In playoffs by Thanksgiving? Good work, but don’t get too comfortable

Ken Campbell
Toronto Maple Leafs  (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a fairly common belief in hockey circles that if you’re in the playoffs by American Thanksgiving, chances are you’re going to be in the post-season dance five months later.

So how does that notion hold up to scrutiny? Not badly, actually. But it would be very, very dangerous for the 16 teams that are in the playoffs to think they can basically put in on autopilot for the rest of the season. According to numbers crunched by thn.com over the past 10 years when they’ve actually been playing hockey on American Thanksgiving – something they didn’t do in 2004 and 2012 – teams that are currently in the playoffs have a 77 percent chance of keeping their spots in the top eight.

When you remove the two seasons from the past 10 that did not include the extra point for a shootout win, the probability of making the playoffs goes up to 78.9 percent. Read more

Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens all billion dollar organizations according to Forbes

Madison Square Garden

My, what a difference one year and a massive TV contract can make.

In 2013, when American business magazine Forbes released their NHL franchise valuations, only one team was said to be a billion dollar organization: the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.15 billion). That the Leafs were – and still are – the most valued team in the NHL comes to little surprise what with a fan base that continually shells out top dollar regardless of the outcome. It is hockey mecca, like it or not.

But Tuesday, when Forbes released its rankings for 2014, two franchises, the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, found themselves in the billion dollar club thanks in large part to a friendly bump from the NHL’s league-wide television deals plus some added money from local television contracts. Read more

Celebrity Overtime: Five questions with Ice Pilot Mikey McBryan

Mikey McBryan (Shaw Media)

Stars (even reality stars) like hockey too, and everyone once in a while they’re more interested in chatting up last night’s game than they are in pontificating about their latest TV or film projects. In our weekly “Celebrity Overtime” feature, we take five minutes with various celebrities to discuss their love of the good old-fashioned game.

Mikey McBryan is best known as the general manager of Buffalo Airways, the Hay River, NWT airline that’s been featured on the Canadian series for the past six seasons. But when the personality isn’t trying to avoid emergency landings or coming up with cool Buffalo Airways swag to give fans, he’s all about the Stanley Cup—no matter what team wins it. Read more

‘Ulcers’ McCool came from nowhere to win a Stanley Cup, then disappeared

McCool_644x825

By 1944-45, most NHL rosters had been decimated by enlistments in the Second World War. The Maple Leafs were Exhibit A, led by GM Conn Smythe, already a First World War hero, who organized a Toronto Sportsmen’s Battalion of athletes and sports media during the Second World War. The Leafs’ 1942 Cup-winning goalie, Turk Broda, followed Smythe’s patriotic lead in 1943, joining the Canadian armed forces.

That left Toronto’s interim GM, Frank Selke, Sr., in a bit of a jam. He didn’t have a single solid goalie in his lineup – not that Selke didn’t try to find a decent replacement. During 1943-44, Selke filled the Broda gap with an assortment of stopgaps including Benny Grant, Paul Bibeault and Jean Marois. The result was a third-place finish and a speedy first-round exit at the hands of the Habs, who disintegrated Bibeault and his mates in the final game, 11-0, to clinch the round.

The frustrated acting GM was ready to try anything in the autumn of 1944 and ultimately did just that. Against Smythe’s wishes, he hired a skinny netminder afflicted with a bad case of ulcers. What was worse, Frank McCool happened to be a 26-year-old goaltender with no pro experience and no serious action since his university years at Gonzaga five years earlier. But that was better than no goalie at all.

Read more

Watch the Kings raise their championship banner

Adam Proteau
KINGSlogo (via sportslogos.net)

The Los Angeles Kings kicked off the defense of their 2013-14 Stanley Cup championship Wednesday the way champions before them did – with the raising of a banner to the rafters of their rink.

As their fans looked on in awe, Kings players gathered on the ice prior to their showdown with San Jose to hoist the Cup champions banner to the top of Staples Center. Read more

Five non-playoff NHL teams that could make it this season

Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Five of the the 14 teams that missed the NHL playoffs in 2012-13 (Colorado, Dallas, Columbus, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) qualified for a playoff berth last season. Here are five teams on the outside looking in during the 2014 playoffs that – in this writer’s opinion – have the best chance at making the post-season this year:

5. Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year last season – the first time that’s happened since 2007-09 – and that organization is famous for making the most out of a budget-conscious blueprint for success. They finished only two points behind the eighth-place Stars, and with new No. 1 center Sam Gagner in town, captain Shane Doan fully healthy and stellar young blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson continuing to blossom, they could have just enough in the tank to make it back into the post-season. Read more

The oral history of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames: Part Two

Adam Proteau
Flames Oral History

In 1989, the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens competed in the Stanley Cup Final. It was one of the rare occasions the NHL’s two best regular-season teams collided in the championship round and the recent history between the two franchises – they had clashed in the Final two years prior, with the Habs emerging victorious – ratcheted up the tension before the series began. This time, however, the victor was different: Calgary won in six games and clinched the Cup on the road – the first time the storied Canadiens were ever defeated on home ice.

The Hockey News spoke to a selection of players and management members from that 1988-89 Flames team for an oral history of the 1989 Final – the last series to feature two Canadian squads squaring off for the Cup:

(This is part two of the Flames Oral History. To read part one, click here.)

GAMES FOUR AND FIVE: TURNING TABLES

The Flames were in the same position after three games in 1989 as they were in 1986: trailing the Habs two games to one and facing a crucial Game 4 in Montreal. Three years earlier, they lost the final two games. But their 4-2 win over the Canadiens May 21 – featuring two goals from Mullen and one from Gilmour – breathed new life into the dressing room and evened the Final at two games apiece.

By this point, the series began to burnish the legends of particular players in the Flames’ dressing room. Although Calgary could boast of employing future stars Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts (who both were in their early twenties), the 1989 Final was about the emergence of Gilmour and MacInnis, both of whom were just 25 years old and entering the prime of Hall of Fame careers.

TERRY CRISP Everybody always talks about Al MacInnis and his cannon shot. Yes, Al MacInnis had a cannon, but he also had a big pump step–around. He had a snapshot. He had a wrist shot. He could find either Nieuwendyk or Mullen for a tip-in or a one–timer off to the side. He was like a football quarterback. He had it all. Read more