NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 7, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 7, 2023

The resurgent Oilers win again as Connor McDavid rises in the points race, the Golden Knights regain first place in the overall standings, Patrick Kane to make his debut with the Red Wings on Thursday, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The resurgent Edmonton Oilers picked up their fifth straight win by thumping the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1. Zach Hyman tallied a hat trick while Connor McDavid and Mattias Janmark each collected three assists as the Oilers improved their record to 10-12-1. Jordan Staal scored for the 14-10-1 Hurricanes.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big reason why the Oilers have improved is McDavid is healthy and scoring again. With 32 points, he’s tied with the Florida Panthers’ Sam Reinhart for 10th in the scoring race. He’s 12 points behind Nikita Kucherov, who leads the race with 44 points. At McDavid’s current pace, the Oilers captain could overtake the Tampa Bay Lightning winger by the time the calendar flips to January.

Meanwhile, Staal and Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour weren’t pleased with their club’s effort in this contest. Brind’Amour called their performance “a bad game from start to finish”, calling out the play of his best players. Staal, meanwhile, called it “embarrassing,” saying their lack of pushback was “just all-around crap.”

Speaking of Kucherov, he extended his points streak to 11 games with a goal and an assist to lead the Lightning over the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots as the Bolts improved to 12-10-5. Jake Guentzel scored for the Penguins (11-11-3) as they’ve lost three straight games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins’ punchless power play is a big reason behind their struggles this season. Evgeni Malkin lamented his club’s inability to cash in with the man advantage, having gone 0-33 since Nov. 11. Hard to believe with a team sporting proven scorers such as Malkin, Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and offseason acquisition Erik Karlsson, but these guys can’t buy a power-play goal right now.

A four-goal second period lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. Jack Eichel, William Karlsson and Keegan Kolesar each had a goal and an assist as the Golden Knights (17-5-5) retook first place in the overall standings with 39 points. Jordan Binnington stopped 43 shots while Jordan Kyrou had a goal and an assist for the 13-11-1 Blues.

The Florida Panthers held off the Dallas Stars by a score of 5-4. Evan Rodrigues scored twice and set up two others while Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists for the 15-8-2 Panthers. Mason Marchment and Thomas Harley each had a goal and an assist for the Stars (14-7-3), who’ve dropped three of their last four games.

HEADLINES

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Patrick Kane will make his season debut with the Red Wings on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at Little Caesars Arena. He’s expected to be on a line with J.T. Compher and Alex DeBrincat, his former linemate during their days with the Chicago Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be Kane’s first game since May 1. He’s coming off a hip resurfacing procedure in June. It’ll be interesting to see how well he plays and how the Wings manage his playing time in this upcoming contest.

NHL.COM: Speaking of the Red Wings, defenseman Jake Walman was fined $2,500.00 by the department of player safety for high-sticking Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner on Tuesday.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg will undergo season-ending hip surgery at the end of December. The 31-year-old signed a one-year, $4.15 million contract with the Leafs during the offseason but hasn’t played since Nov. 11 and was placed on long-term injury reserve on Nov. 23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Klingberg on LTIR for the rest of the season, expect the Leafs to use the salary-cap savings to find a replacement on the blueline.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators have brought back former coach Jacques Martin as a senior advisor to lend a hand to their coaching staff.

DAILY FACEOFF: The Columbus Blue Jackets placed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (illness), defenseman Adam Boqvist (shoulder strain) and forward Cole Sillinger (upper body) on injured reserve.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres added some depth to their bottom-six forwards by acquiring Eric Robinson from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a conditional 2025 seventh-round draft pick.

THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes analyzed NHL attendance during the first quarter of this season to see which clubs have made the biggest gains and losses year-over-year after the pandemic skewed attendance figures in three consecutive seasons.

Overall, Mendes finds the numbers paints “a fairly upbeat picture” of NHL attendance. Fifteen of the league’s 32 clubs were at 99 percent or better in the first two months of this season. Ten teams had averaged between 91 percent and 98 percent. Six others averaged between 75.6 percent and 89.5 percent. Mendes omitted the Arizona Coyotes because they play in a 4,600-seat arena, though he pointed out that they sold all 11 home games thus far.

All but six teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals) saw increases in attendance. The Lightning and Bruins were at full capacity while the latter four saw their attendance drop, with the Jets and Capitals encountering the biggest declines.

The biggest risers were the Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. The Blackhawks improved thanks to the presence of highly-touted rookie Connor Bedard while last season’s performances by the other three accounted for their attendance bumps. The Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers also saw significant improvement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The struggles of the Flames and Sharks account for their attendance declines.

Mendes cites colleague Murat Ates indicating the Jets are a small-market club that doesn’t sell as many corporate season tickets and thus are affected by factors such as day-to-day economic issues for their fans, customer service and a feeling ownership got complacent when their arena was full.

The Capitals’ decline was a surprise despite their competitive team this season. Mendes noted they only had one game in which attendance dipped below 16,000.

SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens are receiving a backlash for charging their fans $195.00 to meet their mascot Youppi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens aren’t forcing their fans to pay to meet their mascot. They can take it or leave it. Still, when one considers the high cost of attending their games, paying to meet Youppi seems to have crossed the line with a number of their followers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 20, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 20, 2023

Recaps of Thursday’s games plus the latest on Patrik Laine, Kaiden Guhle, Craig Anderson and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames nipped the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Adam Ruzicka snapped a 3-3 tie in the third period while Dan Vladar stopped 24 shots for the win as the Flames improved to 2-1-1. Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens each collected two assists for the Sabres, who drop to 1-3-0 to start the season.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist for the 2-2-0 Panthers. Mitch Marner scored for the 2-2-0 Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs winger Tyler Bertuzzi was bumped down to the third line to begin the second period as he’s playing through an injury.

The Nashville Predators defeated the New York Rangers 4-1. Cole Smith tallied twice, Filip Forsberg and Tyson Barrie each had two points and Juuse Saros turned aside 24 shots for the Predators (2-3-0). Adam Fox replied for the Rangers (2-2-0) while goalie Igor Shesterkin got the hook after giving up four goals in 18 shots.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

Nikita Kucherov scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning improved to 2-2-1 by holding off the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos picked up an assist as he returned to action after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson each had two points for the 2-2-0 Canucks.

The Philadelphia Flyers got two goals from Cam Atkinson in a 4-1 upset of the Edmonton Oilers, dropping the latter to 1-3-0. Sean Couturier and Owen Tippett each had two assists while Carter Hart made 22 saves for the 3-1-0 Flyers, who sit atop the Metropolitan Division. Zach Hyman scored for the Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were outworked and outhustled by the Flyers in this game. It’s still very early in the season and the Oilers have plenty of time to recover from this poor start. For now, though, they look nothing like the Stanley Cup contender they were projected to be this season.

Los Angeles Kings center Pierre-Luc Dubois scored two goals in 12 seconds in the second period to lead his club over the Minnesota Wild 7-3. Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala each had two points for the Kings as they improved to 2-1-1. Connor Dewar, Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek replied for the Wild as they dropped to 2-2-0.

The Arizona Coyotes got power-play goals by Nick Bjugstad, Jason Zucker and Sean Durzi in a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Durzi, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz each had a goal and an assist for the 2-2-0 Coyotes. Jakub Vrana and Sammy Blais scored for the 1-1-1 Blues.

A third-period power-play goal by Jack Eichel broke a 3-3 tie as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the Winnipeg Jets 5-3. Logan Thompson made 36 saves while Shea Theodore collected three assists for the 5-0-0 Golden Knights. Alex Iafallo netted two goals for the 1-3-0 Jets, who scratched defenseman Nate Schmidt from this contest.

Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen broke a 2-2 tie to lift his club to a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks (1-2-0). Heiskanen finished the night with a goal and two assists while teammate Joe Pavelski had a goal and an assist as the Stars improved to 2-0-1. Ducks rookie Leo Carlsson netted his first NHL goal while teammate Troy Terry had a goal and an assist.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducks defenseman Jamie Drysdale missed this game with a lower-body injury.

The Seattle Kraken got their first win of the season by beating the Carolina Hurricanes 7-4. Vince Dunn and Oliver Bjorkstrand each had a goal and two assists for the 1-3-1 Kraken. Seth Jarvis had a goal and two assists for the 3-2-0 Hurricanes.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped 18 shots to shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. Logan O’Connor, Ryan Johansen, Devon Toews and Nathan MacKinnon scored for the Avalanche as they improved to 4-0-0. Petr Mrazek made 37 saves for the Blackhawks as they dropped to 2-3-0.

Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak extended his goal streak to three games in a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. James van Riemsdyk and Brad Marchand also scored for 3-0-0 Bruins while Anthony Duclair replied for the 0-3-1 Sharks.

HEADLINES

DAILY FACEOFF: Columbus Blue Jackets star Patrik Laine isn’t impressed with his poor start to this season. “I feel like it’s overall been pretty awful, pretty awful so far,” he told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline. “Can’t hit the net if my life depends on it. Can’t make any plays. Can’t win a faceoff.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be down to the pressure of playing a new position. As the article noted, Laine is playing center this season for the first time after spending the past seven seasons as a left wing.

Canadiens defenseman Kaiden Guhle is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens followers were expecting the worst after losing center Kirby Dach for the season with a knee injury. They’re undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief now.

The Winnipeg Jets aren’t the only club suffering at the gate early in this season. The Buffalo Sabres are at 83 percent capacity through their opening home games while the Washington Capitals sellout streak of 588 games ended on Monday. The San Jose Sharks drew just 10,000 for their third game of the season while the Calgary Flames didn’t sell out their home opener.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several factors are likely behind this. The rising cost of living caused by inflation can make it difficult for fans to afford the cost of attending NHL games. As the piece also noted, the start of the NHL season also coincides with Major League Baseball playoffs and in some markets that’s going to draw away eyeballs from hockey. Meanwhile, teams like the Sharks are in the middle of a rebuild while the Flames, Jets and Capitals are coming off a disappointing 2022-23 campaign.

The Ottawa Senators will sign goaltender Craig Anderson to a one-day contract so that he can officially retire as a member of the club. He’ll join the Sabres as a hockey liaison.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anderson spent half of his 20-year NHL playing career with the Senators. The high-water mark of his tenure in Ottawa was backstopping them to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Radim Simek, Ottawa Senators forward Zack MacEwen and Pittsburgh Penguins center Jansen Harkins were placed on waivers yesterday.










What If NHL Fans Don’t Return As Quickly As Expected?

What If NHL Fans Don’t Return As Quickly As Expected?

The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on NHL revenue over the last two seasons. Shortened seasons saw revenues plummet from a high of $5.09 billion in 2018-19 to $4.37 billion the following season. On May 13, 2021, The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reported the league missed out on roughly $3.6 billion in revenue in 2020-21 due to lowered attendance.

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was optimistic about the league generating $5 billion in revenue barring any interruptions by COVID-19. Earlier in the year, the league signed two new lucrative long-term broadcasting contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports. Teams were able to sell jersey ad patches for the first time plus the league was tapping into other revenue streams such as sports betting and endorsements.

The lifeblood of the NHL remains tickets sales (particularly season-ticket or long-term ticket sales) and the in-arena revenue generated by concessions, merchandise and parking. With teams allowing full attendance with varying COVID protection mandates based on local health and safety protocols, the prospect of reaching Bettman’s $5 billion revenue projection appeared assured.

One month into the 2021-22 schedule, however, attendance is down around the league compared to where it was before the pandemic.

On Oct. 25, Sean Shapiro reported average attendance prior to the COVID shutdown in 2019-20 was 17,423. Through the first 75 games of this season, it had dropped to 16, 256. He also indicated several teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, saw years of sellout streaks come to an end.

As of Nov. 13, ESPN.com reported only five teams (Tampa Bay, Washington, Vegas, Boston and Seattle) were playing to capacity. Attendance in the Canadiens market was down, with Toronto at 99.3 percent capacity, Vancouver 97.9, Montreal 92.0, Winnipeg 91.9, Edmonton 84.2, Calgary 78.1 and Ottawa at 57.8. Other notable NHL clubs also down included Colorado (97.5) St. Louis (95.3), Minnesota (92.5) Philadephia (88.2) and the New York Rangers at 83.5.

Several factors besides the pandemic are partially to blame in some cases. The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, are struggling on the ice while the franchise has been rocked by a sexual assault scandal from 2010. Some, like the Ottawa Senators, can tie their drop in attendance to their efforts in rebuilding their rosters.

The pandemic, meanwhile, still hovers over all aspects of life. Some fans still might not feel safe enough to return to games despite the health and safety measures while others could be put off by those rules.

A worrisome factor could be the cost of attending NHL games becoming too expensive for fans feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. Inflation could push the already expensive cost of attending an NHL game out of reach for the average fan. Some season-ticket or long-term ticket package holders could instead choose from more affordable single game or shorter-term options.

That doesn’t mean the NHL still won’t see a significant increase in hockey-related revenue (HRR) compared to last season. It could reach the $5 billion mark as projected by Bettman.

However, the NHL exceeded $5 billion in 2019-20 under the previous broadcasting deals and revenue streams, and without its new franchise in Seattle. Reaching roughly the same number this season won’t be the kind of improvement the league would prefer under normal circumstances.

Big-market clubs should be able to ride things out until HRR improves. Smaller markets, however, will fill the pinch.

That would also affect the players’ share of HRR and the salary cap. The owners and players share HRR evenly at 50-50, but the cap for each season is based on projections from the previous year with escrow payments from the players to the owners built into each season’s salaries. If the owners’ share of HRR exceeds the players’ share, the players get their escrow payments refunded with interest. Otherwise, the owners retain those escrow payments.

Under the 2020 CBA extension, escrow payments were capped at 10 percent for 2022-23 and six percent for each of the remaining three years of the extension. That was based on the expectation that attendance would return to normal by that point, with the players having already made expensive escrow payments last season and this season to help the owners offset their losses.

The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro pointed out the players still owe the owners nearly $1 billion. The next round of CBA talks could become contentious if revenue hasn’t significantly risen by 2025-26 to enable the players to pay off that debt.

Of course, it’s still early in this season. Attendance could rebound if the North American economy improves as the pandemic subsides and life regains a semblance of normal.

But what happens if that’s not the case? What if those attendance figures are sluggish to return to what they once were? What if there’s yet another wave of COVID-19 that leads to rescheduled games or another shortened schedule? What happens to the players’ debt to the owners?

The fallout from the effects of the pandemic upon NHL revenue could linger for years. That could raise the specter of yet another work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2026.