As if the debacle in Dallas wasn’t bad enough for Vancouver, the Canucks found out today that they’ll be without Zack Kassian for three games after he was suspended by the NHL for this hit on Brenden Dillon of the Stars last night.
Kassian received a major penalty and a game misconduct for the check from behind. The Stars scored once on the five-minute power play.
Factoring into the decision was that Kassian is a repeat offender this season. He was suspended in September for the three pre-season and five regular season games after recklessly high sticking Sam Gagner.
Chick-chick. Chick-chick. Chick-chick.
That’s the sound of the Vancouver Canucks reaching the top of the metaphorical rollercoaster as their window of contention closes. Next comes the “AHHHHH!” as the team plummets toward a rebuild.
If there was any doubt as to what phase the Canucks are entering now, Thursday night erased it.
The Dallas Stars laid an absolute beating on John Tortorella’s hapless team, winning 6-1 on the strength of a five-point night from Tyler Seguin. Zack Kassian got himself ejected and likely suspended with this hit from behind on Stars blueliner Brenden Dillon:
But, uh, hey, at least newly anointed starting goalie Eddie Lack was kind enough to allow five goals through two periods, letting Jacob Markstrom make an earlier-than-expected Canucks debut.
This was a Canucks team coached by Tortorella, not Alain Vigneault, a team missing Daniel Sedin, a team no longer boasting Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider as its goaltending tandem. Quite a far cry from Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final. In fact, tonight’s sorry effort and the events of the past week may signify the franchise’s lowest point since the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore scandal 10 years ago.
Even the departed Luongo sprayed gasoline on the fire with, surprise surprise, a beautifully timed tweet:
I was at a function last night when a casual hockey fan asked me which NHL team Jamie Benn plays for. Like the rest of the country, the fan was mightily impressed with what Benn accomplished in Sochi and was surprised he didn’t know more about him.
“Is it St. Louis?” he asked. “I don’t see the Blues on TV much.”
If Benn keeps rolling the way he is, all fans, even the most nonchalant, will know exactly where he plays.
Already a household name among serious hockey followers, his stature will soar. The Dallas Stars’ captain went from being a snub at last summer’s Team Canada orientation camp, to a key cog in the gold medal triumph. Both his goals were game-winners and coach Mike Babcock trusted him in critical situations, including on the penalty-kill.
Last night, he again proved what a dangerous weapon he is. On the PK against Carolina, he scored one of the prettier goals of the season, going end-to-end, splitting the defense and beating Anton Khudobin with a deft deke.
He now has 23 goals and 54 points on the season. That doesn’t make him a threat for the Art Ross or Rocket Richard, or even tops in either category on his team (that honor belongs to Tyler Seguin), but with a sustained push, he could finish top 10. To boot, he’s taking care of business in his own end, posting a plus-12.
With the NHL trade deadline a week away, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly is concerned the Philadelphia Flyers defense isn’t strong enough to get them into the playoffs. He feels they lack an impact defenseman, but acknowledges the difficulty of landing one by the trade deadline.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he likes how his blueline has played this season. He admits “it’s not a sexy defense,” but praised their performance. Holmgren adds he’s on the lookout for anything that could help his team, but he doesn’t foresee making a major trade. When it comes to trades, Holmgren has a history of saying one thing and doing another. One shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he’s looking around for blueline depth.
Panaccio suggests New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald would be “a very nice upgrade for any club,” noting his $550,000 salary is very affordable. Other options are Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, Dallas’ Trevor Daley, Edmonton’s Nick Schultz and Calgary’s Dennis Wideman, though Panaccio observes they all carry substantially higher cap hits.
The Ottawa Senators find themselves at the Olympic break sitting only one point out of a wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently locked in a three-way tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals.
GM Bryan Murray was actively shopping for help leading up to the Olympic roster freeze. Earlier in the season he sought a top-six winger and a puck-moving defenseman. The emergence of young blueliner Cody Ceci addressed the latter, leaving Murray still seeking that elusive winger.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Murray will keep looking for the right deal to improve his club’s playoff chances. Unfortunately, only a handful of teams are currently considered to be sellers so there are few players available to address the Senators’ needs. Murray admits the asking prices are high and he’s unwilling to overpay for a rental player. Read more
The status of Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller is an ongoing hot topic in the NHL rumor mill.
Sabres GM Tim Murray told The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington he’s getting lots of trade offers for Miller and his fellow pending UFAs Matt Moulson, Steve Ott and Henrik Tallinder. Murray said he’s willing to listen to offers for any player on his team, but any deal depends upon the return. Harrington concluded those teams interested in Miller, Moulson and Ott should be prepared to pony up.
It’s rumored the asking prices for the trio will be expensive (especially for Miller) with Murray seeking young players, draft picks and/or prospects. In an earlier interview with Harrington, Miller didn’t rule out re-signing with the Sabres, but said he hasn’t been approached about a new contract or a trade. He holds a partial no-trade clause in which he can reject up to eight teams as trade destinations. Read more
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports the Rangers could trade captain Ryan Callahan if he’s unsigned by the March 5 trade deadline. While that move could adversely affect their playoff hopes, Brooks believes it would be necessary to ensure they get something for Callahan rather than risk losing him for nothing to free agency in July.
While Callahan’s preference is to re-sign with the Rangers, Brooks says the right winger’s asking price (seven years, $42 million) could be too expensive for GM Glen Sather, even though Callahan would certainly get that much on the open market this summer. Sather is reportedly gauging Callahan’s trade value. Brooks suggests a potential return should be “at least a player who can step in immediately plus a legitimate prospect.” He also cites sources saying the Rangers have interest in Colorado Avalanche left winger Jamie McGinn, but doesn’t know if that interest is tied to Callahan or a separate potential deal.
It’s difficult to believe Sather would trade his captain at such a crucial point in the season, especially considering the GM’s past willingness to spend big on retaining key players and pursuing free agent talent. It could be a pressure tactic on Sather’s part to force Callahan to accept a lesser deal. If Callahan won’t budge, however, Sather’s hand may be forced by deadline day. Read more
A lack of scoring depth is hurting the New Jersey Devils’ efforts to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings. They sit 25th overall in goals per game and 30th in shots per game. Their offensive production significantly drops beyond scoring leaders Jaromir Jagr (44 points) and Patrik Elias (29 points in 39 games).
Their anaemic offense could push GM Lou Lamoriello into the trade market. The Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere says Lamoriello must focus his attention on a top-line left wing by early March and wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils also added an experienced defenseman.
Calgary’s Michael Cammalleri (currently recovering from a concussion), Buffalo’s Matt Moulson, Dallas’ Ray Whitney and the Islanders’ Thomas Vanek could be trade targets for Lamoriello. The asking price for Cammalleri, Moulson or Vanek could be expensive, as their current teams will seek young players, prospects and/or draft picks in return. The Devils also lack a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Whitney would be a more affordable option, though the 41-year-old veteran’s production is down significantly.
Lamoriello has a bargaining chip in goaltending legend Martin Brodeur, who recently told Chere he wouldn’t be surprised if he were asked to waive his no-trade clause. Brodeur, however, said he’s not seeking a trade and Chere believes the Devils prefer to retain him to back up his heir apparent, Cory Schneider.