Thursday evening the NHL continued its week of rolling out the finalists for the major awards, as Calgary Flames left winger Johnny Gaudreau, Florida Panthers blueliner Aaron Ekblad and Ottawa Senators right winger Mark Stone were named finalists for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Late-season pushes by Gaudreau and Stone to shoot up through the rookie scoring race were enough to get them nods for the end-of-season hardware, while Ekblad’s stellar and often times outstanding play on the blueline for the Panthers had him as close to a lock for a nomination as a player could get. Surprisingly absent from the finalists, however, is Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, who for much of the season led the scoring race and appeared to have the trophy wrapped up by the all-star break. Read more
Spoiler alert: The Buffalo Sabres will win tonight’s NHL draft lottery with the numbers 11, 5, 6 and 7. Your trusty correspondent knows this because he went to this really cool website that simulates the NHL draft lottery and it told him so.
Then he did it 99 more times because, like a certain potato chip, you can’t do it only once. The website, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/official, took on a new life on Friday when the NHL made public the lottery number combinations for each of the 14 teams in the event. Suddenly, fans everywhere could, with the click of a keyboard, determine where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will end up next season. Read more
It’s amazing how things will change by Saturday night. Connor McDavid will know which NHL team he will belong to. The McDavid parents will know in which city their son’s adult life will begin to unfold and flourish. Vendors will go crazy preparing McDavid jerseys, signs and apparel.
(And make no mistake, McDavid will be the first overall selection in the June 26-27 NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida. There will be zero drama with that pick.)
The NHL’s draft lottery will be televised Saturday night at 8 pm. The proceedings will begin about 7:30, but the drawing of lottery balls will take place about a half hour later. McDavid’s most likely destination is a city other than Buffalo, but Buffalo has the best odds of all the 14 non-playoff teams. Here’s how it works.
At this point, it’s going to take an army to keep Jaromir Jagr away from professional hockey.
The Florida Panthers announced Sunday that they have come to terms with the 43-year-old legend on a one-year contract, which will keep Jagr in the Sunshine State for at least one more season. Jagr, who was acquired by Florida from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, has suited up in 20 games since joining the Panthers and notched six goals and 18 points. Read more
A lower than expected salary cap for 2015-16 and nearly $65 million in cap payroll invested in just 14 players ensures the Chicago Blackhawks will be shedding salary in the off-season. Teams with available cap space seeking skilled talent will be calling Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman once the playoffs are over.
Among the suitors could be the Florida Panthers. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa speculates Panthers GM Dale Tallon could once again acquire players from his former club. The Panthers roster currently contains former Hawks (like Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen) who were acquired via trade or free agency. Read more
Watching the NHL’s action play out Thursday night was kind of like covering a political election and seeing the polls come in and herald a new leader for a new era. In one polling station, you had the Boston Bruins – the league’s top regular-season team last year – falling to the Florida Panthers and putting their playoff fate in the hands of the surging Ottawa Senators and wobbly Pittsburgh Penguins (who, like the Bruins, won a Stanley Cup not too long ago); In another station, you saw the Calgary Flames hold off the desperate Los Angeles Kings and register a 3-1 win, eliminating the defending Cup champions from the post-season and securing a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets.
Change was everywhere, and more change could be coming. Depending on what happens Friday and Saturday, the Eastern Conference playoff picture could have three teams (the Sens, Capitals and Islanders) who weren’t in the 2014 post-season, and the Western Conference will have four teams (Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Winnipeg) in this year’s playoffs who weren’t there last year. A 43.75 percent playoff turnover rate is one thing, but it’s not just the fact there are potentially seven new post-season teams this year that’s so intriguing; it’s the great distance teams are falling that has NHL executives clenching their teeth and always worrying about what’s ahead. Read more
With a 54-19-9 record, the Boston Bruins were the best regular-season team in the NHL last season. But one year later, and with one game to go in the 2014-15 campaign, they’re on the brink of elimination: if they win their final game in Tampa Bay Saturday, the Bruins still need the Senators to lose in regulation or the Penguins to lose their final two games (against the Islanders on the road Friday and in Buffalo Saturday) to avoid the ignominy of being eliminated from the post-season tournament.
If the Bruins fail to make the playoffs, there’s an overwhelming sense a good deal of change will take place within the organization, and not just in terms of the roster. There have been persistent rumors all season that the job security of GM Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien would be jeopardized, with current team president Cam Neely perhaps replacing the former and choosing a new face to take over for the latter. And given that star defenseman Zdeno Chara just turned 38 years old, it’s difficult to not conclude the window with this current group of players is in the midst of closing.
But is widespread change the best move in this particular situation? It’s not as if we haven’t seen strong NHL teams fall off the map one season, and rebound the next. The Philadelphia Flyers made it to the second round in 2011-12, missed the playoffs by a hair in 2012-13, and were right back in the post-season mix last season. The New Jersey Devils made the playoffs 13 straight years, missed out on them in 2010-11, and then went to the Stanley Cup Final the following year. There’s not always a need to tear things down when you don’t have this minimal level of success as an organization.
However, the more you put this team under a microscope, the more it’s clear: cosmetic changes aren’t going to cut it. It doesn’t have to be a full-on rebuild involving every facet of the franchise, but in an Atlantic Division that now includes the up-and-coming Florida Panthers, the newly-energized Senators, and the already formidable Canadiens and Lightning, Boston cannot afford complacency and second chances for everyone. Read more
Sunday’s NHL action featured five games, all of which had implications on the playoff race. But of those five, three had a little extra depth to them. The Blackhawks/Blues, Senators/Leafs and Flyers/Penguins games weren’t necessarily more exciting than the Capitals’ win over Detroit or Montreal’s 4-1 victory against Florida, but the regional rivalries always have a discernible zest to them that sets them apart – and that comprises the financial backbone of the league’s most profitable teams.
The Leafs’ season has been abysmal and both their players and fans have looked like they’d checked out of things weeks ago, but Toronto’s players and fans got an emotional jolt in a 2-1 shootout win that dealt Ottawa’s playoff hopes a serious blow. The Flyers did more or less the same thing to the Penguins, only Philadelphia needed just three periods to squash the Pens 4-1 and jeopardize Pittsburgh’s post-season hopes. And the Blues and Hawks have the best kind of rivalry – one in which both teams are headed to the playoffs this year and are jousting for top spot in their division.
Sorry, Detroit vs. Washington and Montreal vs. Florida, but you’re going to have an uphill battle trying to replicate the emotion seen in those type of games. Read more