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from Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,
The biggest change (other than style of play) since the day Bettman ascended the throne is that the NHL has ceased to be a hockey league as we once understood the term. It’s now an industry, with 32 outlets across North America that sell the sport 41 times a year in their home arenas, not counting exhibition and playoff games. They breathlessly churn out merchandise — with as many third and retro and reverse-retro styles as possible — to the point where sometimes it feels like that’s their main business.
More than any other time in NHL history, these outlets and their 50/50 partners, the players, are engaged in exactly the same enterprise and selling the exact same product. What was once a cloistered six-team league, then a disorganized 12-team league, then a 21-team league of widely disparate interests, is now a massive blob with 32 teams and a singular focus.
It has become nearly impossible to accurately perceive whether this sprawling industry is as successful, less or more compared to other times. If you could buy publicly traded NHL stock, you might be able to crunch the numbers as folks are doing with Elon Musk’s Twitter. But the NHL just is.
That’s why last week’s report that NHL television numbers are down 22 per cent in United States is difficult to put into context without additional information on streaming, cord-cutting and the impact of regional blackouts. Other than noting the return of ESPN has been more hype than substance, it’s hard to reach any conclusions.
Meanwhile, the NHL held its ridiculous all-star weekend one more time and undoubtedly sold more merch. It used to be that controversies and intriguing stories would come out of the event. Now it’s mostly plaudits and profiles, fake comedy skits and fake effort. And sell, sell, sell.
from Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic,
At 90, Harry Sinden will acknowledge he doesn’t remember every detail about his life in hockey with the same clarity he once did. But Sinden can remember exactly where he was the first time he ever saw Bobby Orr play in person.
It was in 1966. Sinden was the player/coach moving up the ranks the next year to coach the Boston Bruins. Accordingly, he wanted to see the team’s top junior prospect play for the Oshawa Generals and as it happened, the Memorial Cup finals were being played in Toronto. Orr was the team’s star attraction.
The problem, according to Sinden, was that Orr shouldn’t have been playing because he had a serious groin injury. But Orr, being the indomitable force he was even back then, insisted he be in the Oshawa lineup.
“Bobby suffered to skate in the game, but even then, he was still the best player on the ice,” Sinden remembered. “He scored a goal and he played incredibly. But the most impressive time was the following year at training camp when I became coach of the Bruins and got on the ice with him and watched his workouts and the way he trained.
“He was 18 and every single player in training camp was in awe over what he could do.”
from Bob Duff of Detroit Hockey Now,
Throughout the current NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings continue to display that when they are on their game, they’re capable of beating any team. A pair of victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with solo triumphs over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights, are evidence of this fact.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty well against good teams and there’s going to be a lot of good teams we’re going to play against,” Detroit goaltender Ville Husso said. “We know we can beat anybody in this league.”
Here’s the thing, though – Detroit isn’t proving capable of bringing that level of game to the rink on a nightly basis. Consistent performance remains an elusive quality in this team’s DNA.
“Just that consistency in our game,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde admitted as the element missing from his club. “I think consistency in getting over the hump. Putting a string together of consistent hockey.”
It’s worked in both manners for the Red Wings. They’ve never been consistently good, or consistently bad for any long stretches of time this season. Detroit has never won more than three games in a row. At the same time, the Wings have never lost more than three games in a row.
* Four Wild Card spots, two competitive races in both the Eastern and Western Conference – dive into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoff race as teams return to action.
* Jack and Quinn Hughes are set for the sixth all-time head-to-head as the Devils (32-13-4, 68 points) and Canucks (20-26-3, 43 points) clash when the NHL’s regular-season schedule resumes following All-Star Weekend.
* Jamie Benn (348-465—813 in 999 GP) is set to become the second player in Stars/North Stars history to skate in 1,000 games when Dallas’ captain celebrates the milestone night Monday. Mike Modano (1,459 GP) is currently the only player to do so.
from Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star,
At one point over the weekend, Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras — master of the Michigan, but not invited this time — tweeted the yawning emoji.
Hockey’s main skills — skating, shooting, scoring and saves — should be more on display.
“I’d just like to see more (events) and a higher pace,” said Calgary Flames forward Nazem Kadri. “I know in terms of broadcasting and TV it’s tough to fit in the schedule, but I think a couple more events can be added that make it a little faster paced.”
Commissioner Gary Bettman summed up what he thought the event should be: “All-star is an opportunity in the middle of the season to take a break, bring the NHL family together and have fun. That’s what it’s all about. Have a great time. It’s our opportunity to do business. The players have a great time getting together. It’s all about having a good time and connecting with our fans in yet another way.”...
“There’s so many different things that they can do,” McDavid said. “They keep being creative and they’re trying to ultimately make it as entertaining for the fans as possible. And obviously this is for the fans. We’re here to put on a show and I hope we did that. I hope fans enjoyed it.”
Florida used the beach, sun and surf to play off its environs. Easy to do when the rest of North America is shivering. What could Toronto do a year from now?
“Maybe a polar plunge into Lake Ontario,” said Leafs star Mitch Marner.
via TSN's YouTube page,
The Ukrainian Men's Under-25 National Hockey Team are determined to keep playing despite the war.
In an effort to support their country in the best way they can, the team traveled to Canada for the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour and raised over $1,000,000 for humanitarian and hockey programs across Ukraine.
After today's practice.
via the New York Islanders,
The New York Islanders have agreed to terms with forward Bo Horvat on an eight-year contract. He was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, Jan. 30.
This past weekend, Horvat represented the Islanders at the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend, along with forward Brock Nelson and goalie Ilya Sorokin.
Horvat, 27, is averaging over a point-per-game with 54 (31 goals and 23 assists) in 49 games with the Canucks this season, his ninth in the NHL. This season, Horvat is second in the NHL in face-offs taken (1,116), and is averaging a 56% win percentage.
Adam Erne cleared waivers today.
from Ken Wiebe of Sportsnet,
Doug Armstrong isn’t afraid to make difficult – or occasionally unpopular – decisions.
Sometimes that’s simply the cost of doing business when you’re a general manager in the NHL.
You can’t please everybody and you usually can’t keep everybody either, especially in this flattish-cap world folks are dealing with these days.
It’s the conviction with which the man running the St. Louis Blues operates with that could make him the individual who has the biggest impact on the NHL trade deadline in the weeks leading up to Mar. 3.
Armstrong has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to orchestrate the biggest turnaround in the history of the NHL, literally a worst-to-first fairytale ending to a season that was in shambles in December of 2018 before the Blues captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history months later.
Well, the Blues are nowhere near the basement these days, but they’re not exactly in a prime position to be categorized as a legitimate contender to the throne either, which immediately moves Armstrong into the position of needing to retool his roster on the fly.
Given the complexion of the roster and the core pieces under contract moving forward, a complete overhaul is not required - or expected - but major surgery could be on the horizon here, with the Blues currently sitting fifth in the Central Division and 11th in the Western Conference standings, a full eight points out of the second wild card spot (and the Colorado Avalanche holding three games in hand).
As colleague Elliotte Friedman likes to stay, the math isn’t good for the Blues with 31 games remaining in the regular season.
The video is almost 34 minutes long, so watch it below.
from Tracey Myers of the NHL website,
Dylan Larkin played in the 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Game as if it were a regular-season game.
The Detroit Red Wings forward was all over the ice, not taking any shift lightly. The end result? Quite a bit of scoring.
Larkin had two goals and an assist for the Atlantic Division in a 10-6 win against the Metropolitan Division in the second semifinal at FLA Live Arena on Saturday. He then scored a hat trick in a 7-5 win against the Central Division in the final.
"It was a great experience, just playing with these guys and hanging out with them in the locker room," Larkin said. "The Tkachuks (Florida Panthers forward Matthew and Ottawa Senators forward Brady) led the way with the locker room talk how we were going to play pretty hard, and we did. It was way more fun winning it and having fun, guys scoring goals and doing what it takes. It was a great time."
More so than on Friday, when Larkin said he caught some flak after finishing his heat in the Upper Deck NHL Fastest Skater in 14.558 seconds, fourth among the five contestants. He did not qualify for the final.
"I got nervous about it, and I came back and someone said to me, 'Oh, you weren't trying,'" Larkin said. "I was, so I kind of got a little bit upset about that, and I wanted to get out there and skate and be competitive and have fun doing it. So, it was just fun to skate."
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
- Toronto is a fabulous hockey market. The all-star game has little to do with hockey and much to do with weak attempts at levity and marketing. If this excites you, maybe you should wonder what about it excites you.
The skills competition on Friday night was very close to dreadful. Either players didn’t care or didn’t try or both, but there’s nothing compelling about paying real money to watch superb professional athletes go through the motions.
In fairness to the NHL, they have worked and re-worked this format and have attempted over the years to improve it. They need to keep up their attempts. The format of this weekend didn’t work.
The temperature, though, was more than fine. People will leave here happy from the parties, the bars, the time spent walking the boardwalks. The hockey part was entirely forgettable.
- Bettman claims the NHL wants to return to the Olympics in 2026. That’s what he says. But he’s clear that the NHL, the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation, and the local committee in Milan and Cortina have to get together to make it happen. Among the numerous issues facing the NHL right now, is what to do with Russia while the war in Ukraine carries on. Ukraine has called for an overall Olympic boycott if Russian athletes are allowed to participate. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and now Poland are apparently onside with Ukraine. The politics put the NHL and a possible future World Cup in doubt for now and international hockey, which is really the all-star kind of hockey we should care about, remains on hold.
- More than one hockey person I’ve run into this weekend believes Jim Rutherford wants out as president of the Vancouver Canucks. That’s the kind of mess this situation is in. There was a lot of sympathy for Bruce Boudreau when he was unceremoniously dumped as coach. But a prominent league scout told me this: “The Canucks have some players. What they don’t have is a team.” That was on the coach
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Pending unrestricted free agents are top targets for contenders as they shore up for a playoff run. The Wings have multiple such players: Forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Pius Suter, Oskar Sundqvist and Adam Erne; defensemen Olli Määttä, Jake Walman, Jordan Oesterle, and Robert Hägg; and goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg.
Regarding Larkin, the most logical outcome is that the Wings get him re-signed. Walman, likewise, is a keeper. Määttä has really grown his game and has been a good fit on either the second or third pairing. If they move him, they’ll just need someone else like him, so it may make more sense to keep him and extend him, depending on what interest he begets as a trade asset.
Nedeljkovic has been playing well in the minors, and the Wings already showed they were willing to lose him by putting him on waivers. Either he or Hellberg are needed as a backup. Of the rest, Bertuzzi is the top guy who could draw an offer that would help the rebuild. Injuries have limited him to 17 games this season, and he has just one goal in that span, but he scored 30 goals last season and his history in the minors and juniors shows he is a playoff performer....
Nedeljkovic could draw interest from a team in need of goaltending help — while he has struggled this season, his overall body of NHL work is above average.
Then there's forward Filip Zadina, who was assigned to the minors on a conditioning stint this past week after being sidelined three months by a leg injury. Zadina, 23, hasn’t made an impact going on four seasons with the Wings, but maybe another team sees the potential for a fresh start with the former first-round pick. His $1.825 million cap hit through the next two seasons is certainly reasonable. While it's good to have a place to put players whose roles with the Wings have changed, it would be better if at least Vrana could be flipped for an asset.
* Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk put on a show in front of his home fans by posting seven points to help the Atlantic Division claim its first 3-on-3 title and earn All-Star MVP honors.
* Mitchell Marner and JustinBieber each shared their excitement for the announcement that Toronto will host the 2024 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.
* The NHL Morning Skate won’t miss a beat, returning Monday to preview the six-game slate that will include 12 teams returning from both the All-Star break and their bye week. Notes for those games are already available in the Feb. 6 edition of #NHLStats: Live Updates.
Dylan Larkin had five goals (three in the final game) plus an assist and I believe I read a +7,
Watch all his goals below.
In Canada, you can watch on CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports.
SUNRISE, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2023) – The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the 2024 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend at Scotiabank Arena, the National Hockey League® announced today. The League’s midseason showcase will include the NHL All-Star Skills™ presented by DraftKings Sportsbook on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024 and the Honda NHL® All-Star Game on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024.
from Allan Smith of NBC News,
Former NHL forward Brandon Bochenski, now the Republican mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota, thought it was inevitable that the same forces for social change that have pushed for progress in other sports would soon shape hockey.
“The NHL was the next target, I suppose,” he said. “It’s tough, because diversity is more than skin color and sexuality. I think a lot of people believe that.”
One reason the NHL has traditionally attracted a majority white audience and talent pool is that the game is most popular in countries with lengthy and sustained winters — such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavian countries — that are less racially diverse.
And in the United States, the sport’s high costs for skates, pads, sticks and other equipment and fees have also often made it a more exclusive sport, limited to affluent communities — an issue Bochenski said the league should be at the forefront of solving.
But Bochenski said the backgrounds of people in the sport are more varied than they first appear.
“I don’t think that hockey on the cover maybe looks as diverse as it really is,” he said. “If you get in there and you talk to guys, whether they come from different faiths, different families, different upbringings, how they treat people, there’s a lot more to it. So I think it frustrates people when it’s really just focused on only skin color and sexuality because you do have a pretty diverse group of people that are making up the NHL.”
from Greg Wyshynski of ESPN,
Hockey fans have seen Sidney Crosby raise the Stanley Cup, win Olympic gold and receive MVP honors. They had never, until this week, seen him emerge saturated and giggling after tumbling into a water-filled tank on a Florida beach.
For the past two seasons, the NHL has incorporated pre-taped outdoor events into its annual All-Star skills competition, held the night before the All-Star Game. In 2022, players shot pucks on the Las Vegas Strip and in the iconic fountains at The Bellagio casino.
With the Florida Panthers hosting the 2023 All-Star Game, the NHL tailored its events to the Sunshine State: One event that combined hockey with golf, and another that had the Pittsburgh Penguins captain and five other stars falling into five feet of water when their opponents shot a puck off an NHL logo target.
"I'm still soaked from it," Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar said, hours after he dropped into the Enterprise NHL Splash Shot tank Thursday. "But it was a lot of fun. I think the NHL's doing a great job of trying to come up with new games to bring fans in."
In just over three minutes.
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