Monday, March 21, 2011
5 Things: Goldwater's motives in Phoenix, Preds' local success, Canucks' specialty
By Scott Burnside
1. Will Goldwater let Coyotes' deal go through?Well, it looks like we'll finally find out whether the Goldwater Institute is all about the people or just all about the Goldwater Institute.
After throwing a giant bag of pucks into the mechanics of a lease agreement that would have seen the beleaguered team sold to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer, thus ensuring the team's future in Arizona, the public watchdog group can claim victory after Hulsizer essentially took a knee Sunday night. In very public fashion -- appearing during the first intermission of the Fox Sports Arizona broadcast of the Coyotes' game against Chicago on Sunday -- Hulsizer agreed to cover any shortfalls in parking revenues the City of Glendale may have over the course of the lease.
The parking revenues are at the heart of Goldwater's concerns about the lease agreement and what prompted them to warn off potential investors in municipal bonds that are needed to generate revenue to close the deal. The group also threatened to sue the City of Glendale if the deal closed, creating uncertainty among investors and threatening to drive up the interest rate of the bonds.
All of this was done under the guise of protecting taxpayer interests in Glendale.
In the wake of Hulsizer's concessions and the very vocal support of the Coyotes by Sen. John McCain and former state attorney general Grant Woods, who also appeared on television Sunday, the deal now hinges on whether Goldwater will declare victory and move on or not.
One would assume this would be enough, but they are an odd bunch, those Goldwater folks.
They are funded through private donations, and the publicity they've received via the Coyotes saga has revealed rich fundraising soil. There are also other issues, like the agenda of the group given the connection between board members and the Arizona Diamondbacks -- the wife of D-backs owner Ken Kendrick, Randy, is a Goldwater board member.
Is it better for the Diamondbacks in a depressed economic market if another pro franchise disappears?
And then there are people like CEO Darcy Olsen, whose public profile has skyrocketed as a result of the process. Is it in her own best interests to keep the fight?
These are questions that will be brought into sharper focus if Goldwater doesn't let go of the bone on this one, ensuring the deal fails and the team leaves Arizona for Winnipeg.
After months of artificial deadlines and drop-dead points, it actually appears as though a resolution is at hand in the desert.
Regardless of which side of the fence one stands on, it's hard to argue that the people of Glendale -- and the people of Winnipeg, who have waited patiently in the hopes of a return of the NHL -- deserve an answer from the Goldwater people, and soon.
2. Predators' local kid makes goodYou could hardly have asked for any more drama than the final moments of Sunday's Nashville/Buffalo tilt in Buffalo.
The Sabres, chasing the New York Rangers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference while trying to hold off Carolina, Toronto and New Jersey, erased an early 1-0 deficit with three second-period goals. Then the Preds, desperate to get back in the top eight in the Western Conference, tied the game with two goals 1:04 apart in the dying moments of the third period. They completed the comeback with an overtime winner by Martin Erat just 27 seconds into the extra frame.
What made the game even more memorable for Preds fans was that Blake Geoffrion scored the first three goals of the game.
The grandson of Hall of Fame Hab Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, the great-grandson of Hall of Famer Howie Morenz and the first native Tennessean to play in the NHL has a flair for the dramatic, that's for sure.
Maybe more importantly, the homegrown Pred has a simple knack for scoring. In 11 games since being recalled from the AHL, Geoffrion has scored six times.
He is, GM David Poile told ESPN.com Monday, perhaps the opposite of his grandfather, who was known for his cannon-like shot, scoring mostly from in close.
"He has a knack for getting to the hard areas," Poile said.
While the team has always taken pride in drafting and developing its own players, Poile acknowledged there is something special about seeing Geoffrion succeed.
For all the kids playing high school or minor hockey, seeing a local kid make good with the hometown team is pretty special.
"You have to believe that there's some ripple effects throughout the community," Poile said.
The win, the third in a row for the Preds, vaulted them into seventh place in the Western Conference, although they are tied in points with fifth-place Chicago and sixth-place Los Angeles.
Has his heart rate gone down yet?
"Not yet," he said.
If Geoffrion keeps going it may not go down any time soon, either.
3. Canucks' special-teams successAs if you needed any other indication that the Vancouver Canucks are the odds-on favorites to win their first-ever Stanley Cup, let's take a look at the team's special-teams domination.
The Canucks are the only NHL team to boast a top-five ranking in both penalty kill and power-play efficiency.
The Canucks have the top-ranked power play and are second behind Pittsburgh in penalty killing.
Only two other teams, Tampa Bay and Montreal, have special teams that rank in the top 10 on both sides of the ledger. The Lightning are sixth in power-play efficiency and ninth on the penalty kill, while the Habs are just behind them at seventh and 10th respectively.
So does this mean anything?
Well, the common theory is that if your special teams are cooking in the playoffs, then playoff success won't be far behind.
At least that's the theory.
Funny, though, neither of last year's Stanley Cup finalists, Chicago and Philadelphia, boasted two top-10 specialty teams during the regular season.
The San Jose Sharks were the only team last season to ice special teams that ranked in the top five (their PP was fourth and PK was fifth), and they enjoyed some playoff success advancing to the Western Conference final, where they were swept by eventual Cup champ Chicago.
The only other NHL team last season to feature two special teams in the top 10 was Detroit, and they were iced by San Jose in the second round.
4. Measuring Subban's performanceThere is so much to like about Montreal's P.K. Subban. The rookie defenseman has been lighting it up lately, pounding three goals past Wild netminders Sunday and adding an assist, as the Habs routed Minnesota 8-1 at the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis.
Subban leads all rookie blueliners with 35 points and leads all first-year defensemen with 11 goals. His 102 penalty minutes is also tops among first-year defensemen. His stock has gone up considerably as the season has gone along and the Canadiens have lost more and more key personnel to injury, especially along the blue line. He is averaging 22:09 a night in ice time over the season, third behind John Carlson and Cam Fowler among first-year defensemen, but his ice time regularly tops 24 and 25 minutes a night now.
But we must admit there is something more than a little off-putting about Subban's on-ice histrionics.
We watched closely replays from last week's hard-fought game against Tampa -- a potential first-round playoff matchup. Subban and Tampa captain Vincent Lecavalier battled for position in front of the Montreal net in a great old-time hockey war of wills. As the two circled behind the net, Subban delivered a wicked two-hander to Lecavalier, earning him a two-minute minor for slashing, and as they returned to the front of the net Lecavalier responded with his own nasty two-hander.
Subban went down like a ton of bricks, and Lecavalier was ejected from the game.
Was Subban hurt? Maybe. Maybe not. He did not leave the game and the Habs ended up winning in a shootout.
Maybe the ends justify the means. But we have to admit, we'd rather Subban just suck it up and take what he dishes out. To us that is the greater measure of the man.
5. Benn indispensable for StarsYou can talk experience all you want, but if the Dallas Stars manage to complete their improbable run to a playoff berth this year, you can point as much to youthful exuberance as a catalyst. Specifically, we're talking about the play of 21-year-old Jamie Benn, whose contributions down the stretch have been exemplary. Benn, the 129th pick in the 2007 draft, has collected points in 10 straight games for the Stars. He has eight goals over that period and at one point had scored in six straight contests for a Stars team that was tied for eighth place in the Western Conference as of Monday morning.
"We have a ton of confidence in him. He's just so energized to be playing," head coach Marc Crawford told ESPN.com.
"Young legs are so important to the team when you're coming down the stretch and into the playoffs," the veteran coach added.
Benn was sidelined in Game 2 of the regular season with a concussion, but since about the 20-game mark, he has been asked to do more and more.
"That's when we started to really ramp up his ice time," Crawford said.
What has made Benn so indispensable for the Stars has been his versatility.
"He's played with just about every line," Crawford said.
Lately, with Brad Richards still trying to get back to 100 percent after his own concussion woes and with Loui Eriksson out for the past few games, Benn has taken on more responsibility, playing on the right side with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro.
"He's been nothing short of terrific for us," Crawford said. "He's been a very, very important player for us."