Before any Pittsburgh fans go and get their jerseys in a jumble, just pause for a second, take a deep breath and think about it: if the Penguins fail to get back to the Stanley Cup final for the sixth straight season, what else is left for the franchise to do but blow up the core?
After an off-season of upheaval in which Pittsburgh brought in a new coach, a new GM and a new supporting cast for Sidney Crosby, there would be few options left but to raze the roster to the ground and begin anew. Sure, the Penguins could use Marc-Andre Fleury as a scapegoat and try using the same roster again next season with a different goalie, but that would only be putting off the inevitable. (Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who are years behind on the rebuilding schedule after sticking with their core despite perennial playoff failures, including their first-round faceplant last year.)
The best thing for the Penguins to do would be to try to trade Crosby for the next Crosby.
The CHL playoffs begin tonight and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Connor McDavid has one last chance to win it all with the Erie Otters in the Ontario League, but the powerfully-built Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have designs of their own. Out in the Western League, Kelowna and Brandon seem to be on a collision course for the final, while the Quebec League has the added wrinkle of sending two teams to the Memorial Cup – one being the host Quebec Remparts, who won’t want to crawl in through the back door.
Here’s a look at all the first-round matchups in the CHL, with a bit more info on one series per league that has me riveted from the get-go.
For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.
According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.
For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.
And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more
After having outstanding seasons in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the current campaign has been one to forget for Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been injured, the Blue Jackets have struggled and his numbers — a 2.78 goals-against average and .917 save percentage — are the worst they have been since he left Philadelphia in 2011-12.
However, no matter how bad a season, Bobrovsky may be able to hang his hat on the fact he can still makes saves few goaltenders in the league would dream of. Tuesday night against Anaheim, he made a post-to-post save that’s sure to be on end of season highlight shows. Watch the extension he makes when he slides across his crease and check out just how little of his body he uses to turn aside this Rickard Rakell attempt: Read more
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.
Staff Sergeant Haywood McDaniel has been serving with the United States Army in Cuba for the past year, but made a special return home Sunday night to surprise his son Brayden during the Blue Jackets outing against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The surprise came during the first intermission following a youth hockey game in which Brayden was named the MVP of the game. While sitting on the bench and about to take part in a post-game interview, Brayden turned to his right and saw his dad standing there. Brayden’s jaw dropped before he hopped off the bench to give his father a hug: Read more
Injuries have all but derailed Columbus’ 2014-15 season, but there’s still a glimmer of hope in the form of Blue Jackets rookie Marko Dano.
The 20-year-old Dano, drafted 27th overall by Columbus in 2013, has suited up in 23 games, but not once has he looked better than he did Sunday evening when he shook Carolina defender Michal Jordan with a deke that knocked him to the ice.
Midway through the second period, Dano came across the Hurricanes’ blueline and cut to the inside, causing Jordan, who was stride-for-stride with him, to pivot – or at least attempt to. As soon as Jordan made his move to keep position on Dano, the freshman pulled the puck the opposite direction and left Jordan watching. Dano then made a slick backhand pass to set up Scott Hartnell for a game-tying goal: Read more
(For our Rookie Issue earlier this season, we ask Blue Jackets veteran and NHL fan favorite Scott Hartnell to provide some advice to himself 15 years ago when he entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie with the Nashville Predators. This is what he had to say…)
Wow, that was some hit, wasn’t it? You’ll probably never skate through the neutral zone with your head down when Darren Langdon is on the ice again, right? In case you’re wondering where you are at the moment, you’re in Raleigh, N.C. Actually, you’re in an ambulance and, yeah, that’s your dad riding with you. Way to screw up the Dads’ Trip there, pal. Read more