Pierre McGuire’s apparent move from TSN to the NBC Sports Group full time should change the landscape for several NHL broadcasters. While TSN will feel the biggest change, I wonder what it may mean for the future of the NHL on Versus and if we will see more changes on the horizon.
Obviously, McGuire’s move throws a wrench into TSN. He is their number one analyst and in some cases, is even overexposed on the network. Seeing him on TV night after night can wear on a person and I can only imagine how tiring it must’ve been for McGuire himself, traveling night after night. While McGuire has plenty of detractors, you can’t deny that he is one of the most powerful analysts in hockey today. McGuire’s move to NBC is a big get for the network, especially coming after Dick Ebersol’s departure and it should give a great boost to Versus’ coverage especially when it comes to Hockey Central and NHL Overtime. McGuire is full of passion and livens up any telecast which is often needed at Versus. I have no idea what McGuire thinks he could do for NBC during the Summer Olympics, but then again, Bill Clement was used during a few Olympiads as a play by play man and an analyst for several different sports.
So, where does this leave TSN? I find it hard to believe that McGuire won’t still be involved with TSN especially when it comes to WJC coverage and deadline day. I can’t imagine him not being a part of either as his passion for both slams right through the television. Ray Ferraro will almost certainly become TSN’s lead man and since TSN rotates broadcast teams, he has plenty of experience working with both Chris Cuthbert and Gord Miller. That leaves his spot open for a taker.
Mike Johnson already works regional Montreal games for TSN and also called the World Championships for the network. Combine that with his experience as an analyst for the NHL Network and he would be a natural choice. Johnson has been getting better as time goes by and should only improve with more experience. He’s still a little rough around the edges which is one reason that TSN may look elsewhere.
TSN has plenty of talent on their panels but none of them have any experience when it comes to being a game analyst. While I’ve grown to enjoy Craig MacTavish on the panels, he obviously wants an NHL coaching job so his future is somewhat up in the air. Aaron Ward and Michael Peca have both had bright moments in the studio but I’m not sure how either of them would do moving between the glass or up in the booth. Bobby Clarke and Ken Hitchcock are in similar positions as MacTavish and I can’t see either of them taking up an analyst job. Darren Pang is great but between his St. Louis and NBC duties, there’s little room for him. There’s a few NHL Network analysts who could make the move, including Craig Button but again, I don’t see him as a good fit. Brad May has been decent doing AHL games for CBC, but he’ll probably stay there and look to move up within the Corporation.
That leaves the wild cards. Like May, there’s several possibilities at the CBC if TSN wanted to raid their competitor. Glenn Healy has gone back and forth between networks and Greg Millen has been demoted within Hockey Night in Canada. Marty Turco has done a great job on the NHL Network but his playing career may not be over. Marc Crawford has plenty of analyst experience working for CBC and may be looking for a more permanent gig. While Darren Elliot isn’t one of my favorites, he would make plenty of sense for TSN since he’s one of the few “free agents” to have experience. There’s plenty of regional guys too but it’s hard to find any that bring the enthusiasm that McGuire does.
The fact that NBC is willing to spend big money on getting McGuire makes me think that in the future we will see all of their broadcasters move to working exclusively for them. This would be a welcome change. ESPN always had their own announcers and there’s no reason for NBC not to do the same. The rotating wheel of broadcasters leads to little chemistry and it’s not very professional. Once Sam Flood took over the Versus broadcasts, he quickly made changes to the broadcasts to up their professionalism. Moving away from home team broadcasters calling games was a welcome change and that should continue.
There are several rumors about the futures of both Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk. Reportedly, Emrick’s New Jersey contract is up, while Edzo is looking to move into the front office in Chicago. Whatever happens, national games should always be the top priority of any NHL broadcaster. Should Emrick stay as a regional play by play man, he needs to be at the Versus games, over his regional gig. It was quite odd to see Doc calling a Devils/Thrashers matchup while Versus relied on home team broadcasters. To be more professional, it’s time to cut the cord, and give the national games the broadcasters that they deserve. NBC needs to get Dave Strader, Billy Jaffe and Darren Pang full time and show that they are serious about growing their coverage. Relying on regional broadcasters doesn’t cut it not to mention the biases that may creep into the broadcast. It can get tiring never knowing who’s going to be calling the game on any given night and the time is right for NBC to change that.