Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, January 09, 2021

nuts and bolts
Maybe spending so much time in the St. Pete Times‘ building has gotten me mentally attuned to what some of the paper’s writers are thinking. Just as Tom Jones writes a column about how the Lightning shouldn’t make any drastic roster moves/trades at this juncture, I was also pondering what Tampa Bay should do to break out of its near-.500 level of play.

Unlike Tom, though, I think it’s time to make a major transaction. And the major piece to move? Brad Richards.

Why trade the reigning Conn Smythe winner? After all, Richards is probably the team’s one bright spot this year, with a consistent production of nearly a point per game. You could argue that he, and not Vinny Lecavalier, is the true No. 1 center on the roster. And he meshes well with Lecavalier (since their junior days) and the rest of his teammates.

But the major reason he’s eminently tradeable: His contract status, and how it relates to the salary cap. Take a look at the Lightning players whose contracts run out after this season (info, including the crucial contract expiration, according to the Times’ Lightning season preview from October; none of these contracts have been changed since, to my knowledge):

Name Position 05-06 base salary Signed through
Brad Richards C $3,401,000 2005-06 (this season)
Pavel Kubina D $2,584,000 2005-06 (this season)
Cory Sarich D $1,300,000 2005-06 (this season)
Ruslan Fedotenko LW $1,300,000 2005-06 (this season)
John Grahame G $1,162,800 2005-06 (this season)
Dmitry Afanasenkov F $702,879 2005-06 (this season)
Chris Dingman LW $570,000 2005-06 (this season)

These are the immediate contracts GM Jay Feaster will have to either renew, or else pass on this summer. Some are practically already determined. Dingman has been waived and sent to the minors, effectively ending his tenure with the Lightning. Afanasenkov is probably going to be in the same boat shortly. Coach Tortorella is fed up with goalie Grahame, so it wouldn’t be a shocker if he’s gone either during or after this season.

That leaves four core players. Sarich and Fedotenko have little leverage as restricted free agents, and their situations will be disposed of quickly. Kubina will demand a hefty raise, which may force the team to look at moving him. But defensemen with his skills and continued upside are still valuable commodities in the NHL, so one way or the other, he’ll likely get his deal with the Lightning.

That leaves Richards. He’ll be looking for a significant raise, commensurate with this performance over the past several years. The problem: Tampa Bay committed a ton of cap space to Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis in deals with them reached this year. Those two will be making something like $13 million combined next season; add in existing contracts and whatever it’ll take to sign Sarich, Fedotenko, and Kubina… and the cap space shrinks to only a couple of million dollars. That’s nowhere near what Richards will rightly demand.

Richards will be a restricted free agent. Technically, Feaster can force the player to take a reduced salary, arguing that his hands will be tied. That will, obviously, lead to contentious negotiations, a probable holdout, and ruined team chemistry.

Basically, the Lightning has already spent Richards’ money on Lecavalier and St. Louis. Plus, after next season, contracts will be up for Fredrik Modin and Darryl Sydor, among others. The $39-million cap simply doesn’t give the team any wiggle room.

Beyond the financial constraints, the team needs help right now. It can’t win consistently enough with the John Grahame-Sean Burke goaltending tandem, and it can use another solid differencemaker on defense. Right now, being only a half-million dollars below the cap, there’s no room to make the deals necessary.

Moving Richards should bring back enough to address those needs. His current $3.4 million cap number would presumably require the team that takes him to shed a comparable amount in contracts. If the Lightning can find the right trading partner (Minnesota? Phoenix? Boston?), it can probably get back two or three players to fill those holes.

It certainly won’t be a popular move, in the locker room or in the stands. But the way I see it, the PR hit will come either now, or else in the near future. I don’t see how the Lightning can retain Richards after this season without gutting a good bit of its roster. And again, the team’s already made its decision on where to put most of its forward-corps money. Since it’ll likely have to deal Richards eventually anyway, it might as well do so now, when it can make a real difference for this season, and make subsequent seasons more cap-manageable.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 11:21:17 PM
Category: Hockey | Permalink | Feedback (3)

More than a year after announcing it, today was the day Howard Stern debuted his show on Sirius Satellite Radio.

I don’t subscribe to Sirius (nor to XM, for that matter), so I had to rely on Eric Deggans’ review. I wasn’t expecting it to be much different from Stern’s usual show, with the addition of a few non-bleeped curse words. The addition of George Takei as inaugural satellite show announcer was a neat twist, I thought. It also led to some confusion for me, as I somehow assumed that Takei was a permanent replacement for Robin Quivers; Deggans later clarified this for me and confirmed that Quivers was still on the show.

The real impact, of course, is in the Benjamins. Specifically, if Sirius’ enormous commitment to Stern will pay off, and if so, whether or not it will change the talent/content economics of the entire radio business, satellite and terrestrial. I’m sure the investment will pay off for Sirius, but only in limited terms: It’ll keep Sirius afloat, but won’t move it out of second place behind XM. And I don’t see a ripple effect for other radio talent, simply because there’s no one else in the radio universe even close to Stern’s level — it was and remains a one-horse race.

I do like the snarky spin XM put on Stern’s coming-out party:

“Our content has not changed,” said Eric Logan, XM’s executive vice president of programming. “We have a platform targeted at mainstream America. There are more and more people who find Howard Stern repulsive and offensive and will go away from anywhere he is.”

If you can’t join them, flog ‘em.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 09:13:51 PM
Category: Radio | Permalink | Feedback

Will podcasting ever play in Peoria?

Well, the Tampa Bay area is very much akin, socially and culturally, to Middle America, and while there’s perceptible activity, podcasting is still a minority pursuit around here. So take that as a barometer for the rest of the U.S.

Aside from some fuzziness about how podcasts get disseminated (the reporter missed a mention of iTunes Music Store as a major distribution channel of free and paid podcasts), I imagine it’s a pretty fair snapshot of who’s recording and who’s listening. The eagerness of media outlets like newspapers and broadcast stations to provide the audio content hints at readier mainstream acceptance of podcasts from traditional sources, instead of individuals.

Of course, none of this changes my original, and continued, opinion of the podcasting phenomenon: Ultimately a waste of time. I say, quit babbling and start typing.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 06:20:28 PM
Category: Internet, Tech, Florida Livin' | Permalink | Feedback (4)

Just when you had resigned yourself to watching endless Levitra commercials on Sundays, the NFL is declining to renew its marketing partnership with the makers of the erectile dysfunction drug.

Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said the league chose to end the relationship because “the ads shifted from men’s health to a performance, lifestyle issue.” The change in advertising strategy made the NFL uncomfortable, McCarthy said.

Yeah, and the most uncomfortable part: The ads were becoming so pervasive during game broadcasts that they were setting a distinctly old-man tone. As I noted, when this partnership started three years ago:

Does it occur to anyone else that some of these sports are going a little too overboard on the old-man target audience advertising?…

If I’m a kid watching an NFL game, the constant stream of commercials for medications, lawnmowers, etc. tells me that I’m in the minority of viewers, i.e. those who aren’t 35 and above. Short-term, it’s no problem; longer term, the risk is a dwindling next-generation fanbase, who decide early on that other sports, including X-Games, are more their speed.

I wonder if any marketing people at the NFL picked up on this vibe too, or maybe even got back some hard survey data that confirmed it. Just from my observer perspective, I interpreted it that way.

Between this, and the indirect spawning of the unlicensed Blitz: The League videogame, it seems the NFL is aiming squarely at the middle, demographically: The not-too-young and not-too-old 26 to 45 male set. Makes sense; that is where the most disposable money is.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 05:47:39 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football | Permalink | Feedback (3)

A fundamental rule for pest removal: Kill first, cremate after. Because the other way around can backfire — emphasis on the “fire”:

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found the mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it.

“I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

Though no-one was injured, the house and everything in it was destroyed.

I used to think that karma was a bitch. Now, more properly, I think it’s a rodent.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 10:01:28 AM
Category: Comedy | Permalink | Feedback (3)

I don’t know why, but last night just seemed to drag interminably.

It was nothing special, just a quiet nothing night at home. But I distinctly remember watching the clock and trying to will the time to reach midnight. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way; usually, the day and night tends to fly by all too quickly, regardless of what I’m doing (or not doing).

Maybe the fact that Saturday night stretched into the early hours made the next night seem unduly slower by comparison. I need to refine my social gear-shifting abilities.

Anyway, the night wasn’t a total loss. I chanced upon a showing of The Dreamers on some movie channel. I hadn’t seen it since it came out in theaters a couple of years ago; I stayed up to watch all but the very end.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/09/2021 09:17:11 AM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback