Could a women's professional hockey league be in the future?

One of the big topics at the World Hockey Summit was what could be done to help women’s hockey around the world. While the United States and Canada have dominated global competition since the global introduction of the women’s game at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, no other countries have shown the same kind of growth the game has seen in North America. After the Olympics in Vancouver, IOC President Jacques Rogge said that if improvement isn’t seen elsewhere in the world in the game that he’ll look into dropping women’s hockey from the Olympics.

Seeing how dire a situation this could be for the growth of women’s hockey the NHL is stepping up potentially in a very big way as they’re now looking into developing a professional women’s hockey league.  Jeff Klein of the New York Times elaborates.

“I was in a meeting just this week with the N.H.L. and all the stakeholders in women’s hockey, and I think we have the ear of the N.H.L.,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, 32, a Canadian forward regarded as one of the game’s greatest female players and the keynote speaker at the final day of the World Hockey Summit here.

“They’re looking at it right now from a sponsorship level to get it off the ground,” Wickenheiser said, referring to the N.H.L. “We’re not talking about big salaries, just sensible steps to get it on the ice to entertain people and see where it can go, and then down the road having an elite, W.N.B.A.-type league, which I think we could do.”

Bill Daly, the N.H.L. deputy commissioner, said that the talks had taken place over a number of months and were very preliminary but that they were aimed at setting up a “women’s league or women’s competition.”

“We’ve talked about potential structures that might work, the need for a business plan and our efforts to be helpful to the extent we can be,” Daly said.

Giving hockey-playing women around the world an ultimate goal to shoot for professionally would certainly spur further development in North America, but it also might get women in Sweden, Finland, Russia and elsewhere a motivation to keep playing and look to improve themselves. After all, gearing up for the Olympics every four years can take a toll and make a player’s career seem unnecessarily short.

If you’re thinking this will be something that happens in the near future, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. This is something that could be more than a few years away.

Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said his league has talked “general concepts” with representatives from the new Canadian Women’s Hockey League about the idea but wouldn’t go so far as to say they would follow the NBA model. The basketball league founded the WNBA in 1996 and began play in ’97 with the NBA owning all the women’s teams. Subsequently, the league has moved toward independent ownership.

Following the NBA’s lead as far as undying and borderline oppressive support for the WNBA would be an appropriate way for the NHL to approach a women’s pro league. While the constant advertisements and promos for the WNBA got tiresome after a while, you knew that the league was there and that women were doing things professionally. Whether or not the NHL could follow the same lead financially-speaking to give that kind of unwavering support to the league is another matter entirely.

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    Oilers ‘owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time’: Chiarelli

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers attends the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The more Peter Chiarelli talks, the more anticipation grows for a big trade.

    The Oilers’ general manager spoke to Sportsnet yesterday at the Memorial Cup, where he was asked once again about the possibility of dealing the fourth overall draft pick for some NHL-ready help.

    “Would I look to move it? We want to win. I took the job in Edmonton to win, so as I said earlier, we’ll look at all options,” said Chiarelli. “There’s some pretty good players that are going to be available at four but we may look to move down and still use a pick to get an asset as part of a larger deal. We owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time and we’re going to look at all options to allow us to do that.”

    The number one area that the Oilers need to upgrade is the defense. So if, for example, a player like Tyson Barrie were made available by the Colorado Avalanche, Chiarelli would no doubt be interested. Ditto for Jacob Trouba, Sami Vatanen, or whoever else could be in play this offseason.

    It won’t be easy, but if Chiarelli can add a capable, young top-4 defenseman (arguably the most valuable commodity in the NHL) and perhaps a veteran too, all of a sudden things look a lot more promising on the back end. Remember that Darnell Nurse is still only 21, Oscar Klefbom just 22. And even if the Oilers move down in the draft, they could still add another d-man to a mix that also includes youngsters Brandon Davidson, Adam Clendening, Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle.

    If, on the other hand, Chiarelli fails to upgrade the defense, then the Oilers may struggle once again next season.

    Hence, the urgency to get something done now, for a fan base that hasn’t experienced playoff excitement in a decade.

    After so much losing, there’s no selling patience anymore in Edmonton.

    Related‘There’s a real legitimate chance’ that Oilers trade fourth overall pick

    People are wondering — do the Florida Panthers know what they’re doing?

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    The Florida Panthers’ managerial shakeup continued this week with the firing of their director of player personnel, Tom Luce.

    Luce had been with the club since 2002. According to his bio, he had “been responsible for the Panthers drafting notable players, including Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitry Kulikov.”

    The firing of Luce was particularly noteworthy, since it came just days after Dale Tallon was “promoted” to president of hockey operations. That move was sold as a way for Tallon to do more of what he liked (scouting), while handing off other responsibilities (contracts, salary cap, etc.) to new GM Tom Rowe and his young assistants, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.

    But not all in the Florida media are buying, apparently.

    From Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde:

    I can retire now. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen teams fire everyone after bad, average and even mildly disappointing seasons. But I’d never seen a team replace people who created a record-setting season that buoyed the franchise’s future.

    Until the Florida Panthers over the last few days.

    Hyde goes on to question the Panthers’ new, analytics-focused direction. (If that direction sounds similar, it’s because the Arizona Coyotes are taking the same route.)

    His column finishes like this:

    This should be an offseason of great hope for the Panthers. Instead, it’s now weighed down with a question of recent days. It’s not what Tallon’s diminished role is or who Rowe is.

    The question starts here: Does Vinnie Viola know what he’s doing?

    And that’s a fair question to ask of any owner. Especially a new one.

    That being said, it’s also fair to question how much Tallon and Luce should be credited for the Panthers’ turnaround. After all, since Tallon was hired in 2010, Florida has had the first overall draft pick (Ekblad), the second overall pick (Barkov), and two third overall picks (Gudbranson, Huberdeau). Yes, there have been a few savvy picks — Vincent Trocheck in the third round stands out — and a few good additions via trade. But really, with all the blue-chip talent they’ve been gifted, making the playoffs this year was the least they should have expected.

    “It’s a great game, but a tough business sometimes,” Rowe said of the firings, per the Sun Sentinel. “The fans came out in big numbers and it was awesome. We made the playoffs and that’s good. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think we had enough punch in the playoffs and I don’t think we gave [coach Gerard Gallant] enough options to get past the Islanders on our third and fourth lines.”

    Regardless of where you stand on what’s happening in Florida, you can’t deny it’s all quite reminiscent of the summer of 2009, when Tallon was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, replaced by the much-younger Stan Bowman.

    Here’s a column that was written by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey after that decision was made:

    Wirtz and McDonough wanted to have their own crew in place. Fair enough. They don’t even want a suggestion of the mustiness of the Bob Pulford era.

    But let’s try to remember Tallon played a huge role in building a team that surprised a lot of people by getting to the Western Conference finals last season. How it came to be that they chose Stan Bowman over Tallon is no secret. There had been rumblings for most of the year that Tallon would be out.

    Yes, anybody could have picked superstars-in-training Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But let’s remember that anybody could have picked Michael Jordan in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. The teams with the first two picks didn’t.

    The Blackhawks, of course, won the Stanley Cup the next year, a month after Tallon was introduced as the new GM in Florida.

    Back to Matt: Facing elimination, Pens will start Murray

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16:  Matt Murray #30 and Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins look on against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but there’s a goalie change coming in the conference final.

    On Tuesday, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Matt Murray would be back in goal for tonight’s decisive Game 6 in Tampa Bay — this after Sullivan opted to park Murray in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5.

    Technically speaking, Murray’s been parked since the second period of Game 4. That, of course, was the one in which he allowed four goals on 30 shots, paving the way for Fleury to enter the third with Pittsburgh down 4-0.

    And that’s when things changed.

    The goalie switch seemed to spark the Pens, who scored three times in the final frame to make things interesting. While that was going on, Fleury looked sharp — though not especially busy — stopping all seven shots faced, as his mates nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback.

    The decision was then made to start Fleury on Saturday night.

    He played to mixed reviews in a 4-3 OT loss, making just 21 saves (for an .840 percentage) while appearing shaky on a number of occasions. Though he could hardly be blamed for the game-winning goal — replays showed that Jason Garrison‘s point shot deflected off Tyler Johnson‘s behind — Fleury just didn’t look right, which isn’t a shock.

    It was his first start since suffering a concussion on Mar. 31.

    As mentioned above, goalie changes have been a predominant storyline among the final four playoff teams. St. Louis has started both Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, and the Bolts were forced to go to Andrei Vasilevskiy after Ben Bishop got hurt in the series opener.

    In that light, Sullivan’s questionable decision to start Fleury in Game 5 is somewhat mitigated because, hey, other teams are having goalie issues too.

    It’s also worth noting Pittsburgh’s situation in goal probably has much to do with its situation on defense. There’s little coincidence the club has conceded eight goals over the last two games with Trevor Daley (broken ankle) almost entirely out of action, Olli Maata being thrown into action and Kris Letang shouldering gigantic minutes — including a whopping 31:38 in Game 4.

    Related: Rutherford says Fleury’s ‘absolutely not’ done in Pittsburgh, but logic suggests otherwise

    Report: Wild parting ways with assistant coaches Wilson, Sydor

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    Bruce Boudreau has some staffing to take care of in Minnesota.

    Per the Star-Tribune, the Wild have elected to part ways with veteran assistant coaches Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. The report comes just weeks after GM Chuck Fletcher hired Boudreau to replace outgoing interim bench boss John Torchetti.

    Wilson assisted three different coaches — Torchetti, Mike Yeo, Todd Richards — during his six years in Minnesota, and worked mostly with the club’s defensemen and penalty kill.

    Sydor had been one of Yeo’s most prominent right-hand men, dating back to their time together in AHL Houston. The longtime NHL blueliner was embroiled in controversy last season after he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving and child endangerment, eventually getting jail time for DWI.

    Fletcher has reportedly given Boudreau “free reign” to fill out his coaching staff, which may include a third open position.

    Per the Tribune, it’s believed another of last year’s assistants — Andre Brunette — will move from behind the bench to the front office. Prior to taking a coaching gig last season, Brunette had been working as a special assistant to Fletcher.

    The other coaches from last year — Darby Hendrickson and Bob Mason — will return in their roles. Hendrickson works out of the press box while Mason is the club’s goalie coach.

    Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet