<span class="vcard">Jason Brough</span>

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks

Sharks experience ‘drop off’ in ticket sales


The season after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003, the San Jose Sharks say they’re “still very strong” in terms of season-ticket sales.

But that doesn’t mean there’s been zero decline. Club COO John Tortora told the Mercury News that renewal rates are expected to drop to around 85 percent, down from the 92 to 93 percent levels the Sharks had grown used to after years where they’d advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

“We expected a drop off after there was some frustration on a number of levels, particularly with the fact that we missed the playoffs,” Tortora said. “We had lost in 2003, we lost I think 3,000 season ticket holders the last time we missed the playoffs. The sample size isn’t all that large because it’s been 12 years since we missed the playoffs. But we anticipated a drop off and we’ve seen that.”

In spite of what happened last season, new coach Pete DeBoer has predicted a “big bounce-back” year for the Sharks.

Report: Ryder Cup-style tourney could be midseason 2017-18

Gary Bettman, Rene Fasel, Don Fehr
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The NHL and NHLPA are apparently contemplating a “midseason” Ryder Cup-style tournament, pitting top North American and European players against each other, in 2017-18.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “concept remains very much in flux,” but as others have pointed out, the timing does bring the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics into question.

Which is interesting, because the chances that NHLers would travel to South Korea in February of 2018 actually seemed to have improved with the awarding of the 2022 Games to BeijingIn fact, according to LeBrun, the league and players’ association have plans to meet with the IIHF “in the next several months” to discuss future plans.

We’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out. The players, by and large, have said they’d like the NHL to continue its participation in the Olympics. The league, however, has been less enthusiastic.

ESPN originally reported that the Ryder Cup-style tournament would “see the two teams play a series of games, likely in Europe, likely in London, possibly in the fall of 2018.”

Related: Bettman would prefer World Cup to Olympics

With McDavid and RNH, where does Draisaitl fit for Oilers?

Arizona Coyotes v Edmonton Oilers

You don’t draft a kid third overall to play him on the third line.

That right there is the biggest reason the Edmonton Oilers are giving Leon Draisaitl a look on the wing. With first overall picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid locked in at center, it’s on the wing where Draisaitl may have the best shot to take on a future top-six role.

“At the end of the day it’s not up to me,” Draisaitl told Sportsnet. “It’s up to the management and the coaches to put me where they want me. I can play both. I have no problem playing wing or center. But it’s not up to me.”

Of course, another option is for the Oilers to trade Draisaitl. If GM Peter Chiarelli wanted to improve his blue line, the big 19-year-old German could certainly help in that regard.

But that’s just speculation. There’s no indication that that’s what the Oilers are thinking at this point. It may turn out that Draisaitl is best suited for the wing anyway.

“I played the wing before and I never had problems with it,” Draisaitl told Oilers Nation. “I think I’m a decent player along the boards, I can handle myself. That’s very important as a winger.”

Related: Draisaitl’s time in Edmonton wasn’t ‘wasted,’ says MacT

Flyers’ crowded defense bears watching

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Even after the departure of Nicklas Grossmann, the Philadelphia Flyers still have quite the logjam on defense.

Add it up and there will be 13 — thirteen! — d-men trying to crack the roster when training camp opens Thursday.

Eight of those 13 are on one-way contracts: Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz, Evgeni Medvedev, Radko Gudas, and Brandon Manning.

The other five are well-regarded prospects who can either be returned to junior or sent to the AHL without being exposed to waivers: Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, and Robert Hagg.

For GM Ron Hextall, it’s great to have all that young talent, but a short-term challenge nonetheless — especially if one or two of those youngsters proves he belongs in the NHL.

Could Hextall try and trade another veteran? Sure. But he may not get full value, given the tight market.

If he tries to send Manning to the AHL, would another team make a waiver claim? The 25-year-old may not be a future superstar, but losing him for nothing would be less than ideal.

Hextall said over the summer that much will depend on how the youngsters look during the preseason: “Someone comes into camp and lights it up. Then we will do what we can to create a spot.”

But then, more recently, he said: “You can’t sit and say, ‘We’ll make room,’ because you don’t know until you get there. If a guy comes in and we think he’s going to make us a better team throughout the course of the year – and not just for two weeks – we’ll look at options. But we’re not going to put a kid in the lineup that is not ready.”

Related: Something will “have to give” on Flyers’ blue line

Benning doesn’t think Ryan Miller is too old

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Jim Benning still has faith in 35-year-old Ryan Miller.

“These top-flight goalies, they can play to 40 years old,” the Canucks’ GM told TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “Some people look at his age, but I think he’s going to be real good for us this year.”

Benning better hope so, given he had the opportunity to trade Miller this offseason, but chose to deal Eddie Lack instead. As we saw this summer, it wasn’t a popular decision with fans.

Miller had a .911 save percentage last season, below the league average (.915). And in 2015-16, only a handful of NHL goalies will be older than the 2010 Vezina Trophy recipient.

On top of the scrutiny that will be on Miller, the Canucks’ backup will be Jacob Markstrom, a 25-year-old who’s been excellent in the AHL, but has yet to prove he can play in the NHL.

Benning would like to see Markstrom start 25 to 30 games this season.

“We’re excited about Jacob,” said Benning. “I think he’s worked hard. He deserves the opportunity. So we’ll see where it goes.”

Related: Benning trying to figure where Markstrom ‘fits in’