Jamming the Crease (cont.)
Posted: Friday November 30, 2007 6:56PM; Updated: Friday November 30, 2007 6:56PM
Roberto Luongo records third straight shutout
After a brutal stretch that saw him lose eight of his first 12 starts, Bobby Lu is back and playing once again like Vancouver's MVP. His current streak of nearly 194 goalless minutes is a team record, but more importantly has justified the faith that his teammates had in him during his struggles.
The streak puts the surging Canucks into the Northwest Division lead, and a share of second place in the Western Conference -- this despite an offense that, while improved, doesn't have the depth to support a protracted playoff run.
GM Dave Nonis has to recognize that a window has opened up here that requires him to take a proactive approach. Sacrificing a piece of the future -- defenseman Luc Bourdon appears expendable with the emergence of Alexander Edler -- to add some bite to the forward unit is a must move. There's no hurry, of course, but Nonis can't be the one left looking for a chair when the music stops.
Sabres owner Tom Golisano announces likely severance of relationship with AHL's Rochester Americans
Reaction: Are you kidding? This is like being told that your grandparents are splitting up. After 29 years as the training ground for Buffalo's top prospects, the Amerks are set to be ditched by the Sabres after this season. The breakup comes as a result of conflicts between Golisano and the owners of the Amerks, predicated primarily on the business practices of the minor league team. Word is that legal intervention was required earlier this season to secure monies owed to the Sabres by the Amerks, and that the minor league team is deeply in debt to several other entities, including the city of Rochester for use of the Blue Cross Arena.
Given the value of the long-standing relationship between the two franchises, there has to be much more simmering for it to have come to this point. Expect the dirt to surface in the inevitable court filings over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, the future of the Rochester franchise itself is up in the air. The city is unlikely to allow the use of the arena next season without full payment and a restructured lease arrangement. And while the Amerks have a secondary agreement this season with the Florida Panthers -- an agreement the Panthers are reportedly happy with -- there's no guarantee they'll stay put given the circumstances. The Coyotes and Ducks also will be in the market for a new affiliation next year, but both teams are looking for something a little closer to home, making Rochester a backup plan for them at best. This looks to be one of those situations where you hope for the best, but expect the worst.
Board of Governors approves the sale of Nashville Predators
Reaction: Congratulations to the embattled core of fans in Music City, who've suffered with hockey's version of the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads for the past year. The approval means the new ownership group takes over, as soon as today. What's that mean, exactly? They've said they'll allow GM David Poile to focus on signing a sizable group of impending free agents -- including David Legwand, Jordin Tootoo, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein -- while they stick to selling tickets.
Preds fans can't relax completely, of course. The new owners still have the option to pull up stakes if support isn't forthcoming from the business community, but their local roots should help them make inroads where previous owner Craig Leipold failed.
Now that this one's in the books, keep an eye on the situation that's evolving in Tampa Bay, where a potential new ownership group was kicked to the curb and the current owner appears desperate to divest himself of the club after losing upwards of $75 million.
After watching the Predators shed salary last summer in an effort to make themselves a more appealing target for buyers, the possibility for a similar fire sale in Tampa is a distinct possibility.
Stars win six in a row in wake of firing GM Doug Armstrong
Reaction: Hiring Brett Hull as partial replacement for Doug Armstrong was a demonstration of exceptional genius on the part of owner Tom Hicks, right? Tap the brakes, there. Hull and co-interim-running mate Les Jackson may turn out to be the best thing to happen to a front office since Sam Pollock, but we won't know until they make a more distinct impression on the composition of the team than simply calling up a couple of kids from Iowa.
No, the credit for the turnaround in Big D goes to the goaltending and a suddenly unstoppable power play led by deposed captain Mike Modano.
Prior to Wednesday's loss in New Jersey, both Marty Turco and Mike Smith were delivering the kind of consistency between the pipes that they failed to provide early on. Smith, in particular, has offered the sort of stable-to-spectacular efforts that demand a greater share of playing time. Turco may be the titular No. 1, but you can attach a co-prefix to that job as well, at least for the time being.
Modano's been a force ever since getting the monkey that was the chase for the all-time American scoring record off his back. It's also helped his game that the red-hot duo of Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow are drawing the attention of opposing shutdown units, giving him a bit more room to freewheel. Modano has 10 points in his last 10 games, but just as important, he's playing with a renewed sense of freedom that seems to have affected the entire team.
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