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Ryan Lambert

What We Learned: Contraction talk? Must be that time of year

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

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Today is Columbus Day here in the US (Thanksgiving for our Canadian friends) and you know what that means: It's time for the media to drum an underperforming franchise out of the League.

Isn't that right, Adrian Dater?

For those of you, knowing Dater's credentials as a certified member in good standing of the Avs Media Pom-Pom Crew, that don't want to click the link and read this painfully rote article (I don't blame you), he asserts that "the Predators should get the heck out of the NHL" because they drew just under 15,000 fans last week -- roughly 2,000 less than capacity -- for the team's home opener against Colorado.

Without a hint of irony.

(Coming Up: Detroit's Afrogator yo-yo; The Disappearing Filatov; brutality in Philly; Cam Janssen's(notes) goon confession; Lamoriello's evil genius in Shanahan dumping; Ryan Malone(notes) somehow scores a hat-trick; and how to turn the Leafs into winners with four simple trades that will never happen.)

Dater goes on to say that the Preds struggle to sell out their games and have for a while. And, he notes, even though the Avs only moved 13,000 tickets -- a full 5,000 below capacity, but, Dater assures us, that is almost certainly due to the economy -- for a game last week, this is irrelevant to the argument because, get this, the Avs have the longest sellout streak in NHL history at 487 games. That would be all well and good if it hadn't ended in 2006.

Since that time, Colorado's average attendance has slipped from 18,007 that year to 17,612 in 2006-07, to 16,842 in 2007-08, and then just 15,429 last season, 26th in the league. That number, incidentally, is somehow worlds better than Nashville's 27th-place finish at 15,010 -- just 419 seats per game below the Avs.

And if that wasn't damning enough, Nashville's percentage of tickets sold last season was 87.5. Colorado's? Just 85.7.

"A team," Dater says, "can only do so much to draw fans." Like, I imagine, retiring Joe Sakic's(notes) number and deservedly banging out the Pepsi Center on a Thursday, then having attendance plummet just under 4,600 (to 13,416) for a game two days later.

Even with a full sell-out, the Avs' two home games have averaged 15,712 people. That's with the draw of an opening night game against a great team like the Sharks (plus the allure Sakic Night) and the also-good Canucks.

The only home game the Preds have to go by is a game against the Avalanche, and, as Dater asks rhetorically, "Would you want to watch the Avalanche play right now?" Judging by the stats, the answer, even in Denver, is "no."

The solution is simple: Contract Colorado.

I mean, if you really want to start pointing fingers like that, anyway.

What We Learned

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Anaheim Ducks: James Wisniewski(notes) was off to a great start, scoring four points in four games, but now he's down with a shoulder injury he picked up Saturday and Brendan Mikkelson(notes) has been called up to replace him. That's tough.

Atlanta Thrashers: Good news for the Thrashers is that while they're not getting a lot of shots, they're shooting the lights out. Scoring 10 goals on 50 shots is no small feat. But at the same time, they don't want to be giving up 35 shots a night either. Not with that defense anyway.

Boston Bruins: It's time for one of my favorite hockey traditions: The Bruins' Columbus Day afternoon game. I went to all of these as a kid. Who doesn't love a 1 o'clock game on a Monday?

Buffalo Sabres: Another injured defenseman: Andrej Sekera(notes). Lindy Ruff says the early diagnosis isn't good, but they'll know more today. That's two of the Sabres' top 6 that may not go tomorrow night against Detroit, since Toni Lydman(notes) is also questionable for that game.

Calgary Flames: Brent Sutter's new system has the Flames blocking a lot of shots, but in an interesting way. By getting in shooting lanes and using their sticks, forwards are creating discomfort for puck-carrying D-men and forcing them to either shuffle the shot away to a less dangerous area or throw weak wristers at the net that the defensemen can block more easily. That's why Calgary is tied for second in blocked shots league-wide (prior to Sunday's games), dead even with Montreal and behind Pittsburgh.

Carolina Hurricanes: Not a good game for the ‘Canes on Saturday. Everyone not named Eric Staal(notes) combined for 18 shots, and they got dominated at the dot, winning only 34 percent.

Chicago Blackhawks: Nothing fancy about Andrew Ladd's(notes) shootout winner on Saturday against the Avalanche.

Except that it came in the ninth round.

Colorado Avalanche: Jibblescribbits has, perhaps, identified Colorado's biggest problem.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Nikita Filatov's(notes) ice time is dropping by the day. He's gone from 9:18 in the season opener to just 4:49 on Saturday, with diminishing shifts in pretty much every game.

Dallas Stars: The reason Dallas hired Marc Crawford is apparently because he's stern.

Detroit Red Wings: Justin Abdelkader(notes) had a busy few days. He was sent down Thursday to make room for Brad May(notes), unpacked all his stuff in Grand Rapids and went to bed, woke up, traveled to Toronto, started practice and found out he was called back up halfway through because of Johan Franzen's(notes) injury. So he caught a flight to Windsor then took a cab to the rink in Detroit. He got 10:31 of ice time for his efforts, and a chance to play with the big club for the next four months. Not bad, all things considered.

Edmonton Oilers: Not that you can go around believing everything Peter Pocklington says, but now he's claiming that the Leafs and Oilers almost flip-flopped franchises in the mid-80s, bringing Gretzky and Messier to Toronto and sending ... I dunno, whoever the Leafs had, to Edmonton. All it would have cost was $50 million, but Harold Ballard backed out.

Florida Panthers: Special teams are not so special in Sunrise: Through Saturday, the power play is 1 for 16 (worst in the league at 6.2 percent), and the PK only 12 of 17 (70.6 percent, 23rd in the league). That's a special teams net of 13 for 33 (39.4 percent), and that's not going to win you many hockey games at all.

Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty(notes) took a puck in the mouth on Saturday and spent the next morning at the dentist. He did, however, finish his shift without even going down, which makes him a bad dude.

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Minnesota Wild: Additional injury news from the weekend: Both Petr Sykora(notes) and Cal Clutterbuck(notes) got hurt in the first period Saturday, the former tweaking his groin and the latter catching his toe in a rut and hurting his ankle.

Montreal Canadiens: There was a great article in Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine about Habs first-round pick Louis LeBlanc and not only his decision to play at Harvard of all places, but also how Harvard as a program is defying convention by actually doing something most Ivy-League schools can't do consistently: Produce professional athletes.

Nashville Predators: Not only is Colin Wilson(notes) very close to returning after missing a few games thanks to the wonky groin that's plagued him the last few years, he's also already being included in power play meetings. His return would be huge for the Preds' offense.

New Jersey Devils: Brendan Shanahan's(notes) contract has somehow been completely voided, saving the Devs $1 million against the cap. How did they so successfully circumvent the salary cap? "It's within the rules," Lou Lamoriello said. "That's all I'll say." I swear he's an evil genius.

New York Islanders: Lighthouse Hockey had a good look at the minutes for a couple of Islanders vying for ice time. Hint: when Rob Schremp(notes), who got cut from the Oilers, is getting time as a second-line wing, you're really, really thin.

New York Rangers: Well, Sean Avery(notes) played his first game of the year yesterday and was already in midseason form. Randy Carlyle said after the Rangers shut out his Ducks 3-0 that it's really hard to believe some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. Attaboy, Sean.

Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza(notes) and Chris Neil(notes) got in a fight during practice on Friday and had to be pulled apart by teammates. Oh, and they sit next to each other in the dressing room. AWK-ward!

Philadelphia Flyers: What are "Pictures you expect to see from a Ducks/Flyers game?"

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Ding ding ding.

Phoenix Coyotes: The COO of the non-NHL, non-Balsillie group trying to buy the Coyotes went to the Whiteout game and, for some reason, still says his group intends to buy the team. Maybe that's because announced attendance was 17,532. DON'T DO IT IT'S A TRICK!

Pittsburgh Penguins: When his hockey career is over, Max Talbot(notes) can get a job at the United Nations as a translator.

San Jose Sharks: So that Dany Heatley(notes) acquisition is goin' okay so far, eh? Another goal on Saturday makes five goals and five assists in five games so far, and that's after going 0-0-0 in his Sharks debut. I'm so impressed by the start that I will leave out a derisive comment about self-destructing in the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues: Cam Janssen is, I suspect, one of the few tough guys in the league that will openly admit to not liking to play with skill guys who can get him the puck because he'd rather hit people. I find his attitude to be pretty cool.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Either Antero Niittymaki(notes) played so well in Tampa's 5-2 win over Carolina that he earned another go, or Mike Smith's(notes) a still little too sore to play tonight. Maybe both.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Poll on NHL.com last night: "Which of the following teams has the most intriguing goalie situation?" Toronto was an option. Surely someone at the league offices has confused the word "intriguing" with "horrifying."

Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin(notes) already sees himself beating that four-to-six weeks diagnosis. If he was a real hockey player, he'd cut the foot off and play with a prosthetic skate. He'd played 646 straight games since 2000-01 and only missed 10 games in his career.

Washington Capitals: I'm no expert on the matter, but I don't think you're doing your job correctly if the guy that signs your paychecks compares your approach to that of a "spoiled teenager."

Play of the Weekend

Hey look, it's Artem Anisimov's(notes) first NHL goal. Very nice passing right there.

Gold Star Award

Here's a winner of this award you won't see very often -- my guess is never again -- Ryan Malone!

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Getting a hattie against the Hurricanes? Pretty good. I think he had three goals all of last year or something.

Minus of the Weekend

Speaking of the Hurricanes, the tandem of Tomas Vokoun(notes) and Alexander Salak(notes) didn't have such a hot night against them. Seven goals allowed on 33 shots? A .788 save percentage is not good. Repeat: Not good.

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Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

Obviously Brian Burke has a lot of work to do in Toronto, but user "anotherleaffan" has his back.

to tml: rayan malone 4m
to tbl: hagman 3m and mayer 1.333m (i.o.u from last year for taking their garbage at the trade deadline)

to tml: jordin tootoo .975 + 2nd
to nsh: poni 2.105m

to tml: patrick sharp 3.9m + 3rd
to chi: grabs 2.9m

to tml: steve bernier 2m or ryan kesler 1.750m
to van: stajan 1.750m and ian white .850

Well done.

Signoff

See ya Friday.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness pretty much every day over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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