Yesterday, I started my season reviews of each team’s broadcasts. I started with the Southeast Division, and today, I’ll be reviewing the Central Division. The Central features some of the best broadcasts and the worse. It’s as stark a contrast on the air as it is on the ice.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS CSN Chicago/WGN Pat Foley & Ed Olczyk
The Hawks have great broadcasts and it starts with Foley. One of the best things that Rocky Wirtz has done, besides getting all 82 games on the air, was to bring Foley back into the fold. He’s a hockey man with a sense of humor and he’s not afraid to call anyone out either. Foley is among the more animated and some of his outbursts are legendary. Olczyk suffers on the Hawks cast compared to his NBC duties. He tries to be too funny and that brings down Foley and the broadcast. It’s a shame that he goes into his goofy mode because he’s terrific and on point when he’s on his game. He’s great with the telestrator with his patented “hold it right there.” He needs to let the national games be his priority and that’s where Steve Konroyd comes in. Konroyd is good during the intermissions and as Eddie’s fill-in and it wouldn’t hurt the Hawks to have him do some more games. The intermissions are kept lively with his analysis and he’s much better compared to when he was in Columbus.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS FS Ohio Jeff Rimer & Bill Davidge
The Jackets are notorious for having some of the poorest broadcasts in the league. I tend to agree with that sentiment. Rimer has a great voice – you can hear him in the “Ovechtrick” Verizon commercials, but voice alone can’t carry a broadcast. He’s full of cliches and mistakes. Too often, he misidentifies a player on the ice or he has no idea what’s going on. Rimer does a good job as a fill in radio host in Columbus and perhaps he needs to look at that full-time. Davidge moved over from the radio side to replace Danny Gare. I’m not sure it’s much of an improvement as at least Gare and Rimer had some chemistry and always seemed to be having a good time. When Davidge isn’t hyping Miami Oh, Univ. he’s putting the viewers to sleep. He largely states the obvious and adds nearly nothing to the telecast. Like Rimer, he is often incorrect on things, especially on debated calls. The Jackets haven’t had a decent analyst in their existence except for Brian Engblom for one season. It’s time they go find another one.
The Jackets do have a very underutilized member in their broadcast team and that’s reporter John Michael. Michael has done play by play at the AHL level and he deserves a shot with Columbus. At the minimum, he should take over Ray Crawford’s hosting duties. Michael is a dead ringer for Raffi Torres and it’s great to see him side by side with him but he’s currently wasted with that role. GRADE: D+
DETROIT RED WINGS FS Detroit Ken Daniels, Mickey Redmond & Larry Murphy
The Red Wings go with three men most home games as Murphy gets inside the glass duty and he also fills in for Redmond during many road games. They utilize the three man setup pretty well and there isn’t too much talking. Daniels was great during his Versus gigs but he tends to get lost during Wings games. His homerism shows a little bit and sometimes it sounds like he doesn’t want to be there which is a big change from the old days when Daniels was full of passion. He also shills incessantly for Wings tickets, but that’s part of the job so we can’t blame him for being a carnival barker. Redmond gets complaints about him complaining about every penalty but he’s toned it down over the past season. Perhaps Daniels has roped him in but Mick isnt as whiny and that’s good because he’s a good analyst. He has a good sense of the game and a good sense of humor. His work on the telestrator is great and he’s fun to listen to.
Murphy sometimes rambles on and has odd facial ticks and his voice is quite sing-songy. Even with that, he’s decent and works better as an game analyst than in the studio. John Keating, Trevor Thompson and Mickey York largely share the hosting and reporting roles. They do good jobs and FS Detroit has had some great intermission features in the past. They need more features and less talking. GRADE: B
NASHVILLE PREDATORS FS Tennessee Pete Weber & Terry Crisp
The Preds have a love em or hate em tandem. I think Weber and Crisp are perfect fits for the Nashville market. They have a terrific chemistry. You can easily picture them throwing back a few after game and laughing it up. This translates to a fun and sometimes corny broadcast. You can’t get much more southern or cornier than calling your partner “Bubba” but that phrase is heard over and over again during Preds games. I can’t imagine this duo being able to call any games in a “traditional market” but they make the game enjoyable which is what they should be doing. They both know the game inside and out and have been great ambassadors for the game in the Nashville market. They aren’t always pretty, but they are a productive pair and that works more often than not. GRADE: B-
ST. LOUIS BLUES FS Midwest John Kelly, Darren Pang & Bernie Federko
The Blues have a solid broadcast. Kelly comes from a legendary broadcast family and he holds up their honor well. His “Thank you!” goal call can be annoying but he’s always on top of things and ranks among the better play by player guys. Pang is among the best. He’s always in high demand and is one of the few analysts who always seems to be genuinely happy to be calling a game. It’s amazing that’s he even still calling regional games. Federko got pushed to inside the glass duty and studio analyst for Pang but he’s another solid analyst. If Pang wasn’t so good, I’d consider Bernie wasted but he’s perfect in his current role. Pat Parris does a respectable job as studio host. GRADE: A-