February 10, 2012
NHL Saturday: Quebec wisely offers silent treatment
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
As the clock ticks in Phoenix on the fate of the Coyotes, it's interesting to note the Cone of Silence has descended in Quebec City where Marcel Aubut, still a hockey power-broker, and Regis Lebeaume, the once chatty mayor, have dialled down the rhetoric.
That pattern served True North Sport and Entertainment well in Winnipeg in its quest to land an NHL franchise.
Things went dark in Winnipeg and then, boom, True North was announcing it had bought the Atlanta Thrashers and turned them into the Jets 2.0.
In researching a two-part piece on the Coyotes, the status of Quebec City and the potential return of NHL hockey there -- which will be published Sunday and Monday -- it was interesting to find fewer and fewer people willing to wax philosophical about Quebec's charms as a soft landing spot for the Coyotes.
Aubut was busy (in his capacity as the honcho with the Canadian Olympic Committee, he was jetting off to London to eyeball preparations for the London Olympics).
The mayor has been contrite, having received a slapdown from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on all-star weekend: "The mayor is obviously passionate about the building. The mayor understands and has been told repeatedly by others and me what the situation is," Bettman said.
"The mayor has commented on league business, on things that I don't know he is fully informed about, but I respect his passion and I respect the fact he loves Quebec City and he is trying to do things for the city, but as it relates to what the NHL may or may not do, the mayor is not your best source for that."
Lebeaume, during a recent visit to Pittsburgh to check out the new arena there, said: "I will be careful what I say, but if the league called, (we) would be ready."
Inquiries to Quebecor (publisher of the QMI chain of newspapers) were politely rebuffed. Quebecor has an arena management deal for the proposed new rink, while its president and CEO, Pierre Karl Peladeau, is touted as owner of the franchise if and when the NHL returns to Quebec.
It will be an interesting 90 days, starting with what happens in Phoenix, where Bettman said there are three bidders for the Coyotes intent of keeping them in Glendale.
In Quebec, they wait.
HEAR AND THERE: Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who will be working from the press box after breaking three ribs in a collision at practice with defenceman Jordan Leopold, told Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News the pain he felt was the worst of his life and that includes a broken femur ... According to Elias, the Miller brothers, Ryan and Drew, became the first siblings to record a shutout and a game-winning goal on the same night. Ryan got the shutout as the Sabres blanked the Boston Bruins and Drew got the winner as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Edmonton Oilers. Your life is better for knowing that, isn't it? ... The defending Stanley Cup-champion Bruins have 17 losses this season and 11 of them are against non-playoff teams. The Bruins suffered the 11th loss Wednesday, against Buffalo. The B's have lost all four of their games against the last-place Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes outscored the Bruins 14-5 in the season series ... The Detroit Red Wings are somewhat decent at home (21-2-1) and play 18 of their last 28 games of the regular season at Joe Louis Arena ... Speaking of the Wings, goalie Jimmy Howard could return next week from his broken finger.
THE BUZZ: Caught up with Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips after he became the latest member of the 1,000-game club, scoring two goals to help the Senators snap a seven-game losing streak. Even with everything going around him, he said he noticed during the game that Montreal Canadiens forward Scott Gomez had ended his year-long goalless streak. "I know him well enough to say hello and was thinking about calling him up with a wager, maybe a bottle of wine, who was going to score first," Phillips said with a laugh ... Speaking of Phillips' big night, it also marked the return of former Senator Mike Fisher to Ottawa for the first time since he was traded to Nashville a year ago. It shows the kind of respect his teammates had for him that a half-dozen Senators lined up well after the game -- still in T-shirts and shorts -- to wait around to say hello to him.
JUST SAYING: An interesting player on the trade front could be highly regarded St. Louis Blues farmhand goaltender Ben Bishop. He could be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It doesn't look like he will play enough minutes to prevent free agency after losing out to Brian Elliott in the battle for the spot behind Jaroslav Halak ... The Los Angeles Kings have had teams express interest in goalie Jonathan Bernier but are reluctant to move the backup in-season with no depth at the position ... A team looking for penalty-killing help could do worse than go after Tampa Bay's Adam Hall.
JUST WONDERING: How are the Blues doing it? They are 21st in the league in offence and have scored just twice in their past 35 power-play opportunities. They've had some key injuries but have been getting good mileage out of Jamie Langenbrunner and Chris Porter. They're doing it because they rank first in the league in goals-against average (1.94) and shots against (26.4). When they do get goals, they are 24-0 when scoring three goals or more.
THE LAST WORD: Steve Yzerman apparently won't be one of the Detroit Red Wings alumni to dress against the Toronto Maple Leafs alumni at the Winter Classic next year. Part of it is because of the radical knee surgery he had. The other reason? "I have a job."
Power-play opportunities: 240
Rank: 4th by percentage
The Flyers lead the league in power-play goals with 48, two more than the Vancouver Canucks. A key to the Flyers' scoring with the man advantage has been forward Scott Hartnell, who is tied for the league lead in power-play goals with 13. (James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins also has 13.) That's a personal high for Hartnell who had 10 power-play goals in each of three other seasons. His production on the power play has put him in position to exceed his career-best total of 30 goals in a season. He has 26 with 28 games to go.
Injuries that are having, or could have, a big impact
Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils has had a brutal time trying to come back from a torn left Achilles tendon in the off-season. He made a brief return, playing eight games from Dec. 16 to Jan. 2, but the Achilles forced him out of the lineup again. He now has the green light to get back on the ice but likely will be out another month. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he's confident Zajac is on the right track. "You're always concerned unless you know fact," he said. "Because he had a little discomfort, a little swelling, you get concerned, but we listened to the doctor and stayed right to the date. It's good news." Zajac injured his Achilles while training during the summer.
The number of first picks overall since 1979 who have gone on to play 1,000 NHL games. Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators is the latest player to join the club, hitting the mark Thursday night in Ottawa. Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning needs 14 games to reach 1,000.
Since 1979, the latest a player was drafted who went on to play 1,000 games in the NHL. That would be Mike Grier, who was taken in the ninth round by the St. Louis Blues in 1993. He played in 1,060 games. Next is Bret Hedican, who was drafted in the 10th round in 1988 by the Blues. He played in 1.039 games.
The most games played to this point by a No. 1 draft pick since 1979. That's Mike Modano, chosen first by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 draft. Defenceman Roman Hamrlik is at 1,360 and counting with the Washington Capitals. The Quebec Nordiques had back-to-back No. 1 picks who reached the 1,000-game mark: Mats Sundin (in 1989) and the just-retired Owen Nolan (1990). 9
The number of first picks overall since 1979 who haven't gone on to play at least 1,000 games (not counting players drafted No. 1 in 1998 or later, as they haven't been around long enough). They are Doug Wickenheiser (1980), Gord Kluzak (1982), Brian Lawton (1983), Mario Lemieux (1984), Wendel Clark (1985), Joe Murphy (1986), Eric Lindros (1991), Alexandre Daigle (1993) and Bryan Berard (1995).