The NHL lacks many Steinbrenner-type owners


steinbrenner.jpgPeople throw around words such as “rare” and “unique” like confetti these days, but I think it’s appropriate to say that sports lost one of its most irreplaceable figures today when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died of a heart attack.

It got me thinking about just how rare “The Boss” is in sports, particularly compared to the mostly-working-in-the-shadows nature of NHL owners. For the most part, Gary Bettman more or less earns his enormous paychecks by being a figurehead for the owners as a whole.

Really, the NHL kissed the idea of having a truly swaggering, flamboyant owner goodbye when the league squashed the ownership dreams of Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie (and also when outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban fell short of buying the Pittsburgh Penguins). Still, I racked my brain for a bit and came up with two owners who might have at least a touch of flair to them, though neither one is anywhere near the type of person who would be lampooned on a show like “Seinfeld.”

Ted Leonsis – Leonsis seems warm-and-cuddly toward his coaching staff and roster in every way that Steinbrenner was moody and occasionally irrational. Still, he makes himself known to the hockey public, particularly with his often-refreshingly-candid blog/Web site “Ted’s Take.” Again, there are some big differences between Leonsis and Steinbrenner, but neither lacked for passion.

Daryl Katz – This is more on feeling than anything else (although he did make some surprisingly sharp remarks about his team during the disastrous 2009-10 regular season), but Katz seems like he might end up being a bit of a “character.” He has the money and that look about him. We’ll see if he delivers on my gut feeling as the Edmonton Oilers try to find a new arena – and their way out of the NHL’s cellar.

Are there any current owners who fit a “Steinbrenner” profile in your eyes? Feel free to share some of your memories on owners – both active and from hockey’s rich history – who remind you of “The Boss.”

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.