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.
It appears that expansion is simply a board of governors vote away after news surfaced that the NHL’s all-powerful executive committee will recommend the league grant a team to Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. The owners will happily accept Bill Foley’s $500 million and the NHL will now be known as The Original 31.
Approval from the board of governors is usually a rubber-stamp process. But when deputy commissioner Bill Daly talked about it prior to the Stanley Cup final, he said he would never pre-suppose the results of a board vote, particularly on a file as contentious as this one. Which is code for saying that not everybody thinks this is a great idea.
SAN JOSE – Aside from the players themselves, there are a good number of 18-year-old kids who were thrilled to see the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup this spring.
Unless you follow the prospect world, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the likes of Will Bitten, Clayton Keller, Vitali Abramov, Alex DeBrincat and Rasmus Apslund yet. But you will. And depending on how many NHL teams try to copy the blueprint provided by this year’s Stanley Cup-winning Penguins, they might have a better chance to make the NHL than they ever have.
SAN JOSE – Perhaps Sidney Crosby will never score 100 points ever again. Then again, maybe he will. If you go by analytics, logic states that his numbers should begin declining at some point pretty soon. But he proved in the Stanley Cup final, and by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, that he’s about so much more than numbers.
“I think Sidney Crosby’s best hockey is ahead of him,” said Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin.
Whoa there, cowboy. Best hockey ahead of him? Two Stanley Cups, two scoring championships, two Hart Trophies, a Conn Smythe, five 100-point seasons, two Olympic gold medals and a space waiting for his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his best hockey is still ahead of him? Well, if you consider that Crosby has essentially turned himself into a Selke Trophy candidate and that he’s altered his entire game a la Steve Yzerman, perhaps that’s not as outlandish as it sounds.
SAN JOSE – It was a team that had one player who overcame thyroid cancer, another a stroke. A third player had to retire because of blood clots. It was a team of superstars and castoffs, one player who was run out of the so-called Center of the Hockey Universe. It was run by a guy who called himself a caretaker, then ended up remodeling the whole darn school. It was a team that was floundering until it fired its coach, then had to turn to 22-year-old kid with all of 13 games of NHL experience in the playoffs.
And now the Pittsburgh Penguins are Stanley Cup champions. So they know a little something about staring down adversity. And they also know a little something about forming habits. This is Pittsburgh’s fourth Cup in the past 25 years, which doesn’t seem like much until you consider that the Detroit Red Wings are the only other team to win as many Cups as Pittsburgh in that time frame.
SAN JOSE – The city of Pittsburgh will hold a Stanley Cup parade later this week at its State Point Park and when it does, the good people of that city will have a chance to celebrate a franchise that has set a gold standard over the past quarter of a century.
The Penguins won the Cup Sunday night with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final and it was impossible to make the argument that the better team did not win this series. The Penguins, under new coach Mike Sullivan and a rebuilt roster, were so dominant in the Stanley Cup final that only Sharks goalie Martin Jones prevented it from being a laugher.
SAN JOSE – Far too often, hockey players are described as warriors. In the case of Finnish players, that description actually fits. And that is why after Olli Maatta may very well end up going from being a Stanley Cup champion to a buck private in the Finnish military this summer.
Finland is one of the last bastions of mandatory military service. In fact, the penalty for refusing it can be up to 173 days in prison. All men 18 years and older are required to serve a minimum of 165 days, something Maatta plans to do over the next two summers. So shortly after the Cup final ends, which could be as early as tonight if the Penguins win Game 6 with Maatta patrolling the blueline, he’ll head to Santahamina, home to the Guard Jaeger Regiment, and report for duty.
SAN JOSE – With 44 saves in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones made NHL history Thursday night. Recording the most stops in an elimination game in Cup final history plus a couple of dollars will get Jones nothing more than cup of very expensive west coast coffee. But if he can replicate his play in Game 6, that will almost certainly lead go a Game 7. And then we’re talking some serious history here.
If not for the play of Jones, this Stanley Cup final probably would have been a sweep, or perhaps been over in five. It’s safe and accurate to say that because the gap in play between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sharks in the first five games of the final has been that cavernous. With the exception of Game 4, the 26-year-old Jones has outplayed the 22-year-old Matt Murray in every game. The Penguins, in case you haven’t noticed, are outshooting the Sharks by an average of 12 shots per game. Jones has stopped 167 of their 179 shots so far for a save percentage of .933.
Even the man who discovered Pavel Datsyuk has no idea where ‘The Magic Man’ was playing during the 1995-96 season. That’s because Hakan Andersson never even laid eyes on Datsyuk until two years after that.
If you’re ever looking for more proof that drafting young athletes is the most inexact science in the world, consider Datsyuk. Then look at the 1996 NHL draft. It’s generally regarded as one of the weakest ever. To be sure, it has its share of first-round clunkers. But its status would have been enhanced had people thought to scout a skinny 18-year-old kid in Yekaterinburg, a city on the border of Asia where Czar Nicholas II and his family were slaughtered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.