A seven man group that call themselves Atlanta Spirit bought the Atlanta Thrashers, basketball’s Atlanta Hawks and the Phillips Arena where they play in 2003. In 2005, the ownership group had a falling out. This happened when Joe Johnson, who had just resigned with the Hawks, was traded to the Phoenix Suns. One minority owner Steve Belkin objected and was to be bought out by the other owners. This process has been tied up in court litigation ever since. He was finally bought out in 2010.
Ownership, who had been more interested in basketball than hockey, was not behind the team in the interim. The remaining owners are suing the law firm that wrote the original ownership contracts that led to the legal problems surrounding the Belkin buyout. They claim they were “fatally flawed” and did not properly define the “fair market value” for his buyout and that the law firm involved (King & Spalding) attempted to hide these problems.
The top goal and point scorer in the month of February so far has been Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders. The rookie has ten goals and 14 points so far this month. This has suddenly propelled him into the Calder Trophy race (where I support John Carlson). Grabner is now the overall rookie goal scoring leader with 25. His 35 points place him third overall in the rookie scoring race (behind Jeff Skinner and Logan Couture). Grabner also has a very respectable +11 +/- rating with the New York Islanders. This leads his team.
Grabner was added to the All Star Game as the lone New York Islander representative. At that time he wasn’t a serious Calder trophy candidate. He was seen as a weak Islander representative, as a rookie who was not among the best in the league. He made a strong showing there by winning the fastest skater competition and hasn’t looked back since. Grabner is now in the Calder race and if he stays this hot will likely win it.
The Colorado Avalanche are going through a rough patch. They have lost their last eight games. This is the worst losing streak the team has had since they moved from Quebec to Colorado. As a result of this losing streak, Colorado has fallen to second last in the West Conference. Their last loss was by a score of 9-1 to Calgary. So what is wrong?
There isn’t an easy answer. Sometimes cold streaks happen. Colorado has not been without key players throughout this slump. It hasn’t corresponded to a ridiculous quality of opposition or a lengthy road trip. The biggest story that happened to Colorado during this slump has been the return and then retirement of Peter Forsberg. While Forsberg only played in two games, he was not able to find his game. This is not sufficient explanation for the entire slump - which largely appears to be bad luck through a rough stretch - it is a factor that helped to keep the slump going.
Today, Peter Forsberg has announced his retirement from hockey. He is a future Hall of Famer and as such, I want to write a career retrospective for him.
Peter Forsberg was born on July 20th, 1973 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. He grew up playing hockey in the Swedish system. He first came known to hockey scouts in 1989/90 when he played for Modo HK Ornskoldsvik in the Swedish Junior League. At age 16, he was nearly a point per game scorer with 27 points in 30 games. He was given a one game trial in the Swedish Elite League, where he scored an assist. His next season was a breakout year. Forsberg scored 102 points in only 39 Swedish Junior games. This earned him a permanent spot in the Elite League, where he put up 17 points in 23 games. This was good enough for the Philadelphia Flyers to draft him in the first round sixth overall in the 1991 Entry Draft.
It you had asked me last summer who I thought would be leading the NHL’s defencemen in points at this point in the season; I probably would have picked out Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. After all, he led the defencemen in scoring the two previous seasons. If it were not Green, I might have guessed Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks or Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. They had been Norris nominees last year and finished second and third in scoring among defencemen last year. If you had suggested Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, I don’t think I would have taken you seriously. He is a good young defenceman who just finished 23rd among defencemen in scoring in 2009/10. He was a good candidate to improve to a top ten position in scoring, but number one seemed far-fetched.
Antti Niemi was the 2010 Stanley Cup winning goalie with the Chicago Blackhawks. His reward was getting bought out by the Blackhawks and eventually signing as a free agent in San Jose. The theory was that Niemi is not a particularly impressive goalie and was in the right place at the right time to get a successful Stanley Cup run. With their salary cap constraints, the Chicago Blackhawks were willing to let him go.
Early in the season, Niemi was not looking like much of a goalie in San Jose. By late October, he had a .854 saves percentage. That has changed recently. Niemi has not posted a regulation loss in his last ten starts. He has a .917 saves percentage and a 2.56 goals against average so far this season.
The New York Islanders are not having a good season. They are in last place in the East Conference. The most ridiculous part of their story is their goaltending situation. They have four goaltenders who are unavailable to play. Often injured Rick DiPietro has facial fractures and a swollen knee. He will be out for several weeks. Evgeni Nabokov has refused to report to the team after they claimed him on waivers. Nathan Lawson hurt his knee and is out. Kevin Poulin hurt his knee as well. That leaves the Islanders playing their fifth string goalie and dressing their sixth stringer as a backup. Many NHL teams do not have six goalies under contract.
Any team playing their fifth string goalie is in the middle of a disaster. The Islander’s season has been a disaster even without this problem. If there is a game where a team might give up a double digit number of goals, it is the Islanders right now. A weak team with a goaltender who is definitely not NHL ready is a prime candidate to get blown out.
The Ottawa Senators have only one win in their last 17 games. That win came against the New York Islanders, the only team beneath the Sens in the East Conference. Ottawa has the worst team +/- in the league at -59. Their season has completely fallen apart.
They no longer have any top scoring forwards. Daniel Alfredsson is on pace for 47 points, which is quite low for any team. Jason Spezza had a shoulder injury that kept him out for most of the Sens lacklustre run (he has been back the last two games). They have some decent puck moving defencemen in Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar, but they have not had any successful shutdown defencemen. Chris Phillips has been overmatched. They have not had any great goaltending performances this season. Their best goaltending numbers thus far have been posted by Pascal Leclaire, who has been out with a lower body injury since December.
One of the least understandable hockey decisions this season has been the Edmonton Oilers handling of Sheldon Souray. Souray is an NHL level defenceman who pissed off the Oiler organization. He requested a trade in the off season and the Oilers were unable to come up with a deal that they wanted. They placed him on waivers at the beginning of the season in hopes that somebody would claim him. Nobody was willing to take on his contract with two years at a $5.4 million salary cap hit remaining. Edmonton then decided to loan him to the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate in Hershey instead of let him potentially spread his attitude to the players in the Oilers farm system.
At some point it is expected that the Oilers will put him on re-entry waivers, but more than half of the season has gone by and they haven’t so far. The Oilers cannot expect to get anything back for Souray as long as he is in the minors. Whichever team picks him up would have to place him on re-entry waivers and could potentially lose him and have to pay half his salary.
Concussions are the most serious injury issue in the NHL today. Fifteen players are currently listed on the TSN injury list with concussions. Paul Kariya is sitting out the season due to post-concussion syndrome and not listed on the injured list. Sidney Crosby was well on his way to winning the scoring title this season until a concussion sidelined him in early January. Peter Mueller, Bryce Salvador, Ian Laperriere and Kurt Sauer have not played a single game this season due to concussion issues.
All of this has occurred while the NHL instituted rule 48 which banned some hits to the head. This was a half-hearted attempt to solve the problem, but what is the problem, why are concussions an increasing problem in the NHL?
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
Why am I blogging? I want to.
Why are you reading it? ???