"Bettman Must Be Licking His Chops...."
If you haven't been following me on Facebook or Twitter (you should), you would have known that I predicted the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Finals would be played between the New York Rangers and one of the uncrowned teams in the West (St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and L.A. Kings) with the exception of the Phoenix Coyotes. My logic was simple. The West was loaded with "never-have-been-there" teams playing recent "been-there-done-that" squads in terms of the Finals (Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings). If the NHL was going to put a small market like St. Louis or Nashville in, they needed a big market like New York to counterbalance them.
So why not the Phoenix Coyotes? Well, as I had written two years ago, the Coyotes lacked true ownership. The NHL controls the team. They could not allow such a team to reach the Finals, much less win a championship, because (a) the "conspiracy" theorists would say the NHL won its own title, but more importantly (b) any new ownership would recognize that winning another Stanley Cup would be incredibly difficult. And if that new owner couldn't profit from his team winning a title, what's the point of investing? Hence, the Coyotes recent playoffs success was a mere sales pitch to entice a new owner into coming aboard.
And that's exactly what happened as the NHL finally found the Coyotes an owner in former CEO of the San Jose Sharks, Greg Jamison. This deal was reached on May 8. Shortly thereafter, the Coyotes were trounced out of the playoffs by the Kings, 4-1. Coincidence? I think not.
Neither did some of the Coyotes players. After their controversial loss in Game 5, a few of the players got lippy. Keith Yandle said, "It’s unfortunate, for us especially. They know we don’t have an owner. We don’t have anyone to back us up. For them, I don’t know if it’s an easy way to not make calls, not show up. I know they wear the same color jerseys, the refs as the Kings, but they didn’t have to play for them tonight."
The NHL is now "investigating" some of these comments from the Coyotes because as NHL Executive Vice President Colin Campbell said, "the actions were unprofessional and unacceptable." Or in other words, they didn't act like the good little lap dogs they were supposed to once the league wanted them out of the way.
Then there's this piece a fan of this site, Ryan Rahim, found on Yahoo. Had I written/posted something similar in the fashion I normally do, this would've been written off as conspiracy theory. When Yahoo Sports does it, apparently it's news/insight. Watch:
Someway, somehow, the Rangers didn't hold up their end of the bargain, losing 4-2 to the New Jersey Devils. While it's been 19 years since the Kings were in a Stanley Cup Finals, it's been just nine for the Devils.
Why would the NHL - if it's fixed - choose the Devils over the Rangers? Good question. One answer may come from comments both Rangers coach John Tortorella and goalie Henrik Lundqvist made on two separate occasions, in which each questioned the NHL's motives for making certain calls against the team.
But perhaps it has a lot more to do with the fact that the Devils and owner Jeff Vanderbeek are $80 million in debt. They already borrowed $10 million from the NHL, and will likely need the rest by July 1, 2012 as to not default on loans.
Of course, the Devils may just be fall guys as well. As Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney said (and was fined $10,000 for) about the Kings, "Maybe they [the NHL] need a little Hollywood in the playoffs." Of course, according to the same Forbes.com article about the Devils' money woes, it reveals that the Kings aren't in the best financial shape either.
Once the finals began, the Kings ran up an instant three-games-to-none lead over the Devils. NHL.com decided then to post the following poll question (take note, besides the choice of "other" all picks for Finals MVP are members of the Kings):
What happens next? The Devils win two straight, pushing Game 6 to LA where the Kings ultimately wrap this up to win the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup on home ice (just prior to the start of the NBA Finals...a league which was generous enough to eliminate both Los Angeles teams from its playoffs prior to the Kings reaching the NHL Finals). Did it hurt the Devils' chances in Game 6 to be hit with the first seven penalties in the game, one of which--Steve Bernier's boarding major--gave the Kings a five-minute power play in which they scored three goals?
While the Kings celebrated in the streets of Los Angeles, the Devils and owner Jeff Vanderbeek were sinking. Reports - some confirmed, others denied - state that if Vanderbeek can't come up with $77 million by August 16, 2012, the NHL will be forced to take over the team...something it had to do with the Coyotes, bringing this sad affair full circle.