As the Winnipeg Jets’ season wound down, a controversy involving one of their players flared up. Interim coach Paul Maurice made star winger Evander Kane a healthy scratch for a game in Toronto – and just like that, harsh words were hauled out to criticize the 22-year-old: he had an attitude; he was arrogant; he wasn’t a good fit with the Jets; he needed to be traded post-haste. If it sounded familiar, that’s because it was. Ever since the franchise relocated to Manitoba from Atlanta, Kane has been a target for critics.
Some of that, he’s earned. When he posed during the 2012-13 lockout in front of the lights of Las Vegas pretending a giant stack of money was his cell phone, fans and media rightfully ripped him for not understanding how it would be perceived.
But put aside the specifics of that situation for a second and answer these questions: Were you ever 21? Did you ever make a mistake at that age? Do you think that, if you were making millions of dollars and existed in a massive public fishbowl at that age, you might make the odd error in judgment?
The answer should be “yes.” That’s why there’s something about the relentless negativity surrounding Kane that doesn’t sit right. I’m not pointing to anyone specific when I say this, but I have to say it: some of the criticism hurled at Kane – as well as teammate Dustin Byfuglien and Canadiens star P.K. Subban – is about his race more than his character. It’s what Kane referred to last year when he told THN’s Ken Campbell “a good portion” of the criticism is racially motivated.
Here’s an easy way for the NHL to make even more money: hold a post-season tournament for all non-playoff teams to determine the Stanley Cup of Hope.
The inspiration for the idea comes from the Kontinental League, which started the Nadezhda Cup (a.k.a. Cup of Hope) last season for teams that missed the playoffs. The, er, “winner” takes home around $600,000 and gets a top pick in the KHL draft.
It’s an out-there idea, for sure, and I’m not necessarily endorsing it, but let’s indulge it for a moment.
Florida won the draft lottery last night, meaning the Panthers get the first crack at an interesting field with a lot of variation in it. A lot goes into a draft list and the final results are always thrown into chaos by trades and reaches. As the draft gets closer and teams decide who they like the most, I’ll get a more accurate picture of how things might shake down. But for now, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at what could happen come draft day in Philadelphia, based on the teams’ current situation.
1. Florida – Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts, D
Yeah, yeah, defensemen never go first overall anymore (Erik Johnson was the last in 2006), but the Cats are loaded up front with Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau. Their best ‘D’ prospects are still in college, whereas Ekblad can step in right away and play a top-four role.
Turnabout is fair play for the Florida Panthers. At last year’s draft lottery, the second-to-last Colorado Avalanche leap-frogged the Panthers to win first overall pick. This year, it was the Panthers who did the leap-frogging.
Florida moved up one spot in the draft and won the right to select first overall in the 2014 NHL draft June 27 in Philadelphia. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, held Tuesday night in Toronto. The last-place Buffalo Sabres had the best chance of winning – 25 percent – but will slip to the second overall spot.
The remainder of the top 13 picks follow in reverse order of NHL standings. Edmonton picks third followed by Calgary fourth and the New York Islanders fifth. Vancouver is sixth, Carolina seventh, Toronto eighth, Winnipeg ninth, Anaheim (from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) 10th, Nashville 11th, Phoenix 12th and Washington 13th. The New Jersey Devils slip to the 30th spot as league penalty for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap.
Winning the lottery is nice for the Panthers, but it doesn’t mean as much in a draft that is considered very equal among the top three, four, even five prospects according to most scouts. Florida is weakest on the blueline and will surely be tempted to select Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad first overall.
Canadian teams will be well-represented in Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery.
Hey, we have to find something nice to say as the Montreal Canadiens are the only team north of the border to make the playoffs. The other six Canadian cities are among the top 10 teams vying to win the lottery and earn the right to select first overall.
Below you’ll see a listing for the 14 non-playoff teams and their chances to select first overall in the June 27-28 draft in Philadelphia. Most interesting is the likely outcome column which shows the varying percentage chances your favorite team will place.
The Portland Winterhawks have dominated the Western League for years now and are back in the conference final thanks to a five-game series win over Victoria. But that last victory over the Royals was a brutal one, with several dirty plays marring the game.
To start, you have Florida Panthers pick Steven Hodges rabbit punching Pittsburgh Penguins blue-chipper Derrick Pouliot while Pouliot is fighting defenseman Joe Hicketts. Pouliot then KOs Hicketts, a small but feisty prospect for the 2014 draft.
But that wasn’t the end of it!
Trade rumors dogged Winnipeg Jets’ winger Evander Kane throughout this season. Speculation over his future resurfaced after he was a healthy scratch during last Saturday’s match between the Jets-Maple Leafs in Toronto for arriving late for a team function.
Kane subsequently declined to discuss the incident with the media and was evasive when asked if he wants to be traded.The Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe mused over the 22-year-old’s future in Winnipeg. While noting “to our knowledge” Kane hasn’t sought a trade, Wiebe believes that doesn’t mean Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t entertaining offers.
Every year, in all sports, when you scan through the end-of-season statistics you raise an eyebrow more than once. Some players have no business getting that kind of number in that particular category and there’s no way it will happen again.
Here are the biggest “one-offs” that jump out at me in the NHL this year.
10. Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
19.6 shooting percentage
Nyquist has been a man on a mission since January, actually leading the NHL in goals. Nyquist will be a star in the NHL sooner rather than later, but his forte is setting up goals more than scoring them. His high shot percentage reflects that.
9. Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
19.1 shooting percentage
Filppula’s career high heading into this year was 23 goals. He has 25 on just 131 shots. On a high-scoring team such as the Lightning, he could flirt with 60 points again, but don’t look for such production in the goals department. Overall, expect a decline in his numbers in 2014-15 as some of the talented Tampa prospects take on bigger roles.