Around the league – Dec 17, 2009

The annual Governor’s meetings have wrapped up, and nothing earth shattering was revealed. The Count (Gary Bettman) is adamant that Phoenix is a viable market, and he is hoping that Edge Holdings Inc is legit and not another Len Barrie or Boots Del Baggio.

An interesting point was raised regarding whether the league should maintain a team in Phoenix compared to say Quebec of Winnipeg.

As Canadians we feel it is a no-brainer to have a team in Canada, where the games will sell out and fans will care compared to Phoenix where you can get a gold seat for $25. But is a team in Quebec or Winnipeg better for the rest of the league?

The NHL is a business first and foremost, and many feel if the new owners can somehow make it viable in Phoenix that is better for the other 29 franchises, rather than having a team in Quebec City.

A team in Quebec or Winnipeg is good for that market, but will it grow the game? I’d say no. I understand why Canadians want another team, but when 24 of the 30 teams are in the United States, it is clear who holds the power. A major advertiser would be more excited about the Phoenix market over Quebec.

Can we really grow the game anymore in Canada? Are there people that don’t know about hockey here? The only reason someone hasn’t gone to at least one game is because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t want to.

Quebec City’s population, including the metro area is less than a million people, while Phoenix has 4.28 million people and is the 12th largest metro area by population in the United States.

From a business point of view the possibility of growth is much higher there than Quebec City. I know that the arena is in Glendale, and it is a 45-minute commute without any public transportation. The optics don’t look good, but I can see why business men feel there is a potential for success in a market that big.

Today Quebec or Winnipeg or even Southern Ontario doesn’t have a facility, so realistically they aren’t an option until they get an arena. When they get one then hockey fans can argue the merits of having a 7th Canadian team, but until then it wishful thinking.

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If the NHL can convince Edge Holdings INC to pay them $140 million for the Coyotes the NHL will take it and run. If, or should I say when, EHI realizes in a few years that they can’t make money, then and only then will Bettman and the rest of the league look at relocating.

Right now the other 29 teams would love to see EHI buy the Coyotes because it will save them having to pony up their own money to subsidize the Dessert Dogs. I just don’t understand why EHI would pay more than a dollar for that team right now.

Ice woman of the week

Since many of you alleged babe-magnets complained last week, here is double dose of the energetic Briana, who is a member of the Thrashers Blue Crew. Hopefully her hair meets the standards of the Nation.

Random thoughts

  • Barry Trotz’ Nashville Predators are 13-3-2 in their last 18 games. They only have two guys in double digits in goals, Jason Arnott and Martin Erat with 11, yet they are only one point back of Colorado and four back of the Kings with two games in hand. Everyone has been raving about the Avs and Kings, but did anyone think the Predators would be in the top-five in the west at this point? I didn’t think so.
  • The NHL wants a Canadian outdoor classic every year now? Why? The Heritage Classic was a great idea, but if you had one every six years would it have the same appeal? NBC doesn’t want a Canadian team to play in it, but CBC thinks it will be a ratings monster so they are pushing for it. After Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa host it once will it still hold the appeal of Canadian fans? I doubt it.
  • Marty Brodeur will break another of Patrick Roy’s records this week when he plays his 1,030th game. It makes me smile to see Roy lose all of his records; no one annoyed me more than him.
  • Henrik Sedin is 2nd in league scoring. I might have to stop calling them the Sisters…then again probably not. But I will give him credit; he is having the best season that no one talks about.
  • The best bang for your buck in the top-30 scorers is Nicklas Backstrom. He is fifth in the league with 39 points and a $2.4 million cap hit. Tomas Plekanec has 34 points and a $2.75 hit, while Wojtek Wolski has 33 points and a $2.8 million cap hit. All three are in the last year of their contracts, and don’t be surprised if someone grossly overpays Plekanec this summer.
  • Drew Doughty could make team Canada despite being twenty. He does everything well. He’s a great skater, has outstanding vision, moves the puck well, has a strong shot and is physical. His ability to step and make a hit is underrated in my opinion. In two more years I think he’ll be in conversation of best D-men in the game.
  • Injuries to Teemu Selanne and Joffrey Lupul might give Randy Carlyle a brief stay-of-execution, but I can’t see how he keeps his job past January 15th. It is too close to Christmas to fire him now, but I don’t see him lasting very long in the New Year.
  • While Oiler fans have gotten used to their team being a 7th to 12th place team, I wonder if Flames’ fans ever get annoyed with their team’s inability to become an elite team. The Flames have been good, and once you think they will become a great team they lose three or four in a row and come back to the pack. I wonder if their nucleus knows how to become great rather than just good?

Leaders through the week

23: Marian Gaborik
21: Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley and Alex Ovechkin
20: Patrick Marleau
18: Dustin Penner, Mike Cammalleri, Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk.
17: Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash

37: Joe Thornton
30: Ryan Getzlaf 
29: Tomas Kaberle and Martin St. Louis
28: Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Plekanec and H. Sedin
27: Brad Richards
26: Paul Stastny and Mike Green
***All the same top ten assist leaders for the first time all season. Only six other players have more points than Thornton has assists this season.***

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44: Thornton
43: H. Sedin (seven points this week)
42: Gaborik
41: Crosby, Perry, Getzlaf and H. Sedin
39: Backstrom
38: Ovechkin and Anze Kopitar
37: Heatley, Getzlaf, Corey Perry and B. Richards

+17: Ovechkin and Zach Parise
+16: Christian Ehrhoff,
+15: Jonathon Toews and Pavel Kubina
+14: Jeff Schultz and Evgeni Malkin
+13: Travis Zajac, Wayne Simmonds, Brendan Morrison, Crosby and Penner.
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads for the Green Jacket with a whopping -19. Martin Havlat was +6 this week to improve to -11. Patrick O’Sullivan is 6th worst at -13 and Shawn Horcoff is 7th at -12.***

PP Goals:
Eleven: Gaborik
Ten: Heatley
Eight: John Tavares
Seven: Andrew Brunette, Teemu Selanne, Kovalchuk, Niclas Bergfors, Tomas Holmstom and Steven Stamkos
Six: Eleven guys tied with six.

110: Stephane Robidas

109: Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown
103: Cal Clutterbuck
102: Matt Greene
97: Ryan Malone
96: JF Jacques
95: Scott Nichol
91: Brooks Orpik
90: David Backes, Brendan Morrow and Chris Neil

140: Parise and Jeff Carter (Sixteen shots, but no goals this week.)
138: Ovechkin
134: Nash
129: Henrik Zetterberg
121: Dustin Brown and Crosby
120: Radim Vrbata
119: Vincent Lecavalier
117: Cammalleri

Final point

I don’t have to say much, do I? I wonder what the top ten tips Tiger would have this week for the President?

  • Hell, Henrik Sedin's having the best career that nobody is talking about. I always laugh a little hearing Canucks fans rave about them now, because it was only a few years ago that I was defending them from Canucks fans who figured they were useless.

  • Hemmercules

    Good post Gregor. 'Around the League' is becoming one of my favorite things on the Nation. Love the ice girl this week, kind of a Brook Burns thing going on *only bigger, wink wink*

    While Oiler fans have gotten used to their team being a 7th to 12th place team

    I die a little inside everytime I hear something like this, I will never get used to it, never.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Winnipeg has an arena. I walk through it every day to buy coffee. It's connected via skywalk to my office building.

    I see the point that another Canadian team doesn't grow the game, but the same argument could be easily made while moving an existing team to the states. If Edmonton embraces the DFF movement, what's to stop them from moving the Oilers to Kansas? Keeping the team in Edmonton doesn't grow the market, and the potential in Kansas is higher.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          While that is true wouldn't you want to make sure that in long-term the team will work? Not sure a band-aid is what the NHL should be looking to do.

          • Hemmercules

            I'm not saying they should move to the Peg, just that Phoenix isn't working. It hasn't worked for 10 years, I can't see a 2-3 year turn around down there like they expect. Move them to Seattle for all I care.

    • Eric Johnson

      Yeah you have a building that's about 3k seats short of an NHL sized building.

      I feel for you man, cause what ever retard thought it would be a good idea to build a brand new state of the art building in Winnipeg but for 15 thousand people, basically put the nail in the coffin for an NHL team coming back there in the foreseeable future.

      Kansas may be an untapped market but Edmonton does however have a solid revenue stream. While the team might not "grow" the game, you can't cut off the river of money that fills the leagues pockets.

      Carolina only a few years off of a Stanley cup win can't put asses in their seats. Edmonton has missed the playoffs 4 years in a row and every game is a sell out… Where would you want a team?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Chick looks hotter in picture #2.

    So I guess the NHL owners are more worried about having to pay for another NHL team then they are headshots?

  • Skidplate

    True enough, but to pay for the "every player is a millionare" NHL, the owners of the Winnepeg team needs more asses than the arena can currently hold. The other aspect is the business sponsorship and corporate types. Again, Winnepeg is probably a little too small for the big leagues.

    Nothing against Winnepeg, I hope a team finds it way back there, also to Quebec and southern Ontario. It is just as Gregor says. The NHL is a business and if it doesn't make money, it won't fly.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      Winnipeg has a bigger corporate capacity than they did in the '90s. There are more boxes. I'm not arguing that it's the best place for a team, but they'd be doing better than Phoenix or Atlanta even if they only broke even every year.

      PS Look for Scott Arniel as an NHL coach sometime in the next 3-4 years. He lives across the street from my parents.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      That's the same reasoning that Ikea used for not building one here, too. They said Winnipeg was too small.

      They recently finalized a deal that sees Ikea build the biggest location in the world in South Winnipeg, to the tune of 365,000sqft.

      They've obviously got market research that shows we're not a small town anymore.

      A great example that I use in terms of Hockey in Phoenix is the fact that there are no donair restaurants in Winnipeg. Period. There used to be one, but it closed. Winnipeg is a great untapped market for anyone in the donair business, right? The potential is here because nobody else sells them, but the demand isn't. If you have a donair restaurant that loses money here every year for 14 years, does it make more sense to stay open for another 20 just because the potential is there? No.

      You move to Edmonton where the market is established, and despite the fact that the market might already be saturated, you're still going to make more money there than here.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          They're a hell of a lot smarter when it comes to marketing than the NHL is. You could teach courses on their marketing tactics.

          Long story short, if Ikea sees an untapped market (ie one where you'd have to drive to Minneapolis to visit the closest location), they're smart enough to take action. They also did this while admitting that their 'small town' attitude towards Winnipeg was unwarranted.

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          I don't know if it's necessarily Gregor's perspective, I think that's just the line of reasoning the Board of Governors is going with. It just doesn't make much sense to me.

        • Jason Gregor

          Interesting info about Ikea. And that donair logic is pretty sound. I think you may have just shown up gregors idea of growth vs attendence.

          You guys are comparing shopping at Ikea, a place where most would go because they all have a home of some sort, to the NHL and where only a limited few can go because of ticket prices?

          I don't doubt they would draw good crowds for the Jets, but 15,000 fans and a few more corporate boxes won't make them a lot of money.

          Just because they would make more than Phoenix, which isn't saying much, wasn't the point.

          It is from a league wide money making point of view. Not one from Winnipegers support Ikea so they can support an NHL team.

          • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

            The argument of potential profit from a league-wide perspective keeps coming up, and maybe it's beyond me because I still don't understand it.

            Is a bird in the hand still worth two in the bush, or did they amend that?

          • Jason Gregor

            The argument of potential profit from a league-wide perspective keeps coming up, and maybe it's beyond me but I still don't understand it.

            Is a bird in the hand still worth two in the bush, or did they amend that?

            I agree it does seem like a potential over guarantee possibility. The fact is Winnipeg's arena isn't big enough for them to sustain a team long term. IF the cap goes up, they don't have the population needed to pay the obvious higher ticket prices.

            It is too bad, and the NHL should find a way to get more canadian cities, but the buildings will have to be at least 18,000…

            It is only a matter of time before one goes into Southern Ontario, but even Quebec will only get back in the league with an 18,000 seat stadium.

          • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

            What good does an 18,000 seat arena do in a city that can't pay people to go to games? This is not specific to Phoenix, but I can't imagine anyone having data that might suggest that some of these failing markets might see increases in attendance over the next 20 years.

            It seems to me that they're trying too hard to be visionaries – the people who we'll look back on 50 years from now and say "Boy, if it weren't for Gary Bettman we wouldn't have the 20-time Stanley Cup winning Atlanta Thrashers".

            You can make the argument that they want to run it like a business, but smart businessmen don't persist in a market with no interest in their product over a 15 year period, then commit to another 25.

            It raises the question: At what point do you call it quits in these cities? Would 20 years of losing 5-10MM per year do it? How about 25? At what point do you concede to the fact that potential is only useful if you can back it up with the likelihood of a favourable outcome?

          • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

            hey gregor, quick question.

            when that blackberry guy was going to move the coyotes to hamilton, i heard that MLS had a thing with the nhl to not allow a move into their market. i wonder if their greed cost a move to a canadian city earlier? also how would t.v. revenue(nationwide) work in canada with few more teams here, with tsn and sportsnet being the only sport channels?

            the 18 000 seats theory, i dont get. there are teams in nhl with 15 000+ seating and only get a few thousand in and survive. i cant see that being a problem if winnipeg is selling out all 13 000 seats everygame.

          • Jason Gregor

            From what I was told the Leafs don't have a veto on having another team in their vicinity. The reason Balsillie didn't get the team is how he went about it. He sold tickets in Hamilton before he even owned the team in Phoenix.

            The biggest reason there isn't a team in southern Ontario yet, is because there isn't a suitable building. Unless they could do the renos necessary for Copps Coliseum in Hamilton in one off-season, I don't see how they could move a team there and play in the existing rink unless they could do the renos in one off-season.

            The teams that are drawing less than 15,000 are all losing money. If the Jets sold out all 15,000 every game they might break even. And if the cap goes up and they wanted to try and stay competitive I don't see how they could sustain the finances.

          • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

            When the cap goes up, what does that do for teams that are already struggling? Are they forced to move at that point?

            Gain now, possibly lose later seems like a much better bet than lose now, possibly gain later (but extremely unlikely).

          • Jason Gregor

            When the cap goes up, what does that do for teams that are already struggling? Are they forced to move at that point?

            Gain now, possibly lose later seems like a much better bet than lose now, possibly gain later (but extremely unlikely).

            Million dollar question. I have no idea how it keeps going up to be honest. No league will ever have all of their teams on solid financial grounds, but it will be interesting to see what happens in Tampa, Phoenix, Atlanta, Carolina and Florida….

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I question the sanity of winnipegers, no donair shops? What's wrong with you guys? Donairs are the perfect drunk meal at 2 in the morning.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I noticed in the last few year that there are quite a few good ones in edmonton. Before it was either excellent or crap, now there is an in between that while they aren't great they really hit the spot.

        Hmmm, I see how Penner was sucked in.

  • Maggie the Monkey

    Gregor wrote: "The only reason someone hasn’t gone to at least one game [in Canada] is because they can’t afford it, not because they don’t want to."

    While this is true, isn't it also a good reason to serve markets where audiences want to attend but aren't able to? Living in the GTA, there's absolutely no way I'd pay the hundreds of dollars it would cost to see the Oil play in TO on March 13th. The last Oilers' game I saw was in the playoffs verses Detroit in `06, and even that was a lot cheaper than trying to see them in this city.

    My brother found it cheaper to fly to Phoenix last week to watch two NHL games than it would have been to go to two in Toronto, and this is not an exaggeration.

    In a league where such a high proportion of the revenue is generated at the gate (as opposed to through corporate sponsorship or tv rights), it seems like bad accounting to put so little emphasis on ticket sales. It baffles me that Bettman is able to sell the idea of growing the game over increasing revenue to owners, who presumably include making money as one of their priorities.

  • Moops

    "That the NHL is a business first and foremost" IS the problem. When decisions are made based on the bottom line instead of the good of the game it detracts from the sport and disillusions existing fans.

    Let's have teams in places where people already care about the game instead of trying to force it upon people who have never seen it snow outside of their window. It'll only ever be a side-show to them.

    "Growing the game" by moving it to new areas will certainly increase revenue but it also increases expenses too. Even if it can become slightly profitable it just makes it more at risk of becoming "too big to fail." Would you rather make $10M on a $500M investment or $10M on a $500K investment? If the NHL catastrophically fails someday because Bettman failed to shove it down the throats of winterless southerners, it'll be simply tragic that we let this happen to Canada's game.

    I wish we had more altruistic governance of the NHL whose primary concern would be the integrity of the sport and who acted with respect for its true fans.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    The other thing that nobody's mentioned is the fact that moving a failing team to a place where they can tread water increases league revenues by a set amount. This, in turn, increases the cap, which then disadvantages other failing markets.

    Shouldn't come as a shock that the South opposes moves to the North, but I have a feeling their reasons aren't to maintain stability of the league as a business. I think they see the potential impact on their own bottom lines.

  • Wait. What?

    Exactly which Nancy boy here could rightfully say ANY of Jason's Ice Girls wasn't up to par? As far as I've seen, every Around the League has had ridiculously high quality ice girl content.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I'd love to put teams back in Win and Que and even bring another to So. Ont but let's look at Win first considering they've got the newest rink out of three potential new frannies.

    TV and gate rev fill the coffers and what kind of a regional TV contract would the new Jets garner? It would have to be pretty sparse, no? I don't believe I've ever seen a breakdown of what each NHL's local TV deal brings in but I can't imagine the Winnipeg deal would make them any significant amount of money.

    So that would put an even bigger burden on the gate and the prices would have to be especially high given the size of that rink and would they even sell out all the boxes?

    I know Ron Maclean and all the HNIC and the MSM for that matter trumpet a return to Win and I'd love to see it as well but I don't really see how it would work.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      I have no idea on the TV side of things. I've never looked at it in-depth.

      I can tell you with confidence that all of the boxes are filled for Moose games, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that they'd be filled for an NHL team. Obviously there's a difference in cost, but I don't think corporate support would be an issue.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I've been wondering for a while, why are some player names in bold?
    At first I thought it was NW division players but the last few Around the League's have had some NW players in regular text.
    Is it guys you have in your pool?

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    In following this whole Phoenix Coyotes debacle, the one thing I noticed that -really- hampers Winnipeg's ability to host an NHL team is the fact that we don't have any billionaires like Balsillie or Katz.

    We've got the Aspers who own Canwest (Global), and the Chipmans who own a pretty serious chain of car dealerships, but the economy came down pretty hard on both of them – credit tightened up for Canwest who is now restructuring, and the Chipmans were big into GM and we all know how that panned out.

    5 years ago they probably could have done it jointly, and Balsillie probably could have done it this past year, but he had his heart set on Hamilton and specifically Hamilton.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I apologize for being stubborn, Gregor, and I understand your point – I just don't see how it makes sense from a business perspective. If you're advocating maintaining a franchise in a market that's failing on the off-chance they'll do well in the future, you might as well be pushing Hemsky for a 7th round draft pick on the off-chance that we'll pick up Zetterberg v2.0.

    • Jason Gregor

      The point is they don't want to move to Winnipeg if in three years it is losing money. And the Count vowed he wouldn't just move teams on a whim, like he did with Quebec and Winnipeg.

      I'm not saying it is the best idea, but I bet they will move to Kansas, brand new facility before Winnipeg.

      The league will look at TV deals and American advertisers who will prefer an American team over a small market Canadian one.

    • Jason Gregor

      The point is they don't want to move to Winnipeg if in three years it is losing money. And the Count vowed he wouldn't just move teams on a whim, like he did with Quebec and Winnipeg.

      I'm not saying it is the best idea, but I bet they will move to Kansas, brand new facility before Winnipeg.

      The league will look at TV deals and American advertisers who will prefer an American team over a small market Canadian one.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        Quality of TV and ad deals is a legitimate argument, and I'll concede to that immediately. I understand it works a lot different in the states than it does here, and that definitely comes into play.

        If you're resigned to markets that lose money, though, you're better off in a market that shows a profit in 3/20 seasons than one that shows a profit in 0/20 seasons.

        I also don't see how moving the Coyotes (this time specifically the Coyotes) can be considered 'on a whim' when you can point to 15 years of disinterest from the fans, owners losing money, and the team losing on the ice.

      • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

        i think nhl and international hockey should go the FIFA route. we can use the sweedish and the russian and the american hockey league as one pool of players. this way there is more options on what to do with some of these contracts and players. we could sell loan and trade players. so team that suck and arent going to make any money and playoff revenue could sell or loan their superstars to teams in europe. it would also help with better development as well. i know this has nothing to do with winnipeg but just an idea i think that might help make the nhl better. just like FIFA, have one governing body instead of all this NHL v NHLPA crap, and owners v T.V crap.

  • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

    ATDHE is just showing a test pattern. Justin TV isn't showing the game. The game is on PPV in alberta, perhaps no one can get the feed? Anyone found it?

    dying for oil hockey in vancouver

  • Wow what a great game tonight! Our boys started out slow but picked it up and were firing on all cylinders tonight! Nothing but crisp, tape to tape passes, solid defensive zone coverage, perfect line changes, thunderous hits delivered to anyone in a white jersey, world class goaltending and some of the best refereeing I've ever seen in an organized hockey game! This team is unstoppable right now!

    *meticulously lint rolls the Stanley Cup parade carpet*