Early awards contenders, Hawks cap squeeze, a sticky issue, more
The NHL schedule officially hits the quarter-pole when the Sabres tangle with the Bruins on Nov. 20, and that milestone that has us itching to rank the season's top performers.
The big surprise of the early going? How few of the players routinely in contention for the major awards --
Here's how the major awards stack up:
Much has been made of a concerted effort over the summer to improve Kopitar's conditioning, and that's clearly played a large part in a fast start that sees him leading the league in scoring with 32 points. Never the most physical player despite his 6-4, 220 frame, he is also starting to assert himself down low, winning battles along the boards and doing a more effective job of positioning himself and protecting the puck. Those elements, along with a total commitment to his defensive responsibilities, have made him the focal point for a team finally on the cusp of respectability.
While several of the usual suspects -- Lundqvist,
Even if perennial contenders like Lidstrom and
The truth is you could pick any one of 10 coaches and make a solid argument on his behalf. And that number may be conservative. Think about it:
And for the completists in the crowd, let's install Marleau and
Rumors that Chicago is close to signing long-term deals with core stars
At issue is the tagging rule, which stipulates that a team can't commit to salaries for an upcoming season that exceed the current year's cap figure. Based on the numbers being floated around for the star trio, that will be an issue. It leaves the Hawks two options: The new contracts could be agreed upon in principle but not signed until after the season's end; or the team could be forced to ship out a couple of current players to clear their salaries off next season's cap total. That, however, seems like a non-starter. Not only could that approach hamper Chicago's ability to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season, a distress sale would make it impossible for the Hawks to get fair value for any assets.
Look for Chicago to use the delay tactic. Fans may not appreciate the uncertainty, but it beats the alternative.
Don't feel too flinty-hearted if you're having trouble working up sympathy for general managers who are complaining about the expense of composite sticks. After all, the rising cost of equipment is part of doing business, just like the rising cost of beer and popcorn is the bane of the live-game experience. So, despite the cries of poverty coming from teams hoping to weasel out of footing the bill (estimates run up to $500,000 per year for some clubs), these post-modern twigs aren't going away.
But it won't be long before a smart team simply bans their use in critical situations like the penalty kill or the protection of a late lead, and at this point you'd have to think the Boston Bruins might want to show that initiative. The B's were victimized last Saturday when
It's understandable why players love the modern one-piece marvels. Even
Maybe they'll even pass along the savings at the concession stand, right? Right?
If you aren't yet familiar with the name
"Jim loves hockey," Compton told the paper. "Jim's got a lot of money. Jim's got a lot of passion."
Okay, less than judicious perhaps, but not too bad. Compton wasn't done there. He guaranteed himself a trip to the wood shed by stating he was 100 per cent certain that Balsillie would become an owner at some point in the future. Then, when asked why the owners had rejected Balsillie, he replied, "Owners [didn't]."
Whoops. That opinion, to the surprise of few, flies directly in the face of
Clearly someone isn't playing straight. But if an owner contradicting the commissioner isn't compelling enough, there's this subplot to chew on. Compton and Balsillie aren't simply a pair of obscenely wealthy guys who share a passion for hockey. Among the corporate boards on which Compton sits is Kodiak Networks, a company that in Jan. 2007 signed a massive global licensing agreement for its Push-To-Talk technology with, you guessed it, Balsillie's Research in Motion.
Now, it's entirely possible that the two men never crossed paths as a result of these dealings, but it's also possible that a shared business venture allowed Compton to see Balsillie as something other than a barbarian determined to crash through the NHL's gates.
Is Compton alone in his views? Probably not. After all, extremely wealthy men tend to be pragmatic, and while they may take umbrage at Balsillie's methods, their appetite for assuming the massive losses in Phoenix can't be great. Now that Compton has breached the cone of silence, it'll be interesting to see if anyone else has the stones to widen the crack in a door that might yet open for Balsillie.