Sunday, September 19, 2010

NHL in a Nutshell- Oh Captain, My Captain


Hey Pens fans! The leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter, and training camp is underway... it's beginning to look a lot like hockey season!

Obviously, the most important and exciting news around the NHL this week was the start of training camps. That isn’t to say there wasn’t other important and exciting news. A few captain“C”s changed hands (jerseys?), some key players were resigned, and someone even rose from the dead! Sort of.

On-Ice:

-The NHL's Board of Governors officially approved the rule concerning tiebreakers. This rule means that shootout wins will no longer count towards the tiebreaking procedure, putting the focus on regulation and overtime wins. This rule was proposed back in August and it was finally approved this past Tuesday, as was expected. I suppose that's why there hasn't been much of a reaction from the hockey community. Still, I expected there would be more excitement from hockey fans at the rule change. I guess the start of training camp trumps all.

-Evgeni Malkin has verbally confirmed that he will be playing wing this year, even with Jordan Staal sidelined for an estimated 5-6 weeks. It's expected that the two will reunite on the second line when Staal returns, but until then it'll be interesting to see who will center Malkin's line. Newcomer Mike Comrie has been centering a line with Malkin and Eric Tangradi at training camp, although too much shouldn't be read into that just yet.

-This week's title story; Roberto Luongo is no longer the captain of the Vancouver Canucks. Team president/GM Mike Gillis announced Monday that Luongo has made the decision to relinquish the captaincy. Luongo has this to say via Twitter:

"Huge relief to have the C (and media) off my chest. Time to focus on what's really important, like what to eat for breakfast, and stopping pucks."

Right now the candidates to wear Vancouver's "C" appear to be Hart Trophy/Art Ross winner Henrik Sedin and Selke Trophy finalist Ryan Kesler. Kesler is the popular choice among fans.

-The other captaincy related news is that the Montreal Canadiens have named Brian Gionta the new captain for the Canadiens after going captain-less last season. Gionta will be the 28th captain of the historic franchise, but only the second American to have that honor. Rochester, NY represent!!!!! For those of you wondering who was the only other American born Habs captain, I'll give you a hint. Last year he was the only active player from the 1981 NHL entry draft and he has often been jokingly called a zombie. Anyone who guessed Chris Chelios (and I hope everyone did) guessed right.

-Glen Sather actually made a signing that doesn't make Rangers fans want to repeatedly hit themselves over the head with a golf club. Marc Staal is going to be a Ranger for the next five years, for a pretty $3.975 million per season. The Rangers are now $4 million over the salary cap. Who, oh who can they send to Hartford to get under the salary cap?

-The Ducks won the standoff with Bobby Ryan. The free agent winger was reportedly seeking a three-year deal, while the Ducks were hoping to sign him for five. Ryan agreed to a five-year, $25.5 million dollar deal, after talking to fellow Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry about their futures with the Ducks. Ryan has also made it clear that he wasn't looking to make more money than either Getzlaf or Perry (both are on five year deals with cap hits of $5.325 million per season, while Ryan will make $3.25 million for this first season). The deal does not contain either a no-movement or no-trade clause. This signing is a huge win for the Ducks, who now have their three biggest offensive stars locked up and can focus on the upcoming season instead of worrying about getting Ryan signed throughout training camp. They also now have the chance to tinker with the possibility of Ryan making the switch to center. Ryan didn't get the deal he wanted, but he's getting paid a pretty sum and isn't complaining about money. As a result, his Twitter account is still active.

-The Thrashers signed two new players over the week. One was forward Nigel Dawes, who signed a two-way deal for one year, $600,000. ($105,000 in the AHL.) The other was restricted free agent winger Nicklas Bergfors agreed to a one-year, $900,000 deal. Bergfors was sent to the Thrashers this past February as a part of the Ilya Kovalchuk deal. As a rookie last year, Bergfors scored 13 of his 21 goals in a Thrashers uniform last year and ended the season with 44 points. Not exactly Kovalchuk-like numbers, but a breakout sophomore year could make Bergfors a big contributer on offense for Atlanta, and maybe he could score a long-term deal next year. I doubt it would be a blatant cap violation 15 year deal, though.

-Speaking of Kovy, the Russian sniper now has a new position. The Devils had an overabundance of left wingers, so new head coach John MacLean announced yesterday that Kovalchuk will be making the switch to right wing. He will be playing on a line with center Travis Zajac and left wing Zach Parise. MacLean said that Kovalchuk had no problem with the change in position. (Unlike another $100 million dollar man.) If Kovalchuk, Parise and Zajac can develop chemistry, that line has potential to be one of the most lethal in the NHL. Anyone else a little extra grateful to Ray Shero for the Pens' offseason defensive acquisitions?

-The Stars made two key resignings of their own this week. Jamie Neal and Matt Niskanen both signed on for another two years. Neal's deal will count for $2.25 million against the cap this year, and $3.5 million in 2011-12. Niskanen's consists of a $1.25 million cap hit this year and $1.75 million next year. Hopefully these signings will placate all the diehard hockey fans in Dallas. Wait...

-Veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja is attending the Sharks training camp for a tryout. He had been offered a tryout with the Red Wings, but spurned his former team in favor of the Sharks. I thought this was worth mentioning because the Red Wings now only have five players over age 35 on their roster, an all-time low for the franchise.

-It's no secret that the Bruins have been looking to trade center Marc Savard this offseason, so there were some that predicted the 33-year-old would not be on ice for Bruins training camp this season. Well, anyone who made that prediction will turn out to be right, but for the wrong reason. Savard is suffering from post-concussion syndrome symptoms, though Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli would not reveal the exact symptoms. Savard has not been working out for the past few weeks because of his ailment and will miss training camp. There is no predictable timeline for his return. Looks like Matt Cooke is up for another rude welcome next time the Pens play Boston.

-Eric Belanger is now a Phoenix Coyote, at least for one year. Belanger signed a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Coyotes, a good value deal for them, but Belanger has a bone to pick with the Capitals, his former team. He thought he had reached a verbal agreement with the team, but it was withdrawn for some reason. Belanger was very publicly bitter about the whole situation, saying that Capitals had crossed the line. Belanger's anger is very understandable, considering he thought he had a deal in place but now has to move his family across the country and re-enroll his two daughters in a new school. Even though a verbal agreement is different from a signed contract, the Caps are going to look like the villains in this whole mess.

Off-Ice:

-Happy 40th birthday to Dan Bylsma! Have a fantastic day and keep our boys in black and gold plugging away! (Unintentional rhymes rock.)

-As I'm sure everyone's heard by now, the Penguins have a new slogan; "Destiny Has A New Home". It's fitting given the opening of the beautiful new Consol Energy Center, and a step up from "Defy Ordinary". Also, James Santilli, the Pens Vice President of marketing, stated that "A Great Day For Hockey" will still be a part of the marketing campaign.

-There was a report on Friday that former NHL coach Pat Burns, who's currently battling lung cancer, had died. This was news to Pat Burns, who is still very much alive. To verify that he is still alive and kicking, Burns called TSN'S Bob McKenzie, who tweeted what Burns told him on the phone:

"Pat Burns just called me. Seriously. Here's what he said. 'Here we go again. They're trying to kill me before I'm dead. I come to Quebec to spend some time with my family and they say I'm dead. I'm not dead, far f------ from it. They've had me dead since June. Tell them I'm alive. Set them straight.'"
Wow. Sounds like Burns is still alive and kicking huh? This situation shows how social media and the desire to be the first to report breaking news can backfire in the worst way. Today's media is more face-paced than ever, thanks to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, which allows news to be announced faster than ever. As a result, there is an increased desire among media to be the first source to break a huge story, and if you're not on the social media bandwagon to instantly discuss a breaking issue, you get left in the dust. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that in situation like this, when a media outlet is more concerned with reporting a story than checking its facts, that things get ugly. I mean, the TV, radio and newspapers that reported Pat Burns' death couldn't wait until the family announced it had happened before sending the Twitterverse into a frenzy? Is being "first" by a few minutes that much more important than a man's life? Rarely does anyone ever remember which source is the first to report a story, but CTV Ottawa and Team 1040 will always be remembered as the first to misreport Burns' death (even if they deleted their original tweets that said he had died). Just some food for thought.

-Ottawa is officially hosting the 2012 All-Star game in Scotiabank Place. It seems only fitting to have the All-Star game shift to Canada the year after it's going to be hosted in Carolina.

-Going back to Kovalchuk again for a minute, the NHL came down hard on the Devils for the original 17 year, $102 million contract Kovy had signed. The Devils are being fined $3 million for attempting to circumvent the salary cap with the aforementioned deal, although the $3 million will not go against the salary cap, as part of the deal the NHLPA and NHL reached last month as part of an amendment for dealing with long-term contracts. The Devils will also have to forfeit a first-round draft pick sometime between 2011 and 2014, and a third-round pick in 2011. New Jersey gets to pick the year they give up the aforementioned first-round pick and they have to decide which year they give up the pick by the time the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals have ended.

-Good news for the Phoenix Coyotes. A potential buyer, who is as yet unnamed, has deposited $25 million in an escrow account. Your eyes do not deceive you; $25 MILLION. That's how much the NHL had demanded to cover potential losses for the upcoming season while looking for someone to buy the team. The potential buyer requested anonymity during the ongoing negotiations. (Insert Winnipeg Jets joke and/or southern hockey franchise joke here.) There is a rumor going around about the identity of the potential buyer, but in wake of the Pat Burns situation, I'm not going to say who it is.

-This isn't direct NHL news but I thought it deserved to be mentioned; Penn State has decided to create a Division I hockey team. Given the size and name of the college, this is great addition for NCAA hockey. There are a lot of details left to be worked out, but there is now talk of a Big Ten Conference could be formed for NCAA hockey, given that Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and now Penn State all have Division I hockey teams. There are already great rivalries between these teams because of football/basketball, and those rivalries do spill over to hockey. If the Big Ten cable TV network (a big cash cow) would start showing hockey on nights where there's no football or basketball being played, the future could be very bright indeed for American hockey.

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