With the Atlanta Thrashers now gone from the deep south of the United States and making their home in Winnipeg, there are a host of fans in Atlanta and around Georgia that are now left without a local team to root for. Go ahead, make jokes about how Thrashers fans are just a figment of Gary Bettman’s imagination, but they’re real and now they’re hockey fans without a pro hockey team, a problem the Nashville Predators have already started to try and cash in on by offering enticing ticket packages for former Thrashers fans.
Now the Predators are going to potentially have some serious competition from another southern team to try and keep Thrashers fans in the mix in the NHL.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer shares news that the Carolina Hurricanes are thinking about making their move into the Atlanta market by showing up there next preseason to play a game and win over fans of their former division rivals. The one guy that knows all about how that works is current Hurricanes forward and now former Thrashers forward Anthony Stewart as he’s seen how great some of the Atlanta fans were up close and personal.
“There’s some passionate fans there,” said new Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart, who played for the Thrashers last season. “I’m on Twitter pretty much every day, and they seem passionate about that. I’ve heard some fans say that their next team is going to be Tampa or Nashville or Carolina. It’s definitely worth it.”
Making the competition a bit stiffer to win those fans over, as DeCock mentions, the Predators and Hurricanes each getting about 40 games on Atlanta cable TV outlet SportSouth. While the Atlanta Spirit Group didn’t do much of anything to help Thrashers fans fall in love with the team by treating it like a poorly run bodega rather than a sports franchise capable of making money, both the Predators and Hurricanes are more than happy to court those jilted by the loss of their team.
Sure it might seem like vultures swarming over a carcass in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a good move to keep those fans that did love hockey entertained and winning over more fans in the deep south is never a bad thing. The one catch here in this competition between the two teams is proximity. Nashville is about a four hour drive from Atlanta whereas Raleigh is about a six to seven hour drive if you can fight off Atlanta traffic without a problem. Having the games on TV is a great thing because, let’s face it, hockey fans no matter where they are want to see it. Getting those fans to come out to a game at some point might be a bit tougher thanks to those tough commutes.
Still, it’s nice to see at least two other teams do something for Thrashers fans that their own team never felt compelled to do in the first place: Care.
Brent Burns, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson have been named finalists for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, but the debate about who should win is likely to persist right through to June 22 and the annual NHL Awards.
Not only did Karlsson, last year’s Norris winner, lead all blue liners is points with 82, he led the league in assists with 66 and finished tied with Joe Thornton for fourth in the entire NHL in total points. Those lofty offensive totals could make the Ottawa Senators star the clear favorite to claim the award for a third time in his career.
Karlsson is the first NHL defenseman to score at least 82 in a season since Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers (85 points) and Ray Bourque of the Boston Bruins (82 points) in 1995-96.
Burns — is there an award for most outrageous beard? — is also coming off an impressive regular season, finishing just shy of the 30-goal mark with 27 and 75 points in 82 games for the Sharks. He’s also had a strong showing in the post-season, as well, with eight points in the opening round versus L.A.
Doughty’s offensive numbers don’t match up with the production from Karlsson or Burns, with 51 points in 82 games for the Kings. There were eight defensemen ahead of him in overall point production. But he’s often recognized for logging hefty amounts of ice time, averaging 28:01 in the regular season, on a Kings team that often dominates puck possession at even strength.
“If you’re going to win, I don’t care how good you are, you’re going to have to play the other side of the puck,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi recently said to the Associated Press.
“You’re going to have to make those little plays that aren’t going to show up on the highlights. (Doughty’s) defensive partners — the little things he’ll do just to get his partner time to make a play. He’s three steps ahead of everything, and because he is that, he makes it look easy.”
They were the top teams in the Western Conference during the regular season, with 109 and 107 points, respectively. And now, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues clash with a second-round series in the playoffs. You can catch Game 1 between these Central Division foes on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
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Some links to check out for tonight’s game:
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Here are PHT’s second-round playoff predictions
Nine days after getting prized prospect goalie Thatcher Demko under contract, the Vancouver Canucks have inked another college puck stopper.
The Canucks have signed college free agent goalie Michael Garteig to a one-year entry-level contract, the team announced Friday. Garteig recently completed his senior year with Quinnipiac University, which won the ECAC championship but lost the NCAA championship game to North Dakota earlier this month.
Garteig, 24, posted a 32-4-7 record with a .924 save percentage and a career best eight shutouts this season. He was also once again nominated for the 2016 Mike Richter Award.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.
Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.
Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.
Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Contractual details, per the Buffalo News: