Gustav Nyquist, Brian McGratten, Edmonton Oilers, Zach Kassian, Vancouver Canucks, Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild, Duncan Keith, Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Sam Gagner, NHL, Department of Player Safety, Suspension, Hockey, High-Stick

Is Six Games Enough For Nyquist’s High Stick?

On Wednesday the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed Gustav Nyquist, of the Detroit Red Wings, a six game suspension for high-sticking Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. He will be suspended without pay and forfeit $158,333.34 to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

The six game ruling came after the Swedish winger waived the right to an in-person hearing. Given that he was offered an in-person hearing the League’s Department of Player Safety had the ability to hand out a lengthier sentence but chose not to.

Which has many wondering if they should they have?

THE HIGH-STICK

The suspension came in the wake of a blatant high-sticking incident which took place during a game between the Wings and the Wild in Minnesota on Sunday, February 12. Nyquist was penalized for the play, assessed a double-minor for high-sticking at 14:13 of the first period.

In defense of his actions Nyquist stated that his intention was not to spear Spurgeon in the face, but rather deliver a cross-check in retaliation for the one he had just received from the Wild defenseman. He attested that he had attempted to bring his stick across his body but the blade was accidentally caught by Spurgeon instead.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE

Regardless of his intention, Nyquist did in fact spear Spurgeon square in face. He delivered a high-stick the Department of Player Safety called “potentially career-threatening.” Had Nyquist been able to bring his stick across his body without spearing Spurgeon, he still admitted to attempting to deliver a blow to player with his stick.

This intention on this play was to injure and the results could have been much worse.

Handing out only a six game sentence has many dumbfounded of the League’s decision, including the former NHL enforcer Brian McGrattan.

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SIX IS FAIR

Let’s give the guy a little credit here. If he said he didn’t mean to do it then we ought to take his word for it. At least a little bit.

Consider the fact that Nyquist has no prior suspensions and has never been involved in an incident like this. He is not known as an overly physical player and has no history of aggression or behavioral problems. All things considered, Gustav Nyquist has behaved himself while in the NHL and this is really the first time his name has ever come across the desk of the Department of Player Safety.

It is worth noting, as TSN insider Bob McKenzie has, that similar high-sticking incident have in the past been given similar suspensions.

Duncan Keith was suspended for six games for his high-stick against the Minnesotta Wild’s Charlie Coyle back in March of 2016. One of those games being a playoff game.

Similarly, Zach Kassian was handed an eight game suspension for his high-stick on Edmonton’s Sam Gagner back in September of 2013.

The Department of Player Safety defended their ruling by highlighting the fact that, in the end, there was no injury on the play and Nyquist has no history of erratic, aggressive, or dangerous behavior.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

If you think that six games was too much then you’re just plain wrong. So wrong that there’s simply no point in arguing with you.

Nyquist needs to be held accountable for his actions. Regardless of his intentions, he is responsible for his play on the ice. He made an irresponsible play with his stick and will have six games to think about it.

The Department of Player Safety needs to be careful with their rulings on plays like these, though. A play which has clear intent to injure might be something which ought to warrant more than six games.

Food for thought.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

An Ode to Mike Ilitch

News broke over the weekend that Mike Ilitch, longtime owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, had passed away at the age of 87. He leaves behind a wife, seven children, and millions of people in the Detroit region who will miss him dearly.

Ilitch was more than just another ultra-wealthy professional sports mogul. Yes, he was ultra-wealthy. Yes, he was a professional sports mogul. However, when all is said and done, these accomplishments will pale in comparison to everything else Mr. I managed to accomplish in his 87 years.

IN THE BEGINNING

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Little Caesars Pizza.

Michael Ilitch was born in Detroit in 1929 to Sotir and Sultana Ilitch. The son of two Macedonian immigrants graduated Cooley High School in Detroit and served for four years with the United States Marine Corps.

After his military career came to a close, Ilitch took to professional baseball. He played second base for a handful of teams, including his hometown Tigers.

In 1959, after his playing career had come to a close, Ilitch opened a small pizza franchise. Little Caesars Pizza Treat, a tiny pizzeria in Garden City, Michigan, would eventually grow into the multi-billion dollar, international fast food conglomerate you see today.

Marine, professional ball player, restaurateur – Mike Ilitch was truly a self-made man.

It was here at this junction in Ilitch’s life, that his sports legacy began to take shape.

HIS IMPACT ON PRO SPORTS

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: NHL.com.

After purchasing the Red Wings in 1982, Ilitch turned the fledgling Wings into a team to be reckoned with. Under his ownership, they’ve managed to make the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, win six Presidents Trophies, and four Stanley Cup championships; including back-to-back titles in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

On the passing of Ilitch, ESPN analyst Craig Custance said, “The Detroit Red Wings franchise was a first-class franchise under Ilitch, one that sacrificed nothing in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup.”

To many in the hockey world, Ilitch was known as an owner who

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, UPI.

truly loved the game. He would do anything for his club.

He purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1992. In a similar fashion, he restored the Tigers to their former glory, reaching the World Series twice and winning four consecutive Central Division titles from 2011 to 2014.

Forget the franchises for a moment, Ilitch would do anything for Detroit.

 

 

A GIVING MAN

What Ilitch did for his franchises was but a drop in the bucket compared to what he did for the Detroit community. While most investors were running as fast as they could out of Detroit, Ilitch never flinched. He purchased property after property in his pursuit of revitalizing the downtown core.

Aside from his financial investments in the city of Detroit, a list of Ilitch’s philanthropic efforts reads longer than most resumes. Apart from the wonderful work his franchises have undertook, his personal contributions have been enormous.

  • In 1985, Ilitch started the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, a traveling restaurant equipped to feed the hungry and assist in national disasters.
  • In 1986, he formed the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program, an organization which has helped literally thousands of children to play the sport.
  • In 2000, Ilitch Charities for Children was founded. As a non-profit, the charity was dedicated to improving health, education, and recreating in the lives of children. The charity was renamed Ilitch Charities in 2008 and broadened its focus. Ilitch Charities invests in communities and supports economic development and job growth to address issues like poverty and unemployment.
  • In 2006, Ilitch started the Little Caesars Veterans Program, which provides veterans with business opportunities after their life in the service.

Ilitch has been recognized for his charitable efforts by the likes of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He received the Secretary’s Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, had the “Mike Ilitch School of Business” at Wayne State University named after him, and in February of 2008 was given the key to the City of Detroit.

In 2003, Ilitch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and in 2004 he was inducted into the United States Hall of Fame.

HIS LAST CONTRIBUTION

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Olympia Development of Michigan.

Unfortunately, Ilitch passed before he had the opportunity to see his last contribution to the city of Detroit come to fruition. In 2014, it was announced that the Red Wings would soon break ground on the construction of a new arena.

Soon after, construction on the Little Caesars Arena was underway. The Wings are set to move into the new, state-of-the-art complex next season; without their enigmatic owner Mr. I.

For his commitment to the city of Detroit, for his love of sport and his fellow man, Ilitch will undoubtedly be remembered as one of sport’s most endearing franchise owners.

ARRANGEMENTS

The public is invited to share memories and condolences at a public memorial site outside of Comerica Park on Woodward Ave. Also, a public visitation will be held at the Fox Theatre Grand Lobby on Wednesday from noon to 8:00p.m. Ilitch purchased and restored the historic theatre in 1987.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made in Ilitch’s memory to:

 

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What Will it Take for Montreal to Win the Cup this Season?

After starting the season 13-1-1 the Montreal Canadiens have cooled off considerably. The Habs got off to a red-hot start this season but have managed only a meager 14-12-6 record since the start of December. Since returning from the All-Star break they have dropped four of their last six contests.

The Canadiens were humiliated in Denver on Tuesday night by the Colorado Avalanche. Given that the Habs trounced the Avs 10-1 back in December, Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the League’s last place team ought to be a bit of a wake-up call for the wavering Canadiens.

Though they won in the desert last night against the Arizona Coyotes, it was a less than commanding performance from the Habs. Carey Price had another less than stellar performance, letting in four goals after the team got off to a two goal lead in the first.

That said, Montreal is still sitting atop the Atlantic Division. Barring a repeat of last season, Montreal is almost certainly a lock to make the playoffs. But then what?

General manager Marc Bergevin has repeatedly stated that this is Montreal’s year, that his team is “all in.” And so it is here that the Habs organization and fans alike must ask themselves, what will it take for Montreal to win the Cup this year?

PRICE TO PLAY LIKE PRICE

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: . David Zalubowski, Associated Press.

Last year Montreal’s best player spent the better part of his season on the Injured Reserve. For the Habs, losing Carey Price to injury was the equivalent of the Washington Capitals losing Alex Ovechkin or the Pittsburgh Penguins losing Sydney Crosby.

Luckily for the Canadiens, that’s not been the case this year. Yes, injuries have plagued the team but their roster has remained more or less intact. Still, especially as of late, Price has not been Price.

Since December Price has struggled to stop the puck from finding the back of the net. He’s allowed three or more goals in 13 of his last 20 starts. Accordingly, his goals against average has suffered. Though Price has a very respectable .918 GAA on the season the statistics are skewed. For the month of December he sported a very un-sexy .898, January .901, and thus far in February its been .874. These are not Carey Price numbers.

Though he is still widely regarded as the best goaltender in the world, Carey Price is having a hard time living up to this title. Though nobody expects him to stop them all, three and four goal games are not something the Habs should get used to. If Montreal was producing on the front-end then this might not be such a big problem.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

SCORING

It’s simply too easy to say that the Canadiens won’t win unless they score goals. That’s obvious, it’s precisely the point of the game. Just how they manage to find those goals is up for debate.

If you’re head coach Michel Therrien, your solution to the slump is probably to continue mixing things up. Though Therrien’s ‘blender’ has been the punchline of distraught fans for years he has never abandoned the practice.

The main criticism of the ‘blender’ has been that it doesn’t give guys enough time to generate chemistry before being force to move to a new line. Without chemistry there is no production, without production Price has no support, and without those things games are lost.

Now if you’re general manager Marc Bergevin your options aren’t quite as narrow as Therrien’s.

The Canadiens’ lack of depth in scoring, particularly at center, has them rumored to be on the hunt for a goal scorer before the Trade Deadline. Among those rumored to be available for trade, the Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene has reportedly been on Bergevin’s radar. But at what cost? Avs general manager Joe Sakic has been clear that Duchene won’t come cheap.

Is Montreal willing to wager its future for the chance at a Stanley Cup in the present? This argument extends to any trade Montreal might make before the deadline. The alternative to a Duchene type trade would be to either secure a rental player for a relatively smaller return or leave things be and hope for the best.

Of course, as some have suggested, there is also a third option: fire Therrien.

The COACHing Conundrum

Fans have been calling for Therrien’s dismissal for years now.

Last season’s blunder was largely the result of injury woes and poor point production. Therrien, according to Bergevin, was not to blame. So instead of instituting a coaching change, Bergevin used the offseason to shuffle up the roster; trading away star defenseman P.K. Subban for the much more defensible responsible veteran blue liner Shea Weber.

The Canadiens find themselves in similar slump as last season, even with their revamped roster. But this season is different than last. They have Carey Price in net, they are capable of scoring (even if they haven’t been as of late), and the market is flush with coaches. Not only is it a buyers-market for teams looking to make move behind the bench, but if Montreal insists on a French speaking coach as they historically have, the time is ripe.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Bernard Brault, La Presse.

Claude Julien is only the latest head coach to be let go. His 14-year coaching career included stints with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and the Boston Bruins. He sports a very attractive 512-309-10-111 record over that span. During his tenure with the Bruins Julien won the Jack Adams Award in 2009 and the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Associated Press.

Gerard Gallant was one of the seasons earlier coaching departures. His resume is considerably shorter than Julien’s but let’s not judge a book by its cover. Gerard’s first NHL coaching gig was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003. But after coming up short in 2003-04 and 2004-05, missing the playoffs both years, Gallant was let go 15 games into the 2006-07 campaign.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Gallant would take another stab at manning the helm, when he was brought on board by the Florida Panthers. Although the Panthers missed the playoffs in Gallant’s first year behind the bench he is largely credited with turning the team around, finishing first in the Atlantic Division last season, and making it to the Conference Quarterfinals. Injuries plagued the Panthers to begin the season and Gallant was unable to stop the ship from sinking, hewas relieved of his duties only 22 games into the season. Gallants sports a 152-141-4-31 record over the course of his coaching career.

Gerard Gallant, Claude Julien, Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, Habs, Carey Price, Michel Therrien, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup, Goals, Wins, NHL, Hockey, Michel Therrien, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche

Photo credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today

Patrick Roy rather abruptly left his post as the Colorado Avalanches head coach in the offseason. It’s no secret that Roy has strong ties to Montreal. He grew up in Quebec, began his playing career with the Habs franchise, and won two Cups with the team. He’s coached three season in the NHL, all of which were with the Colorado Avalanche. During his first year as an NHL coach Roy won the Jack Adams Award. But the team quickly crumbled, and Roy is no longer an NHL coach. During his time as an NHL bench boss Roy managed to put up a 130-92-24 record, winning a division title in that span.

Of course, if Montreal goes the route of firing Therrien mid-season, assistant coach Kirk Muller (former Hab and Stanley Cup champion himself) would most likely get the nod as interim head coach. Muller was brought back to Montreal after a brief coaching stint in Carolina Hurricanes ended.

SOMETHING HAS GOT TO GIVE

Though it’s unlikely Bergevin is looking to make a coaching change, a recently held meeting between himself and the players (sans Therrien) has many speculating that the Habs’ bench boss is on his last leg with the team.

Quite simply, they are looking for a spark. And that spark needs to come from somewhere. Whether that means upgrading the roster through a trade or saying bon voyage to their head coach the Habs are in desperate need of some wins if they have any chance at making a run at the Cup.

One thing’s for sure, if the Canadiens are to win the Cup this year Price will need to play like the All-Star he his and his team will need to support him with some production.

Just how the Habs plan to accomplish this remains to be seen.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Top Five Rookies Not Named Laine or Matthews

Hockey fans have been spoiled rotten for rookies this year. The NHL hasn’t seen a season so flush with young talent in years. There can be only one Rookie of the Year; only one Calder Trophy winner.

When it comes to Calder consideration, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine have dominated the conversation. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but we should not forget the rest of the 2016-17 rookie class.

Matthews and Laine are two of the League’s most exciting, dynamic, and talented young rookies, but they are not the only ones.

MATT MURRAY

W L OT GAA SV% SO
19 6 1 2.42 .921 2
Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images.

Drafted in the third round (83rd overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Matt Murray helped lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup championship last season and he’s out to do the same this time around.

Murray failed to meet the league’s threshold for games played last year and is therefore still considered a rookie. He now finds himself in a position to win back-to-back Stanley Cups as the Penguins appear poised to make another run at the Cup.

If Murray manages to win back-to-back Stanley Cups and wrestle the Calder away from Matthews and Laine, he would be the first goaltender to accomplish the feat since Montreal’s Ken Dryden did it back in 1973.

Though he began the year on injured reserve, Murray has effectively taken Marc-Andre Fleury’s job as Pittsburgh’s new number one net minder. Look for Murray to backstop the Penguins for years to come.

MITCH MARNER

GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
51 14 31 45 -4 28 129
Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports.

Mitch Marner was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Though the headlines have largely been dominated by his teammate Auston Matthews, the Leafs’ success thus far has been in part due to the outstanding play of Marner.

Last year Marner won the Memorial Cup with the London Knights of the OHL. He racked up an incredible 116 regular season points as well as another 44 playoff points on his way to winning one of hockey’s hardest trophies.

His 45 points puts him above all rookies for first in the league.

He leads the Leafs in assists (31) and though he lacks the size and scoring touch of Matthews, he is a consummate playmaker. In addition, Marner has been praised by head coach Mike Babcock for his unparalleled work ethic.

He will remain a fixture of the Maple Leafs for years to come.

WILLIAM NYLANDER

GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
50 14 21 35 -4 22 129
Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski, USA Today Sports.

Did someone mention the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Leafs are among the league’s youngest teams. Accordingly, they are flush with rookie talent.

Drafted eighth overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, William Nylander finally managed to secure himself a spot with the big club. He played 22 games with the Leafs last season, accumulating six goals and seven assists over that span.

Through 50 games Nylander has amassed a respectable 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points on the season. He is fourth in points among rookies and is bound to break the 50-point mark. He may even accumulate over 60 points through the course of the 2016-17 season.

His nifty three-goal game against the Boston Bruins over the weekend makes him the second Leafs rookie to score a hat trick this season.

Between Matthews, Marner, and Nylander, the Leafs have a bright future in front of them.

SEBASTIAN AHO

GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
51 16 15 31 -2 10 126
Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Photo credit: James Guillory, USA Today Sports.

Yesterday Sebastian Aho was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week, and deservedly so.

Drafted in the second round (35th overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, Aho has been quietly making a name for himself. Aho, a native of Rauma, Finland, accumulated 45 regular season points in as many games with Karpat of SM-liiga last season; including 15 points in 14 playoff games.

So far this season, Aho has managed to put together 31 points in 51 games with the Hurricanes; including a hat trick in the Canes’ 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on January 31. The 19-year-old Finn has found considerable success playing alongside Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm.

At just 19 years of age, Aho is one of the youngest players to ever crack the Hurricanes’ lineup. Given the fact that his greatest asset is his speed, Teemu Selanne might want to trademark ‘The Finnish Flash’ before the nickname is usurped.

ZACH WERENSKI

GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
51 8 23 31 13 12 121
Rookies, Rookie, Calder Trophy, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Matt Murray, William Nylander, Sebastian Aho, Zach Werenski, Matthew Tkachuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Anthony Mantha, Jimmy Vesey, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, London Knights, Harvard

Photo credit: Kyle Robertson, Dispatch

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the league’s most unpredictable successes. A large part of that success has been due to the excellent play of rookie blue liner Zach Werenski.

Drafted eighth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Werenski was simply electric to start the season. He has been rumored to be among the Calder candidates, having earned the NHL’s Rookie of the Month nod back in November.

Playing on the first defensive pairing alongside Seth Jones, Werenski averages a little over 21 minutes a game; including time on the power play. He has accumulated 31 points in 51 games, 17 of which have come on the man advantage.

What’s more is Werenski’s ability to hit the net. He’s gotten 121 shots on goal thus far and is set to become an offensive threat on Columbus’ back end for years to come.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONs

Matthew Tkachuk

Tkachuk has managed to carve out a space for himself on the struggling Calgary Flames. The sixth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and son of NHL great Keith Tkachuk, has tallied 33 points so far this season, good for fifth best among rookies. Tkachuk won the Memorial Cup last year alongside Toronto’s Mitch Marner.

Artturi Lehkonen

Drafted in the second round (55th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by Montreal, Artturi Lehkonen has been solid for the Canadiens this year. Although the Habs could use a little more scoring depth, Lehkonen has shown himself to be one of the League’s most responsible two-way rookies. He regularly sees time on the penalty kill and has managed a respectable 16 points on the season.

Anthony Mantha

Mantha’s NHL career got off to a rough start after he broke his right tibia shortly before the 2014-15 season kicked off. Drafted 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Mantha struggled to find his place on the team. This season has been good to Mantha, as he has managed 26 points in only 37 games. If Mantha can stay healthy, he will have a bright future in the NHL.

Jimmy Vesey

He was making waves before he ever stepped foot on NHL ice. Drafted in the third round (66th overall) by the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Jimmy Vesey opted to finish off his college career playing for Harvard. As a result, he allowed his entry level contract to expire with the Predators, who in return, traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres shortly before Vesey’s contract was nullified.

Though Buffalo made a valiant effort to resign the Harvard graduate, it was to no avail. When Vesey hit the open market it was the New York Rangers who had won him over. Playing with the likes of Rick Nash and company, Vesey has accumulated 12 goals and eight assists on the season. Without a doubt, he will be a big part of the Rangers organization moving forward.

You can ‘like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Kyle! 

“From Our Haus to Yours”

St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo, Jake Allen, Doug Armstrong, Martin Brodeur, Colton Parayko, Nail Yakupov, Scotty Upshall, Patrik Berglund, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Joeal Quenneville, Al Arbour

A New Era for the St. Louis Blues

February 1, 2017, will go down in history as the day that one of hockey’s greatest coaches of all time got the boot.

On Wednesday morning, in a press conference filled with emotions, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced that head coach Ken Hitchcock had been relieved of his duties.

ONE OF THE GREATEST

St. Louis Blues New Era

Photo credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press.

It’s almost impossible to talk about the greatest coaches of all time without mentioning Ken Hitchcock.

Hitchcock has coached 20 NHL seasons including stints with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues. He is the fourth winningest coach in NHL history, going 781-474-88-111 in regular season play. Over his 20-year career he managed to nab eight division titles, a Jack Adams Award, and a Stanley Cup championship which he won with the 1999 Dallas Stars.

Scotty Bowman 1,244
Joel Quenneville 832
Al Arbour 782
Ken Hitchcock 781

Unfortunately, Hitchcock’s illustrious track record could not save him from the chopping block. He was set to retire from the team at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, but the Blues’ top brass felt that the time was now to institute change.

A NEW BENCH BOSS

Fighting back tears, Armstrong insisted that the changes to his coaching staff represent “a rebirth” for the team before handing over the mic to St. Louis’ new head coach Mike Yeo.

Most people know Mike Yeo as the guy who got fired by the Minnesota Wild at the tail end of another disappointing season last year.

St. Louis Blues New Era

Photo credit: Marilyn Indahl, USA Today Sports.

His first NHL coaching gig came as an assistant coach, under Michel Therrien with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005. Yeo was an integral part of the Penguins’ rebuild. Even though Therrien was relieved of his duties in 2009, Yeo hung around and helped coach the team to their third Stanley Cup championship.

Yeo left Pittsburgh the following year to coach the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate: the Houston Aeros.

A year later he found himself behind the bench of the Wild. In four and a half seasons with the Wild, Yeo was able to get the team to the playoffs three seasons in a row and made it to the second round twice.

Yeo’s Wild were streaky. After losing 14 out of their last 15 games, Yeo was fired by the franchise in February of 2016.

In June of 2016, Yeo was hired by the St. Louis Blues. He was to act as an assistant coach during the 2016-17, set to take over the head coaching role for the 2017-18 season.

Hitchcock’s untimely dismissal, however, has thrusted Yeo back into an NHL head coaching role.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE YEO ERA

Yeo has a lot to offer the fledgling Blues.

During his time with the Penguins, Yeo focussed primarily on improving special teams. While the Blues boast a power play (eighth in the League) and penalty kill (12th in the League) that are both above league average, there is a good chance that Yeo’s primary focus won’t be special teams.

St. Louis Blues New Era

Photo Credit: NHLPA.

The Blues’ biggest problem right now is in the net.

St. Louis is currently tied for fourth in goals against, not something to be proud of.

Yeo will have to decide whether the Blues are plagued with poor goal tending or poor defensive play. Armstrong and Yeo, along with assistant general manager/interim goalie coach Martin Brodeur, have insisted that Jake Allen will remain the club’s starting goaltender for the time being.

It is worth noting that during Yeo’s tenure with Minnesota, the Wild signed Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has since become the franchise’s number one net minder, earning himself Vezina consideration for his outstanding play thus far this season.

Though Yeo has expressed desire to not to shake the team up too much, it is well known that the Blues are open for business as the trade deadline looms.

One of the biggest names on the market right now happens to be St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Shattenkirk is set to hit unrestricted free agency at the season’s end; along with teammates Scotty Upshall and Patrik Berglund. In addition to the trio’s pending unrestricted free agency status, Colton Parayko and Nail Yakupov will be entering restricted free agency as well.

Needless to say, the Blues could be sellers at the deadline if they want to. Though it is unlikely they will enter total rebuild mode.

Yeo has three more years on his contract after this season. It is fair to assume that upper management has put a reasonable amount faith his ability to bring the Blues back into contention. Accordingly, there is no pressure on him to make any immediate moves.

But if the Blues are looking to improve their chances of making a deep run into the playoffs, they will likely need to tweak the team in one way or another.

For the time being, it would appear that Doug Armstrong and the Blues’ brass believe that they have made the appropriate tweak for now.

Hopefully for the Blues, this change behind the bench will be enough to right the ship.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Marner or Matthews?

Looking back at the start of the 2016-17 season, it feels as if the whole world had caught the Auston Matthews bug. Aside from the insane amount of hype surrounding the first overall pick of the 2016 Entry Draft, Matthews’ four-goal debut game simply left the league awestruck.

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Photo credit: The Canadian Press.

Many forgot about Toronto’s other incredible rookie: 2015 first-round pick Mitch Marner.

The pure talent that Matthews brought to the league practically guaranteed him a spot on the team. On the other hand, Marner’s roster spot was never exactly a sure thing.

Regardless, we are a little over the halfway mark, and the two young rookies have about the same amount of points. Marner has 41 and Matthews has 39.

Fan fair and hoopla aside, who’s been more vital to the Leafs’ first half success?

Who’s contributed more?

Who’s points are more important?

Mitchel Marner

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG OTG SOG S%
48 12 29 41 -6 26 1 14 0 0 4 0 122 9.8

 

Mitch Marner was drafted fourth overall by the Leafs in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Unlike Matthews, he did not play in the NHL his draft year. Instead, Marner spent last season with the London Knights of the OHL.

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Photo credit: Rob Wallator, CHL Images.

He was a pure beast with the Knights, tallying 116 regular season points last year. He would add another 44 points in the playoffs and went on to win the Memorial Cup (alongside former Knights teammate and Calgary Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk).

At 6’0” 170 pounds, Marner is not exactly the biggest guy on the ice. He isn’t able to dominate the play with his size alone. Instead, Marner plays the game with incredible foresight and speed.

Accordingly, Marner is a consummate playmaker.

A quick glance at his stat line and you’ll see he’s not much of a shooter. With little over a hundred goals on the season he’s scoring at a rate below 10 percent.

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports.

Before you make your mind up about the kid, consider that he is currently playing on the Leafs’ top line. He’s going up against the League’s best. With 39 points, he’s quickly carving out a place among the NHL’s top tier.

Though he may not be as dangerous of a shot as Matthews, he is most certainly dangerous on the power play. Marner has tallied 14 power play points this year so far, third most by a Leaf this season. With four game-winning goals, you can’t say he’s not clutch.

If nothing else, his coach loves him. Head coach Mike Babcock has said, “I’ve never coached a kid that good that young.”

 

Auston Matthews

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG OTG SOG S%
47 23 16 39 2 10 3 11 0 0 5 1 163 14.1

 

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Photo credit: Timothy T. Ludwig, USA Today Sports.

Auston Matthews was drafted first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Matthews entered the year with more fan fair than you could shake a stick at. I believe the technical term here is a ton.

After scoring four goals in his first game, it quickly became clear why the hockey world was so hyped on him. The young Scottsdale, Arizona native has been the Calder favorite since he first stepped foot on NHL ice.

He’s proved himself to be one of the most dangerous players in the league when he gets the puck on his stick. With 163 shots on goal so far this season, Matthews is eighth in the League in shots; more than any other Leaf.

With a shooting percentage of 14.1, Matthews had managed 23 goals on the season. He is tied for sixth in the league; only five behind the league lead currently held by Sidney Crosby (28).

Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, NHL, Goals, Assists, Overtime, Mike Babcock, Donald Trump

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports.

Like Marner, the young Matthews is calm under pressure. He has five game-winning goals so far this season, one of those being in overtime.

The great equalizer here is that Matthews has not been playing on the top line as much as Marner.

It’s an old coaches secret (not really a secret) to stager talent throughout the lineup. That’s what those sportscasters are talking about when they speak of depth. Babcock certainly has the young talent at his disposal to give the Leafs the depth they’ve so sorely lacked in the past. Matthews has flourished under Babcock’s system so far, taking full advantage of the mismatched pairings when he’s out there and making every shift count.

Who’s Better?

If player ‘A’ scores 41 points on the first line and player ‘B’ scores 39 points on the third line, whose contributions to the team have been greater?

Now this is the part where half of you praise me and the other half hate me.

Mitch Marner’s 41 points are more important than Matthews’. Marner’s play has been more vital to the Maple Leafs’ success. Marner has contributed more.

Here’s why:

  • He’s playing against other team’s top-lines, Matthews not so much

To answer the question posed, player ‘A’ has contributed more. It’s simply harder to be the top line guy.

  • Playmakers are more important than goal scorers

Goal scorers will come and go, very few remain pure scorers for life. It remains well within the realm of possibilities that the League will catch up to Matthews. Right now he’s the new guy, but it won’t take long for teams to catch on and shut him down.

  • Babcock is not the only one to praise his work ethic, London Knight’s head coach Dale Hunter has sung Marner’s praises since before you even knew who he was.

Marner’s talent doesn’t just ooze out his pores, he pushes it out. The guy works twice as hard as anyone on the ice and he’s been able to turn his small size into an asset instead of a detriment.

  • With Marner, you get more bang for your buck.

Recall Auston Matthews’ ridiculous entry level contract; maxing out all possible bonuses. Nobody is saying that Marner ain’t getting paid. Just that he’s getting paid a lot less to do it.

So there you have it. Mitch Marner’s contributions are more important than Matthews’.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Are you Pro-lympic?

How many superstars does it take to get to the Olympics? Heck if I know. But there’s one more name to throw into the growing mix of opinions that is the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associate Press.

Connor McDavid came out as Pro-lympic over the All-Star weekend.

McDavid made explicit his views on NHL participation saying, “100 percent they should go. I couldn’t really picture an Olympics without it, to be honest,” McDavid said.

To be able to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea would be a dream come true for the young phenom according to Postmedia.

McDavid is just one of many calling for Olympic participation on behalf of the players. Alex Ovechkin has never been shy on the matter, stating repeatedly his intention to play for Russia regardless of the NHL’s stance. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has stood by his franchise forward, fully supporting Ovechkin’s decision.

But not all owners support sending its biggest players and money makers, halfway across the globe to compete in an event from which they do not profit.

We didn’t need McDavid to remind us about the Olympic confusion, though. Commissioner Gary Bettman very clearly, and carefully, explained exactly where they are on the issue.

Nowhere.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press.

Bettman made sure to interrupt the painfully slow All-Star extravaganza to tell the fans that himself and the owners have spent almost no time discussing the issue at all. In fact, there is a good chance that Bettman spent more time talking about the Olympics this weekend than the entirety of the NHL brass has in total.

Just to recap: Last year the International Olympic Comittee announced they would no longer foot the bill for travel and insurance costs; roughly $10-20 million dollars.

So, Bettman and the NHL approached the NHL Players Association with a deal.

In return for the NHL fronting the travel and insurance bills, suffering the revenue losses, and risking their most valuable assets to injury, the NHLPA was asked to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, thereby waiving their opt-out clause in 2019; extending the current CBA well into the future and ensuring players the opportunity to play international hockey for another two Olympics.

This proposal was categorically shot down by the NHLPA.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, meanwhile, pledged to raise the money for the NHL. However, Bettman politely declined citing that the NHL could not accept money that would otherwise be spent on grass roots funding and growing the game.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr provided brief shimmer of hope saying in a statement,

I’m more optimistic now than I have ever been, at least as far as we’re concerned, that we’ll be able to reach an appropriate agreement with the IIHF to allow for the players to go.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today Sports.

And that was that. Until Bettman made sure to tell the masses just how little the NHL has been working to make things happen.

In essence, the issue is really quite simple.

If NHL players go, the Olympics will be better, but the League will lose some money.

If the NHL players don’t go, the Olympics will be much worse and the NHL will carry on as normal.

Repeatedly, Gary Bettman and the owners have stated that because the games are so far away they have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Given the League’s mandate to grow the game, these statements seem to directly contravene Gary Bettman and the NHL’s obligation to youth around the world.

And this is the part where we all realize that the NHL isn’t soft and cuddly. It’s not your childhood best friend or the buddy you hang out with every Saturday night. It may be the game you grew up playing, but it isn’t your game.

The NHL is business, it’s a corporation. A corporation who seemingly has little to no interest in whatever market might exist in the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.

Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Gary Bettman, NHL, Olypmics, 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics, NHLPA, IIHF, IOC, Donald Fehr, Russia

Photo credit: Getty Images

The NHL may believe they can only lose by going to Pyeongchang, but they also have something to lose by not participating as well.

The fans have called for their favorite players, in many cases their countrymen, to compete; repeatedly. Players have pledged allegiance to the Olympics, and superstars at that. The IIHF has even offered to empty their coffers for the cause. But Bettman and the owners have not budged an inch.

If the NHL declines to participate it will result in a serious blow to their integrity.

Bettman has made few friends of fans during his tenure as NHL commissioner, though. Through three lockouts and countless berating and belittling boo’s, the thick skinned commissioner takes his orders from a higher power; the board of governors.

As a result, Bettman is unlikely to put much stock in the thoughts and feelings of the NHL’s true money makers; its fans.

As it stands, there’s not much too much to be optimistic about with regards to seeing our favorite players compete for their countries next winter.

For what it’s worth, though, the NHL has not set a timeline for their decision. So anything is possible.

 

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Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien, Nashville Predators, KHL, NHL, P.K. Subban

The Biggest All-Star Snub Nobody is Talking About

Google “NHL All-Star Game” and you’re sure to find lists abound of players who were snubbed by All-Star voting. Panarin, Marchessault, Werenski, Schiefele, Talbot; all these guys’ names have been thrown around as some of the biggest All-Star snubs of the season.

But what about Alexander Radulov?

There’s no doubt that Radulov’s teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber are deserving of the distinction, but so is he. Radulov has been one of Montreal’s most important players since joining the club in the offseason.

THE ACQUISITION

Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien, Nashville Predators, KHL, NHL, P.K. Subban

Photo credit: Andrew Dieb, Icon Sportswire.

Anyone who considered Alexander Radulov a risky offseason acquisition ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Montreal inked the 30-year-old Russian winger to a one-year $5.75 million deal back in July, shortly after trading All-Star Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators. In return for the flashy defenseman, Montreal received veteran blue liner Shea Weber.

If the P.K. Subban trade caused a rucous, the signing of a player known largely for his behavioral problems didn’t help quell the madness that was Montreal in the post-P.K. era.

If it wasn’t for Weber, Radulov may never have been signed by Montreal. In fact, it was Weber who convinced Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin to take a chance on the Russian superstar. The two played together in Nashville during Radulov’s more controversial years in the NHL, but Weber vouched for his old teammate.

LET’s call it a maturity problem

Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien, Nashville Predators, KHL, NHL, P.K. Subban

Photo credit: Charles Leclaire, US Presswire.

Until recently, Radulov was defined by the time he spent in Nashville. For better or worse, most of the League had written off the notoriously immature winger.

Drafted in the first round (15th overall) by the Predators in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Russian phenom had a hard time fitting in in Nashville. Branded a cancer in the dressing room, Radulov left the club after the 2007-08 season. He went on to win the Continental Cup in the KHL. He would return to the Predators once more during the latter half of the 2011-12 season, making a playoff run with the Preds.

And that’s when Curfew-Gate went down.

After missing curfew during the playoffs and being suspended by the club for the second time in his NHL career, Radulov took his talents to Russia for good. Or so you might have thought.

It’s here that I’d like to mention that while playing in Russia, Radulov won the Continental Cup and the Golden Stick Award (MVP) four times. While there, he matured quite a bit.

Now 30 years old, a full five years removed from his last NHL contract, Radulov is enjoying his third time around in the League.

Since signing with Montreal as a free agent in the summer, Radulov has easily been the Habs’ most consistent player. More than anything he has brought new life into the Montreal dressing room. He elevates the play of those around him and quite frankly, everybody (Radu)loves him.

ON THE SCORE SHEET

With 37 points on the season, he trails only Max Pacioretty for the team lead. Let’s break down these points.

First of all, 15 of Radulov’s 37 points have come on the power play. His versatility as a player makes him dangerous anywhere on the ice and head coach Michel Therrien has taken full advantage of this.

Most of the time you can catch him on the first or second power play unit, holding down the right side. The Habs have also found success with Radulov on the point, paired with none other than his former Predators teammate Shea Weber.

Radulov’s 15 power play points, second best on the team, are a big part of Montreal’s special teams success thus far. The Habs are third in the League when on the man advantage with a 23.3 PP percentage.

Secondly, the lion’s share of Radulov’s points have been assists (25).

The man is a consummate play-maker, renowned for his puck handling ability. In an interview earlier this season with Pierre LeBrun, captain Max Pacioretty spoke of the lessons he’s learnt from Radulov, saying:

 

Radulov has really taught me the importance of holding on to the puck, not only to create time and space for yourself, but to make it hard on the opposition . . . He’s helped me out as a leader as well. He brings a lot to this team, both on and off the ice . . . He’s definitely a leader on this team as well.

 

Radulov and Pacioretty now play on the top line together. Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that Radulov has assisted seven of Pacioretty’s 21 goals this season.

Lastly, the Canadiens have gone 20-2-2 this season when Radulov records a point.

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Alexander Radulov’s performance this year speaks for itself. A stat line like the one above is hard to explain. What Radulov brings to the Montreal Canadiens is an intangible product, a will to win.

Add to this the fact that he’s just plain fun to watch and what you’re left with is the single biggest All-Star snub that nobody seems to be talking about.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Goalies, Goalies Everywhere, yet Not a Save to Spare

What started off as a season flush with goaltenders has quickly eroded into one where quality starters have become exceedingly scarce. The 2016/17 campaign has been particularly tough on net minders across the League.

Take a quick glance around the NHL and there is one thing you’re guaranteed to see, goalie problems. Whether they’re the product of an overzealous media, mismanaged expectations, injury or under-performance, the league is rife with goaltending troubles.

From our Haus to yours, here’s The Game Haus’

top ‘tender troubles of 2016/17

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins sport a unique problem. They have two number one goalies. Not only do they have two number ones, they have arguably two of the best number ones in the League. As far as problems go, this is a pretty good one to have.

Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury have been at the center of speculation since before the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign.

Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup championship last year, has effectively taken over the starting spot from veteran net minder Marc-Andre Fleury. Still eligible for Calder consideration, Murray’s contract extends until the 2020/21 season; at which point he’ll be a Restricted Free Agent.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar, Associated Press.

Murray’s annual cap hit is $2-million-dollars less than that of Fleury’s and his contract term one-year longer. Murray is also 10 years younger than Fleury.

Basically, the Penguins have two options. They can hold on to both Murray and Fleury for the remainder of the year or they can make a move, trade away Fleury, and gain something in return.

If the Penguins choose to retain both players the inevitable choice will have to be made, who to protect in the upcoming expansion draft?

Now the Penguins can only protect one goalie, and Fleury has a No Trade Clause built into his contract. So if the Penguins choose to go with Murray (which seems most likely) they will need Marc-Andre Fleury to waive his No Trade Clause. And if he does, there is a good chance that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will take Fleury off their hands.

The upside to this strategy: The Penguins will have the world’s best back-up for the remainder of the season.

The downside: Playing a two-goalie, hot-hand gets the start system, is tough on teams and net minders alike. Not to mention that if the Penguins go down this road they will most likely lose a world-class goaltender while gaining nothing in return. It would be the equivalent of letting him walk in Free-Agency.

Accordingly, there has been lot of talk about moving Marc-Andre Fleury.

Keeping in mind Fleury’s NTC, there are plenty of teams in need of a solid number one net minder right now. While one might speculate that the Penguins ought to shop Fleury sooner rather than later, Rutherford has made it known on several occasions that he is in no rush to relocated Fleury.

There remains the distinct possibility that the Penguins will ride with both guys for the remainder of the season.

The Penguins could also potentially buy Fleury out after the season’s end. Though this scenario is unlikely to play out.

 

Los Angeles Kings

Second last in the Pacific Division is not where the Los Angeles Kings saw themselves before the season started. Unfortunately, it is what it is.

When the Los Angeles Kings’ lost Jonathan Quick to a groin injury at the beginning of the season the Kings knew it would be a rough go without their Stanley Cup winning, Vezina nominated, net minder.

It was originally hoped that Quick would miss only a few weeks. Having recently undergoing a non-surgical procedure on his groin, however, it is unlikely that the Kings will see Quick back in fighting form until March.

Without Quick, the Kings were forced to turn to their back-up Jeff Zatkoff. But lightning struck twice in Los Angeles this season. Shortly after Quick sustained his injury, so too did Zatkoff. Zatkoff suffered a groin injury during practice back in October.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Canadian Press.

And so it was without their number one starter and back-up that the Kings recalled goaltenders Peter Budaj and Jack Campbell from their AHL affiliate.

Budaj has been remarkably solid in net for the Kings so far, going 20-14-3 on the season. His Save Percentage is a respectable .916 and his Goals Against Average is 2.14.

Though it would appear that the Kings have managed to stop the bleeding, it will be interesting to see what happens when Quick returns from injury.

 

St. Louis Blues

For far too long the St. Louis Blues rolled with two tender system without any appreciable success to show for it. For the Blues, a choice had to made; it was between Brian Elliott and Jake Allen.

The Blues decided to go with Allen, trading away Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames for their Second round (35th overall) draft pick in the 2016/17 NHL Entry Draft.

Putting their faith in Allen, the Blues went ahead this season with a clear number one net minder. No more splitting starts for Jake Allen, or at least that was the plan. For the most part, Jake Allen has received (and will continue to receive) the lion’s share of starts for St. Louis. But it has been a rocky road as of late for the 26-year old New Brunswick native.

On January 19th he was pulled for the fourth time in six starts after allowing four goals on only 10 shots against the Washington Capitals.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo Credit: NHLPA.

And while the Blues began a three game road trip this weekend in Winnipeg, Allen stayed home.

Listed as Day-to-Day, General Manager Doug Armstrong believes that Allen’s goaltending woes are largely mental. He maintains that Allen is their “long-term goaltender” but with a Goals Against Average of 2.85 and a Save Percentage of .897 his performance has been troubling for the struggling Blues squad.

In the 2015-16 season Allen posted a 2.35 Goals Against and a .920 Save Percentage.

With the Blues reportedly shopping around Shattenkirk, it is conceivable that they may take the time to consider adding another quality goaltender to the team.

 

Calgary Flames

Did somebody say Brian Elliott?

After the Calgary Flames let both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo walk when their contracts expired last year they sorely needed a new net minder. While reports whirled around about who it might be the Flames found a suitable trade partner in St. Louis.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Will Nault.

The Flames traded away their second round draft pick in the 2016 Entry Draft for Brian Elliott and never looked back. Until now.

Though Elliott was received with much fan fair, the Flames have been forced to rely on their back-up Chad Johnson.  As the situation would have it, it now appears that Johnson is Calgary’s new number one; while Elliott rides the pine as the team’s new number one in reserve.

Johnson signed as a free agent in the offseason. With a record of 16-11-1 and a Save Percentage of .917 (as compared to Elliott’s 8-11-2 and .893 Save Percentage), it looks as if the Flames will be rolling with Johnson for the remainder of the year.

Elliott is on the last year of his $2.5-million-dollar contract, which makes him attractive to teams looking to add a solid back-up before the trade deadline might be interested in Elliott.

Don’t be surprised to see him dealt at before the Trade Deadline comes and goes.

 

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are in a funny spot right now.

After assigning Ondrej Pavelec, their one-time starting goaltender, to the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, head coach Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets elected to go with their young guns Connor Hellebuyck and Micheal Hutchinson to start the season.

Though the season kicked off with a bang for the Jets their follow through has been less than stellar. The Jets are currently fifth in the Central Division and have consistently failed to crack .500 on season. And it was in the midst of these underwhelming results that the Jets decided to mix things up a bit.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: John Woods, Canadian Press.

To the surprise of Jets fans everywhere Ondrej Pavelec was recalled from the Manitoba Moose last week. While noting that the move was not permanent, Maurice did mention that “nothing is set in stone.”

Pavelec got the nod against Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and then again on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. He won both games, posting a Goals Against Average of 3.03 and a Save Percentage of .914.

And now the Jets are stuck with three mediocre goaltenders.

Given that Pavelec is in the last year of his $4.75-million-dollar contract, don’t be surprised if the Jets start shopping him around. It is likely that they will try to move him before the season ends and go with Hellebuyck and Hutchinson in the long run.

 

Dallas Stars

  W L OTL SV% GAA
Antti Niemi 10 7 4 .902 3.16
Kari Lehtonen 9 13 5 .899 2.87
Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Tom Fox, Dallas Morning News.

 

For the Stars it’s a bit of a ‘damned if you, damned if don’t’ type of situation. They sport an abysmal minus-22 on the season.

Neither of their net minders, Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen, can be played with confidence and they’ve lost seven of their last 10 matches.

The Stars are in serious need of some new life in net. Conveniently, they have roughly $2-million-dollars in cap space and a full 14 players set to hit Unrestricted or Restricted Free Agency next year. Taken together, the Stars are fully capable of being both buyers and sellers before the trade deadline.

Don’t be surprised if they make a move to improve their back end.

 

 

Detroit Red Wings

Though they didn’t make a long run into the playoffs last year the Detroit Red Wings were able to keep the streak alive. Largely due to the unprecedented effort of their young guns and the unbelievable net minding of Petr Mrazek.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Dave Reginek, Getty Images.

Mrazec’s effort last season earned him a two-year $8-million-dollar contract extension. Accordingly, the Wings’ former number one Jimmy Howard was relegated to the role of back-up.

Before the season began the plan was pretty straight forward: roll with Mrazec, expose Howard to the expansion draft, and call upon their farm team to replace the missing piece if need be.

But those plans never panned out.

Instead, Mrazec underperformed, Howard hit the Injured Reserve, and the Wings were forced to call up the youngster Jared Coreau.

And now the Wings find themselves in somewhat of an awkward position.

Do they protect Coreau? He appears to be the Wings’ new number one going forward.

Do they protect Mrazec? Though Coreau has been solid thus far, Mrazec has a much larger body of work. Coreau is young and relatively untested, as were Mrazec has a few solid years under his belt.

One thing is for certain, the Wings aren’t likely to protect Howard. But they aren’t likely to trade him either.

Detroit’s biggest problem, when it comes to net minders, is the amount they pay them.

Howard comes with a hefty $5.3-million-dollar a year price tag. With two more years remaining on his contract it is unlikely they will be able to move him without retaining some of his salary.

That said, keep an eye on the Wings’ at the deadline.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Even when big Ben Bishop was healthy the Tampa Bay Lightning were having a tough time stringing wins together. Now that he’s injured, they are having an even harder time.

Detroit Red Wings, Tampa bay lighting, pittsburgh penguins, dallas stars, winnipeg jets, st. louis blues, calgary flames, los angeles kings, jonathan quick, jake allen, petr mrazec, jimmy howard, jared coreau, antti niemi, ben bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, brian elliott, marc-andre fleury, matt murray, steven stamkos, kari lehtonen, peter budaj, jeff zatkoff, chad johnson, ondrej pavelec, connor hellebuyck, micheal hutchinson, paul maurice, jim rutherford, NHL, goalies, trade deadline, NHL trade deadline, no trade clause

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images.

Now you might think that Andrei Vasilevskiy would shine in Bishop’s absence but that simply hasn’t been the case. The Bolts have struggled immensely without Steven Stamkos in the lineup and things do not appear to be getting any better.

The story here is nothing new. The Bolts have two of the League’s most elite net minders in Bishop and Vasilevskiy but can only protect one in the expansion draft.

Whether it’s Bishop of Vasilevskiy, it’s better for the Bolts to make a trade and get something – rather than nothing – in return.

 

(Dis)Honourable mention

The Philadelphia Flyers have been struggling as of late. Both Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth are pending Unrestricted Free Agents and it remains unclear if either of them will be given extensions or resigned in the off-season.

The New York Islanders seem to have found a new number one in Thomas Griess and Jean-Francois Berube. After Jaroslav Halak cleared waivers earlier this season it is unclear what will become of their former starting net minder. Halak’s hefty $4.5-million-dollar salary will make him hard to move. He has another year left on his contract.

The Colorado Avalanche are unlikely to right the ship any time soon. With Semyon Varlamov out until at least after the All-Star break, Calvin Pickard playing sub-par at best, and a ton a trade bait on their roster, the Avs’ are going to be a team to watch come the trade deadline.

 

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Mike Milbury, Bob McKenzie, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Joe Louis,Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Bryan Berard, Eric Brewer, Darius Kasparaitis, Bryan McCabe, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Tim Connolly, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Raffi Torres, Roberto Luongo, Tommy Salo, NHL, NBC, NESN

Mad Mike Milbury

Mike Milbury might just be the most hated man in sports broadcasting.

The New England Sports Network (NESN), Hockey Night in Canada, and NHL on NBC analysts lashed took a shot at the Detroit Red Wings and their Joe Louis Arena on air last night.

Milbury threw shade at the Wings’ beloved arena saying that it was “a dump the day they opened it and it’ll be a dump the day they close it.”

 

Rude, right?

But if you’re surprised by Milbury’s statements I’m inclined to wonder where you’ve been the past 30-plus years. Mike Milbury has always been a controversial figure. Whether it’s on the ice, behind the bench, in the board room, or as an analyst, Mike Milbury has always illicited strong criticism from fans, friends and media alike.

What else would you expect from a man best known for hopping the glass, brawling with fans and beating a man over the head with his own shoe?

Seriously, that happened.

So it is in honour of Mike Milbury’s ridiculously inflammatory nature The Game Haus brings you, from our haus to yours,

Mad Mike Milbury’s Most Memorable on-air Moments

3) The Shoe Incident

There is a strong parallel between Milbury’s television persona and his style of play.

Blunt, raw, and not always easy to watch.

He wasn’t a talented scorer, or a gifted play-maker, but he had his attributes. Most notably, his rough style of play.

In 754 career, regular season, games Milbury amassed 49 goals 189 assist and a whopping 1552 penalty minutes.

On December 23, 1979, Milbury would be involved in perhaps the most iconic hockey fight in history, ubiquitously known simply as the ‘Shoe Incident.’

After an on-ice brawl between the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers broke out, a Rangers fan assaulted one of Milbury’s teammates and attempted to take his stick. The brawl spilt over the boards, over the glass, and into the stands.

Milbury, making his way up the rows, managed to grab the foot of an unruly attendee. He ripped off the man’s shoe and proceeded to beat him over the head with it.

It was truly a career defining moment.

 

 

2) John Scott, All-Star MVP

The 2015/16 All-Star game will go down in history.

Not for the talent that competed, though. No. On the contrary.

It will long be remembered as the All-Star game high jacked by the fans for the sake of John Scott. And while fans rallied around the journeyman NHLer, Mike Milbury did not.

Milbury, apparently disgusted by Scott, detested the grinder. Which is surprising given the way Milbury played the game.

For what it’s worth, John Scott has never beaten anybody with their own shoe. At least not on live television.

 

1) Bob McKenzie with a Zinger

It’s no secret that Mike Milbury’s tenure with the New York Islanders were trying times for both the franchise and Milbury alike.

Hired as their head coach in 1995, Milbury was quickly promoted to general manager and filled both positions until handing over head coaching duties to Rick Browness in 1997.

His time with the Islanders organization is best characterized by the questionable decisions he made with the team’s assets. The bulk of the criticism Milbury received as General Manager stemmed largely from the poor quality of trades he made while managing of the Islanders.

Under the leadership of Milbury the Islanders traded away some of the NHL’s most elite talent, including: Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden, Bryan Berard, Eric Brewer, Darius Kasparaitis, Bryan McCabe, Olli Jokinen, Todd Bertuzzi, Tim Connolly, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Raffi Torres, Roberto Luongo and Tommy Salo.

During an on-air segment, where Milbury was voicing some highly (hypo)critical opinions about Brendan Shanahan’s hiring by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, NHL Analyst Bob McKenzie struck him right where it hurts. In the feels.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Kyle!

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