While we continue to keep an eye on the news surrounding the potential sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, a deal that was reported last week to being possibly done on Tuesday of this week, we find out today that hopes for a local buyer are dwindling fast.
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports today that the last local prospective buyer interested in keeping the team in Atlanta is apparently all but out.
The last-ditch effort for a buyer willing to keep the team in Atlanta appears to have expired. I’m told that “probably, but not completely” the one final prospective buyer is now out of the picture.
This story has been nothing but disheartening for the hockey fans in Atlanta and getting this piece of news seemed all but inevitable as the Atlanta Spirit Group seeks to get out from under its self-imposed boondoggle in Atlanta and find a way a way to keep their own interests safe.
Meanwhile, Atlanta columnist Jeff Schultz is waiting on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to drop into Atlanta to pledge his support to keep the Thrashers in the south the way Bettman and the NHL did to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. So far, Bettman himself has been very quiet about things as the situation in Atlanta continues to crumble while the interests in Winnipeg wait patiently to celebrate in earnest at the return of the NHL to their Canadian prairie city. Schultz isn’t expecting to see anything from the NHL home office, however.
The team’s sale to a Canadian outfit and move to Winnipeg seems to have been a fait accomplifor a while now, notwithstanding the constant denials by Bettman, Thrashers’ ownership and anybody else who’s worried more about their own reputation than what’s wrong or wrong.
The only reason we know the move won’t be completed today is that it’s Victoria Day in Canada and the banks are closed. Alas, Bettman/NHL (relocation fee) and Bruce Levenson/Atlanta Spirit must wait on their millions.
Waiting is all that seems to be happening now as True North and Atlanta Spirit work out what should be a landmark sale that sees a franchise returning to Winnipeg for the first time in 15 years. Nothing about what’s going on is fair to the fans in Atlanta and it’s clear that Atlanta Spirit has failed as an owner in the NHL. Given that they’ve been trying to sell the team for nearly six years and have come up with nothing tells you all you need to know about the situation there. The NHL can’t afford to have two teams mired in ownership hell and with one obvious buyer at the ready for any franchise to purchase, the NHL has to take care of itself first.
Big business has a way of getting what it wants no matter what and the hockey fans in Atlanta are feeling the pain of that right now.
The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.
The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.
“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”
McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.
But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.
That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.
“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”
Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.
Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight
Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.
Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”
The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.
Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.
But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.
“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.
“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”