May 27 News and Notes



The playoffs are down to the short strokes now, with only a game and the finals left before we move into the summer. For those of us on the Prairies, of course, ”summer” might be a concept more in tune with the calendar than the actual conditions, so maybe the correct term should simply be “off-season”.

At any rate, the roundup returns with items of note from around the league. In this instalment, the Flames get a bit of good news from Bill Daly, The Bruins and Lightning head for the finish line, and matters appear headed to a conclusion in Georgia. 



Since we last convened, the Flames have settled their GM position by confirming Jay Feaster as the permanent boss. I’m in the wait and see mode with him given his shaky past drafting/trading history, although as I mentioned earlier in the week, I’m content with his first contract signing. His task was also made a bit easier by last weekend’s announcement from the NHL’s number two that the cap might go as high as 63.5M for next year, which is about 1.3M more than previously expected. That’s some useful news for a club that might still need to send a body or two overseas in order to ice a functional lineup.

The club still could use a coach or two, and there are legitimate candidates afoot, with former Panther boss Peter DeBoer likely near the top of the list. The hiring of any particular assistant coach never seems to be a matter that should be that big of a deal, and as Kent mentioned the other day, unless one of the new hires can work some sort of voodoo on Kipper, their value is likely to be nominal.

The Flames do have two prospects still at work as of this morning after Kootenay’s 7-3 win last night over Owen Sound in the Memorial Cup tiebreaker. Max Reinahrt added to his impressive post-season totals with a short handed goal and an assist in the rout. Joey Leach also added a helper to boost the Ice into the semi-final versus the host St. Mike’s Majors. Tonight’s game goes at 5 MT on Sportsnet with the dulcet tones of Peter Loubardias conveying the action. Forewarned is forearmed, or something like that.

On the alumni front, Theoren Fleury has mostly been notable this spring for his ability to incite some of the dimmer members of Vancouver’s fan base via his Twitter pronouncements, which reinforces my belief that unlike enforcers, instigators don’t shed that guise away from the rink. All in good fun on his part, of course, and he’s apparently also been keeping busy away from Twitter. As always, good luck to him..




Finals on the Horizon:

The Bruins and Lightning are just finishing up their pre-game skates before tonight’s closing affair in their series. Tampa’s probably been the better team on the merits through six games, but Dwayne Roloson has been uncommonly generous in the net, and as a result, the Bruins still have a chance.

They’ll still have Nathan Horton available as well, and after his water-dispensing activities Wednesday night, that might be considered good fortune. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune has the memo from the league suggesting that a suspension should be in order posted at his blog, but the NHL applies its rulebook with the same consistency exhibited in a standard game of Calvinball, so the absence of a suspension to Horton was just as likely as the NHL actually adhering to any previous written direction.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I suspect that neither of these teams are beating the evil-doers from the West Coast, but they’ll get their chance starting Wednesday in Vancouver. The Canucks are currently cooling their heels after dispatching San Jose Tuesday evening in double OT. Cam Davie reviewed their series versus the Sharks over at Canucks Army yesterday, and as painful as it is to admit, Vancouver is full value for their position.

The Canucks were an excellent outshooting team all season that also mixed in solid special teams and quality goaltending, and all of those components have been in evidence throughout the playoffs. They could lose to the Eastern winner, but it would likely take some other-worldly goaltending from either Thomas or Roloson for that to occur, and as we’re seeing in their current series, that’s not a lock from either of those gents.





Two Americans of note called time on their careers this week. In Detroit, Brian Rafalski walked away, leaving the Red Wings with both a hole in their roster and a chance to fix a few things. Rafalski mostly played third pairing minutes at EV this year, so his departure shouldn’t be seen as some sort of unconquerable obstacle, and his retirement clears a $6M slot on Detroit’s roster. Some of that money might go to retaining Jonathan Ericsson, but if they choose to use 3-4M on a replacement for Rafalski, I suspect they should be able to procure a suitable defender to plug the gap.

Contrary to Phil Coffey’s position, I can’t really endorse Rafalski for the Hall of Fame. He was a terrific second banana for both Scott Stevens and Nicklas Lidstrom, but he was never the man, and pointing to Stanley Cups and the like misses the point. Nice player, though.

On the Island, Doug Weight has also taken this opportunity to move on with his life. Bruce McCurdy made the case that Weight was likely in the argument with Ryan Smyth as the best Oiler since the good old days, and give or take one year from Chris Pronger, that may well be so. Like Rafalski, he shouldn’t go beyond the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, but he had a very nice career, with good scoring totals during the dead puck era.





The Islanders resigned Kyle Okposo this week, and as with the contract offered to Michael Grabner, the actual salary figures are heavily back-loaded, which makes it fairly clear Charles Wang is punting any potential cash flow issues down the line to a time where he may have a new facility that could provide the Isles with fresh revenue..

Whether that occurs or not is still an open question, as the Islanders have had their share of issues dealing with local government in the recent past in the quest for a new building. Of course, he could always pay for the damned thing himself, but that’s a concept that only seems to have any traction in this country.

Craig Custance of the Sporting News reviewed a few of the deadline deals yesterday, and unsurprisingly, the handiwork of Mike Gillis got a favourable review. That noted, the money quote in the article is Dean Lombardi’s cannon shot across the bow of the S.S. Dustin Penner. 




(Mostly) Done Deal:


Unlike the interminable Coyotes’ saga, events in Atlanta are unfolding at a relatively abrupt pace. Michael Gearon, one of the Atlanta Spirit Group’s principals, advised the local media that the transfer of ownership to Tue North was, in his words, “about 80 percent complete.” Winnipeg, after 15 years in the cold, is really on the brink, and Down Goes Brown has thoughtfully provided us with a guide to navigate the changed NHL landscape. 

If this transaction does finalize, it might well be a triumph for the notion of keeping your mouth shut in the course of doing business. Michael Traikos’ article this morning contrasts the steady-going approach favoured by Mark Chipman with the more brazen M.O. of a certain Blackberry huckster. For whatever any of us may or may not think of the league and its management, it’s their ballgame and their rules, so it would seem as if Chipman and Thomson have played this right.

The state of peril a few franchises find themselves in has lead to flights of fancy from other markets regarding their chances to host a NHL club. Seattle was in the news yesterday, but the key point in any story that highlights the Emerald City as a landing spot for a team should always note that the NHL doesn’t consider Key Arena viable for hockey. There isn’t any private entity clamouring to build a new arena and then buy a team for Seattle, and that is a point almost never acknowledged by the folks that are openly wishing for a failure to occur in Winnipeg.

The fact is that of all the potential U.S. markets that a few folks continue to bring up as better places for a team, exactly none of them have a potential owner willing to put up serious money. Portland, another city often mooted, would have to play out of Paul Allen’s Rose Garden, and he isn’t likely to share the building’s spoils or buy a team himself, so scratch that town.

Houston? Same deal. Les Alexander controls the Toyota Center, hasn’t expressed interest in owning a team in the last decade, and needs the extra money from luxury suites and the like to prop up a Rockets franchise struggling to draw as of late. He’s unlikely to split that extra cash with another owner out of some sense of altruism.

Atlanta is in the same boat, since a stand-alone Thrasher ownership would have to operate with a lease from ASG. Not being the primary tenant would be a recipe for losing a gigantic pile of dough, and ASG hasn’t seemed all that interested in selling the three properties as a group.

Kansas City is the other darling out there, and if Phil Anschutz decided to sell his interest in the Kings to run a franchise in a building he controls, that could work. Hell could freeze over as well. Any team in that building would have to negotiate a lease with AEG, and unless I’ve missed some recent development, Phil Anschutz hasn’t become exceptionally wealthy by giving away revenue from his businesses for amusement purposes. I’d argue that AEG’s control of the Sprint Center might keep hockey out of that building for the foreseeable future unless the NHL allows someone to own multiple teams.

The facts on the ground are pretty much indisputable. Winnipeg may or may not fail, but no one is willing to buy a franchise and move it to one of these fairytale locations. Even if there was some interest, those other cities aren’t locks to succeed given potential building constraints, and the Atlanta people want out right now. Absent folding the franchise, there isn’t any other option but my waterlogged home.

If you see anything else of interest, post it in the comments.

  • dustin642

    What is the Swedish equivalent to horseback riding? Building ikea furniture? If thats the case, I hope Feaster and Tim Erixon build an entire bedroom set sometime soon and hammer out a contact!

  • dustin642

    The best thing the NHL could do is actually remove teams from the league. Winnipeg will see initial success but will ultimately fail with time. The city is way too small to support the team, the arena doesnt seat enough people, it failed miserably before, Winnipegs economy isn’t exactly booming, no players want to play there, and not many head offices are located there to buy boxes and support the team. What are their plans when the CDN $ decreases below parity? That wont be for a while but its going to happen sooner or later.

    I appreciate the excitement of everyone in Manitoba right now, but really when they dont make the playoffs in the first 3 years of being there, the fans will lose interest; they are also known as being very cheap. Talk is cheap and of these “supporters” who will actually pay for the tickets? They are likely to be priced well beyond a lot of peoples means there.

    I agree 100% there isn’t a lot of destinations that is set up for an NHL team or that the citizens would support a team there. The best thing the NHL could do is remove ~4 teams from the league. Remove the deadweight and then the remaining teams will be more competitive with an influx of talent. I’ve thought this for a while and they should give it some serious consideration. There is too many teams out there that are losing too much money. It would increase the salary cap and individual team profits because they wont have to pay transfer payments for lost causes.

    • I could not agree with this more. Sorry Winnipegers but you can’t support an NHL team long-term.

      I’ve also been advocating contraction for what seems like forever. Half the problem the NHL has is the talent base is too shallow. Guys like Stajan shouldn’t even make it to NHL level – at all, period.

      Seeing 4 teams go would be great. That way every team could play every other team 3x each for a 75 game season and the playoff rankings could be #1 vs. #16 instead of the crap system we have now.

      It would also eliminate a lot of garbage players and up the enjoyability of the game.

      Implement 1 year contracts and it’d be absolutely perfect.

      • Of course there is that pesky CBA to deal with. Methinks the players might not take too kindly to the plan to axe that many jobs.

        Probably as happy as they would be to accept one year contracts. The bad contracts are the fault of the GM’s that give them not the players. If the GM’s whop represent the owners are too stupid to help themselves, why should the players make it idiot proof for them?

        • SmellOfVictory

          Good point, but in a lot of cases it’s quite difficult when you have players who only put out in their contract years combined with a dearth of talent.

          I actually don’t think it’s that much of an issue (from my view point)as long as the player can still receive injury insurance beyond the length of the contract. So, 1 year deals, but if you get hurt, the team covers the insurance costs to keep paying the player while he’s injured for a negotiated time frame (say, 2 years minimum, 5 years maximium).

          This woul dprotect the players if they’re hurt, but protect the teams from one year wonders and guys who put out during their initial contracts and then do nothing after signing for big money.

  • dustin642

    Any chance the Flames trade Regehr to Detroit in the summer? Rafalskis retirement, like Robert said, leaves a boatload of cap space on the blueline.

    If they resign Ericsson for around $1.9 million, then theyd have room for Regehr. The only guys they have signed for next year on defence are Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall.

    • dustin642

      There is no way they would pick up Regher, there is a better possibility of them picking up Bouwmeester. Regher is to worn down and can’t skate like Detroit would want him to, Bouwmeester is still a really really good skater and somewhat fits a bunch better, could be a Rafalski replacement, but I SERIOUSLY doubt detroit goes the trade route to fill the Rafalski hole.

      I think they go through their own systems and bring someone up or sign someone that no one expects in the offseason. Though I can see Erhoff going there.

  • MC Hockey

    I thought of the “great since Rafalski retires, trade Sarich there too” idea. I think if he is hidden behind bhind Lidstrom, good defenseive forwards, or other D so maybe he could look good there I thought but I doubt Detroit would do it, they are too careful. But they did take short-term Flame Brad Stuart and turn him into a decent playwer so who knows. Maybe if Lidstrom retires they will take JBo!

  • I like the idea of offloading Sarich/JBo onto Detroit, but I think this begs one question:

    What do we get in return?

    I can hardly see Detroit parting ways with anyone of great value such as Datsyuk or Zetterberg (note: this will NEVER happen). After that, who would we want? Their “good” players are similar to ours in that they are well aged, and their up and coming players don’t seem to be… for lack of a better word, desirable.

    Potential forward targets might be: Darren Helm (24), Valtteri Filppula (27), Jiri Hudler, Drew Miller (both 27). From what I saw of Abdelkader, he is a pretty good player, but is VERY prone to taking stupid penalties at inopportune times a’la Bourque/GlenX. Other than these guys, the forwards are 31+, and that’s the last thing we need.

    I doubt the Wings would give up Darren Helm or Jimmy Howard. Most likely, we would end up doing a salary dump and acquire some picks.

    Besides, I have rarely seen Detroit make any sort of noteworthy trade in recent years. They seem much more content with bringing up players from within their system or signing free agents.

    • You get a boatload of cap space in return. Getting rid of J-Bouw’s contract would be more beneficial to this team that what he brings to it in the short term. he is a very good defenceman but not elite especially given the dollars tied up in him.

      Take whatever they give you if it is just contracts that expire next year. The core is aging and you need to take drastic steps now if you want any kind of success before it is too late.

      All of this of course may be a pipedream in any event.

  • There is pretty much ZERO chance of trading Sarich anywhere in the offseason, I would REALLY like to but there are a couple of factors that will probably prevent that.

    1.) Not a lot of teams want a 3.6mil cap hit or so to play on the 3rd pairing with the occasional fill in on the second pair.

    2.) He has a full NMC from what I understand and he lives in Canmore, don’t see him wanting to pack it in to get dumped on a team.

    3.) Apparently he was playing with this condition for the second half of the season,, and reading that scares the crap out of me, if that is true, he will be on LTIR long before he gets traded.

    Bouwmeester to Detroit could still be a real possibility, we would have to take some sort of contract back of course, but he is a player that probably fits in well there.