NFL has Deflategate, did the NHL have Coffeegate?

Denis Potvin and Wayne Gretzky shake hands following the 1984 Stanley Cup final. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s a well-worn adage in sports that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

As we sit back and watch the NFL’s Deflategate with a certain amount of schadenfreude, we should be careful not to let our smug meter edge too high. Hockey isn’t as lily white as the surface it plays on.

We needn’t look beyond the NHL’s decision this season to punish divers, by outing them, for Exhibit A. If pretending to be fouled, or embellishing an act to draw an advantage isn’t unethical, it’s certainly uncool.

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Here are 10 storylines to watch the rest of the way

Slava Voynov  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS – Well, that was some “showcase of skill” wasn’t it? Unless of course, you consider bodychecking, backchecking, stopping pucks and skating hard for pucks to be valuable skills.

There’s a good chance that you’ve forgotten whether Team Toews or Team Foligno won as you read this. But it was a good weekend and good on the city of Columbus for being so hospitable and welcoming. And good on the players for letting their hair down a little and letting the fans in on the fun.

Now to more important matters, specifically the second half and stretch run leading up to the playoffs. Here are 10 storylines that should provide some compelling moments as we hit the most crucial part of the season: Read more

Team Foligno makes more coin, but Team Toews has the Cups and gold medals

Ken Campbell
Alex Ovechkin (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS – We have no idea which team is going to win the All-Star Game Sunday afternoon, but we’re pretty sure which one is buying the drinks.

Boosted by the surprise late selection of Alex Ovechkin, Team Foligno broke the bank and shattered the NHL’s salary cap with a payroll of $122.91 million, more than $16 million more than Team Toews. The team also picked up $2.25 million in salary when it made a trade to acquire Phil Kessel for Tyler Seguin.

Where Team Toews is lacking at the pay window, however, it makes up for in team achievements. Led by the team captain, teammate Brent Seabrook and Patrik Elias, Team Toews has a total of 10 Stanley Cups, compared to nine for Team Foligno. And when it comes to Olympic gold medals, it’s not even close. Team Toews has 11 of them, while Team Foligno has just five. Read more

Fellow top picks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: It gets better

Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS – Despite some high-profile cancellations, a lot of players are happy to be at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus this weekend. For some, it’s the chance to treat friends and family to a grand experience. For others, it’s the camaraderie on the ice. But Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may also sneak in some time to do some fact-finding in Ohio.

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Red-hot New York Rangers bucking Stanley Cup finalist curse

Kevin Klein (left) is having a big year for New York (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Traditionally, the teams that have lost the Stanley Cup final have often struggled in their next campaign, which is understandable given the grind and letdown of coming so close the prior summer.

But the New York Rangers have won 11 of their past 12 games, including Wednesday night in Anaheim against an NHL-leading Ducks squad. It’s almost miraculous for a team that has already withstood injuries to top players such as Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle. The recent hot streak is the team’s best since 1993-94 – a year of note, as any Rangers fan will tell you – and it has catapulted the Blueshirts into the Eastern Conference’s top wild card slot. Given that New York has two games in hand on Washington, but trails the Capitals by only a point, things look even sunnier.

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Year in Review: top 10 stories of 2014

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The calendar year of 2014 will be remembered for a lot of things, not the least of which was that it was the year in which a bunch of NHLers looked like Harry ‘Apple Cheeks’ Lumley. An outbreak of the mumps caused a number of players to log sick days and for the league to take precautions against a more widespread outbreak.

It will also be remembered for double gold for Canada…again, and a host of on- and off-ice developments that shaped the game. Here are the top 10 stories from 2014:

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How the Boston Bruins blew the Thornton, Kessel, Wheeler, Seguin trades…and lost out on T.J. Brodie, too

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Let’s play a little hindsight gymnastics.

Quick question: would you make this trade?

Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin for Matt Bartkowski, Loui Eriksson, Alexander Fallstrom, Matt Fraser, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev, Jared Knight, Joe Morrow, Dennis Seidenberg and Reilly Smith.

Because that’s what the Boston Bruins are left with after trading three future superstars and one well above average player before their primes in four separate trades.

If Thornton, Kessel, Wheeler or Seguin were still with Boston today, each would be the team’s top scorer. Seguin, of course, leads the NHL in goals and points.

One dumb deal is a mistake. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend. Four is…WTF is going on?

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Fun with numbers: Blue Jackets playoff prospects and Flames attendance

Brandon Dubinsky  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Getting Brandon Dubinsky back for their game tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers is almost as good news for the Columbus Blue Jackets as it is for teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks that the salary cap is projected to go up to $73 million next season.

The presence of Dubinsky, who hasn’t played a game all season because of surgery to repair four tears in his abdomen and groin, will be an enormous boon to a Columbus Jackets team that is in need of an enormous boon. And we’re not talking about Jenner. At 6-foot-2 and 208, he’s already pretty enormous and thankfully, he’s one of the players who is healthy and productive at the moment for the Blue Jackets with a goal in each of his past three games. Read more