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Monday, June 30, 2008

best selling the future

I've talked about killer apps here before. Games or movies or whatever that cause someone to adopt a new technology. Good example was "The Matrix" DVD. People bought $200 DVD players (back then) just to watch a $25 movie on the new killer format. Well, apparently we have two killer apps about to hit...or something like that anyway.

The top two best-selling Blu-Ray movies on Amazon.com right now, aren't even out yet. Amazon is taking pre-orders for Ironman and Batman Begins (which by the way, has been available on HD-DVD for months).
In fact, 9 of the top 20 Blu-Ray's haven't come out yet as of today.

I just think that is pretty funny.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hockey Nationalism

I wanted to take a minute to post as an entry here, some comments that i made on two other sites recently.

The discussion was started by this post at Two For Elbowing that i first saw linked to from this Puck Daddy entry. The quote that started the discussion was this:

"What, exactly, does this say about the relative power balance of Canada and the U.S. when the Leafs have to hire Americans to fix the franchise?"
So I give you the ensuing discussion:
I think more to the point, what do statements like that say about racism (or more specifically nationalism) in hockey. I've never heard any other pro sport outside of nationalist soccer/futbol squads be so hung up on where their coaches and players come from, and the problems with racism going on in soccer leagues around the world is a massive problem right now. I'd hate to see hockey be next.

Who care if a Canadian is coaching a US team or a US coach or GM is working for a Canadian franchise. The only other time i've heard nationalities discussed in other sports is during the Olympics/world championships when they have their flags on their uniforms.

If they are wearing a Leafs sweater or a Sharks sweater - it shouldn't matter. They are just pros doing their jobs. Argue about them on their merits, not where they come from.
That comment brought this response: "Paul- tell that to the people of Quebec." - to which i responded:
I definitely hear the most consistent nationalist/racist comments from Quebecers, but it is much, much wider than that. As a resident of Nashville and fan of the Predators, I/we have seen no small measure of this.

It is ironic really.

When i moved here, i thought that southerners in Nashville more were racist than average. I found the opposite though - not that there aren't people with issues, but on the whole the city is very accepting of Eastern Europeans, Canadians, Scandinavians, etc on the Predators and African American players on the Titans, and Hispanic players on the Nashville Sounds baseball team. Without question they are judged on their playing ability 99% of the time and comments are practically never made as to where they are from. We just don't care as long as they can play.

Meanwhile i hear things like this, where a lifelong hockey man in Ron Wilson and others are criticized for having the audacity to think they 'deserve' to coach on Canadian soil. You can think he is the right coach for Toronto or not, that he can handle the media pressure or not, that he will help the team or not... but that he should be allowed to coach based on his nationality?

That same post goes on to say "The mind boggles. I'm amazed the Canadian-centric media types haven't been screaming at the government to outlaw this already." meaning the hiring of coaches and GM's from the US.

I know they are dipping into sarcasm there, but seriously...I'm not sure what the situation is in Canada, but this level of discrimination is outlawed in the US. In fact the NFL requires that minority options are considered before hiring coaches.

It boggles the mind indeed. When will hockey implement something similar?
Which then received this response
Paul, I agree with you on judging an individual purely on their performances and their ability to get the job done, and not where they are from. However, with some rare exceptions, I think most Canadians are not prejudice against players/coaches/gms from other countries, but rather, proud of the ones from their country.

I don't think comparing Canada's love of hockey and their pride in their country's rich and honored history in that sport, to something as ugly as racism, is a fair statement.

Comparing it to African American players on the Titans or Hispanic players on the Sounds, and saying it doesn't measure up is like comparing apples to oranges. One has zero to do with the other. There are African American players on Canadian hockey teams; there are American players; there are players from countries all over the world who are not only on Canadian teams, but are worshiped by many Canadian fans.

I believe, a fairer comparison, using your Nashville as an example, would be to say that many people from Nashville are proud of their city's rich and honored history in country music. And some outspoken voices may say that the best country singers are from Nashville, and a country singer from Calgary, Canada or Tokyo, Japan should not be the headliner at the CMA Music Festival. But a few outspoken does not mean I should assume all everyone from Nashville agrees with these statements. Or that everyone from Nashville only likes Nashville country singers. Or even the bigger leap that you suggest above, that in fact they dislike every country singer outside of Nashville.

Again, with some rare exceptions, most Canadian hockey fans love the sport first, and are simply very proud of their country's rich history in that sport. And while some over zealous, proud fans, may come across pro Canadian at times, this 1) does not speak for all Canadian hockey fans; and 2) is a far cry from racism, IMHO. Hometown pride and racism are worlds apart! --buffettworld
Which then led me to respond:
Well put. And i do understand that.

I just hear more comments like this from hockey than any other sport. I understand a certain amount of pride...heck...i'm originally from Texas. I know pride (and its excess...)

But comments like the one quoted on this blog and many others i hear around seem to me to cross the line. They aren't just pride ("Isn't it great that the world is playing 'our' game" or "we have the best hockey players in the world") but more bigoted ("all top hockey teams, players, and coaches should really be Canadian")

There certainly are voices out there saying that the CMA's should always be held in Nashville (much ruckus was made when they tried it in New York a few years ago), but i've only heard a very small, quickly ignored minority complain about country music being popular in western Canada or Australia. Most love the fact that the additional eyes and attention mean more fans and a bigger/better product.

To carry that analogy through, no one would suggest moving the hockey hall of fame to Tampa. But by the same token that i don't hear anyone suggest that they should ban people from outside the south eastern US from country music.

I guess that is the biggest difference to me: who i'm hearing it from. I hear these criticisms and bigoted comments about the nationality of players from main-stream Canadian press, not just a few random bloggers and comment trolls.

Best example i can think of:
Lidstrom being the first European captain to win a cup. It was a big deal, and was covered by the press. Very similar to Tony Dungee being the first African American coach to win the Super Bowl a few years back. The difference was that no major sports outlet or even serious radio talk show host would have stood up and said "a black coach has never won the Super Bowl so our team shouldn't hire a black coach". Meanwhile i've heard from major hockey writers and talking heads repeatedly (up until last week) that teams shouldn't make Europeans their captains, citing "lack of heart" and other ludicrous reasons to explain how they shouldn't captain teams.

Is it horrible? No.
Is it everyone? Not by any means.

But is it more pervasive in hockey than other North American sports and something that should be addressed and talked about? Yes.
What do you think?

(image courtesy of Lone Primate)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Predators Roster Filling Up: What's the next move?

With the newly announced signing of Shea Weber (picture right) following quickly behind the signing of Dan Ellis, Ryan Suter, Martin Erat, David Legwand, Jordin Tootoo, etc, etc... Predators GM David Poile has made good on his promise to sign all of the team's restricted free agents and key personell. The trade of Chris Mason to St Louis also cleared up some salary.

But there is still a bit of a log jam. Taking the numbers from NHLSCAP.com, this appears to be our situation (adding in the Suter, Weber, and Ellis deals that aren't updated yet).


(Note: NHL Salary Cap is about $53mil, but the Predators are not expected to spend near the cap limit)

PLAYER POS 08-09 Salary Cap Number
ARNOTT, JASON F 4,500,000
LEGWAND, DAVID F 4,500,000
BONK, RADEK F 1,475,000
ERAT, MARTIN F 4,500,000
DE VRIES, GREG D 2,500,000
HAMHUIS, DAN D 2,000,000
SUTER, RYAN D 3,500,000
ZANON, GREG D 725,000
WEBER, SHEA D 4,500,000
ELLIS, DAN G 1,750,000
RINNE, PEKKA G 547,500

SULLIVAN, STEVE F - IR 3,200,000

Noteable free agents & AHL Players


Our salary is already meeting David Freeman's promise of being the largest in franchise history at over $45mil. A roster full of talent, and as important as anything - we didn't lose anyone we wanted to keep.

This roster presents a few problems though.

Without even getting into the mess of having no true left wings (not counting Steve Sullivan) and few real natural centers, the team has 11 forwards under contract. Not a lot of room to add/drop, but still a couple of spots to have guys fight over. From last year's roster we have Martin Gelinas and Jan Hlavac as options. Of course we could also go after a free agent on the market... or dip into the substantial talent we have in the minors. From all accounts Patric Horvqvist and Antti Pihlstrom (pictured at right) are ready for prime time, and Rich Peverly has been up with the big club multiple times in the last two years.

Personally, my vote would be to pull up at least one of those guys - get them working in the NHL. You have the luxury of having two to pick from so if one isn't working out with an extended stay in Nashville you can swap them.

Similar problem on defense. Six defensemen locked up, but good talent sitting in the free agent/minor league pool. DeVries is overpaid and Zanon wasn't great down the stretch but is still a bargain on his entry contract.

Personally, i think Ville Koistinen (pictured right) is responsible for making Zilicky worth keeping, and thus a must-have himself. Those two played great together when paired, especially on the power play. Klein i think is more valuable as a trade asset than on the ice right now. There are others deeper on the depth chart, but room needs to be made in front of them for any of them to see a shot at big league ice time this year.

Not much to say here. Set. Ready. Locked and loaded.

Ellis should be strong, though his one weakness will be his health issues. If the coaches try to push him through 65+ games next year i don't think he'll hold up. He had trouble keeping on the weight and only played 44 games last year (at times dropping 10+lbs every time he went on the ice). Rinne has been the 'goalie of the future' for a while, so this will be a great chance for him to get a lot of play time without having to carry the franchise on his still-young (but very sizable) shoulders.

So yes, we're in great shape. We have needs (strong, scoring forward) but are in good position with prospects and assets to spare.

What are your thoughts? Do you want the Predators to trade for a big name? Bring up Horvqvist or Pihlstrom? Should they resign Koistinen or Klein?

Good story so far... and next season should be one heck of a ride.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Big Move! Preds Sign Ellis, Trade Mason!

On the eve of the draft, the Preds just traded Chris Mason to the St Louis Blues and signed Dan Ellis. (Tennessean article here).

You have to assume that this means they expect Ellis to be the clear #1 goalie, with Pekka Rinne being the frequent backup, given Ellis' health problems last year (couldn't keep any weight on). Mason will logically be Manny Legace's backup give the year he had last season.

No details on contract length or amount (just that it is "multi-year") for Ellis, but i have to assume that they are saving money here - certainly over what keeping Mason and Ellis both would have cost.

The Tennessean is reporting that it is a 2-year, $3.5 million deal ($1.5mil first year, $2mil second year - avg of $1.75mil per year for the cap hit). This means a little more budget cleared for signing Weber and hopefully another trade for a nice skilled forward or two to boot. Great opportunity for Ellis to prove that last year wasn't a fluke and the Preds don't have to overpay for goaltending.

If i would have guessed they would pull a trade to keep Ellis, i would have thought it would be to trade Rinne - i never dreamed they'd be able to unload Mason, though just a single 4th round pick in this years draft shows his value is far less than the contract. They found someone willing to have a very very high level backup and overpay them. Kudos to Poile.

I also just have to say it is with some sadness that i watch Mason walk away from Nashville. He supported the Preds staying in Nashville as much or more than any other player (certainly was more vocal) and the city owes him for that. See ya Mase. You will be missed. Best of luck in St Louis (unless you're playing the Preds of course)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Behind the Predators closed doors?

[If you haven't stayed up on the lawsuits that Preds minority owner Boots Del Biaggio is going through, read here, here, and maybe some other places...]

We may be about to receive a major peek at the negotiating that went on when the Predators and the Metro Sports Council negotiated the new lease terms as well as the details and deals worked out among the ownership group.

Metro/Davidson County (specifically the Sports Authority and Jon Cooper) have been served with a subpoena for documents related to William "Boots" Del Biaggio's new bankruptcy and lawsuit trouble.

The interesting part is that the subpoena actually calls for:

All communications, including documents transmitted, to or from William J Del Biaggio, II, any of his agents, employees, persons working on his behalf or for his benefit, or any group, partnership, or organization that includes Mr. Del Biaggio or in which he has an interest, concerning any negotiations or transactions involving the purchase or sale of the Nashville Predators or any interest therein.
Yikes. They have about a week to get all of this together.

The way that sounds to me, all documents the Sports Authority has discussing anything with the Predators will likely be involved, given that it must include any "organization or partnership" that Del Biaggio was a part of. I seriously wonder if the Preds ownership group itself will be getting a subpoena next. Might depend on what they get from the Sports Authority i guess.

I don't think the ownership group or the city purposely did anything illegal or even shady, but i think we may be about to get a fairly unprecedented look at the negotiating process and exactly how the financial situation between all parties was setup.

I'm thinking we should stay tuned for more...

The AP is reporting that Metro will "hold off" on taking "action" action against the Predators organization. Apparently Larry Thrailkill, a Brentwood based attorney (who was once President of the San Francisco 49ers) advised the Metro Sports Authority that Del Biaggio was in default of his agreement with the city. Exactly how he's in default, and how that impacts the Predators isn't stated in the article, though it did state the the Sports Authority has promised to let the Preds "fix the situation", whatever that means.

This is a little surprising to me since we've heard multiple times from ownership and the Sports Authority that this shouldn't affect operations since they have already cashed Del Biaggio's check and his bankruptcy wouldn't affect the Preds. Only thing i can think is if the contract had a clause regarding criminal activity (he is being sued and investigated for fraud at the federal level).

The article also states that Preds lead owner David Freeman told the Authority that they were as surprised as everyone else at Del Biaggio's duplicity. (See Freeman's full address to the Sports Authority here)

Almost as interesting, the article also notes that the Predators themselves were apparently served with a similar subpoena to the one the Sports Authority received.

Stay tuned indeed...

In related news, since i haven't actually posted on the subject myself, i'll chime in something that i commented in a few places: I think this is great for the team. The one concern myself and several other fans had was that Del Biaggio was just here waiting in the wings. Playing his role as a "good guy" and giving the Preds a chance, but was ready and waiting to buy out the team and move them to Kansas City, where he had a standing agreement with AEG to operate a hockey team in the Sprint Center. Or he could also have just been buying brownie points with the league to get his own expansion team later (something Jim Balsilie would be wise to learn if he wants in the owner's club).

But now of course, we don't have to worry about either of those possibilities (as Rob pointed out a few days ago). He isn't taking the team to Kansas City, and Jerry Bruckheimer wants an expansion team in Las Vegas and hasn't made any moves toward wanting to buy out any other teams. Which pretty much makes Balsillie the only shark circling in the water for the Preds, and we all know that Gary Bettman would have to resign as commish for that to happen.

Question: Boots Del Biaggio is clearly an idiot. How on earth did this guy expect to buy a hockey franchise out-right and move it to Kansas City if he's this broke? It's not like he would make money on the team here or there anyway. Someone this broke lying to get loans to buy something that isn't going to make him money...?! Dude. At least lie your way into something that will make you money next time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Faux Brummles

A few friends of ours dropped us an email a saying "A friend of Allison's (from work) husband is playing as part of a band on Friday night, do you want to go see them. The band is: Phil Keaggy, Dave Perkins, Lynn Nichols, Rick Cua, Mark Williamson, Mike Radovsky, Tom Howard, and several other players. Playing nothing but covers. Small cafe venue. $5 cover. Do you want to go see them?"

My response was essentially: "ARE YOU KIDDING?!"

And apparently i was so excited i completely neglected to invite Jamie, my dad, or anyone else who would appreciate seeing Phil Keaggy play with half of Chagall Guevera (and half the band that played on his amazing "Crimson and Blue" album) with some of the other best musicians in Nashville.

So, i'm a jerk.

Not only that, but i neglected to adequately test my Canon S3IS's ability to record REALLY LOUD music. It handled it better than my Sansa, but not quite as good as the old tape recorder in my pocket used to when i bootlegged every show i saw. Oh - and i also didn't think to take two SD cards, just a single 2GB job that could hold about 70min of video tops.

But at any rate, i recorded what i could. But i missed the last 3 tunes (including Rick Cua's one and only amazing bass solo) and the audio quality is poor.

However, even though the audio is fairly trashy, it unfortunately gives you an accurate feel for the sound that evening. REALLY LOUD and unbalanced. The drums and organ were way too loud, and you could barely hear Phil Keaggy's or Dave Perkins' guitars, or Phil Keaggy's and Mark Williamson's vocals. But all-in-all it was still pretty amazing.

I recorded video when i felt like i could. I didn't have a tri-pod and i wasn't sure they really wanted the whole thing video taped, so i just left it sitting on the table recording the lens cap and sound most of the show, and occasionally would pick it up and pretend to take still photos and shoot video of the band. I realized after the fact that they probably would have been fine with me setting up a tripod in the corner and recording the whole thing... lessons learned.

Anyway - here's a rough version of them covering the Beatles' "Get Back". I'll try to clean up the audio and post the whole show later.

The Faux Brummles from Paul Nicholson on Vimeo.

Note about the band name: They were the Faux Brummles...named after the Beau Brummels, a 'fake' British Invasion band that was really from the 'States. Since these guys weren't really a band, they figured they'd be a fake-fake-band. I took the misspelling of "Brummles" from the marquee out front, but who knows if that was a typo or intentional. They said if they ever play again it'll be under a different name, so don't look for them too hard in the future.