Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The 12 NHL stars who are hardest to hate

One of the common knocks against hockey fans is that we seem to be wired to go negative, always thinking the worst of everyone who takes to the ice. And there’s some truth to that. After all, if you name a star player in today’s NHL, you’ll probably find legions of fans who’ve decided that they just don’t like him.

When Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson went head-to-head for the Norris Trophy, it wasn’t enough for fans to prefer one guy over the other – they had to decide that the other guy was a bum. Alex Ovechkin has a ton of fans, but also plenty who see him as an unrepentant hot dog who can’t come through when it counts. Carey Price is a year removed from a Hart trophy, but he’s a Hab and nobody who plays for Toronto or Montreal will ever be universally liked. And let’s not even get started on P.K. Subban.

Remember, there’s a difference between merely being popular and not being hated. Sidney Crosby is almost certainly the NHL’s most popular player, but for some reason, lots of fans have painted him as a boring whiner who’s been overexposed by the league. If we can’t get behind Crosby, then who do we like?

Well, there still seem to be at least a handful of exceptions to the rule. So today, let’s take a look at the rare players who have managed to pull it off. Here are twelve NHL stars who’ve proven to be the toughest to hate.

Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

Why we like him: We might as well start with the easy one. In the years since his return to the NHL, Jagr has morphed into one of the league's most beloved players. That's largely thanks to his age – it would just feel wrong to hate a guy who's still going strong at 44 – and the near-legendary work ethic that goes with it. But he's also revealed a fun side, cracking jokes on social media and showing off that rarest of NHL possessions: an actual personality.

Mix in his apparent commitment to play for every team in the league before he retires, and it's become just about impossible to dislike Jagr.

Why it might be OK to hate him just a little: I'm not sure I can come up with a great reason to hate the current-day version of Jagr. But can we at least acknowledge that it's a little weird that we wound up here, given how divisive Jagr was earlier in his career?

When he first broke into the league on an already-stacked Penguins' team, he quickly became the poster child for the flashy European star that so many North American fans had trouble with, all fancy moves and flowing hockey hair. By the time he was doing his own trademark celebration, lots of fans (and at least a few players) had had enough of him. And that was before he bailed on the Penguins, bombed for the Capitals, and bolted for the KHL.

Mix in his weird return in 2011, in which he infuriated Pittsburgh fans by feinting at a homecoming and then scorning them for their fiercest rivals (which a small handful still haven’t forgiven him for), and it wasn't that long ago that Jagr would have ranked high on any list of the most-disliked players. But we all mellow with age, apparently, and now he's become basically untouchable. That's been a pretty cool evolution to watch, but it would have been downright bizarre to suggest it a decade or two ago.

Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche

Why we like him: He's the other obvious choice for this list. While he doesn't quite have Jagr's longevity (yet), Iginla is firmly ensconced in the "beloved veteran" pantheon at age 39. He's a surefire Hall-of-Famer who's done everything short of win the Stanley Cup – and even that lone gap on his resume comes with an asterisk. He's scored 600 goals, won two Olympic gold medals, and he had the loyalty to stick with one team way longer than he probably should have. You can't really ask for more.

Why it might be OK to hate him just a little: As one of the last of the true power forwards, there's a good chance that at some point he's flattened somebody on your favourite team with a shoulder or a fist. But even that's tough to get too worked up over, given that he was probably smiling when he did it.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

Friday, August 26, 2016

Grab Bag: Going old school

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- The debut of a new feature in which I actually say nice things about the NHL
- The World Cup might murder the Olympics and we need to accept that
- The new EA Sports ratings are trickling out and, as usual, they're terrible
- An obscure player who doubles as a charter member of the Obviously Made-Up Hockey Player Name Hall of Fame
- And the magic of YouTube lets us enjoy some Olympic highlights... from seven decades ago

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Johnny Manziel and the CFL

We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2016 regular season in the Canadian Football League. It’s been an eventful year so far, one that’s seen the Calgary Stampeders establish themselves as the favorite, the Saskatchewan Roughriders struggle badly, and the East Division look entirely up for grabs.

The season has served up plenty of compelling storylines to chew on. All of which makes it a little odd that, for a few days this week, the biggest story in Canadian football was a failed American quarterback who isn’t playing anywhere right now.

That’s the power of reputation and celebrity, both of which Johnny Manziel has more than his share of. What the former Browns starter doesn’t have, at least right now, is much of a future in pro football. But that could change, and more and more fans are wondering if a stint in the CFL might serve as a starting point.

It’s an intriguing idea. But could it happen? Let’s work through the key questions.

Could Manziel actually come to Canada?

Technically speaking, sure. Manziel’s Canadian rights are owned by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and there’s nothing in the rulebook that would prevent them from bringing him aboard if both sides could agree to a deal (or sending his rights to some other team that wanted him).

Of course, Manziel has far bigger problems right now. The former Heisman Trophy winner washed out of his first crack at the NFL thanks to a combination of on-the-field struggles and off-the-field issues. That latter category includes rumors of out-of-control partying, a suspension for substance abuse, and an indictment for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. In recent public appearances, he reportedly hasn’t looked like he was in any sort of playing shape.

So clearly, Manziel has some significant questions to answer before he’ll be playing anywhere, and it’s quite possible that we’ve seen the last of him on a football field. But speculation over his future flared up this week in part thanks to CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge, who appeared to leave the door open to Manziel playing in the league in comments made to ESPN. Orridge’s words were framed as suggesting that Manziel would be welcome in Canada, a characterization he later denied. And the Tiger-Cats say that they’ve had no contact with Manziel of his camp.

So if all of this is largely speculation and what-if scenarios, why were so many people talking about it? A big part of that is no doubt based on Manziel’s fame, even if it’s largely been of the train wreck variety lately. But there’s another piece here, and it has to do with some CFL history at the quarterback position.

>> Read the full post at The Guardian

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Evaluating five of the NHL's quietest offseasons

An NHL offseason can be a funny thing. For some teams, it represents an opportunity to blow everything up real good, hitting the reset button entirely or at the very least radically changing direction. For others, it’s a chance to double down on what’s already working by loading up on the final pieces of a true contender. In either case, blockbuster trades can be made, big-name free agents can be lured, and coaches and GMs can be replaced. Things are happening.

And then there are the teams that decide to skip all of that, and largely sit out the offseason. They tinker a bit, re-signing a guy here and making a minor move there, but for the most part they decide to pass on doing anything especially newsworthy.

And let’s be honest: While that approach may not be all that exciting, sometimes it absolutely turns out to be the right one. Sometimes, it really is better to leave the bat on your shoulder. But only sometimes.

So today, let’s look at five of the teams that have had the quietest off-season so far, and try to figure out if the conservative approach will end up being the right move.


What they did: They watched Milan Lucic head to Edmonton, replacing him (kind of) with Teddy Purcell. Luke Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier and Kris Versteeg also departed. Oh, and they stripped Dustin Brown of his captaincy.

What they didn’t do: While the Kings don’t have any glaring holes, it became apparent last year that blueline depth was a question mark, especially after Alec Martinez went down. With apologies to Tom Gilbert, it still is.

The verdict: On the surface, this seems like an example of a good team not needing to do too much – after all, the Kings have won two of the last five Cups. But they’ve also won just a single playoff game over the last two seasons, and while the roster is still very good, it’s an aging one that doesn’t have much in the way of young reinforcements on the way. Ideally, you might think that the Kings would be loading up to make the most of one or two more runs with their championship core, but their ugly cap situation just won’t let them. A quiet summer may have been inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be disappointing.


What they did: They re-signed Brayden Schenn and Radko Gudas and bought out R.J. Umberger, but their only significant addition was Dale Weise.

What they didn’t do: Anything crazy, like spending eight figures on a washed up free agent, or dropping a massive offer sheet on another team’s franchise player, or trading two of their best players so they could sign a certifiably crazy goaltender.

The verdict: OK, granted, the Flyers have tried all that stuff in the past and it never really worked out. Still, we’ve come to count on the franchise to provide some offseason fireworks, and they’ve let us down over the last few years. That time period, of course, coincides with Ron Hextall’s stint as GM, and it certainly seems like the man who was once considered the biggest loose cannon in hockey has evolved into a decidedly patient GM.

So is that good? Considering where the Flyers are right now, it probably is. Despite making the playoffs last year, the Flyers are still in build mode. That won’t last forever, and there’s going to come a time when Hextall will have to get aggressive. Some have made the case that that time is already here, but I think the Flyers still have one more season to work with.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Canadian look back at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Well hey, that ended up being kind of fun.

While it’s true that Canadians don’t always get quite as excited about the Summer Olympics as some other countries we could mention, we still enjoy a good show. And for the most part, that’s what the last two weeks delivered, as Canadian athletes treated us to an entertaining and largely successful Games.

So before the whole country moves on to NHL training camps, the Blue Jays stretch run, and whichever random event our shirtless prime minister wanders into next, let’s take one last look back at Rio. Here are some of the country’s best, worst and strangest moments of the 2016 Summer Olympics, along with the uniquely Canadian experiences they brought to mind for those of us watching at home.

Best overall performance

We’ll start with the easiest call. The competition to become Canada’s biggest star of Rio ended early and decisively, with swimmer Penny Oleksiak winning four medals in the Games’ opening days. After earning bronze in a pair of relay events and silver in the individual 100m butterfly, Oleksiak went on to capture the country’s first gold medal in the 100m freestyle.

That gave her Oleksiak four medals, making her the first Canadian athlete to ever take home that many in a single Summer Olympics. Not surprisingly, she was rewarded with the honor of being named flag bearer for the closing ceremony. And best of all, given that she’s just 16 years old, it’s fair to say that this probably won’t be the last that Canadians see of her in Olympic action.

Also, she got a Twitter follow from Drake, so there’s that.

Comparable Canadian experience: When you roll up the rim and actually win, and then just keep winning for the rest of the contest. (OK, sure, all you ever win are the lousy free donuts, but we can’t all be Penny Oleksiak.)

Worst moment for old people

Shortly after Oleksiak’s first medal, we learned that she and team-mate Taylor Ruck were officially the first ever Olympic medalists to have been born in the 2000s. We then realized that couldn’t possibly be right, since the whole Y2K thing was only a few years ago, right? Then we sat down and did the math. Then we felt very, very sad.

Comparable Canadian experience: When you make a “Dr Penfield, I smell burnt toast” joke and some kid just stares at you like you’re a moron.

>> Read the full post at The Guardian

Grab Bag: The only way to stop jersey ads

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Ads on jerseys are on their way.
- That new slimmed down goalie equipment might not be.
- We should have 3-on-3 hockey in the Olympics. No, really.
- The obscure player who begat Jimmy Vesey
- And Wayne Gretzky gets hit so hard he time travels.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beyond Steven-for-Shanahan: Five more forced RFA compensation trades

Last week, we looked back on the league’s long history of arbitrators having to sort out messy cases. One of the biggest was the 1991 case that saw Scott Stevens awarded to the Devils as compensation for the signing of Brendan Shanahan. It was part of the league’s old RFA system, under which some players who signed with a new team weren’t subject to a right to match or draft pick compensation, but rather to a forced trade in which each team submitted what they felt was a fair offer and an arbitrator picked one.

It was, to put it bluntly, a fantastic system. Oh, the players hated it, and so did most of the teams. But for fans, it was a great source of entertainment. It was all sorts of fun to debate the teams’ offers, come up with ones of your own, and speculate over which side the arbitrator would ultimately land on. The system lasted until 1995, when Gary Bettman’s first lockout ended with a new CBA that ushered in new RFA rules. This excellent blog post contains a detailed history of the old system; it’s fair to say we’re unlikely to ever see it return in the NHL.

So today, let’s look back on five more cases where RFA signings resulted in an arbitrator forcing a trade as compensation. None were quite as big as the Stevens-for-Shanahan blockbuster, but each had its own impact on hockey history.

The battle of the enforcers

Despite having just two seasons and 69 games under his belt, Troy Crowder was one of the league’s most feared enforcers in 1991. That was almost entirely due to a single fight, one that came on opening night of the 1990-91 season. Crowder’s Devils were hosting the Red Wings, and midway through the game Crowder found himself squaring off with the league’s undisputed heavyweight champion, Bob Probert. The legendary Wings’ tough guy had a nearly spotless record over the years, but Crowder won the fight handily, a shocking result from a virtually unknown contender. When the two split a pair of January rematches, Crowder cemented his status as one of the league’s best.

And so, during the 1991 offseason, the Wings went out and signed him. The logic seemed sound – if this was one of the few guys in the league who could give Probert trouble, the Wings would make sure their big dog wouldn’t have to worry about him. The Wings offered Dave Barr and Randy McKay as compensation. But Lou Lamoriello and the Devils responded with the same strategy they’d used in the Shanahan case: swinging for the fences. They demanded Probert himself as compensation.

This time, the arbitrator wasn’t having it. Just days after they struck gold with the Stevens ruling, the Devils lost the Crowder case, and settled for McKay and Barr. Probert remained in Detroit for four more years, while a back injury limited Crowder to just seven games in Detroit.

Graves consequences

Today, Adam Graves is a Rangers legend. He was a key part of the 1994 championship team and once held the franchise record for goals in a season, and in 2009, the team retired his number.

But back in 1991, Graves was still a highly regarded prospect who hadn’t done much in the NHL. At 23 years old, he’d yet to so much as crack the 10-goal mark in four NHL seasons. So it was a mild surprise when the Rangers targeted him during the offseason, signing him away from Edmonton and opening the door to a compensation ruling.

The Oilers asked for Steven Rice and Loui DeBrusk, while the Rangers offered Troy Mallette. None of those were especially big names, and in some corners of the hockey world the Graves case didn’t get much attention. When the arbitrator sided with New York and sent Mallette to Edmonton, most fans shrugged.

But the ruling turned out to be a crucial one. The Oilers had had their eye on Rice and DeBrusk as part of a far bigger deal, one that would send captain Mark Messier to New York. That trade had been rumored for months, but had taken a backseat during the Graves case. But when Messier announced his intention to hold out in an attempt to force a trade, the Oiler had to make a move. And so, on October 4, 1991, they made a deal with the Rangers. In exchange for Messier, they’d get all-star center Bernie Nicholls and the two players they’d targeted in the Graves case, Rice and DeBrusk.

Would the Messier deal have still happened if the Oilers had already landed Rice and DeBrusk? It’s tough to say. In hindsight, it seems impossible to imagine Messier winding up anywhere other than New York. But he could have, if we’d seen a different decision in an arbitration case over a little-known prospect.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The most awkward passage from every NHL arena's Wikipedia page

Wikipedia is a fascinating website. As everyone knows, it’s maintained and edited by the general public, which leads to a trove of information that’s… what’s the word I’m looking for? Not accurate. Or trustworthy. Or even especially credible. But interesting! That’s it. The site is always… interesting.

And that’s largely because when you let the general public decide what’s worth mentioning, you find that they don’t just focus on the positive. When you give everyone access to the edit button, you’re going to get the good, the bad, the ugly, and (especially) the just plain weird.

A few years ago, I went through the Wikipedia entry for every NHL team to find the saddest, strangest or most regrettable passage on each team’s page. It ended up being lots of fun – we learned about murdered rodents, injured mascots, and how to use “hoodoo” in a sentence. Also, someone slipped a haiku into the Penguins’ page that remains there to this day. So, good times all around.

Today, let’s take another tour around Wikipedia’s version of the league. But this time, we won’t use the teams themselves. Instead, let’s remember that home is where the heart is, as we highlight the strangest passage from the Wikipedia page of every NHL teams’ arena.

Air Canada Centre (Toronto Maple Leafs)

On Oct. 3, 2003, the ACC had a power outage during the third quarter of a Toronto Raptors pre-season game against the Athens-based club Panathinaikos. The game was called final, because the power was not restored in time and Toronto already had a 30-point lead.

Man, the NBA are a bunch of quitters. If NHL started cutting games short just because one team was ahead by 30, half of the Maple Leafs games played in the last decade wouldn't have made it out of the second period.

Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Following the PPV's conclusion, newly crowned WWE champion John Cena announced the death of Osama Bin Laden which resulted in a big "USA!" chant and [the] internal public address system of the Arena then proceeded to play "Stars and Stripes Forever."

This is the most American sentence that has ever been written about anything.

American Airlines Center (Dallas Stars)

On July 27, 2001, the facility opened with the largest ribbon-cutting ceremony ever, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

There had actually been a bigger ceremony held in Buffalo, but everyone decided to just ignore that and award the title to Dallas anyway.

BB&T Center (Florida Panthers)

The Dave Matthews Band - 2001 (There was a power interruption during the performance; they have not returned to the venue since.)

Oh, quit being such a baby, Dave Matthews. If it's good enough for the Stanley Cup Final, it's good enough for you.

Barclays Center (New York Islanders)

Business Insider has called sections 201 to 204 and 228 to 231, "the worst seat in American professional sports". In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark acknowledged the issue, but insisted nothing can be done: "There's really nothing we’re going to do from a capital improvement standpoint. You can watch the game on your mobile device. The game is on the scoreboard."

Unless you're sitting in one of the sections where you can't see the scoreboard. Or one of the other sections where you can't see your mobile device. Then you're pretty much screwed.

Bell Centre (Montreal Canadiens)

The most infamous event that took place at the arena was Survivor Series 1997, during which the well-known Montreal Screwjob incident occurred.

This is, of course, a reference to the Bret Hart incident, one in which the WWE outraged its loyal fans by shockingly parting ways with a talented and beloved superstar due to concerns about his contract and failure to get along with management.

Luckily, everyone learned a valuable lesson and nobody in Montreal has ever made that mistake again.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

Friday, August 12, 2016

Grab Bag: Patrick Roy calls it quits

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- My thoughts on Patrick Roy quitting.
- The Las Vegas Hawks? No. Just, no.
- An obscure NHL player/Olympic sailer.
- Did you see that terrible KHL brawl? You're going to.
- And the Canucks try their hand at the terrible music genre with "Bure Bure".

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Five times an NHL arbitrator actually got to do something

It’s been a rough few weeks for NHL arbitrators. While 25 contract cases had been scheduled for hearings, only Tyson Barrie made it to a hearing, and that was resolved before a ruling was issued, meaning the league’s arbitrators didn’t get to render a single decision. And all that comes on the heels of news that James Oldham, the neutral arbitrator who ruled on the Dennis Wideman case, had been dismissed by the league.

But during these dark days for the league’s proud arbitrating fraternity, it’s worth remembering that times weren’t always so tough. The NHL has a long history of arbitrators making headlines, on cases involving everything from contract signings to disputed trades and beyond.

Here’s a look back on five times in NHL history that an arbitrator got the chance to bask in the spotlight.


The case: Today’s fans are familiar with the concept of restricted free agency. Certain players, typically those in the early stages of their pro careers, can find themselves eligible to sign offer sheets with other teams. If the offer isn’t matched, compensation is paid in the form of draft picks, based on a league-mandated scale. But the offer is matched, pretty much every time, which is why they’re rarely even attempted anymore and restricted free agency usually ends up being a dud.

Years ago, things were a lot more interesting.

Back before the current system came into place, the league went through a period where RFA signings were still subject to compensation. But instead of a list of draft picks and dollar signs, the compensation took the form of actual players. Each team – the one that had signed the RFA, and the one that was losing him – would have to submit what they thought was a fair trade to an arbitrator. And that arbitrator would have to pick one offer or the other, with no room to split the difference or compromise.

It was amazingly entertaining, and the strategy involved was fascinating. If you were signing another team’s RFA, would you lowball on your compensation to try to get the best possible value? Or did you make a generous offer just to make sure you weren’t burned? And if you were losing a player, did you retaliate by asking for someone even better in return?

OK, that last one sounds kind of over the top. But the New Jersey Devils tried it anyway, it worked, and everyone lost their minds.

The ruling: The player compensation system was used in all sorts of RFA signings over the years (I’m still not over the Maple Leafs losing Peter Zezel for Mike Craig). But the most famous case came in the early 90s, when the St. Louis Blues went on a spending spree targeting other teams RFAs. In 1990, they signed Scott Stevens away from the Capitals and named him team captain. And then in 1991, they went after Brendan Shanahan of the Devils.

Those were two big moves – Shanahan was a 22-year-old power forward who looked like a future star, and Stevens was already considered one of the best defensemen in the league. Put them together, along with established stars like Brett Hull and Adam Oates, and you had the core of a potential Cup champion. But as it turned out, it was the “put them together” part that ended up being a problem.

When it came time for an arbitrator to rule on Shanahan’s compensation, the Blues made a generous offer: Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind’Amour, two very good young players who’d go on to long and successful NHL careers. But the Devils shocked everyone by swinging for the fences and asking for Stevens. That seemed crazy – Shanahan was good, but Stevens was far better. But arbitrator Edward Houston stunned the hockey world by siding with the Devils, sending Stevens to New Jersey.

Understandably, the Blues flipped out. Stevens was also furious, initially refusing to report to the Devils before finally backing down shortly before the season started. The deal was a lopsided steal for New Jersey, one that helped set the stage for three Stanley Cups to come. To make matters worse, the Blues even tried to get Stevens back in 1994, and ended up getting nailed for tampering because of it.

To this day, Stevens-for-Shanahan stands as one of the biggest trades in NHL history. And thanks to an arbitrator, it was made against the will of one of the teams involved.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

Friday, August 5, 2016

Grab Bag: Hanging around waiting for something to happen

In the Grab Bag:
- Gary Bettman is lying about concussions again
- P.K. Subban kind of sort of mildly roasts the Habs, but we can do better
- The Olympics are here to confuse you
- An obscure player with a cool name and a much better older brother
- And a classic YouTube clip that's perfect for August, in that it's all about hanging around and doing absolutely nothing

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Five times that something actually happened in August

The calendar has flipped over to August, which means that all around the NHL, teams are hard at work on…

Wait! Come back! Don’t close the page!

Look, we get it. August is the worst month on the NHL calendar by a mile. Almost all the big offseason moves have already happened, training camp is still weeks away, and it seems like everyone who matters is away at a cottage somewhere.

But it’s not actually true that “nothing happens in August.” Almost nothing, sure, we’ll grant you that. But the NHL history book’s entry for the month isn’t completely blank. So today, let’s look back on some of the newsworthy moments that have happened in August, and whether there’s any hope of something similar going down this year.


While it’s rare to see a major free agent sign in August, it has happened. Some seem minor at the time and only loom larger with the benefit of hindsight, like the Penguins’ scooping up Matt Cullen last year. But sometimes, the player involved is a genuine star.

Historical precedent: Mike Modano signed with the Red Wings on August 5, 2010, and Owen Nolan joined the Coyotes on August 16, 2006. Granted, both guys were well past their prime when they signed, but they were still stars. And there is a precedent for an elite player in his prime signing a UFA deal in August. Scott Niedermayer did just that with the Ducks on August 4, 2005. And plenty of other big names signed in August that year too, including Peter Forsberg, Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya.

See? It can happen! There’s hope!

(This is the part where we hope you won’t notice that 2005 was the year that the season-long lockout pushed the start of free agency back to August 1.)

Odds of it happening this year: Huh. Well…. [checks list of remaining free agents]… do Kris Russel or Jiri Hudler count as a big names? Because if not, we may be out of luck, at least until the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes kick in.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The 2016 Bizarro-meter: Ranking the NHL's strangest offseasons

Now that we’re into the month of August, the NHL off-season is largely done.

Sure, there are still six weeks until training camps open. But most of the big moves have already happened, and we’ve settled into the dog days of summer when not much is going on.

Most teams have already done the majority of what they’re going to do. And it’s fair to say that some teams had more straightforward summers than others.

And so it’s time to break out the annual Bizarro-meter, in which we rank each team’s off-season based on just how strange it’s been.

Let's be clear: "bizarre" does not necessarily mean "bad." An unexpected move or two can work out great, while a conservative approach will often fail miserably.

We're not judging how well each team performed here. We're looking at how far out of the range of expectations they went.

So let's look at each team's major off-season moves, where "the off-season" is everything that happened after the team played its final game — whenever that ended up being. We'll do this by division, and we'll start off with the home of the defending Stanley Cup champs.


Pittsburgh Penguins

The off-season so far: As is typically the case for Stanley Cup champions, they saw some useful depth pieces depart due the salary cap concerns.

But their strangest move was: Not really losing anyone of consequence. That sounds harsh – sorry Jeff Zatkoff, Ben Lovejoy and Beau Bennett – but with the exception (so far) of Matt Cullen, the Pens really haven't lost any key pieces of their championship roster. That includes Marc-Andre Fleury — at least for now.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 2.2/10.

There will be more moves to come, as some estimates puts the Penguins over the cap right now. But for now, a largely quiet off-season has been good news.

Washington Capitals

The off-season so far: It's been pretty quiet. They swapped around some depth parts and traded for Lars Eller, and that's about it.

But their strangest move was: Not overreacting to an early playoff exit with a bunch of firings, trades and general scapegoating.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.1/10.

To be clear, standing pat was absolutely the right approach. But given recent franchise history, it represents a change of direction.

New York Rangers

The off-season so far: Their biggest move was trading Derick Brassard to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad. They also said goodbye to a handful of veterans, including Eric Staal, Dan Boyle and Dominic Moore, clearing room to get Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes re-signed

But their strangest move was: Signing UFAs Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner. Those are good additions, but it's still strange to see the Rangers go conservative in free agency, given their history.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.4/10.

Remember when we said that bizarre wouldn't necessarily mean bad? Some Rangers fans might be wishing that GM Jeff Gorton had made some more unexpected moves, like finding a taker for Rick Nash or (somehow) Dan Girardi. Instead, it's been pretty standard stuff.

Philadelphia Flyers

The off-season so far: They bought out R.J. Umberger, re-signed Brayden Schenn and added Dale Weise.

But their strangest move was: Weise probably got a little too much money. Still, whatever happened to the "offersheet Shea Weber" or "trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov" version of the Flyers?

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.3/10.

I'm still having trouble with the whole "Ron Hextall is calm and rationale" thing, but he clearly has a plan and is sticking to it.

New York Islanders

The off-season so far: No team featured more prominently in the free agent market, with the Islanders both landing and losing big names. They signed one of the biggest available in Andrew Ladd, and also added P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera. But they lost Kyle Okposo, who headed to Buffalo, as well as Frans Neilsen (Detroit) and Matt Martin (Toronto). Add it all up, and did they get any better? I'm not sure they did.

But their strangest move was: As strange as it was to see a team undergo so much free agency churn, it was a player they kept that sticks out as the strangest. While it was overshadowed by the moves to come, bottom-six forward Casey Cizikas getting a five-year, $16.75-million deal is still a tough move to justify.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.5/10.

Oh, they may also be moving again. Things are never boring for the Islanders.

New Jersey Devils

The off-season so far: They added pair of Cup-winning Penguins by signing Lovejoy and trading for Bennett, and signed veteran Vernon Fiddler. Oh, and they also added Marc Savard's contract.

But their strangest move was: Trading Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.7/10. That's almost entirely for the shocking Hall trade which — it goes without saying — we'll see again once we get to Edmonton.

Carolina Hurricanes

The off-season so far: In June, they basically got Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks for free by agreeing to eat Bryan Bickell's contract. It was an almost impossibly good deal, and they followed it up with some decent value signings. That continued a few years' worth of sneaky-smart moves in Carolina. And they even resisted the urge to get all sentimental and bring back Eric Staal. These guys are geniuses!

But their strangest move was: Re-signing Cam Ward, who is no longer an especially good goaltender, to a multi-year deal. These guys are morons!

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.0/10.

I'm honestly not sure what's going on in Carolina. Did you ever have a kid in your class who was so smart that it got awkward for everyone, so she'd occasionally flunk a test on purpose just to seem normal? That's the best explanation I can come up with for the Ward signing.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The off-season so far: While they've yet to unload any of the big contracts clogging their cap situation, they created some room by buying out Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin. They used some of that room to sign franchise cornerstone Seth Jones to a team-friendly six-year deal.

But their strangest move was: Using the third overall pick in the draft to take a player who wasn't in the consensus Big Three. Pierre-Luc Dubois is a good prospect who could well turn out to be better than Jesse Puljujarvi. But the pick was still a shocker. Even if Dubois was Jarmo Kekalainen's guy, you'd think the Jackets would find a way to trade down a few spots first.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.4/10.

Give Kekalainen credit for having the courage to make a pick he had to know would open him up to criticism. But he'd better hope it works out.

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