So, who wins the Alex Goligoski/James Neal trade now?

Adam Proteau
Alex Goligoski (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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

Pavel Datsyuk injury in pre-season money grab a bad omen for Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

Top 10 Art Ross Trophy candidates for 2014-15

John Tavares (Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

In the 21 seasons between 1980-81 and 2000-01, a total of three players won the NHL scoring championship. Perhaps you’ve heard of them – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

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

The top 10 goalies most likely to have a down year

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.

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Pittsburgh Penguins unveil excellent throwback third jersey – what do you think?

Pittsburgh's third jersey.

The Pittsburgh Penguins unveiled a third jersey they’ll use during the 2014-15 season today – and we’re big fans of the throwback look.

The “Pittsburgh Gold,” a color scheme used way back in the Mario Lemieux Stanley Cup days, returns for 12 games this season. When the Penguins moved away from these jerseys in the early 1990s, they were a league powerhouse with back-to-back Stanley Cups. And although we ranked the current Penguins logo – with its dulled gold color – eighth-best in the NHL, we would rank the Pittsburgh Gold penguin even higher. It’s a sharp look.

Check it out. Here are the third jerseys the Penguins will use. Excellent stuff, right? Read more

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin to miss start of training camp

Crosby & Malkin (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Try not to be alarmed Pittsburgh Penguins fans – but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will miss the start of training camp.

From the team’s website:

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will be held out of the start of training camp, it was announced today by Pittsburgh Penguins Executive Vice President and General Manager Jim Rutherford.

Rutherford said the decision was made as a precaution after both players suffered injuries while preparing for camp. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Is this Marc-Andre Fleury’s last season in Pittsburgh?

Marc-Andre Fleury (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury enters this season facing an uncertain future. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July, and new Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t believe this summer was the right time to discuss a contract extension.

Fleury told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe he pondered what life would be like playing elsewhere, but that he prefers staying with the Penguins. Since signing a seven-year, $35-million deal with the Penguins in July 2008, Fleury backstopped them to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. In recent years he struggled in the playoffs, but he rebounded last season with a solid effort under goalie coach Mike Bales.

It’s apparent, however, Rutherford intends to take a wait-and-see approach with Fleury, who turns 30 in November. The former Carolina Hurricanes GM has no contract history with Fleury and seems reluctant to offer another lengthy, expensive contract to an inconsistent netminder. It’s up to Fleury to prove his worth this season as a reliable starting goaltender.

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The man who predicted the Rangers would go from last to the Stanley Cup

Jason Kay
Rangers Cup

The New York Rangers finished dead last in the Patrick Division in 1992-93, out of the playoffs and searching for answers.

Yet, remarkably, entering the subsequent season, THN senior writer Mike Brophy predicted they’d win the Stanley Cup when most figured Pittsburgh was a shoo-in for their third in four years. He explains why in the Oct. 15, 1993 issue of The Hockey News, and this edition of Throwback Thursday.

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