Friday, August 18, 2017

Grab Bag: Hot dogs and soap operas

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Leon Draisaitl's new deal is bad. Unless it's good. We're not really sure yet.
- Should the NHL follow USA Hockey's lead on a rule change?
- The week's three comedy stars are really no contest
- An obscure player who could really nurse an injury
- And the 1989 New Jersey Devils show up on General Hospital, and it's every bit as awkward as you'd expect...

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five more surprising players who haven't had their numbers retired

Last time around, we covered five somewhat surprising players who've yet to have their numbers retired by the team (or teams) they'd starred with. That led to plenty of debate over who was deserving and who wasn't, and what sort of standards teams should use to determine who gets to see their number go up to the rafters.

But I also heard from plenty of fans who wanted to make the case for players that their own teams hadn't honored yet. For a few of those. I was stunned to find out that a particular franchise hadn't honored a star player years ago. I had to go and double-check that, yes, these guys are still waiting.

So today, let's go back to the well for a look at five more players whose numbers haven't been raised yet, but maybe should have been.

Peter Bondra – Washington Capitals

Bondra was the name that came up most often from readers reacting to the original post, and I'll be honest: I'd always assumed his number had already been honored. After all, surely a member of the 500-goal club who scored almost all of those with Washington would be an obvious choice.

But apparently not, because Bondra is still waiting. He certainly has the qualifications, trailing only Alex Ovechkin in franchise history in both goals and points, while also ranking second in games played. No, he never won a Stanley Cup, but neither has anyone else in Capitals history, so we won't hold that against him.

The Capitals have only retired four numbers in their 43 seasons, and it's a weird mix. There's Mike Gartner, which you'd expect given he had 700 goals in his career (although Bondra has better numbers as a Capital). There's Rod Langway, a Hall of Famer and two-time Norris winner, and that makes sense, too. There's Dale Hunter, a very good player who fans loved.

And then there's Yvon Labre, who you may not even have ever heard of. He was a defenseman who played seven seasons for the Capitals back in the bad old days when the team was awful, including two as team captain. By all accounts he's a great guy in the community and he's remained with the team in various roles over the years, but in hindsight the decision to retire his #7 back in 1981 seems like an odd one.

Clearly, the bar here has to be a little higher than just being better than Yvon Labre, but the Capitals' recent reluctance – they haven't honored anyone at all since 2008 – seems like an over-correction. There's a good case to be made for Olaf Kolzig, too, but Bondra's been waiting for years and seems like the guy who should be first in line.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News




Friday, August 11, 2017

Grab Bag: It's OK to be honest about the 2018 Olympics

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- The Olympics aren't going to anywhere near as much fun without the NHL and it's OK to say that out loud
- Debating that NHL Network goalie list everyone is mad about
- An obscure backup goalie who had super cool pads
- The week's three comedy stars
- And Team Sweden would like to sing you a song about the 1989 World Championships

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Who could be this year's Avalanche?

The Colorado Avalanche are suffering through one of the worst 12-month stretches in modern NHL history. Short of a team moving or some sort of off-ice tragedy, it’s hard to imagine how a year could go much worse for a team.

Their coach walked out on them. The maneuvered themselves into pretty much having to trade one of their best young players, then failed to make a deal happen. They sure seemed to make a clumsy pass at a future GM, only to came up empty. And worst of all, they suffered through what was probably the worst season of the cap era, then became the first last-place team to lose the same draft lottery three times.

And that’s why it’s somewhat jarring to remember that one year ago today, nobody thought the Avalanche would be all that bad. We weren’t exactly calling them a Cup contender, but they were coming off an 82-point season in 2015–16, good enough to finish ahead of eight teams and to tie them with the Montreal Canadiens. Oddsmakers were expecting them to finish a few points over .500, and had them ranked ahead of eventual playoff teams like the Blue Jackets, Senators and Maple Leafs.

And then it all went horribly wrong. But not many of us saw it coming until it was too late. So today, let’s ask the question: Could any of the current middle-of-the-pack teams be this year’s Avalanche?

To be clear, it’s exceedingly unlikely that any team implodes quite like Colorado did – that was a perfect storm of bad luck, poor timing and utter ineptitude. But could any teams that finished last season in roughly the same not-great-but-not-awful ballpark as the 2015–16 Avs be in danger of a major collapse of their own?

We’ll exclude the four teams that finished last year with 70 points or fewer – that’s the Canucks, Coyotes, Devils and (of course) the Avalanche – as well as the expansion Golden Knights, since all of those teams are expected to be bad. That still leaves us with 10 non-playoff teams that finished the year roughly in the 2015–16 Avalanche’s range. Of those, here are five teams who could be at risk of seeing a Colorado-style plummet down the standings.

New York Islanders

2016-17 finish: 41-29-12, 94 points, 17th overall

Warning signs on the dashboard: John Tavares. I mean, this should be done by now, shouldn’t it? Heading into the off-season, we were assured that the Islanders were going to either extend their franchise player for as long as possible or, failing that, explore moving him. Instead, nothing seems to be happening, and it’s starting to feel possible that no news is bad news.

We tend to talk way too much about distractions in the sports world, but this year’s Islanders feel like a team where it could actually apply. If Tavares heads into the season without a deal and suddenly every minor thing that happens starts turning into a referendum on the team’s long-term future, things could get ugly.

That seems unlikely – Tavares still sounds like a guy who wants to stay, and there’s a good chance this whole thing gets wrapped up and then Islander fans point and laugh at anyone who suggested it wouldn’t. But as Avalanche fans could tell you, sometimes the unlikely worst-case scenario is the one that ends up happening.

Why they should be OK: They’re the best team on our list in terms of last year’s standings; remember, they finished with as many points as the Cup-finalist Predators. They were also a downright impressive 24-12-8 under interim coach Doug Weight, who now holds the full-time job. And that was before they added Jordan Eberle.

Maybe more importantly, failure doesn’t seem to be an option right now. With Tavares looming over everything, new ownership looking for a new arena, and Garth Snow’s job potentially on the line, the Islanders don’t seem like a team that can afford to be bad this year. That’s a dangerous situation, because it can lead a team into some bad long-term decisions. But it should mean that a total collapse would be unlikely, if only because Snow would do everything in his power to prevent it.

But all bets are off if…: Tavares decides he wants out, and Snow has to go into scramble mode to salvage something of the situation. Again, that’s unlikely. But among more realistic scenarios, recall that the goaltending is still a question mark, and the blue line just lost Travis Hamonic. The Metro was brutal last year, and with the Flyers and Hurricanes on the way up there won’t be much room for error here.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Friday, August 4, 2017

Grab Bag: Hrudey on Duty

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- There are four NHL penalties that don't have official signals. Until now.
- That time Don Cherry was voted the seventh greatest Canadian ever.
- An obscure player joins the Less Successful Brother All-Stars
- No comedy stars because I'm on vacation
- And a YouTube breakdown of the epic 1990s rap-rock stylings of "Hrudey on Duty"

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Five surprising players who haven't had their numbers retired

Retired numbers can be a funny thing. Some are slam dunks, with guys like Teemu Selanne and Martin Brodeur seeing their numbers go up to the rafters almost immediately. Other times, a closer call like Adam Graves or Bob Plager will wait years before a team decides that they're worthy of the honor. Some teams like to wait, others like to move quickly. And every once in a while, a team will even retire 17 numbers in one shot.

And then there are the cases where a player who seems to have a strong case to be honored ends up going years without getting the call, to the point where it starts to look like it may not come at all. So today, let's look at five players who've been out of the league for a while now, but have yet to see their numbers retired by the team they made their names with.

Kevin Lowe, Oilers

For most franchises, winning five Stanley Cups would be more than enough to get a player's number into the rafters. But the Oilers aren't just any team, and when you dominate most of a decade like they did in the 1980s, you might have higher standards.

Still, even without his five Edmonton Cup rings (plus one more with the Rangers), Lowe has a solid case. He was a pretty darn good player; while he never won a Norris, he did play in seven All-Star Games. And he's the franchise's all-time leader in games played, and ranks behind only Paul Coffey in points by a defenseman. On the other hand, he's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame yet, and every member of that Oilers dynasty to have their number retired is in the Hall.

Lowe is still a member of the Oilers' organization, having been the team's GM for years and serving as president now, and that could complicate things; nobody wants to see a ceremony that feels like a team executive is honoring themselves. But there seems to be a growing sense that Lowe deserves his moment. Remember, no Oiler wore Lowe's No. 4 until first overall pick Taylor Hall arrived in 2010 (which was controversial at the time).

Paul Kariya, Ducks

We could go back and forth on the qualifications of some of the players on this list. But Kariya isn't in that category. He's quite possibly the greatest player in Ducks history, and was the face of the franchise for its first decade or so. With his recent (and overdue) selection to Hall of Fame, he should be a sure thing.

But in this case, there's more to the decision than stats and individual honors. Kariya's time in Anaheim ended abruptly, with the star winger bolting in free agency after leading the team to the 2003 Cup final. That led to some bad feelings on both sides, and Kariya has had a rocky relationship with the league in general since his early retirement due to concussions.

These days, it sounds like the Ducks are ready to make peace, but Kariya remains (in the words of close friend Teemu Selanne) "very bitter about hockey". Maybe his HHOF induction presents an opportunity to mend some fences, and Kariya and the Ducks can eventually get back on good enough terms that the star is willing to participate in a number retirement ceremony. Until that day comes, his No. 9 will be conspicuous by its absence in Anaheim.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News




Friday, July 28, 2017

Grab Bag: The offer sheet that won't happen, but should

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Offer sheets are usually a waste of time. But this year, one specific one wouldn't be.
- Something that's been bugging me for years about how penalties are announced
- An obscure player who made played in three Olympics for Team Canada
- The week's three comedy stars, featuring an NHL vs NFL matchup that goes about as well as you would expect
- And we travel back to 1990 for some blooper tape fun in the weekly YouTube breakdown

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seven abandoned plot points from the NHL offseason

The writers in charge of the NHL’s off-season script are struggling.

They spent the last year opening up all sorts of interesting storylines and plot holes, with lots of fun ways they could go. But now the summer is here, the credits are about to roll, and there are still all sorts of loose ends to tie up.

They’ve wrapped up a few. The Dallas Stars finally got that goalie they’ve been hunting for years, the touching Kevin Shattenkirk homecoming played out pretty much like we all expected, and the Connor McDavid contract plotline came together nicely. Some of it feels kind of derivative – haven’t we seen this Blackhawks roster already? – but for the most part it’s been fine.

But as the off-season wears on and things start getting quiet, it’s hard not to notice that several key subplots seem to have been quietly dropped by the league’s writing staff. So today, let’s look at seven NHL offseason storylines that we’re still waiting on.

The Matt Duchene trade

The Duchene trade watch has been on in Colorado ever since his coach, Patrick Roy, ripped him at the end of the 2015–16 season for celebrating wrong. Roy’s surprise August resignation may have bought some time, but as last season wore on a trade started to feel inevitable, with even Duchene himself acknowledging he was open to a fresh start.

The only question was when it would happen. With the Avalanche flatlining, there was plenty of pressure on Joe Sakic to get the best possible deal for the former third-overall pick, and timing was important. The rumoured asking price was high, and as the season wore on, some began to wonder if it might not make more sense to wait until the off-season. When the deadline passed without the Avs doing much of anything at all, the focus shifted to what Sakic could do at the draft.

Well, the draft has come and gone. So has most of free agency. So has almost all of July. And not only is Duchene somehow still in Colorado, but the rumour mill seems to be falling silent.

Maybe that’s a good thing — the calm before the storm, and all that. But with August approaching and the number of teams that could plausibly put together a deal getting smaller, it’s starting to look like not getting a trade done during the season could end up as a costly miscalculation by Sakic and the Avs. Duchene finished the season ice cold, and with cap space disappearing around the league after nearly four weeks of free agency, it’s possible that there just isn’t anyone left out there willing to pay a fair price.

Could Duchene start the season in Colorado? It’s starting to look that way. And since early-season trades have become all but extinct, that would mean yet another year of Sakic waiting for the trade deadline. Or maybe the draft. Or maybe July. Or maybe… well, to be continued, apparently.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Friday, July 21, 2017

Grab Bag: The Bettman Sentence fixes everything

In the latest (and last?) Friday Grab Bag:
- One simple trick for enjoying Gary Bettman sound bites
- The NBA offseason is just way more fun that's the NHL's, and that's OK
- An obscure player with a two-pack-a-day habit who confused Bob McKenzie
- The week's three comedy stars
- And a week after basking in how wonderful Alexei Kovalev could be, we take a look at the other side of the coin.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports

In other news: As you may have heard, Vice Sports is apparently shutting down and/or pivoting to video and/or something. Right now, I don't know what this means for the future of the Grab Bag, the Biscuits podcast, the Lozo mailbags or anything else I was doing with Vice (although I think we can probably guess). All I can say right now is that you'll know when I do.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Five stars whose bad timing cost them a Cup

You have to feel for NHL stars who never win a Stanley Cup. In most cases, their lack of a championship is hardly their fault. Hockey is a team game, and one player can only carry you so far. But that's probably little comfort to players who finish their career without ever skating a lap with the trophy. And that's especially true for the guys who just missed.

For example, Marcel Dionne is often mentioned as the greatest player to never win a Cup, and he may well be. But he also never came especially close. His team never made it out of the second round, and the three franchises he played for over his 18-year career – the Wings, Kings and Rangers – never won any Cups at all over that span.

Other players have come close in a given year. Gilbert Perrault helped get the Sabres to the final in 1975, and Roberto Luongo was one win away from a ring in 2011 with the Canucks. Brian Propp may have had the toughest luck of anyone -- he went to the Cup final on five separate occasions, but had the misfortune of running into an Islanders, Oilers or Penguins dynasty each time.

But then there's the group of star players who came close in a very different way: the guys who just had bad timing. They were great players, and they played for great teams. But they managed to be just a little too early or a little too late to be part of a Cup team, and ended up retiring without a ring despite most of their teammates getting one.

So today, let's look back at five players who had long and successful NHL careers that didn't include Stanley Cups, but who just missed being in the right place at the right time to win one.

Mike Gartner

Gartner hadn't come especially close to a Cup over the first decade-plus of his career with the Capitals, North Stars or Rangers. But in 1994, he finally found himself on a Cup favorite. By March, the Rangers were on their way to their second Presidents' Trophy in three years. With Mark Messier leading the way, Brian Leetch on the blueline and Mike Keenan behind the bench, the Rangers seemed set to finally break the franchise's 54-year Cup drought.

And as it turns out, they did. But Gartner didn't get to be a part of it. In yet another deadline deal, the 33-year-old veteran was sent to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Glenn Anderson.

Gartner and the Leafs nearly made it to the final themselves, before falling to the Canucks in the Western final. Meanwhile, the Rangers went on to win it all at Madison Square Garden (despite not getting all that much production out of Anderson along the way).

For Anderson, it was his sixth Cup ring. Gartner played until 1998, but never made it out of the first round again. He retired without a championship; in hindsight, he may have only missed by a few months.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News




Friday, July 14, 2017

Grab Bag: Come on down

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Since everyone liked last week's Cliff Hanger idea, let's assign some Price is Right games to more NHL announcements
- I have an incredibly trivial complaint about the Sedins
- An obscure player who once made Patrick Roy very angry
- The week's three comedy stars
- And we travel back to 1994 for a story about Mike Keenan and the greatest shift in hockey history

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Which NHL stars will end their careers as members of the one-franchise club?

You hear the term “franchise player” thrown around a lot these days, typically as a slightly fancier way of saying a player is very good. But actually playing out your entire career with one NHL franchise isn’t easy. Mario Lemieux managed to do it, but Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe didn’t. Nicklas Lidstrom did, but not Bobby Orr or Ray Bourque. Rocket Richard, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman made it, but not Mark Messier, Phil Esposito or Marcel Dionne.

And so far, it’s been an especially rough summer for modern-day players looking to join the club. Among the active leaders in games played with one team, as many as four players could have new homes in October. Patrick Marleau has already said goodbye to San Jose after 20 years. Shane Doan has been told that his services won’t be required in Arizona after 22 years with the organization, while Chris Neil got the same message from the Senators after 16. And as of right now, Andrei Markov’s 17-year tenure with the Canadiens appears to be in serious jeopardy.

Some of those players might still get to claim one-franchise status — Markov could re-sign in Montreal, and Doan and Neil could retire rather than sign elsewhere. But this summer has made it clear that playing out a decade or more with one organization doesn’t guarantee anything, and you never know when a player or team will decide that it’s time to sever a long-term relationship.

So today, let’s take a look at the 10 players with the most games played for a single team that they’re still on the roster of, and try to figure out which ones have the best odds of ending their career as a member of the one-franchise club.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Canucks

The tenure: 1,248 games for Henrik and 1,225 for Daniel, dating back to 2000

Why they’ll make it: Both sides in this one have been clear: The Sedins will finish their career in Vancouver. The twins have gone on the record to say they don’t want to leave. And the Canucks seem happy to hold onto them, resisting calls to think about moving their two veteran stars to help kickstart a rebuild.

On top of that, there’s another issue in play here: It’s just not easy to take on a pair of high salaries in the same deal. Assuming the twins will want to stay together wherever they play, there just aren’t many teams out there that could add that sort of cap hit. Sticking it out in Vancouver and then retiring as Canucks isn’t just the sentimental choice, it’s the practical one.

Why they won’t: The brothers have just one year left on their contracts, and the Canucks are expected to be a bad team this year and probably a few after that. Trading them today would be all but impossible, but getting a retained-salary deal done at the deadline might be realistic. And even assuming they finish the season as Canucks, the Sedins could head into unrestricted free agency next summer. Maybe they’d want to take a swing at a Stanley Cup somewhere before calling it quits.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 75%. This will seem low to Canucks fans, many of whom seem to assume that the Sedins playing out their career in Vancouver is a sure thing. Maybe it is. But if Doan and the Coyotes taught us anything, it’s that loyalty has its limits, especially when a rebuilding team wants to go young. Is it really that hard to imagine the twins at least thinking about a discount deal with a contender next summer?

Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings

The tenure: 1,000 games on the nose, dating back to 2002

Why they’ll make it: A lot of what we just wrote about the Sedins would apply here, too. It’s a veteran player on a rebuilding team that probably won’t have a shot at a Stanley Cup anytime soon.

But there are two key differences. First, Zetterberg already has a Cup ring. And second (and more importantly), he’s signed for four more years at a cap hit north of $6 million. Free agency isn’t on the radar, and even if the Red Wings wanted to trade him, they’d have trouble finding anyone willing to take on that deal.

On top of that, this is the Red Wings; no team holds onto its stars like Detroit. They made sure to do it for everyone from Yzerman to Lidstrom to Alex Delvecchio to Pavel Datsyuk. Well, kind of.

Why they won’t: Datsyuk never played anywhere else, but the Red Wings did trade his rights. That was a unique situation, of course, but it shows that Ken Holland is willing to get creative when it comes to dumping bad contracts. Zetterberg’s deal isn’t awful yet, but it’s headed there fast, and dumping it on a floor team down the line could be the sort of painful decision the rebuilding Wings have no choice but to make.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 90%. In today’s NHL, I’m not sure you ever go higher than 90 until the player is actually making their way to the podium to announce their retirement. But of everyone on our list, Zetterberg is the most likely to retire with his team.

Dustin Brown, Kings

The tenure: 964 games dating back to 2003

Why they’ll make it: He’s been a warrior for the franchise, lifting two Stanley Cups as their captain. But let’s face it, the real reason Brown will retire as a King is his contract. With five years left at a nearly $6-million cap hit, and given Brown’s recent performance, it’s one of the worst contracts in the league. Even if the Kings wanted to trade him, no other team is going anywhere near that deal.

Why they won’t: The contract may be untradeable, but that doesn’t mean the Kings are stuck with it. Brown’s deal isn’t weighted down with bonuses, making it relatively straightforward to buy out. New management will no doubt give him a chance to find his game again before going that route, but this team already stripped him of his captaincy. The writing is on the wall here.

Chance of making the one-franchise club: 30%. Brown is a buyout waiting to happen.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Friday, July 7, 2017

Grab Bag: UFA winners and losers

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- My review of the winners and losers of the first week of free agency
- Let's get creative when unveiling big extensions
- The most obscure RFA offers sheet target ever
- The week's three comedy stars
- And a look back at the Nail Yakupov draft. If only there were some subtle hints that it wouldn't work out...

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Five star UFA homecomings

Most of the dust has settled on the first few days of free agency, and a handful of themes have emerged. Fiscal sanity is one, as teams mostly stayed away from the sort of long-term mega-deals that almost always turn out to be mistakes. As always, much of the focus was on veteran defensemen. And the UFAs were largely overshadowed by the extensions being signed by players like Carey Price, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and (any minute now) Connor McDavid.

And then there was the heartwarming storyline that emerged on day one: homecomings. Not only did players like Joe Thornton and T.J. Oshie stay with their current teams, but plenty of guys returned to franchise they'd previously starred with. That list included names like Justin Williams, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Hartnell and Patrick Sharp.

Bringing back a familiar face makes for a nice storyline, and it's almost always an easy sell for fans. But the NHL has a long history of players using free agency to return to a former team, and results have been mixed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it's a reminder that breakups happen for a reason.

So today, let's look back at five Hall of Fame stars who chose to return to their former team via free agency, and how those deals worked out for both sides.

Mark Messier, Rangers

The exit: After winning the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994, you’d think that Messier would have been able to write his own ticket in New York. But his relationship with the Rangers' front office was always contentious, including a post-Cup holdout in 1994 that reportedly had the team thinking about trading him.

He ended up sticking around, but when free agency arrived in 1997, Messier kept his options open. Despite being widely expected to return to New York, he eventually bolted for the Canucks.

The return: It's fair to say that the Messier era did not go well in Vancouver; the whole thing was a PR disaster form Day 1, with the Rangers' great seeming to do everything short of tear the "C" off Trevor Linden's jersey and shove him onto an ice floe. By the time Messier had been bought out after three disappointing seasons, he stood as one of the most hated Canucks ever.

Meanwhile, the Rangers hadn't made the playoffs since Messier's exit. There wasn't much suspense over where he'd wind up, and he eventually signed a two-year deal, at which point he was immediately handed back the captaincy.

The result: Mixed. Messier had an impressive 67 points in his return to New York despite turning 40 during the season, and he managed to play three more seasons after that. But he never got the Rangers back to the postseason, meaning one of the greatest winners in the sport's history went his last seven seasons without appearing in a single playoff game.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News




Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Updating the summer schedule

Hey everyone... with the offseason here and much of the hockey world disappearing to the cottage, I wanted to post a quick update on what the summer schedule will look like around here:

  • The Grab Bag will continue all summer, in its usual weekly Friday slot
  • Sportsnet will feature a new post every second week, starting next week
  • The Hockey News will have a new top five post every second week, starting tomorrow
  • Other stuff if/when offseason news breaks
  • The Biscuits podcast is done for the season; we're hoping it will resume next fall
  • Some other stuff that you'll find out about down the road...

Thanks again for all your support this season. If you don't already, please be sure to like and follow DGB on Facebook, as that's where I'll be posting any shorter thoughts/reactions as the season goes on. Beyond that, enjoy your summer; training camp is only a few weeks away.

Cheers,
Sean




Friday, June 30, 2017

Grab bag: When NHL free agency goes bad

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Connor McDavid is going to sign for a ton of money tomorrow. Should he have taken less to help his team win?
- The NHL's free agent negotiation window is weird
- An obscure player that was born the day Canada turned 100
- The week's three comedy stars
- And we go back ten years in the YouTube section to revisit the day that NHL free agency went bad

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Thursday, June 29, 2017

The craziest half hour in offseason history, one year later

Do you remember where you were one year ago this afternoon?

If you’re a hockey fan, there’s a good chance you do. That’s because today marks the one-year anniversary of the craziest 23 minutes in NHL off-season history. In less than the time it takes to deliver a pizza, NHL front offices delivered three of the biggest stories of the entire year: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, and Steven Stamkos re-signing in Tampa.

Sports fan like to talk about days and moments that change everything, and it’s almost always hyperbole. But June 29, 2016, might qualify. We woke up thinking that certain players were untradeable, that the art of the one-for-one deal was all but dead, and that a superstar in his prime really could reach free agency and switch teams.

By the end of the day, none of those things was true anymore, along with thoughts like, “Nothing that happens in an NHL off-season could truly shock me.”

So yes, a lot changed in just 23 minutes. But a lot can change in 12 months, too, and some of the things we were left believing a year ago have evolved since. Today, let’s mark the anniversary of that wild day by comparing how things looked in the immediate aftermath of the madness compared to how they look right now.

The view a year ago: Trading P.K. Subban is the kind of thing that could come back to bite Marc Bergevin.

The view today: Trading P.K. Subban has come back to bite Marc Bergevin.

We’re not declaring winners or losers in the Subban/Weber deal yet — we’ve still got another decade or so to decide that. But when you look at everyone involved in that wild afternoon, you could make a case that nobody’s reputation has taken more of a hit than Bergevin’s.

Being the GM of the Canadiens may be one of the toughest jobs in sports, and Bergevin has been doing it for five years now, so it was inevitable that some of the shine would come off. But it wasn’t all that long ago that Bergevin was pretty darn shiny. He’d been named a finalist for GM of the Year in just his second season, and notoriously hard-to-please Montreal fans seemed cautiously optimistic about the job he was doing. He’d locked down Max Pacioretty on a fantastic deal, and got Carey Price at what turned out to be decent value. The Thomas Vanek rental hadn’t really worked, but Jeff Petry seemed like a smart pickup, and Habs fans seemed OK with the recent Andrew Shaw trade.

And then came Subban/Weber, a blockbuster so big that nothing else really seemed to matter anymore.

Many fans and analysts absolutely hated the trade, calling it a huge mistake, maybe even the worst in team history. That view was far from unanimous, and even today many Habs fans are perfectly fine with the swap.

But after watching the Canadiens make a first-round exit while the Predators rolled all the way to Cup final, everything Bergevin does is viewed through the Subban/Weber lens. And it didn’t help that it sure looked like the Habs were choosing Michel Therrien over Subban, only to fire the coach midway through the season.

By the time the 2017 trade deadline arrived and Bergevin was remaking the bottom of his roster on the fly, the skepticism was palpable, and today many Habs fans seem to be holding their breath over his attempts to trade Alexander Galchenyuk and/or acquire a top-line centre. Bergevin is facing more off-season pressure than any GM in the league, and his fan base seems a lot less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt than they were before that fateful day a year ago.

The view a year ago: The Oilers don’t know what they’re doing.

The view today: The Oilers might know what they’re doing.

Here’s the other side of the criticism coin. While Bergevin was questioned about his trade, Peter Chiarelli was outright roasted for his. The Hall trade became an immediate punchline, with a consensus forming almost instantly. The Oilers had made a huge mistake. They needed to get a bigger return. The Devils had pulled off a robbery. One so-called expert even said Edmonton had finally “worked up the nerve to talk to the pretty girl across the street, then stepped right into an open manhole cover”. (That last one was me. Look, I’m a Leafs fan — bad trades are kind of an area of expertise.)

One year later, well, it’s funny what a 103-point season and a return to the playoffs after over a decade can do to perceptions.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

This year, July 1 is all about extensions

It’s been called the day of the year when NHL GMs make their biggest mistakes. And now, July 1 is almost here. While most Canadians will be busy painting their faces and setting off fireworks, the hockey world will be keeping an eye on the wire for the latest signings.

Most years, that means watching the unrestricted free agents. But this year’s class isn’t an especially strong one. There’s Kevin Shattenkirk, and we’re all breathlessly waiting to see which teams he pretends to be interested in before signing with the Rangers. There are respected veterans, like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jarome Iginla. Alexander Radulov might get there, and Ryan Miller will be available. But as far as dramatic storylines, this year’s UFA class won’t have all that much to offer.

So instead, let’s turn our attention to the other July 1 class: players who are already under contract, but will become eligible to sign an extension. The CBA dictates that players on multi-year contracts can sign extensions one year before their current deal expires. And that means we’ll have plenty of big-name players who can re-up with their current teams as early as Saturday.

No doubt, plenty of negotiations have already taken place behind the scenes. Some players will sign almost immediately. Some might take a few days or weeks to get a deal done, like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in 2016. And others could head into the season without a new deal, Steven Stamkos or Anze Kopitar-style, which will no doubt cause some frayed nerves for their team’s fan base.

So today, let’s look at some of the bigger names who are eligible to steal the headlines from this year’s UFAs on July 1.

Carey Price

Price is one of two true superstars still in their prime who’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2018. With a recent Vezina and Hart Trophy on his resumé, he’s widely considered the best goaltender on the planet. Now he’ll have a chance to be paid like one.

But is it possible that it won’t happen in Montreal? The Canadiens have been an unpredictable team in recent years, both on and off the ice. They made headlines by trading Price’s friend P.K. Subban last year, and we can’t say for sure exactly how that sat with the goaltender. Price has also had to endure an injury, playoff disappointment and a coaching change, and his team still can’t score any goals for him. Could he secretly have his eye on the door?

Well… not really, no. As juicy a story as that would be, there’s been little indication of any true animosity between the Canadiens and their franchise player, and he’s explicitly said that he plans to stay. We won’t know for sure until the ink is dry on a new deal, but all indications are that it will happen, and probably quickly.

But the story won’t end there. While Price will almost certainly re-sign in Montreal, the question of how much it costs could loom large. Barring some sort of hometown discount, Price could become the highest-paid goaltender in the league. The top cap hit at the position right now belongs to Henrik Lundqvist at $8.5 million. That contract seems like a bit of an outlier — it’s over $1 million more expensive than the second-highest-paid goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky — but it should be in the ballpark for Price. If he wants even more, Marc Bergevin probably won’t have much choice.

Whatever Price winds up getting, Habs fans will be fine with it as long as he can maintain his recent level of play. But how much room does that leave Bergevin to sign guys like Radulov or Andrei Markov, or to get a new deal done for Alex Galchenyuk (if he’s still on the team)? And can Bergevin get a Price deal nailed down quickly enough to know what he’s working with when bidding on this year’s UFA market?

As always in Montreal, we’ll get some off-season drama. It may not end in another star player leaving town, but we’ll see how long the story drags on.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Monday, June 26, 2017

The 12 teams facing the most offseason pressure

We’re well into the off-season, with expansion a memory and the entry draft weekend now over. But for NHL teams, the work has barely started. We’ve still got free agency on the horizon — not to mention buyouts, qualifying offers and arbitration. And of course, the week after the draft has been known to produce a trade or two. It’s going to be a busy summer.

Some teams already have a big chunk of their off-season work done. The Stars finally dealt for a goaltender in Ben Bishop. The Flames did too, landing Mike Smith, and added Travis Hamonic over the weekend. The Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Flyers and Rangers have all been swinging deals, and the Blackhawks’ annual salary-cap escape is well under way. The Lightning have cleared some space and resolved the long-running Jonathan Drouin drama, and the Oilers finally pulled the trigger on Jordan Eberle. Even the Penguins addressed a perceived need, although they raised a few eyebrows in doing so.

Other teams still have work to do. That’s a group that includes teams like the Blues, Jets and Bruins. The Sharks are still facing the possibility of two veteran franchise players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, leaving as free agents. The Wild and Ducks both need to figure out what to do with their blue lines.

Meanwhile, rebuilding teams like the Canucks and Devils are trying to stay patient, and nobody’s quite sure what lane the Red Wings think they’re in.

But while all those teams are under varying degrees of pressure to have a successful off-season, certain teams stand out as facing an especially bright spotlight. So today, let’s count down a dozen teams who have the most at stake over the next few days and weeks, just how much they have left to do, and their odds of living up to those expectations.

12. Ottawa Senators

Already done: Nothing significant, apart from losing a top-pairing defenceman in the expansion draft. Which is probably not an optimal way to start an off-season.

The job ahead: After coming within a goal of playing for the Stanley Cup, the Senators head into the off-season trying to figure out how to repeat that success, if not exceed it. Losing Marc Methot was a blow, although one softened somewhat by the imminent arrival of top prospect Thomas Chabot. But in recent days, the possibility of a Dion Phaneuf trade has taken centre stage. Maybe that’s lingering bad feelings over his expansion draft culpability, or maybe it’s just a low-budget team being smart about its spending.

Then again, maybe it’s neither, and nothing comes of the rumours. Either way, if the Senators really think they’re contenders, Pierre Dorion has some work to do on the blue line.

Hot-seat factor: Virtually non-existent. One year into the job, Dorion has a trip to the final four and a spot as a GM of the Year finalist. He’s about as safe as they come.

Bottom line: One the one hand, last year’s playoff run bought everyone some good will in a town where patience was wearing thin. On the other, it also raised expectations, and with one more season before Erik Karlsson needs an extension, there’s pressure to take advantage of an open window. Dorion may be willing to hand himself top grades just for trying; we’ll see if Senators fans are feeling quite as generous.

11. Los Angeles Kings

Already done: They stunned much of the hockey world by firing both Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi, replacing them with a leadership group of coach John Stevens, GM Rob Blake and team president Luc Robitaille.

The job ahead: It’s a big one. The Kings don’t feel like a team headed for a full-scale rebuild, but this group clearly needs some changes. That’s a tricky path to weave, especially for Blake and Robitaille, two guys stepping into their respective roles for the first time. There’d been some hope that the expansion draft could somehow bail them out of an albatross contract like Dustin Brown or Marian Gaborik, but that was probably a pipe dream. Instead, the focus will be on juicing the teams’ sagging offence. In a league where goals are tough to come by, that’s a tall order.

Hot-seat factor: Blake and Robitaille just got here, so they’ll get some time to chart their course.

Bottom line: The Kings have won just one playoff game in three years, which makes them a team headed in the wrong direction. A tweak here or there isn’t going to cut it, so Blake has his work cut out for him.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Friday, June 23, 2017

Podcast: The Biscuits season finale

In the season finale of the Biscuits podcast, Dave and I cover:
- The Golden Knights' vaguely disappointing expansion draft
- Marian Hossa's contract situation
- The NHL awards show
- The little Drake controversy
- The time I wrote jokes for the NHL Awards monologue
- Shane Doan as the party guest who won't take the hint
- Reader questions, and lots more...

>> Stream it now on Vice Sports

>> Or, subscribe on iTunes.




Grab bag: The curious case of Little Drake

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- Wait, holy crap, was that a 10-year-old Drake in last week's YouTube section?
- The Blackhawks are going to get out of Marian Hossa's contract, and that's fine
- An obscure player to make Oiler fans sad
- The week's three comedy stars
- And a YouTube clip that is -- and I do not say this lightly -- the weirdest moment in NHL Awards show history

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Winners and losers from the NHL expansion draft

The Golden Knights finally exist in a form beyond a name, a logo and a handful of free agents.

After last night’s expansion draft unveiling, the Knights finally have a full roster. And while it may not look all that much like the one they open the season with, it’s a start.

Let’s take a look at what the Knights gained and what everyone else around the league gave up, voluntarily or otherwise, as the first expansion draft of the cap era played out.

Here are the winners and losers from the last few days – and weeks, and months – of expansion maneuverings.

Winner: George McPhee’s creativity

The league made sure that the Knights would have some decent players to choose from, shifting the rules from previous drafts to make sure Vegas wouldn’t be left with a roster made up entirely of castoffs and has-beens. (Hey, $500 million has to buy you something.) So we knew that McPhee and his team would be able to find some talent.

But McPhee didn’t just grab the best available names and call it a day. Instead, he spent the weeks leading up to yesterday’s selections setting the table to cut deals with any team that wanted one. And when the time came, he was aggressive in getting those deals done. Heck, by the time this week rolled around, he was sounding like a mafia kingpin collecting protection money.

Not all of those deals will end up looking like winners, but they should add up to a solid foundation. That’s what yesterday was about, and McPhee and his front office worked hard to squeeze every drop of value they could out of the situation. They even showed a willingness to get creative, which is a trait sorely lacking in many of today’s GMs. That’s a good sign for the Knights’ chances of mattering once the new-car small has worn off in a few years.

Loser: George McPhee’s roster

The team is certainly better than some of the disasters that have emerged from expansion drafts in the past. But it’s not good.

With the obvious caveat that there are going to be some pending trades we don’t know about yet, some of the picks were head-scratchers. Passing on Detroit’s Petr Mrazek to take an AHLer who’ll be 25 on opening night, Tomas Nosek, seemed odd. Grabbing Deryk Engelland from Calgary was unexpected, although maybe the local connection plays a role there. Alexei Emelin, among others, felt like a reach.

Add it all up, and those “the Knights could make the playoffs in Year 1” takes already aren’t aging well.

And maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. McPhee probably could have built himself a decent team, or at least one that would have been good enough to hang around the edge of the playoff race. But that would have been short-term thinking. Instead, McPhee focused on the future, landing a pile of draft picks including two extra firsts for this weekend. Those are assets that will be far more important to the Knights’ long-term success than a few extra wins in 2017-18. If they stick to the plan, the Knights won’t be one of those expansion nightmares that misses the playoffs for the better part of a decade. They’ll get there sooner than later. But in the meantime… well, at least the uniforms are nice.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet





Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My 2017 awards ballot

I had the opportunity to cast a ballot for this year's awards. Now that they've been handed out, I can reveal who got my votes.

HART TROPHY

1. Connor McDavid, Oilers
2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins
3. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning
4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets
5. Brad Marchand, Bruins

NORRIS TROPHY

1. Brent Burns, Sharks
2. Erik Karlsson, Senators
3. Victor Hedman, Lightning
4. Mark Giordano, Flames
5. Shea Weber, Canadiens

CALDER TROPHY

1. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs
2. Patrik Laine, Jets
3. Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets
4. Matt Murray, Penguins
5. William Nylander, Maple Leafs

LADY BYNG TROPHY

1. Johnny Gaudreau, Flames
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues
3. Mikael Granlund, Wild
4. Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings
5. Oscar Klefbom, Oilers

SELKE TROPHY

1. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
2. Mikael Backlund, Flames
3. Ryan Kesler, Ducks
4. Mikko Koivu, Wild
5. John Tavares, Islanders

NHL All-Star Team

CENTER -- 1. Connor McDavid, Oilers 2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins 3. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
RIGHT WING -- 1. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning 2. Patrick Kane, Blackhawks 3. Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues
LEFT WING -- 1. Brad Marchand, Bruins 2. Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals 3. Artemi Panarin, Blackhawks
DEFENSE -- 1. Brent Burns, Sharks 2. Erik Karlsson, Senators 3. Victor Hedman, Lightning 4. Mark Giordano, Flames 5. Shea Weber, Canadiens 6. Ryan Suter, Wild
GOALTENDER -- 1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets 2. Braden Holtby, Capitals 3. Cam Talbot, Oilers

NHL All-Rookie Team

FORWARD -- Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs; Patrik Laine, Jets; William Nylander, Maple Leafs
DEFENSE -- Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets; Ivan Provorov, Flyers
GOAL -- Matt Murray, Penguins




Before they were stars: Five top goalies who could have been had in an expansion draft

The picks are in, and we're just a few hours away from the big unveiling. The Vegas Golden Knights have officially filled out their first roster, and we'll find out what it looks like as part of Wednesday night's NHL awards show.

When the protected lists were announced on Sunday, much of the attention was on the goaltenders. From expected names like Marc-Andre Fleury to surprises like Roberto Luongo and Petr Mrazek to more speculative possibilities like Philipp Grubauer and Antti Raanta, there are plenty of intriguing options available for Vegas in goal.

Here's hoping they don't blow it.

Goalies are always the trickiest picks when it comes to expansion. The position is notoriously hard to project, and teams can usually only protect one or (occasionally) two. That's allowed new teams to hit on strong picks like Billy Smith, John Vanbiesbrouck and Bernie Parent over the years.

But they've also whiffed on a few future stars. And those missed opportunities can change the course of a franchise, or even NHL history. So today, let's look back on five of the best goaltenders to ever be exposed in an expansion draft, and why the incoming teams failed to take advantage.

(As always, Historical Hockey Blog is an invaluable resource for information about expansion draft protected lists.)

Rogie Vachon (1967)

When the NHL doubled in size, spelling the end of the Original Six era, the existing teams were initially allowed to protect just one goaltender. Once they lost a player at the position, they were allowed to protect another.

For some teams, there was an obvious choice for which goalie to protect. But the Canadiens found themselves in a dilemma, because for once they didn't have a dominant star in his prime. They spent the 1966-67 season splitting starts between 37-year-old legend Gump Worsley, dependable veteran Charlie Hodge, and rookie Rogie Vachon. Worsley was headed to the Hall of Fame, but Hodge had earned more playing time and Vachon had taken over for most of their playoff run.

In the end, the Habs protected Worsley, leaving Hodge and Vachon available. When it came time for the Golden Seals to make their first selection, they turned to Montreal's crowded crease. But they went with Hodge, who lasted just three years in California – just one of those as the starter – before being lost in the 1970 expansion draft. The Canadiens immediately added Vachon to their protected list, and the rest is history.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Babcock vs. Burns vs. Quinn: Comparing the three most important Leaf coaches of the modern era

The Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to feature prominently at tomorrow’s NHL awards, with Auston Matthews heading in as the favourite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. It would be the team’s first Calder in 51 years, and first major award of any kind since Jason Blake took home the Masterton in 2008.

But Matthews isn’t the only Maple Leaf with a shot at some hardware. Coach Mike Babcock is a finalist for the Jack Adams based on his work in his second season in Toronto. Leafs fans are a little more familiar with that trophy than they are with the Calder since Babcock is the third Toronto coach in the last 25 years to earn finalist honours early in his tenure. Pat Quinn was the runner-up for the award in 1999, while Pat Burns won it in 1993.

The similarities between the three coaches don’t end on awards night. So today, let’s compare and contrast the three most important Leafs coaches of the modern era, and their impact both on and off the ice.

Hiring drama

Babcock’s announcement that he’d chosen to join the Maple Leafs still ranks as one of the more dramatic moments in recent NHL history. And while his ending up in Toronto has come to feel somewhat inevitable in hindsight, that certainly wasn’t the case at the time. By the eve of the announcement, the Sabres had emerged as the favourites based on what was reported to be a monster offer from Terry Pegula.

The Leafs were still in play, but they weren’t alone, with San Jose lurking and the Blues rumoured as a possibility. At one point, it even seemed like a return to Detroit could be possible. Speculation reached a fever pitch — remember when we were all analyzing private-jet flight plans? — and as the clock ticked down, the Sabres seemed to have their man. According to some reports, the Leafs had already moved on to Guy Boucher as their plan B.

Then, the bomb dropped. The Leafs had won the auction, Babcock was headed to Toronto, Sabres fans were furious, and all hell broke loose. Like I said before: highly dramatic.

And that’s why it may surprise younger fans to know that the Burns hiring was even crazier.

Take all the madness of the Babcock situation, and then imagine that nobody knew he was even available to take a new job in the first place. That’s how it went down with Burns, who was hired as the Leafs new coach on May 29, 1992, despite still being the coach of the Montreal Canadiens that morning.

While he’d taken heat for the Habs’ disappointing playoff run, Burns’s job wasn’t thought to be in any danger. But he dropped the stunning news that he was quitting as Montreal coach at a noon news conference, only to then slide the microphone over to his agent, who announced that his client had already been hired by Toronto. Hours later, Burns was wearing a Leafs jacket at a press conference in Toronto. The entire story unfolded in fewer than five hours.

By contrast, Quinn’s 1998 hiring was fairly straightforward. The team had fired Mike Murphy three days earlier, and didn’t take long to settle on Quinn, who’d been dismissed earlier in the year by Vancouver. No flight plans, no surprise news conference, and no jaws dropping around the hockey world.

Edge: Babcock, but only because of the timing. If we’d had social media back in 1992, the Burns hiring might have broken hockey Twitter forever.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Monday, June 19, 2017

Coming up with a protected list for every NHL team's all-time roster

After months of speculation, the big day finally arrived yesterday. The NHL released the protected lists for all 30 teams, setting the stage for the Vegas Golden Knights to make their picks and fill out their first roster on Wednesday.

It was the culmination of a long process for the league’s teams, with several having to make tough choices to get their list just right. And it capped off weeks of debate and discussion between fans over which players would make the cut and which would end up being exposed.

Those sorts of debates are always fun. So today, let’s stay in the expansion spirit by coming up with 30 more protected lists. But this time, we’re thinking a little bigger. We’re looking for each team’s all-time protected list, based on every player who’s ever suited up for the team.

Why yes, I did have some time on my hands over the weekend, thanks for asking. As always, we need some arbitrary rules before we get started, so let’s go with these:

• Every team can protect players from its all-time roster based on the rules from this year’s expansion draft, i.e. one goaltender and either seven forwards and three defencemen or eight skaters from any position. As with this year, players with less than two years of pro experience are exempt.

• In the case of players who played for multiple franchises, the team they played the most regular-season games for will get first crack.

• We’re counting a franchise’s entire history, meaning the Avalanche also get the Nordiques, the Hurricanes get the Whalers, etc. The original Jets are paired with the Coyotes while the modern version gets the Thrashers.

• We’re basing this on what a player did with that team, not what they may have accomplished elsewhere. For players who are still active, we’re also looking ahead to what they may do in the future.

• Given the crossover in eras, we don’t care about contracts.

Once we have all 30 protected lists, we’ll… well, we won’t really do anything with them. It’s not like the Golden Knights are looking to draft many guys from the 1940s, and George McPhee probably has his hands full over the next few days. This is mainly an excuse to argue, debate and call me an idiot in the comment section. That seems like as noble a purpose as any, so let’s get started.

Anaheim Ducks

The blue line isn’t as easy as you might think, since the two best defencemen in team history – Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger – will both show up on other rosters.

Forwards: Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Steve Ruchin, Andy McDonald, Sammy Pahlson

Defencemen: Oleg Tverdovsky, Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler

Goalie: J.S. Giguere

Toughest omissions: Ruslan Salei is the franchise leader in games played by a defenceman, but doesn’t make the cut here.

Arizona Coyotes (and original Winnipeg Jets)

There was some thought to going with eight skaters here to squeeze in Keith Yandle, but that would have cost us some old-school Jets.

Forwards: Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen, Shane Doan, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Smail, Laurie Boschman, Paul MacLean

Defencemen: Randy Carlyle, Teppo Numminen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Goalie: Mike Smith

Toughest omissions: Goalie is a tough call, as it will be for most teams. We went with Smith over Bob Essensa and Nikolai Khabibulin, since he’s a Coyote for life. (Checks weekend headlines.) Oh.

Boston Bruins

As you’d probably expect, the Original Six teams will feature some of the toughest calls on our list. That’s especially true for the Bruins, who have to go with the eight-skater option thanks to a defensive corps that may be the best position group in league history.

Forwards: Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Rick Middleton, Cam Neely

Defencemen: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Eddie Shore, Brad Park

Goalie: Frank Brimsek

Toughest omissions: Using four spots on defencemen costs us forwards like Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly, Ken Hodge and Patrice Bergeron. But the toughest omission might be yet another blueliner, as they miss out on keeping Zdeno Chara.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Friday, June 16, 2017

Grab Bag: When bad rules can't be fixed

In the Friday Grab Bag:
- The Predators got screwed by an early whistle. Should the NHL fix their rules?
- Why it's always OK to ask a player to waive their NMC
- An obscure player who was part of one of my favorite Maple Leafs transactions ever
- The week's three comedy stars
- And the NHL tries to get funny at the 1997 awards, with decidedly mixed results...

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Emails with Lozo: Welcome to the offseason

The following is from an email exchange between Dave Lozo and Sean McIndoe (Down Goes Brown). Each month they will talk some nonsense and debate the biggest topics in the NHL in our monthly review. You can also check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave as they discuss the events of the week.

Hi Dave...

Welcome to summer. After eight months of hockey, the season is over and we're officially on to the offseason. And in theory, it should be an especially entertaining one. With an expansion draft less than a week away and a bunch of trades, buyouts and other maneuvering that presumably has to happen before then, we could be looking at one of the busier weeks in recent history.

So my first question is: Am I just getting my hopes up here? Is there any chance the next week lives up to the hype?

---

Lozo: The next week will be a lot like the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs. It will involve a lot average players in the spotlight getting a lot of attention but ultimately it will let you down in the end. Remember the Teravainen/Bickell trade? Packaging a good player with a bad deal? That'll be the height of it. A bunch of those moves. A couple buyouts. A non-expansion trade that will be decent.

Marc-Andre Fleury going to Vegas should be the biggest expansion story, but there's no way the Knights hang on to him, right? They have to flip him to Calgary or somewhere else.

---

DGB: The cynic in me wonders if the whole "Marc-Andre Fleury is the greatest teammate ever" victory tour that's broken out over the past few days might at least be a partial case of the Penguins working to create a market. Sure, his numbers aren't great, but if he's Mark Messier in goalie gear, surely some team that values heart and grit over performance would be willing to pay up. And yes, that team would be Calgary.

The flip side is that the Penguins have four decent defensemen and probably only three protection slots. So it's plausible that they decide to just let the Knights take Fleury so that they don't have to worry about the rest of their roster. I guess it all comes down to where they can find the most value.

Speaking of value, or whatever the opposite of value would be: Dan Girardi. The Rangers announced they are buying him out. You're a New York guy... is this remotely a surprise?

---

Lozo: Not in the least. Girardi hasn't been good in quite some time and Rangers fans will wonder forever if they could have contended again in 2015 if they had let Girardi walk and signed Anton Stralman instead. I mean, they contended. They got to a conference final Game 7 and lost to the Lightning… and Stralman.

There's a great teammate vibe about Girardi, too. But while Fleury had value, Girardi hasn't had value since maybe 2014. Girardi is the poster boy for the new NHL in terms of defenseman who can start breakouts and analytics. It's funny that Girardi types are being phased out of the game faster than fighters.

Now the Rangers have freed some more room for Kevin Shattenkirk, who should help carry the Rangers to maybe the second round again.

You know what's weird? The notion the Preds can't lose James Neal. If it creates room to sign a No. 2 center, that's good because they need that more than a scoring winger.

---

DGB: I'm guess I'm OK with the Predators thing only because their season just ended, and they came so close to winning the Cup. If anyone should be allowed to overrate their existing assets, it's probably them.

But yeah, the rest of this league is getting ridiculous. All these GMs who are about to lose their 14th best player and seem to think it's the end of the world. You know how many players each team lost in the 1967 expansion draft? Twenty! Each! I am using exclamation points! Today's GMs don't have to make trades and get magic bonus points for losing, and somehow they're still here having panic attacks because they might have to part with Jay Beagle.

In related news, Tyler Graovac just got traded, so buckle up because now anything can happen.

>> Read the full post at Vice Sports




Wendel, the Sedins, and.... Ruslan Fedotenko? When top ten picks get traded

The NHL draft is now just over a week away, and there’s plenty of trade chatter around the top 10 picks. Thanks to a draft class that doesn’t feature any sure-thing franchise players and a wild lottery that saw three long shots jump to the top of the order, there’s been plenty of speculation that somebody is going to make a move.

We took a shot at convincing each of the lottery teams to deal their pick last month, and some cases were stronger than others. But the rumour mill is churning out scenarios in which teams like the Devils, Flyers, Stars or Sabres move their high pick for immediate help, and it feels like we could be on the verge of a blockbuster pre-draft deal.

So today, let’s take a look back through the history books at some of the biggest player-for-pick trades in recent memory. We’re looking for trades involving a top-10 pick that meet two criteria:

1) They had to come before the draft, but after the order of picks was known. That’s why you won’t see deals like the Leafs giving Boston the No. 2 pick in 2010, or the Leafs giving the Islanders the No. 4 pick in 1997, or the Leafs giving New Jersey the No. 3 pick in 1991. In related news, I’m starting to figure out why Leafs fans are all so cranky.

2) The trade was primarily based on one team acquiring a player, and wasn’t just about teams shuffling up or down a few spots in the order. We’re not interested in the sixth-overall pick getting traded for the eighth pick and a fourth rounder here.

And just to make sure we’re casting a wide net, we’ll go back three full decades. That’s right, we’re going to cover every case of a team trading what it knew to be a top-10 pick for one or more players, dating all the way back to 1987. So settle in, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and we’re going to get to each and every one of the 10 times it’s happened.

Wait, only 10? That can’t be right.

But it is. As it turns out, it’s exceedingly rare for a high pick to be moved for a player in the NHL draft. Despite the fact that we seem to go through this “Team X might be shopping their high pick” scenario almost every year, those deals almost never actually happen.

When they do, however, they can be game-changers. So let’s look back at the 10 times a team has dealt a top-10 pick for immediate help, and find out who came out of the deal on top. We’ll start with the most recent deals and work our way back.

(As always, the Pro Sports Transactions web site is an invaluable resource for draft-related trade information.)

2013: Cory Schneider

The trade: On the draft floor, the Devils and Canucks stunned the hockey world with a deal that sent Schneider to New Jersey in exchange for the No. 9 pick. The trade was a jaw-dropper, because we’d all spent the last few years trying to figure out how the Canucks would trade Roberto Luongo. Instead, Vancouver GM Mike Gillis moved Schneider for a high pick.

Oh, and the draft was in New Jersey, leading to one of the greatest Gary Bettman draft-floor announcements of all time as a crowd goes from booing the commissioner for existing to exploding when he drops the trade on them.

The result: Schneider has been very good with the Devils, although he’s coming off a shaky year. Meanwhile, the Canucks used the ninth pick on Bo Horvat, who seems to be blossoming into the kind of solid two-way center you build a team around but isn’t quite there yet.

And the winner is…: At this point, it’s New Jersey, who have four years of reliable .920 goaltending to show for the deal. But Horvat is close to nudging this back towards undecided territory.

2012: Jordan Staal

The trade: In another draft-floor blockbuster in front of a hometown crowd, the Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes in exchange for the eighth-overall pick, Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin.

A Staal deal had been rumoured for a while; he needed a new contract, and was never going to get a chance to be a top-six guy in Pittsburgh behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Hurricanes were a great fit, since they had cap room and a high pick, not to mention Jordan’s older brother, Eric.

The result: The Penguins used the pick on Derrick Pouliot, who’s yet to establish himself as an NHL regular. (In a recent NHL.com redraft of 2012, he didn’t make the top 30.) But Dumoulin has played a role in two Cup wins, and Sutter was flipped for Nick Bonino. Meanwhile, Staal’s been fine in Carolina. But the Hurricanes gave him a 10-year, $60-million deal that stands out these days as one of the league’s worst.

And the winner is…: Factoring in Staal’s contract, this stands as a win for Pittsburgh. Although surprisingly, it’s not primarily because of the pick.

2011: Jeff Carter

The trade: The day before the draft, the Flyers sent Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets for the eighth-overall pick, a third-rounder and Jakub Voracek.

The deal was part of a shocking afternoon for the Flyers, who also moved Mike Richards to the Kings as part of an effort to clear out salary to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. For most teams, two trades of that magnitude in one day would be stunning; for a team that had been to the Cup final just a year ago, it seemed almost unbelievable.

The result: Carter never fit in Columbus, lasting less than a season before being flipped to the Kings for Jack Johnson and a first. The Flyers used the pick to draft Sean Couturier, while Voracek blossomed into a first-team all-star by 2015.

And the winner is…: It depends how you look at it. On its own, the deal is a clear win for the Flyers, who got two key players for a guy who didn’t work out for the Blue Jackets. But the Bryzgalov signing turned out to be one of the worst in NHL history, so that knocks this one down a peg or two.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A brief history of NHL expansion drafts getting weird

One week from today, the NHL will announce the results of the expansion draft and the Vegas Golden Knights will be born. It’s an exciting time in the NHL, with the first expansion draft since 2000 and first ever held under a salary-cap system.

But while an expansion draft is a novelty for modern NHL fans, that hasn’t always been the case. This league has done an awful lot of expanding since 1967, with some decidedly mixed results. So today, let’s take a moment to look back on the various expansion drafts that came before this one, the players that were chosen, and the oddities that always seem to pop up whenever the NHL decides to welcome new members of the family.

(Much of the information in this post was found trough the indispensable Historical Hockey blog, the HockeyDB database of expansion draft results, and hockey-reference.com.)

1967

We’ll start with the big one. The 1967 expansion draft wasn’t the NHL’s first; the league had added several teams in its earliest days, all with some sort of mechanism to stock the new franchises with players from existing teams. But it was the 1967 process that spelled the end of an era, as the league doubled in size by welcoming six new teams.

As you’d expect, adding that many teams meant that a lot of guys had to be made available. But the league’s 1967 rules were actually slightly more generous to the existing teams than the 2017 draft. Teams could protect 11 skaters and one goaltender, with exemptions for younger players, and could add players to their protected list as the draft went on. (Legend has it that Habs GM Sam Pollock personally crafted the rules to ensure the best possible result for Montreal.)

Still, with so many new rosters to fill, each of the Original Six teams was going to have to cough up a total of 20 players. Think about that the next time the GM of your favourite team moans about losing a fourth-line winger to Vegas.

As with most expansion drafts, the focus was on goaltenders; only six in the entire league were initially protected, so there were plenty of big names to choose from. That included the first-overall pick, Terry Sawchuk, who went from the Maple Leafs to the Kings (although he’d threatened to retire if he was picked), as well as Glenn Hall, who went from Chicago to St. Louis with the third pick. The skaters weren’t quite so notable, although some decent picks like Jean-Paul Parise and Bill Goldsworthy were snagged.

Best player taken: With apologies to Hall and Sawchuk, the draft’s best pick was a younger goalie; the Flyers used the second-overall pick to grab Bernie Parent from the Bruins. He’d make a detour to Toronto and the WHA before rejoining the Flyers in time to win back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies.

Notable oddity: Legendary sniper Bernie Geoffrion was technically available, but all 12 teams formed a gentleman’s agreement that he wouldn’t be taken and forced to finish his career on an expansion squad.

1970

The NHL’s next crack at expansion was a smaller one, as the Sabres and Canucks joined the league. This time, there wasn’t much to choose from, since the Original Six weren’t all that interested in helping out another wave of newcomers and the six 1967 expansion teams were all still reasonably terrible.

Only two players taken in this draft went on to score even 200 points over the remainder of their career. Gerry Meehan had 418 after being taken by Buffalo, while Mike Corrigan had 337 for the Canucks.

Best player taken: It’s probably a tossup between Meehan and Vancouver’s Orland Kurtenbach. Meehan, of course, went on to become the Sabres GM in 1986; he made the trade that brought Dominik Hasek to Buffalo. But the Sabres weren’t the only team to find a future GM in this draft, as the Canucks picked Pat Quinn with the eighth pick.

Notable oddity: The draft order was determined by the same ridiculous roulette wheel that the league infamously used (and then misread) to figure out which of Vancouver or Buffalo would get to draft Gilbert Perreault.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet




Five classic goals that, if we're being honest, were kind of ugly

It's always an ugly goal.

That's the old hockey cliché. Whenever a crucial game gets to overtime, or close enough that it feels like overtime, somebody will mention that it will probably end on an ugly goal. That's just how hockey works.

Not always, of course. Sometimes, we get a goal that lives up to expectations. From Doug Gilmour to Pavel Bure to Todd Marchant, some of history's most memorable clutch goals were beauties. Even Patrick Kane's overtime Cup winner featured a nice little shake-and-bake move before everyone lost sight of the puck. So they're not all bad.

But yeah, some of them are pretty awful. And now we can welcome Patric Hornqvist to the club. His Cup-winning goal on Sunday night was as big as they come, but you probably won't be seeing his behind-the-net bank shot replayed on many highlight reels.

But don't worry, Patric. You're in good company. So today, let's look back on five of the (many) all-time classic goals that, if we're being honest, were pretty ugly.

Uwe Krupp, 1996 Stanley Cup final

When the Stanley Cup is on the line in overtime, you're hoping the winner will be memorable. That's especially true if it's a 0-0 nail-biter. And if it also happens to be triple-overtime, look out. This is the time for some future Hall-of-Famer to make their mark on the game's history with the goal of their career. And there were more than a few HHOFers on this Avalanche roster, so it was all set up pretty much perfectly.

Or, you know, a defensive defenseman could randomly fire one home from 70 feet out. I guess that works too.

That's what Uwe Krupp gave us in 1996, becoming the first player since Bob Nystrom in 1980 to score a Cup-winning goal in overtime. It's OK if you don't remember it. Barely anyone seems to; the goal was so unremarkable that the broadcasts barely bothered showing replays.

The goal ended one of the worst Stanley Cup finals ever, although it also confirmed the Avalanche's arrival as one of the best and most entertaining teams of the next decade. Let's just tell future generations that the game ended on a Forsberg-to-Sakic tic-tac-toe play and be done with it.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News