The Sharks lose again – and the end nears for coach Todd McLellan

Adam Proteau
Todd McLellan (Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks lost their fourth straight game Wednesday – this one, a feeble 2-0 defeat at home to the Flames – which meant the heat on San Jose head coach Todd McLellan is only going to increase. And with the franchise falling back in the pack in the Western Conference (their 10-10-4 record has them fifth in the Pacific Division and 10th in the West), McLellan’s six-year tenure behind the Sharks bench could be at an end.

San Jose’s players had already spoken out in support of McLellan prior to Wednesday’s loss, yet in spite of that and Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s well-earned reputation as a man who doesn’t make rash decisions, he may have little choice but to fire his coach and continue the process of remaking this team in a newer, more playoff-productive mold. McLellan is a highly-respected coach whose services likely would be snapped up in short order, but his current team has dropped seven of its past nine games and its most recent five losses haven’t come at the hands of a murderer’s row of opponents (Columbus, Buffalo, Florida, Arizona and the Flames). Wilson denied contacting former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, but if he’s intent on underscoring his off-season message of the necessity of change, pulling the trigger on McLellan will be a good beginning.

That said, de-employing McLellan isn’t going to be a cure-all for what ails them. Read more

Struggles, streaks, and scoring: 10 unexpected stats at the quarter point of the season

Jakub Voracek's amazing start means fantasy players could get a king's ransom for him in a trade. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are always early season surprises. That’s just the nature of hockey. A lucky bounce here and there, and you have Jon Sim fighting for the lead in preseason scoring, which is something that has actually happened in the past.

Over the course of the year, however, these things tend to even out. At the quarter mark of the season, trends are starting to develop. Of those trends, you’ll notice some are related, while others, not so much. These are the ten most unexpected stats at the quarter-pole. Read more

The next great two-way center? Colin White headlines The Hot List

Team USA's Colin White (Photo courtesy of Tom Sorensen/USA Hockey)

It was a glorious weekend of Michigan hockey for me, as I took a road trip to Ann Arbor to take in games featuring the National Team Development Program (NTDP) and University of Michigan. The NTDP got two wins over United States League opponents while the Wolverines capped off a weekend sweep of American International on Saturday. All three games gave me a great look at some top prospects and here are a few of them below, plus more kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day.

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Top five teams getting points from players making $1M or less

Jonathan Drouin, Johnny Gaudreau and Jason Garrison

In a salary capped NHL where every dollar spent on a superstar is one not spent on roster depth, it can be easy not to notice the rookies and journeymen making $1 million or less at the bottom of the pay scale. But those players can play a crucial role in their team’s success, supplying the offense of a much more expensive player while making pennies on the dollar.

Every general manager is working with the same salary range, but the savvy ones have found ways to acquire cheap secondary scorers who are more than worth their annual salary.

Oftentimes these bargains take the form of phenomenal rookies on entry-level deals, but other times they’re former stars taking a one-year deal to prove their worth, or career journeymen who are steady but unspectacular.

A look at the top teams getting points from their bargain players shows it’s not just the rebuilding teams who are buying points on a budget.

And in most cases, one spectacular scorer on an entry-level deal is not enough to elevate his team onto this list. For instance, Vladimir Tarasenko has 10 goals and 21 points for the St. Louis Blues on a contract that pays him $900,000 in base salary, but there are no other significant players on entry-level deals playing with him. The next-highest scorer on his team making six figures is Joakim Lindstrom and his three goals.

Los Angeles is buoyed by Tyler Toffoli (eight goals, 18 points on a $685,000 salary) and Tanner Pearson (seven goals, 10 points and $775,500 this year), along with million-dollar-man Jake Muzzin and his one goal and seven points. But the Kings haven’t used many young players beyond those three, and so they don’t have the production to crack the top five.

Here’s a look at the five teams getting the most point production out of their players making $1 million or less in salary this year.

Note that this is based on what players are making this year – not on their cap hits, which can be much higher than $1 million for entry-level players with bonuses in their contracts.
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Rumor Roundup: Colorado’s struggles could result in shake up for Avalanche core

Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Colorado Avalanche are currently struggling to recapture last season’s 52-win, 112-point performance. Entering this week, the Avs have won only four games while their 13 points in 16 games left them near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

It was a matter of time until their early difficulties sparked some trade speculation. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports it’s believed Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy could shake things up if the club fails to get its act together soon. Read more

Take a look inside some of hockey’s finest fan caves

Jeff Libonati

Hockey fans are a special breed. So special, in fact, we dedicated an entire issue, appropriately dubbed the Fan Issue, entirely to the hockey fan. Be it cheering (or jeering) habits, your fantastic fan stories, or a little bit about the players you love the most, we wanted to give you the issue you’ve always wanted.

In return, we asked for one small thing: pictures of your fan cave – the place you go, decked out with all your favorite gear, to watch your team 82 times during the regular season as they work towards chasing hockey’s ultimate prize.

We received a number of submissions, but below you can find our favorites: Read more

Who’s for real – the Flames or the Predators?

Adam Proteau
Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Calgary and Nashville have some things in common: they’re the epicenters of their country’s country music scene; they’ve had Terry Crisp, Olli Jokinen and a defenseman named Suter working for their respective NHL team; and those two organizations currently are shocking the hockey world by being tied for third place in the Western Conference.

The expectations for the Flames and Predators were considerably different coming into the 2014-15 campaign: the latter made a slew of veteran additions on the ice and behind the bench in the hope of getting back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, while the former was in full-on rebuild mode. But with both off to such a strong start, the natural question is: which of the two will be ahead of the other in the standings by the end of the season?

My answer: the Predators. And here’s why.

For one thing, Norris Trophy-nominated defenseman Shea Weber. For another thing, Vezina Trophy-nominated goalie Pekka Rinne. Nothing personal against Mark Giordano or Jonas Hiller, both of whom are enjoying all-star-caliber seasons for the Flames, but neither Calgary player has elevated his game to be considered among the best of the very best. Until Giordano and Hiller demonstrate consistency at that level, it’s fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the team that has the two better players on its roster. Read more

Once a rugged power forward, Willi Plett still making living with his hands

Jared Clinton
Willi Plett (Steve Babineau/NHLI/Via Getty Images)

When Willi Plett retired from the NHL, he did it on his own terms. In his early 30s at the time, it wasn’t that he was too old or that he couldn’t keep up. And he wasn’t too battered and bruised from playing his hard-nosed style. Rather, Plett didn’t want to continue his career when his heart was no longer in it. Read more