As part of my coverage of the NHL season, I’m going to begin providing a daily preview of the games across the league. Now, this won’t be a comprehensive guide to every game that is being played — I’ll leave that for the folks at the Associated Press. Instead, I’ll provide three interesting bits of information that you should focus on as you watch the nightly contests!
And thankfully, for my first edition of this preview, there are some great stories to mention for tonight. Let’s take a look!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR…
1. Blackhawks Rebound Opportunity
Following their first regulation loss in 30 games, the Chicago Blackhawks (21-1-3) are back at the United Center looking to start a new streak of the winning variety. On paper, the task appears simple. The Edmonton Oilers arrive on a five-game losing streak and haven’t scored a goal in more than 120 minutes.
However, in the loss to Colorado, the Blackhawks gave up an uninspiring six goals, which was the most that they have allowed all season. This came primarily because the Avalanche simply outworked Chicago. They won most of the battles on the boards, found more quality scoring chances and were the better team on the defensive end — a combination that the ‘Hawks haven’t faced in quite some time.
Admittedly, it’s just one loss. Every team struggles from time to time, so the feeling around the club is that there’s nothing to worry about. But, with Patrick Sharp out for the next month and the first hint of adversity in front of Chicago, I’m quite interested in seeing their performance this evening. Watch for the feisty Oilers to give them a run for their money!
2. Colorado Cruising?
With the above discussion in mind, I think it is pivotal to set our eyes on the young Colorado Avalanche (9-10-4) for the night. Obviously, the start of the season has been rough for the men from the Mile High City. But signs of improvement have come rapidly over the last week, which is encouraging for team management.
This was not only evident in the blowout win over Chicago, but also in the devastating loss at the United Center just days before. The Avalanche made it clear that they can not only play with the top team in the league; they can beat them. And we all know how one big performance can spark a team in professional sports.
And, let’s not forget that Colorado is loaded with talent on the ice. The offense is led by outstanding forward Matt Duchene, and is quickly improving with the efforts of Ryan O’Reilly. On the other end, Erik Johnson is back, which certainly helps strengthen a respectable defensive lineup. The pieces are in place for the Avalanche to make a postseason run in the second half of the season.
That run could continue tonight with San Jose in town. Colorado has won four consecutive games at the Pepsi Center and will play five of the next six at home. Perhaps this is their time to shine.
3. King Crosby
I remember a time when people were worried about Sidney Crosby returning to the NHL ice again. As the current top scorer in the league, I think it’s safe to say that most concern should be gone.
Crosby has 40 points in 25 games, which means that he is on pace to rack up nearly 80 points before the season is done — imagine the numbers if he had the final 34 games. A big reason for the success has been a current seven-game point streak in which he has posted five goals and 10 assists.
Tonight, he will look to continue this streak against an Islanders club that ranks 28th in the NHL in goals allowed per game. In two previous matchups with New York, Crosby has posted a point in each. So, I’d say chances are high that you won’t be disappointed if you follow his progress this evening.Posted in Columns, Daily Previews, Ryan Boyd | Tagged Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Hockey, NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby | Leave a comment
The first full week of NHL regular season hockey has finally come to a close, which means that it is time to evaluate where each team stands to this point. Naturally, we expect things to change rapidly over the first few weeks of the season. But to this point, there have been some huge surprises around the league, which will be clearly outlined in the rankings.
1. Chicago Blackhawks — 6-0-0
The Blackhawks are undefeated, winners of four road games, already 3-0-0 against the Central Division and possess potentially the most dangerous offense in the NHL led by Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Need I justify this choice anymore? Of course not.
2. San Jose Sharks — 5-0-0
San Jose is the only other unbeaten team in the league, which comes as no surprise given their success on both ends of the ice. The Sharks are scoring nearly five goals per game and Antti Niemi is saving nearly 93 percent of the shots he faces. Heck, even the backup goalie Thomas Greiss has a shutout already.
3. St. Louis Blues — 5-1-0
Defense wins championships. A great goaltender can stifle a great offense on any night. In my mind, Jaroslav Halak (1.69 GAA) and Brian Elliott (1.98 GAA) are the best goaltending combination in the business. Add each of those facts up and it equals a big time contender in St. Louis.
4. New Jersey Devils — 3-0-1
I’ll be the first to admit that I was concerned about this team after Zach Parise decided to take his talents to Minnesota. However, to this point Martin Brodeur has been marvelous. Set aside the rough start in Montreal and he has allowed less than a goal per game. And to make matters even better, Adam Henrique will be back in a couple of days.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning — 4-1-0
I’m not convinced that the Lightning are solid between the pipes. Nonetheless, their start to the season has been nothing short of exceptional because of the electric offense. Multi-goal victories over Ottawa, Washington and Philadelphia are proof of that. Also, 22-year-old (that is not a typo) Steven Stamkos is once again off to a booming start with eight points.
6. Ottawa Senators — 3-1-1
Many folks aren’t sold on the Senators, but I truly believe they are built to make another run (and perhaps even better run) to the postseason. Craig Anderson is an underrated netminder, Erik Karlsson is one of the most complete defenseman in the sport and Jason Spezza is one of my favorite scorers. Those are only a few of many solid players on the roster.
7. Boston Bruins — 3-0-1
Boston continues to play excellent hockey at the TD Garden, which is good news for a team that should pick up home ice in at least one round of the postseason. However, Tyler Seguin has just one point through four games. He needs to wake up to fuel an offense that is currently ranked 14th.
8. Montreal Canadiens — 3-1-0
After an opening night loss to Toronto, I was quick to criticize the play of Montreal. Just over a week later I’m ready to applaud what they have accomplished. In three consecutive wins, the Canadiens have given up just five goals without the service of star defenseman P.K. Subban (still hasn’t been signed).
9. Anaheim Ducks — 3-1-0
The defensive effort from Anaheim has been sub-par to say the least (25th in goals allowed, 30th on the penalty kill), yet the team has won three of four. This is largely because of Daniel Winnik, who is currently 2nd in the NHL with five goals scored. That will go on the “Things I Didn’t Expect to Say until March” list.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins — 3-2-0
Even with two early losses it’s impossible to keep the Penguins out of the top 10. This is a team that features Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Kris Letang — all guys with the potential to score more than 30 points in this short season. And because of relatively poor goaltending, this will consistently be an exciting team playing in high-scoring affairs.
11. Winnipeg Jets — 3-1-1
After starting the year on a two-game losing streak, Winnipeg has reeled off three consecutive impressive wins. In the victories, the Jets have averaged more than 35 shots on goal, just over one power play goal and a respectable goals against average below three. It’s a nifty formula for winning hockey games!
12. Nashville Predators — 1-1-3
It is concerning that the Predators have struggled mightily in clutch moments. Three shootout losses with an all-star netminder between the pipes is rough. But, it’s worth mentioning that Nashville has dealt with an incredibly tough schedule thus far. Four of their first five opponents are ranked in the top 10 in this post. The Preds will need to survive the last four road games on this brutal trip, and then they should get back on track at home.
13. Dallas Stars — 2-2-1
Four of the Stars 11 goals this season have been scored by the 40-year-olds on the roster. That’s not an attempt to poke fun at Jaromir Jagr or Ray Whitney. They’re outstanding scorers. But, somebody else in Dallas needs to step up to improve an offense that ranks 25th in goals scored per game.
14. New York Islanders — 2-2-1
If the season ended today, the Islanders would be headed to the postseason for the first time since 2006-07. Unfortunately, New York still has 43 games left to prove that they are the team that smoked Toronto on the road on Thursday; not the one that finished with just 79 points last year.
15. Colorado Avalanche — 2-2-0
Inconsistency has been a big issue for the Avalanche through four games. Colorado is built to make a run in the playoffs, but they have to avoid letdowns like they had in San Jose on Saturday. Also, re-signing Ryan O’Reilly is of extreme importance moving forward. His presence on the ice will dramatically improve the Avalanche offensive attack.
16. Detroit Red Wings — 2-2-1
Through five games, Detroit has converted on just two of 26 power play opportunities, while allowing its opponent to strike more than 30 percent of the time. Simply put, these numbers will have to change or the Red Wings will be enjoying the golf course come playoff time.
17. New York Rangers — 2-3-0
For a team that is expected to compete for a Stanley Cup, early losses to Pittsburgh, Boston and Philadelphia aren’t promising. But it would be foolish to believe that Henrik Lundqvist will still have a goals against average above 3.00 and the dynamic offense will be out of the top 10 in a few weeks.
18. Vancouver Canucks — 2-2-1
The goaltending situation is definitely going to become a distraction if it continues to play out in this way. Neither guy looks ready to step up and solidify himself as the top netminder. The Sedin brothers are still in Vancouver, though. They will do enough to keep the Canucks relevant in the back of the Western Conference playoff picture.
19. Carolina Hurricanes — 2-2-0
Boy, those Staal brothers can really play hockey, right? Jordan and Eric have combined for three goals and five assists in four games. They’re a key reason why the ‘Canes have been able to work their way back to .500 after starting 0-2-0.
20. Edmonton Oilers — 2-2-0
How many first overall picks does it take to win a Stanley Cup? Well, more than the Oilers currently have on the roster it seems. This is a young team full of offensive talent, but they clearly aren’t ready to compete with the big boys. They’ll likely fight for a final playoff spot for most of the year.
21. Minnesota Wild — 2-2-1
And, now we reach the part of the rankings that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I realize that Minnesota is currently 3rd in the Western Conference standings, but they have been a disaster over the last three games. The goaltending that was suppose to push them to a division crown has surrendered 13 goals during the three-game skid. Even the great Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can’t overcome that.
22. Philadelphia Flyers — 2-4-0
When the Flyers lose, they really get blown out of the arena. In fact, Philadelphia has lost its four games by a combined 12 goals; or, by an average of three per game. I fear that the goaltending situation here is going to be the downfall for a talented offensive club.
23. Los Angeles Kings — 1-2-1
So, you be the judge. Are the Kings experiencing a championship hangover? Or, maybe they really are just an eight seed that made a lucky run? Or, perhaps we are just overanalyzing a slow start? Regardless of which you choose, it’s undeniable that Anze Kopitar, Dustin brown and Jonathan Quick need to return from the offseason. Their mind is still in La-La-Land.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs — 2-3-0
Coming into the shortened season I didn’t hate the Maple Leafs chances of making a postseason appearance. Sure, the goaltending is sketchy, but they have the firepower to cover it up at times. However, when I heard that Joffrey Lupul is missing six weeks due to injury, I knew their chances were significantly lower. Sad day, Toronto.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets — 1-3-1
The Blue Jackets play hard every night. They play with a chip on their shoulder and with the intensity of a team that believes that they can compete with anyone. Unfortunately, the talent level on the ice is quite a bit lower than most of their opponents. Columbus is likely in for another relatively rough season (but don’t worry, nothing like last year).
26. Washington Capitals — 1-3-1
Alex Ovechkin has just two points in five games? Braden Holtby has a goals against average above five through two starts? The Capitals are near 30th in every major statistical category? Oh, now I see why Washington started the year on a four-game losing streak.
27. Buffalo Sabres — 2-3-0
In a battle of struggling teams Sunday night, Ovechkin scored his only goal of the season to help Washington beat Buffalo. This sent the Sabres to a third straight loss after starting 2-0-0. They could desperately use a home win over Toronto on Tuesday.
28. Calgary Flames — 1-2-1
Maybe Calgary will benefit from playing in the wide open Northwest Division. This should keep them within reach for the early part of the season. But in the end, the Flames will likely miss the playoffs and struggle to bring back all-star Jarome Iginla. Ouch.
29. Phoenix Coyotes — 1-4-0
Yikes. Phoenix is another one of those expected championship contenders that has stumbled out of the gate. Aside from a come-from-behind win over Columbus at home, the Coyotes have been unimaginably bad on defense. They are giving up four goals per game so far this season. This can partly be explained by the injury to Mike Smith — not that he was off to that pleasant of a start either, though.
30. Florida Panthers — 1-4-0
The shocking Southeast Division champions from last season are a disaster right now. Florida scored five goals in its opening night victory over Carolina, but since then has recorded just three goals during a five-game losing streak. And, none of the losses have been close. The Panthers are losing by an average of nearly four goals per game.Posted in Columns, Ryan Boyd | Tagged Chicago Blackhawks, Hockey, NHL, Power Rankings, San Jose Sharks | Leave a comment
We’re less than a week into the regular season and the red flags in Detroit and Philadelphia are waving relentlessly through the cold winter skies, riots have engulfed the narrow city streets, and citizens are calling for the heads of Mike Babcock and Peter Laviolette…
Okay, perhaps that isn’t entirely accurate. Let’s just say my latest english teacher would appreciate the use of hyperbole.
Regardless, the start to 2013 has been appalling for two of the NHL’s more consistent teams. The Red Wings, playoff participants in 21 consecutive seasons, have just one win in three tries, with that victory coming over the reigning bottom feeders of the league in a shootout. Even more absurd, the Flyers are winless in three games and have been outscored 11-to-3.
It’s early in the campaign, but something is undeniably wrong with each club. And, it certainly doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure this one out. Detroit and Philadelphia are painfully bad on special teams. Like a child attempting to walk for the first time, the men on the ice for each side are lost. It’s that bad.
Between the two squads, they have combined to convert on just 1-of-30 power play opportunities to this point in the season. For all of you non-math majors out there, that is a staggering 3.3 percent success rate with the man advantage. That leaves the Flyers at 27th in the league, while the Red Wings are comfy in last with easily the worst numbers in the NHL.
Maybe they just have an emphasis on defensive consistency, right? Absolutely not. To this point, Detroit and Philadelphia have each given up six power play strikes and have surrendered a short-handed goal. Not surprisingly, they both rank in the bottom five on the penalty kill as well.
Let’s put this failure in perspective for a moment. In Detroit, the Red Wings have given up more goals (1) to opponents that are facing a 4-on-5, then they have scored (0) when they have the advantage in their favor. Obviously, they are the only professional team in such a predicament — Philadelphia isn’t far behind with a ratio of 1-to-1.
The numbers highlight the value of success on special teams. In fact, when studying league statistics, it is easy to realize that the three teams (Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ottawa) that rank in the top ten in both penalty killing and power play percentage have combined to go 5-0-1 this season.
Luckily for Detroit and Philadelphia, over time children learn to walk. They grow to become experts at the task. However, in a shortened season, the margin of error is much more slim then in most years. The perennial playoff contenders now have 45 games to fix what appears to be a major issue.
Posted in Columns, Ryan Boyd | Tagged Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL, Penalty Kill, Philadelphia Flyers, Power Play | Leave a comment
Finally, after many months of banging our heads against the wall out of utter frustration, the NHL has returned. And, during an opening weekend that included 19 games, there were a lot of good, bad and interesting occurrences across the league.
So, let’s take a look at the more memorable events!
1. The Penguins score… A lot.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point that the Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0) are absolutely lethal on offense. The combination of Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and James Neal tallied a combined eight points in the two opening weekend victories to highlight the phenomenal offensive performance. But, what really caught my eye was the level of competition that the Penguins crushed. Most notably, Pittsburgh forced all-star netminder Henrik Lundqvist from the contest on Sunday after allowing four goals on just 18 shots. Ouch.
2. Parise/Suter make for happy times in Minnesota.
The season couldn’t have started better for the Minnesota Wild (2-0-0). After falling off of a cliff a season ago, the Wild have reason to be extremely optimistic. Minnesota won the offseason lottery in the form of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and saw contributions from each in the opening weekend. Parise posted three points, including the winning goal in Sunday’s battle with Dallas, and holistically, the defense (led by Suter) allowed just two goals total in two games. This group is built to succeed on both ends of the ice. Watch out!
3. Big screen comedy in the Lone Star state.
Oh boy! Leave it to the Dallas Stars to poke fun at an event that has garnered unbelievable media attention over the last week. If you missed this, it’s a must see! Manti Te’o's girlfriend made a guest appearance at the arena to enjoy some NHL hockey. Who could blame her?
1. Red Wings are a No-Show
Look, I understand that it takes time to adjust after such a lengthy lockout, but talk about a nightmare start for the Detroit Red Wings (0-1-0). The men from ‘Hockeytown, U.S.A’ probably should have skipped the flight to St. Louis, as they mustered up just 14 shots on goal in 60 minutes and were slammed on the scoreboard, 6-0. This marked the first time Detroit lost by six goals since October 22nd, 2011!
2. Cory Schneider’s Flop
Yikes! In one of the more interesting developments in the offseason, Cory Schneider emerged as the starter in Vancouver. Then, one game into the new era, he allowed five goals on 14 shots (a .643 SV%) and was benched in the second period. Roberto Luongo not only finished the game, but then started the next night against Edmonton. Let the goaltending controversy continue for your viewing enjoyment!
3. Canadien’s Rough Start
If failing to re-sign (for now) outstanding defenseman P.K. Subban wasn’t enough of a problem for Montreal, they’re performance on opening night can suffice as the icing on the cake. The Canadiens scored just one goal against a Maple Leafs defense that ranked 29th in goals allowed a season ago, went 1-for-5 on the power play and surrendered multiple goals while on the penalty kill. It wasn’t pretty. And, the defeat marked the third consecutive season in which Toronto sent Montreal to an 0-1-0 start in the regular season.
Now, that wasn’t expected…
1. Older is… better?
For Teemu Selanne (42-year-old) and Jaromir Jagr (40-year-old), age is truly nothing but a number. The two veterans exploded for a combined four goals and four assists on opening night, sending both of their teams to victory. And, while it’s early, they remain atop the league rankings as far as point scorers are concerned. Move over kids (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, ect), the elders deserve the spotlight this time around.
2. Playoff Hangover?
Following the first two days of the regular season, eight of the 16 playoff teams from last season are without a victory. This includes the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, who were slammed on their home ice on opening night, and the Coyotes, Rangers and Flyers, who have all fallen to 0-2-0. And quite honestly, none of the aforementioned teams were too impressive on either night. Perhaps it’s too early to worry, but still worth noting.Posted in Columns, Ryan Boyd | Tagged Cory Schneider, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, Jaromir Jagr, Los Angeles Kings, Manti Te'o, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne, Zach Parise | Leave a comment
There has been a breakthrough in the NHL CBA negotiations! Both sides are actually — now get this – TALKING! Why didn’t they think of this sooner? The season was supposed to start a month ago, but with so much of the season already canceled, from games through October to the Winter Classic, it feels like irreparably damaged.
Of course, if the season begins at the beginning of December (and nothing that has happened since the beginning of the lockout convinces me that it will begin on December 1st like many hope), the season will run about the same length as the NBA season last year. That seemed to have been fine for the NBA last year, and in fact, many fans of the game claim it was more exciting to have the compressed schedule.
Again, though, we’ve been led astray before by developments like the discussions ongoing today and continuing tomorrow. I’ll believe there is good news when there is actually good news.Posted in Ryan Henning, Updates | Tagged Labor Negotiations | Leave a comment
As we are all aware, at this point, the lockout is allegedly a difference of opinion between players and owners, but in truth is a problem caused by an income disparity between wealthy teams and those that aren’t as well off.
The continued lockout has more to do with those poorer teams trying to find a way to make the business profitable. The moneyed teams, on the other hand, and those with a little bit of momentum in that direction are eager to end the lockout and get back to the ice. This disparity in the ownership goals is one of the reasons I suspect that the owners will inevitably break before the players.
Another team that might be leaning towards the idea of ending the lockout is the Islanders, who have recently announced their move to Brooklyn, starting in 2015. The Isles now have a plan to make money and a strong future. Going forward, they will be among the profitable teams in the NHL. Will they help push the league to end their lock out?
Probably not. The Islanders will still lose money when the league comes back this year (if they do so under the existing CBA). After all, the change in venue will take place a few years down the line. Even then, when they do make it to Brooklyn, they would still have more money in their coffers with the ownership deal.
Common sense still won’t prevail in this situation. The Islanders move out of Nassau County may make sense, but clearly, that’s where logic ends.
(While we are talking about New York, I do want to make sure I express my concern and wishes for a quick recovery for everyone in the Mid Atlantic, Great Lakes and New England.)Posted in Columns, Ryan Henning | Tagged Labor Negotiations, New York Islanders | Leave a comment
This Thursday is the drop dead date put forth by the NHL in which a deal must be signed before the 2012-13 season is shortened. IT doesn’t look good. Whatever optimism was there last week was quickly squelched when ownership glibly dismissed the NHLPA’s counterproposals.
At this point, European players are finding playing close to home to be more comfortable, especially those that have now been locked out twice. Going overseas may not be a workable solution for North American players, but for Euros, it’s an open market. Going to where the money is, where the guaranteed work is, is a fantastic idea.
In North America, the Players Association is much stronger than it was 7 years ago, and even then, an entire season was lost. If the players are resolute, and the union remains strong under the guidance of good guidance, can they get the owners to break? If the owners are as dedicated to overhauling the CBA as they were 7 years ago, that’s not going to happen.
Based on the anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t seem like the sides are further apart than they were 7 years ago, but the animosity is greater and the sides are more deeply dug in. It’s going to be a long time before I have something good to write about. A full season certainly isn’t one of those things.
After a long summer and now a couple of weeks of missed hockey, it appears there has been a bit of a breakthrough in the NHL’s labor negotiations.
It seemed as though the NHL was finally getting the message that most fans and close followers of the league were at best clamoring for hockey to return, and at worst fully on the NHLPA’s side. After all, the players were OK with the deal agreed upon just a handful of years ago. Perhaps the League discovered within their focus groups that it was time for the league to buckle.
Whatever the cause, there is a new league issued offer on the table, and the Players seem to be optimistic about it. Well, maybe not optimistic, but receptive. As the hyperlinked ESPN article asserts, the players still seem to feel slighted that this lockout is even an issue. The feeling among the NHLPA is that the NHL still hasn’t indicated a willingness to make concessions, only that they aren’t asking for sacrifices as great as they had from the players.
Obviously, we aren’t there yet. If there was a deal, this would be a much different post. Still, many North American writers, such as those at TSN, and the Miami Herald’s George Richards seem to think the lockout will end before the calendar turns to November. I’m not that optimistic. I hear what the players are saying and understand the sentiment that the owners aren’t being as forthright with themselves and their financial problems as they should be. I think this gives the sides some ground to work with, certainly, but I also believe there is a lot more ground between the two sides to make up.Posted in Ryan Henning, Updates | Tagged Labor Negotiations | Leave a comment
If you want to watch professional hockey this year, you have an unlikely source to turn to. Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League will be airing a few games on ESPN3, the internet outlet provided by ESPN.
ESPN has notoriously lowballed the NHL when trying to secure a television contract for the league, most notably when the NHL was locked out the last time. IT aided in the development of the NBC Sports Network after the League went to what was then OLN, became Versus and eventually was rebranded NBC Sports. It was a rather impressive transition, and it was almost entirely fueled by the attention brought by the National Hockey League.
Of course, ESPN is still the dominant sports network, and NBC and all of it’s titles are flagging behind the rest of television. While the NHL may have been well served if they were on ESPN, it’s not entirely clear that that’s the case, given the soaring revenues of the league. NBC has elected to re-up because they are seeing some serious cable benefits. ESPN hasn’t increased their offer, mostly out of their own hubris. Why WOULDN’T someone want to be on ESPN?
Perhaps because of that attitude, an oversized dose of insulted pride, the NHL is going to air those KHL games, perhaps to snipe at the NHL, who is not playing. In ESPN’s opinion, I am sure there are two positive eventual results. A) The KHL does really well, which proves that, if even Russian hockey plays well on an ESPN, it behooves the NHL to make the move too. Either that or B) the KHL does poorly and ESPN can use it as evidence that hockey is not popular in North America, and lowball the NHL again.
Either option is driven by ESPN’s hubris, and with the NHL on NBC for a few more years, this move reeks of sour grapes more than it does good business sense.Posted in Ryan Henning, Updates | Tagged ESPN, KHL | Leave a comment
The NHL Lockout is on and it’s not going anywhere. I’m not negotiator and I’m not an economist, but I think, since my only intent is to get hockey back on the ice, that I can bring up some novel ideas that will bring this nightmare to an end.
First, let’s make one thing clear. This isn’t an issue between the players and the owners, it’s an issue between wealthy owners and the owners of less profitable teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs are making 82 million dollars a year in overall revenue. The Rangers and Canadiens bank more than 40 million dollars a year. The problem is, only 12 teams are profitable, and the handful of teams that are making a profit are making enough to overwhelm the other 18 teams operating losses, and overall league revenue is going up, and so too is the cap, and the struggling teams struggle even more.
This isn’t the players’ fault, but the owners, operating as one, deem them to be the only solution to the strife of the disadvantaged owners. Of course, after hearing this explanation, the obvious solution is to do some profit sharing, wherein the Maple Leafs and Canadiens alone could cover the entire operating deficits of the 18 teams and still have a couple million leftover for themselves. Of course, none of the wealthier teams are going to let this happen, so we need to find a work around that makes the idea of profit sharing less of a problem. The number one way to do that is to reduce the overall operating loss among the struggling teams. Here are a few steps to making that happen,
Move teams: It came out earlier this week that the Edmonton Oilers were looking into Seattle, and it’s viability as a relocation target. Of course, the Oilers are one of the 5 most profitable teams in the league, making 17 million dollars in overall revenue. The squabble is to do with the city council’s refusal to approve more city funding for an arena, but I have to believe the Oilers would be fools to leave Edmonton. Let’s relocate the 4 teams whose operating loss is at least 10% of their overall income, which points to a more likely inability to ever turn a profit. The 4 teams we are moving then become Phoenix and the Islanders rather unsurprisingly, and more surprisingly Anaheim and Columbus. The Islanders move to Brooklyn, Phoenix goes to Quebec City, Anaheim to Seattle and Columbus to Milwaukee (tentatively), all cities with ready arenas and an existing hockey fan base. (Hamilton, Hartford and Kansas City are other possibilities). We have addressed 43% of the overall operating loss.
Tie Salary Cap to median, rather than mean income: Mean income, the straight average income will mean a higher salary cap because of the stronger revenue teams. Median income, which would be the number between the 15th and 16th ranked revenue is not going to be skewed towards the outrageously profitable teams. This year, that would be 96.5 million dollars. Keeping the 57% number that is used currently, the Cap would now be 55 million for next year, rather than 70. Player salaries ARE the greatest expenditure, and for the overall health of every team, they need to come down.
Realign the league: Cut down on travel, while we’re at it. Re-align the league for more natural geographic rivalries, going with the plan that has been in play since the Jets came back into existence. 4 different leagues, 8 teams in 2, 7 in the other 2.
League 1 – Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Capitals, Predators, Stars, Blues
League 2 – Flyers, Penguins, Devils, Rangers, Brooklyn Islanders, Bruins, Quebec Zombie Coyotes, Canadiens
League 3 – Red Wings, Blackhawks, Milwaukee Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs, Wild, Senators, Jets, Sabres
League 4 – Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Seattle Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Avalanche
Obviously, it’s not perfect, but fewer cross country trips and moving the Coyotes out of the middle of nowhere will help.
Increase gate revenue: One way to do this is to get more butts in seats. If you note, three of our teams, Anaheim, Phoenix and the Islanders, aren’t located in city centers, but rather suburbs, in more difficult to reach locations. Only accept arena deals if the teams are going to play downtown, or on public transportation routes. Having teams nearer to one another will also fill some of those empty seats, even if it is with rival fans. Another way to do this is with better concessions, which can be marked up, but only if they are worth it. Ratchet up the ticket prices just a little bit. There are ways.
Of course, the only way you will get revenue at the gate is if the game is actually being played. The problem isn’t with the players, or even the players versus the owners, but rather with the owners versus debt. There is a way to get past it and still keep the league strong. Actions need to be taken now.Posted in Columns, Ryan Henning | Tagged Labor Negotiations | Leave a comment