The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are featured prominently in an otherwise quiet NHL summer rumor mill. Both teams face moving players before the new season begins in October, though for different reasons.
For the Bruins, it’s dealing with a surplus of defensemen. The Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin reports they’re carrying nine NHL-caliber blueliners in Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky.
GM Peter Chiarelli stated several times this summer he can’t go into the season carrying that many defenders. Though Chiarelli is in no hurry to address the problem, Benjamin believes one or two players will be shed by October.
One option could be demotion, as Benjamin suggests Warsofsky could spend another season with the Bruins farm team in Providence. A trade is also possible, with Boychuk and Bartkowski as candidates.
I’ve been watching the Tour de France nightly the past couple of weeks and am taken by one of the awards they give out after each stage. It’s the Combativity Award and it goes to the cyclist that day who shows the most fighting spirit.
This isn’t about tossing an elbow out when a competitor tries to zoom by or sticking a leadpipe in the spokes of an unsuspecting rival. The combative award goes to the individual who attacks on the road. That is to say, the cyclist who makes the most attempts to break away from the peloton or chase down leading groups. It’s also called the most aggressive rider prize, or as TDF analyst Paul Sherwen calls it, the rider who most often “throws the cat among the pigeons.”
The winner each stage gets called to the podium, is handed a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed animal, gets kisses from a pair of pretty ladies, then shakes the hands of dignitaries. During the next day’s stage, he wears a special red-backgrounded race number that denotes his distinction.
So why is they don’t have a most combative award in the NHL? They have awards for being skilled in a multitude of ways, for being gentlemanly, for being defensive, for being dedicated, for being a humanitarian, a leader. But nothing for showing the most fighting spirit. And that’s really too bad.
The wrist injury Milan Lucic suffered in Game 7 of the Boston Bruins second-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens is healing quite nicely, thank you very much. But the ignominy he and the Bruins suffered in that same game, well, that’s taking a little longer to wear off.
Shortly after the Bruins lost Game 7 of that series on home ice and were bounced from the playoffs, Lucic underwent surgery to repair the wrist, which he said later got jammed in the first period of that game. Doctors just recently removed the pins and while Lucic has been able to do some lower-body training so far, he has not been able to do any lifting. He hopes to start very soon now that the pins are out of the wrist and it’s on its way to healing fully. Read more
When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.
I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.
So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.
So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more
Another month, another rash of Evander Kane trade speculation. The 22-year-old winger’s recent comments during a radio interview once again raised questions over his future with the Winnipeg Jets.
“Well, I think I’m a Winnipeg Jet now,” Kane told Vancouver’s The Team 1020, acknowledging the trade rumors dogging him since arriving in Winnipeg three years ago. He added “we’ll see what happens” and he’ll carry on “as if I’m a Winnipeg Jet.”
Despite having four years at an annual cap hit of $5.25 million remaining on his contract, Kane appears doubtful he’ll remain with the club for the duration. It’s the second time in as many months he’s raised eyebrows over his status with the team. Prior to last month’s NHL draft, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe reported Kane favorited a tweet by a Flyers fan calling upon his team to acquire the young winger.
At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”
Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more
The NHL’s arbitration process is scheduled to begin later this month. Twenty NHL players have filed for arbitration, while three players were taken to arbitration by their teams. Usually, these contracts are settled before the team and player have to face off in front of an arbiter, so expect most, or all, of these to be settled before the process begins.
Arbitration cases will be heard between July 20 and August 5. Here are the eligible players:
Brandon McMillan - A third round pick by Anaheim in 2008, McMillan played 22 games with the Coyotes in 2013-14, scoring two goals and six points. He also played 46 games with the american League’s Portland Pirates, scoring 11 goals and 26 points. The 5-foot-11 winger was acquired by the Coyotes last year in a trade that sent Matt Lombardi to the Ducks.
Matt Bartkowski - A seventh round pick by Florida in 2008, Bartkowski averaged the fourth-most minutes among Bruins defensemen in 2013-14 and scored 18 assists. He was acquired by Boston in what turned out to be an awful trade for Florida, which sent Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins for not much at all. Bartkowski has emerged as a physical defensive blueliner who fits in nicely with Boston’s brawny way. Read more
1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.
If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more