SUN Hockey Pool

Sunny days ahead for Sunbelt teams

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:07 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- It's fantastic the NHL has apparently finally solved the ownership quagmire surrounding the Phoenix Coyotes.

That didn't take long, eh?

Does anybody else feel Gary Bettman and all need a lot more Bounty to clean all the other ownership messes in the league?

A tougher question is figuring out where to start.

The easy choice is to say all the sunbelt teams struggling to fill their buildings.

But it would seem a bigger problem is in the head office's back yard, Long Island.

While the Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers and even the Tampa Bay Lightning are easy targets, the New York Islanders are an ugly problem for the league.

For now, it would be great to just say move one of those sunny-city teams to Winnipeg, but waiting out their process may be a good course of action. Consider how Florida has a seemingly solid base with GM Dale Tallon and coach Pete DeBoer, Atlanta has turned a corner and Tampa Bay is on the right track again. Those teams may have a solid future.

If they become winners and still don't draw fans, then it's time to make a hard decision, but it won't kill the league to be patient, as long as their owners are willing to be.

But the Islanders are a different kettle of fish.

It would appear owner Charles Wang has become so disillusioned with the roadblocks put up while trying to build a new arena that he's simply decided to let his team play out the string in its crumbling barn before moving the team, in four years.

Considering how much of a headache it's been to build a new arena -- which Wang has tried to spearhead -- his frustration is understandable.

However, the Islanders have become the Los Angeles Clippers of the NHL. That once-proud team, which was crippled by injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, is alienating a generation of fans by fumbling and bumbling through one season after another.

And those who want to support the team won't likely change their allegiances to the New Jersey Devils or New York Rangers if the Islanders move.

FLAMING C-NOTES

No matter how much Flames GM Darryl Sutter wants to spin it that Olli Jokinen's contract -- US$3 million per season -- is at a discount compared to last season, shouldn't the Flames expect more than two goals, which is all he's netted this season going into the Kings game? ... Yet another shot at Sutter: How is this team better off with Steve Staios, Brendan Mikkelson and Anton Babchuk (combined salary cap hit of more than $4.5 million) compared to a third-round draft choice now in Edmonton's hands, Staffan Kronwall and Aaron Johnson ... At the age of 23, Sidney Crosby has won a Stanley Cup, scored 200 NHL goals, 500 points and netted the winner for an Olympic gold medal. Flames fans should be scared to think when their team faced the Penguins, only two players on the ice wearing the Flaming C was younger than Crosby: Mikkelson and rookie Mikael Backlund. So much for younger and faster, the pledge made when the Flames were knocked out by Anaheim in the 2006 playoffs.

HOCKEY TALKY

Love the rebound season Carey Price is enjoying in Montreal, but the loss of Andrei Markov for the season will put more pressure on the Canadiens net-minder ... Couldn't somebody score a hat trick for the Florida Panthers the other night when they gave ticket buyers an official team yarmulka? That would have been one of the most unique celebrations in NHL history ... Funny Paul Bissonnette tweet of the week: "If u wanna know what a george parros punch feels like in the morning, not good. Lost some braincells." He added a picture of a bottle of Advil ... Glad to see Marc Savard back healthy and playing. Sure, he was immature during his time in Calgary, but he was entertaining both on and off the ice ... It will be interesting to see whether the Dallas Stars sign or trade Brad Richards. The pending unrestricted free agent is a big reason they're looking fine in the playoff mix, but the ownership situation may not allow the Stars to keep him.

YOU DON'T SAY

"We have a reporter in Vancouver to thank for their nice title today in the paper. Let's 'abuse the Blues?' It put a fire under us. Whoever wrote it, I thank them. We all talked about it. Of course we used it. Wouldn't it fire you up?"

-- Blues forward Alex Steen after his team won in Vancouver.


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