Time for another Screen Shots column, in which we briefly discuss a few hockey topics. Let’s get right to it.
– News broke early Thursday that the Arizona Coyotes could be playing in Arizona State University’s 5,000-seat arena next season. This could be a major embarrassment for the NHL, especially at a time when cities such as Houston, Quebec City and Kansas City are better-prepared to host a team. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has fought tooth-and-nail to prevent the Coyotes from relocating, but at this point, the writing is on the wall for them.
Not only are the Coyotes a mess on the ice, they’re now scrambling for help just to have a home to play games in. How many black eyes will it take for Bettman and team owners to stop propping Arizona up? It’s understood Phoenix is a major market, but the Coyotes have struggled to fill any arena they’ve ever been in. And now, imagine the optics if they can’t sell out games at ASU’s rink. I’ve always said that growing the game in American cities is important, but we’re well past the point where they’re a charity case that is going to produce positive results.
Bettman’s staunch defense of the Coyotes has been admirable to a degree, but now, it seems increasingly delusional. Remember, before the Atlanta Thrashers’ ownership collapsed and the franchise moved to Winnipeg, Bettman was saying many of the same things he’s saying about Arizona. We should be skeptical hings will improve for the Coyotes, simply because their past history gives us no guarantees the on-ice product will motivate their fan base to turn out in bigger numbers. Sooner or later, this perpetually-sub-par organization is going to face a real reckoning. And today, it feels like that will happen sooner.
– The abysmal Philadelphia Flyers made news this week when GM Chuck Fletcher spoke openly with the media about possibly trading captain Claude Giroux. According to Fletcher, the decision to be put on the trade block will be entirely up to Giroux. Giroux is well-aware there will be much interest in his services if he chooses to be moved, and his status as a soon-to-be-unrestricted free agent this summer makes his arguably the most attractive trade option in the league this year.
Giroux has a no-trade clause, so it`s entirely up to him to decide if he wants to languish with the sad-sack Flyers, or join a legitimate Stanley Cup frontrunner and get what may be his last, best chance at a championship. He is 34 years old, and players of that age quickly come to realize they may never again have a great shot at a Cup. With the Flyers on the verge of a full rebuild, it`s unlikely Giroux will have a better chance to win it all.
Besides, Giroux can always return to the Flyers in the off-season, but he may not be in a better position to win than he`ll be with a legitimate Cup contender this spring. And if he does choose to be dealt, reasonable Flyers fans should understand why. This franchise has underwhelmed in virtually all of Giroux`s 15 years with the team, and it`s long past due to see Giroux go deep into the playoffs. Can`t fault him for that.
– The Colorado Avalanche continues to steamroll opponents as they ascend the Central Division standings. After Wednesday's victory over the Boston Bruins in Denver – a game in which the Avs came back from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 – the Avalanche now have 17 straight home wins, and eight wins in a row.
Colorado now sits comfortably atop the Central, with an NHL-best .768 win percentage and 63 standings points in 41 games. The Nashville Predators are in second spot in the Central, but they`re six points behind the Avs, and Colorado has three games in hand on them. They lost star center Nathan MacKinnon to an injury Wednesday, and any length of time he`s sidelined will be a significant blow to them. But if any team can overcome injury adversity with their depth, it`s the Avalanche. They`re the most fearsome group on the planet right now, and it`s unlikely they`ll struggle anytime in the near-future.