Islanders to get an attendance boost this weekend from… Nordiques fans?

While the Islanders and Thrashers are having drastically different seasons with the Islanders being the worst team in the NHL and the Thrashers being a threat for the playoffs, one area where they’re both the same is in attendance. The Thrashers are 28th in attendance and the Islanders are 29th out of 30 teams (source). With the two teams set to square off at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, it was sure to be yet another lightly attended game.

A funny thing is going to happen though as there’s going to be a band of about 1,100 fans from Quebec storming the arena to tell the NHL that they want a team back in Quebec City. The group of fans are a long-lasting fan club of Nordiques fans that call themselves Nordiques Nation and they’re very serious about getting a NHL team once again.  The ultimate insult to the Islanders isn’t that the fans can show up en masse to Nassau Coliseum to stage their own sort of protest, but rather that these Nordiques fans aren’t there to demand their team.  Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times has the story about group founder Vincent Cauchon’s efforts to show the NHL they mean business.

“One reason we picked Nassau is because every time we watched an Islanders game on TV, there was no one in there,” said Cauchon, who noted that the price for the trip, hotel and game ticket was $200 per person.

Still, it is the Thrashers, not the Islanders, who the Quebec fans have their eyes on, according to Cauchon.

“We have a lot of respect for the New York Islanders and what they accomplished in the past — the N.H.L. needs the Islanders,” Cauchon said. “But it would be great, awesome, if the Thrashers moved. Atlanta is a great sports city, but it’s not a hockey town. We’re not going to New York to tell the N.H.L. they didn’t do a good job going to Atlanta. We’re going there to tell them in Quebec it would work.”

We can’t blame Cauchon and Nordiques Nation for doing their damnedest to show the NHL they’re serious about wanting a team back. After all, with people in power angling to get a new arena built in Quebec City (something that killed the Nordiques and got them moved to Denver in the 90s) is a huge deal and shows that the city is serious about having a team again. Getting the show of dedication from the fans is an even bigger deal because there’s no way a team would want to move to a city where there are no fans, nor would the NHL consider expansion to such a place (we’d hope).

Give credit to Cauchon for putting the positive spin on things. Showing up to a game in either team’s arena to play the part of the vulture fan is an instant way to upset everyone else there, regardless of how many of their fans are at the game. We can’t help but wonder how this is going to play out though. Do they cheer wildly for the Thrashers when they score? Do they start doing Nordiques chants for the team? Do they boo the Islanders in their own house? The possibilities are endless and all of a sudden, we want to watch Islanders-Thrashers on Saturday because of it. Good work Nordiques Nation.

GM of the Year George McPhee adds another award for Golden Knights

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George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights continued a big night for the franchise as he was named 2017-18 General Manager of the Year during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Earlier, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for top coach, William Karlsson was named winner of the Lady Byng and captain Deryk Engelland took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.

McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.

Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Pekka Rinne finally wins first Vezina

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After being a finalist three other times and serving as the Nashville Predators’ top goalie since 2008-09, Pekka Rinne finally won his first Vezina Trophy.

Rinne delivered an outstanding season, going 42-13-4 with a 2.31 GAA, a sparkling .927 save percentage, and eight shutouts. During his previous Vezina finalist finishes, Rinne finished second (in 2010-11 and 2014-15) and third (in 2011-12).

For much of this past season, Andrei Vasilevskiy seemed to be the frontrunner for the Vezina, and he finished with strong numbers. Still, a sputtering finish allowed Rinne to pass him by.

It seemed like the Vezina voting essentially came down to Rinne, Vasilevskiy, and “everyone else.” Connor Hellebuyck ended up emerging as the third finalist, edging plenty of quality choices among the rest of the pack.

Actually, as you can see from the voting, Vasilevskiy didn’t even finish second. This might be a good time to note that NHL GMs vote for the award instead of players or the PHWA.

As you can see, 10 goalies received at least a third-place vote. Vasilevskiy didn’t get a single first-place one, while non-finalists Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed one No. 1 nod apiece. Interesting stuff.

Much like Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, Rinne is a goalie who managed to win a Vezina despite an inauspicious start to his career. Rinne was selected in the now-non-existent eighth round (258th overall) in 2004 and now owns a Stanley Cup Final appearance, 311 wins, and a Vezina. Not too shabby.

Kings’ Kopitar comfortably wins second Selke

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For the second time during his already splendid NHL career, Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy.

The Los Angeles Kings star edged perennial Selke finalist Patrice Bergeron and breakthrough pivot Sean Couturier. Kopitar’s first Selke win came during the 2015-16 campaign, while Bergeron won it last year.

It’s interesting to take a look at the voting via the PHWA. As you can see, Kopitar won by a fairly comfortable margin, while the jousting for second place was skin-tight.

Kopitar’s been a Selke finalist during four of the last five seasons, so he’s becoming a perennial candidate, too.

Aleksander Barkov is clearly climbing the ranks as one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards, which is what the Selke generally amounts to. (You’ll note, though, the wording of the award specifically calls out “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”)

Did hockey writers make the right call on the Selke here?

Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant wins Jack Adams Award in landslide

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The historic inaugural season for the Vegas Golden Knights continued on Wednesday as Gerard Gallant was named winner of the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award.

The award is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and given to the the head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

The Golden Knights finished with 51 wins and 109 points to become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major North American professional sports leagues to win its division. After a hot start, the Golden Knights saw their goaltenders hit with injury, which included losing Marc-Andre Fleury to a concussion for two months. They would use four netminders to stay afloat and set an NHL record on Feb. 1 with their 34th win, most by a team in its first season.

Voting took place before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Gallant’s magic continued to work as he helped lead the Golden Knights to the Cup Final against the Washington Capitals.

(Somehow, one of the broadcasters left Gallant completely off of their ballot.)

Gallant was a finalist for the award in 2016 while head coach of the Florida Panthers.

Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche and Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins were the other finalists.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.