No team does a better job being competitive and well positioned for the future than the Ducks. They’ve been at or near the top of the NHL and Future Watch standings the past few seasons under the direction of GM Bob Murray and top talent assessor David McNab. The Ducks are parsimonious with picks and prospects, not willing to give up much in the way of future players just to get a playoff boost.
Round 1, pick 27
Round 3, pick 80
Round 3, pick 84
Round 5, pick 148
Round 6, pick 178
Anaheim has a fine assortment of talented forwards in their early 20s who are regular contributors. They’d love for at least one of Kyle Palmieri, Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem or Jakob Silfverberg to break through and become the 25- to 30-goal secondary scoring threat the team has lacked since Teemu Selanne moved on.
By Carter Brooks
Long after the playoffs have ended, the Winnipeg experience lives on.
Deafening, comical and impactful have been three words commonly used to describe the crowd at MTS Centre. No other venue in the NHL comes close to the fan support offered on any given night or afternoon when the re-branded Winnipeg Jets host their opponents.
By Rachel Villari
“This is the first time I’ve ever played ball hockey,” said Corey Perry. Wait, what? The star right winger for the Anaheim Ducks, partner-in-crime to Ryan Getzlaf, 2007 Stanley Cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist for Team Canada, Peterborough, Ont. native had never played ball hockey before? We couldn’t believe it either.
Members of the NHL’s coaching community come from a wide variety of backgrounds – some, like Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, have degrees in social work; others, like Dallas’ Lindy Ruff, are hockey lifers with a background as a worker bee NHLer – but, for the most part, very few of the game’s elite stars have found success as bench bosses. The reasons for it are complex, but by-and-large, the best of the best usually prefer to spend their time away from the type of high-pressure environment occupied by a coach in hockey’s top league. And that’s why news the Red Wings were close to naming Hockey-Hall-of-Famer Chris Chelios as an assistant to new head coach Jeff Blashill is interesting: you rarely see a former player of his calibre at ice level without his equipment on.
Who are the best modern-era players who have evolved into NHL coaches or assistant coaches? Here are the Top 5:
5. Adam Oates. Like the other players who made this list, Oates is a Hall-of-Famer who amassed 1,420 points in 1,337 regular-season games and is regarded as one of the better playmakers in league history. He began his post-career coaching days as an assistant in Tampa Bay and then New Jersey, before the Capitals made him their head coach in June of 2012. And although he failed to make the playoffs in two years guiding the Capitals before he was fired at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, Oates quickly returned behind the bench with the Devils as a “co-coach” alongside Scott Stevens midway through this past year. He’ll likely get another shot, at least, as an assistant, with another NHL franchise. Read more
You could see it in the dejection splashed across the face of Steven Stamkos, and hear it in the considered whisper of Jon Cooper: the Tampa Bay Lightning were spent, physically and emotionally, and at a loss for appropriate words in the wake of losing the Stanley Cup final to the superior Blackhawks Monday. Undoubtedly, their fans and management were devastated as well; you would be too if you cheered on or built up a speedy and skilled roster of players who defied the odds and two of the league’s very best goalies en route to their fourth-round showdown against the Hawks. To get within eye distance of a lifelong dream and fall short is about as excruciating as it gets for professional athletes and those who support them.
But the mourning period for this edition of the team ought to be short, because the Lightning are anything but one-year wonders. The group GM Steve Yzerman has in place will have just as good a chance of returning to next year’s Cup final and at least a couple more after that. The Bolts are young, their salary cap situation is tenable – and if you look closely enough at this year’s squad, you’ll see they should be a little more lucky when next they’re playing for the best trophy in all of sport. And they will be back, and at least as dangerous next time around. Read more
It’s the debate that never really ends – which NHL position do you absolutely need a star at in order to win a Stanley Cup championship? – and it likely won’t end by the end of this column. But the impact of Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman on the 2015 Cup Final adds more evidence to what many see is an overwhelming pile of it that favors one position: you can win a Cup without a traditional No. 1 superstar center, and you can win one without a cream-of-the-cream-of-the-crop goalie, but you cannot hoist the most storied trophy in professional sport without the presence of a workhorse, perennial Norris-Trophy-candidate defenseman.
Keith has averaged more than 31 minutes through 22 games, and Hedman is leading his team with nearly 24 minutes of ice time on average. Both are arguably the respective Conn Smythe Trophy candidates as playoff MVP. They’re out there virtually every other shift, usually taking on the opposition’s top players. And considering how Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane have had scoring issues in this series, Hedman and Keith are doing what they’re being asked to do in all aspects.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Seven of the past eight Cup-winners employed a blueliner who could command control of the play in a manner few of his peers could. Two of the past three years, the L.A. Kings have sent the gazelle-like Drew Doughty over the boards more than 27 minutes per playoff game. In Chicago’s most recent two Cup wins, Duncan Keith has averaged nearly 28 minutes a game. When Boston won it all in 2011, Zdeno Chara was on the ice some 27.5 minutes a night. When the Red Wings won their last championship in 2008, Nicklas Lidstrom gave his team nearly 27 errorless minutes per game. The Pittsburgh Penguins were an anomaly in 2009 – Sergei Gonchar was their most-utilized defenseman at 23:02 per game – but when the Ducks won it in 2007, they had an incredible three defensemen averaging more than or a shade within 30 minutes each game (Scott Niedermayer and 29:50, Chris Pronger at 30:11, and Francois Beauchemin at 30:33). Take away just about any player from their aforementioned championship squad, and there’s no assurance that squad would have its name etched on the Cup. Read more
After missing the Ducks’ first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets, Nate Thompson suited up for each of Anaheim’s next 12 games, including seven in the third round against the Chicago Blackhawks. While it was known that he was playing hurt, the extent of his injury wasn’t known until he surgery was performed on his shoulder.
Thompson’s surgery, which he underwent Thursday, revealed he had two torn labrums in his left shoulder. The injury is to such an extent that come the beginning of next season, Thompson will likely miss at least the first month of the upcoming 2015-16 campaign.
Something to keep in mind when trying to grasp how Thompson could have possibly played through what was surely almost insurmountable pain is that he suffered the injury before the post-season, so it wasn’t as if he had time to heal before going into the playoffs. He dealt with the full brunt of the pain from an injury the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens reported Thompson suffered in an April 11 game against the Arizona Coyotes. Read more
Dany Heatley has had his fair share of difficulties over the past few seasons and now the struggling sniper could be leaving North America altogether for a shot to reclaim his career in the KHL.
According to Championat.com, CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg have contacted Heatley about possibly joining their respective clubs next season. After the situation this past season in which Heatley failed to catch on with the Anaheim Ducks before spending the bulk of his campaign in the AHL, it seems unlikely he’ll get another shot at an NHL deal for 2015-16, so playing in the KHL might be his next best option. Read more