PRO HOCKEY TALKPHT Select Team

Did the NHL make a mistake not postponing tonight’s game in New Jersey?

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It’s odd when the weather is discussed so much for a game that 99.9% of the time is played indoors, but with a snowstorm slamming the northeast games in Long Island and Newark, New Jersey came directly under fire from mother nature. The Islanders petitioned the league to get their game postponed and were turned down, meanwhile the Devils game went off without the league seemingly taking the conditions outside into account.

While the weather was bad in Long Island, things seemed to be worse (or at least taken more seriously) in New Jersey. Throughout tonight’s game as the Devils dropped a 4-1 decision to the Maple Leafs, the snow piled up and the winds blew fiercely causing Newark Airport to shut down, New Jersey transit service in Newark to shutdown at 8:30 this evening, and a state of emergency declared in New Jersey because of the snow.  If that sounds bad for the NHL, it does.

Tonight’s attendance at Prudential Center was announced as being 5,329 but as you can see from the photo above, that’s a pretty generous amount. Given what was going on outside the arena, was it right for the game to have even been played tonight? We’re thinking it wasn’t and for obvious reasons.

First off, the safety of the fans that did make it to the game is put in great danger. Because those tickets cost so much money, some fans feel pressured to go to the game so they don’t end up wasting that money spent. That leads to them either taking a bus, train, or driving to the game and then taking a chance with their safety or, as what happened tonight, losing a method of transportation home. Imagine what would happen should someone get in a serious car accident or end up stranded in Newark all because they didn’t call the game off. That makes for horrible publicity and something the NFL took very seriously in postponing Sunday night’s game in Philadelphia until Tuesday.

Another thing to keep in mind is the safety of the teams, notably the visiting Maple Leafs. The Leafs bus got stuck in the snow after the game on their way back to the hotel. The team’s flight out of New Jersey was canceled thanks to the weather. The Leafs play again on Tuesday back in Toronto so getting back home in time for that isn’t an issue. If they had a game tomorrow, however, that would’ve made for a major problem. The Devils don’t play again until Wednesday at home against the Rangers.

That attendance number is miserable and completely understandable from the fan’s perspective. No one wants to go out when the weather is that bad and for anyone who bought tickets to the game, it’s a colossal waste of money for them to not go. Just think, if you took your family to the game you’re looking at eating a few hundred dollars worth of tickets. Factor in the transportation issues and there’s very little reason for fans to even want to go and given that some of those problems didn’t pop up until the game was already under way there’s no telling how many fans were literally left in the cold by taking a chance in even going to the game.

Finally, how happy do you think the Devils were to have to play a game tonight with such a small crowd? That puts the bite on them to bring in the full staff of security, maintenance, and concession workers to babysit a small gathering of fans. That means paying them for their full shift of work and likely not turning a profit on the night in beer, food, and merchandise sales. If you’ve got 18,000 fans there that’s one thing. If it’s just 5,000 that makes for a brutal financial loss on the night. The Devils did a nice thing for those fans that did show up by inviting everyone to come sit in the lower bowl of the arena, but that’s more to help make things look nicer on television.

The NHL’s view on things is that the teams are both there, the teams are both ready to play so they should play the game. Again, we understand that perspective on things and we know that the NHL schedule is so packed and demanding that figuring out another day for the Devils and Maple Leafs to make up the game would be very difficult. But it’s not an impossible thing to do and for the sake of the fans and the host team, common sense should’ve suggested postponing the game.

Saving everyone a world of trouble is worth it over putting the fans in danger and ruffling the feathers of the home team. The NHL should’ve taken a page out of the NFL’s playbook of operations and told the Devils (and the Islanders) to take the night off and figure out how to reschedule the games. While that would make for a temporary inconvenience, it sure looks a lot better than looking like you’re not taking the safety of the fans into consideration.

Weight hopes Eberle can re-discover ‘eye of the tiger’ with Islanders

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

Jordan Eberle had a difficult season at times in 2016-17.

Yet he still managed to score 20 goals, hitting that mark for a fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. (He put up 34 goals in 2011-12.)

You can understand why having a skilled winger to perhaps play alongside center John Tavares — at least that’s the expectation prior to training camp — would be intriguing for head coach Doug Weight as the new season approaches.

“Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight recently told the NHL Network.

Eberle’s first foray into playoff hockey was a struggle, as he recorded only two assists in 13 post-season games and the Oilers made it to the second round.

And that is where Weight’s extended comments get interesting, because it sounds like the 27-year-old forward’s confidence took a bit of a hit during his final campaign in Edmonton and, in particular, during the playoffs, when his offensive production wasn’t there and the public scrutiny intensified.

Several weeks later, Eberle was traded to the Islanders.

“I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger; that fire back that sometimes gets lost,” Weight continued. “It’s tough. You can get cemented in certain roles, you can have some tough times. But Jordan still produced. He’s a helluva talent and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him and excited for him to get here.”

It didn’t take long after the trade for discussions about a possible Eberle-Tavares reunion to begin. Playing for Team Canada, they combined for a thrilling tying goal against Russia in the dying seconds of the 2009 World Juniors semifinal.

One of the Islanders’ top priorities is to get Tavares secured to a new contract, as he enters the final year of his current deal.

Adding a proven scoring winger to Tavares’ line may also help the team’s captain rebound from a season in which his bottom-line production dropped as well, which would certainly boost the Islanders’ chances of getting back to the playoffs.

“[Eberle’s] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere,” Islanders forward Anders Lee recently told NHL.com.

“He’s a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us.”

Report: Rangers among ‘final two or three teams’ in running to sign Kerfoot

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One of the big issues facing the Rangers this offseason was about depth up the middle.

New York could take a step in addressing that, with a potential solution in college free agent Alex Kerfoot, the former New Jersey Devils draft pick who decided to test the open market.

From the New York Post:

The Rangers are among the final two or three teams under consideration by Harvard free-agent center Alex Kerfoot, The Post has learned.

J.P. Barry, the 23-year-old center’s agent who confirmed the parties’ mutual interest, told The Post that Kerfoot likely would reach a decision no later than Tuesday following a weekend of reflection.

The Rangers traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes and lost Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft, leaving them in a difficult spot at center heading into the summer months.

Now 23 years old, Kerfoot played four years at Harvard University — the same school as Jimmy Vesey, who became a college free agent last summer and signed with the Rangers — and had a terrific senior year. He put up 16 goals and 45 points and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

The Rangers are facing competition to land Kerfoot, who is from Vancouver and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam. The Canucks are reportedly still in consideration, as well.

According to agent J.P. Barry, Kerfoot and the Canucks management group reportedly had a “productive” meeting last week.

Luongo: ‘I haven’t had any issues’ in return from injury

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Roberto Luongo continues preparations for the upcoming season, after an injury cut his 2016-17 campaign short.

Luongo’s last game was on March 2. He didn’t play again after that due to reported aggravation of a previous hip injury that had required surgery.

However, per the Miami Herald on Monday, the 38-year-old netminder has returned to the ice. Luongo then gave a promising update on his status with training camp approaching in a few weeks.

“It’s good to be able to get back to my regular summer training program. This is my second week … everything feels great and I haven’t had any issues. That’s good,” Luongo told the Miami Herald.

“It’s comforting mentally to know I can go through a rigorous workout and go all out and not have any issues nor think about it. That’s a big first step for me after going through the ups-and-downs of having to deal with my issue last year. It’s nice to have that piece of mind.”

Luongo appeared in 40 games for Florida last season. He still has five years remaining on his contract, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.333 million, per CapFriendly. James Reimer, in his first season with the Panthers after signing there for five years and $17 million, played in 43 games with a sound .920 save percentage.

Once heavily relied upon as a workhorse netminder, starting a career high 75 games one year in Vancouver, the reality is Luongo has a lot of mileage on him and is approaching 40 years of age. As he comes back from this latest injury and considering his age, it will be interesting to see exactly how many starts he gets and who will emerge as the No. 1 goalie in Florida over the course of this upcoming season.

“Listen, this has always been his team,” Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas told the Miami Herald. “But everyone these days has to manage time better, not just us. Roberto can’t play 60, 65 games a season any more. Reimer shouldn’t either. It only gets tougher every year.”

Islanders face critical time on and off the ice

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

There is quite a bit on the plate of the New York Islanders. On and off the ice.

That includes steps toward finding a permanent home.

That is especially the case given reports last month that this ongoing arena situation — moving from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center in Brooklyn to possibly being on the move again to another local destination — is apparently a factor in the delay of getting star forward John Tavares signed to a contract extension.

Tavares has one year left on his current six-year, $33 million contract. The face of the franchise since the day he went No. 1 overall to the Islanders in 2009, Tavares is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, provided he doesn’t ink a new contract by then.

Read more: Poll: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

On the arena front, the Islanders have made their interest in building an arena on land at Belmont Park well-known — a scenario that Tavares believes has “great potential there.” However, it’s been previously outlined that this is a scenario that will still take some time to finalize.

From Newsday Long Island: 

Tavares said he is waiting to see what comes of the Request For Proposals issued July 30 by New York state regarding the Belmont Park development. The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and a Madison Square Garden-backed sports arena consortium Oak View Group, are expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot.

It’s not clear whether the state will select a winner before Tavares would hit unrestricted free agency next July. All bids are due by Sept. 28 and Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency which is handling the RFP, has declined to set a timeline after that.

Of course for Tavares, with an eight-year deal in the offing, he would love to know where he’ll be playing.

Contract negotiations with star players — especially one that is moving closer toward unrestricted free agency — can provide enough tension for fans. The Islanders are not only facing such a negotiation, but an ongoing arena situation as well, and reports suggest the latter may be complicating the former.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have won only one playoff series in the eight seasons Tavares has been with the club. They missed out on the postseason earlier this spring.

Even with a player like Tavares, the Islanders have yet to truly challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference. For this upcoming season, head coach Doug Weight put onus on the organization to put their star in a position to win and win right now.

They need to sign their star. They will eventually need to settle their arena situation. And there is added pressure to win as Tavares enters his final year of his contract.
It’s shaping up to be a critical few months for the Islanders.
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