Five slumping stars who are set to break out

Jakub Voracek. (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sometimes, no matter what a star does, the pucks just don’t go in and the assists aren’t piling up. It could be the fault of pucks off of posts, a few bad bounces or simply a string of bad luck.

For five star players, the 2015-16 campaign has been especially unkind. And while players such as Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin can seem to do no wrong, there are those who can’t seem to catch a break. Here are five star players stuck in a slump who look ready to break out: Read more

Bernier a star? Lindros in HHOF? Norris for Phaneuf? Counting down my biggest blunders

Toronto Maple Leafs Jonathan Bernier

I had an uncle who claimed he had never been wrong. Used to insist he didn’t know how it feels to be wrong.

“Is it like an itch?” he’d joke.

Me, well I sure know how it feels to be wrong. When you are as opinionated as I am, being wrong comes with the territory.

I’ll give you a few examples:

Read more

Go west young man: Handicapping Travis Hamonic’s preferred trade destinations

John Tavares (left) and Travis Hamonic  (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Travis Hamonic is 25 years old. He’s a mobile, physical defensemen who can munch minutes and has a reasonable amount of offensive potential. He’s a steal against the salary cap, currently leads all defensemen in hits, is a right-shot defenseman and has favorable numbers when it comes to analytics. And his best years as an NHL player could very well be in front of him.

So from the standpoint of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, there could never be a better time to trade him. But when the player not only asks for a trade, but limits his destination to one of four teams, any leverage Snow had over his possible trade partners is wiped out. There’s nothing the drops a player’s trade market value more dramatically than a desperate need to move him and a limited number of destinations.

Read more

Five-time Stanley Cup champion, Hall of Famer Bert Olmstead passes away at 89

Bert Olmstead (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Hall of Fame left winger Bert Olmstead, a native of Sceptre, Sask., passed away Monday at 89 due to complications from a stroke, according to the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis.

Over his 14 seasons in the NHL, Olmstead played for the Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and was also briefly a member of the Red Wings but never suited up for Detroit. Olmstead broke into the league with the Black Hawks in 1949-50 with a 20-goal, 49-point rookie campaign and finished second in Calder Trophy voting to Bruins goaltender Jack Gelineau.

Olmstead’s greatest successes came while a member of the Habs in the 1950s, though. Olmstead was a gifted playmaker, but wasn’t necessarily known for his own scoring ability, instead using his talents to set up linemates such as Elmer Lach, Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard and Jean Beliveau. Read more

Toronto’s James Reimer is incredibly hot right now

Ryan Kennedy
James Reimer (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

This was not the script.

James Reimer was not expected to carry the load in Toronto this season – that was assumed to be Jonathan Bernier’s turf. But nearly a quarter into the campaign, we find Reimer on a four-game win streak, undefeated in regulation through six starts, and inspiring the troops in front of him.

In fact, amongst goalies with at least 10 appearances this season, Reimer now ranks fourth overall with a .930 save percentage – better than Pekka Rinne, Marc-Andre Fleury or Braden Holtby.

Read more

With big bucks on the line, Nazem Kadri has become NHL’s unluckiest player

Jared Clinton
Nazem Kadri (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Few would disagree with the notion that the 2015-16 campaign is the most important of Nazem Kadri’s professional career. In the off-season, the Maple Leafs center was signed to a one-year, $4.1-million contract and the message was clear: Toronto’s front office wanted Kadri to prove he was every bit the star they believed he could be before doling out a long-term, big money contract.

“He gets to come in and have a heck of a year and then put the screws to us,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said in the off-season. “If I’m him, I’m going to have the best year of my career because I’m training the way I should and living the way I should. Why wouldn’t I have a short-term deal?”

And that was the plan for Kadri, who was coming off an 18-goal, 39-point performance in 2014-15. The thought was that, given top line minutes in Toronto, he could start to exceed the 50-point plateau. Previously, he had only reached the mark once, in 2013-14, when he scored 20 goals and 50 points in 78 games. Things haven’t quite gone according to plan for Kadri when it comes to filling the score sheet, however.

Through 18 games, Kadri has found the back of the net just once, and has racked up a mere seven points on a Toronto team that ranks 25th in goals for this season. Thought to be a potential source of much-needed offense for a team that traded away sniper Phil Kessel in the off-season, Kadri has instead been held scoreless in 12 of 18 games this season.

But while Maple Leafs fans want to start seeing some production, it’s worth noting Kadri has been exceptional in every facet outside of putting points on the board. More than anything, Kadri’s biggest issue has been luck — and that he’s having none of it. Read more

Prospect Need to Know: Julien Gauthier gets us pumped up

Julien Gauthier  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Can you sense it, folks? It’s almost world juniors time. Sure, the tournament is a month and a half away, but players need to be making impressions on national team brass all the time and for Canadian hopefuls, the CHL-Russia Super Series can be a big boost – just as Lawson Crouse, who caught eyes last year and turned his efforts into gold.

So far, Russia has been blanked, losing all four games to the WHL and OHL. Now it’s the QMJHL’s turn to defend home turf. One player honored with that duty is in our spotlight today. Let’s take a whirl around the world of prospects.

Read more