Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.

When this much is at stake, who can blame Sabres fans for cheering for losses?

Ken Campbell
Buff fans

In a discussion with a GM recently, this is how he described Connor McDavid: “When you draft a guy, you hope that maybe someday he’s going to be an all-star. You look at this guy and you’re thinking Hall of Fame.”

This is not some crazed fan or a yahoo who calls into sports talk radio. This is a person who makes player personnel decisions for a living and has seen thousands of prospects over the years. And he’s bang-on in his assessment. Read more

Mike Smith big part of Coyotes future with or without McDavid or Eichel

Ken Campbell
Mike Smith  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – In a little more than 60 minutes, the 30th-place Buffalo Sabres and 29th-place Arizona Coyotes had a total of 124 shot attempts. That was three more than the Islanders and the Kings, 20 more than Carolina and Pittsburgh and 33 more than Nashville and the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning.

All in all, a rather entertaining, if not surreal night in the latest installment of the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes™. The Sabres did a pretty good job of keeping the crowd out of it by staying in the game, but the cheers could not be contained when the Coyotes scored on the power play just 56 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 victory, which increased the Coyotes cushion over Buffalo to six points. The Sabres were quietly incensed at the reaction, but the people who speak with their feet and their wallets are entitled to react however they like. If the Sabres get either McDavid or Jack Eichel and he helps lead them to a Stanley Cup in five years, nobody is going to remember a night in March when the fans booed a Sabres loss. Read more

Why the Arizona Coyotes need to finish last more than the Buffalo Sabres do

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid  (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Forty-five years ago, the Buffalo Sabres won the first overall pick with the spin of a wheel and chose Gilbert Perreault. The Vancouver Canucks settled for Dale Tallon. The Sabres got the better player and the Canucks got the better future GM. Of course, there was nothing preventing the Canucks from taking Darryl Sittler second overall in 1970.

But you get the point here. That one moment in time changed the course of history. And even though Perreault could never deliver a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, his Hall of Fame career gave the Sabres an identity and set them on a far better course.

Tonight’s game could be another one of those defining, franchise game-changing moments for the Sabres. Just as it could be for the Arizona Coyotes. All they have to do is lose tonight, then lose again in four days when the teams meet in the desert. It’s the only two times these teams meet this season and – wouldn’t you know it? – they play each other twice down the stretch with one of two generational talents on the line. Read more

Want to stop tanking? Here’s how

Ken Campbell
Anders Lindback  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s not hyperbole to suggest the next four days could provide a franchise-defining moment for the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes. It’s just kind of weird that a couple of games between the two worst teams in the league are accompanied by Super Bowl-type hype, and potentially toilet bowl results.

But there is so, so much on the line here. As we’ve said in this space a number of times this season, the reward for finishing 30th overall is not having a 20 percent chance of getting Connor McDavid in the draft. The motivation for finishing last is having a 100 percent chance of getting either McDavid or Jack Eichel. Read more

Power Rankings: No. 1 Rangers strong and getting stronger

Ken Campbell
Keith Yandle and Cam Talbot (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are clearly emerging as a team that can play the game any way you want it. They’ve won seven of their past eight games. In the first seven of those games, they scored a total of 11 goals. Then on Sunday, facing the high-flying Anaheim Ducks, they poured seven into the back of the net.

The Rangers are strong and with goalie Henrik Lundqvist coming back any day now, they’re getting stronger. They’re doing a lot of damage without Martin St-Louis and Kevin Klein. And that’s why they hold down the No. spot in thn.com’s Power Rankings for the second straight week. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.) Read more

How Devan Dubnyk became the Minnesota Wild’s savior

Ken Campbell
Devan Dubnyk has helped turn things around for the Minnesota Wild since being acquired on Jan. 14. (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

What everyone in the hockey world wants to know is how a goalie can go from having an .893 save percentage in the American League less than a year ago to being the toast of the NHL. That was the question of the day for the Devan Dubnyk Road Show™. So how has Devan Dubnyk gone from being an afterthought on the Montreal Canadiens roster in last year’s playoffs to getting himself at least into the conversation for the Hart Trophy with the Minnesota Wild?

As it turns out, it was all in his head, both literally and figuratively. Dubnyk excused himself from the Canadiens last spring after a season that had taken an enormous mental toll on him. After the Canadiens dispatched the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs, Dubnyk asked the team if he could go back to Edmonton to be with his family. Even though Carey Price went down in the next round, he was still stuck behind Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski on the Canadiens depth chart. Had he thought there would be any chance he would play, Dubnyk would have stuck around.

“I thought I just had to go and be a dad,” Dubnyk said. “And after the season I had had last year, I wanted to just hit the reset button.” Read more

16 seasons. 22 teams. Zero NHL games. But the passion never left Frank Littlejohn

Ken Campbell
Frank Littlejohn (Photo Courtesy Brampton Beast)

Frank Littlejohn was most recently a Beast. Truth is, he’s been many beastly incarnations since he began his pro hockey career 16 years ago. He’s been a Glaciercat, an IceHawk, a Falcon, a River Rat, a River Otter, a Mallard, a Jackal and an IceGator. And that doesn’t cover half the teams he’s played for over the course of his hockey travels. He’s ranked as high as General, a Baron and a Privateer, but he’s also been a Lumberjack. He’s been a Nailer and a Checker, literally and figuratively. He’s even covered off the winter weather conditions as a Chill, a Blizzard and a Frostbite.

This issue of The Hockey News is known as our Rookie Issue, which showcases the players you’ll be seeing starring in the best league in the world for years to come. But for every Aaron Ekblad and Filip Forsberg, there are guys like Frank Littlejohn, who at 37 waits for the phone to ring with a minor league coach or GM on the other end, wondering whether he might be able to suit up and continue chasing the dream. Read more

Power Rankings: No. 1 Rangers prepare for return of King Henrik

Ken Campbell
Mackenzie Skapski  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

A source close to the New York Rangers told thn.com that the team has targeted the Rangers game March 24 against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the return of Henrik Lundqvist.

But will King Henrik be able to find a place in the lineup? The Rangers are 14-2-3 with understudies Cam Talbot and Mackenzie Skapski in the lineup and have been the best team in the NHL since the calendar turned to 2015. Of course, Lundqvist will be back in the net for the Rangers after missing 23 games, as he should be.

But at least this team knows it has two capable guys if Lundqvist goes down again. And their contribution is a big reason why the Rangers are at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings this week. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.) Read more