1. Coyote Ugly - Courtroom Scenes From Phoenix
Maybe not the most original way to describe the situation in Phoenix, but rather appropriate, nonetheless. It seems like the only people concerned with keeping the Coyote franchise in Phoenix work at the NHL head offices in New York City. As discussed last week the Coyotes have consistently ranked in the bottom four in NHL attendance since the turn of the century. In a report published earlier in the year at sportsbusinessjournal.com, the Coyotes had a paltry 0.5 share of television viewers through the first 22 games broadcast locally on Fox Sports Arizona. This unfortunately does not represent the worst rating around, with other troubled franchises including the Islanders, Panthers and Thrashers showing considerably worse figures. This does, however, illustrate that fans were not staying away from Jobing.com Arena to watch the game on television.
If it’s safe to assume that the good people of Glendale and Phoenix are not very interested in keeping the Coyotes around, the voice of the NHLPA has spoken decisively in the matter. The NHL salary cap and general player revenues are directly tied in with league revenue, and as the Coyotes cost the league money, the players feel it in their pockets as well. According to NHLPA executive-director Paul Kelly, in an interview with Toronto Sports Radio station Fan 590, "If you've got a franchise which is making $25 million of their own revenue a year, before league-wide revenues, that impacts all players because we get a certain percentage of revenues for salary. If that team was pulled out and substituted by a team which makes $100 million to $125 million a year, salaries are going up." He did not go so far as to support a move to Hamilton, or any other specific location, but was adamant that the Golden Horseshoe region, essentially the part of Southern Ontario around Lake Ontario between Niagara Falls through Hamilton and back Northeast past the Greater Toronto Area, could and should be supporting another hockey team. Whether that team be the transplanted Coyotes, who might become the Hamilton Tigers or the Hamilton Horses, or through a successful application for an expansion franchise in Toronto for 2012-2013 calling themselves the Legacy, there are 8.1 million residents in the Golden Horseshoe who would be receptive to a new local club without the onerous weight of historical failure and expectation on its shoulders.
Unfortunately, more and more, it seems as if this story is less about the Coyotes and a healthy NHL than it is about the Gary Bettman power show. Blatantly ignoring the relocations, all under his watch and guidance, of franchises from Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina, from Minnesota to Dallas, from Winnipeg to Phoenix and from Quebec City to Denver, Bettman repeatedly uttered the refrain, “We don’t run out on cities,” to everyone within earshot. It is also more than a little telling that yesterday's Thursday, June 11 online Arizona Republic sports section had two NFL headlines above the most prominent Coyotes lead. The potential pre-season absence of outside linebacker Bertrand Berry is far more pressing to Arizonans than the potential absence of the sport of hockey. Moving forward, presiding judge Baum has stated that the potential (probable even) relocation fee for the franchise will be included in his ruling on this week’s hearings.
2. Continued Front Office Shakeups - Reuniting The Sutter Brothers And The New Sheriff In Dallas Names His Deputy
For six seasons between 1980-81 and 1986-87, Brent and Duane Sutter were teammates on the Dynastic New York Islanders, earning a combined 6 Stanley Cup rings. Brent only had a cameo appearance in 80-81 and did not play in those playoffs. The two, of six, Sutter brothers both continued their respective playing careers with the Chicago Blackhawks, but Duane had already been out of the league for over a full season by the time the Hawks picked up Brent along with Brad Lauer from the Islanders in exchange for Steve Thomas and Adam Creighton in October of 1991. On Tuesday, Brent stepped down from his post, citing family and other business concerns forcing home to Red Deer, Alberta, less than 90 minutes driving due north from Calgary. Red Deer is also the home of Brent’s very own WHL team, the Red Deer Rebels, who will be managed next season by brother Brian.
Complicating the matter, the nearby Calgary Flames, under General Manager and older brother Darryl, recently fired Mike Keenan from his job as the team’s head coach. While Ron Sutter, currently a Flames scout, would be a nice dark-horse in-house candidate for the job, as would current Flames’ Director of Player Personnel and former head coach of the Florida Panthers, Duane, the popular rumour puts Brent in the hot seat. That is, if Darryl does not elect to wear both hats, as he threatened to do a few weeks ago if he doesn’t find the right man for the job. In case you were wondering, Rich Sutter (Ron’s twin) currently scouting for the Coyotes was not available for comment.
Looking to make a quick mark in his new stomping grounds, Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk fired former head coach Dave Tippett who had led the Stars to the playoffs in all but the last of his six years at the helm. Tippett almost managed to get the Stars to a Stanley Cup final, when Dallas lost in the Conference Finals back in 2007-08. Not wasting any time, Nieuwendyk received permission from the Los Angeles Stars to talk to their former coach, though still on the payroll, Marc Crawford. Crawford began his coaching career like gangbusters, winning the Jack Adams Award in his debut semi-season, the strike shortened ‘94-‘95, with the Quebec Nordiques and following that up by leading the reborn Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship the following season.
Success has since been elusive for Crawford, having only won one playoff series in his previous ten seasons as a head coach, and missing the last three second seasons altogether. While Crawford’s career winning percentage is a more than respectable .555, in his last ten seasons, Crawford has led his teams to a decidedly less impressive record of 344-299-79, for a .531 winning percentage with a playoff mark of 15-23.
3. Watching Hockey – What To Look For After Game 7
Game Seven should be the top priority for all hockey fans. We all hope for a classic, but rest assured that the result will be historic no matter the outcome. In the fourteen previous Stanley Cup Final Game 7’s, only three were decided by three or more goals. One, in 1950, went to double overtime before the Red Wings defeated the New York Rangers 4-3. Twelve of the fourteen Game 7’s were won by the home team, with the two exceptions being the Canadiens victory over the Blackhawks in 1971 and the Maple Leafs upending the Red Wings in 1945.
After the parade, however, hockey life will continue preparing for a new season. A number of General Managers have already been changed, coaches have been hired and fired and the rumour mill has started with talk of trades for big ticket items Vincent Lecavalier and Danny Heatley. In the age of the salary cap, any and all rumors must be looked at from the financial standpoint before we decide how many grains of salt we should take them with.
While the NHL has not yet announced what next year’s salary cap will be, there has been much speculation regarding a 10% cap drop being bandied about. Other sources claim that the NHLPA will demand a cost-of-living increase of approximately 5%. A conservative Cap estimate for next season might be in the neighbourhood of $53.5 million. While the exact numbers are bound to change, we can at least take a peek at how much each club has locked up in salaries for next season and analyse who might sell and who might buy.
The following chart outlines how much money each franchise has locked up in salary for next season:
Team 2009-10 Cap Hit
1 Philadelphia 53.96
2 Detroit 51.26
3 Ottawa 50.96
4 Boston 50.48
5 Edmonton 46.95
6 Calgary 46.88
7 Pittsburgh 46.84
8 San Jose 46.75
9 Buffalo 46.54
10 Washington 45.93
11 St. Louis 45.81
12 Colorado 43.78
13 Los Angeles 43.19
14 Minnesota 43.19
15 New York Rangers 42.82
16 Carolina 42.77
17 Toronto 41.94
18 Columbus 40.70
19 Dallas 40.23
20 New Jersey 39.91
21 Tampa Bay 38.60
22 Florida 38.00
23 Anaheim 37.44
24 Chicago 36.22
25 Vancouver 33.86
26 Nashville 32.99
27 New York Islanders 32.94
28 Phoenix 31.35
29 Atlanta 29.05
30 Montreal 23.52
Courtesy of www.nhlnumbers.com
Numbers rounded to the nearest $10,000
It is interesting to note that both of the Game 7 participants will return largely in tact, both in the top 7 of returning payroll. Other potential leads:
- If the Sedin brothers will only play together, we can focus our attention on the bottom ten teams. Due to financial difficulties, we can remove Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, the Islanders, Phoenix and Atlanta from that mix. Chicago can be expected to devote much of their cap room to resigning Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith to more lucrative deals befitting franchise cornerstones. That leaves Anaheim and Montreal as the potential landing spots for the electric twins, unless they return to Vancouver
- Due to the cap floor, I don’t think it’s likely that the Lightning dump Lecavalier without getting someone with a big cap hit on the return
- There have been a number of rumours floating around naming the Kings and Maple Leafs as potential buyers this summer. Based on the numbers above, those rumours may not be unfounded as both clubs seem to be in good shape to make some noise
- The Flyers may be in a tight spot, with a cap hit over $2.5 million above that of the #2 team on the list. Look for them to try to unload one of Daniel Briere or Kimmo Timonen on the cheap this summer, their two biggest cap hits as of this writing
Ryan Wagman is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.