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Jim Balsillie could get an NHL team if he “behaves himself”

It’s no secret that Research In Motion’s Jim Balsillie has wanted a team for quite some time now. Just ask fans in Pittsburgh, Nashville, or Arizona. On the other hand, it’s no secret that the Blackberry broker has repeatedly irritated the NHL commissioner’s office with his brazen business tactics in his attempts to acquire an NHL team. But for the first time, there might be light at the end of the tunnel for Balsillie—and the reason for hope is coming from the top.

Mike Ozanian from Forbes has the scoop (thanks to Kukla’s Korner):

“RIM is run by billionaire Jim Balsillie, who has been repeatedly rebuffed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in his attempts to buy a team. RIM is paying over seven figures for its sponsorship. Turns out that Bettman, according to my source, has told Balsillie that if he behaves himself and doesn’t create any more spectacles or bad publicity for the league, he will eventually get a team.”

The sound you just heard was the entire city of Hamilton, Ontario erupting. Since he started trying to acquire an NHL team, he’s been open with the fact that he wants to bring another team to southern Ontario. Whether it was because the league was hesitant to have another team in Canada or because they were hesitant to bring Balsillie into the “Old Boys Club,” he’s been met with resistance at every turn. For the first time, there’s a clear (and public) route for the RIM head to get his wish.

In his article, Ozanian openly wonders if the Phoenix Coyotes will be the team made available. Fans will remember that it was Balsillie and former owner Jerry Moyes who worked out an agreement behind the NHL’s back when the Coyotes originally filed for bankruptcy. A judged ruled the sale was illegal—and the league has been trying to sell the team ever since.

Aside from the Coyotes, the Columbus Blue Jackets stated earlier in the year that they lost $25 million last season and expect to lose money again next season. Of course, another option that is always available for the league’s owners is to explore the possibility of expansion. While many fans and hockey pundits are against the idea, expansion is always an option for the simple fact that expansion fees bring in a windfall of money for all 30 teams. Sooner or later, it all comes back to money. In the short term, the owners should be able to deal with a relocation fee instead of the more lucrative expansion fee.

Before fans get ahead of themselves, the entire story is based upon Balsillie’s perspicacity for the term “behave.” Assuming he worked all of the angles because he desperately wanted a team, we’ll see if he can work this angle as well. Like a parent speaking to a child, Bettman has basically said, “be good and you’ll get what you want.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Only time will tell if Balsillie willing.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.