When the NHL made its most recent realignment, last season, it reemphasized the importance of divisional play by also restructuring its playoff format. The wild card element throws a bit of a wrench into it from year-to-year, but for the most part, teams have to play their first two playoff rounds against division rivals – and that means a weaker division has the potential to make the road to the Stanley Cup easier for the team that can emerge from it.
I’d argue that’s one of the reasons the New York Rangers qualified for the Cup Final this past spring. They faced a flawed Flyers team in the first round and a Penguins squad in the second that had serious issues of its own before they beat the injury-depleted Canadiens in the Eastern Conference final. You have to give the Blueshirts credit for their resilience, but they had a much easier go of it than, say, Los Angeles or Chicago.
So which division is shaping up to be the NHL’s weakest in 2014-15? It’s not in the Western Conference, that’s for sure. Six of the Central Division’s seven teams (every one but Winnipeg) have a bona fide shot at making the playoffs, and the California Trinity Of Doom, combined with the desperation to make the playoffs in Vancouver and Edmonton, makes the Pacific Division daunting as well.
So, the “honor” of the league’s worst division has to go to either the Metropolitan or the Atlantic. And although the Atlantic has seen more separation between the haves and have-nots of its teams this off-season, I’d still make the case the Metro is the weaker of the two. Read more
At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”
Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more
When word broke late Tuesday Sidney Crosby is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in the coming days, it went a ways toward explaining the superstar’s ineffectiveness in the 2014 playoffs. But it does nothing to change the fact the Penguins captain will face the most challenging season of his career this coming year.
The surgery, which won’t cause the 26-year-old to miss any games, won’t reduce the immense pressure he’ll be under with a revamped Pens lineup. Nothing he does in the regular season will silence the people who challenged his status as the planet’s best player. He can win the NHL’s scoring race and Hart Trophy as league MVP as he did in 2013-14 and people will shrug their shoulders. The only way he’ll shut them up is with a strong post-season performance that makes everyone forget about his one-goal, nine-point showing in 13 playoff games (including just three points in the second round) this past spring. Read more
The NHL’s arbitration process is scheduled to begin later this month. Twenty NHL players have filed for arbitration, while three players were taken to arbitration by their teams. Usually, these contracts are settled before the team and player have to face off in front of an arbiter, so expect most, or all, of these to be settled before the process begins.
Arbitration cases will be heard between July 20 and August 5. Here are the eligible players:
Brandon McMillan - A third round pick by Anaheim in 2008, McMillan played 22 games with the Coyotes in 2013-14, scoring two goals and six points. He also played 46 games with the american League’s Portland Pirates, scoring 11 goals and 26 points. The 5-foot-11 winger was acquired by the Coyotes last year in a trade that sent Matt Lombardi to the Ducks.
Matt Bartkowski - A seventh round pick by Florida in 2008, Bartkowski averaged the fourth-most minutes among Bruins defensemen in 2013-14 and scored 18 assists. He was acquired by Boston in what turned out to be an awful trade for Florida, which sent Bartkowski and Dennis Seidenberg to the Bruins for not much at all. Bartkowski has emerged as a physical defensive blueliner who fits in nicely with Boston’s brawny way. Read more
1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.
If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more
The Philadelphia Flyers recent signings (defenseman Nick Schultz, backup goalie Ray Emery and winger Jason Akeson) pushes them above the $69-million salary cap by just more than $3 million. That’s the most of any NHL team this summer, putting pressure on GM Ron Hextall to find a way to become cap compliant before the 2014-15 season starts in October.
Hextall reportedly almost had a deal in place that would have sent center Vincent Lecavalier to the Nashville Predators. The deal, however, fell through because the Predators wanted the Flyers to pick up half of Lecavalier’s remaining contract. The 34-year-old has four seasons remaining worth $4.5-million annually. He has a full no-movement clause, but his agent was given permission by Hextall to explore trade possibilities with other clubs.
The Philadelphia Daily News reports Hextall and Predators management revisited the possibility of a Lecavalier trade. Another suitor could be the Ottawa Senators. CSNPhilly’s Tim Panaccio reports the Senators want the Flyers to not only pick up part of the Lecavalier’s salary but also want something else included. Read more
It’s always fun to be taken behind the scenes of an NHL team’s operations. And when the Nashville Predators put a mic on GM David Poile during the draft, we caught a glimpse of the thought process behind the James Neal trade.
What’s always a little funny when you watch something like this, is how similar the negotiations can be to your own fantasy league. Asking for a second, or even third, opinion. Trying to come up with a way to get the player you want, without giving up a certain piece you’d rather keep. And casually talking with the other GM, trying to get in his head space and wiggle some negotiating room.
This video leading up to the Hornqvist-Neal trade (and Nashville’s pick) is a neat over-the-shoulder look at how the blockbuster went down: Read more
Drafted 15th overall in 1991 – right after Pat Peake – Alex Kovalev became a prolific, if somewhat mercurial, NHL scorer. He had the size and the skill to take over NHL games, but at times he also left you expecting more. Kovalev retired from professional hockey this week after spending the 2013-14 season playing in Switzerland.
His last NHL season was with the Florida Panthers in 2012-13 and he finishes his career with 430 goals and 1,029 points in 1,316 games. He reached the 30-goal mark three times and set a career-high of 44 goals in 2000-01 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2002-03, Kovalev was one of the best players available on the trade market and he fetched the beleaguered Penguins Rico Fata, Mikael Samuelsson, Joel Bouchard and a few million dollars. Kind of underwhelming, wouldn’t you say?
He may not be beloved like Jaromir Jagr and Kovalev is certainly not a Hall of Famer, but he still brought us moments we’ll never forget. Here are five of them: Read more