Questions Abound As Offseason Begins

Those of you who are long-time listeners of the Puck Podcast may remember that I used to do a Ducks blog for another hockey website and that through the years I’ve had posted blogs sporadically here on my page. As a writer at heart I’ve missed blogging and the discussions that it can create. As the traffic on our website has increased and the discussions in our forums has followed suit I decided it would be a perfect time to begin blogging more often so that’s just what I intend to do.

As I mentioned on the June 13th episode of the Puck Podcast I will be posting a NHL Year In Review blog on Wednesday, June 17th. However, when I got home from recording the podcast I realized that I couldn’t wait that long to start blogging again so I sat down at the computer and began to write. What came out is below but before I get to that I want to let you know a couple of things.

First, I encourage your feedback. I love talking hockey and I understand that many of you will disagree with my opinions on one topic or another. That’s fine. In fact, that’s great. Please click on the “Leave a Comment” button at the top of this post and let me know what you think. Second, I hope you will become a regular visitor. Beginning with my NHL Year In Review blog I intend to post a blog every Wednesday. The blog will be a place for me to post thoughts, links, and observations of the NHL and will act as a supplement to the Puck Podcast which Eddie and I will continue to record every single Saturday all year long.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at the questions I find most intriguing as the NHL’s offseason begins:

1. Where will the Phoenix Coyotes play?

We all know the details concerning the Phoenix Coyotes and their potential sale/relocation to Hamilton, Ontario. The only left to determine is…everything. We still have no idea who will own the team, where they will play, what they will be called much less what they will do to improve their roster. While the other 29 teams are focusing on things like the draft and free agency the Coyotes have much more important things to figure out before they concern themselves with actually building a roster that fans in either Phoenix or Hamilton would care to see play.

If you’re a regular listener of the Puck Podcast then you know that I am against relocation of NHL franchises in general. I wasn’t happy to see the North Stars, Jets, Nordiques, or Whalers move because I believe the fans in each of those cities deserved better. The NHL corrected their mistake by putting a team back in Minnesota but Quebec, Hartford and Winnipeg are still without an NHL franchise and in the case of Quebec are still without so much as an AHL team to support. I would hate to see the same happen to Phoenix. Say what you will about the fan support, or lack thereof, of the Coyotes the fact is that there are many diehard fans of that team in the Phoenix area and they do not deserve to go from being an NHL city one day to being an ECHL city the next.

Instead what I’d like to see is the NHL continue their commitment to the 30 NHL teams we have now and to let the sport grow in each community. If you take a look at a map of North America and put pins in each NHL city you will see that fans throughout the continent have an NHL team in their region to cheer for and/or support. That also means that NHL games will be on television in their area and that they will have a chance to see the sport on a regular basis. That’s a great thing and one that would be lost if the Coyotes were to move. It would be one thing if we were talking about the Devils, Senators, Rangers or Islanders – those teams could move and the fans in those areas would still have a team within a reasonable distance to support.

But if the Coyotes move who are the people in Arizona and New Mexico (the broadcast area of Fox Sports Arizona) to cheer for? That’s 8.5 million people, one-fourth the population of Canada, who would no longer have an NHL team in their area to support and watch and that’s a huge market the NHL would be losing out on. The NHL would gain zero fans by moving to Hamilton but they would lose 8.5 million potential fans by leaving Phoenix. That’s how I look at it and that’s, I’m sure, how the NHL looks at it. It has nothing to do with who deserves the team more and has everything to do with making the NHL accessible to as many people as possible.

For that reason I hope the Coyotes stay in Phoenix. We saw the Penguins come close to moving due to financial problems and now they’re the Stanley Cup Champions. Could the same happen to the Coyotes? There’s only one way to find out.

2. Who will the Devils, Wild and Flames hire as their Head Coach?

I’ll start with the Calgary Flames for no reason other than I have a gut instinct on what will happen with them. I believe that Darryl Sutter will name himself as the head coach of the Flames for the 2009-2010 season and then, a year from now when Brent Sutter’s contract with the Devils expires, he will step down as coach and hire his brother. I base that solely on the vibe I get from reading the articles coming out of Calgary.

I’m very curious to see who Minnesota hires as their head coach and wondering why it is taking so long. My instinct tells me that they were waiting to hire someone that is currently an assistant coach with either the Penguins or the Red Wings and since Wild GM Chuck Fletcher came from the Penguins I would lean that direction. The Penguins assistant coaches under Dan Bylsma are Mike Yeo and Tom Fitzgerald. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see one of those two men introduced as the next head coach of the Minnesota Wild but we shall see.

As for the Devils, I have no idea what Lou Lamiorello will do but I know that whoever he hires should rent and not buy. Since July 13, 2005 the Devils have made five coaching changes.  Five coaching changes in less than four years is what I like to call volatile and there’s no reason for me to think that the next guy is going to be around for long.

3. Who will the Panthers hire as their General Manager?

As I write this the NHL draft is 13 days away and yet the Florida Panthers are still looking for a General Manager. That’s not good. They need to make a hire so that whoever it is can at least introduce himself to his staff before he sits down to draft the future of the franchise. I realize that Jacques Martin left the team less than two weeks ago but the Panthers do not have the luxury of taking their time making this hire. Time is of the essence here and the sooner they make their hire the better.

I’ve heard that former Wild GM Doug Risebrough is a candidate and if he is the one that gets hired he will bring former Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire along with him as a consultant. If that is what happens then good for the Panthers. The Wild were always a good team, never a great one, but always a good one and for a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs in nine years I would think they would be thrilled with stepping up to good for a while.

4. Who will the Islanders take with 1st overall pick in the draft?

The Islanders need help at every position so they really can’t go wrong here. Whether they pick Jonathan Tavares or Victor Hedman they will be getting a stud prospect to help turn them into a playoff contender. I am curious to see what direction Islanders GM Garth Snow, a former goalie, will go. Will he go for the forward that can score goals or the defenseman that can keep them out of his own net? If I were him I’d go with Tavares but then again a part of me is saying that simply because I’d like to see the Lightning get Hedman. Stamkos + Hedman = good future for Tampa Bay.

5. Where will Marian Hossa go?

In the June 13th episode of the Puck Podcast I compared Marian Hossa to Paul Kariya and along those lines it’ll be very interesting to see where Hossa ends up. Will he return to the Red Wings? Can they afford him? Will he go to the highest bidder in free agency? If so, who would step up and meet his price? I can’t wait to find out because despite what some bitter Penguins fans claim Hossa is still one of the best forwards in the sport and I believe 29 NHL teams (all but the Penguins) would love to have him on their roster come October.

6. Where will Dany Heatley go?

As Eddie and I discussed in the June 13th episode of the Puck Podcast Senators forward Dany Heatley has requested a trade. So far the Senators seem willing to oblige him, which I think is a mistake, and if they do move him I’m very interested to see where he ends up. What team would be willing to take on a very talented, but clearly immature, star player with five-years remaining on his contract? Whatever team trades for Heatley will be on the hook for a $7.5 million cap hit in each of the next five years and that’s a lot to pay for a guy that has now quit on two different franchises. Heatley is a very good player but if I were a GM I would want nothing to do with him. I can’t wait to see which GM rolls the dice and brings him aboard.

7. Will the Lightning trade Vincent Lecavalier?

I’m stunned that this is even an option for the Lightning. Less than a year ago the Lightning signed Vincent Lecavalier to an 11-year contract extension and now they are thinking about trading him? This less than seven months after they fired Barry Melrose who was a whopping 16 games into his tenure as their head coach. Exactly how wishy-washy is this franchise?

If they do decide to trade Lecavalier they’d better get a helluva return for him. Vincent isn’t just a star player – I’d compare him to Mario Lemieux. He has already helped bring a Stanley Cup to Tampa and has donated millions of dollars to local charities and is literally the best thing that ever happened to that franchise. He does not deserve to be dealt less than a year after he agreed an 11-year contract and if he is traded I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the fans revolt and I would not blame NHL players for crossing Tampa Bay off their list of places they’d be willing to play. If Lecavalier is dealt before July 1st, when his no-trade clause will kick in, then the Lightning ownership group will claim the title as the biggest clowns in the entire league.

About Doug Stolhand 26997 Articles
Doug Stolhand is one of the co-founders and co-hosts of the Puck Podcast and has been a member of the NHL media since the show's inception in 2006.

4 Comments

  1. That was a nice read, Doug.

    First, I think it’s really looking like Phoenix will be elsewhere sometime soon, if not next season. I’m not saying they will be in Hamilton (As much as I’d like that), but they seem to be headed out of town. Judge Baum sure seems set (as he should) on covering the debt owed by the franchise. He’s not interested in making waves and moving the franchise unless he feels he NEEDS to force that to happen. Unless a Phoenix-friendly bid can come in that covers the debt, I think this team will be moving. Sure, there are 4 notices of interest, but they aren’t worth anything, and I really don’t believe more than 2 of them are ACTUALLY planning to keep the team in Arizona. The fact that Mr. Bettman supports the Argos owners’ bids is disgusting to me, actually. As recently as March, they met with MLSE and the league itself, proposing their interest in obtaining a 2nd team in Toronto.

    Second, the Isles should definitely hold onto their pick. Tavares or Hedman would be great for the franchise, as both seem like they would be able to contribute to the team almost immediately (Hedman more than Tavares, IMO). Tavares could draw the fans back to the Island, but Hedman would be a better impact on the team itself (They DO have some pretty strong young forwards already). Garth Snow (Mr. Wang, more likely) needs to decide whether he wants to make a business choice, or a hockey choice.

    Lastly, I’m glad someone else is mentioning how terrible of an idea it would be for Tampa to trade Lecavalier. He’s very close to the same calibre as Ovechkin/Crosby/Malkin, and you should never let a player like that slip out of your hands. Especially one that’s your captain, already has brought your team to a cup, is a pillar in the local community, and seems to be a person of great character. Sadly, I think this has come down to finances, and stands as an excellent example of why ownership is such an important aspect of an NHL team… Bringing us back to the Phoenix situation…

  2. Hey Doug,

    Terrific blog and I look forward to more. I’ll definitely be checking back every week.

    I was a hockey fan long before the Coyotes came to Phoenix. (I live in Flagstaff, in the high country of Northern Arizona) If the Coyotes leave, it won’t affect one bit my love for hockey, and NHL hockey in particular. It will, however, affect my ability to talk my friends into watching a game with me on Center Ice or give a damn about the sport at all. I’ve worked hard at recruiting my friends and family into becoming hockey converts and if Phoenix loses the Coyotes, it will become close to impossible to keep them interested. The reason is, the best way to turn someone on to hockey is to take them to a game. Period. There’s still the Arizona Sundogs in Prescott, or college club hockey at ASU and the U of A, but that’s a far cry from NHL caliber play.

    It makes me sick to even think about it. The whole situation stinks, and the Coyotes aren’t even my team of choice. Hockey barely has a toehold in Arizona, and you are absolutely right. If the Coyotes leave the NHL WILL lose millions of potential fans. FOREVER. This isn’t Winnipeg or Hartford. Aside from the few hardcore fans, the Coyotes would soon be forgotten completely by Arizonans in general.

    A year ago the Coyotes organization asked the fans to be patient. They had a long term plan to build a strong, championship team and begged the people of Arizona to be patient, that the playoffs would have to wait if we really wanted a competitive team. It makes me sick to think of that now.

  3. Two of my questions have been answered as the Coyotes are staying in Phoenix and the Wild hired Todd Richards to be their next Head Coach. So much for my prediction that it would be either Mike Yeo or Tom Fitzgerald.

    We’ll have much more on these stories in the June 20th episode of the Puck Podcast.

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