On NHL Network, Stars top-six, and getting Colin Miller to All-Star weekend
The Stars lost, but I have some other things to discuss
I’ll let you in on a poorly-kept secret of the sports media/journalism industry.
Readership drops significantly when a team loses.
In my time as the Stars beat writer, my post-game 20/20 columns would have about triple the readership from a Dallas win compared to a Dallas loss.
At the heart of it all, we are all fair-weather fans to an extent. Only those who are gluttons for punishment read after a team loses. And while the Stars made a furious comeback in the third period, the first 40 minutes left an incredibly sour taste.
Part of the beauty of writing here at Substack is that I get to make the content decisions… and since I planned to write off Stars-Flames (and even tweeted I would), let’s go down a different path and talk about a couple key things.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Let’s talk about NHL Network
Because I’m outside DFW, I had to watch this game on NHL Network.
And that was a good reminder on the state of NHL Network.
NHL Network is run on a tight budget, where spending as little as possible on producing the channel takes precedence over the actual quality of the product.
The NHL essentially co-signs this by sub-contracting out to MLB Network, which treats hockey like a second-class citizen in the compound at Secaucus, NJ.
I’ve been in the studio before. The footprint and studio for NHL Network feels like a broom closet compared to the multiple massive studios for MLB Network. The fact they make the NHL Network studio look larger on television is a testament to talent behind the camera.
But the most notable thing that NHL Network does, or better yet doesn’t do, is properly travel to cover games it’s broadcasting.
Games that are being called by NHL Network talent, and this also includes the World Junior Championships, are called off a monitor in New Jersey.
That can lead to moments like this.
Stephen Nelson is on the play-by-play here and owns the mistake right away. But he also shouldn’t be in the spot where can make this mistake, a broadcaster in the building isn’t tricked by the monitor.
In COVID times, when access was restricted and budgets were slashed, calling games virtually from a monitor was necessary.
For the most part, NHL local broadcast teams have gone back to traveling their broadcasters. There are few exceptions, but in general broadcasters are back doing their jobs in press boxes.
For the league’s official network, which the NHL proudly puts its name on, to not travel for games is an embarrassment. It asks a fair question, if the NHL’s own network won’t take the games seriously, why should it expect anyone else to do so?
Just some food for thought.
Onto some actual hockey observations…
The Stars should shop for a top-six forward
Even with the third period onslaught, the Stars play over the two games in New York and the first 40 minutes against Calgary should be a sign to Stars management — and owner Tom Gaglardi — that Dallas needs to go shopping for another top-six forward.
Roope Hintz was always going to be a tough player to replace, even for a short time, but his absence shouldn’t lead to complete offensive inefficiency for eight periods of hockey.
When fully healthy, the Stars have the pieces to win a Stanley Cup, especially if the top line keeps clicking like it has. But depth, and lack of depth, offensively gets exposed or highlighted in the postseason and from a roster management perspective.
It would behoove the Stars to find another top-six forward, Gustav Nyquist comes to mind as an affordable option — also feel free to dream bigger — who can both help fill-in when Hintz deals with injuries (which are a reality with his playing style) and help answer that secondary scoring question.
It’s more of a luxury purchase, for sure, but teams that actually win Stanley Cups are willing to make luxury purchases.
Get Colin Miller to All-Star Weekend
I’ve got a story coming on Colin Miller early next week in D Magazine, copy is already filed and it’s on the editor desk.
You should check that out, but we can also discuss Miller for a moment right here.
Miller, who scored the goal that made it 6-5, should be at the NHL All-Star game in Florida.
Hear me out.
Not as an All-Star, but as an invite to compete in the true hardest shot competition. Back in 2015 Miller set a then AHL record with a 105.5 MPH shot in the AHL Skills Competition.
I’ve pushed for this idea before, and I’ll do it again here. Using puck and player tracking, the NHL needs to invite the players with the 12 hardest shots taken in the season — and I would bet Miller is in that group — to the All-Star weekend to compete.
It would be similar to NBA All-Star weekend where players don’t have to be all-stars to compete in the skills showcase and would follow the precedent the NHL set last season by inviting Trevor Zegras to compete in just the breakaway competition.
Do the same thing for fastest skater. Take the 12 fastest players according to puck-and-player tracking, invite them to Florida. Get me the true fastest skater and hardest shot competition.