Early news, views
Devils in good hands with Sutter; NHL sked flaws
Posted: Wednesday July 18, 2007 1:20AM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 1:20AM
News: The Devils hire Brent Sutter as the 14th head coach in their 26-year history.
View: Rest easy, Devils fans. Any concern that your team would begin a cruel decline into irrelevance with the free-agency defections of their No. 1 center (Scott Gomez) and No. 1 defenseman (Brian Rafalski) can safely be put to rest.
Despite concerns from some corners of Devils' fandom, the arrival of Sutter marks the high point of what has otherwise been a very dismal offseason for the team. No NHL coaching experience? No worries. Sutter is a winner, and his name carries significant weight in this league, a fact that should ensure a smooth transition from junior hockey's Red Deer Rebels to the pros. This is a man who commands respect. He was a big part of two Cups with the Islanders as a player, but his work behind the bench has really burnished his reputation. He guided the Rebels to the Memorial Cup -- the toughest trophy to win in all of hockey -- in 2001, and really stepped forward as a legitimate NHL coaching candidate after leading Team Canada to World Junior Championships in 2005 and 2006.
Like GM Lou Lamoriello, he's a no-nonsense disciplinarian type, which gives him a better than zero chance of actually finishing the season with the team -- something the last three coaches failed to do. Expect him to run a tight, defensive ship with an emphasis on smart, physical team play ... basically, New Jersey Devils' hockey.
Pencil him in as an early candidate for the Jack Adams. He's that good.
News: The 2007-08 NHL schedule is released, and rumors swirl of an outdoor game on Jan. 1 between Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
View: Love the idea. Love the teams. But if that's the date, I'll bet the house on it being a massive failure.
Really, an outdoor game is an attention-generating concept that the marketing whizzes at NHL headquarters should be scheduling annually. It could be the polar opposite of the Super Bowl, rotated each year among a select group of bidder cities cold enough to actually host such an event.
And that's part of the problem with this date. A quick check of the weather charts shows that early January in Buffalo has a tendency of being well above freezing of late. But that's not the biggest hurdle. It's the date itself. On January 1, Americans are inclined to be propped up in front of the TV for a long day of sporting action, but NHL hockey wouldn't merit a moment's consideration for most.
Six college football games are on the schedule that day, including the Sugar Bowl at 7:00 p.m. and the Rose Bowl at 3:30 p.m. The NHL currently has the Sabres and Pens at 1:00 p.m., but even away from those monoliths, the game still would be up against the Capital One Bowl and the Gator Bowl. NBC, the NHL's broadcast partner in the United States, is the only major network not carrying a Bowl game that day, but even given the proven drawing power of the Sabres and the Penguins on American TV, they have to recognize the programming suicide of rolling out that event on the first. Up against competition like that, they'd be better off showing figure skating. Or maybe Heidi.
Fortunately, that's not the only slot on the calendar if indeed those are the two teams the league decides to go with. The Sabres again host the Pens on Feb. 17, a date that's not only colder of late, but it's also a Sunday at a time of year when only basketball is running up against it. With a few breaks, and some clever promotion, that day just might work...