January 28 News and Notes

Robert Cleave
January 28 2011 08:34AM

 

 

 

All sweetness and light these days, isn't it? Or maybe that's just me being in Arizona as opposed to the wintry 'Peg. At any rate, with the NHL on it's All-Star Hiatus, it's time again for a look at matters of interest around the Flames and the league. In this week's review, Calgary finds some form, players continue to drop out of this weekend's festivities in Raleigh, and the sale of the Coyotes is still on shaky ground.

  

Flames:

I jokingly mentioned to Kent and Ross Creek after the Vancouver game that the Flames were playing pretty well since I'd hit Phoenix, and a call to my employer requesting an extra few months down here might be in order. I'm more tempted by the day, since not only is the Valley of the Sun a decent spot in January, but the hockey club is continuing to win.

For all the good tidings after Wednesday's win, I think we're simply seeing a return to order. Kent has repeatedly mentioned that the club was never a 14th place outfit, and the EV shot data from Objective NHL confirms this quite comprehensively. The other thing of note is that the Flames still have an imbalance between home and road games. The home/road breakdown to this point is 24/27 to this point, and if you look at the team's record just by W/L, they are, wait for it, 24-27.

What that tells me is that between a few bounces heading their way for once and the extensive home schedule for February, there's a decent chance that Calgary could be in a playoff spot come the deadline just based on normal activity. That would leave Jay Feaster in a bit of a spot, because tanking when your team is alive for the post season is a damned tricky sell to your players or fans.

Matt Fenwick and Tom Benjamin both weighed in the idea of an immediate teardown this week, and their thoughts aren't much different from my own back in November. I have no problem with Feaster waiting until the deadline to see how things shake out, and if he just tinkers around the edges until this summer, that would be OK. That's still the best time to remake a roster since teams have more cap flexibility, or more room to add Calgary's dead weight, however you like.

A move to shed some of the obvious excess cargo might have begun yesterday with the news that Ales Kotalik is on waivers. For his sake and the club's, it would be nice if he were claimed, but I'm not holding my breath. If he were to head to Abby, my suspicion is that he'll be there for the remainder of the season, since the Flames won't risk the cap hit should another team claim him on reentry waivers.

The other Flames' news of note from the last few days is slightly less enjoyable, as it appears Craig Conroy's career has ended. The elder statesman cleared waivers, and he'll likely pull the pin in the very near future. The man had a very nice go of things, and I suspect that he's still better than any of the prospects that Jay Feaster wants to cycle through town, but time waits for none of us. I'm with several other folks of note in saying that I'd like to see him in the booth at some point, but however his future career plays out, I wish him the best.

 

Northwest:

The Canucks are in a juicy spot at the moment, but they have taken a major hit with the news that Alex Edler is headed for back surgery. He's their best all around defender, and even a team with the depth the Canucks enjoy on the back end can't cast aside that sort of player for very long. I'll also add that back surgery, for any number of reasons, never seems as simple as repairing a knee or shoulder. Vancouver has a good cushion in terms of the division and the conference standings, so the primary issue for them would be if Edler can't return by April.

The Oilers finished their latest road trip on the bad end of a 3-1 score in Texas. I saw the baby Oil in Glendale on Tuesday, and fairness compels me to report that they played a solid final two periods on the way to a 4-3 win in front of a crowd that was at least 50-50 in terms of support. They're still a shanda in their own end on occasion, but the scoring chance numbers that Dennis King has been compiling are starting to head in the right direction for them.

The Avs, on the other hand, are headed into a touch of trouble. Wednesday evening's loss to the Coyotes was a particularly sad case, with the 'Lanche managing one shot on goal in the first 23 minutes of the game. By the time they awoke, it was 3-1 Phoenix, and the game was over. Injuries are starting to really bite them, and the fact that they're actively considering a return by Peter Forsberg hints at their desperation level. I don't doubt that a healthy Forsberg would help any team, but when was the last time he was legitimately fit?

 

Elsewhere:

As mentioned earlier, Dallas beat the Oilers to conclude their pre-ASG program on a high note, but their lofty perch has attracted the notice of more people than myself at this point. I'm on record as saying I'm not buying no matter what happy musings emerge from the Stars' locker room, and I'll simply reiterate that absent a significant addition on the blue line, they'll be one round and done whether they obtain home ice or not.

Evgeni Nabokov is still playing hide and seek with the Islanders after refusing to report for work. I'm not sure what either side's end game is, but if Nabby sits out the year, the Isles will own his rights for next season at a bargain price. Whatever I might think of his career numbers or actual ability, Nabokov is a lot better than a minimum wage goalie. The Islanders do give off the whiff of chaos, though, so I understand his reticence.

Washington tidied up a bit of a loose end on Thursday with the extension of Alexander Semin. Injuries have set him back this year, so it's likely a case of both sides wanting to wait things out before making a long term decision. 6.7M is right at the top of the market for him, so it's likely a prudent decision on Washington's part not to go for a long term ticket.

The league is now on break until next Tuesday, with the All-Star weekend about to kick off in North Carolina. This week has seen a few more bodies drop, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin amongst the notable absentees. The various drop-outs have sent the league searching for replacements to both the main and rookie rosters, and I was particularly amused by P.K. Subban's statement that he needed to buy a suit since he suspected his Affliction t-shirts might not be up to snuff. Whether said garments are ever acceptable in any scenario is a matter that I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

 

Amongst the Phoenicians:

As mentioned earlier, I've been slumming it in the sun for the last week, and I took the opportunity to attend a couple of Coyotes' games. I don't have much to add that anyone paying attention wouldn't have already heard, but the arena is a) a beauty, and b) absolutely in the middle of nowhere. My sense is that there would be almost no chance that the Westgate area surrounding the arena and U. of Phoenix stadium wouldn't turn into a ghost town if there wasn't an anchor tenant at Jobing, so I do sort of understand why the city wants to keep the club in place.

That noted, it does seem like the entire scheme is unlikely to survive absent a massive, and likely permanent, subsidy from the taxpayer. On Saturday, L.A. was in town, and the Kings have a good number of fans that attend games in Glendale, so the crowd was decent enough. Still, 13K on a Saturday night where hotdogs, beer and soda were sold for a buck isn't anything to celebrate, and the crowd on Tuesday for the Oil was just over 10K, even with a high number of Edmonton types in the pews.

As best as I can tell, there appears to be a nice hardcore of about 6,000 people that go to the games based on devoted fandom, and everything else in terms of attendance is based on the other team or gimmicks. That won't do. I'm not advocating that the team should immediately pack up for Winnipeg or Quebec City or Seattle, but the prospects for a self-sufficient operation appear dim.

With that in mind, the story that broke a couple of days ago stating that the Glendale's bond issue might have failed would have been unsurprising if it were true, because it looks like it's good money chasing bad. The NHL was quite prompt in denying Bob McCown's story, and it may be that Glendale ends up winning on this deal in the end. For the sake of the few that really give a damn down here, I hope that's so, but if I were a Coyotes fan I'd be prepared to get the wallet out, because the cheap tickets and free parking are about done, no matter who owns the team or how its financed.

Whether enough people will pay big league prices is always brought up as a concern when Winnipeg is mentioned, but it's equally true here, if not more so. I paid 43 bucks including all fees for my club-level seat on StubHub two days before the Oiler game. That's less than I'd pay for a comparable seat to attend a Moose game. I certainly didn't object to getting the bargain, but if your team's ticket demand is so soft that premium seats are moving for less than half of their face value on the resale market, it's hard to imagine a happy ending for this tale, no matter what the league and the boosters might tell you.

 

That's all for this time around. Have a good weekend.

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1
January 28 2011, 02:39PM
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"Still, 13K on a Saturday night where hotdogs, beer and soda were sold for a buck isn't anything to celebrate"

Hotdogs, beers & sodas sold for ONE buck.

This is an insult to season ticket holders of all the Canadian franchises.

Our ticket prices go up year after year to bail out these teams in non-hockey markets.

Why do I have to pay $10 for a piece of pizza and a soda at the dome when someone in Phoenix pays $2.

Disgusting!

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#2 Bruins
January 29 2011, 02:21PM
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Conroy is a good guy but he's 40 years old. They have to give the young guys on the farm a chance to play and get some experience. The other NHL teams are always moving the young guys up and down from the farm. The Flames seem to have too many veterans on the roster this season. I think Fester should get rid of couple of more old players.

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#3
January 30 2011, 01:31PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

As I've always maintained, Staios is an Edmonton double agent, sent to destroy our locker room. Ruslan Salei got sent over from Colorado to do the same in Detroit.

In regards to season tickets, the problem with giving them up is that there is a 250+ person wait list for those tickets. People who ARE willing to pay the exorbitant amount required to purchase said tickets and see aforementioned 6-0 snoozefest losses.

I for one do not want to see the Flames re-located. The NHL is unwilling to give up on franchises such as Phoenix and Atlanta, but you can sure as hell bet that they would move Calgary if they got the chance. We need season ticket holders to maintain the required profit base so this does not happen.

Kansas City Flames? Las Vegas Flames? Hell, Quebec Flames? Nah uh, no way - I never want to see this happen.

Thats fine, but as a Season Ticket Holder its not my job to subsidize teams in poor hockey markets like Phoenix.

The mantra from the NHL during the lockout was we need a new CBA because prices are skyrocketing and we're doing it for the fans.

Well my prices keep going up and Phoenix fans, all 1000 of them get $1 hotdogs.

Its insulting and wrong!

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#4 Monaertchi
January 28 2011, 08:52AM
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Thanks RC. I was looking for some well written and informative NHL news this morning, and this fit the bill nicely.

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#5 mikeH
January 28 2011, 09:56AM
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Wow, no one has picked up Kotalik on waivers, I'm shocked. Or not.

On attendance, the Isles had only 4,800 souls in the stands at Nassau on Wednesday. If you look at the figure from the Canadians game on boxing day (3,136 - Game Summary) I don't know how a professional hockey team can possibly survive at these levels. Even the Heat had 3,352 for their first game after Xmas.

With the most recent stories in the Globe about Len Barrie's various issues, I don't know where Bettman gets off claiming that Balsillie doesn't have enough credibility to be an owner in this league. The guy was going to inject more than $200 million and has the desire and capacity to follow up. If some of these US markets are failures, let's just move on.

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#6 mikeH
January 28 2011, 09:59AM
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Sorry, I misquoted. 4,976 stated attendance at the Canes vs. Isles game on Wed.

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#7 Kent Wilson
January 28 2011, 10:38AM
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@mikeH

And yet, NYI just re-signed Matt Moulson for a hair over three bills a year for three years.

I wonder how many home games it takes Wang to see $3M in gross revenue? I'd put the over/under at about 20.

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#8 Greg
January 28 2011, 10:53AM
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If Kotalik were claimed on re-entry waivers, would the flames take half the cap hit next season as well, or just this year? Cause if it's the later, I'd say it's worth the shot!

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#11 dotfras
January 28 2011, 11:09AM
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Man it's unfortunate that these markets are doing so poorly. If I was down there I would be a season ticket holder, no matter the quality of the team. Living in Toronto I've probably paid more this season to attend games than a whole years worth in Florida, Phoenix or the Island.

I'm sure a winning team would draw a few more fans out, but maybe something needs to be done by Bettman to promote the game better in these cities.

An All Star game or a draft would surely help.

How about having the WJC in one of these cities?

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#12 Kent Wilson
January 28 2011, 11:12AM
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@Robert Cleave

Wait, wait...the Islanders are drawing 5k per game and they have high ticket prices? Milbury isn't in charge of that area of the business too, is he?

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#13 dotfras
January 28 2011, 11:13AM
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Also, glad to see Kotalik clear waivers. His play has been miserable this year, I'm sure at the AHL level he should be able to be at least decent.

Maybe Feaster is looking forward to Staios' return so he can send him down next.

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#14 mikeH
January 28 2011, 11:36AM
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I'm sure the ownership would have preferred if someone had snapped up Kotalik rather than watching him clear, but as a fan, I'm just happy that he's not going to be stinking out the 'dome anytime soon.

In terms of the NYI, they may possibly be the worst run team in the league, and that includes the rudderless Coyotes. Is it possible that the Isles are actively trying to lose money for some reason? With the interventionist ownership, an ancient stadium (1972!?!), absentee fans, poor economics, and (resultant) pitiful on-ice performance, it makes me happy to be a Flames fan. Here in Calgary, aside from our W/L most of the rest of the equation is in place (particularly an excellent fan base).

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#15 Kent Wilson
January 28 2011, 12:10PM
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@mikeH

Yup, they're definitely the worst. I'd have to put the outfit up North at #2 at this point though.

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#16 icedawg_42
January 28 2011, 02:10PM
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Im fuzzy about what that means to the Flames cap...anyone?

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#17 Kent Wilson
January 28 2011, 02:20PM
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icedawg_42 wrote:

Im fuzzy about what that means to the Flames cap...anyone?

Me too. The LTIR rules get pretty convoluted.

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#18 otto
January 28 2011, 02:24PM
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He doesn't count against the cap if hes in the AHL but he still gets paid in full .(I think)

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#19 icedawg_42
January 28 2011, 02:51PM
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@

That's so that we can pay Kotalik 3 million to play in the minors ;)

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#20 Pajamah
January 28 2011, 02:55PM
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wrote:

"Still, 13K on a Saturday night where hotdogs, beer and soda were sold for a buck isn't anything to celebrate"

Hotdogs, beers & sodas sold for ONE buck.

This is an insult to season ticket holders of all the Canadian franchises.

Our ticket prices go up year after year to bail out these teams in non-hockey markets.

Why do I have to pay $10 for a piece of pizza and a soda at the dome when someone in Phoenix pays $2.

Disgusting!

Why?

Because if you don't, someone else will.

You'll complain, like all of us Canadians, oh god how you'll complain.

But you'll still pony up $200 for tickets, money for babysitters, (or conversely, tickets for kids), pop, beer, nachos, 50/50 tickets and come up $300 poorer

If they didn't have those prices in Glendale, there is even less of a reason to go to a hockey game.

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#21
January 28 2011, 03:35PM
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Pajamah wrote:

Why?

Because if you don't, someone else will.

You'll complain, like all of us Canadians, oh god how you'll complain.

But you'll still pony up $200 for tickets, money for babysitters, (or conversely, tickets for kids), pop, beer, nachos, 50/50 tickets and come up $300 poorer

If they didn't have those prices in Glendale, there is even less of a reason to go to a hockey game.

Thats exactly why I've decided to give up my season tickets after this season.

The truth is Flames games are over-priced and boring.

If someone else wants to pay through the nose to watch it, good for them, cause I'm done.

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#22 the-wolf
January 28 2011, 05:04PM
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Pajamah wrote:

Why?

Because if you don't, someone else will.

You'll complain, like all of us Canadians, oh god how you'll complain.

But you'll still pony up $200 for tickets, money for babysitters, (or conversely, tickets for kids), pop, beer, nachos, 50/50 tickets and come up $300 poorer

If they didn't have those prices in Glendale, there is even less of a reason to go to a hockey game.

You forgot parking.

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#23 SmellOfVictory
January 28 2011, 06:19PM
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dotfras wrote:

Man it's unfortunate that these markets are doing so poorly. If I was down there I would be a season ticket holder, no matter the quality of the team. Living in Toronto I've probably paid more this season to attend games than a whole years worth in Florida, Phoenix or the Island.

I'm sure a winning team would draw a few more fans out, but maybe something needs to be done by Bettman to promote the game better in these cities.

An All Star game or a draft would surely help.

How about having the WJC in one of these cities?

Local promotion of the team is the responsibility of that franchise, not the league's fancy pants.

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#24 dotfras
January 28 2011, 10:40PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Local promotion of the team is the responsibility of that franchise, not the league's fancy pants.

Ok well in the Coyotes case...........

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#25 robficiur
January 29 2011, 01:24PM
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Question about Craig Conroy - if the team is waving Ales kotalik, wouldn't you want to keep a veteran like Craig around.

Look at the injuries the team had in September. Conny isn't what he used to be - but to throw one or two rookies in the loop if the injury bug hits...

Remember back in the 2004 playoffs - Flames had more injured defensmen than they had healthy ones.

Not saying you need to stock up ... but Craig is here...

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#26 SmellOfVictory
January 29 2011, 02:08PM
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They absolutely should've kept Conroy, and I think a lot of people agree with that. Unfortunately that's not the case.

@dotfras: Touche. :D

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#27 hark65
January 29 2011, 02:36PM
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I don't agree with those of you that want to keep Conroy. I didn't even agree with Darryl Sutter signing him in the first place. I have no problem cycling in young talent for the remainder of the season. Keeping Conroy in a suit in the press box wasn't helping him or the team and it was time to make a decision. I think putting him on waivers was the right one.

The same for Kotalik. Only his injury at the beginning of the year kept him off of waivers earlier. I'm glad it finally happened as he's a waste of a roster spot (and money obviously!). If Hagman and Stajan aren't careful, they're also going to find themselves playing for Abbotsford!!

I'd agree with dotfras in regards to Staios. He is a pylon waiting to be skated around and I don't want to see him in the lineup for extended periods of time. I see him as the 7th defenceman right now. Babchuk has shown definite signs of improvement since he started with the Flames and is FAR more mobile. I also don't want to see Staios take Adam Pardy's spot. It just doesn't make sense to me.

As far as the Coyotes go, can we just shoot this horse already??!! If what Cleave says is true when new ownership takes over (higher pricing for EVERYTHING), then I don't see how they even attract 3 000 fans since they are only getting about 6 000 now with dirt cheap pricing. The sooner the NHL rids themselves of Bettman, the quicker this franchise will be moved. Too bad the owners don't see it this way.

I'm pretty sure there's lots of other fans thinking the same thing as "pajamah".....that they won't be renewing season's tickets at the current prices. I see attendance at Flames games down next year. No question. I know for myself, I don't even want to go for free because there's always the danger of being in attendance for the "Islander game" or the "Wild game" where the Flames come out for a Sunday afternoon skate-around. That's 4 hours of my life I'm not willing to give up to watch that.

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#28 FireOnIce
January 29 2011, 04:47PM
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As I've always maintained, Staios is an Edmonton double agent, sent to destroy our locker room. Ruslan Salei got sent over from Colorado to do the same in Detroit.

In regards to season tickets, the problem with giving them up is that there is a 250+ person wait list for those tickets. People who ARE willing to pay the exorbitant amount required to purchase said tickets and see aforementioned 6-0 snoozefest losses.

I for one do not want to see the Flames re-located. The NHL is unwilling to give up on franchises such as Phoenix and Atlanta, but you can sure as hell bet that they would move Calgary if they got the chance. We need season ticket holders to maintain the required profit base so this does not happen.

Kansas City Flames? Las Vegas Flames? Hell, Quebec Flames? Nah uh, no way - I never want to see this happen.

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#29 Greg
January 30 2011, 01:58PM
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@

You aren't subsidizing them. Sure our owners are. But the Flames charge what the market will bare, which is the same price whether Phoenix is there or in Winnipeg. In fact, if they were in a hockey market, you'd be paying more because you wouldn't get the cheaper tickets when "bad" teams come to town, and they'd be paying their players more and driving up the competition and prices for other players.

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#30 Greg
January 30 2011, 02:04PM
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Robert Cleave wrote:

Next year as well. Sean Avery is still on Dallas' books for next season, two years after he left for his sabbatical.

In that case it's probably a safe bet he's not getting called back up this year.

If the flames manage to make the playoffs this year, it'll always be a question whether Sutter was fired in error. But I don't care if they win the cup, Kotalik and Staois cost the owners millions and should have been grounds for dismissal regardless of what else happens.

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#31
January 30 2011, 06:52PM
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Greg wrote:

You aren't subsidizing them. Sure our owners are. But the Flames charge what the market will bare, which is the same price whether Phoenix is there or in Winnipeg. In fact, if they were in a hockey market, you'd be paying more because you wouldn't get the cheaper tickets when "bad" teams come to town, and they'd be paying their players more and driving up the competition and prices for other players.

The NHL is a gate driven league, so successful Canadian and Northern US markets are absolutely subsidizing Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa Bay et al.

How can the NHL have a dozen teams making no money and say that revenues are increasing, simple we pay more.

Its sick.

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