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

1 Comment

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.

Patrick thinks he can make immediate NHL jump with Flyers

1 Comment

The New Jersey Devils opted for Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but time will be the ultimate judge in that debate. The Philadelphia Flyers also might see their guy make a more immediate jump to the NHL.

Patrick made it clear: he wants to go straight from the 2017 NHL Draft to training camp to opening night in 2017-18.

“Yeah, I think after a good summer of training, that’s my goal,” Patrick said.

The second pick of the draft noted not just his size, but also his two-way acumen when explaining why he believes he’s ready for the immediate turnaround. Patrick also brings up an interesting point: he’s already experienced three years of junior. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication would be that his development might stagnate against lesser competition.

MORE: Check out all 31 first-round picks here

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio got that same sense from Patrick in a one-on-one interview, and noted that the consensus is that he’ll make a difference from Game 1.

Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.

One might read the decision to trade Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues as the Flyers’ way of agreeing that Patrick is probably ready, yet GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t just come out and say it. While praising Patrick, Hextall noted that he’ll need to “get to work” and earn a spot.

The odds seem to be in Patrick’s favor, but perhaps it’s better to see him battle for it.

Either way, don’t expect a long wait.

After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

1 Comment

CHICAGO — Stan Bowman received a lot of kudos for getting the old Blackhawks defense together for another kick at the can.

But the way it played out, bringing back two aging veterans in Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya was a mistake by the general manager. The magic just couldn’t be recreated, and Chicago was swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators.

Then came the offseason changes. Not just on the blue line, either. Brandon Saad is back, while Artemi Panarin is gone. Marian Hossa is gone, too — a huge loss for the ‘Hawks, even if he can be put on LTIR.

So the forward group is going to look quite different next season.

The blue line could look very different, though. Oduya and Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and may not be back. Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost in the expansion draft. And last but not least, Niklas Hjalmarsson is a Coyote now, traded to Arizona for d-man Connor Murphy.

In other words, of the six defensemen who lost to the Predators, only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still under contract in Chicago.

“A lot of stuff going on,” Bowman said Friday at United Center. “Sometimes, change is good. You have to make some tough decisions. But at the same time, we’re really excited about our team next year.”

Much will be expected of Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s been toiling in Arizona anonymity since being drafted 20th overall in 2011.

“Connor’s a little bit of a different player (than Hjalmarsson),” said Bowman. “Obviously, he’s a bit bigger, he plays probably a more physical game. But he’s a good skater and he’s six years younger. It’s really hard to find young defensemen like that. He’s got a great contract, too. He’s a guy we’re going to have for a long time.”

Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will also be expected to take on bigger roles in 2017-18.

“It’s up to them to take hold of it, but I think the opportunity is going to be there for them,” said Bowman. “It’s time to give these guys a chance to grow and take on bigger responsibilities.”

Speaking of young defensemen, the Blackhawks added another to their stable Friday, drafting Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.

“Henri’s a player we’ve been high on all year,” said Bowman. “A right-shot defenseman. Those are a commodity in today’s game. It’s hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill-set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. I guess what you would term the modern-day defenseman.”

As for Bowman, he believes his big moves have been made. He promised changes, and changes he delivered.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

Related: Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta

Penguins spend big to get bigger, land Reaves from Blues

Getty
20 Comments

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add some snarl to protect stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You won’t find many – if any – forces more intimidating than Ryan Reaves.

That’s who the Penguins reportedly acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues, who suddenly became very busy toward the end of the 2017 NHL Draft’s first round on Friday.

MORE: Blues acquire Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera, picks

Moments ago, Gary Bettman announced the details of the move.

Penguins receive: Reaves, 51st pick of 2017

Blues receive: Oskar Sundqvist, 31st pick of 2017

Penguins’ perspective

Rutherford believed that the NHL was allowing teams to take liberties with star players, particularly Crosby and Malkin. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

Rutherford reiterated that thought after the move.

One can debate how much an enforcer such as Reaves really “deters” such behavior, especially since he won’t be on the ice with star players in most close situations. There’s little denying that he’s a fearsome fighter, with six in 2016-17 and as many as 10 in a single season.

Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

A busy night for Doug Armstrong

Moments ago, the Blues drafted Kim Klostin with the 31st pick, grabbing a player some expected to go much earlier in the first round.

They also acquired Oskar Sundqvist, the 81st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old was unable to score a point in 10 games with the Penguins last season, but he was productive in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 46 points.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong absorbed some serious criticism for protecting Reaves instead of David Perron, but now both players are gone. One would assume that’s likely by design, although it’s also possible that the Penguins simply provided an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Armstrong made another big splash by sending Jori Lehtera and draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Getting the 31st pick was helpful for the Blues after they sent the 27th choice to Philly.

Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract

5 Comments

Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a big splash at the end of the draft’s first round on Friday night, sending forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

Schenn, 25, is coming off two pretty productive years with the Flyers, in which he scored 26 and 25 goals. He just wrapped the first of a four-year, $20.5 million deal — one that carries a $5.125M cap hit.

It’s a big get for the Blues, who now boast Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen at forward.

That hit is largely why Lehtera is on his way to Philly. Coming off a “bad” season in which he struggled with injury and healthy scratches, there was speculation he’d be made available at the expansion draft — which he was — and when he wasn’t selected by Vegas, the likelihood of a trade was high.

Lehtera makes $4.7 million annually, through 2019.

With the 27th overall selection, the Flyers took Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. Frost finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring this year and had a strong playoff, with five goals and 11 points in 11 games. It was the second center Philly scored in the first round, having previously selected Nolan Patrick with the No. 2 overall selection.

And here are the conditions around that ’18 pick: