Panthers’ Goals Against Problem Has No Easy Fix

Shortly after Scott Clemmensen surrendered the second goal of the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night, the boos began to rain down from the stands.  A chant of “We want Markstrom” formed shortly after.  It appeared that the Panthers crowd finally lost all patience with the veteran backstop, and for good reason: Clemmensen’s stats this year are simply subpar to say the least, and four crappy periods against the division rival Hurricanes would sink his numbers even further.

At intermission, the venom spewed in Clemmensen’s direction was reaching an all-time high: fans on Twitter demanded that Clemmensen be subbed out in favor of the young Jacob Markstrom, who was totally not in a position to play after not practicing for days and just getting his pads at around the time the puck dropped.  At least a couple fans even maintained that they would refuse to renew their season tickets if Dineen didn’t pull Clemmensen.  And maybe the Panthers coach might’ve consideredswitching the struggling netminder out in favor of the potentialed Swede, if he thought it would make any difference.

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NHL Saves Face With Its Latest Offer

All of a sudden, hockey fans have something to hope for.  On Tuesday, the NHL put forth an official offer to possible end the lockout, and this time, surprising to most, it doesn’t appear to be that bad.

I’ve written before that the NHL has been losing big in the public relations battle with their sworn enemy business partner, the NHLPA.  Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and especially the owners were coming off as money-grabbers who would rather make money than play a season of hockey, whether those perceived characteristics were deserved or not.  However, the latest offer from Bettman’s side of the table appears to have changed public perception.

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Gary Bettman Is Wholly Unpopular Among The Players

Gary Bettman couldn’t be very much less popular among the players. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

For months now, we hockey fans have been bombarded with facts and figures as we try to follow this NHL Lockout situation.  By now we know all the pros and cons of a salary cap system, the amount of money the league gets from NBC, and the different percentages thrown around from each side.

But one thing most of us might not have taken into effect lies deeper than just dollars and contracts.  Apparently, the personal factor might play a large role, if this ESPN study is to be believed.  According to a player poll taken by the sports giant, 100 percent of NHL players would vote against Gary Bettman for commissioner.

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Each Owner Isn’t Alike These Lockout Negotiations

Does Mario Lemieux want the same thing out of the negotiations as Cliff Viner? Photo source: Wikipedia Commons

The NHL lockout is tough on everybody: the players, owners, and especially the employees and fans. The greed of some affects the lifestyle of many, and the sport of hockey suffers as a result. There’s no hiding the fact that this lockout is horrible.

But if you choose to demonize the owners and blame them for the entire situation, keep in mind that not all owners are created the same. Perhaps some of them are being victimized just the same as those being locked out of money. Most of these owners would actually rather accept the NHLPA offers than lose an entire season to a lockout.

Consider the Panthers’ majority owner, Cliff Viner. Look at all the momentum the Panthers have developed over last year. The team had one of its most successful seasons in its young history, and captured South Florida’s attention ad they made their way to a Southeast Division title. Sportswriters were talking about them, games were being sold out, the tiredness that usually accompanied conversations about the Panthers replaced with excitement. Why would it make any sense for Viner to surrender an entire year and ruin all the positive vibes? It doesn’t.

Also look at the San Jose Sharks’ ownership group, Stratton Sclavos and Kevin Compton. They get sellouts every night at HP Arena and their team is a perennial Stanley Cup contender. But their nucleus is aging: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau would both lose a year from their careers, and the chase for the Cup would get that much more difficult for San Jose.

Most teams find themselves in a similar boat as these two teams: the possibility of profit and attention is too high to pass up.

So if there are owners who would want hockey to be played, it begs the question of which owners are not as eager.  Since only Bill Daly and Gary Bettman are allowed to speak for the NHL and the owners, nobody can be totally sure.  Good guesses can be hazarded that the big-market teams are participating in driving down negotiations.  Maybe a team like the Rangers or Canadiens would seriously demand a buy-out clause for players, and a team like the Maple Leafs or Bruins would balk at higher revenue-sharing.  These teams, since they are a few of the real power players within the NHL, probably have more say in negotiations than the Panthers and Sharks of the league. At least we assume this, since the positions taken by the NHL in meetings seems slanted more for the richest teams in the league to benefit than the ones with lower budgets.

Whatever the case, there needs to be a realization among the owners in general that there needs to be sacrifice on their part in order to make a deal work and end the lockout.  Some owners already recognize this, but a few are still in denial.

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to comment!

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Are The Edmonton Oilers Leaving Town?

Rexall Place is a storied arena, but will the Oilers leave it and Edmonton in search of greener pastures? Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

There probably isn’t a thing as significant to the city of Edmonton than their hockey team, the Oilers.  With the greats that have played in blue and orange, from Wayne Gretzky to Paul Coffey to Mark Messier, the Oilers are a team marked by history and tradition.  Even though the city of Edmonton is not huge by any means, and the weather is not always hospitable, the Oilers still have had plenty of love from their home fans, from the good times to the bad.

But that semi-sacred bond between the Oilers and the city that they play for might have been tarnished recently.  The hubbub started Sunday, when the Oilers’ official Twitter account posted a bizarre link.  It was an article by John MacKinnon of the Edmonton Journal, speculating that if the city of Edmonton does not shell out cash for a new arena, the team might pack up and leave.  That in itself was no big deal, but having the Oilers’ actual Twitter account post the article officially made it a threat: give us money for an arena or we’ll leave.

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The NHL Turns Some Heads With A Public Fine

Gary Bettman in 2007. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday, the NHL brought the hammer down.  A quote from Detroit Red Wings VP Jim Devellano apparently drew the ire of the higher-ups in the NHL office, and now his team will have to pay the price.  And it’s a steep price, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger: rumor has it the fine is $250,000.

Here’s the quote in it’s entirety:

“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle.  The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there.  That’s the way its always been and that the way it will be forever.  And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”

The quote seems a little too grounded a metaphor to be used as a platitude for the entire lockout, but it’s upsetting because nothing in the statement can be regarded as all that false.  From Devellano’s perspective, this is the owner’s world: they own it, they see that it runs smoothly, and they attempt to make profit from it.  His opinions seems grounded in a thought process that makes some sort of sense.  Which is why it’s so confusing that the NHL’s slap on the wrist was so harsh.

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This NHL Lockout Is No Joke For Many Employees

Stanley C. Panther will have plenty of time for vacation these days.

Yesterday, it was announced by both the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald that the Panthers’ mascot had been laid off earlier in the day by the organization.  Or probably more accurately, the man inside the suit was laid off.  He was among twelve other employees of the team that were shown the door that day.  According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, most of the people let go were from the arena operations and sales departments.

The lockout, of course, is affecting more than just the players and owners.  These recent layoffs are exactly what happens when income stops rolling in from the team.  These scenarios are being faced around the league, especially for the smaller-market teams like the Panthers.  Yesterday the Ottawa Senators also were forced to get rid of employees, while some other teams have cut back salaries as a response to the lockout.  It’s expected that other teams will face the same dilemma involving their employees, and not all teams will be able to pay for salaries without any other income.

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So What Now? A Guide To A Hockeyless September

An empty BankAtlantic Center. Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons

The hour has come, and there is nothing that the fans can do about it. The threat of a lockout is no longer a threat: it has become a reality. And all that time that both the players and owners said we had has run out. We have reached doomsday for the NHL.

Regardless of who you choose to blame for this 4th work stoppage in 20 years, the fact of the matter is that we the fans need to cope.  Whether you root for the Panthers or, of all teams, the Penguins, there is some solidarity to be found in the situation.  Despite our rivalries on the ice, our love of the game away from it will stick with us.  So while the owners and players continue to grind out details and increase the growing rift between them for years to come, the fans need something to occupy themselves.  I have a few modest suggestions:

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What Does The Gudbranson Injury Mean For The Panthers?

Erik Gudbranson’s reported injury means there might be a shake-up on the blue line. Photo Source: Michael Miller, Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday at the Saveology.com Iceplex, a metaphorical wrench was thrown in the Panthers’ plan for the upcoming year.  Erik Gudbranson, in an informal workout session, apparently badly injured his shoulder.  Even though he received treatment right away and the Panthers have yet to announce his injury, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel was tipped off that Gudbranson could be out of action for up to four months.

Gudbranson could still be considered the Panthers’ sixth defenseman, even after his ice time increased late in the season and during the playoffs last year.  His NHL stats, though they aren’t spectacular (2 goals, 6 assists, -19 plus/minus, 78 penalty minutes), were decent enough to hold off his competition and keep his spot on the blue line.  As the year progressed, you could really see coach Kevin Dineen‘s confidence in Gudbranson grow.  His ice time grew, he took more chances in the offensive zone, and he took more faceoffs in his own zone – I detailed his progress as a player about a month ago.  Most people were looking forward to see if Gudbranson’s second NHL season would push him up to star status.

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