We’ll let some marketing genius or anthropological intellectual explain to us the phenomenon that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. But somehow, a business that has consistently produced an inferior product for the better part of four decades, continues to succeed wildly at the cash register and in popularity polls.
The Leafs are the No. 1 NHL outfit in terms of franchise value as calculated by Forbes, they have the NHL’s highest ticket prices (average of $373 at resale), and it was announced by Twitter on the opening day of the 2014-15 season they rank first in number of followers on the social media platform.
On the day he was honored with his own stamp, the man many hockey fans feel was the greatest player of all-time gave his stamp of approval for that designation to Gordie Howe. Bobby Orr threw his support behind Mr. Hockey in the never-ending debate concerning the greatest player ever to play the greatest game. “Gordie is, in my mind, the greatest ever,” said Orr, who recently penned the foreword for Howe’s memoir, Mr. Hockey. “His numbers are outrageous and most of that was with the six teams, when it was a lot tougher. I don’t think there’s any question. Play any way you want to play…he was special.” Read more
No need to play the 2014-15 season, National Hockey League. Yes, that may cut into the $4 billion in revenues you’re expected to generate, but think of the cost savings for teams that lose money.
Really, why actually play a season when a simulated NHL season has already been played, the Stanley Cup has been awarded and all the awards winners have already been determined? That’s what EA Sports, creators of the NHL 15 video game, have done. And they’ve determined that the Los Angeles Kings will become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. Read more
We’ve known for some time the NHL is at a crossroads when it comes to concussions and protecting the heads of players. In the past – and in putting the sport ahead of those who participate in it – the league has had a default position of giving aggressive players the benefit of the doubt on borderline actions. But maybe things are starting to change for the better. And that’s because we’re starting to see the other side of that spectrum: referees making headshot-related calls that err on the side of caution.
Such was the case Sunday night, when Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi was ejected in the third period of Montreal’s game against Washington after he hit Capitals forward Nate Schmidt at the Habs blueline:
Although some argued Tinordi’s hit was dirty, closer examination – at least, by this viewer – shows Tinordi hit Schmidt cleanly. Read more
NBA superstar LeBron James returning home to Cleveland sparked speculation this summer in the Toronto media suggesting Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could do the same and sign with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016.
The Leafs lack a homegrown star, and Stamkos would be a natural fit. Responding to questions about the possibility, the 24-year-old sniper inadvertently added fuel to the fire by replying, “We’ll see what happens.” However, Stamkos recently clarified his comments, saying he definitely wants to win with the Lightning. Read more
2013-14 record: 46-28-8
Acquisitions: Joey MacDonald, To Gilbert, Jiri Sekac, Manny Malhotra, P-A Parenteau
Departures: Ryan White, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, Josh Gorges, Daniel Briere, Louis Leblanc
Top five fantasy players: Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Last season, an inspired playoff run was derailed in the Eastern Conference final by an injury to superstar goalie Carey Price. In 2014-15, the Habs are hungry to go further, and they’ve got the talent to do it. Price is their most crucial player, but just behind him in the importance department is P.K. Subban, fresh off signing an eight-year, $72-million contract extension. Read more
Ryan Johansen’s contract negotiations with the Columbus Blue Jackets are…contentious. Yesterday started with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen drawing a line in the sand by insinuating the start of training camp as a cut off point. Later on, team president John Davidson took aim at Johansen’s agent Kurt Overhardt by saying the numbers he was throwing out made no sense and were embarrassing.
This sounds like it could be one of the bigger RFA battles the NHL has had in recent years, but there’s still a little time before training camps open. And it’s not like it would be the first time a player has missed the start of training camp with a contract dispute.
It actually used to happen a lot more in the NHL. In the 1990s, it was a regular, yearly thing most teams would have to deal with at one point or another. The only great leverage an RFA without arbitration rights has is to stay home and make the team sweat. It maybe doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but the Johansen situation is hardly unique to the NHL today. Heck, Torey Krug, Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Darcy Kuemper and Cody Eakin are going through their own, less-publicized negotiations right now too.
We take a look at some of the more recent RFAs who missed all or a portion of training camp over a contract dispute and what the outcome was. We didn’t want to look too far back at every situation because market conditions have changed, especially when looking back past the 2004-05 lockout. Anything before then is basically no influence on Johansen’s situation. Just don’t call these guys holdouts.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Prior to last season, Stepan missed 16 days of training camp before settling on a bridge deal with the Rangers. Stepan ended up signing a two-year deal that has a $3.075 million salary cap charge. Read more
Ever since Brian Gionta signed with the Buffalo Sabres, there has been plenty of speculation on who would be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Would it be Max Pacioretty? Andrei Markov? Tomas Plekanec? Or how about Norris winner and face of the franchise, P.K. Subban?
How about all of the above?
Monday, the team announced that each of those players would act as assistant captain this season, instead of selecting one to wear the ‘C’ full time. Since NHL rules dictate that only three players can wear an ‘A’ during a game where there is no captain, the four will be on a rotation. Read more