Thursday, June 30, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Do you want to know the crux of the problems that we are facing in our country today? The real root cause? Here it is, dear readers, and once you focus on this, you will understand why our nation faces many of the problems we do today. In testimony before the House Small Business Committee on June 22nd, tax cheat and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) that  the United States must raise taxes on small businesses because there was "no alternative, because otherwise, you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, including federal education spending." There it is folks, the whole reason that you and I go to work and pay way too much in taxes- to keep growing the federal government. And this is a fundamental and philosophical viewpoint that eventually will lead to the demise of our great nation. We have a ruling class that believes that you and I work for them, that our income is to support them, and that government can never shrink. Forget that 65% of all jobs in this country are created by small businesses and entrepreneurs who face great risk to start new companies. Taxes must go up on those entities to support the federal government. Never mind that those higher taxes are job killers. The rapaciousness of our federal government is truly out of control, and it is time to shift the philosophical paradigm back to one where the government works for us, not the other way around.

I had amnesia once. Maybe twice.

President Obama signaled this week that he is going back to the liberal left's tried and true playbook of class warfare to try to get a compromise on the raising the federal debt ceiling. He wants to end the tax break fro corporate jet owners, which, if enacted, will add about $3 billion dollars in potential new taxes to the take the federal government gets annually. Obama mentioned owners of corporate jets, along with oil companies (why are oil companies always singled out?) as entities that should pay more corporate tax to benefit the recipients of college scholarships and medical research grants. That's all well and good, yet it was just last year that Obama championed a corporate tax break for jet owners to stimulate aircraft production in the U.S. and the accompanying jobs that it would generate. The fact that the current administration has an incoherent tax policy has something to do with the fact that few in this administration have any real world experience running a business. The fact that this administration reflexively is falling back on tired class warfare rhetoric shows that this administration has no new ideas.

The food Nazis are trying to tell you that red meat is bad for you. Take it from me, red meat is not bad for you. Fuzzy, green meat, however, is bad for you.

Here is the truth about the ethanol scam: ethanol, the E-10 you see on your gas pump when you fill up your vehicle, cuts the overall fuel economy and performance of your engine. Ethanol has only about 67% as much energy as regular gasoline, and since ethanol is now 10% of the gas we pump into our cars, our fuel economy and engine performance are sub-optimal. What's more, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved E-15 (85% gasoline and 15% ethanol) for use in vehicles from the model year 2001 and newer.  Oh yeah, ethanol is highly corrosive and reduces engine life. Folks, this is your federal government operating in your "best interest". The reality is that this is the federal government pandering to corn farmers and their powerful lobby. And tax cheat Time Geithner is worried about shrinking this monstrosity. Frankly, with a friend like the bureaucrats and legislators in Washington, I don't need any enemas, uh enemies.

My days start so much better since I put up the sign in my bedroom that says "socks first, THEN shoes".

And that, my friends, is my view.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Christine

Nashville's ABC affiliate, WKRN, said good-bye to weekend news anchor Christine Maddela this past Sunday. Christine is moving on to Philadelphia for a great career opportunity, and while this is the nature of the television business, Christine's departure will leave a void in Nashville.

Sure, there a a number of talented television personalities in Nashville, but Christine was not just a talented newscaster and reporter. She was personable and approachable, always quick with a smile and kind word.

Beyond being a good person, Christine genuinely cared about Nashville and its citizens. During the devastating floods of last May, Christine manned the anchor desk almost continuously. Her steady, calm, and empathetic manner belied the fact that she was moved by the destruction she was covering. After the floods, she was involved in many fund raising and community recovery efforts because of her concern for her fellow citizens.

Philadelphia is getting a talented professional. Even more so, they are getting a great person.

Good luck in Philly, Christine.

You will be missed in Nashville.

Predators Vulnerable in Qualifying Offer Dispute

There is confusion and consternation that has arisen because of a possible defect in the qualifying offers that the Nashville Predators extended to restricted free agents Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Cal O'Reilly, along with minor league players Linus Klasen, Chris Mueller, and Andreas Thuresson. In question is if the qualifying offers were tendered by the 5:00 deadline on Monday.

According to the Predators front office, they were unaware of any problem and had complied with the procedures to qualify the RFA's. The qualifying offers were sent by FedEx at 4:00 on Monday. However, the offers were not faxed to the players, their representatives, and the Players Association by the 5:00 deadline on Monday. As such, the offers were not delivered to the players until Tuesday, after the deadline.

In question then, is whether the offers were considered "tendered" when FedEx picked them up for delivery.

The NHL released a statement late yesterday confirming that there was not a problem in the League office with the qualifying offers, and they were considered in compliance with the CBA.

The NHLPA has filed a grievance, stating the contracts were not "tendered" in a timely manner since the players and their representatives did not receive them until after the deadline. The PA has asked independent arbitrator George Nicholau to give an expedited ruling as to whether the since free agency will begin on July 1.

Here is the qualifying offer sheet that RFA's receive:


Name and Address of Player:

Name and Address of Player's Authorized Representative:


Pursuant to Section 10.2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the "CBA"), [Club]

hereby makes [Player] a Qualifying Offer of $__ in the NHL and $___ in the AHL (if

applicable), or whatever other minimum amounts are necessary to preserve the Club

rights contemplated in Section 10.2(a)(ii) of the CBA. This Qualifying Offer is not open

for acceptance until July 1, 20__.

If you are eligible for salary arbitration, this Qualifying Offer is subject to that right.






Agreed To and Accepted By:

____________________________ ______________

[Player Name] [Date]

cc: NHL Players' Association

     NHL Central Registry
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?
We both know that this is not the first time as a team that the Predators have qualified RFA's; nor is is the first time David Poile or his staff have done so. So what is going on?
Here is the relevant section from the CBA (Section 10.2):
(ii) In order to receive a Right of First Refusal or Draft Choice
Compensation (at the Prior Club's option) with respect to a
Restricted Free Agent, the Prior Club of a Restricted Free Agent
must tender to the Player, no later than 5:00 p.m. New York time
on the later of June 25 or the first Monday after the Entry Draft of
the final year of the Player's SPC, a "Qualifying Offer", which
shall be an offer of an SPC, for one League Year, which is subject
to salary arbitration if such Player is otherwise eligible for salary
arbitration in accordance with Section 12.1, on at least the
following terms and conditions:
So, our dispute is over whether the Predators "tendered" an offer to the players by sending the contracts out the door with a courier.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but here is the legal definition of "tender":
"to extend for acceptance or consideration (vt); to make an unconditional offer of payment or performance with a manifestation of willingness and ability to follow through (n)."
Obviously, the Predators made an offer to the players by sending the qualifying offer sheet. The question that the arbitrator has to determine is if it was legally "tendered" by the deadline by virtue of having a courier pick it the offer sheet. The Predators and the League are saying that it is tendered, and that has been an acceptable and utilized practice in the past. If that is so- if precedent has been established- then I believe the Predators have safely qualified their players.
If, on the other hand, that is not the precedent and the offers are deemed invalid by the arbitrator, then it is a gaffe of major proportions by the Predators, and one frankly that I would find very difficult to understand.
As for now, the matter rests with the arbitrator. The decision will come quickly so as to not infringe upon the ability to negotiate in free agency by the players in question.
Hopefully the arbitrators ruling will not leave a tender spot in the Predators roster.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Predators Hire Muller to Coach AHL Affiliate

The Nashville Predators today announced the hiring of Kirk Muller to be the Head Coach of the AHL Milwaukee Admirals, the primary development affiliate of the team. Muller replaces Lane Lambert, the Admirals former Head Coach who was promoted to be an assistant coach with the Predators.

Here is the press release from the Predators:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that Kirk Muller has been named the head coach of the team’s primary developmental affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals.

“Kirk Muller was everything we were looking for in our development coach,” Poile said. “With his playing pedigree, experience as a captain and Stanley Cup winner, and his solid communication skills, we feel our young players and prospects are in great hands.”

Muller, 45 (2/8/66), has spent the past five seasons as an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens, helping them reach the playoffs in each of the past four campaigns, and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. Known as an excellent communicator, motivator and an outstanding strategist, the Kingston, Ont., native is credited for transforming a Habs penalty killing unit that has finished in the top half of the League each season since his arrival, including a seventh-place ranking in 2010-11. The Canadiens did not give up a power-play goal in their seven 2011 postseason contests, going 21-for-21. During his second season behind the Montreal bench in 2007-08, the club posted its best record since the 1988-89 club the advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, going and Eastern Conference best 47-25-10 (105 points).

Prior to joining the Montreal staff on June 20, 2006, Muller spent one season as head coach of the Queen's University Golden Gaels (Canadian University) in his hometown of Kingston. He also served as an assistant coach on Canada’s entries at the 2005 Lotto Cup Tournament, winning a gold medal, and the 2006 Under-18 World Championships.
Selected second overall by New Jersey in the 1984 Entry Draft, Muller retired after an illustrious 19-season career in 2003 (N.J., MTL, NYI, TOR, FLA, DAL) which saw him post 959 points (357g-602a) in 1,349 regular-season games (42nd all-time) and 69 points (33g-36a) in 127 playoff games. The nine-time 20-goal scorer and five-time 30-goal man played in six NHL All-Star Games (1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993), with his best season coming in 1992-93, when the left winger tied a career-high with 94 points (37g-57a) and pitched in 17 (10g-7a) more during the Canadiens run to the 1993 Stanley Cup. He also represented Canada at four World Championships (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989) and in the 1984 Olympics

Muller will join the Predators coaching staff at the team's development camp this week in Nashville.

Muller is a coach that will bring a wealth of experience to the Admirals, and should be instrumental in helping with the development of the young forwards in Milwaukee. The Predators have a patient system, meaning they give a player time to develop physically and to develop their on ice game. Muller's experience and success in the NHL will hasten the development of some of these younger players.

It is well known that Muller wants to be a head coach in the NHL, and that this will probably not be a long term stop for him. It will be good experience for Muller and it will be good for his charges in Milwaukee. I expect to see both the players and the organization benefit from this hire.

How has the hockey community reacted to the hiring of Muller by the Predators organization? Here are some comments from the website:

 Muller will make an excellent coach so I hope he doesn't get back into the Habs He was such a great and respected player for many years and I'm sure his teams will respond very well to his coaching and wish him great success. Go Bruins

That's the 2nd A-coach that the Habs have lost that would have been an upgrade at head coach. Kirk will have his own NHL team soon. This stop just gives him a chance to prove that he can mold the young talent

Congratulations Captain Kirk, you definintely deserve to be top dog on a hockey bench.... but it should have been in the big leagues not the AHL. Muller was the architect of the Habs special teams which for much of the past few years have been the best in the league despite losing their pp quarterback every year (souray, markov to injury etc). Mark my words, Muller will be coaching in the NHL by the end of this contract as this guy is way too good to be in the AHL for long. Good luck Kirk and hopefully the Habs leadership will be smart enough this time to bring in one of their own when it's time to replace JM (soon I hope!!!!)

Muller was very well thought of inside the Canadiens organization, and his loss behind the bench will be felt by the Habs. This is his proving ground before attempting to step into the role of an NHL bench boss, and I believe that it will be a good run for him.

That will be good for Muller, his players, and the Predators organization.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Predators Draft Review

The Nashville Predators were busy on the second day of the NHL Entry Draft, making seven selections. The Predators did not have a first round pick by virtue of sending that pick to Ottawa for the Mike Fisher trade in the previous season.

The Predators used the draft to pick a goal tender, 4 forwards, and 2 defensemen. Here is a look at the picks.

Magnus Hellberg     G     6'5"     185 lbs     20 years old

With the 38th pick, the Predators added another gigantic goalie for Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn to mold into a quality NHL stopper. Although he was unranked by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, he was ranked second by International Goalies. He played for Almtuna IS of the Swedish second division and was the first goalie taken in the draft. In the past season, he had a .936 save percentage and a 2.04 GAA in 31 appearances. He will play for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League next season. The addition of Hellberg adds depth to the Predators organization at the netminder position.

Miikka Salomaki     LW     5'11'     198 lbs     18 years old

Salomaki caught the attention of scouts with his performance in the World Juniors. He has been described as a physical, gritty winger with good offensive upside. His strength is an asset, and he is strong on the puck. He has been compared to Tuumo Ruutu in his style of play. Salomaki had 10 points (4G-6A) in 40 games in the Finnish Elite League as a 17 year old rookie.

Josh Shalla               LW     6'1"     202 lbs     19 years old

Shalla played for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League last season and notched 47 goals in 68 games. Shalla is a big body that has play making skills and a quick release. Shalla has the ability to get the puck to the net and fend off defenders with his size. His skating is considered the area that needs to improve.

Garrett Noonan       D     6'0"     200 lbs     20 years old

Noona just completed his freshman season at Boston University, where he tallied 15 points (4G-11A) in 38 games. Noonan will return to the Terriers for his sophomore season next year. Noonan is considered a solid, two way defenseman that will have an opportunity to refine his game at the college level.

Simon Karlsson       D     6'2"     178 lbs     18 years old

Karlsson played for Sweden's Malmo Redhawks, finishing the year with their under 18 squad this past season. He had 21 points (10G-11A) in 15 games at that level for Malmo. He is said to have a very good hockey IQ and good skating and puck handling skills.It is expected that he will grow into his frame and has the potential to be a solid defenseman at the NHL level.

Chase Balisy          C        5'11"     178 lbs     19 years old

Balisy just completed his freshman year at Western Michigan University, where he was named to the CCHA All Rookie team and a Freshman All American by Inside College Hockey. Balisy had 30 points (12G-18A) in 42 games for the Broncos. Balisy added strength and size as a freshman, and is expected to continue to get stronger as he plays next year at Western Michigan.

Brent Andrews       LW     6"2"     200 lbs     18 years old

Andrews played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL last season, and had 29 points (12G-17A) in 68 games. Andrews has been compared to David Legwand, currently on the Predators roster, as a tough, defensive forward that can contribute some goals. His coaches believe that he has yet to develop all of his upside potential on offense.

Once again, the Predators have shown a commitment to their strategy in the draft: selecting character players that demonstrate an ability to contribute offensively and have a strong defensive work ethic. Each player drafted will have to continue to develop their game to get to the NHL level, and this plays well into the Predators system  of patiently developing talent.

There isn't a player that was drafted that will make an immediate impact like Jeff Skinner did last season for the Carolina Hurricanes. For a fan, this can be frustrating. Yet the Predators have demonstrated time and again that allowing players to develop in their farm system yields quality results. This is the advantage of having depth in the system- players have the time to physically develop; refine their game; and develop off the ice.

This is the benefit of having a Director of Player Development like Martin Gelinas. A consummate professional during his playing days, Gelinas has the insight into what it takes to succeed in the League and will have the opportunity to work with his young charges to chart a course to the NHL.

The 2011 Entry Draft demonstrated once again the consistency of the Predators philosophy of building and reinforcing a strong organization.

It's the Predator Way.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Angels in the Air

You see them criss-crossing the sky. Medical helicopters buzzing overhead like hummingbirds juiced up on performance enhancing drugs, racing to an accident scene. They arrive to an accident site of horrific carnage, angels of mercy that often mean the difference between life and death for the unfortunate.

What is it like to be that person, that angel, that can mean the difference between life and death?

I was fortunate to spend a day with the crew of Life Flight 1 to find out.

Life Flight 1 is one of five air ambulances that serve Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, one of the premier hospitals in the country. Life Flight 1 is based at the Lebanon Municipal Airport 20 miles east of downtown Nashville. Vanderbilt has four helicopter bases strategically positioned around Nashville as well as a fixed wing aircraft that is based at the Nashville airport. In total, they employ 40 crew members and 12 pilots.

I arrived at the crew base at 7:00 a.m. to meet the crew that was coming on duty. There I met flight nurses Chris Rediker, Kim Toungette, pilot Jim Holt, and mechanics Alan Warden and Terry Jones. The first thing that was apparent in our introductions was the professionalism of the crew. They spent a few moments describing what we would be doing that day and then proceeded to take me out to the helicopter for a safety briefing.

Mechanic Alan Warden, Flight Nurse Chris Rediker, Flight Nurse Kim Toungette, Pilot Jim Holt, Mechanic Terry Jones
During the safety briefing, it became apparent that the helicopter we see gliding gracefully through the sky is a high risk operation. I was told what to do in the event of a hard landing and the evacuation procedures. After the briefing, I knew how to knock out the windows and, unless the aircraft was on fire, to take a moment to "wind my watch". This meant that it would be good to wait until the rotor was through spinning before I tried to exit. I was told what would happen if I was riding if front with the pilot and there was an imminent bird strike. I also knew about a "sterile cockpit", meaning that no one talked when the pilot was taking off and landing, which are the most high risk legs of any flight.
During the take off and landing procedures at an accident scene, the pilot involves the flight crew to survey the landing zone. It was interesting to me that any member of the flight crew could waive off a landing at a landing zone if they did not feel comfortable with the safety of setting the aircraft down. The fight crew is involved with the pilot to observe and spot any hazards on take off and landing, such as wires or overhanging tree branches. If any member of the crew deems the landing zone at an accident scene unsafe, they will find an alternate landing area. Safety is paramount during a flight operation, first for the crew, then for the patient.

Pilot Jim Holt doing a pre-flight walk around
Once the safety briefing was complete, the flight nurses essentially take apart the  the back of the aircraft as they inventory their equipment and supplies. As Chris Rediker aptly described the back of the helicopter, it is a flying emergency room. There are very few functions that cannot be performed in the back of the helicopter that cannot be performed in a hospital emergency room. The design of the back of the helicopter is exquisite and with the care of the patient as the priority.

The patient stretcher is on the left, and although mounted to the floor, can be moved for access by the nurses. Three flight crew can ride in back with the patient. The duffel on the stretcher carries medical supplies. A heart monitor is mounted on the left wall. Oxygen, in liquefied form, is carried under the aircraft. Patients are loaded in from the back.

As Chris and Kim did their inventory and went through their checklist, Chris told me that they want to standardize their procedures and preparation since they never know what they will await them when they get to an accident scene. "What we try to do is have order in the helicopter, because the world we go into is chaos," said Chris.

Once on the scene of an accident, the flight crew will take over the treatment of a patient from the first responders. They will do necessary procedures on the ground, such as intubation, before loading the patient onto the helicopter for transport. Doing some procedures on the ground is easier for the nurses rather than having to do them in the air. Although the helicopter is state of the art, there are still space limitations, not to mention that the aircraft can encounter turbulence during the flight.

Nashville from the north, ten miles out
We made a run from the base to Vanderbilt Hospital mid morning. The air frame, an EC-145 is powered to twin 750 horsepower engines and is an amazing machine. On this flight, I rode up front with the pilot, Jim Holt. Holt has 42 years flying experience in helicopters and is a consummate pilot. Seeing the controls up close and all the things a pilot of a helicopter has to pay attention to, I was glad I was riding with someone of his experience. As he spooled up the engines and we lifted off, he said the take off would be "squirrely" because of a strong tail wind. I did not realize the effect the wind would have on a helicopter, but it is a factor. Holt deftly maneuvered the helicopter into the wind and we quickly ascended to our flight altitude of 2500 feet. 
Life Flight 1 often has to fly across the airspace of Nashville International airport. I was surprised to learn that their flight has priority over any other aircraft, even Air Force 1, and often will fly right across the middle of the airport during peak flight times. According to Holt, they have a very good working relationship with the Nashville controllers, and the tower will direct them to an appropriate altitude, often landing or taking off planes under their flight.
  Downtown Nashville from 2500 feet
Holt is a calm, professional presence in the cockpit. There were several storms building in intensity during the flight, and he was attentive to those as well as all the other responsibilities of flying the aircraft.
  On approach to Vanderbilt Medical Center. The helipad is in the center of the picture

We will land on the helipad on the right. The hospital can handle two helicopters at once. Patients are taken into the hospital via the ramp on the right of the helipad. The flight operations center is directly under the helipad where you see the windows.
Getting ready to land.
The safety aspects of the helipad are numerous. There is a fire suppression system that sprays fire retardant foam. There are speakers that can be heard over the roar of the helicopter to communicate with the crew should communications outside of the helicopter be necessary. The guiding principal of the Life Flight operation is safety.

Holt adroitly set the helicopter down in the swirling winds, after after a brief stop, we were on the way back to the crew base.

After take off, we swung over the Vanderbilt football stadium on out turn out. If you look closely, you can see our shadow at 4:00 from the logo at the center of the field.
Once back to the base, I had an opportunity to visit with Flight Nurses Chris Rediker and Kim Toungette. I asked them why they chose to do this line of work, and they both said they wanted the challenge and the ability to improve themselves as professionals. That is a striking characteristic of all the people that I met on this day. They are professionals in the truest sense of the word. They are constantly seeking to improve their craft and deliver the best care to the patients they serve. Their work is challenging, and they thrive in meeting the challenges they face.
In the front passenger's seat
This brief time with these professionals makes me appreciate even more so the service they render. The next time I see a Life Flight helicopter cruising over the trees, I will have an understanding of what the crew is flying to do.
For those that need them, they are Angels in the Air. 


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Since 2008, our country has engaged in the most stimulative monetary policy in history. According to the Keynesian economic precepts that guide our our government economic policy, this action should have stimulated the economy and generated the addition of new jobs. Has that happened? No. Over the past three years, we have lost over 7 million full time jobs, wiping out every job gained since 2000. Real job losses are greater, as an additional 3 million unemployed have stopped looking for work. Further compounding the problem is that 5 million jobs have completely disappeared from the economy, mostly in the manufacturing sector. Today, total payrolls in this country are 131 million employed, less than it was at the beginning of 2000, even though our population has grown by 30 million during that period of time. 20% of all men that are of working age are unemployed. The headline unemployment rate is touted to be 9.1%, but the problem with that number is that it does not include individuals that want full time work but are working part time to fill an economic need in their family, nor does it include those who have stopped looking for work. Include those individuals and the real unemployment rate is 16%. We are running a risk of creating structural unemployment in our country- unemployment that will become permanent because of a total loss of jobs. It is incumbent on Washington to seriously evaluate and remove the impediments to job creation in this country if we are going to reverse these troubling trends.

It's probably too much to hope that the my good cholesterol will be a positive influence on my bad cholesterol.

Buried inside of the fiasco known as Obamacare is a "1099 reporting provision" that requires businesses to collect tax information on any vendor with whom they do business and report it to the IRS if the total is over $600. This is an onerous provision for any company in the U.S. that is doing business, so onerous in fact that Congress repealed it earlier this year for U.S. companies. However, they did not repeal it for foreign companies that do business in this country. Like so many laws that Congress passes, there are unintended consequences. This provision, know as FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), is creating an abundance of headaches for foreign firms, notably foreign financial institutions. For instance, according to Financial Times of London, one of Asia's largest financial groups is considering organizing its operations so that could stop buying and handling U.S. Treasury bonds. The implications of an action like that are horrifying for our country. If foreign institutions deem it too cumbersome to handle our debt in the form of Treasuries, who will buy them? This measure was projected by the Obama administration to generate $100 billion in new tax revenue each fiscal year. According to the Congressional Joint Committee on taxation, the measure will realistically generate $870 million a year, 91% less than projected. If we have to induce foreign institutions to buy those securities because of burdensome tax reporting requirements, we will see interest rates rise. Significantly. And this will be another crippling blow to our economy.

I believe in sharing the road with other drivers. They can have the part behind me.

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently gave a rather rosy forecast about our economy. He described what we are experiencing as a "soft patch" from which our economy will emerge fairly quickly. I would beg to differ. According to the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI), the long leading indicators of global growth are slowing rapidly. The ECRI is pretty good at detecting changes in the business cycle, and while they are not predicting another recession, they do say that the growth in our economy will be persistently slow and lower than normal. Manufacturing is usually the sector of the economy that is hit first and hardest, but according to ECRI, the slowdown has spread to numerous sectors of the economy. How bad is it? To achieve full employment, our economy must add 150,000 NEW jobs per MONTH. We are on pace to add 54,000 new jobs this YEAR. To say that our economy is weak is an understatement and a blinding flash of the obvious. And the rosy forecasts from policy makers are out of touch with reality.

I AM doing something with my life. It's called "screwing around".

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Previewing the Predators New Logo

The image above is the the logo that the Nashville Predators have used as the crest on their jerseys and as their main logo for the past 13 years. I had a chance today to visit with Chris Parker, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the Predators to review the new logo and secondary mark that the Predators will be unveiling next season. Here is the new logo:

The logo has been streamlined and taken from 7 colors to 3. According to Chris, this will allow for easier reproduction onto various forms of merchandise, not just jerseys. The logo is cleaner, and emphasis has been added to make the Predator head look more fierce and to imply forward motion with the horizontal yellow stripe. This logo will be more functional for use in more mediums as opposed to the old logo because of less detail and fewer colors.

The Predators secondary mark, on the shoulder of the jersey, has also been changed.

"The guitar pick ties the Predators to the heritage of Music City, yet the three stars in the center of the logo are to symbolize that this is a hockey team for the entire state," said Parker. The secondary mark in years past on the jersey had been the spire of the tower atop Bridgestone Arena and most recently was the Predator skull logo.

"The benefit of the new secondary mark is that it very marketable well outside of Nashville and our local fan base," according to Parker. The team is looking at using this mark in other forms in their marketing efforts.

The word mark has been altered slightly, with a subtle change in the font. The letter "P" in the word mark and in the initials has been changed to look more like a fang. The initials will most likely be used on the helmets this season.

Parker said that there was a general consensus from the ownership group and the front office that the logo needed to be updated. Focus groups of individual fans along with the corporate community were brought in, and the NHL and Reebok were involved in the process from its early stages. The desire was to update the logo, but Parker said that maintaining a sense of continuity was also critical and would not be sacrificed.

The new logos will be unveiled on the away jersey at the draft. When I asked Parker about what the new home jersey would look like, he just smiled and said that he couldn't answer that question at this time.

He did say the new home jerseys would be unveiled at the Skate of the Union meeting in mid-July.

I asked about the third jersey, and he said that the NHL strongly encourages teams that are making a logo change to not use their alternate jerseys. To that end, he said the thirds were not going to be used at all this upcoming season, but were being, in his words, "set aside". Their future would be determined at a later date.

As mid July approaches, I would certainly be making my plans to attend the Skate of the Union to see the new jersey unveiling.

Home games in Smashville will be sporting a spiffy new look.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vancouver Vanquished, Boston Captures the Cup

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of the Vancouver Canucks as Stanley Cup champions.

A team that supposedly didn't have as much speed or talent won the Cup.

Perhaps the Boston Bruins didn't have the speed and talent of the Canucks. What they did have, however, was a physically dominating presence on the ice; amazing heart; an unflappable demeanor; and a goalie that was absolutely incredible.

And now they have the Stanley Cup.

The seven game series was a war of attrition, especially on the Canucks. They lost Dan Hamhuis to injury;  Aaron Rome to a suspension after his cheap hit on Nathan Horton that knocked the Bruins forward out of the series; and Mason Raymond to a fractured vertebra. They had numerous players that were contending with injuries.

The Bruins had the aforementioned Nathan Horton knocked out of the series with a severe concussion. Several Bruins were themselves contending with injuries.

This is the nature of the Stanley Cup finals. The battle is not just with the opponent on the ice, but with the physical and mental grind of getting to this point. The team that can best battle through the physical limitations and displays the mental toughness to win is the team that typically hoists the coveted silver chalice.

Talent alone does not capture the Cup.

Yes, you have to have the players that can get it done. That is obvious. Talent alone, however, will not bring home the Cup.

It was the Bruins that had not only the talent, but the heart and mental toughness to win.

The Bruins battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win the series in 7 games. They absolutely pummeled the Canucks at the Gahden, making Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo look like a beer league goalie. In the first three games on Vancouver ice, Luongo was outstanding, pitching two shutouts and winning an overtime game 3-2.

Even though the Bruins could not capture a win in the first three games in Vancouver, Boston netminder Tim Thomas was spectacular, losing two games by a 1-0 margin and dropping a 3-2 overtime decision. Thomas was confident and solid in net. In watching the series, it never seemed that he got rattled, and his confidence in net carried over to the players in front of him.

By contrast, the Canucks looked as if they carried the weight of the President's Trophy on their back, along with the expectations that they would finally bring the Cup back to Canada after an 18 year absence. With each passing game, that weight got heavier. After the Bruins tied the series at 2, one could see the Canucks gripping their sticks more tightly. Suddenly, the smiles on the faces of the Canucks players vanished.

Each team held serve on their home ice in games 5 and 6, setting up a deciding game 7 in Vancouver. Everyone knew the home fans would be in full throat for this one, and once again the pressure shifted to the Bruins, who had been unable to solve the Canucks on their home ice.

I felt that the team that scored first would be the team that would win the game.

That team would be the Bruins.

The Bruins would take a 4-0 win on the Canucks home ice to capture the Cup. Boston physically wore down the Canucks and took away the offensive threats of  the Sedins, Kesler, and Burrows. The Canucks had no answer for the stifling defense of the Bruins and the wall that was Thomas in net.

The post mortem of this series can be distilled down to three key points: the outstanding play of Thomas in net; the consistently tough physical play of the Bruins; and the subsequent disappearance of the key offensive threats of the Canucks.

Thomas posted a remarkable 1.15 GAA and a .967 save percentage in the finals. Even in defeat, he made amazing saves and kept the Bruins in the contest. The Bruins squad seemed to sense that they were always in every game they lost, just a goal, a play away from turning the tide in their favor. That sense of confidence pervaded their play as they seemed loose and confident. The effect on the Bruins of Thomas' play in net was incalculable.

By contrast, the Canucks- and by extension, their fans- seemed to be holding their collective breath waiting for Luongo to collapse. After the first two games on home ice, that did not appear to be in the offing. That confident veneer was shattered after the next two games in Boston. Now, the question of the fragility of the Canucks netminder started to emerge. And you know, those questions had to be in Luongo's mind.

By game 7, the physical play of the Bruins appeared to have completely worn down the Canucks. The Bruins took every opportunity to hit the Canucks all series, and the toll mounted. By game 7, the Canucks looked a step slower and were taking the brunt of the physical contact. This wore down the Canucks and limited their effectiveness, especially in the offensive zone. There was no effective answer from the Canucks to the physical play of the Bruins, and this helped to turn the tide of the series and the pivotal game 7 in favor of Boston.

The disappearance of the scoring stars of the Canucks can be at least partially attributed to the physical play of the Bruins. However, the response of the Canucks to the punishment that the Bruins brought to the ice was, at best, baffling. The Canucks spent more time diving and complaining to the officials than answering the physical challenge. For Canuck fans, the play of the Sedins and Kesler in particular is disappointing. The lack of scoring presence of the Canucks stars in the championship series doomed them. No doubt, they were dinged up in the series. So was everyone else. The fact is that on the most important stage, they did not elevate their game.

And they will live with this for a long time.

The Canucks had a great season. You can't take that away from them.

Boston had a better season.

The Bruins validated some time worn adages in this series: strong goaltending can carry a team to victory; physical play can turn the tide of a seven game series; and heart wins out over talent.

And that is what makes a champion.

My pick for this series: Canucks in 6

The outcome: Bruins in 7

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

In the face of a massive recession, the federal government introduced a spending and stimulus program that was heretofore unheard of. Agencies were created to carry out infrastructure spending and to create jobs. Government sponsored enterprises- quasi governmental agencies that operated with the blessing and the backing of the federal government- used enormous amounts of tax dollars to bail out banks. Sweeping regulations and laws were passed that intruded into the previously unregulated private sector of the economy. The debt of the federal government had ballooned to gargantuan proportions that had never been seen before in the history of our great nation. In fact, here is what the President said about the entire situation,
"We have tried spending money. We are spending more money than we have ever spent before and it does not work. We have never made good on our promises."
Have I just described our current situation? No. We have been here before, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and these were all measures that were taken during the course of his administration to attempt to repair an ailing economy. FDR and his economic team made things worse, however, with their misguided attempts to stimulate the economy. Today, we are doing the same things. And things are going to get significantly worse in our economy because history has shown that this type of spending and regulation of private industry does not work. It calls to mind another quote, this one from George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I was wondering, do deaf mathematicians speak in sine language?

Have you heard of United Nations Agenda 21? No? Actually, you have, just not under that name. UN Agenda 21 addresses "smart growth" and "sustainable development" in developed nations. And who wouldn't want "smart growth and sustainable development"- why it just makes one feel all warm and want to rush out and hug a koala, doesn't it? Here is the truth about UN Agenda 21 and it is not pretty. Agenda 21, if fully implemented will have a dramatic impact on where and how we live. One of the stated objectives of the proposed smart growth plan is to create more dense urban dwellings while leaving rural areas undeveloped. Agenda 21 accomplishes this by proposing an international infrastructure to account for and control assets (read: property) and determine the best use for them. In light of the objective of higher density and no development of rural areas, what do you, dear reader, think this international controlling authority might have as a perspective? There is pressure being applied to our country to buy in to the false pretense of "smart growth" and "sustainable development". All of us want a clean environment, but none of us want to be told how or where to live. UN Agenda 21 is a giant step in that direction.

My intellectual property is in foreclosure.

One of the critical things this country must do to better complete in a global economy is to upgrade our educational outcomes. More children that are coming out of high school need to go on to earn an undergraduate degree. For those parents that are currently paying for college costs, you know how painful that can be financially. Here are the startling numbers: according to the College Board, tuition and fees have increased at public universities 130% over the last 20 years. That is an average annual increase of 6.5%. Those numbers do not include room and board or books. Unfortunately, for many families, incomes have not risen commensurately with the increase in tuition. In fact, the College Board reports that the median income is $33,000. If you adjust that for inflation, incomes have remained flat over the past 20 years. And this is a dilemma for our nation. How do we get more children into the higher education system when the costs are screaming out of sight and pricing many families out of a college degree? There are no easy solutions, but look for more on-line and non-traditional degree programs to emerge. And if you are a parent of a young child, I will give you the same sage advice that the comedian Killer Beaz uses in his comedy act: "Save up".

I would give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Predators Name Horachek Associate Coach

The Nahville Predators today named Peter Horachek Associate Coach, a title previously held by Brent Peterson, who has moved to the front office.In the Predators hierarchy, the Associate Coach is the senior of the two assistant coaches. Here is the press release from the team.

Nashville, Tenn. (June 15, 2011) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that Predators Assistant Coach Peter Horachek has been promoted to Associate Coach.

Horachek has been a part of the team’s coaching staff since the 2003-04 season, helping the Predators to Stanley Cup Playoff berths in six of his first seven seasons. Horachek has also helped the Predators reach the 40-win mark in each of the last six seasons, while amassing the League’s sixth-highest win total (272) since 2005-06.

“Peter has brought great energy, passion and knowledge to our coaching staff for the last seven seasons,” Poile said. “He has played a significant role in our overall success, including the development of so many homegrown players. He is very deserving of this promotion.

Prior to joining the Predators coaching staff on June 19, 2003, Horachek served as head coach of Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate in the AHL, the Milwaukee Admirals. He guided the Admirals to a 32-27-14-7 record and their first playoff series victory since 1998. Prior to becoming head coach of the Admirals, the Stoney Creek, Ont., native won championships as a coach and a player. In 2000-01, Horachek coached the Orlando Solar Bears to the International Hockey League championship. The Solar Bears went 12-4 in the Turner Cup Playoffs and Horachek was named the 2001 IHL Coach of the Year. He also spent time as head coach of the ECHL’s Trenton Titans, head coach/director of hockey operations for the ECHL’s Nashville Knights, and as an assistant with Saginaw of the International League. He also served as a player/assistant coach with Flint (IHL).

As a player, Horachek held the title of team captain in four of his five seasons with the Saginaw/Flint Generals and won a Turner Cup Championship in 1984. In 545 career professional games, he tallied 188 goals and 238 assists (188g-238a-426pts).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's Different About Winnipeg?

Winnpeggers (Winnipeglets?) welcomed the NHL back to the plains of Manitoba as the True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, a franchise that had been totaled by the inept ownership that was the Atlanta Spirit Group. It was not just any welcome, as the owners were able to secure commitments to purchase 13,000 season tickets  faster than you could say "relocation"; and the citizens rejoiced in the streets with a fervor normally reserved for Stanley Cup celebrations.

Winnipeg's first dance with the NHL lasted from 1979 to 1996, and the on-ice product had more highs than lows, as the then Jets made the playoffs 11 of their 15 years in the League and the team had quality players on their roster.

All indications were that this was a franchise that would last in the strong Canadian market. Instead, the team was relocated to Phoenix and reincarnated as the Coyotes after the 1996 season.

So what went wrong?

Even more importantly, what is different about Winnipeg today that would allow an NHL team to survive?

To answer that question, we need to look back at Winnipeg at the time the Jets left and compare it to the city that is receiving the Thrashers as well as the business and political conditions that  are existent today. This comparison will use census data from 1996 and 2006, the last year for which there is a census. Numbers for 2011 will be extrapolated or will come from other sources.

According to the census data for Winnipeg in 1996, the total population was 618,477; in 2011 it is estimated to be 764,200 in the census metropolitan area (CMA), which includes the city of Winnipeg along with its suburban areas. The city itself is estimated to have 693,200 residents. The province of Manitoba had 1,243,700 residents as of the end of 2010 according to Statistics Canada. Both the City of Winnipeg and the CMA have averaged just over 2% population growth from 1996 to 2011.

The average total before tax income in Winnipeg in 1996 was $24,012; in 2006 was $49,794. This is an average annual increase of 5.1% Projecting the 2011 average income at the same rate of growth, average income would be approximately $63,852.

The work force in Winnipeg in 1996 was a total of 315,950, with 258,135 (81.6%) employed in the service sector. The 2006 census shows a workforce of 385,870, with the service industry again the largest sector of the work force (82.9%). The growth in the work force has mirrored the growth in the general population, averaging 2.2% annually.

Winnipeg's largest employers are the Government of Manitoba, the University of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, the Manitoba Health Sciences Centre, and the City of Winnipeg . Great West Life Assurance, Motor Coach Industries, Boeing Canada Technology, and Shaw Cable Systems are some of the city's largest private employers. The Royal Canadian Mint is also located in Winnipeg.

Examining the city, Winnipeg appears to be a growing, economically healthy city. Growth has been steady but not astounding. The population has grown by approximately 150,000 from the time that the Jets left for warmer climes, and average household incomes have grown just over 5% annually.

Good numbers, but not eye-popping.

So what is really different about Winnipeg?

Other than the growth in population and average income that was just mentioned, not much.

So what makes Winnipeg a city that can support an NHL team now?

There are three critical factors that have changed since the NHL last called Winnipeg home, and I would contend that without these external factors in play, the NHL would be hard pressed to justify placing a team in Winnipeg.

The first is the value of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar. When the Jets left Winnipeg in 1996, the Canadian dollar was worth about .60 to the U. S. dollar. This crippled not only the Jets but every team in Canada, as revenues were received in Canadian dollars and salaries were being paid in U.S. dollars. One doesn't have to be a rocket surgeon to realize that a protracted period of undervaluation of the Canadian dollar was economically crushing to all Canadian hockey clubs. Today, the Canadian dollar is priced at $1.02 versus the U.S. dollar. The Canadian dollar at or near parity with the U.S. dollar closely matches revenue streams with expenses and is advantageous for all Canadian teams and will certainly be beneficial for the team in Winnipeg

The second condition that works in favor of a team in Winnipeg today is the presence of a salary cap. Like it or not, the cap provides True North with some degree of cost certainty that was missing the last time the NHL was in Winnipeg. This allows a smaller market team like Winnipeg- which is now the smallest NHL city- to stay competitive with teams in larger metropolitan markets, but the most important aspect of the cap is a degree of cost certainty for the owners.

The third condition that was not existent in the time of the former incarnation of the Jets is revenue sharing.

Wait... What??

Revenue sharing?

Decried by many of the Canadian hockey "pundits" as welfare for smaller market teams, revenue sharing will be of a benefit to a team in Winnipeg. Not that they will have trouble selling tickets- they won't. They will be operating out of the smallest arena in the NHL for the foreseeable future, and even though Winnipeggers (Winnipeglets?) will pay the second highest average ticket prices in the NHL, physical limitations of the MTS Centre will in turn limit the gate receipts for the the team. Revenue sharing will benefit this small market Canadian team just like it benefits small market U.S. teams, and this will mitigate some of the operating costs of True North.

(As an aside, there is not doubt in my mind that if the MTS Centre is expanded to NHL standards that the team in Winnipeg could potentially be a net positive earning team that would contribute to the revenue sharing pool instead of drawing from it.)

There are other obvious factors at play such as the financial soundness of David Thomson and Mark Chipman, owners of True North. The quality and financial horsepower of the owners cannot be discounted. They have the ability to carry this franchise through any lean times.  The MTS Centre, although the smallest in the NHL, is only five years old and is a better facility than what the Jets played in during their time in Winnipeg.

This is not to say that there will not be challenges to the NHL being successful in Winnipeg. Should the aforementioned parity in the loonie and the dollar revert back to the conditions of the mid 1990's, the economic strain on all Canadian teams, not just Winnipeg, will be significantly negative.

Winnipeg itself faces some particular challenges. According to the Conference Board of Canada, an economic think tank, the minimum population to support an NHL team is 800,000. Winnipeg falls just under that threshold. With a CFL team in the same city, the Conference Board estimates that there should be a population of at least 1,000,000 to support both.  The lack of a large corporate base in Winnipeg also could be challenging, as corporate sponsorship dollars will be spread between two professional teams. And while the average income in Winnipeg has risen significantly since the NHL was last there, the locals will be paying the second highest average ticket price in the League. Should the local economy take a hit, this will inevitably put a strain on ticket sales.

It is negative speculation to say that the NHL will not succeed in Winnipeg. I think it will. There will be challenges, however.

So while Winnipeg as a city has changed over time, the key factors that will determine success are primarily external to the city itself. Without the parity of the loonie to the dollar; the salary cap; and revenue sharing, the NHL in Winnipeg might have continued to be an unfulfilled wish.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Right now, green energy is the latest sexy fad. There is much attention being paid to solar, wind, and biomass sources of energy, and currently, green energy provides 3.6% of all our energy needs in the United States. The stated goal of many in Washington is to replace our dependence on fossil fuels with renewable sources. The question we should all be asking is "What will a move to green energy cost?" According to Vaclav Smil, an energy expert, going totally green will cost our country upwards of $4 TRILLION over the next 10 years. These are the estimated costs to replace our current energy system with renewable sources. Here is the truth about green energy. Going totally green is going to put our economy at a decided disadvantage. There are five reasons why. First, green energy is very diffuse, meaning simply that it takes an enormous amount of land and material to generate even a small amount of energy. Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University calculates that the entire state of Connecticut would need to be devoted to wind turbines just to provide enough power to meet the needs of New York City. Second, green energy is extremely costly. For instance, wind energy is 80% more costly to produce than gas fired electrical generators. Third, green energy is unreliable. Wind power is dependent on, well, the wind, which doesn't blow consistently. Fourth, renewable sources of energy are scarce. Massive amounts of land are needed to grow biomass crops or to establish wind farms. The availability of real estate next to population centers is limited and costly. Finally, electricity produced by the sun or wind cannot be efficiently stored because battery technology is not advanced enough to meet this requirement. While we are all concerned about the environment, going totally green is a canard that will severely damage our economy. Remember that the next time a politician touts a "green" economy.

I have stopped fighting my inner demons. We are on the same side now.

This week, Government, uh, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said he wanted to see the federal gas tax raised by $1.00 per gallon. Why? To force consumers to buy more fuel efficient cars. The arrogance of that idea is surpassed only by its idiocy. According to Akerson, he believes that that the higher tax will move consumers to buying smaller, more fuel efficient cars rather than the cars consumers want to purchase. "People will start buying more Cruzes and they will start buying less Suburbans," said Akerson. Here is a thought, Dan. If GM made quality small cars that met the needs of the consumer, there would be no need for a higher tax to FORCE people to buy something they either do not want or does not meet their needs. Akerson's statement embodies one of the fundamental problems that has plagued American automobile makers throughout the years, and that is that the car companies have not made a product that appeals to consumers nor meets their needs. Dan, the market works, and the market is telling you that they don't want your small car product. When you understand the markets and how they work, you will have made a major step toward making GM a viable car company.

Isn't the term "criminal lawyer" a redundant statement?

Here is the painful truth about the financial situation that we face in our country: our unfunded obligations- what we owe for what our country has promised in entitlement payments- now stands at $61.6 TRILLION dollars. That amounts to $534,000 per household. Now, in the discussion of our nation's bleak financial picture, you will hear that we have a deficit of $1.5 trillion, not the $61.6 trillion I just referenced. The $1.5 trillion is the CURRENT year deficit. If the government had to account for all of its obligations, like every business in this country does, the real number becomes the $61.6 trillion figure. These payments are owed to seniors under the Social Security program along with Medicare and Medicaid payments for which the government is obligated as well as federal retirement programs. As Washington dallies with adopting real solutions, our problem is only going to get worse. With a debt of this magnitude, the only solutions are real structural changes to these programs that will be painful. And the longer that Washington waits to craft these solutions, the worse it will be for all taxpayers.

My mind is not twisted, just sprained.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Lambert Named Assistant Coach; Mitch Korn Re-signed

Lane Lambert will step behind the Nashville Predators bench next season, taking the place of Associate Coach Brent Peterson. Peterson will be moving to an administrative role with the Predators front office as the advance of his Parkinson's disease has limited his ability to coach.

Here is the press release from the Predators organization:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that Lane Lambert, formerly the head coach of the team’s primary developmental affiliate, the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals, will join the Nashville coaching staff as an assistant for the 2011-12 season. Poile also announced the re-signing of goaltending coach Mitch Korn.

“Lane is one of the best young up-and-coming coaches in the sport today,” Poile said. “Similar to our philosophy on player development, we believe in promoting from within whenever possible. Lane has successfully coached and mentored more than half the players on our current roster, and many more who are coming through the pipeline, so he will fit seamlessly into Barry Trotz’s staff.”

In four seasons as the Admirals head coach from 2007-11, Lambert led the club to a 178-118-37 record, the sixth-most wins in the AHL in that span while giving up the second-fewest goals (821). Milwaukee posted 40-or-more wins and 90-or-more points all four seasons under Lambert as well, making them the first team in League history to reach the marks in eight consecutive campaigns. The Melfort, Saskatchewan native helped the Ads capture a pair of West Division titles in his tenure in Milwaukee, posting the Western Conference’s highest point total in 2010-11 (102 pts, 44-22-14 record) despite seeing 10 of his core players recalled to the Predators during the campaign. He also captured a division title in 2008-09 when he led a young squad to 49-22-9 record, tying for the most points (107) in the AHL. The win total tied a club record since the team joined the AHL for the 2001-02 campaign.

Eleven members of Nashville’s 2011 playoff roster played for Lambert in Milwaukee, and 17 of the 33 players who suited up for the Predators for at least one 2010-11 regular season game spent time playing under his tutelage.

Prior to joining the Admirals as an assistant coach in 2006-07, Lambert spent one season as an assistant for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and three seasons as a coach in the Western Hockey League – two as head coach of the Prince George Cougars (2003-05) and one as an assistant for the Moose Jaw Warriors (2002-03). Lambert finished an 18-year playing career with the Houston Aeros in 2000-01.

Korn, who joined the organization on July 23, 1998, has worked with the Predators’ goaltenders and those in the Nashville developmental system for the last 13 years. The well-known goaltending coach has helped several Nashville goaltenders burst onto the NHL scene, the most recent being 2011 Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne, who ranked second in save percentage (.930) and third in goals-against average (2.12) this past season. His success cultivating netminders dates back to the 1998 Expansion Draft. Two-time Czech Olympian, 2010 World Champion and NHL All-Star Tomas Vokoun developed into one of the NHL’s elite netminders under Korn’s watch, while Chris Mason would follow, becoming a legitimate NHL starter after several seasons of working with Korn. In 2007-08, Dan Ellis developed into a No. 1 goalie after playing in just one NHL game prior to joining the Predators, leading the NHL in save percentage (.924) in his first full campaign, before giving way to rookie Rinne in 2008-09.
“Mitch Korn is the best goaltending coach in the National Hockey League, as evidenced by his development of this organization’s goaltenders from Year One with Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun, to this past season with Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne and promising rookie Anders Lindback,” Poile said. “Our goaltending is a big part of our success, and Mitch is at the forefront of that.”

Prior to joining the Predators on July 23, 1998, Korn spent seven seasons coaching the netminders in the Buffalo Sabres organization, where he enjoyed great success while working with two-time Hart Trophy-winner Dominik Hasek. While working with Korn, Hasek captured four Vezina Trophies and led the NHL with the best save percentage five times. Korn also saw Buffalo’s goaltending tandem (Hasek and Hall-of-Famer Grant Fuhr) capture the NHL’s Jennings Trophy (lowest team goals-against average) during the 1994-95 season. Besides Hasek and Fuhr, Korn also coached Olaf Kolzig, Steve Shields and Martin Biron.

Korn, who runs goaltending and defensemen schools around the country in the off-season, also contributes regularly to several hockey publications including USA Hockey Magazine and Goalies’ World.

Halting the Head Shot Horrors

Once again, the NHL has found itself dealing with an on-ice incident that has left one player with a severe concussion and the League having to mete out discipline based on less than concrete guidelines.

Boston's Nathan Horton was destroyed by a late hit from Vancouver's Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The destructive power of the hit left Horton prone on the ice, his mind in some other arena than the TD Garden, and being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. Rome was given a 5 minute major for interference and a game misconduct. In a hearing the next day with the League's temporary sheriff, Mike Murphy, Rome was suspended for four games, removing him from the rest of the Stanley Cup finals.

There has been argument on both sides, with Boston fans claiming this was not enough of a punishment and Vancouver fans claiming the suspension was either too harsh or altogether unwarranted. From the perspective of the fan base, those arguments will never be resolved.

The real issue for the League is how to resolve the fact that the game is a fast paced , intense, and physical with the desire to protect players.

The League took a step in that direction with the establishment and emphasis on the Rule 48, the illegal check to the head. This rule prohibits the blind side hit (from behind) and lateral hit (from the side), and the heightened emphasis from the League has helped to cut down on the number of dangerous plays that resulted in serious injuries to players.

So why are we still talking about this? And more importantly, why did we see another player carted off the ice with his playing career in jeopardy?

There are three factors that contribute to the on-going problem with these types of hits.

The first is that Rule 48 is open to the vagaries of interpretation. For instance, how many times during the regular season did you hear an announcer talk about a player "turning into the hit" before being blown up by an opponent? Or ask if the contact was first "shoulder to shoulder" before witnessing a player nearly being decapitated? Oh yeah, all of us have heard a hit being described as a "hockey play" as a player is being destroyed by a check to the head, much like Raffi Torres did to Chicago's Brent Seabrook in Round 1 in a collision behind the net.

And nowhere in the language of Rule 48 does it prohibit a shot to an opponent's head if it coming from straight ahead.

These loopholes leave the on-ice officials with the dilemma of interpreting a play that has just occurred at full speed and trying to make a decision as to a penalty call and any further discipline.

So it should be easy for the League's disciplinarian, which will soon be former player Brendan Shanahan, to look at these plays and make a valid ruling as to the type of discipline that should be meted out when a violation of Rule 48 occurs?


Not really.

This is because of the second factor that comes into play in these situations, and that is the reliance on "intent" to determine the level of punishment. In reviewing these incidences, the League often relies on an interpretation- theirs- of the players intent in the play in question.

I would submit to you that is ludicrous.

Egregious offenders of League rules- think Todd Bertuzzi after his malicious hit on Steve Moore or Matt Cooke after his devastating hit on Marc Savard- never once have said it was their "intent" to hurt the other player. Believe that if you want, but please tell me how the League is going to judge intent in those situations or in any situation that is occurring at high speed and requires split second decisions on the ice?

Frankly, the League cannot determine intent and it is the height of arrogance on their part to think they can. Using intent as a basis for determining disciplinary action is so nebulous as to not be a standard at all.

Every parent has had the situation with their child where something has gone wrong, and one of the first things out of their innocent mouth is "I didn't mean to..." We as parents know that judging the intent of our children is next to impossible. More often than not, "I didn't mean to" translates into "I didn't think something bad would happen."

What the league is doing with the vague and subjective standard of determining intent is in essence saying, like a child, "I hope nothing bad happens." This is eventually going to lead to a disastrous outcome on the ice and is just insane.

"Hoping that nothing bad happens" is the third factor that comes into play in these dangerous situations. The League calls it "outcome", and they look at the result of the play to determine the measure of discipline that will be meted out to the offending player.

This begs the question, if Nathan Horton had gotten back up after that hit and was able to play, would Aaron Rome have received any supplemental discipline? Irrespective of the fact that Rome put a player in a very dangerous situation, would the League have done anything else if Horton was still playing?

Probably not.

And this is outrageous and will eventually lead to a player suffering a horrific injury.

Using the outcome of a play to determine any supplemental discipline continues to invite these types of plays. Regardless of outcome, a dangerous hit is a dangerous hit, and using outcome to mitigate the punishment of a player that puts another in peril with a dangerous hit is foolish.

There is much talk from players, coaches, management, and owners about players about the lack of respect for players by other players; that if we want these injuries to be eliminated, then players have to respect one another.

Frankly, respect has been talked to death.

Telling players to respect the game and to respect each other just isn't working.

So how do we keep the physicality in the game without endangering the players?

First, if the League is serious, eliminate all head shots. I know, purists will immediately say that it will take away the physical aspect of the game and forever alter the character of the on-ice product. I call B.S. The NFL has eliminated the helmet to helmet hit and the game is still a violent, physical contest. This doesn't mean that hits to the head don't occur in the NFL and would not occur in the NHL. They will. The NFL reviews those plays and any violations are adjudicated within 24 hours, usually with a fine.

The NHL could implement a similar system of fines or keep a system of suspensions in place, or some combination of the two. The important point for the League and the protection of the players is that the system be consistent and equitable. The penalty that  a grinder receives for delivering a blow to the head of an opponent should be no diffrent than the penalty that a "star" receives for the same action.

Which leads to the second, and I think obvious, necessity in reforming the system. Eliminate the inane attempt to determine intent. The League cannot determine intent, the officials on the ice cannot, and many times a player in the heat of a tightly fought contest cannot determine intent either. The League has to have consistent standards based on the action on the ice regardless of the motive in a player's heart.

Finally, remove the obscene standard of outcome. Using outcome to determine the type, if any, of the disciplinary action is beyond reason. Suppose I fire a gun at you with the intent to kill you and I miss (in real life, my aim is better than that, but we can talk about that later). If the American legal system used the NHL's "justice" standards, although my desire was to hit you with the shot and I missed, the outcome was not so bad, so I would receive a nominal punishment. Using outcome in this example has shown that a standard such as that devalues your life. Using outcome of a rules violation in the NHL shows that the players on the ice have been devalued by the League.

Obviously, a consistent and agreed upon set of disciplinary measures must be established with the players. With the upcoming CBA negotiations, what better time to bring this issue to the table. Players have to know without a doubt what will happen when they cross a line of behavior on the ice. Having a clearly defined set of standards and consequences has to be better than the League's chief disciplinarian having to call to currently recused disciplinarian as well as a rival team's GM to get input on the punishment. I don't care if Brian Burke formerly occupied that role, he is now the GM of a competing team and has had some not so stellar relations with the current owner of the team whose player was going to be disciplined.

Frankly, that is an embarrassing circus that the NHL has to determine discipline in this manner.

The inconsistency in dealing with these types of hits sullies the perception of the League among fans of the game as well as casual fans. More importantly, it places the players at undue risk. It is time for the League to step up and take responsibility for protecting players by implementing a consistent standard of no head shots and disciplinary action for violation of the rules.

Only then will the League halt the horrific injuries from head shots.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We are all feeling the pain at the pump when we gas up our cars. Regular unleaded gasoline is averaging $3.89 per gallon nationally, and fueling our vehicles takes more money out of our pockets, money that could be spent in other areas of the economy. The current whipping boy for higher gasoline prices is the nameless, faceless entity known as "speculators". This group is blamed for driving fuel prices higher and in turn damaging our economy. But are they? Forget for just a moment our inept national energy policy (We have a national energy policy??). Instead, focus for a moment on the dollars that you are using to by gas. Our monetary policy in this country over the past three years has been to indiscriminately print dollars. Lots of them. WARNING: an economics lesson is forthcoming. When you create more of any good, the value of that good will generally decline. This has happened to our dollar. How bad is it? If we kept our dollar on the gold standard, which means that we simply back our dollars with gold, the price of gas- and food and other commodities- would be substantially lower. How much lower? If our dollar was backed with gold, gas would average approximately $1.36 a gallon for regular unleaded today, according to Bill O'Connell of All American Blogger. On a historical basis, using a dollar backed by gold, gasoline prices have risen, but not exorbitantly. What has happened to all of us is that we are being punished at the pump because of Washington printing more dollars and in turn cheapening their value. This is the direct effect of the inability of our leaders in Washington being unable to control their spending and printing more dollars to pay for that spending.

Marriage is a lot like a deck of cards: in the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond. After a few years, all you will want is a club and a spade.

The markets were roiled earlier this week by some very weak housing numbers. According to the Case Shiller Index of housing prices, home prices fell 1.9% in the first quarter of 2011. With this decline, housing prices in the United States have now cumulatively fallen more than they did during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, home prices fell by 31%; currently home prices have fallen from their peak in 2007 by 33%. There are two scary aspects of this decline. First, it took 19 years for home prices to recover to pre-Great Depression levels. Many "experts" believe that the current decline in home prices will reverse relatively quickly. I do not. Widespread negative equity for many homeowners paired with a weak employment outlook will serve to constrain home prices. Second, prices may have more to fall before they eventually stabilize. There are numerous foreclosed properties that are currently not on the market. When this inventory hits the market, it will have the effect of holding down prices. Further, there are approximately 16 million homeowners that still occupy their homes that are "underwater", that is, they owe more than the home is worth. One has to expect some of those homes, perhaps a large number of them, will find their way back on the market via foreclosure or short sale. It would be reasonable to expect a further decline in home prices, which will weigh down the economy and delay a consistent and solid recovery.

When choosing a path in life, it is always wise to avoid the psychopaths.

There is no denying that our taxes are going up next year. The two year extension of the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of this year, and Congress will be forced to raise taxes to pay for their profligate spending. How much will taxes rise? It is anyone's guess, but Democrats in Washington have proposed raising taxes on families that make more than $250,000 and individuals that make more than $200,000. They have also proposed phasing out certain deductions that we can now claim. If their proposal passes, the effective income tax on families and individuals that cross these thresholds will rise to 41.5%. But this is Washington, and our legislators are not going to stop there. Add in 3.4% in Medicare tax for "high income earners"- those that are above the aforementioned income levels. President Obama has proposed eliminating the income ceiling on Social Security taxes, currently capped at $106,800, which will add another 10.1% to the top tax rates. This will take the top federal income tax take to 58% of your income, and that is before any state or local taxes are assessed. Now it would be easy to say that these rates apply only to the top earners, but be assured that rising rates will affect all of us at all income levels, and the effect will be stunning and painful. If Washington does not change its ways- quickly- you and I will be paying dearly for their lack of fiscal discipline.

I would watch NASCAR if the drivers had as much to drink as the fans.

And that, my friends, is my view.