Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

No Pushovers In Florida Plus Vegas Must Sell The Game On Speed And Talent

07/09/2016 at 12:46pm EDT

from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,

Like their West Coast counterparts, the Panthers and Lightning used to be pushovers. Four points were as guaranteed as a rejuvenating dose of Vitamin C. Not anymore. In 2016-17, the 28 other teams will require a handful of aspirin to accompany their glasses of orange juice following what could be back-to-back poundings. Florida and California are now the toughest states in the NHL, which would never have been spotted in any crystal ball.

But that’s the reality after the infrastructure that Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman built convinced Steven Stamkos the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere, even if the dollars were. Stamkos left stacks of cash on the table by signing an eight-year, $68 million extension when he could have scored a double-digit average annual value on the open market....

Yzerman’s offseason work isn’t finished. He will re-sign Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Vladislav Namestnikov. Yzerman would be in better cap space to do so if he trades Ben Bishop, who has one year remaining on his contract. But wheeling the goalie this summer isn’t automatic. The Lightning would be best served with Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy backstopping one more Cup push in 2016-17 before they part ways with the ex-University of Maine netminder.

A two-goalie net is the plan for the Panthers, who supplemented Roberto Luongo by signing James Reimer to a five-year, $17 million contract. It was one of eight deals the Panthers signed in an 11-day span. Between June 23 and July 3, the Panthers committed $203,600,000 in salary to Reimer, Aaron Ekblad, Keith Yandle, Vincent Trocheck, Reilly Smith, Jason Demers, Derek MacKenzie, Colton Sceviour, and Jonathan Marchessault.

General manager Tom Rowe wore out his hand while signing all the contracts. Owner Vincent Viola, meanwhile, monitored his checking account to make sure it wasn’t overdrawn. It was a thunderous announcement by the Panthers: that a first-round playoff loss to the Islanders was only the beginning of their renaissance.

more on this plus other hockey topics...

from Kevin Paul Dupont also of the Boston Globe,

Vegas is a curious fit for the NHL, but I’m betting hockey makes it there. The core city has a population of nearly 600,000, and the entire metro area tops out at just under 2 million. Throw in the billion or so thrill- and profit-seeking chumps who troll the Strip, and Foley’s newbie Black Knights have a large, elastic, and free-spending market to entice.

Wherever good hockey goes, it is usually embraced. In sunny climes, such as the Vegas desert, it just has to be good enough to keep the customer engaged — a dynamic unknown in Toronto and Montreal. Foley sounds intent on delivering a first-rate product, and it sounds like the NHL, for collecting its record half-billion-dollar expansion fee, is equally intent on offering up more than tomato cans for Foley to stock his roster.

Yet I wonder how many wide-eyed Black Knight fans (if I can be so presumptuous) will be surprised to learn that today’s NHL isn’t the NHL they’ve conjured from afar. The league’s blood-and-guts days are long gone, and they are not coming back, even if there remains that small and vocal segment of fans who wish bench-clearing brawls, punchfests, and stick fights were still part of the nightly fare.

Some of the fans in Vegas no doubt will be counting on all that gore. Why not? It’s how the game was sold for decades. They’ll need time, and patience, to realize that fights are few, and some nights goals are even fewer. Instead, as is true in even the NHL’s Original Six markets, they’ll have to be sold on speed, goaltending, stingy defenses, brilliant LED displays, and Jumbotron video clips.

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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.

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