NHL Expansion

The next NHL expansion destination

NHL expansion occurred for the 13th time since the original six this offseason. The Vegas Golden Knights take the ice as the league’s 31st franchise on Oct. 6 in Dallas.

Cities are discovering and rediscovering the game through expansion. There is no telling what will work, but in baseball terms, the NHL is hitting for a high average in knowing where hockey needs to be.

The total number of teams has gone from six to 31 since 1967. NHL commissioners have put hockey in 19 cities through expansion that still have teams today. Franchises stretch all across the United States and Canada. However, with the addition of hockey in Vegas, the number of teams is unbalanced.

Where will hockey travel next?

Can it/will it work?

Hockey does not sound right at first in certain areas, which is the first order of skepticism in expansion. It then asks the question of can it and will it work?

The San Jose Sharks became an NHL franchise in 1991 and many had already seen a team (Oakland Seals) fail in the Bay Area. The team notched 28 wins in their first two seasons, but made the playoffs in year three. By year four they were averaging 17,000 fans a night at their home games. The Sharks have been to a Stanley Cup Final, notched six division titles and averaged 17,000+ fans in 18 of 25 seasons. It has worked out just fine.

NHL Expansion

The Inaugural Season for the San Jose Sharks was in 1991-1992 and are set for their 26th this year. Photo Courtesy of Hockey Across The Pond

Central Florida has never been a hotbed for the sport historically. However, the Lightning have changed that narrative to a degree since joining the NHL in 1992.

Their first year saw 10,000 fans on average at games, but as of 2017 we now see an average of 19,000. It took them 12 years to win a Stanley Cup (won in 2004). Three teams (Washington, St. Louis and Buffalo) are still searching for their first after 40+ years.

Las Vegas was awarded with an NHL franchise in 2016 after three failed attempts with pro football and three failed team relocation proposals. Many are curious, but hockey is not new to the city.

Six semi-professional teams have played in Vegas and has played host to an annual preseason game the last 20 years. Forbes recently published a poll where 62 percent of people said they see Vegas as a good home for professional sports. The Golden Knights are the first, but soon the city will be home to two pro franchises when the now Oakland Raiders come to town in 2019.

back where they belong

The North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 after 26 years in Minnesota. The move was not personal as the team had great success on the ice and in the city. A famous “Norm Sucks” chant pointed at former owner Norm Green ensued after word of the team’s moving. Green faced pressure from his wife who said she would leave him if he did not move the team. The state was without hockey for seven years.

NHL expansion in 2000 saw Columbus awarded with a team (Blue Jackets) and hockey’s return to Minnesota with the Wild. This was the first of two restorations from commissioner Gary Bettman in his current 24-year tenure. Xcel Energy Center has since been sold out for 646 straight games as of April 4, 2017. The NHL is meant to be in the Twin Cities and won’t be leaving anytime soon.

NHL Expansion

Night after night, Wild fans show why NHL hockey belongs in Minnesota. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

Winnipeg was given an NHL franchise in the 1979 expansion that turned into the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in 1996. Another business decision was made that year as the Jets were last in home attendance.

Economic pressures initiated this move. The love and passion for the sport within the community remained. The wholesale city was without professional hockey for 15 years.

Mr. Bettman brought the NHL back to the Manitoba capital in 2011. One writer said “an 0-82 season would not simmer the excitement from the fans” upon their return. The MTS Centre (Jets home arena) has averaged capacity each year since 2011 despite zero playoff wins. The arena is filled at the start of warmups. This too is another area where NHL hockey belongs.

The next destination

There are four divisions in hockey. Three have eight teams while one has seven. Another hockey town will soon be born or restored.

NHL Expansion

Quebec City has been without an NHL franchise for 22 long years. Photo Courtesy of SBNation

Twenty one of 31 “high profile” NHL players stated that Quebec City should be the next to be awarded a team in expansion. Seattle and Houston are among the other candidates. Seattle is considered “logical” due to its location in the Pacific Northwest (Western Conference is unbalanced) and it would expand the league’s footprint in the U.S.. Houston would expand hockey communities in the South and be placed in the Central (the division with seven teams). There are arguments for each city, but the case for Quebec is the most intriguing.

The Nordiques started play in Quebec’s capital in 1979 before moving to Colorado and becoming the Avalanche in 1995. An issue with expansion at times is the readiness of an arena. This city already has a brand new arena (Videotron Centre) that seats 18,000-plus. It would call for realignment of divisions/conferences, but that would be the least of problems in this future expansion.

Adding another Canadian team would flirt with the idea of an all Canadian division. Expansion is a slow process, but interest and appeal runs deep in figuring out if it will work in any given market. We have witnessed the rejuvenations in Minnesota and Winnipeg. There is little reason to not see that in Quebec City. That community, is one starving for more hockey.

 

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Take Flight

About to Take Flight

Training camps take flight this week for NHL clubs. But, this weekend we received a prelude to the near and far future with the 2017 NHL Prospect Tournaments.

Storylines are coming together for another event filled 82-game grind. Four tournaments began Friday that included 19 teams. Showcases were held in Toronto, Buffalo, British Columbia and Traverse City Michigan.

The 2017 Rookie Tournament

Young stars aligned in Toronto this weekend at the 2017 Rookie Tournament. Top draft picks of Toronto, Ottawa and New York joined forces in a terrific showcase of young talent. And it is important for these prospects to have as much in-game experience as possible.

Timothy Liljegren of the Maple Leafs was drafted 17th overall in this year’s draft. And the first evaluation for the rookie defenseman did not go well. The 18 year old was beat on the outside in the first ten minutes of the game. Later in the third he clears the puck through the middle of the ice in his own zone right to a Montreal player that led to another goal. Liljegren finished the night -4.

Take Flight

Liljegren (Left) losing battle after battle in this weekend’s tournament.              Photo Courtesy of SBNation

Eyes were on Thomas Chabot and Colin White of the Ottawa Senators organization in this tournament. Both of these prospects had great starts to the showcase. White made numerous plays in an 8-2 victory over Montreal. But, the standout was Chabot as he quarterbacked the Ottawa power play finishing with 3 assists.

Noah Juulsen of the Canadiens (2015 1st Round Pick) also aimed to make an impression this weekend. The 20-year old looks to be a part of the Habs’ 3rd defensive pairing this year. This was not his 1st rookie tournament. And he looked to make it his last as he exhibited “great strength and vision” on the ice.

The Prospects Challenge

Nico Hischier (1st Overall pick in 2017 Draft) suited up in an NHL uniform for the first time this weekend at The Prospects Challenge. The Swiss born rookie did his best to get acclimated to NHL pace of play and to not get injured. And his goals were achieved.

Take Flight

Nico Hischier suiting up for the New Jersey Devils for the first time getting his first NHL experience. Photo Courtesy of NJ.com

Hischier was “pretty quiet” when the 1st game began, but settled in as the game progressed. The 18 year old showed off his speed and ability to work well in tight spaces. According to Todd Cordell, Hischier created a scoring chance “every time he touched the puck” down the stretch. But, the rookie was not able to register a point in his debut. However, the Devils opened the tournament with an overtime winner.

The Devils need a spark this year. They have not made the playoffs since making it to the Final in 2012. Veterans have been added, stars have been kept and the rookies are ready to go.

 

Young Stars Classic & Traverse City Tournament

Three Canadian teams (Oilers, Flames and Jets) played in the Young Stars Classic in British Columbia this weekend. And eight teams competed in Traverse City, MI. This concluded the weekend’s rookie showcases.

The Young Stars Classic continues through the 11th and has already seen great play. And everyone was waiting see Kailer Yamamoto (Oilers 2017 1st Round Pick). But, it was Chad Butcher who stole the show in their game against Winnipeg. The Oiler hopeful netted his 2nd goal in three games as Edmonton took down the Jets 3-0. The present and future seem to be very bright in Edmonton.

Take Flight

Minnesota rookies roar back for a 6-5 victory over the Blues in the Traverse City Tournament. Photo Courtesy of SBNation

The tournament in Traverse City saw a series of events occur in the battle between St. Louis and Minnesota. Blues first round picks (Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin) were showing everyone why they were taken early in this year’s draft. Kostin scored midway through the 3rd, which gave St. Louis a 5-1 lead. Then, the team Bus driver left the Arena due to his presumption that the game was won. But, the Minnesota rookies then scored 5 unanswered goals and took the lead with 1:02 remaining.

These tournaments provide great experience for young upcoming professionals. But, they do not exactly do a good job giving us an idea of where these prospects are in this small sample size.

What have we learned?

In this short period of time, we have learned not much at all. Each of the teams that took part in these weekend tournaments know now what they have always known that there is promise in the future. And the future is much closer to the present. The youth movements that are going on in almost every franchise are taking flight. That is what we have learned.

We know that the waiting game is not as long as it used to be in this league. There is more of a business mindset with these showcases maybe than in recent years. This makes the buildup to opening night of the regular season go by a bit faster.

Take Flight

The NHL’s Elite Prospects were on display this weekend. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

 

More storylines, more excitement and more hockey related news is what we need. We need the lag time between the Cup presentation and the start to the season to seem shorter than in reality.

Hockey moves at a furious pace. And if you let it, so does the offseason.

Training camps open this week.

 

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Grades for the latest NHL trades

Browsing social media this week, hockey fans were champing at the bit for newsworthy NHL trades. There were minor deals as the expansion draft passed, and the suspense only grew as the NHL Draft approached.

It’s safe to say that the fans got their wishes.

The past two days have featured former first round picks, backup goaltenders and Stanley Cup champions. If that wasn’t enough, there are likely more coming even before free agency hits on July 1. Until that happens, let’s analyze the top NHL trades that went down before the draft.

Golden Knights ship Trevor van Riemsdyk to Hurricanes

Trevor’s time in Vegas was short-lived, as the expansion team acquired a 2017 second round pick for trading him and a 2018 seventh round selection.

van Riemsdyk is a young asset heading to a younger team. One needs perspective when analyzing his season. He missed time with an upper-body injury which underscored his stats. Still, he was +17 with 100 blocks and 16 points in 58 games.

The former Blackhawk joins three former teammates in Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Scott Darling. Perhaps that can help his transition. He’s a capable right-handed shot that helps Carolina get younger and faster. Vegas adds another high draft pick to build their team.

Grade: B+ for Carolina, B for Vegas

Oilers and Islanders swap Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome

Jordan Eberle was the first of what Isles fans hope to be more NHL trades.

Jordan Eberle heads to the Big Apple. Photo by Andy Devlin, NHLI via Getty Images.

New York getting Eberle long seemed inevitable, but it was intriguing how it occurred. It was a one-for-one swap after many reports had Edmonton seeking a prospect or draft picks.

This was an excellent move from Isles general manager Garth Snow. He paid a heavy price in a first-rounder to prevent Vegas from taking a number of players, and it essentially means they traded it for Eberle.

The former first-round pick disappointed with the Oilers after scoring just 51 points. Pairing with his world championship teammate, John Tavares should boost his input and give Tavares confidence to sign in New York long-term.

As for Edmonton, this was a move that helps more for cap than on-ice skill. They ship $6 million on Eberle’s contract, which helped them extend defenseman Kris Russell. It also increases cap space for when Hart winner Connor McDavid needs a new deal.

As for Strome, he didn’t live up to his fifth overall selection with just one 50-point campaign in four years. He could benefit from a new environment, but on the ice, the Oilers don’t benefit as much. Edmonton could’ve received more for Eberle, it seemed.

Grade: A for New York, B- for Edmonton

Canadiens bring in David Schlemko from Golden Knights

Vegas sends out another expansion draft pick for a 2019 pick. This was a minor move from both sides, which didn’t have to give up much.

Montreal needed defensive help after shipping prospect Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu. In Schlemko, they get a blue liner with back-to-back double-digit point seasons. The 30-year-old vet had 112 blocks and a 53.6 percent Corsi rating. It’s not a major step forward; he hasn’t played a full season. If he’s healthy, he helps.

Grade: B for Montreal, INC for Vegas with draft pick too far away to judge

Niklas Hjalmarsson moves from Blackhawks to the Coyotes

Niklas Hjalmarsson's move to Arizona ignited the flurry of NHL trades.

Niklas Hjalmarsson is headed to the Coyotes. Photo by Matt Marton, AP.

This is when the NHL trades started to boil. Chicago sent their 10-year defenseman to Arizona for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Even though Arizona’s front office is in a tenuous phase, they still took a big swing for a three-time Stanley Cup winner. He logged over 20 minutes per game in the past six seasons and had a career-high 181 blocks last season. He has excellent size, moves the puck well and can anchor the Coyotes’ blue line for a few more years.

As for Chicago, let’s just say fans were not happy about the news. They lose a strong core of their championship teams to relieve their cap.

Murphy is the better piece in the return deal, but he’s not as skilled as Hjalmarsson defensively. He’s 6-foot-4 and more lauded for his skating ability. The 2011 first-round pick can develop well under new assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson. How well he does dictates if this gamble pays off for Chicago.

Grade: A- for Arizona, C+ for Chicago with chance to work out better

Brandon Saad returns to Midway while Artemi Panarin heads to Columbus

Chicago wasn’t finished. In fact, they dropped a bomb on the NHL with this move. Saad returns to the Blackhawks along with goalie Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-rounder. The Blue Jackets receive Panarin as well as forward Tyler Motte and a sixth round pick in today’s draft.

This is a slam dunk for Columbus. They receive a Calder Award winner with consecutive 30-goal seasons. He’s dominant on the power play and adds a versatile offensive game to a team that can use it. His contract runs for two more years at $6 million, about the same as Saad.

The decision-making behind this for Chicago stems from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Panarin’s next contract would cost too much for Chicago based on their contracts. Plus, Saad was impressive playing on Toews’s line for two Stanley Cups.

Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus made a good point yesterday: Toews could regain his success with Saad while Kane will still produce without Panarin.

The Blackhawks have turned their team around to keep themselves atop the Western Conference. They have the chance to do that after these trades, but it’s a gamble. Columbus should get a productive Panarin, but it remains to be seen if he can contribute just as much without Kane. Each trade has its risks, but this is a balanced trade on both sides.

Grade: A- for Columbus and Chicago

Rangers dispatch Antti Raanta, Derek Stepan to Coyotes

Arizona continued to wheel and deal yesterday when they snagged their new starting goalie and a top-six forward. In exchange, young blue liner Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick, which the Rangers used to pick center Lias Andersson.

As written last week, Raanta was a name to watch in the expansion draft. When Vegas didn’t select him, Arizona was salivating. The Blueshirts’ netminder enjoyed a career season. He deserves the chance to nab the starting job.

As for Stepan, his contract was steep for New York and he’s automatically the Coyotes’ most expensive player. He’s also the best center now, recording four straight 50-point campaigns. Stepan also helps on the power play that ranked 26th last season in the desert. This was a high-upside trade that fills multiple roles. Now, about finding a head coach…

Meanwhile, New York gets younger on defense with DeAngelo. He’s just 21 years old with an offensive acumen, notching 14 points in 39 games for the Coyotes. DeAngelo is undersized and will have to improve defensively to crack the Rangers’ lineup. Andersson’s play will determine how this trade shakes out for New York. He comes from the elite HV71 in Sweden. While his skating, versatility and defense are superb, he didn’t stuff the scoresheet with 19 points in 42 league games.

Grade: A for Arizona (not just for the alphabet), B- for New York

Blue Jackets and Wild exchange forwards

Rounding out yesterday’s pre-draft NHL trades came with a small move for both teams. Dante Salituro heads to Minnesota while Jordan Schroeder goes the other way.

The 20-year-old Salituro provides goal scoring ability from a 5-foot-8 frame. He impressed in training camp and signed a three-year, two-way contract with Columbus last July. In 295 games across five OHL seasons, he tallied 122 goals and 160 assists. He won’t arrive in the Twin Cities anytime soon, but he has potential.

Schroeder is another small forward but is six years older. With the Wild this year, Schroeder scored six times for 13 points in 37 games. At 5-foot-9, he has to overcome his size. But on the ice, he has the instincts to maintain a roster spot.

Grade: B for Minnesota, C for Columbus

Blues snag Brayden Schenn from Flyer to shed Jori Lehtera

While yesterday trade hype built in the afternoon, it was quiet for most of the draft. There was a minor Blackhawks-Stars trade, but St. Louis and Philadelphia broke the silence. Schenn heads to the Blues by himself while Philly acquired Lehtera, the 27th overall pick (used on Morgan Frost) and a future conditional first-round pick. Elliotte Friedman breaks down the conditional pick.

The Blues upgrade with a more bona fide scorer in Schenn, who has 82 goals in the past three seasons. Lehtera is a great facilitator, but Schenn is an upgrade and Lehtera is making a lot of cash. The negatives for St. Louis is the possible price. They went back into the first round by trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, so the 27th doesn’t hurt. Two possible first-round picks can be a steep price.

Philadelphia can use Lehtera for depth as they ease new draft pick Nolan Patrick into the team. Frost provides speed and special teams abilities down the middle too. It seems the Flyers are prioritizing playmakers that can move the puck. Depending on where the conditional pick winds up, they can add even more pieces.

They have to replace Schenn’s production. Will they give Patrick the chance? Those two questions are the risks for Philadelphia at the moment, but ones that have quick solutions for a team on the rise.

Grade: B for St. Louis, B+ for Philadelphia

The Final Trade

As for Reaves heading to Pittsburgh, it’s icing on the cake for the Metro division. Reaves is an aggressive player that was 10th last season in hits. The Penguins love those types of players. He should perform well there as the division improves exponentially.

 

Feature image of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman by Anthony Souffle of the Chicago Tribune

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Three Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal

Each season’s NHL trade deadline brings its own je ne sais quoi; its own certain something. And this year has been no different.

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Photo credit: Jillian Wagner, Hockey Fan Land.

Deadline trends this year have been dictated, and complicated, by an extremely tight Eastern Conference and an unpredictable wild card race on both coasts. Coupled with the high volume of quality pending free agents, high asking prices,

and an impending expansion draft, this season’s deadline has been a roller coaster already.

In earnest, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes kicked things off last Thursday but it’s been the last 48 hours that general managers have really begun to make moves. Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings; Martin Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild; Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Burrows to the Ottawa Senators; Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals; many of the League’s top pending free agents have already been dealt.

But there are still a lot of big names out there, and more than one contender who needs to bulk up their roster before the big show.

So welcome to the hot stove, pull up a seat, from our Haus to yours this is The Game Haus’ Contenders in Need of a Deadline Deal.

NEW YORK RANGERS

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Photo credit: Jared Silber, Getty Images.

The New York Rangers have been awfully quiet thus far but don’t mistake their patience for disinterest. The Rangers boast over $10-million-dollars in deadline cap space, a number of draft picks, and plenty of young talent to attract potential trade partners.

The Rangers have been rumored to be looking at Brendan Smith. The Detroit Red Wing would add grit and bringing depth on the left side of the lineup.

The Rangers were also rumored to have been in the market for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. But, in what can only be described as a cruel twist of fate, the Washington Capitals appear to have acquired the coveted young defensman first. If all goes well for Alex Ovechkin and the President’s Trophy front runners, Shattenkirk will suit up tonight in New York against the Rangers.

Regardless, expect the Rangers to make a move or two before the deadline in order to improve their playoff chances.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

As if not to be outdone by his offseason wheelin’ and dealin’, Montreal Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin went ahead and brought Claude Julien back to the Bell Centre. Though this move has the potential to overshadow any other made by Bergevin this season it’s not likely to be his last.

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Photo Credit: NHL.com.

The Canadiens were in talks to acquire Martin Hanzal, but Arizona Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka chose to deal with Minnesota instead. In need of a defenseman to help Montreal’s big blue liners with the big minutes they’ve been carrying, Bergevin swapped Greg Pateryn and a fourth for Dallas Stars defenseman Jordie Benn.

Still, the Habs will need more than just a new coach and another mediocre defenseman if they have any hopes of advancing very far in the playoffs. Montreal desperately needs depth down the middle.

Despite the fact that Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has been very hard on his price point for star center Matt Duchene, the rumors around his being dealt have not slowed down. If Duchene’s price remains too high perhaps Bergevin might consider looking elsewhere for a new forward as the March 1 deadline fast approaches.

The Tampa Bay Lighting are flush with forwards pending restricted free agency. While teams like Detroit and Arizona posses similarly attractive assets.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The defending Stanley Cup Champions have zero projected cap space, so they are looking strictly for a rental player only. That is, of course, unless they can unload a contract or two in the process.

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Photo credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images.

Though he has a no trade clause in place, Marc-Andre Fleury represents roughly $6-million-dollars of cap space. Cap space which the Pittsburgh Penguins could otherwise use to their advantage. Though Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has expressed his wish to keep Fleury and Matt Murray both, Fleury has recently voiced that he would rather be playing; opening the door for speculation once again.

But that’s the least of Rutherford’s worries at the moment.

What Pittsburgh lacks is a healthy defense. With Pittsburgh’s cap in mind, there are plenty of less expensive options on the open market. And Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia, and of course St. Louis, have a wide range of pending free agent defensemen for sale.

In addition to Pittsburgh’s defensive woes, the Penguins have experienced injury issues all year on the front end as well. That being said, don’t be surprised if Rutherford adds some depth to the bottom six.

 

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*all Salary Cap information courtesy of CapFriendly.com

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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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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”

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All-Star Coaches: A Jack Adams Short-List

It will be all the big names, and only the big names, at this year’s NHL All-Star game.

Last year’s game was a public relations nightmare for the NHL.

Journeyman John Scott found himself at the center of a massive push by fans to see an enforcer in the All-Star game. A non-elite player playing with the best of the best. A regular Joe.

And it worked.

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Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports.

Scott was voted captain of the Pacific Division but the NHL tough guy was subsequently traded out of conference and demoted to the AHL. And that’s when conspiracy theories started coming out of the wood works.

It was alleged that the trade was an elaborate plot by NHL execs to strip Scott of his All-Star captaincy and thereby “restore” the good name of the NHL All-Star game.

The game having been openly mocked, re-tooled and tweaked for the better part of a decade due to little to no interest by both fans and players alike.

Many argued that the internet was trolling the NHL by voting Scott the Pacific Division captain. Others argued that the All-Star game is meant to represent what the fans want to see, a for the fans by the fans game.

In the end, Scott was allowed to participate. He captained the Pacific Division, scored two goals, and won the All-Star tournament. Despite not being on the ballot, Scott won the All-Star game MVP by an overwhelming amount of write in votes.

But it’s a new year and a new All-Star format has emerged. Along with new voting rules.

According to the new ‘John Scott Rule’ players sent down to the minors, or injured, are now barred from participating in the All-Star game.

So no more John Scott’s

This might lead one to believe that the NHL doesn’t really care about what the fans want.

Rather predictably, this year’s All-Star game will be filled with all the regulars.

The NHL announced the game’s four captains on January 3rd and the full rosters on the 10th.

But forget about the players for a moment. We all know Crosby is an All-Star. We all know Ovechkin is a stud. Of course Carey Price will be there, he is the best goalie in the world.

Let’s talk, instead, about the coaches.

All-Star Coaches

The NHL All-Star game’s coaches reads like a short list for this season’s Jack Adams Award.

Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens (Atlantic Division), Bruce Boudreau of the Minessota Wild (Central Division), John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets (Metropolitan), and Peter DeBoer of the San Jose Sharks (Pacific) will be behind the benches at the 2017 All-Star 3-on-3 tournament in Los Angeles this coming January 29th.

Each of these men merit consideration when it comes to the coach of the year award, the Jack Adams, and here’s why.

Michel Therrien

John Scott, All-Star, All-Star Game, NHL All-Star Game 2017, Jack Adams Award, NHL, Hockey, Coach, John Tortorella, Bruce Boudreau, Michel Therrien, Peter DeBoer, Shea Weber, Carey Price, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thorton, Cam Atkinson, Sergie Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Vezina Trophy, Zach Werenski, Calder Trophy, OHL, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lighting, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, All-Star Coaches

Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images.

Therrien’s coaching career has been a bit rocky. Full of peaks and valleys. Right now, though, he is definitely riding high.

Therrien got his first big league coaching gig in the 2000/01 season with none other than the Montreal Canadiens. After two and half mediocre years he was let go. Only to be picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 2005/06 campaign.

He achieved moderate success in Pittsburgh. Coaching them to the Conference Quarter Finals in 2006/07 and the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007/08. Though he would be let go during the 2008/09 season the Pittsburgh Penguins went on to win the Stanley cup under their new head coach Dan Bylsma.

To Montreal’s surprise, Therrien was re-hired as the Habs bench boss in 2012. General Manager Marc Bergevin citing his ability to work with and mold young talent. A skill highlighted by his work in building the Pittsburgh franchise into what we all know today as one of the league’s top teams; year in, year out.

Even with an injury riddled roster, Therrien has been able to maintain a consistent level of play out of his squad. The Canadien’s are first in the Atlantic Division and will also be sending goaltender Carey Price and defenseman Shea Webber to All-Star festivities.

Since being brought back in 2012 Therrien’s Canadiens have missed the playoffs only once.

Bruce Boudreau

John Scott, All-Star, All-Star Game, NHL All-Star Game 2017, Jack Adams Award, NHL, Hockey, Coach, John Tortorella, Bruce Boudreau, Michel Therrien, Peter DeBoer, Shea Weber, Carey Price, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thorton, Cam Atkinson, Sergie Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Vezina Trophy, Zach Werenski, Calder Trophy, OHL, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lighting, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, All-Star Coaches

Photo credit: Norm Hall, NHLI via Getty Images

Bruce Boudreau’s record behind the bench this year has been nothing short of impressive, which seems to be par for the course for the talkative French Canadien coach. Nicknamed “Gabby” by his players, Boudreau boasts the second highest winning percentage in NHL history.

Throughout his career Boudreau has won eight division titles, four with the Washington Capitals and four with Anaheim Ducks, in only nine seasons. Though he has never won a Stanley Cup championship, he has only failed to make the playoffs once. Boudreau has won the Jack Adams Award once before, with the Washington Capitals back in 2008.

He now finds himself steering the ship in St. Paul as the Minnesota Wild’s new head coach.

The Wild boast the second best record in the Central Division, behind the Chicago Blackhawks, and have enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance this year after firing longtime bench boss Mike Yeo and interim coach John Torchetti last season.

Boudreau has not only awoken the Minnesota franchise from its slumber. He appears to have revived the career of NHL veteran, Stanley Cup champion, and Olympic gold medalist Eric Staal.

Staal leads the team with 13 goals, 22 assists, and 35 points. Halfway through the season, Staal is only four points away from passing last year’s total.

Not only have the Wild been winning but they have been winning in spectacular fashion.

In a season full of incredible winning streaks the Wild managed to cobble together an impressive 12 game win streak. A streak which only came to an end when they faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were in the midst of maintaining a historic streak of their own.

Peter DeBoer

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Photo credit: Christian Petersen, Getty Images.

It should come as no surprise that Peter DeBoer ought to be considered for the Jack Adams Award. DeBoer coached 13 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, winning the Matt Leyden Trophy (OHL coach of the year award) twice in that span.

In the NHL he has manned the helm for the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, and – since the 2015/16 season – the San Jose Sharks.

In his first season with the Sharks DeBoer took the team all the way to the Stanley Cup championship. This year the San Jose Sharks sit atop the Pacific Division and look poised to take another run at the cup.

Under his tutelage, DeBoer has managed to raise the play of his team into a truly elite squad.

Brent Burns leads the league in shots on goal and points by defenseman.

Martin Jones has turned into a legitimate Vezina contender.

Veteran NHLers like big Joe Thorton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau continue to post quality numbers while also acting as character guys in the dressing.

And after an injury riddled season Logan Couture looks as though he has not missed a beat.

DeBoer is well on his way to a successful tenure as the head coach of the San Jose Sharks. Perhaps it’s the California sun?

John Tortorella

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Photo credit: Jamie Sabau, NHLI via Getty Images.

What can you say about John Tortorella? The fiery head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets is a man who needs no introduction. His antics have been broadcast far and wide. The success he and his team have enjoyed so far this season is turning haters into believers en masse.

Prior to the season starting, Tortorella had the honour of being NHL analysts’ head coach who was “most likely to be fired first.”

But you don’t fix what isn’t broken.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been on fire this season. The 16 game win streak Columbus managed to put together in the first half of the season is the second longest in NHL history.

Having previously coached the Tampa Bay Lighting, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, Tortorella seems to be fitting in just fine with the Blue Jackets.

Since Torts took over as bench boss, Sergie Bobrovski appears to back in Vezina form. His stats so far this season are comparable his 2012/13 Vezina Trophy winning year.

Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno, two of Columbus’s most important character players, are leading the team in points; a lead by example style of play Tortorella likes to emphasize.

Zach Werenski has found great success under Tortorella as well. The rookie defenseman is seeing top line minutes, both in 5-on-5 play and on the power play. Werenski’s name has been brought up often when talking about Calder considerations.

The 2004 Jack Adams Award winner needs no argument made on his behalf. John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ record thus far speaks for itself.

 

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Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Brent Burns is a Beautiful Beast

Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Photo credit: Mark Humphrey, American Press.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.

Drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the Minnesota Wild, Burns was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2011. The hulking blue liner has spent 12 seasons in the NHL, played in 837 games, and accumulated 462 points in that span.

Still, it appears that the Brent Burns show has just begun.

Though the 6’ 5”, 200 lb blue liner has been all the rage around Norris Trophy water cooler conversations this year, Burns has not always been the elite defenseman he is today.

In fact, it wasn’t until he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild that Burns began to play defense. If it weren’t for Jacques Lemaire – Minnesota’s Head Coach at the time – Burns may never had adapted his game for the blue line. But he did. Earning himself a spot on the Wild’s blue line.

Arm chair General Managers have long known of Burns’ value. Fantasy hockey league’s (like that of Yahoo or ESPN) have in the past listed him as both a defenseman and a forward; providing invaluable mobility to make-believe rosters across this great land.

More recently, though, especially since being traded to San Jose, Burns had made the blue line his permanent position. He is no longer available as a forward in fantasy leagues but that has hardly affected his offensive output.

Having finished last season’s 2015/16 campaign with an incredible 27 goals, 48 assists, and 75 points, Burns came in third on the ballet for Norris Trophy votes.

This year, however, is different.

He is among one of the best in his position, accumulating more 5 on 5 points than any other defenseman in the league this year. He also leads the position in goals and is currently on pace to eclipse his point total from last year. With 15 goals, 24 assists, and 39 points Burns boasts a league leading 160 shots on goal.

I repeat, a LEAGUE leading 160 shots on goal. A stat line all the more impressive when you realize that he has accomplished all of this from the blue line.

To put it in perspective, Burns has more shots on goal than some of the league’s most elite shooters; including the likes of Alexander Ovechkin (151), Patrick Kane (138), and Connor McDavid (123).

But Brent Burns is oh so much more than your typical hockey player.

His personality is larger than life.

With a beard bigger than father time’s and fewer teeth and a four-year old, Burns has what many would call a magnetic personality.

He is a self-proclaimed animal lover, he and his Lake Elmo home (nicknamed the Burns Zoo) was even a subject of CBC’s “Inside Hockey.”

Active on twitter, @Burzie88 never disappoints.

 

 

 

His most recent exploits has the toothless wonder team up with Subway to scare the sh*t out of customers and fans.

 

 

On the ice, Brent Burns is a force to be reckoned with. Off the ice he is just a big teddy bear.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.

NHL Playoffs: 1st Round wrap up

As the first round nears its end, the playoffs have really heated up. With only one series over the others are coming down to the wire. The Red Wings came up short again against the Lightning, and the Ducks are right back in it.

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3-1)

Washington failed to end the series in just four games but, is in a good position to finish off the series at home in game 5. Braden Holtby is only averaging one goal allowed per game, with the power play working so well for the Capitals I think the series ends tonight.

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders (2-2)

Each teams with one win at home and one away a tight series goes back to Florida for game 5. At this point leader for the Panthers Jaromir Jagr has started out slow only has one assists in the first four games. Jonathon Tavares for the Islanders is back to his great offensive plays with seven points in the series.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (3-1)

Evgeni Malkin (zimbio.com)

The Penguins look to end the series on Saturday at home. With a commanding 5-0 win in New York the Rangers find themselves in a tough spot. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled from the net for the Rangers, will he be ready to go on Saturday? Center, Evgeni Malkin, scored two goals and two assists for the Penguins who just recently came back from an injury. I initially had the Penguins winning in 6 games but I think it will end a game short of that mark.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings (4-1)

This is the only series that is finished with Tampa Bay Lightning winning in five games. When back up goaltender Petr Mrazek came in and won the third game of the series taking Jimmy Howard’s spot. Mrazek was not enough to control this Lightning offense though. Tampa Bay’s right winger Nikita Kucherov  has five goals in as many games and has really found his playoff groove.

Dallas Stars vs. Minnesota Wild (3-1)

A series that I predicted to end in four games has extended to at least five games. On Wednesday the Stars got back to their winning ways. The Wild are in a do or die situation going back to Dallas for game 5. I’m trying to not count the Wild out but they’re just not up to the Stars level of play.

St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3-2)

Patrick Kane (windycitizensports)

One of the most intense sporting event scenarios is 5 on 5 overtime playoff  hockey. We have already seen two overtime games in this series and I feel another one coming. The Hawks star Patrick Kane, won the game in double OT last night after the Blackhawks blew a 3-1 3rd period lead. The next game is back in Chicago, one can only hope to see the Blackhawks force a game 7.

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks (1-3)

The Kings are coming back home for game 5 looking to bring this series a little closer in reach. The Sharks have looked great, forcing the L.A. defense into turnovers and taking plenty of shots. Every game has been decided by one goal so these games can really go either way. Keep in the back of your mind the 13-14 playoffs when the Kings came back down (3-0) to the Sharks, anything can happen in the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators (2-2)

Heading into Nashville the Anaheim Ducks had lost the opening two home games and were entering an almost most win. Now the Ducks have tied the series and have outscored the Predators 7-1 in the past two games. In the first two games, Nashville looked like a true contender winning on the road. I can not wait to see how this series turns out.

 

 

 

NHL Review After Two Days

After two days of action away teams started out the playoffs 2-5, about what we’d expect from the first round. Ducks and Predators yet to play first game.

Red Wings vs. Lightning (2-3)

Justin Abdelkader (8) and Nikita Kucherov (86) (octupusthrower.com)

Ben Bishop was sharp in net for Tampa Bay. The Wings looked great in the beginning winning the races to the puck but once Tampa got on the board they started to heat up. The Lightning were like a well oiled machine towards the end of the game.

Blackhawks vs. Blues (0-1)

Through three periods both teams found themselves still scoreless. Like usual the Chicago Blackhawks are playing overtime hockey in the playoffs but to some surprise they do not come out on top. Yet, no one is surprised that the loan goal scorer in the game was Blues center David Backes. Backes always finds a way to hurt the Hawks and finds ways to win games. More close games to come.

Rangers vs. Penguins (2-5)

One of the big story lines of the playoffs at this point is the injury to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Henrik was accidentally poked in the eye by a stick and was taking out of the game. The Penguins were just to much to handle for the Rangers. Patric Hornqvist finished with a hat trick and an assist, alongside Sidney Crosby who scored a goal with two assists. Third string goalie Jeff Zatkoff  played great for the Penguins as well only allowing 2 goals on 37 shots.

Flyers vs. Capitals (0-2)

The Capitals, a heavy favorite took care of business in the first game. Braden Holtby only had to make 19 saves in this shutout win. The Capitals never let the Flyers offense get going, even after an abundance bad penalties, the Flyers still could not capitalize. The Flyers goaltender Steve Mason held up his end of the bargain only allowing two goals to a great offensive team like the Capitals. Flyers are going to need to score at least three goals if they want to win against the Caps.

Islanders vs. Panthers (5-4)

The biggest winners of the first two days are the New York Islanders who went down to Florida and took a game from the Panthers. In a back in forth game with numerous lead changes the Islanders outlasted the Panthers. All of the Islanders five goals were scored by different players. If the Panthers want to take command of the series goalie Roberto Luongo needs to play much better.

Wild vs. Stars (0-4)

In a commanding win the Stars took a 1-0 series lead with ease. Radek Faska scored the first goal in his first career playoff game. I predicted this series ending in four games and after this game nothing leads me to believe anything else.

two goals for Joe Pavelski (new.rapgenius.com)

Sharks vs. Kings (4-3)

In what I believed to be the best game of the first two days the underdog sharks won a game on the road in L.A. U.S. born Joe Pavelski scored two goals in the win for the Sharks. Johnathan Quick, known for being an elite goaltender needs to have a good bounce back game to tie up the series 1-1.

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