I know money isn’t really a thing to ESPN. $400 million a year certainly sounds like a lot of cheese, but it’s not really anything more than just an accounting number to them. So I shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t put much effort into their NHL coverage, despite that being the cost.
It’s hard for hockey fans to not look longingly at their NBA roster, where Doris Burke or Jeff Van Gundy or Hubie Brown (god love Hubie Brown) ply their trade and really add something to each and every broadcast. They teach you something, show you the things you can’t see, provide actual color, which is strangely the name of the job.
Mostly, ESPN’s hockey coverage is fine, but never makes any attempt to rise above fine. Picking Sean McDonough as your lead play-by-play guy is basically as break-glass-in-case-of-no-other-ideas as it gets.
But that doesn’t mean ESPN can’t dive right into the awful. I have used this space to complain about John Buccigross before…and I’ll do it again. It was bad enough that they let this shithead parachute in for the Frozen Four, and I can’t imagine what actual college hockey fans think to have their biggest event smothered by Buccigross trying to fist his catchphrases over a game where he has no idea who’s playing.
NHL fans get the same insult, as he’s been assigned to the Kings-Oilers series along with Kevin Weekes and Ryan Callahan. The three of them have the chemistry of two mongooses and a cobra and the rhythm of failing brakes. All three of them shout stuff at random times without listening to each other, because none of them really has much to say.
Buccigross spends 70 percent of his call in a forced hush to make things sound dramatic, when not everything that happens in a hockey game is dramatic. A defenseman wheeling out from behind his own net is not worthy of trying to set up suspense. 25 percent is his catchphrases that make no goddamn sense, and the other five percent is his random musings about something that might happen or flat-out didn’t happen. Weekes spends his time trying to steer the viewer back to what’s actually happening in the few pauses Buccigross provides, and Callahan is left to literally shout with whatever scraps of time are left after that. This is the NHL playoffs and we’re getting a demolition derby of verbiage pretty much hurled at us.
It doesn’t get any better between periods or pre and post-game, because that’s where Mark Messier and Chris Chelios sit and belch (I know the editor of Kotaku is going to fly here and turn me to paste for Rangers’ slander, but I’m going out my way. Ha, just kidding, I’m the only one at this company old as shit who remembers the only Rangers Cup that matters). PK Subban does his best to be both lively and informative, while wondering why he has to put up with two dinosaurs. Steve Levy clearly is totaling up all the time he’s spent in Bristol to get stuck in the studio with this Branson puppet show.
But worse yet, and it spreads everywhere in hockey, is that no one wants to tell you or either knows what’s going on in any of these games. Instead of telling me how the Canes might get through the Isles’ deep-set 1-1-3 through the neutral zone or how the Isles counter Carolina’s man-to-man system in the defensive zone or what the Panthers are doing to keep the Bruins from breaking out of their zone up the middle as they like, every single analyst on the national broadcast will answer every question with, “Be more physical” or “get on the body more.” It’s all they can think of. Hitting is apparently the answer to every question in hockey. It’s like Chris Rock’s Robitussin bit about his dad. Can’t score? More hitting. Power play on the fritz? More hitting. Your second-pairing d-man completely overdosed on Sudafed? More hitting.
It’s a vacuous wasteland, which is apparently how they want it.
Something else the NHL could do during the playoffs
Here’s another thing the NHL could do during the playoffs. Up penalties and suspensions for any horseshit that takes place during the last two minutes of a game that’s a blowout. The Bruins were just the latest group of assholes to engage in “message sending,” the hockey tradition that dictates if you just got your ass kicked in a playoff game you have to try and fight and cheapshot anyone who comes across your field of vision.
It’s not the Panthers’ fault that the Bs have spent most of the first two games playing like total butt, and didn’t get away with it in Game 2. It’s simply being a sore loser, it’s a terrible look, and the sport would be better without it. Get an instigator in the last five minutes down three goals or more? You miss the next game. Draymond Green did this just two nights ago. Learn.
Can NHL officials actually do their jobs?
Then again that would require NHL officials to actually do their jobs, which, well…
It’s OK, only cost the Islanders a goal in overtime to go down 2-0 to the Canes.
Shut up, MadBum
Quick departure to baseball to end this:
I know for a fact that Willson Contreras would turn Bumgarner into paste, and despite everything I just wrote, MLB should actively encourage it. Bumgarner has become a cartoon, and now he’s a cartoon who can’t get anyone out. Let’s watch him get the shit kicked out of him in every way.