Movements in the world of hockey Thursday:
National Hockey League
CAROLINA HURRICANES-Agreed to terms with D Brett Bellemore on a three-year contract.
Movements in the world of hockey Thursday:
National Hockey League
CAROLINA HURRICANES-Agreed to terms with D Brett Bellemore on a three-year contract.
Injuries to Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais have the Canadiens in need of help down the middle, but making a move at this point in the season could be tough. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs won’t be alone in keeping an eye on Karri Ramo in the AHL.
The loss of centers Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais to knee injuries is a serious blow to the Montreal Canadiens' scoring depth. With both on the shelf six-to-eight weeks, GM Marc Bergevin could be scrambling to find replacements.
Galchenyuk's absence hurts the most. At the time of his injury, he led the Habs with 23 points in 25 games and was on track for a career-high 70 points. Finding a suitable replacement in the trade market at this point in the season is almost impossible. Still, Bergevin must find some suitable depth down the middle until Galchenyuk and Desharnais return.
TSN's Darren Dreger believes Arizona Coyotes center (and pending free agent) Martin Hanzal would be a good fit. However, he said here's no indication the two sides have discussed a Hanzal deal. He believes the Coyotes' asking price would be a good young prospect.
Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner is reportedly available. A versatile forward who can play center or wing, the 23-year-old is struggling offensively after a promising 49-point effort last season. It's unlikely, however, that the Bruins trade him to a hated rival in the same division.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman observes the Winnipeg Jets have a lot of young centers, suggesting Alex Burmistrov as an emergency fix for the Habs. Like Spooner, the 25-year-old Burmistrov can play center or on the wing. He's struggled to establish himself with the Jets and might benefit from a change of scenery. His $1.55-million cap hit, however, could be a tight fit for the Canadiens.
MAPLE LEAFS NOT ONLY TEAM WATCHING RAMO
Speaking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, changes appear to be afoot for their backup goaltending. Earlier this week, Jhonas Enroth was demoted to the AHL's Toronto Marlies after clearing waivers. Antoine Bibeau is Enroth's replacement, but only on a short-term basis.
Unrestricted free agent goalie Karri Ramo signed a professional tryout offer with the Marlies. If he plays well for them, the Leafs could sign him.
Ramo, however, is not the Leafs property yet. He's still free to sign with any NHL club. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports the Los Angeles Kings are keeping an eye on Ramo, but the Leafs are considered to have the inside track.
HENDRICKS’ TIME UP AS AN OILER
It appears checking-line left wing Matt Hendricks doesn't have a future with the Edmonton Oilers. Having miss the opening month of the season to a lower-body injury, the 35-year-old's been a healthy scratch in recent games. An unrestricted free agent next summer, the Oilers could look at moving him.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes Hendricks might be a good fit with the Minnesota Wild. He said the Wild are seeking fourth-line help and Hendricks is a favourite of Wild coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Wild, however, only have $392K in salary-cap space. Hendricks' annual salary is $1.85 million. Even if the Oilers picked up half of his cap hit, it won't be enough. The Wild would have to move salary elsewhere to make that work.
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.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
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
The Blue Jackets have been the most pleasant surprise in the NHL this season, but it's still going to take convincing for the hockey world to believe they're for real.
We’ll totally understand if you’re having just a little trouble getting on board with the 2016-17 version of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After all, you’ve probably been burned before.
Their fan base certainly seems to be wary. Despite the fact the Blue Jackets are the surprise of the NHL and have emerged as one of the most dynamic and exciting teams in the league, they drawn fewer than 12,000 in three of their past four home games. Even their coach thinks the team has work to do to earn their fans’ trust. “I want our team to have a chip on their shoulder,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch recently. “I think they should. We’re trying to get respect in the league. Quite honestly, we should be disrespected because of where we’ve been.”
That won’t last long if the Blue Jackets keep this up. The league’s best power play continues to fuel one of the league’s hottest teams and has landed them at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings for the second time this season. Last week’s rankings in parentheses:
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (8)
2. Philadelphia Flyers (15)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (6)
4. St. Louis Blues (2)
5. Chicago Blackhawks (5)
6. Montreal Canadiens (7)
7. New York Rangers (4)
8. San Jose Sharks (11)
9. Boston Bruins (20)
10. Calgary Flames (27)
Is there a bigger bargain or a shrewder off-season signing than Sam Gagner?...Steve Mason went from one of the worst goalies in the NHL early in the season to one of the best of late. His save percentage in his first 16 games was .892, but has improved to .947 in his past five… If Marc-Andre Fleury wants to get traded, he’s not doing himself any favor with his play lately…The Blues completed a 4-0-1 home stand with the game going into overtime…With Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford already out, the Blackhawks lost defenseman Brent Seabrook in their 4-0 win over Arizona Tuesday night…How will the Canadiens and the surprising Alexander Radulov respond to the injury to Alex Galchenyuk?...The injury-ravaged Rangers saw Rick Nash go down with a groin injury and Matt Puempel to a concussion in their 4-2 loss to the Islanders Tuesday night…Joe Thornton passed Brendan Shanahan for 25th all-time on the NHL’s scoring list with an assist in a 2-1 win over Montreal last week…Anyone who predicted David Pastrnak would be in Rocket Richard Trophy contention a third of the way into the season is looking very bright at the moment…The Flames were already one of the hottest teams in the NHL without Johnny Gaudreau, then won their first two with him back in the lineup.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Washington Capitals (11)
12. Edmonton Oilers (14)
13. Ottawa Senators (12)
14. Los Angeles Kings (1)
15. New Jersey Devils (23)
16. Detroit Red Wings (16)
17. Nashville Predators (3)
18. Minnesota Wild (19)
19. Anaheim Ducks (10)
20. Winnipeg Jets (17)
Capitals coach Barry Trotz had some pointed words to Alex Ovechkin about his penchant for taking minor penalties of late. No cracks in the foundation, though. Just a frank discussion…The Oilers game Tuesday night against Buffalo was touted as Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel, the kind of narrative the Oilers have learned to accept. “Every night it’s Connor vs. Somebody,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan…Goalie Craig Anderson started in the Senators’ 8-5 loss to Pittsburgh Monday night, but did not travel with the team for a three-game California trip to be with his wife as she undergoes treatment for throat cancer…The usually stingy Kings have given up 11 goals in their past three games. “That’s too many goals,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter…Devils winger Taylor Hall on the aftermath of his clean, but devastating, hit on Philip Larsen Tuesday night: “I feel terrible.” Not to be trite, but Hall should not be feeling terrible about the way he has played since returning from a knee injury. He has five points in his past two games…Goalie Jimmy Howard will be back in uniform for the Red Wings when they host Columbus Friday night, but will have a difficult time pushing Petr Mrazek out of the crease…After missing four games with an upper-body injury, James Neal scored a goal in a 4-3 Predators’ win over Colorado Tuesday night…Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, whose career was revived when he came to Minnesota, will make his 300th career start tonight in Toronto…Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle could not pull Jonathan Bernier during his team’s 8-3 loss to Calgary because backup John Gibson was battling a stomach virus…Over the past 30 years, only Teemu Selanne and Alex Ovechkin have scored goals at a better pace than Patrik Laine of the Jets is scoring them now.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. New York Islanders (26)
22. Tampa Bay Lightning (22)
23. Carolina Hurricanes (25)
24. Buffalo Sabres (29)
25. Florida Panthers (24)
26. Vancouver Canucks (18)
27. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
28. Dallas Stars (28)
29. Arizona Coyotes (21)
30. Colorado Avalanche (30)
With points in each of their past five games, four of them wins, the Islanders are easily on their most successful string of the season…The Lightning could get Ryan Callahan, Jason Garrison and Jonathan Drouin back for their home game against Vancouver Thursday night…Jordan Staal, sidelined for the past four games with a concussion, likely won’t be available to the Hurricanes for a three-game road trip through California that begins tonight…After playing almost 500 games in the minors, defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer made his NHL debut in the Sabres’ 3-2 overtime win over Washington Tuesday night… Panthers have gone to overtime in four of their five games GM Tom Rowe has been behind the bench. They’ve won one in overtime, lost two in OT and one in a shootout…Philip Larsen, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a hit from Taylor Hall Tuesday night, was released from hospital in New Jersey Wednesday morning and was cleared to return to Vancouver while the Canucks continue on a five-game road trip…After waiving Jhonas Enroth, the Maple Leafs search for a backup goalie continues. They signed Karri Ramo to a professional tryout contract and assigned him to their farm team. That should cure everything…The Coyotes have been outscored 14-6 and have averaged 41 shots against per game in an 0-3-1 month of December…All nine of Matt Duchene’s goals this season have come on the road. The Avs could use that kind of production at the Pepsi Center, where they’re 4-8-1 this season and recently went 0-4-1 on a five-game homestand.
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.