Friday, July 3, 2015

Views on NHL Coaching Moves

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Every successful coach in any sport deserves to maximize his income potential.

Therefore, I understood why former Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock took his intense personality across the border and accepted the challenge to rebuild the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's pretty hard to turn down an eight year contract for $50 Million.

The Red Wings offered $20 Million for five years.

Can't blame a man for more than doubling his salary with another "Original Six Team."

Will money buy Babcock happiness? He's taking over a franchise which hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967 when there were only six teams in the NHL.

Former NHL Coach and current Hockey Night In Canada Analyst Don Cherry advised Babcock to stay in Detroit. Cherry had been through this before.

But Babcock decided to undertake this rebuilding process in his home country Canada. This week Toronto traded away its franchise player Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I do wish Babcock, 52, well except when he faces Detroit. My dealings with Babcock have been pleasant through the years. I look forward to seeing him when he visits the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.

Bobcock's regular season mark with Detroit was 458-223-105 for a .649 winning percentage. He made the playoffs in all 10 seasons with the Red Wings and won a Stanley Cup in 2007-2008. He reached the Stanley Cup Finals the following season. Detroit has made the playoffs 24-consecutive seasons.

I know this was a gut wrenching decision for Babcock to leave Detroit, but to his credit, it was classy that he had a Farewell Press Conference with the Detroit Media and left a Class Act.

The day before his Final Press Conference with the Detroit Media, Babcock called Toronto, "Canada's Team." Toronto is the wealthiest franchise in Canada.

I hope for Babcock's sake that the organization, run by former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan, gives him enough time and provides him the players to be successful. Otherwise, it will be a long eight years for a guy that hates losing.

The best example of this is former New York Yankees Manager Casey Stengel. In 12 years with the Yankees, Stengel was 1149-696 and won seven World Series titles for the Bronx Bombers.

In 1962, Stengel became the pilot of the Expansion New York Mets. In 3.5 seasons, Stengel 175-404 after the losing wore him out.

We'll see how much this wears on Babcock and see his his red hair turns grey. The guy is only four months younger than myself, having been born on April 29, 1963, and is eligible for AARP.

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Red Wings GM Ken Holland is not only the smartest person an organization can have, but the most loyal. He's already made a couple solid moves in free agency.

When Babcock departed, Holland knew his successor was a two hour drive on I-96 in Grand Rapids.

Ken obviously felt Jeff Blashill could transition well to Detroit, otherwise he wouldn't have torn up his old contract then doubled so Blashill wouldn't talk to other teams.

In six seasons as a head coach, Blashill has never had a losing record. He won a Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins 2012-2013.

In his six-year coaching career, Blashill is 225-127-10-28.

He's shown loyalty to Holland and deserves this opportunity. Plus, he's worked and developed many of the current Red Wings. Needless to say it should be a seamless transition.

It was interesting that as I watched Holland's press conference of Blashill's hiring that Ken indicated this was the worst kept secret.

We'll see if this leads Detroit to the post-season for a 25th straight year.

Before the Blashill hiring, I posted a comment on Facebook that Detroit should consider hiring Dan Bylsma, a Grand Haven, MI native. Bylsma's Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Mike Babcock's Red Wings to win the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup.

But the Buffalo Sabres, who made an aggressive attempt to hire Babcock, snapped up Bylsma, thus there were no other candidates that made sense to me.

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There seems to be a New Trend in hiring a head coach in the NHL that I've noticed.

Instead of hiring recycled-experienced coaches, teams are starting to give younger coaches an opportunity.

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit a home run with Jon Cooper. The 47-year old Prince George, BC, CA native has compiled a 101-59-20 mark in three seasons. Cooper defeated three "Original Six Teams" to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Prior to coming to the Lightning, Cooper won championships with the St. Louis Bandits, Green Bay Gamblers and won a 2011-2012 Calder Cup for Tampa's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

The Philadelphia Flyers went to college and found their new coach, Dave Hakstol, 46, from the University of North Dakota. In 11 seasons with North Dakota, Hakstol was 289-141-43 and his team reached the Frozen Four seven times. Hakstol is photographed.

Hakstol is the first head coach to go directly from the NCAA to the NHL since 1982 (Bob Johnson from the University of Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames).

On June 2, 2015, the New Jersey Devils hired John Hynes, 40, to be their next head coach.

Hynes is the youngest coach in the NHL.

Prior to joining the Devils, Hynes coached for the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past five seasons, making the playoffs each year. He reached the conference finals twice.

Hynes was the AHL's Coach Of The Year in 2010-2011.

I'll be curious to see how all of these coaches due in the 2015-2016 Season.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a long-time member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Atlanta Braves Announcer Chip Caray's Observations

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

During the latter part of Spring Training, we took a ride to Orlando and covered an exhibition game between the Detroit Tigers versus the Atlanta Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

Through the years, there have been numerous broadcasting names that have been delivering thrilling moments for generations.

In the business world there are four types of businesses: Small Businesses, Large Businesses, Corporations and Family Businesses.

In baseball, the term Family Bloodlines run real thick. Not only as a player, but as a broadcaster.

To name a few that stand out, there is the father and son tandem of Jack and Joe Buck, who had and have been fixtures with the St. Louis Cardinals. They both have worked on National Television while the late Jack also worked on National Radio and worked many sports. Joe has worked with other sports as well.

Thom and father Marty Brennaman are currently working together with the Cincinnati Reds. Prior to arriving in Cincinnati, Thom worked with the Arizona Diamondbacks and also works for FOX Sports doing a variety of assignments.

The next one intrigues me even more.

I'm speaking about The Caray's. There is Harry, son Skip and grandson Chip. Yes, three generations. Chip is photographed.

In December of 1997, the improbable nearly became a reality. Chip was hired to work with Harry on Chicago Cubs broadcasts on WGN TV. But on February 18, 1998, this never came to fruition as Harry died. Chip would continue to work seven seasons and left after 2004.

Chip, 50, would move to Atlanta and followed his late father Skip's footsteps to broadcast Braves games, where he still is active.

I had an opportunity to speak with Chip on some interesting topics in this Interview.

Q: Compare and contrast Spring Training in Arizona where you worked with the Cubs, and Florida with the Braves. I see you have quite a tan.

A: Both places were great. The distances for Arizona teams was very favorable. Not much travel time to play other teams, whereas the closest to the Braves is Kissimmee (Houston Astros) is 15 minutes away. The next closest is where the Detroit Tigers play in Lakeland which is 45 minutes. In both places the weather is hot. Arizona is dry and the ball carries more which is advantageous to hitters, less like the regular season except in Colorado. Florida is more humid and the ball is heavier. Hot hitters in Spring Training doesn't always correlate to regular season. Arizona is more luring for tax purposes.

I like Florida because My family and I live here year-round, therefore, I can spend more time with my family between games.

Q: You mentioned that the Braves travel a lot in Spring Training. Can you see them in Orlando over the long term? This is a beautiful complex.

A: I'm not sure how much longer the Braves will be at this current site. I don't see them moving out of Florida. But I could see them moving to either coast of Florida.

Q: This year MLB has instituted Pace of The Game Changes. What are your thoughts? These changes seem to be aimed between innings as well as hitter's time in the batters box.

A: The big difference between Pace of The Game and Time of The Game is some games can have a fast pace and be 2.5 hours. Yet you can also have a fast pace of the game be 3.5 hours. What I'm saying is it's the "In Between Down Time" that we're trying to hurry up.

In today's society, instant gratification with Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook, we're looking for more ways to attract the younger crowd.We really need the younger crowd as much of those that are say 55 years-old.

Q: Chip, this has been a common topic and will be long after our conversation. Do you ever see the DH in the National League?

A: I don't like it. Baseball was originally a nine person game. Pitchers hit. This is the true form of the game. The DH also takes away some of the strategies of the game from the managers such as the double switch, etc... Besides, The Players Union likes the DH and it does prolong careers for the veteran players. But I would say that a true fan of the game doesn't like it.

Q: This year Detroit native John Smoltz is going to the Hall of Fame. Long term, he turned out to be a great acquisition by Atlanta from the Tigers at the 1987 trade deadline for Doyle Alexander. How happy are you for John?

A: Smoltz is a great guy all around. Just like all the other Braves are happy for him. He's earned the honor and it's well deserved.

Q: In two weeks, the All-Star Game will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio and Commissioner Rob Manfred is allowing Pete Rose to be a part of the festivities. It's the right thing to do since so much of the history of the game especially in Cincinnati centers around him. Chip, do you ever see Pete Rose ever being reinstated?

A: If you go into any dugout/ locker-room, there are rules you don't break. It has nothing to do with drugs, alcohol and any other legal matter.

It has to do with "No Betting On The Game." Pete broke that.

For instance, he bet they would win 12 games in a row but not 13. Why? I wouldn't be surprised if he gets back in the game but not as a manager or anything else.

Chip and I did address the Tigers a bit and he agreed that losing Max Scherzer would hurt a bit. With the Washington Nationals, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 1.79 ERA plus he already has tossed a no-hitter along with a pair of complete games.

Detroit's difficulties this year have been as expected with bullpen issues and it has to get much better if the Tigers are going to return to the playoffs.

But we're approaching the All-Star Break soon and the Tigers offense is the key down the stretch. I will be curious to see what moves are made in late July to see if indeed Detroit is a buyer or a seller. It wouldn't hurt to stay healthy.

As of this post, the Tigers reside in third place in the AL Central and are currently 39-37, six games behind division leading Kansas City.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a long-time member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

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