SUN Hockey Pool

Will Leafs sale cause CBC to cease?

As partners in the Leafs, did it not just become a lot easier for Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet)...

As partners in the Leafs, did it not just become a lot easier for Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet) to team up and wrestle the Saturday night package from CBC? (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:29 PM ET

MONTREAL - The Bell-Rogers marriage to take over Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is being consummated and now I'm left wondering where this leaves CBC in the Centre of the Universe.

The Corp's biggest cash cow is Hockey Night in Canada -- and HNIC's world revolves around the Toronto Maple Leafs. What happens if Rogers and Bell, which own the country's two biggest sports networks and now Canada's most important hockey franchise, decide they want the Leafs on Saturday night for themselves?

As partners in the Leafs, did it not just become a lot easier for Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet) to team up and wrestle the Saturday night package from CBC?

CBC's biggest competitors just bought themselves a spot at the NHL table and, you would think, some influence over what will happen with the national television rights (think Comcast in the U.S. owning NBC, Versus, etc., and the Philadelphia Flyers and locking up the national rights for 10 years).

It only makes sense that Bell and Rogers would want the Leafs and Saturday night for TSN and Sportsnet when Canada's national broadcast rights come up for renewal. It's the biggest night of the week for hockey on TV.

Money always will be the ultimate decider so, unless CBC overpays, you have to think Bell and Rogers will make a big play for Saturday night.

Without the revenue from Hockey Night in Canada, does CBC continue to exist as we know it?

Something else to consider: Is it in the best interests of the NHL to see the CBC potentially damaged while losing a valuable bidder in the battle for rights fees?

It will be very interesting to see how hockey on television in Canada evolves from here.

HEAR AND THERE: Tough NHL debut for goalie Mike Murphy of the Carolina Hurricanes. According to Elias, he became the first goaltender to pick up a loss without giving up a goal. Against Calgary on Tuesday, he came in for Cam Ward, stopped two shots and was pulled for an extra attacker. The Flames scored on the empty net to make it 7-4. The 'Canes then scored two and the empty-netter became the winner ... I mentioned Friday that Roberto Luongo started Dec. 1 and was pulled. Wrong. It was Cory Schneider who started the game against Nashville. Luongo came on and took the loss ... Don't like the odds of Canadian teams making the playoffs under the new alignment proposal. In the old system, the Leafs, Canadiens and Senators were battling with 12 other teams for eight spots in the Eastern Conference. That just seems a lot easier than the three of them trying to squeeze into four spots in their new conference. Same for Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver out west.

THE BUZZ: It was interesting while going over old NHL playoff formats and alignments to see the Winnipeg Jets 1.0 had 32 points in the 1980-81 season. That got them Dale Hawerchuk in the draft. Today, it would be "Fail for Dale" or "Suck for Hawerchuk." ... Thirty-two points? The whole season? The Bruins just had 25 in a month ... Eric Staal has had seven points in five games under new coach Kirk Muller and has been even on the plus/minus. Should mention he had an assist in his last game under Paul Maurice, too ... We might get a measure of the Florida Panthers in their current stretch: Seven games in 13 days with only one of them at home. With a win Friday night against Buffalo, the Panthers could take over top spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1997. Yes. Nineteen-ninety-seven.

JUST SAYING: If Tomas Kaberle is the answer for the Montreal Canadiens, I have no idea what the question is ... Everybody who talks about how wacky it is to have Detroit in the Western Conference, people of a certain age might remember there was a time when both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the West Division. It was 1967-68.

JUST WONDERING: Doesn't the Bell-Rogers deal go against everything pro sports is supposed to be about? Competition? Working to beat your biggest rival? Now we have competitors joining together to own a team while one of them (Bell) is in a relationship with another club (the Canadiens).

THE LAST WORD: Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin on alignment and building rivalries: "Everybody hates us. It doesn't matter if it's Chicago or Florida, we'll have a rivalry with every team."

GO FIGURE

5

The number of different playoff scenarios the NHL has used since the league doubled in size with the 1967 expansion, growing to 12 teams from six. The league used three different playoff plans during the first 12 post-expansion years, then had a stretch of 12 seasons (1981-82 to 1992-93) with a divisional playoff system similar to the latest proposal.

1980

The year the NHL expanded the number of playoff teams to 16. The NHL had absorbed four teams from the World Hockey Association to bring the number of clubs to 21. How bad did you have to be to not make the playoffs back then? They played a completely balanced schedule and the playoff format saw the teams seeded from 1-16.

4

The number of teams that missed the playoffs in both seasons -- 1979-80 and 1980-81 -- when only five teams missed the post-season using the 1-16 seeding format (it was changed to the divisional format the year after). The four teams were the Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Rockies, Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets version 1.0.

1

The number of teams that made the playoffs every year under the current format, which came into use in 1993-94. The Detroit Red Wings advanced past the first round 13 times during the 17 seasons the format has been in use (one season was lost to the lockout). Of the teams in existence since then, the Florida Panthers made the playoffs the fewest times: Three.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

Vancouver Canucks

Power plays: 120

Goals: 31

Percentage: 25.8

Rank: 1

When the Canucks needed a goal late in the game Thursday against the Canadiens in Montreal, the power play came through to tie and the Canucks went on to win in a shootout. That shouldn't come as a surprise. The Canucks have the best power play in the league and have scored the most road power-play goals: 18. What's the secret to their success? "Two passes and a shot," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. Sounds simple, but a lot of teams don't shoot enough. The Canucks have 13 players who have scored at least one power-play goal this season so, for the opposition, who do you cover?

TOP FIVE

Top Five stats from the first 1,000 shootouts in the NHL

Either you love it or you hate it, but there's no in-between for the skills competition that is used to break ties. The folks at the NHL have broken down the first 1,000 shootouts (the grand was achieved when the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers went to the shootout Nov. 30). Here are five interesting stats:

1. The top scorer in the history of the shootout is Carolina's Jussi Jokinen. He scored on his first nine shootout attempts when he was with the Dallas Stars and has gone on to score 28 goals (the most of any player) in 62 attempts.

2. The busiest goaltender when it comes to shootouts has been Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. King Henrik has been in 65, winning 38 of them, tops among goaltenders.

3. The best goaltender? After he beat the Ottawa Senators Thursday night in the shootout, Johan Hedberg of the New Jersey Devils improved his save percentage in the competition to .775. That is tops among goaltenders who have been in at least 15 shootouts. Hedberg is now 23-7 in the shootout.

4. The New York Rangers have been in the most shootouts: 81. The Edmonton Oilers are second at 80 and the Dallas Stars are third at 78. The Carolina Hurricanes have been in the fewest, just 49.

5. If you're betting, take the road team. Through the first 1,000 shootouts, the road team won 526 times. Home teams had a winning record in 2005-06, the only season the NHL mandated the road team had to shoot first. Since then, the home team has had the option and most of the time home teams have opted to go first -- and road teams have had a winning record since. Maybe the home teams should rethink the "shoot first" strategy.

GROCERY STICK

Who is headed -- literally or figuratively -- for that comfortable spot on the bench between the forwards and the defencemen?

This week we're nominating the entire power-play unit of the St. Louis Blues. It is last in the league at just 10.4% and is tied for the fewest power-play goals in the NHL (10) with the Phoenix Coyotes. The Vancouver Canucks have at least 13 players who have scored a power-play goal. The Blues have seven. The Blues also have given up three shorties. Throw in the fact they have given up 20 power-play goals (and scored two shorties) and they are minus-11 on special teams. Ouch.

AMBULANCE CHASING

Injuries that are or could have a big impact

Philadelphia Flyers

After the Flyers said big defenceman Chris Pronger had been out with a virus, it now seems what he actually had was a concussion or, at least, concussion-like symptoms. Pronger got hit near the right eye Oct. 24, you will remember, by Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski's stick. He will be out indefinitely and will consult with the concussion team in Pittsburgh that worked with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The Flyers just aren't the same team without Pronger on the blue line and with all the injuries he has had over the past two years, you wonder how effective he can be again.


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