Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Agency frenzy is about to begin

It was just a year ago that Mats Sundin was the hottest commodity on the free agent market and we know how that ended. What a difference one year can make. Sundin has yet to decide on his future and really no one actually cares.

The hot tickets belong to a pair of Swedes, the Sedin twins who have yet the sign with Vancouver as the clock is about to strike 12. Supposedly both Montreal and Toronto are hot after the pair although no one will confirm that. It would be tampering. But the boys want 12 years which is way too long for these two. The Leafs can afford to spend close to $5 million per season on 2 forwards but they also need to add some muscle up front (eg, Colton Orr on the Rangers) and a plugger (eg, Sami Paulsson).

The future is clearer for Jay Bouwmeester who just hours ago signed for the next 5 years with Calgary. He will be making the same money has the Flames stud defenseman Dion Phaneuf, $6.5 million. If you compare this to the Brian Campbell signing last year, Bouwmeester is 5 years younger, more talented and will cost $600,000 less per season. Great deal for the Flames.

Glen Sather has indicated that Nik Antropov was asking for at least $5 million per year so he has bid Nik farewell. Russian agent Mark Gandler certainly knows how to over price his clients. So that second round pick is looking much better already.

Sports Illustrated called the Scott Gomez contract the worst signing in recent memory so kudos to Glen Sather for making any kind of deal to move Gomez. I can't believe that Gainey gave up Ryan McDonagh, a first draft pick, on what should have been a salary dump. Maybe Gainey would be interested in Jason Blake too?

There were rumours that Dany Heatley was heading to San Jose where he could have joined the Sharks' existing under performers, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Now it appears the Oilers will have to honour.

Don't be surprised if the Leafs are quiet on free agent front. Burke will not likely overpay for free agents (eg, Jeff Finger) unless it is someone he dearly wants. The Leafs also have most of their roster already signed but if Kaberle and/or Kubina are traded then things can change. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, June 29, 2009

No big splash at the draft from Brian Burke

Prior to the draft Brian Burke did an awful lot of talking about how he was going to use the draft to remake the Leafs, how he was going to move up to get an impact player, and on and on and on. I had this sneaking suspicion that he was going to fall short of his rhetoric. GMs have increased the value of draft picks under the salary cap. The days of " draft, shmaft" are over.

Moving up in the draft was a near impossible goal. The Islanders have a dwindling fan base and need a marquee player to market. They had to draft John Tavares. A trade with Tampa Bay right now is next to impossible because the two leading owners do not agree on the direction the club should take. It is unlikely that a trade of their first pick would have gotten both their blessing. However, we will never know because Burke has counting on the Islanders not picking Tavres and that didn't go his way. The Colorado GM has been at the job for only a couple of weeks and you don't start your tenure by trading away your first pick. Both Atlanta and Phoenix are financial messes so trading their first pick would also be counter intuitive. So that means no chance at John Tavares or Braydon Schenn.

Ironically the team that did make a big splash at the draft was Anaheim. Burke' successor in Anaheim, Bob Murray has done a fine job at rebuilding his team by moving Chris Pronger for a cartful of prospects and draft picks. Murray achieved the almost impossible task of getting younger, cheaper and more explosive offensively. Moving Pronger will allow him to make offers to some of the Ducks' free agents he would like to retain.

That's not to say that Burke failed at the draft. He took the initial steps to draft players that will eventually fill the gaps in the Leafs roster in terms of toughness and size. You can't assess the success of a draft until years down the road. But Burke has done his homework and clearly has a plan. The first pick Nazem Kadri doesn't really have the size but was the best player available when the Leafs first picked. But there is no question why Jame Davane was picked. He is the toughest fighter in junior hockey.



I will provide more insight into these picks when I return from my vacations. In the meantime Burke will continue to mouth off on the world as he sees it. Just remember the rest of the world doesn't really care what he has to say.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On vacation till July 6


Though there may be an occasional post. Have a Happy Canada Day everyone!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What free agents would you sign?

As important as the draft may be to a team's future, the free agent market is critical if teams are to make a move in the standings. But there are likely more bad signing than good ones. I don't think I need to explain that to any Leaf fan. So who should Brian Burke sign considering the top players are looking at sometimes 7 year contracts or longer.

So here is a hypothetical situation. Let's say Brian Burke trades both Kaberle and Kubina. That means he has a payroll of about $33 million including Darcy Tucker's buyout. So if he decides to cap his payroll at $53 million that gives him $20 million to spend on 4 forwards, 2 defensemen and 1 goalie (no Jonas Gustavsson signed). This is all hypothetical and assumes no younger players make the squad (Tyler Bozak, Jiri Tlusty, Dale Mitchell, Viktor Stalberg). Here are his choices with current salaries and what he would likely cost to sign this summer.

Sedin Twins - $7.5 million ($11 million)
Marion Gaborik - $7.5 million ($7.5 million)
Mats Sundin - $7 million ($5 million)
Jay Bouwmeester - $5 million ($ 7 million)
Matthias Ohlund - $3.5 million ($5 million)
Mike Cammalleri - $3.6 million ($5.5 million)
Nik Antropov - $2.1 million (2.6 million)
Martin Havlat - $6 million ($ 6.5 million)
Maxim Afinogenov - $3.5 million ($2.5 million)
Jason Williams - $2.2 million ($3 million)
Todd Bertuzzi - $1.9 million ($1.5 million)
Chris Neil - $1.2 million ($1.8 million)
Dominic Moore - $0.9 million ($1.5 million)
Hal Gill - $2.2 million ($2 million)
Paul Mara - $2 million ($2 million)
Francois Beauchemin - $1.6 million ($2.4 million)
Dennis Seidenberg - $1.2 million ($2 million)
Martin Gerber - $3.7 million ($1.5 million)
Manny Fernandez - $4.75 million ($2 million)
Scott Clemmensen - $0.5 million ($1.2 million)
Manny Legace - $2.5 million ($1.2 million)

Now remember you only have $20 million to spend.

My thoughts on the Draft


People have been asking me for my thoughts on what will happen on Draft Day. I don't see any point in predicting how the draft will go. About 95% of the hockey media are going to trot out their own slightly tweaked versions of a mock draft - and the first round is usually pretty stable as far as selections go. A few players slide, a few jump up to replace them, but knowing what any team, let alone 30 teams, is/are thinking heading up to draft day requires more psychic powers than I’ve got.

I also don’t think it’s very logical to attempt to predict trades, and considering how many draft day moves are made these days in the NHL, that kind of screws everything up from a mock draft perspective. Sure we know Brian Burke has been making a lot of noise about trading and more recently even trading down. Obviously he has certain players targeted and unless a higher rated player is still available when he selects he may move down rather than take a guy early. But then Burke likes to talk a lot and the 24/7 Toronto hockey media always need a story.

These days most NHL GM’s will pick the best talent available at the time they are selecting, rather than picking based on “needs” in certain positions. Outside of the first few "can't miss" picks it is really a gamble. How else do you explain Henrik Zetterberg at 210th in 1999, Dominik Hasek at 199th in 1986, Tomas Kaberle at 204th in 1996, and Pavel Datsyuk at 171st in 1998.

Popular misconception is that GMs decide who to pick; they leave that up to the scouting staff. An NHL GM doesn't see enough junior games to second guess his staff. If the GM and scouts are out of sinc it leads to trouble. In 2004, the Phoenix scouting staff told GM Mike Barnett to draft Blake Wheeler with the 5th overall pick. Barnett wasn't very high on Wheeler but went with his staff's recommendation. But Wheeler was never signed by Barnett and eventually became a free agent in 2008 after finishing college. The Bruins signed him and he scored 21 goals as a rookie this past season.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Storm Nation starts the new season with wet BBQ


Last Saturday was like many Saturdays this spring - wet. But the rain didn't stop the team from getting together for some burgers and dogs. John and Deanna graciously opened their home up for the team. The umbrellas were up which reminded me of this song.

While NHL tries to fix Coyotes franchise, the Lightning are about to blow


Bad news for Gary Balsillie yesterday in Phoenix - the bankruptcy court will be holding an auction in August for parties interested in keeping the team in Phoenix. Only if that process is unsuccessful will an auction be held for parties wishing to relocate the team. Word out is that Jerry Reinsdorf will be submitting a bid. So unless it is an absurd low ball offer, he has the team.

So while the NHL has been burning up dollars to keep the Coyotes alive, the Tampa Bay Lightning are falling apart. A year ago new owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules were the talk of the NHL with their numerous trades and free agent signings. Today they aren't even talking to each other. The split is destroying the team. It seems Koules wants to likes GM Brian Lawton, wants to trade Vincent Lecavalier to get out from under his $85 million contract and wants to pare the payroll to the low $40 million range. Meanwhile Barrie has different ideas. He would like to get rid of Lawton, thinks the team should build around Lecavalier and is in favor of signing free agents to get the payroll closer to $50 million. These aren't minor differences with the free agent season beginning in one week and Lcavalier's no trade contract kicks in.

If you thought it was bad when Dan Boyle called them liars, or John Tortorella described them as cowboys or Barry Melrose accused them of being meddlers, then this is worse.

Ticket sales have been awful and they are bleeding money big time. Supposedly they are meeting with Gary Bettman to try to iron out their differences. At this point the ideal situation would be for at least one of the owners to sell off his share of the team. Otherwise this could be the next franchise to go bankrupt - calling Jim Balsillie!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ex-Leafs in the playoffs


Eleven ex-Leafs made appearances in the 2009 Stanley Cups, including six who were on the team last season (2007-08). Sundin, Wellwood, and Gill were the only ones who played on a team that advanced at least one round.

Below is a table of all ex-Leafs who played in the 2009 playoffs, including former draft picks who never actually played with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Brad Boyes and Shawn Thornton, the latter who seems to like to shoot the puck).

Player

Team

GP

G

A

Pts

Mats Sundin

VAN

8

5

3

8

Kyle Wellwood

VAN

10

1

5

6

Brad Boyes

STL

4

2

1

3

Nik Antropov

NYR

7

2

1

3

Hal Gill

PIT

24

0

2

2

Fredrik Modin

CLB

4

1

0

1

Alexander Steen

STL

4

0

1

1

Shawn Thornton

BOS

10

1

0

1

Mathieu Schnieder

MTR

2

0

0

0

Michael Peca

CLB

4

0

0

0

Carlo Colaiacovo

STL

4

0

0

0


Happy Fathers Day Storm Nation

The battle to sign Jonas Gustavsson

It appears to be a 4-way battle to sign free agent Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson between Toronto, Colorado, San Jose and Dallas. Gustavsson just completed a tour of the 4 NHL cities and some people are saying the Leafs have the leading contenders (mostly Toronto media I suspect). Every team has had the big guns out trying to win him over. The collective agreement caps entry level salaries so money will not be the deciding factors. His representatives have indicated that he does not expect to be a starting goalie and realizes it would be better not be a starter right away. But he would like lots of playing opportunity. Here is what Gustavsson has been looking at:

Dallas Stars

Fabian Brunnstrom is a good friend of Gustavsson's has been talking to him. Les Jackson was the man who won the recruiting battle to sign Brunnstrom and has directed the Stars' recruiting effort with Gustavsson. Also a big player has been Stars goaltending consultant Andy Moog, who visited Gustavsson in Sweden with Stars scout Johan Garpenlov. Everyone is getting the Swedes out to meet with Gustavsson. The Stars have not been happy with their backup goaltending which means too much work for starter Marty Turko. Dallas would like to have a backup play 20-25 games. Turko who is 33 will be a UFA at the end of the season is using up $5.7 million of salary cap space.

Colorado Avalanche

It has been confirmed that Peter Forsberg has talked to the goalie and so have other players though Avs management isn't saying who. He also met with new coach Joe Sacco, and team management. The Avs have no goalie at the moment having decided not to bring back Peter Budaj or Andrew Raycroft. Colorado acknowledges they are not the front runners and are the only ones able to offer a starting job right away. It is well known that this franchise is currently a mess.

San Jose Sharks

Starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov is also 33 and on the final year of his contract with a cap hit of $5.375 million. Backup Brian Boucher is a free agent. There’s a connection between the Sharks and Joe Resnick, the agent who represents Jonas Gustavsson. Resnick and John Thornton, brother of center Joe Thornton, are the two co-founders of Top Shelf Sports Management. Who knows if that means anything here.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs have gone all out in the hunt of "The Monster" as Gustavsson is referred to. Brian Burke has already met with him several times. The Leafs had fellow Swede Jonas Frogren talk up the team with Gustavsson. Leaf legend Borje Salming had a word with him. But the Leafs feel their ace in the hole is goalie guru Francois Allaire who has already had the opportunity to work briefly with Gustavsson.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Heatley not coming to the Leafs


Slow news day, not to worry. Just shove a microphone in Brian Burke's face and count to three. You are bound to get a headline.

Sure enought Brian Burke blasted Dany Heatley and his agents for the way in which they handled his trade request.

“We’re not going to be in on that,” Burke stated. “He’s a good player but I have certain guidelines on how players ask for trades.”

“When you have players come ask you for a trade, I tell the players ‘don’t finish that sentence,’ because once you ask, I’m going to move you,” Burke stated. “If a player wants out, you’re darn right I’m going to move you. I’m not kissing anyone’s ass to play in my town, so to hell with you, don’t finish the sentence. My second rule is if I hear about this, you’re not going anywhere.”

“For a player to pop off and say he wants out or leak it (to the media), in my mind you are now no longer interested in your team. If you’ve done that you’ve handicapped them, you’ve handcuffed your GM.”

I'm not a big Dany Heatley fan despite his obvious regular season numbers. He is likely a team chemistry killer.

Now I tried to check out trades made by Burke to test his rule. There is already some debate that he has contradicted himself on the Pronger trade. Pronger had asked Edmonton for a trade and some say it was Oiler GM Kevin Lowe that informed the media of the request. While others suggest Pronger's agent, Pat Morris, had been quietly spreading the word around to other GMs and it eventually leaked to the media. Either way the media will be closely scrutinizing Burke's deals (as if they wouldn't otherwise).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stanley Cup gets around


The Stanley Cup wound up this week in Mario Lemieux's pool. However, this isn't the Cup first dip in Mario's pool. In 1991, Stanley was found at the bottom of Lemieux's swimming pool, a feat later duplicated by Avalanche goalkeeper Patrick Roy. There have been many other unusual trips experienced by Lord Stanley's Cup.

In 1996, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre had his daughter baptized in the cup.

In 1980, New York Islander Clark Gillies allowed his dog to eat from it. Ranger Ed Olczyk did Stanley a little more honor when he let 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin eat from it.

In 1906, members of a Montreal club took the cup to a local photographer. Pictures were taken but the cup was forgotten. It wasn't until weeks later that hockey officials found that the photographer's mother was using the cup to plant geraniums, which were decorating the studio window.

In 1905, some Ottawa Silver Seven players, reveling in their championship, decided they could punt the cup over the Rideau Canal on the Ottawa River. The water was frozen, and at the time the cup didn't have so many rings around the bottom, so it wasn't much larger than a football. The trophy was recovered the next day on the ice.

In 1924, some Montreal Canadiens left the Cup on the side of the road. They were en route to the team owner's house for a victory party and pulled over to fix a flat tire. They didn't realize until after they arrived that they had left the cup roadside. After a frantic ride back, they found it untouched, a mile and a half from the party site.



Monday, June 15, 2009

Will we get a Penguin-Red Wing rubber match next spring?

It doesn't get much more exciting than this year's Stanley Cup finals. No over-matched sweep this year. It came down to a last second sprawling chest save by Fleury on Lindstrom to decide this series. The win by the Penguins is also a win for the NHL. A young flashy team with two of the top stars in the league. I can just see the NHL marketing department spinning this all summer.



So I'm thinking why wouldn't these two teams meet again next year in the finals? First you have to look at the salary cap situation. Both teams have their top players locked in (Crosby, Fleury, Malkin, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lindstrom)for the next few years. The rest of the players are all replaceable. Just look at the the players the Penguins lost last season but it didn't seemed to have mattered. The Red Wings will likely move out some older players but who has more organizational depth than Detroit?

I can't wait.

It's back to the drawing board for Gary Balsillie


I've had this feeling from the start the Judge Redfield Baum was not going to make a ruling outside his court's jurisdiction. He repeatedly directed the parties to negotiate but to no avail. Lets face it, bankruptcy judges are not going to rule on anti-trust matters. You have to bring those suits before the proper court. So those the majority who voted in my poll last month turned out to be wrong.

Most laypeople like myself interpreted some of the criticism aimed at the NHL by Judge Baum as siding with Balsillie However, that was not the case. While noting that the case raised many unique legal issues, Judge Baum sided with the league on most of the issues. The judge said the Coyotes had a contract to play in Glendale, a Phoenix suburb, and Balsillie’s offer would violate that contract. I understand the type of bankruptcy filing in this case requires that all existing contracts be honoured.

So where does that leave Gary Balsillie. He has several options as I see it:

  • Submit a new bid to purchase the team but it couldn't include a relocation requirement. Then sue the NHL under anti-trust law. Though that has been tried before and failed.
  • Appeal the decision but a successful appeal is unlikely.
  • Try purchasing another team under distress. There quite a few of these around but somehow I suspect the NHL will reject him as an owner.
  • Start winning over existing NHL owner one at a time. When he has enough support then go after a franchise at that time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stanley Cup playoffs do alright on NBC


The numbers below are in millions. The are dwarfed by the Super Bowl and the World Series but for hockey in the U.S. they are decent. Not close to a record but if you drop the two games on Versus (games 3 and 4) then the NBC only average is 5.4 million which is still not at record levels but enough to get the NHL happy that have been chasing NBC.

Game Viewers
1 4.51
2 5.33
3 2.96
4 3.45
5 4.28
6 5.45
7 7.51
Avg. 4.78

Friday, June 12, 2009

The hockey Gods have not been kind to Marian Hossa

NHL has never collected a relocation fee

When Judge Renfield Baum suggested that it was quite reasonable for the NHL to receive a relocation fee to move the Coyotes to Hamilton he likely caught everyone by surprise. The NHL has had numerous franchise moves but has never requested a fee. However, Judge Baum was likely aware that other sports team do collect a relocation fee. When the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, there was a $45 million relocation fee. The Judge understands that if an agreement can be reached on a relocation fee then that might go a long way to resolving this dispute.

There are suggestions that the fee might be as high as $300 million which would include indemnification for Toronto and Buffalo. That price would be highway robbery and would create quite the precedent. My research suggests that the six recent relocations did not include a relocation fee. However, when the Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey in 1986 they did pay an indemnification fee of $35 million. That stands as the highest amount paid by an NHL franchise. In 1972 the expansion Islanders paid an indemnification fee of $4 million. In 1993, the Ducks refused to pay Los Angeles an indemnification fee but Gary Bettman was so desperate to have Disney as an owner that he game half of the $50 million dollar franchise fee to the Kings. The highest expansion fee collected by the NHL has been $80 million.

So the NHL may very well be using a form of extortion in order to get its blessing for a move to Hamilton. Of course, Gary Balsillie can always walk but most people doubt he will.

YEAR

TEAMS

FEES

1967

California Seal

Los Angeles Kings

Minnesota North Stars

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

St. Louis Blues

$2 million (Ex)

1970

Buffalo Sabres

Vancouver Canucks

$6 million (Ex)

1972

Atlanta Flames

New York Islanders

$6 million (Ex)

+ $4 million (Ind – NY only)

1974

Kansas City Scouts

Washington Capitals

$6 million (Ex)

1976

Kansas City Scouts became

Colorado Rockies

None

1976

Oakland Golden Seals became

Cleveland Barons

None

1979

Edmonton Oilers

Hartford Whalers

Quebec Nordiques

Winnipeg Jets

$6 million (Ex)

1980

Atlanta Flames became

Calgary Flames

None

1982

Colorado Rockies became

New Jersey Devils

$35 million (Ind)

1991

San Jose Sharks

$50 million (Ex)

1992

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

$50 million (Ex)

1993

Minnesota North Stars became

Dallas Stars

None

1993

Florida Panthers

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

$50 million (Ex)

1995

Quebec Nordiques became

Colorado Avalanche

None

1996

Winnipeg Jets became

Phoenix Coyotes

None

1997

Hartford Whalers became

Carolina Hurricanes

None

1998

Nashville Predators

$80 million (Ex)

1999

Atlanta Thrashers

$80 million (Ex)

2000

Columbus Blue Jackets

Minnesota Wilds

$80 million (Ex)



Thursday, June 11, 2009

MakeItFive.ca

You've heard about Jim Balsillie's website MakeItSeven.ca which is intended to bring together grassroots support for an NHL team in Hamilton. Well someone has cleverly developed a tongue-in-cheek parody called MakeItFive.ca. The website is supposed to be created by Roger Jolie, the French-Canadian billionaire and CEO of Swashbucks Entertainment Group, Inc., who wants to purchase the Toronto Maple Leafs, and relocate the organization to the AHL, lowering the number of NHL teams in Canada to five.

Balsillie is making progress


I have to admit I like the way Judge Redfield Baum operates. He has this huge dispute dropped in his lap that really has nothing to do with Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is an anti-trust dispute and he knows it. So Judge Baum has carefully avoided making any decisions. He hasn't even ruled on whether the Jerry Moyes or the NHL own the Coyotes.

His strategy has been to attack each sides position on issues to create uncertainty as to whether they can win the dispute. For example, when the Balsillie claims the NHL won't allow the Coyotes to relocate, Baum points out that no application was ever filed. He jumps on the NHL for not following its own constitution when Quebec was moved to Colorado. Baum shrugged off Bettman's claim of 4 or 5 parties interested in keeping the Coyotes on Phoenix.

As I've stated from the start, no bankruptcy court wants to wade into the issues being presented in this case. That is why I have been pessimistic about Balsillie's chances here. But I did not take into consideration the craftiness of the Judge. Baum is pushing back at the lawyers before him in an effort to get the parties to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom. That gets him off the hook. He obviously want to avoid setting any precedents in this case.

So yesterday when the discussion of relocation comes up, Judge Baum quickly acknowledged that of course Balsillie would have to pay a relocation fee. The judge has put Bettman in a box. He’s going to have to attach a price to the legitimate NHL interest in the Ontario market. Instead of arguing about whether Balsillie has the right to buy and relocate the team, they will be arguing about how much Balsillie has to pay to acquire a right the NHL doesn’t want to sell. And what if Balsillie agrees to the price? That is why his lawyer quickly declared that Balsillie would walk if the price was $100 million. But if the league says the price is $150 million and Balsillie decides to accept then Bettman is stuck. Though I believe Bettman will wiggle out of this one too. He has already suggested that the league doesn't come up with a price before it approves a franchise relocation. Somehow I don't think Judge Baum will buy that one.

I for one am intrigued.

NHL coaches have no job security


Today Joe Nieuwendyk, in his fifth day in the job fired coach Dave Tippett. That makes it 13 coaches who have been fired or resigned during the current season. That's a turnover of 43% per season. Add to that the 6 coaches who have only been with the current team for one complete season and you have 19 or 63% of coaches have been with their current team for 82 or fewer games. These guys don't last as long as a minority government in Ottawa.

There are only 2 coaches (Lindy Ruff and Barry Trotz) who have been with the current team for 5 complete seasons. No job security here.

So how does this compare to the experience in the NBA? Well it's similar. There are 16 coaches (53%) who have been with their team for one full season or less. And 3 coaches have stuck with their current team for 5 full seasons.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maple Leaf goalie situation

Brian Burke has thanked Curtis Joseph for his years of service as he shoved Cujo out the front door. Now word is spreading that Burke will not retain the services of restricted free agent Justin Pogge. So much for the goalie of the future. It obviously didn't come soon enough.

This means that the Leafs will likely pursue a free agent to back up Vesa Toskala. It could be Martin Gerber who played decent though not great in his short run with the Leafs. Clearly Gerber is not Plan A. Burke has stated that Swedish free agent goalie Jonas Gustavsson is who he is after. Gustavsson is planning to visit a few NHL cities including Toronto this month to determine who he signs with.

It appears that the Leafs still have faith in Vesa Toskala but coming off two injury plagued seasons and a $4 million contract, what choice do they have? Probably the biggest news on the goaltending front was the signing of Fran├žois Allaire as goaltending consultant from Anaheim. He will not take over from Corey Hirsh as their goalie coach. He is considered one of the best in the business and is credited with developing Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Hiller in Anaheim and Patrick Roy in Montreal.

Allaire may be used to convince Gustavsson to sign with Toronto. But there are rumblings that Burke may be interested in picking up Giguere who lost his job to Hiller this past season and perhaps the Allaire signing is connected. Giguere has two years left on his contract for a total of $13 million which is a lot for a backup. For this to work the Ducks would have to take back Toskala. He could be their backup and provide a signficant savings for the Ducks who have cap problems. Toskala and Giguere are the same age but Giguere is clearly the better goalie at this stage of their careers.

Should be interesting.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Pittsburgh is preparing for the Red Wings

If you have Michigan ID it might be tough buying live octopus on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Hopefully no new group announces plans to bring another hockey franchise to Toronto on the same day Game 6 is to be played. Bad enough the Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings continue in Phoenix on Tuesday. Which will get bigger headlines?

Meanwhile the NHL continues to shoot itself in the foot. Red Wing fans have just learned that there will be no broadcast of Tuesday night's game inside Joe Louis Arena because NBC would not rescind its exclusive rights to the telecast. And what does the NBC pay for those exclusive broadcast rights? $0!!!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Some reasons why the NHL should be considering Hamilton

With all the talk about the Phoenix Coyotes relocating to Hamilton, I thought it would be helpful to pass on some interesting facts in support of Hamilton. I've been to both Hamilton and Phoenix and you will never confuse the two.

1. Hamilton already has a professional sport team


The Hamilton Tiger-Cats football club has played in the Canadian Football League (CFL) since 1950 and have won eight Grey Cup championships. The Tiger-Cats play out of lovely Ivor Wynne Stadium. The CFL Hall of Fame is located in Hamilton.



The most famous Tiger-Cat player was Angelo "King Kong" Mosca who went on to have a very successful wrestling career.


2. Hamilton has an international airport


The John D. Munro Hamilton International Airport is situation on a former Royal Canadian Air Force base. It is named after one of Hamilton's illustrious politicians Johm Munro. Munro and his associates were investigated under the Criminal Code and faced 37 charges alleging illegal kickbacks to his 1984 leadership campaign and other irregularies bu those charges were thrown out. Flights from Hamilton will take you to Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton, Orlando [seasonal], Winnipeg which will helpful in getting you to many other NHL destinations.



3. Hamilton has a variety of fine dining

Hamilton has some excellent restaurants but most Hamiltonian pass on them. The food of choice in Hamilton is the sausage which can be purchased from licensed carts throughout the city. Some are pretty sophisticated operations and will even take reservations.


4. Canada's steel industry is based in Hamilton

Sixty percent of Canada's steel is produced by Stelco and Dofasco in Hamilton. These economic giants have pumped millions into the Hamilton economy and provided the city with a lovely skyline.


5. Hamilton is the home of the African Lion Safari

One of the biggest attractions in Hamilton is the African Lion Safari which is a private-owned, world class exhibit of animals in as close as possible their natural habitat. The manner of exhibiting animals is completely different from the traditional approach; that is, the visitor is caged in the car, and the animals roam in 2 to 20 hectare (5 to 50 acre) reserves.


6. Hamilton already has professional hockey


Hamilton failed in 1990 to gain an NHL expansion franchise and the city selected was Ottawa. But Hamilton has been the home of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL and they play in Copps Coliseum which could be used by an NHL team. The Bulldogs won the Calder Cup championship in 2007.


7. Hamilton's downtown has much potential



The recession has hit Hamilton hard but it has the potential to have a thriving downtown core. Most Tim Hortons shops have continued to thrive and are enthusiatically supported by the 700,000 residents of Hamilton. Hamilton has one donut shop her 300 residents.