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Sportsnet makes big changes to NHL coverage lineup for 2016-17

There are plenty of reasons why there were lackluster ratings for Sportsnet’s first season of its billion-dollar deal with the NHL. Chiefly, it’s because it's a Canadian network covering Canadian teams that all finished outside the playoffs; and in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the primary team it covers was intentionally attempting to lose as much as possible. 

But this is a $5.2-billion, 12-year NHL deal. Which means anything that doesn’t meet lofty expectations was going to necessitate changes. And the changes have arrived. 

We already learned that George Stroumboulopoulos would be replaced as host by the host he replaced, Ron MacLean. In fact, Stroumboulopoulos has left the company.

“George is an extremely versatile and creative broadcaster and we value the contributions he made to Hockey Night in Canada.  We look forward to seeing what his next great project will be,” said Scott Moore, President of Sportsnet & NHL Properties, Rogers.  “We are continually evaluating and evolving our broadcasts to deliver the best experience for fans.”

Sportsnet made that official on Monday, as well as a host other changes.

* Sportsnet will cut back on its regional pregame shows across Canada, funneling resources to a 6:30 p.m. national Hockey Central show that will act as a pregame show for the night’s coverage. “Quality over quantity,” said Moore.

* Ron MacLean and David Amber, who has been with Hockey Night In Canada for five years, will host the Saturday Hockey Night In Canada coverage with panelists Elliotte Friedman, Kelly Hrudey, and Nick Kypreos. MacLean will host early game on Hockey Night, so he will continue to work with Don Cherry and do Hometown Hockey. David Amber hosts the late game.

* Daren Millard continues to host Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey, alongside panelists Friedman and Doug MacLean.

* Among the talent let go by Sportsnet today: Top analyst Glenn Healy, which might signal a move to two-man booths for Sportsnet; as well as on-air talent in P.J. Stock, Billy Jaffe and Chantel Desjardins. Leah Hextall also left, but latched on with ESPN for its World Cup of Hockey coverage. Damien Cox is off the broadcast, too, but remains with Rogers.

“Glenn is part of the change over the weekend. There were two issues at play. We were making changes to the broadcast for audience reasons, and restructuring for financial reasons. He was a victim of our financial cuts today,” said Moore.

Obviously the big news here is the departure of Healy and Cox, two of the most divisive members of the on-air staff. These are moves already being celebrated on social media, where criticism of their work has become a weekly ritual during the season.

As for Strombo, Keith Olbermann has followed his criticism of the network with even more criticism of the network:

Some other reactions:

Again, the shuffling of on-air talent may produce better results. Or, perhaps, it's just that the as the on-ice product improves, so shall the coverage and the ratings. 

(Ed. Note: The author's podcast, Marek Vs. Wyshynski, is a Sportsnet property.)

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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