Around the league – Dec 17, 2009

The annual Governor’s meetings have wrapped up, and nothing earth shattering was revealed. The Count (Gary Bettman) is adamant that Phoenix is a viable market, and he is hoping that Edge Holdings Inc is legit and not another Len Barrie or Boots Del Baggio.

An interesting point was raised regarding whether the league should maintain a team in Phoenix compared to say Quebec of Winnipeg.

As Canadians we feel it is a no-brainer to have a team in Canada, where the games will sell out and fans will care compared to Phoenix where you can get a gold seat for $25. But is a team in Quebec or Winnipeg better for the rest of the league?

The NHL is a business first and foremost, and many feel if the new owners can somehow make it viable in Phoenix that is better for the other 29 franchises, rather than having a team in Quebec City.

A team in Quebec or Winnipeg is good for that market, but will it grow the game? I’d say no. I understand why Canadians want another team, but when 24 of the 30 teams are in the United States, it is clear who holds the power. A major advertiser would be more excited about the Phoenix market over Quebec.

Can we really grow the game anymore in Canada? Are there people that don’t know about hockey here? The only reason someone hasn’t gone to at least one game is because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t want to.

Quebec City’s population, including the metro area is less than a million people, while Phoenix has 4.28 million people and is the 12th largest metro area by population in the United States.

From a business point of view the possibility of growth is much higher there than Quebec City. I know that the arena is in Glendale, and it is a 45-minute commute without any public transportation. The optics don’t look good, but I can see why business men feel there is a potential for success in a market that big.

Today Quebec or Winnipeg or even Southern Ontario doesn’t have a facility, so realistically they aren’t an option until they get an arena. When they get one then hockey fans can argue the merits of having a 7th Canadian team, but until then it wishful thinking.

If the NHL can convince Edge Holdings INC to pay them $140 million for the Coyotes the NHL will take it and run. If, or should I say when, EHI realizes in a few years that they can’t make money, then and only then will Bettman and the rest of the league look at relocating.

Right now the other 29 teams would love to see EHI buy the Coyotes because it will save them having to pony up their own money to subsidize the Dessert Dogs. I just don’t understand why EHI would pay more than a dollar for that team right now.

Ice woman of the week

Since many of you alleged babe-magnets complained last week, here is double dose of the energetic Briana, who is a member of the Thrashers Blue Crew. Hopefully her hair meets the standards of the Nation.

Random thoughts

  • Barry Trotz’ Nashville Predators are 13-3-2 in their last 18 games. They only have two guys in double digits in goals, Jason Arnott and Martin Erat with 11, yet they are only one point back of Colorado and four back of the Kings with two games in hand. Everyone has been raving about the Avs and Kings, but did anyone think the Predators would be in the top-five in the west at this point? I didn’t think so.
  • The NHL wants a Canadian outdoor classic every year now? Why? The Heritage Classic was a great idea, but if you had one every six years would it have the same appeal? NBC doesn’t want a Canadian team to play in it, but CBC thinks it will be a ratings monster so they are pushing for it. After Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa host it once will it still hold the appeal of Canadian fans? I doubt it.
  • Marty Brodeur will break another of Patrick Roy’s records this week when he plays his 1,030th game. It makes me smile to see Roy lose all of his records; no one annoyed me more than him.
  • Henrik Sedin is 2nd in league scoring. I might have to stop calling them the Sisters…then again probably not. But I will give him credit; he is having the best season that no one talks about.
  • The best bang for your buck in the top-30 scorers is Nicklas Backstrom. He is fifth in the league with 39 points and a $2.4 million cap hit. Tomas Plekanec has 34 points and a $2.75 hit, while Wojtek Wolski has 33 points and a $2.8 million cap hit. All three are in the last year of their contracts, and don’t be surprised if someone grossly overpays Plekanec this summer.
  • Drew Doughty could make team Canada despite being twenty. He does everything well. He’s a great skater, has outstanding vision, moves the puck well, has a strong shot and is physical. His ability to step and make a hit is underrated in my opinion. In two more years I think he’ll be in conversation of best D-men in the game.
  • Injuries to Teemu Selanne and Joffrey Lupul might give Randy Carlyle a brief stay-of-execution, but I can’t see how he keeps his job past January 15th. It is too close to Christmas to fire him now, but I don’t see him lasting very long in the New Year.
  • While Oiler fans have gotten used to their team being a 7th to 12th place team, I wonder if Flames’ fans ever get annoyed with their team’s inability to become an elite team. The Flames have been good, and once you think they will become a great team they lose three or four in a row and come back to the pack. I wonder if their nucleus knows how to become great rather than just good?

Leaders through the week

Goals:
23: Marian Gaborik
21: Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley and Alex Ovechkin
20: Patrick Marleau
18: Dustin Penner, Mike Cammalleri, Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk.
17: Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash

Assists:
37: Joe Thornton
30: Ryan Getzlaf 
29: Tomas Kaberle and Martin St. Louis
28: Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Plekanec and H. Sedin
27: Brad Richards
26: Paul Stastny and Mike Green
***All the same top ten assist leaders for the first time all season. Only six other players have more points than Thornton has assists this season.***

Points:
44: Thornton
43: H. Sedin (seven points this week)
42: Gaborik
41: Crosby, Perry, Getzlaf and H. Sedin
39: Backstrom
38: Ovechkin and Anze Kopitar
37: Heatley, Getzlaf, Corey Perry and B. Richards

Plus/Minus:
+17: Ovechkin and Zach Parise
+16: Christian Ehrhoff,
+15: Jonathon Toews and Pavel Kubina
+14: Jeff Schultz and Evgeni Malkin
+13: Travis Zajac, Wayne Simmonds, Brendan Morrison, Crosby and Penner.
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads for the Green Jacket with a whopping -19. Martin Havlat was +6 this week to improve to -11. Patrick O’Sullivan is 6th worst at -13 and Shawn Horcoff is 7th at -12.***

PP Goals:
Eleven: Gaborik
Ten: Heatley
Eight: John Tavares
Seven: Andrew Brunette, Teemu Selanne, Kovalchuk, Niclas Bergfors, Tomas Holmstom and Steven Stamkos
Six: Eleven guys tied with six.

Hits:
110: Stephane Robidas

109: Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown
103: Cal Clutterbuck
102: Matt Greene
97: Ryan Malone
96: JF Jacques
95: Scott Nichol
91: Brooks Orpik
90: David Backes, Brendan Morrow and Chris Neil

Shots:
140: Parise and Jeff Carter (Sixteen shots, but no goals this week.)
138: Ovechkin
134: Nash
129: Henrik Zetterberg
121: Dustin Brown and Crosby
120: Radim Vrbata
119: Vincent Lecavalier
117: Cammalleri

Final point

I don’t have to say much, do I? I wonder what the top ten tips Tiger would have this week for the President?