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Offseason Extra: Life in the new NHL

Rotowire.com
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Today's topics: Phoenix franchise may have finally found a permanent solution to stay put, the KHL is not of interest to Evgeni Malkin and our overtime solution to fans who don't like the shootout.

Phoenix franchise cloud finally lifted?

IceArizona AcquisitionCo, LLC is the name associated with a group of American business leaders who have decided to join forces and finally convince the NHL Board of Governors that they will act together to ensure the long-term stability of the Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. This decision probably puts Gary Bettman's biggest headache to rest, at least for the short term.

Now it's up to the team's management (GM Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett) to focus their player roster solely on hockey related issues. No doubt this will be a refreshing departure from the last two seasons where players were distracted by the almost daily speculation about the future of this franchise. While the location of the team in Glendale is still not viewed as the best possible location for the team's home ice location within Arizona, fans in the Cactus State will now have one final chance to prove their loyalty and to conclusively define the width of the team's fan base.

As rabid hockey fans will know, this resolution comes almost to the day, 25 years ago when Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, marketing the NHL's renewed effort to bring hockey to the West Coast and introduce the sport to several non-traditional hockey markets. Those 25 years have passed with mixed reviews, as far as the success of the sport in such locales as Anaheim, Florida, Nashville and Phoenix, but Bettman and his league management team remains committed to these 30 NHL markets. In addition, now that the league has once again introduced a new realignment with 14 teams in one Conference (West) and 16 in the other one (West) he has fostered the discussion of further league expansion, citing Seattle as a desired market.

While Bettman's expansion plans have almost exclusively been leaning toward the USA, he may also finally have to concede that Canadian Hockey hotbeds (Quebec City, Hamilton, or a second team in Metropolitan Toronto) might also have to get serious consideration as he hopes to eventually create a very symmetrical 32-team league.

KHL not an option for Malkin

While the NHL has faced a turbulent summer, owing to the salary cap reductions as mandated by the recent CBA, the player traffic flow has been further complicated by the fact that a steady trickle of talent is opting to move to the KHL (Russian) loop.

Recently 13-year NHL veteran winger Alexei Ponikarovsky decided to join Ilya Kovalchuk's SKA team instead of trying to extend his North American career. A few other players who have yet to sign on from the remaining NHL free agent crop are very likely going to have to give the KHL a serious look. The top two higher profile players remaining among the free agent class, as of this week, offer diametrically opposite views about their options.

First, there is goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who has concluded that all of the number one goalie jobs have been locked up and that he would have to battle for significant playing time with any current NHL team. No doubt that his NHL stock has dropped in recent years, but at 33 years of age, he feels that he has a lot of good hockey left in him and he has indicated that he might welcome a KHL contract offer.

Second, Mikhail Grabovski, who was bought ought by an amnesty option exercised by Toronto, has already stated very publicly, that the KHL is not an option that he wishes to entertain, despite the fact that he will likely have to accept a much lower annual salary that the $5M plus he had hoped to collect for the next three years, as he has chosen to continue his NHL career. Obviously, the fact that he has recently married his long-time Toronto-based girlfriend and they have raised two children there is a factor in that decision.

As we move forward, more unsigned players will be weighing their options but another high profile Russian NHLer came out with his own strong opinion. Pittsburgh's star Malkin stated that he is very happy with his long-term deal that will pay him $9.5 million annually, through the 2021-2022 NHL season. The NHL's power brokers had to feel good about such a high profile Russian-born NHL star coming out so publicly in favor of the NHL, at a time when the league seems to be at its most vulnerable in terms of a potential exodus.

Overtime and the Shootout

OK, I admit I am a fan of tradition and history when it comes to hockey. That's why I have used this space to rail against one of the most troubling aspects of the modern NHL.

I don't think that a shoot-out, basically an individual skills competition, has any place in determining the outcome of a team game. It really bothers me that soccer allows a penalty kick competition to settle games and even world championships. Using the shootout to settle regular season games is bad enough. Could you imagine a Stanley Cup Final game being decided in this fashion? That would be a travesty.

Now, I get how fans rise in unison in anticipation of the shootout as quite a visual spectacle, but that's still not the way I want to see a result in this team game.

I think you could still have it as a gimmick to entertain during an intermission segment, in the same way as Hockey Night in Canada filmed its Showdown series during summer months in the late 1970s.

When I cite a problem area such as this I also like to offer an alternative. I would much rather see the five-minute, four-on-four overtime segment be followed by a five-minute three-on-three period. This would still involve team play and strategy that relates to the game of hockey. That three-on-three segment would lead to an even higher number of scoring chances than in the four-on-four game and would surely lead to a large number of conclusive outcomes. If after these two overtime frames, the teams are still tied, I would have no problem seeing each team awarded a point for the tie.

Some similar advocates of this format and related results have also offered a different scale for awarding team points. I would agree to award teams three points for a regulation win in 60 minutes and a two-point win if achieved in overtime. This point scale would ensure that teams don't sleepwalk into the current overtime session to ensure a point. In my plan, teams would always be encouraged to go for the win.

I am more optimistic than ever that the current overtime format will not survive and that some form of my plan will prevail.

I will not rest or hold my tongue until that day comes.

What do you think?

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Player News
Slava Voynov
Voynov's Attorney Hopes Suspension Is Lifted Soon
Slava Voynov, D, LA
6:09 AM
News: Slava Voynov's attorney is hopeful that the indefinite suspension could be lifted soon, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: Slava Voynov's attorney contends that the criminal case against Voynov has no merit and that the injuries and subsequent investigation were muddied by some language issues on both sides. Voynov figures to miss his first game since the incident when the Kings take on the Sabres on Thursday.

Alexander Wennberg
Jackets' Wennberg Shifts To Center
Alexander Wennberg, C, CLB
5:22 AM
News: Alexander Wennberg will center the Blue Jackets' second line on Thursday, skating between Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: To date the rookie, who has just one assist and a minus-6 rating through five games, had been working on the wing, but Jackets coach Todd Richards is using the club's west coast swing as an opportunity to shake up his forward lines. Hopefully, playing his natural position will light a spark under Alexander Wennberg.

R.J. Umberger
Flyers' Umberger: Two Points In Win
R.J. Umberger, LW, PHI
5:06 AM
News: R.J. Umberger collected a goal, an assist, and five PIM in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Penguins.
Analysis: It's the 32-year-old's first goal with his original team, and he seems to have settled in nicely. He's averaging just over 15 minutes of ice time, which fantasy owners hope will lead to a return to an 80-plus points season.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Flyers' Bellemare Scores First NHL Goal
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, RW, PHI
5:00 AM
News: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored his first NHL goal in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took a pretty feed from Sean Couturier and redirected it past Penguins' keeper Marc-Andre Fleury. It's his first point of the season, though his ice time could be limited once center Vincent Lecavalier (foot) returns.

Mark Streit
Flyers' Streit Nets Goal In Win
Mark Streit, D, PHI
4:54 AM
News: Mark Streit scored his second goal of the season in Wednesday's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Analysis: Mark Streit has seven points through seven games, so he's on pace to match his points total from last season. Even better news for owners: two of those seven have come from goals -- Streit hasn't scored over 10 goals since the 2009-2010 campaign.

Corey Perry
Ducks' Perry Gets Tricky Again Wednesday
Corey Perry, RW, ANA
4:37 AM
News: Corey Perry lit up the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday for three goals and his second hat trick of the season in a 4-1 win. He also fired six shots on net and skated to a plus-3.
Analysis: Is this guy money or what? Corey Perry now has eight goals and 10 points in seven games and even though he only has six PIM and two assists, we really don't mind. The guy is a perennial fantasy stud who fills the net and looks well on his way to again being a cornerstone of fantasy rosters this season.

Teddy Purcell
Oilers' Purcell Adds Two Helpers
Teddy Purcell, RW, EDM
4:34 AM
News: Teddy Purcell grabbed two assists in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Capitals.
Analysis: His two points came with relatively limited ice time (13:23) and brings the former Lightning's point total to five in seven games this year. If he can find just the right chemistry with one of the Oilers' young stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Teddy Purcell could be a sneaky fantasy commodity this season. Just don't count of much by way of plus/minus, if your league counts it.

Braden Holtby
Caps' Holtby Mediocre In Loss Wednesday
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
4:30 AM
News: Braden Holtby managed to stop just 17 of 20 shots in a loss to the Oilers on Wednesday.
Analysis: Braden Holtby was underwhelming against an Oilers team that had just one win heading into the game. He now owns a 2-1-1 record to go with a 2.13 GAA and .917 save percentage and should continue continue to get the bulk of the starts ahead of backup Justin Peters for head coach Barry Trotz.

Ben Scrivens
Oilers' Scrivens Wins Second In A Row
Ben Scrivens, G, EDM
4:25 AM
News: Ben Scrivens thwarted 32 of 34 shots Wednesday in 3-2 win over the visiting Capitals.
Analysis: After failing to record a victory in his first four appearances, Ben Scrivens has turned things around against two very good teams in the Capitals and Lightning, who the Oilers beat Monday. If this isn't just an aberration, Scrivens could provide some much needed stability between the pipes for an inconsistent Oilers squad. We wouldn't jump the gun just yet, but go ahead and keep an eye on Scrivens to see if he and the rest of the boys from Oil Country can parlay their short-term success into something more.

Jarred Tinordi
Canadiens' Tinordi Settling In
Jarred Tinordi, D, MON
4:24 AM
News: Jarred Tinordi has moved ahead of Nathan Beaulieu for the sixth spot on defense, the Montreal Gazette reports. Beaulieu had opened the season in that spot, but Tinordi has played the last five games.
Analysis: His spot as a top-six blue-liner was confirmed Wednesday when the Canadiens sent Beaulieu down to Hamilton of the American Hockey League for some ice time. Jarred Tinordi had a wild and unbridled preseason, something head coach Michel Therrien does not want in young defensemen looking for a roster spot, but he's played with composure and maturity in his most recent stretch.

 
 
 
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