Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:
+ Now comes the fun part. The All-Star game is behind us, the trade deadline is less than a month away —noon Pacific time Feb. 27 — and the buyers will soon separate themselves from the sellers. The crazy-rumor quotient will skyrocket.
+ The NHL does a good job connecting with fans at the All-Star game with fan fairs, skills contests and community events. Now it's time to figure out a way to give the game some meaning or create a new event. How about the NHL stars facing the previous season's European club champion? NHL and Russian All-Stars facing off?
+ The NHL awarded the 2013 All-Star game to Columbus, a fitting reward for a city whose fan base deserves better than what the Blue Jackets have delivered this season. Now, let's hope there's no lockout to wipe out the game. (Don't blame the messenger; send all correspondence on that topic to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr.)
- Bettman again said there's a third group interested in buying the league-owned Phoenix Coyotes and keeping them in Glendale, but wouldn't identify the principals. Groups led by former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison and Chicago sports magnate Jerry Reinsdorf have expressed interest. Bettman is determined to keep the Coyotes in Arizona despite the cost to the city of Glendale and low attendance. It's pride, not what might be best for the league.
- Bettman said during All-Star weekend the league is trying to resolve a squabble in New Jersey between owners Jeff Vanderbeek and Ray Chambers that has hurt the club's operations. The Devils have gotten an advance on revenues from the league, which Bettman said isn't a loan but money they would have gotten later. Chambers is trying to sell his nearly-half ownership stake.
- The alarming news that Sidney Crosby had an injured vertebrae in addition to concussion symptoms broke during All-Star weekend. "Sidney's safe, which is good news," his agent, Pat Brisson, told Canada's TSN. An independent doctor was scheduled to examine previous tests this week. Brisson said there's no timetable for Crosby, who reportedly skated Monday in Pittsburgh before his teammates practiced.