Young Stars Are In The Right Cities

The NHL’s four newest young stars who have entered the league during the last two years, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, and Patrik Laine have all landed in the right cities. They all managed to be drafted by teams in cities where hockey is loved and they will be the focus of attention. Last year Edmonton made McDavid the number one pick while Buffalo followed up with Eichel. This year, Toronto chose Matthews first and Winnipeg selected Laine. All teams are happy with the result.

Indeed in Buffalo and Winnipeg, where the Sabres have to compete with the mediocre Bills of the NFL and the Jets are sports rivals with the also-ran Blue Bombers of the CFL, it can be said that Eichel and Laine are their cities current best professional sports athletes. McDavid shares the Edmonton market with the Eskimos of the CFL who won the Grey Cup one year ago and were contenders again last year. Matthews is coming into an environment where the Maple Leafs share the market with the contending Blue Jays of MLB and the equally contending Raptors of the NBA.

For Eichel, who hails from Massachusetts, Laine from Finland, and McDavid from Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto, there is no adjustment in these hockey loving centers. But there must be some adjustment for Matthews who was born in California and lived most of his life in Arizona where hockey is an also-ran sport to come into Toronto where attention on the star players of the Maple Leafs is a constant factor. All four will be involved in their new communities during the off season, whether they like it or not.

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All four have different pressures on them. Eichel may well become the best Buffalo Sabre ever, challenging Gilbert Perreault. It is his job to lead the Sabres back to respectability to become a regular playoff team again.

eichel

Ultimate victory has eluded Buffalo since 1965 when Jack Kemp led the Bills to the AFL Championship. There was no Super Bowl in those days. Since then Buffalo has endured two losses by the Sabres in the Stanley Cup Final and four consecutive frustrating defeats in the Super Bowl by the Bills. Whoever gives Buffalo a championship in the modern sports era will be head and shoulders above the rest.

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Laine is already being compared to Winnipeg Jet Finnish legend Temmu Selanne. In its two incarnations in NHL, the Winnipeg Jets have never even made the Western Conference Final.

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If Laine can take them even that far he will be acclaimed the greatest NHL Jet ever ahead of Selanne and Dale Hawerchuk. (I’m not counting the WHA days of Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, and Ulf Nilsson.)

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Matthews can be almost be said to be a Maple Leaf Messiah. The Maple Leafs have not had a player of his stature since Matts Sundin. He comes to a team that is currently tied with the St. Louis Blues for the longest streak without winning the Stanley Cup, 50 years. The team has not even been to the Stanley Cup Final during this period.

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The Leafs have had to endure two long periods of bad management and ownership under Harold Ballard and the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund. Their fans are famished with waiting to have a contending team again, let alone a championship. Matthews is being asked to do what the best four Maple Leafs during these famine years, Sundin, Doug Gilmour, Darryl Sittler, and Bjore Salming could not do, take the Leafs all the way to the Stanley Cup. There are a lot of ghosts hanging over him.

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For Connor McDavid, there is a different kind of pressure. He is supposed to be Sidney Crosby’s heir, the best player in Canada who is head and shoulders above everybody else, Canadian and foreign, during his peak playing days. This list of players is almost continuous back to the days of Maurice Richard and everyone who is on it (Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Crosby) has won at least one Stanley Cup. And there is the additional ghost of Gretzky being the best Oiler ever.

mcdavid

If McDavid wanted a challenge, he probably got the ultimate one. Right now he has to be not only the best current Oiler, but better than Eichel, Matthews, and Laine, and everyone else in the league except Crosby. Good luck kid, you’re going to need it.

While it is great for these young stars to be in true hockey environments, it is probably not what the NHL wanted. They can always sell hockey tickets in Toronto, Buffalo, Winnipeg, and Edmonton. Secretly the NHL would probably be happier if these young stars turned around attendance in Carolina, Arizona, Columbus, and Florida.

But they are where they are and as noted above, they all have sufficient pressure on them without having to sell tickets and save the existence of franchises. Hopefully they will thrive in real hockey environments. And it will be fascinating to watch how this four-way rivalry plays out in the future.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs: Another Example Of Why Quebec City Does Not Have A Team

Since the big expansion announcement has come, I have been writing a series of articles about why the Quebec City bid – which seemed like a sure-fire winner – failed in its attempt to get its beloved Nordiques back, despite doing their utmost to comply with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s terms.

I have grouped the many factors into three general reasons:

1. The greedy NHL expansion fee.

2. The imbalance of the conferences.

3. The corrupt policies of the elites that run Canada that has prevented more Canadian teams from joining the NHL in the past and has now led to the Canadian dollar losing one quarter of its value against the American one.

In the end it was factor 3 that was the most decisive in preventing Quebec from rejoining the NHL. In my first my first article about this factor, I mentioned how the deaths of two people, schoolgirl Rehtaeh Parsons raped, tormented, and humiliated until she committed suicide because her contemporaries decided she “was not good enough to be one of them”, and the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumartashvilli, blamed for his own death by Canadian officials at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 despite the protests of experienced lugers that Canada had built an unsafe luge track, were apt symbols of the policies of the corrupt elites that run Canada. In neither case was punishment given out to the behind-the-scenes people who had helped cause their deaths.

In the same article I pointed out how Ontario went from being the wealthiest province in Canada to becoming a have-not province. The Ontario Government’s recent decision to reward all its supporters of the 2015 Pan American Games despite the games coming in over-budget is a good example of how the corrupt reward their followers despite a poor performance.

But it was the feud listed in my second article that was probably THE real reason why Quebec City did not get a team. This was between two prominent Quebec businessmen, francophone Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor, the Nordiques would-be owner, and anglophone Geoff Molson, CEO of the Montreal Canadiens. Peladeau put himself in the ridiculous position of publicly attacking Molson’s ownership of the Canadiens on racial grounds and then trying to obstruct his business activities while at the same time seeking to become Molson’s partner on the NHL’s Board of Governors. In such a situation, Quebec’s bid was probably doomed before the first dollar was paid and before the first shovel went into the earth to build the new arena. In effect, Quebec unnecessarily spent $400 million because the ownership issue, which should have been properly settled before things went ahead was unacceptable in the NHL’s eyes.

Right now, behind the scenes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is trying to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City NHL franchise. In 2010 he made a tour of the cities that lost their teams, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and stated the terms for readmission to the NHL which were fan-base, arena, and ownership. It is an embarrassment both to the NHL and to Bettman personally to issue such terms, and then see a city with a great fan base spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars on a new arena and then not get a team because the prospective owner was unsuitable. Most likely Bettman is maneuvering things to place Mario Lemieux, currently part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins into a position of fronting an acceptable bid to place a new Quebec team in his native province (see previous article for more details). But this delay in granting a franchise to Quebec City is a symptom of the corruption that makes placing new teams in Canada difficult.

In such a Canada, where evasion of responsibility leads to innocent deaths with no punishment meted out, where government waste is rewarded, where personal feuds among the elites are probably the main factor why fans in a hockey-loving city cannot get their team back, are there any other examples of the corruption that keeps Canada’s membership in the NHL to a minimum?

And one does not have to stray far to find such examples, one of the best being the ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The poor Maple Leafs fans have had to suffer two long periods of bad ownership, first with Harold Ballard and then with the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund. The result is that the Leafs are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the longest current streak without winning the Stanley Cup at 49 years.

You remember Ballard, that wonderful Canadian patriot, who along with ex-Canadian Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke, led the fight to keep the WHA from merging with the NHL, thus keeping Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton out of the league, who was jailed for income tax evasion, and then let a pedophile ring operate out of Maple Leaf Gardens. There are no Stanley Cups for the Maple Leafs during his tenure. After his sorry ownership the Leafs iced some respectable teams until the Teachers Pension Fund bought the team.

I happened to know some teachers and if you listened to them talk it was easy to see why the Leafs performed the way they did during their ownership. To the teachers, the Leafs were simply an asset to squeeze as much money out of as possible. There was no sense of responsibility that the team was more than just a disposable asset, that there was no need to ice a respectable, competitive team, that the ownership had to take a real interest and invest assets to improve things.

The fans also played a role in the team’s poor performance. Since before I was born there has been mindless worship of the Toronto Maple Leafs, perhaps justified in the 1960s when the team won four Stanley Cups, but completely incongruent with Ballard’s and the teachers’ ownerships. The team would get automatic sellouts and large quantities of its merchandise sold no matter how bad the team was.

When one watches a Toronto Maple Leafs home game today on television, one sees large sections of empty seats at the start of every period. Why are not these hockey fans in their seats to see their beloved team play? Because these “fans” are probably not fans at all, but seats owned by corporations and other sponsors who are the only ones who can afford seats at the Air Canada Center. To them these seats are simply ways of entertaining and impressing important clients whose business they solicit. There is no need to be in your seats at game time. It is more important to discuss and conclude business deals in the bar and lounge areas.

With such mindless money coming in, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund could not care less. The result was that during their entire ownership period, they amassed a poor record that incredibly surpassed Ballard’s ownership; not one single playoff game was played. In the end they sold the team because they believed they were not getting the investment dividends they believed they should have gotten from their ownership of the team.

Of course the teachers supported the NHL’s policy of imposing stiff monetary penalties on anyone trying to establish a new NHL franchise within a 50 mile radius of an existing team. They did not want direct competition to compare their bad record with. That is why there is no Hamilton, second Toronto, or any other southern Ontario team.

The teachers may be gone but not their legacy. Toronto is still paying for their ownership. This year they hit rock bottom and got the number one draft pick. Barring a miracle, the years of not winning a Stanley Cup will reach 50 and continue to climb. There is no Hamilton, second Toronto, London, Kitchener, or Oshawa NHL team.

Meanwhile in Canada there is a myth that the NHL led by American Gary Bettman and his gang of American owners is anti-Canadian. That in itself would be laughable even if it were true. Bettman and the American owners do not have to do anything. All they have to do is put their feet up and let Canadians do the job for them while they laugh their heads off.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are considered to be the richest team in the NHL. With such wealth, it should be expected that they ice competitive teams continuously, just like the New York Yankees do in baseball. Instead under two bad ownership regimes, the Leafs became a laughingstock.

Such is an example of the corruption in Canada. Such is an example of why Quebec City is still waiting for the Nordiques to return.

The Flying Marchand and the Comeback Kids

Today’s blog will be a 2-for-1 special. I had to move over the week and wasn’t really able to catch the games in full, so let’s catch the game in 6 for both and… and see that Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak have become Gods, apparently.

Real talk now. WHAT. A. HIT. Good God the Dream laid the smackdown on Marchand. He had his whiny face on for a minute or two after he took that hit, and it was glorious considering what he does to us. Naz wasn’t great on the dot over the past few games before they hit the B’s, which is thankfully starting to become uncharacteristic, but he put up 2 points and was a +3 on the night so you can’ really complain on that front.

Mo’ Riels continues to show up strong game in and game out with an assist off a shot from the point. And, Optimus Reim has thrown together a win streak, which is nice in small bursts this season (Come on Matthews) but whats impressive is his consistently above .920 save %. Reimer has clearly shown that if he hasn’t been hit in the head, he’s a world-beater.

Last but not least on my “list of guys to talk about” is Tyler Bozak. BOOST YOUR VALUE BUDDY! He is an absolute MONSTER on faceoffs. I went through the backlog of game stats and it’s easier to count the number of games where he’s been below 50%. 12. 12 games out of 46. Just above a quarter. so 74% of all games, Bozak will win you at least half of the Draws he takes.

Now lets get to the Team as a whole. Did anyone see this last year? For a team of misfit forwards, they show a hell of a lot of heart game in and game out. Usually it’s been in the form of not laying up 2 stinker games in a row, but these past 2 games it’s been in the form of pushing back and getting the win despite everything saying they wouldn’t. We’ve heard it all year that this team was going to have to score by committee and that’s rung even more true since JVR went down. Parenteau when he has time and space (the shoot out and the powerplay, vs his lame-duckness on 5-v-5) Shawn Matthias, Leo “All Star/Leading Scorer” Komarov. Guys who we’d have never expected to be as effective as they are, are getting it done. This is what happens when you have a proper support network through management. Everyone knew Horacheck wasn’t expected to win, and The Toastmaster should never have been brought back last year at the start, but In the long run it got us Babcock, and that’s what’ll propel the Leafs forward in the long run.

BREAKING NEWS: BRIAN BURKE FIRED

Breaking News: Multiple outlets are reporting that the Toronto Maple Leafs have fired GM Brian Burke. Not much is known right now. We will give you the news as we receive it.

Update:
12:49 – Press Release / News Conference at 1:45PM.
12:51 David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period is reporting that Burke’s contract wasn’t going to be extended past this June anyways.
1:14 John Shannon of Sportsnet is reporting that the decision was made by the Board.
1:14 Just a personal thought, I doubt many reporters will ask the tough questions because at the end of the day, the guys who own the Leafs also own the TV stations.
1:26 TSN’s Bob McKenzie is now reporting that Dave Nonis is the next GM. Not much suprise here. However, he doesn’t know if its permanent or interm. I believe he will be a permanent GM. Just a personal opinion. It’s too close to the start of the season to be looking for a new GM.
1:42 Dave Nonis. GM. Permanent.
2:45 Sorry for the late post, but it seems like Burke will stay on as a Senior Advisor role.