• Who wants to marry Alex Ovechkin? Not Maria Kirilenko

    The Canadian Press
    Maria Kirilenko and Alex Ovechkin (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

    Another sports power couple’s engagement is off.

    Two months after golfer Rory McIlroy broke off his engagement to Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko says she has called off her planned wedding to three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.

    The two had been together since 2011 and became engaged in December 2012.

    Read more

  • Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya a good bet to lead Florida back into the playoff picture

    Rory Boylen
    Roberto Luongo

    On Friday, the Florida Panthers signed defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year contract extension, though the long-time rumor mill subject may not play out all three seasons with the Panthers. We’ll see.

    With Kulikov, the Panthers defense is taking pretty good shape. Brian Campbell, despite carrying a very heavy cap hit, is the most productive and best possession player on their blueline. Kulikov and likely third-pair guy Dylan Olsen had positive Corsi relative percentages in 2013-14, while Erik Gudbranson had a 51.2 percent 5-on-5 Corsi for percentage – not bad at all for a defensive blueliner. Willie Mitchell replaces Ed Jovanovski for that experience and Aaron Ekblad is brand new.

    Florida is a team of promise and hope that never fulfills its prophecy. Jonathan Huberdeau should bounce back some from a disappointing sophomore season. Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad have all sorts of potential to become a dominant 1-2 force down the middle, but they’re a few years away from hitting their primes. Jussi Jokinen was a good, quiet signing. Dave Bolland provides depth and, hopefully, doesn’t see more than third or fourth line duty. If the Panthers’ younger players could just grow a little and give the team some more, the pieces would be in place for this team to make a jump up the standings.

    Ya. We’ve all heard this tune before.

    But what if the Panthers could get into the post-season, or at least into the race, if their kids did not improve at all?

    The pieces are in place for that, too. Florida will be in the hunt next season. Read more

  • Hard to choose sides when it comes to Detroit’s future

    Ryan Kennedy
    Red-Wings-celebrate

    “Seen that side of town/everybody’s always down. Why? Because they can’t get up.”

    - Fugazi

    How much do the Red Wings mean to Detroit? A silly question perhaps, but one residents of the city are being confronted with as the Ilitch family, who own the Original Six franchise as well as the Little Caesars pizza chain and numerous other interests, have unveiled new details for a long-planned development in the Motor City.

    And this is more than just a new arena. No, this is an urban makeover on a grandiose scale, with entire neighborhoods planned around it. The renderings of the project certainly look cool, but not everyone is on board with the master plan.

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  • THN’s pre-season prediction debates underscores how parity has made the NHL unpredictable

    Adam Proteau
    Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    Every year around this time, THN’s editorial staff convenes in a boardroom to hash out our pre-season NHL predictions. The predictions meeting is a raucous couple of hours in which, after consulting with coaches, scouts, and our larger network of contacts, we debate the merits and flaws of every team before we slot them into divisional finishes. And by its conclusion, we’ve established some semblance of probability for each franchise’s fortunes.

    But this year’s meeting had some particularly interesting aspects. For one thing, a majority of staffers liked one team in particular to win the Stanley Cup – yes, you’ll have to wait until our annual Yearbook is released in mid-August to find out which team that is – but the more intriguing development was the astonishing range of opinion on the grand majority of teams.

    Now, there wasn’t much differentiation in what we thought of the league’s very best and worst franchises (nobody was willing to argue the Ducks would miss the playoffs, nor that the Sabres would win the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season squad), but once we stopped talking about a handful of teams destined for the penthouse or outhouse, our expectations varied drastically.

    Take the New Jersey Devils, for instance. Read more

  • Prospect Watch: Finland’s Esa Lindell develops for Dallas

    Ryan Kennedy
    Esa-Lindell

    North American audiences haven’t seen much of Esa Lindell and if you ask the Swedes, they would have preferred not to have seen him at all this year.

    Lindell, an offensive defenseman, scored thirty seconds into the gold medal game at the world juniors in Malmo, staking underdog Finland to a lead in a hotly-contested match that they would never trail.

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  • Ryan Johansen’s stare-down with Blue Jackets could have negative effect

    Johansen

    News and views from the meager scraps left by the hockey world in a very slow middle of July:

    News: Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson says the organization is trying to figure out, “the right thing to do,” when it comes to restricted free agent Ryan Johansen.

    Views: After scoring 33 goals in the regular season and being a force for the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, Johansen has earned the right to demand a long-term contract for as much money as he wants. But the fact remains that he would have earned that right even if he had been half as good as he was last season. It’s free agency and any player can ask for whatever he thinks he’s worth. Read more

  • Introducing the Combativity Award – and the winner is David Backes

    St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs

    I’ve been watching the Tour de France nightly the past couple of weeks and am taken by one of the awards they give out after each stage. It’s the Combativity Award and it goes to the cyclist that day who shows the most fighting spirit.

    This isn’t about tossing an elbow out when a competitor tries to zoom by or sticking a leadpipe in the spokes of an unsuspecting rival. The combative award goes to the individual who attacks on the road. That is to say, the cyclist who makes the most attempts to break away from the peloton or chase down leading groups. It’s also called the most aggressive rider prize, or as TDF analyst Paul Sherwen calls it, the rider who most often “throws the cat among the pigeons.”

    The winner each stage gets called to the podium, is handed a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed animal, gets kisses from a pair of pretty ladies, then shakes the hands of dignitaries. During the next day’s stage, he wears a special red-backgrounded race number that denotes his distinction.

    So why is they don’t have a most combative award in the NHL? They have awards for being skilled in a multitude of ways, for being gentlemanly, for being defensive, for being dedicated, for being a humanitarian, a leader. But nothing for showing the most fighting spirit. And that’s really too bad.

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  • What’s the best hockey-football nation in the world? Oooh, the Germans!

    Ken Campbell
    German team

    When Germany won the World Cup last weekend, it vaulted the country to the top of FIFA’s most recent world rankings. It also made Germany the best hockey-football playing country in the world.

    Nothing defines a country’s athletic prowess more than its ability to excel in both soccer and hockey. (Why, you ask? Because we said so and it’s summer and in case you haven’t noticed, the hockey world is not exactly brimming with activity these days.) One is known as The Beautiful Game™ and the other one features corner kicks and lots of falling down and gnashing of teeth. Read more