NHL Recap Week 3 - Between the Pipes

So how about those southern teams? – I wrote this about a year ago.

“NHL teams losing money – First Phoenix and now Columbus. The Coyotes troubles are well documented and despite the NHL’s best efforts the Coyotes really should really leave Phoenix. However don’t tell that to Commissioner Gary Bettman he doesn’t want to hear it. Now it is being reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets are losing on average 12 million a year.

Phoenix is dead last in attendance this year and has lost about 30 million in some seasons. Of course with team ownership up in the air many fans don’t want to invest money into a team that may not be there. The Coyotes were also near the bottom in attendance last year.

Columbus is 22nd in attendance capacity this year and was 2nd to last two seasons ago. Columbus is the 32nd largest US metro area not the largest by any means and not that smallest either, but only three teams play in front of smaller markets. The Blue Jackets also have to pay 5 million a year to use the arena. So that really doesn’t help their financial situation.

I think the NHL and Bettman really need to think harder before they place teams and try to keep teams in markets. A successful team depends on two things a large market and a large hockey or sports fan market. Phoenix and Atlanta (another money loser) are two top 12 markets, however neither care about hockey. Atlanta in general isn’t much of a sports market. None of their professional team are in the top 50% of attendance and the Atlanta Hawks are usually at the bottom like the Thrashers. Columbus and Carolina are also small markets with skeptical hockey fan bases, though Carolina fares a little better then Columbus, and then there’s Nashville and Florida(Miami).

For the life of me I don’t know why Bettman thought it was a good choice to put teams in some of these locations. I don’t have a problem, unlike most fans, of Bettman moving the teams out of Winnipeg and Hartford. I just question where he decided to move them to and when he decides to keep them there, even when it is a no win situation. For the life of me I can’t comprehend why Seattle and/or Portland, OR does not have a hockey team. Seattle is the 15th largest market and Portland is the 23rd largest. They both have built-in hockey fan bases and Seattle could really create a nice rivalry with Vancouver. They both do fairly well with WHL attendance. I imagine the NHL would do even better.”

A year later not much has changed. Guess who is dead lost in attendance this season? The Atlanta Thrashers and who is a close second? The Phoenix Coyotes. People use the excuse of well they aren't winning franchises. True, but how many cups have the Canucks or Capitals ever won? Not to mention weren't Toronto and Edmonton the worst teams last year and they both sold out like every single game? I agree wining helps and having star players help too. Before Crosby and Malkin got to Pittsburgh things looked bleak. But you really need to have an owner committed to winning in a city that's on the bubble. It doesn't seem like any of these cities have owners that do. I also realize that not every season will you play to jam packed crowds. The Blues had some really bad years of turnout before they rebounded this year and last year with about 100% capacity (even thought they didn't make the playoffs last season). Realistically you should be able to get 85% of the arena full on average. Since the economy is bad a more realistic 75% for this season would do. The Thrashers, Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Islanders are all under 75% capacity. The Coyotes hit rocked bottom the other day when a whopping 6000+ fans came to a home game. This is a team that made the playoffs last season. You also can't use the ownership situation excuse as a reason because Bettman has stubbornly said they will not leave Phoenix. If fans won't come out to consistently support their team, the NHL should think of moving the franchises to cities that will.

Goalie Spotlight

Pekka Rinne – Nashville Predators

Finnish born Rinne is one of the bigger goalies in the league at 6-5. He started out his career playing for Oulun Kärpät in the SM-liiga league, the top league in Finland. He started out in their junior system before being called up to serve as a backup to Niklas Bäckström. He was apart of the championships team with Kärpät in 2004 and 2005. Rinne was drafted in the 8th round by the Predators, 258th overall.

He was then sent to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. He secured the top goalie job with the admirals rather easily, he even played in two game for the Predators in the 2005-06 season. Strangely during that summer he was roughed up by unknown assailants which caused him to miss four months of the following season. His stellar play for the Admirals coupled with Dan Ellis' fine 2007-08 season enabled the Predators to move starter Chris Mason. Although originally only meant to backup Ellis, Rinne quickly assumed the starting position. He was rookie of the month for February 2009 and he even sent a Predators franchise record with seven shutouts in a season. He ended up tying his own shutout record again the following season.

Rinne is off to a hot start this season currently 3rd in GAA (1.58) and 2nd in SV% (.955). Goaltending mate Anders Lindback, who is actually even an inch taller, is also off to a decent start and they have helped catapult the Predators to one of the best records in the league. The Predators hope it will continue, as they look to make it to the playoffs for the 2nd straight season and hopefully advance past the 1st round for the first time in their history.

Fights of the Week

Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.

Derek Boogaard vs. Shawn Thornton

More of a grappling match, Thornton handles the Boogie man well. He even lands a nice one right in Boggie's face. The refs break it up to early though.

Deryk Engelland vs. Kevin Klein

I picked this fight mostly because it was funny watching Klein trying to goad Malkin into a fight, which of course didn't happen.

Goat of the Week

Craig Anderson – Colorado Avalanche

The infamous goalie leaves his crease and bad things happen is back. Anderson leaves to try and beat Brad Richardson to the puck but stupidly clears it off the near boards right to Jarret Stoll who slings it to Richardson who puts it into the wide open goal for his 2nd of three that night. I wouldn't have played the puck like Anderson did in the first place but I'm not really sure why it took Anderson so look to get back to the net or at least a lot closer then he was.

Steve Mason – Atlanta Thrashers

Mason leaves his crease, but not as far as Anderson did, and makes a bad pass behind his net that Alexander Semin capitalizes on. Semin's other two goals follow in the clip.

Things I like

1. All those hat tricks. Alexander Semin, John Tavares, Brad Richardson, Steven Stamkos, Rene Bourque, Lee Stempniak and Daniel Alfredsson each had one this week. Though Stempniak and Alfredsson each got their last goal on an empty netter. Only Tavares' hat trick was in a losing effort. Three hat tricks on Friday and three hat tricks on Saturday is always fun to watch. You might say the days had their own hat tricks.

2. Speaking of Steven Stamkos he has picked up right where he left off left season, lighting up arenas nationwide. As an added bonus, Stamkos gets to stick it to Steve Yzerman nightly who passed over him for a Canadian Olympic roster spot. Of course since Yzerman is now the Lightning GM, I'm pretty sure he's smiling.

3. Only one team has yet to lose in regulation and that would be the umm... the Nashville Predators? Yes that's right, the Nashville Predators who are also undefeated on the road. It's good for hockey in that region if they can sustain it. The goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, their 7th round selection in '08, (both mentioned above) are playing exceptionally well. Though I can't really see the Predators taking the division crown over the Blackhawks and the Red Wings in the long run.

4. Who said the Bruins were Tuukka Rask's team? Tim Thomas is currently the NHL leader in in SV% (.980) and GAA (0.75) through four games. A good reason why the Bruins were smart not to move him. Nathan Horton has also fit in better with the Bruins then they could have ever imagined. He is 1st on the team in goals (5) and points (9). Though the Bruins are still one of the lower scoring teams in the league, I would hate to see where they would be without him.

Things I don’t

1. As the Devil turns. Well they say that Devils like it hot but nobody can like it as hot and as uncomfortable as it's getting in New Jersey. First not winning and then Ilya Kovalchuk is a healthy scratch. Word is then apparently leaked that nobody wanted to sign Kovalchuk except Owner Jeff Vanderbeek. GM Lou Lamoriello denies that but what is he really going to say? Kovy is not a team player and he doesn't play defense well. Basically he is not a good fit but let's keep him in New Jersey for life anyway. Makes sense right?

2. The Edmonton Oilers have not won a game since they started 2-0. They've had four straight losses culminating in a bad loss to the Sharks 6-1, in which they made many mistakes in their own zone that led to most of the Sharks goals. The Oilers have also said they aren't sending any of their rookies down to the minors before the nine game window. This will definitely be a learning experience for the rookies and hopefully it won't do the Oilers in when it comes time to re-sign them all. On the plus side if they don't end up doing well, Edmonton will get another high draft pick. The Oilers lost again last night but they showed some heart and determination battling back from a 4-1 deficit. They also at least picked up a point for their effort.

3. Colton Orr's “goal” Tuesday night which basically consisted of him bowling over goalie Florida Panthers' goalie Scott Clemmensen in the crease and having the puck redirect off of his skate. I can't believe the refs allowed the goal, it's not like he was pushed in. It's a good thing the game was in Toronto because I hate to hear the chants coming from Florida. Orr's goal was the game winning goal but luckily Phil Kessel scored a goal a few minutes later so if that goal wouldn't have counted, the Panthers would have lost anyway.

Stat Line of the Week

10/23/10 Los Angeles 6 vs. Colorado 4

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

B. Richardson

12:22

3

0

2

6

0

Brad Richardson scored equal or more goals in one game than he did in three previous seasons. Though the seasons weren't full, ranging from 22, 31 and 44 games played, it's still an impressive feat for a guy who doesn't score that much especially in about 12 minutes of playing time.

Did You Know?

Wayne Gretzky has the most career NHL three goals or more games with 50. Mario Lemieux is 2nd with 40. Wayne Gretzky also has the single season mark of 10, which he set twice in 1981-82 and in 1983-84.

Numbers, Numbers

1195 – NHL games for Teemu Selanne to get 610 goals

1063 – NHL games for Bobby Hull to get 610 goals

303 – Goals scored by Bobby Hull in the WHA, which he unfortunately doesn't really get much credit for

36.5 – The Hurricanes face-off winning percentage, dead last in the league

14 – Years since the Coyotes last won a game in Montreal

Quote of the Week

"Actually, I have better games against better goalies. The way I look at it, I'm better than they are." -- RW Alex Kovalev, when asked if he was glad All-Star Ilya Bryzgalov didn't start in goal for the Coyotes on Tuesday.

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

October 21, 2000 Nicklas Lidstrom had two assists for his 500th career point in the Red Wings 5-4 win in overtime against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. It came in the 5,000th game in Detroit's franchise history.

October 22, 1999 Grant Fuhr became the 6th NHL goaltender to win 400 career NHL games and Derek Morris scored 20 seconds into overtime as Calgary won 3-2 at Florida.

October 23, 1971 Montreal's Guy Lafleur scored his first career NHL goal. It came against Kings' goalie Gary Edwards in the Canadiens' 3-1 win at Los Angeles.

October 24, 1953 Maple Leafs' Ted Kennedy scored a goal just :08 into a game between Toronto and Boston, to tie the NHL record for fastest goal from the start of a game (set by NY Americans' Ron Martin in 1932). Leafs lost 3-2 to Bruins.

October 25, 1984 Guy Lafleur scored his 518th and final goal as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-2 win over Buffalo. His next NHL goal would come four years later with the New York Rangers.

October 26, 1984 Detroit Red Wings scored three empty net goals at the end of a 7-3 win over Buffalo, at Joe Louis Arena. Danny Gare scored two goals and two assists to lead the Red Wings' scoring.

Rankings

The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.

Top 5

1. Nashville

2. Los Angeles

3. Detroit

4. Montreal

5. Tampa Bay

Bottom 5

30. New Jersey

29. Edmonton

28. Ottawa

27. Phoenix

26. Anaheim

Courtesy of Pucking Awesome

2 Comments

George Prax's picture

Great recap as always Alex! Keep 'em coming!

To add to Craig Anderson's "goat-ness", the guy got injured during a warn up the other night... jesus... sucks that he's leveling off so much after such a great season.

Alex Mueller's picture

I know! Ugh I'm so glad he was the first goalie I took in fantasy hockey. -_-