Five players who could go out on top this season

Shane Doan (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

The question everyone wanted answered following Sunday’s Super Bowl was if it was the final game of Peyton Manning’s career.

Manning, 39, has been one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, and while Sunday may not have been the best game of his career, it would be a fitting, storybook ending to his career.

The possibility of Manning retiring on top hits home across professional sports. It’s the way every player wants to go out, but the way few rarely get to. That said, we’ve seen similar retirements in the NHL before. Most famously, there was Ray Bourque’s Stanley Cup-winning goodbye to the league. After him, there was Mark Recchi’s post-Cup retirement announcement, and the pre-Cup announcement from Kimmo Timonen in 2014-15 that, Stanley Cup or not, he was hanging up his skates following the season. Luckily, his career got to end with him triumphantly hoisting the Cup.

One player missing from our list of five who could go out on top is Jaromir Jagr. The 43-year-old has made it clear he’s got at least one more year in him. So, whether the Panthers win it all or come up short, he’s not going out on top if he wins this season. Here are five players without contracts for next season who stand a chance to make their last on-ice moment include the Stanley Cup: Read more

NHL goes 0-for-2 (0-for-3 actually) in McDonagh-Simmonds incident

Wayne Simmonds (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

What happens to an attempt to injure match penalty when the attempt to injure is actually successful? Well, not much if you’re talking about the NHL, which ignores and justifies suspendable acts with mind-boggling regularity.

Take the Wayne Simmonds sucker punch on Ryan McDonagh Saturday afternoon, for example. In another decision that makes the Department of Player Safety the most spectacular oxymoron since jumbo shrimp, Simmonds skated away with nothing more than a game misconduct for sucker punching McDonagh of the New York Rangers in the head. And McDonagh got away with a double minor for a stick offense that was gratuitous and unnecessary. Give the NHL credit, at least it manages to baffle, confuse and infuriate everyone with its decisions.

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Three up, three down: Rangers improving puck possession numbers make them contenders

New York Rangers  (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the end of the all-star break, the NHL season has reached it’s unofficial halfway point, making a great time to look at which teams have been hot (or not). Most people would take that to mean who got the most points during January, but with the NHL’s new numbers movement we can dig a little deeper than that. What’s more interesting to me is which teams actively improved (or degraded) their game regardless of results and identifying which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction.

Most people generally use shot rates to measure that as they’re good indications of a teams true talent level. They do fluctuate a bit throughout the year and that movement is worth keeping an eye on. That’s what this trend report is all about because how a team is playing lately is usually a good indication of what’s to come in the future.

With that being said, here are three teams that are going in the right direction, and three teams that are trending the other way.

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Youngsters dazzle at the AHL’s All-Star skills competition

Eric Comrie (Photo by Graig Abel Collection/Getty Images)

While John Scott was being carried on the shoulders of his all-star teammates in Nashville (I can see the reports now: Joe Pavelski, day-to-day, hernia. Brent Burns, day-to-day, hernia…), the American League’s finest were having their skills competition at their all-star festivities in Syracuse. And there were some pretty nice performances for fans of a couple NHL franchises.

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Rumor Roundup: Yandle, Hudler and McGinn will draw interest at deadline

Keith Yandle (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers enter the all-star break sitting second in the Metropolitan division and third in the Eastern Conference standings. However, some Rangers followers are grumbling over the club’s inability to dominate the Conference as they once did. Only four points separates the Blueshirts from the New Jersey Devils, who sit just outside the Eastern playoff picture.

Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post recently observed Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turns 34 in March. That means the Blueshirts don’t have a lot of time to take advantage of his greatness before his inevitable decline.

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In honor of Thornton and Luongo’s major achievements, five other milestones to watch for post-break

Jaromir Jagr (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo will both say the most important thing about Tuesday’s games were that their respective clubs picked up victories, but both veteran stars added to their Hall of Fame resumes.

In the Sharks’ victory over the Avalanche, Thornton extended his point streak to 10 games and racked up two assists in the 6-1 win. Thornton’s helpers were the 1,299th and 1,300th points of his career, as he moved became just the 33rd player in league history to reach the 1,300-point mark for their career.

As for Luongo, his milestone wasn’t as round as Thornton’s but it continued the Panthers netminder’s climb up the all-time ranks. The Panthers’ convincing 5-1 victory over the Maple Leafs gave Luongo 423 wins in his career, putting him into a tie for seventh-place all-time with longtime Chicago Blackhawks netminder Tony Esposito. He’s now 14 wins back of Jacques Plante and 24 wins away from reaching a tie for the top-five alongside Terry Sawchuk.

With the all-star break upon us, there’s not much time left in the season for others chasing down major career milestones: Read more

Luckily for Milan Lucic, things ain’t the way they used to be

Lucic

It’s reasonable to expect that a suspension given for an on-ice crime that was committed more than 20 years ago would be a lot different than one of a similar nature in today’s game. And that was certainly the case when Milan Lucic of the Los Angeles Kings was sentenced for his gratuitous punch to the head of Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, but not in the way you’d think.

Lucic served one measly, meaningless and inconsequential game for slashing and drilling an unsuspecting opponent in the head with a sucker punch and forfeited 0.1 percent of his salary this season. It was literally the least the NHL could do. Yes, Connauton slashed Lucic across the wrists and made a boo-boo, for which he was penalized two minutes for slashing. Which players such like Lucic seem to think should be just cause for losing your mind and taking matters into your own hands.

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What do the surging Hurricanes do about Eric Staal?

Jordan Staal (left) and Eric Staal (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the calendar turned to the month of December, the Montreal Canadiens were in first place in the NHL standings, a full 12 points clear of the last playoff spot. The Carolina Hurricanes, on the other hand, were tied for last place in the Eastern Conference and pretty much where everyone predicted they’d be, battling hammer and tong for the right to draft Auston Matthews first overall.

So here we are a mere 52 days later and the Hurricanes flew into the eye of the storm – they’re due for six inches of the white stuff in Raleigh tonight – Thursday night after a sluggish 1-0 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs tied with the Canadiens with 50 points. That has more to do with the Canadiens ineptitude over the past month-and-a-half to be sure, but to chalk it up to that exclusively would be to ignore the fact that the Hurricanes are indeed a group that is coming together a little quicker and a little more dramatically than everyone thought they would.

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