Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.

Los Angeles Kings will get salary cap relief during Slava Voynov’s suspension

Matt Larkin
Slava Voynov's salary will no longer count as part of L.A.'s cap hit while he is suspended. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Slava Voynov’s domestic violence saga continues, but its direct impact on the Los Angeles Kings was diminished Friday.

Voynov has been charged with one felony count of corporal injury to spouse with great bodily injury. The Kings defenseman, 24, allegedly injured wife Marta Varlamova’s eyebrow, cheek and neck seriously enough to require medical attention, and Voynov was arrested Oct. 20.

In a statement Friday, the NHL announced the existing terms of Voynov’s suspension “will be continued indefinitely.” The league also stated, through NHL.com:

“However, in light of the uncertain and potentially extended period of time that the legal process may entail, the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to permit the Kings to replace Mr. Voynov’s Salary and Bonuses pursuant to the Bona Fide Long-Term Injury Exception under the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

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Why Jason Spezza’s contract extension was horrible timing by Dallas

Matt Larkin
Jason Spezza has 18 points in his first 20 games with Dallas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Everything about the Dallas Stars’ season was a head scratcher leading up to Friday, so the announcement of Jason Spezza’s four-year, $30-million contract extension is fitting.

Jason Spezza was a good get for the Dallas Stars in a summer trade with Ottawa that didn’t cost GM Jim Nill an arm and a leg. Spezza, 31, still had plenty left in the tank. He remained a point-per-game player, give or take, he was excited to play in a less hockey-mad market and there was a solid chance he would flourish as Dallas’ No. 2 center behind Tyler Seguin.

Spezza’s short stay as a Dallas Star has delivered on expectations. He’s tallied 18 points in 20 games, racking up assists on the power play. He hasn’t been a world beater in his own zone, but Spezza was never mistaken for Patrice Bergeron to begin with.

Note the term “short stay,” however. The man is 20 games into his Dallas Stars career. Why on Earth would this team sign him to a four-year extension now? The reasons not to stick out like a mason jar full of sore thumbs.

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Friday’s Rangers-Sabres game postponed due to Buffalo blizzard

Matt Larkin
SnowBuffalo

Weather isn’t always news, but the situation in Buffalo can no longer be ignored. It’s astounding and scary.

Lake Effect snow has pummelled Buffalo this week, including an unbelievable 65 inches in one 24-hour span. That’s more than five feet, with several more feet expected to accumulate by the end of Thursday before the storm moves out Friday and warmer temperatures arrive.

The storm has taken a devastating toll, claiming eight lives and stranding countless people in their homes and vehicles. It’s affected the sports world, too. The Buffalo Bills/New York Jets game this weekend is in jeopardy, or at least could be moved to another city, after Ralph Wilson Stadium accumulated the most snow in its history.

The Sabres managed to play Tuesday, except for agitator Patrick Kaleta, who lives in Hamburg, N.Y. and was completely snowed into his house.

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4-D gadget shakes your couch so you feel the hits while you watch hockey

Matt Larkin
ShakeCouch

Too Many Cooks? Pfft. That was soooo last week, you guys.

This video from 4D Sports is almost as weird, with one crucial difference: it’s not a parody. This is an actual product you can buy, on purpose. You can give it to another human as a gift. The product’s simple, tantalizing premise: it attaches to the bottom of your couch and, while you watch the game, wireless data feeds it information and it shakes whenever bone-crunching action happens on screen. So when Niklas Kronwall blows a guy up, THE COUCH BLOWS YOU UP. You shake and your popcorn goes everywhere, bro. See for yourself:

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Ranking the NHL’s fan bases, from 1 to 30

Matt Larkin
Leafs fans top our rankings because they keep paying absurd amounts of money to support their team despite its struggles. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

What constitutes true fanhood? The easy explanation is the eye and ear test. The loudest, most decked-out supporters come across as diehard fans – like those of the big, bad Boston Bruins.

To THN, however, fanhood is about faith above all else. It’s not just supporting your team when the going is easy. What about standing behind your team when the losses pile up and paying to watch it lose when it costs you an arm and a leg? The Bruins fill the TD Garden, but the last time they missed the playoffs – twice in the season-and-a-half following the Joe Thornton trade – they ranked near the bottom in attendance. On the other end, look at a team like Edmonton. Year after year, the Oilers struggle to progress in their “rebuild,” yet the fans keep coming, selling out Rexall Place and paying top dollar to watch a flailing operation.

It’s easy to make fun of fan bases that blindly support their struggling franchises, but isn’t that what true fanhood is, unconditional love? We set out to create a fan ranking system that rewards such a quality. The formula applies the past five completed NHL seasons. The final rankings were an aggregate score over each category. Perfect science my algorithm ain’t, but we believe we’ve concocted an objective system. We published the results in our Nov. 24 Fan Issue of THN.

The following legend breaks down the fan ranking criteria:

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Maple Leaf prospect Willie Nylander on pace to destroy Swedish League record books at 18

Matt Larkin
William Nylander (Hakan Nordstrom/Modo Hockey)

William ‘Willie’ Nylander was a polarizing draft choice for the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 8 overall last June. Some, myself included, praised the pick because of Nylander’s high ceiling. Others slammed the Leafs for grabbing King Joffrey on skates, a slick-stickhandling boy-man whose body would not hold up the NHL level. That latter group likely wanted a Nick Ritchie type at No. 8.

So far, score one for the Nylander backers.

Yes, the fact he returned to the Swedish League to re-sign with Modo suggested he was far from NHL-ready. He flashed skill but didn’t show enough strength to play for the Leafs, and they didn’t want to tempt themselves by keeping him with the American League’s Marlies, from which they could easily rush him to the big club. But he’s been nothing short of spectacular in the SHL, where his primary goal was to bulk up. A tweet from Domenic Galamini suggested Nylander’s 14 points through 10 games as an 18-year-old put him in elite company. Digging through the SHL’s complete records reveals that Nylander averages more points per game than anyone in Swedish League history during an age-18 season. He’s at 1.4, and the next closest finished at 1.00, meaning he’ll challenge for the record even if he regresses.

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Why Cory Schneider matching a Martin Brodeur record is bad news for the Devils

Matt Larkin
The Devils are slated to start Cory Schneider a 19th straight time, and his numbers have been subpar this season. Coincidence? (Getty Images)

If I told a Devils fan before the 2014-15 season started, “I’m psychic, and I know for a fact Cory Schneider will match one of Martin Brodeur’s records this season,” that Devils fan would’ve jumped for joy, right?

Well, turns out Schneider and the Devils have found the one, twisted way to make the milestone dubious. Tuesday night marks New Jersey’s 19th game of the season. It will also mark Schneider’s 19th consecutive start to open the season, which will equal Brodeur’s franchise record set in 2001-02.

As I said last week, Schneider entered the season with a .925 career save percentage, which would be No. 1 in NHL history if he had enough games to qualify. General manager Lou Lamoriello and the Devils may have been unsentimental parting ways with Martin Brodeur, but it was a smart hockey decision. Schneider was one of the league’s most underrated stoppers, long overdue for an extended crack at a bellcow goalie gig.

But the early returns have been mildly unsettling: 8-7-2 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .910 save percentage, putting him 29th in the NHL in the latter two categories. Some of Schneider’s struggles aren’t really his fault. For instance, the Devils’ penalty kill has been so poor early in the season, allowing so many quality scoring chances, that Schneider’s shorthanded save percentage drags down his otherwise solid even-strength numbers.

Some of the problems, however, tie directly to Schneider. For one, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent. He won his first three starts, allowing two goals per game, then lost his next three, allowing four goals per game. He stopped 53 of 54 shots for two outstanding victories over Minnesota and Washington last Tuesday and Friday, then allowed three goals, including this softy, in a loss to Colorado:

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NHL says a decision ‘should be made quickly’ on 2018 Olympics

Matt Larkin
The NHL and its owners are openly skeptical about sending players to South Korea in 2018. (Getty Images)

Just when Michael Corleone thought he was out, they pulled him back in. And every time it seems the NHL’s Olympic adventure will die – no, seriously, this time we’re never going back – the twinkle returns to the league’s collective eye.

The league currently has no arrangement to participate in a sixth straight Winter Games, which shifts to South Korea for 2018, and no short-term timetable to make a decision. At a sport management conference Monday, NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston a decision “should be made quickly,” but that the league needs more information from the Olympic organizing committee. Daly hopes to learn soon “where hockey fits in the pecking order.”

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