Bang for the Buck: Which teams got the best value in 2012-13?

NHL teams’ payrolls have been capped for nearly a decade now, limiting the disparity between the big-market giants and their small-market counterparts. Still, the Philadelphia Flyers, who had the highest payroll in the league last season, spent over $23 million more than the NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes. But the money didn’t matter: neither made the playoffs, and Phoenix actually finished two points ahead of Philly in the final standings. Did the teams that made it rain in 2013 get any bang for their buck? Let’s find out.

Here, courtesy of CapGeek, are the payrolls for every NHL team this past season:

Team Spending (USD)
1. Philadelphia Flyers » $72,549,431
2. Vancouver Canucks » $70,456,167
3. Minnesota Wild » $70,120,744
4. New York Rangers » $68,711,221
5. Chicago Blackhawks » $67,343,544
6. Montreal Canadiens » $66,857,720
7. Pittsburgh Penguins » $66,739,133
8. San Jose Sharks » $66,370,996
9. Boston Bruins » $64,486,562
10. Tampa Bay Lightning » $64,082,929
11. Washington Capitals » $64,053,698
12. Toronto Maple Leafs » $63,249,222
13. Detroit Red Wings » $62,823,032
14. Los Angeles Kings » $62,025,799
15. Buffalo Sabres » $61,437,023
16. Calgary Flames » $61,027,990
17. New Jersey Devils » $59,269,410
18. Winnipeg Jets » $58,447,941
19. Florida Panthers » $57,463,086
20. Carolina Hurricanes » $57,237,054
21. Anaheim Ducks » $56,931,061
22. Colorado Avalanche » $55,641,465
23. Dallas Stars » $53,967,129
24. Columbus Blue Jackets » $53,893,247
25. Ottawa Senators » $53,806,372
26. Nashville Predators » $53,723,203
27. Edmonton Oilers » $53,648,971
28. New York Islanders » $53,004,108
29. St. Louis Blues » $52,185,361
30. Phoenix Coyotes »

$49,438,632

And here, courtesy of NHL.com, are the final standings for the 2013 season. Note that despite conference affiliations, the top 16 teams in the league turned out to be the 16 that made the playoffs.

Rank DIV GP W L OT P
1  p – Chicago CEN 48 36 7 5 77
2  z – Pittsburgh ATL 48 36 12 0 72
3  y – Anaheim PAC 48 30 12 6 66
4  y – Montréal NE 48 29 14 5 63
5  x – Boston NE 48 28 14 6 62
6  x – St. Louis CEN 48 29 17 2 60
7  x – Los Angeles PAC 48 27 16 5 59
8  y – Vancouver NW 48 26 15 7 59
9  x – Toronto NE 48 26 17 5 57
10  y – Washington SE 48 27 18 3 57
11  x – San Jose PAC 48 25 16 7 57
12  x – NY Rangers ATL 48 26 18 4 56
13  x – Detroit CEN 48 24 16 8 56
14  x – Ottawa NE 48 25 17 6 56
15  x – Minnesota NW 48 26 19 3 55
16  x – NY Islanders ATL 48 24 17 7 55
17  Columbus CEN 48 24 17 7 55
18  Winnipeg SE 48 24 21 3 51
19  Phoenix PAC 48 21 18 9 51
20  Philadelphia ATL 48 23 22 3 49
21  Dallas PAC 48 22 22 4 48
22  New Jersey ATL 48 19 19 10 48
23  Buffalo NE 48 21 21 6 48
24  Edmonton NW 48 19 22 7 45
25  Calgary NW 48 19 25 4 42
26  Carolina SE 48 19 25 4 42
27  Nashville CEN 48 16 23 9 41
28  Tampa Bay SE 48 18 26 4 40
29  Colorado NW 48 16 25 7 39
30  Florida SE 48 15 27 6 36

Now, let’s see which teams got the  best value. Playoff teams are in bold.

Team Spending (USD) Points USD Spent/Point
1 Anaheim Ducks $56,931,061 66 $862,591.83
2 St. Louis Blues $52,185,361 60 $869,756.02
3 Chicago Blackhawks $67,343,544 77 $874,591.48
4 Pittsburgh Penguins $66,739,133 72 $926,932.40
5 Ottawa Senators $53,806,372 56 $960,828.07
6 New York Islanders $53,004,108 55 $963,711.05
7 Phoenix Coyotes $49,438,632 51 $969,384.94
8 Columbus Blue Jackets $53,893,247 55 $979,877.22
9 Boston Bruins $64,486,562 62 $1,040,105.84
10 Los Angeles Kings $62,025,799 59 $1,051,284.73
11 Montreal Canadiens $66,857,720 63 $1,061,233.65
12 Toronto Maple Leafs $63,249,222 57 $1,109,635.47
13 Detroit Red Wings $62,823,032 56 $1,121,839.86
14 Washington Capitals $64,053,698 57 $1,123,749.09
15 Dallas Stars $53,967,129 48 $1,124,315.19
16 Winnipeg Jets $58,447,941 51 $1,146,038.06
17 San Jose Sharks $66,370,996 57 $1,164,403.44
18 Edmonton Oilers $53,648,971 45 $1,192,199.36
19 Vancouver Canucks $70,456,167 59 $1,194,172.32
20 New York Rangers $68,711,221 56 $1,226,986.09
21 New Jersey Devils $59,269,410 48 $1,234,779.38
22 Minnesota Wild $70,120,744 55 $1,274,922.62
23 Buffalo Sabres $61,437,023 48 $1,279,937.98
24 Nashville Predators $53,723,203 41 $1,310,322.02
25 Carolina Hurricanes $57,237,054 42 $1,362,787.00
26 Colorado Avalanche $55,641,465 39 $1,426,704.23
27 Calgary Flames $61,027,990 42 $1,453,047.38
28 Philadelphia Flyers $72,549,431 49 $1,480,600.63
29 Florida Panthers $57,463,086 36 $1,596,196.83
30 Tampa Bay Lightning $64,082,929 40 $1,602,073.23

Finally, let’s take a look at the differential between teams’ spending positions and their standings positions:

Position Differential Rank Team Spending Position Standings Position Position Differential
1 St. Louis Blues 29 6 +23
2 Anaheim Ducks 21 3 +18
3 New York Islanders 28 16 +12
t4 Ottawa Senators 25 14 +11
t4 Phoenix Coyotes 30 19 +11
t6 Columbus Blue Jackets 24 17 +7
t6 Los Angeles Kings 14 7 +7
8 Pittsburgh Penguins 7 2 +5
t9 Chicago Blackhawks 5 1 +4
t9 Boston Bruins 9 5 +4
t11 Toronto Maple Leafs 12 9 +3
t11 Edmonton Oilers 27 24 +3
t13 Montreal Canadiens 6 4 +2
t13 Dallas Stars 23 21 +2
15 Washington Capitals 11 10 +1
t16 Detroit Red Wings 13 13 0
t16 Winnipeg Jets 18 18 0
18 Nashville Predators 26 27 -1
19 San Jose Sharks 8 11 -3
20 New Jersey Devils 17 22 -5
t21 Vancouver Canucks 2 8 -6
t21 Carolina Hurricanes 20 26 -6
23 Colorado Avalanche 22 29 -7
t24 New York Rangers 4 12 -8
t24 Buffalo Sabres 15 23 -8
26 Calgary Flames 16 25 -9
27 Florida Panthers 19 30 -11
28 Minnesota Wild 3 15 -12
29 Tampa Bay Lightning 10 28 -18
30 Philadelphia Flyers 1 20 -19

So what can we take away from all these numbers and charts?

  • Despite making the playoffs, one might have expected the Sharks, Canucks, Rangers and Wild to accrue more points and make deeper runs.
  • Payroll-wise, the Coyotes and Blue Jackets overachieved big-time despite missing the playoffs.
  • Only two of the ten highest-spending teams — the Flyers and Lightning — missed the playoffs.
  • Three of the ten lowest-spending teams — the Ducks, Islanders and Blues — made the playoffs.
    • None of the three made it past the first round.

      EDIT: Reader Matt spots an error in our analysis:

    “4 of the bottom 10 spending teams made the playoffs…. And the one you missed also made it to the second round… the Ottawa Senators.”

Let’s check out, as of today, how much each NHL team will be spending in 2013-14, again courtesy of CapGeek:

Team Salary Payroll

Cap Payroll

1. Philadelphia Flyers » $76,194,117 $69,153,522
2. Boston Bruins » $65,440,000 $70,223,810
3. Pittsburgh Penguins » $70,810,000 $65,398,333
4. Detroit Red Wings » $68,200,000 $67,947,879
5. San Jose Sharks » $63,756,666 $65,131,667
6. Los Angeles Kings » $68,810,000 $64,386,894
7. Edmonton Oilers » $58,841,666 $67,774,167
8. Chicago Blackhawks » $67,760,000 $62,946,795
9. Columbus Blue Jackets » $60,976,667 $66,808,809
10. New York Rangers » $65,226,666 $62,881,667
11. Winnipeg Jets » $57,701,000 $63,201,357
12. Dallas Stars » $58,368,334 $62,993,611
13. Tampa Bay Lightning » $64,953,572 $63,990,477
14. Minnesota Wild » $67,152,778 $65,265,534
15. Montreal Canadiens » $64,465,000 $63,610,833
16. Anaheim Ducks » $57,145,000 $62,795,833
17. Vancouver Canucks » $64,489,000 $59,952,778
18. Nashville Predators » $62,326,666 $62,862,976
19. Carolina Hurricanes » $59,365,000 $59,425,000
20. Toronto Maple Leafs » $58,996,434 $59,704,167
21. Washington Capitals » $56,725,000 $58,634,295
22. Phoenix Coyotes » $52,300,000 $58,176,667
23. St. Louis Blues » $56,991,667 $57,925,833
24. Calgary Flames » $51,717,500 $57,321,250
25. New Jersey Devils » $55,383,333 $59,720,834
26. Colorado Avalanche » $55,565,000 $58,833,333
27. Buffalo Sabres » $54,745,833 $54,645,357
28. Ottawa Senators » $50,877,500 $53,835,833
29. Florida Panthers » $50,176,209 $57,140,375
30. New York Islanders » $44,431,500 $49,496,976

Who do you think will outperform their payroll in 2013-14? Who is spending the most on a pile of crap? Tell us in the comments!

Related Reading:

Panther Parkway lists the NHL’s five best “Puck for Your Buck” Contracts

Sports Illustrated looks at the smartest deals of the summer

Elliotte Friedman said today that some within hockey circles believe the cap could rise to as high as $80 million by 2017-18

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Road Trippin’: Part 1 of Your Team-by-Team Guide to 2013-14’s Best NHL Adventures

Written by Trevor Kraus with contributions from Alex Silverman

One of our favourite days on the NHL calender is the day the NHL calendar itself is released. As we all know, the league had some difficulty announcing the schedule and delayed it 2 days, missing its window to steal the spotlight in the States without any other major sporting events. Nevertheless, the second it came out, I started planning the roadtrips I’d take this year to see the Blues (Devils-Rangers-Isles in January? Yes, please. Dallas over Winter Break? Piece of cake). I’m one-third of the way to my goal of seeing the Blues play in every NHL arena. Naturally, I started with the easy ones like Chicago, Nashville, and Columbus, and I’ve gradually been branching out farther to Buffalo, Toronto, Long Island, etc. So when I use the term “roadtrip,” I no longer mean the 5-6 hour variety. I’m talking about day-long drives, and whenever possible, I’m trying to work in multiple games. That was my mindset when I put together itineraries for fans of all 30 NHL teams (assuming you’re living in the city your team calls home). Here are the first ten, alphabetically speaking, from Anaheim to Detroit.

Quick Notes:

1. All stats and maps are courtesy of RoadTrippers.com

2. Click on the map for any roadtrip to be redirected to the RoadTrippers page, where you can find out how to get where you’re going, what’s on the way, what detours can be made, etc.

Anaheim Ducks

Depart Anaheim: September 30

Return to Anaheim: October 10

Ducks Roadtrip

Distance: 4,341 miles

Gas: $745

Driving Time: 63 hours, 43 minutes

Games: 3 (plus a home game on the end)

This is an easy call. The best opportunity to see Bobby Ryan Francois Beauchemin and company is right off the bat. Leave Anaheim the morning of Monday, September 30th, pass through Vegas and win the funding for the rest of the trip, then proceed to Denver to see Opening Night, October 2nd against the Avs. Spend the 3rd in the Rockies…it’s only 12 hours from Denver to Minneapolis, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore. Get to Minny by Saturday the 5th to see your Ducks take on the Wild. After all that, the six hours to Winnipeg will feel like nothing, and you’ll get to see and hear one of the league’s loudest barns the night of the Sixth against the Jets. It’s a bit of a hike back to Orange County from the Peg (29 hours), but you have until the Tenth to do it, when the Ducks host the Rags. This is an epic trip through some of the country’s most beautiful land. Well worth the two weeks off work/school.

Boston Bruins

Depart Boston: April 1

Return to Boston: April 5

Bruins Roadtrip

Distance: 4,341 miles

Gas: $253

Driving Time: 22 hours, 51 minutes

Games: 2

The east coast teams have it easy: most of them can take short train rides to their divisional games. But we’re assuming you Bruins fans have already been to New York, Philly, Washington, etc. So let’s see…how about an Original Six swing in April? Leave Boston on April Fool’s Day and get to Detroit for Bruins-Wings on Wednesday the 2nd. Stay in the D that night and help stimulate the local economy with some much-needed tourist money in Greektown, then get up on the Third and get to Toronto by that night for a rematch of that epic seven-game series. Toronto to Boston is an easy eight hours, and you’re back by the weekend. Quick and easy.

Buffalo Sabres

Depart Buffalo: March 6

Return to Buffalo: March 9

Sabres Roadtrip

Distance: 2,842 miles

Gas: $488

Driving Time: 42 hours, 16 minutes

Games: 2

The schedule doesn’t provide a ton of good choices for the Sabes, and the ones it does offer (like a Columbus-Pittsburgh trip) have most likely already been tackled by the passionate fans of the Swords. So what the hell, let’s dream big. Take off work/school early on Wednesday, March 6th, tell them you’re taking a long weekend, and head south for about 28 hours to Miami for Sabres-Lightning on the Sixth. Tampa to Miami is nothing, so get there for Sabres-Panthers on Friday the Seventh and party like a rockstar on South Beach that night and all day Saturday before heading back to Buffalo early Sunday morning, arriving in time for work/school on Monday morning.

Calgary Flames

Depart Calgary: January 18

Return to Calgary: January 22

Flames Roadtrip

Distance: 2,892 miles

Gas: $496

Driving Time: 47 hours, 28 minutes

Games: 2

My goodness, do Flames fans have it tough. Not only is their team (finally) rebuilding, but they’re light years away from most other NHL cities. Luckily, the Canadian Rockies in January don’t pose a problem, so you should do the ten-hour drive early Saturday morning, January 18th, and see Flames-Canucks in Vancouver that night. Enjoy the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway on Sunday and get to Northern California by Monday in time to enjoy either some wine or silicon, then see Flames-Sharks before roughing it 20 hours back to Alberta on Tuesday.

Carolina Hurricanes

Depart Raleigh: March 18

Return to Raleigh: March 23

Hurricanes Roadtrip

Distance: 1,638 miles

Gas: $281

Driving Time: 25 hours, 23 minutes

Games: 2

For our money, Cam Ward is the most underrated goalie in the league, so it’s essential that Canes fans to see him play as much as possible. This one’s really easy: leave Raleigh on Tuesday morning, March 18th and catch Canes-Blue Jackets that night. That drive’s only seven hours, and from Columbus to Chi Town is only 5, so you can get there by Wednesday afternoon. The Canes don’t play the Hawks until Friday the 21st, but trust me, you’ll find more than enough to do in Chicago to pass the time. See a comedy show at 2nd City, take a tour of Wrigley Field, explore the Art Institute of Chicago, and feast on some Chicago style hot dogs and Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. Chicago back to Raleigh is only 12 hours, so you could leave on Saturday and get back in time to see second-round NCAA Tournament action in your fair city on Sunday the 23rd.

Chicago Blackhawks

Depart Chicago: March 18

Return to Chicago: March 23

Blackhawks Roadtrip

Distance: 1,788 miles

Gas: $307

Driving Time: 26 hours, 39 minutes

Games: 2

If we were Blackhawks fans *shudder* we’d be licking our chops at this set up: a breezy 11 hours starting early Friday morning, March 28th into Ottawa to see this matchup of the only two teams whose logos feature a human being. Spend a day in the Canadian capital and then leave early Sunday the 30th to get to Pittsburgh eight hours later for what will probably be a high-scoring affair. Head west after the game and drive six hours through the night (remember, you’ll gain an hour going from ET to CST), knock back a couple of Monsters and be ready for school/work on Monday morning.

Colorado Avalanche

Depart Denver: November 21

Return to Denver: November 24

Avalanche Roadtrip

Distance: 2,234 miles

Gas: $383

Driving Time: 32 hours, 35 minutes

Games: 2

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the Avs might very well already be out of playoff contention. But they’ll still be an exciting team to watch, and Phoenix weather is PERFECT in late November. Start the one-week countdown to Turkey Day by waking up early Thursday the 21st and rock down I-25 toward the Valley of the Sun (12 hours), arriving in time to see Avs-Coyotes. Be sure to assess if that whole four-year ordeal we endured was worth it to save hockey in Glendale. It’s a scant 5 hours from Phoenix to LA, so knock that out on Friday morning and take a tour of Tinsel Town, hopefully running into some C-lister who’s nice enough to take a picture with you. Or Taylor Stevens. It’s Avs-Kings on Saturday the 23rd, before a 14-hour ride back to Denver on Sunday.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Depart Columbus: March 8

Return to Columbus: March 11

BJs Roadtrip

Distance: 2,067 miles

Gas: $355

Driving Time: 30 hours, 23 minutes

Games: 2

Remember way back when the BJ’s were in the Western Conference? Take a trip down memory lane and see the Jackets square off against two old Western Conference foes, Nashville and Dallas. Leave Columbus on Saturday, March 8 (only a five-hour drive) and see CBJ-NSH. Spend Sunday listening to country music, then leave early Monday morning on a nine-hour journey for Dallas and see the game that night. It’s only 15 back to Columbus on Tuesday, and you’ve only missed two days of work/school.

Dallas Stars

Depart Dallas: January 5

Return to Dallas: January 12

Stars Roadtrip

Distance: 3,132 miles

Gas: $537

Driving Time: 46 hours, 32 minutes

Games: 3 (plus a home game at the end)

The Stars get the beautiful NYI-NJD-NYR triplet shortly after New Year’s. It’s 22 big ones from Dallas to NYC, but believe me: there’s nothing like being in the middle of it all, in New York City. It truly is the greatest city in the world, and if you’ve never been there, this is as good a chance as you’ll get. Tell your boss/teacher that your hangover was especially bad this year, and that you’ll need more than a week to recover. Leave North Texas on Sunday, January 5th and be on Long Island the night of the Sixth for Stars-Isles in the best arena in the league. We were there for the Isles’ first playoff game since 2007 this past year…raucous doesn’t even begin to describe it. The ghosts of Bossy, Trottier and Potvin are prevalent. Do absolutely everything you possibly can in NYC Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before hopping onto a New Jersey Transit train Thursday evening to Newark for a rematch of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. Revel in the Jason Arnott and Jamie Langebrunner glory. Get back to the City on Friday and catch Stars-Rangers at the World’s Most Famous Arena. If you have any gas money left, use it to head back to Dallas on Saturday. If you fell in love with the Isles’ young stars, you can catch them again in Dallas on Sunday the 12th.

Detroit Red Wings

Depart Detroit: April 4

Return to Detroit: April 10

Wings Roadtrip

Distance: 1,449 miles

Gas: $249

Driving Time: 22 hours, 18 minutes

Games: 3 (plus a home game to start off)

Mo Town finally got its wish to be moved into the Eastern Conference and, for roadtrip purposes, it’ll pay dividends early and often. This year’s trip is a three-game, two-country luxury cruise during the stretch run of the regular season. If the Wings have clinched already, you should probably be saving up for the Playoffs by this point, but if it’s a fight to the finish, this could be one of the best trips on the list. Catch the game against the Sabres at the Joe on April 4th, but make sure you have the car packed up beforehand. Once the buzzer sounds, hop in the car and drive eight-and-a-half hours over the border to Montreal, where you should arrive in the early morning. Get some rest and catch the Wings against the Habs at the Bell Center before a night out on the town. We hear visiting players like taking time to appreciate the, er, culture. Spend Sunday in Montreal before, at your leisure, making the six-hour drive back over the border to Buffalo. Make sure you come to this town with an empty stomach because Nacho Buffitos at Mighty Taco (trust us…), wings at Duffs and a hot dog at  Ted’s are all mandatory activities. Head to the HSBC arena Tuesday night for Sabres/Wings. Leave early Wednesday for a night game against the Pens in Pittsburgh and if you leave right after the game, you can get a full night’s sleep back in Michigan before work Thursday morning.

Check back soon for Part 2 of our Road Trippin’ Guide, featuring…

Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, the Islanders, the Rangers and Ottawa.

Hockey Falls Names the Realigned NHL Divisions (UPDATE: League goes with ‘Metropolitan’ instead)

The team logos above the stage at the 2013 NHL are arranged based on the league’s new divisions, beginning in the ’13-’14 season.

Written by Trevor Kraus, Joey Naftol and Alex Silverman

From 1981-1993, the NHL playoffs opened with two divisional rounds to crown the champion of the Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe divisions prior to determining the top team from each conference and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup champion. From 1994-2012, divisions were meaningless other than the fact that the division winners were automatically seeded in the top 3 in each conference. With realignment on the horizon for the ’13-’14 season, divisional playoffs will return.

But just two and a half months away from the opening faceoff, the four divisions remain nameless. Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that the divisions will likely be named geographically, but with one division containing teams from Canada, the Northeastern United States and Florida, it seems impossible to come up with anything sensible based on location. Here at Hockey Falls, we’ve been talking over some cold ones (Molsons…always Molsons) and tossing around some themes and names for the NHL’s new divisions.

Kickin’ it Old School: Patrick, Adams, Norris, Smythe

Traditionalist that I am, I’d be THRILLED if the league went this route. I’m too young to have watched a Norris Division matchup, but I know my dad would’ve smiled at the thought of the Blues raising another Norris Division Championship banner. Moreover, the Norris (along with the other divisions) developed its own identity, one that “Central” never captured or conveyed. The “Chuck” Norris Division had a reputation as brutal, bruising, bloody, all-out-war hockey. Wayne Gretzky’s Smythe Division featured a more open, finesse style. So, when the winners of those divisions squared off in the Campbell Conference Final, you were almost assured of seeing contrasting styles, which always makes for interesting hockey.

Each division having its own identity is a good thing for the league. For another reason, one need only look at college sports, where each conference develops its own identity. In college basketball, for example, when your team gets knocked out of the NCAA Tournament, it’s customary to root for the other teams in your conference to add legitimacy to your own team’s reputation. Of course, you can still do that with Central, Atlantic, etc. But even though I’m a diehard hockey fan, I follow the Blues most closely. So sometimes I’d have to strain to remember who was the 5th team in the Northeast Division…because ALL those teams (Boston, New York, Philly, Toronto, Montreal) are, geographically, in the Northeast. Likewise, I’m not sure every Boston Bruins fan could correctly place Vancouver in the Northwest Division instead of the Pacific…because Vancouver is most certainly on the Pacific.

While that argument could be applied to just about any non-geographic denomination, above all, what Smythe, Norris, Patrick, and Adams have going for them is the power of nostalgia. There are plenty of old-time hockey fans out there who’ve been turned off by the lockout. Or the other lockout. Or that most recent lockout. Reconnecting to hockey’s past certainly wouldn’t turn away any new fans, and it might help bring back some old ones.

Modern Legends: Gretzky, Hull (both of them), Orr, Lemieux

I think this denomination is the most likely. Again, it offers a connection to hockey’s past, but in a more concrete way. All of these players are still alive, but their places in today’s game need to be more prevalent and more defined. Since his departure from the Phoenix Coyotes, for example, Gretzky has virtually gone AWOL, and is without a role in the modern NHL. Renaming the division with his Oilers after him could help bring him back. His face and his presence are needed in the game. Picture this: the Oilers (or the Ducks, the Sharks…whoever) advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and The Great One is one ice to award them the Campbell Bowl. Or if the Jets (or Stars/Blackhawks/Blues/Wild/etc.) go to the Final, you have Bobby and Brett Hull award the Bowl.

There’s one concern I can see fans raising: how would the Flyers feel about competing for the Lemieux Division Title, after Super Mario did things like this to them? Would Habs fans want Bobby Orr presenting them the Prince of Wales Trophy after he tortured them throughout most of his career? In response, I say to those fan bases: Suck. It. Up. Respect greatness. These guys are no longer scoring against your teams, and it’s not like they were agitators on the ice anyway.

Geography: West, Central…well, let us explain:

(Courtesy NHL/NPR)

As we mentioned in the open, geographic names for the new divisions is trickier than it should be. So let’s start with the easy ones. The western-most division – the teams from the current Pacific division, minus Dallas, plus Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary – would be known simply as the “Western Division.” It might sound weird considering “Western” was previously the name of a conference, but it’s the most accurate geographic designation to describe locations that include Arizona, California, British Columbia and Alberta. “Pacific” can’t stick around because, according to someone else’s calculations, Edmonton is more than 4,000 miles from the ocean.

The next division over – the current Central division plus Colorado, Dallas and finally accom

modated Winnipeg – would maintain its “Central” designation. Let’s skip the one the NHL has temporarily called Division C and get the easy stuff out of the way. The current Atlantic Division – plus Carolina, Columbus and Washington – could either stick with “Atlantic” or go with the slightly more controversial “Middle East.” Look at that map and tell me those teams aren’t in the middle of the East. Plus, with rivalries like Philly-Pittsburgh, Islanders-Rangers, Pittsburgh-Washington and Rangers-Devils to name a few, there fittingly won’t be peace in the Middle East anytime soon.

And finally, to the crux of the issue: Bettman just had to take the current Northeast Division plus Detroit and then force the two Florida teams in there like a square peg into a round hole. If we really want to pretend this is a legitimate geographical entity, we might use something like “Eastern Division” because that’s pretty much all these seven locations have in common. But the NHL might as well embrace its goofy divisional structure with one of the following names:

  • The Flortheast Division
  • The “Damn-Those-Non-Traditional-Hockey-Markets” Division
  • The Snowbirds Division (or the related “Fly-South-For-The-Winter” Division”)
  • The Flanadian Division
  • The Flandetada Division/The Candetida Division

We could probably do this all day, but you get the point. Steer clear of geography, Bettman!

A Sad Reality: The Centers for Disease Control Anti-Smoking Division, The Nicklas Backstrom 15-Goal Geico Division, The Amway Divison, The Westside Furniture Division

The sad, sad, heartbreakingly sad truth: everything in sports is becoming commercialized. Only 3 arenas don’t have corporate names: The Joe, Madison Square Garden, and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. McDonald’s has infiltrated the Kings’ practice jerseys, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing ads on game jerseys, like in Europe. So why not go all the way? We already had to sit through the horrifying CDC anti-smoking ads during the playoffs, so hopefully by now, we’re desensitized to the sound of Terrie’s voice. The NHL has proven its progressive mindset with the “You Can Play” campaign, and it wouldn’t hurt the league’s image to jump out in front of the anti-smoking wave and lead the charge. The “CDC-ASD Division” would be the one including the Blackhawks, Blues, Stars, Wild, Jets, Avs and Predators.

My god, were those Nicklas Backstrom Geico commercials stupid. And how did Geico end up choosing Backstrom, of all people, as the face of their campaign? Sure, he’s a good player, but was there no one more noteworthy available? Nevertheless, he’d gain instant rockstar status as the only man ever to win his own division. The only question: Can he “make” 15 goals every year for the rest of his career? Of course he can.

The “Amway Division” would be the one the Detroit Red Wings occupy…because the Wings already have an “historic” relationship with Amway. Because it’s the NHL, any good will it earns from coming out against smoking has to be given back. And what better way to do that than by accepting money from a pyramid scheme? Or as Harvard calls it, a “pyramid-like distribution system.”

Finally, we have the “Westside Furniture Division”. Never heard of Westside Furniture? Neither have most hockey fans. But as we found out on July 2nd, the city of Glendale is broke and can barely afford to pay its police officers and firefighters. Yet, there’s still an NHL team there, and in true Gary Bettman fashion, the league is going to do absolutely everything in its power to make sure the team stays there. Hence the worldwide shout-out to Westside Furniture, located at 7029 N. 57th Drive, Glendale AZ, 85301. The new name will infuse Glendale with some much needed cash, and no hockey fan will ever again be in need of rustic, southwest, old-world, contemporary oak furniture and accessories. It’s a win-win!

Classic American Cinema: Youngblood, Slapshot, Mystery, Alaska, Mighty Ducks

Paying homage to arguably the four greatest hockey films of all time would be a great way to connect the newly realigned divisions to the game’s pop culture landmarks. The “Classic American Cinema” names embody the niche aspect that die-hard puck-heads embrace. Hockey fans are a unique breed of human and are the only ones who would watch these movies every time they show up on an HBO channel.

The “Youngblood Division” would consist of Midwestern teams – the Blackhawks, Wild, Blues, etc. – because what better represents the middle of our country than undersized speedster Rob Lowe learning how to fight for success through a montage-style training session with Pat Swayze, seriously?

The “Mighty Ducks Division” would be home of the Pacific Coast teams even though the original, D1, took place in Minnesota. However, D2’s Goodwill Games did go down in LA, where the team also learned how to play hockey, street style. Obviously the no-longer-mighty Ducks would compete in this division and, oddly enough, their current roster seems to reflect shades of those Bombay squads of the past: a Goaltending controversy between Victor “the cat” Fasth and Jonas “definitely not Jewish” Hiller, a combination of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry which equals Adam Banks and Cam Fowler as the Charlie Spazzway of the team.

The “Mystery, Alaska Division” would carry the Northeast plus the Florida teams. Think about it: It’s really cold in the northeast, and the Lightning and Panthers are overlooked by the rest of the league just as the state of Alaska is overlooked by the rest of the U.S. This assortment of teams lacks any geographical sense: it’s a mystery what they have in common and they might as well be in Alaska compared to one another. This name also works because the Lightning and Panthers have the same chance of competing against their far superior opponents as Mystery, Alaska’s amateur hockey team had going up against the Rangers; but they play the game for a reason, folks.

Finally the “Slapshot Division” would take over for the Atlantic plus Columbus, Carolina and Washington division. Since Slapshot is the lone comedy on the list, it’s the division that has, hands down, the group of teams with the most hilarious story lines: the Flyers’ salary cap management, Marc Andre Fleury in late April, Alexander Ovechkin winning the Hart last year, Bobrovsky joining the force and the Islanders, to name a few. Just like the Mighty Ducks Division, there’s a handful of similarities to players in the Slapshot division. Obviously the Schenn bros in Philly or the Staal bros in Carolina represent the Hansen brothers, one could argue that Ned Brayden was Sidney Crosby before Sidney Crosby with the whole refusing to fight and get dirty thing, and hopefully Ilya Bryzgalov stays within the division because he would be the perfect Denis Lemieux.

So there you have it: the NHL has quite a few options. Now lets see how Bettman screws it up. (UPDATE: Like this: Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan)

Why the NHL All-Star game will never be as entertaining as the MLB’s

Don’t forget to share your opinion of the NHL All-Star Game in our poll below!

Hockey > Baseball. Don’t think I’ve changed my philosophy on that; such a notion is grounds for tarring and feathering in Hockey Falls.

But even I’ll admit there’s one thing that baseball can hold over hockey (other than financials and the whole National Pastime thing it has going): its All-Star Game. Tuesday’s 3-0 victory for the American League at Citi Field, which featured a hometown starting pitcher in the Mets’ Matt Harvey and a touching tribute to legendary Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera, had me captivated from start to finish in a way the NHL All-Star Game never has.

Level of Play

The MLB’s version feels like a real baseball game, something the NHL will never manage to capture. Hockey is an inherently physical sport, meaning that in an exhibition involving the league’s most skilled players, the game has to be toned down to preserve player safety. That means no checking or playing the body, which translates into next to no defense. It doesn’t look or feel like NHL hockey and doesn’t capture the sport anywhere near its best.

Baseball players, on the other hand, can treat the All-Star Game like a competitive event without jeopardizing their seasons. As a result, fans get to see the best players performing at a high level, capturing the game of baseball at its peak. It’s the best hitters against the best pitchers with both sides giving it their all. The use of a whole pitching staff and bench only makes the game more interesting; it’s incredible the pressure managers face trying to give everyone their All-Star moments while also playing to win.

Uniforms

The baseball tradition of each player wearing his respective ball club’s uniform is fantastic. There’s something exciting about seeing a player from your favorite team representing that organization by wearing its colors. Meanwhile the wide array of different uniforms makes for a nice visual.

On the flip side, when was the last time the NHL put out decent All-Star jerseys. I mean, come on. These things are notorious for being hideous year after year. Having the players wear their own franchises’ uniforms wouldn’t work as well in hockey – where both teams are on the ice at the same time – as it does in baseball. Still, there’s definitely room for improvement by the NHL’s design team.

Significance

Baseball is a traditionalist’s game and traditionalists hate change. For this reason, a good chunk of the MLB’s fan base hates the fact that, as of 2003, home field advantage for the World Series has hinged on which league won that season’s All-Star Game. As a casual observer of baseball, I think it’s awesome. Listen to managers, players and the media talk about the MLB All-Star Game and you’ll see how seriously they take the outcome of the Mid-Summer Classic. If AL Manager Jim Leyland’s Tigers end up in the World Series, he’ll be thrilled that he led the All-Star team to victory back in July and same goes for the players.

Now by no means am I advocating hockey follow suit. The NHL All-Star Game, as previously stated, is not even close to being a real game. The worst thing the NHL could do would be to add Playoff implications to it. That said, without something to play for, the NHL can’t match the MLB.

Casual Fan Appeal

While I’m convinced the only people watching the NHL All-Star Game are hockey fans with nothing better to do – both because the game is on OLN Versus ESPN8:The Ocho NBCSN and because it’s just a terrible product – an All-Star Game should ideally appeal most to the casual fan. It’s the one game of the year in which an average sports fan might recognize the names of every player on both teams. But casual sports fans still want to see a competitive affair, something the NHL (along with the NBA and NFL for that matter) fails to offer. The the MLB consistently brings its A-Game.

The Olympics

MLB players don’t participate in the Olympics, but once every four years the NHL cancels its All-Star Game so its best players can play for their home countries in the Winter Olympics. Try finding me a hockey fan who prefers the All-Star Game to Olympic Hockey. It’s impossible. Who would rather watch guys half-ass it during a meaningless exhibition game than battle tooth-and-nail for a gold medal? It’s tough to care for the All-Star Game when the alternative is so much better.

So let’s just cancel this stupid thing…

Not so fast. While I don’t particularly care for the NHL All-Star Game, it’s probably a thrill for the host city and its fans, particularly those in attendance. Although it doesn’t compare to the Home Run Derby, the Skills Competition is still a fun opportunity for players to show off their skills that ISN’T THE SHOOTOUT. Finally, it’s one of the league’s premier events in terms of marketability and ad revenue (presumably) and might prevent the league from having to put together more blatant cash-grabs like the six outdoor games this upcoming season. On second thought, it probably won’t.

The Top EA Sports NHL Video Game Characters of All-Time

Fortunate enough to have a Super Nintendo as a youngen, I have been glued to the television screen, playing video game hockey since NHL ’93.

In the early days, I gained a competitive edge by tricking my younger sister into believing her team’s back-up goalie, “Pull”, was her best option. As the years went on, I moved up to whooping Silverman’s ass every Friday after High School (*Editor’s Note: BULLSHIT). Most recently, I could be found throwing my controller across my college dorm room out of frustration while playing online. I was all about the NHL video game series.

As we await the release of the latest installment of EA Sports’ NHL series, which will seemingly include an homage to past NHL series greatness, I counted down my personal favorite players to light the lamp with over the years. In no particular order, here are probably the 5 most unrealistic, overrated and misrepresented video game characters who have ever taken over my living room.

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NHL 93 – Cliff Ronning

Throughout his tenure as a Vancouver Canuck in the early 90’s, Cliff Ronning was a consistent 20-30 goal scorer. This was not the case in NHL 93. Ronning was the deadliest offensive weapon in hockey video game history, way ahead of any other name on this list. With one tap of the B-button, Ronning would be halfway down the ice and he was always a sure thing to bury a nasty one-timer. His NHL ’93 counterpart was so dominant that the name Ronning will be forever be more well-known as a video game character than as an actual human being. By far the most talented video game athlete ever created, and yes that includes your Create-A-Player self.

Most of the overly epic player-renderings on this list are more than likely the result of happenstance. But Cliff Ronning says his video game greatness was no accident; Our friends over at Puck Daddy discovered its true source:

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NHL 02 – David Legwand

The early 2000’s weren’t the NHL’s most scoring-filled years, so in order to give fans their fix, EA gifted us with David Legwand and his ridiculous one-timer skills. Pass this guy the puck anywhere on the ice surface in NHL ’02 and he’d slap that biscuit home with ease. Unmatched strength, precise accuracy and a wheelhouse the size of an Olympic swimming pool propelled the Predator forward into the next level. The former No. 2 overall pick only had only two campaigns of 50-plus points in his career, but the video game David Legwand could routinely tally 100-plus goals in season mode.

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NHL 09 – Byron Bitz

Size, puck control, speed, vision and a wicked wrister: Am I describing Zdeno Chara or Milan Lucic? No. I’m talking about another Bruin, albeit one who is no longer on the team or even in the NHL: the former 4th rounder out of Cornell, the NHL 09 version of Byron Bitz. Coming off arguably his best season — he potted a whopping 4 goals in 35 regular season games and added one more in 5 playoff games — the crew at EA Canada decided to give this guy an extra helping of boss sauce in NHL 09.

Don’t be deceived by his low overall rating and his spot on the Bruins’ depth chart, the ’09 video game Bitz was a diamond in the rough. At 6’5″, 215 lbs, Bitz was nearly impossible to knock off the puck. All you had to do was walk in, snipe and repeat. Yes, it was that simple.

NHL 03 – Saku Koivu

After returning to the Canadians at the end of the ’01-’02 season, having successfully beaten  Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and leading his team past the heavily favored Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, the Montreal media was ready to anoint their captain as the next Habs legend. Apparently so were the programmers. Koivu was, and still is, a hero to the Montreal faithful, which must have included half the staff over at EA Canada.

The combination of the latest in deking technology and video-game Koivu’s new-found, unquenchable thirst to dangle filthily launched the Finnish center into EA sports immortality. Although the real Koivu posted a career best 71 points in the subsequent season, doubling those numbers would’ve been child’s play if he had nearly half the skills of his video game self.

NHL 94 – Jeremy Roenick

I’ll stick to my guns: ’93 Ronning is the best there’s ever been. But if anyone comes close it’s this guy.

Jeremy Roenick is well known for his skills on the ice. Today, he is identified by younger hockey fans as an analyst, small-time actor and overall badass (well at least until he cried on live television). In other words, Roenick transcends all realms of the entertainment industry. As one of the more recognizable American hockey players of his time, you’d expect JR to be the stud on an already-loaded Blackhawks roster in NHL ’94. Those expectations were well beyond exceeded. The pixelated, thumb-sized version of Roenick was a Super Nintendo mega-beast/borderline-god.

Forever cemented into video game history by this infamous scene in movie history in which he destroyed the great one himself, JR was sprung into EA Sports stardom.

This cemented video-game Roenick as “the guy behind the guy behind the guy.” Seriously, he was so f’n money.

Comments? Concerns? Questions? Answers? Opinions? Random gibberish? Go ahead and post your thoughts in the comment section.

Follow Joe Naftol on twitter: @JNaftol

The July 5th Free Agency Day-Drinking Game for ‘MURICANS

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Suck it, Canada!

For the first time in years, unrestricted free agency in the NHL doesn’t start on Canada Day. In years past, Canadians got to turn on TSN, hide the remote and plant their Molson-guzzling asses in front of the TV, while fans South of the Border were left waiting for text message alerts at work or in class.

But this year, the Free Agent Frenzy begins on July 5th, meaning Americans can glue their eyes to ESPN OLN Versus NHL Network for the second day of their long weekends. U-S-A!

No American celebration is complete without day-drinking, so without further adieu, The July 5th Free Agency Day-Drinking Game for ‘MURICANS:

Sip your drink every time a free agent signs.

Take an additional sip of your drink if…

  • The first signing of the day is a forward or defenseman.
  • Jaromir Jagr signs with a team he hasn’t already played for.
  • The Flyers sign a goalie. (two sips if it’s Tim Thomas, three sips if it’s Tim Thomas to a multi-year deal)
  • In an interview on your network of choice, a player talks about how “excited I am for this new [opportunity/challenge/chapter in my career]”
  • One of the following players re-signs with his 2013 team:
    • Patrik Elias
    • Daniel Alfredsson
    • Teemu Selanne
    • Milan Hejduk
  • The Sabres begin their fire sale by unloading Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek or  Tyler “Traffic Cone” Myers.
  • Seattle signs a marquis player to mark the new chapter in the franchise’s history

Take a shot if…

  • The first signing of the day is a goalie.
  • Mike Ribiero’s wife bitches on Twitter…again.
  • Danny Briere returns to Buffalo.
  • Tim Thomas signs a multi-year contract with a team other than the Flyers.
  • One of the following players is traded:
    • Marian Hossa
    • Tyler Seguin
    • Ales Hemsky
  • David Clarkson gets $5 million+/year.
  • A 2013 NHLer signs a KHL/European deal
  • The Islanders find yet another way to circumvent the salary floor.
  • An American media member beats the Canadian guys to a scoop (take a big pull from the bottle if it’s Eklund)

Pour some out for one’s homie if…

One of the following players retires:

  • Teemu Selanne
  • Jaromir Jagr
  • Adrian Aucoin
  • Daniel Alfreddson
  • Milan Hejduk
  • Brendan Morrow
  • Saku Koivu

Chug if…

  • CapGeek‘s server crashes, leaving fans and GMs alike wondering how much cap space their team has.
  • A GM finds a loophole in the CBA, and the panic of going through another lockout begins to set in.
  • The Islanders sign a player for more than $4 million/year.
  • The Canucks sign a goalie.
  • The Canucks trade Roberto Luongo.
  • The Flyers get under the salary cap.
  • Vinny Lecavalier backs out of his deal with the Flyers.

Stop playing and move on to harder drugs if…

  • Your team signs Rick DiPietro to an NHL contract.

Have ideas for more rules? Post in the comments and we’ll add them in!

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Game by Alex Silverman, Joey Naftol and Trevor Kraus