NHL exec: Crosby ‘big part’ of league’s success

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)
August 4, 2013, 9:12 PM

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NHL EXEC: CROSBY “BIG PART” OF LEAGUE’S SUCCESS

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke with NHL executive vice president of marketing Brian Jennings, who was in town for the league’s annual retailer event.

The NHL, despite coming out of another lockout, enjoyed record attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales during the 2013 season.

“Sidney Crosby is a big part of what has made us so successful in recent years,” Jennings told The Tribune-Review.

Hockey struggled to recover from lockouts in each of the past two decades. But not this time.

“I think I know what part of the solution has been,” Jennings said. “I think the players in our league are special people, and I think our fans see that. Look at the biggest names. Look at Crosby. Look at (Alex) Ovechkin and (Steven) Stamkos. They’re good people, and I think that’s part of why people keep coming back.”

He also noted, “There is no question that Sidney Crosby is our marquee athlete. It has been that way for a while. There’s just something special about him.”

HABS’ ELLER STRONGER, MORE EXPLOSIVE

The Montreal Gazette paints a picture of how having trained ferociously through June and July, Canadiens forward Lars Eller sounds like a caged animal that couldn’t wait for his trainer to open the door.

“I’ve been able to bulk up and get into even better shape coming into this season than last,” Eller said Saturday. “At least with the same setup and same possibilities. What it really comes down to is that weight isn’t the most important thing. Strength is, and that’s all you can really work on in the offseason.”

Eller reported to camp in January at 213 pounds. Today, Eller is about 220, not a gram of the new weight anything but muscle.

“It’s not like if you get bigger you lose speed or agility,” he said. “I make sure everything is properly balanced with the training, that the weight is properly placed.

“Last summer was more a matter of gaining some weight and mass. This year has been more fine-tuning my explosiveness, and we’ll be working on that a lot this month, too.

“I’m definitely fitter. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to have a better season, but it’s going to give me a better platform to start from.”

PIETRANGELO’S CONTRACT WITH BLUES JUST A MATTER OF TIME

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch indicated overnight headed into Sunday that despite dialogue between Blues GM Doug Armstrong and restricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo’s agent, Don Meehan of Newport Sports Management, no agreement is imminent.

It’s believed the defenseman is seeking a deal worth in the neighborhood of $7 million per season, while the club appears unwilling to eclipse $6 million.

“It’s just finding out is it a maximum-term contract of eight years or do both sides feel it’s better to go short?” Armstrong said. “We’re going to work hand-in-hand with Alex because it’s not a win-lose. We’re hoping to find a win-win for both sides.”

On the general philosophy of longer-term deals after only a few years of NHL experience: “It’s worked very well for some teams, and for some teams it hasn’t worked well at all. We’re a little more crawl-walk-run than crawl-run.”

Asked if he was concerned about a holdout with Pietrangelo, Armstrong replied: “I’m not going to rub a crystal ball and see where we’re going to be on Sept. 15. We’ve done a lot of deals with Newport Sports. David Backes, (Jaden) Schwartz, (Maxim) Lapierre. Newport Sports and the St. Louis Blues have done a ton of contracts and we’re going to get this one done.”

WINGS’ SECOND LINE PROJECTION

The Detroit Free Press continues its series of summer player profiles with a look at Wings power forward Johan Franzen.

Franzen could have a good year ahead thanks to the off-season additions of Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. Weiss should enable the Wings to unite as linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, who will draw any opponent’s top defenders. That likely will create a second line of Franzen, Weiss and Alfredsson, a trio that will have more room to roam against lesser defenders.

WHAT THEY’RE TWEETING ABOUT

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