• Rumor Roundup: How will the Toronto Maple Leafs change?

    #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stands by the net during a break in action in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on October 29, 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Toronto Maple Leafs hiring Brendan Shanahan as their new president isn’t the only off-season change expected for the club in the coming weeks. Amid rumors coach Randy Carlyle could be fired, speculation persists over potential off-season roster moves.

    James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail believes goaltender James Reimer along with defensemen Cody Franson and Tim Gleason could become trade candidates. Reimer and Franson are restricted free agents while Gleason has two years (at an annual cap hit of $4 million) left on his contract. Mirtle also thinks forwards Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul could be dealt for the right price.

    The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons also believes Reimer and Franson could be moved, but feels their trade value is lower than it was a year ago. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star adds his voice to the growing speculation over Reimer’s trade status, and thinks defenseman Jake Gardiner could be dealt for a top forward. Read more

  • My playoff bracket and NHL Awards ballot

    Boston celly

    With all due respect to Andy Williams and, well Christmas, we all know that this really is the most wonderful time of the year. For hockey fans, there is no better two weeks on the calendar than the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    The pace is frenetic. There are always a couple of shocking upsets. Overtime games abound. Pacing yourself and dealing with little sleep, particularly on the nights when the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings play, is paramount.

    When the league came up with its current playoff format that puts more of an emphasis on divisional play and geographical rivalries, this is exactly what it had in mind. And I wouldn’t be surprised if NHL chief operating officer John Collins, the marketing genius who has transformed the league into a big-time, event-driven cash cow, wasn’t in on the planning.

    Because what the NHL has done has taken a page from March Madness with its new playoff bracket system. Who had ever heard of a playoff bracket before this season? Prior to this spring, doing playoff brackets were too unwieldy because you always had to wait until the rounds were over to untangle the seedings and move on to the next round. Now it’s nice and tidy. We know that regardless of upsets, the winner of the Boston-Detroit series will play the winner of the Montreal-Tampa first round set, and so it goes.

    Read more

  • Need one player to bring home the Stanley Cup? Toews is your man

    toews-185140796

    (Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Adam Proteau would build his team around Jonathan Toews. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Ryan Kennedy’s on Drew Doughty)

    There’s currently one NHL captain who has two Cup rings and a pair of Olympic golds. It’s not Sidney Crosby. It’s not Henrik Zetterberg. It’s not Ryan Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin or Alex Ovechkin. It’s Jonathan Toews of Chicago, the first guy I’d pick to give my team a shot at winning hockey’s ultimate prize.

    Readers of my work know I come by my Toews crush honestly. I’ve never claimed he’s the sport’s best scorer or flashiest presence. But add up all the things he does at an astonishingly high level, and you have a sum far greater than its already-great parts.

    When listing all Toews does right, it’s tough to know where to begin. He’s the epitome of consistency: he’s produced offense at a near point-per-game pace (440 points in 484 games) and he almost had the third 30-goal season of his seven-year career this season. He creates space for his teammates and unselfishly dishes off the puck, but he can easily pick a corner or rip a wrist shot past a goalie if the situation calls for it.

    There’s not a brand of hockey Toews hasn’t excelled at. If you want to skate, he’ll skate with you. If you want to grind, he’s good on that level as well. And his international resume is impeccable: world under-17 gold medal? Check. World juniors gold? Check. World Championship gold? Check. Olympic gold? Double-check. When people talk about developing a winning pedigree, the standard by which all others are being judged has been set by Toews.
    Read more

  • Why take Stamkos over Crosby or Toews? Goals are still the goal in the playoffs

    stamkos-184765614

    (Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Rory Boylen would build his team around Steve Stamkos. Also check out Adam Proteau’s column on Jonathan Toews and Ryan Kennedy’s on Drew Doughty)

    So we’ve been tasked to choose one player to start building a playoff team around and the obvious names of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews of course were quickly scooped up. But given Crosby’s past concussion issues, which could come up again without notice, and the fact Toews isn’t the supreme scorer on his team, there is reason to choose someone else first overall.

    My preference is 24-year-old super sniper Steven Stamkos, even though he’s only been to the post-season once. That’s not a knock on him – Tampa Bay has had blueline and goalie issues through most of his career.

    Stamkos is the most complete, elite goal-scorer in the NHL today and he’s kept up a torrid pace after 2013 Art Ross winner Martin St-Louis was traded to New York at the deadline. If it wasn’t for an unfortunate accident that broke his leg, Stamkos would have played a front-and-center role for Canada at the Olympics. He was considered as much a lock as Crosby and Toews were. Read more

  • Building a playoff team from scratch? No doubt you take Drew Doughty first

    doughty-182618603

    (Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Ryan Kennedy would build his team around Drew Doughty. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Adam Proteau’s on Jonathan Toews)

    In a very short period of time, Drew Doughty has become one of the best and most well-rounded defensemen in the world. Never mind the fact he was Canada’s best player at the Sochi Olympics, never mind the fact he has a Stanley Cup championship ring and another gold medal from 2010 to go along with that triumph, just look at the visceral evidence.

    For example, ask Washington Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom how he felt when his 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame was hoisted into the air by a Doughty hit in a recent tilt, then unceremoniously dropped from a fair height. Simply put, the Los Angeles Kings’ blueliner can hurt the opposition in every manner possible and that’s why I would want him as the headline player on my team if I were shooting for a title.

    At just 24, Doughty has already racked up an array of championships that has him looking like a nastier version of Scott Niedermayer, who is now employed just down the road in Anaheim. The fact Doughty played for a mediocre Guelph team in junior means he’ll never have the Memorial Cup Niedermayer earned in Kamloops, but the young Kings star did get his World Junior Championship gold medal in 2008 and it’s only a matter of time before Doughty’s name is etched into the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Read more

  • NHL gives Sidney Crosby MVP two months before awards ceremony (spoiler alert!)

    Edward Fraser
    (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Seems Sidney Crosby is such as obvious choice for Most Valuable Player that the league didn’t see any point in waiting until June 24 in Vegas to announce it.

    Thanks to long-time loyal THN reader Louis-Pierre Smith Lacroix who pointed out Crosby already has “Voted 2014 Most Valuable Player” listed under Sid’s 2013-14 regular season accomplishments on his nhl.com bio page.

    CrosbyMVP

    We’re obviously huge fans of the NHL’s website and everyone makes mistakes (we know it referred to the team MVP award, not the league), but it gave us a chuckle nonetheless.

  • Four most likely sweeps in the first round

    (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images Sport)

    As I posted on Twitter Monday, I’m picking two series sweeps in Round 1. But there’s a chance two more go the minimum.

     

    Sweeps are killjoys, though, so let’s hope for longer, and therefore much more exciting, series. But the possibility remains that at least one team, or more, will be on the links within a week.

    Here are the most likely series sweeps in Round 1:

    Read more

  • Insane Game 7 goes to overtime after teams tie 7-7

    Ryan Kennedy
    Nikita-Jevpalovs

    Forgive the Quebec League’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada if the team starts off their next playoff series a little slow. The Armada eliminated Rimouski last night in the most incredible fashion, coming back from a 4-0 first period deficit, then tying the game 7-7 with three minutes to play before winning in overtime on the road. Oh, and that OT goal went in with 7:02 remaining in the period.

    Latvian import Nikita Jevpalovs (No. 71) scored both the tying goal (I kid you not, his seventh of the playoffs) and the winner in overtime (seven plus one). Check out his heroics:

    Read more