Not since 1991 has the NHL season ended before June, and with players getting faster and hitting harder with each passing season, the toll on the body has become more gruelling with shorter times for recovery than ever before.
Ask training guru Ben Prentiss, who has worked with everyone from Martin St-Louis to Jonathan Quick, and he’ll describe the season like a car crash. It’s a marathon that exacts such a toll on each player that Prentiss has yet to see a player enter the off-season completely healthy. That means recuperation after an arduous season is a must, regardless of how a player says he’s feeling.
“If a guy starts (training) too early, not only physically is he not ready, but mentally, too. He’s just gone nine months — if his team made the playoffs, seven months if they didn’t — of straight hockey,” Prentiss said. “They need to get out of skates…or they’re going to burn themselves out by the time September comes around.” Read more
By Randy Sportak
Based on his rookie season, Sam Bennett could be in line for a nickname. Or a different set of digits on his sweater.
The Calgary Flames’ up-and-coming center/winger was known as ‘18-year-old Sam Bennett’ during the team’s 2015 playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks (a phrase that apparently drove some Canucks fans absolutely bonkers), and that number followed him to the end of 2015-16. Just check out the stats from Bennett’s freshman campaign: 18 goals, 18 assists and not just one but two 18-game goal-scoring slumps.
It could be enough for a spinoff version of the theory that most events in the world can be connected to The Number 23, and the basis for one of the stranger Jim Carrey movies in his eclectic career.
As Bennett looks back on his first full NHL year and forward to his sophomore season, the biggest element he vows to address is consistency, not so much an indictment on his production but those lengthy goal droughts. “That’s part of my job and part of my role with the team, to generate offense,” said Bennett, who actually threw an imaginary monkey off his back after snapping the first of those goal-scoring slumps. Read more
Some hockey thoughts from a scribe who wonders what the heck happened to the off-season:
MATTHEWS’ CONTRACT: I was like many others who wondered what the heck the Toronto Maple Leafs were doing by dragging out No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews’ contract negotiations. Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello is notorious for being tight-fisted with bonus money and there was fear he was trying to withhold such money from Matthews. Turns out those fears were unfounded. Matthews got every penny that was coming his way and the Maple Leafs got their first legitimate No. 1 centre since Mats Sundin left town. In typical Lamoriello fashion, the Maple Leafs boss shrugged his shoulders and said, “What was the hurry?” Read more
Throughout last season, Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov was frequently mentioned as a potential trade candidate. Entering this off-season, speculation persisted the 2012 first-overall draft pick would be dealt at some point.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was certainly busy in recent weeks, shipping left wing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson and inking free-agent winger Milan Lucic. As speculation persists over other possible moves by Chiarelli, forwards Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are mentioned as possible trade chips.
Yakupov, however, scarcely received mention until earlier this week. On Tuesday, Sun-Sentinel.com’s Harvey Fialkov took to Twitter to shoot down a rumor claiming the Florida Panthers might deal defenseman Alex Petrovic to the Oilers for the young Russian forward. Read more
One week ago, we named Kris Versteeg among the five players still floating around in unrestricted free agency who could still make an impact in the NHL next season. But it appears Versteeg is going to try his hand overseas instead of waiting for an NHL club to come calling.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, it’s expected that Versteeg, 30, will be signing a deal this weekend to join the Swiss NLA’s SC Bern. While there are no reported terms for the deal quite yet, it’s likely Versteeg is signing a one-year deal to play in Bern with the chance to see a different type of hockey and maybe, finally, find a permanent home for an entire season. Versteeg has played for six teams in the past six seasons, making stops in Toronto, Philadelphia, Florida, Chicago, Carolina and Los Angeles.
However, even if Versteeg is choosing to make the move as a way to see some of the world and try his hand at playing in Switzerland, signing overseas is a rather shocking move considering Versteeg could have almost certainly landed himself an NHL deal for this coming season. Read more
The Flyers didn’t make a big splash in free agency, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t positive news coming out of Philadelphia.
After going under the knife in mid-May to repair a sports hernia and a hip injury, Flyers star center Claude Giroux is ahead of schedule and appears as though he’ll have additional time to recover ahead of the World Cup in September, where he’s set to compete as part of Canada’s roster. The original recovery time for the surgery was expected to be anywhere from 10-12 weeks, but Giroux hit the ice in Philadelphia this week, which means he’s back in action just nine weeks after his surgery.
That Giroux, 28, is healthy ahead of schedule bodes well for the Flyers, especially as the past campaign was a disappointing one for the club’s captain. Read more
From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.
So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.
Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:
Buffalo Sabres power forward Evander Kane has officially been charged with criminal trespass and up to four counts of non-criminal harassment stemming from an incident at a local nightclub, notes the Buffalo News. In a surreal scene, Kane was even handcuffed when he met with detectives outside of the city’s Central Booking Bureau: