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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Fantasy Joe: A Handful of Fantasy Hockey Sleepers

If talented Islanders prospect Ryan Strome cracks the top line this season, he will undoubtedly put up huge numbers for your fantasy team.

As the dog days of summer move into the NFL preseason, the disease of fantasy football fever is upon us. While everyone else is rummaging the dark corners of the web to find that hidden sleeper no one else knows about for their football teams, you can just swing through Hockey Falls to to gear up for the final few rounds of your fantasy hockey draft, because you know by then your football squad will be in the shitter.

Here are my top sleepers to look out for during the 2013/2014 Fantasy Hockey Season.

Ryan Strome – New York Islanders

The departure of Brad Boyes leaves an empty right wing spot next to fantasy studs, John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Strome has huge potential as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft and has likely generated enough buzz in rookie mini-camp to earn a roster spot.  If he has an even more impressive training camp and preseason, he has a legitimate chance to fill that RW spot, which would cause his value to sky-rocket. Brad Boyes put up 35 points in 48 games alongside Tavares last season and P.A. Parenteau tallied 67 points in 80 games in 2011-12 before cashing in with Colorado. Just imagine what Strome, who had 94 points in just 53 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs last year, could do. Earning this spot on the depth chart will be a tough task though, as he will have to compete against the likes of Kyle Okposo, Pierre Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck, who was JT’s linemate in juniors. This is a position battle to monitor, as whoever wins that RW spot will have a handful of scoring opportunities every night.

Jaden Schwartz – St. Louis Blues

The 14th overall pick in the 2010 draft is quickly developing into a solid two-way winger. With the departure of David Perron to Edmonton and Andy McDonald’s retirement, Schwartz could end up playing on a line with either T.J. Oshie & David Backes or Derrick Roy & Chris Stewart. If that’s the case Schwartz will see a major increase in responsibility, ice time and power play minutes.

Emerson Etem/Kyle Palmieri/ Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks

Very similar to the Ryan Strome situation on the Island, there is an open wing spot that will almost guarantee a major upswing in production. Etem, Palmieri and Silfverberg are the prime candidates to replace Bobby Ryan on Anaheim’s top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and former MVP Cory Perry. Etem and Palmieri just inked three-year extensions with the Ducks and Silfverberg was the marquee prospect the team recieved in return for Ryan. Both Etem and Palmieri had outstanding postseason series against the Red Wings, grabbing 5 points in 7 games each, but our gut feeling is that Etem will take over in that top line winger spot, being that he is the home-town kid.

Adam Henrique – New Jersey Devils

Adam Henrique came into last year’s lockout shortened season with “humongous big” expectations after he lit it up in the Devil’s playoff run the previous year. But he didn’t deliver, and his game hit a bit of a sophomore slump. Devils faithful and potential fantasy owners are hoping his dropoff in production wasn’t a result of the loss of Zach Parise because, if that’s the case, he will have even less star power around him as Ilya Kovalchuk is also off the team’s depth chart now. On the optimistic side, he will play big minutes and receive a lot of power play time. This is Henrique’s opportunity to become a star and one of the few bright spots on a lackluster New Jersey squad. Someone has to score, right?

Drew Shore/ Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers’ roster is loaded with up-and-coming young talent, and if the Panthers have any chance at being relevant in the “new” Atlantic Division, Huberdeau and Shore will have to put the team on their backs. Huberdeau, I almost didn’t put him on the sleeper list as he had 31 points in 48 games as a rookie last season and is clearly Florida’s next (if there was even one before him) homegrown franchise player. Shore was a second round pick in the ’09 draft, and is quickly developing deadly chemistry with Huberdeau. He contributed 13 points in the shortened campaign, but look for a major increase in minutes and points next season. If you can afford to take a hit on +/- then draft one of these two.

Alex Goligoski – Dallas Stars

Since he was traded to the Dallas Stars in the middle of the ’10-’11 season, Goligoski’s point totals have improved every year. Although playing on a top-heavy Dallas team won’t help his +/- , his point totals will continue to increase, and he has a good shot at breaking out as the primary puck mover to Jamie Benn who’s moving back to his natural position on the wing, and Tyler Seguin, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder as he was cast off embarrassingly from the Bruin’s organization.

Jacob Markstrom (Keeper/Dynasty League) – Florida Panthers

The Panthers made Jacob Markstrom their second-round selection in the 2008 draft, then he led the Swedish Elite league in save percentage and goals against average as a 20-year-old. For NHL fantasy purposes, however, Markstrom is more of a guy to look out for in keeper leagues or dynasty leagues. He’s incredibly talented and has a ton of potential. The problem is his team will not give him the support to put up solid numbers and often will leave him out to dry. The team in front of him might look even worse this season, now playing against the likes of Boston, Detroit and Montreal more regularly. Markstrom showed flashes of greatness last season, and will be the starter for the Panthers in ’13-’14 but a breakout campaign is not in the works just yet.  A few seasons down the road, Markstrom will be a top netminder in the NHL. For now, he would be a good pickup as a spot-starter when Florida’s matchups are favorable.

Jake Allen – St. Louis Blues

Picked just three spots after Markstrom by a far superior Blues team, Allen has the potential to be a top fantasy hockey goalie. But the goaltending situation in St. Louis is a bit murky.  Jaroslav Halak is one of the streakiest and most injury-prone goalies in the league, and Brian Elliot completely shit the bed last year when he had a legitimate chance to take over the starting gig. Allen won’t be handed the starting job and will probably have to wait for Halak to get hurt, and for management to completely lose their faith in Elliot. If Allen takes advantage of his opportunities and works his way into the mix, he will rack up a ton of wins, have a solid GAA, and have a chance for a shutout on any given night as the squad playing in front of him is one of the best defensive teams in the NHL.

Who are you eyeing in the late rounds of your fantasy hockey draft? Let us know in the comments.

ROAD TRIPPIN’: PART 3 OF YOUR TEAM-BY-TEAM GUIDE TO 2013-14′S BEST NHL ADVENTURES

In case you missed it, check out Part One and Part Two of our 2013-14 NHL Road Trippin’ guide.

Despite a not-so-brief work-related detour, we’ve arrived at the third and final installment of our 2013-14 NHL Road Trippin’ guide. Needless to say, we’re starting to feel like our Hockey Falls predecessors:

Nevertheless, we have soldiered on and planned itineraries for the patient fans of the late-in-the-alphabet teams (no, that’s not one of Bettman’s new divisions). If you’re new to the series, be sure to check out our Rules of the Roadtrip, which has some helpful tips you oughta read before you hit the road.

And while we’re here, we’d like to wish our fellow Puckheads luck surviving August, which everyone knows is a hockey fan’s most devastating month on the calendar. It’s that time between free agency and training camp that just makes us squirm. Keep coming back to Hockey Falls, as we’ll be doing our best to help you through this dark time. See you on the other side.

Philadelphia Flyers

Depart Philly: January 12

Return to Philly: January 15

Flyers Roadtrip

Distance: 865 miles

Gas: $148

Driving Time: 14 hours, 1 minute

Games: 2

Want to see a lot of goals? Don’t care which net they end up in? Then, dear Flyers fan, this trip is for you! A thin blue line and laughable goaltending tandem shouldn’t stop Flyers fans from catching a couple of games in the Empire State this January. On Sunday, January 12th, drive up to New York City for a Metropolitan (!?!?) Division rivalry game between the Rangers and Flyers. Spend Monday in NYC, then wake up early on Tuesday and make the journey out to Buffalo for the game that night. Fill up on wings before heading back to Philly on Wednesday.

Phoenix Coyotes

Depart Phoenix: November 2

Return to Phoenix: November 7

Yotes Roadtrip

Distance: 1422 miles

Gas: $244

Driving Time: 20 hours, 48 minutes

Games: 2

Hello….is there anybody in there? If there happen to be any of those mythical creatures called Coyotes fans reading, have we got a trip for you! It starts early in the morning on Saturday, November 2nd, when you’ll head to San Jose to see the best looking hockey player in the league.  Wait, he doesn’t play for them anymore? Well, if driving 10 hours to see a mere hockey game still sounds enticing, catch the game that night and then spend the next 3 days enjoying beautiful California, from the north to the south before you see Coyotes-Ducks on Wednesday the 6th in Anaheim. Head back home after the game and hope the team hasn’t lost another owner while you were in the car.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Depart Pittsburgh: April 30

Return to Pittsburgh: May 5

Pens Roadtrip

Distance: 1480 miles

Gas: $254

Driving Time: 22 hours, 7 minutes

Games: 2 (1 outdoor/1 indoor)

One of the perks of rooting for Sidney Crosby’s team — other than, you know, watching Sidney Crosby — is that your club gets to take part in all the cool stuff the league does. Such is the case on Saturday, March 1st, when the Pens will play the defending Cup champs at Soldier Field in Chicago. If you’re a Pens fan, make sure you don’t miss that one, and as long as you’re there, you might as well dart south to see Pens-Preds in Nashville on the 4th before heading back to the three rivers after the game.

San Jose Sharks

Depart San Jose: April 30

Return to San Jose: May 5

Sharks Roadtrip

Distance: 2892 miles

Gas: $496

Driving Time: 47 hours, 28 minutes

Games: 2

Unfortunately, the good people making the NHL schedule didn’t have Sharks fans in mind when they put together this year’s edition. The Sharks will travel more miles in 2013-14 than any other NHL team, and unlike you, they’re stuck on cushy, lavish charter jets instead of enjoying the open road. There’s no  simple LA-ANA-PHX stretch, so instead, we’re sending Sharks fans up north. If you leave on Monday, November 11th in the morning, you’ll get to Calgary by the next night and get to see the Yotes and Flames play in a game you’ll surely hear about on ESPN the next morning. You’ll have all of the 13th to drive to Vancouver and enjoy the beautiful Canadian landscape before Sharks-Canucks on the 14th. You could go back to Edmonton for the next night, but since you’ll already be right near the U.S. border, just head home and watch it on TV in San Jose.

St. Louis Blues

Depart St. Louis: March 19

Return to St. Louis: March 24

Blues Roadtrip

Distance: 1948 miles

Gas: $334

Driving Time: 29 hours, 45 minutes

Games: 3

The Blues get that awesome New York triplet of games, (and that’s one I’ll be doing for sure), but since we’ve already used that setup in our guides, we’ll get more creative here. For example, on Wednesday, March 19th, you could go see the Blues and Blackhawks rekindle an always-fun rivalry. Since you’re already in that direction, keep going east and be in Philly the night of Saturday, March 22nd to see two 1967 expansion teams in a matinee. Just 21 hours after the game ends, the Blues are in Pittsburgh to play the Pens, yet another 1967 matchup. If you hustle, you can get back to St. Louis by the wee hours of Monday morning and load up on caffeine to get through the day at work or school.

***Bonus road trip: If you’re willing and able to miss Thanksgiving with the family in exchange for a crazy week of driving, listen up: Leave St. Louis on Tuesday, November 26th for Denver to see Blues-Avs the next night. Continue westward, stop at a grocery store and grab a turkey sandwich on Thursday, and get to San Jose for Friday night, the 29th. It’s Blues-Sharks On Sunday, December 1st, the Rams play the 49ers just across the Bay in San Francisco. Stick around for that game, then head south to Los Angeles for Blues-Kings on Monday. It’s a full day’s drive back to St. Louis, but after 3 hockey games and a football game, your adrenaline will be pumping enough to get you home.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Depart Tampa: February 27

Return to Tampa: March 2
Lightning Roadtrip

Distance: 2457 miles

Gas: $422

Driving Time: 35 hours, 50 minutes

Games: 2

Right after the Olympic break, on Thursday, February 27th, the Bolts head to Nashville to take on the Preds. After enduring 3 whole weeks without NHL hockey, get back to the game you love (and the team that, by this point in the year, you probably hate) in style by making the 10-hour drive, with a stop in Atlanta if you’ve never been to The Varsity or feel like investigating the farfetched myth that there was once a hockey team that played there (wait, that happened?). See the game that night, then take your sweet time drifting through Memphis and Little Rock on the way to Dallas, for Lightning-Stars on Saturday, March 1st. Hug the Gulf Coast on the way back to Dallas. You’ll get there by Sunday evening if you leave after the game.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Depart Toronto: January 8

Return to Toronto: January 11

Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 10.45.48 PM

Distance: 1461 miles

Gas: $251

Driving Time: 25 hours, 5 minutes

Games: 2

A pretty easy, long-weekend road trip for the Leafs, as long as their fans haven’t rioted and killed Dave Nonis by the time January 9th rolls around. That’s when the Leafs square off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, only a 12 hour drive south. The next night, Friday the 10th, the Leafs are in DC, which is right on the way back to Toronto.

Vancouver Canucks

Depart Vancouver: January 11

Return to Vancouver: January 18

Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 11.02.53 PM

Distance: 3179 miles

Gas: $545

Driving Time: 48 hours, 34 minutes

Games: 3

Canucks fans get to take a trip to Southern California and Arizona in mid-January. Leave on Sunday, January 11th and head down the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, for an early litmus test in the Western Conference against the Kings on the 12th. If the Sedin Sisters can’t get the job done at Staples, we advise you refrain from rioting; the LAPD won’t let that shit fly. Moving on, the ‘Nucks get the Ducks on Wednesday the 15th at Arrowhead Pond the Honda Center *sigh* and then play the Coyotes in Phoenix the next night. Gird your loins right after the game for a 23-hour hike through Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to get back home. Or, if you’d rather extend your bender vacation, stop in Sin City on the way back. But word of advice: no matter how well you think you know hockey, DO NOT parlay NHL games…you have been warned.

Washington Capitals

Depart D.C.: January 24

Return to D.C.: February 1

Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 11.37.33 PM

Distance: 2023 miles

Gas: $347

Driving Time: 31 hours, 43 minutes

Games: 5

This five-city tour might be the best of the bunch, fitting for followers of the defending Hart Trophy winner. Believe it or not, you won’t rack up too many miles even while following your team around like some dirty hippies on Phish tour. Leave the District of Columbia on the morning of Friday, January 24th and head to the New Jersey to catch Caps-Devils at the Rock. Hit the Jersey Turnpike and head due North to Montreal, where you’ll catch Les Habitants à Centre Bell. Spend the rest of the weekend in Montreal, which we hear is one of the most gorgeous cities in the league, before making your way back across the border to Buffalo. The Caps and Sabres face off on Tuesday the 28th. Stock up on Mighty Taco for the rest of your trip before making a move to Ohio. Be there by Thursday the 30th to see Gaborik, Dubinsky, Anisimov and the rest of the Rangers BJs fire a cannon, or something. Early Friday morning, make the three-hour trip from Columbus to Detroit, where the Caps will cap off their roadtrip at the Joe, where “Rocking your Red” will probably be counterproductive. The trip home to D.C. from Detroit will be the longest leg of the trip, coming in at a shade under eight hours.

Winnipeg Jets

Depart Winnipeg: November 24

Return to Winnipeg: December 3

Screen shot 2013-07-31 at 11.41.30 PM

Last but not least, the Jets. Not a ton of travel options for fans in the ‘Peg, but old reliable, the New York triplet, is on the table, and it’s too good an opportunity to miss. It’s 25 hours from Winnipeg to Newark, so leave on Sunday, November 24th and get to The Prudential Center by the 25th. You’ll have all day Tuesday Wednesday to hang out in New York City before heading out to Long Island the night of the 27th. You’re Canadian, so you won’t be missing Thanksgiving the next night, and while we Americans are busy stuffing our faces (as per usual), you can head to Philly for a night on the town. It’s Jets-Flyers on Friday the 29th. Saturday and Sunday are free to spend either in Philly or back in NYC, as the Jets play the Rangers on Monday, December 2nd. That’s 4 games and a lifetime of memories made (and forgotten) in 2 of the best cities in the world. Head back to Winnipeg on Tuesday the 3rd.

Distance: 3534 miles

Gas: $606

Driving Time: 54 hours, 18 minutes

Games: 4

Well, that’s all folks. Enjoy the Open Ride and don’t hesitate to make a pit stop in Hockey Falls if you find yourself in the neighborhood. We’ll bring the beers.

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)

Blues Fan: ‘Hate the Hawks, Respect the Cup’


The Chicago Blackhawks revolt me. The fact they won the Stanley Cup last month (is there a stronger word than revolts?) me. So when I found myself in Chicago this weekend, surrounded by Indian Heads, I tried to suppress the rage by gritting my teeth and pursing my lips. I’ve gotten over their Cup win to a certain extent. But still, seeing so much red and black was like watching someone next to you on a train or bus pick their nose. It’s disgusting, and you don’t want to acknowledge you saw it; you know it’s there, but try to convince yourself it’s not.

At Wrigley Field, before Saturday’s Pirates-Cubs game, Joel Quenneville took the Cup out to the mound, hoisted it and then threw out the first pitch. Of course, you probably expect that I’d almost have a stroke, if the mere sight of the logo caused me so much distress. Not to mention, it was our (the Blues’) former head coach. I didn’t have a stroke, nor did I boo. In fact, my response was mild and contemplative. At that moment, with Coach Q standing in a sacred place, fresh off a second Stanley Cup win in 4 years, the thought that overcame me was “Respect the Cup.”

In stride back to my seat, I stopped in my tracks. Immediately, I found a picturesque view of the field, “Because it’s the Cup.”

I know how hokey that phrase has become to us puckheads; it’s an easy punchline. But in this case, it rings true. That trophy, year after year, inspires such passion. Bergeron playing through the injury gauntlet. Niklas Hjalmarsson doing the exact same thing as Greg Campbell and getting 0% of the media coverage Campbell got. And on and on.

Not to mention the scores of fans the Cup consumes for 2 months every year. The memories we make and the fun we share as fans, in pursuit of it, are the ones we hold nearest to our hearts. It commands respect, no matter who won the Cup.

So I stood for a moment, stopping short of applauding (for the Blackhawks), and admired that any group of men could dedicate itself to something so thoroughly and passionately. No, they’re not dedicating their lives exactly, but we do get to watch their sacrifice play out on national TV, so it’s the best drama we got.

I declined to touch the Cup when I was at the Hall of Fame. A superstition, perhaps—the Blues have never won it— but a deference to the sheer effort poured into that Chalice. It’s called the greatest trophy in sports, but until Saturday, I had merely accepted that as fact. It wasn’t until I saw my rival hoisting it again that I understood why it’s the greatest trophy in sports.

Please…I’m Begging You…Make the Time Move Faster

Maybe the lockout wasn’t quite as bad as we thought. No doubt, it felt like a back-stabbing in the midst of it; owners and players squabbling over how to divvy up the $30 I pay for my ticket in section 312 in Scottrade Center. The lunacy of taking away the coolest game on earth (trademark NHL, circa 1998) was almost too much to overcome. I took it hard. I swore off the league and promised I wouldn’t come back to the game this season. And I was able to stay away for the most part…until the playoffs. They were spectacular this year, from the Blues’ first round loss to the Kings through Game 6 last Monday night in Boston. I watched at least one hockey game per night for 2 straight months. The bitterness and anger I lobbed toward the game evaporated little by little, with each hip check, poke check, and pad save.

Now that the season’s over, I’ve realized the one and only POSITIVE aspect of the lockout:  it shortened the off-season! You know, the offseason…that dreadful, miserable, humid, sweaty stretch of time between the end of the Final and Opening Night. During the lockout, at least there was the possibility the players and the owners would strike a deal, so at any given time, we were—theoretically—only a week away from hockey. But now, as we sit here nearing Independence Day, there is absolutely ZERO chance of an NHL game being played for the next 3+ months. Which hurts. But at least by Independence Day this year, the Cup Final still lingers fresh in our memories. Other years, live hockey has been dead for 3 weeks by July 4th. Sure, free agency and the draft are exciting. But those passing fads don’t fill the time between 7:00 and 10:00 every other night.

If it sounds like I’m BSing, and just trying to find some sliver of a silver lining to this whole lockout, given that we’ll probably have a new one on our hands September 1, 2019, well yeah, you got that right.

We don’t know just yet when the 2013-2014 NHL season will start (in normal years, the schedule comes out in mid-July, but with the Phoenix Coyotes in limbo, who knows when it’ll be released?) but the first Saturday in October is when most of the league typically plays its first game. This year, that’s October 5th. 7:00 is when the Blues would play if they’re in the Central time zone. Here’s something to do to help pass the time. Enjoy. It’s almost as exciting as watching baseball.