• A fond farewell to Joe Louis Arena

    Mike Brophy
    Joe Louis Arena has hosted countless Stanley Cup final games since opening in 1979. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Say it ain’t so, Joe.

    Like many, I was saddened to learn the city of Detroit will raze Joe Louis Arena and give the land to a creditor as part of a settlement in the city’s bankruptcy case.

    Not that the old Joe wasn’t getting long in the tooth.

    In one of those isn’t-it-amazing-how-time-flies scenarios, it seems like only yesterday I made my first trip to JLA to watch the Detroit Red Wings play a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. I was actually covering junior hockey for the Peterborough Examiner and the Petes had a game in Windsor on a Sunday afternoon. The team went down a day early and attended the Red Wings-Flyers game as special guests of Steve Yzerman.

    Yzerman, of course, played two seasons in Peterborough before departing for the NHL at the tender age 18 and promptly became the Red Wings’ leading scorer in his rookie season. He was soon to become the youngest captain in NHL history and would wind up having a Hall of Fame career, during which he won the Stanley Cup three times. Joe Louis Arena is located at 19 Steve Yzerman Drive.

    What I remember most that day is being positioned in the penalty box to take photos for the feature I was writing about Yzerman and how fast the action was at ice level. I also recall my old pal, radio announcer Bill Bennett, tripping up the stairs while carrying a beer in each hand yet not spilling a drop.

    Over the years JLA has been a significant arena for me in that I attended 15 of the 16 Stanley Cup final games played in Detroit since it opened Dec. 12, 1979. More than that, it has special meaning because my sons, Chase and Darryl, were lucky enough to attend Cup final games there, too.

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  • Gustav Nyquist ready to pick up the Red Wings torch

    Ken Campbell
    Gustav Nyquist (Getty Images)

    If Gustav Nyquist hadn’t known that he arrived as an NHLer last year, he certainly does now. After all, it takes Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and awful lot to admit he screwed up and Nyquist made him do that.

    Babcock has been giving himself a public flogging since Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. The Red Wings got a 4-on-3 power play with 41 seconds remaining in overtime and Babcock went with Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Riley Sheahan up front and Nicklas Kronwall on defense. In doing so, he left Nyquist on the bench cooling his heels, despite the fact he tied the game with a power-play goal in the third period.

    “I don’t need good analytics to know that Nyquist has three goals,” Babcock said. “We had a 4-on-3 power play at the end of the game and I didn’t have him on the ice. This is my own analytics. After the game, we went through it and we went with the 4-on-3 we always have, but the hottest guy was sitting on the bench. You don’t need analytics to figure out that wasn’t very smart.”

    For the most part, though, Nyquist has made the Red Wings look like geniuses. Brought through the organization in typically methodical fashion after being taken in the fourth round, Nyquist didn’t play an NHL game until more than three years after he was drafted in 2008 and didn’t become an NHL regular until five years later. In between were productive careers with the University of Maine and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American League, where he won a Calder Cup championship two seasons ago.

    So by the time the Red Wings turned to Nyquist and a host of other minor leaguers to save their season, he was ready to face the challenge. He was, without a doubt, the most valuable player the Red Wings had last season, scoring 23 of his 28 goals last season in a 28-game stretch from mid-January to early April. This season, he’s picked up where he left off, with three goals in the Red Wings first three games.

    So is Nyquist a better NHL player because he was brought along so slowly? Read more

  • Calgary Flames star Mark Giordano gets a boost from the youth

    Ryan Kennedy
    Mark Giordano (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

    The Calgary Flames have a funny way of rebuilding. First off, they’ve been a tough team to play against for the past calendar year. And unlike a certain provincial rival, they’re far from sad – in fact, they’ve gotten out of the gate pretty strong this season.

    In nearly every sense of the word, defenseman Mark Giordano is leading the way. Not only is the veteran captain of the Flames, but he also happens to top the team charts in ice time (nearly 25 minutes per game) and offense, where he sits in a three-way tie with defense partner T.J. Brodie and center Joe Colborne at five points apiece through five games. This summer was big for the 31-year-old, who switched up his training emphasis.

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  • Mike Babcock has turned down at least one firm offer to stay with Wings – source

    Ken Campbell
    Mike Babcock (Getty Images)

    Well played, Mr. Babcock. Well played.

    Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, the undisputed prize catch among potential unrestricted free agents after this season, came into the Center of the Hockey Universe™ and managed to get out of the morning skate without addressing his future. That he did so in a hockey market that many speculate would be a prime destination for him if he decides to leave the Wings made it all that more impressive.

    Babcock and the Red Wings have vowed to not make his contract situation a distraction and he did a good job of it, helped along by a broadcast media scrum that, for reasons only known to them, did not even broach the subject. Babcock only spoke of his personal situation when pulled aside after the cameras were turned off.

    “My situation is great,” Babcock said. “I’m in love with my wife and I have three great kids at home and I coach the Red Wings. I’m from Saskatoon and I love my life. See you guys.”

    With that he departed down the hallway to the Red Wings bus, but as long as he remains unsigned, the question will continue to be asked. It would be absurd to suggest there have not been talks between the team and Babcock about a new deal. After all, he and Red Wings GM Ken Holland speak every day. (On a related note, Holland and new Toronto Maple Leafs president and former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan spent much of the Red Wings morning skate chatting in the stands of the Air Canada Centre.)

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  • Roberto Luongo interviews Zach Fucale, and it’s awesome

    Adam Proteau
    Interviewing Zach Fucale was one of Roberto Luongo's many responsibilities as THN's guest editor in chief.

    Roberto Luongo and Zach Fucale were born 16 years apart, but they do have several things in common: they’re both Quebec-born goalies and Quebec League stars born to Italian families, and they’ve each represented their country in high-stakes international competitions.

    Fucale, 19, has yet to play an NHL game after his hometown Canadiens drafted him 36th overall in 2013, but he attended Canadiens camp this year and had just returned to his Halifax Mooseheads team to start the season. That’s where special guest editor-in-chief Luongo caught up with him for an exclusive, insightful talk, under the supervision of yours truly, that was more conversation than straight-ahead question-and-answer.

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  • If Semyon Varlamov’s injury is serious, should Avs look at Martin Brodeur or Tim Thomas?

    Adam Proteau
    Semyon Varlamov (Getty Images)

    Prior to the start of the season, pundits were projecting a return to earth for the Colorado Avalanche, who won 52 games in 2013-14 despite having some of the worst advanced statistics in the NHL. They leaned on goalie Semyon Varlamov and a superb shooting percentage on their way to finishing second in the Western Conference, and more than a few observers were expecting that couldn’t last again.

    About five percent of the way through the season, at least, both those projections have come to pass. The Avs were shut out in back-to-back losses at the hands of the Minnesota Wild to start the year and only managed four goals in their next two games. And now, worse news: Varlamov has been placed on Injury Reserve thanks to a wonky groin, and there’s no timetable for his return. And in Colorado’s first game without him Thursday – a 4-3 loss to Ottawa that saw the Avs blow a 3-1 lead after the first period – they sure looked like they missed him, especially when backup Reto Berra left the game after being hit by Kyle Turris in his crease and third-stringer rookie Calvin Pickard had to step in.

    And now they’re potentially facing a serious quandary: if Varlamov’s injury is serious, do they go out and acquire veteran help? Read more

  • Milan Lucic feeling the heat after appearing to make lewd gesture at Canadiens fans

    Milan Lucic (Getty Images)

    Milan Lucic is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the two are fairly familiar with one another at this point. And the Boston Bruins left winger was back in hot water Thursday after appearing to make a lewd gesture and taunt Canadiens fans with a mimed raising of the Stanley Cup.

    Lucic’s frustrations boiled over late in Montreal’s 6-4 win over Boston: with 1:20 left, he took a boarding penalty – and once he was in the penalty box, the 26-year-old interacted with fans by…welll, you go ahead and see what you think it was he was doing: Read more