season without Rick Nash, there was hope for the future.

The 2013-2014 season had a better start for the Blue Jackets, and they went 2-2 over their first four games. A three-game road trip sunk their record to 2-5. They rebounded with a three-game winning streak at home. Then they dropped the last game in October to go 5-6 for the month, and the hunt for a green October continued.
John Tortorella

The Blue Jackets won their first two games of the 2014-2015 season. By mid October, they sported a record of 4-2. Then, a West Coast road trip killed all the momentum. After beating the Sharks, they lost games to the Kings and the Ducks. It was followed up by losses to Ottawa and Toronto at home. The Jackets finished 4-6. It would be a long season for the team; they set a record for the number of games lost due to injuries.

October 2015 was a mirror image of October 2011. The team started October with a 2-10 record, which included losses in the first eight games of the season. Todd Richards was fired and replaced by John Tortorella.
Blue Jackets October Schedule

The upcoming season looks hopeful, even though their October schedule looks tough. They open against Boston, then face San Jose and Chicago at home. On a road trip to the West Coast, they play Dallas in the second game of a back to back (Chicago at home, Dallas away). From Dallas, they go to LA to face the Kings and wrap up October with dates against the Sharks and the Ducks. All games except the Boston game are against last year's playoff teams.

It's going to take a bunch of effort for a green October this year. The Blue Jackets have a bunch of young talent they can pull from to get wins. They also have veteran leadership that can help the youngsters along the way. A long West Coast road trip can be what this team needs to bring them closer together. As long as they can stay healthy and work together, the Blue Jackets could make this a season for the ages.

Columbus Blue Jackets Season Game by Game

Columbus Blue Jackets Coaches

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Moment in the Sun: Jared Boll

Jared Boll
Last week, Jared Boll was waived by the Columbus Blue Jackets. A ten year veteran of the team, the writing was on the wall for Boll. He was not getting much playing time, and was scratched in many games during the 2015-16 season. When he was given the opportunity to play he made the most of it, bringing the energy and the fight to a team that sorely needed it. He finished his time with the Blue Jackets as the guy with the most penalty minutes in team history.

Jared Boll was born in North Carolina but grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He was originally drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs, but he never played for the team. Instead, he chose the college route starting in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars. He was named the captain of the team, and after a successful couple of years he was offered a scholarship by the University of Minnesota - Duluth. Though his style would have been great for the Bulldogs, he passed on that as well.
Boll vs. Voros

Boll found a home with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). The Ontario Hockey League is where many players go if they choose not to play NCAA college hockey. Boll was chosen as an alternate captain and quickly became a fan favorite. He spent two seasons in the OHL, and the Whalers won the title in his second season with the team. From early on, Boll was a fan favorite and took on a leadership role on both teams.
Boll vs. Parros

Boll was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005. The Blue Jackets selected Boll with the 101st pick. He would not start with the team until the 2007-2008 season. Unless you are a great player, you are usually drafted a couple years before you actually start with the team. It's sort of like the baseball draft, and unlike the NBA draft; where players are going straight into playing in the NBA. This helps the players get ready for the physical and mental demands of playing NHL hockey.

Jared scored his first goal on October 10th, 2007 against the Phoenix Coyotes. He would not be known as a scorer during his time in Columbus. He would be known for his physical play and dropping the gloves. He brought energy to the table and a willingness to stick up for his teammates. When it was called upon, he would wear the alternate captain "A".
Boll vs. Tootoo

Boll's presence was not only impactful on the ice, but as well as off the ice. He was always out and about in the community. He was a common figure at Columbus Blue Jackets' Open Houses and Draft Parties. I have met him a couple of times, and I think he one of hockey's good guys.

I am sad to see Jared Boll go, he was a great player for the Blue Jackets in his ten years in Columbus. Hopefully, he will get a shot somewhere else. He was class act where ever he has been. He has been a fan favorite on every team he has played for, taking on leadership positions when necessary. His energy has been just as high on the ice, as it has been off the ice. Personally, I think the Blue Jackets should do him the honor of retiring his jersey.
Boll at Krumm Park 

Jared Boll Wikipedia - I found most of the information on Boll from his wiki-page.

Jared Boll Fighting Stats - From; stats on all of Boll's fights throughout his career.

Jared Boll Player Stats - Stats from Blue Jackets website.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Chicago Blackhawks: More Soup Please!

The Chicago Blackhawks have signed Brian "Soupy" Campbell to a 1 year deal just north of the $2 million mark. Campbell played for the Blackhawks from 2008-11. He became a cap causality and was sent down to the Florida Panthers. He had made it pretty clear in the last couple of weeks that he wanted to return to Chicago. He stated that, "his heart was in Chicago." The Panthers offered him a $5 million deal but he passed it up to become a Blackhawk one more time. There are a lot of people happy to have him back in Chicago.

Campbell got the primary assist on Kaner's goal that won the Stanley Cup in 2010:

Campbell's return will definitely help the Blackhawks on the blue line. Though Van Riemsdyk is up and coming, it will be nice to have more veteran leadership. Once Oduya was traded to the Dallas Stars, the Blackhawks were definitely lacking some leadership back there.
Soupy's Cup!

Not only will Campbell be able to provide some extra leadership, he will be able to save some minutes from top line defensemen, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Both of those players have logged a ton of minutes the past couple seasons. Having Campbell back will cut down on their minutes especially on the power play, if Quenneville does not want to play the younger players.

So, the Blackhawks got a veteran piece at a super discount price. The haters will say they only got a discount price because of his age. As I mentioned before, the Florida Panthers offered 5 million, and the Blackhawks signed him for 2.2 million. When you are as close to the cap as the Blackhawks are, saving 2.8 million can help you sign a couple of prospects or go after a free agent.
Soupy getting defensive!

I am going to stay optimistic about the signing. I think its great that Campbell is coming back to the Blackhawks. The top 4 defensive positions will be solidified again. Campbell's veteran leadership will help younger players like Van Riemsdyk, and assist on the power play. There are just too many pluses about the Campbell signing to be ignored. Soupy is a great player, and I am thrilled he is back on the Blackhawks.

The Legend of the Token Blackhawks Fan

Chicago Blackhawks
Ever since the Chicago Blackhawks have risen back to contention for Stanley Cups, the Chicago Blackhawks band wagon has grown by leaps and bounds. This has created a phenomenon known as "The Token Blackhawks Fan." It does not matter where you are, which teams are playing, but as long as you are at a hockey venue, there is a great chance that you will see someone wearing a Blackhawks sweater. The grassroots effort has gained so much traction that Waldo fears that he might be out of the job in the coming months.

The Chicago Blackhawks have not always been this prominent. For much of the late 90's and early 00's, the team struggled to stay out of the basement. Attendance fell towards the bottom of the league as the team went into a downhill spiral. It's almost as if it was set up like a movie, with a person down on their luck, and the eventual rise to power.
Toews and Kaner

The Chicago Blackhawks rise started in the late 00's with the draft picks of Kane and Toews. It was around these two players that the core of the new team was established. By 2009, the team was back into the playoffs and all signs were pointing up. The very next year, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first championship since the 1960s, and the bandwagon fans piled on the ship.

All of this winning increased the number of jerseys being bought by fans.  Not only by fans of Chicago but by other people that had never watched hockey before. By 2010, Kane and Toews broke into the top 10 of player jersey sales. By 2014, Kane was #1 and Toews was close behind. As of last year, Toews was #1 and Kane was #2. So after topping jersey sales, the rise of The Token Blackhawks Fan had begun and exploded from there.

I honestly would not be surprised to see books come out to compete against Waldo. Pictures of fans in the stands, where you can find the guy or gal wearing the Blackhawks sweater. It's great entertainment to try to find The Token Blackhawks Fan, especially during intermissions when there is nothing to do. Personally, I am always on the lookout for the Blackhawks jersey and you should be too.  It's great, wholesome fun for the entire family!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Columbus Blue Jackets: State of the Union

If there has been anything we have learned from the Blue Jackets, it's to expect the unexpected. As we move into the offseason this has been no different. As the team looks to improve upon a lackluster 2015 season, the thought has to be, how can this not trend upwards.

Last week, during the 2016 NHL Draft, the Blue Jackets stunned the hockey world when they picked Pierre-Luc Debois over Finnish superstar Jesse Puljujarvi. They went with the center over the forward. Let's be real, how many forwards do the Blue Jackets need? The other reason has to be Puljujarvi just had knee surgery and would miss all of developmental camp. Would you risk a top pick on someone that young, having knee surgery already? I wouldn't.

They talked about trading down the pick. Many of the experts believed that Debois would have been available if they dropped down to the 5th or 6th pick. This might have been a better idea, maybe get an extra pick or two to drop down. In the end, they picked Debois and you have to live with it. He might not be NHL ready like Puljujarvi, but at 6'2" and over 200; he fits the mold of the classic grind it out Blue Jackets player that the fans in Columbus have come to love.

The Blue Jackets provided more draft night surprises when they traded Kerby Rychel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Scott Harrington and a conditional pick. Rychel had requested a trade early in the season when it became apparent that he was not in the Blue Jackets cards. He spent a good deal of time down in the AHL. A little bit head scratching here because it seems like they gave away a decent prospect for little value in return. Harrington had barely played last season and Rychel was a main contributor on the Lake Erie Monsters, that won the Calder Cup

In less shocking news, the Blue Jackets were able to sign Seth Jones to a long term deal. This is great in my opinion because his potential is very high. He is a puck controlling defenseman, who is young and should be a top liner for a while now. My thought is that you bring up Zach Werenski from Lake Erie and you have a great top line on the blue line. To make a comparison, Jones plays more like a Brent Seabrook and Werenski is more like a Duncan Keith, always looking to jump into the play on offense. The signing of Seth Jones, only means good things for the Blue Jackets in years to come.

An era came to an end as the Blue Jackets waived Jared Boll. A ten year veteran of the Blue Jackets, Boll was beloved by the fans. Mostly known for his enforcement roll on the team, he leads the Blue Jackets in career penalty minutes. Personally, one of my favorite players for the Blue Jackets; he was always out in the community. Whenever they had an Open House or a Draft Party, Jared Boll was always front and center with the fans. He will be truly missed.

Another era also came to end with the buyout of Fedor Tyutin. One of Scott Howson, the former GM, last laughs as he was booted out the door. Tyutin's contract was way too much than it was worth. He was making 4.5 mil a year as a second line defenseman. It was one of those contracts that you wish the Arizona Coyotes would just take off your hands. Not sure, what's next for Tyutin as he is getting older, we wish him well.

Other players that the Blue Jackets decided not to sign were Falk and Chaput. Falk was a top line defensemen that played with Werenski on the Lake Erie Monsters. He is a big guy that loves to throw the body around. A little bit of a slower skater but still, overall, a very skilled defenseman. Chaput never really got the NHL shot, I feel he deserved. A high energy guy, he was always first down on the forecheck. I hope that he has a long career in the NHL because I think he has a tremendous upside.

Well as the summer continues, I will try to update you about the Blue Jackets and how they are doing. I am a little concerned about what happened to Chaput and Rychel but on the other side of the coin it was good to free up cap space by buying out Tyutin. That freed up cap space definitely helped sign Jones to a long term deal, which is a major plus. We will have to see how Debois turns out, way too early to make any judgements there. It's going to be a wild summer, you better get your seat belts on Blue Jackets fans.