R.J. Umberger, Samuel Pahlsson

Add the Atlanta Thrashers to the list of teams facing attendance issues

A few days ago, Joe discussed the attendance issues plaguing the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes.

Sadly, the trend of fledgling teams struggling to draw people in relatively young markets continues with the Atlanta Thrashers, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Vivlamore points out that the Thrashers set a new franchise low for attendance during Thursday’s home game against the Blue Jackets, drawing an announced audience of 8,461 people after setting a previous low of 8,820 on October 15 against the Buffalo Sabres. He points out the team’s troubling attendance figures through five games.

Here are the home attendance figures so far this season:

Oct. 8 vs. Washington – 15, 596

Oct. 20 vs. Buffalo – 8,820

Oct. 22 vs. Tampa Bay – 9,138

Oct. 29 vs. Buffalo – 10,172

Nov. 4 vs. Columbus – 8,461

That’s an average home attendance this season of  10, 437. Take away the season opener and it is 9,148.

It’s pretty hard to spin those figures, but there are a few reasons for mild optimism.

For one thing, the Thrashers seem like they’re gradually improving, even though they are doing so in a pretty subtle way. Their 6-5-2 start is good for 14 points, which would make them the seventh seed in the East if the playoffs started.

The other “plus” is that they will host their best box office draw since that home opener against the Capitals tonight, as the team will play against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. Considering the star power of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – along with the fact that it’s on an ideal Saturday night – my guess is the attendance should be dramatically better for at least one evening.

Unfortunately, one good night doesn’t heal all wounds. Perhaps the Thrashers need more stability (or wins) to generate fan interest. Maybe they miss the marquee talents of Ilya Kovalchuk. Whatever the case may be, Atlanta needs to put more butts in seats.

Report: Islanders cut first-rounder Barzal from camp

Mathew Barzal
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It seems Mathew Barzal has played in his last game in a New York Islanders’ uniform for a little while.

Barzal took part in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but after that contest the Islanders decided to return him to WHL Seattle, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

He was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That selection was well-traveled as it originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was involved in the David Perron trade and then moved to the Islanders as part of Edmonton’s deal to get Griffin Reinhart.

Barzal is noteworthy for his skill and speed, but he may have slipped in the draft due to a knee injury he sustained during the 2014-15 campaign.

The Islanders also reassigned Kirill Petrov, Kevin Czuczman, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Torres offered in-person hearing, potentially setting up long suspension

Torres hit

What will Raffi Torres get this time?

The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.

It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. While Torres is not considered a repeat offender as his last suspension came more than 18 months ago, the NHL still retains the right to consider his history when deciding on this matter.

Among other incidents, he was once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.

You can see the hit below:

And here it is slowed down:

Torres got a match penalty and Silfverberg left the game. Fortunately, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said that Silfverberg could have returned, but was kept out for precautionary reasons.