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The Five For Howling Roundtable: Sundry Topic Edition

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Greeting Phoenix Coyotes fans. This week the Five for Howling Staff discusses Sid's return, parity in the NHL, and the Republic not sending a beat reporter on the road to cover the Desert Dogs.

How much or how little does Sidney Crosby's return to the ice mean for the NHL?

Carl: In the short term its a big deal. The league got more ink and face time on TV yesterday because of his return than they would have on a regular game day. In the long term I'm not so sure it matters as much as many may believe. I'm not sure it will bring in any more casual fans. Now, for the Pens it certainly is a big deal. They now become the favorites in the East with Sid and Z back in the lineup.

Jordan: It won't be nearly as important to the NHL as all the media is making it out to be with the attention that his return received. That being said, any time a superstar returns from a lengthy injury, it is good for the league's overall product. Given that he already has 2 points in his first period back suggests that he is going to be right back to his high scoring ways, and that is nothing but good for hockey overall (my personal feelings for the Pens notwithstanding).

Travis: I’m not really sure. It’s hard to judge how important it is to the NHL at general. Certainly plenty of fans from many teams excited about his return. But on the whole he’s also only one player even if he is one of, if not the, best player in the league. My general reaction was more or less the reaction of fans after an injured player is able to get off the ice - A polite clap and then getting on with the game/season. Not in a bad way, but his team wasn’t exactly doing awful without him. Beyond the symbolic how much of an actual effect will he have on games? Some for sure as seen by the points he put up, but it’s the Pens, so meh.

Is the parity we've seen in the NHL in recent years go or bad for the league?

Carl: I think its mainly a positive for the league, especially in the newer markets. The longer teams stay in playoff races the longer fans stay engaged.

Jordan: Without a doubt it is good for the league. Having teams consistently out of contention, like we were for much of the past decade, is horrible for building (and maintaining) a fan base. As much as it shouldn't matter, people like to see a winner and a team that is going to the postseason is going to have a better draw at the box office. Also, the fact that on any given night either team has a legitimate shot at winning just helps the product.

Travis: It’s a mixed bag. I mean I like it because no one team is so powerful so as to dwarf the others. Teams (not the Red Wings) get a few years at the top and then fall back a little. Sure, some stay at the bottom (Oilers, Jackets, Islanders) but that’s generally to complete mismanagement rather than an money or parity issue. It is good to have different teams in the playoffs each year. It’s good for markets to at least see that success and not be stuck in the mire.

Your thoughts on Arizona Republic sports editor's response about lack of road coverage of the Coyotes?

Carl: An experience I had last evening was telling about the media coverage in town in general. I walked into a sports bar last night and there were 2 or 3 screens showing a hockey game. Unfortunately, it was the Crosby comeback game. The people who worked at the bar didn't even realize the Coyotes were on TV! The funny thing was once they put the game in a couple of their TV's a number of people in the bar starting paying attention to the game. The Coyotes need exposure in the worst way and not having a road reporter who brings back interesting locker room news and having stories buried in the sports section aren't helping matters. I understand the cost pressures papers are under at the moment, especially those run by Gannett, however the one area in the Internet age that can be a draw for readers in local papers is local news that people can't get elsewhere. Spending money on Olympic coverage instead of covering the local NHL team makes little sense to me.

Jordan: I think that it is incredibly frustrating, to be honest. I understand that there is a cost concern because all newspapers are struggling right now, but some of their justifications just lack any seeming validity. I understand that the NBA may come back at any time, but you can adjust for that by simply not sending a reporter once the NBA returns. And the argument about the Olympics is just laughable; if there is anything that I don't need covered by a local sports writer with knowledge of the local squad, it's the Olympics that are a national affair and will have plenty of AP and news wire coverage that will be more than adequate. You want to give your readers something they can't get elsewhere so they come to you for it and local sports coverage is one of the primary draws to a local paper, so to ignore that on the road trips just seems incredibly foolish. But what do I know about anything, right?

Travis: It's about what was expected. The old supply and demand bit with some budgetary restraints thrown in. I was surprised though by the complete transparency in being a bandwagoner paper. "We'll reevaluate when it gets closer to season end and they look headed to the playoffs"? I wonder where the market gets this fair-weather fan reputation from? Sheesh.