Building a playoff team from scratch? No doubt you take Drew Doughty first

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(Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Ryan Kennedy would build his team around Drew Doughty. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Adam Proteau’s on Jonathan Toews)

In a very short period of time, Drew Doughty has become one of the best and most well-rounded defensemen in the world. Never mind the fact he was Canada’s best player at the Sochi Olympics, never mind the fact he has a Stanley Cup championship ring and another gold medal from 2010 to go along with that triumph, just look at the visceral evidence.

For example, ask Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom how he felt when his 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame was hoisted into the air by a Doughty hit in a recent tilt, then unceremoniously dropped from a fair height. Simply put, the Los Angeles Kings’ blueliner can hurt the opposition in every manner possible and that’s why I would want him as the headline player on my team if I were shooting for a title.

At just 24, Doughty has already racked up an array of championships that has him looking like a nastier version of Scott Niedermayer, who is now employed just down the road in Anaheim. The fact Doughty played for a mediocre Guelph team in junior means he’ll never have the Memorial Cup Niedermayer earned in Kamloops, but the young Kings star did get his World Junior Championship gold medal in 2008 and it’s only a matter of time before Doughty’s name is etched into the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Read more

Bruce Bennett: the Albert Einstein of hockey photography

Ronnie Shuker
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You already know the name Bruce Bennett. If you’ve ever perused the pages of The Hockey News or clicked through THN.com, you’ve seen the name. It’s there in the fine print, crediting some of the most memorable photos in the history of hockey.

Bennett, 58, is an icon of ice imagery. He has photographed hockey for nearly 40 years, with an estimated 40,000-plus images printed in major newspapers and magazines around the world. He has seen his profession go from film to Photoshop, the darkroom to the digital era, while the game went from the old-time hockey of the 1970s to the new-school NHL of today. The players have gotten faster and his equipment more high tech, yet his eye for what makes a photo so indelible, and louder than the accompanying words, remains the same.

“When I cover a hockey game, I’m not just looking for a guy scoring a goal,” he says. “I want the whole picture: I want close-ups of faces, I want to see the tension in a player’s face – I want to see the competitiveness.”

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Rangers pull a fast one on fans in 1926-27

Stan Fischler
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When the legendary Marx Brothers comedy team was drawing laughs on Broadway in 1926, the New York Rangers were about to launch their first NHL season. And, strangely enough, there was a connection.

In their musical Cocoanuts, Chico Marx, while checking Florida real estate, turns to his brother Groucho and says, “Maybe it’s the house next door.” To which Groucho replies, “There is no house next door.” Chico: “That’s OK, boss, we’ll build one.”

When Johnny Bruno walked out of the theater showing Cocoanuts, the skit gave him an idea. Bruno happened to be press agent for the just-minted Rangers and he was worried about putting people in seats. The Blueshirts debut was coming exactly one year after the New York Americans had become Gotham’s first big-league hockey club. What’s more, the Amerks had already become a hit. Bruno needed something to grab attention away from the star-spangled rivals. But how?

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Salmon is salvation for players’ off-season training regimens

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Catherine Scola/Moment Mobile)

It’s almost perfection on a plate. For hockey players, so much of what the body needs is in a single food.

“Salmon is a great choice,” said trainer Ben Prentiss. “It’s high in protein, has DHA – which supports your brain – it serves as an anti-inflammatory, and it’s one of the best things for burning body fat. It’s pretty much the perfect food. ”

Prentiss is a strength and conditioning coach who has trained NHLers such as Martin St-Louis, Max Pacioretty, Matt Moulson and James van Riemsdyk. He’s all business when it comes to workouts for his players in the off-season and no nonsense when it comes to their nutrition programs.

“They eat whatever I tell them to eat,” Prentiss said. “As a strength coach, I’m not worried about making delicious dishes for the guys. I’m more concerned about what it’s doing for them. A perfect dish would be wild salmon with quinoa and kale or salmon with brown rice pasta.”

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Punkrock puckheads proud of hockey heritage

The Hockey News
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By Brian O’Neill

It was supposed to be one night only. Instead, it has lasted 16 years and counting.

Since 1997, Two Man Advantage, a band from Long Island, N.Y., has been fusing lyrics about hockey with its punk rock style. It’s a unique combination that extends even into its live performances. The band has its own jerseys, with its Two Man Advantage logo emblazoned on the front, and the members wear various pieces of hockey equipment and refer to parts of their sets as “periods.” Even encores are hockey-inspired.

“Sometimes the audience will call for an overtime,” said Jeffrey ‘Captain’ Kaplan, one of the band’s guitarists and a New York Islanders fan. “They’ll start chanting – ‘O-ver-time! O-ver-time!’ – to get us back to play a couple more.”

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What If…Pavel Bure had an injury-free career?

The Hockey News
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport)

By Nathan Kanter

Pavel Bure was one of the purest snipers ever, but his career was cut short because of knee problems. He retired in 2005 with 437 goals in just 702 games, an average of .623 goals per game, which ranks fifth all-time. But what if Bure didn’t have to deal with a chronically injured knee? What if… he had an injury-free career?

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Oilers need to learn you must deal talent to get talent

Ryan Kennedy
Jordan Eberle (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of these days, sometime in the future, certainly before the NHL’s new TV deal with Rogers runs out, maybe we’ll come to a trade deadline where the Edmonton Oilers are serious about being contenders and approach the date as buyers.

When that day comes, Oilers fans better hope the members of Edmonton’s brass were studious history observers. Because the franchise that has slumped its way to three No. 1 overall picks in the past four drafts – possibly four out of five this summer – should take a look at how the Pittsburgh Penguins became Stanley Cup champions in 2009 and how the Pens have maintained exalted status in the Eastern Conference ever since.

Oh sure, you can be pithy and say “Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that’s how,” but it took more than that. What Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero executed so well was the accumulation of assets he was willing to move to fill a need. Simply put, Oiler fans: don’t fall in love with your own players if you want to win.

From 2002 to 2006, the Penguins drafted two players first overall (Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury), two players second overall (Malkin and Jordan Staal) and one player fifth overall (Ryan Whitney).

Whitney would turn out to be a crucial piece to the puzzle, even though he did so from Anaheim. Coming out of Boston University as a smooth-skating puck rusher who could quarterback a power play, Whitney ranked as high as 17th overall in THN’s Future Watch edition and put up 14 goals and 59 points in his sophomore NHL campaign.

But with the Penguins knocking on Stanley’s door, a Pittsburgh team with so much talent down the middle still needed some wingers to complement the pivot trifecta of Crosby, Malkin and Staal. That’s when Shero pulled the trigger, sending Whitney to the Ducks for previous Cup winner Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi. Kunitz became an integral part of the attack and the rest is history.

Two years later, Shero needed another top-end winger and went over to Dallas, where he landed James Neal, alongside defenseman Matt Niskanen, for blueliner Alex Goligoski. Like Whitney, Goligoski was entering his best years when Pittsburgh traded him, adding offense from the back end and playing more than 20 minutes a night. But you have to give in order to receive, so that’s what Shero did. And though the Penguins didn’t win the Cup, the emergence of Neal and Niskanen have still made the trade look great from a Pittsburgh perspective.

Which takes us to Edmonton.

The list of young offensive talent up front is great right now, with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov all coming to town as No. 1 overall picks. Jordan Eberle was a steal with the 22nd choice in 2008 and plays like a top-five selection. If you stretch Edmonton’s rebuild back a bit farther, you can add in skilled center Sam Gagner, who was the sixth overall pick in 2007. Trade rumors surrounding Gagner have been omnipresent for more than a year, but the real return would come from one of the other scorers.

The Oilers, as currently constructed, are terrible defensively and that’s not limited to the blueliners. The top-end forwards are all on the smaller side, with Hall the biggest at 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds. In the West, this is not a group that can hang with the Ryan Getzlaf/Anze Kopitar/Joe Thornton crowd. But any team would love to add one of those players to its lineup if Edmonton were willing to part with an asset. Yakupov is the least experienced of the crew and has taken a lot of lumps from the local press and fans, though it’s only fair to point out he’s just 20. He would benefit most from a change of scenery, but would also bring the least return.

Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth may be the answer in net for Edmonton and goaltenders seem to be easier to find these days, but the Oilers definitely need more NHL defensemen and top-six size up front.

It might sound like sacrilege to Oilers fans, but if Edmonton were to part with one of Hall or Eberle, the return would be substantial: a top-pairing defenseman, for sure.

The Oilers have holes to fill and some great assets, but need to look at what the Penguins did to connect the dots.

It may not be pleasant, but it works.

This column originally appeared in the March 3 issue of The Hockey News magazine . Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

Wacky, diving Canadian dollar could have impact on 2014-15 NHL salary cap

Ken Campbell
Loonie (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

There was a time when NHL teams north of the border would have been thrilled with a 90-cent dollar. That, of course, was back in 2001 when the dollar bottomed out at just over 63 cents compared to its American counterpart. But now that Canada has been on par or, in some cases, trading higher for the better part of seven years now, it’s not such pleasant news.

Since the Canadian dollar drew even in the fall of 2007, it has been great news for the NHL and its (now) seven Canadian teams. But the dollar has been in a free fall according to analysts and isn’t about to rebound back to par any time soon. When the puck dropped to open the season in October, the Canadian loonie was worth 97 cents American. By early February, it had dropped to 90 cents, with it dipping ever so slightly below the 90-cent threshold on occasion.

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