Ottawa Senators Tattoos
Linda Goertzen, Brockville, Ont.
Linda Goertzen, Brockville, Ont.
It was good start for the modern incarnation of the World Cup of Hockey. What lessons can we apply from 2016 to improve the format in 2020?
The World Cup of Hockey was what we thought it was, at least among the level-headed crowd who didn't foolishly decry the idea as a crime against humanity. The stakes weren't high enough to rival the thrill of Olympic competition, but even the grumpiest detractors must admit the hockey was good. That's what happens when you get 184 of the best players on Earth competing in the same tournament. It was impossible for the product not to be entertaining as heck most of the time.
Technically, 2016 marked the third World Cup, but since it was the first in 12 years, it felt like a franchise reboot. And with anything new comes a few bugs to work out. The tournament was fun but not perfect. I've spent the last few days pondering tweaks to improve the format in 2020. The NHL has already announced plans for a followup event then, so why not explore how to make it even better?
1. START THE PLAYOFF ROUND WITH A QUARTERFINAL, NOT A SEMIFINAL
Call it the North America Rule, and it's not just because the team was so darned exciting to watch. The North Americans played very well throughout the 2016 World Cup, beating Sweden and Finland and losing a nailbiter to Russia. The kids looked like a top-three team in the tournament and had a .667 win percentage yet didn't even qualify for the playoff round because only two teams from each group made it. That was unfortunate, especially since the North Americans, being the fastest and most unpredictable team in the field, might have given Canada its toughest test.
Next time, let's transition from the round-robin to a quarterfinal instead of a semifinal. It would feel too warm and fuzzy, however, if all eight teams qualified and the last-place finisher got a chance to upset the first-place team. Instead, how about the second- and third-place teams from each group advance to a quarterfinal while the two group winners get byes to the semifinal? Or, better yet…
2. EXPAND THE FIELD TO 12 TEAMS
The World Cup and the Olympics are different beasts, but the IIHF was still involved in organizing the World Cup, so what's wrong with duplicating the Olympics' tournament format? Let's go with 12 teams, with three groups of four in which each team plays a three-game round-robin. Under this format at the Olympics, the bottom eight teams play qualification matches to earn berths in the quarterfinal against the top four teams. Maybe a pre-playoff round is too much hockey for September, so how about the top eight teams straight-up qualify for the quarterfinal, with no byes handed out, while the bottom four head home?
And if this setup still apes the Olympic tourney too closely for your taste, not to worry…
3. DON'T JUST KEEP THE UNDER-24 TEAM…ADD ANOTHER UNDER-24 TEAM
Team North America made the World Cup must-see TV. The likes of Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Auston Matthews dazzled viewers so much that it felt like many fans were cheering for the kids over their own countries. It would be silly to scrap that idea for 2020, as gimmicky as it was. How about double down and insert an under-24 Euro team? A similar setup in 2016 would've created a squad featuring Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Nikolaj Ehlers and Ramus Ristolainen, among others. Like with Team North America, the Euros 2.0 will be allowed to draw from every nation on its continent, meaning young Finns, Swedes, Russians, Czechs and so on will have to play for this squad.
4. ELIMINATE THE CURRENT VERSION OF TEAM EUROPE FROM THE FIELD
'Team Europe' still exists in my proposed format, but only in the same sense as Team North America, as Europe 2.0 will be a young-stars squad. My timing is odd for this suggestion, sure, as Europe just reached the tourney final, legitimizing the team's concept and skyrocketing Ralph Krueger's stock as a coach. But when this tournament concludes, how many of us will look back and marvel at the way Team Europe captured our hearts and brought us to our feet? Team North America won the unofficial Gimmick Bowl. And while the Euro players have banded nicely together under Krueger, most or all would rather suit up for their individual countries. So let's imagine a group layout looking something like…
More teams, more countries represented, more playoff rounds, plus all the gimmicky fun that stole the show in 2016. How about it for 2020?
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
Teams like the Bruins, Coyotes, Rangers, and Oilers will make offers for Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Here's a look at who the front runners are.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba's trade request has set the hockey world abuzz. In a statement through his agent Kurt Overhardt, Trouba claims he wants a bigger role skating on the right side of the blueline and doesn't believe he'll get that opportunity with the Jets. He subsequently said the decision had nothing to do with the city of Winnipeg, the Jets organization or money.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff responded by saying his camp will “work diligently” to resolve this matter, adding they'll have no further comment until a resolution is reached. In other words, Cheveldayoff has no intention of discussing trade possibilities through the media.
As a promising young defenseman with a right-handed shot, the 22-year-old Trouba will undoubtedly attract considerable attention in the NHL trade market. He's also a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract. Last December, Overhardt denied a report claiming his client sought an eight-year deal worth $7-million annually. Still, the Trouba camp could seek a long-term deal worth at least $5-million per season.
Cheveldayoff won't just give Trouba away. Given his depth in young talent on the roster and within his system, the Jets GM probably won't want a package of draft picks and prospects. He could seek a good young left-shooting defenseman or a top-six winger as part of the return.
Chris Peters of CBS Sports lists the Boston Bruins, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings as potential suitors. NBC Sports' Adam Gretz adds the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche to that list.
Potential destinations for Trouba depend upon salary-cap space and the Jets asking price. Whoever acquires the young rearguard must have sufficient room to sign him. Protecting Trouba in next June's NHL expansion draft will be another factor.
Cap space is definitely an issue for the Red Wings, who sit $4 million above the $73-million cap ceiling. While they'll get cap relief by placing Johan Franzen ($3.9 million cap hit) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) on long-term injury reserve, they'll still have to free up considerable salary to re-sign Trouba.
The Rangers ($1.4 million) and Avalanche ($1.5 million) are also squeezed for cap space. With several Rangers carrying no-movement/no-trade clauses, it's doubtful a fit can be found in New York. The Avs, meanwhile, lack sufficient depth in available assets to tempt the Jets. Having recently made a coaching change, they could be unwilling to make a significant roster move at this time.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reports the Coyotes have long been interested in Trouba and will remains a serious suitor. They have considerable depth in young assets, but only $2.8 million in cap space. While they could get cap relief with Chris Pronger and Dave Bolland (combined cap hit of over $10 million) on LTIR, it could cost them a couple of good young roster players to land Trouba.
With $5.8 million in cap room, the Bruins have some wiggle room and decent young talent on their roster (forwards David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and the recently sidelined Frank Vatrano) and in their system to make a competitive bid. However, Cheveldayoff could ask for left-shooting blueliner Torey Krug as part of the deal.
The Devils ($12.6 million) and Oilers ($8.9 million) have the advantage in cap room. Of the two, the Oilers have the edge in available young assets. Cheveldayoff could be interested in young defenseman Darnell Nurse, but Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli could be reluctant to part with him.
With lots of promising young players and prospects, the Toronto Maple Leafs could also kick the tires on a Trouba deal. Though they have only $2.9 million in cap room, they should free up over $10 million by placing sidelined forwards Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul on LTIR.
Cheveldayoff has the luxury of time to make a trade, but faces the Dec. 1 deadline for signing restricted free agents. If Trouba remains unsigned by that date, he becomes ineligible to play the remainder of the season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Team Canada played arguably its worst best-on-best game since the 2006 Olympics and still came out on top by a comfortable margin. It won't happen again.
The stark contrast between Team Canada and Team Europe was not reflected in the flow of the play or in the score of Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey final. It was, however, on full display after the game ended.
At one gathering in the media room, Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar had this to say after his team’s 3-1 loss to Canada: “I thought this was our best game so far in this tournament.”
Contrast that with Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty right at the next pod. If you hadn’t seen the scoreboard, you would have sworn that they were on the losing end of the equation. “It wasn’t our best,” Stamkos said. “I think we all realize that. At this time of the tournament, a win is a win, so that’s a good thing.”
So there you have it. Team Canada played a terrible game, probably its worst best-on-best effort since the seldom-spoken-of disaster at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. And it won. Team Europe, played the absolute best game of its very short, but illustrious history. And it lost. Which is pretty much what everyone expected before the drop of the puck.
These two teams clearly were not playing to sell tickets, as evidenced by the shocking number of empty seats in the Air Canada Centre, the bargain basement prices for ducats on the secondary ticket market and the almost as shocking dearth of people gathered in Maple Leaf Square outside the arena. And they weren’t playing to entertain, as evidenced by the fact that this gave the Sweden vs. North America semifinal a very spirited run for its money as the most turgid game of the tournament. (It also, by the way, affirmed this columnist’s long-held notion that the better the players, the worse the game from an entertainment standpoint.)
So here Canada sits, one win away from capturing the World Cup, which is essentially where things figured to be at this point in the proceedings. Canada displayed, more than any other time in this tournament, that it is simply too good for all the other countries - and in some cases combination of countries – in the world. There is no expecting Canada to let up here. So now it’s up to the other countries to start getting better. Dynasties usually inspire those chasing them to be better. We’ll see in coming years whether that is indeed the case on the world stage. It certainly hasn’t been the case in women’s hockey, so it’s hardly a given that Canada is going to relinquish its stranglehold on the hockey world anytime soon.
(As an aside, it would be really nice to see a country like Sweden realize that it is producing some outstanding and creative players and start playing like it, instead of relying on the passive style they played in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when they had almost no hope of defeating the Soviets.)
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock had to be pleased with the victory, but not the way it was chalked up. His team looked uninterested in competing through large swaths of the second period. There were uncharacteristic turnovers all over the ice surface and on the first shift, Team Canada was caught watching the game while Team Europe blew by, drawing a penalty on the first shift. By the same token, when Team Canada made the decision to dial in – usually when Sidney Crosby’s line was on the ice – the game was not even close from a possession standpoint. As bad as Team Canada at times, Team Europe was even worse on turnovers that led to goals. The problem is that Team Europe needs about five 10-bell chances to get a goal, while Team Canada only needs one or two.
“We got two points, we had a good third and we scored timely goals on their turnovers,” Babcock said. “I thought they were better than (we were) for large stretches of the game at times. I thought they executed and played fast. I didn’t think we moved the puck at all at times. They looked quicker than they probably were and we looked slower than we probably were. We need more guys on deck than we had tonight. We just weren’t as good as we have been and we’ll be a lot better next game.”
And that’s what’s so scary about this. Babcock is exactly right. Team Canada will almost certainly be better in Game 2 than it was in Game 1. And that is terrible, terrible news for a Team Europe that might have just inadvertently poked the bear a little too much.
If you're looking for the DNA from some of the best hockey players in the world, you might want to consider dropping a few bucks on a crystal puck.
Nothing really says growing the game like charging 65 bucks ($74.45 with applicable taxes) for a few drops of Zamboni water, does it? Just when you thought the folks who are bringing us the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ had run out of ways to make revenues, they go and turn thawed ice shavings into gold.
Now to be fair, nobody’s holding a gun to anybody’s head here. And for your $65, you’re getting a lot more than just the residue from the Team USA-Czech Republic game here. You’re actually getting a crystal replica World Cup of Hockey puck and lovely box (both made in China) from the people at Fanatics Mounted Memories, Inc. The crystal puck has the water sealed inside of it, water picked up from the ice in an actual World Cup game, a process that is evidenced by an authentic numbered seal along with a picture of a bucket of ice and another of the process of the pucks being filled. A Certificate of Authenticity is signed by Don Moffatt, facilities operations supervisor for the NHL.
“This unique collectible contains authentic playing surface from the World Cup of Hockey 2016,” the certificate beams. “The playing surface was acquired by Fanatics directly from the NHL. This crystal puck is officially licensed by the NHL.”
When your trusty correspondent ventured into the main gift shop at the Air Canada Centre for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™, he was informed that the water-filled crystal pucks were actually moving at a pretty good rate. And why wouldn’t they? As one Twitter follower pointed out, the water in those pucks might have the DNA of some of the greatest hockey players on the planet in it. So you spend your $65, break the crystal puck open and pour it onto your son’s Wheaties in the morning and Presto!, instant millionaire NHL hockey player. Sounds like a pretty wise investment.
And if you need a receptacle to pour your water into, well the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ has you covered there, too. For just $15, you can purchase a 3.5-ounce Mason shot jar, a 16-ounce sublimated pint glass for $25 or a coffee mug for $35. (If you need a big rubber finger to stir it, you can get one of those for $35 as well.) You’re going to want to get a stick in that little guy’s hand as soon as possible, so you might as well pick up a World Cash Grab of Hockey™ mini stick for just $12.
There’s really something for everyone, from a spinning key ring for 10 bucks to a replica puck in a glass case for $30. You’ll be able to brave the elements with a $30 scarf and $35 toque. And if you need somewhere to carry those tickets you paid $513 for before they went on the secondary ticket market for a tiny fraction of the cost, you can pick up a ticket lanyard for just $15 more. (By the way, a count late Wednesday afternoon revealed there are still about 20 tickets available for Game 2 and about 125 for Game 3. So all the tickets have basically been sold. The luxury boxes, which have sat empty even for Canada's game, that's another story. Meanwhile, on the secondary ticket market, those $513 tickets for Game 2 are selling for just over $100 now. Which means the ticket speculators are taking a bath here, not the NHL or NHL Players' Association.)
Now that we’re down to the short strokes of the World Cash Grab of Hockey™, it’s probably time to take stock of where all that money is going. The tournament is projected to earn about $100 million in revenues and $60 million in profits, which is split equally between the league and the NHLPA.
If that’s the case, then each team will earn about $1 million each, if the profits don't end up going into the league's general operating budget. So if you spread that out over the four years until the next World Cash Grab of Hockey™, that means each team will average about $250,000 per year, or enough to pay the coach of their minor league team. Doesn’t sound like it’s worth the effort when you put it that way, does it?
The players, well, that’s a different story. This is not your father’s World Cup and the proceeds are going directly to the players, not the pension fund like the up-and-up days when Alan Eagleson was running things. As reported by Bob McKenzie and Rick Westhead of TSN, the players are still unsure how they’re going to divide the pot. You’d have thought they would have figured it out by now. Some players are of the opinion that the players’ share should be distributed equally among the 184 players who participated in the tournament, 170 of whom are NHLers. If that were the case, each player would receive a check for about $163,000. If it were divided equally among the 720 or so players in the NHL, each player would get about $42,000.
So just to recap here: The World Cash Grab of Hockey™ is selling vials of water for $65. The money made from that and all the other revenues will either go back into the league’s operating budget or help a team pay its minor league coach for the next four years. The rest will be going to pad the bank accounts of players, many of whom are already millionaires (or will be) several times over.
Hope it was worth the effort. And remember, we might be missing NHLers in the Olympics for all of this.