Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.
Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.
Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?
It’s been almost exactly eight months since Carey Price last stepped on the ice for an NHL game, but the Montreal Canadiens will absolutely be ready for action come the World Cup of Hockey, according to Habs goalie coach Stephane Waite.
Waite told RDS.ca that he has spent three days practicing with Price, and that the 28-year-old netminder wasn’t showing any signs of injury. Price missed nearly 60 games in 2015-16 with an MCL sprain, which came only a week after he had returned from another, separate lower-body injury.
“I’m not a doctor, but all I know is that on the ice it was perfect,” Waite told RDS. “It is 100 percent restored. We are happy and our medical staff did a great job with him to bring him to the top. It is no longer a concern, he is ready to go.” Read more
Some things in life are not terribly fair. And in the case of the P.K. Subban trade, much of the trade has become a referendum on the merits of Shea Weber. Last I checked, Weber didn’t ask to be traded to one of the most hockey-mad cities on the planet for a player who was universally loved by its fan base. And former Canadiens analytics consultant Matt Pfeffer, whose comments to thn.com about Weber have landed him in the crosshairs of critics, doesn’t deserve to be put through the wringer the way he has.
I feel badly about the latter. Pfeffer is a 21-year-old who is a bright, hard-working kid who’s doing some groundbreaking work when it comes to analytics. We had a very candid conversation Friday afternoon about the Weber trade, perhaps in retrospect for him, a little too candid. He spoke about the trade of course, but also the place of analytics in the game and how hockey is still finding its way. But the comment that seems to be drawing the most ire was when he said: “There’s nothing wrong with being average in the NHL. An average NHLer is worth a heck of a lot and that’s what Shea Weber is.”
Matt Pfeffer had made peace with the fact that the Montreal Canadiens were going to trade star defenseman P.K. Subban. But he didn’t think dealing Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber was a good idea and he made his feelings known to Canadiens management. But Pfeffer is not convinced that is why his contract as an analytics consultant with the Canadiens was not renewed.
“They didn’t tell me it was over that,” Pfeffer told thn.com. “But I guess everyone knows now where I stood on the Subban-Weber trade. There are times when there’s some possibility that there would be another side to the argument, but this was one of those things where it was so, so far outside what could be considered reasonable. I made a pretty strong case, but I made the case that the analytics made. This wasn’t a personal thing.”
There may never be a clearcut, simple answer as to why the Canadiens felt it best to trade P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in a blockbuster deal that brought Shea Weber to Montreal, but Subban said he doesn’t believe that it had anything to do with his off-ice relationships.
In the second part of a revealing two-part interview with Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, Subban was asked about his relationships with players in the Canadiens dressing room. There was a perception, Engels told Subban, that at times he didn’t get along with teammates in Montreal. There had been late-season reports of possible tension between Subban and Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.
“I’d have to disagree with that,” Subban told Engels. “With the guys that I’m with every day — that I travel with, that I play with — we’re all different. But at the end of the day, I’d like to hope these guys respect me. I respect them, and that’s really what it’s been built on.” Read more
It has become increasingly common for NHL clubs to bring their AHL affiliate closer to home, and the Montreal Canadiens will be the most recent example of a parent club bringing their farm team to the same region.
The Canadiens announced Monday that the St. John’s IceCaps will relocate to Laval, Que., ahead of the 2017-18 season and play the campaign out of Place Bell, a state-of-the-art facility that is set to open ahead of the 2017 campaign.
“The relocation of our AHL affiliate in Laval will be beneficial in several ways, allowing for hockey management to follow the organization’s young prospects and provide players and coaching staff with a great environment, a state-of-the-art hockey venue and a new and enthusiastic fan base,” said Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin in a release. “Until the team relocates to Laval, the coaching staff under head coach Sylvain Lefebvre will continue their work of developing our young players and getting them prepared for the next level. I take this opportunity to thank all IceCaps fans for their loyal support, and I am convinced that Laval hockey fans will stand behind their new team.” Read more
It was a trade so unexpected it required a double-take when the news broke, but Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin says he’s ready to move on now that the dust has settled on the deal that sent P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber.
In speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs, Bergevin said there was much thought that went into the swap of star defensemen with the Predators, but it didn’t take long for him to be all right with the decision. In fact, Bergevin said it was almost immediate, moving on from the trade as soon as it was agreed upon.
As for why he made the trade in the first place, Bergevin said it had nothing at all to do with Subban’s personality — “I always say, ‘You don’t want 23 robots,’” Bergevin said — but rather with the chance to really improve the Canadiens.
“Everybody’s different, everybody brings different things to the table,” Bergevin told Stubbs. “But at some point I had to make a hard decision where I thought I could make the team better. That’s when we pulled the trigger. And those who insist the trade was made to please [coach] Michel Therrien? That’s [nonsense]. Mike didn’t know anything — anything — about the trade until after it was made.” Read more
Contractual obligations force your trusty correspondent to declare the definitive list of winners and losers from the first day of free agency at a time before the ink is dry on all of the contracts. Who knows who won the day? After all, Thomas Vanek hasn’t even been a healthy scratch as a Detroit Red Wing yet.
With that in mind, we present our Winners and Losers from Canada Day, better known as the Start of Silly Season. If you subscribe to the theory that is held by a number of GMs that more mistakes are made on July 1 than any other day of the year, then perhaps the biggest winners are the teams that did nothing. Maybe it was the Colorado Avalanche, who picked up two players who were not extended qualifying offers and another who was bought out for a total cap hit of $5.3 million.
But that’s no fun. You, dear readers, demand Winners and Losers. Please keep in mind that everyone overpays. So here goes: