Ken Warren’s 10 Takes

Sometimes, it’s hard to see how two plus two equals four.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see how two plus two equals four.

Or, in the NHL’s case, how thousands upon thousands of empty seats during games — from Ottawa to Phoenix to Dallas to Columbus to Uniondale to Sunrise — can translate into a rise in the NHL salary cap to somewhere in the US$71 million range next season.

Yes, I know, that 12-year, $5.2 billion broadcast deal between the NHL and Rogers is coming, but the bad optics of weak attendance makes the NHL look something less than a big league.

With that off my chest, on to this week’s edition of 10 Takes, featuring some intriguing numbers involving the Senators and the mediocre Eastern Conference, the unstable future of an institution in Nashville, the work of an underrated coach and the possibility of a Winter Classic in a place where they’ll never taste a cold snap like the one we’re dealing with in Ottawa now.

Have a great weekend. And stay warm.

1. NEW NHL MATH

Heading into Saturday’s matinee against Los Angeles, the Senators still had not won two consecutive games since a three-game streak between Nov. 5-9. And yet, somehow, in the past two weeks, they’ve gained ground against every other middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team except Columbus in the battle for one of the final playoff spots. They’ve moved to within three points of the free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs for a wild-card berth, bypassing the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Philadelphia.

2. PICK SIX

For the statistically inclined, here are the (mostly) unimpressive recent records of teams that should most concern Senators fans: Tampa Bay (2-2-2), Toronto (2-4-0), Carolina (3-2-1), New York Rangers (1-4-1), New Jersey (2-3-1), Philadelphia (2-3-1) and Columbus (4-2-0). Those numbers don’t include New Jersey’s game against Pittsburgh Friday. If fans choose to quibble about the inequality between the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, look to the west, where Minnesota, Phoenix and Vancouver all had 41 points before Friday’s games in a three-way fight for the two wild card positions.

3. LUCKY (NO) BREAKS

When Chris Phillips limped off the ice Friday after taking a shot “off the hoof” (in the words of Senators coach Paul MacLean), it served to highlight just how fortunate the Senators have been on the injury front. Remarkably, the Senators had lost only 16 man games to injury before Saturday, by far the lowest total in the league. For comparison’s sake, Anaheim and Edmonton now top 150 man games lost. If you believe in karma, it’s all payback for the extended absences of Ottawa’s stars last season.

4. BRUISES IN THE BIG APPLE

The Rangers, meanwhile, are reeling with significant injury woes, including a concussion to Mark Staal and a knee injury to Ryan Callahan. With Staal out, Michael del Zotto is off he trade market. For now. Del Zotto played 21:58 in New York’s 4-2 loss to Columbus Thursday. The Rangers also don’t have a heart-and-soul type of player to replace Callahan, who is expected to be out four-to-six weeks with an MCL sprain. To stay afloat, the Rangers need Henrik Lundqvist to be outstanding.

5. TROTZ IN TROUBLE?

There are rumblings that Barry Trotz’s 15-year run as head coach — the only head coach — of the Nashville Predators could finally be over if Nashville doesn’t get back into the hunt for a playoff spot ASAP. The Predators were eight points out Friday. Eventually, the message from every coach grows tired, but is it Trotz’s fault that there was no legitimate backup plan when Pekka Rinne got injured? For the record, Marek Mazanek is 5-7-1 with a 2.51 goals against average and .915 save percentage. Carter Hutton is 6-3-1, with a 2.83 GAA and .909 pct.

6. TIP(PETT) OF THE HAT

After former minor league journeyman (and brief Ottawa Senators prospect) Rob Klinkhammer scored two goals and an assist to lead Phoenix to another victory Thursday, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better NHL coach than Coyotes boss Dave Tippett. With all due respect to the Radim Vrbatas, Martin Hanzals, Lauri Korpikoskis and Klinkammers of the world, is this a lineup you would expect to compete every night with the best in the west?

7. THE DESERT CLASSIC?

I’m still not sold on the long-term viability of the NHL in Phoenix, but Coyotes ownership, including Ottawa’s Anthony LeBlanc, is certainly making noise. The Coyotes are pushing the NHL to host a Winter Classic in 2015, tying it into festivities for the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix. The Coyotes are also putting together a bid to host the world junior championship. I would say there’s snow chance of that happening. We can also rule out a Texas-sized Winter Classic in the near future. Attendance was barely 8,000 last Saturday when Dallas hosted Philadelphia in the aftermath of an ice storm.

8. INTERNAL SUPPORT

As we await the ruling from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on just how severe the punishment will be for Shawn Thornton, it’s intriguing to note the response from other NHL players to the whole Thornton-Brooks Orpik incident. The impression of Orpik is akin to the office worker who looks good to management but is generally detested by his peers. When players talk about Thornton, on the other hand, his integrity is unquestioned.

9. TOUGH GUY VALUE

When Philadelphia visited Ottawa on Tuesday, heavyweight Jay Rosehill spoke passionately about the fact “98 per cent” of players would choose to keep fighting in the game. I understand players feel more protected with enforcers around, but will the next generation of owners question the relative value of that insurance policy? Rosehill played 2:51 against Ottawa. Buffalo’s John Scott played 2:42 and 5:16 in consecutive games against the Senators. Matt Kassian has played 3:08, 2:20 and 1:05 in the past three games he has suited up for.

10. BORING IN BUFFALO

Senators fans could have been watching a piece of boring history this week. The Buffalo Sabres, who scored two goals in 125 minutes of regulation and overtime versus the Senators, are on pace to become the lowest-scoring team in the modern history of the NHL. They’ve scored an average of 1.67 goals per game, well below the 1.9 per game average of the 1952-53 Chicago Blackhawks, the only squad to have not managed two goals per game in a full season.

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