After cancer scare, Penguins Olli Maatta ready for the big time

The Hockey News
Olli Maatta (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

By Shelly Anderson

In his first season as Pittsburgh GM, Jim Rutherford got only a small sampling of Olli Maatta’s work, just 20 games. Still, what Rutherford saw on and off the ice left him with no qualms about elevating the young Finn to the rarefied status of being one of the Penguins’ core players entering 2015-16, Maatta’s third season.

Up front, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury. On defense, Kris Letang – and now Maatta.

“We’re going to rely on him heavily and more like a veteran player,” Rutherford said. “We are going to transition our defense into younger guys, but we’ll lean on him a lot.” Read more

The five least effective trade deadline deals of 2014-15

James Wisniewski (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

For the past week, the Toronto Blue Jays have owned the sports news cycle thanks to the club’s big time acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price ahead of the MLB trade deadline. There’s one problem, though: there’s a possibility that neither trade will actually help get the Blue Jays into the post-season.

The Blue Jays currently sit two games back of a wild-card spot, and, even then, they may find themselves ousted in the one-game playoff between the wild-card teams. If that happens, they will have made two major trades and, especially with regards to the Price trade, have mortgaged their future in a non-playoff year.

This isn’t a problem specific to baseball, however. Every year, teams wheel and deal at the NHL trade deadline with hopes of getting that final piece to put them over the top. This season was a rarity, in that the Chicago Blackhawks’ key addition, Antoine Vermette, actually performed admirably throughout the post-season and helped bring another Cup to the Windy City. In other cases, though, the deals went bust. Such is the case when there can only be one champion.

Here are five deadline deals from the past season that fell flat: Read more

Crosby, MacKinnon surprise seven-year-old Nova Scotia boy fighting cancer

Jared Clinton
MacKinnon-Crosby

It’s hard to believe that a town of less than 30,000 could produce two no-brainer first overall draft picks, and harder yet to believe those two would become partners in crime, making a difference in their hometown during the offseason.

That’s exactly the case for Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, however.

Over the past few days, Crosby and MacKinnon, who both hail from Cole Harbour, N.S., made headlines by working the drive-thru at a local Tim Hortons after a photo of the pair in full uniform was posted online. The drive-thru work was for a commercial for the coffee chain, so there was a reason why the pair was behind the counter. But Wednesday, the duo was back in the headlines, this time by trying to perform a good deed away from the camera. Read more

Rebuilding or contending? Making sense of the Canucks’ mess

Matt Larkin
Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

If I could sit down with Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning right this second, the conversation might sound like Skyler probing Walter in season 2, episode 1 of Breaking Bad:

“Will you talk to me, please?”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Where would Benning begin if asked to describe his team’s off-season? Summer 2015 makes summer 2014, which was wacky and contradictory in its own right, look like a confident vision by comparison.

A brief timeline of Benning and team president Trevor Linden’s key moves since Benning took over as Canucks GM in May 2014:

Read more

Penguins ship Sutter to Canucks, sign Fehr to three-year, $6 million contract

Jared Clinton
BSutter

The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a pair of moves that should help address their perceived depth issues.

Tuesday morning, the Penguins announced they had dealt center Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for center Nick Bonino, defenseman Adam Clendening and a 2016 second-round pick. Within minutes of announcing the trade, the club also announced the signing of pivot Eric Fehr to a three-year, $6 million deal.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we could add more depth,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford in a conference call. “The conversations with Vancouver have actually gone on a long time. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was prior to the draft.” Read more

Comparing fitness freak Duncan Keith to your average gym bro

GettyImages-476686530-DuncanKeith

If some gym bro said he works out for half an hour but it takes him almost three hours to do it, you’d probably laugh him off. And you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.

Why, then, is it any different for an NHL player?

Throughout the playoffs, a ton of talk surrounded Duncan Keith and the minutes he logged: 31:06 per game. Fans know that’s a dump-truck load of hockey, but most would be hard-pressed to prove why. After all, numbers-wise, it’s no more than what our gym bro does.

Consider this: Most NHLers average 10 to 20 minutes per game. Only the best play more than 20, while some play fewer than 10. The average shift lasts merely 45 seconds, and players clear the boards 20 to 30 times. All of this occurs over as much as three hours to play an NHL game. Endurance athletes like runners, cyclists and swimmers can go for much longer and do it without pause.

Everyone in the hockey world knows this is one of the most demanding sports to play. Yet few understand what players endure physiologically that makes what they do so difficult.

Read more

After top goalie and rookie nods, Matt Murray to start 2015-16 in AHL

Jared Clinton
Matt Murray (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Matt Murray’s 2014-15 AHL campaign was one for the ages, but the 21-year-old netminder won’t be parlaying it into a promotion to the NHL quite yet.

After a season in which Murray was named the AHL rookie of the year, won the honor as the league’s top goaltender, got a first all-star team nod and split the award for lowest team goals-against average with teammate Jeff Zatkoff, it wouldn’t have been shocking had Murray earned himself a call up. Turns out, however, that the Penguins coaching staff wants to make sure Murray can keep growing.

“He’s not coming in here and beating out Marc-Andre Fleury and taking over this team,” Pittsburgh assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald told the Penguins’ website. “We love what we have down the line here, and it is down the line. He just turned 21. He needs to play hockey games. You can’t develop if he’s sitting on the bench. That’s just a fact.” Read more

Penguins hire War-On-Ice co-creator, want to build analytics team

Jared Clinton
Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins

One of the most prominent hockey analytics websites has had its co-creator snatched away by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey, the Penguins have brought in War-On-Ice’s Sam Ventura, who created the analytics site alongside Andrew Thomas, as a consultant who will be responsible for looking over analytics for Pittsburgh.

“Growing up in Pittsburgh and being a Penguins fan, I couldn’t be happier to help out in whatever ways I can help out now,” Ventura told Mackey. Read more