• Eight simple rules for building a Stanley Cup contender

    Dominik Luszczyszyn
    Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Vladimir Tarasenko, Joe Thornton. (Getty Images)

    How do you build a Stanley Cup champion? It starts with the core. Every team has one or is working toward one and it’s that main cast that will take your team to the promised land. In a salary cap world, teams can’t keep everyone around, making it extremely important to identify the guys that are driving the bus and worth building around.

    That was the big conclusion from former Canucks Army blogger Cam Lawrence (who goes by the pseudonym Money Puck and now works for the Florida Panthers) when he took a deep dive in analyzing the final four playoff teams over the last five seasons. Using war-on-ice’s wins above replacement stat, Lawrence found that each contender usually had one player worth three or more wins, another two worth about 2.5, and a lot of other very good complementary players. Teams that win, win because they have star players and because they surrounded them with talent.

    While the top three guys are vital to success, most team cores contain a couple more players and each piece is important to long-term success.

    Read more

  • Blues face off-season of change, but the future still looks promising in St. Louis

    Jared Clinton
    Jay Bouwmeester, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera and Robby Fabbri (Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    It might not feel like it today, tomorrow or even one year from now, but the St. Louis Blues’ 2015-16 campaign was a successful one in many ways.

    Few teams faced the pressure over the past season that the Blues did. After three consecutive first-round playoff exits, 2015-16 was seen as this group’s last shot at making a deep post-season run. Coach Ken Hitchcock entered the campaign on the hot seat, the vast majority of the roster was forced to miss time at one point or another with injury and when St. Louis fought through the adversity to lock up the second seed in the Central Division, they were paired up against the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

    The Blues managed to get by the Blackhawks, though, before downing the top-seeded Dallas Stars and earning a berth in the Western Conference final. But in the conference final the Blues fell flat.

    They were shutout in two consecutive games, and when it came to a potentially series-deciding Game 6, it took St. Louis nearly 52 minutes to find the back of the net. So even with the successes the Blues did have, they still failed to reach their goal and flamed out at the worst possible time. That’s all but certain to mean changes are coming for the Blues this off-season. Read more

  • Chris Phillips retires as a lifetime Ottawa Senator. What legacy does he leave?

    Matt Larkin
    Chris Phillips. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Chris Phillips’ NHL career is over. The steady defenseman called it quits officially in a press conference Thursday after 17 seasons, all with the Ottawa Senators, the team that drafted him first overall in 1996. Phillips missed all of 2015-16, as he sustained a cracked vertebra rehabbing from off-season back surgery, but he still finishes his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in games. Phillips played his 1,179th and final one Feb. 5, 2015. It was enough to surpass Daniel Alfredsson’s team record by one.

    Phillips said Thursday he made the decision to retire along with his family and doctors.

    “I loved and will miss the competition of going up against the league’s best,” he told reporters. “I will miss everything the game has to offer and am grateful for everything it has given to me.”

    Senators GM Pierre Dorion announced Thursday Phillips will stay on with the organization to work with alumni and in the community. Phillips’ philanthropic impact on Ottawa has been significant over the years. He and his family have assisted 22 charities in the community, Senators beat writer Bruce Garrioch reports.

    When Ottawa kicked off the 1996 draft with Phillips in the top spot, then-GM Pierre Gauthier would’ve been thrilled if we emerged from a time machine and told him his new cornerstone D-man would spend his entire career in Canada’s capital and walk away second among active NHL blueliners in games. Phillips played in the 2007 Stanley Cup final. He received Norris Trophy votes in two of his seasons. But will he be remembered as the “right” choice at No. 1 overall in 1996?

    Read more

  • Report: Rangers willing to part with McDonagh, Stepan, Brassard for right price

    Jared Clinton
    Rangers forwards Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The past five seasons have been successful ones for the New York Rangers, with eight playoff series victories, three conference final appearances and one Eastern Conference championship, but a woeful showing in the first round this post-season has left the potential for major changes in New York this off-season.

    Heading into the summer, the Rangers have only seven forwards and five defensemen from their playoff roster locked up to contracts for the upcoming season, and even those currently under contract could be on the move. According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the only players who are certain to stay are Henrik Lundqvist, defenseman Brady Skjei and rookie Pavel Buchnevich. Outside of that trio, though, Brooks reported the Rangers are “prepared to listen to offers for everyone.”

    It might seem inconceivable, but that means the Rangers could be saying goodbye to captain Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and, yes, Rick Nash this off-season. That said, the price will have to be right for the Rangers to move out their top talent. Read more

  • Seinfeld’s ‘Puddy’ gifted awesome Devils mask, supports the team

    Jared Clinton
    (via DaveArt.com)

    Be it George Costanza’s parents or the reviled neighbor, Newman, the cast of secondary characters on Seinfeld were sometimes the show stealers. And though there’s no replacement for Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer, one secondary character who was always a fan favorite was the mechanic-turned-salesman David Puddy, expertly portrayed by Patrick Warburton.

    Puddy only appeared in 10 episodes of the show — it somehow feels like more — but he left a lasting mark on the series and, as far as sports go, on New Jersey Devils fans. As the main plotline of a 1995 episode titled ‘The Face Painter,’ Puddy took to a Devils playoff game against the New York Rangers with Jerry, Elaine and Kramer, only for Puddy to emerge from the bathroom pre-game with his face painted Devils green and red. Why, you ask? Because, as Puddy says, “Gotta support the team.”

    The face-painted antics of Puddy, who was also sporting a Martin Brodeur jersey in the episode, landed him a spot this past season on Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood’s mask. Mask artist David Gunnarsson, a fan of Seinfeld and the man behind Wedgewood’s lid, made a replica recently and shipped it off to Warburton. He was wowed by the gift from the DaveArt mask designer: Read more

  • Is Madison Bowey the missing piece that Washington needs?

    Ryan Kennedy
    Madison Bowey (Photo by Ken Andersen/NHLPA via Getty Images)

    It’s hard not to see a bitter irony in the fact that Madison Bowey is still playing hockey, while the Washington Capitals are not. After all, the Caps are the dream for Bowey, a physical two-way defenseman currently enjoying his first year of pro with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

    But if Bowey can help the Bears get five more playoff wins, it will be the perfect ending to an excellent year of development for Washington’s most promising blueline prospect. And perhaps a glimpse of the Capitals’ future.

    Read more

  • Backes gets emotional in interview after what could be his final game with Blues

    Jared Clinton
    David Backes (Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

    David Backes has captained the St. Louis Blues through three consecutive first-round playoff exits, and as the team’s captain he no doubt felt as though he was in part responsible for the team’s shortcomings. But this season, St. Louis made a playoff breakthrough, first with a series win over the Chicago Blackhawks and then getting by the Dallas Stars in the second round.

    The Blues’ run towards a potential Stanley Cup final, which was the deepest they had been since the 2000-01 playoffs, ended Wednesday night with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And post-game, Backes, who has potentially played his final game in St. Louis, got choked up talking about the commitment to each other that this Blues team had.

    It was especially difficult for Backes to get through a story about Game 5. Backes had watched from the bench for most of Game 4 after suffering an unspecified injury, but the Blues captain was back in the lineup and played 16-plus minutes in Game 5 thanks to some help from teammate Steve Ott. Backes could barely get through the story: Read more

  • Sharks win Game 6, book ticket to first Stanley Cup final in team history

    NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    All it took was a quarter century of blood, sweat and playoff anguish. Finally, the San Jose Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup final. They came home to the SAP Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference final Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Whereas previous incarnations of the Sharks may have crumbled under the pressure, the 2015-16 version showed killer instinct right away. They took the lead on a Joe Pavelski goal 3:57 into the first period and never relinquished it, winning 5-2, weathering a mini-storm from the Blues in the third.

    The San Jose Sharks arrived on the NHL scene in 1991-92, kicking off the NHL’s Sun Belt expansion. The early years were ugly as can be, with the Sharks winning 28 game over their first two seasons combined, joining the Mount Rushmore of awful hockey teams with the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators. The Sharks awakened as a relevant team in 1993-94 under coach Kevin Constantine when they upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and have been a competitive franchise ever since, making the post-season in 18 their past 22 campaigns. But they were perpetually the so-close-yet-so far team, losing three times in the Western Conference final, twice during Jumbo Joe Thornton’s prime. Coach Ron Wilson couldn’t get them over the top. Todd McLellan couldn’t do it.

    But, finally, the Sharks are Stanley Cup finalists. They toppled the St. Louis Blues in six games, shutting down St. Louis’ most dangerous forwards, especially Vladimir Tarasenko, whose lone goals game with the score 4-0 in Game 6. The Sharks’ elite players shone through, especially Pavelski, who scored his 13th goal of the playoffs in Game 6 and has to be the Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner right now.

    Read more