Mike Ciampi, Edison, N.J.
Mike Ciampi, Edison, N.J.
The New York Islanders captain undressed Jay Bouwmeester in the most unusual of ways, but the important thing is he kept the puck. Then he buried it
John Tavares: good at hockey.
The New York Islanders captain pulled off an absolutely stunning series of moves last night, culminating in a laser-shot goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen. But let's get back to his humbling of Olympic gold medallist Jay Bouwmeester, because that's where the real magic happened.
Witness, as Tavares puts his stick behind his back and grabs it with his other hand while still skating and fending off Bouwmeester. Then, since he is a patient boy, Tavares waits and waits and waits before firing one top corner on Allen:
As the soccer folks would say, lovely. New York would go on to beat the Blues 3-2, with Anders Lee scoring the other two goals for the Isles. After struggling to begin the season, New York is now 6-2-2 in its past 10 games. Tavares leads the squad with 21 points through 26 contests.
We're far enough into the season that certain players' slow starts have become more than that. Is it time to cut bait on formerly reliable studs like Kuznetsov?
It's almost time to toss "don't panic" talk out the window in fantasy hockey leagues. Slow starts are insurmountable at this juncture in most pools, but GMs should start identifying and assessing their problem areas. Some struggling stars can still shake off their slumps, but others are showing legitimate red flags right now. The sample sizes are big enough to warrant worrying in certain cases.
That seems to be the theme of almost every question I received for this month's mailbag. Plenty of you find yourselves at crossroads with some typically valuable fantasy commodities. Let's see if I can help you make some tough decisions.
Austin Gagne (@gagne31): Who are the top 10 prospects outside the NHL?
Fun question, Austin, and I'll use it as a chance to plug our recent special THN magazine, Prospects Unlimited. In that edition, we ranked the top 100 players aged 21 and younger at any level. That included current NHLers, players drafted to the NHL but not yet playing there, and even youngsters years away from their draft years. As for a top 10 prospects outside the NHL, I'll pull the best 10 from Prospects Unlimited. I'll include their overall rank too (as they're mixed in with 21-and-under NHLers like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, too):
Note the inclusion of Connor. He just got sent to the AHL, so he's not an NHLer right now.
Ryan Kleinau (@rkleinau): Will Semyon Varlamov ever turn it around, or is keeping him as one of my two starting goalies a mistake?
Varlamov is undoubtedly better than his season numbers suggest. He's actually improved a bit of late, posting a .926 save percentage over his past eight appearances. Still, it's understandable to be concerned about him. He has a bad team playing in front of him. He regularly faces 30 to 40 shots in a game. He has a good backup behind him in Calvin Pickard. If your league is relatively deep and relies on volume goalie stats such as saves, however, I wouldn't cut bait on Varlamov yet. Your best-case scenario might be a real-life trade that puts him on a better team. It could happen.
Darrell Samuels (Darrell_Samuels): I am first in my pool. Goalies are Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury and Devan Dubnyk. Tempted to move Fleury. Do I deal him? #Dealornodeal
If you can move Fleury for another goaltender with a clearer path to regular starts, go for it. We know the Penguins can't finish the year with Fleury and Murray, as it would mean losing Murray in the expansion draft (Fleury has to be protected because of his no-movement clause). So rather than sit on a platoon and wait for a Fleury trade, why not use him to secure yourself goalies from three different teams, increasing your ceiling of starts? That said, I wouldn't rush to move Fleury for a skater, especially if teams in your league carry many goalies and rotate them, as you won't get enough starts from just Murray alone. If you can buy low on a Freddie Andersen type for Fleury, though, do it.
Bran Glen (iB20GLEN): Who wins this trade: Wayne Simmonds, Max Pacioretty and Vincent Trocheck for Patrik Laine, Dylan Larkin and Marc-Andre Fleury? #keeperpool
This is a slam-dunk. Any team acquiring Laine in a keeper pool is in good shape. And you get Larkin coming your way on top of that? This one's a no brainer. Laine is a top-10 forward commodity already in keeper formats.
Harold P (@howie379): Do you like Patrick Maroon from Edmonton?
He's a handy and underrated player in fantasy. I have him on my team in my most important league. He's played 45 games as an Oiler over the past two seasons, amassing 16 goals, 27 points, 62 penalty minutes and 100 hits. Pro-rated to an 82-game season: 29 goals, 49 points, 113 PIM, 182 hits. That's a valuable stat line in any league. He's a nice depth option who gets chances to play with Connor McDavid from time to time.
Robert Doane (@Daybreak_Dude): Your expected BIGGEST second-half producers with slow starts?
I'll single out three top-flight producers from last year: Johnny Gaudreau, Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov.
The three-week injury layoff seemed to do 'Johnny Hockey' wonders, as he's returned to the lineup possessed, with three straight two-point games. He's making up for lost time. It wouldn't be remotely surprising to see him score at a top-five rate the rest of the year.
As for Kopitar, he's done this before. He had 13 points in 23 games through the end of November last season, then had 61 points in 58 games from December onward. He'll be just fine.
Barkov, though, is probably my favorite buy-low in the whole league right now. He's scoring on just 7.7 percent of his shots and is a 12.8 percent career shooter, so he's in store for positive regression. He's an outstanding possession player who generates lots of shot attempts. He's already starting to come out of his slump, with 10 points in his past 11 games. The overall season line of 5-13-18 in 28 games doesn't look too special, though, so it's worth trying to steal him in a trade from an oblivious owner.
Ben gravel (@Powerforward68): Evgeny Kuznetsov AND Andre Burakovsky? What's up with them?!?
Bad sign: I chose Kuznetsov for the main photo in the previous mailbag, too. It's been a problem all season. Owners understandably drafted him expecting a top-10 scorer after he was one last year. So what on Earth is wrong with the kid? We can't blame it on deployment. Kuznetsov's most common linemate this season has been Alex Ovechkin, and Kuznetsov's ice time has been virtually identical to last year's. On one hand, Kuznetsov has some of the game's best pure hands, and he's bound to get hot at some point, so he's a decent buy-low target. On the other hand, if you're buying low, aim to get him for 75 cents on the dollar. Don't give up too much, as he's shown some red flags. Kuznetsov shot the puck 2.35 times per game last year and has tumbled to 1.60 this year. He seems to be more hesitant. Concern is officially warranted.
As for Burakovsky, he's just not quite established yet as a consistently dangerous NHL scorer. He's prone to streaks and slumps, and he doesn't always play on Barry Trotz's top two lines. I wouldn't blame anyone for dropping him, but the funny thing is…if you do, I'd advise other GMs to scoop him up. His shooting percentage is way below his norm, and his upside makes him worth a one-week flier for any team.
Chris Pumo (cpumo21): What's up with Filip Forsberg???
Forsberg's struggles are a fluke in my eyes. He still gets lots of ice time. His shooting percentage is ridiculously low. He'll go on a tear soon enough. Don't worry about him.
Terry Cain (@tcain47): Due for a comeback or not: Patrice Bergeron? Tyler Johnson?
Bergeron for sure. He remains an absolutely elite defensive forward, the sport's best, and will always get oodles of ice time as a result. Bergeron is also shooting the puck at close to his normal rate. The pucks will start going in. He's due for a huge surge. Johnson, on the other hand, confounds me a bit. It's starting to look like his 72-point breakout of 2014-15 was an anomaly.
Jasoc Pullen (@JacobPullen): Will Jamie Benn get back to normal?
I think he will. He's still producing at close to a point per game. It's possible Benn just needed time to get physically comfortable after recovering from core muscle surgery, which forced him out of the World Cup. I predict a big second half.
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
John Tortorella's antics have made headlines more than his coaching ability, but the veteran bench boss is showing again this season that he's still got the chops to be a top NHL coach.
Hidden behind all the nonsense is the fact John Tortorella can be a very good coach.
The 58-year-old veteran bench boss has proved it time and time again, particularly in 2003-04 when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup championship; allowing his players to show offence and creativity in a league that had become bogged down with clutching and grabbing.
Safe is death was Tortorella’s mantra back then and he convinced his players to embrace his adventurous coaching style. He was named the NHL’s Coach of the Year in 2004.
Too often since then, Tortorella has allowed himself to become a sideshow. His antics often took away from the good job he was doing managing questionable talent.
In New York, where he guided the Rangers to a 171-118-30 record in 319 games, Tortorella became better known for his daily run-ins with respected New York Post veteran beat writer Larry Brooks than coaching the team. Brooks calls ’em as he sees ’em – as a good journalist should – and that didn’t always sit well with the coach who would often lapse into verbal sparring matches with the reporter that would gain international attention.
There was also an incident during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009 when Tortorella responded to being heckled by fans of the Washington Capitals by throwing a water bottle and trying to spear a fan between two panes of glass with a stick he grabbed from one of his players. He was not ejected from the game, but was suspended by the NHL the following day.
In his one season behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks, with which he was 36-35-11, Tortorella was involved in an infamous altercation on Jan. 18, 2014 when he entered the Calgary Flames dressing room area in an effort to engage with Flames coach Bob Hartley between periods following a first period line brawl. Tortorella was restrained by players and coaches and was suspended by the NHL for 15 days without pay.
Despite all the shenanigans, I have always believed in Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach. I have a theory about him, though.
In an effort to prove to his players he wants to win as desperately – if not more so – than them, he comes across as trying to be one of them. That is when things tend to spin out of control. Long before his beard became a permanent fixture, he – like the players – would grow a playoff beard. Silly.
When things get out of control during games, Tortorella wants to show his players he is willing to fight for them. Even sillier.
After Tortorella was fired by the Canucks, many wondered if he had painted himself into a corner. Had his volatile reputation made him untouchable? Perhaps to some, yes, but not to Blue Jackets president John Davidson who got to know him when Tortorella was coaching the New York Rangers. Davidson knows all about Tortorella’s ability to be an effective coach when he is focused.
So when the Blue Jackets lost their first seven games in 2015-16, Todd Richards was fired and replaced by Tortorella who guided the team to a respectable 34-33-8 record. Not everyone believed in his ability, however.
After making headlines by saying he would bench any player who elected to sit on the bench during the playing of the National Anthem while coaching the United States to a disappointing 0-3 record at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, some wondered if Tortorella wasn’t losing his focus…again.
In its pre-season commentary entitled ‘31 Bold Predictions for The 2016-17 Season’ TSN.ca proclaimed Tortorella would not survive the first month of the season as the Blue Jackets spiral toward last place in the East.
Well, not only did Tortorella make it out of the first month, he currently has his Blue Jackets sitting in sixth place overall and riding a four-game winning streak. Not only was he still behind their bench, Tortorella was a legitimate contender through the first quarter of the season to win his second Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s best coach.
There is still plenty of time remaining in the season and things could certainly go south, but it seems like Tortorella has a good grasp on what he needs to do to remain a successful NHL coach.
“I think he’s maybe been a little more relaxed and perhaps a little bit different with the scheduling of days off,” said Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad. “For the most part, though, he is who he is and he demands the most out of his players.”
For those who only know Tortorella through the viral YouTube videos that paint him as a madman, you might think he’s an incurable crackpot. For those of us who have the pleasure of knowing him on a more personable level, we know a good person lurks under the craziness. He just needs to control that craziness.
Kevin Dineen father Bill Dineen head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers pose for a photo before the game against the Boston Bruins at the Boston Garden.
Inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014, Dineen led the Adirondack Red Wings to Calder Cups in 1986 and 1989.
The hockey world lost a coaching icon on Saturday.
The American Hockey League confirmed the passing of Bill Dineen at age 84.
Inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014, Dineen led the Adirondack Red Wings to Calder Cups in 1986 and 1989. During his six seasons behind Adirondack’s bench, he led the club to a 246-182-52 record and won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach twice.
“During his time as a player and coach, and in the values he instilled in his family, Bill Dineen created a legacy of greatness in the American Hockey League that still resonates today,” said David Andrews, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our deepest condolences go out to the entire Dineen family at this time.”
Bill’s sons Shawn, Peter, Gord, Kevin and Jerry all went on to play and/or coach in the AHL. Gord Dineen is currently the associate coach of the Toronto Marlies.
Our thoughts are with Associate Coach Gord Dineen today, as the hockey community mourns with the family over the passing of Bill Dineen.— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 10, 2016
Kevin Dineen is currently an Assistant Coach with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Bill Dineen was a tremendous man," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN's Tracey Myers. "Everyone who had the privilege to meet Bill and be around him loved the guy. He was probably one of the most liked people you'd ever want to meet.
"Great family man; the kids are just like the dad. We had a good time with him on the dad's trip last time. Seeing him at that stage and being around hockey again, it was fun to be there."
During his playing days, Bill Dineen was a four-time 20-goal scorer over six AHL seasons with Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester and Quebec, and made appearances in the Calder Cup Finals in 1959 and 1964. He recorded 271 points in 391 AHL games during his playing career.
Dineen also appeared in 324 NHL games with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cups in Detroit. He later coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 1991-93.
Additionaly, Dineen won three other league titles as a head coach, with the Western Hockey League’s Denver Spurs (1972) and the World Hockey Association’s Houston Aeros (1974, 1975). He was twice named the WHA’s coach of the year (1977, 1978).