Say What?!? - Nov. 6
Say What?!? - Nov. 6
"Remember, your vote could decide who congratulates us at the White House."
- The Los Angeles Kings' Twitter feed.
"Remember, your vote could decide who congratulates us at the White House."
- The Los Angeles Kings' Twitter feed.
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.
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.
The Predators are primed for a breakthrough but will bad goaltending prevent them from becoming true contenders in the Western Conference?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 2nd in Central
Stanley Cup odds: 17-1
Key additions: P.K. Subban, D; Yannick Weber, D
Key departures: Shea Weber, D; Carter Hutton, G
-Will P.K. Subban have a career year? The conditions appear just right for an explosive Subban campaign. He takes his freewheeling, creative scoring talents to coach Peter Laviolette, who favors an aggressive style and encourages his D-men to join the rush. Subban and Roman Josi already look like one of the league’s top tandems on paper.
Subban is smack in the middle of his prime at 27, and he will have plenty to prove after the Montreal Canadiens shipped him away for Shea Weber.
-Can any Predator score goals other than Filip Forsberg? Forsberg tied Jason Arnott’s franchise record with 33 goals last season. It was only Forsberg’s second full NHL campaign, so a leap to 40 goals and true star status is possible if not probable. But will the other Nashville forwards step up?
James Neal can be counted on for 25 or 30 snipes, but the rest of the group is suspect. If only Colin Wilson could score in the regular season like he does in the playoffs, Nashville’s forward corps would look far more dangerous.
-Is Pekka Rinne in decline? Rinne sparkled with a .923 save percentage two seasons ago, but his .908 mark last season placed him 34th in the NHL. Rinne has finished at .910 or lower three times in his past four seasons. That’s not good enough for a goalie making $7 million annually.
Rinne’s been average to below average more often than not of late and found himself benched in favor of Carter Hutton for consecutive games when healthy at one point last year. That had never happened before. Rinne, 33, needs to make a statement in 2016-17.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Nashville Predators made a huge splash in the off-season trading captain Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, and are a serious dark horse contender because of it. Weber is still very good, but Subban is younger, better, and more suited to the Predators up-tempo style.
Subban joins an already elite top-four that includes Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. Nashville’s defense is the best in the league according to Game Score and it’s thanks in large part to the contributions from their top four, three of whom would be No. 1 D-men on any other team.
That defence needs to be strong as the guy they’re protecting has declined tremendously over the last few seasons. In Nashville’s 2015-16 season preview, I wrote that Rinne’s high standing was based mostly on reputation over actual performance as he’d been struggling over the last few seasons. He preceded to turn in an extremely lacklustre campaign with a .908 save percentage that was actually deceiving considering the quality of shots given up.
For all the talk about Nashville’s ascent into the West’s elite and their dark horse status, Rinne is the one thing holding the team back. They’re the 11th best team according to this model, but their skaters are actually sixth best in the league. This is an elite team that’s likely going to be undone in the first or second round by goaltending. With relative unknown Marek Mazanec as the backup, there isn’t much of a safety net behind Rinne either.
That means they’ll need to score some goals, and while they have a few guys who can get the job done, it’s a pretty average forward group overall. Filip Forsberg is a star in the making and should be good for another 30 goal season, while James Neal has the potential to do the same. Ryan Johansen is the No. 1 center that Nashville has searched for their entire existence and should take another step this season. That trio will shoulder most of the offensive burden, especially since there aren’t many other offensive catalysts further down the lineup.
The Predators have a very good team here that’s on the cusp of something great, but they need to figure out a better strategy in goal because pretending Rinne is still 27 likely won’t pan out.
Up next: Philadelphia Flyers
Previously: Toronto Maple Leafs | Edmonton Oilers | Vancouver Canucks | Columbus Blue Jackets | Calgary Flames | Winnipeg Jets | Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Montreal Canadiens | Colorado Avalanche | New Jersey Devils | Ottawa Senators | Carolina Hurricanes | Boston Bruins | Detroit Red Wings