We near the end of the first month of the season, and there are many great story lines on the ice. The Avalanche are still cruising, Alexander Ovechkin is still scoring, Anze Kopitar and the Los Angeles Kings are making waves on the west coast, there is still a double-standard for suspensions, the defending champs look dominant, even though Crosby isn’t top-ten in scoring and now teams are starting to sniff around for possible trades.
All summer we heard that the salary cap would be significantly lower next season; due to the downturn in the economy. The NHL is predominantly a gate-driven league, although they do make some money via television, but the majority of the money comes from the fans. Many expected attendance to drop, but early on this season we haven’t seen a major dip, outside of Phoenix.
Here is a look at league-wide attendance last year, and how it has looked so far this year courtesy of www.espn.com.
|6||NY Rangers||41||18,172||102.3||San Jose||3||17,562||100.4|
|19||New Jersey||41||15,790||89.6||St. Louis||4||19,150||91.2|
|28||NY Islanders||41||13,773||84.5||Tampa Bay||5||14,987||75.9|
You will notice that the 12 teams that sold out every game last year are all there, although Philly is just under 100% right now. You would think that if L.A and Colorado continue to be competitive their totals will increase, but from top-to-bottom we haven’t seen a major difference that would lead us to believe the salary cap will drop that significantly.
If the cap stays the same or drops marginally, it will allow many teams including the Oilers, Flames and Canucks to not purge their team. For next season the Oilers have $42.185 million committed to 14 players. The Flames have $44.075 million for 14 players, while the Canucks have $36.625 million committed to 13 players.
The Oilers have young guys like Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, J.F. Jacques, Ryan Stone Jeff Deslauriers and Denis Grebeshkov to sign, while Fernando Pisani, Mike Comrie, Jason Strudwick are UFAs.
The Flames have Dustin Boyd and Brandon Prust as young guys, but have Rene Bourque, Olli Jokinen, Craig Conroy and Erik Nystrom as UFAs.
The Canucks have RFAs like Ryan Kesler, Raymond Mason, Jannik Hansen and Tanner Glass, while their main UFA is Willie Mitchell. They will have to decide if the other unrestricted guys; Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, Ryan Johnson and Mathieu Schneider are worthy of new contracts.
If the cap doesn’t go down significantly, it will make life much easier for Mike Gillis, Steve Tambellini and Darryl Sutter this summer.
Ice women of the week
It pains me to say this, but even Calgary is ahead of Edmonton when it comes to Ice Women, I call them Ice Women because they are of age and thus women. The Flames have Ice Women now, but they didn’t make my photo of the week. Instead, I will go with this photo-shopped pic of the Dallas Stars Women.
Yes the Flames have Ice Women, but they also play the most annoying song ever, Cotton Eyed Joe at the Saddledome, and what is worse is the crowd sings along. Just another reason the Rexall DJ must continue to boycott CEJ.
Strange stat. Sidney Crosby has three career hat tricks, and two of them have come on October 28th according to www.nhl.com.
Strange stat part two. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have taken the 3rd most minor penalties in the league with eight. Only Hal Gill and Scottie Upshall with nine and Mike Komisarek (10) have been in the sin bin more often.
The more I watch James Neal the more I like him. The Stars drafted him 33rd overall in 2005, and he has developed nicely since. He spent one year with Iowa in the AHL, and then broke out with a 24-goal campaign as an NHL rookie last year. The 22-year-old has 14 points in 12 games and has a solid overall game. He skates well, has size, blocks shots and has great vision. He will be a guy to watch for on the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.
I don’t think the USA will be that good at the Olympics, but with Craig Anderson and Ryan Miller off to great starts, they should have solid netminding. Both have been sensational, and are the main reason the Sabres and Avalanche lead their divisions.
The best Canadian goalie this month has been Marc-Andre Fleury. Barring an injury Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur and Fleury will be the three goalies in Vancouver.
Jeff Deslauriers has a ridiculous .957 SV% and a stellar 1.51 GAA in two games this season. Shouldn’t Pat Quinn use him again soon?
Another bad week for the NHL injury-wise. Ilya Kovalchuk, Roberto Luongo and Simon Gagne all went down. Is it just me or does the NHL have more injuries to top stars than the NFL, NBA and MLB. Hockey is a tough game, and I don’t think there is any way to prevent the stars from getting hurt.
I can’t stand the Yankees. Go Phillies. Cliff Lee was sick in game one, and Chase Utley is a gamer. But let’s hope that Pedro ‘Soul Glo” Martinez doesn’t allow the Yankees to be “His Daddy” in game two.
Using the Cheers theme music for the Kelsey’s commercial doesn’t fit. Sorry, but that’s not a place you go often enough that people know your name.
Teams with the most fights are the Flames (13), Oilers, Leafs and Sharks (11), Canucks (10) and Senators and Canadiens (9). The six Canadian teams are in the top seven. Seems they understand what most hockey fans enjoy.
The Kings and Rangers each have four players in the top 30 in scoring. The Rangers won’t maintain that, but the Kings might with Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov.
Terry Murray benched Alexander Frolov in Dallas and since then he has three goals and seven points in four games. Do many of you still think that benching a player and telling the media and fans he has to be better is really that bad???
Salo has had 39 injuries in his career”, Farhan Lalji from TSN on Just A Game. Seriously he wasn’t lying. Salo is the biggest band-aid in the game.
“I will go down as the first NHL player to play with H1N1”… Ladislav Smid.
“The Flames will come out strong and see if Colorado can handle their physical game. If they can’t it might be a blowout for Calgary”, Jermaine Franklin on Flames radio pre-game show. The Avs were 9-1-2 going in, how could anyone think they would get blown out. Avs won their 10th game.
Leaders through the week
Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.
Eleven: Alex Ovechkin (leads for the second straight week)
Ten: Anze Kopitar Patrick Marleau and Marian Gaborik
Nine: Ilya Kovalchuk and Sidney Crosby (five goals this week).
Eight: Dustin Penner, Wojtek Wolski and Dany Heatley
Seven: Seven players tied
Fourteen: Joe Thornton (leads for the third straight week).
Twelve: Nicklas Backstrom and Vinny Prospal
Eleven: Anze Kopitar and Dan Boyle
Ten: Marty St.Louis, Evgeni Malkin, Brad Richards, Drew Doughty,Tomas Kaberle (six assists this week) and Ales Hemsky (six assists this week).
21: Kopitar (eight points this week)
Seventeen: Thornton and Marleau
Fifteen: Healtey, Penner, B. Richards, Henrik Sedin, Rick Nash, Ryan Smyth and Nicklas Backstrom
+11: Ovechkin and Alex Goligoski
+10: Nicklas Grossman and Ryan O’Reilly
+9: Crosby, Wolski, Henrik Tallinder, Curtis Glencross, Jay McKee and Scott Hannan
Five: Andrew Brunette and Dany Heatley
Four: Smyth, Kopitar, Gaborik, Mike Richards, Devon Setoguchi, Raffi Torres, Rich Peverley and Niklas Hagman.
55: Ryan Callahan…(leads for third straight week).
49: Chris Neil (Seventeen this week)
46: Dustin Brown
45: JF Jacques
38: Matt Cooke
37: Brandon Dubinsky, Stephane Robidas and Marc Staal
36: David Backes
35: Four tied
51: Jeff Carter had 23 shots this week, but no goals.
50: Crosby had 18 shots and five goals.
48: Mikael Samuelsson
47: Zach Parise
45: Malkin, Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu
44: Michael Cammalleri
There have been 15 OT goals this year, and the Montreal Canadiens have four of them. Cammalleri, Roman Hamrlik, Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta have scored.