• NHL’s idea man, chief operating officer John Collins, steps down

    Matt Larkin
    John Collins. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Hearing news of John Collins’ departure as NHL chief operating officer may not raise the eyebrow of every casual fan prepping a backyard rink. But it should. Especially since Collins, the league’s third in command, is the brain behind the Winter Classic.

    Collins, who turns 54 this week, has been with the NHL since 2006. He took over as COO in 2008. He was the driving force for only the Winter Classic, but also the wildly successful HBO 24/7 series, which he shepherded along with producer Ross Greenburg. Collins is largely responsible for the Stadium Series and the league’s national television deals in Canada and the U.S. The league has grown significantly in popularity under his’ guidance.

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  • Wild pay tribute to state, Blackhawks to city with Stadium Series uniforms

    Jared Clinton
    Wild and Blackhawks Stadium Series jerseys (via NHL Shop)

    There’s no more need for guesswork when it comes to what threads the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will wear when they face off for the Stadium Series contest at Minneapolis’ TCF Bank Stadium on Feb. 21.

    Tuesday morning, both the Wild and Blackhawks officially unveiled their uniforms for the Stadium Series contest, with both teams electing for a traditional look with slight alterations made for the outdoor tilt.

    For the Wild, the green jersey keeps the primary logo the same while introducing a brand new shoulder patch, while the Blackhawks elected to rehash a look similar to what was worn in 2015 at the Winter Classic contest against the Washington Capitals. Read more

  • The Calgary Flames aren’t a good hockey team – and that’s perfectly fine

    Matt Larkin
    Dougie Hamilton. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The pun-packed headline read, “Internal Combustion: Young guns look to ignite the rebuild with a culture of accountability in place.”

    Affixed to the top of the page: a prediction, “7th in Pacific,” and Stanley Cup odds of 125 to 1.

    It was the Calgary Flames preview in THN’s Yearbook for the start of 2014-15. Oddly enough, 412 days later, it still rings true. If you fell off your bike Oct. 8, 2014 and sustained a coma-inducing head injury, only to wake up today, the Flames would be exactly what you thought they were. You wouldn’t believe the story of Calgary’s magical 2014-15 season.

    “Jiri Hudler had 76 points and won the Lady Byng? Sean Monahan scored 30 goals as a 20-year-old? Little Johnny Gaudreau became a legit NHL star as a rookie? Kris Russell set a single-season record for blocked shots? Bob Hartley won the Jack Adams? MY Flames finished third in the Pacific Division, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings? And won a playoff series? That’s it. I’m going back to bed for another year.”

    It was a mind-blowing season because the Calgary Flames were so darned ahead of schedule. There was a reason they picked fourth overall at the 2014 draft, snagging future franchise player Sam Bennett: they were deep in the rebuild stage, years away from contention, slowly trying to amass prospects. Then last year happened, and everything went haywire.

    Of course, we knew what the advanced statistics suggested: that Calgary was among the NHL’s luckiest teams, that it played way over its head and would regress the next season, just as the Colorado Avalanche from 2013-14 to 2014-15 and the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Bad habits come back to bite you, and the Calgary Flames had too many. They finished with 97 points despite a pitiful 5-on-5 score-adjusted Corsi For percentage of 44.2, good for 28th in the NHL. They actually regressed from 2013-14 to 2014-15. They allowed far more shot attempts than they generated. Winning was not sustainable.

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  • Streaking Sharks are more than a mirage after off-season retooling

    Jared Clinton
    Joe Pavelski is leading the charge for San Jose (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    The San Jose Sharks had every opportunity to shake things up this past off-season. Veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were viable trade candidates, goaltender Antti Niemi was on his way out of town and the club looked set to get younger. No one would have batted an eye if the Sharks began to rebuild. GM Doug Wilson went another route, though.

    San Jose started to make moves as soon as they missed the post-season in 2014-15. The first to go was coach Todd McLellan. He and the Sharks mutually agreed that it was time to move on, and McLellan packed his bags and headed north to coach the Edmonton Oilers. Wilson then went out and hired former New Jersey Devils bench boss Peter DeBoer, which was followed up by the hirings of Bob Boughner and Johan Hedberg as assistants. Then the roster retooling — not rebuidling — began. Read more

  • Prospect Need to Know: Jack LaFontaine is a hidden draft gem in net

    Jack LaFontaine (photo courtesy of the NAHL)

    The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau released its latest Watch List today for the 2016 draft and there have been a bunch of movers. This is not surprising, since the early September edition was largely speculative and now the prospects actually have a good sample size of games under their belts, but it is interesting to monitor nonetheless. Also, as I first reported the other day, top 2016 prospect Auston Matthews will return to the ice for Zurich tomorrow in a Swiss Cup game against Ambri-Piotta. Here’s a look at what else is going on in the prospect world:

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  • Maple Leafs no longer NHL’s most valuable franchise. Who’s new No. 1?

    Jared Clinton
    The Rangers celebrate (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

    After making the post-season only once in the past decade, the Toronto Maple Leafs have officially fallen out of the top spot on Forbes NHL team valuations.

    The Maple Leafs, who have sat atop the list since 2006, didn’t just drop one spot, though. According to Forbes, Toronto has slipped to third when it comes to franchise valuation and have seen their worth slip 12 percent since last season. On this year’s list, the New York Rangers have taken over the top spot thanks to a nine percent increase in value change and the second-highest earnings in the league this past season.

    Forbes stated the value of the Rangers is $1.2 billion, which makes them the highest standing of the league’s three billion-dollar franchises, with Montreal sitting in second place at a valuation of $1.18 billion. The Canadiens, Forbes wrote, out earned all clubs with $91.3 million coming in this past season. Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Cam Ward and Eric Staal could move on from Hurricanes

    Cam Ward and Eric Staal. (Getty Images)

    The future of forward Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward with the Carolina Hurricanes could be determined soon. Both are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency, and their status remains fodder for the rumor mill.

    During Saturday’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ telecast, Damien Cox reported Staal and Ward expect to hear from GM Ron Francis at the end of this month if they’ll try to negotiate new contracts. If the ownership situation proves so difficult that they cannot, Cox believes the duo will depart via trade or free agency next summer.

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  • First quarter report: What’s up with the Dallas Stars and what’s wrong with Sidney Crosby?

    Jamie Benn (left) and Tyler Seguin have been on some kind of tear this season. Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Monday night’s NHL games marked the official passing of the first quarter of the season and like Nathan MacKinnon, time flies, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for the league to rubber stamp the Las Vegas expansion application and allow Bill Foley into the annual owners’ croquet game. We’re still waiting on that and, if Jeremy Jacobs’ comments have any merit – and they do – we’ll be waiting a lot longer.

    Off the ice, that was one of the big surprises of the season so far. Between the boards, here are some of the others that have surfaced after the first quarter:

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