Hockey Hall of Fame clears path for Chris Pronger’s immediate induction – and it’s about time

Chris Pronger signs autographs at the 2014 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

According to an ESPN.com report, former NHL star defenseman Chris Pronger’s road to the Hockey Hall of Fame was cleared Thursday when the HHOF’s general voting members ratified changes to the induction eligibility criteria for players. The decision means it’s possible Pronger will be welcomed into the HHOF’s next group of honorees – and regardless of what you think of the process that led to this point, you can’t argue the 40-year-old doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged as one of the game’s all-time great blueliners and competitors.

The report states one of the HHOF’s new bylaws (No. 26, in this case) includes this section, which directly addresses Pronger’s situation: “a person is not eligible for election in the player category if he or she has played in a professional or international hockey game (which terms shall not be considered to include games played only or primarily for charitable or recreational purposes, or for any other limited purpose that the Chair of the Board of Directors determines, in his or her discretion, should not disqualify for nomination a person otherwise eligible) during any of the three (3) playing seasons immediately prior to his or her election.”

In effect, the new bylaw means that players such as Pronger – someone who everyone knows won’t play again because of injuries, yet who doesn’t file retirement papers because of salary cap issues – can be considered after the standard three-year period following their final game. Read more

How Steve Mason has turned his career around in Philadelphia

Jared Clinton
Steve Mason (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The joke used to be that Philadelphia was where goaltenders went to lose their way. Year after year, some new hope would enter and before the season was through, he was gone and forgotten. No one would have been surprised had that been the case for Steve Mason.

In two seasons, Mason, now 26, has recovered from what looked like potential for a miserable end to a once very promising career. When the Flyers acquired him from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Michael Leighton and a third-round pick, he was coming off three straight seasons with a goals-against average above 3.00 and had posted save percentages of .901, .901 and .894 over his past three campaigns.

To say the move was questioned would be an understatement. No one knew what the Flyers were doing trying to recover the game of the 2008-09 Calder Trophy winning goaltender who had seemingly lost his way. But now, as the second anniversary of the trade approaches, maybe the Flyers saw something in Mason no one else did. Read more

Flyers owner Ed Snider sounds like a man losing patience with his team

Adam Proteau
Flyers executive Paul Holmgren, team owner Ed Snider, and GM Ron Hextall. (Zack Hill/NHLI via Getty Images)

In early October, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider told THN he was more than happy to allow GM Ron Hextall to build the team slowly and not engage in blockbuster trades, as has been the franchise’s custom as often as not under his stewardship.

“Ron Hextall has come in and preached patience,” Snider said at the time. “Ron said, ‘We’re not going to rush guys along. We’re going to develop our kids and really work on that phase of the game.’ That was my philosophy when I started the team.”

That was five months ago. Now, talking to Philly.com, Snider sounds as if he’s not quite so certain about the whole patience thing. Read more

Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

The 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15

Joe Pavelski (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

As much as a story like the resurgent New York Islanders or the Andrew Hammond-led Ottawa Senators pleases us, there will always be teams or players that fail to meet expectations.

Be it simply a down year or a minor – or major, when it comes to a team – injury, no NHL season goes by without teams and players facing their fair share of difficulties. If they respond positively, they’re heralded for their efforts. But, if things go sideways in a hurry, we’re left wondering how exactly our predictions could have been so wrong.

And these are the predictions that were the farthest off — the teams and players still making us wonder how prognostications could have been so misguided. These are the 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15:

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Rumor Roundup: Stars, Flyers and Senators buzz

Kari Lehtonen (Getty Images)

Since last season, the Dallas Stars’ fortunes have risen or fallen based upon the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen. In 2013-14, Lehtonen’s solid performance (33-20-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 SP) was instrumental in the Stars reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The 31-year-old’s struggles this season (30-14-10, 2.87 GAA, .906 SP) put the club’s playoff hopes on thin ice.

It’s also prompted some questions over Lehtonen’s future in Dallas. There’s been speculation Stars GM Jim Nill could consider finding a more reliable starter, but replacing his current one (who’s earning $5.9 million annually for three more seasons) won’t be easy. Lehtonen also has a partial no-trade clause. Read more

Canucks honor life and legacy of late coach Pat Quinn in touching pre-game ceremony

Adam Proteau
The late Pat Quinn's wife Sandra, daughters Kalli and Val and granddaughter Kate Rydland join Canucks president Trevor Linden, team owner Francesco Aquilini and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson as a street is named in Quinn's honor. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before their game against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks celebrated the life of former coach and GM Pat Quinn.

Quinn, who passed away Nov. 23 in Vancouver at age 71, played a major role for both teams at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, and had a street named in his honor prior to the showdown between the Flyers and Canucks; he was represented at Tuesday’s ceremony by his wife, Sandra, daughters Val and Kalli, and granddaughter Kate Rydland. Quinn was also honored by the appearance of former teammates, players he coached and those with whom he worked, including former Flyers legend and GM Bob Clarke, longtime assistant coach Rick Ley, and retired Canucks stars Markus Naslund, Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure: Read more

Prospect Hot List: Hunting for Hobey in Denver

Joey LaLeggia (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The playoffs are almost upon us in major junior, while the NCAA conference tournaments are in full swing. Since some teams have already been eliminated, early signing season has begun too, with Brandon Montour leaving UMass for Anaheim and Ben Hutton ending his career in Maine to ink a deal with Vancouver. More are sure to come, but until then, here’s a look around the world of prospects.

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