Jason Brough

Olli Maatta
AP

Penguins focused on cleaner breakouts

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So far, much of what’s been written and said about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ coaching change has focused on the contrasting personalities of the old guy, Mike Johnston, and the new guy, Mike Sullivan.

Johnston has been painted as the soft-spoken, analytical type, with Sullivan as the forceful, no-excuses, I-worked-under-John-Tortorella-for-years-and-it-shows type.

And while it’s true that Sullivan has been preaching much the same message that Tortorella preached when he took over the Blue Jackets — i.e. “mindset” over “strategies and schemes” — Sullivan does have some tactical thoughts on what’s needed for the Penguins to make full use of their considerable talents.

It starts with the breakout.

“I think it’s important that you have to try to come out of your end zone as clean as you can, and as efficient as you can,” Sullivan told NHL.com. “Preferably, you’d like to come out with the puck and so, we’re going to try to implement some schemes to help us try to do that. We’re going to work on that a lot, and that’s going to be a point of emphasis.”

That’s going to be interesting to watch, because even GM Jim Rutherford conceded there was a personnel issue with this team.

“Part of this falls on me because I didn’t get the defensemen that were necessary to have more movement from the back-end and I think more puck movement from the back-end generates more scoring opportunities,” Rutherford said, per Yahoo Sports.

And don’t forget Kris Letang, arguably Pittsburgh’s best puck-mover, could be out two weeks with an injury. Young Olli Maatta is maybe their best now.

Anyway, just something to keep in mind when you watch the Pens host the Caps tonight.

“The more we can execute under pressure and come out of our end, we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” said captain Sidney Crosby, per TSN.ca. “That’s something we worked on [in practice] and something that can definitely help in that area.”

Virginia Beach arena developer to ‘aggressively’ pursue NHL team

Virginia Beach arena
United States Management rendering
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Quebec City.

Las Vegas. 

Seattle.

Virginia Beach.

Everyone knows that these markets want an NHL expansion team. The question is whether...Sorry? What was that? Oh, you want to know how Virginia Beach got in there?

Yes, the resort city of Virginia Beach wants an NHL team. Or an NBA team. Either will do. Because a new arena could be under construction as soon as next year. It might as well have a tenant, right?

Virginia Beach City Council approved the privately financed 18,000-seat arena earlier this week, after which the developer referenced the NHL’s expansion process during a press conference.

“The NHL currently has two considerations of two potential teams that are on the table right now that they’re going through that process, and so now that we have those approvals we can certainly pursue that more aggressively,” United States Management CEO Andrea Kilmer said, per 13newsnow.com.

“We have had discussions with the NHL. We feel confident that this market is right for an NHL team,” Kilmer said, per The Hampton Roads Business Journal.

USM still needs to close the financing with its Chinese lenders, but apparently shovels could be in the ground sometime next year.

Click here to read more about the developer’s plans for the arena. They even produced this informative video:

I have no idea if the NHL would ever consider putting a team in Virginia Beach. I’m skeptical, but according to Wikipedia, “Virginia Beach is the 3rd largest metropolitan area in the United States without a club in a major professional sports league, after the Las Vegas and Austin metropolitan areas.”

So you never know. Maybe if the Canadian dollar keeps falling, the Jets could move there. (Just kidding, Winnipeg. That’s not funny, I know.)

Anyway, as I was saying, everyone knows that these markets want an NHL expansion team. The question is whether they’ll get one.

The end.

Don’t tell the commish, but the Canadian dollar keeps falling

Canadian Dollar Advances To Highest Level Since March 2008
Getty
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Gary Bettman doesn’t like it when the media brings up the Canadian dollar. He thinks we make an unnecessarily big deal over it, and that we don’t really understand how it affects NHL revenues.

And hey, that may be true. We’re not privy to the league’s books, and I don’t think we’re going to get an invite to peruse them anytime soon.

But for the record, the Canadian dollar got smoked again today. It’s now fallen below 0.73 USD.

The culprit? Oil, of course.

From CBC.ca:

The price of a barrel of crude oil dropped to yet another six-year low Friday, losing more than $1 to trade at $35.73 US, and taking the Canadian dollar down with it.

The loonie has repeatedly broken a series of 11-year lows this month on its downward slide. Friday’s low is the lowest point for Canada’s dollar since May 2004, when the currency went as low as 71 cents.

It could reach those 2004 lows soon. Most analysts expect the loonie to fall even lower before it stabilizes.

The commissioner was, of course, asked about the Canadian dollar this week in Pebble Beach, after next season’s salary cap was pegged at $74.5 million.

And, of course, he tried to downplay any concerns.

“It’s only December,” Bettman told Yahoo Sports. “We still have a lot more of the season to play and a lot more revenues to collect.”

But the consensus was that $74.5 million — it’s currently $71.4 million — was an optimistic projection, given the revenue uncertainty. It also included the CBA-mandated five percent inflator, which the NHLPA could always try to renegotiate downward if the players say enough’s enough with regards to escrow.

(The players considered doing that last year, but ultimately decided not to. An NHLPA spokesman told me Tuesday that it was “much too early” for “detailed discussions” about the inflator, but that it will “be addressed as it is every year.”)

Now, there’s no sense quibbling over exactly how much the Canadian dollar affects revenues. But it clearly does affect them. And if you’re the GM of a team that’s up against the cap — like, say, the Kings — and you’re trying to re-sign your key guys — like, say, Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic — you’re definitely monitoring what’s going on in the currency market.

Because this is what’s happened the last two years:

dollar

Only time will tell if the media is going a bit too Chicken Little on this issue. We’ll admittedly do that on occasion.

“While there’s a lot of speculation as to what the declining Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar means, most of that commentary and speculation is a little off of the mark,” Bettman said.

But look again at that chart.

The sky may not be falling, but the loonie sure has.

Related: Kings reportedly want to start Lucic extension talks soon

Sharks send Smith to AHL on conditioning assignment

Ben Smith, Mike Santorelli
AP

San Jose forward Ben Smith has been assigned to the AHL’s Barracuda on a conditioning assignment.

Smith has missed the last 18 games with an injury. During the four games he did play in October, he received limited ice time with linemates Mike Brown and Barclay Goodrow.

While the 27-year-old may never be an impact player in the NHL — certainly not to the extent of injured forward (again) Logan Couture  — considering the depth issues the Sharks have suffered through this season, Smith’s progress will be worth monitoring all the same.

Smith was acquired last season in a trade with Chicago, with Andrew Desjardins going the other way.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Couture has procedure to close artery, not expected to require ‘long-term recovery’

Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture
AP

A statement from Sharks GM Doug Wilson, on the health of forward Logan Couture:

“In Wednesday night’s game in Edmonton, Logan suffered trauma to his right thigh, creating a Charley-horse effect which prohibited him from returning to the game.

“Upon returning to San Jose, it was discovered that there was a small arterial bleed in the area. Last night, Logan underwent a successful procedure in San Jose to close the artery and is expected to make a full recovery.

“At this time, there is no projected time frame for his return to the ice but we do not expect this to be a long-term recovery.

“Fortunately, this injury is completely unrelated to his previous ankle injury.”

Couture had only just returned to action after missing 23 games with a fractured ankle.

Winless in their last five, the Sharks host Minnesota on Saturday. After that, it’s a five-game road trip through Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago and Los Angeles, followed by the Christmas break.

The Sharks recalled forward Ryan Carpenter from their AHL club today. Carpenter, 24, has two goals and 16 assists in 20 games for the Barracuda this season.