There’s never been any doubt that hockey players, like all professional athletes, will do anything they can to help their team to victory.
Be it lying down in front of blistering slapshots, taking a monster body check to make a play, or pulling out some teeth to stay on the bench, hockey players want to make a difference for their team. The last thing they want to do is provide the opposition with a costly power play or make a mistake that their teammates have to pay for.
All of these things could help explain why Zack Kassian became a temporary member of the St. Louis Blues bench on Thursday night: Read more
The coaching business in the NHL is about to get crazier thanks to the pending free agency of Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock, who almost assuredly will set a new record for a coach’s salary whether he stays in Detroit or moves on to a new place of employment. So, that has to mean better times are ahead for all coaches, right? A whole, “rising-tide-lifts-all-boats” thing, right?
Not so fast. Because although Babcock’s pending spike in pay may very well result in higher salaries for more members of the coaching fraternity, there’s other forces at play here: the increasingly rapid turnover of coaches at the NHL level – and this year, the early success of most off-season coaching changes.
There were six such changes in hockey’s best league this summer. Let’s take a brief look at how they’re working out: In Nashville, Peter Laviolette has the Predators off to a 5-0-2 start (including a big 3-2 win over Chicago Thursday) that makes them the last team in the league without a loss in regulation. In Washington, former Predators coach Barry Trotz has steered the Capitals to a strong showing out of the gate (just one loss in regulation in six games) and his relationship with star winger Alex Ovechkin is beginning on the right foot. In Pittsburgh, Mike Johnston is working with a significantly rejigged roster, but the Penguins have points in four of their first six games and should be fine. In Vancouver, Willie Desjardins has reinvigorated a Canucks squad that had been wholly deinvigorated under John Tortorella.
Things aren’t working out that well for all the new coaches. Read more
In the aftermath of the unspeakable attack Wednesday in Ottawa that killed a Canadian soldier and terrified the federal parliament and the country itself, the NHL responded admirably to show its support for those affected by the tragedy. An example was found in Pittsburgh, when prior to the Penguins/Flyers game, the fans in attendance and singer Jeff Jimerson sang Canada’s national anthem:
The appearance of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis at Rexall Place for Friday’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers raised eyebrows among NHL followers. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wondered if Ben Scrivens performance in that game could affect the whereabouts of Leafs goalie James Reimer.
Evidently, the game’s outcome (a 2-0 win for the Canucks) had no effect on Reimer, who remains the Maple Leafs backup. Still, with the Oilers off to a franchise-worst start (0-4-1 in their opening five games) and the Leafs lurching from the gate with a 2-3-1 record, it’s only natural that Nonis’ appearance at that game would generate trade speculation.
Nonis could be doing some advanced scouting, but as The Score’s Thomas Drance observes, the Leafs don’t play the Oilers or Canucks until December, so an early-October scouting trip seems unusual. If Nonis’ Western swing is to pursue a trade, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes it’ll be a small deal, not a significant one. Read more
For most NHL teams, losing a burgeoning star on defense like Victor Hedman to injury would be a major, if not catastrophic blow. But if a team (at least, an Eastern Conference team) is equipped to weather the absence of a key cog on the blueline, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the fact they’ll now be without Hedman for at least a handful of games, if not longer thanks to a suspected broken hand he suffered Saturday against Vancouver, the Bolts are still looking as dangerous as many expected they would after their off-season additions.
When Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman signed free agent blueliner Anton Stralman away from the New York Rangers and traded for former Vancouver Canucks d-man Jason Garrison, he turned a group that included Hedman (who demolished career bests in goals and assists last year), veterans Matt Carle and Eric Brewer, and rugged 24-year-old Radko Gudas into arguably the Eastern Conference’s deepest defense corps. And that argument got much stronger after the Bruins dealt Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders. They’re so deep on defense, they made Brewer a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season. (Gudas is a little banged-up himself, but hoped to return to the lineup as soon as Monday.) There’s more than enough talent and balance there to hold the fort until Hedman returns. (And nobody quite knows when that will be just yet. If their worst fears come true and Hedman’s hand is broken, he’s likely looking at a 4-to-6-week recovery period.)
But even if that defense corps weren’t so sturdy even in Hedman’s absence, the Lightning would still be favored to win more games than not because of two main reasons: Read more
It’s still early in the season, but fans are starting to get a feel for which free agent pick-ups and off-season trades have worked in their favor. For some, it was a blockbuster deal that could change the future of the franchise. For others, it was a smart, below-the-radar deal that has given them the piece they need to build one block at a time.
Below you can find the top five off-season moves that are making waves in the early season. What is your top five?
5. Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)
While he certainly wasn’t the sexiest of signings in the off-season, Daniel Winnik has been just what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. There has been no shortage of talk about the Leafs defensive woes. After a summer dedicated to shifting the focus of the front office, headlined by bringing in assistant GM Kyle Dubas, the Leafs went out and got the 29-year-old Winnik.
Though he’s unlikely to make any highlight reels, Winnik is the kind of player that helps teams win. Already this season he has shown just how defensively sound he is. Coming off a career-high 30 points in 2013-14 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Plus, he’s from Toronto. That’s sure to make one notable Leafs’ fan happy. Read more
The Philadelphia Flyers suffered a scare last week when defenseman Braydon Coburn was sidelined by a lower-body injury. It raised speculation they might go shopping for blueline help if the injury was long term, but it appears he could return to action in a matter of days, rather than weeks.
For a defense corps still lacking a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury three years ago, and with Kimmo Timonen sidelined with career-threatening blood clots, the possibility of losing Coburn long term was a genuine cause for concern. Read more
Henrik Sedin didn’t waste much time making it to the highlight reel this season. And to his credit, the Canucks captain managed the rare feat of making an empty-net goal look incredibly challenging and memorable in Vancouver’s 4-2 win over Calgary Wednesday.
The Canucks were leading the host Flames with less than 90 seconds to play when Sedin picks up the puck at his own blueline, skates through two opponents, fights off both of them deep in Calgary’s zone, and bats the puck into the net as he’s falling to the ice, just before he knocks the net off its moorings: