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Tag:Phoenix Coyotes
Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:52 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:55 am
 

Winners & Losers: Coyotes, Jackets, Flames

By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

1. Phoenix Coyotes: A 3-0 deficit against Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings seems like like it might be impossible to overcome with the way this season has progressed. Not the case for the Coyotes on Tuesday night as they continued their winning ways with a come-from-behind, 5-4 shootout win. It was their eighth win in the past nine games, and their ninth straight game with at least a point in the standings. It also moves them into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, a team that had their lunches handed to them by our next winner, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets: In what has become a lost, disappointing season, the Blue Jackets had their most complete and impressive performance of the year on Tuesday night with a 6-3 win over the Sharks. R.J. Umberger completed his first career Gordie Howe Trick scoring a goal, assisting on another and dropping the gloves … all in the first period. And it took him just 4:11 of ice-time to accomplish it. Talk about efficiency.

3. Another high-scoring Jets-Flyers game: Somehow, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to move into the top spot in the Southeast Division (and the third spot in the Eastern Conference) with a regulation win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

They didn't win, but they still managed to gain a point with a 5-4 overtime loss and move into a tie with the Panthers, which is still pretty amazing. Are the Jets buyers? Sellers? A team that does nothing? Who knows at this point, but they're still in it thanks to the collective mediocrity that is the Southeast Division. But the most entertaining thing here is the Jets and Flyers played another high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In their four-game season series this year the two teams combined for 38 goals. That's an average of 9.5 goals per game in a league where the average game features just 5.46.

It's like 1985 all over again when these two teams get together, and as of now, a first-round playoff matchup isn't entirely out of the question.

We can only hope.

Losers

1. The Anaheim Ducks playoff chances: Much had been made of the fact the Anaheim Ducks were only five points out of a playoff spot entering Tuesday night, but here is why it's going to be next to impossible for them to catch up: Even with one of the best stretches in the NHL they're still back to being six points out and are still in 13th after Tuesday. Their best two-month stretch of the season has seen them gain four points and move up one spot in the standings since early December. Those points are just too hard to make up, and a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn't help.  They have no margin for error, and losing to a team that's in selling off players every other team and makes the hole they're in even deeper.

2. Calgary Flames: There was one team on the ice on Tuesday night that looked like it was fighting for its playoff lives, and it wasn't the Calgary Flames in a 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. These are the points that the Flames need if they're going to earn one of the top eight spots in the West, and this one was a clunker.

3. The New Islanders slow starts: Scoring first is a big deal in the NHL, and no team seems to get off to slower starts on a nightly basis than the New York Islanders. They were down 2-0 just three minutes into Monday's game, and then on Tuesday against Buffalo they fell behind just 1:12 into the first period of their 2-1 loss to the Sabres. It's tough to win games when you're spotting the other team a one-goal lead almost right off the opening faceoff every night.

Goal of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this goal by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, his 33rd of the season, was the result of "a dumb play by Michael Del Zotto." His turnover may have led to it, but it's still a big-time move on a play that involved two of the NHL's MVP favorites going one-on-one.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:52 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:55 am
 

Winners & Losers: Coyotes, Jackets, Flames

By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

1. Phoenix Coyotes: A 3-0 deficit against Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings seems like like it might be impossible to overcome with the way this season has progressed. Not the case for the Coyotes on Tuesday night as they continued their winning ways with a come-from-behind, 5-4 shootout win. It was their eighth win in the past nine games, and their ninth straight game with at least a point in the standings. It also moves them into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the San Jose Sharks, a team that had their lunches handed to them by our next winner, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets: In what has become a lost, disappointing season, the Blue Jackets had their most complete and impressive performance of the year on Tuesday night with a 6-3 win over the Sharks. R.J. Umberger completed his first career Gordie Howe Trick scoring a goal, assisting on another and dropping the gloves … all in the first period. And it took him just 4:11 of ice-time to accomplish it. Talk about efficiency.

3. Another high-scoring Jets-Flyers game: Somehow, the Winnipeg Jets had a chance to move into the top spot in the Southeast Division (and the third spot in the Eastern Conference) with a regulation win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

They didn't win, but they still managed to gain a point with a 5-4 overtime loss and move into a tie with the Panthers, which is still pretty amazing. Are the Jets buyers? Sellers? A team that does nothing? Who knows at this point, but they're still in it thanks to the collective mediocrity that is the Southeast Division. But the most entertaining thing here is the Jets and Flyers played another high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In their four-game season series this year the two teams combined for 38 goals. That's an average of 9.5 goals per game in a league where the average game features just 5.46.

It's like 1985 all over again when these two teams get together, and as of now, a first-round playoff matchup isn't entirely out of the question.

We can only hope.

Losers

1. The Anaheim Ducks playoff chances: Much had been made of the fact the Anaheim Ducks were only five points out of a playoff spot entering Tuesday night, but here is why it's going to be next to impossible for them to catch up: Even with one of the best stretches in the NHL they're still back to being six points out and are still in 13th after Tuesday. Their best two-month stretch of the season has seen them gain four points and move up one spot in the standings since early December. Those points are just too hard to make up, and a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay doesn't help.  They have no margin for error, and losing to a team that's in selling off players every other team and makes the hole they're in even deeper.

2. Calgary Flames: There was one team on the ice on Tuesday night that looked like it was fighting for its playoff lives, and it wasn't the Calgary Flames in a 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. These are the points that the Flames need if they're going to earn one of the top eight spots in the West, and this one was a clunker.

3. The New Islanders slow starts: Scoring first is a big deal in the NHL, and no team seems to get off to slower starts on a nightly basis than the New York Islanders. They were down 2-0 just three minutes into Monday's game, and then on Tuesday against Buffalo they fell behind just 1:12 into the first period of their 2-1 loss to the Sabres. It's tough to win games when you're spotting the other team a one-goal lead almost right off the opening faceoff every night.

Goal of the Night: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella said this goal by Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, his 33rd of the season, was the result of "a dumb play by Michael Del Zotto." His turnover may have led to it, but it's still a big-time move on a play that involved two of the NHL's MVP favorites going one-on-one.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 10:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:47 am
 

Report: Sale to keep Coyotes in Ariz. almost done

By Brian Stubits

Last week there were reports of optimism being up in Phoenix regarding the sale of the Coyotes that has been in the works for about three years. I wondered if perhaps it wasn't a move in response to Seattle's arena announcement.

As the Magic 8-Ball says, sources say no. There was some real substance. And by sources I mean Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal.

The National Hockey League is close to putting the finishing touches on a sale of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey franchise to a group led by former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison. That sale would keep the team playing in the Phoenix market.

The deal still has go through final approvals and due diligence as well as through the city of Glendale which owns Jobing.com Arena. But Jamison, the NHL and Glendale are close to a final deal, according to sources familiar with the hockey team.

The NHL is trying to keep the sale price at $170 million in part to help the value of other franchises. The league bought the Coyotes out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 for $140 million.

Now we've been to this point in the past regarding the sale of the Coyotes. Remember how close things were with Matthew Hulsizer at one point? However this is the first time for the group led by Jamison who, with due respect to Hulsizer, appears to have his p's and q's covered a little better.

The other interesting aspect of Sunnucks' report is this little tidbit.

The deal being hatched with Jamison could include some rebates and a fund to help cover the team’s financial losses. The Coyotes lose $20 million to $25 million annually.

That would help explain why somebody would be willing to invest in an organization that bleeds money. However it also brings up the concern that derailed the Hulsizer bid, the watchdog group Goldwater Institute. How many concessions can the city of Glendale give while avoiding their threat of a lawsuit?

At this point, fans in the desert will run with any good news they hear. It's getting down to the wire and this appears to be the most promising point in the negotiations in a long, long time. But hold the celebration (or anger if you're one of those who really wants to see the Coyotes moved) and wait for an official announcement. Too often these deals can fall through and we've already seen it in Phoenix.

But this from Scott Burnside of ESPN.com later on Tuesday is a perfect reminder not to count the chickens before they hatch, particularly with the Phoenix situation.

Everybody has to be glad this is winding down, one way or the other. It's been far too long that the Coyotes have been in this state of limbo but the league has proven at every turn to be hellbent on keeping the team in the desert.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 18, 2012 10:42 am
 

The Kings need to find some offense

RichardsBy: Adam Gretz

The Los Angeles Kings have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season, and a pretty solid defense anchored by young star Drew Doughty.

Unfortunately, they're running the risk of letting it all go to waste with what has been one of the worst goal-scoring teams the NHL has seen over the past 14 years.

Entering Saturday's game against Calgary, the Kings are clinging to the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the Flames team they're hosting. If not for the stellar play of Jonathan Quick it's worth wondering if this team would even be in playoff contention right now.

Quick, who is currently third in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, has been the very definition of a hard luck loser. He has had 10 games this season where he's allowed two goals or fewer and still come away with a loss, whether it be in regulation or in overtime/shootout.

That includes Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the third time in the past month-and-a-half he's been on the wrong side of a 1-0 decision. There is only so much he can do.

As of Saturday morning, the Kings are averaging just 2.07 goals per game, by far the worst total in the NHL. And this is a team that has had the 6th most power play opportunities in the NHL. Granted, it's not exactly been a great power play (23rd in the league), but they've had more chances on the man advantage than most teams. Outside of that, there is almost no 5-on-5 scoring to speak of with a league-worst 76 goals during 5-on-5 situations this season. The second-worst team, the Minnesota Wild, has 84.

But how does this season stack up against recent goal-scoring shortages? Since the start of the 1997-98 season, only three teams have finished a full season averaging fewer goals per game than '11-12 Kings are currently averaging: The 2000-01 Wild (2.05), 2001-02 Blue Jackets (2.00) and 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning (1.84). Keep in mind, that Wild team was in its first year of existence, while the Blue Jackets were in their second year of existence.

At their current pace, the Kings would finish the regular season with just 169 goals, a total that would actually fall nearly 50 goals short of what would be the league average. This is a big problem.

The last time the lowest-scoring team in the NHL actually qualified for the playoffs was the 1988-89 Vancouver Canucks after finishing with a 33-39-8 record to claim the fourth and final playoff spot in the Smythe Division. It's only happened three other times since the NHL expanded beyond the original six in 1967 -- the '86-87 Detroit Red Wings, the '70-71 Minnesota North Stars, and the '68-69 Philadelphia Flyers.

Feeling optimistic?

Great goaltending will only take you so far. In the end, you still need to score goals.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 4:28 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:32 pm
 

Optimism rises in Phoenix in owner search

By Brian Stubits

Perhaps it's just a matter of timing after Seattle announced plans for a new arena contingent on securing NBA and NHL franchises, but there is sight of optimism again in Phoenix.

While the play of the Coyotes of late has increased the optimism they could be headed to the postseason for a third consecutive season, the off-ice story is the one that continues to hang over their heads. And for the first time in a really long time there is something that sounds positive for keeping the team in the desert.

From the Arizona Republic:

For now, there are only whispers. But Jerry Colangelo hears potential buyers are "milling around." Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick said he's been approached by Greg Jamison, the former San Jose Sharks CEO who is trying to raise sufficient funds. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said there's a third party involved, joining the Jamison Group.

One source said this third party is not only very real, but extremely wealthy and spending serious money on due diligence. That's a great sign. And you can't help but notice the renewed faith in the voice of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.

"We are still hoping for a good ending," Tippett said. "You look at what's happened over the last three years, and we've found a way to stay competitive. I think there's a ton of upside with this team [for any investor]. We just have to find a way to get the deal done."

Now I've learned over the last couple of years (feels like even longer) not to get too excited with any signs of optimism concerning a new owner for the Coyotes. We've been down this road many times and here we are, still looking at the team being owned by the NHL.

As I noted, the timing is a bit interesting. The story comes out within 24 hours of Seattle revealing its plan. To secure an NHL franchise, everybody immediately looks at the Coyotes as the team that would be needed in Seattle for the arena. Whether that's intentional or not, I don't know.

But lending creedance to it being more than just a well-timed response is the story that drifted out last week about Jeremy Roenick saying he was contacted about investing in a potential ownership group. So the iron was a little hot before the Seattle news surfaced.

It's finally coming to the pot of doing it or getting off the pot, if you know what I mean.

This much is certain: The NHL will not allow the city of Glendale to rent the team for another year and another $25 million. That means the endgame is coming. The time for band-aids is over, and the Coyotes actually share that philosophy.

Well this is a good sign at least, but I'll wait for something more tangible.

More from Eye on Hockey

How would Seattle fare with NHL?
Seattle unveils plan for arena
Roenick trying to get involved

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Hockey Weekend in America

Hossa and the 'Hawks are about ready to return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

In case you didn't know -- and chances are you didn't -- this weekend is Hockey Weekend in America. Mostly it's a name attached to a normal weekend of games, but dammit it's Patriotic and I'll be a son of a gun if Old Glory doesn't get me pumped up for anything.

The weekend showcase will be the triple-header early Sunday in what has become the spotlight game of the week now that football is in hibernation until the end of summer. Your choices -- OK, NBC's choices to show you based on where you live -- are Sharks at Red Wings (yes please!), Blues at Blackhawks (I'll take that) and Penguins at Sabres (hey, it looked good at the start of the season). It wraps with a game at 3 ET on NBC Sports Network as the Bruins visit the Wild.

With no slight to that Blues-Blackhawks game back in Chicago (home sweet home, eh 'Hawks?) the Sharks-Wings battle is the one to really watch. For if the Red Wings are still riding their record win streak into Sunday -- a mighty big "if" with the Predators visiting the Joe on Friday night -- then this will be the biggest threat to date.

There aren't many teams that can say this, but the Sharks have had Detroit's number recently. They are one of the few teams who have won in Detroit this season, doing so way back before Halloween. Go back to the beginning of last season and the Sharks are 9-4 vs. the Wings, including the playoffs. That includes five consecutive wins in regular-season matchups.

Must be coach Todd McLellan still knowing a secret or two to beating his old squad.

So while the bout in Motown might be the best from an action standpoint and as far as NHL history is concerned, I argue the more meaningful game is the one in the Windy City.

It was such a massive relief for the Blackhawks to finally end their losing streak that had peaked at nine games. Against the Rangers, no less. That's not like ending the skid against the Blue Jackets -- their final stop on this massive road trip Saturday -- it's the type of win that can really signify that things are alright. Taking down the best team in the league in their barn? Talk about a slumpbuster.

A return to home ice will be nice. Think about how you feel when you walk back in your front door after a vacation. Now think of how great that feeling is when you've had about the worst vacation you can imagine.

Then again, it's not so great when you have a house guest like St. Louis sitting on your porch awaiting for you to let them in. The good news is they aren't the type of guest who trashes your place, they're respectful that way. They are just 10-12-3 away from Scottrade Center.

Extended metaphor aside, there's no better time than now for the Blackhawks to regain their footing. That would put an end to the ridiculously stupid Patrick Kane trade suggestions and allow them to safely put space between them and the playoff chasers in the West.

One thing to consider: Face-off will be at 11:30 local time to accommodate NBC's time slot. That's an awfully early wakeup call after so long away from home.

Southeast showdown Part V

The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals will square off for the fifth time this season Friday night in Florida. Strangely enough, it's going to be the first time that Tomas Vokoun has started a game back in Sunrise, his former stomping grounds, and the first start against the Capitals period for Jose Theodore this season. It's a bit odd that the No. 1 goalies have only received two of the eight starts in this series so far this season.

It makes sense both starters get the nod on Friday. It's another massive night for these teams. If the Panthers can do what they have done twice already this season and beat the Caps at home, they'll move six points up on Washington in the division. That's a nice cushion when we're getting down to 25 games or fewer left this season. Not insurmountable, but nice.

This is the third time these two have met this month. The last meeting was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Capitals in D.C. Coach Dale Hunter referred to that as a playoff game before it began and the Caps make it look as such. Since? They're 1-3-1. By my count, that'd have them eliminated (from the mythical Feb. playoffs, folks).

The good news is that Mike Green might return for the Caps against the Panthers. He's stopped and started so many times this season you'd think he was driving on the Washington Beltway during morning rush hour.

There will be a lot of interesting things to watch for in the game, but one for me will be the intensity of the Caps. In their last visit to Florida, Karl Alzner explained away their poor start by the lack of energy in the building. A pretty soft excuse in a pivotal division matchup.

They can't afford to start slow again. The Panthers have been doing that a lot lately themselves and coach Kevin Dineen is determined to make that stop in such an important game.

Desert streaking dogs

Holy Coyotes that team is hot right now.

Perhaps it's been a push to help garner interest to keep them in Phoenix, I don't know, but the Coyotes have caught fire. Just when you were ready to bury them in the desert sand, they spring off a run like this. "This" would be six wins in the last seven games to get into the playoff seedings at the moment.

To further their standing in the, um, standings, they get their own pivotal matchup. The Dallas Stars, one of the plethora of teams on their heels outside of the playoff picture at the moment, come to the desert on Saturday night.

It's a classic "four-point game" for the teams battling in the West and Pacific Division. Here's hoping there's a better than normal crowd to watch it, should be close to a playoff atmosphere.

Keystone clash rekindled

The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances again this weekend. It's the start of a stretch with a lot of meetings for the intrastate rivals.

It will be the first of four meetings for the teams from now until April 7, the final day of the season. No wonder the chirping between the fan bases has been mostly quiet this season, they have hardly met.

The importance here should be pretty clear. As of now they are jockeying back and forth -- and with New Jersey -- for that all-important fourth spot in the East, the only home-ice award that goes to a non-division winner. It's very possible that these four tilts, starting with the Saturday matinee, will decide that race.

Plus it's about that time of the season where the Flyers could really stand for Ilya Bryzgalov to heat up and carry some momentum into the postseason. He's back in action now after an illness and this is the type of game where it would be so big if he came up humangous big for the Flyers but unfortunately the kind we've come to expect a few bad goals this season.

Sibling rivalry renewed

Unlike the last time the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings met, this one won't be about the coaches. Very much, at least.

Brothers Brent and Darryl Sutter this time get the undercard billing with another battle of teams at the bottom of the playoff picture out West.

After their own long road trip, you'd think coming home might be enough to jolt that putrid 2.07 goals per game number for the Kings. Well they were shut out by the Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center, so you can probably shoot that theory down. Fact is they haven't been able to score much anywhere, no matter if it's at home or not.

The way it stands going into the weekend, L.A. is clinging to the eighth spot out West and Calgary is right behind them. Pretty astonishing I think, but the Flames are still right there.

So you see, this one is about a lot more than a sibling rivalry.

We're going streaking!

Here are the streaks -- both good and bad -- headed into the weekend.

Red Wings: Considering they've been playing a lot at home recently and they have an NHL record win streak going, it's no surprise they've won four straight. Two toughies this weekend with Nashville and San Jose visiting.

Anaheim Ducks: In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Ducks have run off three in a row. They head to the Southeast now and face the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.

Sabres: It keeps getting worse and worse. After seven unanswered goals against on Thursday, they now have a three-game skid. They have the Canadiens on Friday and Penguins on Sunday.

Capitals: Needing to go on a tear late like they have in recent seasons, the Caps are instead sputtering. They do the Florida double-header this weekend entering with a three-game slide.

Wild: Six-game skid ... and likely counting. A back-to-back at the Blues and vs. the Bruins doesn't figure to be the remedy. This weekend could all but officially bury their once promising playoff hopes.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:32 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 3:29 pm
 

How would Seattle fare as a hockey market?

An old Seattle Thunderbirds sweater. (Seattlehockey.net)

By Brian Stubits

With the news coming out of a plan in the works to build a new, state-of-the-art arena in Seattle, the conversation that was just talking for talking's sake about the NHL in Seattle has become a lot more real. All of a sudden it looks like an NHL-viable city.

I get the sense from reading my Twitter timeline, talking to other media members and seeing fan comments that the majority of people are excited about hockey moving to Seattle, that it'd be a fantastic place for the NHL.

However there are skeptics. The hockey community seems excited at the idea of Seattle having a team, but is Seattle excited? The apple of its eye with the new arena is getting the NBA's SuperSonics back. That's priority Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

While the man talking about building the new arena, Seattle native Chris Hansen, is focused on the NBA and has reportedly not talked to the NHL at all, that doesn't mean there isn't other interested parties who would like to work together. There's interest elsewhere according to Chris Daniels of King TV in Seattle.

So the question remains: Would Seattle be a good hockey market? 

Before I go any further I must disclose that I call the Puget Sound area home. I grew up 30 miles south of Seattle in Tacoma and know the region's sports passions and teams. I grew up a fan of the Mariners, Seahawks and Sonics.

With that out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled reading program.

The Puget Sound area, despite its proximity to Canada, is not a hockey hotbed. Although Seattle does have the distinction of being the first American city to hoist the Stanley Cup when the Seattle Metropolitans did it in 1917, it has never been home to an NHL franchise. It came close during the expansion era of the early 1990s, but obviously that didn't happen.

What it does have, though, is an appetite for hockey. Seattle has long had the Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Tacoma has seen a couple of teams come through over the years in the WHL's Rockets and the Sabercats of the WCHL, which folded operations. Everett, to the north of Seattle, has a nice new arena that's home to the WHL's Silvertips.

Let's start with them, shall we? In the 2010-11 season, the Thunderbirds -- who now play in the suburb of Kent instead of Key Arena in Seattle -- averaged 4,096 fans per night. The Silvertips a short ways north of the city averaged 5,807 fans per game. That's a combined nearly 10,000 patrons per game for the local junior teams, assuming there's little to no overlap. That's not a bad start, especially for junior hockey, which isn't going to draw as much interest as the NHL.

Furthering the already established hockey presence in the Puget Sound area, Chris Peters of United States of Hockey mentions that the state of Washington already has a pretty strong rec hockey presence, and that's without any NHL roots. Plus, it's the 12th biggest media market in the USA.

Also, the state of Washington has more of an established hockey culture than most of the Sunbelt states the NHL expanded to in the 1990s. A lot of that is thanks to hockey’s nationwide growth in popularity over the last decade. So timing may also be in Seattle and the NHL’s favor in terms of projecting success.

There are nearly 8,000 USA Hockey registered hockey players (PDF) in Washington. It’s not a huge hockey-playing population, but it has consistently grown over the last 20 years. Since 1991, Washington’s USA Hockey player membership has grown by 234.1 percent. There has been a particular spike in growth at the 8 & Under age levels in the last five years, which mirrors what’s been happening across the country.

While the Silvertips are still new to the scene having really only Peter Mueller to speak of from the alumni list, the Thunderbirds do have some notable alumni who have gone on to the NHL. Chief among that group is San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, drafted out of Seattle with the No. 2 overall pick in 1997. He still has some impressions of playing in Seattle.

"Oh I loved it there," Marleau told CBSSports.com with a smile overtaking his face. "I think they'd probably grasp it, take it and run with it. I think they have some great fans there."

But what kind of market would it be for the NHL?

"You never really know until it happens but I think there's definitely a market there," Marleau said. "There's definitely a lot of hockey that goes on there, minor-league hockey. A lot of teams close to the Canadian border too. Everything looks like it would work."

We've seen it in action and on a one-time basis recently and that worked out well. Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning played an exhibition game in Everett. The arena was packed with 7,281 fans excited to see NHL hockey.

Fans take in the Coyotes and Lightning in 2009 in Everett.

Everett GM Doug Soetaert -- a former member of the New York Rangers -- has little doubt hockey's top level would go over as smooth as freshly zambonied ice in the arena.

"In the right location, in a brand-new building, it would go very well," Soetaert told the Seattle Times in 2009.

There are some hockey fans on the Sound's south side. I attended a lot of games at the Tacoma Dome watching the Sabercats, that's where I fell in love with hockey. My dad and I would always just walk up and buy tickets to the game and walk in, no problem.

I remember one day in 1998 that was a lot more difficult than normal when the lines outside the arena were into the parking lot. That night more than 14,000 fans were in attendance for live hockey in the Puget Sound area. Minor professional hockey. I didn't enjoy my normal seats a couple rows up from the ice being relocated to the upper deck, but it was an experience. And a sign, I thought, that hockey fans do exist.

At their peak the Sabercats averaged 4,878 fans per game but the numbers did dwindle down to below 3,000 and the team folded before some of their WCHL brethren joined the ECHL (for those who are curious, the Idaho Steelheads, Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors were the survivors).

In general, Seattle is a good sports town. Not a great one, but a good one. It has taken soccer and run with it, just check out a Seattle Sounders game on TV. You'll think it's an English Premier League game until you watch a couple seconds of the on-pitch action.

I know a lot of people who swore off the NBA when the Sonics left town. They began hoping for a hockey team to take hold of. Some say they'll never go back to the NBA if Stern is still around, that's how deep the hatred was over the loss of the Sonics. No matter the reason, hockey has a chance to be a rebound. Some fans are just sitting in the unmanned crease waiting for the push.

Even still, hockey would be down the list of Seattle sports. It's possible it could be the sixth or seventh most popular ticket in town with the Mariners, Seahawks, Sonics 2.0, Sounders and University of Washington's football and basketball teams.

In reality, though, I don't think that means it couldn't work. There are few if any cities in the USA where the hockey team is the most popular. It doesn't mean it's not a good market for hockey. For example: the Red Sox, Patriots and arguably Celtics are all bigger than the Bruins in Boston. But would anybody even think of saying Boston isn't a good hockey market?

As Marleau said, we'll never know how well it would take to NHL hockey unless it happens and we can see it in action.

There are probably more hoping Seattle gets a team outside of the region than in it, particularly on the left coast.

"It'd be nice to have another West Coast team," Marleau pointed out. I bet the people of Seattle would agree.

As for what to call a team in Seattle? Join the converstaion on Facebook to check out some ideas.

More from Eye on Hockey

Seattle to unveil new arena plans
Daly: Group interested in NHL in Seattle

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 15, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 9:15 am
 

Report: Seattle to announce arena plan Thursday

Seattle could get some new sports teams. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

A new arena in Seattle -- and the possibility of a hockey team moving there -- is so close they can smell it.

According to Chris Daniels of King TV in Seattle, the city has called a news conference at City Hall for Thursday at which point they will announce the plans for a new arena to be built on the south side of the city.

Arena News Conference scheduled for tomorrow. I'm told Hedge Fund/Land Owner Chris Hansen is in town. He met with council members.

This would be unprecedented for Seattle. We're potentially talking a BILLION dollar deal, with an arena, and two teams.

The Seattle Times had a little more, getting a quote from Hansen earlier this week.

"We're very close to announcing our offer to the city. That's why I'm here," the 44-year-old hedge-fund manager said on Tuesday.

Well this got interesting fast. Before it was just chatter, the possibility of Seattle getting an NHL team -- and NBA franchise -- was just fun speculation, but it meant nothing without a new arena and considering the troubles Seattle had in the past of getting a new arena built, it seemed like some long odds.

But this, this is a game changer.

There was a sense of urgency to get a deal announced soon, too. The main prize for the city and Hansen, a Seattle native who now lives in San Francisco, is to get the NBA back. The city lost its SuperSonics to Oklahoma City a few years ago. Their eyes are on the Sacramento Kings who have a deadline in March to get a new arena deal worked out.

But on the hockey front, there is also the Phoenix Coyotes situation still unresolved. There is a growing belief that something will have to happen soon and if they don't have a new local buyer, this might be their last season in the desert. The question is where could they move.

Seattle has been a talking point in that regard as a home, but there was no arena. Obviously a new arena wouldn't be ready to host a hockey team for a couple of years if it doesn't yet exist, but the promise of a new arena could be enough for a team to play somewhere temporarily.

There is a hockey history to speak of in Seattle. The Metropolitans were the first American team to ever win the Stanley Cup. But the NHL has been conspicuously absent from the Emerald City. However there are two WHL teams that play in the area, the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips.

Now the talk of hockey in Seattle can get serious after this news tonight.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
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