Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hockey's New Zen Master?

Now a proud member of the Spector's Hockey Blogroll!

I read with interest Scott Burnside's recent espn.com article about the shifting power in the NHL. Basically he says the huge sucking sound you are hearing right about now is the sound of a new gold rush. Yes, BMW's and Escalades loaded with composite sticks are leaving places like Colorado, St. Louis and Toronto for some previously lesser-known destinations. Hockey's biggest stars have said, "CBA be damned! Show me the money!" And those clubs with cap room and a gambler's instinct have opened their checkbooks.

In the NHL, it's no longer survival of the richest. The CBA has created a truly unique opportunity for those clubs best prepared to exploit opportunity. In military terminology, it's called the "OODA Loop." The acronym stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Adherents to the OODA Loop philosophy combine aggressiveness, flexibility and resourcefulness to meet constantly changing tactical environments. I think Florida and Columbus are the CasonBlog OODA Loop winners to date. Both clubs reacted quickly and the beat others to the punch. First, let's look at the Panthers.

Mike Keenan recognized that he had two issues to immediately address. One, a skeleton squad rich in young talent but void of mature leadership; and two, a potentially fatal economic down-turn if the Sunshine State Kitties aren't ready to put up "W's" right out of the gate. There's just way too many other things to do in South Florida. Miami is a front-running town where Shack, Pat Riley and the Dolphins rule. Hockey is not even on the radar on South Beach. Keenan's initial signings oriented the club to address both needs simultaneously. By going "grandpa" with Nieuwendyk, Roberts, and Marty Gelinas, Iron Mike secured the mature on ice leadership necessary to yield immediate success in a market where winning now is the imperative.

The secret to the success of the 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup championship was just this sort of mature on ice leadership. Every hockey fan remembers Mark Messier's guarantees, clutch goals, and pub-hopping with Lord Stanley's cup. Keenan is looking for a little of that 1994 magic again-this time with Joe, Gary, and Marty playing the roles of Messier, Leetch, and Graves. And this year, he's got goalie Roberto Luongo, a guy I'd take over Richter any day (even with cropped pads).

One can almost hear Keenan at the start of this year's training camp... " I love the smell of old hockey players in the morning. They smell like...like...victory."

Next time: the Columbus Blueline Jackets

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