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.
It certainly doesn’t look as though either Bill Foley or George McPhee has the patience to slowly build their expansion team into a contender. Everything both of them said when McPhee was named GM of the team pointed to transforming this franchise into a contender sooner rather than later.
McPhee will certainly have a better chance at doing that than his predecessors. The expansion draft rules will give the team a chance to ice a competitive roster in the short term. By being able to protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie, some of the other 30 teams in the league will be forced to expose some legitimate NHL talent. But when you’re looking at, in a best-case scenario, the No. 8 forward, the No. 4 defenseman and the No. 2 goalie on each team’s depth chart who are third-year pros, the pickings might not be quite as spectacular as you might think.
The Las Vegas expansion franchise will name the first GM in its history Wednesday, and while it appears that owner Bill Foley has scanned the hockey world interviewing candidates, things keep circling back to two prominent hockey names – Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby and former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee.
(UPDATE: I spoke with a very reliable NHL source at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday who told me he has been told by four different people that McPhee will in fact be named GM.)
When the team interviewed candidates for the job recently, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill put in a strong performance. But the sense in the hockey industry is that Foley and former NHLer Murray Craven, who is assisting him in the process, settled on Mellanby and McPhee early on as their frontrunners and someone would have to really impress them in order to unseat them from that position.
By the time John Chayka was born in the summer of 1989, David Poile had been a GM in the NHL for seven seasons. Lou Lamoriello was two years into his job as the president and GM of the New Jersey Devils, and Ken Holland was a western Canada scout for the Detroit Red Wings. And Jim Rutherford had already been named the executive of the year – in the OHL.
As the youngest GM in NHL history – the youngest in the history of any professional sport, according to the Arizona Coyotes – Chayka will soon be talking trades and wheeling and dealing with men who were plying their trades since before he was born. How well he does will be a referendum on the analytics industry.
The American League is often seen as a petri dish for future NHL rules, but there’s no chance the NHL will be adopting the minor pro circuit’s recent rule changes regarding fighting. And that’s mostly because it doesn’t have to because it doesn’t face the same issues when it comes to fighting that the AHL does.
And that’s because, even though its teams seem perfectly content to sign one-dimensional players such as Michael Liambas to two-way contracts, it actually doesn’t have the problems a guy such as Liambas brings to the game. Effectively kicked out of two leagues already in his career, Liambas has averaged during his pro career one goal every 21.2 games and one fight in every 2.6. According to hockeyfights.com, Liambas had 20 fights in the AHL last season, which is more than nine entire NHL teams had in 2015-16. In fact, Liambas had three more fights than the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings had combined.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately. I am not comparing junior hockey teams to sweatshops. That would be ridiculous. But it seems the arguments we’ve been hearing lately to keep junior hockey from paying its players minimum wage has some parallels to those who defend sweatshops.
There are those who will point out that as bad as sweatshops are, they’re a lot better than the alternative for a good number of people. Pulling a rickshaw or working the land for even less money than people make in a sweatshop can make the case for them a little more compelling. There have been those who have opined that some people in Third World countries are, in fact, better off because of the existence of sweatshops.
The most notable exclusion from the 24 players who filed for salary arbitration Tuesday was Petr Mrazek, but that doesn’t mean the Detroit Red Wings goaltender won’t be included in the process. Sources have told thn.com that the Red Wings will take Mrazek to arbitration before teams are required to file at 5 p.m. (eastern time) Wednesday.
This is a bit of a chess game here. Had Mrazek filed for arbitration, the Red Wings would have been able to choose either a one- or two-year reward. With the Red Wings filing, Mrazek will now have the choice of a one- or two-year award. Regardless, it means Mrazek is guaranteed to have a deal with the Red Wings for at least one season and will be available to the Red Wings for the start of the season. Mrazek is expected to be the Czech Republic’s No. 1 goaltender for the World Cup of Hockey.
So let’s say the SM Liiga in Finland, along with its players’ association, wanted to start a World Cup of Hockey of its own. And let’s say that in exchange for getting NHL and NHL Players’ Association approval and sanction, it was offering each of them $500,000 plus the ticket revenue from one pre-tournament game.
Suffice to say that after the negotiators from the NHL and NHLPA got back onto their chairs and recovered from their laughing fit, they’d probably walk out the door, never to be seen again.
But that’s exactly what’s happening, in reverse, in the 2016 World Cash Grab of Hockey™. The event is expected to generate about $130 million in revenues and $65 million in profits, which will be split 50/50 between the NHL and the players. The federations that have developed the players and will be allowing the World Cash Grab™ to use their logos and players, meanwhile, will be receiving a pittance.
It’s early July, so obviously there’s another important day coming up on the hockey calendar. Coming up next: the deadline for restricted free agents to file for arbitration, which is on the docket for Tuesday.
This will likely be a procedural day for many players because so few actually end up going the full distance in arbitration, but one thing it will do is tell us which players will definitely be in uniform for their teams at the start of training camp in the fall. That’s because arbitration forces a ruling on both sides, meaning the player is under contract for either one or two more seasons.