"Right now our Corsi stat sucks, but we're winning games."
- Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis
"Right now our Corsi stat sucks, but we're winning games."
- Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis
Auston Matthews and Jonathan Toews
The best way to describe Auston Matthews and Jonathan Toews squaring off in a pure shooting competition is pure destruction. The rookie Maple Leaf and veteran Blackhawk destroyed anything they could find.
Ahead of the draft, the comparisons for Auston Matthews were plentiful, but Jonathan Toews was one of the oft-mentioned modern era players that Matthews was projected to be similar to.
But what better way to compare the Blackhawks captain and the Maple Leafs rookie than seeing them go head-to-head in a shot-for-shot competition?
The video, released by Bauer to promote the Nexus 1N stick, is fantastic. Even the acting to kick it all off isn’t half bad, all things considered. Matthews and Toews take aim at just about everything possible on the rink, but it’s hard to be impressed by anything more than Toews picking out the crossbar on his first attempt. It’s made that much better by Toews’ fist pump and Matthews’ silence followed by a subtly muttered, “I hate you.” Take a look:
The destruction of the objects surrounding the rink makes everything about this more fun, too. Toews’ chortle when Matthews hits the “director’s chair” is Santa-like, and the way the coffee cup explodes with the short saucer pass from Matthews is great.
From there, Toews takes on a light and Matthews absolutely destroys a camera, and Matthews and Toews battle over the destruction of the craft services table, which offers some of the best jabs throughout the video.
Matthews first calls out Toews for his love of vegetables — seriously, Toews grows his own herbs, lettuce, spinach and greens in his home in Chicago — and then makes fun of the veteran Blackhawks star for not being able to destroy the ice sculpture with a slap shot that doesn’t even manage to touch the table.
As for Matthews eschewing Toews’ ‘Captain Serious’ moniker in favor of calling him ‘Veggie Man,’ hard to imagine that one’s going to stick. But if you see Matthews and Toews battling on the ice, maybe Matthews will bust it out to try to get under Toews’ skin.
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A tumbling Canadian dollar hits north of the 49th parallel, while a reworked lease in South Florida gives the Panthers a new lease on life.
A depressed Canadian dollar is obviously not good business for anyone in the NHL. With Canadian teams driving a good portion of the league’s revenues and the $5.2 billion television deal begin paid to the league in Canadian funds, every drop in the dollar represents revenue lost for the league.
And that is no more evident than it is in Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of NHL franchise values for 2016. Of the 30 NHL teams, only eight of them saw their franchise value decrease over the past year – the New Jersey Devils and all seven Canadian franchises. The Vancouver Canucks saw the most precipitous drop league-wide, with its value going down 6.1 percent to $700 million. Among Canadian teams, the Edmonton Oilers experienced the lowest drop, by 2.3 percent to $445 million, a loss that was mitigated largely due to the fact they moved into Rogers Place this season.
To the surprise of no one, the New York Rangers are the most valuable franchise in the league, with an overall value of $1.25 billion, up 4.2 percent from last year. They’re followed by two Canadian teams – the Montreal Canadiens at $1.12 billion (down 4.7 percent) and the Toronto Maple Leafs at $1.1 billion (down 4.4 percent).
“The (Canadian) dollar has had a huge impact on that for sure,” said Forbes executive editor Mike Ozanian, who compiles the list. “Over the past four years we’ve done this, it has gone from parity to 90 cents on the dollar to 83 to 75.”
The Canadian dollar is currently trading in the 75-cent range and most forecasters don’t expect that to change drastically over the next year or so, which means Canadian franchises, while still very valuable in the grand scheme of things, might not see any rise in their value in the next little while. The Canucks are the seventh most valuable franchise, with the Oilers checking in at No. 14, the Calgary Flames at 16, the Ottawa Senators at 20 and Winnipeg Jets at 21.
There were some interesting teams on the list, notably the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders. The Panthers are No. 29 on the list, ahead of only the Carolina Hurricanes, but saw their value rise a league-high 26 percent to $235 million this year. That’s in large part due to a deal that the team cut with Broward County last year which will see it receive $86 million in tourist taxes over the next 13 years as well as getting almost all the revenue created by the BB&T Center in exchange for the development rights to 140 acres around the arena that Panthers owner Vinnie Viola transferred back to the county. It also helped that the Panthers made the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years and their local television numbers were better. (The latter doesn’t help much now because the Panthers’ local TV deal still has five years go and much of that money was paid up front to previous owners.)
Even though the deal with Broward County runs through 2028, the Panthers have an out-clause that would allow them to relocate after the 2022-23 season if they lose more than $100 million between last season and 2021-22 and give one year's notice. “They basically monetized the land and they’re more portable now,” Ozanian said. “I’m not saying they are going to leave, but it is a plus.”
Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko said he disagrees with Forbes numbers, but did acknowledge that the Panthers have increased in their value due to more stable ownership, a better product on the ice and the deal with Broward County. What the deal with the county does, Luukko said, was give the Panthers, “a lease that’s more commensurate with the times.” As far as the effect it has had on the bottom line, Luukko said the Panthers are still losing money, “we’re definitely cutting into those.” The Panthers said they lost $36 million in 2014-15.
The Islanders were another team that saw its franchise value spike upward, despite the fact that it ranks second-last in NHL attendance and its valuation by Forbes is $385 million, which is $100 million lower than the announced selling price when Charles Wang sold the team two years ago. Ozanian said the Islanders revenues from the Barclays Center are only in the $50 million range and the owners are carrying a considerable amount of debt, playing at Barclays has mitigated some of the team’s losses. “It’s a weird situation,” Ozanian said.
Overall, Ozanian said the league’s franchise values have been helped by the Rogers television deal, the league’s seven percent ownership in BamTech (which could increase to 12 percent) as part of its deal with MLB Advanced Media and an owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement. The Forbes numbers, it should be noted, are based on the revenues and expenses of all teams, including the arena’s economics as they pertain to the owner of the team. (Which explains why the Rangers come out on top.) Based on that formula, each team averages about $15 million in operating income, but almost half that total income of about $450 million ($219 million) is accounted for by the Rangers, Canadiens and Leafs.
The magazine, meanwhile, valued the Pittsburgh Penguins at $570 million, which is almost $200 million less than owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux were seeking last season. And that’s with $26 million in operating income and a team that has strong revenue potential for the next couple of years. But generally, the future looks pretty favorable, the Canadian dollar notwithstanding.
“I think that even the lower revenue teams have benefitted,” Ozanian said. “Arguably, it has benefitted them the most because it’s more plausible for them to turn a profit.”
NHL FRANCHISE VALUES*
1. New York Rangers: $1.25 billion (+4.2%)
2. Montreal Canadiens: $1.12 billion (-4.7%)
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: $1.1 billion (-4.4%)
4. Chicago Blackhawks: $985 million ( - )
5. Boston Bruins: $800 million (+6.6%)
6. Philadelphia Flyers: $720 million (+9.1%)
7. Vancouver Canucks: $700 million (-6.1%)
8. Detroit Red Wings: $625 million (+4.2%)
9. Los Angeles Kings: $600 million (+3.4%)
10. Pittsburgh Penguins: $570 million (+1.8%)
- Washington Capitals: $570 million (+0.8%)
12. Dallas Stars: $500 million (+11%)
13. San Jose Sharks: $470 million (+5.5%)
14. Edmonton Oilers: $445 million (-2.3%)
15. Anaheim Ducks: $415 million (+3.6%)
16. Calgary Flames: $410 million (-5.8%)
17. Minnesota Wild: $400 million (+5.3%)
18. New York Islanders: $385 million (+18%)
19. Colorado Avalanche: $360 million ( - )
20. Ottawa Senators: $355 million (-4%)
21. Winnipeg Jets: $340 million (-3%)
22. New Jersey Devils: $320 million (-3%)
23. St. Louis Blues: $310 million (+15%)
24. Tampa Bay Lightning: $305 million (+17%)
25. Buffalo Sabres: $300 million ( - )
26. Nashville Predators: $270 million (+5.9%)
27. Columbus Blue Jackets: $245 million (+8.4%)
28. Arizona Coyotes: $240 million (+9.1%)
29. Florida Panthers: $235 million (+26%)
30. Carolina Hurricanes: $230 million (+2.2%)
* Source: Forbes magazine
Connor McDavid (left) and Sidney Crosby
The two phenoms from different generations are staking their claims early and this is the first of what will likely be several showdowns for MVP honors
So there was some nice hockey played Thursday night. You may have seen it. You may have also noticed that two of the biggest names in the sport were right in the thick of the matter. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby notched his league-leading 16th goal of the campaign, while Oilers captain Connor McDavid kept his perch atop the NHL scoring pile by tallying three assists, giving him 34 points through 25 games.
This is fun, people. Because this is the first year in which Crosby and McDavid will go head-to-head for the Hart Trophy. We probably have a couple seasons of this happening, as eventually age will catch up with Crosby, while Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and others attempt to catch up with McDavid.
So with all due respect to Nikita Kucherov, Carey Price and Vladimir Tarasenko, let's take a look at the debate. First, let's take a look at Sid's artistry:
Ohhh, that's the good stuff. Not to be outdone, McDavid had an excellent scoring chance against the Jets last night by stripping the puck off defenseman Paul Postma in what can only be described as a spiritual de-pantsing. To put it another way, both Crosby and McDavid are hot right now. And barring injury – which has basically been the only thing to slow these players down in the past – we're looking at McDavid collecting his first-ever Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champ this season.
The Edmonton phenom is on pace for 111 points and as impressive as that is, his team is in a playoff position right now. As an explainer for Millennial Oilers fans, the playoffs happen after the NHL's 82 regular season game schedule. It's almost as exciting as the draft lottery.
Sarcasm aside, McDavid isn't the only one on his team having a good season and that means the world. I'm not calling them contenders just yet, but a post-season berth looks very real.
Meanwhile, Crosby has the best points-per-game mark in the NHL at 1.39. Missing the first six games of the year due to a concussion is the only thing keeping him from the scoring crown right now and even if he can't quite continue his torrid pace, he still has a great shot at 50 goals and the Rocket Richard Trophy. Right now, he's on pace for 106 points in 76 games.
Crosby has a slight edge in possession numbers (58 percent Corsi For vs. 55 percent for McDavid) and is better on faceoffs. But his supporting cast is also better in Pittsburgh – Evgeni Malkin is, himself, a Hart Trophy winner – so how do you compare the Penguin to the Oiler?
It may come down to the "feel" a bunch of writers get. The Hart, like most awards, is determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (or "FWAH!" as I pronounce it. And yes, I am a member). Crosby is widely acknowledged as the best player in the game right now, so does that give him a bit of an edge, should both players finish with similar stats? Or does the newness of McDavid propel him over the top? I mean, Sid's already got Harts, right?
We also have higher standards for the Penguins. Pittsburgh should make the playoffs, as the defending Stanley Cup champs. If they don't win the division, is that a knock on Sid? Meanwhile, McDavid getting Edmonton to the post-season would be seen as a big accomplishment.
It's a great debate and one we'll likely be hearing for quite some time. And the best part is, it involves two incredibly gifted players putting up a bunch of points and highlights.
Craig Cunningham’s recovery is progressing but “there's a lot more progression and healing to be done,” according to friend and former teammate Milan Lucic, who visited Cunningham recently.
Tucson captain Craig Cunningham has remained in the thoughts of the hockey community since the moment he collapsed on the ice ahead of an AHL contest between the Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19, but information regarding the health of the 26-year-old has been sparse.
The Arizona Coyotes, the parent club of the Roadrunners, have updated Cunningham’s status from time to time, often saying only that there has been little or no change, which is to say that Cunningham remains in critical but stable condition.
However, a promising update has come along regarding Cunningham from his friend and former teammate, Milan Lucic. The Oilers winger, who played with Cunningham with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants and again as a member of the Boston Bruins, said he couldn’t get into too much detail, but offered some positive news.
"The good news is he's progressed a lot from the state he was in last weekend," Lucic said, according to NHL.com’s Jerry Brown. "He's heading in the right direction, but obviously there's a lot more progression and healing to be done.”
Even with the good news, though, Brown reported that Cunningham “has not regained consciousness since collapsing.”
No cause for the collapse has been given by either the Coyotes or Roadrunners, but Tucson GM Doug Soetaert told the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 21 that Cunningham was “critically ill.”
Cunningham was a fourth-round pick, 97th overall, of the Bruins in 2010, and has played 63 NHL games over the past several seasons. He was acquired by the Coyotes via waivers in 2014-15, finishing the season by playing 19 games with the Coyotes and recording one goal and four points. He skated in 10 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16, picking up an assist.
Cunningham was named the captain of the Springfield Falcons, then the Coyotes affiliate, in 2015-16 and had arguably the best AHL season of his career, posting 22 goals and 46 points in 61 games. He held on to the captaincy with the newly minted Roadrunners this season and had four goals and 13 points in 11 games.
The Roadrunners postponed two additional games following Cunningham’s hospitalization, but returned to action this past Saturday.
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