[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
7. Being Dean Lombardi
The past few weeks or or so has been pretty hard on the Los Angeles Kings, because one of their best defensemen got suspended (albeit for something abominable), in such a way that his significant cap hit of $4.1 million stays on the books.
Slava Voynov was suspended toward the end of October, and the Kings have had to carry that cap hit the entire time even while calling up another defenseman, and other injuries have stretched the team thin. So thin, in fact, that they only dressed 17 in a recent game because they would have been a whopping $160 (that's one hundred sixty dollars and no cents) over the cap if they'd added literally anyone.
Dean Lombardi is fed up, and who can blame him? The NHL was, in theory at least, supposed to act on this at some point to give the Kings, who themselves have really done nothing wrong other than employ an alleged domestic abuser, at least some sort of clarity. The league has, instead, done nothing. Signing Jamie McBain on a two-way deal will help smooth over the issue for now, but longer-term answers do need to be delivered quickly here. Basically, Lombardi's understanding of it is that the Kings won't get the cap space back unless Voynov gets convicted, which could take months. The season would almost certainly be over by that point, and wouldn't do the Kings any good.
It's difficult to imagine the league would let a marquee franchise like Los Angeles dangle this long, and you can be sure that if it were a Toronto player on the hook, the media there would be braying day and night for a swift resolution. The sound would be inescapable.
We are all probably going to say we're all for punishing domestic abusers, but this situation is just bizarre, and unfair.
6. “The cap's going up”
Here now are the words of (fill in the name of an NHL team)'s fan, seconds after the team signed a player to a contract which was immediately not-worth the money: “Well yeah, but the cap's going up so it won't be a big deal.”
Not so fast, chief.
It seems that the continuing devaluation of the Canadian dollar versus its American cousin might be set to continue for a while here, and as such the revenues brought in by the seven typically-profitable Canadian teams aren't going to be worth quite so much. That, in turn, could lead to the salary cap staying in place at its current $69 million heading into next year.
Which puts a lot of teams in rather precarious positions. Take, for example, the Chicago Blackhawks. Starting next season, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane embark on eight-year deals that will pay them a combined $21 million against the cap. If the cap were going up to, say, $75 million, the big jump in their pay (from today's combined cap hit of $12.2 million) is a little easier to absorb. Without it? That's a problem.
The Blackhawks currently have nearly $65.8 million committed to just 15 players for next year, and guys who need re-signing include Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya, both of whom are likely to be due sizable raises. This is a huge, huge deal.
It also doesn't help the Bruins, who will once again probably need to clear out several players in order to just be able to re-sign guys like Reilly Smith, Torey Krug, Carl Soderberg, and Dougie Hamilton. They have just $56.5 million committed with 14 players signed, but you can bet Peter Chiarelli promised to take care of Smith and Krug at the very least when they re-upped on one-year discounts for this season. You can bet that between those four guys alone, they will go through that $13.5 million pretty quickly, and still have holes in the lineup.
You have to wonder how many guys are going to get bought out of their short-term big-money deals this summer. Or how many teams with a lot of cap space wait in the tall grass like the Islanders did with the Bruins and Blackhawks in October, just waiting for big spenders to have to make deals for useful-if-too-expensive players.
There'll probably be a lot of both.
5. People who take hockey too seriously
One thing NHL fans love to do is complain about the ways in which the league tries to make the game more accessible to people who don't currently watch a lot of hockey. This is the worst thing in the world the league can do, it seems. It's worse than promoting Sidney Crosby heavily.
So this week it was revealed that the infamous Glow Puck might end up making a comeback in the NHL, which no doubt prompted horrified screams from people who want to preserve the sanctity of a game no one really watches, in the grand scheme of things. “Hockey might not be popular on TV, but it's OUR unpopular sport!!!!” and so on.
Yeah, man, I guess. But like, you're going to watch the games anyway. It doesn't really matter what you think because the hook's sunk pretty deep into the roof of your mouth, so thrash around all you want, because you're still on the line. And for all those fans whose big complaint about hockey is, “I can't see the puck on TV,” well hey, the NHL has your back.
And guess what else, bud: There's practical use beyond that. All that player-tracking technology the league is going to invest in? You put a chip in the puck, and it can both glow on TV and tell you a whole hell of a lot about every single pass, touch, and shot taken in an entire game. That data's useful. To everyone. So that's what we're going with here.
The thing is, when people think of the Glow Puck they think of that thing that looked like a flying saucer in a 1960s alien invasion C-movie Glowing lights and a big central hub and all that stuff. Plus it made the puck feel different on players sticks and everything, so I get the arguments against it. But technology may or may not have improved significantly over the last 20 years, so here's a comprehensive list of you're going to see when you look at a 2015 Glow Puck versus a 2014 Regular Puck: Nothing.
It will glow on TV. Boo hoo hoo. You're watching anyway.
This week there was a little bit of attention paid to a couple of milestones worth mentioning. The first was that Trevor van Riemsdyk appeared to score his first goal ever in the NHL, but it was later revealed that Kris Versteeg actually got a piece of it as it went to the net.
Asked what he'd do with the puck now that it was merely Versteeg's career goal No. 106, rather than his own No. 1, van Riemsdyk said he'd take the tape off it and use it in practice.
Likewise, 22-year-old Jeff Skinner locked down goal No. 100 of his career this week, bumping him to 100-91-191 in only 269 NHL games.
But these two events led me to wonder: How many pucks does a prolific player end up with in his career?
Like, okay, you throw some tape around a puck for your first NHL goal. Probably keep No. 100, too. But do you keep the puck for your first NHL point? What about your 100th? Or 200th? Or 300th? And you get three for every hat-trick, right? Probably keep the ones you get when you set a franchise record, too. League records, same thing. But what about the first goal you scored in college or junior? Midget. Mite. Atom. What about all the milestones there? And international duty, too: First World Junior goal? First Olympic goal?
At what point do you just stop collecting those things? How many pucks do Wayne Gretzky and his immediate family members and friends have lying around from some milestone he set back in the '80s that he wouldn't even be able to tell you about now, except for the fact that there's tape on it with the date and milestone in question?
I don't have a real point on this, I'm legitimately wondering.
3. Hockey-related revenues
Ads on jerseys! The horror! The unremitting horror!
What's that? You'll still watch anyway? Even if they make the puck glow on TV, too? And you'll still buy the jerseys even as you grumble about it? There's a good fan right there. Enjoy your literal Burger Kings jersey.
2. Waiting for the other shoe to drop
Jim Nill made a deal on Tuesday that didn't make a lot of sense to most observers. Trade Sergei Gonchar, keep 8 percent of his salary ($400,000), and get back Travis Moen. The Stars' problem is on the blue line, of course, and Moen is a weirdly expensive redundancy to take on.
So what, exactly, is Nill's endgame here?
The obvious answer is that he was freeing up cap space to get an actual good defenseman from somewhere else in the near future. His options remain limited, of course, because he doesn't exactly have a ton of room, but they could theoretically add as much as $5 million in on-the-books salary as I write this and still have a bit of wiggle room. That's a decent number of possibilities, and already people are floating the idea of a Jeff Petry (he's embattled in Edmonton and making $3.075 million for this year only), Tyler Myers (who's underperforming in Buffalo, which says a lot, and carries a $5.5 million cap hit through 2019), or Andrej Sekera (highly coveted and a bargain at $2.75 million) heading to Dallas.
Nill certainly has the pieces to get something done with just about any of those clubs, especially if they all go into fire-sale mode in the near future, which seems possible because boy they're all pretty bad. While a lot of teams would be standing on line to acquire those three, and probably a few others Nill has targeted that we haven't, it seems pretty obvious that yesterday's swap was a chess move to set up something else later.
1. Arizona's sweet deal
A really fascinating article popped up in the Globe and Mail last week, highlighting just how irresistible the Coyotes' much-maligned deal with the city of Glendale.
You'll recall that if the team loses $50 million over the first five years of the deal, it is legally allowed to pack up the tent and move on to Vegas or Seattle or Quebec. And you'll recall that the team already lost a pretty hefty portion of that $50 million in year-one.
You'll further recall that the city is paying the team $15 million per year to run the arena they built. But here's the thing with that: The $15 million doesn't count toward the team's revenues, because it's actually being paid to the arena management company IceArizona owns, rather than IceArizona, which owns the team, itself. That will further serve to lose the team money in the long-run (over this season and last, that's $30 million given away by the city which effectively does nothing to keep the Coyotes in town).
Given that the Coyotes are still collecting revenue-sharing money from the league, plus the $15 million per year from the city, whether moving is even a good idea financially, but it does allow these new owners to find the right deal for the club's future. Even if it stays in Arizona. Which it probably won't.
Man, the team and league couldn't have worked those goober yokel city council members any harder, eh?
(Not ranked this week: Nazis.
A minor hockey coach in North Delta, British Columbia, was fired last week for having a whole bunch of crap about how much he likes Nazis on his Facebook page. Not cool.
Tough bounce for Christopher Maximilian Sandau, but here's a word of advice moving forward: If you want hockey people to accept your pro-Nazi views, make damn sure you cough up the $104 million to build a rink for the University of North Dakota first.)
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