NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 18, 2012.

Pavel Datsyuk scores late to keep Red Wings home win streak alive…Coyotes Radim Vrbata on pace for his best season…Martin Brodeur ties shoot-out victories record as Devils down Ducks…James van Riemsdyk could return to Flyers today…Hurricanes down Sharks….Capitals defeats Panthers…Sabres fall to last place in Eastern Conference…Dallas Stars could establish blueprint for struggling NHL Sunbelt teams…The league leaders in man-games lost to injury.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Pavel Datsyuk scored with just over five seconds remaining in the game to give the Red Wings their 22nd consecutive home win as they edged the visiting Nashville Predators 2-1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless  of whether you believe the Red Wings achievement is “legitimate” or not, the fact they’re so strong at home reflects on how strong this season’s version of the Red Wings have become. Their early season struggles are but a distant memory.

Vrbata's career season powering Coyotes' playoff hopes.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata remains humble despite being on pace for his best season ever.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vrbata’s one of the key reasons the Coyotes remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

NEW YORK POST: New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur tied the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist for most career shoot-out wins (40), as the Devils edged the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brodeur may be coming to the end of his storied career, but is still capable of coming up big when the Devils need him most.

PHILLY.COM: Forward James van Riemsdyk, sidelined by concussion since January 12th, could return to the Flyers lineup today in their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s good news for van Riemsdyk and the Flyers. No, I don’t think this means he’s back in play in the rumor market.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Carolina backup goaltender Justin Peters made 35 saves as the Hurricanes hung on to down the visiting San Jose Sharks 3-2.

WASHINGTON POST: The two Alexanders (Ovechkin and Semin) tallied as the Capitals downed divisional rival Florida Panthers 2-1.

BUFFALO NEWS: Thanks to a shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Sabres fell to last in the Eastern Conference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Three words for Sabres GM Darcy Regier: Sell! Sell! Sell! OK, it’s one word repeated three times, but you get the idea. Time for the Sabres management to end this fantasy of making the playoffs and start rebuilding their roster for next season.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mike Heika reports some insiders believe “cyclical turns in the economy, as well as situational market flaws, are more to blame for the problems than any larger issue with hockey in the South.” Some believe the Dallas Stars could provide the blueprint for these struggling Sun Belt teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Shhhhhh! Don’t tell that to Northern-based critics (usually Canadian) of Sun Belt teams. It’s so much more fashionable to simply declare Southern based teams as “non-hockey markets”, rather than engaging in real research as to the real reasons why they’re struggling. One big reason is some of these teams have been mismanaged for years, driving away a disillusioned fan base. Something which has happened in several so-called “traditional hockey markets” – hello there, Vancouver (1998 – 2001), Calgary (1998-2003), Edmonton (1993- 1996) , Chicago (1998-2007) and Boston (2001-2008) – in the past.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL:  The Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens lead all NHL teams in man-games lost to injury this season.

16 Comments

  1. Amazing run by the wings. Living here in Windsor ON I should have gone to a couple games but I haven’t. I’ve helped friends get tix but never checked it out. Maybe I’ll catch one in the next month.

    These Canadiens are teasing us fans right now. Just clinging to one game at a time. Lol. Lots of key divisional games left too (2 Sabres, 3 Sens, 2 leafs). Hopefully AK can get moved soon with Kaberle and perhaps being in Carter? Move Eller to the wing. I dont know what’s going to happen now, but if AK goes soon it might be interesting to see geoffrion after a couple weeks in Hamilton.

  2. That’s exactly it. While it is true that Dallas and other sunbelt teams may not be “traditional” hockey markets and they has to play a role to some degree, teams like Edmonton, Calgary, Chicago, etc, are not exempt from suffering just the same.

    I live right by Edmonton and I remember them announcing crowds of just over 10,000 some nights back in the mid 90s. They almost fled for Hamilton and would have if it wasn’t for a large group of local investors stepping in.

    Fan support was way down until they made the playoffs and actually defeated my Stars ( Curtis Joseph ) in ’97 and all of a sudden they were popular again. Even look at the ’06 run the Oilers went on – you couldn’t see two cars go by without at least one of them having one of those flags attached to it. They were sold out everywhere in the city. How many do you see now ? Maybe one every 200.

    The economy has been pretty good in Alberta too and there’s a new generation of younger people who actually have money to spend here. It’s “cool” to attend an Oilers game and the people that go aren’t all necessarily fans.

  3. “One big reason is some of these teams have been mismanaged for years, driving away a disillusioned fan base”

    Although Phoniex has been a consistent playoff team for a couple years and its not suddenly making money.

    The problem is with non traditional southern markets is that there often is no fan base at the start. Yes they are large markets that might provide a fan base but what is constantly ignored is that in small Canadian markets there is very little competition for sports dollars (be that ads, gate sales, or corporate money etc.). By contrast in the South even though the markets are nominally big the NHL is typically always competing against both 3 other major sports teams, NASCAR, and major US NCAA sports.

    “Boston (2001-2008)”

    Except according Forbes Boston enjoyed strong revenue over that entire period and more or less made a profit as well. By comparison over the same period all Phoenix did was bleed red ink. Similarly under Dollar Bill the Blackhawks might have frustrated their fans but the team was not hemorrhaging money.

    In addition the problem I have is as far as I recall NHL making any such extraordinary effort to keep the NHL in Winnipeg or Quebec. No matter what the nominal market size Phoenix has failed – does that mean all such attempts are/were a mistake nope. It does mean its time to pull the plug and figure out if you can make Seattle or Quebec work – or gasp just liquidate the team (and maybe the islanders as well) more talent for the rest of the league and a better product on the ice.

  4. Lyle, just wondering why you don’t think JVR isn’t back in trade rumors. Pretty much every other trade rumor place, ie tsn, sportsnet, have him listed as in play.

  5. Jrd18, he’s just coming off a pretty brutal concucssion. I’m sure the rest of the league wants to see how he reacts to the injury, and give it a couple games at least to see if he’s truly past it and if he’s going to be one of those guys who has career concussion issues. It’s a legitimate concern for all 30 GM’s.

    It’s also possible that the Flyers don’t want to move him even though his numbers have slumped this season.

  6. Jrd18: Because he’s only just returned to action from a concussion which sidelined him for six weeks. Teams will want to see him play a few games before pursuing him to ensure he’s fully recovered.

  7. Paul: The Coyotes have actually seen small increases over the past two years in season ticket sale and in attendance. The problem, however, is the sword of Damacles (relocation) hanging over their heads. Awfully hard to convince local fans to support a team lacking ownership which is in constant threat of moving.

    No fan base at the start for southern based teams? How do you explain the Dallas Stars success at the gate in their early years? Or the Tampa Bay Lightning setting an NHL attendance record in an exhibition game in their first season? Or the strong support the Florida Panthers received in their first seasons? Or that enjoyed by the Thrashers in their first three season? It wasn’t just because those teams were a curiosity. The fan support was there, but for most of these teams, subsequent years of unstable ownership and/or mismanagement drove away the fans.

    For all but one season between 2000-01 to 2007-08, the Bruins regularly finished in the bottom third of the league in attendance, averaging between 84-87 percent capacity. If they were making a profit, it came from jacking up ticket prices or high prices on concessions. When the issue is fan support, it was very apparent the Bruins weren’t drawing them in back then, because the perception was ownership and management weren’t interested in building a winner, continually dealing away stars when they were due significant raises.

    The NHL was not to blame for Winnipeg and Quebec City losing their franchises in the 1990s. That’s a myth. Their former owners demanded new arenas be built, and when the respective cities refused, put the teams up for sale. No buyers stepped forward willing to keep those teams in those markets, so they were sold to buyers who relocated them.

    The reason the league has fought so hard to keep the Coyotes is Phoenix is because of the market size, as it’s among the largest in the United States. However, they cannot afford to do that for every team. Bettman and company weren’t happy to lose Atlanta, but there simply wasn’t anyone willing to make a bid to keep the Thrashers there, though the previous ownership tried for three years to find one.

    Small Canadian markets are attractive now because the Canadian dollar is at par. My concern for Winnipeg, however, is if they can maintain a competitive franchise, in the smallest venue in the league, if the Cdn dollar falls again against the American dollar. Don’t say that can’t happen. In early 2009, the loonie fell to 78 cents US. It’s only because the American economy was hurting so much more, plus the price of oil rose, than the loonie over time went back to par. The US economy, however, won’t be hurting forever, and when it recovers, the Canadian dollar could decline again in value. Even if it only declines to 85 cents US, that could be a problem for the Jets.

  8. One of the biggest reasons for Phoenix’s issues, especially a few years back is the fact the rink is nowhere near the city, being almost an hour away, or a $100.00 cab ride. Couple that with with the team struggling at the time and their lack of playoff success led to limited numbers. Then when the team started to have some success on the ice, all that was heard about them is “they are moving”. Why would any fan invest time and money in a team that is moving.

    Its been an unfortunate set of dominoes for Phoenix, but I am one Canadian who believes if the right owner comes along, it can work.

  9. @ SmielmaN

    No way the Jackets take on a ridiculous contract like that of a “has-been.” Unless the Jackets GM is trying to screw up trading one of there few assets then I see no way in hell Kaberle is out of a Canadiens uniform for awhile. Honestly Canadiens fans just gotta live with it. They trade for some herendous “non-expiring” contracts.

  10. Sorry I offended you Sabres fan. I’m sure the brilliant 4 mill boyes and 4.75 mill Leino contracts will be highly sought after. As well as the 10 mill erhoff. Pardon me for dreaming out loud.

  11. If watching the Wings/Preds game last night didn’t convince Poile of his teams need for a skilled forward, I’m afraid nothing will. A serious lack of creativity among the Preds group of hard working forwards.

  12. Old Soldier

    Sorry that does not really add as well as Lyle thinks..

    “being almost an hour away, or a $100.00 cab ride”

    Since when did Phoenix become NYC is a sprawl city predicated on car ownership. An hour away that’s not all the far in the west and according to whom anyway? Its closer to downtown Phoenix than the say the Suburban Lions (formerly) and Pistons arenas are to Detroit. Is that adding congestion because the same factors can a lot place look like a long drive: I lived in Houston for 5 years my daughter’s gymnastics place was all of 10 miles away but when she got stuck with lessons around e rush hour it took 45+ minutes to get there. Fact is Phoenix, is a big pile of sprawl and in all likely-hood any arena will always be ‘an hour’ from some significant portion of the population depending on traffic and were you start.

    “Why would any fan invest time and money in a team that is moving”

    Invest? You have to have an investment account to go see a hockey game? I want to go see hockey game today and all I have to invest is the opportunity cost of not seeing a different sport or entertainment. I suppose I might not buy a jersey (but if my kids is excited I am betting they don’t consider that logic) but I still going to overpriced hot dogs, popcorn and beer, pay parking etc.
    Th fact Phoenix gate take is so low is is the clincher even as a consistently decent team, charging rates that are likely lower than good AHL teams with fans and League that has been committed to keeping the team put, Phoenix can’t even draw a crowd. That is the Myth of the ‘Big Market” – that fine as a preliminary step but is hockey really viewed as an equal substitute for other sports and activities?

    “if the right owner comes along”

    That not a good argument. Sure any NHL team could succeed anywhere with the right/perfect owner…

    Let’s use Mike Ilitch as an example: A billionaire who loves sports and Detroit and is willing to bankroll losses. His sports team is not an ‘asset’ that is being used to leverage some other investment. Thus profitability is more or less not a short or even long term issue. Said owner also owns all kinds of complimentary service industries and properties in the city and thus is committed to it (the city) and can make money in any number of ways of the team indirectly.

    Now while I admit that is at the extreme but there are not too many ‘right owners’ out there. But there are a fair number of opportunities to play Sports mogul. Most owners will never have half the benefits of Detroit or the Rangers have and unlike most other major American sports they can have little expectation for much TV revenue.

  13. Paul, if you don’t believe fans won’t invest in a team that’s going to move, check out the attendance figures for the old Winnipeg Jets in their final season there. Everyone knew that team was leaving during their final season, and their attendance plummeted accordingly. Yes, they sold out their final few games, but over the course of the season, attendance was well down compared to the previous years. You might be keen to still watch a team that’s under constant threat of relocation, but you’re in a minority. Most won’t, no matter how low the ticket prices.

    Again, had the Coyotes not been mismanaged and poorly run for years, their fan base wouldn’t have suffered. I’ve cited numerous examples of that occurring in so-called “traditional hockey markets”. If the Coyotes had been a well-run Cup contender but couldn’t draw flies, you wouldn’t get an argument out of me. But that’s not the case, and you simply cannot so blithely dismiss the factors which led to the decline in their fan base in recent years. Old Soldier’s point about stable ownership is a strong one.

  14. “You might be keen to still watch a team that’s under constant threat of relocation, but you’re in a minority. Most won’t, no matter how low the ticket prices.”

    Look the choice is what am I going to watch today – if it hockey I still don’t see what it matters about the teams future. If there is some supposed fan base who wants to watch hockey I don’t see why they would not go to a game.

    “But that’s not the case, and you simply cannot so blithely dismiss the factors which led to the decline in their fan base in recent years”

    But Toronto has not been a cup contender in decades and yet is remains the wealthiest franchise in the NHL…

    The problem with the if only argument is that the current parity efforts in the NHL – not just the cap, but roster limits # of contract limits etc all say the NHL expects all teams to rise and fall. It seems a bit disingenuous say the NHL would have succeeded in Phoenix if only it had a great Arena deal, a perfect owner, and was a legitimate cup contender (for how long?) – how many teams are cup contenders? and for how many years at a time.

  15. Paul, you’re still referring about what “you” would do. You’re only representative of yourself, not the majority of hockey fans in any given city. I’ve patiently explained to your earlier in this thread why the Coyotes are having difficulty attracting fans despite their improved record over the past three years.

    The Leafs are an anomaly, same as the Canadiens. They’re the only “true” hockey markets in Canada which can make money, regardless of their highs and lows. The facts support this. Most NHL markets, including the other Canadian markets, have seen their attendance decline, at times significantly, during periods when they performed poorly. Historical attendance records bear this out.

    The CBA doesn’t prevent owners and general managers from doing stupid things. It’s also not disingenuous to suggest the Coyotes would do better if they had better ownership. You’re making an assumption they wouldn’t, with no foundation of fact to support your claim. I’ve indicated several factors which explain why they’ve struggled, which include ownership woes, bad management, nearly a decade of icing a bad product, and now, the constant threat of relocation.

    Again, if the Coyotes were a stable, Cup-contending franchise that couldn’t draw, you’d get no argument out of me that they’re a lousy hockey market. Heck, if they’d at least been a stable, competitive team and couldn’t draw, I wouldn’t argue. But that’s not the case, and those factors much be taken into account.

    We cannot just blithely assume Phoenix is a lousy hockey market without full examination of the facts, which is what I’ve provided (albeit in shortened form) in this thread.