NBC pays Mike Milbury to be opinionated, and it’s easy to wonder sometimes if he gets a scaled bonus depending upon how far he goes over the top.
But Milbury deserves a stick tap for being prescient before Wednesday night’s Bruins-Sabres matchup on the NBC Sports Network and compellingly blunt afterward.
Here is what Milbury had to say about Sabres enforcer John Scott on the pregame show “NHL Live”: “This guy is a goon. It’s bad enough in Buffalo without having this guy on your roster. I don’t know what he’s doing in the league.”
And here’s Milbury on Scott on the “NHL Overtime” postgame show after Scott’s flagrant and vicious elbow to the head of Loui Eriksson knocked the Bruins forward from the game early in the third period: “This was bound to happen. This guy is a predator. He was put out there to seek and destroy.”
Milbury didn’t just blast Scott, who was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Thursday. His comments on Sabres coach Ron Rolston, who may not have had the purest of motives by putting the talent-deficient Scott on the ice with a two-goal deficit, were the verbal equivalent of whacking a person with his own shoe.
“The talk in Buffalo is that this guy [Rolston] is in over his head,’’ said Milbury, who referred to both Rolston and Scott as meatheads. “I’ll tell you right now, he’s in way over his head. In fact, he’s drowning. That’s a bush-league play by a coach that doesn’t know any better, doesn’t have enough experience in the league, and shouldn’t be afforded another game — not one. That’s an embarrassment to the league, and to the Buffalo Sabres. I’m saddened by it.”
Because he is incurably blunt, sometimes Milbury’s commentary comes across as rabble-rousing shtick, even if it’s coming from an honest place. But Wednesday night, in the aftermath of an incident that should anger all hockey fans, he could not have been more on point.
Changes at CSNNE
Comcast SportsNet New England refers to its pending personnel changes as a “regrouping.” But the rank and file at the regional cable network are having a hard time seeing it that way.
Among the changes: Freelancers Maureen Mullen, Jessica Camerato, and Danny Picard have been informed they will not be used for the rest of the year. For Mullen, who does a fine job covering the Red Sox for CSNNE.com, that hiatus is expected to start once the World Series is over.
There is significant skepticism from the rank and file at CSNNE that the freelancers’ roles will be restored since the network’s resources and priorities appear to be shifting away from the website.
CSNNE also plans to cut back significantly on travel for Bruins insider Joe Haggerty and Celtics insider A. Sherrod Blakely. CSNNE’s willingness to send reporters on the road, even for teams with which it doesn’t have rights agreements, has been one of its strengths in the market.
Spokesman Skip Perham said that with reduced travel, Haggerty and Blakely will appear more regularly on television, including a rebranded version of what is currently the early edition of “Sports Tonight.” The new program will be called “Early Edition” and will feature a different set and possibly a different format. It is expected to debut early in the new year.
Perham provided a statement after comment from general manager and executive vice president Bill Bridgen was requested: “Our singular goal is to deliver what sports fans in our region value most, both in terms of the quantity and quality of our coverage. We are constantly evaluating where to focus our investments and feel that the decisions we’ve made will further our growth on CSN New England and on CSNNE.com, both of which are experiencing healthy gains in viewership and Web traffic.”
Miller eyes Celtics
TNT analyst Reggie Miller probably hasn’t drawn too many comparisons to CBS NFL analyst Dan Dierdorf during his lifetime, but I’ve got one here: Both talk relentlessly without offering much of substance. But it’s tough to argue with Miller’s analysis of the Celtics entering coach Brad Stevens’s first season. “I think he’s a wonderful coach, excellent with X’s and O’s and a motivator. This will come down to Rajon Rondo. He’s had a surly disposition at times with his former teammates and with [former Celtics coach] Doc Rivers. It’s [about] the relationship between those two, and how they work through that when he comes back. I thought it was a smart move for [Stevens to take the job]. I hope it doesn’t end up like a [University of Kentucky coach] John Calipari or [University of Louisville coach] Rick Pitino situation. I’m excited to see how this turns out for him.” . . . ESPN made it official Thursday, announcing Doris Burke’s multiyear contract extension while confirming that the superb sideline reporter (and Gregg Popovich foil) will join the Wednesday editions of the studio program “NBA Countdown.” She will be joined by Avery Johnson and Jalen Rose, and though her role is listed as analyst, she is more than capable of being the de facto host. The Burke news followed Tuesday’s announcement that Sage Steele will host “NBA Countdown” on Fridays and Sundays this season. She’ll be joined by holdovers Rose and Bill Simmons, as well as longtime coach and accomplished analyst Doug Collins . . . Boston led all markets with a 39.7 rating and a 61 share for Game 1 of the World Series. It’s the highest mark for a Sox game since Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS against the Rays. St. Louis’s 36.0/54 was second, while Providence (34.6/52), Hartford (20.8/32), and Fort Myers, Fla. (11.9/19) rounded out the top five.