Nashville’s Ryan Ellis absolutely trucked old buddy Taylor Hall in Edmonton

Ryan Kennedy
Ryan Ellis (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)

When Edmonton’s Taylor Hall and Nashville’s Ryan Ellis were in junior, they played for some of the most dominant Ontario League teams in recent history, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups with the Windsor Spitfires in 2009 and 2010. And while those squads also featured Adam Henrique, Zack Kassian and Cam Fowler, it was Hall and Ellis that stirred the drink.

The pair reunited in Edmonton last night and despite giving up three inches and almost 25 pounds to Hall, Ellis destroyed his old buddy with an open-ice hit as the Oilers winger tried to break past him on the rush:

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Neal-Hornqvist trade a win-win for Penguins, Predators

Josh Elliott
Patric Hornqvist and James Neal

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are less than 10 games into the regular season, but the early returns are pretty clear: both sides came out winners from their big off-season swap.

The Predators acquired snarly goal scorer James Neal from Pittsburgh in the summer for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in a rare value-for-value trade that both sides can be happy with.
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It’s feast or famine – beat them or beat it – for NHL coaches these days

Peter Laviolette (Getty Images)

The coaching business in the NHL is about to get crazier thanks to the pending free agency of Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock, who almost assuredly will set a new record for a coach’s salary whether he stays in Detroit or moves on to a new place of employment. So, that has to mean better times are ahead for all coaches, right? A whole, “rising-tide-lifts-all-boats” thing, right?

Not so fast. Because although Babcock’s pending spike in pay may very well result in higher salaries for more members of the coaching fraternity, there’s other forces at play here: the increasingly rapid turnover of coaches at the NHL level – and this year, the early success of most off-season coaching changes.

There were six such changes in hockey’s best league this summer. Let’s take a brief look at how they’re working out: In Nashville, Peter Laviolette has the Predators off to a 5-0-2 start (including a big 3-2 win over Chicago Thursday) that makes them the last team in the league without a loss in regulation. In Washington, former Predators coach Barry Trotz has steered the Capitals to a strong showing out of the gate (just one loss in regulation in six games) and his relationship with star winger Alex Ovechkin is beginning on the right foot. In Pittsburgh, Mike Johnston is working with a significantly rejigged roster, but the Penguins have points in four of their first six games and should be fine. In Vancouver, Willie Desjardins has reinvigorated a Canucks squad that had been wholly deinvigorated under John Tortorella.

Things aren’t working out that well for all the new coaches. Read more

Jordin Tootoo’s life in the fast lane: booze, women, hockey

Ronnie Shuker
Jordin Tootoo Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

His brother’s suicide note said only this: “Jor, go all the way. Take care of the family. You’re the man. Terence.”

For Jordin Tootoo, it was the crossroads of his career. He’d either quit hockey right then and there, or heed his brother’s last words to him and continue on to become the first Inuk to play in the NHL.

This is what frames All the Way: My Life on Ice, which was released today. It’s the mid-career memoir of Tootoo, a tough-as-nails, built-like-a-brick fighter who, against all odds, reached hockey’s highest summit from the small village of Rankin Inlet in Nunavut.

The book’s bountiful f-bombs, derivatives and an assortment other colorful metaphors give it the raw, bare bones feel of being in a bar listening to Tootoo tell his story. Except he’s not drinking. Nearly four years removed from a mid-season stint in rehab, Tootoo is still sober, following more than a decade heavy drinking and all the debauchery and demons that ensued.

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Los Angeles Kings pick Adrian Kempe brings power to The Hot List

Adrian Kempe (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The big news in the prospect world right now concerns the class-action lawsuit filed against the CHL and without going into too much detail, I think this could have a dramatic effect on junior hockey. With profits and losses so extreme across the continent, I believe a minimum wage policy would have to be supported by revenue sharing. But let’s get back on the ice, shall we? Because that’s what The Hot List is, a round-up of the kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL one day.

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Top 5 early season surprises

Gustav Nyqvist (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The year has just begun, but already we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here’s your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:

5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights

After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.

In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.

So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard. Read more

Nashville Predators still want to be defensive monsters, says Shea Weber

Ryan Kennedy
Nashville's Shea Weber (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators had been a pretty consistent playoff team, despite the fact the franchise rarely had an elite forward in the lineup. But that dearth of scoring seemed to catch up to them the past two seasons and the Preds found themselves on the outside looking in.

This year, Nashville has a new coach in Peter Laviolette and to outsiders, it seemed like a good choice based on style: Laviolette is known as a coach who can coax goals out of his team. But according to the Predators, they don’t want to get too far away from their bread and butter; the staunch defensive club created by former bench boss Barry Trotz.

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Rumor Roundup: Will Steven Stamkos stay put in Tampa Bay?

Steven Stamkos

NBA superstar LeBron James returning home to Cleveland sparked speculation this summer in the Toronto media suggesting Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could do the same and sign with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016.

The Leafs lack a homegrown star, and Stamkos would be a natural fit. Responding to questions about the possibility, the 24-year-old sniper inadvertently added fuel to the fire by replying, “We’ll see what happens.” However, Stamkos recently clarified his comments, saying he definitely wants to win with the Lightning. Read more