Movements in the world of hockey Friday:
National Hockey League
NASHVILLE PREDATORS-Signed F Marcel Goc to a one-year contract.
Movements in the world of hockey Friday:
National Hockey League
NASHVILLE PREDATORS-Signed F Marcel Goc to a one-year contract.
Patrick Kane. Image by: Getty Images
It wasn't easy to get off the ground, but 20 years after it began the National Team Development Program has become synonymous with grooming NHL stars like Patrick Kane.
For the current generation of supremely skilled, but not-so-big players, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is an inspiration. The Buffalo native has weaved his 5-foot-11, 177-pound frame through NHL defenses for years, winning Stanley Cups and numerous awards along the way. For Kane, it’s a little bit of a wake-up call to realize he’s an archetype.
“I guess it means I’m getting old, right?” he said. “It’s amazing I’m in my 10th season and how fast it goes by.”
One of the major reasons Kane is where he is today is the National Team Development Program, USA Hockey’s hothouse program that brings together some of the premier under-17 and under-18 players in the nation. This season represents the 20th anniversary of the NTDP and was a major talking point during Hockey Week Across America, which is on right now. During a call promoting HWAA, Kane extolled the virtues of his time with the NTDP.
“For me, at that age, to go into a program like that – I was very undersized and it was great for me,” he said. “It had a huge impact on my development.”
Whether it was the focus on weight room time or simply learning from different athletes, Kane wrung as much as he could out of the Michigan-based program before heading off to the OHL’s London Knights. There, he crushed the competition with a league-high 145 points in 58 games before being selected first overall in the draft by the rebuilding Blackhawks in 2007.
While the NTDP has become synonymous with grooming NHL stars such as Kane, Phil Kessel and Ryan Suter, kicking off the experiment was not easy. Jordan Leopold and Adam Hall are still venerated by the program for taking a risk when the NTDP was just starting and no one knew what to expect. But it was a necessary gambit for USA Hockey at the time.
“We were not getting it done in big tournaments,” said Dave Ogrean, the soon-to-be retired executive director of USA Hockey. “And if you look at the arc that we’ve been on in the past 20 years, there has been significant improvement.”
Indeed, on top of three world junior golds in the past eight years, the U.S. has dominated the world under-18s, using a squad made up almost entirely of NTDP kids (one or two outsiders are sometimes brought in) every year.
“When you’re at The Program, there’s two big things you gear up for,” Kane said. “First is the World Under-17 Challenge, then the world under-18s. To go into a short tournament and come out on top was special for us.”
This is actually an interesting year for the NTDP’s under-18 squad. Though phenoms such as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Zach Werenski are all recent alums, there’s a distinct possibility that no NTDP kids will go in the top-25 picks at the draft this summer. Since both the under-17s and under-18s play against older competition in the USHL and NCAA ranks, the NTDP kids often struggle at the beginning of each campaign, until they get physically stronger. While this season’s under-18s seemed to struggle a bit more than usual early on, the team did just win the Five Nations tourney in Sweden and scouts see them as a favorite once again for the worlds in mid-April (Canada’s efforts at the tourney are always hampered by the CHL playoffs, which run at the same time).
As for the draft anomaly, it’s just kind of a down year for Americans. Casey Mittelstadt looks like a potential top-five pick, but is splitting his time between Minnesota high school and the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers. Kailer Yamamoto is playing for his hometown Spokane Chiefs in the WHL. One of the NTDP’s most promising prospects is defenseman Quinn Hughes, but his late birthday means he’s eligible for the 2018 draft instead.
Nonetheless, the NTDP still looks vibrant for the future. Hughes, Bode Wilde (U17) and Brady Tkachuk (another late birthday) all look like blue-chippers for next year’s draft, with other big under-17 names such as Oliver Wahlstrom, Jake Pivonka and Jake Wise right behind them.
The hothouse experiment has been tried by other countries, such as Slovakia and Russia, without much success (in Russia’s case it was the worst ever, as the team had to be replaced before the world under-18s due to a drug scandal). It’s funny to think the Americans ever needed an about-face on international success, but that also speaks to the success of the NTDP in the past 20 years. Before we know it, Eichel and Matthews will be the ones wondering where their time in the NHL has gone.
Joe Sakic with the Quebec Nordiques. Image by: Getty Images
Back in 1995, the Quebec Nordiques unveiled a brand new logo and uniform designs, but, of course, they never got to wear them.
'Nordiques will have new look in 1996-97'
April 14, 1995 -- Vol. 48, No. 30
The Quebec Nordiques don’t have a new arena yet, but a new logo and colors are on the way.
When the Journal de Quebec published the Nordiques’ new colors March 30, the team had no choice but to confirm the makeover.
The team’s road jersey will be dark blue with a few lines of teal-like green color, black, white and silver. The crest has a large head of a husky dog with its teeth bared. They will sport their new colors in the 1996-97 and not next season because they failed to meet the NHL’s deadline for a logo change.
As for a new arena, there may be a solution to that problem and it has to do with gambling. The second-most powerful provincial politician in Quebec prefers a lottery to a casino as a way of raising public money to save the Nordiques.
That was one of the topics in a 90-minute discussion March 27 between Quebec’s deputy premier Bernard Landry and Marcel Aubut, the Nordiques’ president and part-owner.
Landry declined to meet with the media after the discussion. But Aubut told reporters of Landry’s leaning toward a lottery scheme.
Aubut has pressed all levels of government for help to keep the franchise in Quebec City. He has repeatedly stated the franchise needs a new venue with more seating and revenue-generating luxury boxes if it is to survive.
Photos via Sportslogos.net
Groups from Phoenix, Denver and Atlanta are reportedly interested in buying and relocating the club if it goes on the market. Aubut said Landry declared he is prepared to do anything to save the club.
“We’ve been received favorably but time is pressing and the agenda is tight.” Aubut said.
“The lottery is what Mr. Landry favors the most, but what he’s saying is he’s willing to do whatever must be done so the Nordiques remain”
Last January, Aubut set an April deadline for the Quebec government to decide whether it will build a new Colisee. The government said it might explore the possibility of a low-interest loan to the team, much as it did with baseball’s Montreal Expos.
When a consortium bought the Expos in 1991, the province lent $18 million toward the purchase.
The Nordiques responded to the loan possibility with a tersely worded statement in which they urged a new arena be built as soon as possible and the government absorb the team’s financial losses in the interim.
Aubut has said he expects the Nordiques to lose about $10 million this year and $12 million next season.
Jonathan Toews. Image by: Getty Images
The Blackhawks captain may look like he’s merely shaken off a big slump. But the underlying numbers suggest he’s emerged as a different player – more offense, less defense.
The three-goal, five-point night wasn’t the match that ignited Jonathan Toews’ season. It was a squirt of gasoline on an already-raging fire. Toews got piping hot over the past two months, and Tuesday was the boiling point.
The Chicago Blackhawks captain started 2016-17 posting the worst offensive numbers of his career. Even as his regular right winger Marian Hossa enjoyed a resurgent offensive campaign, Toews just couldn’t find the net. He sat at four goals and 12 points after 22 games. Plenty of fans and pundits scoffed on social media at his All-Star Game invite over teammate Artemi Panarin.
Typically, we’ve accepted that Toews trades a bit of offense to be an elite two-way pivot. He’s shown the highlight-reel hands to be an 80-point player – just look at his immortalized shootout performance for Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championship – but he’s let Patrick Kane be the scoring star and sacrificed some scoring to play a shutdown role. Still, even by Toews’ Selke Trophy-winning standard, his offense was pitiful through mid-December. He sat at 0.60 points per game and had never finished a season below 0.73.
Even more concerning: Toews wasn’t performing as well as advertised from a defensive standpoint, either. Per corsica.hockey, Toews rates as one of the NHL’s very best possession players since stats like Corsi and Fenwick were born. Among NHL forwards with 1,000 or more minutes played since his rookie campaign of 2007-08, Toews ranks 16th in 5-on-5 Corsi at 55.8 percent. That includes a Corsi For of 61.48 and a Corsi against of 48.68, representing a player equally adept at driving shot attempts for his team and preventing shot attempts against his team.
Toews, though, slipped to a 5-on-5 Corsi of 51.38 percent in that lackluster 22-game sample to start 2016-17, with a Corsi For per 60 of 58.51 and a Corsi Against of 55.37. Teams were having a much easier time than normal getting attempts on Chicago’s net with Toews on the ice.
But the possession stats did show a player still creating a lot of offensive action for his team, and he was scoring on just 7.3 percent of his attempts, so a positive regression was coming. Since that juncture at Game 22, Toews has ignited for 30 points in his past 29 games, including a whopping 20 in his past 12, sprinkled with four- and five-point performances. He’s doing it primarily playing with Richard Panik and rookie Nick Schmaltz, so it’s not like another star scorer is carrying Toews. He’s scoring on 12.6 percent of his shots during his hot streak, still below his career average of 14.7, so we could see this goal-scoring run continue for a while.
The most interesting change for Toews comes in his possession numbers since the 29-game binge started. Defensively, he’s actually been worse, coughing up a Corsi Against per 60 of 57.2, but he’s sizzling with a Corsi For per 60 of 64.54. Per stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Toews faced the toughest quality of competition of any NHL forward with at least 500 minutes played last season, as Toews’ opponents averaged a 5-on-5 Corsi of 50.8. This season, his opponents average 50.2, ranking him 124th among forwards in quality of opponents. So he’s facing weaker competition yet still faring worse defensively.
What, then, are we witnessing? This isn’t The Old Jonathan Toews making a triumphant return. The possession numbers suggest he’s instead reversed his career trend and sacrificed some defense for a major spike in offense. He’s still not bad defensively, as his relative Corsi Against per 60 is still among the better figures on the Hawks, suggesting the team as a whole has regressed defensively this season, not just Toews. But he’s currently not the smothering defensive player he’s reputed to be. His offense, meanwhile, is right up there with Artemi Panarin for the team’s best on the year if we judge it by Corsi For per 60 relative to teammates.
Interestingly, with Toews filling the net, the Hawks have won 14 of their past 20 games and seven of their past eight. Unlocking Toews’ scoring seems to correlate directly with Chicago re-emerging as a dangerous Western Conference contender.
Meanwhile, the first-place Minnesota Wild have dropped their past two meetings with the Hawks, including Tuesday’s. The Wild still own a five-point lead in the Central Division with a game in hand, but would anyone put it past the Blackhawks to stay hot and steal the division crown and home ice advantage for the playoffs? If that happens, watch out. Toews has not returned as a powerhouse two-way forward yet, but he has emerged as a new beast altogether, albeit in a small sample size. It’s tough to say if the Hawks are a better or worse team with Toews no longer playing great shutdown hockey, but so far, so good.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
The Stastnys, Peter and Anton, combined for 16 points on this date in 1981. No sibling duo has matched the mark, but the past 30 years has seen some great offensive nights from brothers.
Darryl Sittler’s 10-point night is the pinnacle of single-game statistics. Others have come close in the years since Sittler managed the feat, but it takes a special performance for any player to even flirt with matching or potentially surpassing Sittler’s mark.
The thing is, though, that it doesn’t really seem as though it’s an impossible feat to match or surpass. Others have, at the very least, come close to matching Sittler. Twice during his career, Mario Lemieux scored at least eight points in a single outing, and Bernie Nicholls registered eight points in a game back during that same 1988 campaign where Lemieux hit the mark twice. The closest in recent memory, as most will recall, was Sam Gagner’s magical eight-point night, but even that left him two points shy with less than four minutes left to play.
But while it’s hard to fathom Sittler’s record falling, it’s still within the realm of possibility. Not sure the same can be said for the feat the Stastny brothers, Peter and Anton, pulled off exactly 37 years ago today. On Feb. 22, 1981, the Stastnys came out flying against the Capitals and, in an 11-7 thrashing of Washington, the brothers racked up a ridiculous 16 points. The pair of eight-point nights gives the Stastny’s the distinction of having the highest scoring game by a pair of brothers on one team in a single game, and it’s unlikely that record ever falls. It’s hard enough for one player to score eight points in a single game, let alone two.
There have been some incredible nights by sibling duos over the past 30 years, however. Dating back to 1987-88, here are the five best single-game performances by a pair of brothers:
Daniel and Henrik Sedin — Nine points, Nov. 21, 2015
The Blackhawks had front row seats to Gagner’s incredible performance, and they were also witnesses to the biggest night by a pair of siblings in the past 30 years. During the November contest between the Blackhawks and Canucks early in 2015-16, the Sedins scored early and often. The first point came midway through the first period, a power play tally that saw both Sedins pick up a point, followed by another point for Henrik before the first period was through.
The Sedins made all the difference in the final 40 minutes in what was a tie game heading into the second frame. Daniel registered his first goal of the game midway through the second, then added two more in a span of two minutes late in the third period. Henrik had the primary assist on all three of Daniel’s goals, and the Canucks skated away with a 6-3 victory thanks to the remarkable night from the Sedins.
Peter and Anton Stastny — Eight points, Feb. 21, 1988
First all-time and second on this list, the Stastny’s were, in a sense, the early version of the Sedins. They made magic happen together. The only thing they were missing was the seemingly psychic twin abilities the Sedins have, but the Stastnys more than made up for it with their ability to fill the net and stuff the score sheet. Fitting that one of the biggest nights of their careers came almost seven years to the day after their famous 16-point night, too.
The Nordiques didn’t exactly buzzsaw their opponents like they had on the Stastny’s 16-point night, however. Rather, they only managed to eke out a 6-5 victory on the strength of a hat trick by Peter and an awesome four-assist night from Anton. All that was missing was a goal from Anton for the Stastnys stat line to match the Sedins exactly.
Jamie and Jordie Benn — Five points, Jan. 23, 2014; Dec. 13, 2016
When your brother is one of the top scorers in the league over the past few years, you’re bound to benefit from time to time. That’s exactly the case with Jordie Benn, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that he’s ridden Jamie’s coattails onto this list.
The first time the brothers combined for a five-point night was back when Jamie was just starting his rise to becoming a perennial contender for the Art Ross Trophy, and his four-point night was one of his best of the campaign in a 7-1 defeat of the Maple Leafs. Jordie’s assist, which came while playing shorthanded with his brother, pushed them up to five total points. They then matched the feat earlier this season when Jamie chipped in a goal and three points to add to Jordie’s two helpers in a 6-2 defeat of the Ducks.
However, there is a six-point night among the brothers. Trouble is there’s no split. Jamie scored six points — a goal and five assists — in a 7-3 victory by the Stars over the Flames. Jordie didn’t hit the score sheet that night.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer — Five points, March 31, 2009
The Niedermayers played more than 2,400 combined games in the NHL, and nearly 25 percent of those came with the brothers suiting up together for the Ducks. The time together started during the 2005-06 season in the post-lockout NHL, and it continued on through to the 2008-09 campaign. And it was right around the time their tenure as teammates was coming to a close — less than a few months, to be exact — that they had their biggest night together.
On the final day of March, five games before the season was set to close, the Ducks squared off against the Oilers and the Niedermayers struck gold, especially in the second frame. Scott scored on a power play 33 seconds into the second, assisted on a Chris Pronger goal less than five minutes later and added a second helper on Rob’s goal with 1:25 left in the period. Rob capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 36 seconds left.
Eric and Jordan Staal — Four points, five times
The Staals were the center of the offense for the Hurricanes for a four-season stretch that spanned nearly 270 games, and the duo produced like a solid one-two punch for much of their time with the team. There are four different occasions in which four total points came off the sticks of the Staals. Incredibly, however, three of those big nights came in one spurt.
Eric and Jordan combined for three four-point games across a span of five weeks starting in November 2013. In a Nov. 24 game, Eric scored once and had three points with Jordan adding an assist on the first Hurricanes goal of the game to lead Carolina to victory, they again combined for four points in a win over the Coyotes less than three weeks later and had the four-point night a third time in an overtime win over the Canadiens on Dec. 31, 2013. As it turns out, another sibling duo was doing the same that night.
Eric and Jordan again pitched in a combined four-point night to close out March 2015. Eric scored early on an assist from Jordan then started piling up helpers of his own. First came an assist on an Alexander Semin goal, following by the primary helper on the final nail in the coffin, an Andrej Nestrasil power play tally late in the third.
Brayden and Luke Schenn — Four points, Dec. 31, 2013
The Schenn household sure had an exciting close to 2013. Brayden and Luke were in their second season playing together in Philadelphia. Brayden was just starting to become a fixture of the offense as the brothers combined to contributed 24 goals and 53 points during the 2013-14 season, but nothing seemed to click quite like it did on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
Early in the contest, Brayden picked up his first of two assists in the game and he added a goal in the dying minutes of the second period, while Luke had his lone contribution of the outing when the brothers both got in on a Scott Hartnell insurance marker midway through the third period. It was the most productive the Schenns ever were in a given game for the Flyers.
The brothers were split up in 2015-16 when the Flyers shipped Luke to the Kings, coincidentally the same team from which they received Brayden.
(All statistical information via Hockey-Reference.com)
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