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28 posts from May 2008

May 31, 2008

Tampa Bay Turmoil

TortsIf reports out of Tampa are true, the new ownership group of the Lighting are preparing to clean house, shoving John Tortorella out the door in favor of ESPN commentator and former LA Kings coach Barry Melrose.

Now, I'm as big a Melrose fan as there is, but this is nonsense if it comes true.

If this new ownership group, which appears to be on shaky financial ground before even taking over, comes in and decides Torts' voice has been lost in the room, fine, replace him. But that doesn't appear to be the case. The Lightning weren't a playoff contender last year, but many predicted that to be the case before the season started. This bunch is in rebuild mode right now, and there wasn't much Torts could do to change the downward spiral.

I don't think Barry Melrose, as much fun as he'll be in the media scrums, will make much of a difference despite his reported $2 million per year salary.

Tortorella will be just fine. If he gets canned, maybe he takes a year off, replaces Melrose on the SportsCenter set. Nah. Tortorella will be coaching somewhere next year.

Sunrise, perhaps?

I would think the Panthers would love to have Tortorella in house, even though there's talk he doesn't get along with team president Michael Yormark stemming from their days when both worked for the Bolts.

I don't see Tortorella coming south, even if asked. Unless his biggest deal was sticking it to his old team. 

OK, I can see that.

Here's the full story from the Tampa Trib

Money Matters

PiggybankA report in the Toronto Star yesterday details how much money each team in the NHL brings in per game.

Little surprise, but a good chunk of the NHL's ticketing revenues come from north of the border, with Canadian teams (all six of them) accounting for 31 percent of league ticket money.

According to the report, which can be accessed here, six of the top seven teams in revenue producing from tickets are the Canadian teams (the Rangers broke up the sixsome by coming in at fifth).

Here are some cool numbers for you: The Maple Leafs pull in $1.9 million in ticket money -- per game. According to these numbers, it takes the Panthers almost four games to bring in that kind of cake. Florida is ranked tied with Chicago for 28th in the league in ticket monies, getting an average of $500,000 per game.

The Coyotes were last in the league in ticket money, getting $450K per night -- a drop of 18.2 percent from the season before.

Some teams were up from 2006-07, some teams way down. The Panthers? Even Steven. Florida brought in about the same amount of money per game in 2007-08 as it did  in 2006-07.

It appears Florida will once again get some revenue sharing money from the big boys in the league, Florida doing its part in trying to sell tickets but finding it a hard sell. Some blame the market, and that has plenty to do with it. Not making the playoffs seven straight seasons also makes this team a hard one to sell.

Here's the complete PDF from the Star.

-- Well, Doug Armstrong isn't going to head up the Leafs, instead going to St. Louis to be the GM of the Blues after current GM Larry Pleau retires in 2010. Don't know what that means for Joe Nieuw. Time will tell. Armstrong, fired as GM of Dallas last fall, takes over as Blues' VP of player personnel and will handle a number of duties within the organization.

Sounds like a solid move for Armstrong, and a smart move for the future of the Blues. Read about it here.

May 28, 2008

Frolik in the Fold

FrolikAs I'm sure you all have heard, the Panthers inked center Michael Frolik to an entry-level deal on Wednesday afternoon, days before the mandated deadline to get him under contract.

Frolik, Florida's first round pick (10th overall) in 2006, spent the past two years playing for Rimouski of the Quebec junior league -- the same team Sidney Crosby played for before he jumped into the NHL with much aplomb.

I would have the think Michael is going to have a very good shot at making next year's squad out of training camp, and that's probably the reason this deal took so long in getting done. The Panthers don't have very many roster spots open at the current time, so look for some buy-outs to be on the way. I think Florida would like to have Frolik and Shawn Matthias -- among others -- to have a real shot to make it out of training camp.

Says Jacques: "We are confident he will help our organization for a long time. Michael has had two strong seasons with Rimouski and he is ready to compete for and earn a spot on our roster.''

The Panthers are done as far as prospects go, with d-man Keaton Ellerby (first round pick, 10th overall in 2007) signed earlier this month.

May 27, 2008

Caruso In, Cats Down to One

 

Caruso_2 Mike Caruso signed an entry level deal with the Panthers Tuesday, leaving only Michael Frolik to come to terms by the June 1 deadline.

The Cats continue to be on the clock, hoping to lock down Frolik before he re-enters the draft. Word is JM is working hard on getting this done.

-- Nothing new on the Panthers coaching search, although it continues to be apparent JM is going to wait until the Stanley Cup Finals are completed before any true inroads are to be made.

I continue to hear Andre Savard's name being tossed about, although JM is being pretty tight-lipped about things so everything is just speculation until this point.

Until the Penguins give the Panthers permission to speak with Savard, they legally cannot move forward with any kind of contractual talks. If it was leaked that the Panthers were working on something with Savard, I would think the Pens could charge Florida with tampering. No way the Panthers want to go down that road.

I don't think Florida wants to give away anymore draft picks. Be patient folks. Once the Finals are over, Savard can talk to anyone he wants -- including a certain pro hockey team that plays in an arena just north of Weston.

-- Speaking of teams giving permission to speak, the Panthers apparently told Toronto they couldn't speak with one Joe Nieuwendyk until his contract expires July 1. Thought here is the Panthers are still ticked at Toronto for the Chad Kilger deal, sure, but more importantly, Joe was part of Florida's pre-draft preparation before he left the organization. The Panthers don't want to have paid for Joe to travel around scouting players, only to let Toronto be the beneficiary of that knowledge.

That's my thought on that, anyway.

-- Also, Toronto media is reporting that former Dallas GM Doug Armstrong is interviewing with Leafs brass. If Armstrong becomes the new GM of the Leafs, don't be surprised if Nieuwendyk joins him in T-Town sometime this summer. There's plenty of speculation running around the Big Bank Building in Sunrise that Nieuwendyk wanted the Panthers hire Armstrong as GM.  When it was apparent that wasn't going down, Joe moved on with his life.

Joe, for the record, has not said a bad word about JM or the Panthers since he's left. So this could just be another one of those stories.

May 25, 2008

Going Back to PEI

DougiemacThe Panthers preseason roadshow is apparently going to continue this summer/fall.

Right now, the Panthers plan to open training camp in Sunrise, then move on to Canada for a trio of exhibition games against the Calgary Keenans (twice) and the Edmonton Oilers.

The Panthers also have scheduled a game against the Islanders in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. It's the Panthers first appearance in PEI since Doug MacLean (who is a native of the island and is as popular there as their famous potatoes) brought his team there for training camp following the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Cats/Isles game is scheduled for Sept. 27; Florida is expected to visit Calgary on Monday, Sept. 22, with half the team taking a bus through Red Deer to play at Edmonton on Sept. 23. Guessing the other half of the team plays Calgary again on Sept. 24 or 25 before flying east to PEI.

Can't wait. Nothing like flying across Canada for a preseason game.

-- Great opening night for the Red Wings tonight, no? They had it going on, clamping down on the Penguins once picking up the lead before pouring it on. Think the young Pens learned something tonight, and may just be the better for it.

May 24, 2008

In the Air Tonight

ThejoeThe Stanley Cup Finals finally kick off tonight in Detroit, the Red Wings battling the Penguins.

A good bunch of you voted in our previous Frozen Poll, almost split in who you think is going to win this series. As of 5 p.m., 52 percent pick Detroit to win the Cup for the fourth time since 1997.

I am in agreement with you all. I pick Detroit in 6, although I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the Pens bring the Cup back to Pennsylvania. Both teams are terrific, and this is a Finals I think all of us are anticipating.

Did a preview on the Finals, but I can't find it online so I figure our readers can't either. So, as a public service, here is The Miami Herald's preview on the Cup Finals, On Frozen Pond style. You can find my story on the Finals here.

Enjoy the games kids...

2008 STANLEY CUP FINALS

Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The series: Did not play this season. Last meeting came on Oct. 7, 2006; Detroit won 2-0.

The Playoff Road – Detroit: Top seed in Western Conference, Red Wings defeated Nashville in 6, Colorado in 4 and Dallas in 6. Pittsburgh: Second seed in Eastern Conference, Penguins defeated Ottawa in 4, New York Rangers in 5 and Philadelphia in 5.

About the Red Wings: The Red Wings have gone up in each of their first three playoff series, so it will be interesting to see how they react if they were to lose an early game to the high-flying Penguins. Goalie Chris Osgood continues to play well after taking over for Dominik Hasek during Game 4 of the opening round against Nashville. Osgood, who led the Wings to the Cup in 1998, is 10-2 this postseason. Johan Franzen, who scored 11 goals in the first two rounds, was lost in Game 1 of the conference finals with a concussion and his return to his spot in front of the net is expected to come later in the series. Franzen and veteran defenseman Chris Chelios (knee) are not expected to play in Saturday’s opener.

About the Penguins: Pittsburgh has cruised through the postseason, with youngsters Sidney Crosby (20), Evgeni Malkin (21) and Jordan Staal (19) combining 19 of the Penguins’ 51 goals (29-year-old Marian Hossa has nine). Pittsburgh is also getting a great performance from its 23-year-old goalie as Marc-Andre Fluery has stopped 94 percent of the shots seen. The Penguins are the 11th club since 1980 to enter the Finals with two or fewer playoff losses, the first since Anaheim came into the 2003 Finals at 12-2. Six of those teams have lost in the Finals, including the past three (’92 Chicago, ’95 Detroit, ’03 Anaheim).

Past Stanley Cup championships – Detroit 10 (last in 2002); Pittsburgh 2 (last in 1992).

Players who have won the Cup – Detroit (10): Chris Chelios (Montreal 85-86, Detroit 01-02); C Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit 01-02); C Kris Draper (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02); G Dominik Hasek (Detroit 01-02); LW Tomas Holmstrom (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02); D Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02); RW Kirk Maltby (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02); RW Darren McCarty (Detroit 96-97, 97-98, 01-02); G Chris Osgood (Detroit 96-97, 97-98); D Brian Rafalski (New Jersey 99-00, 02-03). Pittsburgh (3): LW Gary Roberts (Calgary 88-89); D Darryl Sydor (Dallas 98-99, Tampa Bay 03-04); RW Petr Sykora (New Jersey 99-00).

Did You Know?: This is the first postseason meetings for professional teams from these two cities since the 1909 World Series when Honus Wagner’s Pirates beat Ty Cobb’s Tigers in 7 games. That series predated Tiger Stadium, which stands abandoned a few miles from Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

The Schedule (All games on XM Satellite Radio): Saturday @ Detroit (Versus); Monday @ Detroit (Versus); Wednesday, May 28 @ Pittsburgh (NBC); Saturday, May 31 @ Pittsburgh (NBC); Monday, June 2 * @ Detroit (NBC); Wednesday, June 4 * @ Pittsburgh (NBC); Saturday, June 7 * @ Detroit (NBC).

The Pick: Detroit in 6. The Red Wings have a special team, one that looks unstoppable when they really want to be. Detroit has a great mix of offense and defense, and will need to limit Pittsburgh’s exciting young players. The Penguins look like they are going to have another chance at the Cup for years to come. Just not this year. Let the Octopi fly.

GEORGE RICHARDS

May 20, 2008

Golfing with Goldie's Gang

AlSteve Goldstein, the television voice of the Panthers and good friend to On Frozen Pond, is holding his annual charity golf tournament on Thursday at Miccosukee Golf and Country Club down in southern Miami-Dade County.

It's a good event, wish I could go, but there will be plenty of other hockey-type of folks ripping up the lush fairways and beating up the rough in my stead.

Goldie says the event is sold out this year, and that's always good news for the charity. If you are not in the tournament and just want to help out Goldie's charity, please visit his website.

You can access the site here.

The Big Tamale: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

BluecollarWell, we got us a real blue collar Stanley Cup Final, don't we?

I love both Pitt and Detroit, one of the few hockey writers who enjoys my trips to both cities. They both offer something different, and the atmosphere at games in both arenas is among the best in the game.

This is a Stanley Cup Final that I (and the suits at Versus/NBC) am really looking forward to. Love the way both teams are playing, although after the Wings stubbed their toe a bit against Dallas, have to say the Penguins are rolling the hot hand coming in.

That said, would hate to put a bet down against the Red Wings. When they turn it on, it's on Bubba. I'm leaning toward picking the Octopi in this one, but could be persuaded to go the other way. Don't have to pick until Friday. Giving everyone their chance to pick the Stanley Cup champ in this week's Frozen Poll. Vote for your favorite finalist, and if you want, leave comments on who you like, in how many games and why.

Don't have anything lined up right now for prizes, but those who pick the winning team in the right number of games will get something. I think Brian in Sunrise has some Panthers caps left.

-- Here's the sked. Excited about watching this series, dreading it coming to an end. Then, no hockey for a while.

Saturday: @ Det (Versus)
Monday @ Det (Versus)
Wednesday, May 28 @ Pitt (NBC)
Saturday, May 31 @ Pitt (NBC)
Monday, June 2 * @ Det (NBC)
Wednesday, June 4 * @ Pitt (NBC)
Saturday, June 7 * @ Det (NBC)

>

One Down, Two to Go



SAVANNAH -- The Panthers inked one of their three outstanding prospects on Tuesday, agreeing to an entry level deal with RW Brady Calla.

That means Michael Frolik and Mike Caruso are left to be signed before the May 31 deadline.

May 19, 2008

Gnat-tastic



SAVANNAH -- It's Hockey Night in Georgia where the good folks at Grayson Stadium finally found Versus and put the Wings on the tube.

Looks like the Wings are going to outscore the Single-A Sand Gnats this night.

Few things beat a nice spring night at a minor league ballpark watching some decent baseball and hanging out with friends (and oversized insects).

The road show continues south to Jax tomorrow, then home to go back to covering some hockey.

Pens or Wings, who you like? Think about it, new Frozen Poll tomorrow.

Off to get another sweet tea....

May 18, 2008

Hanging in the Ham



BIRMINGHAM (not England) -- Greetings from Alabama, a place Nick Saban supposedly calls home (don't know if I believe him or not).

Cool town with some of the best eats in the South. Have already cleaned some ribs at the World Famous Dreamland, and killed some green fried tomatoes at the Whistle Stop in Irondale.

Here for the nuptials of Joe 'Gator Clause' Goodman and his lovely new bride Sarah. All of Birmingham's social elite is here, along with celebrities like Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer, Saban, Jacques Martin and a host of friends from The Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel.

OK, Tebow, Meyer, Sabes and JM aren't here. But they sure are missing out on a great weekend in Sweet Home, Alabama.

That's the cake pictured above. Looking forward to tearing into it later on.

Tomorrow's report from Savannah,Ga. Have a date with some shrimp and grits.

May 16, 2008

JM Signs Long-Term Deal



SOMEWHERE ON THE FLORIDA TURNPIKE -- The Panthers just called to tell me Jacques Martin is officially the team's GM, signing a long-term deal.

Film at 11.

May 12, 2008

Savard's Job to Lose?

Andresavard Old pal Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun threw out another rumor related to the Panthers coaching search, offering up Pittsburgh assistant Andre Savard. This isn't out of left field either, folks. I heard his name offered up a few weeks ago in conversations with someone within the organization. That person basically told me "look at guys who have been close to Jacques.''

Andre Savard has been close to Jacques.

As coach of the Quebec Nordiques, Savard hired Martin as his assistant coach when Martin was relieved of his first coaching job with the St. Louis Blues in 1988. Savard also worked in Ottawa as a scout and was an assistant coach under JM with the Sens.

Are they pals? Don't know. Would guess the two have kept close ties over the years as Savard has definitely been around.

A former player, Savard was general manager of the Canadiens earlier this decade, and has been an assistant coach with the Pens the past two seasons. The Pens are doing pretty well. JM may be waiting for this Pittsburgh season to end before he really begins the coaching search.

Savard spent 12 seasons in the NHL, splitting time with Boston, Buffalo and Quebec. He retired in 1985 after scoring 211 goals in close to 800 career games.

Is Savard the favorite right now? I'm not jumping through that hoop. But, I would think he's one of the top candidates because of his past with Jacques and because of the good work he's done with Pitt.

May 11, 2008

Talking Baseball

Doing a live baseball blog over on Fish Bytes for those interested in stopping by...

May 10, 2008

JM with Goldie

Goldie_2 Steve Goldstein had JM the GM on his radio show Saturday morning, talking about signing the prospects ("we'll have it done by June 1") to what he's looking for in a new coach.

Goldie also presses JM on whether he plans to trade Olli Jokinen this offseason. While JM didn't give him anything new, he was a little more staunch than he's been in the past.

"Right now, Olli is at the World Championships, but he's no different than any other player,'' JM said. "As a general manager, you're mandated to try and improve your hockey club. I don't think after missing the playoffs for seven years, we don't have any untouchables.''

Kind of repeating what Alan Cohen said earlier this offseason, that he couldn't "protect players anymore.''

Could get interesting.

If you want to hear the whole interview Goldie did on 790 The Ticket click here: It's two parts..
Download JMwithGoldie1.mp3
Download jmwithgoldie2.mp3

May 09, 2008

End of the Mess?

Looks like things are finally being worked out in Rochester. A little late on this, but Tuesday, the American Hockey League approved Canadian Curt Styres as majority owner of the Rochester Americans, all but paving the way for the Panthers to become that team's sole parent next season.

Steve Donner, who had been fighting with investors, keeps 40 percent of the team. Styres effectively buys out the other partners and says "I will do what I can to make sure the franchise is a success — at the box office and in the standings.'' That comes from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, check out Kevin O's story right here.

Don't have anything more to add that Kevin didn't cover or has covered in the past. This is a complicated deal, with defaults on loans and arena lease agreements and whatnot. But I know the Panthers were concerned something wasn't going to get done, and it appears their worries have been put to rest.

The Panthers have been making moves to improve their depth in the minors, and Keaton Ellerby is one of those guys. He could have played another year at juniors, but JM thinks he's ready for the AHL now and he's going to -- unless he really wows the Panthers at training camp -- start the season with the Americans.

Rochester is a good hockey town and they'll support this team if they think there is something there worth supporting. Obviously the franchise was a mess, and it's hard to separate the off-ice stuff in a minor league sports town. Having someone solid in there and have the Panthers be a true partner in trying to clean up the mess can only help solidify things there.


Another Pink Slip

JoelqFor the second time in three days, an NHL coach has lost his job. Unlike Toronto's Paul Maurice, however, at least Colorado's Joel Quenneville got his team to the playoffs a few times before getting axed.

The Avs fired Quenneville after three seasons on Friday, just a week after Colorado got run from the Western Conference semifinals by the Red Wings.

Do you think Joel Q gets a look-see here in Florida? Well, you might want to know that he and Jacques Martin were assistants together in Quebec and Colorado, JM leaving the Avs midway through the 1995-96 season (Colorado's first season in Denver and its first Cup title team) to take over in Ottawa.

Perhaps JM was being patient for a reason. I'm throwing Joel Q on the short (yet growing by the day) list of coaching candidates for the South Florida Hockey Team.

Moving Down the Street

Up in the nation's capital this weekend, covering the Panthers-Capitals.

OK, Marlins-Nationals.

Going to spend some time offering prose and analysis up the street on our Marlins web-extra site, cleverly nicknamed "Fish Bytes."

This is only temporary, and if anything hockey pops up, it'll be offered up here.

But come on over this weekend and say hello. You can find Fish Bytes right here

May 08, 2008

Ellerby Signs

The Panthers came to terms with prospect - and former first round pick - Keaton Ellerby today. Ellerby, a big d-man, will compete @ training camp, but is likely to start next season at Rochester.

Traveling to Washington, so more later. Perhaps.

May 07, 2008

Paul Maurice Fired

Maurice_4Paul Maurice was fired by the Maple Leafs today after Toronto failed to make the playoffs in two seasons under his watch.

Maurice, who coached Carolina to the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals, replaced Pat Quinn behind the Toronto bench. Since I have Quinn as an unofficial candidate for the Panthers' vacant job, should Maurice be put on that list as well?

Maurice obviously knows something about the Southeast Division, and he knows about coaching under pressure (something he wouldn't have to employ if he were to coach down here).

Go ahead and throw your vote down, and as always, give me your true feelings on the comments section down below.

-- The original "Who Should Coach" poll is still ongoing, so take a gander at some of the candidates there. Going to update, dropping the lowest vote getters and adding some new ones. Right now, Denis Potvin is running away with the vote, taking in 26 percent. Aside from the Dancing Banana (18.7 percent), Randy Cunneyworth (19.4) and Doug MacLean (10.4) are the leaders.