Tales From Around the League

Team Payroll lists we’re released this past week and some staggering numbers can be seen on it.  After a look at some notable stories from several teams around the NHL, I want to pass on a nice Gretzky story that I just read.

The Red Wings took over the top spot on the payroll list this season by increasing their payroll 19% to $64.4 Million. Last year’s leader, the Rangers, drop to third spot (57.3 M) even though they’re paying slightly more than they did a year ago. The biggest increase goes to St. Louis who increased a whopping 61.2% and move up from 12th to 2nd! The next biigest increase comes from Washington (53.9%) due to the Jagr signing. The New York Islanders were 29th on the list last season but upped their payouts by 47.5% this year. Even so that only moves them up to 25th spot. On the bottom: Minnesota at $18.2 Million.

The biggest cost cutters were the Buffalo Sabres, down 19.2% followed by the Phoenix Coyotes at 17.3% cheaper.

You honour, in the case of “why missing tarining camps is stupid” I’d like to present exhibit A (Vincent Lecavalier), exhibit B (Tom Poti), and exhibit C (Jason Allison). And then I rest my case.

How bad is attendance in Anaheim so far this year? The four lowest attendances recorded in the team’s short history have all been this season. Another weird Anaheim story has GM Pierre Gautier stating that there are no salary limitations for the Ducks and that if a opportunity to improve arises, the Ducks would seize it. Just my opinion but, isn’t that what free agency in the summer is: an opportunity?? Somebody pinch Gautier, he must be asleep.

Atlanta is going to be without their main tough guy until the new year at least. Jeff Odgers broke his ankle during a scrap with San Jose’s Bryan Marchment when the two tumbled to the ice. The Thrashers will look to their only other enforcer, rookie left winger Darcy Hordichuk.

PJ Axelsson is definitely available. Robbie Ftorek has been using him on the Bruins’ 4th line which has led to Axelsson’s request for a trade. Boston would like a blueliner that has offensive abilities and asked Oiler GM Kevin Lowe about Tom Poti during his early season holdout. The Bruins were also asking about Sean Brown, but he is playing the best hockey of his career so far this season and would be difficult to pry away from Edmonton at this time.

Jarome Iginla has been so hot on the ice that he’s now getting opportunities of it too. At the end of October, the current scoring leader made his TV debut by taping scenes for a new CBC show. The show called “Tom Stone” doesn’t start until February and Iginla only appears in episode 5 as a boxer’s sparring partner.

You either love him or hate him. I’m talking about Chicago GM Mike Smith. On one hand (the good side), he ignores Eric Daze’s trade demand from early last season and now the kid is leading the team in scoring. On the other hand he makes comments like this in regards to Tony Amonte’s future with the Hawks: “Unless our owner gets stupid we aren’t going to pay Tony that kind of money.” Talk about burning your bridges. Instead of doing it through the press, why didn’t Smith just go right up to Amonte and kick him in his cup?

Sophmore slumps are supposed to affect players not entire teams so I wonder… what the heck is in the water in Columbus?

If you don’t like the Oilers’ third jersey, you are definitely in the minority. At their debut game against Vancouver on October 27, the souvenir shop sold over $100,000 worth of them. At $100 or $200 per shirt, that’s… well a crap load of jerseys. Within the first four days of their availabilty, over $300,000 of the navy blue and silver uniforms were sold, all of the money going to the Oiler organization.

Mike Grier is donating $500 for every goal he scores this season to charities involved with the families of police and firefighters in New York. It’s important to remember that it’s the thought that counts, and I’m sure Grier will score more than the one goal he’s got so far.

Ollie Jokinen began the season as Florida’s #2 center. He’s played 13 games, has no points and is a -7 and I’m sure he’s available if anybody wants him.

The LA Kings have three options in goal. Plan A: Felix Potvin, plan B: Jamie Storr, Plan C: Stephan Fiset? Nope, Fiset will miss the next month or so with a knee sprain once again showing how justified his reputation, for being brittle, really is.

Maybe the most amazing stat to me this year is this: The worst power play team last year is the top power play team this year, the Minnesota Wild. To go from worst to first is pretty amazing.

So who’s the #1 goalie in Minnesota? Not so fast Manny! Dwayne Rolson has been outplaying Manny Fernadez considerably thus far. Fernadez is 2-4-1 with a brutal 3.64 GAA and a shoddy .884 save percentage compared to Rolson’s 4-2, 2.50 GAA and .923 record. They have basically split the games to this point in the season. Rolosn set a record for saves in a game by a Wild goalie last night against Boston when he blocked 53 shots.

Another team with an interesting goaltender race brewing is the New York Islanders. Behind Osgood is Garth Snow, but when he took a leave of absence from the team in October, the Isles called up Dusan Salficky instead of Rick DiPietro. Why? Someone might say that Osgood would play all the games anyway so let DiPietro stay and play in the AHL. Someone else might point out that DiPietro has been struggling so far this year. He got a shutout in his season opener and then went winless in his next six games and had a sub-.900 save percentage.

One last goalie story. Maxime Ouellet, Philly’s goalie-of-the-future is not off to a great start in his rookie pro season. (3.21 GAA and a .868 save percentage).

I’m sure it has everything to do with September 11th but, the Rangers only had 2 sellouts during their first six games at Madison Square Gardens this year.

A report from Phoenix states that Gretzky will try to keep the team’s payroll what it is today until they move into their new building in 2004-2005. The way salaries have been rising, keeping the same dollar figure would mean dumping players. Teppo Numminen makes $4.75M, Claude Lemieux $3M, and Sergei Berezin is overpaid at $2.95M… who’s the first to go?

A local Edmonton DJ reporting on Tomas Kaberle’s signing with the Leafs ended his story like this: “Kaberle gets a 600% raise from what he made last year. 600%!! Folks, enjoy that coffee this morning as you drive to your cubicle at work.” Amen to that.

Most people probably felt that the Bruins won the Guerin/Carter trade with the Oilers last seasn. Taking another look at it this year, it is plain to see that the opposite is more true. Guerin is 5th on his team inscoring with only 5 points while Carter is second with 15 points for Edmonton. The bigger stat, Carter is +10 while Guerin is -8. All that before you consider the money involved. Guerin makes $5.1M compared to Carter’s $2.5M, talk about bang for the buck. Edmonton is paying half as much for a player who has three times as many points and is +18 ahead of the guy Boston got. So who won this deal after all?

Speaking of deals, you gotta think GM Darcy Regier is kicking himself now. Last year, the Sabres turned down Calgary’s offer to trade Jarome Iginla for Mike Peca.

Anybody notice that 7 of the top 10 scoring leaders were not initially invited to their country’s Olympic team camps? Iginla, Jeff Oneill, Brendan Shanahan, Eric Daze and Ron Francis for Canada and Mark Parrish and Craig Conroy of the US. Shanahan and Iginla played only due to injuries to other guys at the camp in Calgary.

Lastly, the Gretzky story reads like this: “…Exiting Toronto’s Air Canada Centre after an Oct 23 game, Gretzky was walking down a corridor with Kevin Lowe and other execs from Canada’s Olympic team. A young girl wearing a Maple Leafs’ Tie Domi jersey adorned with several autographs took a hesitant step toward the passing group, then stepped back. Gretzky, conversing with his associates, obviously caught sight of the movement, stopped in his tracks, bent over the nervous fan and asked, “Could I sign the back of your sweater?” The girl beamed, handed him a black marker, tunred around and held up her hair. The girl’s father took a photo of the two together before hockey’s best-ever marketing manager went on his way.” Just another example of why Gretzky should forever be remembered as the best hockey player ever, both on and off the ice.

Guy Flaming (with much credit going to THN)


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