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· One of the biggest stories from late last week/over the weekend involved Jim Balsillie's decision to pull his bid to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins off the table. Here's the most interesting part:

Representatives for both Balsillie and the NHL refused to comment on Balsillie's withdrawal, but sources tell TSN the deal started to fall apart a week ago today, when the $175 million transaction was supposed to officially close.

Sources say the NHL introduced a lengthy list of terms and conditions on the closing day that Balsillie would have to agree to if he were going to be approved as the new owner of the team. The sources added that those conditions included keeping the franchise in Pittsburgh under any circumstances and also provided for a scenario where the league could take control the franchise if it deemed it necessary.


Now, was it just me, or did it seem as if Balsillie had his eye on moving the Penguins franchise right from the get-go? Whether any city in question would be feasible or appropriate is not the issue. How can Gary Bettman not have seen, let alone sensed this? I realize there was only one legitimate bid on the table, but why not wait until gaming licenses are awarded this week before taking any offers seriously? (If there was a reason for this timetable that someone is aware of, please fill us in.)

Can you really blame Balsillie for wanting to move the franchise? During the week of the NHL meetings in early December, the Penguins drew an embarrassing 12,511 for a home game vs. Florida. And on the night where Crosby scored his eye-popping six points against the Flyers, only 14,150 fans bothered to appear.

Keep in mind these numbers are coming from the NHL, so they're liable to be on the generous side.

That's some showing for the so-called best player in the league.

The Penguins possess the building blocks to ice an entertaining and highly capable franchise, and if they continue to draft effectively, it's only a matter of time before they are able to legitimately compete in the playoffs. However, time seems to be running out on the idea of keeping the team in Pittsburgh. Would a new arena permanently solve the attendance issues, when the usual refrain from a dying franchise mainly revolves around a poor team, and not a poor building?

Some so-called members of the Pittsburgh media have reacted to Balsillie's decision with tasteless and juvenile remarks. But unless Bettman is blind, he should have been able to see that Balsillie wasn't interested in losing money in an indifferent city. If Isle of Capri is not awarded a gaming license, then it's time to seriously consider the idea of moving the team elsewhere.

Does relocation look good to those who choose to criticize the NHL? Of course not -- it's fodder for the cynical masses who are waiting for the NHL to falter. But right now, doesn't it look worse to have a plethora of empty seats in a building that houses one of the faces of the NHL?

But fear not, Penguins fans -- Frank D'Angelo will save you. Hopefully they'll enjoy becoming a cheap marketing ploy while viewing commercials featuring Ben Johnson, ad nauseam. It's exactly what the league needs right now.

Update: Mario Lemieux offers his two cents regarding the Balsillie pullout, via violin solo.

Meanwhile, thank goodness for the simulcast of Prime Time Sports on Rogers Sportsnet. Today's show blatantly displayed Bob McCown shaking his head in disbelief as potential Penguins buyer Frank D'Angelo attempted to justify his capability as an NHL owner.

· And finally, here's your blind item of the week: The Coyotes have their eye on a goaltender who's been achieving success as of late, and comes highly recommended by Phoenix goaltending coach, Grant Fuhr. But the Eastern Conference team whom possesses said backstopper, doesn't hold a lot of stock in some of their other 'tenders who are prone to injury. They're not giving him up, in spite of growing interest -- they might need him to bail them out down the stretch.

9 responses to "Monday afternoon deglaze"

  1. I think both the Pens and Devils management have watched "Field of Dreams" too many times -- "if you build it, they will come." Year-in, year-out cup contender regulary draws less than 10,000, team with the league's future stars averages in the low 10,000s. Both claim new buildings will be the cure. If a fan isn't willing to spend the $75 to see either of those teams, why would they spend $75 to see a new building? I know concessions, parking etc. all play into this, but the bottom line is the NHL relies on "butts in the seats" and a fancy new building does not get fans out.

    Anonymous

  2. I don't like Bettman very much, but I don't think he's an idiot.

    I believe that he knew Balsillie intended to move the team from the beginning, but he allowed the negotiations to get this far because he's trying to play head-games with the state. "See?! If you guys don't get that gaming license, the Penguins are gone!"

    Did anyone who learned of Balsillie's bid really think he wanted to keep the team in Pittsburgh? The moment I saw the news on TSN, the tall-forehead panel began speculating about how great Sidney would look skating around in Hamilton.

    Frank D'Angelo: What a sleaze. Maybe it's just me, but I think his dad was a three-card monte player. He hosed Ottawa for some free publicity with his "interest" in the Renegades, and I bet he's at it again with the Penguins.

    P.S. - Pittsburgh "drafts effectively"? It's pretty easy to assemble a team of superstars when you get the first-overall pick every year. Those cheesy bastards.

    This is off-topic, but I can't stand this franchise. They get bailed out time and time again, and then submarine their team's chances by trading away all their expensive talent so they can draft even more superstar kids. And like you say, the fans STILL don't come out to watch. This city doesn't deserve to have the talents they've assembled. It was time to consider moving the club ages ago.

    But they get moved to Canada over Bettman's dead body. God forbid the Penguins go to a city that actually experiences snowfall more than once a century.

    Wardo

  3. "Pittsburgh "drafts effectively"? It's pretty easy to assemble a team of superstars when you get the first-overall pick every year. Those cheesy bastards."

    Fair enough, but this means little to me as a Sens follower -- remember Alexandre Daigle? Not every No. 1 pick works out. Pittsburgh has been extremely unfortunate. Perhaps the weight of carrying around the golden child's prominent lips will exhaust Sidney's legs prematurely. Penguins haters can only hope.

    The World Junior discussions are heating up, and there's one name I keep hearing repeatedly: Kristopher Letang. For the record, he's also a Penguins prospect, and went 62nd overall in '05. As for Jordan Staal, he went second overall in '06...not first.

    "The moment I saw the news on TSN, the tall-forehead panel began speculating..."

    Stellar reference. If I thieve this, I'll be sure to give you a nod.

    The Universal Cynic

  4. Thief away.

    Okay, Staal didn't go number 1. But you know what I mean. These guys have had it made in the shade in the draft department for a while now. If that doesn't resurrect hockey in Pittsburgh, how many breaks do these guys get?

    Yargh! (head exploding)

    Wardo

  5. The NJ situation is totally different from Pitt.
    Whoever wrote the comment about NJ obviously has never been to the rink in NJ and seen where it is and what surrounds it (nothing). A new rink in NJ would make a big difference for them.

    Pitt has nothing to worry about anyways. Frank the Tank is going to come in and save the day. I heard Ben Johnson is going to be the Penguins new strength and conditioning coach.....I Cheetah all the time!!!!!!!

    JB

  6. I wrote the comment about the rink in Jersey (I should register) and I have been there many times. You're right, there's nothing around it except Giants Stadium and parking lots....hmmm, sort of like Scotiabank Place, replacing the football stadium with car dealerships.

    But I still don’t think a new rink makes a difference for the fan base of the team. For the 6-10,000 loyal Devil fans, you’re now asking them to make a 20-45 minute commute to Newark. Assuming most are suburban Jersey dwellers/NYC commuters who could drive their car to Meadowlands, will they want to regularly make that public transportation commute to the new rink?

    Have you ever been to Newark? It is in the process of revitalization, but I think I’d rather take my chances running across the Jersey turnpike to get to the Brendan Byrne.

    Maybe I’m wrong and the move closer to Manhattan makes a difference. But I think it’s wrong to think that a consistently contending team that draws 8-12,000/game will now attract 16-18,000/game just because of a new building…unless they can also get a slots license or sell Steelback beer at the games.

    Anonymous

  7. The location of Scotiabank place is not ideal but given the alternative I think the people of Ottawa are ok with it and the development surrounding it over the past 10 years has been pretty good.

    A new Rink in Newark will definitely bring out the curious fan and if NJ can start playing a more entertaining brand of hockey they may be able to keep some of those fans coming back. The rink they have now is a dump but the real problem is that they are boring as hell to watch and I agree with you that a new rink won;t solve that problem.

    Having Steelback beer in the rink would send people running to Long Island! How D'Angelo manages to get the horse to piss in the bottle is his greatest success!

    JB

  8. The Pens may not consistently sell the place out, but for attendance to be any kind of factor in an argument for their relocation is asinine. While we can't keep up with the Steelers, there are a decent amount of Pens fans here, and I've been to plenty more near capacity games than 12,000 attendance games. TV ratings are high.

    And to address submarining our chances, yes, there was some gross mismanagement during the latter part of his tenure here, but Craig Patrick is no longer in the GM's office, so I don't really see relevance in the current situation here either.

    pat

  9. Thanks for your unbiased insight Pat. I appreciate you allowing us to pick your brain, but honestly, don't you think it's time to leave the poor thing alone and let it heal?

    Feel free to come back and visit once you've fully recovered from your lobotomy.

    The Universal Cynic