The NHL’s five most memorable gimmicks from the 1990s

Sal Barry
The FoxTrax puck. (Getty Images)

A lot of great ideas came out during the 1990s: the World Wide Web, the original Playstation and The Matrix were all born in that decade. But not everything back then was great, lest I remind you of The Macarena or Zubaz pants. Likewise, the NHL in the 1990s was a time of zany jerseys, glowing pucks and home games away from home. Not all of these seemingly-outlandish ideas worked — but as Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the glow pucks you don’t shoot. Or something like that.

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1. Third Jerseys

Gimmick: NHL teams introduced a third uniform to wear on special occasions.

The Skinny: While a handful of teams have used a third uniform from time to time — I’m looking at you, 1980s Penguins, with your canary-yellow “Sunday” sweaters — for the most part NHL teams had two uniforms: home and away. During the NHL’s 75th anniversary season in 1991-92, the Original Six teams introduced throwback sweaters to wear at home or against other Original Six teams. This also gave those teams another jersey to sell to their fans.

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THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2016-17

Matt Larkin
Carey Price (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The World Cup of Hockey should be an entertaining distraction this September. It will cut into some players’ prep time for the 2016-17 NHL season, and the same inconvenience applies to fantasy pool GMs. You’ll want to have a strong sense of your personal player rankings by September, as watching the World Cup will cut into your studying time.

I’m here to help with my annual top 200 player rankings. This list blends goalies and skaters into a master breakdown tailored for anyone drafting in leagues with multiple stat categories. The rankings below are based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

As I say every year, these are fantasy rankings, not real-life rankings. I do not believe Artemi Panarin is better than Jonathan Toews at hockey, but I do believe Panarin will deliver more points for your pool.

Note the conspicuous absence of goalies in this initial draft of the top 200. I count only 17 guaranteed what I call a “true starter’s workload” of 50 games or more. The timeshare situation creates a nightmare for fantasy GMs. If you don’t get one of the elite starters, you can wait until late in your draft to take a stopper.

With that, let’s begin. Watch for periodic ranking updates throughout August and September leading up to the season. Share any disagreements and point out any glaring omissions in the comment section. Thanks!

Aug. 19 update: Just a quick rejig here. The list has had time to breathe, so I’ll reassess a couple of my ranking decisions. We won’t see major movements until training camps and the World Cup arrive.

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Vesey met with seven teams, discussing options Thursday — what can each team offer?

Jimmy Vesey (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

For those tiring of hearing about NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey, rest assured that the 23-year-old winger is nearing a decision on his destination.

According to a report from ESPN’s Joe McDonald, Vesey has finished meeting with the teams he has interest in joining — seven in total — and will begin discussing the options with his agents today with the possibility of coming to a final decision as early as Friday. Included on Vesey’s list of meetings were the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. That’s not to mention Vesey’s meeting with the Buffalo Sabres, who traded for his rights in mid-June.

Vesey comes with a lot of potential, having scored 56 goals and 114 points in 70 games with Harvard over the past two seasons, and he picked up the Hobey Baker Award in 2016 as the top player in the NCAA. But his performance doesn’t mean money can be used to sway his decision. Each team will have to table similar offers because Vesey will enter the league on a two-year, entry-level deal.

So which team will persuade Vesey to sign on the dotted line? Here are the pros and cons for each team in the running to land the college standout: Read more

Who will be 2016-17’s breakout NHL stars?

Matt Larkin
Jake Allen (Jeff Curry/NHLI via Getty Images)

Martin Jones was a revelation in the San Jose Sharks’ crease last season. He appeared n more games than all but four goalies. He finished second in the NHL in shutouts, third in wins and seventh in goals-against average. His sample size entering 2015-16, after the L.A. Kings traded him, was tiny, but Jones generated plenty of buzz nonetheless. There was a reason Sharks GM Doug Wilson felt Jones was worth a first-round pick. Plenty of prognosticators expected Jones would bust out, and he did.

Who will take the mantle from Jones and become a star in 2016-17? Let’s look at some breakthrough performers from last season and who might follow in their footsteps next.

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Down Goes Brown: Five RFA signings that resulted in big trades as compensation

Sean McIndoe
Adam Graves. (Getty Images)

Last week, we looked back on the league’s long history of arbitrators having to sort out messy cases. One of the biggest was the 1991 case that saw Scott Stevens awarded to the Devils as compensation for the signing of Brendan Shanahan. It was part of the league’s old RFA system, under which some players who signed with a new team weren’t subject to a right to match or draft pick compensation, but rather to a forced trade in which each team submitted what they felt was a fair offer and an arbitrator picked one.

It was, to put it bluntly, a fantastic system. Oh, the players hated it, and so did most of the teams. But for fans, it was a great source of entertainment. It was all sorts of fun to debate the teams’ offers, come up with ones of your own, and speculate over which side the arbitrator would ultimately land on. The system lasted until 1995, when Gary Bettman’s first lockout ended with a new CBA that ushered in new RFA rules. This excellent blog post contains a detailed history of the old system; it’s fair to say we’re unlikely to ever see it return in the NHL.

So today, let’s look back on five more cases where RFA signings resulted in an arbitrator forcing a trade as compensation. None were quite as big as the Stevens-for-Shanahan blockbuster, but each had its own impact on hockey history.

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Five intriguing college free agents not named Jimmy Vesey

Jared Clinton
Thomas Di Pauli (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

By the time Jimmy Vesey signs his first NHL contract, fans will have heard nearly enough about the 23-year-old Hobey Baker Award winner.

It’s not Vesey’s doing, but the interest in his signing destination has led to a long-talked about list of potential destinations — everywhere from his hometown to Boston Bruins to the perennial contender Chicago Blackhawks — and he’ll enter the league next season with some expectations to perform. But all the talk about Vesey may have overshadowed the fact that he isn’t the only NCAA player who officially became a free agent Tuesday morning. In fact, he’s only one of more than a dozen players who are up for grabs now that mid-August is upon us.

While Vesey may be the most sought after NCAA free agent due to his size and scoring ways, here are five other players exiting the college ranks who could be snatched up by a team other than the one that drafted them: Read more

Five sophomores who could be in line for breakout seasons

Robby Fabbri (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

There’s nothing worse than the dreaded sophomore slump, and there are several players who are going to be fighting against a down year after bursting onto the NHL scene this past season.

Take Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin for example. Each came in with significant amounts of hype — McDavid the phenom, Eichel the Hobey Baker winner and Panarin the Russian standout — and each delivered with stellar performances in their rookie seasons. Because of that, the upcoming campaign is going to be their chance to prove that the 2015-16 season was no fluke and that the production was a sign of things to come.

The same goes for defensive talents such as Colton Parayko and Shayne Gostisbehere. Parayko came in as a relative unknown and turned into a top-four defenseman for the St. Louis Blues and already looks to be a member of the core group that will lead the team forward. As for Gostisbehere, his high-scoring ways made him a sensation and Philadelphia Flyers fans can’t wait to see if he can do it all again.

But there are also several rookies who had good — not great — rookie campaigns and could take a major step forward this coming season. Here are five sophomore players in line for a breakout year in 2016-17: Read more

Who could be the next coach of the Avalanche?

Jared Clinton
Bob Hartley (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

After Patrick Roy escaped a second playoff-less season with his job in tact, few would have imagined that the Colorado Avalanche would be searching for a new bench boss come the 2016-17 campaign.

The entire coaching situation in Colorado was turned upside down Thursday, though, when Roy shockingly announced his resignation from the Avalanche, ceding both his coaching duties and position as vice president of hockey operations. With Roy stepping down, Colorado finds themselves in need of a replacement. Making matters worse, the Avalanche won’t have much time to consider replacement and do a thorough search with training camp fast approaching.

According to Avalanche GM Joe Sakic, the team isn’t going to waste any time getting to work on finding Roy’s successor. He announced Thursday that the coaching search will begin “immediately.” With that in mind, here are a few names to keep an eye on: Read more