Pondering An "Off Day" in the NHL

I’m sure by now that most of you have heard the helpful stat that teams who have won the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals have gone on to win the trophy 41 out of the last 44 times. But while Pittsburgh and Detroit were getting ready to play their third game in four nights Tuesday in Pittsburgh, there was plenty of significant hockey news elsewhere to keep everybody busy. ↵

↵Joe Nieuwendyk new GM in Dallas: After the utter collapse that was the 2008-09 NHL season in Dallas, you figured somebody had to take the fall. In this case, that burden fell on co-General Managers, Les Jackson and Brett Hull, who will be re-assigned within the organization and make way for the Cornell-educated Nieuwendyk. ↵

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↵Truth be told, staying competitive was going to be something of a chore for the most recent edition of the Dallas Stars, as a number of critical players departed for elsewhere not long after their run to the Western Conference Finals last season. Toss in the constant distractions from Sean Avery, inconsistent goaltending from Marty Turco and multiple injuries — none more devastating than the season-ending injuries suffered by captain Brendan Morrow and Brad Richards — and Dallas’ struggles can’t be seen as much of a surprise. Yes, Nieuwendyk has a number of critical parts in place that will help his team compete again right away, but don’t underestimate how difficult the long-term rebuilding process might be. ↵

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↵Jacques Martin to coach the Habs: It’s hard to think of somebody in the NHL who has stepped away from a more obscure NHL job and straight back into the spotlight than Martin. With the exception of the head coaching position in Toronto, there isn’t a more high pressure gig in all of hockey than coach of the Canadiens. I’m sure Martin will have a few more sleepless nights in Montreal than he did in St. Louis, Miami or Ottawa. ↵

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↵Balsillie files paperwork to move Coyotes: Say what you will about the effort to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Southern Ontario, but there’s little doubt that Research In Motion co-founder Jim Balsillie is being very thorough in his attempt to bring a seventh NHL team to Canada. As we noted here last week, Balsillie has already unveiled a plan to renovate Ontario’s Copps Coliseum to bring it up to NHL standards, while late Monday night he filed an actual application with the league to move the Coyotes to Hamilton. ↵

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↵Balsillie deserves plaudits for the way he’s handled his long-shot effort. The way he’s framed this story is both simple and effective: If Phoenix doesn’t embrace the Coyotes — which must be the case considering the team is in bankruptcy — why not let him move them to a market that will embrace them? When you see the story through that lens, it’s very hard to say no to Balsillie and Southern Ontario. And it’s awfully hard to picture Canada not embracing a seventh team. Unfortunately, while an additional team in Southern Ontario won’t hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs, it could still hurt another team just across the US-Canada border. ↵

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↵So what’s the solution? Rather than simply move an existing team, I’m guessing the league will eventually get Balsillie to buy an expansion franchise for the region in a deal that will probably include some sort of indemnification payments to both the Maple Leafs and the Sabres. So Balsillie will eventually become an owner — one the NHL should be happy to have — but probably only after he puts a lot more cash on the barrelhead. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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