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NHL GMs say NFL lockout likely won’t help

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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.

Las Vegas NHL team hires former Habs scout Karpan as director of player personnel

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13:  George McPhee speaks after being introduced as the general manager of the Las Vegas NHL franchise during a news conference at T-Mobile Arena on July 13, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another hire for the Las Vegas NHL franchise.

On Tuesday, the team named Vaughn Karpan as its new director of player personnel. He most recently held the title of director of professional scouting with the Montreal Canadiens.

Karpan joined the Habs in 2005, after spending 13 years with the Coyotes franchise, including five years as director of amateur scouting.

This latest move comes after the Vegas franchise named Murray Craven as a senior vice president.

Craven had been an advisor to owner Bill Foley during the process of getting an NHL team in Las Vegas and hiring a general manager.

From the Associated Press:

Craven will be responsible for establishing the club’s top minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League, developing the practice facility in Summerlin, Nevada, building up facilities at T-Mobile Arena and overseeing projects at the request of general manager George McPhee.

Oh yeah, the Vegas franchise still doesn’t have a team name yet.

Related:

Vegas team hires Hockey Canada’s Donskov as director of hockey operations

Update: Vegas expansion team could still go with ‘hawks’

Senators, Ceci agree to two-year, $5.6M contract

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 6: Cody Ceci #5 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on February 6, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion predicted 11 days ago that a new contract with defenseman Cody Ceci would get done “within the next few weeks.”

His timeline proved to be quite accurate.

On Tuesday, the Senators announced they had re-signed the 22-year-old Ceci, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal, worth a total value of $5.6 million.

The breakdown of the deal from the Senators states Ceci will receive $2.25 million in the first year of his new contract and $3.35 million in the second.

As per General Fanager, Ceci is slated to be a restricted free agent at the end of this deal, which means the Senators would have to match the salary Ceci made in the final season of the contract in their next qualifying offer to him two years from now.

It’s also a raise from the $1.369 million average annual value he was making with his entry-level contract. It was previously reported that the Senators offered Ceci both long and short-term deals.

The Senators put out a teaser of the news on Twitter, minutes before the announcement.

Ceci is from Ottawa, where he also played his junior hockey, and a first-round pick of the Senators in 2012.

In his second full season with the Senators, he posted a new single-season career high in goals with 10 and points with 26.

Report: Boughner and Dineen ‘major candidates’ for Avs gig, Arniel out

WINDSOR, ON - JANUARY 20:  Assistant Coach Bob Boughner of Team Orr points to a play on the ice during the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game against Team Cherry on January 20, 2010 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario. Team Cherry defeated Team Orr 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Just weeks after Patrick Roy’s shock departure, Colorado’s search for a new head coach appears to be taking shape.

There’s plenty to get into, so let’s go bullet points:

Per the Denver Post, a pair of assistant coaches — San Jose’s Bob Boughner and Chicago’s Kevin Dineen — have emerged as “major candidates” for the job.

• Also per the Post, Jared Bednar — the head coach of Columbus’ Calder Cup-winning AHL affiliate in Lake Erie — is in the mix for the Colorado gig as well.

• Another guy with Columbus ties, former head coach Scott Arniel, is reportedly out of contention, per the Dispatch. Arniel’s currently serving as Alain Vigneault’s right-hand man in New York.

• Other names in the mix include Vancouver property Travis Green (currently with AHL Utica) and longtime Barry Trotz assistant Lane Lambert (currently with Washington).

• Brad Larsen, currently one of John Tortorella’s assistants in Columbus and a former Avs player, won’t be getting an interview. Larsen’s name had apparently been floated earlier.

• And finally, if you’re wondering why so many guys with Columbus ties are in the mix, the Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline explained that former BJ’s assistant GM Chris McFarland now has the same job in Colorado under Joe Sakic.

So there you go.

Poll: What’s a realistic point total for the Sabres?

Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane (9) celebrates with teammate Ryan O'Reilly (90) after O'Reilly scored the winning goal during the overtime session of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday Dec. 12, 2015 in Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
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This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…

Last year, Detroit snagged the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 93 points.

Two years ago, Pittsburgh did the same with 98.

In light of those totals, it’s not surprising to hear what Sabres head coach Dan Byslma pegged as the mark for the upcoming campaign.

“We should expect to be 95 points or higher than that,” Bylsma told NHL.com earlier this summer. “We think we’re better on defense. We think we’re stronger. We’re deeper. If you’re looking at expectations from within, we should be above 95 points at the end of the season.”

It’s a lofty goal, to say the least. Buffalo only had 81 last season.

But there is something to be said for Bylsma’s prediction, because his previous one worked out pretty well. In that same chat with NHL.com, the Sabres head coach said he and GM Tim Murray pegged last year’s club as an 80-to-85 point team, which proved accurate.

And if the last few seasons have shown anything, it’s that Buffalo is on the rise.

The Sabres had a meager 52 points three seasons ago, and made the slight bump up to 54 in ’14-15. Last year signified a huge leap forward — 27 points — which is probably why Bylsma is banking on a 14-15 point improvement (or more) this season.

Of course, this next push will prove more difficult.

For the Sabres to snap their five-year playoff drought, certain areas will need to improve. The club’s 25th-ranked offense needs to find the back of the net with more regularity, and the addition of prized free agent Kyle Okposo should help in that department.

In goal, Robin Lehner will need to stay healthy and appear in significantly more games (just 21 last season). And it remains to be seen what the ramifications from Evander Kane‘s controversial offseason will be.

So… what do you expect from Buffalo next season? Vote away.