The NHL Network’s offseason programming: What’s your solution?


It’s no secret that the NHL Network’s offseason programming is weak at best. Aside from about an hour of various reruns each weekday afternoon, the network is stocked with wall-to-wall rebroadcasts of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. For diehard Boston Bruins fans, there are probably about 23 games that will be interesting. But for the rest of NHL fans that saw their favorite team make the playoffs, the rebroadcasts just re-open wounds that have only started to heal. And the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs at all? Chances are those markets are clamoring for replays of their rivals vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Bottom line: the rebroadcasts are stale.

Jeremy K. Gover wrote an excellent article outlining a few suggestions for the NHL Network and their executives to help breathe life into TV schedule. For anyone who is even remotely interested, it’s definitely worthwhile to read Gover’s article in its entirety; he has more than a few ideas and strategies towards implementing the vision. One idea he has is to have something like a “Director’s Cut” you may see on a DVD or Blu-Ray for the rebroadcasts aired in the offseason. It’s a great way to help liven up any replays the network chooses to run:

“Take Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Quarterfinal between the Blackhawks and Nashville Predators for example. Instead of just showing the moment when Martin Erat centers the puck instead of tying it up to preserve the one goal lead in the dying seconds of regulation, why not put a picture-in-picture box with Head Coach Barry Trotz sharing his post-game comments? Heck, why not the post-game comments from Erat himself? Who wouldn’t want to hear what those guys thought just moments after that monumental collapse happened?”

For those who need a reminder, here’s a refresher. Predators fans: watch at your own risk.

Another idea Gover presents is incorporating local reporters, columnists, and bloggers into the mix. Bringing in the locals would help take a look at a lot of the games that we’re already familiar with from a different perspective.

“Bloggers are the wave of the future. And newspapers are struggling. And both are looking for publicity (a/k/a free advertising). Why not bring them together and ask accredited media members from each team to do an on-camera commentary of the games they covered? How amazing would it be to watch the final moments of Game 4 of the Detroit Red Wings sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes while Carl Putnam of the Coyotes blog Five for Howling talks about what it was like being in that arena thinking ‘this could be the last time I watch a hockey game in Arizona?’ Whether you think Glendale deserves a hockey team of not, that’s just great TV right there.”

While all of Gover’s ideas have potential, this is where he strikes gold. Pulling in beat writers and bloggers that follow the team for 82 games every season would bring new life to old games. Assuming there’s positive feedback –let’s face it, more voices and perspectives are good for a network filling 24 hours of programming everyday – this is something that could spill into the regular season. If there’s a story about the Wild, then get Michael Russo’s take from the Star Tribune in Minnesota. If the Ducks make news, find out where the team was coming from with an interview with Eric Stephens from the OC Register. Mix in bloggers who have their finger on the collective pulse of their team’s fanbase. It would help give fans a more complete picture of any story making news throughout the season.

What do the readers think? Do you have ideas how the NHL Network could improve their offseason programming? Fans all over North America surely have ideas—we’d love to hear what you have in the comments.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

Leave a comment

Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

1 Comment

When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado