Andrew MacDonald’s six-year, $30 million extension leaves Flyers little room to improve defense

Rory Boylen
Andrew MacDonald

Unless the Philadelphia Flyers sign another defenseman for more than $5 million this summer, Andrew MacDonald will be the second-highest paid blueliner on their roster next season.

MacDonald’s freshly signed six-year, $30 million extension with the Flyers isn’t a bad deal on its own. He’s a shutdown, shot-blocking defender who plays 21-plus minutes a game in the NHL and the salary cap will be on the way up this summer. But when you add the investment in MacDonald to the other commitments Philadelphia has made on the blueline, it becomes troubling.

First of all, analytics aren’t friendly to MacDonald, who has a negative Corsi relative percentage (meaning his team is better when he’s off the ice) despite being strong within his own zone. Kevin Christmann of Broad Street Hockey had an excellent breakdown on how MacDonald’s iffy neutral zone play negatively impacts these stats. But there’s no denying the Flyers defenseman is effective within his own zone, specializing in shot blocking. This would suggest MacDonald is a serviceable player to have on the roster, but one who had been thrust into a bigger role than he’s qualified for, both with the Islanders and Flyers. And now Philadelphia, a team with defense concerns, will lock him into that role by paying him as a top two or three blueliner for the next six seasons. Read more

Stanley Cup playoff preview: Round 1

Stanley Cup

Welcome to the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and the beginning of a new format. No longer will teams be seeded from 1-8 in their conference, but instead will have to play out of their division first. Teams are no longer re-seeded after the opening round and will face the other winner in their division in the second round.

THN gets you prepared for the action, which will start Wednesday, April 12. Below is our introduction to each series, insider analysis from CBC’s Kevin Weekes and TSN’s Jeff O’Neill, and THN’s prediction.

And be sure to vote on our poll: Who do you think will win the 2014 Stanley Cup?


EASTERN CONFERENCE

BOSTON BRUINS vs. DETROIT RED WINGS
Introduction: A classic Original Six matchup welcomes the Detroit Red Wings to the East side of the playoff bracket and it won’t be a warm reception. The Bruins are the most complete team in the East and asserted their dominance by going through the East with a 12-4 record last playoff season. But the Wings are also an unfortunate draw for Boston. If any team, no matter its drawbacks, is capable of a shocking upset, it’s the experienced Red Wings machine. Just last season, Detroit upset Anaheim in the first round and took Chicago all the way to Game 7. This season, Gustav Nyquist should be even better for them. Read more

Why your team will not win the 2014 Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins lose Cup

Just like the start of the regular season, any fan with a horse in the race starts the NHL playoffs with a giddy optimism. Even if you don’t believe your team will win it all, you’re surely thinking they can pull off an upset or two.

Well, sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Your team isn’t as good or as complete as you believe it to be. They will not win the Stanley Cup.

And here’s why your favorite team will come up empty this spring:

Anaheim: Because the stats community says you’re doomed to fail. Your team’s 49.8 percent Corsi percentage is second-worst among Western playoff teams, which means you don’t possess the puck enough. You were upset last year and it’s going to happen again. Read more

To quit or come back? Top 10 NHLers facing retirement

(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHL)

As the regular season winds down, so does the career of Ryan Smyth, who announced Friday that he’ll retire after his final game Saturday night in Edmonton against the Vancouver Canucks.
Smyth will leave the NHL the same way he came in: wearing an Edmonton Oilers jersey. As he should. Some in similar shoes hope to have an even better exit – like carrying Stanley out the door – while others will have to settle for less glamorous goodbyes if they leave. At 38, Smyth is the youngest on this list of greybeards who have to decide whether they should stay or go.

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Zac Rinaldo suspended four games for high hit – what was he thinking?

Rory Boylen
Zac Rinaldo

What in the world was Zac Rinaldo thinking?

With a little more than 15 minutes left in the third period of Sunday’s Philadelphia-Buffalo game, and with his Flyers holding a dominating 4-0 lead at the time, Rinaldo decided to launch his shoulder into Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel’s head in open ice. Ruhwedel suffered a concussion on the play.

Rinaldo, who has been suspended once before and fined twice in his NHL career, was ejected with a match penalty on the play and suspended four games on Monday. Read more

10 fan signs in NHL arenas that made us laugh

Jason Kay
Calgary Flames v Detroit Red Wings

Signs, signs everywhere a sign. But mostly in Philadelphia.

That’s the major finding of a completely unscientific, whimsical search we did on fans with placards in NHL arenas.

Spectators in rinks across North America love to hold up Bristol board to get attention from players, cameras and Jumbotrons, but the City of Brotherly Love seems particularly enamored of the practice. Maybe it can be traced back to Sign Man, Dave Leonardi, the local who started spreading his gospel at the old Spectrum beginning in 1972.

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Chris Pronger: Pressure to win not limited to Canadian teams

Ryan Kennedy
Chris-Pronger-PHI

Chris Pronger is no stranger to success and no stranger to the spotlight. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer was one of the most intimidating forces in hockey in this generation and though his career is effectively over due to a concussion, he’s still on top of the game.

Pronger won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007 but also went to the final with Edmonton and Philadelphia. With the Montreal Canadiens the only guaranteed Canadian team heading to the playoffs right now, the issue of why teams from north of the border haven’t won the Cup since 1993 has come up again. Is it because of the pressure on players up here to win?

“I don’t think so,” Pronger said. “There’s pressure on the Flyers, there’s pressure on Boston, on New York…it just may not be to the level it is in Canada, where for a lot of those cities, it’s unimaginable they’re not going to win this year.”

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20 things to love about Jaromir Jagr after 20 seasons

JJagr

Just when we thought Jaromir Jagr was out, he pulled us back in.

It appeared No. 68 was done being relevant when he petered out with 22 goal-free playoff games as a Boston Bruin last spring. Signing with the New Jersey Devils meant he’d toil in obscurity and fade away. Instead, he’s busted out his best season since his three-year Kontinental League vacation. Not only have his 24 goals and 64 points in 76 games at age 42 blown us away, they’ve clinched fantasy titles for plenty of poolies who scooped him in the final rounds of drafts.

Better yet, Jagr has tacked a few more memorable moments onto a Hall of Fame career. His latest: making his teammates look away when it was a Devil skater’s turn in last night’s shootout against Buffalo. Was it superstition or was Jagr sparing his mates from watching a team that is 0-11 in shootouts? Either way, it was awesome.

It inspired me to list 20 of the best things about Jaromir Jagr, in random order, inspired by his 20 amazing years in the NHL.

1. Those rosy cheeks. Don’t you just wanna pinch ‘em? He brings out the inner grandma in all of us.

 

jagr cheeks

2. He shepherded us through the worst of the dead puck era. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the NHL became molasses on ice, Jagr was still tossing up 120-point seasons and winning scoring titles by 20 points.

3. Game-winning goals. Gordie Howe lovers be damned, the recorded stats say ‘Jags’ has more clinchers than any player in history. And this is a Jagr list, not a Howe list, so Jagr deserves a tip of the cap. Actually, better yet…

4. The salute. Annoying if he did it after scoring on your team, but awesome whenever he was easing the dagger into any other squad’s heart.

5. A wild man behind the wheel. Remember that? When he was a teenager? He was a menace to the road, and it was somehow endearing at the time. Especially the glove box full of speeding tickets.

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