Want to stop tanking? Here’s how

Ken Campbell
Anders Lindback  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s not hyperbole to suggest the next four days could provide a franchise-defining moment for the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes. It’s just kind of weird that a couple of games between the two worst teams in the league are accompanied by Super Bowl-type hype, and potentially toilet bowl results.

But there is so, so much on the line here. As we’ve said in this space a number of times this season, the reward for finishing 30th overall is not having a 20 percent chance of getting Connor McDavid in the draft. The motivation for finishing last is having a 100 percent chance of getting either McDavid or Jack Eichel. Read more

NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

Read more

Could the Buffalo Sabres win their way out of the McDavid and Eichel sweepstakes?

Jared Clinton
Jack Eichel by Brian Babineau, Connor McDavid by Adam D’Oliveira

It might be hard to believe, but there’s a chance the Buffalo Sabres won’t finish dead last in the NHL this season. And if they don’t finish at the bottom of the standings, they won’t have a guaranteed shot at Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the upcoming draft.

Granted, yes, no matter where they finish, there’s a shot they land one of the two simply by luck of the draw. However, if Buffalo doesn’t finish 30th in the league, there’s no promise they’re going to be able to get their hands on either of the draft’s top two selections. But where does the concern come from for the Sabres?

Well, if things go right – or wrong, depending on how you want to look at it – and if Edmonton and Arizona fall apart, the Sabres could fall as low as the third overall selection by the time the season is through. And the possibility of that is quite high. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Without an extension, O’Reilly’s time in Colorado could be up

o'reilly

Despite considerable speculation this season over forward Ryan O’Reilly‘s future with the Colorado Avalanche, the 24-year-old was not among those on the move at the recent trade deadline. While he’ll finish this season with the Avalanche, it remains to be seen how long he’ll remain in Colorado.

O’Reilly’s $6-million annual cap hit and eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July 2016 makes him a frequent subject for trade rumors. The Denver Post’s Terry Frei praises O’Reilly as a well-respected and terrific two-way player who could be the final piece of the championship puzzle for an elite team but notes the decline in his production makes it difficult to justify his expensive salary. Read more

Anders Lindback’s huge OT glove save leaves Leo Komarov shaking his head

Jared Clinton
Anders Lindback (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray may have brought goaltender Anders Lindback aboard simply as a warm body to play between the pipes, but with the Sabres season all but over, it doesn’t mean Lindback isn’t still trying to show Murray a thing or two.

In overtime of Wednesday’s game between two of the Eastern Conference’s bottom-feeding teams, the Maple Leafs and Sabres, Lindback made a glove stop that was equal parts stellar positioning and lighting fast reflexes. With less than two minutes left in the extra frame, Leo Komarov drove the net and tipped a pass from Richard Panik towards Lindback. It looked like a surefire goal until Lindback windmilled his glove hand to stop the redirection.
Read more

Welcome to the Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre, the most depressing place on Earth

Ken Campbell
Sabres goal celebration  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The NHL season lasts 186 days, during which 30 teams play 1,230 games. It’s difficult to fathom that there has been, or will be, a more depressing place in the hockey world than the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night for a clash between the 26th and 30th best teams in the NHL.

The fact that the game went to a shootout, with the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3, probably pleased only the Edmonton Oilers, who are now only three points ahead of the Sabres for 30th overall and a 100 percent chance to get either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. With the win, the Leafs moved a full 13 points ahead of the Oilers and 16 ahead of Buffalo, making a collapse of biblical proportions the only way the Maple Leafs can possibly hope for those kinds of odds. Read more

The Prospect Hot List: Captain of the undefeated

Jack McNeely (photo courtesy of Mark Hvidsten)

It’s getting down to crunch time in the prospect world, as the most wonderful time of year is upon us. College hockey has already entered the conference playoff stage while major junior is down to jockeying for berths in the post-season. The high schoolers in Minnesota are already finished and the story of the winners is pretty compelling. Meet the captain of that squad, plus nine other NHL prospects making noise in our weekly round-up.

Read more

Bottom feeders refuse to tank by playing hard…and badly

Red Wings celebration (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the night the Edmonton Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoff race for the ninth straight season, the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes had the potential for an all-out Tank-a-thon. But the more you watch these bottom feeders play, the more you realize they’re not losing on purpose to get a chance at a generational talent.

They’re just really, really bad hockey teams.

Say what you will about the moves the power brokers of the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs have made off the ice, but it’s crystal clear that those who have a say on what happens on the 200-by-85 playing surface will have nothing to do with the stink of losing on purpose. Read more