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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
Jack Skille
Jackets' Skille Scores Fifth Of Season
Jack Skille, RW, CLB
4:08 AM
News: Jack Skille scored his fifth goal of the season in Saturday's win over the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Jack Skille now has five goals and six points in 28 games, to go with a minus-7 rating. Skating on the third line, the 27-year-old appears destined to reach the 10-goal mark for the first time in his career. Not known as a key offensive contributor, Skille should only be owned in the deepest of leagues.

Patrick Sharp
Hawks' Sharp Snipes Fifth Of Season
Patrick Sharp, LW, CHI
4:03 AM
News: Patrick Sharp sniped his fifth goal of the season and recorded a game-high seven shots on goal in Saturday's loss to Columbus.
Analysis: A dominant outing from Patrick Sharp, who has now collected two goals in his past three games, recording 14 shots on goal in that span. Sharp may currently be skating on the third line, but he is playing on the top power-play unit and will likely be moved back into the top-six soon. The 32-year-old has put 12 points in 19 games on the season, making him a reliable fantasy option on a Hawks team sitting second in the Western Conference.

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jackets' Bobrovsky Makes 39 Saves In Win
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, CLB
2:27 AM
News: Sergei Bobrovsky was outstanding Saturday against Chicago, stopping 39 of 41 shots in regulation, before denying eight of nine Blackhawks' shooters in the shootout for a 3-2 victory.
Analysis: After allowing five goals in a loss to Washington Thursday, Sergei Bobrovsky got right back on track Saturday, shutting down a Blackhawks team that had won 10 of their last 11 games. The 26-year-old has now won eight of his last nine game, with Thursday's loss to Washington marking the only time in December the Russian has allowed more than three goals in a game. He's an automatic roll every night he gets the call.

Corey Crawford
Hawks' Crawford Suffers Loss In Return To Action
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
2:13 AM
News: Corey Crawford returned to action Saturday, stopping 17 of 19 shots in regulation, before losing in a shootout to the Blue Jackets.
Analysis: It wasn't a bad outing for Corey Crawford, who stood out in the shootout, allowing only two goals on nine attempts. The 29-year-old is now 12-5-2 on the season with a .927 save percentage and 1.87 GAA. Now that he's healthy, Crawford needs to be in your lineup every night he's in action, as the Blackhawks are one of the league's best teams, sitting second in the Western Conference with 46 points.

Derick Brassard
Rangers' Brassard Will Play Saturday
Derick Brassard, C, NYR
12:52 AM
News: Derick Brassard (illness) will play Saturday against the Hurricanes, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Coach Alain Vigneault signed off on Derick Brassard's return after he was able to take part in the team's morning skate. The center missed the Rangers' last two contests with the mumps virus.

Ryan Carter
Wild Activate Carter (Upper Body)
Ryan Carter, C, MIN
12:50 AM
News: Ryan Carter (upper body) was activated from injured reserve Saturday, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: After missing the Wild's previous three games, Ryan Carter was cleared to return after practicing Friday. He'll be reinserted on the fourth line for Saturday's game against the Predators.

Jonathan Quick
Kings Tap Quick For Saturday Start
Jonathan Quick, G, LA
12:48 AM
News: Jonathan Quick led the Kings on to the ice for pregame warmups and will thus get the start Saturday against the Coyotes, Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Analysis: Jonathan Quick will likely be a heavy favorite to come away with the victory against a Coyotes squad that has lost eight of its last 10 games, with its lone two wins during that stretch coming against the sad-sack Oilers. The netminder hasn't been particularly sharp lately, so this should represent a good bounce-back opportunity for him.

Matt Cooke
Wild's Cooke (Hip) Activated For Saturday's Game
Matt Cooke, LW, MIN
12:44 AM
News: Matt Cooke (hip) was activated from injured reserve Saturday and will suit up against the Predators, Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Stat Tribune reports.
Analysis: He'll replace Justin Fontaine in the lineup, joining Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter on the Wild's third line. Matt Cooke last played on Oct. 28 before missing the last 22 games with a hip flexor.

Jonas Hiller
Flames To Start Hiller Saturday
Jonas Hiller, G, CGY
12:31 AM
News: Jonas Hiller will get the start in net Saturday, Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald reports.
Analysis: Jonas Hiller and the Flames have hit the skids in December, as Calgary has lost seven straight and Hiller has lost six in a row. Until they right the ship, Hiller should be avoided, especially with his mates giving him a grand total of four goals combined in his last four outings.

Jake Allen
Allen, Blues Looking For Road Victory
Jake Allen, G, STL
12:16 AM
News: Jake Allen will be between the pipes Saturday against the Sharks, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Things have started to turn ugly for Jake Allen here in December, despite the fact that he's won each of his last three starts. He's posted a horrid .884 save percentage in five outings this month, which has resulted in him yielding more work to Martin Brodeur than anticipated. Still, with a powerful offense and strong defense supporting him, the wins should keep coming rather steadily for the struggling netminder.

 
 
 
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