The Phoenix Coyotes are wards of the NHL, suspended like a bug in amber as the league seeks a remedy that is to the satisfaction of bankruptcy court judge
Until the mess is settled, with the Coyotes hanging around in Glendale or going elsewhere next season, this is principally a business story. When they promise free tickets to future games if they win certain matches, how can it be anything else?
But there is another chapter in the saga following this unfortunate Chapter 11. Chapter 12, if you can call it that, is a 5-2 start to the 2009-10 season -- a record that, prior to Monday night's games, was the NHL's seventh best. Goalie
More important than the 10,000-plus people who aren't showing up on a nightly basis are four young men who also have been keeping their distance, although not of their own volition. You probably have heard of them: forwards
They were all rookie regulars, or at least quasi-regulars, with Phoenix last season. Boedker played in 78 games (11 goals, 17 assists) while Turris and Tikhonov played more than 60 matches, and Porter, the 2008 Hobey Baker winner from the University of Michigan, had 34. In retrospect, general manager
"You almost have to think back more than a year ago," Maloney told On The Fly. "My first year here we'd had success with
"I did a disservice to Wayne
Maloney wound up bargain hunting and replacing them short-term with veteran forwards, including Robert (Beautiful Day Bob) Lang, who is playing for $1 million, a quarter of what Montreal paid him last season, and 6-4", 220-pound
The kids' careers have hardly stalled, despite the setbacks. Maloney says Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, still makes plays with the puck in the offensive zone and on the power play that no current Coyotes forward can. But the center still needs to ratchet up his speed and improve his faceoffs and defensive zone coverage.
"Kyle also has to be stronger," the GM said. "He got hit a lot. He has to learn to elude people a little more. But Kyle (20) is just graduating junior age. I don't want him here for seven, eight minutes a game and a little power play time. I want him here to be an important player, someone who plays on the top two lines. That might be November, January, maybe next September."
Maloney, who watched three San Antonio games last weekend, also was happy to see Boedker, a solid Dane who was the eighth player drafted in 2008, killing penalties and playing the point on the power play.
There are pitfalls to a neat succession, of course, but this seems to be a career path already working splendidly for players of stature like Messier.
The only question is whether Messier will be willing to put in the work.
He certainly gets where the NHL is going. In a discussion last weekend, Messier said, "This used to be a players' league. Then it was a general manager's league. Now it's a scouting league."
Unless teams scout, draft and get the right core of entry-level contract players, it will stumble in a salary-capped league. Said Messier, "You can't spend your way out of mistakes now." He added that he would be happy to do anything for Sather, including hitting the road and scouting.
Motel 6, Messier 0.
But being Mark Messier is a little different than being MacInnis or Nieuwendyk or even Yzerman. Other than
Yzerman doesn't draw that kind of rapt awe. Then again, he doesn't peddle potato chips.
So if Messier can forget how much he is revered in the hockey world and embrace the grunt work, he could be a first-class executive. But if the Being Mark Messier thing seduces him, the Rangers would be making a mistake.
Like politics, hockey is local. This explains why
In a salute to the halcyon days of yore -- the team was celebrating two trips to the conference finals, a depressing lowering of standards for a heritage franchise -- current players took the warm-up in the sweaters of former Leafs. (Surely that
So far, so kitschy. But not offensive. Then the tribute jumped the rails.
Instead of showing some of the acrobatic Potvin's saves, the video board replayed
If this were Felix the Cat's most significant contribution to Leaf Nation, Toronto's perspective is incredibly warped. Unless the video clip were a sop to GM Brian (Truculence and Bellicosity) Burke, the Maple Leafs "game presentation" folks, to use the modern term, could have dug up something more appropriate from the archives.
The Maple Leafs lost, 4-1, to the Rangers while the home crowd chanted "Oh-and-seven," apparently unimpressed by NHL math and the overtime defeat in the season opener. ("Oh-six-and-one" doesn't much track.) There were a few fans that wore paper bags over their heads.
If those bags were plastic, Burke would really have a problem.
The mayor of Quebec has proposed building a $400 million arena to lure an NHL back to the city that easily has the knowledgeable fans in hockey. The math: $50 million from the city, $175 million each from the province of Quebec and the federal government to subsidize the future home of Les Nordiques, Part Deux.
The if-you-build-it-they-will-come gambit has worked before in Nashville, which constructed an arena and lobbied for either an NHL or NBA team -- and it didn't really care which. Quebec, of course, is a better market with its rich hockey history, which counts for something. This doesn't count as much as a small population (715,000 in the metropolitan area, according to the 2006 census), a miniscule corporate base in a government town and the worldwide economic pullback, but something.
Curiously, the best hope for a new team in Quebec City is the continued economic muscle of the Montreal Canadiens. If Quebecor, which lost the bidding to buy the Canadiens to the Molson family, wants an NHL team, Quebecor chairman
This is still a long shot, but certainly the league won't discourage Quebec from getting taxpayers to foot the bill for an arena that might, or might not, become home to an NHL team. (C.f. Hamilton, Copps Coliseum.) If nothing else, the league, which on a strategic level has been ruminating about 32 teams for at least a few years, can use a building in Quebec as a stalking horse for recalcitrant cities that don't want to build new homes for pampered hockey players. As long as arenas exist in Kansas City and Quebec, an owner who is annoyed with his lease or the number of luxury suites in his building always will have a potential threat in his hip pocket.