Who Won The Eichel Deal? You'll Know After Christmas

Time will tell who won the Vegas-Buffalo deal. Is luck really luck? Vegas and Seattle's arenas - the contrasts. What to like about the Kraken. Iceman Dan Craig to retire. Tony DeAngelo's hot start.

Let's face it, Buffalo -- with a vibrant coach and a sanitized room -- is now a young, challenging team.

Vegas? Nobody'll know the answer until: a. The surgeons finish their work on Not-So-Jumpin' Jack; and b. After he takes the ice for the Knights; whenever that will be.

For me, it's all Buffalo because they obtained the glowing potential of center Peyton Krebs. 

At age 20, the sky's the limit for his high-end playmaker who, so far, has produced at every level. 

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News adds, "He's gritty and defensibly responsible as well."

Kennedy's colleague, Matt Larkin, adds another arresting point: "The Knights have traded four first-rounders in history in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. How much longer can they do it before they run out of rope?"

Naturally, such a blockbuster exchange brings with it the usual sidebar rumors. One of them was that Calgary was among those interested in Eichel and Matthew Tkachuk was the bait.

Flames g.m. Brad Treliving denied that faster than you can say Darren Dreger. (I believe Brad and commend Darren for being first with the story. Double D rates a Triple A for the biggest "Insider" victory this season.)


Stan’s Java Jive

WHEN LUCK TURNS TO PURE SKILL

"I got lucky."

Really?

I wish I had a dollar for every time I interviewed a heroic goal-scorer -- or goal-saver, for that matter -- and heard the deathless line.

"I got lucky!"

Immediately, I would cut in with a roaring "Whoa!" and explain to my fine, feathered friend that, "No, it was not luck; it was skill."

This, "I got lucky" line bristled my nerves earlier this week, after Vancuver beat the Rangers, 3-2, in overtime.

J.T. Miller scored the Canucks winner after initially being stopped on a clean breakaway by Ranger goalie Igor Shesterkin who forgot to brake the rebound.

The rubber went behind the net, seemingly to be seized by a New York defender. But the hustling J.T. snared it and deftly swung 180-degrees like  an overgrown table hockey player.

Before Sheterkin finished with his hide-and-seek bit, Miller had opened the can on the other side with as pretty a wrap-around as anything you'll see at the supermarket. 

The OT winner was followed by the obligatory media third-degree and that's when J.T. pulled me out of my chair with his "I was lucky" proclamation. As witness for the offense, I now take the stand and explain when luck is not luck it's skill.

"J.T. You made your move; you went to the backhand and Igor made a good save. 'Nuff said; you could have quit on the play. But you were thinking. nothing lucky about that.

"Then, you figured the puck would be worth pursuing and you found it behind the net. You could have braked; but, instead, you kept going and found the pot o' gold with a wraparound that still had Shersterkin looking'."

Fortunately, Miller's teammate, goalie Thatcher Demko, wasn't talking "luck" about his sequence of saves on a late third period Rangers 5-on-3 power play that has to be seen to be believed.

The press box posse said that one of Dem's better acts was a "Scorpion Save" although I doubt that the Brotherhood of Insects would approve.

In any event, while Thatch was executing his cavalcade of stops, in one sequence the poor guy had lost his blocker and stick, seemed helpless on his tummy yet kicked his skate heel up for a save.

If that was "luck," then my name is Lady Ga-Ga!


KRAKEN VS. KNIGHTS -- A STUDY IN ARENA CONTRASTS

A visit to Vegas' T-Mobile Arena is as dazzling as any of Sin City's biggest, super-extra ordinary casinos.

It's like one knockout sequence after another right up to the opening face-off as the Golden Knights assault the NHL World.

Not surprisingly, the Kraken high command knew from the get-go that -- once the NHL officially welcomed the franchise -- Seattle's hockey team would be compared every which way to the Nevada entry.

That meant that the comparison would include the respective arenas and the ambience surrounding them.

Well, we knew all about supercharge Vegas and T-Mobile's terrific themes.

But what's it like around and in Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena.

Our roving arena-rater, Sean McCaffrey, visited the Kraken's lair and found it -- as you might expect -- working in a much lower key than T-Mobile.

Here are some of Sean's up-front-and-viewing Kraken comments:

"The differences -- if you don't mind my saying so," says McCaffrey, "are like Knight and day. Seattle has none of the flash and dash that Vegas is all about.To me that was a bit of a surprise.

"As a matter of fact, as I approached Climate Pledge, I couldn't find a team logo. Now that's what I call 'low-key.' Likewise, the new arena itself has a much quieter feel. That is, until the fans fill the place."

So far the Kraken crowd delivers a decibel count that can match any of the NHL's best shouters.  

McCaffrey: "The Seattle fans are boisterous with plenty of noise throughout. And that goes for fans of the road team as well."

A bloc of Seattle fans have grown -- and known -- hockey via the long-successful Junior (WHL) Thunderbirds but new, learning hockey fans are filling Climate Pledge.

"It may take time for a lot of Kraken fans to learn the game," adds Sean. "Fans sitting next to me asked questions such as, 'What's icing?' and 'What's offside?' One even wondered,'What's The Original Six?'"

For out-of-town fans who are comparing the Nevada glitter to Seattle's waterfront offerings, it's a far cry from The Strip in Vegas. But, then again, there isn't another NHL city like the Knights' home.

"I did enjoy myself inside Climate Pledge Arena," McCaffrey concludes, "and I hope the game grows in Seattle with the new fans!"


HEADLINE: WHAT'S TO LIKE ABOUT THE KRAKEN? PLENTY. 

THE JIVE: Our Seattle bureau chief, Lord Glenn Dreyfuss points out that there's a ton to like about Seattle's hockey scene. Read on:  

Lack of signage and logos outside Climate Pledge Arena is an oversight. However, this is the first franchise born during a pandemic, so a little patience is warranted before judging the Amuse-Bouche (food served before a meal to whet the palate.)   

Also, an arena should reflect its community. Why would you expect showgirls and a neon explosion outside of a Seattle rink? “The World’s Most Sustainable Arena” is a badge of honor here. 

In Seattle – most well-read city in the U.S. two years in a row – saying a stadium resembles a library or museum is a compliment! Notable exterior design features include a historically preserved roof and side windows, allowing daytime light to pour in, and passers-by can peek inside to actually see game action. Most fans enter through doors with views of the Space Needle and Seattle Center.  

Wood, exposed brick and tile make for an eye-pleasing interior. Steep upper bowl seating creates an intimate environment. Not least of all, it was built completely from private funding - $1.15 billion worth.   

Sports tickets long ago priced out the “average” fan, which is regrettable everywhere, not just Seattle. The Kraken didn’t have to do a season-ticket drive, either; 32,000 deposits were placed for the arena’s 17,151 seats in the first 24 hours of operation. Kraken fans have bought more “merch” than any other NHL expansion team in history, by a wide margin.  

The Seattle hockey community isn’t all that wet-behind-the-ears. There’s a long, proud tradition of minor-league hockey, and the region for years has supported not one, but two major-junior Western Hockey League teams. Speaking of the “ear-test,” Kraken fans display plenty of hockey nuance; against the Rangers, even the collective groan for a missed scoring chance was different than the “ooh!” of relief when the visitors didn’t convert. 

True enough, most people in Seattle – most people in every U.S. NHL city, by the way – aren’t familiar with hockey, and we love introducing them to our game. For fans who want to see their heroes up close and at no charge, the Kraken practice facility is open to the public and accessible by light rail.  

As for whether the Kraken could suffer a “Coyote or Panther” problem, (1) those arenas are far from their fan bases, (2) too many hockey transplants still root for the teams from their former cities, and (3) they largely have had losing seasons; winning is what ultimately keeps butts in seats. Seattle doesn’t have problems (1) or (2) – N.Y.-based TFR writer Sean told me the percentage of Rangers fans at Climate Pledge Arena last Sunday was far less than other rinks he’s visited; and every team, even in Canada (hello, Ottawa, Vancouver) is susceptible to number (3).   

Community interaction will be easier once we’re post-pandemic. Meanwhile, the Kraken have been proactive in outreach: a philanthropic arm, the “One Roof Foundation;” working with underserved and BIPOC communities to bring ball hockey to schools and community centers; Learn to Skate and Learn to Play programs; job training, internships, and employment opportunities to fight youth homelessness.   

On that last subject, homelessness is a shameful tragedy across the country. Seattle certainly hasn’t been spared; that undoubtedly influences visitor perceptions. So Sean, my new, New York friend, here’s an invitation: on your next visit, I’ll take you to scenic Alki Beach, where they have a replica of Lady Liberty. I’ll even take you to Brooklyn Bros. Pizza in Everett, where the décor and the pies will make you feel right at home. Then we’ll visit nearby Snoqualmie Falls, the greatest cataract this side of Niagara.


HEADLINE: A KEY UNSUNG NHL FIGURE TO RETIRE

THE JIVE: Until Dan Craig came along, the National Hockey League never had a character like him -- the ultimate ice-making expert. After arriving from Edmonton 24 years ago, Craig has been in charge of NHL playing conditions indoors and outdoors. He's done it quietly and expertly.

Now, at age 66, Craig is retiring or, as he amusedly puts it, "I'm graduating." Call it what you will but Dan's exit will be sorely felt in many ways; mostly because there's never been an expert in his field to match the Craig work ethic. With that in mind, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly got right to the point:

"Dan has been the pre-eminent expert in all aspects of hockey rink outfitting around the world." And that may very well be an understatement based on the ice-making innovations he imparted to the NHL. 

As Dan Rosen noted in his recent NHL.com piece, Craig's expertise was instrumental in saving the 2008 Buffalo outdoor event that was played in a blizzard. Despite suffering from shingles, Dan did what had to be done to ensure that the game was played in spite of the challenging winter conditions.

"If it hadn't been for Dan and his staff," said Daly, "the Winter Classic would have started and ended there."

Among the many innovations Craig has developed were two outdoor travel rinks which can be placed in use whenever and wherever an ice pond  is needed without an arena.

Dan's son, Mike, will inherit much of his father's role along with an  expert ice team that The Master has developed over the years. And while The Ice King is calling it a "retirement," he's allowing that the lure of a challenge could very well have him answering the S.O.S -- as in Save Our Surface!


HEADLINE: HOW TONY DEANGELO BECAME DOUGIE HAMILTON

THE JIVE: Shortly after Carolina g.m. Don Waddell signed defenseman Tony DeAngelo last summer, Raleigh beat writer Luke Decock took a curious view of the move. "The signing of DeAngelo provoked a fan revolt," wrote DeCock, "but there's always a fourth chance with a right-shot D-man with his skill and skating ability."

Tony is making the most of it and more evidence was available on Wednesday night as Carolina extended its winning streak to nine games. D'Angelo boasts a four-game point streak and appears to be keeping pace with the man he's replaced, Dougie Hamilton. D'Angelo has potted two goals with eight helpers for ten points, and is a whopping plus-11. As the song goes, "Who Could Ask For Anything More?"