Thursday, May 31, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We hear a lot of numbers thrown out about our deficit and the overall financial condition of our country. Here are some numbers that every citizen should keep in mind, and these numbers are frightening. The U. S. government exempts itself from the accounting standards that every company in this country has to follow to comply with our complex tax laws. Why is this important? Because it allows the government to report, with a straight face, that our current deficit is ONLY $1.5 trillion dollars. However, because the federal government does not follow generally accepted accounting principles, it does not have to account for future retirement benefits that it owes. If the government accounted for those liabilities like every company has to do, this deficit number changes. Our annual deficit would be $5 trillion, not the $1.5 trillion that is commonly reported. Now consider this: according to an article in USA Today, the typical American household would have to pay $42,000 in taxes annually to eliminate the real annual deficit of $5 trillion dollars. Keep in mind that the average per household income in the United States is $49,000. What this means is that the ability to solve our dire national financial crisis is not dependent on solely raising taxes. The amount that would have to be collected from taxpayers would wipe out most households. Seeing these numbers puts our situation in very clear terms, and until those in Washington acknowledge this, viable solutions will not be forthcoming. It is obvious by looking at these numbers that government has to shrink if we are going to work our way out of this mess. Ask yourself how many leaders in Washington are proposing serious cuts to government spending. And therein lies the crux of the financial problems that we face as a nation.

Things are so uneventful in my world, that when I die, I hope someone else's life flashes before my eyes.

If you have been watching what is happening in Europe, and specifically in Greece and Spain, you are seeing a slow motion train wreck from a financial standpoint. As these two economies teeter on the brink of collapse, businesses and individuals that are smart and are able are moving currency and assets out of those countries. This is being done to preserve capital and to keep those assets from being devalued by a conversion away from the Euro and back to sovereign currency. This can be done because these nations currently allow for the free flow of capital across national borders, and it is a reasonable reaction to this situation. If Greece, for instance, pulls out of the European Union and goes back to the drachma, the value of funds held in Greek banks will fall dramatically as the drachma is valued against global currencies. So prudent people and businesses have been withdrawing currency and moving to countries that are stable. What does this have to do with us in the United States? Two Congressmen, Barney Frank and Sander Levin, have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recommending greater capital controls for the United States. Simply put, their recommendation is to limit the movement of dollars and investments to destinations outside the U.S.If these capital controls are implemented, Americans are restricted to the type of investments they can make- specifically in investing in stable, growing companies and economies outside the U. S.- and are subject to the madness that is U.S. monetary policy. If the government continues to print and weaken the dollar, Americans buying power will be diminished and they will have limited options to preserve their wealth. This quiet maneuver to limit our financial flexibility, if enacted, could have dangerous consequences for all of us.

My wife says I keep pushing her buttons. She is right, but unfortunately, I cannot find the mute button.

One year ago, Wisconsin enacted reforms that limited the collective bargaining rights of government workers, brought reforms to the state's underwater pension system, and gave government workers the right to refuse to join a union. This unleashed  the ire of unions in the state, and they have made it their goal to oust Governor Scott Walker. They are failing, as it appears that Walker will continue as Governor. The public sector unions have have claimed that the reforms were onerous and were unfair to government workers. But were they? Here are the facts. Before the reforms, Wisconsin state workers received health benefits 2.3 and pension benefits 5.7 times greater than comparably compensated private sector workers. After the reforms were enacted, state employees receive health benefits 2 times greater and pension benefits 4.5 times greater than private sector employees. Before the reforms, state employees received total compensation (salary and benefits) was 29% higher than comparable private sector employees; after the reforms, 22% higher. The reforms asked the state workers to contribute a modest 5.8% of their salary to their pensions and 12.6% of their salary to health care benefits. Onerous? I think not. Wisconsin's state workers enjoyed- and continue to enjoy- very generous benefits paid by the taxpayer and totally disconnected from economic reality. So when you hear about this skirmish in Wisconsin, think about how much you pay as a private sector employee for your benefits and realize that these union contracts have been incredibly generous. Asking sate employees to pay a small portion toward their excellent benefits package is anything but onerous.

You should never run away from your problems. Unless your problem is being chased by a bear.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Conference Finals Review and Stanley Cup Prediction

Time to take a look back at the Conference Finals predictions from The View and look ahead to the Stanley Cup Finals. Here we go:




The Kings completed their masterful role through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a stunning 10-2 record. Look up the cliched phrase "a team peaking at the right time" and you will find a picture of this year's L.A. Kings. However, they are not peaking at the right time. They are continuing to play solid hockey with stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick, solid defense, and now their scoring has caught up. This is a deadly combination for the teams that have faced the Kings. The Coyotes were the latest victim to run into the regal buzz saw. Phoenix found themselves down 2-0 after the first two games on home ice and looked like a team that was completely mesmerized and dominated by the skill of the Kings. The play of Mike Smith in net for the Coyotes was solid, but he was often hung out to dry by the skaters in front of him, and L.A. was relentless in attacking the net. By contrast, the Coyotes managed to put together one complete game to stave off elimination, but the reality was that it was just a matter of time before the aggressive forecheck by the Kings and the unyielding defense eliminated any offensive challenge the Coyotes could mount. Oh yeah, it didn't hurt the Kings effort by getting into the heads of the Coyotes with their physical play and their pressure on Smith in the net.




Looking at this series, I thought the Rangers had more depth and talent than the Devils. I certainly thought that Henrik Lundqvist was better in net than Marty Brodeur, a Hall of Fame goalie that was past his prime. Uh-uh. The Devils talent proved to be as good as what the Rangers put on the ice, and throughout the series outworked the Rangers on both ends of the ice. And about that past his prime netminder for the Devils? Marty Brodeur showed that there is certainly gas in the tank as he battled and stymied the Rangers forwards for much of the series.The thing that struck me about this series was that the Devils just seemed to have more fight in them and they refused to give in to the Rangers. Now make no mistake that the Devils have talent, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise come to mind, but every player in the line up elevated their game. Bryce Salvador?? Who would have thought that he would be scoring critical goals in this run to the Finals? This team, much like the Kings, seems to have not only the attitude to win the Cup, but certainly the ability as well.

So... now on to the Stanley Cup Finals and a matchup between two teams that have a surprisingly similar make up and style of play. So what will determine who wins the Cup?

Start with the goaltenders. There is now doubting the excellence of both netminders, and the series may well be decided by which can withstand the pressure of the the finals and the offense that their opponent will bring. Certainly, the experience that Marty Brodeur brings into the Finals will serve him well, and playing for a Cup late in his career will cause him to elevate his game. Jonathan Quick gets his first trip to the Finals, and with that comes a certain amount of pressure. I think Quick handles it and it will not be an issue for him. The edge goes to Quick for athleticism and the fact that he has been an absolute wall up to this point.

The battle between the forwards of the Devils and the defense of the Kings is going to be the critical variable in this series. The Devils forwards have been relentless; the Kings defense unyielding. If the Devils can establish their offensive presence, they have the talent to really challenge Quick and can make his life miserable. It will be up to the Kings to contain the four lines that the Devils role and not let them get the momentum and confidence in this series.

The offensive edge in this series goes to the Kings. Not that they are necessarily more talented than the Devils up front, but that the Devils defense is not as talented as the Kings blue liners. I think as the series goes along, the Kings will put a lot of pressure on the Devils D and eventually wear them out. This means that Marty Brodeur will once again have to play exceptionally well in net, and the firepower of the Kings will present a huge challenge to him and his mates.

These are two teams that have many similarities and will take each other to the wall in this series. In the end, the talent of the Kings will be just enough to carry them past the Devils.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

My View

All of us, to some degree, are familiar with sacrifice. Some may be sacrificing their favorite foods to lose a few pounds before a beach trip. Some sacrifice physical comfort to train for a marathon or just get back into shape. If you are raising children, or have raised your children, you certainly have a grasp of the concept of sacrifice.

Sacrifice involves giving up something; that is the essence of sacrifice. Giving up chocolate or some other food to lose a few pounds involves sacrifice. Sweating through a long run, having to push through the wall of pain, involves sacrifice. We give up time, treasure, and tears for our children. For most of us, our daily existence involves some sort of sacrifice.

Our sacrifices, although important, do not involve the totality of our being. I am not going to die by giving up some rich food to lose a few pounds. My desire to run one more mile is not going to kill me. And the sacrifices that I make for my children may cost me some sleep. They have certainly cost me some money. Yet I will wake in the morning and go about my daily affairs unimpeded.

There are those, however, who have sacrificed all. They have done so throughout the history of this nation so that you and I are free to chose to lose those pounds, run those miles, or raise our families in the way we want.

Our glorious freedom was won, defended, and has been preserved to this day by the sacrifice of valiant men and women who without hesitation stood in the breach against those who would try to destroy those freedoms.

Their sacrifice did not take a piece of their life, it consumed them.

This Memorial Day is a call to each of us to recognize that for many, sacrifice was not trivial or short lived. It was final.

The small white crosses on the manicured grounds of cemeteries around the country belie the magnitude of the sacrifice of those they honor. Our response to those that have sacrificed all for us is to honor them, thank them, and remember the sacrifice they have made for each of us.

On this Memorial Day, we as a free people lift our sacrifice of praise to to those who have preserved and given all for our freedom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

We all know that our country is staring at a $16 trillion deficit and that the federal government is looking for way to raise taxes. Being direct about raising taxes is not the way a politician continues their career, so the tactic in Washington is to slide new taxes or tax increases into various bills so that they are hidden from view and the political fallout is limited. Another way to raise taxes is to curtail or eliminate deductions that many taxpayers use to limit their tax liability. Although this is a tax increase, it allows politicians to say that they didn't vote for a tax "increase", even though the elimination of a deduction in effect increases taxes. Why mention all this? Quietly, the House Ways and Means Committee has commissioned a study group to examine the $18 trillion sitting in 401(K) plans and personal IRA's. Under current rules, the total allowable contributions into a 401(K) by an employee and employer is $50,000. The Committee is considering lowering the contribution limit to $20,000 or 20% of total compensation, whichever is less. This exposes more of an worker's income to taxation by lowering the contribution limits. There is another proposal being considered that would totally eliminate the tax savings for contributions to 401(K) and IRA plans, treating all contributions as taxable income. Contributors to these plans would instead get an 18% "credit" for any contribution placed into a retirement account. Pay close attention to the progress of these discussions. Washington has a voracious appetite for our money, and it was inevitable that they would start going after retirement accounts. Even if it means that it will lower your standard of living in retirement.

People say that 60 is the new 40. The policeman that pulled me over this morning disagreed.

The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results each time. Look at what is happening in Washington, with our government, and ask yourself if this isn't the epicenter of insanity. Why? Consider these facts. We have an entitlement system that is bankrupting (actually has bankrupted) the country. Yet instead of undertaking meaningful reforms, entitlements continue to drain resources, continue unabated, and are expanding. Or consider our monetary policy. Rather than create sound money, we continue to print more dollars and debase our currency. Right now, we do not feel the effect of the monetary stupidity that the Federal Reserve has foisted upon us. We will, eventually. You can blame the real estate bubble and before that the dot com bubble on inept monetary policy. Our economy has been ravaged by our excessive printing of dollars, and we are doing it again. Don't forget our system of government education. Our public education system continually turns out graduates that are ill prepared to function in a rapidly changing global economy, yet we persist in perpetuating the same ineffective educational programs and resist any changes to improve the system. Both parties are guilty of perpetuating this insanity. This election is about taking the first step in stopping this stupidity and beginning the painful steps to move our country toward a more sane approach to addressing our multitude of challenges. It will be up to the voters to do this. Politicians and bureaucrats in Washington will not.

Now when anyone tells me "Good morning" I am asking them to prove it.

Fiscal responsibility, like personal responsibility, is not always fun and is sometimes painful. Too painful for some countries. France recently took a dramatic turn to the left as the voters there rejected the fiscal austerity that had been implemented under President Sarkozy and elected Socialist leader Francois Hollande. Hollande has promised a return to the fiscal policies that had created the debt crisis that nearly wrecked the French economy. Voters were promised a "new hope" and a change from necessary fiscal discipline by Hollande. Hollande promise to raise taxes on businesses and wealthy individuals, increase public spending, and raise the minimum wage. Sound familiar? If you said it sounds like Democrats in the U.S. led by President Obama, you are perceptive. All of these promises, whether made by Hollande, Obama, or any other socialist around the world, all sound good and make the voters feel good. The trouble with these promises is that sooner or later, the money runs out. Yet the promises persist. Sounds like insanity to me.

If I could be any person, living or dead, I would certainly want to be the living one.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Monday, May 14, 2012

An Open Letter to Ryan Suter

Dear Ryan,

Your fans in Nashville, not to mention your teammates and the management of the Predators, eagerly and with some trepidation await your decision about where you want to play next season. As you well know, this is a big decision, a decision that will not only affect your compensation but your chances to win a Cup. It is a decision that should not be made quickly but requires some thoughtful deliberation.

You are wise to take some time and ponder this decision. Obviously, the decision you make will affect the rest of your career.

You are weighing several variables. It may be forward of me, but I want to offer some input for your consideration. Sometimes, a different perspective helps to sort out what is important. Granted, I am just a fan in the stands, but maybe this will be of some help to you.

To start, you are right to want to get paid. You are one of the best- and most underrated- defensemen in the NHL. You deserve to get paid, and you have worked for this payday. It is time to cash in. I certainly don't fault you for this, and neither do the fans in Nashville.

Keep this in mind, though. The Predators have said they are going to pay you. The contracts with Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber have set the bar, so for the point of this discussion, let's say the Predators offer you $7 million per year. Pretty good money, eh?

Suppose a team that covets your services, say Detroit, offers you a bit more to jump ship. Say $7.5 million per year. An extra $500,000 in your pocket sounds pretty good. Until you consider that the State of Michigan levies an income tax of 4.25% on those gross earnings. That amounts to a $318,750 haircut, and that $500,000 difference suddenly becomes $181,250. Oh yeah, don't forget that the City of Detroit tags you for another 2.5% off the gross earnings, or another $187,500. Suddenly, that extra $500,000 has evaporated and your net earnings are $6,993,750.

You're a smart guy, and I'm sure that living in a state like Tennessee with no income tax starts to look pretty good.

You will be well served to examine the tax rates in any potential destination. Most of these places sure do take a bite out of that money that you are going to get paid.

By the way, don't forget to look into the cost of living in any potential new destination. Just so you know, Tennessee has the second lowest composite cost of living index in the U.S. Now I know that if you are making $7 million a year, that may not be a consideration, but it is nice to live in a place where your dollars go further. No sense in wasting those hard earned dollars.

Beyond the money, I am certain that you are going to look hard at the quality of life for you and your young family. You certainly want to live in a place that is good for your loved ones. That is understandable. We all want that. Just so you know, Nashville was the only U.S. city with an NHL franchise that was named by Kiplinger Magazine as one of the best value/most livable cities.

Just thought that might be important in making your decision.

Those are all important considerations, but for you, winning the Cup is what drives you. That is the goal of every hockey player, and I would be disappointed if you didn't have the drive, that desire, to capture a Cup.

You have said that you want to be in a place where you can win a Cup, and that will weigh heavily in your decision. It may be the primary factor in making your decision. Being a part of a team that can contend for a Cup is essential to you.

Yeah, about that.

I have to admit, Ryan, I am conflicted about this. Not that you want to win a Cup, but that your intimation is  whether a Cup can be won in Nashville.

Consider these facts:

You have been here through the growing pains of this franchise. You have seen this team just be happy to make the playoffs, and you have been part of the team that finally broke through the first round and challenged in the second round. You were part of team that dominated our divisional nemesis in the first round and felt the sting of of a disappointing exit in the second round.

Yes, these are growing pains. And the growth of this young franchise has been steady if not spectacular. Consider what this team has done in its relatively brief existence, and the success and growth that has occurred. Not only have you been a part of the on-ice growth, but you have been a part of hockey taking root and flourishing in Nashville.

Now all those facts may not carry much weight with you, but I think they should. Not only is the team growing and improving, but now you have an engaged fan base that is one of the best in the NHL.

The ownership group for the first time in the history of this franchise has said they will spend to the salary cap.This means that you are going to get paid, but it also- and this is important- means that the owners are willing to add the components necessary to win it all. I think the acquisitions that were made this season are indicative of the desire of the owners to add the type of players that can bring the Cup to Nashville.

You are part of a youthful team that has tremendous potential. There is young talent that is seasoning and getting better, and blended with veterans like you, can play excellent hockey every night. And it is a young team that learned some lessons- painful lessons- by the early exit from this year's playoffs.

These factors point to a team that has the potential to contend for the Cup, not just now, but in years to come.

All of us were distressed by the second round loss to the Coyotes, and it is apparent that the Predators still need some pieces. But you know what? There will be 29 teams in June that will say they need some pieces.

The fact is that you are an integral part of the Predators, and yes, this team is close to genuinely contending for the Cup. The consistency and the upward trajectory of the Predators bode well for the future of this team. Having you on board means that consistency and upward trajectory can continue without interruption.

I hope you don't think I am being too forward in offering my input to you. Sometimes, another perspective is important.

How satisfying will it be to be part of a team that moved from expansion franchise to Cup winner? One that does it in a relatively short period of time. That is the opportunity and the potential that you have in Nashville.

And I and the Predator faithful hope you see that and will be a part of it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Second Round Review and Conference Finals Predictions

Once again, the View has proven that you should not bet the house money on his predictions, as my prognostication skills for the second round came in at a meager 25% correct. Here is the recap:




The Predators did not play Predator hockey, while the Coyotes did, prevailing in five games. The Predators could not generate consistent offensive efforts against the Coyotes stingy defense, and when they did, Mike Smith cleaned up most of the chances. The Predators had a chance to seize home ice advantage before falling in OT in game 1. While that may have been encouraging, the Predators defense was absolutely horrid in game 2, hanging Pekka Rinne out to dry. After a strong effort in game 3, the only victory for the Predators, the offense once again sputtered, and the Predators were unable to get past the second round for the second year in a row. While one can look at different reasons for the failure of the Predators to advance, the fact remains that the best players on the Predators roster could not produce offensively against the Coyotes, and this cost them the series.



Jonathan Quick has been outstanding in the playoffs, but I felt that the Blues had the offensive horsepower to pressure the Kings defense and make Quick's life miserable. Quick continued his red hot play and shut down the Blues offense. The Blues seemed to get rattled by the physical play of the Kings, and they were taken off their game, seeming to want to retaliate against the Kings rather than play their style of hockey. Obviously, the loss of Jaroslav Halak hurt the Blues, as Brian Elliott struggled and there was no recourse for the Blues but to stick with him. The Kings have the ability to play a physical game, but their skill players were superb in this series, bedeviling the Blues defense and scoring timely goals and putting pressure on the Blues. Pressure the Blues surprisingly could not handle throughout the series.




The story of this series was the Caps Braden Holtby, who was superb ad kept the Caps in every game. Except for a late goal and an OT win in game 5 by the Rangers, this series would have gone to the Capitals. The Rangers responded well to the challenge the Caps presented in the deciding game 7 by limiting the Caps potent offense, even though Jason Chimera had a late goal to make the game close. In the end, the Rangers had just enough offense to eke out the series win, but this was tougher than many expected it would be for the Rangers.



After the dismantling of the Penguins, it appeared as if the Flyers were firing on all cylinders. Solid defense and an explosive offense looked to make this a short series for the Flyers. Just one problem. The Devils played a more complete game in every game of the series. The Devils defense did a good job of containing the Flyers forwards and Marty Brodeur was solid in net. The Devils forwards outworked the Flyers D throughout the series, and Ilya Bryzgalov was just average in net for Broad Street Bullies. As this series was played out, it appeared that the Devils grew in confidence while the Flyers were searching for their mojo. They will have a lengthy off season in which to find it.

So let's take a look at the conference finals.



The Kings are 8-1 so far in the playoffs, and they have knocked off two division champions in Vancouver and St. Louis. This will be the toughest test so far for the Kings, as they will face a goalie that is nearly the equal of their own Jonathan Quick. The Coyotes play a solid team game, and their defense does a great job of protecting Smith, so the Kings will have to use their big bodies and their physicality to make things difficult in front of the Coyotes net. If the Kings do not come out ready to play, the Coyotes will make them pay. Relying on Quick alone to keep the Kings in the game will create problems, because the Coyotes have the ability to score and can pressure in the offensive zone. I look for the Kings ability to physically wear down the Coyotes to work to their advantage as this series goes along. Once again, this series will go to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, and I think that will be the Kings.




The Battle of the Hudson will be an all out war. These two teams don't like each other and it will show as this series unfolds. Look for the Devils to play with confidence after dispatching the Flyers, and they will give the Rangers problems. Both teams are opportunistic and have forwards that can score. Home ice will once again be an advantage for the Rangers, but one has to wonder how a difficult 7 game series with the Caps will affect them. The Rangers are the more physical team, and that will work in their favor the longer this series goes. The Rangers D will be challenged by the Devils offensive capability, but they should be able to contain them.In the end, I think the Rangers have the advantage in net, and will ride the play of Henrik Lundqvist to a series win.


So there you have my picks for the Conference finals. Remember, don't bet the rent money on them.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics release the Producer Price Index (PPI) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measure inflation at the wholesale and retail level, respectively. If you listen to the reports of the data, you will hear either number reported "excluding food and energy costs". The rationale for this is that both of these costs are extremely volatile and can distort the reading of inflation in our economy. In some respects, this is true, because we all know that food and energy costs can swing quickly based on seasonal demands and the available supply. But here is what you should know. For most Americans, their largest personal expenditures after housing costs are for food and energy. Both of those expenditures comprise a significant amount of the personal household budgets of many Americans, and excluding the effects of rising prices in those areas does not paint a clear picture of the real cost of living for most of us. Here is a chart of the Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index for the past 22 years:

While energy grabs our attention because of the pain at the pump we experience when we gas up our vehicles, food costs have consistently- and painfully- risen over the past decade.  So when you feel the pinch in your monthly budget and are trying to figure out what is happening, remember that the information that we are getting from Washington is not accurate as to the actual cost of living and the increases- inflation- that we all feel. And that inflation is going to get worse.

If a leper gives you the finger, do you have to give it back?

About energy prices... We all know how painful it can be to fill up our vehicle. Three years ago, the average per gallon cost of gasoline was $1.78. Today, it averages $3.55 per gallon. This is problematic for us as consumers, because the rise in gasoline prices extracts more money from our wallets that could have been spent elsewhere in the economy. This increase in the cost of gasoline, as well as other sources of energy, are part of the administration's plan to foist green energy on American consumers. Those rising energy prices are a drag on the economy and make the recovery to good economic health more difficult for our country. There is another aspect to this situation that we should consider. Our nation's inept energy policy is a serious threat to our national security. The failure to develop the resources that are within our borders makes our country susceptible to the whims of foreign countries that often do not have our best interests at heart. Abundant and relatively cheap sources of energy are the foundation of our economy, and failure to develop our own sources of energy plays right into the hands of the countries that would love to see our nation get weaker. As citizens, we should demand that our government develop the abundant resources that our country has and stop foolishly attempting to force upon us inefficient and costly green energy projects that have no hope of meeting the energy needs of our country.

I finally got accepted into college. Unfortunately, it's a clown college.

The upcoming election poses stark choices for us as a nation. All of us can pick an issue, or issues, about which we are passionate, and we decide which candidate will get our vote (or votes if you are a Chicago Democrat) based on their position on the issues that motivate us. Consider this: the fundamental issue in this election is austerity. More specifically, are we as citizens going to force the government to be more austere and rein in spending? Or will we allow the government to force us into austerity by spending more at the federal level and extracting more of of incomes through higher taxes? The vote in November is about whether we as citizens will force the government to live within reasonable means or allow unlimited growth of government on the backs of the taxpayers.  Our votes will determine the direction of government growth and therefore the direction of our economy and our standard of living. We already have a case study to see what happens when citizens vote for unfettered government growth. Watch the slow motion train wreck that is Greece to see what happens when citizens allow government to grow without restraint. As unhappy as the citizens of Greece are right now, it is going to get worse for them. Hopefully, our nation doesn't go down that same path. 

I get a lot of sound advice from my wife. 99% sound, 1% advice.

And that, my friends, is my view.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Were the Predators Built For the Playoffs?

The second round exit by the Predators will be cause in the coming days for a lot of analysis of this team and the composition of the roster. There will be attempts to determine why the Predators, a team many felt had been "built for a deep playoff run" crashed to earth with a thud against the Phoenix Coyotes.

One can look at any number of metrics to analyze the performance of the Predators in the playoffs, but I believe it ultimately comes down to the ability of a player to produce in the playoffs at least as consistently as in the regular season.The hope is that in the playoffs that the players on the roster will elevate their games. That is a hallmark of successful teams in the chase for the Cup.

The best measure of playoff performance is Points Per Game (PPG), and it is instructive to look at regular season performance compared to playoff performance on a PPG basis.

So how did the Predators PPG production from key players compare in the regular season and the playoffs? Here are the numbers, with regular season PPG and playoff PPG after each players name:


Erat                     .81   .40                                     
Fisher                  .71   .40                                   
 Legwand            .67   .60
S. Kostitsyn        .57   .20
Hornqvist            .56   .40
Wilson                 .51   .25
Smith                   .50   .50
Bourque              .44   .50
Tootoo                .38   .00
Halischuk            .38   .20
Yip                      .28   .20
Spaling                .28   .30

Weber                 .63   .30
Suter                   .58   .40
Klein                   .32   .40
Bouillon               .17   .30

We all know that not every forward played a full compliment of 10 games in this playoff season, but when inserted into the line up, they were expected to produce when they had an opportunity.  That is why comparing PPG production in the regular season to playoff PPG is instructive.

Notice anything about the list above?

Four players- Bourque, Klein, Spaling, and Bouillon increased their PPG production in the playoffs. Smith stayed the same in his limited playoff appearances. The remainder of the roster suffered a drop in production, some of which was significant.

Granted, the playoffs are a limited number of games, but  production is more critical precisely because there are a limited number of games. It is cliche but true that your best players have to be your best players. Translated, they have to produce on the big stage of the playoffs. The games matter more, and failure in a round is final.

The Predators suffered in the playoffs and in particular against the Coyotes because their best players did not adequately produce. Part of this is the intensified defensive pressure that is exerted by an opponent in all rounds of the playoffs, more so as a team advances. The Predators encountered this very situation in the second round as the Coyotes "out-Predatored the Predators" with great goaltending, a stifling forecheck, and aggressive defense. It is in those types of games that a team's best players have to find a way to produce and break through offensively.

So you know, I examined the numbers from the past two seasons to compare regular season PPG against playoff PPG performance by the players who are currently on the roster and were on the roster then. The numbers are surprisingly similar. In the 2010-11 season, 4 players produced at a higher level in the playoffs than they did in the regular season (Legwand, Fisher, Spaling, and Klein). In the 2009-10 season, two players increased their playoff PPG over their regular season PPG (Erat, Legwand).

Part of the disappointment of the loss in the playoffs this year is that the Predators added the pieces that were supposed to give them the talent to get them over the hump and compete for the Cup. Alexander Radulov played 8 playoff games and produced 6 points (.75 PPG), and that sounds good until you realize that 5 of those points came in the first round against Detroit. Andrei Kostitsyn played 8 games and had 4 points (.50 PPG) but was generally ineffective against the Coyotes.Paul Gaustad had 2 points in 10 games (.20 PPG), but was not counted on for significant scoring presence. Hal Gill had no points in 5 playoff games.

These numbers point out that although the Predators have enjoyed regular season success, they have generally fizzled in the playoffs. More specifically, the players that have been counted on to produce- and did produce in the regular season- have not elevated their game in the playoffs.

So what is the problem?

Is it coaching? In a word, no. Barry Trotz and the coaching staff don't suddenly get stupid when the playoffs roll around. In fact, I would contend that Trotz and the coaches do a good job of getting the best match ups they can on the ice and make good adjustments during the course of a series. I know that there will be those that second guess the decision to bench Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn during game 4 of the Coyotes series, but I agree with the call. That will, however, be a point of debate throughout the off season.

More importantly, it is the inability of the Predators to produce in the crucible of playoffs.

Lacking high end scorers, the Predators scramble throughout the regular season for goals. Goal production was up this year as Nashville finished 8th in the League with 2.83 goals per game. The Predators scored by committee, with only two players (Hornqvist, 27 and Fisher, 24) scoring more than 20 goals. In the playoffs, opponents can focus on shutting down the top scorers and have done so rather effectively. When this happens, the "committee" has to step up, but in the face of intense defensive pressure, have proven that they are unable to do so.The numbers bear this out.

The lament of Predator fans in the series against the Coyotes was that the team could not finish their scoring chances.


That is what clutch scorers do. That is the calling card of high end scorers in the face of playoff defensive pressure.

And the numbers show that is what the Predators lack.

And it leads me to believe that the Predators were not really built for success in the playoffs.

So now the Predators face an off season full of questions, not the least of which is how the roster will look next season. Personnel changes will happen, as GM David Poile has to examine this roster and attempt to sign players that will allow the Predators to not only continue to be successful in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.

The building process is going to change the face of this team.

Hopefully for the better.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Coyotes Eliminate the Predators With a 2-1 Win

Backs against the wall.


No tomorrow.

Pick whatever cliche that you want, this is where the Predators find themselves against the Phoenix Coyotes. The task before them is monumental as they had to win a game at Arena in front of an amped up crowd of Coyote faithful.

The Predators task was simple. Play every shift all out. Play each period for a full 20 minutes. Play Predator hockey.

Once again, Pekka Rinne would duel with Mike Smith, but more importantly for the Predators, the team in front of Rinne had to outplay their Coyote counterparts.

The first period saw both teams play with good jump and both goalies made some good saves. The Predators got the only power play of the period, but could not convert. Both teams were excellent on the forecheck, disrupting the offensive flow. The Predators did a good job of fighting through the forecheck and creating chances, but could not solve Smith. For the period, the Predators out shot the Coyotes 10-5.

This was the kind of period that the Predators had to play in this contest, but for them to be successful, they were going to have to finish some of their chances.

Phoenix nearly scored early in the second off a Shane Doan breakaway that Rinne turned aside with his pads. The Coyotes were pressing the Predators and they capitalized off a shot from the blue line by Derek Morris at 3:54. Rinne was screened in front and the shot appeared to re-directed by Rinne.

Roman Josi was called for interference 4:19 of the second, and the Predators PK was going to have to come up big to keep the game in hand. The Coyotes power play was short circuited by Martin Hanzal as he was called for hooking and the teams skated 4 on 4 for the next 1:27.

In the abbreviated power play, the Predators had some great chances around the Coyotes net, but could not cash in as the puck bounced over the stick of an open Alexander Radulov at the side of the net.

The Predators kept the pressure on the Coyotes , and on the power play, a Shea Weber bomb beat Smith but clanged off the post. The Predators had done everything but score so far in this game.

The Coyotes extended the lead to 2-0 as Martin Hanzal scored on a shot through traffic that Rinne never saw. The score came at 15:09 of the second period, and now the hill was getting incredibly steep for the Predators.

Although the offensive push by the Predators was good, they could not get a puck past Smith. The scoring chances for the Predators saw them unable to finish. Part was just bad puck luck, but much credit had to go to the Coyotes, who were clogging up the prime scoring areas in front of Smith and preventing the Predators from getting to loose pucks.

The Predators out shot the Coyotes 12-7 in the second, but staring at a 2-0 deficit, the season was coming down to to the final 20 minutes. The Predators had to figure out a way to get a puck past Smith or the season was going to come to a quick end.

You could not fault the effort by the Predators in the third period. They were throwing everything they could at Smith and the Coyotes, but just could not get a puck in the net. They were controlling play in the offensive zone, but the old bugaboo of not being able to finish scoring chances was once again biting this team in the ass.

The Predators finally solved Smith at 14:01 of the third as David Legwand sent a perfect pass from the half boards to Colin Wilson as he was driving the net. Wilson got his stick on the puck and tipped it over the shoulder of Smith to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Predators had life, but the clock was quickly becoming the enemy of the Predators.

Despite a final furious flurry by the Predators, they could not score the game tying goal and fell to the Coyotes 2-1 to end their season.

The Predators effort was solid, but the lack of a scorer that could finish their chances doomed them in this contest and in this series. Credit has to go to the Coyotes for the solid team game they played in this game and in this series. In a contest between two teams that were fairly evenly matched, they took advantage of the mistakes the Predators made and punished us for them. From start to finish, the Coyotes were the more solid team, and deserved the series.

For the Predators, this is a disappointment. To win this series and compete for the Cup, they had to have their best players be the best. Unfortunately, they were not.

This leaves an off season of questions about the roster and how to get this team over the hump so they can win a tough series.

There will be plenty of time now to ponder those questions.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Predators Backs Against the Wall With a 1-0 Loss

The Nashville Predators dropped a 1-0 game to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena to fall behind in their series 3-1.

To say their backs are against the wall is an understatement.

The Predators offense was ineffective and rarely threatened Phoenix netminder Mike Smith. When they did threaten, Smith was equal to the task

The Coyotes Shane Doan scored at 14:25 of the first period as he went into the slot and fired a shot at Rinne that he got with his blocker, but it flipped over his shoulder, off Roman Josi, and into the net. for the only goal of the game.

The Phoenix defense made that goal stand up as they forechecked the life out of the Predators, rarely letting them come through the neutral zone with any speed, and one the Predators got into the offensive zone, choked the life out of them.

The Predators struggled to get any offensive rhythm because of the pressure the Coyotes put on the puck and throughout the game had more energy and jump than the Predators.

The offensive effort was disappointing to say the least, but give credit to the Coyotes for their play, because they ere better than the Predators tonight.

And therein lies the problem for the Predators. Their best offensive players were average and failed to create quality chances. It's telling that Colin Wilson, Marty Erat, Gabriel Bourque, and nick spaling all mustered just one shot on goal each. Jordin Tootoo, Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, and Paul Gaustad had none.

The Predators were 0-3 on the power play, as the Coyotes did a good job pressuring the puck and not letting the Predators get quality chances on Smith. The Predators did score on a power play late in the third period, but the goal was waved off as the officials struck with the dreaded "intent to blow" call.

The fact is that the Predators were outplayed throughout the contest. Rinne was exceptional, especially in the first period , stoning Mikkel Boedker alone in front of the net on one sequence. Frankly, without the strong play of Rinne, who seemed to be the only Predator ready to play, the score could have been much worse.

The Predators sat Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for the second straight game after their curfew violations before game 3. While many may second guess that decision, I concur with the call made by Head Coach Barry Trotz. The Predators squad on the ice tonight was the same one that played a dominant game 4 an captured a 2-0 victory. That squad that was so effective in game 4 did not come to play tonight.

The Predators have dug an immense hole. The task before them is monumental.

It is not insurmountable.

It will require each player that puts on the sweater Monday night to commit to win puck battles, to play balls to the wall on every shift.

Do that, and the series will come back to Nashville.

Fail to do so, and your backs will no longer be against the wall.

They will be out of the playoffs.

My three stars:

1: Mike Smith

2. Shane Doan

3. Pekka Rinne

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Do you know Julia? You should, because you and I as taxpayers are supporting her. If you haven't seen the Democrats latest campaign about the necessity of a big government you can go here to see the story of Julia, a person that could not function in this life if were not for the guidance and support of government programs. Julia is the ideal Democratic voter, relying on the government from the cradle to the grave and unable to function in this life without direction and assistance from the federal government. Sadly, there are many people that are like that, and the Left is diligently trying to cultivate more. They will claim it is under the guise of compassion and fairness. Those on the Right have laughingly criticized this campaign and mindset as being woefully dependent on government to function and cultivating in our society a lack of effort and initiative. The campaign has also drawn criticism from many sectors that the Democrats are promoting families without a father figure, as nowhere in the campaign is Julia depicted with a husband. All of these criticisms are true, but here is what you should keep in mind. The crux of what we are voting for in the November elections, and what Julia so accurately demonstrates, is that the Democrats are the party of free stuff. Government will supply all your needs- with money taxed away from someone else, of course. This latest campaign by the Democrats puts into stark contrast what the real choices are in the upcoming election: government dependency and limitation on freedom; or the freedom to achieve, pursue our dreams, and reap the economic rewards on the other. The battle lines are clear, and this election will determine the direction of our country for many years.

The truth will set you free. Unless you are a murderer.

Today, the April employment numbers were released, and they were brutal. Only 115,000 new jobs were added last month, well below expectations of 175,000. This is a painful reminder that the economy remains very weak and that job creation is anemic. It is estimated that our nation will average for 2012 150,000 new jobs created every month. If that is true, then it will take our country until 2025 to get back to pre-recession unemployment levels. The spin on this from Washington will be that unemployment has fallen to 8.1%, the lowest level in several years. Here is what you should know: the number of people that are working or looking for work has fallen to the lowest level in 30 years. Let that sink in...there are fewer people working or looking for work than in any time in the last 30 years. Congratulations, President Obama. You have a worse economic record that the venal Jimmy Carter, and I thought that was not possible. Real unemployment, those out of work and looking, those who are not looking after being displaced, and those that are dramatically underemployed is estimated to be 16%. This is the canary in the coal mine for our economy, because until conditions improve so that jobs are being consistently added, we will struggle. Wonder what government program Julia will use now?

My wife sure asks me a lot of questions. I think it's because she has an extra why chromosome.

In this era of instant communication, electronic bill paying, and overnight package delivery, I don't think very often about the U.S. Postal Service even though I still use their service. Perhaps I should have. According to the Postmaster General, the USPS has averaged a $5 billion loss for the past five years and 80% of their postal facilities lose money. Due to civil service seniority and Congressional intervention, the necessary changes to get the postal system back to good health have been slow to implement and virtually non-existent. The USPS is proposing to begin closing 3700 money losing postal facilities in mid May (believe, 3700 is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number that are losing money) and lay off 4500 employees. Closing a postal facility in a small town is difficult, because it is almost always unanimously opposed and because it gives a local Congressman a great photo op to say they "rescued" a post office. As such, little positive change is effected, and the postal service continues as a money losing institution that is devouring your tax dollars. Keep that in mind the next time someone from the government says they can efficiently run our health care system.

Home is a place where you can be totally honest and say anything you want because no one listens to you anyway.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Predators Play Predator Hockey, Defeat Coyotes 2-0

The Nashville Predators returned to Nashville and the Honkeytonk, also known as Bridgestone Arena, and found their rhythm by beating the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 for their first win in their semi final series. The Coyotes lead the series 2-1 with the next game Friday night in Nashville.

The Predators scored 2 first period goals, and the strong goaltending of Pekka Rinne made those two markers stand up as Rinne recorded his first playoff shutout.

The Predators opened the scoring at 8:10 of the first period on a gift from Coyotes netminder Mike Smith. Smith went to play the puck behind the net and slid the puck toward a Coyotes defenseman.Gabriel Bourque was in hard on the forecheck and wrestled the puck away and passed to David Legwand in the slot. Legwand buried the puck past Smith, who was scrambling to get back in his crease to give the Predators a 1-0 lead and send the partisan crowd into a frenzy.

Just 66 seconds later, Marty Erat fought for the puck along the boards in the Coyote zone and won the puck battle. He got the puck to Sergei Kostitsyn who appeared to have a shot from the inside the face off circle to Smith's left. He instead passed to Mike Fisher, who was alone at the side of the net, and Fisher chipped the puck over Smith to give the Predators a 2-0 lead at 9:16 of the first period.

Although the Coyotes out shot the Predators 10-8 in the first period, they never really threatened Rinne. The Coyotes did hit a post with one shot, but the Predators did a good job of keeping the front of the net clear and forcing the Coyotes to the outside.

The second period was a scoreless 20 minutes, but it was notable for the Predators aggressive forecheck and their ability to keep the Coyotes back on their heels. The Coyotes possess a group of forwards that can be explosive, but the Predators did a good job of limiting their offensive efforts, keeping the Coyotes on the wall for much of the period. Most of their shots were from the outside and not from the dangerous scoring areas. Although the Coyotes out shot the Predators 12-8 in the second period, the Predators continued to play god defense, blocking shots and forcing the Coyotes to the outside.

In the third period, the Predators continued to forecheck aggressively and put pressure on the Coyotes. Their effort continued to thwart the Coyotes offense and minimize their scoring chances. The Coyotes had a good opportunity to get back into the game as Sergei Kostitsyn was called for hooking at 12:59 and Marty Erat was called for tripping at 14:19. With 41 seconds of a 5 on 3, the Coyotes had a prime opportunity to get back into the game.

Instead, the Predators PK did a good job of getting into the shooting lanes and continued to keep the Coyotes to the outside. When the puck got in on Rinne, he was able to snuff out the scoring chances, and the Predators seized the momentum with an outstanding penalty kill.

The third period ended with Smith out of the net for an extra attacker in the final 2 minutes, but the Coyotes could not generate any serious threats, and as the clock wound down, the Predators had captured a 2-0 win and had energized the team and the fans.

The Predators played this game without Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, who were suspended for this game for a violation of team rules. They are eligible to return for game 4 Friday night.

I do not expect them to play.

The Predators won tonight with grit, determination, and a balls to the wall effort. As Marty Erat said after the game, "We played for 60 minutes and we played with some balls."

It is going to take that same kind of effort Friday night against a very god Coyotes team. They will not lay down, and they will come back with determination.

To come with any less of an effort will be disappointing for the Predators.

The effort tonight was a total team effort. All lines contributed, and more importantly, everyone wearing a gold sweater played Predator hockey.

One game doesn't make a series. The Predators trail 2 games to 1.

But the Predators showed tonight that when they play Predator hockey, they are hard to beat.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Mike Fisher

3. David Legwand

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Leadership Challenge

The Nashville Predators took the bold- and correct- step of suspending Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for game 3 of the Predators semi final series with Phoenix. The reasons have not been disclosed except for the team to say that there was a substantive violation of team rules by the two players that warranted a one game suspension.

Kudos to GM David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz for addressing the situation head on and acting correctly. The actions of Radulov and Kostitsyn were selfish and foolish, and warranted action by the GM and Coaches. The GM and Coaches acted appropriately and in a timely manner, which they should have done.

While much of the focus is on the shenanigans of Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, for the Predators the focus now falls on three players in particular: Captain Shea Weber and the alternate captains, Ryan Suter and Mike Fisher.

This leadership group has done a good job of guiding a young squad through the rigors of the regular season grind and getting them through the first round of the playoffs. And with a cohesive group, a character group of guys that have occupied roster slots this season, this has not been a difficult task.

Now that two players who have recently been added to the mix of roster regulars have chosen to act selfishly and disregard the team over their own personal good times, the onus of bringing this team back together inside of the locker room rests with this leadership group, and this will be a test, perhaps the biggest test for Weber, Suter, and Fisher.

Not only are the Predators trailing 2-0 and facing the pressure of a must win game, but now they team has to get re-focused after the disruption that Radulov and Kostitsyn have caused.

There is no doubt that this is an enormous distraction to the team. There is a risk of disrupting the cohesion and equilibrium of a team that is being sorely tested in this round of the playoffs. What the leaders on this team do behind the closed doors of the locker room will be critical to maintaining that cohesion and equilibrium.

This team is going to look at the response that the leadership this group provides, and they will respond in kind. The response of the captains has to be unequivocal- no player is better than the team- and focused on the task of winning game 3.

Real leadership rises to the meet the challenges of the unexpected and motivates to excel in difficult times. It shines in dark times. This is the first real test of Weber's- and Suter and Fisher's- leadership. How they respond to this challenge will go a long way to determining how the team will respond to this adversity that has been thrust on them.

For Weber, Suter, and Fisher, this is your time to shine. The challenge awaits.

Your move, gentlemen.

Predators Suspend Radulov and A. Kostitsyn for Game 3 against the Coyotes

The Nashville Predators have announced today that forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kositisyn will not play in the third games of the the Predators second round series against the Phoenix Coyotes for a violation of team rules.

Here is the press release from the Predators,

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will not play Game Three of the team’s Western Conference Semifinals series vs. the Phoenix Coyotes as result of violating team rules.

“The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things,” Poile said. “We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates.”

The Predators trail the Coyotes in their semi final series 2-0. Tthe third game of this series is in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.

While this certainly removes two offensive threats from the Predators line up, I commend GM David Poile and the team for the consistent application of the team rules and not bowing to playoff pressure.

The nature of the violation is unknown at this time. Both Kostitsyn and Radulov are on the ice at the morning practice for the Predators.