On the first weekend in September, here are a few medium-sized hockey thoughts for your consideration:
• Lightning star Steven Stamkos addressed the media in Tampa Bay Thursday and talked in greater detail about his adventures on social media this summer. Stamkos said he mistakenly pressed the favorite button on a Tweet from THN’s account linking to my story on him potentially coming to his hometown Maple Leafs when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016.
“You press the favorite button by accident and an hour later Twitter blew up,” Stamkos said. “But you live and learn and I’ll be more careful on the favorite button the next time around.
Sounds reasonable, right? Who among us hasn’t made a similar slip? And here’s the thing – if it was only one tweet, I’d be inclined to take Stamkos at face value. But Stamkos didn’t just favor one tweet. He subsequently favorited a second tweet linking him to the Leafs.
Now, one mistaken favorite, I understand. Two? And both just happen to be about the same topic? Sorry, but I’ve yet to hear a satisfactory explanation of how that happened. Read more
Even the best players in the world can have slumps and it’s not fun when it happens to your favorite. But with every fresh campaign there is hope for renewal and as we approach the 2014-15 installment of NHL hockey, some players may be a little more eager than others, since last season was such a downer.
Here’s a look at 10 players who are primed for bounce-back seasons:
As the beginning of NHL training camps draws closer, it’s natural for fans to debate and discuss which teams had the most productive off-season. And although the answer to that question won’t be confirmed for months, if not years, that won’t stop us from ranking the 10 best off-season unrestricted free agent signings:
10. Thomas Vanek, Wild (3 years, $19.5 million). Granted, Vanek didn’t help his contract negotiating stance with a poor playoff showing for the Canadiens, but his regular-season production has been dependably above-average – and given that Minnesota struggled to put pucks in nets last season (their 207 goals-for was third-worst in the Western Conference), he’ll help a great deal and isn’t locked up to a contract with an onerous term.
9. Ales Hemsky, Stars (3 years, $12 million). The 31-year-old Hemsky hasn’t reached the 20-goal mark since he had 23 for Edmonton in 2008-09, but he’ll play on Dallas’ second line – alongside former Senators teammate Jason Spezza, with whom he enjoyed some solid chemistry in his 20-game stint in Ottawa last year – and should perform well playing in a non-fishbowl market with increased minutes.
8. Radim Vrbata, Canucks (2 years, $10 million). Vrbata has been under most people’s radar playing in Phoenix, but the 33-year-old has proven himself to be a reliable 20-30-goal-scorer. On the rejigged Canucks, he’ll see time on the same line as the Sedin twins and will get first-unit power play minutes. The term of this deal also makes this a win for new Vancouver GM Jim Benning. Read more
Status: NHL defenseman from 1973-83 with Toronto, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
DOB: Dec. 22, 1953 In: Montreal
Residence: Los Angeles
First Hockey Memory: ”Getting my first hockey stick at age five, started skating at three.”
Hockey Inspirations: “Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Andy Bathgate, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr.” Read more
Around this time of year when we all get antsy for hockey to get going, one of the most popular topics of conversation centers around which coach will be the first to get fired. Randy Carlyle and Paul MacLean look to be the early frontrunners in that department.
And with the average lifespan of a coach running at about 2.4 years, why wouldn’t they be in peril? Carlyle is approaching that with the Toronto Maple Leafs and MacLean has already exceeded that in Ottawa, having been there for the past three seasons. After two seasons in which he could do no wrong, MacLean was blamed for everything from his handling of the Senators goaltenders to how clueless his team was in its own end last season. Read more
If Scott Gomez and/or Tomas Kaberle make the New Jersey Devils this season and contribute in a meaningful way, GM Lou Lamoriello will be able to claim another feather for a cap that is already bursting with plumage. The veterans are reclamation projects, looking to revive careers that are ever-so-gently flickering.
Barring the spectacularly unforeseen, however, those potential additions won’t be able to match the magic Lamoriello performed 23 years ago.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we remember the incredible summer of 1991, when the Devils acquired Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer via a series of head-scratching events.
For a guy who doesn’t say much, Phil Kessel is the source of significant noise.
Ever since he begged out of Boston and was dealt to Toronto for a trio of high draft picks, fans and media on both sides of the equation have been debating the merits of the blockbuster.
The derisive “Thank you, Kessel” chants in Beantown remain alive and boisterous, while the Maple Leafs showed faith in their sniper by rewarding him with an eight-year, $64-million contract extension that kicks in this season.
The trade officially turns five on Sept. 18 and the question is: who has had the happier returns? As part of a recurring feature in which we re-open a cold file (ok, this one still has some burning embers) from a deal that transpired five or more years ago, we re-assess the swap.
By Michael Musalem
The next generation of NHL stars was on full display in Toronto this past Saturday, as 33 of the league’s most promising recent draftees gathered at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for some serious face time.
The event put on by Upper Deck, the league’s official trading card partner, and the NHLPA is held each year with the purpose of photographing the prospects in their official NHL team gear for the first time, giving them all the opportunity to live out any pro’s lifelong dream of having their very own hockey card. Read more