If some gym bro said he works out for half an hour but it takes him almost three hours to do it, you’d probably laugh him off. And you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.
Why, then, is it any different for an NHL player?
Throughout the playoffs, a ton of talk surrounded Duncan Keith and the minutes he logged: 31:06 per game. Fans know that’s a dump-truck load of hockey, but most would be hard-pressed to prove why. After all, numbers-wise, it’s no more than what our gym bro does.
Consider this: Most NHLers average 10 to 20 minutes per game. Only the best play more than 20, while some play fewer than 10. The average shift lasts merely 45 seconds, and players clear the boards 20 to 30 times. All of this occurs over as much as three hours to play an NHL game. Endurance athletes like runners, cyclists and swimmers can go for much longer and do it without pause.
Everyone in the hockey world knows this is one of the most demanding sports to play. Yet few understand what players endure physiologically that makes what they do so difficult.
By Rachel Villari
The art of blocking shots depends on many different factors, but when the time comes to go down and make the sacrifice, Kris Russell implores one thing is a constant: a sense of fearlessness.
Russell, 28, has risen from a surplus D-man to a second-pairing bat out of hell since he was traded from the Blues in 2013. In two years with the Flames, he has potted 11 goals and 63 points and blocked 484 shots. Of those, 283 came in 2014-15, a new league record. On average last season, he laid out to prevent 3.58 shots a night.
Maybe ignoring the “flight” half of the fight-or-flight instinct is in his blood: Russell’s father, Doug, was a national rodeo bullfighter in his day. Or maybe his unwavering disposition is a contagion that, instead of wiping out the dressing room, invigorates it. “A lot of guys are willing and sacrificing for blocked shots,” Russell said. “That was part of the reason that we were more successful than a lot of people imagined we would be last year. We had guys laying down and blocking shots, guys like Lance Bouma. He’ll lay in front of anything. That’s the fearlessness that’s contagious.” Read more
Nearly three weeks into the NHL’s free-agency period, former Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson remains unsigned. In a free-agent market decidedly thin on quality talent, the 27-year-old blueliner was considered among the top players available.
It was expected Franson would be among the players signed with the first 24 hours of free agency. That he’s still without a contract entering late-July is drawing headlines as free-agent activity slows down.
CBS Sports’ Adam Gretz suggests Franson’s high asking price could be a factor, speculating the blueliner seeks a deal comparable to the annual cap hit ($5.75 million) of Washington’s Matt Niskanen. Gretz also thinks the decline in Franson’s performance following his February trade from Toronto to Nashville hurts his free-agent value.
The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples cites TSN’s Craig Button forewarning Franson’s lack of speed could be an issue. While acknowledging the rearguard’s lumbering style, Staples points out he’s an excellent passer with a strong snapshot from the point. He believes Franson is best suited as a second-pairing defenseman. Read more
The same day Connor McDavid wore his Edmonton Oiler colors for the first time ever on the ice, his bosses were upstairs going about the process of giving him some legitimate NHL players to surround him.
It’s difficult, nay impossible, to declare the winners and losers of a free agent frenzy day before Canada Day has even included, but it’s difficult to not get excited about what’s going on in western Canada these days. The oil patch has been sucked dry of good hockey for so long that sometimes it looked as though neither the Oilers nor the Calgary Flames were ever going to get it right.
The Battle of Alberta gets more interesting by the hour. The Edmonton Oilers have made drastic changes to start the off-season, but the Calgary Flames have been just as active. They made a massive splash last week by acquiring blueliner Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins (and subsequently signing him). On Wednesday, they added an important piece in right winger Michael Frolik on a five-year, $21.5-million deal.
He may not be the second coming of Patrick Roy, but Karri Ramo was widely considered the top goaltender among this season’s free agent crop. He won’t be leaving Calgary, however, as the Flames have re-signed the netminder.
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Ramo has signed a one-year, $3.8 million deal to stay in Calgary. The contract means Ramo, who suited up in 34 games for the Flames this past season and posted a record of 15-9-3, will be back to split time with Jonas Hiller in the Flames’ crease. Read more
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.
Four days after acquiring Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins for three draft picks, the Calgary Flames have signed the 22-year-old defenseman to a six-year contract extension that will pay him less than $6 million per season.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the deal will pay Hamilton $34.5 million, meaning his contract will carry an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. Interestingly, the deal comes in at a price tag just barely higher than the deal that Hamilton reportedly shot down from the Bruins, which would have seen him paid $33 million over six seasons, a difference of $250,000 per year.
The contract itself sees Hamiton receive two separate pay increases, Dreger reported, as the blueliner will go from making $5.5 million in the first two years of the deal to $5.75 million in years three and four with a $6 million salary coming his way in the final two seasons of the contract. The agreement also carries a limited no trade clause in years five and six. Read more