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.
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.
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?
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.