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Roundtable: Naming Seattle’s NHL team; GMs on the hot seat

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You have the power to name to the expansion NHL Seattle franchise. What are you choosing?

SEAN: Kraken is already a popular choice, and as a fan of hockey history (and their original jerseys) I’d love to see the Seattle group bring back the Metropolitans name. But do you then keep the Metropolitan Division name? The NHL is stubborn for change sometimes, so I doubt it.

Let’s get crazy in this post-Gritty world and go with Sasquatch. It’s perfect for the region (ever watch “Finding Bigfoot?”) and would allow Seattle to welcome back Squatch, the Sonics old mascot. The jerseys would be great. The plushy toys at the arena team stores would be sold out on a regular basis and he’d be a welcomed addition to the annual mascot game during All-Star Weekend.

Squatch is legendary, and with the NBA likely returning to Seattle at some point, might as well get him started before he has double duty. He was a dynamic performer, willing to take big risks to entertain the crowd, and even had his own theme song, thanks for Chris from Presidents of the United States of America:

JAMES: Deep down, my answer is the Sonics/Supersonics, but I’m aware that a ton of people from Seattle are giving me the stink-eye just for bringing that up, so I relent. Go ahead and name the Seattle team after the Kraken, or some other mystical and/or tuff beast.

For my money, the greater battle revolves around the mascot.

Allow me to introduce “Jittery,” an anthropomorphic cappuccino mug with cartoonish arms, legs, and comical googly eyes. Let’s face it; we’re in a Post-Gritty world, so you have to go big – which usually means some combination of garish, frightening, funny, and cute – or go home.

Jittery would have the potential to edge the Golden Knights’ gila monster, with the far-flung dream of at least competing with Gritty for viral potential/mindshare.

The greatest potential would be in what you could put in the Jittery’s head, which, again, is a coffee mug. Would mysterious, coffee-like liquid splash out of its head when Jittery is excitedly celebrating a goal? Would Jittery cry coffee tears upon defeat? Maybe you could fill Jittery’s head with toys/treats for the kiddos, and the young-at-heart. Just imagine Seattle winning a Stanley Cup, but drinking out of their mascot’s head, instead.

This is clearly a bullet-proof, genius concept, and I demand royalties.

ADAM: I know there is virtually no chance of it happening, and I think any reference to it has always been made in a joking manner (or maybe even a half-joking manner), but I am 100 percent on board with the Seattle Sasquatch. I think the biggest reason I like it is just for the mascot possibilities. Look at how crazy everyone went over Gritty. But I think Sasquatch seems to have just as much potential, maybe even more. Think Harry from Harry and the Hendersons.

But given that Sasquatch doesn’t seem to be a realistic option, I think I can accept Kraken. I was originally opposed to the Sockeye suggestion but I’ve even come around on that, too, and I assume Sockeye Salmon hitting the ice will be a thing at some point no matter what. I’m not on board with Metropolitans. I get the history — and I love hockey history — but we need something new, fresh, unique. Sasquatch is the answer.

JOEY: I’m going with Metropolitans. That was the team’s name when they became the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, and that’s the name they should keep. Yes, I realize that you’d have to re-name the Metropolitan Division, but I don’t care. There’s hockey history behind the name and I think it would be pretty cool if they came back with it in 2021.

SCOTT: Seattle Kraken. Scrap the skyscraper odes and all that other garbage and RELEASE THE KRAKEN!

I’m all for this shift in marketing philosophy made popular by the Philadelphia Flyers this year with Gritty. It’s opened the door to other possible ideas that are, well, not just the same old cliche, safe stuff we’re used. Seattle Kraken has so much potential. Incredible jerseys, a ridiculous number of options for a mascot, a title sponsor with the Kraken Rum brand. There’s probably some death metal band with Kraken in their name that could sing the anthems and fit right into the Seattle music scene vibe.

I’m not holding out much hope here. They’ll probably be named the Skyscrapers or something like that with the Space Needle as their logo and some type of fish as a mascot.

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We talk a lot about head coaches and hot seats, but what about some general managers who could follow in Ron Hextall’s footsteps out the door?

SEAN: It’s pretty amazing that Marc Bergevin’s seat has cooled considerably when you think about all the talk last season, but the Canadiens are playing better than expected and owner Geoff Molson isn’t close to making that kind of move.

Two GMs who should be feeling the heat are Doug Armstrong and Stan Bowman. I’ve harped on Armstrong since the Mike Yeo firing and am curious how long owner Tom Stillman will wait before making a change. Another season appears to be wasting away and some big names could be out the door by the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Then what? It won’t be a complete teardown, just a retooling if that’s what happens. But does he get one more season to make it work?

The move to fire Joel Quenneville hasn’t gone as planned and Chicago could be another place where big names are dealt, whether by the trade deadline or in the summer. Bowman’s helped construct championship teams and now some of those heavy-term, big money extensions have hamstrung building around the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. Another playoff-less season won’t make upper management happy and you wonder if the changes won’t stop with Quenneville.

JAMES: Honestly, it boggles my mind that Peter Chiarelli survived last season, so if his Hitchcock Hail Mary falls short, that Oilers era should come to a merciful end. It’s nigh-criminal to accomplish so little with Connor McDavid and a bucket of other high-profile picks (which Chiarelli’s squandered either through trades, bad picks, or stuttered development).

I like a lot of what Doug Armstrong’s managed, particularly since – beyond Alex Pietrangelo – the Blues really haven’t been built by lottery picks. Still, it’s clear that the Blues need a change of direction, and a fresh voice would be more inclined to undergo the painful, necessary surgery to right the ship … which may, in fact, come down to trading Pietrangelo.

There’s also Ken Holland, if the Red Wings truly are planning on moving to Steve Yzerman, but can’t say out loud because of tampering.

Three more who I’d say are less pertinent, but interesting to watch:

• Jim Nill – Yes, he’s made some great trades, not unlike Armstrong. But the Stars also failed to truly take advantage of Jamie Benn‘s former-bargain contract, and seem headed toward the same with Tyler Seguin‘s $5.75M expiring after 2018-19. They’ve made significant missteps in slowing down their style (baffling with Seguin & Co. as their best players), failed to find difference-making goalies despite paying huge money, and have whiffed hard on some key drafts. Nill’s been there since April 2013. It’s fair to wonder about him if Dallas can’t make big strides.

Dale Tallon – Normally, I’d be more empathic about Tallon. After all, he willingly gave up Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith rather than parting with, say, Alex Petrovic? Yeah, that’s really bad. That said, the Panthers have changed course as an organization alarmingly often for far too long, and with stifling consequences, so maybe it’s best to be patient … even if there are moments when Tallon seems breathtakingly out of touch.

John Chayka – The Coyotes are in a much better place than they were when Chayka took over, and it would be nice to see him get some more time to bring them to the next level.

Sometimes sports can be especially cruel, however, and there are factors that make you wonder about Chayka. For one, the Coyotes have made some bold moves to get better, yet they seem on track to miss the playoffs once again. Ownership might grow impatient.

Let’s not kid ourselves, either: the ownership situation is often in flux, and if that changes, they might want to bring in “their guy.” Hopefully Chayka gets at least a bit more time, but it’s something to watch, either way.

ADAM: My answer earlier this season was Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton, but the Oilers have gone on enough of a roll and Ken Hitchcock seems to have them doing something right (mostly playing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl until the wheels fall off) and I think that is going to buy him some time.

I think now we have to look over at the Central Division and either Doug Armstrong in St. Louis or Stan Bowman in Chicago.

The Blues spent a ton of money and gave up a ton of assets this summer after missing the playoffs a year ago, and now they stink. They already fired the coach, so that card has been played, and the next logical conclusion is the guy that built the team. Other than a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2015-16 this has been a first-or second-round team at its best (usually a first-round team) and now is on track to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row. Not a great sign for the GM who has, again, already played his “try to save the season” card by changing coaches.

This might be a controversial position to take, but I think if Stan Bowman were named Stan … Smith. Or Stan Johnson. Or anything other than Stan Bowman his seat would probably be a LOT warmer than it is now. His track record in Chicago is obviously great, but it’s been a few years now since the Blackhawks have been a Stanley Cup team, they missed the playoffs a year ago, are currently one of the worst teams in the league, and it didn’t really have to be THIS bad. I know they had salary cap constraints and they have some big contracts, but he has made a lot of questionable to bad moves over the past couple of years. Then he went and fired the most successful coach in franchise history and one of the best coaches in NHL history and the team has completely sunk after that. Not sure the Blackhawks are going to make a change now or even after this season, but if this season keeps going as it is and they do not get better next season they might consider doing something.

JOEY: You can’t mention general managers being on the hot seat without bringing up Doug Armstrong’s name. Last season, he traded Paul Stastny away because he felt his team was a year away from being a serious threat, but that hasn’t been the case in 2018-19. He pulled the trigger on a major deal for Ryan O'Reilly over the summer, and although O’Reilly’s been good, the team simply hasn’t been. Armstrong has fired a coach this season and if the Blues can’t turn it around, he’ll be next. With Jake Allen struggling for the most part over the last few seasons, Armstrong hasn’t found a solution to the problem between the pipes. This might be it.

Stars GM Jim Nill is also likely on thin ice. His team has some high-end talent, but depth has been an issue for them since he’s taken over. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alex Radulov and John Klingberg can only carry the team so far. Getting contributions from the rest of the team has been an issue. As of this moment, the Stars are on the outside of the playoff picture. If they were to miss the postseason again, you’d have to think that someone will play the price. It won’t be new head coach Jim Montgomery, so who else can it be but the GM?

And you can’t forget ‘Pistol’ Pete Chiarelli. Like Armstrong, Chiarelli also made a coaching change to try to get his team going. The Oilers are currently sitting in a Wild Card spot, but if they were to fall out of the playoff picture again at the end of the season, you’d have to think that Edmonton’s decision makers will want to make a change. You can’t just keep wasting all of Connor McDavid’s great years.

SCOTT: It would seem that Peter Chiarelli has bought himself some time after bringing in Ken Hitchcock to be the team’s savior. Edmonton is in a playoff spot, which isn’t something you would have uttered a month ago.

Of course, a losing streak of four or five games would change the above narrative, so Chiarelli is still certainly in the conversation and is by no means out of the woods just yet. He’s done little to improve this team since he arrived and still probably needs a miracle to happen if he’s to be in the same position this time next year.

Sticking in the west, Doug Armstrong’s leash must be retracting a bit. There were a lot of people who believed the Blues won the summer. But as we approach Christmas, we now know that wasn’t the case.

The Blues don’t look half bad on paper, but their on-ice product has been truly poor this season. Maybe the Blues just need to head in a new direction.

The last guy I have on a hot seat is Stan Bowman. If Bowman’s last name wasn’t Bowman, he’d probably already be gone.

I suppose he bought some time firing Joel Quenneville, but it’s clear Quenneville wasn’t the problem. Jeremy Colliton has been tasked with the impossible and it hasn’t worked out so far.

Bowman did well to win the Stanley Cup three times (partly due to drafting done before he got there), but there’s little coming up through the system these days that provide any hope for better times ahead. And trades to get picks and younger assets don’t seem to be in the cards either (see: Brent Seabrook contract). All the “bad” contracts are shrouded with no-movement clauses.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

New arena plans in Seattle remain on schedule

Oak View Group
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SEATTLE (AP) — The aggressive timeline for the renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena remains on schedule with the hope of breaking ground on construction by the end of the year.

Steve Mattson, director of operations for Oak View Group, said Monday that the goal remains to have approval to take control of the arena at Seattle Center by late fall and begin the construction process before the end of 2018.

”Every day we move them along a little bit and we feel really good about where we’re at right now,” Mattson said.

Oak View Group released new renderings of the remodeled arena on Monday, beginning a busy week for the group that is looking to bring the NHL to Seattle for the 2020 season. The group has formally filed for an expansion franchise with the NHL and is kicking off its season-ticket campaign on Thursday.

The new renderings focus largely on the south side of the current building where a new glass-enclosed atrium will serve as the main entrance for the building. The new atrium will be the biggest addition to the arena, but the facility will be gutted and rebuilt seemingly from the top down. It’s all part of a $660 million project that if completed will finally solve Seattle’s longtime arena problem.

Redeveloping the building isn’t easy because of the historical landmark status of the arena’s roofline. That limited what Oak View and architectural design firm Populous could do in creating a big enough footprint for a modern facility without being able to expand outward on three of the four sides of the building.

That’s why the atrium addition is so important to the design. It will be the primary entrance for the building and bring spectators in at the top of the arena. The arena will feature four levels and Populous associate principle Geoff Cheong said the design attempts to embrace the history of the building.

”We’ve talked about the arena maintaining its cherished, humble character within the neighborhood, within Seattle Center … but this is a remarkable, new identity, this south atrium. Its contemporary nature is very transparent and very inviting and a great first impression for residents and visitors to Seattle Center to embrace.”

MGM in early talks to attract NHL team to Las Vegas

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There have been plenty of rumors about people trying to lure an NHL team – expansion or otherwise – to Las Vegas. The latest story came Thursday, as an exec from MGM Resorts acknowledged “preliminary talks” with a group hoping to accomplish just that, as the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Fox 5 Vegas reported.

“We would be supportive of an NHL team coming to our arena,” MGM Resorts International Dan D’Arrigo said. “We’re highly interested and we have been in discussions with a group.”

D’Arrigo didn’t speculate about whether such a scenario would involve relocating a current team or gaining an expansion franchise.

Here’s an interesting tidbit, though: MGM is teaming up with AEG (owner of the Los Angeles Kings) to bring a $350 million arena to Las Vegas. This post’s main image is an artist’s rendering of what such an arena might look like, while the Las Vegas Review-Journal shared this video from the groundbreaking in May:

“It’s a big day for Las Vegas. It’s a big day for Nevada. It’s a big day for entertainment,” MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said. “We need to create the experience tourists are so yearning for. They want to be wowed.”

Again, this is far from the first time Vegas moguls have been tied to NHL expansion/relocation rumors, yet it’s interesting to see executives publicly acknowledging such interest.

One week ago, billionaire William Foley’s name was being thrown around, possibly in a potential deal to relocate the Arizona Coyotes. The NHL fired such talk down and has repeatedly denied expansion rumors in general, yet commissioner Gary Bettman admitted back in June that the league would look at Las Vegas “more closely” if expansion does become a reality.

(Click here for more Bettman on Vegas from May.)

There hasn’t been a specific response to this specific situation, which isn’t surprising since MGM hasn’t named the potentially interested group and seems to merely be dipping its toes in the water.

In the odd chance this situation comes to fruition and an NHL team ends up calling that MGM/AEG-owned arena its home, here’s a request on behalf of beat reporters repeatedly beleaguered by the Columbus Blue Jackets cannon: play the sound of slot machines pouring out coins after a home-team goal instead of the MGM lion growl:

Related

NBC’s Dan Patrick says Las Vegas will have an NHL team by 2016

NHL-to-Vegas talks gained steam in August

Vegas talk from back in 2013

The Kings haven’t been shy about playing in Sin City

The market was hyped as a good spot for hockey even back in 2011

Seattle makes a lot of sense for the Coyotes

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As of Sunday, the NHL has been permitted to start negotiating with other markets regarding a potential move of the Phoenix Coyotes. The good news for fans in Phoenix is that the league has repeatedly stated that they’re preference is to keep the team in Phoenix Glendale. The league hasn’t started contacting other potential owners in other potential markets yet; so things could be worse.

The incomparable Elliotte Friedman wrote a detailed article today breaking down various scenarios for the league and the Coyotes future (you should check out the entire article). He breaks it down to where Seattle and Quebec City make the most sense for the league in the short-term. More importantly, he breaks it down from a financial standpoint for the other 29 owners. Sooner or later, it always comes back to money.

Instead of choosing between Seattle and Quebec City, Friedman explains that the league could be interested in both—and another Toronto area team as well. Why? Is it for better competitive balance? To even the new realigned divisions that go into effect next season? No. Because there’s a lot of money to be made this way.

He explains the Coyotes could fetch around $170 in relocation, etc. fees for the 29 owners. Here’s where it gets interesting. If the Coyotes move to Seattle, that still leaves the starving hockey market in Quebec City available for the league to pursue.

“And you’d have to think that if Quebec City gets an expansion team, the fee will be higher than the purchase price of the Coyotes, especially if the NHL can create some kind of bidding war for the right to own the team there,” Friedman explains in his article. “What does Seattle relocation + Quebec City expansion + Toronto expansion equal? A billion dollars. And that might be conservative.”

A billion dollars can make a pretty convincing argument to the owners who are in the business of making a profit. Of course, the league still insists that they want to keep the team in Arizona for the long-term. Friedman talked to some of the powers-that-be at the Pebble Beach meetings last month and heard that the chances of the Coyotes staying are about 50/50 at this point.

50/50 isn’t that bad when everything else is considered at this point, is it?

Southern Ontario might get an NHL-ready arena (even if NHL isn’t ready)

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Most cities/regions don’t build a professional sports-friendly arena for the sake of bringing in more concerts, the circus and Disney on Ice. Yet TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that two wealthy Canadians are spearheading a move to bring a 19,500-seat building to southern Ontario under the supposed plan that it wouldn’t need an NHL team to succeed.

Maybe that’s true, but McKenzie reports that Markham, Ontario hopes to develop the type of complex that would resemble the area around the Staples Center in Los Angeles, so it’s hard to believe that getting an NHL team isn’t part of the plan.

Even with the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars getting ownership situations straightened out, the league has its fair share of struggling franchises, so the dream of getting a team in Markham doesn’t sound all that crazy. They’ll just have to keep their boldest thoughts to themselves, for now.