Rumor Roundup: Blueliners plentiful in upcoming UFA crop

Marc Staal (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recently listed his top-20 NHL unrestricted free agents for 2015. What’s notable about Custance’s list, apart from the lack of genuine superstar talent in next summer’s UFA market, is that it’s dominated by defensemen.

The notables include Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin, Boston’s Adam McQuaid, Carolina’s Andrej Sekera, Chicago’s Johnny Oduya, Pittsburgh’s Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin, Toronto’s Cody Franson,Washington’s Mike Green, the Rangers’ Marc Staal and the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk. Read more

Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens all billion dollar organizations according to Forbes

Madison Square Garden

My, what a difference one year and a massive TV contract can make.

In 2013, when American business magazine Forbes released their NHL franchise valuations, only one team was said to be a billion dollar organization: the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.15 billion). That the Leafs were – and still are – the most valued team in the NHL comes to little surprise what with a fan base that continually shells out top dollar regardless of the outcome. It is hockey mecca, like it or not.

But Tuesday, when Forbes released its rankings for 2014, two franchises, the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, found themselves in the billion dollar club thanks in large part to a friendly bump from the NHL’s league-wide television deals plus some added money from local television contracts. Read more

Martin St-Louis: still crazy for goals after all these years

Adam Proteau
Martin St-Louis' 1,000th point adds to an already-loaded resume. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Martin St-Louis may be 39 years old, but the reason he’s headed for the Hockey Hall of Fame when his career is over is because he’s never stopped playing with the hunger of a rookie. You could see that on display Sunday night when St-Louis‘ New York Rangers hosted the Montreal Canadiens and the right winger scored a beautiful goal that was all about extra effort.

The Blueshirts were already up 2-0 on the Habs late in the second period when St-Louis turned on the jets chasing a puck into Montreal’s zone, then picked the pocket of defenseman Alexei Emelin before flipping the puck up and past goalie Dustin Tokarski for his eighth goal of the season: Read more

Oilers legends were impeccable in Edmonton, but since they’ve moved on? Peccable. Very Peccable.

Adam Proteau
Kevin Lowe (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When you consider what the glory-days Edmonton Oilers accomplished as players, you have to stand back in awe. Few teams were ever as ferocious. Fewer could boast of the stunning depth and breadth of their talent. From Wayne Gretzky to Mark Messier to Paul Coffey to Jari Kurri to Grant Fuhr and so many more, the franchise was like a Hockey Hall of Fame Factory that churned out legends the way potato chip companies now churn out preposterous flavors (coming soon: butterscotch pine blueberry guacamole mortadella cheese omelette), and their fans were treated to nightly exhibitions of the best the sport had to offer.

But since the Oilers won the last of their five Stanley Cups nearly a quarter-century ago, things rarely have gone the Oilers’ way. In fact, things have usually gone out of their way to avoid going the Oilers’ way. And if you look at the exploits of Edmonton’s key figures from those peak years after they left Edmonton – as coaches, as GMs – it becomes readily apparent that on-ice success doesn’t translate to the management suite.

In Phoenix, Gretzky had a slew of different titles (including alternate governor, managing partner, head of hockey operations and head coach), but he was unable to steer that team to any success before departing in 2009. In Manhattan, former Oilers coach and GM Glen Sather has been a success if you judge success by Eastern Conference championships (one in 13 seasons) and perpetual roster turnover, but not by any other metric. And of course, In Edmonton, Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish have been at or near the Oilers’ reins of power since Sather left the organization in 2000, yet they’ve proven utterly incapable of pushing the franchise back into relevance.

And quite frankly, it’s shocking owner Daryl Katz continues to operate as if they’ve got the answers.

It may have felt great for Katz to bank on Lowe and MacTavish when he bought the team in 2008, and it’s easy to see why: Katz is an Edmonton native who was in his early twenties when the duo were playing integral roles in the Oilers’ dynasty, and bringing them aboard was always going to play well in the press. Lowe and MacTavish are confident, intelligent men who could inspire many who count themselves as hardened cynics. These weren’t snake oil salesmen.

The only problem with hiring former stars as management figures to deliver you a Cup is this: it doesn’t work.

Take a look through the list of Cup champions, and you will find few, if any who were being led by former star players for the franchise. Read more

Americans rarely came out ahead of Rangers in this battle of New York

Stan Fischler
Rangers_644x427

Everything about the New York Americans was bizarre, from the club’s oddly illegitimate birth to its remarkable involvement in the longest hockey game ever played in the Big Apple.

Let’s start with the fact that the Star-Spangled skaters arrived on Broadway in the fall of 1925 because of an illegal players strike in Canada the previous spring. Angry because they were denied a post-season bonus, the Hamilton Tigers refused to show up for the playoffs. NHL president Frank Calder suspended the strikers and then helped move the Tigers into just-completed Madison Square Garden. Just like that, the Tigers became the New York Americans. Meanwhile, the shadowy, behind-the-scenes enabler happened to be one of the most notorious gangsters of the Roarin’ 20s.

Read more

Friday’s Rangers-Sabres game postponed due to Buffalo blizzard

Matt Larkin
SnowBuffalo

Weather isn’t always news, but the situation in Buffalo can no longer be ignored. It’s astounding and scary.

Lake Effect snow has pummelled Buffalo this week, including an unbelievable 65 inches in one 24-hour span. That’s more than five feet, with several more feet expected to accumulate by the end of Thursday before the storm moves out Friday and warmer temperatures arrive.

The storm has taken a devastating toll, claiming eight lives and stranding countless people in their homes and vehicles. It’s affected the sports world, too. The Buffalo Bills/New York Jets game this weekend is in jeopardy, or at least could be moved to another city, after Ralph Wilson Stadium accumulated the most snow in its history.

The Sabres managed to play Tuesday, except for agitator Patrick Kaleta, who lives in Hamburg, N.Y. and was completely snowed into his house.

Read more

Giroux makes unexpected return, but it’s not enough to end Flyers’ troubles – or prevent a Ron Hextall rant

Adam Proteau
Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux was seen entering Madison Square Garden Wednesday before his team’s game against the New York Rangers, he was in a walking boot – so it was quite the shocker when the team announced Giroux would be playing the Blueshirts that night. But unfortunately for Flyers fans, neither Giroux’s presence nor a stellar showing from goalie Steve Mason would be enough to propel them to victory. Instead, they got a nasty tongue-lashing from GM Ron Hextall after their 2-0 loss.

You can see where Hextall’s frustration comes from: this was his team’s third straight loss and fifth defeat in their past 10 games. His Flyers now sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the Metropolitan Division, just a single point ahead of the Hurricanes and three points ahead of the last-place Blue Jackets. And he also saw defenseman Michael Del Zotto – one of the few bright spots for a franchise that’s faced a number of physical ailments ready this season – sidelined with a lower-body
injury
following a collision with Rangers blueliner Dan Girardi.

So although it was heartening in some ways to see Giroux tough it out after injuring himself in practice Monday, it also could speak to the desperation running through the Flyers at the moment. Read more

Prince Albert Raiders’ new mascot is an offensive nod to the past

Adam Proteau
Prince Albert Raiders mascot (CTV Saskatoon)

Teams revisit their past all the time when promoting themselves via a redesign of their jersey, logo or mascot, but the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders have made a sizeable mistake in doing so this season.

To wit: the Raiders unveiled their new mascot this week – an Arabian “raider” character named “Boston Raider” after a tie-in to an area pizza sponsor – which is based on their original logo from the early 1980s:

The new mascot’s appearance does not sit well with a number of people who believe it stereotypes those of Middle Eastern heritage. Rhonda Rosenberg, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan’s executive director, told the Canadian Press she found it plays into discriminatory views of people from the region.

“The idea of a somewhat violent Muslim man is a stereotype that is really difficult for a lot of people to live with,” Rosenberg said. “Mascots are not where we should be depicting cultural groups of people. We just need to look at what values and ideas are being put forward, and whether they are really embodying what we want to be sharing.”

A team spokesman said the franchise never intended to offend anyone, nor does it believe the mascot to be “a negative representation of Middle Eastern people and their culture”. They might not, but in this day and age where society is rightfully trying to be respectful toward all ethnicities, the Raiders’ new mascot is a mistake. What may have been seen as appropriate decades ago isn’t always appropriate today; this is why a song like Ray Stevens’ “Ahab The Arab” – a top five radio hit when it was released in 1962 – is seen as patently offensive now.

Eras and tastes change, and sometimes the past is better left where it is. And if the Raiders are smart, they’ll send their new mascot to join former AHL mascot “Scorch” in the scrapyard.