News and Views: Classic ratings, curious moves in Philly, N.Y.

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer
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Four members of the Pittsburgh Penguins and two from the Chicago Blackhawks won the fan balloting for the All-Star Game. It just goes to show that you get a lot more from winning a recent Stanley Cup than just a ring.

News: Winter Classic gets highest television ratings in 36 years

A move to prime time, even if unplanned, was a big coup for the Winter Classic and the NHL. (AP)  
A move to prime time, even if unplanned, was a big coup for the Winter Classic and the NHL. (AP)  
Views: They do call it prime time for a reason. The NHL's midseason television extravaganza might have gotten there by accident, but sometimes the law of unintended consequences can be a good thing. That said, pushing this year's Winter Classic back to 8 p.m. from 1 p.m. was risky for an event that was designed as "appointment" viewing on a day dominated by college football. Still, it was the only decision the league and its broadcast partners could have made given the unplayable weather conditions that existed in the daytime in Pittsburgh. There was still enough rain to negatively impact the quality of the game later on, but the backdrop under the lights, not to mention the presence of rival superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as headliners, was more than enough to offset that for those sitting comfortably at home. And it wasn't bad for the players either, who got to play at a time more consistent with their regular game-day routines. In other words, expect prime time to be the rule rather than the exception moving forward. Commissioner Gary Bettman left that possibility open immediately after the game when he said future start times will be determined once the ratings are analyzed. "It's also an issue of what makes sense," he said. Hard to imagine that playing in prime time doesn't.

News: Playoff hero Michael Leighton waived by Flyers

Views: So what has he done for them lately? Not much because Leighton suffered a herniated disc shortly after getting rewarded by Philadelphia with a two-year, $3.1 million deal for his great playoff run and was sidelined until last week. The Flyers have never really been sold on Leighton, despite getting to the Stanley Cup Finals with him. The team was more interested in veteran free agents Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco, but didn't have enough salary-cap space to get serious with them so Leighton became the fallback. Now he's a victim of circumstances. Leighton allowed four goals while winning his season debut at Los Angeles, showing obvious signs of rust. With the Flyers getting some very good work this season from rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and veteran Brian Boucher, there really wasn't an opportunity for him to play himself into shape with the big club, especially since having three goaltenders around is never an ideal situation for a club. GM Paul Holmgren admitted he tested trade waters to no avail, so waivers were really the only option with Leighton. If he clears, he will join the Flyers' farm team and get a chance to play himself into a good insurance policy -- either for Philadelphia or, more likely, for someone else down the road.

News: Islanders are winning and moving out best players

Views: The first part of this equation should raise some eyebrows, the second not so much. Yes, New York has been winning with a lot more frequency of late, which given the way the franchise has been run for more than a decade has obviously become a signal to break things up. Islanders GM Garth Snow says trading away goalie Dwayne Roloson and James Wisniewski for draft picks and prospects isn't a sign the team is giving up hope of making the playoffs. Maybe that's because the Islanders didn't have any hope to begin with. What they did have was a penny-pinched roster that got over the salary-cap floor only because of buyouts to long-gone and little-lamented veterans Alexei Yashin and Brendan Witt that counted against it. The rebuilding process is now in its umpteenth year, so there might be some logic in moving out players who will become unrestricted free agents after the season. In the meantime, the Islanders really should be more concerned about credibility as an organization around the league and especially with their dwindling fan base. Roloson and Wisniewski were both having very good seasons with New York in spite of their surroundings, but on Long Island that apparently is what earns you a ticket out of town.

News: Team USA loses a shot at defending its World Junior Championship gold medal

Views: It's hard to imagine that Team USA came into the tournament as a heavy favorite after being so thoroughly dismantled by Canada in Monday's semifinal game. Team USA had eight returning players from last year's gold medal-winning squad and presumably home-ice advantage because the tournament was being played in Buffalo, so the elements along with the expectations were there for a repeat performance. But after getting through the preliminary round without breaking much of a sweat, the Americans looked utterly unprepared and were dominated in every aspect of the game by an arch-rival with a well-executed game plan. The key now for the Americans, and especially for the program, will be to shake off the loss and get ready for the bronze-medal tilt vs. Sweden. The U.S. National Team Development program continues to make great strides with each passing year, and coming home with a medal, even if it isn't gold, will help the process.

News: Senators coach feels the ice getting thinner under him

Views: The countdown is on around Canada's capital for Cory Clouston. The young coach provided a shot in the arm to the Senators when he was hired a couple of years ago, but the reality now is that Ottawa is a fast-fading team that is obviously in need of a shakeup. Moving out a few underperforming and in many cases overpaid players would be the preferred way of accomplishing this, but that's generally not possible in this salary-capped day and age. So dumping the coach becomes the only viable option. That's not to say Clouston is the reason for the Senators' malaise, but the way the team has played lately, it looks increasingly like the players have tuned him out. And Clouston is in the final year of his contract, so firing him would not only send a message, it would be a relatively cost-effective way of doing it.

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