Red Wings Week in Review: January 27 – February 7

Chris Zadorozny (Twitter: @Zads07)

After a rough finish against the Blackhawks in Chicago on January 27, the Red Wings bounced back.

The Red Wings took it to the Dallas Stars, but not before the Stars took the lead in the second period. Something must have clicked for the Wings offense, because Valtteri Filppula kicked it into high gear, scoring two of the Red Wings four goals, in route to a 4-1 win.

Henrik Zetterberg notched his second of the year, and Brunner his third. The game also saw a couple of fights from newcomer Jordin Tootoo, one that began at the opening faceoff.

It was a good win for the Red Wings, and they needed the momentum going into Friday’s game against one of the leagues best in the St. Louis Blues, who previously torched the Red Wings in their season opener.

This time, it wasn’t quite the other way around, but the Wings pulled out a gritty, 5-3 victory at home. Zetterberg scored three in the win, to earn his fifth career hat trick, and have his best game since the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

Zetterberg got going early and the Wings were off to a 2-0 lead. However, the Blues propelled themselves back into the game.  After Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak left the game after Zetterberg’s second goal, it was the Blues who took the momentum. St. Louis took the lead in the second period, but near the five-minute mark of the third, Zetterberg set up Jonathon Ericsson for the game-tying goal, with Pavel Datsyuk netting a poewerplay goal for the winner.

THIS and THAT:

  • The Red Wings faced the Calgary Flames this week, the first time Jiri Hudler has played against his former team after signing with the Flames this past offseason.
  • Highly regarded Red Wings goaltending prospect, Petr Mrazek earned his first NHL victory on Thursday, February 7 against the St.Louis Blues in the absence of backup goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson (groin).

MORLAND: Only 0.02% of American Sports Fans Count

Mike Morland (Twitter: @MikeMorland)

It’s been almost 74 years since the first televised sporting event hit the airwaves; a Columbia vs. Princeton baseball game on NBC, May 17, 1939. In 1950, Arthur Nielsen, a market analyst who developed a market size vs. compensation ratings system, brought the system to television. The rest is history.

Since the early days of television, people knew there was money to be made. Whether it was commercial advertising, product placement or celebrity endorsements, companies have been clamoring to the airwaves as long as we can remember.

If this worked for television programs, why not sports?

At the beginning of the TV-era, there were three networks, NBC, CBS and ABC. By the 1950s, more than 7 million TV sets were tuning in across the nation.

Over time, the Nielsen Ratings were measured two ways: 1.) Viewer “diaries,” where a target audience self-records its viewing or listening habits. 2.) A more technological system uses TV set meters, which are small devices connected to televisions in selected homes. These devices gather the viewing habits of the home and transmit the information connected to a phone line (or these days, a cable box).

The technology-based home unit system is meant to allow market researchers to study television-viewing habits on a minute-to-minute basis.

More than a half-century later, the United States still uses this same measurement system for TV ratings, and perhaps, there lies the problem with ratings-driven, televised sports.

In 2009, of the 114.5 million television households in the United States, only 25,000 of those homes participated in the Nielsen Rating System; that’s 0.02% of all TV’s in America, a fraction of a percent.

Somehow, 0.02% of Americans determine how billions of dollars are spent, what programs get cut and which sporting events are shown on TV each year.

Although the 25,000 Nielsen boxes are supposed to cover a wide demographic to represent the population as a whole, how can you not question a system that’s suposed to be equally representative of all geographical and personal demographics? Additionally, this concept derived from three network options.

Today we have more networks, providers and options than ever before. The television population has increased more than 1,535% since 1950.

The game has changed, but our rating system has not. Sports are driven by TV-ratings.

There’s no secret that an East Coast Bias for sports exists, especially with an emphasis TV ratings. It’s the ability to bring you live, new and now at the best TV revenue times of the day.

The Nielsen rating system is a two-headed monster influencing sports.

Not only are ratings influencing advertising dollars, this “statistical data collection” reinforces a networks’ decision of what sports are shown and at what times.

There’s currently a great example of how a media organization can influences sports based on financial ties. The two players in this are ESPN and the NHL.

Around the time of the 2005 NHL lockout, ESPN and the NHL parted ways on their TV deal with key differences on revenue and ratings. The NHL may have over-valued its popularity, but at the same time, ESPN may have under-valued its fan base and the influence it has as a third or fourth major sport in the United States.

Since its departure from ESPN, a “nobody cares” mentality has been widespread throughout media and sports fans in the United States. ESPN, the self-proclaimed, worldwide leader in sports, only covers the NHL on ESPN.com, in addition, in small doses through highlights on its TV networks.

The reality of the situation is, why would ESPN do any more than that?

The network has no financial stake in the league. Promoting it beyond what is minimally necessary to maintain it’s national brand would only hurt the network financially. Since ESPN is the most influential sports network in the United States, with the most airtime, it’s easy to assume, “if you don’t see it and you don’t hear about it, it must not matter.”

“Nobody cares about hockey” – heard time and time again since the 2005 NHL lockout. Hockey, especially the NHL, is a billion dollar industry with millions of fans across the United States, and even more in Canada.

The NHL isn’t the NFL or MLB, but there’s more popularity in the sport than media gives it credit for.

Perhaps there’s a trickle-down effect.

Perhaps that 0.02% of Nielsen boxes that count towards TV ratings weren’t aligned with the NHL’s true fan-base. Perhaps there’s more popularity in hockey than Nielsen has reported to networks like ESPN. Perhaps the NHL and ESPN could have struck a deal in 2005 and perhaps the NHL would still be flourishing on the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

You can’t blame the leagues or the networks; they’re only players in the game of TV.

But you can question the game, the Nielsen rating system, and ask yourself:

“Is 0.02% really doing sports fans justice?”

Red Wings Week in Review: January 21-27

Chris Zadorozny (Twitter: @Zads07)

Last week, the Red Wings earned their first win of the season over the Columbus Blue Jackets before hosting the Dallas Stars in their home opener.

After a disastrous loss two nights before, the Red Wings faced off against an undefeated Blue Jackets team without Rick Nash, who had been traded to the New York Rangers in the offseason. Now led by Brandon Dubinsky and Jack Johnson, the Jackets nearly pulled off a win over the Red Wings.

Detroit had a great start with a goal from rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff. Ian White followed up with his first of the season in the second period. Rookie forward Cam Atkinson scored for the Blue Jackets to end the first period, 2-1. The Blue Jackets then kept up their pursuit and scored two more in the third period to push the Red Wings to thee brink.

With just under 10 minutes left in the third period, Pavel Datsyuk found the back of the net to tie the game. The Red Wings sent the game into overtime and then a shootout. The game winner went to Damien Brunner with an amazing move to push the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory.

With nine players out with injuries on opening night against Dallas, the depleted lineup played very well against the veteran Stars team. Unfortunately, they lost their home opener 2-1 to the Stars, but rebounded against Minnesota on Friday night. Before the game against Dallas, the Red Wings signed defenseman Kent Huskins after learning Carlo Colaiacovo would miss the next 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury.

On Friday night, the Red Wings hosted the new-look Minnesota Wild. They pulled off a dramatic 5-3 win after letting the Wild back into the game midway through the second period. The scoring started in the second period with Brunner’s second of the year, and Todd Bertuzzi’s first goal of the season. Bertuzzi was misdiagnosed with mononucleosis and was cleared to play Friday after learning of the news

The game against the WIld was a good boost for the Red Wings morale heading to Chicago this past Sunday to face the best team in the league. Looking to spoil the Blackhawks best start in franchise history, Detroit kept up with the young, talented team. The ‘Hawks got the scoring started as Duncan Keith blasted one past Jimmy Howard to take an early lead in the first period. Early on in the third period, Johan Franzen netted his first goal of the season to tie the game at one. The game went into overtime where Dallas’ Nick Leddy had his shot deflect off Brunner’s stick into the back of Detroit’s net, leading the Blackhawks to a win.

Red Wings Lay Egg in Season Opener, Lose 6-0

Chris Zadorozny (Twitter: @Zads07)

How long has it been since the Red Wings were shutout in their season opener?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President, the Cold War was still going on and the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants to win the NFL Championship. The year was 1958 and during the 1958-1959 season, the Red Wings would go on to miss the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.

On Saturday night, the Red Wings fell to the St. Louis Blues in a lopsided 6-0 blowout. The Wings were outplayed in nearly every aspect of the game; offense, defense, goaltending, fore-checking, back-checking, it was just dreadful. Sure, you can blame the 113-day lockout, or the fact that Nick Lidstrom is no longer in the lineup, or heck, that the Wings are missing a few key pieces in order to be a full team. Blame the goaltender Jimmy Howard, or blame the coaching, or the refs; whatever you want you can blame. As fan, life without Nick Lidstrom looks dreary.

Defensemen Kyle Quincey was burned twice on breakaways, rookie defenseman Brendan Smith played, well, like a rookie. Damien Brunner looked lost playing on an NHL rink after playing the last three years in Switzerland.

There was no chemistry between the forwards and the defense. Howard was pulled after five goals, but to his defense, most of them he never had a chance at. The defense was burned three times and looked like a junior team playing in a pro league.

If anyone remembers the phrase “the dead things,” this is what the team looked like.

Although the Red Wings played an awful game, it is only one game. They have a gritty, young team that needs to find its chemistry, and fast if they are going to compete in the Western Conference.

Wings Enter the (2012-) 2013 Season with New Look, Same Expectations

Chris Zadorozny (Twitter: @Zads07)

The NHL is back (finally) and so are the Detroit Red Wings. The team returned to the ice this week in Plymouth, MI for a shortened training camp.

So what do you remember about the Red Wings after this off-season? Probably a few things. For starters, Nicklas Lidstrom is gone, retired and has returned to Sweden with his family. The Red Wings were unable replace Lidstrom. In all honesty, they do have some talent on defense, but no one will be able to fill those skates.

The Red Wings, for the first time in 30 years, will not have Steve Yzerman or Nick Lidstrom in their lineup; scary to think about. Now, Henrik Zetterberg will lead the team as captain. Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk will wear will return as alternate captains for 2013.

What else has changed for this team though? They weren’t able to sign Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, two of the most highly prized free agents this off-season.

Who did the Red Wings sign instead?

On the first day of free agency, the Wings went out and signed four guys, while losing another. Among the signees; Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson to back up Jimmy Howard in net; Jordin Tootoo, from Nashville; former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson; and Damien Brunner, a relatively unknown Swiss star who thrived during the lockout with Zetterberg as his line mate. The Red Wings also signed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (former Maple Leaf and Blue) to shore up the back end and provide additional help on the power play.

The team also lost defenseman Brad Stuart ( San Jose) and Tomas Holmstrom (retirement) during the offseason.

So how good is this new Red Wings team? On paper, possible lines could look something close to this to start the season:

Forwards

Line 1: Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Brunner

Line 2: Bertuzzi-Filppula-Franzen

Line 3: Cleary-Abdelkader-Tootoo

Line 4: Eaves-Nyquist-Miller

(reserve) Mursak, Emmerton

 Defense

Kronwall-Ericsson

Smith-Quincey

White-Colaiacovo

(reserve) Kindl

Goaltending

Howard

 Gustavsson

(reserve) MacDonald

Injuries: Helm (back), Samuelsson (groin)

Despite all of the changes and the NHL lockout, I think it’s safe to say with Zetterberg as the new captain of the Wings, expect the 21-year playoff streak to continue.