Why your team will not win the 2014 Stanley Cup

Boston Bruins lose Cup

Just like the start of the regular season, any fan with a horse in the race starts the NHL playoffs with a giddy optimism. Even if you don’t believe your team will win it all, you’re surely thinking they can pull off an upset or two.

Well, sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Your team isn’t as good or as complete as you believe it to be. They will not win the Stanley Cup.

And here’s why your favorite team will come up empty this spring:

Anaheim: Because the stats community says you’re doomed to fail. Your team’s 49.8 percent Corsi percentage is second-worst among Western playoff teams, which means you don’t possess the puck enough. You were upset last year and it’s going to happen again. Read more

Dallas Stars round out this season’s Sweet 16

(Photo by Glenn James/NHL)

With their 3-0 win over the suddenly slumping St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars are returning to the post-season, having eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes. It’ll be the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2007-08 when ‘Big D’ made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

The 16 playoff teams are now set. All that’s to be decided now is positioning.

For the Stars, they could get any one of the Ducks, Avalanche or Blues in Round 1. They’re 2-1 against Anaheim, 1-3-1 versus Colorado and now 3-1-1 when facing St. Louis. Couple their success in Missouri with the Blues’ five-game losing streak, and the Stars might be hoping for first-round series against the Notes.

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Fantasy Pool Look: Top 10 statistical anomalies of 2013-14

Washington Capitals v Montreal Canadiens

Every year, in all sports, when you scan through the end-of-season statistics you raise an eyebrow more than once. Some players have no business getting that kind of number in that particular category and there’s no way it will happen again.

Here are the biggest “one-offs” that jump out at me in the NHL this year.

10. Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
19.6 shooting percentage
Nyquist has been a man on a mission since January, actually leading the NHL in goals. Nyquist will be a star in the NHL sooner rather than later, but his forte is setting up goals more than scoring them. His high shot percentage reflects that.

9. Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
19.1 shooting percentage
Filppula’s career high heading into this year was 23 goals. He has 25 on just 131 shots. On a high-scoring team such as the Lightning, he could flirt with 60 points again, but don’t look for such production in the goals department. Overall, expect a decline in his numbers in 2014-15 as some of the talented Tampa prospects take on bigger roles.
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Top 10 second overall picks show there’s plenty to win after losing the draft lottery

Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton celebrate a goal for the San Jose Sharks

For 14 NHL teams, next year begins now. In a little over a week, fans of the NHL’s non-playoff teams will eagerly look to the future as the league runs its draft lottery to determine the owner of this summer’s first overall draft pick. This year, unlike years past, all 14 teams will have a shot at that top slot, meaning the league’s worst franchise has a better chance to lose the lottery, too.

But despair not, Buffalo Sabres fans: as one look around the league shows, second place isn’t so bad.

This list of active second overall picks is hardly second-rate.
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Top five compliance buyout candidates for 2014


It’s that time of year when fans prepare for playoff pushes and other fans go full Joffrey and demand heads on stakes.

By heads on stakes, I mean buyouts in this case. For any suffering supporter who can’t stand to look at an expensive star player’s face another second, there’s hope. Remember the compliance buyouts from last summer? They’re BACK, albeit not in Pog form.

The rules, per NHL.com:

Under the collective bargaining agreement signed last season, teams are allowed two compliance buyouts within designated time periods last summer and this summer. That’s two buyouts total, not two per summer, and the buyouts can be used at a team’s discretion. That means some teams can (and did) use both last summer, some used one and some saved both for this summer.

When using a compliance buyout, a team “must pay two-thirds of the remaining contract across twice the remaining term of the deal. The bought-out players become free agents July 5 (2013, and July 1, 2014) and can sign with any team, other than the one that bought out the player.”

A refresher of last year’s compliance buyouts can be found here. But here’s a short list of who does and does not have flexibility.

TWO BUYOUTS LEFT: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Winnipeg

ONE BUYOUT LEFT: Detroit, Edmonton, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington

NO BUYOUTS LEFT: Chicago, Montreal, Philadelphia, Toronto

Factoring that list in, I’ve ranked my top five compliance buyout candidates below. My key criteria: (a) No one would want any part of this player’s contract in a trade; (b) this player wasn’t signed last summer, as sheer pride would likely stop most GMs from admitting their mistakes after just one year; (c) this player is not suffering from a long-term injury.

1. Ville Leino, LW, Buffalo Sabres
(Three years left, $4.5-million cap hit)

He scored in his first game as a Sabre Oct. 7, 2011 and it was all downhill from there. In the 132 contests since, Leino has nine goals. He has zero in 54 games this season. Calling him a buyout candidate is a gross understatement.

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Vezina Trophy Watch: Rask pulling away


With only a week and change left in the regular season, it’s crunch time for those players with their eyes on individual trophies. In the goaltending department, Boston’s Tuukka Rask managed to usurp Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop over the past month, but can he hang on for the final stretch? Here’s our ranking of the contenders.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

With seven shutouts, Rask is the NHL leader in blankings and when you couple that with 34 wins, a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, it goes without saying that he owns the pole position when it comes to the Vezina.

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Sharks no longer the trendy pick to win the Cup, but they’re still as dangerous as any playoff team

Adam Proteau
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

When The Hockey News editorial staff convened last summer to put together our annual Yearbook, there was no consensus when we were hashing out our collective pick to win the Stanley Cup this season. It was like any group of hockey observers, really. Some liked Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins; others picked the Bruins, the Kings or the Rangers.

We wound up settling on the Blues – and with St. Louis tied with Boston for the NHL’s best regular-season record right now, we’re feeling good as a group about that – but that team wasn’t my personal selection. I went with a franchise that not long ago was the darling of hockey pundits everywhere: the San Jose Sharks.

And you know what? I feel better about that pick today than I did when I first made it. It’s fair to question this group’s ability to get over the hump after so many years of disappointment, but it’s also entirely possible they finally take that next step this spring.

Like all teams, the Sharks have struggled at different points in the season. But in the NHL’s new playoff format that emphasizes divisional play, they’re better than solid: only the Ducks have a better record within the division (19-3-3) than San Jose (17-6-3) – and two of Anaheim’s three regulation time divisional losses came against the Sharks.

Meanwhile, as they proved in a 2-1 win Thursday, the Sharks also match up very well against the Kings – especially if star defenseman Drew Doughty is sidelined for any significant stretch of playoff time. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic won’t win the Norris Trophy this season, but he’s been quietly spectacular for them and their overall blueline group makes goalie Antti Niemi’s job a lot easier. As well, San Jose is the NHL’s most dominant playoff team (53 percent efficiency), something that will take on more importance when the post-season begins.

But here’s why I’ve always liked the Sharks this year: an air of desperation, at least for stars such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, is beginning to loom large over the organization. Read more

Kings star defenseman Doughty suffers upper-body injury; return timeline uncertain

Adam Proteau
Drew Doughty (Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Kings star blueliner Drew Doughty joined the growing ranks of the NHL’s injured Thursday when he was sidelined with what appears to be an injured left shoulder.

The Kings would only say Doughty suffered an upper-body injury when they announced he wouldn’t return after he was hurt in the first period in L.A.’s game against San Jose. Doughty drove his shoulder into Sharks forward Tyler Kennedy at the 11:38 mark and favored his shoulder before leaving the ice. Read more