TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche skates with the puck past a checking Matt Frattin #39 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game on October 17, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Will Denver ever love the Avs again?

13 Comments

A quick visit to the Denver Post’s website and it’s clear what the Colorado Avalanche is up against. There, above a huge picture of a football player that’s done nothing in the NFL, sits the headline: “An insider’s take on Tim Tebow.”

Tucked underneath the giant image is the story about the Avalanche’s 3-2 OT win over the Maple Leafs last night in Toronto. The win was Colorado’s fifth straight road victory. The Avs (5-1-0) are the only team in the NHL with 10 points. First place in the league. Prior to the start of the season, many had them pegged for last. Pretty remarkable, even if it’s still early.

To be fair, Tebow is big news across the country, not just in Denver. The former Heisman winner will start at quarterback for the Broncos on Sunday in Miami. Suffice to say Tebow will be the only reason to watch that game. Well, that and gambling. The point is, the Broncos are terrible. (Thus, the Tebow start.)

It’s a tough time to be a sports fan in Denver. It’s not just the Broncos. The Rockies were bad. The University of Colorado football team stinks. The Nuggets were decent, but now they’re locked out.

So, is now the time for the Avs to get back into the city’s spotlight?

It’s been a while since the NHL got much attention in Denver. Remember the Avs’ famous sellout streak (487 games) that began in the first year of their existence after the franchise moved from Quebec City in 1995? Yeah, that streak ended five years ago. Colorado finished 24th in league attendance in 2010-11, drawing just 14,820 per game in the 18,007-seat Pepsi Center.

If you’d like to watch the Avs host the Oilers next Friday, you can get four tickets, four family meals and four Pepsis, all for $99.

Yep, Colorado is one of those markets now.

It’s not like the Avs are the Blue Jackets or the Panthers either. Columbus has made the playoffs once in franchise history. Florida hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2000. You’d excuse those markets for their apathy. But Colorado? The Avs have won two Stanley Cups since 1996 and missed the playoffs just three times. Only twice have they finished the regular season with a losing record.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly why the fans have stayed away in recent years. They got spoiled. Joe Sakic. Peter Forsberg. Patrick Roy. Rob Blake. Ray Bourque. Claude Lemieux. All played and won Cups in Colorado. All are Hall of Famers. Those are some tough shoes to fill.

The 2011-12 Avs will eventually come back down to earth. (Just ask Halford.) They might make the playoffs like they managed two years ago, but they’re still a long ways from contending for the Cup again.

Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see if Denver sports fans take notice of the young, exciting hockey team that’s playing for cheap at the Pepsi Center. Because once Tebow proves once and for all he’s not an NFL quarterback, that hockey team will be all they’ve got.

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

Vladislav Namestnikov
Getty
2 Comments

Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

dumbaeye
Getty
1 Comment

There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.

Journeyman enforcer Rosehill signs with Scottish team

Paul Bissonnette, Jay Rosehill
Getty
Leave a comment

Noted pugilist Jay Rosehill has followed in the footsteps of his fellow tough guys, and will try his hand overseas.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the EIHL’s Scottish-based outfit in Braehead — the Clan — announced it had signed Rosehill for the upcoming campaign. The move comes after the 31-year-old spent each of the last two seasons with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Rosehill has long been known as an extremely active fighter. At no time was this more evident than during the ’08-09 campaign, when he fought a staggering 33 times (yeah, thirty-three) while playing for AHL Norfolk.

Rosehill last played in the NHL during the ’13-14 campaign, scoring two goals in 34 games for the Flyers — while racking up 90 PIM.

Here’s an example of some of his most famous handiwork:

As mentioned above, the EIHL has landed a few notable ex-NHL fighters. Cam Janssen, Kevin Westgarth, Paul Bissonnette and Tom Sestito have all played there.

 

 

Veteran d-man Foster retires, moves into coaching

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Kurtis Foster #26 of the Minnesota Wild looks on during their NHL game against the New York Islanders on December 13, 2005 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  The Wild defeated the Islanders 4-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Getty
4 Comments

Kurtis Foster, who appeared in over 400 games during a 10-year NHL career, is hanging up his skates to enter the next phase of his hockey life — coaching.

Foster, 34, has rejoined his former junior team in OHL Peterborough as an assistant coach, per the Examiner. The decision comes after Foster spent the last three years playing overseas in the KHL and, most recently, in the German League.

The 40th overall pick in 2000, Foster is often remembered for a horrific leg break while playing for Minnesota during the 2007-08 campaign, in which his femur was shattered by Torrey Mitchell after Mitchell tried to prevent an icing call.

The severity of the collision and Foster’s injury — he underwent emergency surgery, nearly bled out and almost lost his leg — prompted an immediate rule tweak from the NHL, and has since been viewed as a catalyst for the league’s adoption of no-touch icing.

Impressively, Foster recovered from the broken femur to post a career-high 42 points in 74 games with the Lightning in ’09-10.

In addition to the Wild and Bolts, Foster spent time with the Thrashers, Oilers, Ducks, Devils and Flyers.