LAKings.com Presents 4 on 4 - Week 9
Week 9: Four writers answer the biggest questions surrounding hockey.
Welcome to Week 9 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com, 4 on 4. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Fact or Fiction? The Oilers make the move to Seattle
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Really? Is this even a legitimate question? Come on, fiction. Not now, not ever. Daryl Katz can rip a page from the Peter Pocklington playbook and try to strong-arm the city of Edmonton all he wants, but it's not going to work. Sure, things probably aren't progressing with the city as quickly as he would like. That's totally understandable. Katz has one of the worst arena deals in the NHL - and even with a salary cap in place - he needs new revenue streams sooner rather than later. The Oilers have assembled a deep roster of young, highly talented kids. When they all start to come looking for their second contracts (the downfall of the current CBA, but I digress), he's going to need stockpiles of cash and his current situation isn't helping. There are many cities looking to bring an NHL team to town, including Seattle, Quebec, Kansas City and even Las Vegas. Yet, before going on more speed dates, Katz should seek counseling for his current 'marriage' because he and the city of Edmonton won't be getting a divorce anytime soon. Well, unless he sells the team...
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - The Oilers moving to Seattle would be one of the best things to happen to the NHL in decades. I am generally against teams moving. The NHL put a team there for a reason, and moving it should not be an option unless the team is bankrupt with no hope of recovery. That said, the Oilers moving could not happen to a better fan base. Make it six, folks.
As much as I would love to see the Oilers move just for the agony it would bring the fans, and never having to deal with them again, this is fiction. The Oilers moving is not a wise move. The fans there support the team to a fault, they buy tickets, buy gear, and one of the few profitable teams around. I know they claim they aren't, but to paraphrase Norm Green, if you can't make money on hockey in that market, you're an idiot. The Oilers aren't going anywhere.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - Fiction. Daryl Katz's grandstanding is insulting and extortionary to the fans and city of Edmonton but there's just no way the league would allow the Oilers to move to an untested market. Edmonton is one of the twelve teams that turns a profit and if the league will go to the trouble that they have to ensure the Coyotes stay put in a non-hockey market with poor attendance, I can't see them letting one of their few moneymakers relocate. Katz should be able to finance his own arena project without relying on the public for corporate welfare, or just give up on the idea all together; it's not like Rexall Place is falling apart. But one thing that almost certainly won't be happening is the Oilers heading south to Washington.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - Seattle is a more populous city than Edmonton is, but Edmonton is far and away the superior "hockey market." The Oilers have some of the highest ticket prices of any team in the league, and they sell out every game despite the club's awful on-ice performance. Their TV ratings are off the charts too.
The Oilers are a cash cow and an essential part of Edmonton's entertainment and cultural landscape. The Katz Group's Seattle relocation feint is just a publicity stunt in the midst of a contentious public negotiation between the municipal government and the team. Eventually the city and Katz will work it out, the Oilers' ownership group will pad their bottom line at the expense of taxpayers, and the Oilers will continue to lose lots of games until some point in the future when the club manages to put together a serious, NHL quality blueline.
2. Manon Rheaume broke the NHL gender barrier with the Lightning 10 years ago, will this ever happen again?
John Hoven - Possibly, but not likely in the next few years. When Rheaume pulled this off there was a perfect storm swirling - a trifecta of her playing ability, her looks, and a great PR opportunity for an expansion team. Will the Detroit Red Wings or Toronto Maple Leafs being trying this sometime soon? Absolutely not. Yet, if the NHL expanded again - or even if there was an opportunity in a non-traditional market, like Nashville or even Tampa Bay again - and they could find a legitimate female player, maybe. At forward, it would need to be somebody like Hayley Wickenheiser, who actually played in a men's professional league in Finland and even showed more endurance than many of her male counterparts at a Flyers training camp in 1999. That's a much tougher position in a sense though, as the female skater would need to be able to handle the physical aspect of the NHL game. Now, maybe all the elements come together at some point in the future and another female gets a chance in an NHL pre-season game. But, she'd have to have the skill set, endurance and ability to physically take a hit from a 200+ lb opponent. Also, looks are a big plus for the PR side - just ask Danica Patrick or Ronda Rousey.
Bryan Reynolds - Sure it will. You have about 14 years before my daughter proves me right.
Honestly, the barrier is going to be a huge one to overcome, but there is nothing about hockey, especially the position of goaltender, that would prevent a woman from playing the NHL. I think the level of competition in women's hockey has a ways to go to properly prepare a girl growing up to play at the level NHLers do, but nothing is impossible. Encouraging growth in the women's game is the right thing to do, and in a few years, yes, absolutely a woman could play in the NHL. I've been on the ice with women who could make NHLers look silly, so it isn't that much of a pipe dream.
Derek Tanabe -Hopefully. I did read an interesting and compelling argument on The Hockey Writers for having a women's tournament decide the Stanley Cup in lieu of a postseason this year should the lockout drag on that long. As far as the NHL goes, it seems inevitable we will eventually see a female player hack it in the bigs. The greatest barrier at this point is probably size; there's little doubt that some female players are skilled enough to at least be a complementary player on many of the league's teams. A goalie like Rheaume may have a better shot than a skater since netminders don't generally run the risk of being bodychecked, particularly now that Tomas Holmstrom is likely retiring, but I'd bet that we see someone determined enough to make it as a forward or defenseman in my lifetime.
Thomas Drance - I had a Manon Rheaume hockey card growing up and thought it was pretty cool, even if Rheaume never made it into a regular season contest. Frankly I don't see it happening any time soon, but I think it would be a great story and I'm definitely rooting for it.
Here's a bonus prediction: the first female player who earns a regular spot on a professional sports team roster, will probably be a "specialist" of some kind: a kicker in the NFL maybe, or a goalie in the NHL, or maybe a "knuckle ball" pitcher in major league baseball.
3. Who wins their second Stanley Cup first, Anaheim or Los Angeles?
John Hoven - Is Brian Hayward around because I'd really love to have this debate with him! Starting in goal, LA has the reigning Conn Smythe winner and a Vezina Trophy finalist. Jonas Hiller is good, but he's not Jonathan Quick. That said, Hiller has posted save percentages of .910 and .924 over the last two seasons, compared to Quick's .929 and .918. Perhaps most impressive is the fact Hiller did that without any solid defense in front of him. Which brings us to the Anaheim blueline, Cam Fowler is a remarkable young talent. After that, you're asking a group of largely number-3 or 4 defensemen to compete with arguably the best D-core in the Western Conference (LA's group of Doughty-Scuderi, Mitchell-Voynov, Martinez-Greene). Then, you get to the forwards. While the Kings offense certainly sputtered for much of last season, their deep firepower has to be an edge over a Ducks offense that doesn't offer much past the big three of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Finally, GM Dean Lombardi has all of his key assests locked up long-term and has built a team poised to be Cup contenders for the next 3-5 years. Meanwhile, the Ducks are left with more questions than answers. Do they sign the duo of Getzlaf/Perry to long-term deals and build the team around them? Who besides Fowler is going to be a part of their back-end that they build around? Plus, any objective observer can easily spot Anaheim being in a period of transition with major holes to fill. Until they do, they're a bubble team at best and will usually find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Nathan Eide - It has to be the Kings. Sure, the Ducks look as good as they have since the time of Gordon Bombay, but without J-S Giguere's Michelin Man pads they still don't have the backbone to lift Lord Stanley's Cup. LA has another good three seasons of high talent in their prime. This is your time for a run of success. Enjoy it, the Wild are calling and would like you to keep the Cup safe until 2015, when it comes to St. Paul.
Derek Tanabe - Apart from maybe the Pittsburgh Penguins, no team is in a better position to become the first repeat champion since the lockout (er, the 2005 lockout, not the one about to begin in earnest) than the Los Angeles Kings. They will bring back a team nearly identical to the one that was dominant after firing Terry Murray and nearly unbeatable after dumping Jack Johnson and adding Jeff Carter to the mix. The Ducks have seemingly been going dowhill ever since their 2007 championship with no real end in sight; if the lockout engulfs the entire season, it's a very real possibility we sadly never see Teemu Selanne in an NHL game again which would only compound Anaheim's forward depth issues. If prospects and young players like Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly, Rickard Rackell, Kyle Palmieri and Peter Holland develop into legitimate scoring depth, the Ducks could be back in the postseason in a year or two. There's still no way I'd bet on them winning a Cup or even making it back to the Final before Los Angeles.
Thomas Drance - I'm going to pick Anaheim.
Not really, but hopefully someone reads that and yells at me (and Canucks fans in general, because they're the WORST) in the comments.
Seriously I'd have to choose the Kings here, and it's not a tough decision. The Kings' core is super-elite (an excellent top-line center in Kopitar, a legitimate 1A defenseman in Doughty, and a solid goaltender in Quick) and they're still relatively young, so they should be a contender for several more seasons. If the Kings won another Cup in the next five years I would be completely unsurprised.
The Ducks on the other hand, are in an unenviable position with both Corey Perry's and Ryan Getzlaf's contracts expiring next summer. Their pipeline looks pretty average too, though I really like several of their young players or prospects (Etem and Smith-Pelly, in particular). Unless they nail a generational talent with a high-draft pick at some point in the next couple of years, I just don't see this Ducks team contending in the short-term.
4. What does the future hold for the LA Kings now that parent company AEG is up for sale?
John Hoven - In the shortest answer possible, it's way (as in WAY) too early to tell. First off, who are the new owners? You really can't intelligently talk about the future until you start there. Will the new owners be hands-off 'investor' types or highly involved hands-on owners, ala Mark Cuban? How long does Tim Leiweke stick around after the sale? That's another major piece of the puzzle. He's a huge hockey fan and if you put somebody else in that role, they might view the team through a different lens. For fans fearful the team will move after being sold though, relax. The LA Kings will be the LA Kings for a long, long time. Remember, AEG owns the Staples Center too. It's not the Lakers building or the Clippers building. They pay rent. It's the Kings building. Could the new owners sell off the team in a separate deal and the Kings move out of LA? Sure, it's possible. Likely? Not hardly. Their 2012 Stanley Cup gives them an infinite amount of credit in this town long into the future. The bigger question here just might be - After AEG is sold, what's more likely to move in next door to Staples Center, a baseball team or the long-rumored football team? Don't be surprised if it's the former.
Nathan Eide - Strike up the Brass Bonanza and welcome the Hartford Kings!
Ok, maybe not. Honestly, as someone from a market who has seen an NBA dynasty stolen by Los Angeles, and NHL team split in two to move to San Jose, then completely stolen by Dallas, an MLB team "sold" to Don Beaver and "moved" to Charlotte then contracted (before both events were voted down by MLB owners) and had their NFL team wooed to become the Los Angeles Vikings (I see a pattern here. Quit trying to take our stuff Angelenos!) I can't help but feel for Kings fans. However, asking what is going to happen is a complete crapshoot. My best guess? A consortium of the 1-percenters will join together and buy the Kings, if not all of AEG, and attempt to leverage that into an NFL team in LA as well. Hold fast, all will work itself out. If it doesn't, I hear there's a team in Edmonton looking for a new home.
Derek Tanabe - It will definitely be interesting to see who steps in to buy the business but, assuming the next ownership group knows what's good for them, nothing should really change with the Kings. The team is as successful as it's ever been and Dean Lombardi knows what he's doing in the front office. Making significant changes to the organization or the way it operates would be a huge mistake and I doubt it's one anyone paying upwards of $4 billion to purchase AEG would make.
Thomas Drance - If I was a Kings fan (hockey not basketball), I wouldn't be losing sleep over the possibility of the Kings going anywhere. Especially not after that miracle Stanley Cup run.
And anyway, have you seen that new arena in Seattle? Apparently it's awesome.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - voted the Best Sports Blog in Los Angeles. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.