Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

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Ryan Callahan was born in Rochester, NY, just a 6 hour drive from Madison Square Garden, where he’s captain of the team that drafted him 10 years ago. He’s considered the heart and soul of the New York Rangers, as an excellent two-way forward that can score and create offense with ease.

And the Rangers are considering trading him.

Currently, Callahan is in the last year of a 3 year deal, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons’ end. Word is, from the NY Post, that Callahan is looking for an extension in the neighborhood of 7 years and $42 million. The Rangers, who just gave a hefty extension to Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan McDonagh, as well as holding massive contracts from Brad Richards and Rick Nash, are getting handcuffed with the salary cap. Next year, according to capgeek.com, the Rangers will owe 10 players $42M+ against the salary cap, leaving them less than $30M to put together the rest of their roster.

If Callahan and the Rangers indeed agree with those terms, that would be 11 players owed $48M+ against the cap, which is an awful situation that the Rangers would rather avoid. However, it’s very likely that if Callahan would hit the open market right now, he would very easily reach those numbers or more.

That’s why the Rangers are thinking about trading him.

However, as much as it’s difficult to put that kind of strain on the salary cap, Callahan is indispensable to the Rangers. He’s captain, among the top scorers, and an excellent defensive forward, the kind of player the Rangers love. If money weren’t an issue, there is no doubt that he’s a Ranger for life.

While it is currently impossible for the Rangers to give Callahan that deal, because they simply don’t have the cap room, they do have 2 compliance buyouts this coming off-season to attempt to make room for him. The Brad Richards contract is looking a bit like a dud, with his contract expiring in 2020, when he’s 40, and getting a cap hit of $6.667M per season. Richards will not be nearly as productive as Callahan for the next 6 years, with Richards 5 years the elder, and his play declining at times. If I had the choice, I would choose Callahan over Richards, without any second thoughts.

I know it’s not as simple as that, because the Rangers would still be paying Richards, should the scenario I proposed take life. But the Rangers shouldn’t be giving the notion of trading a staple of their franchise like Callahan any thought. He’s too valuable to the team in order to be traded. This is a grand pickle that GM Glen Sather has presented for him, and there is no easy solution. But the Rangers should do everything they can to keep Callahan.

The 22nd Winter Games is scheduled to start on Friday, February 7th, in Sochi, Russia. There is always excitement when it comes to the Olympic games, and the closer we get to the Games, the more you’ll see written about it.

Comedian Daniel Tosh mentioned how he hates the Winter Games because it’s a contest of “which country has more rich white kids”, and “who slides down a hill faster”. We all know how exciting the hockey games get, but Tosh has a decent point. Let’s take a look at why I’ll only really care to watch the hockey games.

Biathalon, Cross Country Skiing, Nordic Combined: These are in direct comparison with, say, the marathon. They involve people skiing (with variations on what exactly the contest is) very slowly and deliberately for long, long periods of time. So long, that they switch to other events, and return to one of these, and the race will not have changed. At all. The same dude is miles ahead of everyone, and it’s time to switch to another channel in hope something else is on.

Alpine Skiing, Ski Jumping, Speed Skating: These are actually pretty cool to watch, but it’s the same stuff over and over. One guy skis down the hill and is slightly faster than the guy before him. Another guy skates in a circle at high speeds slightly faster than another guy. Another guy flies farther than the previous one. British TV show Top Gear sent a rocket-powered Mini down a ski jump ramp, and it was awesome. But again, the actual event gets quite repetitive, much like swimming, or any various track/field competitions in the summer.

Bobsleigh, Luge, Skeleton: Who slides perfectly still down an icy tube faster? Granted it’s hard to do, it’s not very exciting, unless you hear the Jamaicans yell out “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s bobsled time! Cooooool runnings!”. Let’s be honest, NBC’s bobsled ratings will spike when the Jamaican bobsled team is ready to slide down the slope. The break-neck pace they slide at is wicked, but like the previous category, it gets repetitive.

Figure Skating: Wake me up when someone pulls off an Iron Lotus. Until then, I would rather not watch men in tights, unless it’s Robin Hood.

Curling: Mildly entertaining, because it’s silly to watch people vigorously sweeping ice with a broom. Unless the Norwegians are on, because of their pants. Which are way awesome and I want one.

Freestyle Skiing, Snowboarding: Have you seen the Winter X-Games? Good, because this is the exact same thing, but on a bigger stage with more prestige. It’s cool to see someone doing crazy flips and twists and sometimes fall on their bums. But it’s the same darn thing as the X-Games, which cuts into your valuable ESPN time.

Ice Hockey: It’s become the most anticipated event at the Olympics. For the 2010 Gold Medal game in Vancouver, 80% of Canada reportedly tuned in, and the other 20% was likely at their friend’s houses watching the game. At every hockey game you’ve watched on TV this season, they are talking about who’s gonna make the team. It’s the only sport on this list that really involved political views and entire countries stopped to celebrate, wherever they were. It’s where we believe in miracles.

I know that people still care about the other sports, and I’m cool with that. But let’s be honest here, the only games you will make time to tune in to, will be hockey.

Should the Sabres trade Ryan Miller?

Posted: January 28, 2014 in NHL
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The Buffalo Sabres easily have the worst record in the NHL. With a record of 14-30-7, they are 5 behind Edmonton for last in the league. They are 14 behind Florida, who’s the second to worst in the East. They seem like they are on their way to the top of the draft lottery, given Edmonton doesn’t win it again.

The Sabres have a lingering question looming over their head, though. Franchise goalie Ryan Miller has an expiring contract, set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season concludes. Obviously, with a talent level that Miller possesses, the Sabres would like to keep him. He’s 33 years old, and still has plenty of service left in the tank. But, do the Sabres chance it and keep him so that they can extend him exclusively? Or do they jump ship and continue planning for the future.

One case to be made for them keeping Miller, is that he’s the only thing keeping this team from being historically bad. His record is 13-20-3, with a GAA of 2.63 and a save percentage of .926. His backup, Jhonas Enroth, is 1-10-4 (that’s correct), with a GAA of 2.67 and .910 save percentage. The Sabres play much better for Miller, clearly indicated by the similar numbers between the tandem. If they played for Enroth for a season of 82 games, at the pace he’s played, they would finish with approximately 7 wins. How bad is that historically? The worst team ever, the 1974-75 Capitals had 8 wins. The Sabres really need Miller in net.

Another reason, is that Miller has had sustained success with this franchise. Between lockouts, from 2005-2012, he’s had at least 30 wins every season, leading the team to the playoffs 4 times, and as far as the Eastern Conference Finals twice. They know that if they can put a team in front of him, that can score with regularity, then they can contend for a playoff spot. Clearly that’s become the main issue for Buffalo, having just 97 goals, 22 less than the next team up, Calgary.

However, it may take trading Miller to get some offense. While they do have many expiring contracts, many of those players are key components to the offense they already have, like Matt Moulson and Steve Ott. Those players have much more value on the Sabres roster than they do on the trade market, because without them, the offense is near non-existent. Trading Miller, who would have extremely high pay-back value, could bring in some of that missing offense. Last time they traded offense, they got back Moulson and two picks, and it’s safe to say it’s been working out better for the other team, who now has Thomas Vanek and is on the rise.

Also, it would take a massive contract to keep Miller in Buffalo at this point. His previous contract was 5 years and just over $31M. With his value to the team, he could garner a contract at near Lundqvist value, probably without the same length. With as valuable an asset as Miller is, he would eat up a ton of the cap space that Buffalo might need to use on offensive talent.

From Miller’s point of view, he might want to spend the rest of his career with a team that has a chance to win, as opposed to a team that will be rebuilding for the remainder of Miller’s good years. With his impending free agency, he will be one of the top targets on the market for teams in need of goaltending help. There is the loyalty factor, that he spent his whole career so far with Buffalo, but that hasn’t stopped players from testing free agency, and then ditching their old squad to play somewhere closer to their hometown, or to play for more money, or both.

Odds are, Miller will test free agency this off-season, trade or not. There is a no-trade clause in play, so Miller can theoretically pick and choose. But he will be a high priced rental for the remainder of the season, and if Buffalo is wise, they take the trade before risking losing him for nothing. They are rebuilding now, so it makes sense to add some high value prospects while they are at it, and hope that they can find another franchise goalie somewhere along the long road of rebuilding.

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This past week, we experienced 2 more outdoor hockey games, including one with a relatively newer twist; 60+ degree weather. There have been some complaints that the NHL is going wild with these outdoor games, and it’s watering down the originality and special feel that the game brings. But from what we’ve seen out of New York and Los Angeles, it seems like each event keeps bringing something more to the table, and keeps filling stadium after stadium. Maybe it’s the novelty of watching an NHL regular season game outdoors, maybe not. But one thing we do know, is that this style of event is unique to the sports world. Is it possible for the other 3 major leagues to match this kind of event? Let’s dive in.

The NFL just had their annual Pro-Bowl at Aloha Stadium, in Honolulu, Hawaii. This year, they added a new wrinkle (originally from the NHL), a fantasy draft instead of AFC/NFC format. The game was neat, and fun to watch with the new rule changes they implemented. But it didn’t bring a regular season/playoff feel to the game, because it was merely an exhibition match. Also, with the dimensions of a football field and stadium, it’s tough to take an NFL anywhere that’s not an NFL regulation size stadium. The games are stuck, and too few to really make a big impact. They do have the International Series, where they visit Canada and England, but every sport does that at one point or another. It’s very hard for the NFL to have a novelty regular season game, and I don’t see them coming up with something new and ingenious anytime soon.

The NBA is the closest league to the NHL, so similar events are always compared from one to the other. In 2010, played the All-Star game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in an effort to break the attendance record for a pro basketball game. Like the NHL, they looked to a football stadium for something new and cool. It worked, as the game was attended by  108,713 fans. But with the nature of basketball, it’s nearly impossible to host an outdoor game, for a number of reasons. Like the NHL, the games are played indoors exclusively, and the regular season is in the winter months. The differences are what set the NBA apart for potential outdoor games. The NBA would require a warmer climate to host the game, or an indoor stadium, as it’s fairly obvious the players wouldn’t be able to play in colder conditions. That being said, it would knock out anything north of, say Atlanta or Texas. The NHL solved their problem with the inverse, playing in warm and cold temperatures alike. It wouldn’t work for the NBA, and there really isn’t anywhere else for them to try something similar.

Major League Baseball is far and away the last sport to be able to pull off something like the Winter Classic. With 162 regular season games, you would think that a team would instantly give up a home game for something like this. But there’s a massive problem or two with a novelty event in baseball. First, you need an MLB ballpark to play baseball. Football stadiums have not been able to fit an MLB game in with even dimensions (they tried it in the L.A. Coliseum, and the left field foul pole was 200 feet from home plate). Second, with the season broken down into series, it would be tough for 2 teams to meet for 2-4 games in some random location that’s ill suited for baseball, just to try and fill a stadium and make some money. It just couldn’t and wouldn’t work, especially with teams having troubles filling their ballpark on any ordinary night.

The NHL has dug up a gold mine with this concept of bringing the NHL product outdoors. They are capitalizing on it, and milking every penny out of it that they can, and rightfully so. The best part, is that this kind of cash cow is only available to the NHL, and wouldn’t fly in any other sport, because it can’t. If it fills the seats, and brings in revenue that other sports can’t reach, why not keep going to the well?

Sure, there are ideas that people can come up with. I would love for you to prove me wrong. But until then, I will hold by my statement, that novelty games belong to hockey.

We looked earlier at what complaints there are to the Stadium Series. However, there are many benefits to these games as well.

First, and most obvious, is money. The NHL is taking big matchups out of their 20,000 seat arenas and placing them in 50,000 seat stadiums. That adds tons of tickets, at higher prices, to the sales for each of the home teams, in this case the Kings, Devils, Islanders and Blackhawks. Along with the ticket sales, each team has more merchandise, such as jerseys, t-shirts, hats, etc. to sell to the fans at the events, and at sports stores all over the country. TV and advertising to the public can be found everywhere, and it brings in sponsorship money that no other sport can do, due to the lack of innovation possible for baseball, basketball, and football, at least in the way outdoor hockey is. The lockout prevented revenue from coming in, so therefore more money this year will help their cause and bottom line.

Besides the obvious financial gain, this opens up opportunity for teams who wouldn’t have hosted a Winter Classic. The Kings and Ducks don’t play in a wintry type of area, and would never land the game. This gives them a chance to host such an event, as well as opens up for other teams in warmer climates to be able to host this event. Also, smaller-market teams like the Islanders and Devils are able to participate in these games, giving them a chance to enter the spotlight, which they don’t normally have. Sure they will have bigger market teams featured as well, but having a bigger market teamed up with a smaller fan base can create some kind of animosity or rivalry, which adds more to the love of the team, and brings the fans in to the arena to see that team play.

The fans are big winners here too, because it gives them more opportunity to see their team, and opens up lots of seats for newcomers to the game, to be able to enjoy hockey’s finest events. Fans of those teams who don’t often get awarded the Winter Classic get a chance to see their teams outdoors for a change. They can all come home from this massive party and say that they’ve been to an outdoor game.

The watering down of the special event is an issue, but there are benefits as to why the NHL decided to bring this in. As much as it may be too much of a good thing, and it was reflected in the fans’ reluctance to sell out the L.A. game and the later N.Y. game, it still brings in tons of new opportunity to a growing league.  

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Coming up this week, we have 3 outdoor games from the NHL. That’s 3 times as much as we’ve seen in any given month in NHL history.

This past off-season, the NHL introduced this idea, of a set of 4 outdoor games, and gave the reason of wanting to spread the love and get more teams playing outdoors. They must have missed the boat a little bit, because 3 of the 7 teams participating have already played outdoors in a Winter Classic. Also, by the time we get to the Wednesday night game in New York, the “special” aspect of the outdoor game will be lost on most hockey fans, especially Rangers fans, who will have seen their boys in 2 outdoor games in a week.

First, we have Los Angeles’ branch of the Series, where Dodger Stadium will host the Kings and Anaheim [Mighty] Ducks. On the field of the Stadium, aside from the NHL rink, there is street hockey, a stage for KISS, and a beach. A beach? Next to ice hockey? Yeah. A beach. This games’ special aspect, is that they are playing outdoors in a warm climate. Game time temperature is said to be in the 60’s or 70’s Fahrenheit. I think it’s neat, but it’s not original. The Kings and Rangers played a preseason game at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas before, and it was rather hot that night. It will be neat having people show up in shorts to watch an outdoor game, but we know that the technology is there and will work, so this ends up being gimmicky.

Next, we go to Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY, for 2 games between the 3 New York teams (one’s New Jersey, but everyone outside the tri-state area calls them together). This series is, I think, just to say they played hockey at the legendary Yankee Stadium. The fact that they have 2 games there is just to get all 3 teams in the area involved. The Devils/Rangers match will have more of a Winter Classic-y feel to it, being an afternoon game in the biting cold, but the Islanders/Rangers match will be less “special” because the Rangers had gone through this experience 3 days earlier, and it’s the second game at the Stadium. Not to downplay the rivalries being present, the Devils’ game will probably be more exciting for the fans, due to it being the first game there, and that rivalry has been more present recently. If the series stopped with just that game, it’d be more fine. Now it just leaves it incomplete, with the Devils and Islanders only getting one game, as opposed to the Rangers, who get 2. I know the Rangers are the big team in the area, and they got there first, in the Original 6, but we should at least even things out and make it less obvious that the NHL has a love affair with Henrik Lundqvist.

Finally, we stop at Soldier Field in Chicago, home of a certain football team known as da Bears. The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 2nd in the most unnecessary outdoor game ever. Spreading the love would include two teams that have NOT played outside before. These are two teams that have, multiple times in the Penguins’ case. Chicago has hosted before. Sure, they are changing venues. But NBC seems to have every Penguins or Blackhawks game on, when not showing the Flyers or Rangers, at least. There is no novelty here, even if they change venues to Soldier Field. Nothing new, as of now, to make it worth the NHL’s while to try and make this “special”. Fans of any team outside the Blackhawks and Penguins would probably be upset that their team isn’t getting a fair shot. This is just the most obvious case of trying to dig more into two big fan bases for more money.

The Winter Classic, and to some extent the Heritage Classic, are fantastic for the league, and should be continued. That once per season for each the US and Canada puts on a good show for the sport, just look at this year’s Winter Classic. But the Stadium Series is just full of gimmicks that aren’t quite so novel, and waters down the product of outdoor hockey. I hope we never see something like this again, or else it might spell the end for desire of outdoor hockey, and then no one wins.

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Last season, when New Jersey Devils’ goaltender Cory Schneider was still a member of the Vancouver Canucks, he was constantly in the shadow of Roberto Luongo, waiting for his chance to earn the starting job he deserves. Trade rumors were constantly swirling around him and Luongo, and it obviously became a black cloud looming over both of them.

Draft day, June 30, 2013, in Newark rolled around, and commish Gary Bettman got up to the podium before the Devils’ pick, 9th overall, among a sea of boos. He said to the fans at the draft, “You’ll want to hear this”, grinning ear to ear, before announcing to everyone the trade that would shock the hockey world.

Vancouver would be selecting 9th overall instead of New Jersey, and Cory Schneider became a Devil.

Of course, the Devils have a starting goalie in their system, some guy from Montreal named Martin Brodeur, all time leader in wins, shutouts, games played…we can’t list everything he’s done, but he’s had a good career, trust me.

Marty will turn 42 on May 6th. Cory is 28 in March.

The fact is, Marty is toward the end of his legendary career. Despite putting up good numbers this year, it’s rather obvious that the Devils are in transition, out of the era of Brodeur. That’s why they traded for Schneider. They needed an heir apparent for the man they call Satan’s Wallpaper.

But Marty has mentioned that he’s mentally still in it, and it’s all about whether his body holds up or not, to decide on whether this season is the last we will see him in net. He’s obviously still got it, but do the Devils really want him back?

Cory has spent his entire career in this spot. He was behind/splitting with Luongo since his career went full-time NHL in 2010, and now with New Jersey, he’s splitting with Brodeur. One would think that with a goalie of his caliber, he should, and rightfully so, deserve a starting job. With next year being his contract year, a free agent in the summer of 2015, he’s due for a big pay day. The Devils hope it will be with them. But he would need to have the starting job in the bag by the time that extension rolls around.

Martin Brodeur would probably retire by then, but we aren’t entirely sure. He says he can go another one as of now. But the Devils may want to move on. Besides Schneider becoming the full-time starter, there is a goalie in the AHL affiliate of the Devils (also the Devils, just in Albany) named Keith Kinkaid, and he should be ready for NHL backup status come next year. That looks like a goalie tandem for New Jersey’s future, and Martin Brodeur isn’t a part of it.

Marty’s a legend in New Jersey, and will be loved forever by Devils fans, and hockey fans alike. No matter what happens this off-season, they will always have fond memories of Brodeur. But memories are for the past. The future of the Devils rests with Schneider in net. Marty’s career in New Jersey is likely over after this season, whether he wants to play or not. It’s a very tough break-up, understandably, considering Marty has been the goalie since 1994. But the future is approaching fast in New Jersey.

We may not have seen the last of Brodeur after the regular season or playoffs this year. But if GM Lou Lamoriello knows what’s good for the franchise (and he usually has a good idea), it’s time for the team and Marty to move on.