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’s almost as though it’s out of Slap Shot, a last-place minor pro team in the northeast plays out the season amid news the team will be sold to new owners in the sunbelt. Except there are no Hanson Brothers and no Federal League championship for one of the most iconic cities in the history of the American League. It could, however, face the same fate as the fictional Charlestown Chiefs.
It’s hard to believe that Springfield, Mass., could be without an AHL presence for the first time in 60 years and that one of the charter members of the league could be out of the loop starting next season. But that has come one step closer to reality with the news that the Arizona Coyotes, a team that couldn’t even support itself a couple of years ago, now ‘hones’ the Springfield Falcons, with plans to move the team to Tucson as early as 2016-17. The Coyotes announced Tuesday they had signed a purchase agreement with Falcons owner Charlie Pompea and hope to move into the Tucson Convention Center next season.
Having no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs was expected to have an adverse effect on TV ratings, but even people in the industry are taken aback at how viewers north of the 49th parallel have tuned out this year’s tournament in CBC and Sportsnet.
Through the first five nights of hockey in the playoffs – from last Wednesday (April 13) through Sunday (April 17) – an average of just 513,000 viewers tuned into the 20 NHL playoff games. Compare that to last spring when there were five Canadian teams playing in the first round and an average of 1.306 million viewers tuned into the first 21 first-round games. That’s a drop of 61 percent from last season.
Sadly, we cannot ask Pat Quinn what he thinks of the NHL’s implementation of a coach’s challenge for offside calls. As it was with almost any subject from World War II strategy to the neutral zone trap, it would have been very interesting to hear the former coaching great’s perspective on it.
Your trusty correspondent has been covering this game for almost 30 years and they have never seen a coach who had a deeper disdain for officials than Quinn did. And the roots of that go back to May 24, 1980. And if you want to talk about how one of these overturned calls can change a game or a series, consider the fact that not one, but two were not overturned that day had an enormous impact on a series, a career and a legacy.
At some point, this season or next, Dustin Tokarski is going to skate out and take his spot in the crease for his 256th game in hockey’s minor leagues. When it happens, there’s a good chance Corey Crawford won’t notice. Why would he? The guy is a big shot now, with two Stanley Cups under his belt and probably more coming. He’s pulling down $6.5 million large, with another $23 million coming over the next four years. He has full control of the net and the unwavering confidence of the franchise that has set the gold standard for all others in the NHL. Why should he care about some journeyman backup making a start in the minors on Tuesday night in Bakersfield or Elmira or playing against something called the Greenville Swamp Rabbits?
Here’s why. Because when Tokarski finally plays that game – he was at 249 and the third goalie for the San Diego Gulls in the AHL – Crawford will finally be able to say that somebody in this freakin’ goalie business has played more games in the minors than he has. Of the 86 goalies who had appeared in the NHL this season as of mid-March, not a single one had played as many games in minor pro backwaters as Crawford had. For five years, spanning 255 games, Crawford played in the minors, first in Norfolk, Va., then three years in Rockford, Ill., a place whose claim to fame is Home of the Sock Monkey. Read more
Before the Boston Bruins announced Thursday that Claude Julien will be coming back next season – he might want to freshen up that resume though, you know, just in case – it was assumed that it were let go that he’d instantly head to the top of the list of candidates to coach the Ottawa Senators.
Julien is one of the best, if not the best, coach in hockey today. What’s to say that a bench boss of that ilk would even want to coach the Senators? First, you’re working for a loose cannon. Second, you’re working for a loose cannon that owns a budget team. It’s one thing to be wildly eccentric and rich, a la George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones. It’s quite another to work for a guy who writes checks with his mouth that his team’s bank account can’t cash.
Going into their first round playoff series, the New York Rangers had two decided advantages over the Pittsburgh Penguins. One of them was in goal and the other was that Sidney Crosby hadn’t exactly been a force in the playoffs against the Rangers.
Funny how things go in the playoffs. It took almost no time for things to be turned on their ear and for those two advantages for the Rangers to be extinguished by the Penguins. Jeff Zatkoff, a 28-year-old minor leaguer who has a 3-8-0 record and a 4.26 goals-against average in the American League playoffs, is the second-last player listed in the NHL Guide and Record Book. And he was probably the last player anyone would have expected to emerge as a hero in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs.
The three top prospects for this year’s NHL draft all played in Europe this season and they’re all projected to become enormous stars in North American and make millions of dollars over the course of their careers. And if things go as planned, they’ll be a cash cow for their NHL employers, as well.
But what about the teams they’re leaving? In the case of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, the Tappara and Karpat teams in the Finnish League will not only be losing their best players, they’ll also be parting with two young men in whom they’ve invested an huge amount of resources. And once they sign deals with the NHL teams that select them, they’re receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. That’s it. Nothing more. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any more money. And in the case of the Zurich Lions in the Swiss League, they won’t receive a cent.
So through all of this Pavel Datsyuk news, one key question emerges. Can anyone explain how what Datsyuk might do in 2016 to the Detroit Red Wings is any different than what Chris Pronger did to the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago?
Well, there is the fact that Pronger orchestrating his departure from Edmonton in 2006 would not have left the Oilers with a potentially crippling hit leaving them in salary cap hell, so there is that. But aside from that, nothing. Both were superstars who left their teams and turned their backs on contracts they had signed in good faith. Both of them left for family reasons.