Monday, February 01, 2016

Hockey Headlines for February 2016

Our Archive for the month of February.

February 9 -- Senators got the better of blockbuster deal - at least, in the short term
February 8 -- Crosby's 2 goals, 2 assists lead Penguins past Ducks
February 7 -- Boston Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban suffers fractured larynx in warmup incident
February 6 -- Rangers' Ryan McDonagh hurt after sucker-punch from Flyers' Wayne Simonds; Blueshirts rally, win in shootout
February 5 -- Canucks blow another third-period lead and fall 2-1 in shootout to Blue Jackets
February 4 -- John Scott's improbably all-star run ends with birth of twin girls
February 3 -- Calgary Flames defence man Dennis Wideman suspended for 20 games
February 2 -- McDavid ignites giant fire under Oilers in first game back from shoulder injury
February 1 -- Canada's struggling NHL teams on pace for historically awful season

In John Scott, the fans and the players sent Gary Bettman and the NHL brass a message

The fans spoke and John Scott
was on the bench in
Nashville for the All Star Game
As far as All Star Games go, Sunday's NHL All Star Game provided the kind of entertainment on the ice that made what's normally a going through the motions recreational skate into a meaningful afternoon of hockey.

A three tournament format of three on three that provided for any number of plot lines and twists, and may have finally delivered a  format for the league to make its mid-season client schmooze fest something the fans want.

Few hockey purists are sold on three on three hockey in the regular season and no one wants to see it ever find its way into the post season, where the game is won and lost on the ice without a gimmick.

However, in a showcase game such as what All Star weekend is all about, the format seemed to fit just right, the NHL somehow stumbled across what appears to be a winning combination, how they managed that many will wonder, but 3 on 3 worked in this instance and the league should be recognized for that.

However, because it's the NHL, they of course found a way to make sure that no one was talking about their genius, instead it was about their petulance prior to the weekend.

By the time the the last guitar lick had reverberated in Music City, the All Star format was the secondary story from Sunday. The real message and one that should be heard loud and clear by the NHL and those in the corner offices that rule the league, is that no one likes bullies and no one likes arrogant jerks.

Hockey fans and those players and coaches selected to the 2016 All Star collectively took off one of their gloves and raised one giant finger of defiance at a  league that created a fan voting system and then seemingly tried its best to deny the fans selection his turn in the spotlight.

Sunday, John Scott was the show, clearly not at the skill levels of some the names on sweaters beside him on the ice, but no one had more heart, few were as articulate in the face of a media storm and no one has endured more crap from a league that for whatever reason, insists on finding ways to self inflict wounds that need not be inflicted.

Scott was chosen by the fans, whether Gary Bettman and the league liked that thought is irrelevant, the competition was created by the league and the fans, whatever their motives may have been made their choice.

There never should have been a debate from that moment, instead the NHL the never ending factory of the "what the hell?", found a way to make sure the all star game became a controversy.

The all star game, an event that few are inclined to really think about at the best of times.

For the most part it's a three day corporate shill festival, one that each year seems finds that the players prefer to be left off of the roster, rather than be included. The beaches of Hawaii or other destinations for the players a welcome diversion with family and friends from the long grind of a season.

The controversy over Scott's inclusion in the weekend had many twists and turns in the last month.

First there was the odour of a trade and then demotion to the AHL that leaves him about as close to being put on an ice flow as you can get (and in Newfoundland he's not that far away actually), a move that seemed akin to a hit by the mob more than anything else.

Then this week, his first hand account to the Players Tribune as to the apparent attempt to shame him into turning down the invitation. Combined. the two  incidents make the league's handling of the entire episode to reflect the work of nothing but punks.

Though truth be told for many fans of the game it's about what one might expect from a league brass that constantly says they're for the good of the game and all about the fans, but more often than not, shows a complete inability to understand the fans of the sport, or the passion they have for the game and its players.

From the opening introductions on Sunday the theme of the day was set, the fans welcomed Scott like a conquering hero, the players who had already spoken to him prior to the weekend, making sure he felt welcome at the game carried that emphasis onto the ice.

His team mates on the Pacific side kept feeding him pucks, the coaches made sure that his shifts were frequent. His joy in the game clearly visible to anyone watching,  the atmosphere incomprehensible as it probably even seemed to Scott, was electric every time he stepped on for a shift, ecstatic with each of his two goals.

The evening wrapped up with the fans once again making sure that Commissioner Bettman and the NHL's other hangers on, perched up in the corporate booths heard one final farewell on the night, as the fans made one more significant vote on the day, selecting Scott as the MVP of the All Star Game.

By games end, as seems the case more and more often the NHL's brass realized far too late that they were on the wrong side of the story once again. Trying to salvage their horrid image by offering up some kind of revisionist history of the entire episode, suggesting that their only concern was to make sure that John Scott felt comfortable this weekend.

How nice of them, what a great bunch of guys, we imagine they were hoping we take away from the weekend.

And in reality, no one believes it, not one word of that came out of the Commissioner's mouth.

The league seems to not know this fact, but Hockey fans are pretty sharp observers of the game, they know skill and they know heart and both of those traits were on the ice.

There were other traits on display from the head office though and hockey fans know those as well and this week and particularly on a Sunday afternoon in Nashville, the hockey fans voted and John Scott won them over.

Gary Bettman and the league, well not so much ...

The tone deaf nature of the league time after time is on display, just ask the Mayor of Calgary who found his city being hectored to by the Commissioner in January over the theme of the need for a new arena for the Flames.

A choice of commentary that Mayor Naheed Nenshi noted to much applause across Canada, might work in other cities, but not in Calgary.

It was a sentiment that those across Canada would nod in agreement with, having heard the Bettman bombast before, Canadians perhaps calling to mind a hit of the past from Nashville favourite and Canadian country music star star Shania Twain.

Ms. Twain, seems to have captured the perfect Canadian reaction to the Commissioner whenever he speaks of late, that don't impress me much.

It was a big week for Mr. Bettman, as it was announced and promptly ignored as things turned out, that the Commissioner had received a contract extension a few months back, a pact which will take his leadership of the league into 2022, the announcement coming as it does close to Groundhog Day.

Some symbolic timing we suggest, particularly for a league where we hear the same things over and over again, indicating that when it comes to listening to the fans, the ears aren't always open and the messages not frequently received.

The Toronto Star -- All-Star MVP John Scott saved hockey, for a day
The Toronto Star -- John Scott hopes all-star MVP spotlight opens doors to new opportunities
Globe and Mail -- John Scott named NHL all-star MVP as Pacific Division wins tournament
Globe and Mail -- Bettman says fans spoke, so John Scott 'welcome' at all-star game
CBC -- John Scott scores 2 goals, wins MVP, proves he belongs in NHL all star game
Sportsnet -- John Scott scores 2 goals in All-Star Game, players happy for him
The Toronto Sun -- John Scott: 'You can't write this ... It's unbelievable'
Ottawa Citizen -- The NHL ditched its soul. John Scott found it for them
Detroit Free Press -- John Scott goes from unwanted to unbelievable
Arizona Republic -- All-Star Game caps Coyotes, John Scott issue
NPR -- John Scott Transcends Jokes, NHL Resistance and is Named MVP of All-Star Game

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Just past the mid way point, some trouble spots at the turnstiles

With the NHL just nicely past the half way mark of the 2016-17 season, the attendance numbers are highlighting a few areas of the NHL empire where the customers aren't exactly flocking to the rink.

The Carolina Hurricanes currently hold the status of team looking for a few good fans, with sixteen games so far this attracting less than 13,000 fans to the PNC Arena

Part of that could be related to the recently completed college football season which is a religious experience for those in the Carolina's, with the NFL's Panthers also making a fair bit of noise this year heading into their NFC division final this weekend.

Getting attention for hockey is probably a challenge at the best of times, but with row after row of empty seats on TV on a regular basis, one has to wonder if there is a long term future for the Canes.

Not surprisingly the Arizona Coyotes continue to be a featured attraction on box score counts each week, with fifteen games now in the books with attendance under our 13,000 mark, the trek out to the Gila River Arena in Glendale still it seems isn't not quite cutting it with residents of the Greater Phoenix area.

Despite a hot streak through early January, the Florida Panthers also have had some troubles attracting fans to the BB and T Arena in Sunrise, though the success in the standings did seem to have some impact on South Floridians night time planning, with all of the attendance listings below 13,000 over eleven games found in the months of October, November and December.

Honourable mention for troublesome trends could be awarded to the New York Islanders,  who appeared to have a fair bit of trouble capitalizing on all the buzz of the move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

Up until early December, the Islanders had recorded ten games were the crowd count was less than 13,000.  Though there does appear to be a bit of a reversal in that apathy of late in Brooklyn, with the team starting to record larger and larger crowds into January.

Overall to this point there were 64 games that featured crowds with less than 13,000 fans in attendance.

The low point on the season found in Carolina, where only 9,021 attended the December 6th match up with the Arizona Coyotes.

What the NHL might make of the trouble spots isn't known,  with the league rarely discussing issues related to its low attendance markets.

But considering the current nature of the North American economy, there may not be much in the way of a solution in the short term.  With the Canadian dollar currently sinking on the money markets, the prospect of a relocation to a Canadian city would have to require some serious money counting, not to mention a wee bit of crossing of fingers and offerings to the hockey Gods.

There also don't appear to be many US markets currently jumping up and down to signal their interest in acquiring an NHL franchise, though efforts continue to make Las Vegas part of the NHL family in the future.

For cities such as Quebec with its NHL ready rink and hopeful fans for a second team in Toronto or one for Hamilton, the larger issues of the economic situation might be more of a challenge than enticing a team north.

There would appear to be candidates considering the low turnstile returns, however timing as it always is makes for the key ingredient for any potential franchise shifts and right now, holding in place might be the only option that current owners have.

You can review the attendance figures through the season from our Attendance Watch Archive page here.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Hockey Headlines for January 2016

Our Archive for the month of January

January 31 -- All-Star MVP John Scott saved hockey, for a day
January 30 -- Red Wings' sets record in NHL skills competition
January 29 -- Can three-on-three save the all star game?
January 28 -- Wideman pleads his innocence after ugly collision with linesman
January 27 -- Which way will Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin turn if the season continues to go off the rails?
January 26 -- Shawn Horcoff banned 20 games for using performance-enhancing substance
January 25 -- The thrill is going from three-on-three overtime
January 24 -- Bolts' Yzerman working to offload Drouin
January 23 -- Keon 'dumbfounded' by affection fans have for him
January 22 -- Canucks’ Daniel Sedin skins Bruins with milestone markers in Boston
January 21 -- Carey Price out longer than expected; Therrien's job safe for rest of season
January 20 -- Lightning suspends Drouin without pay for not showing up for AHL game
January 19 -- Blackhawks set franchise record with 12th straight victory
January 18 -- With Nugent-Hopkins out, should Oilers bring back McDavid now?
January 17 -- Toews, Blackhawks beat Canadiens 5-4 for 11th straight win
January 16 -- NHL general managers have to decide by February 29 to buy, sell or hold
January 15 -- Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan returns to his old haunt still trying to get his new team on track
January 14 --  Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville perfect man for the job
January 13 -- Sedin's ready to move on after near brawl with Panthers
January 12 -- Playoff race a crowded chase as NHL passes midpoint of 2015-16 season
January 11 -- Calgarians and the mayor must 'embrace' Flames' arena project, says NHL Commissioner
January 10 -- Alex Ovechkin nets his 500th goal as the Capitals rout Ottawa 7-1
January 9 -- Toronto Maple Leafs shut out by San Jose in lopsided loss in final game of California swing
January 8 -- Alex Ovechkin scoring at historic pace as he approaches 500 goals
January 7 -- Red-hot Panthers top Senators 3-2 for 11th straight win
January 6 -- Predators acquire Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones
January 5 -- Finland wins world junior championship with 4-3 overtime win over Russia
January 4 -- Lightning coach, players surprised by Jonathan Drouin's trade request
January 3 -- Florida Panthers' win streak reaches nine with win against Minnesota Wild
January 2 -- Canada's loss to Finland isn't the end of the world
January 1 -- Return of feisty Gallagher sparks Canadiens' offence

Friday, January 01, 2016

World Juniors, January 2, 2016 -- Canada vs Finland

From defending Champions to Tournament underdogs, that is the latest twist in the travels of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships for 2015-16.

Authors of some of their own misfortune, the now much documented struggles for the Canadians have become the undercurrent for the fans back home, first with a loss to the USA on opening night, followed by a surprisingly challenging match up with the Swiss followed by a thumping at the hands of the Swedes. Each game highlighting some part of the Team Canada puzzle that still requires a bit of attention.

The problem is, the time for adjustments is up, the preliminary round delivering the Canadians to the high flying Finnish squad, who will be looking to ring in the New Year with a solid message for the fans and opponents alike, one of the Champs are ready to be taken down this year.

Canada of course will be seeking to change that narrative on Saturday, with no need for the reminder that the second part of this World Junior Tourney offers no further follow up opportunities, win and your moving on, lose and you're on your way out.

The disappointments and missed opportunities to be catalogued to the end of the tournament and maybe even a bit beyond.

For the Canadians the second season of tourney time offers the chance of redemption from their early struggles, the key to allow the muscle memory of what brought them to Helsinki to take over from the mind, which could revisit those early match ups in an unhelpful way.

The Finns have been talking a little smack in the lead up, noting that they aren't all that intimidated by the Canadians, pointing to those early struggles as an indication that the Champs are ready for the taking.

That could be the best thing that the Canadians could hear as they head to puck drop on Saturday, there won't be any need for a slogan on a black board, the sense of the moment all the motivation that Canada might need.

The pressure shifts in this one towards the host Finns, their braggadocio such as it has been, something that now has to be backed up on the ice.  On paper and through round one they look good for their boasts, yet, elimination games offer up something that requires a little bit more than just confidence.

For sixty minutes you have to deliver, winner moves on, loser moves over

Finland 6 vs Canada 5 summary
Finland advances to Semi Finals

Post Game Notes:

January 3 -- Hockey Canada vows to right what went wrong at world juniors
January 3 -- Hockey Canada prez throws Team Canada under bus
January 3 -- Hockey Canada head Tom Renney defends world junior coaching staff
January 3 -- Canada's well-earned hockey smugness affords juniors a quiet exit
January 3 -- Team Canada 'had to pay the price": Wilson
January 3 -- Team USA coach Ron Wilson says Canada took too many penalties
January 2 -- Canada's run for World Junior glory ends as Finland wins 6-5
January 2 -- Canada-Finland: Five moments that mattered in quarter final loss
January 2 -- Canada's loss to Finland ins't the edge of the world
January 2 -- Canadian players feeling 'terrible', frustrated following early world junior exit
January 2 -- Canada outclassed by Finland in WJC quarter-final

Preview Notes:

January 1 -- Team Canada 'excited' ahead of elimination game at world juniors
January 1 -- Finland's talented prospects pose a problem for Canada at World Juniors
January 1 -- 8 things we've learned from the world junior so far
January 1 -- Areas of concern for 'underdog' Team Canada
January 1 -- Underdog Canada facing 'adversity' against host Finland at world juniors
January 1 -- Finland's mighty youngsters could create headaches for Canada
December 31 -- Canada's world junior loss to Sweden a forgettable finish to 2015
December 31 -- Canada looking ahead after being blown out by Swedes
December 31 -- Canada struggles to find its game in loss to Sweden at 2016 world juniors
December 31 -- Canada faces Finland in world junior quarter-finals under a raft of unanswered questions

Thursday, December 31, 2015

World Juniors: December 31, 2015 -- Canada vs Sweden

Canada's tournament blue print hasn't quite gone according to plan, a first game loss to their North American Rivals from the USA was the first indication that there was work to be done still, a tough loss that was followed by match ups with the Danes and the Swiss both of which at times left Canadian fans a tad nervous.

The former were eventually taken care of fairly effectively, while the the latter provided another challenging affair, a match up that required a Shoot out before Canada could improve on its record over three games.

For New Years Eve, the Canadians face perhaps the most strenuous test yet, a match up with the undefeated Swedish  squad currently ruling the roost atop the World Junior placements, with a total of 9 Points on their tournament so far with 14 Goals For and but three against.

Canada currently sits third in Group A Play chasing the USA by one point, holding off the Danes by Two heading into Thursday's play.  Their third spot is most likely to be the resting spot as the opening round comes to an end, regardless of how they fare against Sweden.

While Canada decides on how best to approach the Group leaders, the US will be taking on Denmark and considering the ruthless efficiency that the US exhibited on Wednesday with the Swiss, it seems likely that the Danes will face much the same fate by the time everyone makes their New Year's Eve plans following Tournament play.

And while they keep a focus on the work at hand, Canada's scouting group will no doubt be keeping a watchful eye on the Group B matches, making plans for the opening round of the elimination round to come up on January 2nd.

The early round struggles have highlighted some of the areas to be addressed as Canada worked its way through the first 3 games, the Swedish game may be a good measuring stick as to whether they have taken note of their weak spots. The points less important today than the positional play and the ability to keep to the plan ahead, should they not resolve some of those issues, the trip to Helsinki may not provide for quite the outcome that they may have anticipated when the departed from Canada.

Sweden 5 vs Canada 2  summary 

Post Game Notes:
December 31 -- Canada's world junior loss to Sweden a forgettable finish to 2015
December 31 -- Canada looking ahead after being blown out by Swedes
December 31 -- Canada struggles to find its game in loss to Sweden at 2016 world juniors

Preview Notes:

Five things to watch at the Canada-Sweden world juniors game
Mackenzie Blackwood standing tall in goal for Team Canada
Team Canada rallies behind coach mourning father's death
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner ‘still finding his way’ with Team Canada at 2016 world juniors
Dominique Ducharme, Team Canada's assistant coach, to remain in Finland after father's passing
Canada's Mitch Marner struggling to make impact

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

World Juniors December 29 -- Canada vs Switzerland

Canada turned a page from their disappointment of game one in their loss to the USA, making the most of their scoring opportunities in their second appearance at the World Junior Championships on Monday.

Denmark provided the tune up competition for Canada on Monday and with 56 shot on net, the Canadians clearly worked out a few of their offensive plans over the sixty minutes of play.

Team Canada will be looking to improve their record on Tuesday, as they take on the Swiss in game three of the Finnish adventure for the Canadians.

Making the most of their Monday match up with the Danes and using the rhythm that they developed Canada will be seeking to take the play to a Swiss team that has a few problems of their own in these early days of the World Juniors.

One key concern for fans of the Swiss is a short handed situation of their own making following their earlier suspension troubles against Sweden in game one. That however may not give the Swiss pause to reduce the hard hitting nature of their game, which at times resembles the more physical play found in Canadian junior rinks.

And if the Swiss hope to find success against the Canadians, that is probably their best strategy, while hoping to avoid to many penalties that may provide power play opportunities for their competitors.

The Swiss will be well rested, having had Monday off at the Tournament, while a Canadian who has had some significant downtime in recent days may finally see his first bit of action in the tournament.

Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has served his eight game OHL suspension, honoured by the IIHF and if they wish the Canadian coaching staff can bring him into the tournament with the Swiss match up.

Rested as he is and considered to be one of the top goaltenders to arrive in the tournament, Blackwood if he gets the nod will handed the task of shutting down the Swiss while Canada's offensive units look to pick up where they left off on Monday with the Danes.

Switzerland 2 vs Canada 3    summary  Overtime Shootout

Post Game Notes:

December 29 -- Brayden Point, Canada's world junior captain, a 'guy who knows how to win'
December 29 -- Canada needs shootout to defeat Swiss at world junior
December 29 -- Canada survives shootout to edge Switzerland
December 29 -- Matt Barzal's shootout winner leads Canada over swiss at world juniors
December 29 -- Canada defeats Switzerland after world juniors shootout
December 29 -- Five key moments in Canada's win over Swiss at world juniors

Preview Notes:

December 28 -- Five things to watch in Canada vs. Switzerland
December 28 -- Canada back on track with win over Denmark

Sunday, December 27, 2015

World Juniors December 28: Canada vs Denmark

Team Canada looks to regroup after their opening day loss to the USA at the World Junior Tournament, with Denmark providing the opposition in Game Number Two from Finland.

For the Danes the match up provides an opportunity to build on their first ever regulation time victory at the World Junior tournament, having defeated the Swiss 2-1 on Sunday.

A game which saw the Danes taking advantage of the short bench that the Swiss had owing to a string of suspensions from Boxing Day play against the Swedes, still Denmark was still full value for a win which provided for the first real upset for the 2015-16 tournament.

And while many would suspect it unlikely that the Danish juniors are about to launch an undefeated streak, there's something about getting your first win in a tournament (in this case ever) that could put a bit of an extra push on the ice.

Something that the Canadian team will want to be watchful for in the early stages, though for the most part it would seem that Monday's game will provide an opportunity for the Canadians to correct their miscues of Boxing Day and develop a more consistent bit of play through all three periods.

Denmark 1 vs Canada 6  summary   

Post Game Notes:

December 28 -- Six different scorers help Canada rout Denmark
December 28 -- Canada's line changes spark offence
December 28 -- Canada fires 58 shots in win over Denmark
December 28 -- Canada back on track with win over Denmark
December 28 -- Marner, Strome lead Canada to 6-1 win over Denmark
December 28 -- Canada builds confidence in thrashing of Danes
December 28 -- Canada survives early scare to defeat Denmark 6-1 at world juniors
December 28 -- Five key minutes from Canada's win over Denmark at world juniors

Preview Notes:

December 27 -- Jake Virtanen loving his time in Finland at world juniors for Canada
December 27 -- Canada counting on Perlini as a top line fit
December 27 -- 5 things to watch in Canada vs. Denmark
December 27 -- Canada focused on generating more offence
December 27 -- Brendan Perlini to join Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner on Canada's top line
December 27 -- Perlini to join Strome, Marner on top line
December 27 -- Canada seeks lessons from opening loss to U. S. at world junior tournament