It came as a little bit of a surprise on Thursday when Bookies.com sent their “wealth rankings” for NHL and NFL teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins were projected to be among the revenue elites. Pittsburgh is a small town. The Steelers projected at only 17th.
The worldwide beloved Steelers franchise that may have more fans in Mexico City than Pittsburgh (though Mexico City is larger by a factor of 10) only ranked 17th, but the Penguins were projected to be near the top five in the NHL.
Every year, Forbes releases franchise values, and teams scoff and dismiss. And when those teams sell, Forbes is usually pretty close. But the Bookies folks made some bold predictions based on those valuations, revenue streams, and maybe factored a bit of luck.
If they’re right, the NHL is in a very healthy position and will gross over $6 billion.
Pittsburgh Penguins One-Timers
1. If the Penguins are one of the wealthiest teams in the NHL, good for Mario Lemieux. I won’t ever forget the night he pummeled a Florida Panthers defenseman after city and state leaders again rebuffed a new arena. He was furious, and some kid named Brad Ference gave him a whack, and Mario charged him like a bull.
Last summer, there were loud whispers that cash flow was an issue for the Penguins. The pandemic was choking sponsors and business associates alike.
Mario has hung in there. He spent to the cap even as those whispers insisted it wasn’t possible. It’s not often those of us on the “other” end of the economic spectrum cheer a sports franchise owner making money, but in Lemieux’s case, it’s well earned…if the calculations are correct.
2. Jaromir Jagr always had a flair for the dramatic, verbally and on the ice. From “dying alive” to his recent comments to The Hockey News about embarrassing himself, he makes a splash. Sometimes he comes off as self-defeating. I know enough people who know Jagr. Unfortunately, his Penguins tenure ended a few months before my sports media career began (I was a lowly music jock prior). Still, I know when Jagr starts making fatalistic comments, he’s either going to be swallowed up by them or do everything humanly possible to break free. I’ll bet on Jagr having a ridiculous year in the top Czech league.
At 49-years-old. Do it for everyone one of us who rejects being over 40, Jags. Steer into the sun, you crazy bastard.
3. I keep analyzing the current Pittsburgh Penguins roster. Backward and forwards. Even with a healthy and motivated Evgeni Malkin, I don’t see the Penguins challenging for anything.
I expect an RHD to show up and for Mark Friedman to push him. I expect Jeff Carter will be good, but not the world-beater he was last season.
It’s not the defense that is the biggest worry. It’s scoring depth. After the Penguins’ top line, there’s a lot of weight that will fall on Kasperi Kapanen. A LOT. And on Jeff Carter. And…on Teddy Bleuger and Zach Aston-Reese.
A team with a soft defense needs goals. The steps backward won’t be surprising. How management and GM Ron Hextall deal with them will be the stuff that is hotly debated.
4. Look at the money the other goalies in the Metro Division will be paid this season. Vitek Vanecek is on the low end at $2 million. Carter Hart had a nightmarish 2020-21 and got paid $3 million. Igor Shesterkin landed a hefty netminder salary of over $5 million.
Tristan Jarry had a rough start last season, and those first few weeks crushed his season statistics, but he still finished with a .909 save percentage. The Penguins won the division with help from, not despite, Jarry.
Jarry laid an egg in the playoffs, but he will be one of the lower-cost goalies in the Metro Division next season. He will also begin the season with more career wins and All-Star appearances than most of the other Metro goalies.
He laid an egg in the playoffs. There’s no getting around that. But I don’t understand the persistent drumbeat to dump him.
This season is his make, or possibly break season. It will be his third year in the NHL. For all of the historical and comparative research we did during the Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury era, there is a significant line to cross at 100 games. Jarry has played 101 games, but those are spaced over several years and different points of his development.
Now that NHL shooters have had a good look at the finished product let’s see what they found and how he responds.
And THAT is why the Penguins wanted a veteran backup with starting experience.
5. I do think John Marino takes a step forward this season.
“You look at guys like (Pettersson) and John Marino. We think there’s there’s more there. They’re both young players,” said Hextall. “There’s more there than they gave us last year and both–talked to them (last) year–and feel like there’s more there. So we feel in some ways like there’s upside in those two players, which could really help solidify our defense.”
Marcus Pettersson is the bigger question. He’s skinny. He’s not quick. The problem areas in his game are born of those physical traits. His battle area success and his problems dealing with a good forecheck won’t improve unless he adds a little weight and gets a bit quicker going back to pucks.
P.O. Joseph was great in a short burst last season, but at 160-pounds, or thereabouts, it’s hard to imagine him being physically prepared for an 82-game schedule, but he’s young, and the clock has plenty of time for him to develop.
Correction: Joseph is listed at 185 pounds.
6. I want to see a full barn this season, want to be able to go into the locker room and bring you great personal stories and get their insights. I want this pandemic to be behind us.
However, we are careening back to unsafe territory. Orlando hospitals are erecting outdoor tents for COVID patients and asking for emergency help. Pittsburgh hospitals report other states are begging to send patients here because we’re not yet overrun.
But it’s coming.
Those things don’t happen if more people are vaccinated. Since most of us don’t want to kill people, PHN will give you a free yearly subscription if you begin the vaccination process after reading this. Send me a pic of your vax card that shows you got a shot today or this weekend. Twitter, Facebook, or email are fine. I know it’s not much, but that’s money straight out of my pocket. Our overall health is more important. I can’t go through another nightmare that was 2020. Just can’t. We’ve lost a few subscribers to the virus. No more.