The NHL held a conference call today with what it called "experts": Don Cherry of "Hockey Night in Canada," Eddie Olczyk of Versus and NBC, Pierre McGuire of TSN and NBC and Mad Mike Milbury of CBC and NBC.
A few of the highlights:
• Pierre McGuire presented some of his "monster players" for the upcoming season, including this prediction: "Mike Green will be the leading point-getting for defensemen in the National Hockey League."
• Mike Milbury believes that Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson should "put in a phone call to [Washington Capitals coach] Bruce Boudreau to thank him for breaking through with long-time minor league coaches [getting] a chance." Yeah, he should get on that, considering they talk every other day.
Also, Milbury believes that the Tampa Bay Lightning's new owners have "thrown a bunch of fun" at the NHL and considers Oren Koules and Len Barrie "refreshing." There's an endorsement you never want.
Cherry was the rock star on the call, and for good reason: He's actually interesting. When asked if Alexander Ovechkin will improve this season, Cherry said, "No, he's not going to get any better and I'll be surprised if he does as well as he did last year."
When pressed on it, Cherry said, "He was doin' things [last year] that he shouldn't do. He was cuttin' into the middle ... there's going to be a lot of guys waiting for him this year. He's not going to be running around like a bull in a china shop."
Two unfortunate things occurred on the call in regard to this question. First is that the radio guy right ahead of me asked about Euro expansion. Said Cherry:
"I hope they do expand to Europe because then they'll all stay over there. That'd be really great, far as I'm concerned. As long as the CBC doesn't go over there and broadcast. We'll send Mike [Milbury] over there."
Undaunted, I wanted to hear more from Cherry on the subject, which led to mistake No. 2: Asking Ed Olczyk a question about Versus before I pestered Grapes.
You should never ask Eddie O a question on these calls, because his rambling and repetitive replies make Barack Obama's debate answers seem like Haiku by comparison. There's no sense in trying to transcribe it here, so I'll just give you the first line:
"Well, I think that going into this season is to build off of, you know, build off of the momentum of the season."
And I can see Russia from my house, Charlie!
Four minutes later, I asked Cherry if NHL European expansion was going to happen, and what city he'd like to see the NHL expand to in Europe. Beginning with a chuckle, he said (and please, read this in your best Cherry voice):
"I really don't know, and I really don't care. I'd like to be up on this, but the only thing I can think of is that they don't draw very well over there. When they have the Juniors over there, they don't draw. In Germany I guess they draw pretty good. But they don't charge anything for the prices, and how are they going to charge the tickets over there? Maybe in Russia with all that oil and all that money. But in Finland, you think they're going to pay $150 for a ticket? And they're going to be paying guys $9 million? That's the only thing that I can see.
"But I was just kiddin' before. Maybe one or two teams would be different to go over there I guess. But I can't see them drawing and I can't see them charging the ticket prices. That's how I feel about it."
I tried to sneak in a question about seeing a European team ever playing for the Stanley Cup, but the moderator cut me off for a two-question limit.
Thanks for nothing, Eddie O. Now I feel like one of those dickweeds who wastes a lifeline on the $200 question during "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"