Your 2012 playoff ratings recap

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The 2012 Stanley Cup finals ended the playoffs with a bang. The Los Angeles Kings booted the New Jersey Devils in stunning fashion, pushing us all into the frightening hockey-less wilderness known as the off-season. The ratings for this year’s postseason are in, and for the most part, they’re strong.

NBC sent out a press release that runs down the ratings from both a big picture and more specific standpoint. Here are some of the most interesting bits:

  • With an average of 936K viewers between the games shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, the first round was the most-watched on record.
  • The same can be said of the second round (aka semifinals), with an average of 1.32 million viewers.
  • The combined first three rounds generated the best numbers in 15 years, with a 1.03 million viewer average.
  • NBC Sports Network’s ratings were up 12 percent from 2011, while NBC and NBC Sports Network (as a combination) saw a four percent improvement.
  • The Los Angeles Kings’ Cup-winning Game 6 triumph produced a 13.6 household rating, the highest on record in the market. Beyond that, Six markets set records for viewership on NBC Sports Network: Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Phoenix and St. Louis. Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis and Washington set NBC records as well.

Pretty good stuff, huh?

If you’re the type who likes to soak in the details, here are the round-by-round notes directly from the press release:

Round by Round:

CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

• Averaged 936,000 viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network and CNBC, making them the most-watched first round on record (cable data not available prior to 1994).

• Averaged 744,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network, making them the most-watched in NBC Sports Network (formerly VERSUS) history, up 16% vs. 2011 (642,000), and the highest on a cable channel in 11 years (ESPN, 745,000 in 2001).

• Averaged 2.57 million viewers on NBC, up 39% vs. last year (1.85). The most-watched Conference Quarterfinals on broadcast television since 1998 (2.76/FOX).

• Capitals-Bruins Game 6 on NBC averaged 3.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched Conference Quarterfinal game since the advent of Nielsen People Meters (1987).

• Washington did an 8.6 household rating, the best in the market on broadcast television for an NHL game since 2004.

• Capitals-Bruins Game 7 on NBC Sports Network averaged 1.32 million viewers, making it the most-watched first-round game on cable in 12 years (1.51/San Jose-St. Louis, Game 7 in 2000 on ESPN).

• It was also up 43 percent vs. last year’s comparable game (926,000; Washington-Montreal, Game 7) and was the most-watched first-round game in NBC Sports Network history.

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

• Averaged 1.32 million viewers across NBC, the NBC Sports Network & CNBC, up 28% vs. last year and best on record.

• Averaged 1.29 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network, up 43% vs. last year and best on record for a single cable network.

• Game 3 of the series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, which went to triple overtime, was watched by 1.85 million viewers on the NBC Sports Network and was the most-watched 2012 Conference Semifinal game on cable.

• In Washington, Rangers-Capitals Game 7 received a 7.7 household rating, up 18% vs. 2011. The game received the second-highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL game on the NBC Sports Network.

• In St. Louis, Blues-Kings Game 1 received an 8.1 household rating, the best in that market for an NHL game on broadcast television since 2004.

CONFERENCE FINALS

• Through three rounds, the 2012 Playoffs averaged 1.09 million viewers on NBC, NBC Sports Network & CNBC, making them the most-watched in 15 years (1.237 on FOX/ESPN/ESPN2 in 1997).

• The Western Conference Finals averaged 1.02 million viewers for the four games on NBC Sports Network, up 18 percent over last year’s Western Conference Finals (San Jose-Vancouver, 863,000). NBC Sports Network aired Games 1, 2, 3 and 5. NBC aired Game 4, averaging 1.4 million viewers, down slightly vs. last year (Vancouver-San Jose, 1.5 million).

• The Eastern Conference Finals averaged 1.39 million viewers on NBC Sports Network, down from 2011 (1.71 million).

• In New York, Game 5 of Rangers-Devils received a 6.47 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for an NHL game on NBC Sports Network.

• In Phoenix, Game 1 Coyotes-Kings received a 5.56 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL game on the NBC Sports Network.

STANLEY CUP FINAL

• The Cup-clinching Game 6 was the most-watched game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final with 4.93 million viewers.

o NBC ranked first in Monday night primetime among broadcast networks in the advertiser-coveted M18-49 and M18-34 demos.

· In Los Angeles, the Cup-clinching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final received a 13.6 household rating, the highest local rating ever in the market for a NHL playoff game on broadcast television on record (since 1976).

• In New York, Game 1 received a 5.1, the highest local rating in the market since 2003 for a NHL playoff game on broadcast television (10.1/Anaheim-New Jersey Game 7/ABC).

• For the entire series, NBC and NBC Sports Network combined to average 3.01 million viewers, down from last year’s 4.57 million average.

Draisaitl on signing with Oilers: ‘We have something really special’

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As a restricted free agent, Leon Draisaitl only had so much say regarding his future with the Edmonton Oilers, especially since teams rarely send offer sheets around in the NHL.

Even so, Draisaitl could have opted for a “bridge” deal; instead, he signed for the maximum of eight years for a whopping $68 million on Wednesday.

Some would probably grumble but understand if Draisaitl explained his rational by pointing at one of those big checks or at a calculator. Instead, the promising young forward explained that he believes that the Oilers have a bright future, and he wants to be a part of it.

In case you’re wondering, additional details have surfaced regarding the year-to-year breakdown of Draisaitl’s deal. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie also reports that Draisaitl has a no-movement clause, thus making it that much more likely that he’ll get his wish to stick with the Oilers:

Of course, with Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combining for a $21M cap hit beginning in 2018-19, the bigger question is not whether they will stay, but who the Oilers will manage to keep in the fold.

Still, that’s for GM Peter Chiarelli & Co. to decide. For Draisaitl, this is a great moment, and he might even be able to back up that big contract with big results on the ice.

Cullen explains why he chose Wild over Penguins

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If you check out a bio on Matt Cullen, you’ll notice that he’s from Minnesota. It doesn’t take a leak, then, to explain why Cullen signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

As Cullen explained to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “this is a family decision.” As he goes deeper into his logic, even especially sore Pittsburgh Penguins fans should probably understand Cullen’s perspective.

“Minnesota is home and it’s a special place for me,” Cullen said. “It’s not easy to say goodbye and it’s not easy to walk away [from Pittsburgh]. I’m confident in the decision we’re making and it’s the right thing for our family. But at the same time, it’s not an easy one.

Now, to be fair, Cullen also told Russo that he believes the Wild are a “hungry” team that might have been the West’s best in 2016-17. It’s not like he’s roughing it, and surely the $1 million (and $700K in performance bonuses that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hopes Cullen collects) didn’t hurt, either.

Still, such a decision makes extra sense for a 40-year-old who’s played for eight different NHL teams during his impressive career. Russo’s story about Cullen attending his kids games and seeing his brothers is worth a read just for those warm and fuzzy feelings we often forget about in crunching the numbers and pondering which teams might be big-time contenders in 2017-18.

This isn’t to say that getting a fourth Stanley Cup ring wouldn’t be appealing to Cullen, but perhaps he’ll get his family time and win big, too?

There’s also the familiarity that comes with playing three fairly recent seasons with the Wild, so Cullen’s choice seems like it checks a lot of the boxes.

In other positive Wild news, Russo reports that Eric Staal is feeling 100 percent after suffering a concussion during the playoffs.

Tuesday was Wild day at PHT, but perhaps this feels more like Wild week?

Bovada gives McDavid higher odds than Crosby to win Hart in 2017-18

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In handing Connor McDavid an eight-year, $100 million extension, the Edmonton Oilers essentially are paying the 20-year-old star based on the assumption that he’ll provide MVP-quality play.

At least one Vegas oddsmaker agrees, as Bovada tabbed McDavid as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, edging Sidney Crosby.

That’s interesting, yet it might be even more interesting to note where other players fall in the rankings. Auston Matthews coming in third is particularly intriguing.

Who are some of the more interesting choices? The 20/1 range seems appealing, as Carey Price is one of the few goalies with the notoriety to push for such honors while John Tavares has the skill and financial motivation to produce the best work of his career next season.

Anyway, entertain yourself with those odds, via Bovada: (Quick note: Bovada originally had Artemi Panarin listed as still playing with Chicago. PHT went ahead and fixed that in the bit below.)

2017 – 2018 – Who will win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?
Connor McDavid (EDM)                         3/2
Sidney Crosby (PIT)                              5/2
Auston Matthews (TOR)                         17/2
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                            9/1
Patrick Kane (CHI)                                 14/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)                       15/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                                16/1
Carey Price (MON)                                 20/1
John Tavares (NYI)                                20/1
Jamie Benn (DAL)                                 25/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                             25/1
Erik Karlsson (OTT)                               33/1
Nikita Kucherov (TB)                              33/1
Jack Eichel (BUF)                                  50/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                               50/1
Patrik Laine (WPG)                                50/1
Brad Marchand (BOS)                            50/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                                50/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS)                      60/1
Brent Burns (SJ)                                    60/1
Braden Holtby (WAS)                            60/1
Phil Kessel (PIT)                                    60/1
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)                              60/1
Joe Pavelski (SJ)                                  60/1

Oilers cap situation is scary, and not just because of Draisaitl, McDavid

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The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger – and likely made teams with big RFA headaches like the Boston Bruins grimace – in signing Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year, $68 million contract on Wednesday.

You have to do a little stretching to call it a good deal, although credit Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshysnki with some reasonably stated optimism.

Either way, the per-year cap bill for Connor McDavid and Draisaitl is $21 million once McDavid’s extension kicks in starting in 2018-19; that’s the same combined cost that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive … and those two got those paydays after they won three Stanley Cups for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, if the Oilers struggle in the near future, plenty of people will heap blame on McDavid and/or Draisaitl. Really, though, the true scapegoats should be a management team with more strikeouts than homers.

(As usual, Cap Friendly was a key resource in studying Edmonton’s salary structure.)

Bloated supporting cast

There are some frightening contracts on the books in Edmonton, especially if a few situations work out unfavorably.

At 29, there’s severe risk of regression with Milan Lucic, even if he enjoys a more stable second season with Edmonton. He carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23, so he’ll be on the books for all but two years of Draisaitl’s new deal.

Kris Russell costs $4.167M during a four-year stretch, and even now, he has plenty of critics. Those complaints may only get louder if, at 30, he also starts to slip from his already debatable spot.

Andrej Sekera‘s been a useful blueliner, yet there’s some concern that time won’t treat him kindly. He’s dealing with injuries heading into 2017-18, and at 31, there’s always the risk that his best days are behind him. Not great for a guy carrying a $5.5M cap hit through 2020-21.

One can’t help but wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be an odd man out once the shackles of the salary cap really tighten. Just consider how much Edmonton is spending on a limited number of players, and you wonder if the 24-year-old will be deemed too pricey at his $6M clip.

Yeah, not ideal.

It’s not all bad

Now, let’s be fair.

RNH could easily grow into being well worth that $6M. Draisaitl may also justify his hefty price tag. McDavid honestly cut the Oilers a relative deal by taking $12.5M instead of the maximum.

The Oilers also have two quality, 24-year-old defensemen locked up to team-friendly deals: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167M through 2022-23) and Adam Larsson ($4.167M through 2020-21). They need every bargain they can get, and those two figure to fit the bill.

Crucial future negotiations

GM Peter Chiarelli’s had a questionable history of getting good deals. He’ll need to get together soon, or the Oilers will really struggle to surround their core with helpful support.

Cam Talbot is a brilliant bargain at the strangely familiar cap hit of $4.167M, but that value only lasts through 2018-19. After that, he’s eligible to become a UFA, and could be massively expensive if he produces two more strong seasons.

The bright side is that the Oilers aren’t locked into an expensive goalie, so they can look for deals. That isn’t as sunny a situation if you don’t trust management to have much success in the bargain bin.

Talbot isn’t the only upcoming expiring contract. The Oilers have serious questions to answer with Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome. Also, will they need to let Lucic-like winger Patrick Maroon go? Even with mild relief in Mark Fayne‘s money coming off the books, the Oilers might regret this buffet when the bills start piling up next summer.

***

Look, the truth is that management is likely to be propped up by the top-end in Edmonton, particularly in the case of McDavid’s otherworldly skills. As much as that Draisaitl deal looks like an overpay – possibly a massive one – there’s a chance that he lives up to that $8.5M, too.

It’s not just about those stars, though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins gained new life by complimenting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the likes of Phil Kessel. The Blackhawks have struggled once they couldn’t afford as much help for Kane and Toews.

You have to mix your premium items with bargains, and one wonders if the Oilers will be able to spot sufficient value beyond the no-brainer top guys. Their recent history in that area certainly leaves a lot to be desired.