Inclement weather has led to the cancellation of the Buffalo Sabres home contest against the New York Rangers on Friday, turning a four game NHL slate into three. It’s not the first postponement the NHL has had, and it certainly won’t be the last.
With over five feet of snow falling earlier this week, it took few by surprise that Friday’s game was called off and rescheduled for Feb. 20. Even the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who wouldn’t have played at home until Sunday, will be taking their game to Detroit. Whether it be a terrible tragedy or something as trivial as a boxing match, postponements have halted league play several times. Read more
Ever since Arizona State announced that its successful ACHA club team would be making the leap to Division 1 hockey, coach Greg Powers has been fighting a war against his inbox. See, every time the Sun Devils bench boss finishes reading an email, five or six more pop up. Powers has received about 600 emails in the past day from potential recruits, family advisors (ie agents) and other ACHA coaches who want to know how his school did it.
“We expected it was going to be big news,” Powers said. “I’ve been pushing Arizona State as the most unique college hockey experience in the country for four years.”
Arizona State has national name recognition thanks to it affiliation in other sports with the Pac-12 conference, it’s a huge school (80,000 students) and it has that great Southwestern climate to boast. The Sun Devils also had a nice model in Penn State, a similar school (minus the weather) that went from the ACHA to Division 1 just a few years ago and is already thriving in the newly-formed Big Ten conference.
“Penn State is awesome,” Powers said. “Their blueprint for success has worked. It’s real, you can do it. We did it.”
In fact, when the Nittany Lions were in their transition season, they hosted Powers’ Arizona State team and the Sun Devils came away with a win. The victory put the school on the map and that’s when the rumblings began in the greater Phoenix area.
So if other club-level schools are calling Powers, we may not be done yet with college expansion in the near future. But which schools would bring the most buzz with them? Here’s a top 10 based on national prominence, geographical uniqueness (so if your state already has a team, too bad) and conference links, if any. As a bonus, I’ve included young local players from each area.
Artrurs Irbe’s surprise appearance on the Sabres’ bench as their emergency goalie on Tuesday brought to mind his colorful NHL career, his adventurous puckhandling skills and that brilliant run he had in the 2002 playoffs for Carolina.
Based on that Cinderella performance, plus some of the other upsets he anchored as the backstop in San Jose, the now 47-year-old goalie coach for Buffalo sneaks onto our list of the NHL’s top 10 European goalies of all-time.
In February, Carolina Hurricanes players met and practiced with Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cathcart, a U.S. soldier and purple heart recipient, at a rink in Ft. Bragg, N.C.:
On Sunday, the Hurricanes were mourning the loss of Cathcart, who was killed Friday in combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. The 31-year-old Bay City, Mich., native’s military honors also included four bronze star medals, the purple heart medal and four army commendation meedals; he was also a hockey fan whose biggest thrill when meeting the team was talking to former NHLer and Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour. Cathcart had been seriously injured for the first time in Afghanistan when a bomb blast ejected him from his vehicle and left him with extensive head trauma, but recovered fully within two months, then redeployed to Afghanistan shortly after having the opportunity to realize a dream and skate with NHL players.
Carolina GM Ron Francis described the effect Cathcart had on the organization: Read more
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.
Since the implementation of the salary cap in 2005, early-season NHL trades have become rare. Even the ability for teams to absorb part of a player’s salary failed to spark an increase in player movement during a season’s opening weeks.
That partially explains why it took a month for this regular season’s first trade to occur, when the Dallas Stars shipped aging defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Travis Moen. Since that deal there’s anticipation over when the next NHL trade will take place. Read more
For several weeks trade rumors have dogged Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal and defenseman Andrej Sekera. There was talk several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, inquired into Staal’s availability. Sekera’s eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July fuelled speculation he could be dealt at some point this season. Read more
Former San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton has no intention of waiving his no-movement clause anytime soon. Despite an off-season in which Thornton was stripped of the captaincy and mentioned in trade rumors, he told the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger he considers the Sharks a very good team capable of doing something.
During the summer, there was speculation claiming Sharks management might try to pressure the 35-year-old into accepting a trade. The rumors carried over into this season, as Zeisberger cited a recent report linking Thornton with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Read more