By Garrett Perry, Nicholas Carafa and Curtis Ng
O captain! My captain!
The Coyotes march into Cowtown tonight for a visit with the Flames as part of their three-game Western Canadian road trip. Coming off a 6-2 win in Edmonton last night, Shane Doan and Co. will look to add to the Flames’ miseries in the second of back-to-back games.
Through 26 games, Doan has 12 goals, just one off his mark from last season. The Desert Dogs’ 37-year-old captain is also tied with Martin Hanzal for second in points on the team with 22, behind only Radim Vrbata.
Doan had a goal and an assist against the Oilers and with the state of Calgary’s goaltending, all signs point to Doan continuing the Yotes’ scoring brigade.
Boxing is my favorite sport. Yeah, I said it. That makes hockey No. 2. So what? If you think that doesn’t make me a hockey fan, re-think again. All it shows is how much I love boxing, because I’m as hardcore as it gets about hockey.
I admit, though, I cringe every time I see the sweet science turned into a high school biology class. After all, hockey fighters throw nothing but haymakers, technique be damned, with all the grace of a deer in a yogurt shop.
But hey, I gots to get me my boxing fix somehow, and I’m paid to cover hockey, so as long as the NHL allows fighting, I may as well have a little fun with it.
With that in mind, then, I’ve put together my top 10 pound-for-pound ranking of the best fighters in the NHL, regardless of size.
The NHL’s Christmas trade freeze period (Dec. 19 to 27) is fast approaching and the GMs of several struggling clubs hope the trade market improves before then. With 22 clubs possessing less than $5 million in cap space, it’s difficult to find willing trade partners.
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is among those trying to find help for his floundering team. Entering this week, the Isles are 11 points out of a post-season berth, winning only two of their past 10 games. Snow must address their dire need of an experienced starting goalie and blueline depth soon to prevent his club sliding further out of playoff contention.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported two league sources claim Snow was shopping for a goalie. Garrioch suggested Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller as the best target, though he admitted convincing Miller to waive his no-trade clause to join the Isles was a long shot. Garrrioch also considers the Islanders a potential trade destination for Washington Capitals right winger Martin Erat and his $4.5 million annual cap hit.
Snow has the cap space ($16.6 million) to take on a big salary. Having already acquired Thomas Vanek, Snow’s probably not keen to pursue Miller, especially as the Sabres will squeeze him for young assets. As for Erat, he won’t resolve the Isles’ defensive problems. Read more
Following a walking dead 1-7-0 start, the Philadelphia Flyers are back among the land of the living in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth-place Rangers with a game in hand. They’ve won eight of 11, have points in 11 of 14 and are serving notice they will be a factor.
None of that is surprising. They boast one of the deepest groups of forwards in the NHL, and in THN’s pre-season predictions, we tabbed the Flyers for third in the Metro Division.
The “aha” is that they’re doing it with goaltending, not in spite of it. The Flyers, renowned for the size of their goaltending scrap heap, are riding a crest powered by Columbus castoff Steve Mason.
Since the Florida Panthers shipped winger Kris Versteeg earlier this month to the Chicago Blackhawks, speculation persists over which Panthers will be next on the trade block.
According to recent rumors, center Shawn Matthias is attracting the most interest from clubs seeking forward depth. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman recently linked Matthias to the Vancouver Canucks, SI.com’s Allan Muir reported the Montreal Canadiens could be a suitor and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson claimed the Oilers were making enquiries.
Why so much interest in a 25-year-old center who’s never tallied more than 24 points in a season? Matthias’ size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), two-way abilities and affordable contract ($1.75 million per season) make him valuable for teams in need of depth forwards. His 14-goal, 21-point performance during last season’s shortened schedule suggests he could become a decent second-line player on a more talented club.
Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has also resurfaced in the rumor mill, with Muir claiming the Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings are interested, but he suggests the Anaheim Ducks could be a better fit. With Sheldon Souray sidelined until January and Luca Sbisa out six to eight weeks to a torn tendon in his right hand, Kulikov could be in the Ducks sights. Read more
On December 4, 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers were in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, struggling to win games, and looking lost. GM Paul Holmgren, without warning, gives the boot to coach John Stevens, and immediately hires Peter Laviolette. The Philadelphia media howls, the fans protest, and the players seem confused to be losing a leader that they loved and respected. After the first few games under the new coach, the results are the same, and Philadelphia begins to lose patience with their team’s management. Fast forward five months, and captain Mike Richards is lifting the Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference champions, and bringing his Orange and Black to within an overtime goal of Game 7 of a Stanley Cup championship. Read more
After a two-year wait, it’s almost time for HBO’s 24/7 series to return. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. The documentary, which follows two teams in the months leading up to the Winter Classic, has become an NHL institution. It taught us about Bruce Boudreau’s potty mouth (NSFW) in Penguins/Capitals 24/7 and about Ilya Bryzgalov’s love of huskies and, of course, the universe.
With the show comes unprecedented depth of coverage. To give a bit of perspective on HBO’s access: After NHL games, we THN folk, like most hockey media, are given access to each team’s dressing room. But there is always a wait of a few minutes before teams “open” the room to us, as coaches are addressing their players. The famous Boudreau and John Tortorella rants are captured by HBO in those precious minutes before the rest of the media are even allowed in the room.
So the coverage is up-close-and-personal. But is it invasive? In a hockey hotbed like Toronto, some critics worry the already-scrutinized Leafs will crack under the extra attention 24/7 brings as they prepare to face Detroit in New Year’s Day 2014′s Winter Classic.
But does the show really hinder performance? Or help it even? I decided to find out.
You hear rumors the Flyers have interest in trading center Brayden Schenn and you hope that’s all they are. Because if there’s any fire behind this particular puff of smoke, Philadelphia fans will be entirely justified in throwing their jerseys upon the pyre.
Unless Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews is coming back the other way, anything more than the cursory entertainment and quick rejection of a Schenn deal by Paul Holmgren – especially with the radiation of the James van Riemsdyk/Luke Schenn transaction still fresh – is grounds for the Flyers GM’s immediate dismissal and leads to important questions. Questions such as:
1. You want to trade Brayden Schenn?
2. Flyers’ leading scorer Brayden Schenn?
3. Twenty-two-year-old Brayden Schenn?
4. Brayden Schenn?
5. When did the Flyers hurt you, and why do you feel the need for revenge?