Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
News and views from the meager scraps left by the hockey world in a very slow middle of July:
News: Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson says the organization is trying to figure out, “the right thing to do,” when it comes to restricted free agent Ryan Johansen.
Views: After scoring 33 goals in the regular season and being a force for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, Johansen has earned the right to demand a long-term contract for as much money as he wants. But the fact remains that he would have earned that right even if he had been half as good as he was last season. It’s free agency and any player can ask for whatever he thinks he’s worth. Read more
When Germany won the World Cup last weekend, it vaulted the country to the top of FIFA’s most recent world rankings. It also made Germany the best hockey-football playing country in the world.
Nothing defines a country’s athletic prowess more than its ability to excel in both soccer and hockey. (Why, you ask? Because we said so and it’s summer and in case you haven’t noticed, the hockey world is not exactly brimming with activity these days.) One is known as The Beautiful Game™ and the other one features corner kicks and lots of falling down and gnashing of teeth. Read more
The wrist injury Milan Lucic suffered in Game 7 of the Boston Bruins second-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens is healing quite nicely, thank you very much. But the ignominy he and the Bruins suffered in that same game, well, that’s taking a little longer to wear off.
Shortly after the Bruins lost Game 7 of that series on home ice and were bounced from the playoffs, Lucic underwent surgery to repair the wrist, which he said later got jammed in the first period of that game. Doctors just recently removed the pins and while Lucic has been able to do some lower-body training so far, he has not been able to do any lifting. He hopes to start very soon now that the pins are out of the wrist and it’s on its way to healing fully. Read more
When Forbes magazine came out with its 50 most valuable sports franchises Wednesday, it had just one NHL team on it. You know the one. It plays in The Center of the Hockey Universe™.
Yes, once again the Toronto Maple Leafs are ranked as the most valuable franchise in the NHL at $1.15 billion. That put the Leafs No. 26 on the list with a worth less than half of the No. 1 team, Real Madrid, but ahead of such iconic sports franchises as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Celtics and Chelsea.
It’s important to note that the franchise value was based on solely on the value of the hockey team and its share of non-hockey revenue generated at the Air Canada Centre. Two years ago, 80 percent of the entire Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment empire – which includes the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies – was sold for $1.32 billion, which would have pegged its overall value at about $1.65 billion at the time. Read more
These are interesting times for the Detroit Red Wings. They’re coming off a season in which they just made the playoffs after moving to the far inferior Eastern Conference, went 0-for-everyone in free agency and have a mix of wobbly veterans and kids that could well see their run of 23 straight seasons in the playoffs come to an end.
Head coach Mike Babcock, who has one year left on his contract and would be the biggest free agent on the market next summer if he got there, said recently that he won’t negotiate a contract extension during the 2014-15 season.
Adding another layer to the intrigue is the status of GM Ken Holland. Both he and Babcock are inextricably linked. In fact, Babcock has said in the past he wants to wait to see what Holland’s status will be before addressing his own. Read more
When Bob Nicholson took over as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in 1998, few people outside the hockey industry knew who he was. Over the next 16 years, Nicholson went on to create a corporate monolith that generated millions of dollars in revenues and won countless gold medals on the international stage.
That will be an enormously difficult act to follow. That the board of Hockey Canada has reportedly handpicked Tom Renney to do it is, well, a little curious. Renney is a man of enormous integrity and has a coaching resume – particularly in the international game – that would rival that of anyone in the world. But this is the thing. Hockey Canada is not a hockey team. For the purposes of the president and CEO, Hockey Canada is far more a business than it is a hockey organization. Read more
With the unrestricted free agent market for this summer pretty much picked clean, it’s time to start looking toward 2015. And if you’re doing that, you might be disappointed, since the best free agent out there next summer might be Mike Babcock.
Yes, there’s the likes of Jason Spezza and David Krejci, along with Derick Brassard and Marc-Andre Fleury, but chances are much of the top talent will not even see the calendar turn to July 1 before re-signing with their current teams. Chances are, the Dallas Stars didn’t trade for Spezza only to lose him after one season, so there will be a full-court press to sign him. And the Boston Bruins, for all their cap woes, will probably do everything they can to keep their playmaking center in Krejci. Read more
There was a time not so long ago when NHL executives thought a player’s worth could only be evaluated by two eyeballs at the rink in the form of a scout whose belly was full of coffee and cold pizza. When the Buffalo Sabres scaled back their scouting staff and decided to do more video scouting, they were scoffed at by old-time hockey guys.
Now, though, video is as important a tool to NHL teams as a composite stick or a skate-sharpening machine. Every team employs video on a daily basis to the point where some coaches have iPads on hand to show a player what he did wrong during his most recent shift. If a team wants to sign a prospective free agent, there are companies out there that provide them with footage of every shift he took the previous season.
And that’s about where we are right now in the evolution of advanced statistics in hockey. Those who run NHL teams, generally speaking, see value in them, but there’s still some skepticism. Most GMs are smart enough to know any tool that gives them more information is a good thing, but they’re all still feeling their way around this new phenomenon. Read more