Maple Leafs president and CEO loves job Brian Burke has done with team

toronto_maple_leafs.gifMaple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Richard Peddie was asked for his thoughts on the job Leafs GM Brian Burke is doing with the team, and you have to wonder if maybe Peddie’s underlings are showing him tapes of other teams winning and calling them the Leafs.

Shi Davidi of The Globe And Mail gives us the early leader for quote of the season.

“I absolutely love the job Brian Burke has done,” Peddie said moments before a grand opening ceremony for Maple Leaf Square, his company’s gleaming property development project.

“What he’s done, first off, is he’s built a really deep (management) team, with succession. Dave Nonis is a GM all by himself, Dave Poulin is a GM in waiting, Claude Loiselle has been an assistant GM, we’ve got the greybeard and wise man in Cliff Fletcher, really, really a deep, deep team.

“Then he set about changing the culture of the team. I’ve never seen a GM that had a really clear vision of what kind of team he wanted. I’ve worked with seven of them, which might say something about the longevity of GMs at our place, but he’s got this clear, clear vision — goalies, defence, four lines, all that. I’ve never heard it, basketball, soccer, hockey, as clear as him. …

“Did we finish 29th? Was that not good? Absolutely, but I love where he’s at now, what he’s done, so high, high marks to Brian Burke from my perspective.”

If anyone ever calls Richard Peddie a pessimist, just show them these quotes to shut them up. If anyone wanted to call him crazy, on the other hand, this would make for an outstanding Exhibit A. As for Brian Burke, you better believe he knows what was said and you’d better believe he’s got his own take on things.

“We finished 29th, I don’t know how I can give myself anything other than a poor grade,” he said. “You’re dealing with sophisticated sports fans in Toronto — you better be honest. We haven’t had any success, hopefully it starts (Thursday) night.”

The Leafs open up with the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto and while fans may be excited about the start of the season in Toronto, realism is also a bit more in vogue than usual in Canada’s hockey capital.

While things could all click right for Toronto and they sneak in the playoffs, the more realistic thing to believe in is that they’ll improve starkly over last season and just miss out. If the Leafs can turn the corner like that and perhaps even not finish last in the Northeast Division, then people can start believing in the job Burke is doing building the team. Until then, the jury is out.

Of course, whatever tapes Richard Peddie is watching will show the “Leafs” lifting the Cup at seasons end yet again. He might be asking what happened to the red and black jerseys they wore last year are though.

Scroll Down For:

    More details emerge re: Isles’ arena plans

    ELMONT, NY - JUNE 06:  A sign is seen at Belmont Park on June 6, 2014 in Elmont, New York.  On Saturday, June 7, California Chrome will attempt to win the triple crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Big day for NHL arena news.

    First came a report out of Arizona that the Coyotes’ public financing plans could be in trouble.

    Now comes another report that the New York Islanders may have a solution to their Barclays Center problem.

    From Bloomberg:

    A supergroup of New York sports executives, including owners of the New York Rangers and the New York Mets, is lining up to invest in a new arena just outside of Queens for the National Hockey League’s Islanders, according to people familiar with the discussions.

    The new arena proposal is a joint venture between the Islanders, Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development, said the people, who asked to be anonymous because the talks are private. James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co., which controls the Rangers, long the Islanders hated rivals, is an investor in Oak View Group, the private equity group run by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff. The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, controls Sterling Project Development. 

    Bloomberg notes that NHL owners are allowed to “have a stake in another club’s arena,” so Dolan’s involvement shouldn’t be an issue with the league.

    Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed last month that the Isles’ owners were exploring their options beyond the team’s current home in Brooklyn.

    “The owners are committed to the franchise, they’re committed to New York and the great fan base that has followed the Islanders,” said Bettman. “There are some issues about playing in Barclays that may be fundamental as to the ice system, and that’s not something that can be fixed in the short term. I think, as is prudent, Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky are reviewing the situation and looking very seriously at what their options are.”

    According to Bloomberg, the current focus is on a site at Belmont Park in Elmont. For more on that, read Newsday’s story from July.

    Related: Tim Leiweke could play role in redevelopment of Seattle’s KeyArena

    Neuvirth ‘scared’ Flyers will trade him at deadline

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Goalie Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Washington Capitals won, 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    At the 2014 trade deadline, Michal Neuvirth was traded from Washington to Buffalo.

    One year later, the Sabres flipped him to the Isles.

    So it’s understandable, then, that Neuvirth — a pending unrestricted free agent — is plenty worried the Flyers might ship him out by next Wednesday.

    “For sure, I’m scared,” Neuvirth said, per the Courier-Post. “The last three deadlines I’ve been traded twice. For sure, I’m scared, yes.”

    The 28-year-old is probably right to be frightened. With an affordable $1.625 million cap hit and a history of solid stretches — including last year, when he went 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.27 GAA — Neuvirth is a classic “upgrade your backup” option.

    Like in 2015, when Isles GM Garth Snow wanted an improvement on Chad Johnson.

    “Chad played some very good games for us over the course of the season,” Snow said at the time, per the Daily News. “But seeing Michal Neuvirth performing, especially in the last 30 days playing at an extremely high level, obviously goaltenders are hard to get in the NHL and the Eastern Conference.

    “It was an opportunity for us to make a move and get a little better at the position.”

    For a playoff-bound team, Neuvirth is a tantalizing add. His career postseason numbers are excellent — .933 save percentage over 13 appearances, with a pair of shutouts. (Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size.)

    He was also terrific in last year’s opening-round loss to Washington, stopping 103 of 105 shots faced.

    As for the Flyers, they’re in a precarious situation, sitting five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’d need to leapfrog Florida, Boston and the Isles to get there, and GM Ron Hextall hasn’t publicly identified himself as a buyer or seller.

    What’s more, Hextall doesn’t want to address his goalie situation until the offseason. Steve Mason‘s a pending UFA as well, and there’s some believe neither will be back with Philly next year.

    As for landing spots, one has to wonder if Boston will kick tires on Neuvirth. GM Don Sweeney said the club could try to solve its longstanding backup goalie problem at the deadline.

    Report: Coyotes arena financing plan in trouble

    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Getty
    1 Comment

    More bad news for the Arizona Coyotes in their quest to build a new arena and remain in the Phoenix area.

    From the Arizona Republic:

    A plan that would provide $225 million in public financing for a new $395 million Arizona Coyotes arena likely does not have the votes to pass the state Senate, key lawmakers told The Arizona Republic/azcentral Thursday.

    Sens. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, and John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said they definitely were going to vote against the plan, while Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, said there is little support among the chamber’s 13 Democrats. Meanwhile, Senate President Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said he had “serious reservations” about the plan that would allow the National Hockey League team to build an arena in downtown Phoenix or the East Valley.

    It would take at least 16 votes to pass Senate Bill 1149 in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republicans have a 17-13 advantage. Statements from those lawmakers make it appear unlikely that there is enough support to move the plan to the House.

    A vote before the full Senate could occur next week.

    The financing plan is being championed by Sen. Bob Worsley, a Republican.

    “I’m not a hockey fan but I’m a business guy and I want to save any business of this magnitude from leaving and impacting thousands of jobs,” Worsley said earlier this month, per Arizona Sports. “We would go out of our way in the Legislature to see what we could do if there was a company considering leaving so it’s appropriate to say, ‘what can we do to help?’”

    In light of today’s news, Worsley’s words do not bode well for the Coyotes, who have no intention of remaining in Glendale long term.

    The team, still holding out hope, told the Republic, “There are a lot of moving parts in this legislative process and everything is malleable and open for discussion until the very end. We will continue to educate lawmakers about a complex project that creates a true public-private partnership and offers the Coyotes an economically viable solution to remain in the Valley for the long term.”

    Related: Coyotes still ‘pretty confident’ of finding an arena solution

    Weather forecast looks good for Penguins-Flyers

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01:  Fireworks go off before the start of the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Pittsburgh set a new weather record today, with temperatures reaching a summer-like 76 degrees.

    But it’s supposed to cool down considerably tomorrow, with only a chance of showers during the day — good news with the Penguins and Flyers set to play outdoors at Heinz Field.

    Game time tomorrow is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET (on NBC).

    “It’ll be fun, and what the weather is, because it’s unpredictable, is one of the great intriguing parts of putting on these games,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a radio interview, per the Post-Gazette.

    The last time the Penguins played outdoors at Heinz Field, in the 2011 Winter Classic, the threat of rain forced the start time from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    Tomorrow’s forecast from The Weather Network:

    weather

    Related: How to watch and stream Penguins-Flyers outdoor game