As a player always slotted as backup goalie, Jamie McLennan used to enter each season wondering how much work he’d get. During his NHL career that began in 1993 and ended in 2008, his games played in a season ranged from nine in 2006-07 with Calgary to 38 in 2000-01 with Minnesota. All told, McLennan appeared in 254 games (80-109-36 record and 13 shutouts).
“I’m very proud of it,” McLennan said. “I had some success and pitfalls. I am well aware it wasn’t Hall of Fame worthy, but I was a backup goalie who hung around for a long time.”
Today, as a hockey analyst with TSN and the NHL Network, McLennan is still viewed as a backup by some. With Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger the go-to guys at TSN, McLennan gets duty on That’s Hockey and That’s Hockey 2Nite on TV and co-hosts Leafs Lunch for two hours a day on TSN Radio. That’s on top of providing color commentary for 36 regionally broadcast games for the Ottawa Senators. Read more
Around the time Jonathan Cheechoo’s career started taking a step back, a new young gun arrived for the San Jose Sharks. It was part of what you can call the Joe Thornton effect, if you’d like. Now, just six seasons after a 31-goal year, Devin Setoguchi is without a place in the NHL.
On Wednesday, the Calgary Flames waived the 27-year-old Setoguchi. On Thursday, he cleared waivers and was officially demoted to the American League’s Adirondack Flames. It’s his first time back in the AHL since 2007-08 and when he’ll be back in the NHL, it’s hard to say. Read more
With December closing in, the NHL has completed one-quarter of its regular season. (And as my colleague Ken Campbell points out, do not call this the quarter pole.) These points in the campaign always provide an opportunity to take stock of what we’ve seen so far and identify the teams that have stood out for the right and wrong reasons. With that in mind, here are the league’s three biggest pleasant surprises and bitter letdowns to this point:
Biggest pleasant surprises
NEW YORK ISLANDERS. When the Islanders started the season 6-4-0 in the month of October, fans and media were intrigued, if not bowled over; they’d seen the franchise do well in short bursts before, but it never lasted during the reign of GM Garth Snow. But in November, the Isles have been an orange-and-blue steamroller, losing only twice in 12 games since Oct. 30 and beating quality opponents – including Anaheim, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh (in both games of a home-and-home series last week). They’re currently riding a five-game win streak, and although there’s a chance they could fall back, as long as their key players can stay healthy, the Islanders should contend for a top-four seed in the playoffs. A big reason for that is Snow’s off-season acquisitions of Jaroslav Halak, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, who couldn’t have worked out better thus far.
CALGARY FLAMES. Expectations for the Flames were about as low as could be entering the season, but under coach Bob Hartley, this young team has drastically exceeded them thanks to an impressive work ethic and some good fortune in the shooting percentage department. Many continue to expect Calgary will at some point take a step backward, but even if it all falls apart from here, what they’ve shown so far – thanks in large part to brilliant young talents such as rookie Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and the veteran calm of captain Mark Giordano – has earned them a special spot in the hearts of Flames fans. Read more
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
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
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.
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.
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