August 21 2011 03:12AM
The NHL is mostly in the doldrums in regard to player movement at the moment, but that doesn't mean that the business is completely peaceful, so it's time for a brief review of some of the happenings around the game. In this installment, the league's R and D camp has a few useful ideas, off-ice doings dominate in Phoenix, St. Louis, Dallas and the Island, and a member of hockey's family is laid to rest.
Quiet, isn't it? The roster looks complete after the addition of Scott Hannan last weekend, and about 1.6M under the number if Ivanans can't play or PL3 gets sent down, so maybe Feaster has finished his summer's endeavours. I'm still not sure how Stajan and Hagman both fit on the roster absent one of them playing 4th line minutes, but I suppose there's no cap pressure to force anyone out the door, which makes me think that we could see this group intact when camp starts.
One article that didn't get much notice this week was Vicki Hall's story on Rich Hesketh making the rounds, which included a roadtrip to see Kipper in Finland. I'm moderately hopeful that Miikka put the cigs away for that visit, but the bit that struck me was the note about Matt Stajan hiring a personal trainer. He looked gassed, and hurt, most of last season, so we'll see if a summer's toil can get him back to at least being a middling forward. Hard to imagine him being worse, though.
The other item from that story that caught my eye was the fact that Cory Sarich is still being treated for his pubitis. There's been some grumbling about how signing Hannan might block someone like Brodie from playing, but if Sarich isn't fully fit, the team might need an extra body to make up the numbers.
I don't really count asking David Aebischer to camp as a worthwhile add, so the club still sits two forwards short of a top nine and with Zach Bogosian unsigned. I'm not crazy about a team likely to gross north of 90M next year actively trying to lose games, so, as always, I can only hope the current roster gets a few players appended by October 9th. At least the idea that Bogo has been asking out got nipped by his remarks that he'd rented a place for next year, but oblivious source aside, keeping players in town will almost certainly require winning more than 30 games a year. I'd guess that the best hope is that there's a market out there for Oduya or Hainsey, since those two guys are the most likely to return a forward of some ilk.
I did notice in the news that the Jets will have every game broadcast, but that did lead me to wonder when Winnipeg's local CBC affiliate will be available in HD. I don't doubt I'm showing my snobbery at this point, but watching 20-odd games in peasant vision isn't that appealing. Beats seeing the Leafs every weekend, of course.
R and D:
The league's tinker-fest this week looks like it might have found a few equipment changes that will make it to the NHL soon enough. The changes to the general state of the goal net, with better cameras and thinner mesh, are all to the good, as is the shrinking of the waste area of the cage behind the goal line. The curved glass around the benches is likely good as well, although Zdeno Chara and the Montreal police might quibble with that idea.
I'm still wondering what the league sees in the current icing rule. I fell a bit odd agreeing with someone whose view of the game appears to be rooted in a sepia toned era that never really existed, but Cherry's been dead right about this specific matter for years. Blind squirrel finds acorn, etc. If the league was really interested in player safety, no-touch icing would have been incorporated already, but as we've seen from other debates, there are entirely too many in the game's hierarchy that are content with the status quo.
Travis Zajac's summer took a nasty turn this week when he tore his Achilles' tendon working out. Lou has advised the public that no moves are afoot to fill in, but there are a few cheap guys around that could be had in the interim, so a free agent signing of a Wellwood or someone of that level might be the easy way out until November.
Over at C and B, Scott Reynolds looks at individual points percentage. Turns out that good players are in on a high percentage of scoring when they're on the ice. Who knew, right? It is obvious, of course, but it's another metric that helps discern who's good and who's just along for the ride.
I try to stay out of blogger bun-fights as a rule, but the kvetching by Panthers' fans over some fairly innocuous comments from Ryan Lambert has had me alternating between laughter and head shaking over the last couple of days. Combined with the over-reaction to Gabe Desjardins pointing out that the Panthers might not be a President's Trophy contender, I can only surmise that living in Florida drives people slightly around the twist.
$erious inquiries only:
Three clubs are looking to turn over the keys to new ownership, at least publicly. Of those, the Stars seem closest to finalizing a transfer, with Tom Gagliardi closing in on a September take-over. Dallas, like a few teams, are in rebuilding mode in the aftermath of Richards heading East, so any potential dividends from having a new owner will have to wait for next summer and beyond in the FA market.
In St. Louis, Monday has been set as a deadline for acceptance of bids on the Blues. The team has been available for well over a year with no takers, which really makes me wonder what the current owners expect to get from a sale at this point. That market's pretty decent, but the ticket prices were dramatically lowered to get the seats filled, so at some juncture the club will have to ask its patrons for 20-30% more just to keep up with the middle of the pack.
And of course, the Coyotes are still in the process of trying to find someone to spend the City of Glendale's money. The latest alleged suitor is former Shark CEO Greg Jamison. I use the word "alleged" in large part because the article comes from the Phoenix Business Journal, and Mike Sunnucks had the 'Yotes sold to Matt Hulsizer about 78 different times, so reader beware. John Shannon was in contact with Jamison on Saturday afternoon and advised all concerned not to get too far ahead of themselves.
The Isles might not be for sale, but after the referendum fiasco on August 1st, Charles Wang has been looking for an exit strategy. He might get it from the developers of the Barclays Center, future home of the Nets. The primaries behind the new building in Brooklyn met with the brass this week to kick a few tires, and the league, as with Winnipeg, has stated that the number of seats in an arena isn't a deal-breaker. 75-100 bucks a seat times 14,500 is about 2-3 times what the Coyotes bring in, and a new rink for the Islanders might have that type of initial appeal.
Rick Rypien was laid to rest Saturday afternoon after a funeral at the arena in Blairmore. The 27 year old was found dead earlier this week after an apparent suicide linked to his long struggle with depression.
The only good thing that could come out of Rypien's untimely passing might be an increased willingness of hockey's culture to acknowledge that its players, tough as they might seem on the surface, aren't immune to having some seriously dark nights of the soul. Hockey's culture absolutely includes the fans, by the way, and not just players, the suits in New York or the denizens of an owner's box. It's pretty easy to look at a hockey player as a 2D gladiator that solely exists for our entertainment. That POV is remarkably dehumanizing, and yet I'd be surprised if people didn't go back to their complacent attitudes regarding player health once a bit of time passes.
It's all a bit perverse, really. The mythology surrounding the game builds players up as nearly superhuman in their ability to endure injury, and on a physical level that's certainly true. Emotionally, though, NHLers are no more or less adept at managing their health than anyone else, and yet the atmosphere around the game largely compels its participants to keep their problems to themselves, often against their best interests.
Mike Gillis noted that the Canucks feel as if they did all they could for Rypien, and that as far as it goes, I don't doubt they did. Beyond helping players that openly manifest symptoms of depression, though, the league, like the wider society it exists within, needs to take an aggressive approach in advising employees that they don't need to wait until they're overwhelmed, and that coming forward isn't a sign of weakness others will prey upon.
As a final note, I haven't a clue whether Rick Rypien's depression was affected by his role as a regular pugilist, or whether he had any sort of concussion issues or CTE. My own personal distaste for fighting being in the game aside, I'm inclined to allow the facts to come out before making any judgements on his specific case, and it's likely best at this point for everyone to examine the entirety of the evidence in a quieter moment.
That's all for this week.