NHL lockout notes: the only games in town, notable free agent, more
As the lockout drags, notable regular season games are now in jeopardy
Canadiens Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur thinks the NHL would be wise to contract
Famed goalie coach Francois Allaire, now a free agent, sure saw his stock fall
To look at the NHL's website since the lockout is to wonder where all the players have gone. Aside from the obligatory headshots listed under "players," there are no photos of the active stars who are embroiled in the labor snarl that has delayed the start of training camps. There is a photo display of top prospects, as determined by Central Scouting. Their time is later. There is a feature about retired longtime Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko. His time is past. There is a retrospective about the memorable 1987 Canada Cup in which Wayne Gretzky set up Mario Lemieux for the series-winning goal. But there are no action shots of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Quick. In fact, the Kings' unthinkable run to the Stanley Cup last spring is remembered by photos of pictures of Lord Stanley posed with . . . Al Michaels and Ryan Seacrest.
If the season does, indeed, get shortened, as it was during the 1994-95 season, games featuring Eastern Conference teams against Western clubs could be scrapped again until the Stanley Cup Final once the schedule is re-set to reflect a reduced schedule. If so, a number of highlight games would be lost, including . . . Nov. 11: Wild visit Devils, as Zach Parise returns to New Jersey; Dec. 1: Wild visit Predators as Ryan Suter returns to Nashville; Oct. 30: Stars visit Flyers, as Jaromir Jagr returns to Philadelphia; April 5: Rangers visit Blue Jackets, as Rick Nash return to Columbus. Another interesting casualty will likely be the Islanders-Devils preseason game at Brooklyn's new Barclays Center on October 2. It would have been a kind of coming-out for the arena's ability to host hockey...Ah, well. We can always look forward to the KHL tilt between Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow (Alex Ovechkin's current and former teams) at Barclay's scheduled for Jan. 19 and 20...
The Oilers' loss may be the Oil Kings' gain. The Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings also play at Rexall Place and the Memorial Cup champs are the only game in town, with Mark Messier set to drop the puck for the team's home opener on Thursday night and 10,000 or more expected for most home games. The Oil Kings also has a top-heavy home schedule, with a major curling tournament scheduled to take over the building in March.
Flyers veteran Scott Hartnell has an added responsibility as one of the team's grey beards (and long hairs) during the lockout: he has to fork over the $250 that a number of players pay for private ice time at the Flyers Skate Zone practice rink in Voorhees, NJ. At least that's a discounted price from the usual $370 for an outside group to rent the rink for 90 minutes.
What does $2,500 (Canadian) get you? In Montreal, it gets you an older golfing partner, thanks to the lockout. The Canadiens charge that much to play in a foursome with a group that traditionally includes active players, who pitch (and drive and putt) in an annual effort to help the team's charitable endeavors. But at Wednesday's event, the group included only retired linksters. Henri Richard, Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer were among the Habs' legends to tee off. Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur, told the Montreal Gazette that he feels the NHL would do well to contract from 30 teams to 24.
Apart from the front office casualties and team staffers who have lost or will lose their jobs because of the lockout, one very capable behind-the-scenes man also became a free agent this week, when the Maple Leafs let go of goalie consultant Francois Allaire, who complained about being unable to do his job because of dysfunction on the coaching staff. In a dozen years with the Ducks, Allaire mentored Jean-Sebastien Giguere into a Stanley-Cup winning netminder. When former Ducks GM Brian Burke took over in that role with Toronto, he brought Allaire along with him. Now Burke believes that Allaire's butterfly style is "outdated"...
Don't expect any signings as long as there is no CBA, but the list of available unrestricted free agents includes some recognizable names (previous teams in parentheses): Tomas Holmstrom (Red Wings), Marty Turco (Bruins), Brian Rolston (Bruins), Jochen Hecht (Sabres), Cristobel Huet (Blackhawks), Brendan Morrison (Blackhawks), Radek Dvorak (Stars), John Madden (Panthers), Ethan Moreau (Kings), Andrei Kostitsyn (Predators), Petr Sykora (Devils), Pavel Kubina (Flyers), Daymond Langkow (Coyotes), Jason Arnott (Blues), Jonathan Cheechoo (Blues), Dwayne Roloson (Lightning), Sammy Pahlsson (Canucks) and Mike Knuble (Capitals). Not all are likely to be back with their old teams or even on on NHL roster, assuming the season does start up again, but some will surely find homes.