With NHL parity at all-time high, even the last-place Flames aren’t so bad

Brian Costello
Johnny Gaudreau. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

If a league is only as good as its worst team, there’s never been more parity in the history of the NHL.

Heading into Monday night’s games, the Calgary Flames currently stand in 30th (and last) place with 22 points in 26 games. Never before in an NHL season has a last-place team had more than 20 points on Dec. 7, which is about the one-third mark of the season.

Two previous last-place teams in the shootout era had 20 points on Dec. 7. The 2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2007-08 Washington Capitals were cellar-dwellers after 26 and 28 games respectively. And on three occasions last-place teams had as many as 19 points.

Parity, of course, can have a variety of definitions, but the quality of the lowest-place team is one of them. The 10-14-2 Flames have actually done OK lately. They have six straight wins on home ice and points in six of their last nine games overall.

Remarkably, Calgary is just five points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand on the Arizona Coyotes. And the Flames are within six points of a dozen other NHL teams.

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Wild, Blackhawks alumni game has star power with Modano, Broten, Roenick, Chelios

Mike Modano (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

The Winter Classic alumni game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens is going to be a star-studded affair, but the contest between former members of the Chicago Blackhawks and combination of Minnesota North Stars and Wild promises to have just as much star power.

Both the Blackhawks and Wild announced their alumni teams Tuesday, and the rosters include some all-time greats from the Blackhawks, Wild and North Stars organizations. Nearly 50 alumni will be taking part in the event, including arguably three of the greatest American born players of all-time.

For the Minnesota alumni, longtime Dallas Star Mike Modano, who was drafted first overall by the North Stars in 1988, will be taking part in the game, and he’ll suit up across from fellow American born stars Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, both of whom had some of their best years as members of the Blackhawks. Read more

Watch Jordie Benn and Alex Chiasson put on a passing clinic

Jared Clinton
Jordie Benn and Jamie Benn (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Monday night, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar made a gorgeous alley-oop pass to Marian Gaborik. It wouldn’t have been surprising were that one of the greatest assists of the season. But then Tuesday night’s tilt between the Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators happened.

First, we’ll start with Dallas’ Jordie Benn. He must have been checking out Kopitar’s highlights pre-game, because with the Stars down 5-1 with little less than 14 minutes remaining in the third, Benn took a page from Kopitar’s book and put what can best be compared to a Hail Mary in football right on the tape of Jamie Benn, his brother: Read more

First quarter report: What’s up with the Dallas Stars and what’s wrong with Sidney Crosby?

Jamie Benn (left) and Tyler Seguin have been on some kind of tear this season. Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Monday night’s NHL games marked the official passing of the first quarter of the season and like Nathan MacKinnon, time flies, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for the league to rubber stamp the Las Vegas expansion application and allow Bill Foley into the annual owners’ croquet game. We’re still waiting on that and, if Jeremy Jacobs’ comments have any merit – and they do – we’ll be waiting a lot longer.

Off the ice, that was one of the big surprises of the season so far. Between the boards, here are some of the others that have surfaced after the first quarter:

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Bernier a star? Lindros in HHOF? Norris for Phaneuf? Counting down my biggest blunders

Toronto Maple Leafs Jonathan Bernier

I had an uncle who claimed he had never been wrong. Used to insist he didn’t know how it feels to be wrong.

“Is it like an itch?” he’d joke.

Me, well I sure know how it feels to be wrong. When you are as opinionated as I am, being wrong comes with the territory.

I’ll give you a few examples:

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The six most cost-effective players in the NHL this season

Tomas Fleischmann (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The salary cap era has made it incredibly important to find players who can contribute offensively while not breaking the bank. Usually, these players fill in bottom-six roles and eat up the minutes not reserved for the top-line players. Put it this way: it’s not often you find a winger making league minimum playing on the top power play unit.

But every so often, a team will find a steal of a deal. Be it a veteran coming into camp late or a player coming off their entry-level deal that is just hitting their stride, the cost-effective players are the ones that can help make or break a season. The cap flexibility doesn’t hurt, either.

Before we build the most cost-effective roster possible though, some guidelines. First, the players on this list have to have at least eclipsed the 10-point plateau. As nearly every team is closing in on the 20-game mark, the truest value players will be chipping in a point every other game while taking up a fraction of the cap. Second, in order to cut out the players on cheap deals by virtue of being on entry-level contracts, only players on standard player contracts have been included. So even though Nathan MacKinnon is tearing it up for Colorado, the Avalanche playmaker won’t be on this cost-effective list.

Here are the six players providing their clubs with the most bang for their buck: Read more

Antti Niemi added to list of NHLers who’ve had name spelled wrong

Jared Clinton
Antti Niemi's jersey had an error Tuesday night. (via Streamable)

Antti Niemi is still getting adjusted to life in Dallas, and it appears the Stars’ equipment managers are still getting used to have Niemi around. Case in point: Niemi hit the ice for warmups Tuesday with his name hilariously misspelled.

There were more than a few of those in attendance who caught the Stars’ gaffe, and that includes the MSG crew who were broadcasting the game for the hometown Buffalo Sabres. Leave it to Sabres all-time great play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret to point out the error in spelling like only he could: Read more

Stars’ Ales Hemsky bloodies Red Wings’ Jonathan Ericsson with unpenalized high hit

Jared Clinton
Jonathan Ericsson (via Streamable)

Dallas Stars right winger Ales Hemsky isn’t known for his physical play, but the 32-year-old threw a dangerous check Sunday night that left Detroit Red Wings blueliner Jonathan Ericsson downed, bloodied and serving a minor penalty for roughing.

Hemsky’s blow to Ericsson came with less than eight minutes remaining in the third frame of Sunday’s tilt. With the puck in the corner and Ericsson attempting to make a play along the boards, Hemsky came in from behind and delivered a high hit that left the Red Wings defenseman bleeding from the right side of his head: Read more