The Chip ‘n’ Chase: NHL business is booming, the Panthers are the new Coyotes, #WhyImThankful, and more

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This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I assume you’re enjoying all the big business news in the NHL this week. I only say that because I remember how much you enjoyed covering the lockout. All those fun terms, like “make-whole” and “variance” and “hill to die on” and “please leave me to die on this hill so I don’t have to write about this anymore.” Good times. Of course, unlike the many, many…many weeks the lockout lasted, this week was mostly fantastic news for the league. First there was Forbes saying the average franchise is worth $413 million, up a shocking 46% from a year ago. Then there was the new Canadian TV deal worth around $5 billion. Sure, the concussion lawsuit was a bit of a downer, but hey, it’s tough to throw a perfect game, right?

Mike Halford: I definitely don’t miss the lockout. Though I was always proud of our “Wingels is KooKoo for Finland” headline, a PHT classic that wouldn’t have been possible without the work stoppage. And while I’m still not super stoked about covering the business side of hockey, I have to admit some of the Forbes valuations were interesting. Like the Maple Leafs, who are apparently worth the equivalent of six Columbuses. I wonder if the Jackets used that as bulletin-board material prior to their 6-0 dismantling of Toronto on Monday. I can just hear Todd Richards: “Do you know what they’re saying about you? That you have a debt-value ratio of 43 percent! THAT YOU ONLY GENERATE 69 MILLION IN ANNUAL REVENUE!!!” Then they bust out of the dressing room like gladiators. Gotta be what happened. Fiscal analysis can be a real motivator.

JB: Having grown up in Vancouver, I found it pretty remarkable that Forbes ranked the Canucks No. 4 at $700 million, ahead of big-city American franchises like the Blackhawks, Bruins, Flyers and Red Wings. The first Canucks game I ever attended, way back in the ’80s, there might’ve been 8,000 fans at the old Pacific Coliseum. Then, in the ’90s, when the Nordiques left for Colorado and the Jets left for Phoenix, there were very real worries Vancouver could lost its team to an American city next. Add to the equation all the grunge music being played at the time, and the situation was downright depressing. Anyway, it’s amazing how dramatically things can change over a decade or two. Winnipeg’s already back in the league and I wrote yesterday that Quebec City seems like a slam dunk for expansion or relocation. Saskatoon next?

MH: I do love the idea of NHL road trips going through Saskatchewan (“You guys can stay at the motor lodge…or the motor lodge”), but I’m mostly holding out expansion hope for America’s No. 1 hipster enclave, Portland. You know how a bunch of players are growing bad moustaches for Movember? Well in Portland, it’s Movember 12 MONTHS OF THE YEAR. Seems like a good fit. As for relocation, I’ve noticed Florida has inherited the “team everybody’s picking to move” mantle from the Phoenix Coyotes. Granted, the Panthers have a lease with the county that runs through 2028 and the new owner has real-estate development plans in Sunrise, but…I mean, imagine being a Panthers fan. Can we really blame those poor fans for not showing up to games? Two years after making the playoffs for the first time in forever, your team goes into the season scouring for unsigned free agents and buyout casualties. Then it loses 13 of its first 16 games and fires the entire coaching staff. At what point do you just throw up your hands, say “THAT’S IT, I’M DONE” and, y’know, start doing the 1,349 other fun things you can do in South Florida while everyone up north is freezing?

source:  JB: I’ve never been to Sunrise, but in my mind it’s like Del Boca Vista from Seinfeld, so I actually imagine Panthers fans throwing up their hands and yelling, “SERENITY NOW!” …before falling asleep in their seats. But yeah, it’s totally unfair to judge that market purely on current attendance. I’m not saying the NHL is right for Sunrise and/or wouldn’t do considerably better in a hockey-mad place like Quebec City, but I do feel the need to point out a team that had an average attendance of 12,727 in 2006-07. That would be your defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. BREAKING NEWS: Fans don’t like cheering for losers.

OK, so we need to take care of some corporate business now. It’s Thanksgiving on Thursday and NBC has a #WhyImThankful contest going on social media. So let me ask you this: why are you thankful?

MH: From a pure hockey perspective (ignoring things like “good health” and “my wife and child”), I’m thankful for the 48 hours immediately following Turkey Day. Did you know there are 23 games on Friday and Saturday? And that includes the Thanksgiving Showdown between the Rangers and Bruins on NBC! (Hey, if we’re gonna go corporate, we might as well go the whole nine.) I plan on dominating the couch over those two days. You can call me Lord Chesterfield-upon-Sofa.

Oh, and speaking of the Rangers, John Tortorella makes his return to MSG on Saturday when the Canucks take on the Blueshirts… who, stop me if you’ve heard this before, are struggling to score. In fact, the Rangers’ offense is worse under Alain Vigneault than it was under Torts, to the point where Vigneault suggested his team should start mentally preparing to win 2-1 hockey games.

JB: Meanwhile, in Vancouver, people are wondering if Torts has the Canucks playing too risky. Specifically, by having the defensemen aggressively pinching to keep the puck in the attacking zone, a tactic that’s resulted in more than a few odd-man rushes and pucks behind Roberto Luongo. For example:

For fans, I think it’s a good lesson in not taking the media’s black-and-white narrative hook, line and sinker. AV isn’t a run-and-gun coach — he never was — and Torts certainly isn’t terrified to take the odd chance. For the most part, coaches use the system they believe will result in the most wins, and that depends largely on the players they have in their lineup.

As for #WhyImThankful, well, I was thinking of saying I’m thankful for all the readers that visit PHT on a daily basis. But come on, that would be way too mushy. This is a hockey website. We can’t be seen as soft, or the readers will start taking liberties in the comments section. And then we’d have to hire John Scott as a moderator or something.

So I guess I’ll just say I’m thankful for kittens. Who are adorable.

source:

Nothing soft about that.

Looking to make the leap: Josh Ho-Sang

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

The New York Islanders made something of a gamble when they selected Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and now that bet could start to pay off handsomely.

Even before Ho-Sang was drafted he was attracting quite a bit of attention. He had the tools to be a big offensive threat, but there were concerns about his attitude.

“I don’t think it’s from unfair labels, it’s from stuff that I’ve done,” he told the Windsor Star back in June 2014. He later added, “I’ve just not done certain things the proper way. That’s just all part of maturity, so if that’s going to hurt me in the draft, that’s something that I’m accepting of, because that’s all me. It’s something that’s a part of growing up.”

Those statements of acknowledgment can be seen as encouraging, but the warning signs continued as he showed up late for the first day of training camp in 2015 and the Islanders addressed it by immediately returning him to the OHL. Fortunately since then there has been more encouraging news about Ho-Sang.

He went pro in 2016-17 and had an strong season in both the AHL and NHL. With the Islanders he scored four goals and 10 points in 21 contests while getting a solid 16:27 minutes per game. That left an impression on Islanders coach Doug Weight.

“Josh was great,” Weight said. “We were getting feedback from [Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson] about his attitude down there, and he was playing hard, learning the system and played with some passion. I think he showed that when he came up.”

Ho-Sang’s spot on the Islanders still isn’t guaranteed, but he’s put himself in a position where it’s very plausible that he’ll be part of the team’s opening game roster. If he plays well he could end up being a significant presence on the club throughout the season.

All the while he might be making the case that the Islanders’ gamble has turned into a steal.

Beauchemin signs on for third stint with Ducks (Updated)

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Francois Beauchemin will once again be playing for the Anaheim Ducks, according to TVA Sports and Renaud Lavoie.

Updated: The Ducks have since confirmed a one-year deal for Beauchemin.

The contract reportedly comes with a base salary of $1 million and the potential to earn roughly $500,000 more in performance bonuses.

This would be Beauchemin’s third stint with the team. He played with Anaheim for parts of four campaigns from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Along the way he averaged a staggering 30:33 minutes per game in the playoffs during the Ducks’ 2007 championship run. His second stint with the club spanned parts of five seasons from 2010-11 through 2014-15. As was the case during his previous run, Beauchemin was a workhorse and in the 2013 lockout shortened season he also finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote.

Beauchemin spent the last two seasons with Colorado. Although he’s 37-years-old now, Beauchemin has only missed one game over the last two seasons and still averaged 21:31 minutes in 2016-17.

Despite that, Colorado decided to buy him out this summer, which freed up a protected list spot for the expansion draft and created an opening for the club’s younger defensemen as the Avalanche focus on rebuilding.

Given that defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen might start the season on the sidelines, adding another blueliner capable of serving in a top-four role like Beauchemin has the potential to be a big boost for the Ducks.

Gaborik unlikely to be ready for start of training camp

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Marian Gaborik‘s recovery from a non-surgical procedure to address his “chronic” knee issue will likely bleed into training camp.

“He’s progressing pretty well from the summer,” Kings GM Rob Blake told LA Kings Insider. “He still has some difficulty with some of the lifts and the strength. We’re probably not sure if we’ll see him in training camp right away, but again, he’s a guy that trains at a very high level and he’s made a commitment to stay in L.A. after he got married, get the rehab back on course. We’re hopeful he can get back to the level that he started last season and the World Cup at.”

Gaborik has been an elite scorer at times during his career, but injuries have been a recurring issue for him. Over the past four seasons he’s played in 220 of a possible 328 contests and he’s been limited to 43 points in 110 games over the last two campaigns.

That’s particularly worrying given that the 35-year-old forward still has four seasons left on his seven-year contract worth roughly $34 million. At the same time a bounce back campaign out of Gaborik would go a long way towards addressing the offensive woes Los Angeles endured in 2016-17.

Under Pressure: Jaroslav Halak

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This post is a part of Islanders day at PHT…

No goaltender went through a season that could be more accurately called a roller coaster than Jaroslav Halak.

The veteran netminder entered the campaign immediately following a superb showing in the World Cup, but he struggled in the first half of the season to the point where he cleared waivers and was then sent to the minors on Dec. 31. Rather than fade away though, he got a second wind in the AHL. That led to him being called up on March 23 and shining in the finals weeks of the campaign.

So after all that, what’s next for Halak? Will he excel like he did towards the end of the season, struggle like he did at the beginning, or end up being wildly inconsistent yet again?

He’s down to the final season of his four-year, $18 million deal and Thomas Greiss has emerged as a strong alternative for the starting gig with the Islanders. Greiss is entering the first season of a three-year, $10 million deal, so he is more firmly established as part of the Islanders’ plan than Halak, but Greiss’ contract isn’t so expensive or long-term that the Islanders can’t re-sign Halak too if the situation calls for it. Especially if Halak were to step up and become a major part of guiding the Islanders back into the postseason after their disappointing 2016-17 showing.

What the presence of Greiss does though is give Halak little leeway in order to reestablish himself as that type of goaltender. If Halak even has a bad October, he might find himself set more clearly in the backup role beyond that.

Perhaps the Islanders are looking to Greiss as their future though and have little interest in Halak beyond this season. Maybe they would prefer a younger and/or cheaper pairing with Greiss once given the flexibility that Halak’s contract expiring affords them. Even in that scenario, this would still be a critical season for Halak as he’ll need a strong showing in order for him to find a gig elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the entire league said they didn’t want his contract and while he’s bounced back since then, he still needs to prove this season that he’s worth a new deal.

The goaltender market is always a tough one, especially for those seeking a starting job, but for a great netminder that’s a nonissue. Halak has played at that level at various points of his career. He needs more than ever to be that goaltender again.