Monday, November 30, 2015

Beleskey and Dubinsky show how far the league has come

After a relatively quiet first few weeks of the season, the department of player safety was back in the spotlight over the weekend, faced with decisions on two controversial plays: Brandon Dubinsky's crosscheck to Sidney Crosby's neck and Matt Beleskey's late hit that injured Derek Stepan.

The verdicts: One game for Dubinsky and nothing at all for Beleskey. The reaction, as always: Frustration, eye rolls and plenty of criticism that the league just isn’t doing enough to get questionable hits out of the game.

The department has an important job, and because of that they deserve to be scrutinized. For my money, I thought Dubinsky got off too lightly with a one-game suspension, and I gave my thoughts on the Beleskey hit as it happened. I’d like to see the DOPS hand out harsher suspensions overall, although that's something that will only happen when their bosses -- the league’s 30 teams -- give them the go-ahead to start doing so.

But after we’re done shaking our heads over another round of relatively light sentences, let’s do something else. Let’s take a step back and recognize how far this league has come in recent years. Because, when it comes to discipline and player safety, the current lay of the land, imperfect as it is, would be all but unrecognizable to fans even a generation ago.

>> Read the full post on

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday live blog

The NHL has a packed schedule today, and since everyone else who works for ESPN is American and has the day off, I decided to take over their hockey site with a live blog. I'll be updating throughout the day. Drop by, and feel free to jump into the comments section, since I'm guessing I'll need the backup.

>> Follow the ongoing live blog at

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Grab Bag: I was saying "Booo-ruce"

In this week's Friday Grab Bag:
- The NHL needs to stop making terrible rule changes that won't fix the scoring problem
- An obscure player is used as a pawn in one of the great shady trades of all-time
- Comedy stars, in which Ryan Kesler defrauds someone other than the Ducks' cap consultant
- Why the NHL all-star game should be like Survivor
- And a YouTube breakdown of the most awkward interview in the career of Gary Bruce Bettman. Wait, "Bruce"?

>> Read the full post on

Who's better, Habs or Rangers? It might be the Capitals

The highlight of Wednesday night's packed schedule was a showdown between the two teams sitting on top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers faced off in New York, with the Canadiens earning an emphatic 5-1 win in what felt very much like a statement game.

And so, on the morning after, we can all agree on who now deserves the title of the East's best team.

The Washington Capitals.

Well, OK, I might be getting a bit ahead of myself here. The Canadiens deserve full credit for Wednesday night's impressive win, even if it might have cost them Carey Price, who left after two periods with another apparent leg injury. And nobody's going to write off the Rangers based on one game, even though their fans must be at least a little worried about how easily the Habs' speedsters exposed them all night.

But while all this was going on in New York, the Capitals were earning a tidy 5-3 home win over the Winnipeg Jets, drawing within three points of the Rangers for first in the Metro, with Washington holding a game in hand. Both teams have been hot in November. And putting aside the (embarrassing, inexcusable) presence of the loser point, the Rangers woke up Thursday with a 16-6 record, while the Caps are 15-6. Not much to choose from there.

>> Read the full post on

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A brief history of the NHL pretending it's going to do something about scoring

The 1992-93 NHL season is often seen as among the best ever. Mario Lemieux beat cancer and had 160 points in 60 games. Teemu Selanne obliterated the rookie scoring record with 76 goals. A new wave of Russian stars like Sergei Federov, Alexander Mogilny and Pavel Bure were dazzling fans. And the league saw 14 players hit the 50-goal mark, and 20 reach 100 points.

The season also featured 7.26 goals per game. That was well down from the high-flying 80s, which at their peak had topped the 8.00 mark, but it was the highest offensive output in four years. And, although we didn’t know it at the time, it was the highest mark we’d see for another 22 years and counting.

The following year, which happened to be the first full season under the watchful eye of a new commissioner named Gary Bettman, scoring dropped to its lowest level in two decades. While some were confident that the plunge was a temporary blip, there was general agreement that something should be done. The only question was: What? And so the debate began.

If that sounds a lot like the sort of conversation we’re having right now, well, that’s because it is. This has been kind of a thing for the NHL ever since Bettman arrived. Scoring drops, the league scratches its head, and then someone announces that they’ve come up with a solution.

The whole thing can start to feel repetitive. So I went back over the last 22 years of NHL history, and found articles from each and every season in which somebody is expressing concern about plunging scoring rates, and the league is assuring us that it has it all figured out. Just for fun, we’ll also look at what (if any) rules actually did change that year, and keep track of the overall league-wide scoring rate.

So yes, today’s NHL may feature scoring levels that are headed towards historical lows, and have been for decades. But don’t worry, everyone: the NHL is on this. They’ve got it all figured out. And they’ve got a plan to get scoring back to where it needs to be…

The season: 1993-94
The headline: Scoring is down but fights are flourishing (January 12, 1994)
The proposed changes: Among a long list of complaints and grievances, the referees are singled out for allowing too much obstruction.
What actually happened: Not much. The league made one minor change, slightly loosening the rules around goals scored with a high stick.
Money quote: “Last season at this point, each game averaged 7.30 goals. So far this year, the average is 6.06.” Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t last.
Average goals/game: The final goals-per-game average settled in at 6.48, making 93-94 the lowest scoring season since 1973-74. Or, as we call it now: “the good old days”.

The season: 1994-95
The headline: Neutral-zone trap to champagne pop (June 26, 1995)
The proposed changes: A crackdown on obstruction “so that skilled players aren't nullified”. Also mentioned is a “more radical suggestion”: eliminating the two-line offside.
What actually happened: Neither of those changes would actually be made for a decade.
Money quote: “Claude Lemieux of the Devils, who won the Conn Smythe trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs, seemed insulted when asked about critics of the team's efficient neutral-zone trap. ‘Well, too bad,’ he said. ‘Go watch a show somewhere else.’” Which they did, according to weeping TV executives.
Average goals/game: 5.98. This was the first time the league had been below the 6-goal mark since 1970.

The season: 1995-96
The headline: League hopes anti-trap rules lead to more excitement (Sept 30, 1995)
The proposed changes: This article covers the NHL’s attempt to crackdown on obstruction, especially in the neutral zone. Nobody seems to really like it, with Mike Milbury complaining that “Hockey as we know it has ceased to exist”.
What actually happened: The crackdown resulted in a temporary boost to powerplays and overall scoring. Then the season ended with a triple overtime 1-0 game.
Money quote: “Labour troubles will be a thing of the past – and the controversial neutral zone trap may be doomed too…” Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call that an 0-for-2.
Average goals/game: 6.28, which remains the highest mark of the last two decades and counting.

The season: 1996-97
The headline: Nice spin, but quality is answer (January 21, 1997)
The proposed changes: Bettman shrugs off plunging scoring rates by pointing to better goaltending, although director of officiation Bryan Lewis admits that referees need to do a better job of calling the rulebook.
What actually happened: No major changes.
Money quote: “In his annual state-of-the-league address during last weekend's All-Star festivities, Commissioner Gary Bettman sounded like Mr. Rogers.” Seriously, this whole article is just the legendary Helene Elliott going full B.S. detector on Bettman. By this point, the media was officially turning on the new commissioner.
Average goals/game: 5.84.

>> Read the full post on

Monday, November 23, 2015

Things just got interesting in Winnipeg

In a league where the best of the best monopolize most of the attention, there aren’t many sixth-place teams that could be described as “fascinating.” The Winnipeg Jets are becoming the exception that proves the rule.

The Jets are a deep team, one that’s stacked with young players at both the NHL level and beyond. They have an excellent blue line and an underrated cast of forwards. They have the talent to beat any team in the league on any given night, and they’ve already notched wins over the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. They’re a darn good team.

They’re also in the Central Division, where “darn good” isn’t good enough. At 10-9-2, they’ve banked 10 ROWs and 22 points, which would be good for third in the Pacific. In the Central, that leaves them sixth, looking up at five excellent teams, none of whom seem likely to have the sort of extended cold streak that would allow a team chasing them to gain big ground. A recent six-game losing streak appeared to have the Jets in danger of falling out of the hunt entirely, even before the calendar flipped to December.

>> Read the full post on

Friday, November 20, 2015

Grab bag: Hockey hipsters, saving the all-star game, and Mario Lemieux was awesome

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- The one change the NHL must make to save the new all-star format
- Debating the league's scoring woes with the worst fan of all: The Hockey Hipster
- An obscure Ralph
- The three comedy stars of the week
- And a YouTube breakdown of just how awesome Mario Lemieux really was.

>> Read the full post on

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to save the NHL's trade market

Last week, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded goaltender Kevin Poulin to the Flames for future considerations. It was an almost completely unremarkable trade, one that went all but unnoticed by anyone who wasn’t directly related to Poulin himself. But it was noteworthy in one way: It was the first (and so far only) trade of this regular season.

That’s become the new normal in this league. This is the third time since 2010 that we’ve made it well into November before the first deal of a new season. History tells us that the market will start to pick up soon, but not all that much, with a smattering of deals between now and the trade deadline. If we’re lucky, fans will get a handful of moves that feature players they’ve actually heard of.

Trading used to be a big part of both the typical GM’s toolbox and the NHL’s overall entertainment package, but it’s been dying a slow death in the cap era. And we all know why: It’s the dollars. The salary cap complicated everything, we’re told. It’s just too hard to make a deal these days.

But while all of that is probably true, we don’t have to let the trade market die a slow death. I have an idea that could help revive the lost art of the deal. The NHL has the power to deliver an adrenaline boost to the market, ushering in a new era of wheeling and dealing and reigniting hot stove debates across the league. And all it will take is one relatively straightforward new rule.

Fair warning: you’re going to hate it… at first.

I mean, you’re a hockey fan. You hate change. You complain about the state of the game constantly, but the mere suggestion of even the smallest tweak puts you on the defensive. You miss ties, you’re still not over the trapezoid, and the last time one of your friends suggested making the nets slightly bigger you stabbed them with a plastic fork. It’s a hockey fan thing. I get it.

So yes, you’re going to think this idea sounds ridiculous and unworkable and you’ll immediately go into defensive hockey fan mode, coming up with a dozen reasons why it could never work. All I’m asking is that you give it a chance. Let it percolate. Wait a few hours before you track me down on Twitter and call me an idiot. And during that time, think about how much fun it would be to have trading back in the NHL.

Promise? Then let’s get started.

>> Read the full post on

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

James Reimer: More than just OK

The Maple Leafs picked up a 5-1 win over the Avalanche last night behind 34 saves by James Reimer. That continues a November hot streak by the goalie, one that has him firmly within the top ten in league-wide save percentage and earned him a selection as the league’s third star last week.

Reimer’s revival has been a welcome site for Maple Leaf fans. It’s also a confusing one, at least for those who’d spent the last two years convincing themselves that he was a bum. Things change fast in Toronto, especially for the guys in the crease.

Let’s remember that backstory here. Reimer was an unheralded quasi-prospect when he arrived in Toronto midway through the 2010-11 season, all smiles and “aw shucks” demeanor. It was supposed to be a cup of coffee, but he played well, and had earned the starter’s job by the end of the following season. He looked great during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, even earning a Hart vote. At long last, the Leafs had found their goalie.

And then came That Game, and everything changed. The Leafs’ third period collapse against the Bruins sent the entire franchise into panic mode and quashed the reputations of more than a few of its players, Reimer included. Suddenly, he was the guy who couldn’t win the big one, a deer-in-the-headlights with shaky rebound control. It wasn’t remotely fair – the only reason the Leafs were in a position to collapse in game seven was that Reimer had single-handedly dragged them there. But it didn’t matter. In the eyes of Toronto, Reimer was damaged goods.

>> Read the full post on

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Patrick Marleau, Ray Bourque, and the ultra-rare veteran trade

The Patrick Marleau trade watch continues this week, with rumors swirling that the Sharks could be shopping the forward, possibly at his request. The story feels familiar, one that plays out multiple times every season – the veteran star on the middling team, with both sides wondering if a change of scenery wouldn’t be for the best.

But there’s a twist here that makes the Marleau situation somewhat unique. The forward has spent his entire career in San Jose, and is currently in his 18th season with the Sharks. While veterans are dealt all the time, it’s remarkably rare to see a guy spend anywhere near that much time with one franchise and then leave via trade.

How rare? According to Elias Sports Bureau, just 21 players in NHL history have played at least 15 full seasons with one franchise, then moved on to play for another team. Of those, nine left as free agents, including recent cases like Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Brodeur (as well as current Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney). Three more went to the WHA and then returned to the NHL when the league absorbed their new clubs. And one, Serge Savard, was plucked in the waiver draft.

That leaves just eight players in the history of the NHL that have done what Marleau may be on the verge of doing: Play the first fifteen years or more of their career for one franchise, and then find themselves traded out of town. So I figured I’d take a look back at each of those cases, and see if there’s anything that Marleau and the Sharks can learn from them.

Ray Bourque

The prelude: Bourque was a first round pick in 1979 and made the Bruins as a teenager that same year. He’d go on to play almost 21 full seasons in Boston, winning five Norris Trophies, earning 12 first-team all-star honors, and recording over 1,500 points. His time in Boston saw him achieve just about everything a player could ever hope to… with one exception.

The trade: With no Cup rings after two decades in Boston and the Bruins on the verge of missing the playoffs, Bourque requested a trade to a contender. On March 6, 2000, the Bruins sent him and Dave Andreychuk to the Avalanche in exchange for Brian Rolston, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier and a first round pick.

The aftermath: This deal is pretty much the sports world’s gold standard for trades involving a long-time franchise player. The Bruins didn’t get much for their superstar, but that was hardly the point. This move was all about getting Bourque his ring. And while it didn’t happen in 2000, that just set the stage for one of the most cherished moments in hockey history to play out one year later.

The lesson: Sometimes, it’s more important to find the right fit for your long-serving veteran that it is to squeeze every drop of value out of a trade. Unfortunately, that sort of sentiment seems unlikely to apply here. Marleau has his fans in San Jose, but he’s nowhere near as beloved as Bourque was in Boston – and that extends to a front office that’s seemed to want a divorce for years. They’ll move Marleau if the right deal comes along, but don’t look for the Sharks to be doing him any favors.

>> Read the full post on

Monday, November 16, 2015

Clutch-and-grab is dead, and the NHL killed it

As the debate over bigger nets rages on, one suggestion for increasing scoring seems to be gaining traction with a good percentage of hockey fans: Why can’t the NHL just bring back the crackdown against clutch-and-grab hockey that worked so well in the aftermath of the 2005 lockout?

It’s easy to see the appeal. Ordering the referees to simply call the game more strictly avoids the sort of significant rule changes that so many fans are apparently desperate to avoid. And when it was last tried in 2005-06, a crackdown really did seem to work: scoring jumped by a full goal-per-game over the previous season, and that year remains the only one since 1995-96 in which league scoring averaged better than six goals-per-game.

Those numbers point to what seems like an obvious conclusion: When the refs cracked down on obstruction, the game opened up and scoring soared. But as officials loosened up, the clutch-and-grab style crept back into the game, and scoring eventually plummeted back to Dead Puck Era levels. So if you want more goals, there’s your answer: Just tell the refs to get strict again. Simple, right?

It would be nice if it were that easy. But there are two problems with going back to the 2005-06 approach. The first is that the post-lockout crackdown didn’t actually open up the game as much as you’d think – despite the nice boost overall, even-strength scoring didn’t increase significantly. The jump in goals-per-game was due almost entirely to a massive increase in powerplays. At even strength, the great obstruction crackdown hardly moved the needle at all.

It’s true that a powerplay goal is still a goal, and an offensive boost built almost entirely on special teams is still a boost. But the NHL needs to increase scoring across all situations, or risk training fans to simply wait for powerplays while tuning out during the vast majority of the game that’s played at even strength. (For the same reason, changes like banning icing on powerplays or making penalties last the full two minutes even if a goal is scored just end up being bandaids on the bigger problem.)

So that’s strike one against the “just call the rulebook” movement. But there’s a bigger flaw with the argument: It relies on the assumption that the faster, more open style of play in 2005 was only temporary, and that players went right back to clutching and grabbing with impunity once the referees lost their nerve. And that’s simply not true.

In fact, it’s hard to overstate this: The clutch-and-grab style that had become common in the NHL over recent decades bears almost no resemblance to the game we know today. This seems to be news to some hockey fans, presumably the ones who are relatively new to the game, or at least have bad memories. So maybe a quick refresher is in order. Go back and watch footage from virtually any game played from 1995 through 2005 and count the flagrant hooks, holds and outright open-field tackles that go uncalled. And not just uncalled, but all but completely unnoticed, no more noteworthy than a dump-in or drop pass.

>> Read the full post on

Friday, November 13, 2015

Grab bag: The man behind the Sabres' ridiculous anti-drug anthem

The Grab Bag returns, and makes its debut on In this week’s edition:
- A rant about low scoring, bigger nets and appeals to tradition
- An obscure player who can end the dogs vs. cats war once and for all
- Wait, how was Don Cherry not on the Canadian Walk of Fame already?
- The week’s three comedy stars, which you all somehow talked me into keeping
- And a YouTube breakdown of that ridiculous Sabres anti-drug song, featuring an exclusive interview with the guy who wrote it.

>> Read the full post on

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Panic Watch: Should we be worried about any of the NHL's slumping stars?

Don’t panic.

That phrase once appeared on the cover of a famous book. And it should probably appear on the cover of programs in NHL arenas, because it’s good advice for hockey fans who like to overreact to slow starts and small sample sizes. Most of the time, an early season slump is just a slump, and the right answer it to shrug it off and move on.

And yet… Sometimes a slump is more than that. Sometimes it’s the start of something bigger, the sort of long-term downturn that changes the way we view an NHL star. A seemingly minor slump might end up being that first blinking light on the dashboard, warning us that a player could struggle through the rest of a season, or even a career.

The problem, of course, is that we don’t really know when that’s the case; we have to wait and see how it all plays out. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a wild guess carefully analyze the situation in an attempt to figure it out. So today, let’s look at eight names from around the NHL world who are off to a rough start, and try to answer the question: Is it time to panic?

Jakub Voracek, Flyers

The season so far: One year after enjoying a breakout season (and signing a $66 million extension), Voracek has no goals. That’s bad, right? I think that’s bad.

Panic time?: You could forgive Flyer fans for being nervous here – after all, no franchise has a longer track record of seeing big money contracts blow up in its face. And Voracek’s lack of goals isn’t exactly a new development – even during last year’s breakout, he had only six in the season’s second half. And while he’s never been a pure goal scorer, even his five assists on the year are well below expectations.

All that said, a look beyond Voracek’s boxcar stats shows some positive signs. He leads the team in shots on goal by a wide margin, and his possession numbers are as strong as ever. Voracek himself sounds like he’s getting frustrated, and guy carrying cap hits north of $8M don’t often get much benefit of the doubt. But Voracek deserves at least a little bit of patience here, because his numbers say he should get on track soon. So don’t throw any batteries at him, Flyer fans. Or at least, no more than usual.

Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks

The season so far: I’m not saying it’s been a tough year for the Ducks, but we also would have accepted “Corey Perry”. Also, “Jakob Silfverberg”. And “Ryan Kesler”. And also, “pretty much everyone who plays for Anaheim and isn’t a goalie”.

But Getzlaf gets the nod, based on a season-long goalless slump. Granted, he missed a few games due to an appendectomy. But he’s just looked off at times, and doing stuff like this doesn’t help.

Panic time?: Getzlaf is on the wrong side of 30, so anything approaching a long-term slump is cause of concern – age comes for everyone eventually, and when it does the downturn can often be sharp and brutal. But this slump hasn’t quite hit “long-term” status quite yet, and Getzlaf has looked good playing with Perry in recent games. The Ducks are slowly but surely shaking off their awful start, and since they’re in the Pacific, they haven’t exactly been left behind by the rest of the division. They should be OK, and their captain should too.

>> Read the full post on

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Making the case for the HHOF's 2016 first-timers club

With the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2015 now enshrined, attention has already turned to next year’s potential inductees. And most of that focus is on players who’ve missed the cut in previous years and could finally hear their name called.

That’s because the list of newly eligible players is, to put it kindly, underwhelming. Call it a fluke or, or lay the blame on the 2012-13 lockout – after all, not too many legends want to end their career playing through a rushed half-season. Either way, while the list of 2016 first-timers club has its share of good players and respected journeymen, there’s not a single Hall of Famer to be found.

Or is there? I’ve always preferred to look on the bright side of things, and I’m up for a challenge. So today, let’s take a look down that list of new candidates, and see if we can’t come up with some good arguments in their favor.

Jose Theodore – By all accounts, has always done a wonderful job of taking care of Jarome Iginla’s Hart Trophy.

Jamie Langenbrunner – Is a former star player who once played for the Devils and is now very old, so we should probably get our votes in now before he inevitably signs with the Blues.

Wade Redden – Personally made you a better spouse, parent and friend by single-handedly putting an end to all that time you used to waste having “worst contract in NHL history” debates.

Miikka Kiprusoff – Could probably sway a lot of voters by putting together a highlight reel of him and his teammates on the 2004 Flames. Just make sure none of those clips involve Martin Gelinas, since nobody in the NHL ever bothers watching replays involving him until it’s too late.

>> Read the full post on

What was the worst draft lottery loss of all-time?

Connor McDavid’s recent injury was a devastating blow to both his Calder chances and the Oilers already shaky playoff hopes. It also hit the pause button on his rookie rivalry with Jack Eichel, temporarily shutting down a storyline that figured to be one of the season’s best. After all, those two players will be forever linked by hype, circumstance, and, of course, those four ping pong balls that determined their futures.

That would be the April draft lottery, one that saw the Oilers leap past the last place Sabres for the top overall pick. With McDavid ranked as the consensus number one, that moment felt like a brutal loss for the Sabres, a perception that was only reinforced by their own GM. (Not everyone sees it that way; many Sabres fans insist they were just fine with getting either player all along. These people are crazy, but they’ll burn my house down if I don’t mention them.)

While McDavid’s injury puts the Eichel comparison on hold, it does lead to a fun question: Which draft lottery loss was the most painful in league history? Which last place team took the worst hit by dropping down to number two?

The NHL introduced the draft lottery in 1995. Not counting last year, that leaves us with an even ten instances where a team has “lost” the lottery, which we’ll define as the last place overall team getting passed over for the top pick. (So we’re not counting 1995, 1999 or 2011, when the winning team didn’t move up to first.) With the benefit of some hindsight, we can look back at the teams involved, the eventual top pick, and the player who fell to number two, and try to figure out which loss hurt the most.

We’ll work our way down from best to worst. And we’ll start in 1998, the first time the lottery ever resulted in the top pick changing hands… sort of.

#10 - 1998

Last place team: Tampa Bay Lightning

Lottery winning team: San Jose Sharks, by virtue of owning the Florida Panthers’ pick

First overall pick: Vincent Lecavalier

How much did it hurt?: This is the easiest call on the list, because it didn’t hurt at all. Literally. It had no impact on anything, as you may already suspect if you’re thinking “Uh, I don’t remember Lecavalier being drafted by the Sharks.”

That’s because the last place Lightning went into the lottery with an insurance policy in their back pocket. At that year’s deadline, they’d traded Bryan Marchment and David Shaw to San Jose for Andrei Nazarov, and convinced the Sharks to toss in a sweetener: the right to swap their first round pick for the Panthers’, which San Jose had acquired earlier in the season. With the Lightning well back of the Panthers in the standings, the swap option wouldn’t matter… unless Florida won the lottery.

They did, and the Lightning moved back up to first. The Sharks got the second pick, flipped it to Nashville (who took David Legwand), and ended up getting Brad Stuart third overall. And Lecavalier headed to Tampa Bay to become “the Michael Jordan of hockey”.

#9 – 2000

Last place team: Atlanta Thrashers

Lottery winning team: New York Islanders

First overall pick: Rick DiPietro

How much did it hurt?: A ton – for the Islanders. It’s not often that you can use the phrases “disastrous lottery win”, but such was the Mike Milbury era. The Isles jumped from fifth to first and did a jig about it, then used the top pick on DiPietro. It’s fair to say it didn’t work out. Not only did DiPietro eventually get one of the worst contracts (and later one of the most expensive buyouts) in NHL history, but the Islanders made room for him by trading a young Roberto Luongo to Florida.

Meanwhile, the Thrashers dropped down to the second pick and wound up with Dany Heatley, who they probably would have taken anyway. And Atlanta even got some karmic payback against the Islanders the following year, which we’ll get to further down this list.

>> Read the full post on

Friday, November 6, 2015

So what's next?

Hey everyone… It’s been a pretty quiet week, as I imagine you can understand, but I did want to pop in to mention two things.

First, I want to once again offer up my thanks to everyone who had kind things to say about Grantland after last week’s news. I literally can’t believe how many people took the time to reach out over social media, email, through private messages, etc. I tried to reply to as many of you as I could, but if I missed you then at least know that I read everything people sent and it was sincerely appreciated.

Next, I promised that I’d update you as soon as I had an idea what comes next, and now I do, at least for the short term. I’m happy to let you know that I’ll be joining the hockey team on starting next week. I’ve had the chance to get to know a lot of ESPN’s hockey folks over the years and have been reading them for longer than that, and I’m looking forward to being a part of what they do.

Break time is over, and now it’s back to work. Thanks again for reading, and for your support over the years.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The end of Grantland, plus some of my favorite posts

So by now you’ve probably heard the news: Grantland is no more. ESPN pulled the plug on the site on Friday, ending a four year run which I was lucky enough to be a small part of.

This isn’t exactly a new experience for me; before I was able to make writing a real job, I spent over a decade working in high tech, so I’m used to the reality that businesses sometimes make tough choices and people get caught in the middle of it. But this sucks. And it sucks because Grantland was easily the best job I’ve ever had.

I started with the site on an occasional basis in early 2012, joined the staff as a part-timer a year later, and was hired full-time shortly after that. I got to meet lots of cool people, travel to about half the league’s arenas (plus a football and baseball stadium) and be on the ice for two Cup celebrations.

And most importantly, I got to work with and learn from an almost ridiculous cast of talented writers and editors. I’d been reading Bill Simmons for over a decade. Katie Baker may be the best sports feature writer alive. I got to hear an editor say "Your post is up next once I finish with Charles Pierce." Barnwell, Mays, Phillips, Lowe, Rembert… I won’t try to list everyone, because it would be the entire masthead. But I basically got to spend the last few years being a fourth-line winger for the late-70s Canadiens, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Since I find myself with some unexpected time on my hands, I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite posts from the Grantland years and drop them all into one place. I hope this list brings back some memories for you, or gives you a chance to read some stuff that you missed the first time around. But if I’m being honest, this one is as much for me as it is for you. Time moves fast and at some point it will be on to the next thing, and I like the idea of taking a minute to put all of this in one place.

The fun stuff

I love hockey. It’s been an important part of my life. But it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun, and most of what I do reflects that. If you can laugh at this stuff, at least every once in a while, you might be doing it wrong.