THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

The Hockey News
The Boston Bruins celebrate. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 54-19-9

Acquisitions: None

Departures: Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Andrej Meszaros, Jarome Iginla

Top five fantasy players: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: When you were the NHL’s best team last season and are bringing back every cornerstone of that team, you have every confidence you’re going to enjoy similar success when the next season begins. Read more

Top 10 Hart Trophy candidates for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are again leading candidates to win the Hart. (Getty Images)

The Hart Trophy debate is my favorite of the Great Hockey Debates, largely because nobody knows what the award truly means.

By definition, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association votes for “the player judged to be most valuable to his team.” It’s debatable whether that happens. Last year, it’s safe to say the Penguins would’ve gone nowhere without Sidney Crosby. But was any player more valuable to his team the year before than John Tavares, who almost singlehandedly took the Islanders to the playoffs? He finished third in the vote, with the Hart going to the defensively deficient but offensively potent Alex Ovechkin.

More often that not, the Hart skews toward prolific point totals, so keep in mind that my top 10 Hart candidates for 2014-15 factor in that common bias. Sorry, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar.

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Ryan Johansen vs. Torey Krug – a study in contract leverage

Ken Campbell
Ryan Johansen (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The next time you’re inclined to think about NHL players as pampered and overpaid millionaires with no sense of gratitude, shift your thoughts to Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. The only box he checks off in that description is millionaire.

Krug led all rookie defensemen in goals, assists and points last season. No first-year player, forward or defenseman, had more points on the power play than Krug’s 19. He was named to the NHL’s all-rookie team and became just the fifth defenseman in Bruins history to record double digits in goals in his first NHL season. His 14 goals were one more than Bobby Orr had in his rookie season.

For all that, Krug was rewarded with an almost $400,000 pay cut. And in doing so, he provided a fascinating study of leverage when it comes to negotiating contracts. Read more

Lame Duck? Mike Babcock doesn’t care – & neither should Red Wings fans

Adam Proteau
Mike Babcock (Getty Images)

In just about any other NHL market, a coach entering the final year of his contract with no extension would be given lame duck status. It’s the reason that, for instance, the most recent bench bosses of the Toronto Maple Leafs (current head coach Randy Carlyle and his predecessor, Ron Wilson) received extensions by the final year of their initial contracts despite delivering less-than-ideal results. If they were allowed to play out their deals without any guarantee they’d be back the following season, fans and media would speculate until their heads exploded – and, more importantly, the players they were responsible for might not buy into their on-ice vision.

However, for every rule, there’s a exception – and in this case, the exception is found in the person of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who doesn’t have a new deal in place beyond the 2014-15 campaign. Call him a lame duck if you want, but understand virtually every other coach in hockey would kill you where you stand to be so lame.

Babcock said he wouldn’t negotiate an extension once the season begins, and barring a last-minute agreement, it looks like he’s going to wait until next spring to get something done – or move on to another challenge. And that’s fine. His boss, GM Ken Holland, signed a four-year extension in August and their working relationship is strong and successful enough to withstand the pressures and questions of him working without a safety net.

If anyone is singularly focused on his job and immune to the chirping of fans and media, it’s Babcock. Read more

NHL and GoPro sign deal to give fans POV footage

Rory Boylen
fleurygopro

As a fan, you’ve never been able to feel the speed and quickness with which a Patrick Kane or Alex Ovechkin moves up the ice with the puck, or what it’s like for them to beat the last blueliner and fire the disc past the goaltender.

But this year will be different. A new wrinkle will be added to NHL game coverage this year as the league signed a content-sharing agreement with GoPro cameras to use footage in promo campaigns, which will then be used to supplement game coverage. At a recent NHL/PA player media tour in Newark’s Prudential Center, nearly a dozen NHL stars had these cameras fitted to their helmets. This footage will be used for promos and, when one of them scores in a game, the taped footage will be used to give fans an idea of what the player would see, because they aren’t wearing these on their helmets. Yet. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: St. Louis Blues

The Hockey News
Jay Bouwmeester, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes and Alex Steen. (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 52-23-7

Acquisitions: Colin Fraser, Peter Mueller, Jeremy Welsh, Nate Prosser, Chris Butler, Benn Ferriero, John McCarthy, Paul Stastny, Carl Gunnarsson

Departures: Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Taylor Chorney, Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller, Roman Polak, Keith Aucoin, Vladimir Sobotka

Top five fantasy players: Alex Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Paul Stastny, Jaden Schwartz

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Blues are as talented and well rounded as any team in the NHL on paper. They roll an excellent top-nine forward group, with two lines good enough to be first lines, whatever combinations emerge between Alexander Steen, David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and freshly signed Paul Stastny. Read more

Jarred Tinordi ejected for clean hit – but don’t be mad, Canadiens fans

Adam Proteau
Jarred Tinordi (Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

We’ve known for some time the NHL is at a crossroads when it comes to concussions and protecting the heads of players. In the past – and in putting the sport ahead of those who participate in it – the league has had a default position of giving aggressive players the benefit of the doubt on borderline actions. But maybe things are starting to change for the better. And that’s because we’re starting to see the other side of that spectrum: referees making headshot-related calls that err on the side of caution.

Such was the case Sunday night, when Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi was ejected in the third period of Montreal’s game against Washington after he hit Capitals forward Nate Schmidt at the Habs blueline:

Although some argued Tinordi’s hit was dirty, closer examination – at least, by this viewer – shows Tinordi hit Schmidt cleanly. Read more

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