During the summer, we stirred the pot a little bit by discussing how now would be the time for expansion in the NHL. With a glut of talented and available free agents we thought it would be a good idea. Of course, with disappointing attendance numbers in Atlanta, Columbus, and Phoenix talk is being made of going the other way when it comes to solving problems in the NHL. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times pens a thought-provoking piece discussing the labor issues going on in the NBA and talks about how they compare to the NHL. Elliott discusses contraction as a means to solve the NHL’s problems with attendance and money. Of course, such suggestions usually lead to more questions than they do answers.
But there’s enough of an argument here for Bettman to put contraction on the table. Owners of prosperous teams would love it: they wouldn’t have to subsidize small-market teams and could keep greater shares of TV and advertising dollars. It would also put Donald Fehr, the incoming executive director of the NHL Players Assn., in a tough spot. Should he fight to keep jobs or for overall stability? Or can both exist?
Let’s get this out of the way, the NHL isn’t looking to kill off markets and the NHLPA isn’t about to go looking to cut jobs for its members, especially with Donald Fehr calling the shots. I get where the idea comes from and I get why it might seem like a smart idea. Teams that stay in the league get better by default with the dispersal of talent from the teams that would be contracted and better hockey means more excitement and potentially more fans.
Giving up on one, two, or however many markets a league might want to for contraction means giving the finger to fans in those cities for life. Winning those fans back after taking away their team almost never works. Only special circumstances allow for success to be had, but the difference there is that any reclamation projects that happened in other sports (most notably in the NFL) occurred thanks to expansion, not contraction. Contraction almost certainly means creating an instant wasteland filled with spite and bitter feelings as far as a market goes. What might make sense for business in one way, completely works against it in other ways.
After a good Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are having a lousy Wednesday morning.
The club has just announced that center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Alex Edler have been sent home from the club’s current two-game road swing, after suffering injuries in a win over Colorado last night.
Craig Oster, Sutter’s agent, told News 1130 his client has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Per TSN, Edler is undergoing “imaging” on his foot following a blocked shot, but it’s believed he’ll be out the next 2-3 weeks.
The impact of these injuries could be profound.
Vancouver hasn’t been good this year but remains in the thick of the playoff chase, sitting just four points back of the Avs for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with three games in hand.
At the same time, the Canucks also have two potentially big trade chips at the deadline in pending UFAs Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.
Will the Sutter and Edler injuries factor into Vancouver’s future plans?
You’d have to think so.
Edler is a staple on the back end, leading all Canuck blueliners in points (20) and TOI per game (24:27). Sutter, meanwhile, was supposed to be a key piece of the club this year but has had most of his season ravaged by injury — prior to the broken jaw, he missed 33 games following sports hernia surgery.
All told, Sutter has appeared in just 20 games this year.
His is also the second major facial injury suffered by a Canuck this season — Hamhuis only recently returned from a 21-game absence after taking a puck to the face in mid-December.
The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.
In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.
According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.
The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.
Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.
The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.
The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.
After Tuesday’s loss to the Jets — the Blues’ fourth in their last six games — head coach Ken Hitchcock said his club has “got to play harder than this” and “got to compete at a lot higher level than this.”
He then added “it’s up to us to fix it.”
Well, help is on the way.
On Wednesday, the Blues activated forward Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve, after he missed the last 49 contests with a fractured left ankle. Schwartz is expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Blues take on the Panthers in Florida.
The 23-year-old should provide an immediate boost to the lineup. Schwartz had four points in seven games before getting hurt, and that came on the heels of a successful ’14-15 campaign in which he posted career highs in goals (28) and points (63).
The Blues’ first-round pick in 2010 (14th overall), Schwartz is a 17-18 TOI per night guy, so he’ll be a big presence almost immediately. His return also inches the team back to full health, though there’s still a ways to go — Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen are still week-to-week with knee and lower-body injuries, while Steve Ott is out until late February following hamstrings surgery.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made