This search form (with id 1) does not exist!

Best & Worst of the Week: Christmas Giveaways

Dec 23, 2017
Everybody’s face after Dmitry Orlov’s goal against the Stars. (Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Life’s busy — it’s not always easy to stay on top of everything happening around the NHL. So in case you missed it, here are some of the best and worst highlights of the week.)

Best Performance

It’s not often a three-goal, five-point performance gets overshadowed in a week, but with all due respect to Gabriel Landeskog and his monster game against the Lightning, Carter Hutton has a slight edge.

The Blues backup set a new franchise record and an NHL-high this season with a 48-save shutout against the Jets. In full disclosure, Juuse Saros probably deserved best performance last week with his 46-save shutout against the Oilers, but the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel double feature was too hard to pass up. Plus, Hutton’s came against one of the league’s best offenses and power plays, so that’s worth bonus points.

Nicest Individual Goal

Adam Henrique seemed like a lock to have the best goal of the week with his alley-oop solo rush against Sami Vatanen and the Devils, but this one by Dmitry Orlov is in a different category of filth. The celebration at the bench was top notch, too.

Best Squad Goal

The Canadiens were the runner-up this week with this Jeff Petry-led beauty against the Canucks, but Sean Couturier’s goal against the Red Wings was just a notch above. All five players touched the puck, plus the pass by Claude Giroux between two Red Wings was stupid good.

Tastiest Dish

This apple by Max Domi is really the best of two worlds. The pass to Clayton Keller was superb, and the dangle to set it up was even better.

For the passing purists, there were some other good ones this week. Jordan Oesterle found Patrick Kane coming off the bench with this head’s up stretch pass. Martin Frk was the recipient of two slick setups this week, first on this cross-crease bullet by Jonathan Ericsson, followed by this Dylan Larkin dish that cleared two Flyers before landing perfectly on his stick. For the sauce enthusiasts, David Desharnais’s backhand pass to Paul Carey was also decent.

Best Save

Is this the best save ever made on the first shot of a game? It honestly might be. Anders Nilsson had no business making this stop, and on an elite shooter nonetheless.

Softest Goal

This one was unfortunate, as Brian Elliott was having a hell of a game before allowing this stinker to Ryan O’Reilly in the third period.

Worst Giveaway

Players must have been in the holiday spirit, because there were a bunch of gifts handed out this week.

Kevin Shattenkirk gave Blake Coleman a short-handed goal on Thursday, Josh Manson picked up an ugly assist against the Capitals and Scott Harrington was victimized by Ryan Spooner and the Bruins.

But taking the cake this week is Jonathan Drouin. It wasn’t your typical toss-it-up-the-middle-without-looking giveaway, but it sure was a major brain cramp. He literally just skates right into Bobby Ryan despite having two easy outlets on the wing. Yikes.

Best Shootout Goal

It was slim pickens this week, with only four shootouts to choose from. But this one by David Pastrnak was pretty nifty.


Philadelphia’s Robert Hagg scored his first career goal this week, Charlie McAvoy and Pierre-Luc Dubois had their first big-league scrap, and Vatanen and Henrique each had their first points against their former teams. The most impressive, however, was Hampus Lindholm’s first career hat trick Thursday against the Islanders. Even though Lindholm’s first goal just hit him on the way in, you just don’t see this too often — it was only the fourth D-man hatty in the last five seasons.

Strangest Play

Michael Grabner is the most confusing goal-scorer in the league, given that he’s not a top-six forward, gets no power-play time and doesn’t shoot the puck all that much. Yet he’s tied for seventh in the league with 17 goals. That’s what makes his goal against the Bruins so good. He fires the puck several feet above the net and it just happens to bounce perfectly off the glass, off Tuukka Rask’s back and into the net. A goal-scorer’s goal if there ever was one.

Most Reckless Play

This is about as reckless as it gets. To hit a guy at that speed, in that spot, after the puck is gone is just disgusting. It’s incredible Vladislav Namestnikov wasn’t badly injured on that play. Erik Johnson got suspended two games for that, which seems light given how dangerous it was but precedent and what not.

[embedded content]

Biggest Hit

Vince Dunn, meet Drake Caggiula.

Best Scrap

Kevan Miller is a scary man, so kudos to Zach Bogosian for dropping the mitts with him and taking a beating in honor of his fallen teammate.

[embedded content]

Whipping Boy

You’ve surely seen the numbers by now, but in case you haven’t the New York Islanders are second in the league in goals for and 30th in the league in goals against. The defense certainly has to wear some of that, but the goaltending has been abysmal. Halak has been the better goaltender, posting a 3.07 GAA and .903 SV% compared to Greiss’s 3.83/.883. It’s pretty incredible actually that Greiss has started nearly the same amount of games as Halak (18 vs. 20) despite putting up numbers from the 1980s. What makes this whole situation even more bizarre is that Halak has actually put up good numbers at 5-on-5. He has a better save percentage (.932) at evens than Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist. But until the overall numbers improve, he’s going to receive a lot of the blame for the team’s struggles.

Monkey off the Back

It was a good week for slump-busting. Mitch Marner scored his first in 15 games, Erik Karlsson got his first in 17, Radim Vrbata potted his first in 18 and Mikko Koivu ended a 24-game goal drought and 11-game pointless streak. But no player is feeling better this week than Byron Froese, who scored his first goal in almost two years. Although the drought was dragged out over a long period of time, it was only 32 games which is bad but not crazy for a fringe fourth-liner. Given that Koivu is an actual good NHL player his drought is probably worse, but the mental baggage of going so long without a goal would be tough to carry around.


Some impressive streaks came to an end this week. David Pastrnak’s 12-game points streak fell, as did linemate Brad Marchand’s nine-game spell and Corey Crawford’s 9-0-2 run. Still standing among the rubble is Predators forward Kevin Fiala, who extended his goal streak to five and point streak to nine Thursday against the Hurricanes.

Best Quote

To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.


More NHL Coverage from Yahoo Sports:


Johansson Set to Return

Dec 22, 2017

The New Jersey Devils announced today that off-season acquisition Marcus Johansson has been cleared to play and has been activated from IR. Johansson is set to return to the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Johansson is a nice piece to have back, but the Devils have gotten along fine without him, somehow still blazing through the 2017-18 season making a case for the top team in the Metropolitan Division.

Johansson, 27, was acquired from the division rival Washington Capitals this summer for second-round and third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. More of a cap dump by Washington than a fair deal, Johansson was nevertheless expected to help turn things around in New Jersey this season. While that goal has certainly been accomplished, and far beyond expectations in terms of both time and ability, it has been done largely without Johansson. A slew of injuries – lower-body, concussion, bruised ankle – has limited Johansson to just 15 games with his new team. However, his return will still be a boost to the red-hot Devils. A five-time 40+ point scorer coming off a career-high 58-point campaign, the Swedish forward’s offensive talent is undeniable.

When Johansson was traded by the Capitals, I felt it was a huge loss for the Caps.  Johansson isn’t anything special, but he was one of those players that did a ton for his team.  We’ll see, if he can stay healthy long enough, if that untouchable came along with him to the New Jersey Devils.  Even with his missed games, I would pin him down for about 16 goals by season’s end, and that, to me, is the threshold for an ideal “secondary scoring” winger.  He will likely slot right onto the second powerplay unit and begin producing before too long.  Good news for New Jersey, to be sure!!



Matthews Returning from Concussion?

Dec 22, 2017

The Male Leafs Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury. Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury.

Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.ammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

“Just normal concussion symptoms I guess, don’t need to go any farther than that,” Matthews said. “I think just later on after the Pittsburgh [game], just colliding with Morgan, later on that night and into the next day I wasn’t feeling very well, went through all the return to play [tests] and all the protocols and everything and obviously they take it pretty seriously. They deemed me obviously out, so I went through all that stuff and I feel great now.”

NOT INSIDERS TAKE:  The Leafs record without Matthews in the past six games was 2-4-0, and despite a hot streak by the third line of Tyler Bozak, James vanRiemsdyk and Mitch Marner, Mattews retains his team lead in scoring.

The idea of whether or not to play Matthews on Saturday is one that has to be made carefully.  The anguish it must be for Mike Babcock to watch his prize weapon sit idly by as his team struggles without him.  Personally, I think leaving it up to the player and coach should be limited to the question of whether or not to get a medical clearance.  In this case, it would be timely to sit him, as SAturday’s game is followed by the Christmas break and the Leafs will have three days off for the injury to be “beyond” healed up.


Oilers plan to use healthy Andrej Sekera in all situations

Dec 21, 2017

It was Game 5 against Anaheim last spring when Andrej Sekera gained the centre red line, gliding on one foot as he pumped the puck deep into the Ducks end.

Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf finished his check on Sekera, a clean, simple part of playoff hockey. It resulted in a torn ACL that ended Sekera’s season, an injury from which he will finally return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup tonight.

Of the many things that have gone wrong for Edmonton this season, not having their No. 3 defenceman this season has been just another match on the fire. But Sekera is finally back, paired with Matt Benning tonight against St. Louis and expecting some power play time as well.

“I feel as good as I need to feel to be playing at this level,” Sekera, 31, said. “I’m ready. I’ll go out, play hard and try to help this team win a game.

“Guys are already 34 games in and I’m zero,” he joked. “I just want to play a hard simple game to make sure (his teammates) like me on the ice and will play with me.”

Every player knows how long the road back from a serious injury can be. For Sekera, it started not long after the Oilers were eliminated last spring, a full seven months ago.

“It was a little bit difficult because after the surgery there are only certain things you can do and (the rehab) gets old,” he said. “But after every stage of the rehab you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“You just have to stay on top of it and be positive — do all the things you need to do to come back healthy and be ready to go.”

Sekera is an important power playplay presence for Edmonton who plays the game the way today’s defenceman is supposed to: by quickly moving pucks in the right direction, making sharp passes on the tape that allow a team to break out cleanly.

“He’s a first-pass guy, always makes the simple play,” centre Mark Letestu told Post Media. “He does a lot of things that go unnoticed that make him so solid, and when he’s gone you recognize the void he leaves, how good he actually is and what he means to the team. When we get him back it will be a big lift.”

With Oscar Klefbom on injured reserve, Sekera will walk into some extra minutes already tonight. He can expect some power play time, and likely some penalty killing work as well.

“The plan is to use him in those situations, but his play and his ability to read and react and the pace he plays at and how he feels physically will dictate how much he gets,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We want him up and running as quick as possible so he’s going to need to experience the power play and the penalty kill. But if it’s not clicking for him right off the bat, we’ll cut him back.”


Sabres’ Lehner pays tribute to Hasek with Winter Classic mask

Dec 21, 2017

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner is paying tribute to an all-time great with the new mask he’ll be wearing during the upcoming Winter Classic.

The new mask features Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 and a photo of him making one of his signature flop saves.

Hasek tended the net for the Sabres for nine seasons, winning six Vezina and two Hart Trophies, while leading Buffalo to its only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

The mask is much more modern than the one Lehner was skating around with before practice on Thursday.

The first one looks a little bit safer.

The latest edition of the Winter Classic takes place Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York featuring the Sabres and Rangers.


NHL Power Rankings: Secret Santa Edition

Dec 20, 2017

When Adam Henrique returned to New Jersey this week dressed as a Duck, the former Devil received the most hilarious inside-joke gift in hockey history: the Pads of Seduction.

Back in November 2016, Devils backup goalie Keith Kinkaid threw a contest inviting fans to design his next set of pads. Feeling frisky, Henrique entered a design with teammate Stephen Gionta striking the classic George Costanza painting pose.

Well, Kinkaid gave the pads — a thing that exists in real life — to Henrique this week, just in time for the holidays.

In that same generous spirit, we offer up some last-minute shopping ideas in our NHL Power Rankings: Secret Santa Edition.

As always, teams are ranked in order of their current jolliness. The write-ups focus on the perfect gift idea for your favourite club.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

A shiny, new, oversized bandwagon, so the Knights — your new No. 1 seed in Western Conference and the Lightning’s streak killers — can cart all their new fans on a ride to the post-season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Respect™, by Calvin Klein. Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves a vat of this new cologne for leading all NHL starters in wins and ranking second only to Chicago’s Corey Crawford in save percentage, while everyone talks about Tampa’s high-powered offence.

3. Nashville Predators

An endorsement deal for Roman Josi. We’re thrilled that marketing dream P.K. Subban inked his deal with Adidas this week. But at a $4-million cap hit, Josi, Nashville’s other best defenceman and one of the NHL’s best bargains, deserves a little something extra in his stocking.

4. Washington Capitals

A $10,000 Hudson’s Bay gift card for Alex Ovechkin, so he can keep cruising the streets of cold Canadian cities and outfitting the homeless.

5. Los Angeles Kings

An oxygen mask for Anze Kopitar, who has been logging an incredible 21:55 hard minutes a night, getting used on both special teams and has bounced back from his most disappointing season to get into the Art Ross race.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

A carbonite freezing chamber, so the Blackhawks can preserve the magic of their five-game winning streak, the longest active run in the league.

7. St. Louis Blues

A juicy contract renewal for GM Doug Armstrong, who is not afraid to makes trades or bench changes and builds a relevant team year after year.

8. Boston Bruins

A 16-inch Sunbeam desk fan, to cool down a bit. Since the Bruins’ core members have returned from injury, this is one of the hottest teams in the league. With games in hand over their inconsistent competition, the third seed in the Atlantic is Boston’s to lose.

9. Winnipeg Jets

An all-star game invite for Blake Wheeler. It was on the Jets captain’s wish list last winter and he’s more than deserving.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

The game of Operation. You don’t have to tell us where Auston Matthews is sore, just make the body part buzz with these miniature metal tweezers.

11. New York Rangers

A third-line centre, before the Penguins get one. With the Metropolitan Division completely up for grabs, how the Rangers fare in the mid-season trade market could give them an edge over their close competition.

12. New Jersey Devils

A playoff berth, for Taylor Hall. It’s only been Item 1 on his letter to Santa for eight winters now.

13. Minnesota Wild

A lumbar pillow, for Eric Staal. The poor man must be getting tired of carrying offensively anemic teams on his back.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets

Shorter word counts, for Blue Jackets beat reporters who need to file game stories on nights when coach John Tortorella won’t give them any quotes.

15. San Jose Sharks

Beard oil, Costco-sized.

16. Dallas Stars

A sack of power-play points for Martin Hanzal. The $14.25-million free-agency acquisition has just two goals all season and needs something to spark his production.

17. New York Islanders

What do you get the team that has everything (goals galore, a brand-new arena site, an increasingly happy captain)? How about some new pads for Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss? They are the prime contributors to the NHL’s worst team save percentage, .892.

18. Calgary Flames

A brick of inedible, regifted Christmas cake, for every fan who doubted Sam Bennett, he of 12 points in his past 11 games.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

A time machine, so they go back to November and take a mulligan on that 10-game losing streak.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

A rabbit’s foot. While it may be a bit rich to describe the two-time defending champions as unlucky, Pittsburgh is operating with the league’s worst PDO (96.4), has dealt with a stream of injuries, and should be having a better season.

21. Edmonton Oilers

A lifetime supply of Vicks NyQuil for Connor McDavid. Seeing what the Oilers captain can accomplish when he’s not suffering from the flu has reinforced the need to keep him healthy.

22. Colorado Avalanche

A two-second head start on all draws in January, so the Avalanche can elevate their league-worst 44.8 faceoff percentage.

23. Anaheim Ducks

One more trade for an Adam Henrique-type of impact player who can score goals like this one.

24. Montreal Canadiens

Earmuffs for everyone, so they can block out the constant rumour-mongering and focus on losing 3-2 games.

25. Carolina Hurricanes

A special teams seminar, so Carolina can fix its 29th-ranked power play and 29th-ranked penalty kill.

26. Detroit Red Wings

An all-expenses-paid harpoon fishing expedition for Justin Abdelkader, so he can spear away without reprimand.

27. Ottawa Senators

A fire extinguisher.

28. Florida Panthers

This book by Hal Mooz: Make Up Your Mind: A Decision Making Guide to Thinking Clearly and Choosing Wisely.

29. Vancouver Canucks

A Calder Trophy for Brock Boeser, whose knack for scoring goals will not be deterred by a day on crutches nor a long-term injury to his centreman. Just ask Carey Price.

30. Buffalo Sabres

An updated phone plan for GM Jason Botterill, who’s about to rack up all kinds of long-distance minutes trying to swing trades.

31. Arizona Coyotes

A new arena, possibly in a new city, potentially in a new country.


31 Thoughts: Arena deal a massive victory for Islanders

Dec 20, 2017

• How does arena deal affect Tavares free agency?
• Pens’ two-trade day “the tip of the iceberg”
• Karlsson unlikely to move in near future

As one GM who wants John Tavares to hit free agency laughed last night: “This… is not helpful.”

Ah, but it’s the sweetest melody to the NHL, the New York Islanders and their fans. Two months ago, owner Jon Ledecky and GM Garth Snow met the media at a Manhattan restaurant, refusing to even consider questions about anything other than Belmont Park as the franchise’s future home.

“Our focus is solely on Belmont Park,” Ledecky said, over and over again. We twisted the question every possible way we could think of. He wasn’t having any of it. “We want Belmont to be our permanent home.”

And now it will be. If Long Island had chosen MLS’s New York City FC plan for a soccer stadium, the Islanders would have rocketed to the top of relocation rumours to Houston, Quebec City or Seattle. Now that storyline is dead and buried. This is where they belong. We just need Islanders/Rangers in the playoffs to really re-ignite things.

This is a massive, massive victory — particularly for Ledecky, who has gone out of his way to put a positive face on ownership. You can tell Islanders fans truly like him and wanted to believe in his ability to deliver, but there was a not-so-deep-down worry that yet another disappointment awaited them at the end. Not this time.

They chanted, “Yes, yes, yes,” at Ledecky during the media conference. He replied that they “deserved” the arena. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo petitioned NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to play some games at the old Coliseum in the interim, with Bettman replying he’d consider it if Billy Joel (who was in attendance) opened the new arena.

It will be interesting to see the concert setup. It’s believed that with James Dolan’s involvement, those who play Madison Square Garden are also going to play Belmont. That’s one way to fill dates with so many entertainment options in the Big Apple. The Islanders, who currently rank among the lowest NHL teams in per-game ticket revenue, aren’t going to be anywhere near that spot when they open the doors to the new facility.

That’s three years away — well after Tavares is scheduled to hit free agency.

Undoubtedly, there are Islanders fans who hope that one major announcement leads to another. I don’t get the sense anything’s imminent on the Tavares front, but, by now, we should understand not to read too much into his decision-making.

“As time goes on and you take time to think about things, look at the big picture, it’s very positive for the organization, for us, for the fans,” Tavares said of the new arena deal. “For my situation it’s really exciting news. I’m not going to say it’s going to change or ultimately make my decision, but everything that’s involved in my daily life plays into it and going to the rink, playing games is a big part of that.

“We’ll continue the way things have been going, keeping the communication open and taking it one day at a time. A lot of focus on the ice, on getting us to the playoffs. I’ve always stated how much I enjoy being here, playing here and wanting it to work out here.”

The moral of the story: He’ll let us know when he’s ready. Smartly, the organization is content to wait as long as possible. And, the biggest factor is winning. The Islanders are trending upward in hockey’s toughest division. Staying on that course is the best thing they can do.

But the team and its fans can worry about that another day. Wednesday was a celebration, a huge and well-deserved party.


1. Tavares’s linemate, Josh Bailey, continues his dream season, finishing Tuesday’s games with 42 points, tied with his captain for third in the NHL. Only Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have more. After setting career highs in 2016–17 with 43 assists and 56 points, he’s on pace for 77 and 101, respectively. Does he really like the attention that comes with it? Bailey laughed.

“Most of it is praise, so that’s okay,” he answered.

2. As you would expect, Bailey threw most of the credit at Tavares and their third, Anders Lee.

“We would not be having this talk if not for those guys,” Bailey said. “If you don’t have it one night, give those guys credit. They pull you along with them.”

That said, a few different sources credited coach Doug Weight for putting Bailey with Lee/Tavares last year and leaving him there. Bailey pointed out that in the Islanders’ final season at the old Coliseum (2014–15), injuries forced then-coach Jack Capuano to put those three together. Bailey responded with 41 points, at that time a career-high. But the trio didn’t stick until Weight re-united them. Did Bailey ever request Capuano try him there again?

“No, I never asked,” he replied. “I believe you are told who to play with, you go out and do your best. I’m not that type of guy to go into [the] office and do that.”

Last year, after taking over as coach, Weight went to Nick Leddy and said he needed the defenceman to be his second-best player every night. Did he have a similar message for Bailey?

“Yes,” Bailey answered. “He told me he needed me to be better, to continue to grow. He also said he believed that I could do it.”

Are you surprised a your success?

“I try not to think about it. I try to approach each day the same. I’ll worry about looking back when the year is done.”

3. A few years ago, there were reports the Islanders were close to trading Bailey to Edmonton for then-Oiler Sam Gagner. Did Bailey think that he’d still be part of this organization at Christmas 2017?

“Yes, I would have believed you if you told me I was still an Islander. I enjoy it here. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be. My wife likes it here and my kids were born here.”

He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season. Has he thought about his future?

“Yes, I’ve thought about it. And the thing I think about is wanting to remain is priority No. 1. It would be nice to play my entire career here. I believe in where we are going.”

What Bailey concedes is that family and maturity have changed him for the better.

“Every player has a time that their confidence is rattled. Earlier in my career it happened a lot more, but as you grow as person, you gain appreciation for veterans who show up game-in, game-out. You know you can rely upon them every night. That’s what I wanted for myself. Yes, I feel good, because when you jump over the boards those with two guys, there’s added confidence. More results mean more belief in yourself. If I have a bad night now, I don’t think about it. It’s gotten to the point where I can turn the page each day, approach everything as a new opportunity, no matter what’s happened, bad or good.”

As any father knows, a lot of that comes from going home to 16-month-old Wyatt and 10-week-old Mack. (Wife Megan has her hands full with two children that age and a husband on a hockey schedule.)

“I owe them a lot of credit,” Bailey said. “Going to them is always nice. It’s easier to leave the game at the rink.”

Live stream over 300 marquee regular season games, regional matchups for the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, and the entire 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

4. A few opposing executives on Pittsburgh’s trades for Michael Leighton and Jamie Oleksiak: “The tip of the iceberg.”

5. Call it more of a hunch, but I can see Vancouver making an increased effort to move Erik Gudbranson. It’s unlikely they re-sign him to what he can get on the market, and there is little point to keeping him on the roster if he’s not part of their future. A fresh start would benefit Gudbranson, too. It just hasn’t worked out for team or player.

6. Winnipeg sent out a note last week indicating Shawn Matthias’s availability. Their success has made it difficult for him to get into the lineup; just two appearances in five weeks. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

7. Fresh Start Number Three: Have to think Edmonton moves Anton Slepyshev, too.

The Hockey PDOcast with Dimitri Filipovic provides entertaining and thoughtful dialogue about the game of hockey with an analytical edge. Not as nerdy as it sounds.

8. I think teams have asked Montreal GM Marc Bergevin what his plans are for Charlie Lindgren. (Have to think Florida was one.) Bergevin does not discuss trade possibilities, so it’s difficult to know. But the fact nothing’s happened tells you something.

9. Two weeks ago, one Western Conference GM said the Oilers still worried him.

“Any team with Connor McDavid is a threat,” he warned.

The Oilers enter Wednesday’s games six points out and with multiple teams between them and the final playoff spot. But I don’t think the GM I spoke to is the only opponent who feels that way.

10. Columbus talked last week about getting Alexander Wennberg back in the habit of carrying the puck. Their prospective No. 1 centre, who took a major step last season, has really struggled. He’s playing 18:20 per game, just two seconds below last season. That’s behind only Artemi Panarin and Nick Foligno among Blue Jackets forwards. (In 2016–17, only Foligno was above him.)

Producer Matt Marstrom asked SportLogiq, which does some tracking for us, to see if Wennberg’s numbers have declined. They found he’s carrying the puck for two fewer seconds at even-strength and six fewer seconds in all situations. While that doesn’t seem like much, what has also dropped is his ranking among teammates. He’s gone from carrying it third-most in all situations and seventh-most at even-strength to fourth and ninth. That seems really low for a player of his ability, and I wonder how much that has to do with Panarin’s arrival. They’ve played a lot together. They’ve got to find the chemistry Panarin and Patrick Kane did.

11. Idea that might make sense only to me: Columbus, looking for a centre, considering a reunion with Derick Brassard. Brassard and John Tortorella worked well together with the Rangers. You know who Tortorella’s assistant was there? Mike Sullivan. And the Penguins are looking for a centre, too.

Fantasy Hockey Pool

Play the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool for your chance to score big with over $22,000 worth of prizes to be awarded!

12. A few thoughts about Ottawa, the Senators and Eugene Melnyk: When I arrived in the nation’s capital one week ago, the cabbie said, “They might as well fold the team if they trade Karlsson.”

Some of the biggest battles I’ve had with leagues and/or executives come when an event they are extremely proud of is overshadowed by a story (especially a negative one) released at the same time. That’s why I was shocked by Melnyk’s timing, launching a neutron bomb into a terrific weekend. Whoever or whatever you blame for the team’s attendance woes, I can’t imagine the NHL was pleased. Melnyk is a fighter, and there is a theory he felt boxed into a corner by rumours about his finances, a sale, Karlsson and who knows what else. What does a fighter do when cornered? Comes out swinging.

Senators fans responded by making #melnykout a Canadian trending topic the day of the outdoor game, and people who know the market better than I do worried there was going to be lingering damage. Announced attendance was 13,804 Tuesday against Minnesota, and with the Senators low in the standings, you wonder if this could turn into an ugly, self-fulfilling prophecy: “He doesn’t think we support the team? Well, why would we do it now?”

Then what happens if they decide to cut payroll by trading higher-paid players for youth, prospects and picks?

13. During the 2010 Pittsburgh/Ottawa series, Melnyk tried to enter the team’s dressing room during an intermission — only to be intercepted by then-GM Bryan Murray. I was inches away, trying to do an interview at the time, as Murray prevented Melnyk from getting in. Whether the manager or an advisor to current GM Pierre Dorion, Murray found a way to keep the owner in check. It’s another reminder of how much he is missed.

14. Almost six years ago (March 2012), there were rumours of the Desmarais family’s interest in an NHL team for Quebec City. Andre Desmarais agreed to a phone conversation, saying his family “has no interest in owning an NHL team at this stage.” With all of the recent speculation about Melnyk’s future, I made another attempt. A spokesman politely declined on behalf of Andre Desmarais and Paul Desmarais Jr. (Last April, Andre took medical leave from day-to-day operations at his company at the request of his doctor.) For what it’s worth, staying quiet is always the recommendation if you are serious about NHL ownership.

15. When news broke that Ottawa had asked for Karlsson’s trade list, Dorion said everyone’s list was requested in advance. Initially, Brassard told reporters in French that wasn’t the case for him, although it appears the Senators did do it last summer. As for the captain being asked any time sooner than three weeks ago, well… we’ll agree to disagree.

16. So where does it stand? Prior to Tuesday’s loss to the Wild, the Senators had showed life with home wins over the Rangers and Canadiens. But it is a steep, steep climb. I don’t think Karlsson’s going anywhere in the near future. My personal opinion is he prefers to stay in Ottawa, although an ownership change would make his decision a lot easier. Teams have asked about Mark Stone, a sensational player, but were told he’s not available.

What makes that situation even more delicate is he’s represented by Newport, which also handles Karlsson. It’s always a fine line to walk. No one can have enough centres, so I think there’d be plenty of interest in Jean-Gabriel Pageau. You’ve heard Cody Ceci’s name. Same with Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith. All of them have appeal — depending on the price. My sense is Dorion is looking for young NHLers, prospects and/or picks.

Join Jeff Marek and Sam Cosentino for all the CHL and NHL prospect talk you can handle.

17. Heading into last Wednesday’s win over the Rangers, the Senators ranked 31st in even-strength save percentage and 30th in offensive-zone possession time. (Only Florida was lower.) Craig Anderson improved the first number in wins over New York and Montreal, but it’s tough to win with that combination.

18. Finally, on Ottawa: Whatever controversy envelopes the Senators at this time, it should not overshadow a superb weekend. I’m not a sentimental person, but it was special to broadcast from the shadow of Canada’s Parliament. The rink setup on the Hill was terrific. It was cold and windy for the main event at Lansdowne, but those fans were having a great time. Underrated excellent moment: the smile on Mario Lemieux’s face when his five-goals-five-different-ways was voted greatest moment in NHL history. We see him so rarely, and he stays so reserved. There was no faking that smile.

19. The NHL has two outdoor games (that we know of) scheduled for next season: Boston/Chicago at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 1, 2019, and the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rematch at Lincoln Financial Field, 54 days later. It is “unlikely,” according to one source, that there will be a game hosted by a Canadian city until at least 2019–20. And it would not be a surprise if that matchup included Edmonton.

Last May, the NHL announced it will have games at service academies, with the first one coming between Toronto and Washington at the U.S. Naval Academy in March. So you can expect West Point and the Air Force Academy to get their moments, too.

20. Another thing I think the league is considering: new blood. There are always complaints about Chicago’s outdoor appearances, but I look at it this way: You get what you earn. Some new teams are climbing the mountain, and their merits are being discussed. Tampa Bay makes sense, even if the state of Florida doesn’t host.

21. Speaking of Erik Karlsson, Sportsnet features producer Alex Blair debuts a piece on likely 2018 No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin during Wednesday’s night’s Toronto/Columbus coverage:

Dahlin discussed three players that were his role models growing up. Karlsson is one, and he indicated Ottawa’s captain was one of the reasons he switched from forward to defence at age 13.

“My dad (Martin) told me I could score goals and still do fun stuff with the puck,” Dahlin said of the change of position.

The other two role models? Peter Forsberg — for toughness and physical style of play — and Frolunda captain Joel Lundqvist. The 35-year-old, Henrik’s twin brother, is in his 15th season with the organization and regarded as one of the best leaders in the Swedish league.

22. With all of Winnipeg’s tremendous young talent, one non-Jet exec came back from overseas with high marks for 2017 24th-overall selection Kristian Vesalainen. The 18-year-old has 19 points in 26 games for Hameenliina in the Finnish Elite League. Almost a point per game in this league at age 18 is very hard. Carolina’s Sebastian Aho did it two years ago. Other than that, it’s rare.

23. Get a load of the father-son connections for the USHL Top Prospects Game, to be played Jan. 9. There is Jack Drury (father is Ted); Christian and Cole Krygier (Todd); Philippe Lapointe (Martin); Tyler Madden (John); and Ryan Savage (Brian). That’s 3,520 regular-season NHL games between the five fathers.

24. Last year, Carolina coach Bill Peters made headlines when he bluntly criticized Eddie Lack’s goaltending performance. With an 8–1 loss to the Maple Leafs raw in his mind Tuesday afternoon, Peters refrained from similar commentary on the NHL’s brightest stage.

Scott Darling is struggling adapting to the No. 1 role, but Peters wasn’t going there. He smiled — because he knew the Toronto media was trying.

25. The Ontario meltdown came days after one of Darling’s best performances, a 2–1 victory over Columbus. Asked how he would learn from what happened, he replied: “It never happened. I’ve already forgotten about it.”

Burn the tape?


26. Carolina’s prospective new owner, Thomas Dundon, is on the team’s current trip. He was taking a tour of Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with Bob Hunter, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s Executive V-P of Venues & Entertainment, prior to the defeat. It’s probably not a coincidence these travels take Dundon’s team through Nashville, a huge success story at this time.

27. One owner at the Board of Governors’ meetings on Las Vegas: “They’ve upped the pressure on struggling teams. It’s tough to explain why you’re going badly when they’re winning the division.”

Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen go deep on pucks with a mix of facts and fun, leaning on a varied group of hockey voices to give their take on the country’s most beloved game.

28. There are two occasions where a coach ripped his team that I remember pretty clearly. One was Pat Quinn. He was coaching in Toronto when the Maple Leafs blew a Glenn Healy shutout in the last minute. (I’m pretty sure it was against Vancouver.) Despite a comfortable win, he was furious the players let their guard down, because, as a backup, Healy didn’t get a ton of opportunities for a shutout. He didn’t like the idea teammates could do that to each other.

The second was another Toronto coach, Butch Carter. His Raptors laid an egg in one of Antonio Davis’s first games against his former team, Indiana. Carter was furious Davis’s teammates could be so awful in a game they knew meant a ton to his player. So I always notice how these kinds of games go.

Watching the Golden Knights against Pittsburgh, you could tell how much they wanted it for Marc-Andre Fleury. Quinn and Carter wouldn’t have ripped anyone for that performance.

29. Wanted to empty the Derek Dorsett notebook from our conversation with him. First, he confirmed Ryan Johansen’s hilarious story about the penalty-minutes race from 2011–12. Dorsett entered game 82 of the season in second place, nine minutes behind Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Johansen said Dorsett told him to start a scrum, so the latter could “come in hot” and pass Rinaldo. Dorsett, however, said he got only seven minutes out of it and needed more mayhem. The opponent that day was the New York Islanders, and Matt Martin understood what was going on. One fight later, Dorsett owned the crown.

30. In the goodbye article, Dorsett discussed his parents’ ownership of an A&W burger franchise. I cannot allow it to go unreported that he liked his burgers with only cheese on them. Seriously, who eats a hamburger with cheese as the only condiment?

31. Wanted to say thank you to Damien Cox, who invited me to participate in the Lou Marsh voting for the first time in my career. Awarded to Canada’s top athlete, this year’s winner is Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s challenging. This country’s come a long way, and the depth of talent is so great that Brooke Henderson, Kylie Masse (world record holder in the backstroke) and Connor McDavid could not make the top five.


Senators Fans Don’t Owe Melnyk Anything

Dec 18, 2017
If Senators owner Eugene Melnyk paid to put a winning team on the ice every year, supported by a group of good decision-makers behind the scenes, there wouldn’t be a problem in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Last week we talked about the value of Erik Karlsson to the Ottawa Senators, and how any idea that he shouldn’t pursue a top-level contract “for the good of the franchise” was wrongheaded.

Karlsson, of course, owes nothing to the Senators, having already taken a lengthy hometown-discount contract that devoured basically his entire prime and didn’t give him much in return; Ottawa made the playoffs three times since the new deal kicked in back in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and the Senators won a grand total of four rounds, three of which were last season’s run to the conference finals.

So if Karlsson would prefer to look for what he’s actually worth (or more accurately, recoup some of the value he lost on his last deal) on his next deal, wherever that may take him, it’s tough to place any blame on him. Most fans around the league, and even in Ottawa, seem to agree with that too, which is a rare thing in modern sports. But that seems to be because most of those people recognize that Ottawa is a badly mismanaged team that would be among the worst in the league were it not for Karlsson’s mere existence.

Which brings us to the past few days, during which time Senators owner Eugene Melnyk ran his mouth about as effectively as he runs his franchise. At a time when his team was hosting the NHL 100 Classic — celebrating the league’s 100th birthday — he chose to make proceedings all about himself, his inability to make a deal for a new arena because his team currently (in its “very bad” iteration) can’t convince people to come out to Kanata.

While he said he wouldn’t be selling the team, he also basically said he’s more than happy to move the team. Unlike years past, the current Senators roster is pretty close to the cap ceiling, but Melnyk says that could change if other things with the organization do not. And he’s already running many parts of that organization on extremely limited budgets.

So the thing is, this is basically an NHL owner — albeit one whose team couldn’t draw a crowd with a box of crayons — using a vaunted league platform to say, “Show up or else.” Much like how things have gone in Calgary with the “Pay for our arena or else” argument, one imagines this isn’t a winning strategy. Especially because, for the millionth time, the Senators are horrendous.

Their win in the outdoor game was their second straight, but only their third in the previous month. Melnyk also used the opportunity earlier in the week to basically say “Trust me, this is a playoff team.” Which is not the kind of promise one typically wants to make when one’s team is six points out of a divisional playoff spot and 10 out of the wild card; the Senators would have to play at a 101-point pace for the rest of the season to even get to 92 points, which is probably the bare minimum cutoff for a playoff spot in the Atlantic. They would also have to leapfrog Florida, Detroit, Montreal and Boston to get there, as Tampa (certainly) and Toronto (probably) appear safely ensconced in the top-two.

Point being, Melnyk has done a number of very unwise things in the past several days — guaranteed a playoff appearance by a team that has almost no hope of making the playoffs, admitting to cutting behind-the-scenes budgets, and threatened to move the team — in what I guess is an attempt to coerce fans into……. showing up?

The idea, one supposes, is that Senators fans should really not want this team to move to Quebec City or Houston (hey! that’s the Flames’ gimmick!), but it’s a tough sell, because of Melnyk’s previous stewardship of the team.

Yeah, the club is spending money for the on-ice product now, but that’s a relatively new phenomenon, likely propped up by the revenues generated during last year’s fluke playoff run — which hey, credit to Melnyk for not just pocketing all that money — and little more. And again, spending on what, exactly? Lots of bad contracts on this team, right? And that big three-way trade that was supposed to reinvigorate everybody and get them excited for Senators hockey doesn’t seem to be working out in quite the way it is for, say, the other two teams in that trade.

Point being, the Senators haven’t really given fans a lot of reason to show up apart from that playoff run (which, granted, was like six months), so threatening to move and saying the market has to “prove itself” is a poor strategy. Fans owe the teams they root for nothing. Most fans will give more than they should in terms of loyalty to their franchises — see also: the attempted vilification of Karlsson for saying he deserves to get huge money two summers from now, which has worked in a lot of other markets to turn fans against a lot of lesser players — but the rise of the European-style “Melnyk Out” movement in the wake of all these pronouncements tells you the owner pushed much farther than he should have here.

To use Melnyk’s own McDonald’s analogy, this is basically the owner of a run-down McDonald’s franchise 40 minutes away from anyone, whose restaurant has been serving some of the worst Big Macs in the region and refuses to pay more than one fry cook and cashier saying, “Hey, if you guys don’t come start shoving these undercooked McNuggets in your dumb faces, I’ll go to another city where people will!”

This is classic rich-guy stuff, though. People like Melnyk are owed fealty because they (barely) operate a thing people ostensibly should like, and when “consumers” he doesn’t care about — except as far as they can be parted from their money to support a bare-bones product — don’t grovel enough for their liking, the threats to take their ball and go home start pretty quickly.

Can’t imagine why Sens fans would chafe at that line of talk from a guy who, if he isn’t the worst owner in the league, is pretty close.

Move the team, don’t move the team, whatever. Think the people of Quebec or Houston will keep showing up after the novelty wears off if the team keeps barely making the playoffs every other year? Fans show up to see good teams. It’s really that simple. If Melnyk paid to put a winning team on the ice every year, supported by a group of good decision-makers behind the scenes, that would be one thing.

If we’re supposed to be mad Karlsson vaguely implied he would go elsewhere if he couldn’t get what he’s worth, but not mad that a billionaire absentee owner who runs the team on a shoestring budget for basically doing-the-same-thing-times-100, that seems like a bizarre logical leap. Generally speaking, if your net worth has three commas in it, people probably aren’t going to have too much sympathy when you cry poor, for any reason.

Ransoming fans’ love of a team against that team’s ongoing existence is the basest, most desperate act an owner can undertake. Why Melnyk would expect any response other than the one he got shows the disconnect between working-class fans and team owners.

The NHL is an entertainment product, and it is therefore incumbent upon team owners to put an entertaining team on the ice so that fans will show up. The idea that it should work in the opposite direction — that fans should pay a billionaire a lot of money and drive out to some far-flung arena so the team can be financed appropriately — is a uniquely late-capitalist idea that has no real basis in the previous 100 years of this or any other sport.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The way these two teams have been playing, the Ducks getting a point out of the Capitals is pretty good.

Arizona Coyotes: “Has become,” sure.

Boston Bruins: In my opinion, if I were coach of a team that erased a two-goal deficit in a critical game, I would not also have that team take a too-many-men penalty in overtime and lose. Just my thoughts.

Buffalo Sabres: This is one of those things where it’s like, “Oh yeah, Jack Eichel ISN’T captain of the Sabres yet.”

Calgary Flames: The Flames got shut out on Saturday but they hit a post and three crossbars, and hey, sometimes that’s hockey, baby! And look, at least it was against the damn Predators. Sometimes you just don’t get the bounces when the other team is elite.

Carolina Hurricanes: Here’s me promising never to get too worked up about any results for the Hurricanes ever again. But they’ve won three straight, gang.

Chicago Blackhawks: Turns out guys don’t want to be healthy-scratched. Pretty wild.

Colorado Avalanche: One wonders if this is a salary-cap-era record: The Avs have used 11 players on their ELCs this season.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Sometimes you just run into a hot goalie. Sometimes you make that goalie look better than he was.

Dallas Stars: The Stars really shouldn’t be having this much trouble offensively. That’s the thing they’re supposed to be, y’know, good at.

Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings have six shorthanded goals. Pretty good number! They also have 80 goals in all other situations. Very bad number.

Edmonton Oilers: This is without a doubt my favorite tweet of all time:

Florida Panthers: What a burn.

Los Angeles Kings: Win eight straight, and this is the best team in the world. Lose three straight and someone’s gotta talk you off the ledge. Tough business.

Minnesota Wild: My theory is: Mikko Koivu is almost 35.

Montreal Canadiens: Lots of people comparing the NHL to communism lately. What a time to be alive.

Nashville Predators: To have back-to-back shutouts? Folks, that’s good to do.

New Jersey Devils: Is this a good group of guys to get back healthy?

New York Islanders: We definitely all saw this coming.

New York Rangers: Not sure “playing the guy who’s almost 36 a ton of minutes the rest of the way” is a great strategy, but okay.

Ottawa Senators: What a beautiful boy this guy is. We do not deserve Erik Karlsson.

Philadelphia Flyers: Of course the Flyers have won six straight. Hockey’s fun, right?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Hearing Rick Tocchet speak freely about why the Penguins are good is really interesting.

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture might be out long-term. That would be, uh, bad.

St. Louis Blues: That’s a 48-save shutout for Carter Hutton. Pretty good!

Tampa Bay Lightning: *Looks at Lightning roster* Ah, that’s why they’re legit.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston, come back!

Vancouver Canucks: Bless those wonderful Sedin boys.

Vegas Golden Knights: Have you all heard about this stuff with Gerard Gallant and the Panthers? Pretty crazy!

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is up to 23 goals in 34 games. He might hit 50 again. Good lord.

Winnipeg Jets: No coach in the history of the NHL has lost more games than Paul Maurice. That’s weird to think about.

Play of the weekend

This goal by Ryan Johansen? That’s incredible skill level.

Gold Star Award

Carter Hutton not only had a 48-save shutout, but also did it coming off not having played in two weeks. C’mon!

Minus of the Weekend


Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Year

User “ViktorBaeArvidsson” cooked up a goodie.

To Ottawa:

2018 1st Round Pick
Jacob Trouba
Jack Roslovic
Nicolas Petan

To Winnipeg:

Erik Karlsson
Alexandre Burrows (500k retained)


Ho ho ho ho ho, delightfully devilish, Seymour.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)


Different goalie, different results?

Sep 23, 2017

Goaltending is a premium position in hockey.  At the final buzzer, no matter how well a team plays in front of him/her, if the goalie isn’t solid, a loss will be the outcome.  That’s why teams make every effort to have a high level tandem in between the pipes, and they’re willing to pay dearly for it.  This year there were some big names shifting about, mostly via free agency, but also through trade, and it stands to reason that the acquiring teams believe they improved at the position by making their transaction.  Let’s break it down:

Ben Bishop | TB to DAL | UFA – 6yrs | $29.5m | $4.92m/yr cap  Things certainly are bigger in Texas these days!  Ben Bishop comes in on a nice deal that will see him through to retirement.  Dallas desperately needed an upgrade over last year’s duo of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.  Although blame for Dallas’ terrible season can’t be squarely excused away by blaming the Finnish red light re-treads, they weren’t singlehandedly winning any games either.

Bishop buys the team time to grow a prospect into a position to take over after the then 37-year old Bishop retires.  I see his injury history stopping him from playing beyond that.  Now, I believe the Stars would have been much better even without this move, but it won’t hurt them!  I believe the Stars are a top-3 team in the Western Conference this season, having made a fistful of significant additions (Bishop, Hanzal, Radulov).  Bishop won’t be winning any Vezinas, but he may enter the top-5 in voting!


Scott Darling | CHI to CAR | UFA – 4yrs | $16.6m | $4.15m/yr cap  The Hurricanes had a past-prime Cam Ward and a disaster aptly named Eddie Lack tending net for them last year.  Scott Darling earned his step up to a starting job in the NHL with repeatedly solid performances stepping in for Corey Crawford in Chicago.  This seems like almost a perfect fit!

Carolina will provide Darling with a pretty good, young defence, so he can ease into the heavier workload with a little more confidence.  Despite this addition, I believe Carolina will be a long way from making the playoffs, and think a better landing spot for Darling may have been the Arizona Coyotes, but alas, revisionist history…  Good value signing for the Canes, and a good start for Darling to showcase himself for his next big payday.


Mike Smith | Trade – ARI | 2yrs. rem. | $5.67m/yr cap  Calgary gave up a lot to acquire the veteran out of the desert.  Chad Johnson (who played well enough last season, but not elite starter level), prospect Brandon Hickey and a third-round pick (cond.) were the parts sent to Arizona, and Calgary thinks they have the missing piece to get them deep into the postseason.  I have a really hard time putting my finger on this one, because Arizona is one of the toughest teams to figure out.

You can bet that Smith will face fewer shots per game, which can be good or bad, depending on the goalie.  Dominik Hasek was lights-out when he faced 40+ in a game, but was fairly pedestrian when he was facing 20-25 per game in Detroit.  How will Smith be with one of the most airtight defences in the NHL in front of him?

My belief is that the expectations are too high, and that the Flames will be fighting for wild card positioning from the word “go”.  Smith won’t be the reason if they do end up in the playoffs, it will be improved scoring (should that happen).

GRADE: C- (I believe this is the most likely to be a non-difference-maker)

Marc-André Fleury | Drafted – VGK | 2yrs. rem. | $5.75m/yr cap  The Vegas Golden Knights actually have a very good goaltending duo in Fleury and Calvin Pickard.  Well drafted by GM George McPhee, Fleury will be the reason the Golden Knights win on most nights when they do.  Fleury wasn’t left exposed by Pittsburgh because he is not a good goalie.  He was left available because they had too much money tied up in Fleury to let him be their backup to upstart Matt Murray.  Vegas is not the worst team at this position by any stretch, and I think Fleury will have a very good year (skewed to the talent in front of him).



That’s all for now!



THN’s 2017-18 Season Preview: New York Rangers

Sep 23, 2017
The Rangers’ signing of Kevin Shattenkirk was one of the summer’s biggest splashes and followed it up with some roster shuffling. New York’s hope is that a busy off-season allows them to keep their window open.

The Hockey News is rolling out its 2017-18 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of Stanley Cup odds, until the start of the season. Today, the New York Rangers.

Stanley Cup odds: 24-1

Key additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, D; David Desharnais, C; Anthony DeAngelo, D; Ondrej Pavelec, G; Neal Pionk, D

Key departures: Derek Stepan, C; Oscar Lindberg, C; Antti Raanta, G; Dan Girardi, D; Kevin Klein, D


Is this Rick Nash’s final season on Broadway?

The veteran power forward is on the final year of a contract that carries a $7.8 million cap hit and a modified no-trade clause. With the Rangers in position to make another playoff run, there probably isn’t much fear in him being approached about a trade during the season, but whether Nash returns to New York in the future is obviously an important debate point.

By all accounts, the big sniper wants to remain in New York, but his performance this season will go a long way in determining whether it’s feasible from the Rangers’ point of view. Nash’s production has slowed down and considering he’s 33 with a lot of NHL miles on him, that’s not surprising. Possession numbers weren’t great last season either, so there is definitely all the motivation in the world for Nash to come back and make a splash in his contract year.

While the Rangers do have some nice young forwards pushing up on the roster (Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich, Lias Andersson), they also didn’t have a single player crack the 60-point mark last season. If Nash can somehow return to earlier form, he’ll help his team – and perhaps earn himself another run in Manhattan.

The last time we saw Henrik Lundqvist, he was backstopping Sweden to a gold medal at the World Championship, defeating Canada in a shootout. This was a good omen, assuming ‘Hank’ has recovered from William Nylander’s celebratory tackle. If Lundqvist can get back to his perch in the top echelon of NHL goalies, New York is in a great position. The Rangers landed the biggest free agent of the summer in puck-moving defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and, along with his own talents, he’ll help captain Ryan McDonagh unlock another level to his blueline game. With Brady Skjei and Nick Holden coming into their own, the Rangers have a very strong and diverse blueline, with veteran Marc Staal and Brendan Smith rounding things out. In short, New York will be tough to score on.

Up front, the Rangers have an array of weapons, led by Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash. If youngsters Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich can continue the trajectory they established as rookies, New York will give opponents all kinds of matchup problems thanks to its depth of talent.

The Rangers traded away Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to Arizona in the summer, and both moves could stagger the franchise. Lundqvist showed big cracks in his armor last season, and if that happens again, the team no longer has Raanta to clean up the mess. Is Ondrej Pavelec the answer as backup?  No. He was Winnipeg’s third-string goalie in a non-playoff year. In a division featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares and Artemi Panarin, goaltending cannot be a weakness.

Losing Stepan also exposes a hole in the depth chart at center. Can Zibanejad take on enough responsibility to mitigate the departure of the two-way stalwart? The only pivot addition was David Desharnais, and he’s a depth guy at best. Perhaps Hayes and J.T. Miller can step into bigger roles, but again: there are some fantastic centers in the Metro, and New York can’t afford to be outgunned. The offense was dynamite last season – fourth overall – but did so by committee. No player hit 60 points, so the ceiling is low with this group. In a tough division, the Rangers could struggle to make the playoffs.

THN’s PREDICTION: 4th in the Metropolitan. The Rangers have enough talent to be one of the top-end teams in the division. Once they get to the playoffs, the fun really begins: can Lundqvist make one more magical run, or has that window closed?

Previously: Arizona Coyotes | Boston Bruins | Buffalo Sabres | Carolina Hurricanes | Colorado Avalanche | Detroit Red Wings | Florida Panthers | Los Angeles Kings | Montreal Canadiens |New Jersey Devils | New York Islanders | Ottawa Senators | Philadelphia Flyers | San Jose Sharks | St. Louis Blues | Vancouver Canucks | Vegas Golden Knights | Winnipeg Jets 

From The Hockey News |

ChatClick here to chat!+
Skip to toolbar