Around the NHL: Winds of Change, an Unconventional Owner, and that Ovechkin Guy

By Ryan Black, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

There’s been a lot of misery, disappointment, and confusion surrounding the local squad lately, and it really is hard to look away. But sometimes it’s fun to remember that there’s 30 other teams in the NHL that don’t play on Broad Street.

And there’s about to be 31! We somehow skipped over the Board of Governors approving an expansion franchise in Seattle during last week’s article. But that decision was a foregone conclusion: The yet-to-be-named team will start play in 2021, and will stock its roster under the same expansion draft rules that made the Vegas Golden Knights a competitive team right out of the gate.

Speaking of names, here’s 13 potential options that their ownership group (which includes film producer Jerry Bruckheimer) has trademarked: Seattle Cougars, Seattle Eagles, Seattle Emeralds, Seattle Evergreens, Seattle Firebirds, Seattle Kraken, Seattle Rainiers, Seattle Renegades, Seattle Sea Lions, Seattle Seals, Seattle Sockeyes, Seattle Totems and Seattle Whales.

So, place your bets, everybody.

Trade winds swirling: The holiday roster freeze, which runs from midnight this Wednesday until midnight on the 27th, is like a mini trade deadline. Teams looking to make shake-ups and potentially salvage their seasons will often try to make deals before the break, and this year there are a lot of teams that need to be shaken up, packing some pretty potent players.

The languishing St. Louis Blues need fresh blood, and indications are the even some of their best players aren’t off the table: Not pure sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, not veteran offensive-defenseman and team captain Alex Pietrangelo, and maybe not even young defensive stud Colton Parayko. The equally-disappointing Los Angeles Kings might be moving on from solid veteran defensemen like Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez, and perhaps even looking to ship out venerable goaltender Jonathan Quick. Former Flyer Jeff Carter is an attractive piece, but there’s speculation he might just retire if the team tries to trade him.

The Flyers themselves have been shambles, and might be looking to ship out veterans like fan favorite Wayne Simmonds. There’s also the always-unstable Ottawa Senators, quickly-aging Chicago Blackhawks, and struggling Detroit Red Wings all with seasons lost and pieces to move. And the Blue Jackets have to start considering their options with soon-to-be free agents Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, lest they find themselves in the position the New York Islanders were in after failing to deal or sign John Tavares.

Carolina’s new owner is really something: Less than a decade after relocating from Hartford, the Carolina Hurricanes had won a Stanley Cup and made another Finals appearance. And ever since they’ve just sort of been there, playing mostly-.500 hockey in front of a mostly-sold arena.

In early 2018, Texan billionaire Tom Dundon used his fortune from the finance world and the Top Golf chain to become the Canes’ majority owner. Under him, the team seems to be developing some flavor, though it’s uncertain what that flavor exactly is.

Dundon raised eyebrows a couple of times this week: First, it came out that he sort of hates the team’s white away uniforms, and has twice (successfully) requested that they be able to wear their red kits on the road. They ended up with a rare black vs. red matchup when they visited the Anaheim Ducks, and then were able to convince the Montreal Canadiens to wear white at the Bell Centre so they could continue rocking their reds on the road. Color is never a bad thing, right?

His other news-making item was a bit more vexing, and perhaps reflective of the new owner’s attitude and newness to the game. Dundon told a reporter: “We won’t be drafting defense in the first round as long as I’m here. I’ve got to have more offense. I want to lose 5-4, not 2-1. If we lose 5-4, I’ll have fun at least.”

No word on what his general manager, coaching staff, or scouting crew think of that sentiment.

Ovechkin is still the best goal-scoring man of our time: He won a Cup, got really drunk all summer, and seems to be suffering no hangover. Alex Ovechkin has scored 29 times in 32 games. That’s a mind-blowing .9 goals per game, putting him on an obscene 74 goal pace for the season.

Of course, that pace might be a bit artificial at the moment: The Washington Capitals captain bolstered his totals by going out and scoring back-to-back hat tricks on Tuesday against the Red Wings and Friday against the Hurricanes.

At 33, Ovechkin has amassed an astounding 636 goals, putting him 15th on the all-time list. He’ll likely find himself 12th by season’s end (somewhere behind Teemu Selanne’s 684), and he might have enough runway left in his career to take aim at second-place Gordie Howe’s 801. Gretzky’s 894 might be safe, for now, but if Alex keeps pumping pucks past keepers like this, who knows?