A cheery Saturday morning to the dear readers, though a loss by this blog author’s beloved Everton to a Reading in the EPL has started this weekend sour.
Fortunately, one of Chipped Ice’s best beat buddies, Frank Seravalli, provided hockey fans with a glimmer of hope with this column: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/flyers/20121116_Is_Flyers_Snider_helping_thaw_NHL_talks_.html
• Addressing the possibility of a Flyers-Penguins pairing:
Do not discount it.
As noted in the link above the Penguins and Flyers have worked together before, most recently in trying to steer the NHL from separating them in any realignment format.
The franchises have a lot in common than being at the opposite ends of the Commonwealth Cold War, though. Specifically, the franchises are large- and small-market brothers when it comes to providing players’ with first-rate facilities, planting community roots by ways of youth hockey and, most notably, placing players and players’ families above all else.
Ask Chris Pronger. Ask Zbynek Michalek. Both men would cite personal examples of the regard with which they hold the Flyers and Penguins, even though neither is likely to play another game for their former clubs.
Pronger will be part of the Flyers family even though neurological issues will keep him on the payroll though the many years of his contract for which he will never dress in a game.
Michalek was told by the Penguins during Day 1 of the NHL entry draft that a deal was in place to send him back to Phoenix, but he was given the option of staying in Pittsburgh. The Penguins targeted the Coyotes for a Michalek deal because they knew he was not comfortable in Pittsburgh, and they knew he would have re-signed with Phoenix in July 2010 had the Coyotes had the money to keep him.
When it comes to running their business, the Flyers and Penguins are a lot more alike than fans of the teams may want to admit.
A big difference is the Flyers have far more resources than the Penguins. It is all about corporate ownership, and the Flyers have that going for them. The Penguins have Ron Burkle as a majority co-owner. He is a multibillionaire, but franchise is run by the money it generates, not his personal wealth.
CEO David Morehouse and his staff have modernized the Penguins infrastructure and outreach so as to generate revenue better than at any time in franchise history. However, the revenue generated goes back into the team, mostly at the hockey operations level, where GM Ray Shero is authorized to spare no expense to chase the Cup yearly.
Ed Snider, the Flyers’ chairman, has never shied from spending on his club in an effort to touch the Stanley Cup. There are reasons free agents consider the Flyers on a consistent basis, and it is because they like playing for an ownership group that spends to win.
There is a reason Sidney Crosby, as a story in the Sunday Tribune-Review will note, never wanted to test the NHL free-agent market. He will not find a better situation than the one he has with the Penguins, who spend to keep their own.
Burkle and fellow majority co-owner Mario Lemieux have told Morehouse and Shero that keeping Evgeni Malkin is THE priority for the franchise going forward. Whatever the new CBA permits a player to receive on a veteran free-agent contract, Malkin will have the chance to command a blank check in that regard. The Penguins envision a day when four retired numbers hang from their rafters: Lemieux’s 66, Crosby’s 87, Malkin’s 71 and, yes it will happen eventually, Jaromir Jagr’s No. 68.
Of course, to ensure that, they need some luck from the hockey gods, and a system that allows them to pay Crosby and Malkin going forward.
At this point in a lockout that is now into a third month the best system for the NHL is whatever one gets the Flyers and Penguins back on the ice, players hating one another, fans wanting to yell and scream at each other, cities ready to rumble.
It is a better world when the Flyers and Penguins are at odds because that means it is a world with NHL hockey being played.
It is not unfathomable that these Commonwealth cousins would make nicey-nice around the holidays to get back to that more traditional rendering of their relationship.
• As noted above, there is a Crosby piece coming Sunday that might interest his fans. Without giving too much away, enjoy this teaser quote to hold you over until just around midnight:
“100 percent it’s concerning to everyone; I think ultimately, whether you’re an owner or a player, this game is successful, yes, because we have passionate owners and players – but if people don’t show up to the games then you’re probably not owning a team or having a career playing hockey,” Crosby said. “It’s important what the fans think. If they’re frustrated they have every right to be frustrated. I would be, too, as a fan.”
The Sunday piece looks at the unique role Crosby finds himself in during this lockout.
• Lastly, the NHL and NHLPA have started talking. Not negotiating, and no bargaining sessions are planned. Do not hold your breath.