Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sean McIndoe at The Guardian,
So today, let’s look back on the just completed year in the NHL and hand out some awards. Not the real hardware – that part’s also on the schedule for next week. Instead, we’ll make up a few of our own, to recognize the best and worst of a season that already feels like it’s fading into the distant past.
Breakout star of the year: Brent Burns
The Sharks defenseman has been one of the league’s better blueliners for years now. But he posted career-best numbers this season, earning a nod as a Norris finalist and a spot on Team Canada in the process. And he did it all while being… well, being Brent Burns. Which as it turns out, is a pretty interesting thing to be.
Whether it was the crazy beard or the Don Cherry-esque wardrobe or the solid soundbites or the whole Chewbacca thing at the all-star game, Burns emerged as a fun personality in a league that doesn’t have many. He may have flown under the radar for too long, thanks to West Coast start times. But the Sharks run to the Cup final put him solidly in the spotlight, and he embraced it.
And the hockey world embraced him right back … at least for now. No doubt, it won’t be long until Burns gets the PK Subban/Alexander Ovechkin treatment and we all start complaining about him being too eccentric or enigmatic or whatever other word we come up with. But for now, we can enjoy the presence of a star player who actually seems to enjoy the role.
Best trade (for both teams): the Phil Kessel deal
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
Sidney Crosby edged Phil Kessel in what may have been the closest vote in the 51-year history of the Conn Smythe Trophy, according to ballots obtained by TSN.
The award, established in 1965 to honour the most valuable player to his team during the Stanley Cup playoffs, is voted on by 18 members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The rotating panel of 18 voters is comprised of a blend of American and Canadian national media, as well as local writers covering the two Stanley Cup finalists.
All 18 voters disclosed their ballots to TSN.ca on the condition of anonymity.
Crosby captured his first Conn Smythe with nine first-place votes. Kessel finished just behind Crosby with seven first-place votes. Kris Letang earned the other two first-place votes.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
So NHL expansion is on, an NHL source confirming what some of us have been predicting for years: That the league’s desire to go to Las Vegas trumps any concern they might have about the long-term viability of the market.
William Foley, the Vegas owner-in-waiting, has been patiently, discreetly, quietly waiting in the wings for the process to unfold, which is part of the protocol that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s executive committee demands.
They do not want loud, boisterous, tub-thumping people joining their ownership group. They want sober, well-heeled businessmen, the lessons of previous expansions not lost on the key decision-makers, beginning with the Boston Bruins’ Jeremy Jacobs, the chairman of the league’s board of governors, who doesn’t need a quick-fix expansion payment to stabilize his already successful franchise.
Even Bettman talked about this publicly at the start of the Stanley Cup final: That any decision to go into Las Vegas, or Quebec for that matter, would be based solely on whether it enhances overall NHL goals.
from Larry Brooks of the New York Post,
from Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,
Bettman in announcing two years ago the league’s intent to consider expansion called Las Vegas “a city that has national and international prominence.” We will now see if it’s also one that can successfully confirm the NHL’s confidence in Foley and, in a much larger sense, this town.
This is bigger than UNLV winning its national championship in basketball and Greg Maddux making the National Baseball Hall of Fame and every Grand Slam trophy Andre Agassi held aloft. This is sports at a level Las Vegas has never known, an entirely different dynamic than ever experienced here. The potential impact of an NHL team, socially and economically, is immeasurable.
And you can bet others will be watching.
I always believed hockey would act as, for lack of a better term, the guinea pig when it came to which American sports league would arrive first in Las Vegas. An outfit such as the NBA would view from afar how the market embraces and supports the NHL before considering such a move.
more plus additional stories on the landing page...
from Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal,
The biggest hurdle in Las Vegas’ attempt to have a professional major league sports team has been cleared.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the NHL’s executive committee has recommended the league expand to Las Vegas when the Board of Governors meets at Encore next Wednesday. A two-thirds vote from the 30 teams is required for approval which would be the final hurdle in the long process that began back in late 2014 when billionaire businessman Bill Foley made it public he was interested in bringing the NHL to Las Vegas.
The AP cited a source with direct knowledge of the situation an who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A second source with knowledge of the situation said that Las Vegas was “A done deal.”
Foley would pay $500 million to become the NHL’s 31st team. The Las Vegas team would begin play in 2017-18 at T-Mobile Arena. More than 14,000 deposits have been put down on season tickets since Foley launched a sales drive in February 2015.
Foley could not be reached for immediate comment.
a bit more
added 2:09pm, via Elliotte Friedman of Sporstnet,
It is both illogical and irresponsible to think that a separate standard of the playing rules should be used in the playoffs. The general managers must come to a consensus on how the games should be called, from the preseason right through the final game of the playoffs. Players need to clearly understand that if they violate a rule they will be penalized. The onus should be on the player who commits the foul, not the referee for having the courage to call it.
-Kerry Fraser of TSN where you can read more on this topic.
from Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette (before yesterday's game 6),
Who owns hockey? The NHL owns hockey.
Hockey at its highest level is now run by a couple of dozen American billionaires and a New York lawyer. Even if they vote as a bloc, the seven Canadian teams have virtually no power other than their contribution to the bottom line: without Canadian fans to fill the arenas and that foolish mega-deal with Rogers to prop it up, the salary cap might be due for a precipitous drop, but with less than a quarter of the teams based in Canada, this country’s economic clout is limited.
The trend is inescapable. The NHL in the spring of 2016 has never been more American, and the addition of an expansion team in the U.S. will erode our influence even more, carrying on a process that began with the move of the league’s head office from Montreal to New York in 1989.
Now, with a weakened Canadian dollar and zero playoff revenue for the 2015-2016 season, Canadian teams have to figure out how to get back in the hunt for the Stanley Cup — a task that may be all but impossible. In the short term, Montreal may be the Canadian team most likely to return to the playoffs, simply because of Carey Price.
In the longer term, these Canadiens do not look at all like a Stanley Cup team, a unit that can face the likes of the Penguins, Sharks, Lightning, Blues, Stars, Ducks, Kings or Blackhawks in a seven-game series and win. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers have the brightest long-term futures, perhaps — but it’s a long step from having young stars to playing the Stanley Cup.
And now every Canadian franchise must compete for star players with locations that can offer the glamour and glitz of New York or lower taxes and a convenient beach or nearby golf course available in February, when shivering Canadians are hustling along snow-swept streets in parkas. All we can offer is the passion of our fans, which can be a negative or a positive, depending on a player’s perspective.
Unless those at the National Hockey League have a warped sense of humor — it’s true commissioner Gary Bettman rarely comes off as a bowl of cherries — the league’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas on the morning of June 22 and officially award the city and owner Foley an expansion franchise.
Later that evening, the league will host its annual awards show at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Would the NHL really arrive here in such an official capacity, vote on expansion and deny Las Vegas a team?
If so, I imagine Bettman would desire a police escort to the airport for his Never Return Here Flight to anywhere.
-Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. More from Graney on youth hockey in Vegas.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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