Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The top secret agenda for Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp

The big news in the hockey world this week was Team Canada's official orientation camp, which is being held in Calgary. The event marked the first opportunity for the country's Olympic hopefuls to gather, and gave coach Mike Babcock and GM Steve Yzerman their first chance to begin the evaluation process.

But there was a snag – due to insurance issues, the players couldn't actually suit up and take to the ice. Which led many fans to wonder: What exactly are they doing out there?

Luckily, my spies were there, and they were able to snag a copy of one day's official agenda.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grantland: The Brady Andersons of the NHL

Baltimore Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis continues to lead the major leagues in home runs, hitting his 46th last week. At his current pace, it won’t be long before he’ll hit his 51st, breaking the franchise record currently held by Brady Anderson.

Anderson was a good player who was named to three All-Star games during his career, but his 1996 season was one of the great outliers in baseball history. He hit 50 home runs that year, more than twice the total he’d manage in any of his other 14 major league seasons. Fair or not, Anderson’s name has become a synonym in the sports world for a one-year wonder. (And for being suspected for some other stuff, but let's not get into that today.)

What does any of this have to do with hockey? Nothing, in theory. But it’s August and there’s nothing else to write about, so we’ll just go ahead and steal this story line from another sport and make it about hockey.

So in honor of the soon-to-be-former Orioles record-holder, here are 10 of the greatest Brady Anderson seasons in NHL history.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Grantland: The offseason story lines we all just kind of forgot about

If you follow a television series long enough, you’ll eventually hit one of those story lines: The one that is set up brilliantly, seems to be building to an intriguing payoff, and then … just kind of gets forgotten about.

The NHL offseason isn’t a scripted TV show. (We know this because scripted TV shows don’t go weeks at a time with absolutely nothing happening.) But that hasn’t stopped this year’s edition from featuring its share of abandoned story lines.

Here are five subplots that seemed like they’d be important pieces of the 2013 offseason but (so far) have turned out to be duds.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grantland: The 13 types of unsigned free agents in August

August is the dead zone of the NHL offseason. After the excitement of the playoffs, followed immediately by the draft, free agency, and a handful of major trades, August shows up and ruins everything. You suck, August.

Although we sometimes do see a meaningful late-summer signing or trade, most of the league seems to take the month off. And that’s bad news for the dozens of players who are still free agents. Some will still sign between now and opening night, but their options are narrowing and their odds of finding a job are getting worse by the day.

If you’re an NHL free agent who’s still unemployed in mid-August, chances are that you fall into one of 13 categories. Let’s walk through them and see if we can figure out what fans should expect.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Friday, August 16, 2013

Grantland: Thoughts on the Alfredsson press conference

Five weeks after stunning the hockey world by signing with the Detroit Red Wings, former Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson addressed the Ottawa media for the first time Thursday.

It was meant to be a chance for Alfredsson to talk about his decision and some of the bad feelings created in its wake, and it was. It was also meant to be the end of a bittersweet offseason story. If the immediate reactions to the event are any indication, that part may not work out so well.

Here are eight things you need to know about Thursday’s press conference and its fallout.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beyond the DMV: Other ways NHL stars get preferential treatment

They told him he couldn't smile for his license photo,
so he thought about Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs


It's August and there's not much happening in the NHL, which means it's time for the hockey world to find something completely harmless and blow it up into a manufactured controversy. Luckily, Sidney Crosby was kind enough to get the ball rolling for us.

In what's become a major story in Pittsburgh, Crosby was apparently allowed to skip to the front of the line at a local DMV over the weekend. This has led to accusations of preferential treatment and has some fans painting Crosby as a diva who can't be bothered to follow the same rules as everyone else.

It's all nonsense, of course. Expecting a celebrity to sit and wait for an hour while getting mobbed by fans would be silly. And besides, it's not like Crosby is the only NHL player who occasionally gets to experience the benefits of fame.

In fact, sources tell me that some of the biggest names in the hockey world often get special treatment:

Roberto Luongo - The managers at the moving supplies store never call security on him even though he goes in once a day to randomly yell "No I don't need any packing tape or boxes today thanks!" and then runs out of the room crying.

Dustin Byfuglien - Managers at the local grocery store have confirmed that they would let him cut in front of the other customers in the checkout line, in theory, if he ever left any food behind for anyone else to buy.

Alexander Ovechkin - Cops are always letting him off the hook for making illegal turns, since it's not like anyone could reasonably be expected to remember the difference between left and right.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Grantland: How you'd fix the NHL

Last week I told you how I'd fix the NHL. This week, it's your turn.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Friday, August 9, 2013

Did you know? The Wayne Gretzky trade

Gretzky never saw his wallet again.

Today marks 25 years since the most famous trade in NHL history. On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the LA Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first-round picks and cash.

The deal became known simply as "The Trade", and its effects are still being felt to this day. The day still resonates with hockey fans so strongly that even now, a quarter of a century later, the anniversary is getting extensive media coverage.

But how well do you really know The Trade? Here are some lesser known facts and figures from the most famous transaction in hockey history:

  • Before the trade, every NHL trade deadline broadcast would begin with the host saying "You know what they say, folks, if Wayne Gretzky can be traded then anyone can! But of course Wayne Gretzky cannot, in fact, be traded, so…" followed by an eight-hour test pattern.

  • The main piece coming back to Edmonton in the trade never did produce the sort of offensive numbers that fans had been hoping for, although in fairness it's hard to score goals when you are a giant bag full of money.

  • Everyone who has ever asked you if you remember where you were the day Gretzky was traded didn't remotely care about your answer, and was just waiting for you to stop talking so they could tell you their own boring story.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Grantland: How I'd fix the NHL

Grantland asked me how I'd fix the NHL, so I gave them a list of everything from the relatively easy (kill the loser point, drop the puck-over-glass penalty, crack down on diving) to the contentious (bigger nets, eliminate goons, a new way to determine draft order) and plenty more.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grantland: 17 stars who played a forgettable final season for a new team

In one of those under-the-radar moves that can sometimes sneak by during the dog days of the hockey offseason, Scott Gomez signed with the Florida Panthers last week. Given his diminishing production during the last few years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Florida wound up being the last stop of Gomez’s career.

Gomez won’t be the only veteran suiting up for a new franchise in what could be his final season; Daniel Alfredsson and Jaromir Jagr will also be joining new teams next year. And while it’s always jarring to watch a veteran finishing his career in an unfamiliar uniform, it’s become an increasingly common sight over the years.

In fact, many of the biggest stars of the past few decades actually finished their careers by playing one season (or less) for a new team. A few times, it turned out well. Other times, not so much. And in some cases, hockey fans might not even remember where a superstar wound up playing his last few games

Here are 17 players who finished an excellent NHL career with a brief and often forgettable change of scenery.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

Friday, August 2, 2013

Grantland: Goodbye, Stevie Sullivan. We'll always have that bleeding Avalanche fan

The NHL appears to be on the verge of saying good-bye to one of its all-time great underdog stories. After nearly two decades and more than 1,000 games played, Steve Sullivan announced this week that he was “99.9 percent” sure his career was over.

Your memories of the 39-year-old Sullivan’s NHL run will largely depend on which team you cheer for. In New Jersey, he was the long-shot ninth-round pick who both began and ended his career as a Devil. In Toronto, he was a key piece in the Doug Gilmour trade who became a casualty of the Leafs’ typical impatience. In Chicago, he was the unexpected sniper who once led the league in short-handed goals. In Nashville, he was a veteran presence who helped the team finally emerge as a contender. And in Pittsburgh and Phoenix, he was a free-agency gamble coming in on short-term deals at the end of his career.

Sullivan was never an All-Star, but he scored 20 goals in eight consecutive seasons and hit the 60-point mark seven times. His comeback from a career-threatening back injury earned him the 2009 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. And at 5-foot-9 and barely 160 pounds, he was easy to cheer for — earlier this year, we named him one of the 12 NHL players who nobody hates.

But all of that pales in comparison to what may stand as the most memorable moment of Sullivan’s career: The night he struck a blow for karma by laughing in the bleeding face of a Colorado Avalanche fan...

>> Read the full post on Grantland