Report: League to Cancel Winter Classic on Thursday

On the heels of the cancellation of the National Hockey League’s November schedule, one more significant cancellation is expected this week.

ESPN’s Katie Strang reports that, according to a source familiar with the NHL’s lockout plan, the “league is expected to cancel the Winter Classic on Thursday.”

Planning for this season’s edition of the Winter Classic, scheduled for January 1, 2013, at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, would need to begin soon.  With the league and the NHL Players’ Association having broken off negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, it’s unknown when – or if – the season might begin.

If the 2013 Winter Classic is cancelled, it will take with it the Hockeytown Winter Festival scheduled for the final weeks of 2012 at Comerica Park.  That event is scheduled to include youth hockey, OHL games, the Great Lakes Invitational college tournament, an AHL game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, and a matchup of alumni from the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

TGTW: Red Wings Atop Central After Week Three

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings rode a three-game winning streak into the third week of the NHL schedule and extended it on Monday with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Livonia-native Ryan Kesler opened the game’s scoring at 3:42 of the first period but a pair of goals just 1:38 apart were enough for the Red Wings to get the win.  Pavel Datsyuk‘s first of the season came with 6:45 left in the opening period and Johan Franzen‘s first of the year came with 5:07 remaining.

Jimmy Howard made 26 saves on 27 shots in the effort, while Vancouver’s Cory Schneider stopped 25 of 27 chances.

The Red Wings’ winning streak came to an end the next night in Columbus.  The Blue Jackets’ win briefly pulled them into first place in the Central Division.

Jack Johnson opened the scoring with 11 seconds left in the first period and Justin Abdelkader replied at 3:11 of the second.  Nick Foligno‘s shorthanded marker and 6:27 of the third put the Jackets back out in front and Derrick Brassard added another at 9:46.  Steve Mason shut the door on the Wings, stopping 23 of 24 shots while Howard made 22 saves on 25 Columbus chances.

Howard rebounded on Friday with a 22-save shutout of the San Jose Sharks as the Red Wings picked up a 2-0 win.  Mikael Samuelsson scored the game’s opening goal at 4:38 of the second period, with former Red Wing Brad Stuart in the penalty box.  Pavel Datsyuk added an insurance marker at 1:02 of the third.

To close out the week on Saturday, the Red Wings picked up a 4-2 win in their first visit back to Winnipeg since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated there.

Abdelkader opened the scoring at 3:48 of the first period, Kyle Quincey had a pair of goals, and team leading scorer Valtteri Filppula also scored.  Evander Kane and Alexei Ponikarovski scored for the Jets.  Howard stopped 23 of 25 while Ondrej Pavelec made 14 saves on 18 shots against.

After three weeks, Detroit sits atop the Central Division, three points up on the Blue Jackets, who have two games in hand.  Howard’s 1.64 goals-against average is second in the league, just 0.02 back of Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.  His two shutouts are tied for the league lead.

On the Fallacy of 50/50 Blame

Over at Winging it in Motown, J.J. posted a bit this morning on how blame for the NHL lockout shouldn’t be split evenly between the players and the owners. If you’re playing the blame game at all, I think it’s a pretty important read.

As J.J. says, the owners have told us they need the players to take a cut from the 57% of hockey related revenue that they currently receive.  They haven’t said anything about why, however.

Despite that, many in the media, blogosphere, and among fans seem willing to accept that demand.  They’re willing to go along with the idea that, even absent a reason for it, the owners are right to ask for that and it’s the players who are holding up the season by stubbornly not going along with it.

I’ve been getting hung up on that, because I don’t see how anyone can think the players are at fault when the owners haven’t been able to justify their demands.  I think the reason goes back to the last lockout.

In 2005, after a lost season, the NHLPA collapsed and gave in on virtually every (if not every) NHL demand.  Salary rollbacks, a salary cap…  All the things the PA said they’d never accept.

Fast-forward to today and it would be easy, looking ahead at the possibility of another lost season, to figure that the same result is in store.  If the only possible outcome is that the players give in again, it’s easy to blame them for not doing so sooner and saving the season.

It may be that a players collapse ends the lockout again but it’s wrong to forget who caused the lockout in the first place.  This is not a strike, it’s not the players’ doing, it’s the owners denying the players the ability to play and the fans the ability to watch.

NHL Announces Cancellation of November Schedule

The National Hockey league announced the cancellation of their November schedule on Friday.

The cancellation comes as the league and the NHL Players Association remain stalled in their efforts to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.  With the league previously having cancelled the schedule through November 1 in two blocks, this is the largest portion of the schedule to be cancelled at one time.

As with their previous cancellation announcements, the league has been careful to characterize this as a cancellation of the schedule, not the games themselves.  Theoretically, the games could all be re-scheduled alongside the remaining games.  At this point of the season, however, the likelihood is that an entirely new, shortened, schedule would need to be created if a new CBA is agreed upon.

Neither the Winter Classic nor the All-Star Game have been cancelled yet, however there are reports that they will be cancelled next week.

TGTW: Wings Rebound in Week Two

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

After dropping a 5-4 decision to the Nashville Predators to open the 2012-13 season, the Detroit Red Wings rebounded with three consecutive wins in the second week of the schedule.

On Tuesday, it looked like Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller was going to shut the Red Wings down until Todd Bertuzzi broke the scoreless tie with 90 seconds left in regulation.  Miller made 27 saves on 28 shots in taking the loss, while Detroit’s Jimmy Howard needed to stop just 14.

Defenseman Jakub Kindl was ejected at 3:02 of the third period after charging former Red Wing Ville Leino.  Leino would end up missing one game with a concussion, while Kindl was not suspended.

The Red Wings continued their road trip in St. Louis on Thursday, with a 6-1 rout of the Blues.

St. Louis got on the board first when Andy McDonald scored just 6:29 in but Valtteri Filppula‘s second of the season tied things up ay 10:22 and Henrik Zetterberg put the Wings in front 1:40 later.

After a scoreless second period, Filppula added another just 29 seconds into the third.  Jonathan Ericsson scored his second of the season at 3:56 and Mikael Samuelsson scored the first goal of his return to the Wings on the power play at 9:24, chasing Blues’ goalie Brian Elliot.  Jakub Kindl added a power play goal with 2:06 remaining to round out the scoring.

Howard finished another slow night with 14 saves on 15 shots.  Elliot stopped 20 of the 25 shots he faced while Jaroslav Halak made four saves on five shots.

Detroit closed out the week in Chicago with a 3-1 win.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring at 5:31 of the first period on a goal by Jonathan Toews but Danny Cleary answered right back for the Wings 2:05 later.

Filppula’s league-leading fourth goal of the season put Detroit out front at 2:19 of the second period and Niklas Kronwall scored his first of the year at 4:39.

Howard had a third consecutive quiet night, facing just 17 shots and stopping 16.  Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 30 saves on 33 shots in taking the loss.

After four games, the Red Wings sit one point back of the Predators in the Central Division with a game in hand.  The team’s leading scorer is Filppula, with four goals and three assists.  Jimmy Howard has made all four starts, going 3-1 with a shutout, a 1.79 GAA, and a .899 save percentage.  Jonas Gustavsson appeared late in the opener, facing no shots.

The Red Wings lead the league in shots allowed with just 17.25 per game.  Second are the Pittsburgh Penguins at 21.2 per game.

NHL Lockout Claims 53 More Games

The National Hockey League announced on Friday the cancellation of the 2012-13 league schedule through November 1.

This brings the total number of games cancelled from the schedule to 135.  The schedule through October 24 had previously been cancelled on October 4.

The league has made a point to say that the games themselves are not yet cancelled, only the original scheduling of those games.  During collective bargaining sessions this week, the league made a proposal that included an 82-game schedule to begin on November 2.

For the Detroit Red Wings, the new cancellation affect an October 26 home game against the San Jose Sharks and visits to the Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames on October 27, October 29, and November 1.

On the Feasibility of a New 82-Game Schedule

Early reports out of today’s meeting between the NHL and the NHLPA state that the league put forth a new offer contingent on an 82-game season beginning on November 2.

The offer is reportedly based around a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue but I’m going to ignore that right now.  I don’t know if the players will accept an immediate reduction in their share of the pie.  What’s interesting to me is that the 82-game schedule is required.

Of course, the owners will want to make as much money as they can and that means playing as many games as possible.  That’s why we have an 82-game schedule in the first place.

A November 2 start would be 22 days after the originally scheduled start to the season.  If we assume that the games in the new schedule would be played at the same rate as the original schedule, the regular season would end on the first weekend in May.

This roughly matches the end of the lockout-shortened 1995 season, when a 48-game schedule began in January.  That year, the Stanley Cup Finals concluded on June 24, helped by the Devils sweeping the Red Wings in four games.

That lockout-shortened schedule did not feature an All-Star Game, so this season’s schedule could buy back a few days by cancelling the Columbus edition of that event.  Like San Jose in 1995, you’d have to think the Blue Jackets would get rewarded with a future All-Star Game.

That also assumes the games would be played at a “normal” pace and not a consolidated one, as the NBA saw last season.

I don’t know if playing 82 games would be the right thing to do – I’d almost rather see a 72-game schedule, personally – but it fits a previous timeline the NHL has made work.

TGTW: Red Wings Drop Opener to Predators

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout.  In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

The Detroit Red Wings opened the 2012-13 campaign on Friday night with a 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators, the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last spring.

New Wings’ captain Henrik Zetterberg scored twice but Nashville’s Colin Wilson scored just five seconds into a late power play to secure the win for the Predators.  Detroit newcomer Carlo Colaiacovo was in the penalty box for the game-winning goal.

It was a see-saw effort all night.  Zetterberg opened the game’s scoring with 7:01 left in the first but Nashville replied in the second with goals by Roman Josi and Sergei Kostitsyn.  Zetterberg notched his second with 4:43 left in the period to tie things back up.

Kostitsyn scored again just 2:10 into the third and Mike Fisher extended Nashville’s lead to two with 8:59 remaining.

Jonathan Ericsson pulled the Wings to within a goal just 13 seconds after Fisher scored and Valtteri Filppula tied things up 3:28 later.

Wilson’s goal ended any momentum the Wings had, coming 16 seconds after Filppula’s.

Jimmy Howard was replaced in the Detroit crease by Jonas Gustavsson after allowing the fifth goal.  Howard finished the night with 18 saves on 23 shots against.  Gustavsson faced no shots in 5:02 of play.

Pekka Rinne made 26 saves on 30 shots against in earning the win.

With the Red Wings’ defense in flux following the retirement of former captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings went with seven defensemen in the lineup.  Kyle Quincey led all blueliners with 26 minutes, while Brendan Smith had a team-low five minutes.

On Dr. Jack Finley’s Hockeytown Doc

I was recently asked to take a look at Dr. John Finley’s new book, Hockeytown Doc – A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories from Howe to Yzerman.  By coincidence, the request came on the heels of posting my thoughts on Tal Pinchevsky’s Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL – The Untold Story of Hockey’s Great Escapes.  I’m not looking to get into the business of book reviews but with no NHL games, I’m already reading more.

Over at Winging it in Motown, J.J. posted his thoughts on Friday but I’ve deliberately not read what he wrote, so our opinions may have some overlap.

Dr. Finley has assembled 23 chapters of anecdotes and personal thoughts formed over fifty years on the Red Wings’ medical staff.  His viewpoint from three rows behind the bench and inside the dressing room is unique.

It’s that perspective that makes the book worthwhile.  Some of these stories are things we’ve heard before.  His chapter on the Russian Five, for example, has a lot of overlap with Breakaway.  However, there were parts of those familiar stories that were new, things that only he could tell.

My personal favorite chapter was “Spring Fling,” in which he tells stories of the team party he and his family hosted every year.  A party so appreciated that, as Dr. Finley says, Bob Probert once asked to be invited back even if he was traded away from the Wings.

Another thing that struck me was how similarly former Red Wings’ czar Jack Adams and current team Vice President Jimmy Devellano were described.  This probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given Adams’ attempts at union-busting and Devellano’s recent “cattle” comment but it wasn’t until reading Dr. Finley’s words that the idea really clicked for me.

I do have some nit-picks about the book.  As a collection of 23 relatively-independent chapters, there’s a decent amount of repetition.  The roles of certain people are described multiple times, for example.  We’re told that Original Six-era dressing rooms were made up of “benches above which were hooks” several times.  Additionally, I caught at least one mistake in a player’s name, with Kris Draper being called Chris Draper.

As I said, those are nit-picks, the only things I could find wrong in an otherwise well-crafted piece of storytelling.

If you missed Dr. Finley’s signing at Hockeytown Authentics on Saturday, he has two more appearances scheduled in the coming weeks.  On October 14 he’ll be at the Kroger in Bloomfield Hills and on October 28 he’ll be at the Kroger in Troy.

NHL Cancels 82 Scheduled Games

The National Hockey League announced on Thursday the cancellation of 82 scheduled games from their 2012-13 schedule.  The games make up the first two weeks of the originally-announced schedule, running from October 11 to October 24.

The move comes as the league’s lockout of the NHL Players’ Association continues.  The two sides have been unable to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

It should be noted that the league specifically announced the cancellation of the schedule for those games, not the games themselves, leaving open the possibility of the games being rescheduled should a new CBA be agreed upon quickly.

For the Detroit Red Wings, the cancellations cover two home games (Nashville, Vancouver) and four road games (Buffalo, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus).

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