Image (1) brianburkescowl-thumb-250x173-18264.jpg for post 14921

NHL GMs say NFL lockout likely won’t help


Conventional wisdom goes like this: NFL is big, NFL lockout gives other sports a chance to get some attention, NHL steps into the spotlight, everyone falls in love with the fastest sport on earth, and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s no question that an NFL lockout will help get more eyeballs of the general sports fan to focus on hockey at the beginning of next year – just like more eyes would be focused on college football and the NBA (assuming they start their season on time). The NFL dominates today’s sports landscape to such a degree that even a sliver of their portion of the pie would be a marked increase to the NHL’s brand.

However, some folks inside the NHL see a hidden pitfall to the NFL’s labor struggles. From the incomparable Craig Custance over at the Sporting News:

“Labor unrest in professional sports is damaging across the board. I don’t think anyone benefits,” Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke told Sporting News. “There is a fan fatigue factor. They don’t understand why professional athletes would strike, they don’t understand why wealthy owners would lock them out.”

In Burke’s opinion, labor negations gone bad in any sport reflect poorly on all the others. When the NHL collective bargaining agreement expires after next season, the three other major professional sports in the States will have gone through their negotiations and the possible work stoppage that comes with them.

It’s easy to conclude that a Sunday afternoon in which the Flyers and Penguins game is the only sport worth watching on national television is a win for the NHL. But that win wouldn’t necessarily translate to a long-term benefit for the sport of hockey.

“I just think lockouts in sports aren’t good,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told Sporting News. “I like the sport being the topic and not the business being the topic. If they lock out and miss three or four weeks, is it really going to move the needle on our sport that much? I don’t buy it.”

It’s an interesting point that both Burke and Armstrong point out when talking about the NFL’s labor strife. Most hockey fans look at their sport and simply see an opportunity—but both are correct that there’s a backlash directed at ALL sports when there’s a lockout or strike. There are everyday sports fans – we’re talking about the casual observer who casually enjoys sports, not the season-ticket holding diehards – who will watch football’s problems and see it as a bunch of billionaires fighting with even more millionaires about how to divide up a sum of money that most third-world countries would kill for. It happened when hockey had its problems a few years ago and it happened when baseball had its problems in the 1990s. Whenever it happens, there’s a carry-over effect that goes from “there’s something wrong with football” to “there’s something wrong with sports.” Fans may not be concerned with the potential backlash, but it’s interesting to see that a couple of GMs have thought about it.

Once again, it’s great to see someone like Brian Burke speak out on a subject with such honesty and candor. With the NHL still recovering from the lockout that cost fans the 2004-05 season, the last thing hockey executives want to do is bring attention to a lockout. For some hockey fans, talking about owners and players who can’t agree on a suitable agreement will rip open the healing scars that are finally getting better.

One thing both Burke and Armstrong can probably agree on today—it’s better that it’s the NFL with these problems than the NHL. Hopefully Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr agree as well.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs

Leave a comment

Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

It’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
Leave a comment

Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury

Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

Dustin Byfuglien

If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

“I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 (audio), per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

“I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

Mike Fisher
1 Comment

The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.