It’s still early in the season, but fans are starting to get a feel for which free agent pick-ups and off-season trades have worked in their favor. For some, it was a blockbuster deal that could change the future of the franchise. For others, it was a smart, below-the-radar deal that has given them the piece they need to build one block at a time.
Below you can find the top five off-season moves that are making waves in the early season. What is your top five?
5. Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)
While he certainly wasn’t the sexiest of signings in the off-season, Daniel Winnik has been just what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. There has been no shortage of talk about the Leafs defensive woes. After a summer dedicated to shifting the focus of the front office, headlined by bringing in assistant GM Kyle Dubas, the Leafs went out and got the 29-year-old Winnik.
Though he’s unlikely to make any highlight reels, Winnik is the kind of player that helps teams win. Already this season he has shown just how defensively sound he is. Coming off a career-high 30 points in 2013-14 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Plus, he’s from Toronto. That’s sure to make one notable Leafs’ fan happy. Read more
Milan Lucic is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the two are fairly familiar with one another at this point. And the Boston Bruins left winger was back in hot water Thursday after appearing to make a lewd gesture and taunt Canadiens fans with a mimed raising of the Stanley Cup.
Lucic’s frustrations boiled over late in Montreal’s 6-4 win over Boston: with 1:20 left, he took a boarding penalty – and once he was in the penalty box, the 26-year-old interacted with fans by…welll, you go ahead and see what you think it was he was doing: Read more
Hello again, and welcome to a special edition of the Ask Adam mailbag, last seen around these parts a few months ago after a long and spirited run. The process has remained the same – you question, I answer – but the questions were solicited exclusively via Twitter tonight. I’m rested, rejuvenated and happy to engage with those kind enough to submit something, so let’s have at it.
Adam, why can’t the home team choose what color jersey they wear? The NFL does it. Seems like good marketing to me.
Time for this annual question, I suppose, so it’s good to get it out of the way early. The NHL switched to home dark jerseys and white jerseys on the road in the 2003-04 season, but they do permit teams to make requests to wear either white jerseys at home or special third jerseys on occasion. So there is some choice, but clearly, the league prefers it this way, and not enough teams feel differently to force a change.
Adam, the AHL test of overtime looks good so far. How does NHL/NHLPA feel about it?
You’re right, the AHL adopting 3-on-3 overtime has been a success, at least in limiting the number of games that go to a shootout: through Monday, all six games that went beyond regulation ended before a shootout was necessary. And the tweak – extending overtime to seven minutes, playing the first three minutes 4-on-4, and switching to 3-on-3 following the first whistle after the four-minute mark – hardly is radical.
A compendium of thoughts and analysis for your Tuesday reading pleasure:
SHOOTING OUT THE SHOOTOUT: The first thing we’re going to say about this is we realize the sample size is small, so don’t get all over us for jumping to conclusions. But if the first week of play in both the NHL and American League are any indication, the answer to avoiding the shootout is longer overtime periods with 3-on-3 play and not a dry scrape and changing ends.
The NHL has had seven games go to extra time so far this season and only two of them have been decided before the shootout. The AHL, by contrast, has had six games go to extra time, but all six of them have been decided in overtime and without the need of a shootout. Read more
The Boston Bruins resolved their cap issues and blueline logjam with their recent trade of defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders, but there’s another roster problem to be addressed.
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty believes Loui Eriksson is a third-line winger with the Bruins, doubting he’ll ever become the offensive force they believed he would become when they acquired him in last year’s Tyler Seguin trade with the Dallas Stars.
Two concussions and a heel injury sidelined Eriksson for 21 games last season, limiting him to 10 goals and 37 points in 61 games. The 29-year-old went scoreless in the Bruins’ opening three games this season before tallying his first goal in the their 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Monday.
Haggerty believes the Bruins need another top-six forward at right wing to replace the offense of Jarome Iginla, who departed this summer via free agency. Finding such a forward this early in the season, however, won’t be easy.
With NCAA hockey officially in full swing, there is action aplenty to watch for in the prospect world. Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Erie’s Connor McDavid already seem to have a fantastic game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better going on, but who else should you be watching this season? Here are some of the other names making noise right now.
Mike Milbury has made a career out of being controversial, from beating a fan with his own shoe during his playing days, to lamenting about the “pansification” of hockey as a broadcaster. And in between, he traded some of the best players in the NHL away from his New York Islanders as GM of the franchise. (cough)
Last night, Milbury remarked on NBC’s broadcast of the Bruins-Flyers game that it was time for fighting to go. “It’s over” was a particularly clear remark on the matter, as he and fellow analyst Keith Jones cited the style of play these days and concussions.
And look, that’s a great corporate line to spew. But I like my hockey with a touch of mayhem and if a man with Milbury’s track record is coming down on one side of an issue, I have no problem going the other way.
No doubt there is evidence that the straight-up enforcer is going through an identity crisis right now; Paul Bissonnette couldn’t find work, nor could Kevin Westgarth or George Parros. But to say fighting should go altogether? We’re not there yet (and I hope we never will be).
We’ll let some marketing genius or anthropological intellectual explain to us the phenomenon that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. But somehow, a business that has consistently produced an inferior product for the better part of four decades, continues to succeed wildly at the cash register and in popularity polls.
The Leafs are the No. 1 NHL outfit in terms of franchise value as calculated by Forbes, they have the NHL’s highest ticket prices (average of $373 at resale), and it was announced by Twitter on the opening day of the 2014-15 season they rank first in number of followers on the social media platform.