Oct 202008
 

The only thing that’s saving the Ducks from being the worst in the league is their one win (4-0 vs. SJ). Some teams have traditionally been off to bad starts (Dallas), but the hockey the Ducks have been playing have been horrendous. In six games, the Ducks’ top offensive weapons in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, and Chris Kunitz have only combined for a measly 3 points and -18. Instead, it’s the third liners that have done most of the scoring, led by veteran linemates Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen, both with 4 points. I find it a little surprising that the usually vocal Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle have remained mum on their star players’ disappearing acts, but they probably know something we don’t know. The Ducks will continue to fall if their players refuse to show up for games. Some of the lack of scoring can be attributed to the penalties the Ducks have taken (Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne aren’t regular penalty killers), but it’s no excuse for 4.2% powerplay. When will they start showing up? How long before Burke makes some noise?

The Pacific Division will be no contest this year if the Sharks continue to play they are – with something to prove. Asides from the loss to the Ducks, the Sharks are 5-0 with a goal differential of +10 (18-8). That is the best ratio in the West, and it shouldn’t be surprising. Jonathan Cheechoo is off to a great start with 4 goals and Patrick Marleau has been pretty good with 4 points. The powerplay is only clicking at 12.5%, but with Todd McLellan behind the bench (he managed Detroit’s powerplay in years past), that number should increase substantially by December. The question is though, how long can the Sharks keep this up? It’s early in the season and the Cup is months away – will the Sharks burn out? The toughest thing in pro hockey is to stay motivated, and will Cheechoo and Marleau be able to keep that pace?

Drew Doughty has been great for the Kings. He has yet to register a point, but is a healthy +2 and logs just under 20 minutes of ice-time per game (19:59). He’s making a strong case for himself to stick around full-time, especially now with Jack Johnson out for an extended period of time. The Kings are a surprising 2-2 to start, with a emphatic win over the cross-town rival Ducks while managing to keep the Sharks on their toes with their home-and-home series at the start of the season. The Kings have only scored 1 more goal than their opponents, and that will be a problem as the season goes on. Jason LaBarbera is playing just fine for now, but he’s no NHL starter. The Kings are only one of three teams (Minnesota and Buffalo) that have had perfect PK so far. Can the Kings play spoiler this year?

The Stars are off to a terrible start and so is Marty Turco, especially after a 6-1 drubbing by the Blues. As stated previously the Stars are slow starters, but they’ve allowed 13 goals in their 3 losses, and with such a defensively tight team it’s unacceptable. The Stars are really feeling the effects of not having Sergei Zubov. Captain Brenden Morrow has been frustrated and he’s starting to take some bad penalties, and along with linemate Mike Ribeiro (they were separated briefly against the Avs), own the team’s worst +/- at -4 and -6, respectively. Fabian Brunnstrom made noise with a hat trick in his debut, and the Stars will look to him to provide some scoring after letting Nik Hagman and Miettinen walk. When will the Stars turn it around?

The Coyotes’ 2-3 start is rather pedestrian, but with a 12-17 GF-GA ratio it’s a little alarming, considering that adding Kurt Sauer and having Ilya Bryzgalov on board for a full season should help defensively. Olli Jokinen has not disappointed, with 6 points in 5 games, while Kyle Turris has pitched in nicely with a goal and 3 helpers, making an early case for a Calder nomination. Trading away Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard took a lot of Phoenix’s depth away, and it’s showing, with the third pairing of David Hale and Keith Yandle both an awful -5. The desert dogs have some cap room to play with and may opt to bring in a veteran presence to their blueline – perhaps either Rhett Warrener, Anders Eriksson, or Kyle McLaren?

Oct 022008
 

Much ado has been made about the Canucks making Roberto Luongo their captain. The move was very surprising, considering goalies are not allowed to wear the traditional ‘C’ on their jersey and there hasn’t been a goalie captain since Bill Durnan in the 1940s. One of the reasons it became illegal was because of the inefficiency of being both a captain and a goalie. Captains are designated by their respective teams to provide an on-ice voice for the team with the refs, and because the game is so fluid and the refs are constantly moving, it made it very difficult for goalies to talk to them, in part because of the very small area on the ice the goalie patrols. They can’t wander the length of the ice as most players do, and if the referee was at the other end of the rink it would be impossible to talk to them, since goalies cannot cross the red line.

I can’t help but think this move by the Canucks is a ploy to show Luongo that this is his team. Willie Mitchell has been named as the guy who would talk to the refs on a nightly basis, but the Canucks still elected to give Mitchell an ‘A’, even though he would be fulfilling the traditional duties of a player wearing the ‘C’. It goes without question that this is Luongo’s team – no one else in the league is as crucial to their team’s success as Luongo. By officially naming him captain is a mere formality that really doesn’t carry much substance, other than re-affirm the fact that Vancouver wants Luongo to stay, and will do anything to please him and accomodate his needs. But it also means that no one in the Vancouver locker room has really stepped into the captain’s void left by Markus Naslund, which has led to a committee of three players wearing A’s on a nightly basis: Mitchell, Ryan Kesler, and Mattias Ohlund.

Perhaps at the end of the day the letters don’t quite mean anything – Mitchell will talk to the refs and Luongo continues to stop the pucks. The world keeps spinning.

EDIT: The Lightning have named Martin St. Louis and, surprisingly, Andrej Meszaros as their alternate captains for this year. The Rangers have yet to name a captain, although all signs point towards Chris Drury and Mike Richards is the front-runner in Philadelphia. The Wild and Sabres are expected to continue their rotating captaincy. The Panthers, Kings, Thrashers, and Leafs have yet to name their captains for the upcoming season.

EDIT #2: The Rangers have officially named Drury their captain, while Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez will serve as the alternates. May I also add that all three players may potentially play on the same line?

Sep 232008
 

It wasn’t too long ago that the Pens were a lock to finish in the bottom 5 of the league. The Kings are headed down this road for the foreseeable future. But, at least the future looks bright. Very bright. The Kings are blessed with enough talent, and this year will be a audition of sorts for many of the young kids to crack the lineup for next year. However, the most important thing for the Kings is to be patient. The wins will come when the time is right.

Offense is not a problem for the Kings. The hard-hitting Dustin Brown, talented Anze Kopitar, and the slick Patrick O’Sullivan form one of the most talented and feared top lines in the league. Sniper Alexander Frolov, long-time King Derek Armstrong, and the hard-shooting Jarret Stoll also forms a solid second line. However, the bottom two lines are where it starts to get messy. First, there’s Kyle Calder and Michal Handzus, Dean Lombardi‘s ill-advised signings and $7m mistake. The two veterans were complete busts for the Kings, and will be counted on to have comeback years, especially on the defensive end, where Handzus was a team-worst -21, despite being noted for his strong two-way play. Then it starts to get interesting. The Kings aren’t short of energy players to put on the fourth line. The problem is figuring out which ones to play. Former Cornell University standout Matt Moulson led the charge with 22 games played, but it’s sniper Teddy Purcell who will get the most looks after an impressive 83-point campaign in his first pro season with Manchester despite having spent only one year at the University of Maine. It’s a little known fact that the 6’3″ Purcell, who has created much buzz in the Kings’ front office, was actually undrafted and was not even the leading scorer in his one year at Maine. There’s a hoard of players for Terry Murray to pick from, from the tough as nails Raitis Ivanans to “veteran” Matt Ellis to Andy Murray‘s son Brady Murray to the speedy Brad Richardson to the forgotten Marc-Andre Cliche. This is one area Lombardi and Murray are happy to have the headaches.

As a side note, as of today O’Sullivan has yet to re-sign and does not appear on the Kings’ roster on their website, although management has made it publicly known that it is merely a formality and that they do not allow players to attend camp without a contract. It’s been reported that O’Sullivan is possibly holding out for a better contract and the Kings do have a lot of cap room to spare, but it’s also been suspected that a couple teams have made inquiries about O’Sullivan, possibly stalling contract talks.

The acquisition of Matt Greene was an excellent move for the Kings, having gotten rid of the older and disgruntled Lubomir Visnovsky. For a defense that isn’t particularly physical and whose top defenseman, Tom Preissing, is only 5’11″, the 6’3″ 235 lbs. Greene will definitely help stabilize the blueline. Greene averaged almost 17 minutes a game with Edmonton, and as arguably the Kings’ best shut-down defenseman, expect that number to balloon to as much as 22 minutes a game. Jack Johnson rounds out the top three, and while he has fallen behind former teammate Erik Johnson in terms of development, Jack can still put up some good numbers and plays with a level-head, evidenced by his 21 minutes per game average under former coach Marc Crawford, who doesn’t like to use his rookies often. It’ll be open season for the remaining spots, but look for Denis Gauthier, who spent the season with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, and Peter Harrold, who saw action in 25 games last year, will be the front-runners. The main intrigue at camp, however, is Drew Doughty. The Kings’ first round pick in this summer’s draft was signed to a pro contract a month ago, and many are wondering if Lombardi means to keep the 18-year old around for the season. Some people have said that Doughty’s heads and shoulders above the competition in the OHL and has the size and strength to make the jump, but others have argued that Doughty would be better off playing 20 minutes a night in a winning environment rather than 10 minutes a night for a team that could potentially lose 45 games.

Jason LaBarbera, a cast off from the Rangers, enters camp as the Kings’ number one goalie, but he’ll have to have a strong showing at camp or risk losing his job to either Erik Ersberg or Jonathan Bernier, who is not expected to return to his junior club this year. LaBarbera, at 28 years old, has only 79 games of NHL experience under his belt, and while he did play spectacular hockey for stretches last year, he’s not consistent enough. But that’s not what Lombardi’s worrying about – for all he knows, LaBarbera is merely a stop gap until either Bernier, Ersberg, or even Jeff Zatkoff can handle NHL duties full-time. Lombardi simply wants LaBarbera to hold up for as long as possible so that their young goalies won’t have to shoulder the load and risk injury, burnout, or being labeled as a “bust.”

Murray returns as head coach after an 8-year hiatus, and was best remembered as the coach who led the lowly Panthers to a club record 98-point season. Murray definitely comes from the right bloodlines – he’s the brother of Senators GM Bryan Murray – and having been part of the Flyers coaching staff for the past four season he knows all about the ups and downs of hockey. The Flyers’ collapse two years ago will provide some experience for Murray and motivate the Kings to play hard every night to just get through the season despite not being expected to win anything at all.

Wait, scratch that. There is one thing the Kings can win: the John Tavares/Oscar Hedman sweepstakes. The Kings aren’t expected to stray far from the cap floor, which means that there won’t be any improvements to the team from outside of the organization. They could be sellers at the trade deadline and could dangle Calder (one year remaining on contract) or Handzus, if he has a good year, as bait. One thing’s for sure: the Kings have a very tough season ahead of them.

Projected lineup:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Patrick O’Sullivan
Alexander Frolov – Jarret Stoll – Derek Armstrong
Kyle Calder – Michal Handzus – Teddy Purcell
Matt Moulson – Brad Richardson – John Zeiler

Jack Johnson – Tom Preissing
Peter Harrold – Matt Greene
Drew Doughty – Denis Gauthier

Jason LaBarbera – Erik Ersberg

scratches: Brian Boyle, Brady Murray, Raitis Ivanans

Coach: Terry Murray
GM: Dean Lombardi

Predicted finish: 5th Pacific, 15th West

Sep 132008
 

The Habs’ acquisition of Robert Lang from Chicago means a couple things:

1. Mats Sundin will not be a Hab. That is with utmost certainty after Bob Gainey made that clear in his press conference. Lang will be slotted into the third line, which means that Kyle Chipchura, who is expected to make the squad, may start the season in the AHL unless he has a good camp.

2. Chicago will still be looking to dump salary, but it looks like they may actually start the season with a Cristobal Huet-Nikolai Khabibulin tandem as Dale Tallon had suggested they would. By dumping Lang’s $4m salary, the Hawks are roughly $1.5m under the cap, good enough to start the season, but a little dangerous should the need for injury replacements arise early in the season. The Hawks are saddled with a lot of sub-$1m rookie contracts, which makes creating room a lot more difficult because it would have to involve multiple players. There is still a chance that Khabibulin ($6.75m) get moved, and if he does that means the Hawks will have plenty of cap room to play around with. The Khabibulin to LA rumours won’t die down until he is actually moved.

3. The dominoes are starting to fall. The Habs decided to move on after Sundin stated that he will not be making a decision prior to camp, which means that more teams will do the same. A lot of players, notably Brendan Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider, will find out their new homes in the coming weeks. I would think that both players would be dealt before camp begins, although under the new CBA it looks like more and more GMs are hesitant to pull the trigger and willing to be patient. Mark Parrish, another player who is looking for a new home, may find one soon after he complained that Sundin’s indecisiveness was holding up league transactions.

4. Now that the Habs have made the first move, other East teams may do the same. The Rangers could be busy in the coming weeks, perhaps signing Shanahan or acquiring Schneider, but then of course should they choose to do that they’d have to dump some salary too.

5. The Canucks are in a tight spot. While having $10m to spend is a luxury, it’ll be interesting to see how they spend it. There were rumours flying around that should Sundin land in the Big Apple that Gomez could be in a Canucks uniform, but now that seems less likely than ever. Parrish is on the Canucks’ radar and could find himself there very soon.

Sep 062008
 

- Asides from Florida, Bryan McCabe‘s other preferred destination was Manhattan. When the Rangers landed Wade Redden, Florida remained the only city McCabe was willing to waive his no-movement clause for.

- With Dan Boyle and Rob Blake stepping in, and San Jose’s talented young blueline a year older, Kyle McLaren may be the odd man out, and he knows it too. McLaren has made it known that he would like to remain in San Jose, but understands if he is traded.

- Jarret Stoll‘s extension has not been formally announced yet because there are still a few kinks to work out. While it has been confirmed that the annual cap hit will be $3.6m over 4 years, the Kings would like the deal to be front-loaded. By doing so, the Kings will have ample room to re-sign Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson to lucrative, long-term contracts. It will also make buying out Stoll’s contract (should that event ever arise) easier.

- The KHL-NHL drama continues, as the Kings signed prospects Vjateslav Voinov (Chelyabinsk) and Andrei Loktionov (Yaroslavl) last week on August 27. The KHL contends that the two youngsters were still under contract when the Kings signed them, but Bill Daly has denied such allegations and Alexander Medvedev is expected to meet with IIHF officials next week about the matter. Neither Daly nor any other NHL representative will be in attendance.

Sep 042008
 

For Mats Sundin, whose latest press conference revealed no new information about his hockey career. The Swede is still contemplating offers from as many as 6 teams, and potentially be the stumbling block of all the trades that would’ve been made already. Sundin now says that he will not make a decision before the NHL season, which means that guys like Mathieu Schneider, who was expected to be moved depending on where Sundin signs, won’t have to anymore. The sitting Duck has been itching to find out his new home, and sources say it is rumoured to be a strong Eastern Conference team. The Sundin saga has dragged itself out for far too long, and I doubt any new news will surface until he puts the ink on the paper.

And all smiles also to…

Brad Isbister, who has now found a home in Ottawa, thanks to Bryan Murray‘s new-found hobby of collecting former Canucks, including the speedy yet diminutive Ryan Shannon.

Jarret Stoll, who has finally inked a contract with the Kings worth $3.6m/year over 4 years. The two-way centre was on his way to a breakout season with the Oilers after an impressive 68-point season, but sputtered to start the season and never regained his form. The Kings are also happy that they are now $3.6m closer to the cap floor. $9m more to go, Dean.

Alex Pietrangelo and Zach Bogosian, who have agreed to entry-level contracts with the Blues and Kings, respectively. Pietrangelo will be a long-shot to crack the Blues’ regular lineup, but Bogosian, with a strong camp, may be able to secure a spot on the Kings’ blueline.

Aug 282008
 

“It’s very important for us to put on a great show in Kansas City. We owe it to Kansas City. Because we have so many good young players, we’re able to do this.”

Those were Kings president Luc Robitaille‘s words, when asked about the Kings’ exhibition game on September 22, reported by the Kansas City Star. The Kings kick off their preseason with two simultaneous games on the 22nd, splitting up their training camp roster of 60 to play against St. Louis in Kansas, and Phoenix in LA. Paul McGannon, who is the head promoter of the game, had this to add:

“They are bringing their best players. We went over that before we scheduled the game. They want Kansas City to work, and they want a good showing, and as owner-operators of the building, they want to put their best step forward… Those folks wouldn’t be coming up for a B-squad.”

Question, Mr. McGannon, who, exactly, is “we,” “they,” and “those folks”? It’s probably the NHL’s worst kept secret that they want their preseason games in non-NHL cities to work (financially), especially in Kansas City and Las Vegas, where it’s being held at the prestigious MGM Grand. These preseason games will be auditions for future destinations for folding or re-locating franchises – Hamilton, of course, is not an option, having no NHL preseason games scheduled there. Apparently, Robitaille has promised McGannon that the Kings will send their best players to Kansas City, including the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, and Drew Doughty. While I’m all for promoting hockey throughout the States and Europe, this move does not speak highly of the NHL or the Kings.

For the NHL, to the surprise of no one, Gary Bettman is more interested in money matters than the game itself. Bettman’s trying to sell the game too hard, in my humble opinion. His rule changes, made to allow for more scoring and hence more excitement, is obviously not working as well as league revenue reports make them out to be (Honestly, isn’t a 2-1 nailbiter more exciting than a 7-3 blowout?). A lot of the NHL’s revenue these days is based upon the strong Canadian dollar and very low revenue expectations from the onset of the new CBA. To ensure that this whole Kansas City experiment isn’t a bust, the Kings are sending (perhaps Bettman asked) their top players to that game, in the hopes of generating more hype… because apparently Los Angeles is already bit by the hockey bug. Bettman needs to realize that he needs to fix the status quo. McGannon made reference to Kansas City as possibly a potential destination for a NBA team (there’s going to be exhibition game there too) , and I can’t help but wonder if Bettman’s trying to compete with the NBA. I say drop it, Bettman, there’s no way you can win that battle.

For the Kings, it’s really a dumb move to stockpile all your good players on one team for an exhibition game. I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate more on that. The Kings seem to be the puppet, the test rat, the human experiment, of the NHL. The Kings should be more concerned about how to flesh out the rest of their roster than figuring out who to send to Kansas.

The Kings and the NHL don’t owe Kansas anything.

Aug 212008
 

Bryan McCabe‘s move to the sunshine state is generating a lot of buzz lately, and the Palm Beach Post has suggested that McCabe’s acquisition is Jacques Martin‘s way of saying “we’re serious about winning” in the hopes that Jay Bouwmeester would bite.

I say that’s wishful thinking, Jacques. I say the only way they can get Bouwmeester to stay is if they reach the playoffs and put up a fight in the first round, but the former seems unlikely already. While McCabe is a huge step up over Mike Van Ryn, who is rumoured to be going the other way, he’s not exactly a guy that can just turn around the fortunes of an underachieving team. The Panthers still have a shoddy offense and have yet to replace Olli Jokinen, and even with McCabe’s offensive abilities they’re still lacking bite.

On a semi-related topic, the Panthers are one of 8 teams who still have not named a captain, and James Mirtle has brought up some names.

For the record, I don’t think anyone on the Thrashers, Panthers, Kings, Leafs, or Canucks roster is captain material, but if I had to pick it’d be Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan Horton, Dustin Brown, Tomas Kaberle, and Willie Mitchell, respectively. But my picks were Chris Drury for the Rangers, Mike Richards for Philadelphia, and Vincent Lecavalier for Tampa.

Aug 162008
 

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Dallas Stars
5 Anaheim Ducks
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Chicago Blackhawks
8 Calgary Flames
9 Nashville Predators
10 Phoenix Coyotes
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 Los Angeles Kings
14 Colorado Avalanche
15 St. Louis Blues

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.

Aug 122008
 

The NHL just recently released their preseason schedule, and you can see the entire list here. A couple things that are sticking points…

- I like the fact that instead of having regular season games in Europe they’re playing preseason games, and against European clubs, no less. The games mean less to them and their jetlag will be overcome by Opening Night. Following in David Stern‘s footsteps (surprise), Gary Bettman has decided to try and market the NHL game globally, even though a large number of current NHLers are not from North America, unlike the NBA, which averages about 1-2 Europeans per team. Some even have none. While I think playing preseason games elsewhere in the world is a great idea which will perhaps build popularity and overseas interest (much like basketball and baseball), I sincerely hope Bettman doesn’t even remotely consider establishing franchises in Europe as Paul Godfrey once idiotically suggested on OTR.

- This will perhaps be the first time we get a better sense of how good the other European clubs are, playing against NHL teams. Back when the all-star game featured NHL all-stars against the Russian national teams, it wasn’t pretty. The KHL (formerly RSL) has always contended that their teams were as good, if not better, than some teams in the NHL. We will know soon enough on October 1 when the Rangers face Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Bern. The Lightning will face the DEL’s Eisbaren Berlin, the reigning league champs, while the Sens will face off against the SEL’s Vastra Frolunda and the Pens against the FNL’s Jokerit Helsinki.

- A lot of games will be played in cities that do not feature a NHL team, but perhaps future potential franchise expansion or re-location destinations, including Halifax, Kansas City, Winnipeg, London, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas at the storied MGM Grand. There’s little doubt in anyone’s minds that the Halifax, Winnipeg, and London games will be jam-packed, but what of Salt Lake, Kansas and Vegas? You can bet that Bettman will be on hand to personally oversee the games, as it features three very real destinations for expansion or re-location. Should the games create a lot of buzz and sell-out well in advance (I don’t think it will), you can bet that Bettman will bring up expansion once more. It’s very interesting to note that no games will be played in Hamilton. A shot at Jim Balsillie? Maybe.

- The most idiotic game? The Kings against the Sharks in Utah on a Sunday. If Bettman has forgotten, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as Mormons), is the predominant religion of Utah, and its followers account for roughly 60% of the state’s population. The ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies averages a little under 4000 fans per game in a 10 100 seat capacity arena. Taking a quick peek at their upcoming schedule, the Grizzlies don’t have a single Sunday home game until March. I think they’ll have quite a hard time filling the stands.