Maple Leafs’ dozen debutants makes this team the greenest ever

Tobias Lindberg  (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

When Tobias Lindberg steps on the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Buffalo Sabres tonight, he’ll be part of a team record that hasn’t been matched in almost 100 years.

Lindberg, one of the prospects acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Dion Phaneuf trade, will become the 12th player to make his NHL debut for the Leafs this season, joining William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Byron Froese, Nikita Soshnikov, Brendan Leipsic, Kasperi Kapanen, Rinat Valiev, Frederik Gauthier, Garret Sparks and Viktor Loov. It’s actually 13 if you include goalie Antoine Bibeau, who dressed as a backup for 11 games this season, but didn’t see any action.

Read more

Jets fans’ rousing ovation brings 97-year-old super fan to tears in his return to arena

Jared Clinton
Len Kropioski won 'Fan vs. Fan' at the MTS Centre (via NHL)

Win or lose, one constant for the Winnipeg Jets at nearly every home game since their relocation has been the smiling, saluting, thumbs-up-giving face of Len Kropioski, a World War II veteran who is shown on the jumbotron during the Canadian anthem of every game he attends.

Over the past two months, though, Kropioski — known more commonly as ‘Kroppy’ — has been noticeably absent. The 97-year-old, who will turn 98 in July, was hospitalized in early February and hasn’t been able to fill his usual seat along the glass at Winnipeg’s home games.

However, Wednesday during a break in action, the Jets ran one of their common in-arena games called ‘Fan vs. Fan.’ Instead of putting the camera on two of the rowdier Jets fans in house, the game operations crew put the camera on Kropioski, who was returning for his first game since February. The 15,000-plus on hand to watch the Jets play the Senators rose to their feet and brought Kropioski with a lengthy standing ovation as he waved and blew kisses: Read more

No Canadian teams will make the playoffs, but everybody should relax about it

Goaltending hurt Calgary (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s official: no Canadian NHL teams will be making the playoffs this season. We knew this in our hearts for at least a month, but now it’s written in stone. And other than the Rogers TV execs trying to remember which of their molars contains the cyanide capsule, there’s no need to worry if you’re a Canadian.

Read more

Suspend them or not: Dustin Byfuglien (not) and Jason Chimera (fine)

Dustin Byfuglien  (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The most convincing argument that Dustin Byfuglien’s hit on Mark Stone Wednesday night was clean, ironically might have come in the fact that Stone was injured on the play.

Stone, the Ottawa Senators right winger who is in the midst of a second straight 60-point season, collided in the unscheduled freight train known as Winnipeg Jets defenseman Byfuglien in the second period of the Senators win in Manitoba. The good news was the victory by the Senators managed to keep the slim playoff hopes of the only Canadian team still in the playoff hunt alive. The bad news was Stone left the game with a chest contusion after being steamrolled by Byfuglien.

Read more

Ranking all seven Canadian teams’ playoff hopes for next year

Carey Price and P.K. Subban. (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

For shame, Great White North. For shame. A year after five of seven Canadian NHL teams booked tickets to the big playoff dance, 0.0 will participate in the post-season. Monday night’s results pretty much nailed the nation’s collective coffin shut. The Ottawa Senators would have to win their final six games, and the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings would have to lose out aside from their remaining head-to-head matchup. So, yeah, Ottawa won’t pull off a miracle two years in a row.

It seems most fan bases and local pundits accepted that fate several weeks ago, however, as no Canadian squad was anywhere near a playoff berth. The Sens still sit 10 points back. It’s time to move on and start asking about next year. Which Canadian team, if any, has the most realistic odds of returning to the post-season in 2016-17? It’s time to rank their chances, from worst to best.

Read more

THN.com Roundtable: Which team or player has had the most surprising season?

Phil Kessel (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

As the NHL regular season winds down, we like to reflect on what has happened since October. Teams and pundits go into each season with certain expectations and each season comes with surprises, both good and bad.

So this week, we’re looking at the biggest surprises from the regular season. No surprise, there’s more bad than good.

PHIL KESSEL

I was all in on Phil Kessel enjoying his first 40-goal season. A player still in his prime (a) leaves what, for him, was a hellish media crush in Toronto to join Pittsburgh, a team where he’d be the third-most famous person at best; and (b) is guaranteed to play with a future Hall of Fame superstar center still in his prime, be it Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. And yet, the goals haven’t piled up for Phil the Thrill. The uninspired Kessel we saw last season somehow crept onto the flight to Pittsburgh and returned for this season – with even worse numbers. The problem to me is Kessel’s lack of versatility. He has that tremendous wrist shot he likes to snap on the short side, but he can’t do a whole lot else. Kessel one-timer goals or slap-shot goals are rarities. I have to give credit to the pundits who predicted Kessel wasn’t a natural fit with Crosby or Malkin because Kessel likes to carry the puck more than most snipers. I figured it wouldn’t matter – come on, it’s Crosby and Malkin! – but I was wrong, evidently. (Matt Larkin)

Read more

Jets’ Tyler Myers done for season, out 4-5 months with knee, hip surgeries

Jared Clinton
Tyler Myers (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Winnipeg Jets’ season is all but over, but defenseman Tyler Myers is going to have a long summer of work ahead of him in order to get healthy in time for the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

It was announced Thursday that Myers, 26, will be out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery, but that’s not the worst of it. Once Myers recovers from knee surgery, he’ll have to go under the knife once more to repair a nagging hip issue that has ailed the towering defenseman for the past few seasons.

“The hip he has been dealing with maybe over years,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You can play with it until you can’t, and it’s just gotten to the point that doctors felt this was the time to get it done. The knee is not something that’s necessarily a problem until it becomes one. You cannot get anything done with it, and then it hits that threshold of, ‘We’re going to need to fix this knee.’ That is very, very recent.” Read more

Blackhawks’ Ladd has perfect night in return to Winnipeg

Daniel Nugent-Bowman
WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 18: Andrew Ladd #16 of the Chicago Blackhawks scores a goal against Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets in third-period action in an NHL game at the MTS Centre on March 18, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This is the first game back in Winnipeg for Ladd after he was traded to Chicago. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

It was a very happy return to Winnipeg for Andrew Ladd on Friday night.

The former Winnipeg Jets left winger scored a goal in a 4-0 win by the Chicago Blackhawks in his first game back in the Manitoba capital since a Feb. 25 trade.

Ladd deposited a shot past Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec 3:06 into the third period after receiving a pass from Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews. Read more