• From Dodgeball to Forrest Gump, the best costumes of hockey Halloween

    GreeneClown

    Halloween is a time when you get to take on a new persona and be that person you’ve always wanted to be. It’s the time to take some risks, dress as something bold or hilarious, and have a good time.

    Or, if you’re Buffalo Sabres’ captain Brian Gionta, it is another day of the year that you can dress up as a hockey player.

    Gionta, along with a number of other NHLers, took part in a video session with the league to discuss some of their favorite costumes as kids: Read more

  • Sam Reinhart sent back to junior – but he has a master plan

    Matt Larkin
    Sam Reinhart wants to ensure he doesn't get complacent upon returning to junior. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    What happens when you’re caught between man among boys and boy among men?

    It’s a question Jonathan Drouin had to answer a year ago, and it’s the same one Buffalo mega-prospect Sam Reinhart faces now. The Sabres announced Friday they were returning Reinhart to the Western League’s Kootenay Ice. At 18, he’s far from eligible for the American League, and he’d played his ninth NHL game, meaning one more would burn a year of his entry-level contract.

    And the truth is Reinhart belongs in junior. Taken second overall in last June’s draft, he’s an oustanding prospect, a heady two-way center who can make everyone around him better. His superb hockey sense made plenty of scouts call him the draft class’ most NHL-ready player, but watching him this season suggested otherwise. His 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame isn’t quite ready to do battle against grown men. Tuesday when the Sabres visited Toronto, it was one of those games that had you checking the box score afterward to make sure he played. He was a non-entity, registering one shot and little else in 12:41 of ice time. That was largely the case through Reinhart’s first nine NHL games, in which he averaged 10:21 and managed one assist and three shots. In that tiny sample, his 31.1 Fenwick Close rating was 565th out of 568 qualifying NHLers.

    Those numbers aren’t meant to harp on Reinhart. He has an outstanding career ahead of him. They do, however, suggest the Sabres were smart to send him down. And, to his credit, he gets it. I spoke with him after Tuesday’s game in Toronto. The elephant in the hallway was that he had one more game until his probable return to the WHL. In his short stay, he learned plenty. He lists veterans Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges as hugely helpful with their day-to-day advice. And game situations opened his eyes as well.

    “Obviously you knew it was going to be a challenge,” Reinhart said. “It’s the best thing in the world, and to try and make the jump is difficult. The biggest thing I’ve tried to focus on and learned is the pace and intensity. It’s not as much the speed skating up and down the ice – it’s the overall speed and intensity with the puck. To want the puck, that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”

    Read more

  • Marian Hossa hits 1,000 points, but is he a Hall of Famer?

    Chicago Blackhawk Marian Hossa scores on the wraparound

    When Marian Hossa scored the 1,000th point of his career Thursday night, my first inclination was to put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, he already has two Stanley Cups (and possibly more to come) and he’s one of the best two-way players of his era.

    Good enough for me. But then again, the Hall of Fame should be for the truly special players, not just the very good ones. And that’s where the decision around Hossa becomes a little more vexing.

    Is Hossa a very good player, or truly a great player? As THN senior editor and Hall of Fame expert Brian Costello points out, 1,000 points is now more of a milestone than a Hall of Fame barometer. And there are currently 19 Hall of Fame eligible players who scored 1,000 points during their careers and who are not in the hall. With 466 career goals so far, Hossa is a shoo-in for the 500 mark and that’s where it starts to get a little more interesting. There are only seven players who have scored 500 who are eligible for the Hall of Fame and are not in there. Read more

  • Hurting Blues will need all hands on deck to realize Cup dreams

    Adam Proteau
    David Backes (Getty Images)

    The St. Louis Blues are in the conversation as frontrunners to win the Stanley Cup this year because management has built the roster the right way: patiently and methodically, with a primary reliance on drafting and development and trades/free agent signings to augment the lineup. But what has happened to them in the early goings of this current regular season – first, losing marquee off-season addition Paul Stastny to a shoulder injury Oct. 18; and now, without forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie, who suffered concussions in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Dallas – is out of anyone’s control. It should go without saying they’ll be a far less dangerous team with three top forwards on the sidelines, and all head coach Ken Hitchcock, GM Doug Armstrong and Blues brass can do is focus on the group treading water until it’s got all key components back.

    If it makes you happy, you can talk day and night about the organization’s young players (for instance, blossoming 22-year-olds Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz) picking up the slack in the absence of the three veterans, but if Backes isn’t healthy in time for the post-season – and given his history of concussions, this should be a concern – St. Louis is going to have great difficulty winning more than one playoff round. Because the Blues aren’t built around a generational superstar the way the Lightning are with Steven Stamkos or the way the Penguins are with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they’ll need all hands on deck to win in the highly competitive Western Conference. Read more

  • The New Jersey Devils won a shootout. Seriously. This is not a prank.

    Adam Proteau
    Jacob Josefson, Ondrej Pavelec (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    The New Jersey Devils did something Thursday night they hadn’t done in exactly 600 days: emerge from an NHL shootout with a victory.

    That’s right, for the first time since March 10, 2013 – and with their fans looking on and dressed for Halloween – the Devils won in a shootout by beating the same Winnipeg Jets team they last beat in a shootout, and ended their NHL record 18-game losing streak in the process. They did so by recording the minimum number of goals a team can record in the shootout – a single goal from center Jacob Josefson: Read more

  • An NHL team in Las Vegas: a long-term long shot

    Adam Proteau
    Las Vegas (George Rose/Getty Images)

    Despite the typically demure comments NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is famous for making on the subject of expansion to Las Vegas, the rumblings continue to grow louder: on Thursday, a report had casino giant MGM Resorts International holding talks with a group looking to situate a team in the Nevada city.

    MGM is currently building a $375-million, 20,000-seat arena in the heart of the city – and their partner in the building is the Anschutz Entertainment Group. Anschutz as in Philip Anschutz, owner of the L.A. Kings and NHL power broker. If you want to get a foot in the door of the NHL, this is one of the ways you do it. Networking matters in this league. But if the NHL does decide to set up shop in the pre-eminent entertainment destination on the continent, there’s going to need to be some questions answered. Such as:

    1. How on earth are they going to market a non-traditional product such as hockey in a marketplace that has hundreds of other options for consumers to dispose of their disposable income?

    With all the glitz and glamor of the Vegas Strip fighting for the eyeballs and pocketbooks of tourists, what exactly can the NHL do to stand out from the rest of the pack? If you’re telling me an expansion team (with its lowered expectations and talent levels) in and of itself will be good enough to bring people through the doors, I’m telling you you’re wrong. The attraction can’t be the players on the roster, who will be the flotsam and jetsam of the league in an expansion draft. There’s also every chance the franchise will be mismanaged for years, if not decades (see Thrashers, Atlanta and Panthers, Florida). There has to be something more.

    2. Once the honeymoon period wears off, how does hockey stay relevant?

    There will be a certain amount of hype and happiness in Vegas if the NHL became the first professional sports league to operate there, but once that giddiness fades after a few years, there is next to no grassroots/amateur hockey scene in the area through which to reach young kids and cultivate them as players and fans. Absent that pipeline of support, what is going to grab the casual sports fan by the scruff of the neck and make them care about hockey? Read more