Boston Bruins hockey center Chris Kelly is prepped for a formal head shot by team photographer Steve Babineau at TD Garden in Boston, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Author: The Hockey News
Bruins have some lineup questions entering training camp
BOSTON - The Boston Bruins have some lineup questions entering training camp after a disappointing second-round exit in the playoffs.
"Absolutely. Competition, with it comes uncertainty, and we'd all like things to be certain," general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "But it also comes like the cream will rise to the top and I'm looking forward to it. On a smaller level we had a competition last year for a couple forward spots and we did OK. So we've got some invites, we've got some young players pushing. I look forward to it."
The players went through off-ice conditioning tests Thursday at TD Garden and will open practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
Two unsigned players did not report for testing. Defenceman Torey Krug and forward Reilly Smith are entry-level restricted free agents who cannot negotiate with other teams. Last year, Krug had 14 goals, and Smith 20.
Chiarelli would not comment on the negotiations.
"We want them in our mix. As has been chronicled, we've never had that type of player not sign and not come to camp," Chiarelli said. "I've been through a few of them (camp no-shows) in my time. They're not very pleasant, but that's what we have right now."
Chiarelli said the players who participated in testing impressed him. There's not a lot of time for the team to get up to speed before the exhibition schedule begins Tuesday night in Montreal.
"It shows a lot of pride that this team takes in the fitness testing to be ready for the season and obviously for the training camp," captain Zdeno Chara said. "There is a lot of competition and you could see it today, everybody was really trying hard for the best results. That's all you can ask. Everything you did throughout the summer, you're going to show it and bring it from off the ice to on the ice. So it's exciting and it's nice to have it over with and just start skating and getting ready for exhibition games."
Up front, the Bruins need to replace Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton and, for now, Smith. On defence Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton are mainstays. Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky will compete for the open two spots in Krug's absence.
Chara is excited that there are so many defencemen with a chance to make the roster.
"It's a good problem to have," Chara said. "No matter how you look it, to have that many players capable of playing gives you obviously an advantage. And like I said it's a good problem to have and it would be obviously a different situation if we would be on the other side of it. So sometimes things are out of your control as far as trades and other things but as a player you ... have to do your best to make the team and the lineup, and the rest of it is up to the management."
The search is on for the next coach of the Islanders following the firing of Jack Capuano, and a familiar face could be in the mix after New York received permission to speak with Gerard Gallant.
Speaking to media Tuesday about the firing of coach Jack Capuano, Islanders GM Garth Snow said there was no clearcut timeline on when the organization would plan to bring in its next coach and replacement for current interim bench boss Doug Weight. That said, Snow reportedly isn’t wasting much time looking into his options.
That Snow is, or possibly was, considering Gallant for the position should come as no surprise. Gallant’s work behind the Panthers bench was fantastic, especially his work with the group during the 2015-16 season which saw Florida post the most wins in franchise history and finish atop the Atlantic Division.
It would be interesting to see what Gallant could do in New York, though, given how he turned around a Panthers team that had mustered only 29 wins two years prior. In his first season behind the bench, the Cats improved by 25 points and posted nine additional wins. That was followed by another nine-win improvement and another 12 points in the standings. The Panthers struggled early this season, which led to Gallant’s firing, but some saw Florida’s change in direction as a move made as much because of philosophy as it was the team’s on-ice performance.
Beyond Gallant’s recent track record of turning around struggling clubs, Gallant has a history with the Islanders organization spanning two seasons. In 2007, Gallant came aboard as an assistant with New York and he remained with the team until 2009, working under coaches Ted Nolan and Scott Gordon. Snow was in his first few years as the club’s GM during Gallant’s years as an assistant with the Islanders, and the two certainly have a relationship from that time with the club.
Turning around the Islanders won’t simply be about finding the right coach, though. New York’s off-season moves, which included letting Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen walk while dishing out big money for Andrew Ladd, haven’t paid off in the least and the inability to build around captain John Tavares has been apparent. The Islanders aren’t likely to simply hire the first former NHL bench boss they can find, either, and the process of hiring a coach is almost certain to take longer than a few days or weeks.
This is a crucial time for the Islanders, who looked ready to take a step forward but are instead sitting in the Eastern Conference basement. Whether Gallant lands the job or the New York chooses to go another direction, it’s not a decision the team will be making overnight.
We'll find out next Tuesday whether teams in the Ontario and Western Leagues will have to make their financials public.
Canadian Hockey League president David Branch has often publicly stated that people don’t get into the junior hockey business to make money. He has also said that about one-third of the teams make money, one-third break even and one-third lose money and those teams are interchangeable based on where they are in their franchise-building cycle.
We have a pretty good idea that the owners of teams such as the London Knights and Quebec Remparts (which are owned by Quebecor, the company that owns The Hockey News) make gobs of money, but nobody really knows how much. We’re also pretty sure that small markets such as Swift Current, Owen Sound and Baie Comeau face some pretty stiff and unique financial challenges, but we have no idea to what extent. We also know that, judging by the ticket prices and beer lines, the World Junior Championship is a major cash cow for the CHL, even when it’s bungled as badly as it recently was in Toronto and Montreal, since the junior leagues get one-third of the profits. We also know that franchises in the CHL are bought and sold for millions of dollars. We know that the Sudbury Wolves were purchased by Ken Burgess in 1986 for $250,000 and the team and its marketing arm were sold for about $11 million last summer, meaning it appreciated in value by about 4,400 percent in 30 years.
We know the players are paid a relative pittance for their work in addition to having their room and board covered by the teams. The CHL often crows about its scholarship program, claiming that it pays out millions of dollars per year to assist former players with their post-secondary education.
That’s pretty much all we know. And if the CHL has its way, that’s all we’ll ever know. Because when it comes to actually opening its books and proving to people that junior hockey is by and large a Mom and Pop operation, well, that’s where the flow of information is reduced to a trickle.
The question is why? If junior hockey leagues are so quick to claim that having to pay its players minimum wage would cause financial calamity, why do they not want their financial information to be part of the public discourse?
But the hundreds of players who hope to launch a class action lawsuit against the CHL want to change that. Next Tuesday, the two sides will argue before R.J. Hall, a Justice of the Alberta Court of the Queen’s Bench in Calgary, the CHL’s motion to have a sealing order placed over all financial records, scholarship data and revenue sharing agreements for the 42 teams in the OHL and Western League. The CHL was ordered to turn over that information last October as part of the class action lawsuit brought against the WHL for minimum wage.
The documents were filed as part of a certification hearing that’s scheduled to be held in Calgary in February. Once those documents are filed in court, they become a matter of public record unless they are sealed by court order and the CHL wants them to be sealed. “That way no one will have access to them except the judge and parties to the litigation,” said Toronto lawyer Ted Charney, who represents the plaintiffs. “I don’t want to comment on the merits of the motion because it’s coming up in court next week. All I can tell you is we intend to oppose it.”
The CHL originally argued back in October that only the WHL teams for which the plaintiffs played should have to submit their financials. But Justice Hall ordered all 22 WHL teams to provide the information, as well as the 20 teams in the OHL, since the defendants chose to file affidavits from the OHL, arguing that paying minimum wage would have the same adverse effects to OHL teams and, by extension, the entire CHL.
This is all very important to the future of the case because this is evidence that will be used in the certification hearing, at which time Justice Hall will decide whether or not the lawsuit merits being considered a class-action lawsuit. If he decides it does, hundreds of former players who have registered to join the lawsuit would be included. If not, the lawsuit will be restricted to the handful of former players who have come forward.
And if Justice Hall decides next week that two-thirds of the junior hockey operators in Canada must live with their books being open for the public to see, then perhaps we’ll have a better idea whether the former players have a case or Canada’s junior leagues would actually be crippled by having to pay their players minimum wage.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Caps and Pens treated us to a scoring bonanza Monday, producing 15 goals. Factoring in the current low-scoring era, was this the wildest game ever?
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins locked horns Monday night under high expectations. The two franchises have become synonymous with high-octane hockey since they debuted Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby 11 years ago. But even by this rivalry's towering standard, Monday's tilt blew us away. Slowly but surely, the game snowballed into must-see TV, stealing eyeballs from The Bachelor. The two teams exploded for 15 goals, including nine in the second period alone, with Pittsburgh pulling out a crazy 8-7 overtime victory.
Any game with 15 goals involving the two biggest talents of the past generation already deserves some hype, but Monday's game is an even more staggering feat when put into context. Plenty of excited tweets suggested the Caps and Pens were putting on a 1980s re-enactment – which is remarkable considering how different the game is today. Scoring is far rarer, goalies much more skilled. Was Monday's game thus the greatest offensive display of all-time, pound for pound, year for year, despite not actually setting a record for the most total goals between two teams?
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto St. Patricks 14-7 Jan. 10, 1920, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 12-9 Dec. 11 1985. Those two games share the team goals record of 21. Two games produced 20 goals, once in 1984 and one in 1986, and six games have yielded 19. That rounds out the league's all-time top 10. Here's a closer look, courtesy of The NHL Official Guide & Record Book:
Most goals, both teams one game
21 – Montreal Canadiens 14, Toronto St. Patricks 7, Jan. 10, 1920
21 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Chicago Blackhawks 9, Dec. 11, 1985
20 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Minnesota North Stars 8, Jan. 4, 1984
20 – Toronto Maple Leafs 11, Edmonton Oilers 9, Jan. 8, 1986
19 – Montreal Wanderers 10, Toronto Arenas 9, Dec. 19, 1917
19 – Montreal Canadiens 16, Quebec Bulldogs 3, March 3, 1920
19 – Montreal Canadiens 13, Hamilton Tigers 6, Feb. 26, 1921
19 – Boston Bruins 10, New York Rangers 9, March 4, 1944
19 – Detroit Red Wings 10, Boston Bruins 9, Mar. 16, 1944
19 – Vancouver Canucks 10, Minnesota North Stars 9, Oct. 7, 1983
Fifteen goals puts Monday night's game nowhere near the top 10, but no game from that list has occurred within the past 31 years. It only seems fair to factor in the era. The league-wide goals per game numbers of the seasons represented in the top 10, in order:
Those 10 games occurred in the NHL's peak high-scoring glory years. That makes Monday night's game all the more astounding. It occurred in a time of 5.50 goals per game, almost tripling the league average.
So what if we divide 5.50 goals per game by each of the 10 rates above, and multiply that number by the total goals in the record-setting games? The goals scored get adjusted way down:
21 goals in 1919-20 = 12.1 goals in 2016-17
21 goals in 1985-86 = 14.5 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1983-84 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1985-86 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1917-18 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1919-20 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1920-21 = 12.5 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1983-84 = 13.2 goals in 2016-17
So, based on those adjustments, last night's 15-goal output trumped all the official highest-scoring games of all-time. If we reverse the adjustment, 15 goals in 2016-17 are the equivalent of 25.9 goals in 1919-20.
The math here isn't perfect, as I haven't applied the adjustment to the 18-, 17- and 16- goal games over the years. There are only so many hours in the day. (update: some readers have kindly pointed out the 9-8 game between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, which would take the top spot!) But we can at the very least say Monday's 8-7 barn burner was among the most entertaining and offensively brilliant exhibitions in NHL history.