NHL Week in Review (January 29-February 4)

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Professional sports in North America are going through a strange period right now and it all started in the NHL.

That was when the Atlanta Thrashers were forced to leave Atlanta and were given a home in Winnipeg.

It turned out to be a great thing for the sport and the return of the Jets sparked another growth era in professional sports.

In the NFL two teams moved to Los Angeles and another might be headed to Las Vegas in the off-season.

In the NBA rumours of expansion get louder as the league is in a great place and cities like Seattle are looking to get back into the league.

The MLB has already come forward and said that expansion is in the future with only a few other tasks sitting ahead of that requirement.

The NHL has led the way in this new expansion as the move to Winnipeg set in motion another round of expansion for the league.

Then the Thrasher became the Jets they were a part of the eastern conference for two years making their travel schedule far too complicated.

It needed to change and so the NHL re-organized their conferences to move the Jets to the west and while they did that they also moved Detroit and Columbus to the east.

That re-organization left two spots in the west as the conferences were no longer even which was a clear sign that the league was ready to expand by at least two more teams.

The first of those teams will join the league next year when Las Vegas enters the league as the first expansion team since 2000.

It is an exciting time for the league and for professional sport as it is the first professional team in Las Vegas since the CFL attempted their ill-fated U.S. expansion.

The excitement is growing for the team to start with a fairly new arena and an expansion draft set to take place just before the entry draft.

The excitement in the west is met by some disappointment in the east though as another Canadian city was passed over this time around to get a team back.

Quebec City wasn’t necessarily rejected when they applied for an expansion franchise but they were put on the back-burner.

It is a difficult thing for the league as they know that the city could work well as an NHL city, especially with the fact that they have a brand new arena ready for an NHL team.

Still adding another eastern team is not necessarily what the league needs right now and could lead to a more difficult re-organization in the future.

What they do need is another western city to throw their hat into the ring and ask for a franchise, although the price tag to bid has been a little too expensive for many.

It doesn’t mean that Quebec City is without options through as there are some teams that could find their way north if they continue to struggle.

The biggest one has been Florida where attendance remains embarrassingly low unless they make a run like they did last year.

The league has long struggled in Sunrise and move the team up to Quebec City has been a popular choice for many as they will likely be more successful in the capital city of Quebec.

It might not happen though and the biggest block for it though is the fact that there may be another team headed north before Florida.

That team could be the New York Islanders who, this week learned that they might not have a home as early as next year.

The Islanders badly needed a new home a few years ago as the Nassau Coliseum was one of the worst arenas in the league.hockey-sidebar

They got that new home when the Barclay’s Center opened in Brooklyn and the Islanders made the move further into the city to join the Brooklyn Nets.

After only two years the owners of the Barclay’s Center is already regretting their decision to invite the Islanders to lease the arena.

This week they stated that they were considered revoking the lease because they believe that they can make more money hosting concerts than having the Islanders there.

That news was not great for Islanders fans as it could leave them without a place to play next season as one of the most legendary franchises in the league are in a tough spot.

For the holdouts from the Quebec Nordiques era, this could be great news as Quebec City is ready for an NHL team.

They built the Centre Vidéotron is an 18,259-seat stadium built in 2015 for the sole purpose of attracting an NHL team back to Quebec City.

The arena is comparable to the Barclays Center and it is sure to be in a hockey-hungry market that has been wanting a franchise for decades.

They will need to fight for their spot though as Hartford has already lobbied to bring the team to Connecticut and resurrect the Hartford Whalers.

Hartford has an arena as well although slightly smaller than in Brooklyn or Quebec City and there are fans there that remember the former WHA-NHL franchise.

The era of expansion continues as the league prepares for a year that might see two cities take on an HL franchise leaving at least one city heart-broken but continuing the growth of the league for another year.

Overtime
(More on this week in hockey)

Hitchcock Out
The St. Louis Blues were a struggling team until Ken Hitchcock arrived in 2011 and turned the team around bringing them back to relevance but his magic could only last so long as they have not been the same this year and their struggles cost Hitchcock his job

No Punishment for Marchand
Brad Marchand has been having a pretty good season considering he is one of the biggest pests in the league as his offensive output has been great but his pest tendencies are returning with a few risky plays that surprisingly ended with no punishment from the league

Trading Vets
Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan are the type of veteran players that rarely make much noise but nearing the end of their careers on two teams struggling to tread water both seem like they are ready to move on and get in a playoff hunt before their time in the league ends

standings-w17-fw

Key Scores:
Metropolitan 4-3 Pacific
– The Metropolitan division was largely the favourites to take the All-Star title with the talent on the team and they proved everyone right in what was the best game of the day as the NHL travelled to Los Angeles for the All-Star tournament

Minnesota Wild 5-2 Edmonton Oilers
– Neither team entered the season looking like they could make the playoffs but they are sitting as two of the top teams this year and they looked to continue their strong play but the Wild came out on top

Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 Columbus Blue Jackets
– The Blue Jackets have been another big surprise this year and they went up against one of the best in the game and came up just short losing to the defending champions and getting a measure of how far they need to go to be contenders

Washington Capitals 3-2 Montreal Canadiens
– For Montreal, the season hasn’t gone perfectly but they are still running away with their division although it is the bigger teams they need to worry about including Washington who showed why with the win

Next Week:
Edmonton Oilers vs. Montreal Canadiens (Sunday, February 5th; 1:00 pm ET)
– There are a lot of championships in between these two legendary Canadian teams but none have come recently and both are trying to change that this year as they face-off as two of the best teams in the country

Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets (Tuesday, February 7th; 8:00 pm ET)
– One of the more recent rivalries in the league was heating up this year until the Wild took off and now they are simply looking to stay on top while the Jets need to beat them if they want to climb back into contention

New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Thursday, February 9th; 7:00 pm ET)
– In the battle for a playoff spot, the Isles and the Flyers could be headed for a fight down the stretch as both look to get the win and move closer to those all-important top three spots in the playoffs

St. Louis Blues vs. Montreal Canadiens (Saturday, February 11th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Blues are not as strong as they were at the start of the year but they are not out of it yet as they look to test themselves under new head coach Mike Yeo against one of the top teams in the Canadiens

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