Friday, June 22, 2012

Where is Your NHL Draft Party?

It's tonight in Pittsburgh which brings back memories as I was at the NHL draft the last time it was there.  They held it at "The Igloo" which is what they called their old rink there in the same way we call ours "The Joe."  It may have been Mellon Arena when I was there or it may have still been named the Pittsburgh Civic Arena or it may have been named something else entirely.  Who knows? I can't remember. And, of course, tonight's draft will be held at the new arena in Pittsburgh and I don't know that name of that place off the top of my head, either.

But back to that last draft in Pittsburgh.  It was 1997 and the Wings were fresh off their first Stanley Cup in 42 years or whatever it was (it was, it was 42: 1955-1997 was the duration of the drought) and it was nice to see Scotty Bowman to congratulate him in person.  I'd been hosting the Wings pregame show on the radio for several seasons prior--I'd left just before the '96-'97 season to do play-by-play in Grand Rapids--and in that capacity it was my job to interview him an hour or so before faceoff every night so we'd gotten to know each other fairly well.  And, of course, the year I leave is the year they finally win and Scotty teased me about how my not having been there being the #1 reason they'd won.

At breakfast in the hotel the morning of the draft I was sitting with our coach in Grand Rapids, Dave Allison and who walks into the coffee shop but Bobby Orr.  I am stunned to learn that Allison and Orr, well, they know one another.  Like, on a first name basis.  So, Allison introduces me to him and like, wow, right?  Bobby Orr!  And he could not have been nicer.  What a gentleman and what a kick I got out of that.

There'd been a social affair the night before sponsored by the NHL at a restaurant right on the river--drinking was involved--and the GM of some team in the American League, Hershey, maybe it was, somehow got it in his head (probably because I was wearing a sports coat and tie) that I was the General Manger of our team instead of the broadcaster for our team which is what I was.  So he asks me if our team is in the market for a play-by-play guy because he's trying to help some guy out and I say, "Personally, I can't stand our guy.  But, the owners like him, so what can you do?"

Ah, memories.  We shall enjoy them...

As for the draft itself, I always say, "Who knows?"

It is tougher, in my view, to handicap the NHL draft than it is to forecast any other sports' draft. Who knows which 18-year-old kid is going to grow up to be an NHL-er? If anybody did, do you think Pavel Datsyuk would have been there in the Sixth Round for the Wings to take in '98? But he was. Detroit selected Jiri Fischer, Ryan Barnes, Tomek Valtonen, Jake McCracken, Brent Hobday, Calle Steen and the legendary Adam Deleeuw in the '98 draft BEFORE they took Datsyuk.  And to make it all even a bit more amazing, they had two picks in the Sixth that year and they used the second of them, not the first, the second pick they had in that round on Datsyuk!  Is there a backstory here or was it blind outhouse luck for Ken Holland and the Wings in '98?  

They need some sort of luck tonight, one supposes.  Detroit, which has not had a First Round pick in two of the last three drafts, doesn't have one again tonight.  They won't be on the clock until the 19th pick of Round Two, #49 overall.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Daily Gaggle: June 7, 2012

When I asked Jim Leyland if there were positions other than center field that Quintin Berry can play--the kid's made an impression since coming up from Toledo hasn't he?--Leyland asked me where I would put him.  In left instead of Andy Dirks? In right instead of Brennan Boesch?  Keep him in center instead of Austin Jackson?

I hate when he does that.  Leyland has won 1,613 Big League games.  I haven't won any.  How would I know?  I was just asking the question.

Anyway, you can hear that exchange as well as the full comments made by the manager this morning prior to today's series finale against the Indians on the audio player below.

Today's gaggle is of about 18 minutes duration and Leyland in that time covers a wide variety of topics.  Of note, catcher Gerald Laird will take BP and will run in the outfield prior to tomorrow night's game in Cincinnati and if he says he is good to go, he will start.  Leyland continued to voice optimism about his club, noting that there are a lot of guys on the roster with what he called "pretty good bios" and he expects they will soon begin to do what their track records say they will do.

So, on to today's game against the Indians.  Derek Lowe starts for Cleveland. No pitcher in the American League has more wins that Lowe (7).  Casey Crosby makes his second Big League start here this afternoon for Detroit.  After lasting only three and a third against the Yankees last Friday night, he comes in with an ERA of 16.20.  But, you know what they say: the games are played between the white lines, not on paper, specifically in this case the paper upon which are written today's Game Notes.

One other item.  The Tigers have created a bit of symmetry here.  In winning only 16 of their last 44 (16-28, .364), they have gone from being six games over .500 to being six game under .500.  And if you are looking for that third "six" to make it the truly evil 6-6-6, well, six is the number of games that the Tigers are out of first place...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Leyland: Still A Lot to Like About the Tigers

Here's the audio from Jim Leyland's pre-game presser as we await tonight's game between the Tigers and the Indians here at Comerica Park.

Leyland's team is six off the lead in the AL Central and comes in four games under .500.  Detroit is three-and-a-half back of the second-place Indians in the division race.

It's almost surprising Leyland wasn't more upset than he appeared to be during this afternoon's media session.  I asked him what he likes about his team right now, and you can hear that question and the manager's answer somewhere near the mid to latter portions of the audio which is of about nine minutes duration...

22-year old Drew Smyly starts for the Tigers tonight while Ubaldo Jimenez (0-4, 9.54 lifetime here at Comerica Park) goes for the Tribe.  We'll be here to keep you posted on the evening's activities...