In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Brandon Gould, challenges Sports Editor Alex Wolfe, Features Editor Brendan McGrath and Correspondent Josh Fidler to answer questions about what the NHL needs to do to get more media attention, whether the now-Division-I Michigan lacrosse team can win three games and whether the Reds’ move of Aroldis Chapman to starter will be beneficial.
1. Sidney Crosby has been injured, and Alexander Ovechkin hasn’t been up to par this season. In their absence, Crosby’s teammate Evgeni Malkin and fourth-year center Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning are having stellar seasons, yet we hear nothing about them. Is there any way to get ESPN and the public talking about the sport again?
AW: Honestly, there needs to be another transcendent star like Ovy or Crosby to get this thing going. Those two have pretty much made the NHL the last seven or so years because they were always just SO much better than everyone else. However — and unfortunately more importantly — those two are endorsement machines, which tends to speak louder to the casual sports fan than solid play. Sportscenter commercials, Nike endorsements, Reebok endorsements — you name it and these guys have done it. Hockey isn’t a popular enough sport in the U.S. to get consistent attention (unless you ask Sportscenter anchor John Buccigross) and it really takes household names to keep it afloat. Maybe once guys like Malkin and Stamkos get their foot in the door for some big-time endorsements we might start hearing about them more. Calling up ESPN for a Sportscenter commercial might be a good start. Or maybe CAA can hook these guys up.
BM: Crosby and Ovechkin became the faces of the NHL coming out of the lockout and have remained so ever since. If anything, their lack of presence this season has shown just how reliant the league is on just two players. This concentration of media coverage is indicative of a sport with little depth in the public eye, such as golf. The NHL has done a solid job of promoting its brand coming out of the season-long lock-out seven years ago, and there is excitement about the sport within the league’s established fan base. Now, the NHL must invest more heavily in expanding its reach into traditional sports markets so that the league doesn’t need Crosby to be healthy in order to be successful. Until then, it won’t matter that Stamkos has been amazing, because casual sports fans are interested in how the league’s mascots (Crosby and Ovechkin) are doing, instead of caring about who is playing the best.
JF: Outside of Jeremy Lin suddenly retiring from basketball to go play hockey, it will be tough for the NHL to gain airtime from the worldwide leader in sports. In fact the Jeremy Lin story has hidden the New York Rangers from even most New Yorkers. As of the All-Star break the Knicks are 17-18, the Rangers have the best record in the Eastern Conference with a 39-15 record. Yet most New Yorkers probably couldn’t name three players on the Rangers. The NHL needs some Linsanity of their own, but both the Kid and Ovechkin have not lived up to fan expectations. The NHL needs to find some players to market and find them fast. I suggest they stay in the N.Y. market, and more specifically go to the Rangers. The NHL should step up their marketing for some of the better players on the Rangers and more specifically the goalie Henrik Lundqvist who is one of the main reasons why they have been so good. I think it is time for some Lundsanity in the NHL.
BG: Josh gets 3 for pointing out the NHL has potential that needs to be marketed and, mainly, for saying “Lundsanity.” Brendan gets 2 for his argument that the league has put too much reliance on Crosby and Ovechkin. Alex gets 1 for saying that other players need to start getting endorsements.
2. Michigan lacrosse made the move from club to Division I this season under head coach John Paul. The Wolverines had previously gone 241-44 and clinched three Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association championships over its last 14 club seasons under Paul, but Team One has yet to win a game on this new stage. If we set the bar at three wins for the Wolverines this season, would you go over or under?
AW: I would have to say over, considering the team has already won two exhibition games this season. They’re currently sitting at 0-3, with 11 games remaining. I think they have a chance though, because they did finish 2-3 for the preseason. Maybe I’m just caught up in Linsanity too, but I’ve been a sucker for underdog stories lately, so I hope they do get a few wins under their belt this season. On a more serious note though, the bright side for the Wolverines is that their schedule is easier now than it was so far. They’ve faced two ranked teams to this point, and they won’t face another one the rest of the year (if the rankings stay as they are now). They also have a big game against rival Ohio State, which I’m sure will bring the best out of them. So, all in all, I think that Michigan can definitely go over one more win this season.
BM: Under. As the team enters this new playing level, it will take some time to adjust. I would say that the Wolverines will eventually be successful, because it has established a program that was able to compete on the club level, but it will be a few years before they are able to have their prior success transcend to Division I. While I think they’ll come under three wins this season, I would say that this will be the last time that happens. The complexity of play and the greater speed of game on the Division I level is a hump that Michigan won’t overcome this year, but I say give it five years and the jump will prove worthwhile.
JF: I can’t profess to know a lot about college lacrosse. In fact I know almost nothing. But because Michigan is such a large school, I am going to go with the over. 241-44 even for a club team is a fairly decent record. There are going to be some games against weaker opponents where I think they will win. They have several games against some smaller non-ranked teams so I say Maise and Blue will go all the way, and win over three games.
BG: Brendan gets 3 for noting that although the Wolverines may take a step back this season record-wise, it’ll be a jump forward in the long run. Alex gets the 2 for stating their preseason success. Josh gets 1 for taking the over.
3. The Cincinnati Reds are moving pitcher Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen to the starting rotation. This is a move that has worked out for some teams and been a failure for others. Are the Reds making the right decision here?
AW: I would say no, however I do think he stands a better chance than some. Two of the more recent flamethrowers that I can think of are Joel Zumaya from the Detroit Tigers and Joba Chamberlain from the Yankees. Both of them were blazing fastballers, and both of them ended up suffering injuries — most likely from the strain of pitching so hard (and Guitar Hero was a factor for Zumaya as I recall). Now, Zumaya was never made a starter, but Chamberlain was, and it never really worked out nearly as well as him in the ’pen. For that reason, I don’t think it’s a great move to take Chapman out of the bullpen — they expose him to a much greater risk of injury with the bigger workload. However, there is one difference that I can see between Chapman and the other two — Chapman is seemingly in much better shape. He’s a big lanky dude, and compared to the portly Chamberlain and Zumaya, he looks like he could hold up a lot better. For that reason I think he could possibly do it, however I think the Reds would be much better suited to keep him in the setup role and just not take the risk.
BM: The reliever to starter move is so particular to each individual that goes through it that I don’t think there is a general rule that you can apply. The Reds themselves suffered through the attempt at making the once-stellar Danny Graves into a starter, but I think this time will different. The main concern I have with Chapman revolves around the fact that he had to back out of fall and winter league opportunities to start because of shoulder soreness. Though this raises questions about whether the Reds should follow through with this, I think this is a chance they have to take. There is a huge upside to a guy who can hit 105 on the gun, and will likely keep it in the high 90s much of the time, especially if he can get his slider working. Keep him under 200 innings and slot him in after Cueto and Latos, and the Reds have a realistic shot to go far this year.
JF: I don’t like this move from the Reds. While Chapman is big, I don’t like how he throws the ball. He throws three/quarters meaning in-between throwing over the top and side arm. This is something that can cause stress on the elbow. Not to mention that Chapman throws his fastball at an average velocity of almost 98 mph. I think there will be elbow injuries in his future. So the fact that they are moving him to the rotation means that he will be throwing over a 100 pitches every fifth day. I think he will be safer in the bullpen where he throws an inning a few times a week. I like Chapman but I don’t want to see him pitch not be on the DL, which I believe will happen if he stays in the starting rotation.
BG: Brendan gets 3 for his Danny Graves reference and for pointing out that Chapman’s full repertoire combined in the rotation with Cueto and Latos is worth the potential risk of injury. Josh gets 2 for his argument that Chapman’s delivery may cause him problems if his innings increase. Alex gets 1 for providing past examples who haven’t worked out.
Brendan wins this week’s AtD, 8 – 6 – 4.
“Doubling Alex in points, this may be my proudest Signal moment.” — Brendan