NHL Week in Review (January 27- February 2)

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This past week in the NHL Toronto took focus for many fans but it was not about the Maple Leafs and their play. Instead it was focused on the question of if the General Toronto Area (GTA) could support a second NHL team. The question arose once again after the City of Markham, about a 30 minutes north of Toronto, voted in favour of funding a new arena that could house another NHL team. It was the first step in creating a new large arena just outside of one of the biggest markets in the NHL. When the arena was first proposed the idea was never to get an NHL team but that attitude has quickly changed as the project takes steps toward being finished. In the city council meeting to determine if the city would fund the arena many of the people in favour of the funding would take about another NHL team in the area. One main voice in favour of the arena project was Paul Kelly, the former NHLPA executive director who would bring up the fact that the arena could bring an NHL team to the GTA. The Kelly would bring up something that Gary Bettman had said to him when he was the head of the NHLPA. Bettman had apparently said that he was willing to expand the NHL to 32 teams and with an expansion, Kelly said, it may come down to a city with a facility. The expansion debate would immediately begin along with the numerous rumours of relocation resurfacing. The expansion debate centres around who could take the teams if there were two new teams. Seattle has regularly been rumoured to be on the path to owning a franchise after a Seattle-based group announced a plan to build an arena. The plan consisted of attracting the NBA to come back to Seattle, which is about to happen. With a new arena on its way Seattle may be the place to go for a western expansion team. Meanwhile Markham is another step towards getting a franchise if the arena is built and Quebec City who has plans to build their own arena to entice the NHL back to their city. All of these cities are possibilities to hold a new team or an existing team, say the Phoenix Coyotes. There are issues with all of these cities though as none are a real slam dunk. In Seattle the excitement of getting an NBA franchise back may dull any hope of an NHL franchise. Seattle has some tradition with hockey as the Seattle Thunderbirds have played as a part of the WHL since 1971. Will they support a major NHL franchise in Seattle where hockey is not the biggest ticket especially with the NBA back in town? In Markham the challenge will be simply if the area can support two teams. It is hard to support two teams that close with only New York able to do so, and they are double the population of the GTA. Another issue would be the fact that the GTA has very loyal Leafs fans that would be hard pressed to turn to a new team no matter what situation the Leafs are in. That is all besides the point that the Leafs are the largest franchise in the NHL and would likely have a major input if the NHL would look into putting a team in their area. Then there is Quebec City who much like Winnipeg lost a team due to the financial climate of the times. They have wanted a team back for a while but it does not have the same passion as Winnipeg had. The city will need that kind of support with such a small market if they want to survive. As the conversation about expansion continues there are plenty of options for the NHL although repairing the struggling teams should be the first priority before creating two new teams.

 

Overtime:
(Thoughts on the past week in the NHL)

Luongo Continues to Roll
The Vancouver Canucks has started the season shopping around their star goalie Roberto Luongo but now the trade seems to be on hold as he has been playing well and seems to be taking over the starting role although it could be a ploy to further a trade

One RFA Down
PK Subban finally got his deal done this week as he rejoins the Montreal Canadiens after sitting out for a better deal but he did not get that better deal as he remained with a short contract and will have to tone his personality down under new coach Michelle Therrien

Challenger for the Top Team
The Blackhawks have been the team that has lit the NHL on fire in this shortened season but a mostly forgotten team on the west coast is keeping up as the San Jose Sharks have gone undefeated as the only undefeated team left in the league

Three Quick starters
With only a few weeks of the season done three players have stood out to be named the three stars of the month as Craig Anderson, Patrick Marleau, and Thomas Vanek have all had a great start to the season

 

NHL Standings

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (10)
2. New York Islanders (9)
3. New Jersey Devils (9)
4. New York Rangers (8)
5. Philadelphia Flyers (6)
Northeast Division:
1. Boston Bruins (13)
2. Ottawa Senators (11)
3. Montreal Canadiens (10)
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (8)
5. Buffalo Sabres (7)
Southeast Division:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning (12)
2. Winnipeg Jets (7)
3. Carolina Hurricanes (6)
4. Washington Capitals (5)
5. Florida Panthers (4)

 

Western Conference
Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks (16)
2. St. Louis Blues (12)
3. Detroit Red Wings (9)
4. Nashville Predators (9)
5. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)
Northwest Division:
1. Vancouver Canucks (10)
2. Edmonton Oilers (9)
3. Minnesota Wild (9)
4. Colorado Avalanche (8)
5. Calgary Flames (4)
Pacific Division:
1. San Jose Sharks (15)
2. Anaheim Ducks (11)
3. Phoenix Coyotes (8)
4. Dallas Stars (7)
5. Los Angeles Kings (6)

 

Scores:
Chicago Blackhawks 2 – 1 Detroit Red Wings (OT)
– It is a constant battle between both teams for the Central division and this year the battle has taken a different turn although that didn’t stop the game from being a good one where the Blackhawks came out on top to remain undefeated

New York Rangers 2 – 1 Philadelphia Flyers
– The old Atlantic rivalry was back but this time the look of the Rangers and the Flyers is not the same as it has been with both teams at the bottom of the division rather than on the top as the Rangers won the game and look to move up the standings with little time left

San Jose Sharks 3 – 2 Edmonton Oilers (SO)
– The Sharks have been the forgotten team this year being out on the West coast but they have been playing some of the best hockey so far this season and even though they took it to the edge against the Oilers they still remained undefeated

Vancouver Canucks 2 – 1 Chicago Blackhawks (SO)
– It is one of the best modern rivalries in the NHL and close games continued this week as the Canucks would push the Blackhawks to the edge as they would hand them one of their only two losses on the season in a shootout

 

Next Week:
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils (Tuesday February 5th; 7:00 pm EST)
– The Hudson River Rivalry is back and this year both teams are playing different roles from only a year ago as the Devils look to get back to the top of the division while the Rangers are trying to get away from the bottom as both teams are seeing the effects of this short season

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (Wednesday February 6th; 7:30 pm EST)
– It is a very big rivalry and for the first time this year it will take to the ice as the Bruins take on the Canadiens in another Northeast division matchup as the Bruins look to keep their hold of the division while the Canadiens are looking to make up some ground

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders (Thursday February 7th; 7:00 pm EST)
– The battle of New York is yet another big rivalry game this week as the Rangers look to try to get back on track with a few weeks under their belt as they try to catch up to their city rival in the Atlantic Division

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens (Saturday February 9th; 7:00 pm EST)
– This rivalry opened the season for both teams this year with the Leafs taking the first shot but the Canadiens are a better team now and will have PK Subban back in the lineup as they look to get by the wildly inconsistent Maple Leafs

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