Jason Brough

CALGARY, AB - MAY 5: Fans of the Calgary Flames pass around a large flag prior to Game Three against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 5, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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With new arena needed, Flames trying to mend relationship with city

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Politically speaking, the Calgary Flames have endured some challenges in their pursuit of a new arena.

Not only did city administration call the team’s CalgaryNEXT project “not feasible in its present form or location,” the mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has publicly jousted with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, delivering sarcastic jabs like, “I know that Calgarians require very wealthy people from New York to come and tell us what we need to do in our community because they understand vibrancy better than we do.”

And so the Flames are hoping to mend those very important political relationships. Because they still do need a new arena to replace Scotiabank Saddledome, which will become the NHL’s most outdated rink when the Red Wings move into their new downtown Detroit digs next season.

“They’ve been understanding and listening,” Flames CEO Ken King said of city officials, per the Calgary Herald. “They understand if we’re not sustainable, we’re not here. It’s not about taxpayers money for hockey players. I think they now understand this is critical infrastructure for this city, with us or without us. … Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to structure a deal, and I feel pretty confident that we will be able to come up with something that will work for everybody.”

How it gets done remains to be seen. Nenshi has called it “extremely difficult to justify spending very scarce public money on a professional sports arena.”

But Nenshi’s tone seems to have softened of late.

“On CalgaryNEXT, you know, conversations continue,” Nenshi told Calgary Metro earlier this month. “I still believe that the well over $1 billion cost to the public purse of the West Village doesn’t make any sense. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options we might want to look at – and that conversation will continue.”

The only two rinks older than the Saddledome (opened in 1983) are Joe Louis Arena and Madison Square Garden, which is outdated no more following a $1 billion renovation.

Flames president Brian Burke has called the Saddledome “embarrassing.”

Finally! Coyotes announce plans for new arena

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 28:  Max Domi #16, Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 and Antoine Vermette #50 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrate with Mikkel Boedker #89 after Boedker scored a hat trick goal against the Ottawa Senators during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on November 28, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Senators 4-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It took a while — much longer than they anticipated — but the Arizona Coyotes have finally announced plans to build a new arena.

From the club:

The Arizona Coyotes announced today that they have entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Catellus Development Corporation, master developer for the Arizona State University Athletic Facilities District, to work towards the finalization of a new arena and commercial development project within the district along Tempe Town Lake. The site of the proposed new arena is the Northwest corner of E. Rio Salado Parkway and South McClintock Drive. This marks the beginning of a detailed process to secure a new home for the Arizona Coyotes.

The plan includes the construction of a 16,000-plus seat NHL arena for the Coyotes with an attached additional 4,000 seat multi-sport arena. The second arena will be utilized by Sun Devils Athletics, Coyotes practices, youth hockey practices and games and community events. These two new additional sheets of ice will continue to help grow the sport at the grass-roots level. In the future, a new hotel and other related amenities will be finalized as part of the second phase of the project.

The agreement provides for a period ending no later than June 30, 2017 to create the overall budget, design and operational plan for the development.

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As you can see, Tempe is a lot closer to Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix than the Coyotes’ current home in Glendale.

“Over the past year we have been exhaustive in our research regarding the most optimal location for our new home in the Valley,” said club president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “While we have tremendous fans all across the greater Phoenix metro area, not to mention the entire state, it became clear that the East Valley is home to a majority of our fans and corporate partners. Our fans in the West Valley have shown us tremendous support over the past 13 years, and we look forward to working with them as we transition to our new home in the future.”

Here’s a closer look at the site, a.k.a. the back nine of Karsten Golf Course, the former home of the ASU golf team:

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A rendering provided by the club:

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“I think it’s very exciting for that market,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com. “They’ve had challenges in Glendale and they’ve recently had relationship challenges with the people who run that arena. I think a different location and a better relationship can do wonders for that franchise, and I expect it will.”

Now, shovels aren’t in the ground yet, and the Coyotes were sure to note that this announcement “marks the beginning of a detailed process to secure a new home for the Arizona Coyotes.”

But it’s a very encouraging day for the franchise and its fans. If this arena can actually get built, the relocation rumors — be they to Seattle or Portland or Quebec City — can finally be put to rest and the up-and-coming Coyotes can get on with the business of winning hockey games.

Arizona Sports reporter Craig Morgan has been working hard on this story. Click his article to read more.

No easy solution to Stars’ goaltending mess

Vancouver Canucks centre Brandon Sutter (20) celebrates his goal with teammates Henrik Sedin (33) Daniel Sedin (22) Alexander Edler (23) and Troy Stecher (51) as Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) looks on during third period NHL hockey action in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Dallas Stars had the Vancouver Canucks on the ropes.

It should’ve been an easy knockout.

But last night at Rogers Arena, the Canucks and their peashooter offense finally found a goalie they could light up. Kari Lehtonen allowed five goals on 30 shots, and the Stars lost, 5-4, in overtime.

Even more maddening for the Stars, they entered the third period with a 3-1 lead.

And then Loui Eriksson got one through Lehtonen’s five-hole:

And then Brandon Sutter scored on the power play:

The Stars regained the lead a few minutes later, only for rookie Troy Stecher to pot his first NHL goal in the final two minutes of regulation:

Markus Granlund then added the winner in sudden death:

To be sure, all four of the above goals featured defensive miscues by the Stars. There was a turnover just prior to the Eriksson goal, Sutter was given too much time in the slot before his, Jamie Benn let Stecher beat him at the point, and Granlund had a clear shot off a faceoff in OT.

But let’s face it, Lehtonen has to make a save or two. The Stecher goal was the real killer. Stop that and the Stars probably win. It should’ve been stopped.

Now, if last night was just a one-off, no big deal. But it wasn’t. Far from it. We all know the story here. It’s been going on for a while.

Related: Lindy Ruff calls out his goalies

So far this season, Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have save percentages of .891 and .892, respectively. And with cap hits of $5.9 million and $4.5 million through next season, respectively, they’re practically untradeable.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, GM Jim Nill can do. There’s no real alternative in the AHL, so for now, the Stars (6-6-4) may be forced to maintain survival mode.

But here’s the reality — there’s no guarantee that this team will make the playoffs, especially if the goaltending doesn’t improve. The banged-up Stars (6-6-4) are barely in a wild-card spot right now, and the trade deadline is a ways away. Which is to say, the Lightning have no urgency to move Ben Bishop until March 1, if they move him at all. To get Bishop now would take a very significant offer from Nill.

It’s a tough situation, one that may not have a solution. Nill has done a great job overall in Dallas, but his great work doesn’t include the goaltending.

The Bruins are on a roll, and it’s not just Rask

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Brad Marchand #63 and Ryan Spooner #51 congratulate Tuukka Rask #40, all of the Boston Bruins, after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Tuukka Rask improved to 10-1-0 with his third shutout of the season last night in Denver. With a .945 save percentage, the netminder’s play is a major reason the Boston Bruins are off to a 10-6-0 start, as PHT duly noted.

But don’t be mistaken, the B’s have been more than just their goalie.  In their last five games, they’ve outshot their opponents by a combined margin of 192-124. Their only loss came against Montreal, which had to get a first-star performance from Carey Price, otherwise the result may have been much different.

The Bruins more than doubled the Avalanche’s shot total, 46-20.

“That’s how you win a road game — a pretty much mistake-free game,” Rask told reporters. “We kept them on the outside and really limited their scoring chances and rushes. And then we kept the puck in the offensive zone and made some plays and created chances.”

How are the B’s doing it?

Well, their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrick Bergeron and David Pastrnak has been one of the best top lines in the league, so that certainly helps. GM Don Sweeney was hoping Pastrnak could make more of an impact this season, and the 20-year-old has responded with 10 goals in his first 14 games.

“When you see a kid come in with that much potential and when he really breaks out and has a year like he’s having now, it’s a lot of fun to see it,” said Marchand, per CSN New England. “He’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. He’s so fast and so skilled, and he does things with the puck that I don’t think opponents have seen before.”

The Bruins’ second line is pretty good itself, with David Krejci centering Ryan Spooner and David Backes. The third line of Matt Beleseky, Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes received a ton of criticism early on, but replacing Hayes with Austin Czarnik seems to have been a good move by head coach Claude Julien. Even the fourth line of Hayes, Dominic Moore, and Sean Kuraly played well against the Avs.

As for the back end, the importance of Brandon Carlo‘s emergence cannot be understated. The 19-year-old rookie has logged 22:19 per game on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara. Carlo is a plus-11, Chara is plus-12. If not for Carlo, it’s anyone’s guess who would be playing with Chara. Bruins fans would prefer not to imagine such a scenario.

Related: Carlo has ‘impressed the heck’ out of Bruins

Sure, it would be nice if Colin Miller was making more of an impact — he was a healthy scratch against the Avs — but Carlo has taken a lot of that urgency away. Miller does actually have impressive possession numbers, but he’s a minus-6 after 15 games, with just one goal and one assist. It will be interesting to see how much the 24-year-old plays when Kevan Miller returns from his hand injury.

The Bruins finish their three-game road trip Thursday in Minnesota. Win that and they’ll return home with eight victories in their last 10, and not just because of their goalie.

Nothing much going right for the Avs, who are already in a hole

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, top, and his team react during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Colorado Avalanche got off to a decent start under their new head coach, but things have taken a decided turn for the worse.

Jared Bednar’s group fell to 5-7-0 on Tuesday, dropping a 4-2 decision at home to the Arizona Coyotes. With just two wins in their last eight, the Avs host Winnipeg tonight, already trying to make up lost ground in the tough Central Division.

“Right now when we’re making mistakes, teams are capitalizing on them,” Bednar said following Tuesday’s defeat. “You hope that your team starts to understand the mistakes that we’re making, and then you get a little better at it and you can show more positive than negative.”

Semyon Varlamov will be back between the pipes against the high-scoring Jets. It seemed like Calvin Pickard might get an extended run, but four goals on 25 shots versus the Coyotes put an end to that.

As a team, the Avs have struggled with pretty much everything. They’ve got the 28th-ranked offense (2.00 goals per game), and the 24th-ranked goals-against (3.08).

Possession-wise, the Avs’ numbers remain a concern, with a score-adjusted Corsi that ranks 26th out of 30. Combine that with a low shooting percentage (6.9) and the results are not going to be pretty. At the very least, the shooting percentage is likely to go up a bit.

Individually, Matt Duchene has a respectable 11 points (6G, 5A), but the next highest total is seven, belonging to Nathan MacKinnon (2G, 5A).

Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla has just two goals in 12 games. He told the Denver Post recently that it’s “about winning and making the playoffs and having a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.” A pending unrestricted free agent, the 39-year-old may need a trade to give himself that chance.

 

 

To be sure, Bednar deserves more time to instill his system. Roy’s shock resignation in August caught everyone by surprise, and management had to scramble to find a replacement.

Unfortunately for the Avs, they’re already in a hole — four points back of a wild-card spot, five back of third in their division — and the schedule isn’t waiting for them to figure things out. Colorado hosts Winnipeg tonight, Boston Sunday and Los Angeles Tuesday, and then it’s a three-game road trip through Dallas, Minnesota, and Colorado.

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Related: The ‘Avs are ‘just spinning in the mud again’