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Bluelines: Dusting Off the Crystal Ball and Local Prospect Watch

• There are many ways to interpret this but the NHL’s decision to scrap its opening season European games has a message. The most obvious is that this is yet another shot across the bow in the upcoming NHL-NHLPA battle. What’s the point of spending big dough to arrange overseas games that conceivably could be cancelled because of a potential work stoppage in October. Most disturbing -- in terms of labor negotiations -- is what is not happening. It was hoped that opening talks between Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman would have been launched immediately after the All-Star Game. More than a month has passed and still silence (not good!). According to insiders who know him best, NHLPA boss Fehr is extremely deliberate – some would call it “very slow” – in his reactions. Thus, the NHL is left waiting for him to start the already-delayed process.

• Quebecor Media released its earnings reports which revealed higher-than-expected revenue. The firm shows a 5.2% increase in revenue and a strong outlook for the future of the company. What does this mean to the NHL? It means that Quebec City hosts a large, successful company interested in bringing a team back to Quebec. It also has the revenue to buy a team and support it should it take financial losses. Pair this up with the rise in the Canadian dollar and it means that Quebec City could be home for an NHL franchise in the future. However, Quebec will likely be competing against Seattle for a team IF the NHL decides to move a franchise.

Rangers fans awaiting the arrival – not sure when – of ace prospect Chris Kreider should be bolstered by The Hockey News’ “Future Watch” issue, just out. THN reports: “Think power-forward with jaw-dropping speed. Kreider has been taking extra classes at Boston College to graduate this Spring. Scouts say his hockey sense and board play have improved. All the other physical tools, from an NHL-caliber shot to a willingness to play in traffic, are there.”

The Hockey News’ “Future Watch” edition also gives us a warm endorsement to Devils’ crack defense prospect Jon Merrill from the University of Michigan. “The World Junior Championship was sort of training camp for Merrill,” explains THN scouting report. “He’s a defenseman that the Devils scouts call ‘a throwback’ and has dominated offensively and defensively.”

• As for the Islanders, THN delivers a glowing report on Ryan Strome, the gifted center now with Niagara in the Ontario Hockey League. “The Isles brass believes that the center has the skills and vision of a top-six forward,” reports THN. “Strome was posting another impressive offensive season at Niagara and played on Canada’s WJC team.” Also noted for the Isles is Brock Nelson, a center at North Dakota. “He’s an imposing presence in front of opposing nets,” is the capsule commentary.

Buffalo’s playoff chances took a blow with Tyler Myers three-game suspension, which ends on Tuesday. The big backliner was sidelined for boarding Montreal’s Scott Gomez in a March 12 game at First Niagara Center. “That was tough,” says coach Lindy Ruff desperately trying to move his Sabres into playoff contention. “Tyler has been a big part of our back end.” Buffalo’s next challenge will be the Canadiens on Thursday night in Sabreland.


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