Five non-playoff NHL teams that could make it this season

Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Five of the the 14 teams that missed the NHL playoffs in 2012-13 (Colorado, Dallas, Columbus, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) qualified for a playoff berth last season. Here are five teams on the outside looking in during the 2014 playoffs that – in this writer’s opinion – have the best chance at making the post-season this year:

5. Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year last season – the first time that’s happened since 2007-09 – and that organization is famous for making the most out of a budget-conscious blueprint for success. They finished only two points behind the eighth-place Stars, and with new No. 1 center Sam Gagner in town, captain Shane Doan fully healthy and stellar young blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson continuing to blossom, they could have just enough in the tank to make it back into the post-season. Read more

Top 10 NHL personalities

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

More than ever, the professional sports world focuses on personality to help sell their products. In the hockey business, that’s been tougher to do thanks to a culture that discourages individualism in the name of team success. But the NHL still has a number of vibrant personas who’ll be worth keeping an eye (and an ear) on in 2014-15. Here are the top 10 hockey personalities this season:

10. Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils. The veteran winger has filled notepads and digital recorders all across North America because he’s an intelligent guy with a healthy sense of humor and good head on his shoulders, and he understands that having opinions and showing the public he’s more than a hockey automaton won’t affect his on-ice performance. Here he is on the Canadian TV comedy series “Mr. D.”:

Cammalleri deserves kudos for putting himself out there. That said, let’s have a moment of silence for that charm now that he’s signed on with the Devils, who are the Bermuda Triangle of personality.

9. Jaromir Jagr, Devils. Yes, I also can’t believe two Devils are on this list. But Jagr is still one of the game’s great characters. He’s capable of going off on a hilarious tangent at any point, but he can also speak with tremendous insight about the game and his experience playing it:

Soon enough, the 43-year-old will be retired and back in his native Czech Republic. Enjoy him while you can. Read more

Top 10 trade candidates for 2014-15

Cody Franson. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Martin St-Louis, Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo: these were some of the big names who were traded during the 2013-14 season. Who is in the cross-hairs this season? We look at 10 trade candidates who could move because of their contract situation, or because their team decides it’s time to go in a different direction.

Cody Franson
Franson has signed three consecutive one-year extensions with the Maple Leafs, but this time he’ll be a UFA when his contract expires at the end of this season and, at 27, he’s in prime position to score a big deal. The 6-foot-5, 213-pound blueliner will surely be looking for a real commitment from the team this time and if he doesn’t get it, the Maple Leafs will have to trade him by the deadline. He’s an important part of Toronto’s (bad) defense and an extension would likely make him the second-highest paid player on Toronto’s blueline. But does management believe he’s worth that long-term investment when they’ve already put down on Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner? If not, they’ll be looking to get something for him. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: New York Islanders

The Hockey News
John Tavares. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 34-37-11

Acquisitions: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Harry Zolnierczyk, Cory Conacher, Jack Skille, Chad Johnson, T.J. Brennan, Jaroslav Halak.

Departures: Evgeni Nabokov

Top five fantasy players: John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Mikhail Grabovski, Josh Bailey.

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: John Tavares was having himself yet another tremendous season until he got crunched in an Olympic win over Latvia, wrecking his knee and losing out on the rest of the Islanders’ schedule. Although the team had already begun losing ground before the Olympic break, the loss of its captain was a death knell. But GM Garth Snow fortified several trouble spots in New York’s lineup, and things are looking positive for the last hurrah before the team moves to Brooklyn. Read more

Bob Suter remembered as rock-solid force for Miracle on Ice team

Ken Campbell
Bob Suter (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Bob Suter was remembered as the genuine article both on and off the ice, a Midwestern boy whose easy-going nature was contrasted on the ice by a physical presence that helped the U.S. Olympic team win the gold medal in 1980. Suter, 57, also the father of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died of an apparent heart attack in Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon.

Former Miracle on Ice teammate and four-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Morrow patrolled the blueline for the American team in 1980 along with Suter. On a team that was known for its speed and finesse, Suter was a physical presence who did the heavy lifting for the Americans.

“He was just rock-solid, on and off the ice,” said Morrow, who is now a pro scout for the Islanders. “We used to call him ‘Bam-Bam’. He loved to hit and he was probably one of the fiercest, most physical guys I ever played with.”

That intense and physical approach on the ice was belied by a folksy attitude away from the rink. Never terribly impressed with himself, Suter was seen by his teammates and friends as a down-to-earth guy who preferred to be in the background. Morrow recalled Suter never said much in the dressing room, but when he did, it had an enormous impact. After the win, Suter was about as far from a diva as you could expect. Ryan has told the story many times that his father’s gold medal from 1980 would often be sitting on a coffee table in their home in Wisconsin instead of in a safety deposit box and he and his siblings were always encouraged to show it to visitors and even take it to school for Show and Tell.

“He was just a simple, straightforward guy who was a great teammate,” Morrow said. “He was one of the most honest guys you’ll ever meet. I don’t think I played with a guy who was more down-to-earth than Bob was.”

Although Suter played most of the time on a pairing with Jack O’Callahan, Morrow said he did find himself on the ice with Suter occasionally. He remembers a player with an incredible work ethic and a teammate that was willing to play a physical game while his teammates took the glory for their offensive exploits.

Suter never did play a game in the NHL. He was drafted 120th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1977 and signed as a free agent with the Minnesota North Stars in 1981, but did not appear in a game for either team. He was also drafted 58th overall by the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association, but played just one season of pro hockey, with the Nashville South Stars of the Central League in 1981-82.

Post-hockey, Suter was heavily involved in youth hockey in the Madison area and was part owner of the Capitol Ice Arena, where he was working when he suffered his fatal heart attack Tuesday afternoon. He was also involved with the Madison Capitols of the USHL and owned a hockey retail store called Gold Medal Sports. He was instrumental in helping Ryan reach the NHL and was also the older brother of Gary Suter, who played 17 seasons in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

Suter is the first player on the Miracle on Ice team to die. Coincidentally, coach and gold medal architect Herb Brooks died 11 years ago this Thursday in a car accident.

“I’m just kind of numb,” Morrow said. “I feel kind of the same way I felt when Herbie died. I’ve played with a lot of guys on that Olympic team, with the Islanders and in college and you know it’s going to happen someday, but you’re never really prepared for it. It’s a real body blow.”

Rumor Roundup: Who will the Blackhawks & Bruins trade to get under the cap?

Johnny Oduya (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the start of NHL training camps a little more than two weeks away, the Blackhawks have yet to reach a decision on how to address their salary-cap issues. Chicago remains above the $69 million cap by more than $2.2 million and must shed salary before the season opens in October.

The situation provided fodder for the rumor mill this summer.  It’s assumed GM Stan Bowman would move a defenseman, with Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) as potential trade candidates.

The Boston Bruins must also become cap compliant by the start of the season. They’re currently above the ceiling by more than $800,000. The Bruins will get cap relief by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.03 million) on long-term injured reserve, but it won’t leave much to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith and leave room for possible moves later in the season.

It’s rumored the Bruins, like the Blackhawks, could trade a defenseman to open up more cap space. Trade options could include Johnny Boychuk ($3.3 million cap hit) or Adam McQuaid ($1.5 million).
Read more

David Leggio’s awesome goalie mask honors Islanders Cup years

Rory Boylen
leggiomain

In one year the New York Islanders will move from Nassau Coliseum into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They’ll leave the only home they’ve ever known, where they enjoyed dynastic success in the early-1980s. But ever since those Golden Years, life as an Islanders fan hasn’t always been easy. There have been plenty of years worth forgetting about.

So let’s remember the good ol’ days, shall we? That’s what Islanders goalie David Leggio is doing with his new goalie mask this season, designed by paint master David Gunnarsson. Leggio’s mask includes Mike Bossy and Al Arbour, two staples of the Islanders Cup teams. Here’s how Gunnarsson describes the mask on his Facebook page: Read more

Josh Ho-Sang is brash and cocky – is that so bad?

Rory Boylen
Josh Ho-Sang was drafted 28th overall by the New York Islanders. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Josh Ho-Sang has been a drafted member of the NHL for less than two months, but he’s quickly making a name for himself as an outspoken, opinionated, brash player.

What a wonderful thing.

“If I was a general manager and had first pick in the draft, I’d pick me No. 1,” Ho-Sang said in an interview with the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons just before the draft. “In three years, I’ll be the best player in this draft. And I have no doubt about that. I know myself. I know the other players. I believe in my ability. There are guys ranked ahead of me who are nowhere near me.”

Those kind of words and that kind of confidence will earn a player a lot of detractors. Read more