The Phoenix Coyotes are ahead 2-1 in their series against the Nashville Predators. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The second round of the NHL playoffs continue and so do the surprises, including the Kings pushing the favored Blues to the brink of elimination and the plucky Devils gaining a 2-1 series edge on the flashier Flyers. But here’s no surprise (said the smooth segue guy): your questions keep rolling in. Thanks for the ones I get to – either here on THN.com, in The Hockey News magazine and on THN Radio – and the ones I don’t.
Hello Adam. Watching Phoenix in the playoffs this year, it seemed they had a “white out” almost every home game and the arena always looked full. How financially successful has this playoffs been for the team? Do you see this as a good or bad thing in the potential relocation of them? Thank you.
Jesse Camper, Bethany, Ont.
Glad you brought this up, because I think the answer speaks to the heart of the issue the NHL has in Arizona. That issue: the decision to locate the arena in suburban Glendale.
Once Coyotes ownership made that fateful choice a decade ago – putting the team not in Phoenix, but Glendale – I think the franchise’s fate was sealed. Making the ponderous drive on increasingly congested roads out of the city for 41 nights a year to watch games with a 7:00 pm start time simply isn’t something the locals have been prepared to do in large numbers. To be honest, it’s tough to blame them.
In the playoffs, it’s much easier to convince them to come out. But there’s a reason Phoenix had the league’s worst attendance this season (with an average crowd of 12,420) – a reason that has everything to do with location, location, location. A new owner may be found and Glendale council may yet dump millions into the team for another year, but until the arena issue changes, I’m afraid the result will be the same.
Dear Adam, I may have a bias, but in the Ottawa/New York series, the Rangers got the benefit of the doubt on a lot of refereeing calls. Do you agree? It was heartbreaking for me to watch them outplay the Rangers in five of the seven games. What will they do for off-season acquisitions? Sincerely,
Ryan Robineau, Ottawa
I watched that series and didn’t see either team getting the benefit of the doubt. And I appreciate your willingness to consider you just might be inclined to see the bad things done to your local team more than injustices they commit, because I think that’s the case with a sizeable number of fans in any sport. Referees are human, make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes hurt one side more than others. Until you actually have verifiable proof of wrongdoing by the officials, it’s a waste of time to lob accusations.
As for the Sens, they’ve got just $36 million in committed salary cap space for next season, giving them considerable flexibility in the free agent and trade market. That said, star defenseman Erik Karlsson is due for a big raise when he becomes a restricted free agent (one of four Ottawa has to deal with) and GM Bryan Murray has an interesting decision to make on UFA defenseman Filip Kuba.
In sum, the Sens are better positioned to navigate a new collective bargaining agreement landscape. But Murray still will have to juggle the notion of building his prospect pile along with contending while veterans Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek are in their prime.
Adam, what is your take on the Minnesota Wild next year? Will there be massive trades? Signings? Elevated rookies? Etc.?
Dick Novak, Cross Lake, Min.
If by “etc.” you mean “a number of other things or persons unspecified” then yes, I can assure you there will be etc. in Minnesota next season.
Otherwise, I don’t believe you’ll see Wild GM Chuck Fletcher do much in the way of major renovations this summer. He has shown patience in adding offensive spark to what had been a defense-obsessed franchise from its inception and the organization now has youngsters – including Finnish center Mikael Granlund and Saint John Sea Dogs star Charlie Coyle – to show for it.
Yeah, Dany Heatley looks like a depreciating asset and yeah, their defense corps isn’t elite. However, if the aforementioned youngsters can contribute and if cornerstone center Mikko Koivu stays healthy, the Wild have shown they can compete. They’re likely still a couple years away from being a true Cup frontrunner, but that process would be sped up drastically if they can sign native Minnesotan Zach Parise when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Adam, what is the purpose of the trapezoid behind the NHL’s nets?
George Duffy, Lake Mary, Florida
The trapezoid rule causes some people to focus specifically on that area behind the net, but that’s something of a mistake, as NHL goalies are allowed to leave their creases to play the puck in that zone. It’s the areas outside the trapezoid, toward both corners, that is illegal for goalies to venture into.
The rule was implemented to stop goalies who had a good command of their puck-handling skills from skating around at will, firing the puck out over their blueline before the opposing team had a chance to follow its offensive zone attack.
Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of that rule was it made defensemen even more vulnerable to be bowled over or boarded in those corners by hard-charging, unobstructed forwards. Considering how few goalies are above-average puckhandlers, it’s not a trade-off worth making, in my opinion. And there’s been no public inclination among NHL GMs to alter the trapezoid rule right now, so it looks as if it’s here to stay.