With NCAA hockey officially in full swing, there is action aplenty to watch for in the prospect world. Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Erie’s Connor McDavid already seem to have a fantastic game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better going on, but who else should you be watching this season? Here are some of the other names making noise right now.
The American Hockey League came down hard on Adirondack Flames forward Trevor Gillies Monday, suspending him 12 games for viciously assaulting Rochester forward William Carrier Friday. But some would argue they didn’t come down hard enough, and that hockey as a whole still has a ways to go to give real teeth to their punishments and truly dissuade players from becoming repeat offenders like Gillies, who was suspended twice (for a total of 19 games) in his justifiably brief NHL career (57 games from 2009-11). But that doesn’t make it any less stomach churning to watch him snap and smash Carrier’s head into the ice. See for yourself:
We’ll let some marketing genius or anthropological intellectual explain to us the phenomenon that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. But somehow, a business that has consistently produced an inferior product for the better part of four decades, continues to succeed wildly at the cash register and in popularity polls.
The Leafs are the No. 1 NHL outfit in terms of franchise value as calculated by Forbes, they have the NHL’s highest ticket prices (average of $373 at resale), and it was announced by Twitter on the opening day of the 2014-15 season they rank first in number of followers on the social media platform.
No need to play the 2014-15 season, National Hockey League. Yes, that may cut into the $4 billion in revenues you’re expected to generate, but think of the cost savings for teams that lose money.
Really, why actually play a season when a simulated NHL season has already been played, the Stanley Cup has been awarded and all the awards winners have already been determined? That’s what EA Sports, creators of the NHL 15 video game, have done. And they’ve determined that the Los Angeles Kings will become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. Read more
2013-14 record: 51-24-7
Acquisitions: Steve Downie, Taylor Chorney, Christian Ehrhoff, Blake Comeau, Thomas Greiss, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling
Departures: Lee Stempniak, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew, Harry Zolnierczyk, Matt Niskanen, Chris Conner, Brooks Orpik, Joe Vitale, Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, James Neal
Top five fantasy options: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Once again the Penguins are blessed with two of the best players in the world up front in centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In any given year, both are a threat for the Hart and Art Ross Trophies and provide matchup nightmares for opponents. Read more
SUNRISE, FLA. – Need another example of how quickly and drastically perceptions of a sports trade can shift over time? Here’s one: for the first few years after it was consummated, the 2011 trade that sent blueliner Alex Goligoski from Pittsburgh to Dallas for winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen was judged to have been won, and not by a little, by the Penguins. To be fair, the verdict was hard to deny in the first full season after the trade, as Neal put up a 40-goal performance for the Pens in 2011-12 and Goligoski wasn’t improving on the steady numbers he posted before leaving Sidney Crosby & Co.
But nearly four years later, Neal and Niskanen are former Penguins (the former traded to Nashville this summer; and the latter gone to Washington as a well-paid free agent), and Goligoski – who set personal bests in assists (36) and points (42) last season – was Dallas’ third-best point-producer and averaged more minutes (24:18) than any of his teammates. In the final 13 regular season games of 2013-14, his time on ice average jumped to between 27-29 minutes a game; and in Dallas’ first round playoff series against Anaheim, he never played fewer than 26 minutes in any of the seven games and in Game 5 he played 32:48.
Turns out ex-Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk wasn’t robbed at all on that trade. Turns out Goligoski has turned out just fine and has never been in a better place in his career: as part of a productive No. 1 defensive pairing with Trevor Daley; and on a Dallas team with heightened expectations after veterans Jason Spezza and Alec Hemsky were acquired. Like every player who’s jumped over NHL boards onto the ice, Goligoski has had a showdown with some form of adversity, and he’s overcome it to show why he’s now considered one of the Stars’ key players and leaders. Read more
Well, this is just a lovely start to the pre-season, isn’t it? They’ve barely begun the series of games that determine one or two roster spots and make the owners more money and already the body count is rising.
And we’re not talking about fourth-liners here. Pavel Datsyuk, the player the Detroit Red Wings can least afford to lose, is out at least four weeks with a second-degree separation to his right shoulder after taking a hit along the boards from Rob Scuderi of the Pittsburgh Penguins late in a game Monday night
Speaking of the Penguins, none of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Chris Kunitz is ready for action. The nature of the injuries is clouded in secrecy, but it doesn’t bode well when three players who have had all summer to rest and heal basically aren’t ready for training camp.
Add to that a broken bone in Jordan Staal’s right leg in a Carolina Hurricanes pre-season game, a broken left leg for Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers, a possible concussion for Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators, a broken nose for Darren Helm of the Red Wings and a fractured tibia for Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha and it looks as though you have a fully blown injury epidemic on your hands with two weeks still to go before the puck drops for the real games.
The Datsyuk injury, which looks as though it will keep him out of the first two weeks of the season, is disturbing. Four minutes left in a meaningless pre-season game and Datsyuk is on the ice and gets taken into the stanchion. Now the Red Wings, who face an uphill climb even with Datsyuk in the lineup, will have to try to get through the first two weeks without him. Making matters worse is the fact that the Red Wings play seven games in the first 14 days of the season.
(If I were running an NHL organization, I’d keep my star players out of these money-grab games and play them in perhaps the last one or two of the pre-season. Let the third- and fourth-line guys fill out the quota of NHL players each team must ice for these games. Sure, fans don’t get to see the stars in the exhibition games and they might grumble about that, but you’d have to think Red Wing fans would have rather seen Datsyuk suit up for the start of the season instead of playing in a meaningless game in September.)
Datsyuk has never before missed the start of the season and has, with the exception of last season, been a pretty durable player for them. Even when you factor in the fact that he missed 37 games last season, he has still played in 75 percent of the Red Wings games over the past four seasons.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland said during the team’s prospect tournament in Traverse City last week that the Red Wings will be a contending team if two things happened. The first is if Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg combine for 140 games between them and the second is Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar combining for 50 goals. The third, which was unstated, is if goalie Jimmy Howard can return to the form he displayed in 2012-13, not the one he displayed in ’13-14.
A healthy Daniel Alfredsson would also help. Alfredsson has made it clear to the Red Wings that he will either play this season for Detroit or he will retire from the NHL. Out of respect for the veteran, Holland is giving Alfredsson the duration of training camp to figure out whether his wonky back will be able to handle the rigors of another season of NHL competition. If not, the Red Wings start the season without their leading scorer from 2013-14.
So if Datsyuk misses seven games, that means the most for which he and Zetterberg could combine would be 157. That doesn’t leave much room for two veterans who combined to miss 74 games last season. If that happens again, the Red Wings can forget about making the playoffs for a 24th straight season and will have to concentrate on rebuilding, not reloading, for the first time in more than two decades.
In the 12 seasons since then, nine players have won it and nobody has taken home the Art Ross Trophy in successive seasons. We at thn.com predict that trend to continue. And if our crystal ball isn’t defective, there will be another first-time winner this season.
With that in mind, here are our top 10 choices for the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15, in descending order. Read more