Josh Elliott

Josh Elliott is a stay-at-home web editor for Post-to-Post on weekends and a contributor to The Hockey News magazine. From drafts to contracts to trades, he loves the business of hockey and plays nothing but Dynasty Mode in EA’s NHL video games. He’s a Western Journalism grad, a hockey addict and a closet comic book junkie.

Los Angeles Kings must put Game 7 habit behind them

Josh Elliott
LA Kings Game 7

The Los Angeles Kings need to tighten up, because they just set a record they shouldn’t be too excited about.

With their 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the Kings became the first NHL team to win three straight Game 7s on the road in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously, the record is a clear indicator this team knows how to win when everything is on the line, but consider the reasons for playing all those Game 7s.

In the first round, they went down three games to none against the San Jose Sharks while getting outscored 17-8. Then Jonathan Quick started playing like his Conn Smythe-winning self and the Kings essentially gutted the Sharks, outscoring them 18-5 over the final four games. An impressive comeback, to be sure, but one that wouldn’t have been necessary if the Kings were dialed in from the outset.

L.A. almost let it all get away again in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks. After winning Games 1 and 2, the Kings lost three straight, albeit in tight contests each time. Again, they clawed back from the brink of elimination to win Game 6 before exploding for a 6-2 victory in Game 7 and advancing to the West final.
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Top 10 perennial playoff contenders since the lockout

Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar

Earlier this week, THN’s Brian Costello raised a great question: What makes a dynasty in this salary cap era? Brian defined it as three titles in five years – at least, before the salary cap was instituted – but admitted maybe that standard needs to be relaxed in the face of today’s flattened NHL playing field.

It’s a timely discussion, what with the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks – Cup champs from the last two seasons – heading into Game 7 of the Western Conference final tonight. One team will go on to the Stanley Cup final as a favourite to win another championship. The other will have to deal with the sting of falling just short of dynasty-level success.

Both teams are as close as it gets to dynasty-calibre potential in the NHL right now, but we simply haven’t seen a team win three Cups in five years since the salary cap was imposed. With salaries spiking at a younger age now and roster turnover inevitable, teams simply can’t stay on top as long. In a league built on parity, staying at the top of the pile and consistently making the playoffs is an impressive feat in its own right.

So which teams have managed that best? Which teams have the most playoff appearances and Stanley Cup wins since the 2004-05 lockout?

These 10 teams have had the most post-season success, counting up the number of playoff rounds they’ve appeared in since 2005, and adding any Stanley Cups on top.
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The curious case of Thomas Vanek, Mr. Free Agent 2014

Josh Elliott
Thomas Vanek (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Thomas Vanek has been the gift that keeps on giving this season.

Not for his three teams, of course, but from an observer’s standpoint, that little #20 domino has spawned more storylines this year than during his entire tenure in Buffalo.

First, he was the sacrificial lamb (one of them) for the rebuilding Sabres. Then, he was expected to help John Tavares put the New York Islanders over top and get them into the playoffs. Next, after the losses and the contract offers piled up on Long Island, he was the guy they just couldn’t pay to stay. And off he went to Montreal, where he would help them to the playoffs before earning the goat horns in the Habs’ third-round elimination.

Vanek wasn’t terrible in Montreal. He wasn’t the reason they lost. But he didn’t help much when it mattered, either. The Austrian put up five goals and 10 points in 17 games. That’s OK, but nowhere near his 27-goal, 68-point regular season pace. And with just two points in his final seven playoff games, there’s no denying he pulled a disappearing act. Maybe his mind was in Minnesota, but more likely (he’s a professional, after all) he suffered an injury that we’ll hear about in the coming weeks.
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Top 5 unforgettable Gretzky memories from off the ice

Josh Elliott
Wayne Gretzky at rally

With Wayne Gretzky’s name back in the rumour mill these days, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, he’ll return to the NHL as a team executive somewhere. So whether he lands in Washington, Long Island or somewhere else, we’ll probably be seeing an awful lot of The Great One in a suit in the years ahead.

The NHL, of course, would be well-served to welcome its greatest player back into the fold as an executive with one of its teams. There was some bad blood (and more than a few money issues) outstanding after the league took over and eventually sold the Phoenix Coyotes a while back, and those issues kept Gretzky at arm’s length for too long.

But Gretzky got his share of the Phoenix money this year (rumour is, around December) and with that out of the way, the man appears ready to dive back into hockey again.
That’s something the league should be overjoyed about. Gretzky has always been a great ambassador for the game, and even if he’s not lacing up the skates, he can be an exciting figure off the ice, too.

Just look at all the headline-grabbing moments he’s delivered over the years, all without a play-by-play announcer along for the ride.
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Backchecking: Nathan Perrott

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Bruce Bennett)

Nathan Perrott is no stranger to the trials of training camp. His NHL career started at Nashville’s in 2001 and ended when he was released from New Jersey’s in 2006. He’d been through plenty of gruelling hockey trials, but nothing that could help him in the preparation needed for his current job: use of force, gun training, shooter situations, rapid troop deployment and advanced counterterrorism tactics.

It’s all Jack Bauer 24-type stuff, crammed into 12 weeks of boot camp at a military base. Not your typical NHL training camp and not your typical job. As a former NHL enforcer, Perrott used to get paid to defend his teammates with the Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars, but now he’s part of a paramilitary team paid to defend the world’s second-largest nuclear power plant. He still wears a helmet to work, but he’s traded his shoulder pads and stick for a Kevlar vest and assault rifle.

And just like when Perrott played in the NHL, his team at the Bruce nuclear plant in Owen Sound, Ont., has its superstars. The Bruce tactical response team has won multiple SWAT championships in the U.S.

“They train hard, those guys,” Perrott says. “They’re right there with any of the NHLers for being in shape.”

His career has taken him through minor leagues, the NHL (four goals, nine points, 251 penalty minutes in 89 games), Russia and the pro boxing world, but Perrott never expected he’d grow up protecting the same nuclear plant where his mother worked during his childhood.

At 33, four years removed from playing in the NHL, Perrott was in nearby Walkerton, Ont., for a senior hockey game when a friend urged him to apply at Bruce Power.

“I realized it was time to turn the page in my life and I wasn’t getting any younger so my hockey skills were quickly diminishing,” he says. “I saw the security job and I thought that’d be a perfect fit for me.”

Nowadays, Perrott, 37, is fitting in as a skills coach with the Ontario League’s Owen Sound Attack and as an assistant minor hockey coach for the oldest of his three sons. And he’s got plenty of experience to share. After the Devils made him a second-round pick in 1995, Perrott later signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks. But he didn’t play for either team. It wasn’t until Chicago traded him to Nashville in 2001 that he had his first regular season action. He spent parts of the next four seasons with the Predators, Leafs and Stars before winding up with Chekhov Vityaz of the Russian Superleague in 2007.

Perrott played there for two seasons and witnessed the dawn of the Kontinental League, along with some of its early hiccups.

“They made everybody take a 20-percent pay cut,” he says. “The Russian guys always said, ‘Well, it’s Russia, what do you expect?’ ”

If Perrott learned one thing in Russia, it was to expect the unusual. He remembers the old lady who used to pay Chekhov players out of a shopping bag packed with millions in U.S. dollars.

“She’s coming from the bank, guys would line up by the (dressing room) door and they’d pay your bonus money,” he says. “This little old lady wouldn’t even have a guard with her.”

Chekhov Vityaz’s owner was the money guy behind Olympic boxing gold medalist Alexander Povetkin, whose Olympic training gym was near the Vityaz rink. Perrott soon started training there as a boxer and returned to North America for three pro bouts. He went 1-2, winning his debut fight over Makidi Ku Ntima.

“That was awesome because the guy was tough,” Perrott says. “I knocked him out right at the end of the fourth round.”

But even that taste of boxing glory couldn’t beat his greatest hockey memory. For most NHLers, that moment is a big goal or a title. For Perrott, it was an opening faceoff at the Air Canada Centre. It was the only time he started a game in the NHL and he was in good company. Ed Belfour was in net. Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe were on the blueline. And lining up at left wing, skating alongside Mats Sundin and Alexander Mogilny, was lifelong Leafs fan Nathan Perrott.

“It was really exciting,” Perrott says. “You dream about it as a kid and it’s way better. The reality is better than anything you can imagine.”

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Jonathan Toews, the most dominant captain in the playoffs

Josh Elliott
Toews hammers Stoner

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews does it all. He scores goals, makes plays, hits, wins faceoffs, kills penalties and provides all kinds of leadership for his Hawks squad.

In short, he’s the best captain in the playoffs right now.

For evidence of this, we need only look to Sunday’s 2-1 Blackhawks triumph over the Minnesota Wild, and remember who made that victory possible.

It was ‘Captain Serious,’ Jonathan Toews.
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Martin St-Louis inspires, Henrik Lundqvist delivers on Mother’s Day

Josh Elliott
Henrik Lundqvist and Derick Brassard

I’ll admit it. I thought the New York Rangers were done for. I thought this series would be over before the weekend.

But I was wrong. And I’m very glad of it.

Because these New York Rangers are battlers.

Martin St-Louis, playing on Mother’s Day just a few days after the death of his own mother, proved again that he’s a battler with a goal and another energetic effort in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.

And Henrik Lundqvist, a goalie often criticized for never leading the Rangers deep into the playoffs, proved he’s a battler with an incredible performance in net to force a Game 7.

St-Louis will get plenty of credit – and deservedly so – for fighting through this emotional time to deliver for the Rangers. THN’s Ronnie Shuker already sang his praises for Game 5, and the New York fans did much of the same with repeated “Marty! Marty!” chants throughout Game 6.

So let’s show a litte love for Lundqvist, too.
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Top 5: ex-NHLers in the KHL this season

Josh Elliott
Michael Leighton on the Philadelphia Flyers

The Kontinental League’s Gagarin Cup championship came to a conclusion a couple weeks ago, with coach Mike Keenan’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk winning the coveted trophy as the league’s top team.

That win came with the help of a former NHLer you might not know is still playing in Russia: former Toronto Maple Leaf and Carolina Hurricane checker Tim Brent. Brent couldn’t find a home the NHL after his Hurricanes contract expired, but now he’s a KHL champ.

Not bad.

In fact, there are a number of familiar names who have extended their careers by going overseas to play in the KHL.

Here are five former NHLers who earned top-five honours in one the KHL’s statistical categories this year.
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