NHL Week in Review (February 14-20)

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The NHL is a very distinct league in the way that they find and develop their talent as there are plenty of ways for a great player to be noticed.

They can be found in the NCAA, like many of the talent in other leagues, or in a professional league overseas, the main way European players are found.

Although there are plenty of ways to be found there is no better way than in the Canadian Hockey League which is widely considered the best developmental league in the world.

The league itself is run by Hockey Canada and has developed over plenty of years into the league that has the straightest shot to the NHL.

Made up in total of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Ontario Hockey League, the CHL has been the home of more than half of the current players in the NHL.

So although the NHL has nothing to do with the teams in the CHL there is a vested interest in how those teams conduct their business because the more successful they are the more successful the NHL is down the road.

That is why the entire NHL community was focused on a small town in Flint, Michigan this week when a saga continued to unfold with a team in the OHL.

The Flint Firebirds are a brand new team in the OHL after Rolf Nilson bought the Plymouth Whalers from NHL Hall of Famer Peter Karmanos and moved the team to Flint.

Nilson was a good potential owner for the league essentially because he wanted to buy a franchise.

CHL franchises are not generally money makers for owners with a handful of teams making money.

So when someone steps up to purchase a team the league is happy to see life go into teams that might be struggling.

The problem with that attitude is that owners like Nilson get to own teams because they have the ability to own a franchise.

So far Nilson has made a mockery of the league and their decisions that the league made. It started earlier in the year when Nilson fired the coaching staff reportedly because Nilson’s son, who was on the team when Nilson bought the frnachise, wasn’t getting enough ice time.

As a result the entire team refused to play until the owner brought back the coaching staff.

Eventually OHL Commissioner, David Branch brokered a deal between the coaching staff and the owner that brought the coaches back and required Nilson to get league approval before he made a decision to fire the coaches again.hockey-sidebar

Then Nilson went about hiring his own personnel man, Pavel Kharin, who made moves without approval from general manager and then was named the head of personnel.

He then started to take over business operations all the while he was seemingly getting direction from the owner.

This week Nilson was reportedly sick of the losing and once again fired the coaching staff putting Kharin behind the bench.

The problem was that Nilson broke the deal made earlier in the year and never received league approval to fire the coaching staff.

As a result the league has taken control of the team while Nilson and Kharin has been suspended through the rest of the season.

It has been an utter disaster for the Firebirds everywhere but the seats where they are close to selling out every game and have surprised the OHL brass.

Now the concern will be the future of the franchise, one that goes back since 1990 in Michigan, and where they go from here.

They have an owner who seems to be more concerned about his son than the team and who is hiring member of his team that can do the work he wants done, all the while reportedly trying to get a spot on the team for his own son.

It is an embarrassment for a league that continues to produce the most talent in every draft year.

The concern is real if this is happening in a smaller version in other cities or if this could happen again as a repeat of the saga in Flint will only take the legitimacy of a very important aspect of the hockey world down.

The NHL can do little about it but they will be watching closely and are sure to offer support if asked as they need the OHL and can’t have that league fall into the issues that other minor leagues in every sport tend to fall into.

(Other News this week in hockey)

Suspension upheld
The Dennis Wideman drama continued this week when the initial appeal went to Gary Bettman who upheld the suspension largely based on text messages sent by Wideman but the drama isn’t over as the NHLPA has asked for an independent arbitrator on a second appeal

Record Pursuit Continues
Jaromir Jagr has become the ageless wonder over the last few years and this week he became the fifth oldest skater in NHL history when he turned 44-years-old as he continues his pursuit of Gordie Howe’s record for most goals for a player over 40, Jagr has 30 goals to go

Stamkos Staying
With all of the rumours surrounding potential free agent Steven Stamkos being traded before the trade deadline Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman made sure that the focus was on playing instead writing a statement saying that Stamkos would not be traded


Key Scores:
Detroit Red Wings 6 – 5 Boston Bruins
– The Bruins have made a resurgence after they struggled to keep up with the rest of the division but the Red Wings were sure to give them a reality check taking this win and showing that they won’t be able to get into the playoffs that easily what is shaping up to be a good battle in the Atlantic

Chicago Blackhawks 7 – 2 Toronto Maple Leafs
– The Toronto Maple Leafs said that things were going to be painful this year but they still have shown signs of promise for the future that was until they faced the team they want to become as the Blackhawks easily handled the Leafs

Colorado Avalanche 3 – 2 Montreal Canadiens
– The Montreal Canadiens have gone form a sure playoff contender to a middling team that may not even fight for a playoff spot and it seemed to come to a head in this loss where PK Subban was benched after he made a mistake that led to the winning goal for Colorado

Tampa Bay Lighting 4 – 2 Pittsburgh Penguins
– As the Penguins looked to continue their rise after a tough start to the season they took on a big test in the Lightning to see if they had what it took to compete with the top teams and although they fell short they still showed that they are ready to compete

Next Week:
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild (Sunday February 21st; 3:30 pm ET)
– The Stadium Series begins this year when the Wild host the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota as the Blackhawks look to take the win and stay atop the division and the Wild try to fight their way back into the hunt

Arizona Coyotes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Tuesday February 23rd; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Coyotes seem like a team on the verge and they will get a true test in a group that has been in the same position as the young Coyotes try to show that they can compete with a team like the Lightning

New York Rangers vs. St. Louis Blues (Thursday February 25th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Rangers continue to fly under the radar as one of the top teams in their division and they will try to show it against another top team in the Blues as both teams crossover conferences looking to get some extra points in their playoff fights

Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche (Saturday February 27th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Avs will continue to celebrate their 20th season with an outdoor game as they host their old rivals, the Red Wings, as the Red Wings try to stay near the top of their division and the Avalanche try to remain in the playoff hunt

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