THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS, STARRING THE UNDEFEATED GOLDEN KNIGHTS
1. Bruce Cassidy belonged in Boston. Now he has the Vegas bunch good and mad over all the off-season put-downs that the Knights didn't have the goods. Result: dumped-in-Beantown Cassidy and his Sundance Kids are taking their anger out on the rest of the league.
2. How about this hat trick of crease flubs, alias sieve-masters – Jack Campbell, yanked; Marc-Andre Fleury, yanked; Matt Murray, yanked himself.
3. More Fleury: Before the season, pal Sean McCaffrey told me that Minny erred in showing Fleury (minus 11 goals) the money rather than paying point-a-game Kevin Fiala. Score one for the Irishman!
4. When Connor McDavid gets a goal, it's no big deal. But when he scores one and goes minus-1, and his leaky Oil Cans lose to Calgary, by me it is a big deal.
5. Skeptics who thought John Tortorella and Tony DeAngelo were an odd couple didn't read me last month. By hockey standards, they're an even couple. As in even better than you can imagine.
6. As of today, Sidney Crosby is the Hart Trophy winner. Never, ever, the Lady Byng!
IS THE CATS’ CAP CRUNCH NEAR CATASTROPHIC OR IS IT A CON JOB?
Down among the sheltering palms, our Panthers pundit, Al Greenberg is doing some big-time worrying about his home club. He must have his thinking cap on because his concern is the salary cap. Let Easy Al tell you about it.
Florida is not the only team to start the season with a bare-bones 20-man active roster. According to capfriendly.com, they share this distinction with Toronto, but the Cats may be facing the most daunting problems. If anyone is out with a last-minute ding or a coach’s decision scratch, there is no method to bring in a replacement expeditiously from AHL Charlotte or without possibly subjecting an active player to waivers. Look for some short benches.
How did the team get into this mess, which is more typical of a Stanley Cup winner?
It's easy to second-guess well-intentioned decisions, but for starters, Matthew Tkachuk is earning over $1 million more than what the combined salaries of Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar would have been this year with the Panthers. That move alone is a strangler.
Sergei Bobrovsky had a good last season, but at $10 million per year, he is overpriced. This was a Dale Tallon acquisition. For this year, the Keith Yandle buyout represents a cap hit of over $5 million. At $5.3 million and a modified no-trade clause, Patric Hornqvist will likely be a fourth liner.
GM Bill Zito will be forced to use a lot of creativity when Anthony Duclair ($3 million) comes off LTIR later in the season. Zito would have loved to sign PTO Eric Staal to a low-wage deal and would have liked a seventh defenseman but doesn’t have the cap space to do so. He may be forced to give away more draft choices to get a bottom dweller to take over the dead cap space for Yandle or Scott Darling.
Discussing the cap squeeze and shortened benches, coach Paul Maurice looked at it stoically.
“It’s coming to every team. We’re going to have to learn to play with 19. Stay tuned – things should get interesting. (CHECK THE REBUTTAL JUST BELOW.)
STOP WHINING ABOUT THE CAP AND PLAYING 'SHORTHANDED'
Dear Al Greenberg: Why is it such a burden for these well-conditioned, well-paid, professionals to play a few extra minutes – even periods – in a game? Why should the Panthers – if they were even down to two lines and four defensemen – make a big fuss about "overwork?" NHLers from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s could make do with two lines and four D-men and play twice-thrice as many minutes as the current stickhandlers.
What's this fuss about having a 19-man squad? Your Panthers could win with a nine-man squad. Two lines – that's six – and three defensemen. Is that a physical impossibility? (OK, I'll give you four defensemen.) By the way, Toronto won three straight Cups that way. And maskless goalie Glenn Hall played 502 consecutive games and would have continued had he not been injured.
ANDY GREENE EXITS WITH CONSUMMATE CLASS
On Saturday night, Devils retired defenseman Andy Greene bade farewell to the team – and fans and just about everyone else – he served so honorably and wisely. His farewell message to all is a classic of humility and sincerity. Give it a listen:
"I've been told that I was born to play hockey. My mom went into labor with me on the way to one of my older brother's hockey games. I think that was a sign.
"Dad, I think about you every day and can't thank you enough for all the life lessons you've taught me and that I now pass on to my sons. Mom, you've been there every step of the way with your unconditional love and support.
"To my three older brothers and their families, you guys paved the way for me to get into hockey but also gave me what any young brother would want, and that's love.
"I want to thank the Devils organization for giving me my first day and last day in the NHL. You've not only treated me, but more importantly my family, with nothing but love and respect, and I will forever be grateful for that."
Class act that he is, Greene also thanked the Islanders for his two-and-a-half years back working with the guy who discovered him, Lou Lamoriello. Nor did Andy forget his coaches, trainers and everyone in team services. Ditto for teammates, the fans and, as Andy put it, "my beautiful wife, Rachel."
Now you know why everyone loves Andy.
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* Watching Phil Grubauer vs. John Gibson last week, it was no contest. Gibby stops a breakaway and Grubby blows a breakaway – and the game.
* Someone should tip off Grubauer that there's no NHL rule stating he must go to his knees every minute on the minute.
* Gibby set up the breakaway winner with one of the best long-distance passes – after a game-saving save – that I've ever seen.
* Best coaching comment in the last four days: "It's a 'Find-A-Way League' – nothing's perfect." - John Tortorella. (His Flyers are a perfect two and oh.)
* It's about time for us to play my "Best Insider Of The Month" contest. Will it be Friedman, Dreger, LeBrun, Weekes, et al. to be first with the Patrick Kane trade – whenever that may be?
* My money is on Pierre with Kevin the runner-up.
* Hottest team on the continent: The WHL's Portland Winterhawks are 7-0 so far.
* Granted that Cale Makar is Mister Marvelous on the Avs D, but I submit it's too early to lift him on a pedestal with penultimates like Orr, Potvin and Coffey.
* Connor Hellebuyck and Craig Anderson are tied for the lead in my one-week-old "Goalies Stealing Games Derby."
* Mike Milbury is back on the airwaves in Beantown. His show is called Gloves Off! On WMEX, 1510, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QUINTON BYFIELD
In the redoubtable Hockey News Yearbook, Doug Ward has the young Kings forward listed as the club's third-best center. He's behind Anze Kopitar and Phil Danault, which is good company.
The deal is that coach Todd McLellan would just love for the lad to be Kopitar's heir apparent. There weren't many positive signs last season, but at age 20, Byfield has room for maturity and – more importantly – a break-out season. If not, the sky-high expectations at draft time, when Tim Stutzle and Lucas Raymond were picked directly afterward, were exaggerated. Right now Byfield has his work cut out, or else it might be bye-bye Byfield!
WHERE'S ELMER? Author Kevin Vautour dropped me an email after Elmer Soderblom – all 6-foot-8 of him – scored his first goal for Detroit. Have there been any NHL "Elmers" since Elmer Lach starred for the Canadiens, he wanted to know.
I recommended Elmer (Moose) Vasko who, like Soderblom, was a skating giant for his era. Moose was about 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Today, Vasko would be just average. (Too bad Elmer Fudd couldn't skate.)
WHO SAID IT? "Anytime you say hello to Phil, you could be in danger of making a trade." (ANSWER BELOW.)
YAYS AND BOOS
YAY TO 'GENO' MALKIN for teaming up with Ronald McDonald House to help ill kids. The Pens ace is donating $710 per point he makes to this very worthy charity. His puck-hungry Pitt skaters rate a huzzah or two as well.
YAY TO DARRYL SUTTER AND HIS FLAMES for winning Round 1 of the Battle of Alberta. Limit Major McDavid to a goal and you're apt to win.
BOOK OF THE WEEK SUGGESTION – ENGRAVED IN HISTORY: THE STORY OF THE STANLEY CUP CHAMPION KENORA THISTLES
Hockey fans cannot get enough history. It's a fact of life that baseball rooters annually get drowned in the wave of books about the diamond sport. By comparison, hockey fans normally get a precious few. But this year is different thanks to the 50th anniversary of the Summit Series. Hidden from view – at least until now – is one of those once-in-a-lifetime gems by a very special historian.
Few authors – past or present – have been able to bring the Pre-NHL Years to life with the dexterity and insights as Eric Zweig of Owen Sound, Ont. For starters, let's begin with the basics – this guy can write. But it's one thing to be a word master, it's yet another to deliver the prose with passion and precision.
Zweig – no newcomer to this business – pulls off this feat with the ease of a master organist pulling out all stops. Engraved In History: The Story Of The Stanley Cup Champion Kenora Thistles, is just about as good as it can get when telling a yarn better than anyone, and Zweig does just that.
It doesn't hurt one bit that he has one helluva good tale to tell. After all, who can imagine a team from a small town like Kenora pulling off a Cup title? But that they did in 1907.
And the feat was accomplished because the Thistles iced a darn good team.
As Eric, himself, puts it, "In many ways, the Thistles were like another small market team of more recent vintage: the Wayne Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s. And, like Edmonton, Kenora had a supremely talented team with a roster full of Hall of Famers."
One of them was Art Ross who later – as manager and coach – became the architect of the first Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins sextet.
One of the best defensemen in the pre-NHL era, Ross starred for the Cup-winning Thistles. Zweig adroitly brings other Kenora players to life while simultaneously delving into the economics of that bygone era. The year that the Thistles won the Cup was the same season that players were openly paid by the owners.
Not only is the Thistles book a fast-paced read but it's like having a year's course in Hockey 101 between 308 pages. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. Books can be ordered online at ratportagepress.com.
BIG QUESTION: Did the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury allowed seven goals against the Rangers on opening night in St.Paul and then failed miserably against Los Angeles mean that 'the Flower' is fading like leaves in autumn?
BIG ANSWER: Absolutely, but only if he suffers another blowout between now and (American) Thanksgiving. Then, I daresay, the answer will have to be oui-oui.
BIG HOCKEY NEWS OUT OF INDIANAPOLIS
If you like minor league hockey – and I grew up on it – you'll be happy to know that it keeps growing in the most unlikely places. One of those places is Fishers, Ind., better known as an Indianapolis suburb. And all signs indicate that Fishers will get a new arena for the ECHL team. My Sports Business guru, Evan Weiner, has the scoop.
Elected officials in Fishers, with 93,000 people, think spending $170 million on an arena that would be the anchor of an arena village for an ECHL franchise will provide an economic stimulus to its municipality.
The ECHL’s Indy Fuel franchise will be the anchor tenant in the facility, which could be funded in part by a rise in the local restaurant tax by one percent. The arena will be part of a Fishers District expansion and is part of a $1.1 billion economic development and entertainment project.
Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness thinks that the Indy Fuel business would use the building somewhere between 30 to 35 games a year. The building would seat 6,500 people for hockey. The ECHL team has a presence in Fishers as it currently uses a local hockey and skating facility for practice time.
Fishers seems to be on the cusp of becoming a sports center. Andretti Autosport announced plans on August 22 to build a $200 million global headquarters in the town. Andretti Autosport plans to move to the new Fishers headquarters in early 2025. Indy Fuel owner Jim Hallett probably will see more money because there will be more revenue sources coming his way. After all, there will be restaurants, more concession and team store space and a possible ticket price hike, because that is what a new arena provides.
DIDJA KNOW that five NHL head coaches previously coached in the USHL? That includes Jon Cooper, Don Granato, Dave Hakstol, Derek Lalonde and Jim Montgomery. Three of them – Cooper, Granato and Lalonde – worked their magic with the Green Bay Gamblers.
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Leafs Gord Stellick on trade-hungry Rangers GM Phil Esposito.