The New York Islanders have stripped their roster, getting by with an average age of 24 on their blueline and are regarded so poorly by the media that two of the three New York tabloids have stopped travelling with them.
But they are still even with the Maple Leafs in the standings, on a roll of 6-3 since the break.
And the Islanders still have some passionate fans, including one with a great sense of humour who put up Alexei Yashin's bloated contract buyout for sale on on eBay.
The buy-it-now price? Just $20,999,999.99 US. The seller, identified as 'thebus' has this pitch:
"You are bidding on the chance to get rid of Yashin forever! This auction is specifically designed to raise the money to buy out the remaining years of the most horrific contract in NHL history. The winning bidder may accompany me and other Islanders fans to present (owner) Charles Wang with your bank certified cheque. The shipping and handling fee will be used to cover the eBay fees. If you are willing to buy him out, then you won't mind the fees.
"This is a serious attempt to help turn this team around once and for all. Mr. Wang has done his part and now it's our turn."
Wang did have some actual good news for fans, that he and a partner won the bid to develop the 77 acres that make up Nassau Coliseum and its big wind-swept parking lot for a $1.4 billion private-funded makeoover.
Wang has now made it further than three previous team owners in this long-neglected project, with the goal of a $200 million improvement on the ancient rink that will be expanded to almost 17,000 seats and completed around 2010.
DESERT DOG TRAINING
As if Wayne Gretzky needed more headaches behind the Phoenix Coyotes' bench, several forwards are muttering off the record that he is monkeying around too much with the lines.
"If we werent 30-32, I wouldn't do it," Gtretzky said before Thursday's 2-0 loss to Nashville. "They should just worry about playing. You think they're frustrated? I'm frustrated, too.
"It's a crutch and an excuse. Scotty Bowman won championships and he changed his lines all the time when he was winning. In Edmonton, we changed our lines quite a bit, even when we won."
But those Cup dynasties were a little more blessed in the talent department than Phoenix.
WEST COAST STORM WARNING
Depending on the last night's results, the Vancouver Canucks could be in ninth place this morning. Public calls for coach Marc Crawford's scalp, despite the dwindling games on the schedule, are growing louder.
"There won't be a coaching change this year," Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said. "We're giving everyone a chance to win and (Crawford) is part of that. If the players are looking for a way out, that's not it."
Crawford has heard rumours of his demise many times.
"I approach every day as though I can make a difference," he said. "And I really believe I can make a difference with this team."
OZZIE IN COMMAND
The Red Wings could be the first 100-point team this year with a goaltending controversy, though one many clubs would gladly have.
Since the Olympic break, designated playoff starter Manny Legace has been in his own words "horsecrap", his game thrown off by two weeks of idling, while Chris Osgood has been stellar.
Perhaps coach Mike Babcock shouldn't have been so quick during the break to name his post-season starter, but to his credit, he still stands behind Legace.
Osgood is 2-0 heading into Edmonton tonight. From Jan. 5 on, Osgood appeared in only five of 25 games and fought off rust to pick up Legace. The latter played five times after the Olympics and rang up a 4.00 goals-against average and .862 save percentage.
"Pucks have been bouncing the wrong way," Legace said. "We're still winning, though. Guys have been bailing me out."
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Columbus is the frontrunner to host the 2007 draft, with an announcement expected this week. Vancouver gets it this year, Ottawa in 2008 ... Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean is close to getting a three-year contract extension at $1 million US per season ... As well as club records for points and wins this season, the Hurricanes avenged some old Hartford Whalers heartbreak by sweeping the Montreal Canadiens in their season series for the first time in 26 years, dating to the old Adams Division ... Goaltender Jose Theodore met his Colorado Avalanche teammates for the first time yesterday since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens and said he was happy to be with the Avalanche.