In the AHL, friends are also enemies in battle to reach the NHL

The Hockey News
Tommy Cross (Susanna Esina)

By Lauren Beaven

Pro hockey is all about winning, but getting to the NHL and earning the riches that come with it requires a different type of competition – one in which teammates are also rivals.

In minor-pro leagues, the teammates that players train with, travel with, win with and lose with are the same ones they compete with to achieve their NHL dreams. It’s a psychological conundrum all non-NHL players face but most acutely in the AHL. Read more

Calder Trophy not a sure sign of future success

Jason Kay
Buffalo's Tyler Myers (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

What does Andrew Raycroft have that Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante and Dominik Hasek don’t? The same thing Brit Selby does and Rocket Richard, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky don’t: a Calder Trophy.

The award for NHL rookie of the year is prestigious, exclusive and possibly the toughest individual bauble to win. Players typically have just one crack at it. But the honoree in any given season doesn’t always prove to be the cream of his freshman crop, not in career distinction.

It’s not always a harbinger of future greatness. Check out these examples: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Canucks, Avalanche, Sabres looking at options for trade deadline

Ryan O'Reilly (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Though the Vancouver Canucks are in post-season contention, there’s concern they could be poised for a second-half swoon similar to that which killed last season’s playoff hopes.

After playing reasonably well during the first half of the season, the Canucks entered Friday’s matchup against the Buffalo Sabres having won only eight of their last 20 games. They sat only one point ahead of the ninth-overall Los Angeles Kings.

The Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford believes it’s time for the Canucks to make a trade if they want to clinch a playoff spot. He notes the club lacks speed, youth, scoring depth and size at forward. Read more

Buffalo’s losing streak is awful, and don’t expect it to get better

Jared Clinton
Buffalo Sabres v St. Louis Blues

The Buffalo Sabres have lost 13 in a row, and that’s not 13 in a row with an overtime or shootout loss sprinkled in. No, it’s 13 regulation losses in a row. And aside from a shot at a generational talent, there’s no reason to be hopeful for the rest of Buffalo’s season.

Earlier in this season, there were a number of teams that were vastly underperforming, almost by a head scratching amount. The Edmonton Oilers, for instance, were dreadful, but there was and still have been signs of positive growth. The Columbus Blue Jackets were derailed by injuries. At times other teams struggled, but advanced stats were there to say a turnaround was in the future.

All the while the Buffalo Sabres were… actually all right?

Yes, the Sabres were better than many had expected, which isn’t to say good, but simply that they weren’t absolutely miserable right out of the gate. Their current 13-game slide, however, has corrected that. The Sabres are the worst team in the league, and not even underlying numbers have much positive to say about the state of the team. Read more

West Coast relocation will change the AHL forever

Jared Clinton
Dave Andrews (Photo by Dan Hickling/AHL)

On Thursday, the AHL made official the announcement of the brand new Pacific Division. The California-based division, which will begin play next season, is more than a move for improved player development – it’s a sign that the league is changing forever.

Make no mistake, the new division makes sense for both NHL and AHL franchises. The ability to move players freely between the two teams and the opportunity to watch over player development benefits the NHL clubs greatly. For the AHL, it’s also a cost-cutting measure that lumps five teams in close proximity to each other to save swaths of money – and time – that would otherwise be spent on travel. Read more

Former NHLer Ludzik wants to help change hockey’s culture

The Hockey News
Steve Ludzik (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

By Tucker Wilson

An NHL dressing room harbors a lot of secrets—some with good reason. But the environment also encourages players to remain silent on the physical and mental tolls of the game, something that Steve Ludzik wants to change.

The former Blackhawk player and Lightning coach was in Toronto Thursday for a speaking engagement, and he talked about some of the stigmas associated with hockey culture.

“You sit in a dressing room and the guys, if you have a good team, you’re a brother,” Ludzik said. “It’s not good enough to say, ‘I’m hurt.’ You get hurt some nights and you just play. That’s the mentality that you grow up with throughout your career. You’re pressured. But it’s just part of the code.” Read more

Lightning surprise kids with father’s emotional return home from military

Jared Clinton
(Scott Audette/Getty Images)

For Lightning fans CJ and Katelyn McKeen, the first intermission of Thursday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings was special simply because they thought they had been selected for an on-ice game called, “The Impossible Goal.” Instead, they were in for an emotional surprise.

As Lightning in-game emcee Greg Wolf broke down the rules for the game, Master Sergeant Christopher Aaron McKeen, currently on a tour of duty in South Korea, began to walk out onto the ice. Wolf asked CJ and Katelyn to turn around as part of the game, and that’s when Katelyn saw her dad and fell to her knees. Both CJ and Katelyn ran to their father, making for one of the most special moments you’ll see at a hockey game all season. Read more