Anaheim Ducks Tattoos
Tammy Sides, Cypress, Calif.
Tammy Sides, Cypress, Calif.
The Ottawa Senators will have to go with a goaltending duo of Andrew Hammond and Chris Driedger as Craig Anderson left the team with no timeline for his return.
Craig Anderson is two days removed from his best performance of the season, but the Ottawa Senators have no idea when the 35-year-old veteran keeper will be suiting up next.
The Senators unexpectedly announced Thursday that Anderson has taken a leave of absence from the team “to attend to a personal matter at home,” and has been given the “support of the entire organization” to do so.
“While we are uncertain of how long Craig may be away, he will continue to have our support for as much time as is needed," Senators GM Pierre Dorion said in a release. "We will respect his privacy and will have no further comment at this time.”
Anderson has been solid yet unspectacular in his work this season and boasts a 4-1-0 record, 2.95 goals-against average and .903 save percentage through the first six games of the season. And while he early season numbers may leave something to be desired, he had a solid outing in his most recent appearance for the club. When he took the net against the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night, Anderson posted a 22-save shutout for his first clean slate of the campaign.
With Anderson out of the lineup, starting duties will fall to 28-year-old Andrew Hammond, he of remarkable rookie season fame. However, since Hammond’s remarkable 2014-15 run, he has been unable to find the same form.
During that 24-game stretch — over which time Hammond lost only three times and just once in regulation — Hammond posted a 1.79 GAA and .941 SP, but he stumbled with a 2.65 GAA and .914 SP in 24 outings during the 2015-16 season. He has only appeared in one game so far this season, a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, and currently has a 5.00 GAA and ugly .800 SP.
With Hammond moving up the lineup due to Anderson’s unfortunate leave, the Senators announced that Chris Driedger has been called up from the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. Driedger, 22, has seen 55 total minutes of NHL action over the course of the past two seasons, making 21 saves without allowing a single goal over that span. However, he has never started, nor been the goaltender of record, in an NHL game.
Driedger had his first full taste of AHL action in 2015-16 and managed a 18-15-5 record, 2.83 GAA and .912 SP to go along with one shutout. Through two games in the AHL this season, Driedger has a 0.96 GAA, .961 SP and one shutout.
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Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton popped up earlier this week in the NHL rumor mill, but a more likely trade candidate is Dennis Wideman.
Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton popped up earlier this week in the NHL rumor mill. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports there's talk the 23-year-old blueliner could be available.
LeBrun said he doesn't think the Flames are shopping Hamilton. While at least one team inquired into the defenseman's availability, LeBrun said talks didn't get far.
The Flames acquired Hamilton from the Boston Bruins prior to the 2015 NHL draft, re-signing him to a six-year, $34.5-million contract. Since joining the Flames, his performance at times was inconsistent. However, they appear committed to keeping him on their blueline.
A more likely Flames trade candidate is veteran defenseman Dennis Wideman. The 33-year-old is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July and doesn't have a long-term future in Calgary. He has a full no-movement clause, but the Flames could ask him to waive it if they're out of playoff contention by the March 1 trade deadline.
WITH LINDHOLM SIGNED, WHAT HAPPENS TO FOWLER?
Prior to the Anaheim Ducks re-signing defenseman Hampus Lindholm, there was a report linking him to a deal with the Colorado Avalanche and captain Gabriel Landeskog. As noted by Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot, TSN's Darren Dreger said the Ducks and Avalanche had a conversation involving the two players, though Ducks GM Bob Murray wanted nothing to do with trading the 22-year-old blueliner.
With Lindholm finally under contract, any talk of swapping him for Landekog is put to rest. However, this isn't the first time Dreger's mentioned Landeskog as a possible trade candidate this year. On June 30, he reported the Ducks and Avs had discussed a Landeskog-for-Lindholm swap.
Landeskog surfaced again in the rumor mill later in the summer. On July 30, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Sun included the 23-year-old left winger among five players the Canucks should pursue in the off-season.
So far, however, there's no indication out of Denver the Avs are willing to put their captain on the trade block. He's in the third season of a seven-year, $39-million contract and his $5.5-million cap hit isn't easy to move, especially this early in the season.
Landeskog's no-trade clause doesn't kick in until 2018-19, so he can be dealt anywhere this season without his permission. His performance through 2016-17, and that of the Avs, could determine if he becomes a trade chip.
It'll be interesting to see if the Lindholm signing puts an end to the Cam Fowler trade rumors that were flying around since late-June.
The Ducks freed up some cap space for Lindholm's new contract by placing concussed defenseman Simon Despres and his $3.7-million annual cap hit on long-term injury reserve. However, they must find cap room for Despres when he's ready to return to the lineup.
Throughout the off-season and into October, trade chatter linked the 24-year-old Fowler ($4 million cap hit) to the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings. That talk could be muted for now, but will likely flare up again when Despres is ready to return to the lineup.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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The Flyers celebrate a goal.
Enjoy the plethora of goals now because it's very likely goaltending improves, rookie stars slow down, and referees put their whistles away.
Much has been made of the plethora of goals that have been scored in the NHL so far this season. Dynamic players and suspect goaltending have combined to give goal judges a case of repetitive stress injuries from pressing the goal-light button so often during the league’s first 93 games.
And the numbers are there to back it up. So far this season, teams have combined to produce an average of 5.91 goals per game, which doesn’t take into account the goal awarded to teams that win shootouts. In addition, there are 54 players who have played at least four games so far who are averaging a point per game, and that includes nine defensemen and six rookies. One of those players – Zach Werenski – is both a defenseman and a rookie and, going into Wednesday night’s games, freshman Auston Matthews leads the league in scoring and is on a 137-point pace.
It’s impressive to be sure, but is it going to continue? Almost certainly not. Even though this season is a little more productive out of the gate than most, the reality is that scoring is usually higher during the first part of the season before levelling off. It has been speculated that it’s so much more dramatic this season because the offensive players have already found their groove after having participated in the World Cup, but defensemen and goaltenders were part of that tournament, too.
And it’s not as though this is unprecedented. In fact, not long ago, scoring was at the same pace as it is now after roughly the same period of time. After 92 games in 2009-10, teams were actually scoring more than they are this season, averaging 5.97 non-shootout goals per game. The season before, the average was just slightly lower, at 5.86 goals per game after 91 games. And what ultimately happened? Well, in 2009-10, things evened out and the league finished the season at 5.46 non-shootout goals per game, which is pretty much average for this era. The league had four 100-point scorers and a total of 23 full-time players who averaged at least a point per game. In 2008-09, the league had three 100-point men and 20 regulars who averaged a point per game.
It will be interesting to see where this season goes. You’d have to think that there are a number of goaltenders who will find their games before long. Having sleeker pants can’t possibly be making that much of a difference. But what will bear more scrutiny is how the rookies and young players continue to produce as the season goes on.
Remember, these rookies who are filling the net are going through the league for the first time at the moment. Once opponents get a book on them, it’s probably going to be that much more difficult to make the same kinds of eye-popping plays they’re making right now. And none of them has experienced the rigors of the NHL on a long-term basis. Even Connor McDavid played only 45 games last season, so nobody’s sure how good he’s going to be after 60 games of going against the top shutdown lines in the league.
But more than anything, NHL coaches are notorious for finding ways of shutting down offensive players. They will have their teams adapt defensively and as the season moves on, will be clamping down on star players a lot more closely. And that doesn’t even take into account the inevitable erosion in the standard of officiating that seems to happen every year. As the season goes on, the hooking and holding that occurs early often degenerates into tackling and full nelsons by the end of the season.
Perhaps none of that will happen, but recent history tells us that it almost always does. There’s a chance the quick feet, hands and minds of the young players who have dazzled us for the first eight percent of the season will continue to do so, undeterred by checking and officiating. But that being said, it’s far easy to destroy a masterpiece than to create one. By the same token, it’s easier to stop star players from scoring, particularly when you’re abetted by a league that seems to love parity as much as the NHL does, than it is to continue to create offense. This is a league that goes to great pains to point out how close its games always are, conveniently forgetting the fact that it’s impossible to have large margins of victory when nobody is scoring.
It would be wonderful to see this level of scoring continue or, shocker of shockers, even rise a little. Enjoy it now, but it would be unwise to count on it continuing in the long term.
Steven Stamkos feels the best he has in several seasons, and it's already showing on the scoresheet. Can he surge back into the NHL's elite goal-scoring ranks?
Boos rained down on Steven Stamkos the moment he touched the puck Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Yet there’s a decent chance he didn’t hear them. When you’re as happy as he is right now, negative noise gets reduced to a dull murmur, easy to ignore.
That’s what Stamkos appeared to be doing mere seconds after that first tongue-lashing from the Toronto faithful. He deked in on goalie Frederik Andersen, had the puck poked away by blueliner Matt Hunwick and watched it bounce in. It was the first of two goals, the second more of a no-doubter, coming on a laser of a one-timer. Stamkos racked up four points, fuelling a 7-3 Tampa victory.
Stamkos, who hails from just north of the Big Smoke, may or may not have been close to signing with the Leafs as a free agent this summer. He may or may not have almost changed his playing address to the ACC. Whether it was close to happening or not no longer matters. He chose to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, inking an eight-year, $68-million deal. And on Tuesday his performance buried the team many thought he’d join.
“You give the guy chances like he had tonight, and he’s going to score a bunch of those,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I was really happy for him, because I’m sure it was a tough decision for him. Plus this is his hometown. Fans pay a ticket, they’re entitled to do what they want, but 'Stam' was a great son to Toronto.”
Stamkos’ signing keyed a real coup of an off-season for Tampa GM Steve Yzerman, who signed defenseman Victor Hedman long-term and locked up right winger Nikita Kucherov on a bridge contract. At least for now, Yzerman kept the band together, and his team is the NHL’s leading Stanley Cup contender.
Stamkos said after Tuesday’s game the team’s vibe has changed for the better. The players are having fun again. They know Stamkos is safely their captain for the next eight seasons. Kucherov is staying put. Heck, even Jonathan Drouin’s trade request is rescinded. And the Lightning’s collective mood has shifted from stormy to sunny.
That applies to Stamkos internally and externally. Over the past season he dealt with the constant contract rumors, lingering questions about his health since breaking his leg in 2013 and, lastly, a major blood clot scare that cost him all but one playoff game. It’s all behind him now. Is this the best he’s felt to start a season in years?
“Yeah,” he said, “coming off the leg injury and what happened at the end of last year. It helped playing in the World Cup, getting some games under your belt and feeling confident. And obviously this year too, with no distractions, just coming in with a clear mind, it all helps toward having fun and being confident. I definitely feel that way right now.”
It appears ‘Peak Stamkos’ showed up to start 2016-17. After his statistical explosion Tuesday, he has five goals and nine points through six games. The five goals equal his career high for the six-game mark of a season. That has to excite Tampa fans given Stamkos’ recent career trends. His goals per game have declined in consecutive seasons, from 0.68 to 0.52 to 0.47. His points per game have slipped three straight years, from 1.08 to 0.88 to 0.83. The natural question to ask was whether Stamkos was merely beginning a decline as he reached his mid-20s. He ripped a career-best 60 goals in 2011-12 at 21 years old. Of the 39 60-goal seasons in NHL history, 26 came from players 25 or younger. That’s two-thirds. Ten came from players 22 or younger. The odds of Stammer matching his best campaign are slim. But is it fair to surmise he’s done as an elite scorer after slipping to just 36 goals in 2015-16?
Not yet. Stamkos’ sizzling start to 2016-17 supports his own theory he’s back to his best self, healthier than he has been in years and free of the mental albatross of contract rumors. Cooper sees a promising side effect, too.
“The other thing is, he’s shooting the puck,” Cooper said. “When someone of his caliber keeps shooting pucks, good things are going to happen, and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Cooper isn’t just tossing out approximations. Stamkos through six games averages a whopping 3.83 shots per contest. It’s obviously a small sample size, but 3.83 would be a career-best rate. We’re clearly seeing a rejuvenated No. 91.
So while Stammer likely never cracks 60 goals again, he’s not done contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Four years ago, another dominant goal scorer appeared to be exiting his prime. He’d slipped into the 30-goal bracket two straight years. He couldn’t get on the same page as his coaches. He turned 27 before 2012-13 began, and plenty of ink was spilled with stories asking what was wrong with him.
That player: Alex Ovechkin, who has since led the NHL in goals four straight seasons. Stamkos is a year younger than the “washed up” Ovie was four years ago and feels better than ever. We may thus look back on 2016-17 as the year Stamkos rejoined the sport’s elite.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin