Coverage of the NHL Draft had some high points and some low points over the weekend. As usual, Versus took a simulcast of TSN’s coverage. While some people criticize that, count me in as a supporter. Versus doesn’t have anyone with the knowledge to cover the draft except for Pierre McGuire and of course Pierre works for both networks. Can anyone see Jeremy Roenick, Keith Jones and Bill Patrick pontificating about a young player’s abilities? I don’t think so and it should be remembered that ESPN always used a Canadian feed as well but with Steve Levy or Dave Ryan doing a hosting role to give ESPN some presence at the draft. The TSN guys are the best at this and should continue to be simulcasted into the states.
TSN upped the graphics for this year’s coverage. It looked more professional than past years with updated tickers and constant graphics showing picks made and the best available according to Bob McKenzie’s list. The one place where TSN sometimes went amiss was their Twitter feed scroll. Like the scroll at the NHL Awards, the feed was often useless. For every interesting tweet, there was one that shamelessly plugged TSN just to get some TV time. If you’re going to focus on tweets, at least make them relevant to the broadcast.
James Duthie made for a fine host as he has in the past. He’s witty and knows his stuff. While some poked at his questions during his interviewing segments, I thought they were relevant. If Duthie didn’t ask Steve Tambellini about trades, many would’ve criticized him for it. Duthie played it smart and covered it well. Gord Miller was competent in his role while Pierre McGuire again showed his wild enthusiasm for every played picked. McGuire’s enthusiasm adds plenty to a telecast, but he goes too far at times. His breathless comments make it sound like every pick is a winner. He also repeated several times about how great the Florida Panthers will be in the future. I wonder if he includes Kenndal McArdle in that. McGuire went on and on about how great McArdle was when he was drafted in 2005. Yet, McArdle has struggled to make a name for himself in the AHL. The point is that McGuire needs to tone it down over players. There are some great players in the draft but not everyone will be a star. McGuire should look at each player’s abilities without building up a player’s future.
Bob McKenzie goes the opposite of McGuire when it comes to his draft coverage. McKenzie never hypes a player while giving straight analysis of who the player is and why he was drafted. He’s very even handed which is what a draft analyst should be. He handles it without being pompous and his homework on each player shows. It is true that McKenzie might not know as much about players as he had in the past, but he’s still the best that the NHL has for the draft. His rankings are usually near the mark, and it’s rare that you catch him off guard with a pick which is impressive especially when you consider how wide open the draft is once you get past the top 10 picks. His human interest comments are always interesting as well. Darren Dreger covered the trades with panache although I think he was a little slow when it came to some deals. I’d also like to see him report more when GM’s go to other team’s tables for a chat. Instead, Twitter became the best outlet for that.
Overall, TSN was solid which is something that can’t be said for NHL Network’s coverage. Day 2 of the draft is very hard to cover. It moves fast and many times, the picks are of unknown commodities. This leads to a problem especially for a TV broadcast. Last year, Brian Duff and Craig Button handled the coverage with Bob McKenzie joining them for rounds 2 and 3. McKenzie passed on it this year to go to a Tragically Hip concert – not that there’s anything wrong with that but he was missed. E.J. Hradek took over the third man role. Sadly, neither Button nor Hradek know enough about any of the players. Hradek was clearly over his head several times during the broadcast. One particular sad moment was when none of the broadcasters knew that Magnus Hellberg was a goalie. Instead, they announced John Gibson as the first goalie selected before realizing their mistake. A little Googling goes a long ways, fellas.
Duff was sick all weekend long and his voice gave way to Deb Placey’s for much of day 2. Placey is a decent broadcaster but was clearly out of her element to cover a draft. But the worst part of NHL Net’s coverage was of the picks themselves. As they did last year, the network decided to focus on interviewing players selected earlier and showing various feature segments. I understand the reasoning as day 2 is full of unknowns but they need to at least show a live up to the minute ticker for those that are interested in the draft. It’s sad when graphics are on the screen telling you to visit NHL.com for draft coverage while TV talking heads babble on with the draft going on behind them. Some depressing moments came near the end of NHL Network’s coverage. First, they aired an incredibly sad segment from TSN on George Pelawa. Then, they decided to focus on players in the stands that were still waiting to hear their names called. There isn’t anything wrong with mentioning it, but it wasn’t necessary to cut to them in the stands with their families. It lacked class and I can only imagine what Don Cherry would say about that move.
NHL Network has made great strides over the past year but they need to make some serious changes to their draft coverage. Bringing in some scouts or hockey prospect experts would help things but more than anything, they need to show who was picked where. This is supposed to be draft coverage. Sure, ESPN talks over late picks during the NFL Draft, but they still have a constant ticker going and you always know who’s picking and who went where. NHL Network completely failed that as their scroll was always way behind the real-time picks. I’m grateful to have the NHL Network but they need to sharpen their focus and give the fans what they expect to see on draft day.