• THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Buffalo Sabres

    The Hockey News
    Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

    2013-14 record: 21-51-10, 16th in East, 30th overall

    Acquisitions: Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

    Departures: Matt D’Agostini, John Scott, Kevin Porter, Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer, Ville Leino

    Top five fantasy options: Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Sam Reinhart

    Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario:

    Boom: Just when we all thought the Sabres were going to “McSuck for McDavid” or “Play like Robert Reichel to get Eichel” they went out on a spending spree that should at least make them a tougher out than they’ve been in the past. Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Would a Boychuk-Yakupov trade solve two problems?

    Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Boston Bruins need to shed salary and address their logjam on defense remains a hot topic in this summer’s NHL rumor mill.

    Much of the speculation centers on Johnny Boychuk, who will be eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The 30-year-old blueliner will earn $3.6 million this season, while his cap hit is more than $3.3 million. Brooks Orpik signed a five-year deal this summer with the Washington Capitals worth $5.5-million annually and Boychuk could seek a comparable salary.

    If Boychuk becomes a UFA, the Edmonton Oilers could be very interested in his services. He’s an Edmonton native with a strong all-around skill set that would benefit the Oilers’ rebuilding defense corps.

    Boychuk, however, told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson his preference is to remain with the Bruins, calling them “my hockey family.” Considering the Bruins remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender three years after their last championship, his reluctance to leave Boston is understandable. His future with the Bruins, however, will depend upon their cap space beyond this season. Read more

  • Top 5 potential mid-season NHL coaching replacements

    Rory Boylen
    Dan Bylsma

    There will be at least one NHL coach fired during this season, of that we are sure. So who are the lead candidates to take the next job openings?

    We look at five coaches who will be considered by NHL teams looking for a mid-season replacement.

    1. Dan Bylsma
    Fired by the Penguins after another disappointing playoff result, it’s only a matter of time before Bylsma finds his next job. He was in the running for a few jobs this past summer (Florida, Vancouver) but he can afford to wait for the perfect fit. He’s won a Stanley Cup and coached USA at the Olympics last winter, but has come under fire for his tactics and lack of in-game adjustments. Any team that fires its coach mid-season will have a long look at Bylsma. Read more

  • Re-training the Red Dragon for the 2018 Winter Olympics

    Ronnie Shuker

    It’s a rare for a country to take women’s hockey more seriously than men’s. Heck, it’s still a challenge to get some hockey-playing nations to take it seriously at all. But with its women’s team ranked a respectable 15th while its men’s team sits a distant 38th, China is getting serious about its national women’s program ahead of the next Winter Olympics and backing the team with some big-time money.

    With the 2018 Games being held close to home in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Chinese are demanding a strong showing from their women’s team. The field is wide-open behind perennial powerhouses Canada and the United States, and China is eyeing a shot at a bronze medal. The women finished seventh in 2010 but failed to qualify in 2014, and the country is pouring money into the program to get the team back in the mix on the international scene.

    “Their training center was like the Vatican,” said Daniel Noble, a Toronto-based strength and conditioning coach. “That’s their job – to train all day. So it was a very cool environment to be in. It all comes from government funding. The dining hall is like a five-star restaurant. It’s unbelievable how they are treated. They get treated very, very well.” Read more

  • Advanced stats vs. the old guard: inside the bitter rivalry

    Matt Larkin
    Simmons tweet

    It’s late June 2014. Tyler Dellow and Steve Simmons want to kill each other. Hyperbole? Probably. At the very least, though, Simmons is about to boil over and Dellow calmly relishes it.

    Dellow, a Toronto-based lawyer, and Simmons, a Toronto-based sports columnist, are debating the validity of advanced statistics on a radio show and, more specifically, statistical darling Mikhail Grabovski versus clutch playoff performer Dave Bolland. Simmons tells Dellow, one of the leading voices in the analytics community, to throw his stats out the window and look at Grabovski’s lone-wolf tendencies as a center.

    “I just judge hockey players based on whether their team scores more goals than the other team,” Dellow says, “and when Grabovski’s on the ice, that happens.”

    “One guy, who won a Stanley Cup scoring the game-winning goal in the final minute of Game 6? The other guy’s never been close to that,” Simmons retorts, twice as loudly.

    “Yeah, and what did Dave Bolland do?” Dellow teases. “Is he Jonathan Toews’ dad? Because I’m not sure how you’re giving him credit for the team he played on.”

    The tension is palpable and very much what we’ve come to expect from a rivalry that exploded over blogs and the social media universe in recent seasons.

    “It’s kind of like the Hatfield and McCoy feud,” said Globe and Mail hockey columnist David Shoalts. They went on so long, nobody can remember how or why it got started.”

    Little did we know the advanced statistics versus old-guard debate, the nerds versus dinosaurs war, would go from hot fad to revolution over the summer.

    It was a full-on NHL takeover for the stat heads. Dellow now works for the Oilers. Sunny Mehta, a pro poker player turned Oilers blogger, was named the New Jersey Devils’ director of analytics. Whiz-kid stat guru-turned Ontario League GM Kyle Dubas, 28, is now the assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also launched an analytics department and poached the minds behind extraskater.com.

    The slew of hirings brought validation to the growing community of thinkers who believe possession-driven statistics like Corsi and Fenwick are the best predictors of success in the NHL. And they poured gasoline on the fiery fight emerging between the stat heads and the traditional-thinking journalists.

    “They think I’m a moron, to be honest,” Simmons said. “Not someone who’s covered the NHL for 34 years, not someone who coached hockey for 25 and is a level 3 instructor, not someone who ran hockey schools. I’m a moron.”

    Read more

  • Why do ex-Flyers personnel succeed in L.A.? More freedom

    Ron Hextall won a Cup with L.A., but will he succeed as Flyers GM with owner Ed Snider influencing him? (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    The migration of on-and-off-ice talent from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Los Angeles Kings franchise that has won two of the past three Cups is not lost on observers. At various points in the past 15 years, the Flyers (a) employed L.A. GM Dean Lombardi as their western scout, and Kings assistant coach John Stevens as their coach; (b) centered their core of forwards around Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who each have two rings with the Kings; and (c) had Ron Hextall as their director of player personnel before he joined L.A. and was part of their Cup win in 2012.

    Hextall returned to the Flyers last summer and will enter his rookie year as Philly’s GM. His best chance to deliver a Cup is if owner Ed Snider leaves him alone to work at it. That hasn’t always been true in the nearly five decades Snider has owned the team. And the success of the Kings – the success of components not good enough for the Flyers – should show Snider the best thing he can do to satisfy his competitive urges is to wall himself off from hockey decisions.

    Because in the modern era, it’s a fact: Stanley Cups are won by teams whose owners stay out of the picture.

    Read more

  • Fantasy Pool Look: Sharks, Blues off-season outlooks

    Joe Thornton and PAtrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I’m doing something different and reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. Today, the Sharks and the Blues are on the docket.

    San Jose Sharks
    Gone – Martin Havlat, Brad Stuart, Dan Boyle

    Incoming – Michael Haley, Tye McGinn, John Scott, Taylor Fedun

    Ready for full time – Freddie Hamilton is ready to take on a third- or fourth-line checking role. He probably doesn’t have scoring-line upside in the NHL, but he may be able to carve out a career on the third line as a potential 40-point player. However, that won’t be this year and given the Sharks’ depth at center he may not be called up until mid-season.

    Matt Tennyson was a big college free agent signing in 2012 and after two seasons in the minors he’s getting closer. His minus-25 rating with Worcester last season indicates that perhaps he could use at least another half season, but he projects as a second-pairing guy who could chip in on the second power play unit. Read more