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Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: What Bettman doesn't do; Detroit pity party

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Earlier this week, Mike Chen had a nice little post about what Gary Bettman actually does in his role as Commissioner of the NHL. To summarize: He makes sure the League follows its own rules; negotiates with everyone on the league's behalf; advises the Board of Governors on many matters; and, probably most importantly, acts as the league's "spin man."

That last one is a lot of what he seems to do on a daily basis, not unlike a certain Iraqi information minister ("The Versus contract is great! The NHL is great! We will slaughter the infidel NBA!"). And much like Baghdad Bob, it would be foolish for even the league's most ardent supporters to believe a good majority of it.

But that post got me thinking about some of the things Gary Bettman doesn't do.

(Coming Up: Red Wings bloggers demand repentance from anyone thinking another team could win the Cup; wondering if the Penguins can respond to a drubbing; using a cow to promote Panthers hockey; the NHL on NBC drinking game; in praise of Datsyuk, Fleury not so much; loving "The Hangover"; and the most convoluted way for the Leafs to steal the No. 1 pick.)

We all know the first one, I'm sure. Gary Bettman doesn't ...

Endear himself to anybody.

It's easy to understand that the guy making tough decisions isn't going to be popular. But does Bettman seriously have to go out of his way to come off like the smuggest jerk of all time? There's just something about his fast-talkin', New York lawyerin', defensive posture takin', squirmy attitude that turns hockey fans (and, I'm sure, most humans) off, and it doesn't help that he seems to relish the spotlight.

Bettman's interview on The Hour back around All-Star time had a really illuminating quote about how he deals with getting booed: "If I walk into a board meeting and I get booed like that, then I've got to think about what I'm doing." This may make him a good business man -- hey, he's more than quintupled the NHL's revenues since 1993 -- but it just makes him look like he doesn't care about the fans (hint: he doesn't).

Impress Ron MacLean.

I don't know why G-Dub was so bored by the latest chapter in the MacLean/Bettman Cold War. It's riveting television because both men are conducting the interview with a chilly façade of mutual, barely-suppressed professional discourtesy masking McLean's apparent outright dislike and Bettman's contempt for the fact that he only has to do this interview in the first place because MacLean is a national treasure in Canada and would be here in America too, if only the NHL could get a decent TV deal (ha ha).

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Any MacLean/Bettman tête à tête is guaranteed to be good because McLean will inevitably ask a question that prompts Bettman to respond with something insane like, "There's a bit too much hysteria about all the underlying facts here," because silly things like "facts" are damaging to his argument that Jim Balsillie's quest to get a team in Southern Ontario is as much of a act of war as some rogue state trying to produce yellowcake uranium. Speaking of which...

Like Jim Balsillie.

Now to be fair, Jim Balsillie has done a lot of things over which Bettman has every right to be pissed off; selling season tickets to Hamilton Predators games certainly being among them. However, he has also repeatedly told Balsillie to take a walk on several occasions (okay, two) for no readily apparent reason, the first being the aforementioned Nashville sale.

Basically Balsillie agreed to buy the team, the current owner agreed, and then the league said, "Yeah, let's sell to this shady guy about whom we don't know anything instead," because at least ol' Boots Del Biaggio wouldn't move the team. Except he would. Oops. And we all know about the mess down in Phoenix, and just how swimmingly that's going.

Look like he's ever enjoying himself.

Cheer up, Gary. There's a chance you don't strike everyone as a less-likeable Andy Bernard.

What We Learned

(WWL will, for the remainder of the postseason, only cover the teams still playing hockey. Any news of note involving the other teams will be dealt with below in Loserwatch ‘09.)

Detroit Red Wings: There's a lot of Barry Horowitz-ish back-patting going on at a number of Red Wings blogs, most notably Snapshots, where George Malik opines:

...As fantastic as the Red Wings' 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was from a fan's perspective, I'm plain old [ticked] off at the fact that the same people who so eagerly claimed that the Red Wings were tired, old, slow, and (if you watched the CBC or NBC's coverage of the game) started measuring the Penguins' fingers for Stanley Cup rings changed their tune en masse."

More of this drivel is available at Abel to Yzerman ("I'm sure there was discussion about the 'tired' remarks and the thoughts from esteemed writers like Helene Elliott, gushing and babbling happily about the 'end of the Wing dynasty'").

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Please, everyone that isn't a Detroit fan (i.e. tolerable people): Let us join together to issue a formal apology for ever having believed that anyone that is not the Red Wings would win this Stanley Cup, with a corollary that Chris Osgood(notes) is at least twice as good as Ken Dryden and Little Caesars has the best pizza on the planet.

Yes, we're terribly sorry Detroit fans. It takes a lot of heart, guts and fortitude to stick by a team that everyone pegged as a lock to win the Cup back in September, even through the woeful drudgery of a second-place finish in the West. We see that now. Since we can offer nothing more as a sign of our contrition, I guess you'll just have to console yourselves with a fifth Cup in 12 years (probably). Poor, poor pitiful you. Congratulations on the success that you, as fans, have worked so hard to win.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pensburgh had an interesting look at what they considered the biggest swings in momentum in this series and, surprisingly, they have felt that only one game featured one that favored Pittsburgh: To the shock of none, that was in Game 4. But even then, it was simply classified as "weak to moderate."

After suffering defeat in well-played efforts in Games 1 and 2, the Pens showed heart and toughness in tying the series up. They looked strong, calm, and ready to revisit the JLA and come out victorious coming back home. The Wings looked a little tired, a little demoralized without Pavel Datsyuk(notes) ready to play, but still comfortable that they were not done in this series.

Clearly the trip back to the Joe plus the reinsertion of Datsyuk back into the lineup was more than enough to pull things back in Detroit's favor, but it's interesting to see that the Penguins reacted that poorly to having gotten drubbed so thoroughly in the opening 40 minutes. For one thing it did nothing to prevent that the whole "Cindy Crysby" thing from continuing, and it just gave Detroit a little extra material for the They Don't Respect Us board that has clearly been constructed in the dressing room.

I have to think Danny Bylsma won't continue let the Pens play like they did in Detroit. But it is entirely possible that playing a third period like that is what the Penguins need to do in order to motivate themselves for upcoming home games. It clearly worked for the days off between Games 2 and 3, so why not, right? By all means, then, goon it up. They don't give out prizes for losing with grace and sportsmanship.

Not any that you'd want to win, anyway.

Loserwatch '09

(News and notes from some of the teams that couldn't be bothered to make or stay in the playoffs.)

Congrats to the South Carolina Stingrays for winning the Kelly Cup in Game 7 on the road against Alaska in the ECHL Finals. ... I fail to see how a giant cow scaring people in a mall helps promote Panthers hockey ("Hey little girl, remember when that logo made you scream and drop your soft pretzel!?"), but at least they're trying, I guess. ... Still lookin' for that head coach in Minnesota. ... I stole this from Wyshynski's Twitter: Versus is doing well. Says the article, "There are some people who will never be convinced that Versus is the right place for the NHL, but it's hard to argue that it hasn't worked out pretty well for the network this year." The NHL itself is a different story, I guess. ... Speaking of Minnesota, they might finally be making a good personnel move: trading Josh Harding(notes). ... Don't forget about Maksim Mayorov(notes). ... Saturday was the five-year anniversary of the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup (don't remind me), and Joe Henderson of Tampa Bay Online goes out on a limb to say that defense, in fact, wins championships. ... The circle is complete for former Flames coach Jim Playfair: AHL coach, NHL assistant, NHL head coach, NHL associate coach, and AHL coach. Again. ... And finally, it's the NHL on NBC Drinking Game, brought to you by Hockee Night. Warning: You will be blasted by the opening faceoff.

Balsillie and Bettman's Trash Talk Corner

(In which a damning piece of news from the ongoing Hamilton Coyotes saga is taken out of context and has its hurtfulness rated.)

From a Reuters blog:

On Monday, Balsillie sent in his application to the NHL explaining why the Phoenix Coyotes should move to Hamilton, Ontario and why he'd make a good owner. Late Tuesday, he supplemented that with 22 letters of recommendation from a variety of mostly Canadian VIPs.

Oh-Snap-O-Meter:

1/5 BlackBerry Storms (I have one!). A pretty weak offering, all things considered. Going the ol' college application route? Real nice. Although I guess getting a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada's recommendation is a little better than my high school history teacher's. But seriously, thanks Mr. Baker! I got in everywhere I applied.

Play of the Weekend

Not many from which to choose, I guess, considering the beating the Wings dropped on Pittsburgh Saturday. I at least thought this was the nicest goal:

He roofed the hell outta that one.

Gold Star Award

He may not have had the gaudiest stat line (only two assists!) but everything Pavel Datsyuk, even if he was clearly not at 100 percent, completely changed the course of the series and, yeah, Detroit is probably going to win the Stanley Cup because he's back.

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Minus of the Weekend

I am, of course, very tempted to give it to Marc-Andre Fleury(notes). He gave up five goals in just over half a game, after all. But on the other hand, there's been a palpable difference between Home Marc-Andre Fleury and Road Marc-Andre Fleury, all throughout the playoffs.

At home, he has a line of 2.48/.908, which isn't terrible and a record of 8-2, which is excellent. But on the road, it's a considerably worse 3.03 GAA and .899 save percentage and a 6-6 record.

You suck, Road Marc-Andre Fleury.

Next week's game I'm totally going to watch on Center Ice if I'm home

Uhhh, Game 6 tomorrow?

Event that should replace the shootout and would be just as relevant to hockey skill

Skipping the comprehensive review.

Thing of the Week

(An indeterminate something that I liked quite a bit.)

If you weren't one of the many, many people that saw The Hangover this weekend, then I must implore you to leave wherever you are right now and go see it immediately. Seriously. Just get up and leave. Right this second. If anyone tries to stop you, punch them in the neck.

Click the image for the trailer.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

The best trades are always the ones with three or more teams involved. Just ask user "ariasarena," who is trying real hard to get the Leafs the No. 1 pick.

NYI have a need for top line talent, top 6 prospects, and a draft pick to get a defensemen
Tor have a need for elite forward talent and top six forward potential
Phx have a need for defense

to Tor: 1st overall, Viktor Tikhonov(notes)
to NYI: Peter Mueller(notes), 7th overall, Jimmy Hayes

to Phx: Tomas Kaberle(notes), Aaron Ness, 2nd rounder 2009 (leafs), 3rd Islanders
The leafs give up the 7th overall, jimmy hayes a top 6 powerfoward prospect, tomas kaberle, anton stralman, and a 2nd round pick for the 1st overall, and Viktor Tikhonov
The islanders give up the 1st overall pick and Aaron Ness for Peter Mueller, the 7th overall which is a Jared Cowen(notes) or Magnus Svensson Paajarvi, and top six powerforward prospect Jimmy Hayes.
They coyotes gave up Peter Mueller, and Viktor Tikhonov for Tomas Kaberle, Aaron Ness, 2nd round pick from the Leafs, and a 3rd from the Islanders.

Signoff

Goodbye.

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