2 – Nastiness on D: While we have written in this space the defense might actually be a strong point heading into next season, the Isles still lack some necessary size on the backline. While Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov would be a great fit, the bidding there might get a bit too rich for the Isles. A lower cost option might be Leafs’ Garnet Exelby, as nasty as they come. Andy Sutton’s return shouldn’t be ruled out either.
1 – Experienced Sniper: There were too many games to even recall this past season that were tied with less than 10 minutes left and the Isles simply couldn’t get that big goal to grab the two points. They desperately need a veteran winger that can consistently stash home the big goal in those situations. OK, we’re not expecting the Isles to make a play for one of the big fish in this pond like Ilya Kovalchuk or Patrick Marleau, but the Kings’ Alex Frolov would look great in an Islander jersey. Another intriguing possibility is Colorado’s Marek Svatos, who seems over his injury problems and might be worth the gamble after a few down years in Denver. And hey Islanders fans, Darcy Tucker is available! Kidding.
Well, it’s been five years since the labor dispute put the kibosh on the 2004-2005 National Hockey League season and shortly thereafter television ratings for the sport really went into the tank. This season? So far, for what has been a very entertaining first round, hockey is enjoying a major resurgence. According to a recently released report by MediaWeek the ratings and advertising revenue are both up significantly.
The uptick couldn’t be happening at a better time for the NHL, which is expected to start negotiations on its new television rights contract later this year.
The six-month carriage dispute with DirecTV that led to a blackout in approximately 14 million U.S. households (about 20 percent of its overall sub base) caused Versus to suffer a 6 percent drop (to 297,000 viewers) on their regular season NHL deliveries. However, since the DirecTV dispute was resolved back in mid-March, ratings have been booming. During the final four weeks of the regular season, Versus averaged 365,000 viewers, up 28 percent from the same period a year ago. Through the first week of its Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage, Versus has averaged 534,000 viewers, up 21 percent.
For NBC the hockey ratings are up as well. The network averaged a 0.9 household rating and 1.32 million viewers with its Game of the Week telecasts, up 13 percent from the 2009-2010 campaign. Add to this the fact NBC’s first weekend of playoff coverage was up 10 percent from a year ago, notching a 1.1 rating. Both Versus and NBC added they are pacing ahead of last year’s playoff sales and are nearly sold out.
The good news spills over to the Web as well as in an effort to draw more young male viewers, the league has added more live video on NHL.com, where unique visitors are up 32 percent. “By creating a digital front door to the league…we have redefined ourselves in the marketplace,” said NHL COO John Collins in a recent interview with MediaWeek.
The Versus and NBC contracts with the NHL are set to expire in 2011, and word has it that ESPN and ABC are back in the mix as a player after next season. ESPN has also reported an increase in Web activity for their NHL coverage, particularly for video highlights of playoffs games.