Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
Phil Housley retired as the fourth-leading defenseman scorer in the history of the NHL. Only Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Al MacInnis had more points from the blueline than him. So why did it take him 10 attempts to get voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame?
There are a couple of theories. The first is Housley spent a good chunk of his early seasons with the Buffalo Sabres playing forward and racking up points. That’s a misconception. Housley made the massive jump from Minnesota high school to the NHL as an 18-year-old (after being selected sixth overall by Buffalo in 1982) and managed 19 goals and 66 points in 77 games as a rookie defenseman. Sure, it was the live puck era, but it was a celebrated feat nonetheless.
Just a couple days after seeing his playing rights traded to Arizona from Philadelphia, Chris Pronger will be in the spotlight again when the Hall of Fame announces he and Nicklas Lidstrom are two of this year’s inductees.
The Hall of Fame’s 18-member selection committee is meeting today to discuss this year’s candidates. Former players and builders need at least 75 percent approval (or 14 favorable votes). Pronger, who last played during the 2011-12 season and has been on the Flyers long-term injury ever since, is as sure-fire a candidate as you’ll see. So is Lidstrom, the most decorated defenseman in the history of the NHL not named Bobby Orr.
Pronger, of course, was a brilliant two-way defenseman who was a major player in Anaheim’s 2006-07 Stanley Cup triumph. He also was a key cog in two other teams getting to the Cup final, the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. Pronger had 157 goals and 698 points in 1,167 games over 18 seasons. He won both the Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy in 1999-2000, while with the St. Louis Blues, one of five teams he played for.
There’s a 10-year chasm of futility in the Vancouver Canucks draft record that explains why the development system has been a world of hurt in recent seasons. Between the selections of Alexander Edler and Jannik Hansen in 2004 and the choice of Bo Horvat ninth overall in 2013, the Canucks don’t have a single draft pick playing for them. Sure, Cody Hodgson yielded Zack Kassian, and Frank Corrado is still a good prospect, but that’s nowhere near good enough.
Round 1, pick 23
Round 4, pick 114
Round 5, picks 144, 149
Round 6, pick 174
Secondary scoring has always been an issue in Vancouver. Sooner or later, the Sedin twins will start lagging. The issue will become more acute if Shawn Matthias, tied for third on the team with 18 goals, moves elsewhere as a UFA. Read more
Years of frustration have come crumbling in on the Sharks. Despite a top-four group of forwards that’s as good as any other team in the league, the Sharks fell apart in the second half and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. It’s only the second time in the 17-year career of homegrown talent Patrick Marleau that he’s gone home in early April without playing any post-season games.
Round 1, pick 9
Round 2, pick 39
Round 4, pick 106
Round 5, picks 130, 142
Round 6, pick 160
Round 7, picks 190, 210
San Jose needs a top-flight goalie in the worst way. Antti Niemi has had some good seasons and some very good seasons in his five years with the Sharks, but he never rose to the occasion in the playoffs, and the team is sure to let the 31-year-old Finn walk as a UFA. The Sharks also need depth among the D-corps.
The analytics crowd are quick to point out the possession-dominating Kings missing the playoffs was a stats anomaly. The purists say possession stats mean nothing if you don’t possess a playoff spot after 82 regular season games. What can’t be argued is Los Angeles played a league-high 64 games the past three playoffs. The time off this spring will do their bodies good.
It didn’t seem that long ago the Oilers made the proud choice selecting Taylor Hall over Tyler Seguin with the first pick in the 2010 draft. That was supposed to be Edmonton’s first step forward after bottoming out in 2009-10. Hard to believe, then, that next season will be Hall’s sixth in the NHL, and the anchor is still caught among the seaweed. Selecting first overall for a fourth time in six years is bound to pay huge dividends this time. Have you heard of Connor McDavid?
Round 1, pick 1
Round 1, pick 16
Round 2, pick 33
Round 2, pick 57
Round 3, pick 79
Round 3, pick 86
Round 4, pick 117
Round 5, pick 124
Round 6, pick 154
Round 7, pick 184
In no particular order, the Oilers need more reliable goaltending, a good base of top-four defensemen and scoring depth in the middle six. But because few big-name players reach unrestricted free agency July 1, it’s improbable Edmonton can fill those needs in a single off-season. It’s a better bet the Oilers hire a coach who can push the right buttons and find a way to snap the losing culture.
The Flames vowed to get bigger last summer and did with the acquisitions of Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland. But president of operations Brian Burke and GM Brad Treliving wanted to beef up the system as well. Three of the five skaters drafted in 2014 are big boys getting bigger. Hunter Smith, Adam Ollas Mattsson and Austin Carroll average 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Don’t expect that mandate to change.
It looks fishy that Arizona traded Devan Dubnyk just 19 games into the season and he went on to become a Vezina Trophy finalist for the Minnesota Wild. Almost as though the Coyotes were making a run for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. But few could have predicted Dubnyk would maintain his spectacular play. After all, he was a bargain-basement signing by Arizona last off-season.
Round 1, pick 3
Round 1, pick 30
Round 2, pick 32
Round 2, pick 60
Round 3, pick 63
Round 3, pick 81
Round 5, pick 123
Round 7, pick 183
Only the pop-gun offense of Buffalo was worse than that of the Coyotes. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23 goals) was the lone player with more than 17 goals. Arizona needs better goaltending as well, but that will have to come in-house from Mike Smith, who’s signed long-term.