NHL decision to go back to compensation system makes a lot of sense

Steve Yzerman (left) and Mike Babcock  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has lost a lot of good people over the years – Steve Yzerman, Jim Nill, Todd McLellan and Paul MacLean to name just a few – so he’s obviously pleased the NHL reversed its stance on providing compensation for teams who lose executives to their rivals. Even if it means that if he loses his head coach this summer, nothing will be coming back the Red Wings way.

As first reported by Pierre LeBrun of espn.com, about eight months ago the league quietly reversed itself on the issue of compensation. Any team hiring someone from another organization who is under contract to be a GM, coach or president, must now compensate the team losing the staffer with a draft pick. If the hiring is done in the off-season, the team hiring the new man must surrender a third-round pick. If it’s done mid-season, the pick becomes a second-rounder. Read more

How hot does a Stanley Cup team need to be heading into the playoffs?

Tampa Bay's Jason Garrison (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the grand scheme of things, Tampa Bay’s loss to Toronto Tuesday night didn’t mean a whole lot. The Lightning have already clinched a playoff spot and though it would be nice to win the divisional crown over Montreal, it’s not a prerequisite to winning the Stanley Cup – something the Bolts are definitely capable of.

The most troubling part of the game was that several prominent Tampa players were not involved in it. Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson, Braydon Coburn, Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr are all on the shelf, with Garrison and Coburn possibly missing the first round of the playoffs. This is not the type of news you want if you’re a Tampa fan.

Every team deals with injuries, especially near the end of a gruelling 82-game schedule. But you still need to win games and looking at the past five Cup winners, it pays to head into the post-season with at least some juice.

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Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin scores gorgeous breakaway goal on Carey Price in Drouin’s hometown

Adam Proteau
Jonathan Drouin (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning rookie left winger Jonathan Drouin has had to earn every minute of his ice time on a deep Bolts team this year, and although he hasn’t been scoring at a great clip, the 20-year-old got a late birthday present Monday when he netted a beautiful breakaway goal against the league’s top netminder – and in Drouin’s hometown of Montreal, to boot.

Drouin, who scored 41 goals for Halifax in the QMJHL two seasons ago, had only scored twice in 65 games (along with a very respectable 27 assists) heading into the tilt with the Canadiens and star goalie Carey Price. But after a brilliant pass by teammate Anton Stralman from deep in Tampa Bay’s zone, Drouin broke in all alone on Vezina and Hart Trophy frontrunner Carey Price and made no mistake: Read more

For the first time in years, are the Pittsburgh Penguins actually – gasp – playoff underdogs?

Evgeni Malkin (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Hockey News this week revealed its collective pre-playoff pick to win the 2014-15 Stanley Cup (hint: team name rhymes with Grandpa Jay Whitening), but as an individual who was part of that process, I can tell you I wasn’t leading the charge for the team we selected (hint: my pick rhymes with…uh, to hell with it – I picked the Blackhawks). That said, I think this season’s playoffs will be like those that have preceded it in the salary cap era in that you can make excellent arguments for about two handfuls of teams, assuming each benefits from good health and solid chemistry at the right time of the year.

And that said, I think this post-season is particularly fascinating, because it’s the first playoffs in a long time in which the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming in as underdogs – or at least, as much of an underdog that any team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on it can be. Read more

THN’s prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning will win the Stanley Cup

Matt Larkin
TBCupWin

Forgive Steve Yzerman. He’s less impressed by his Tampa Bay Lightning than the rest of the world is. It takes more than a healthy run at the Presidents’ Trophy to elevate this GM’s heart rate. Call it the byproduct of three Stanley Cup rings, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Selke Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Award and three Olympic gold medals, one as a player and two as chief roster architect.

So when Yzerman learns in mid-March THN has chosen Tampa Bay as 2015 Stanley Cup champ, he doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t care if his team sits three points back of Montreal for the Eastern Conference’s best record. Bigger things to worry about? More like smaller things.

“We’re talking today, and we’ve yet to clinch a playoff spot,” Yzerman said. “You might be thinking Stanley Cup. We’re not. We’re just trying to make the playoffs.”

Yzerman has accomplished enough to never get ahead of himself, and the Bolts haven’t done much yet under his watch. He was hired in 2010 and they reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final a year later, but that wasn’t his team. He brought in aging goalie Dwayne Roloson for a Cinderella run, but most of the roster came from Jay Feaster and Brian Lawton.

The current Lightning incarnation is very much Yzerman’s, aside from pillars Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and anyone would’ve taken those two with the first and second overall pick in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The Yzerman regime drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. It traded for Ben Bishop and Ryan Callahan. It discovered Tyler Johnson and signed Anton Stralman and Valtteri Filppula. Tampa is where it is today because of Yzerman’s handiwork.

And Yzerman’s Bolts aren’t yet where he wants them to be, having lost to Montreal in four straight games last spring after Bishop dislocated his elbow days before the playoffs, derailing a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. But just because Yzerman thinks Cup talk is premature doesn’t mean we have to agree. Instead we elect to accuse him of modesty – and build a case for Tampa Bay to win its second Stanley Cup.

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NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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Lightning star Steven Stamkos gets into a fight – well, a wrestle – with Bruins’ Brad Marchand

Adam Proteau
Steven Stamkos grapples with Brad Marchand. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos doesn’t fight often, but when he does – well, as he showed Sunday in a brief, Greco-Roman wrestling-like encounter with Boston winger Brad Marchand, the Bolts’ captain still doesn’t throw a lot of punches.

The host Lightning were tied 1-1 with Boston midway through the first period Sunday when, after bumping into each other in the Bruins zone, Marchand and Stamkos both dropped their gloves and made a priority out of going after each other. But be warned: if you’re hoping for machine-gun fisticuffs from watching the following video (via SportsnetCanada) of the run-in, you’re going to come away disappointed: Read more