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If the Coyotes don't start improving, they could start selling assets like Martin Hanzal, or even youngster Anthony Duclair.
Entering December, the Arizona Coyotes remain mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Their lack of improvement continues to stoke speculation that they could make a move or two.
Much of the talk earlier this season focused upon center Martin Hanzal. The 6-foot-6, 226-pounder is slated for unrestricted free agency next summer, sparking talk the Coyotes could move him if he's unsigned by the March 1 trade deadline.
In recent weeks, however, sophomore right winger Anthony Duclair rose to the fore in Coyotes trade chatter. Nearly two weeks ago, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported the 21 year old could be available, though he expected the Coyotes would seek “a pretty penny” in return.
Duclair enjoyed a 20-goal, 44-point performance as a rookie in 2015-16. This season, however, he's struggled to score, tallying only four points in 21 games.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Coyotes aren't shopping Duclair, but are listening to offers. Dreger believes they could move him if they get a significant return, such as a good young center. He also said Duclair's name popped up briefly back in June.
Despite Duclair's struggles this season, it seems unlikely the Coyotes want to move him. Still, it's worthwhile to at least listen to what's being offered by other clubs. Whether one of them is willing to meet the Coyotes' price remains to be seen.
SPOONER'S PLAY MAKES NEW DEAL UNLIKELY
The ongoing struggles of Boston Bruins left winger Ryan Spooner continues to make him a subject of interest in the rumor mill. Earlier this week, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggested the 24-year-old's poor performance this season could hurt his chances of re-signing with the Bruins next summer.
After netting 49 points in 2015-16, Spooner has eight points in 22 games this season. That puts him on pace for only 29 points.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty observes Spooner was relegated to fourth-line duty in several recent games. He speculates the young forward's difficulties this season could be tied to playing on the wing, rather than his preferred position at center.
Spooner won't unseat Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as the Bruins' top-two centers. It's worth noting he played largely on the wing last season, too.
Should Spooner fail to improve, Haggerty wonders if he might become part of a package deal to bring the Bruins a mobile defenseman A rival club could take that gamble on Spooner, but the Bruins could be forced to bundle him with a high draft pick and perhaps a top prospect to land a skilled puck-moving blueliner.
MAPLE LEAFS EXPECTED TO MOVE HOLLAND
Recent Toronto Maple Leafs speculation centers upon which of their young wingers they might trade for a top-pairing defenseman. Meanwhile, they're expected to part ways with center Peter Holland.
The Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby reports Holland's agent, Joe Resnick, said Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello intends to trade his client. Lamoriello also decided the 25 year old wouldn't accompany the club on its current road trip.
TSN's Darren Dreger said there's limited interest in Holland. He also believes the center could be placed on waivers.
Holland spent the past two seasons on the Leafs' checking lines, tallying 25 points in 2014-15 and 27 points last season. At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, he's a big, versatile forward who can skate at center or on the wing. With the Leafs bringing in younger talent this season, Holland's been a healthy scratch for all but eight games.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests the Arizona Coyotes as a possible destination for Holland. With center Brad Richardson sidelined indefinitely with a broken leg, they're in need of size and experience down the middle.
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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Patrick Sharp missed 14 games earlier this season after being concussed in a game against the Kings, and the Stars winger is back on injured reserve with concussion symptoms less than two weeks after returning to action.
The Stars have had to deal with a number of injuries this season, but there may not be another that has been quite as worrisome as the concussion issues plaguing Patrick Sharp.
For the second time this season, the 34-year-old has been forced onto the shelf due to a head injury. The announcement by the Stars came out of nowhere on Saturday, and the veteran winger has been placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 1. The worst of it all, though, is that this second stint on the sideline comes only seven games after he returned from a 14-game absence at the start of the campaign.The problems for Sharp started during an Oct. 20 outing against the Kings, only four games into the campaign.
During that contest, Sharp was entering into the Los Angeles zone on the power play, and as he looked down to settle the puck, Kings blueliner Brayden McNabb stepped up on Sharp, delivering a massive hit to the 34-year-old. Sharp remained down for a moment before getting back to his feet and finishing his shift.
Following the hit, Sharp headed to the dressing room and didn’t return, and he was out for nearly a month with a concussion. The Stars don’t know, however, if Sharp’s most recent bout of symptoms has anything to do with the past concussion.
“We don’t know whether it’s related to the previous one,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, according to NHL.com’s Sean Shapiro. “But he’s going to be evaluated and obviously he’s going to be out. It’s something we want to be real careful with.”
The concern has to be that if Sharp missed 14 games the first time around, a similar absence could be in the cards this time around, and there’s certainly the potential for him to be sidelined even longer. The nature of the injury doesn’t allow for any concrete timeline for return, though.
Sharp being out only adds to the injury woes for the Stars, too. Along with Sharp, Dallas is missing Ales Hemsky, Mattias Janmark, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Oduya.
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They sure teased us there during the first two weeks of the season. But we should have known all along that the NHL would go back to its defensive ways.
Boy, the NHL sure had us there for a while. During the first two weeks of the season, players were filling the nets like it was the Bill Clinton administration. The first three nights of this season, there was an 11-goal game, a 10-goal game, three nine-goal games and two eight-goal games. Rookie Auston Matthews turned in a record on the first night of the season by scoring four goals in his NHL debut and his team still lost the game.
Good times. Yup, good times. And like all good times, it inevitably had to come to an end. Because NHL. The orgy of scoring we saw early in the season has been replaced with what seems like a record number of loop passes from the defensive zone. And why are defensemen doing this at such a regular pace? Because trying to get the puck through the neutral zone along the ice is almost impossible.
Through the first 356 games of this season, NHL teams have scored a total of 1,880 goals. Those are real goals. The phony ones teams are awarded for winning the NHL’s skills competition are not included. That means teams are scoring at an average of 5.28 goals per game this season, which if it sticks, will mean scoring is at its lowest in the NHL since The Dead Puck Era™.
To put that into perspective, consider this: the Edmonton Oilers scored a total of 2,114 goals in the five seasons that spanned from 1981-82 through 1985-86. Even if they had recorded a shutout in every one of those 400 regular-season games, they’d still have averaged more goals per game (5.285) all by themselves than what both teams are scoring this season. Think about that for a minute.
Whatever the effect there was on goal scoring early in the season has clearly dissipated. After the first two weeks of the season, teams were scoring at a clip of 5.92 non-shootout goals per game. Since then, teams are scoring at just 5.04. As Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter recently put it, “Then NHL is a 3-2 league.” Unless it’s 2-1 in a shootout.
There were a number of theories as to why scoring was so high early in the season. Some thought it was because the 168 NHL players who played in the World Cup were in mid-season form and therefore, so much further ahead of their teammates. Another theory held that there were so many young players in the league who were not only dazzling fans with their scoring, but making the kinds of mistakes that result in goals going in on their own net. The third was that some early-season injuries to goalies were forcing a number of teams to use backups.
Whatever the case, the NHL has adapted the way it always does. Of course it doesn’t help that the NHL allows the Minnesota Wild to hack away at Johnny Gaudreau’s hand, with Eric Staal finally dealing the killing blow and breaking it with a third try, with impunity. Then you have Gaudreau’s own teammate Troy Brouwer basically saying he does that kind of stuff a lot, so all’s fair, then goes out and proves it by going after leading Calder Trophy candidate Mitch Marner’s hand with a two-hander a couple of weeks later. When these things go unpenalized, few in the hockey community point out that, you know, you’re not supposed to do that and it’s not such a good idea to target the best young players in the league. And those who do get shouted down by hockey people who claim these kids should be wearing more protective gloves to guard themselves from something that happens a hundred times a game. Well, if that’s the case and it does actually happen a hundred times a game, that tells us something about why scoring is so low in the first place.
While other leagues try to encourage offense, the NHL does almost nothing. Certainly nothing radical. It’s been more than a decade since the league reinvented itself after the 2004-05 lockout, but much of what the league has eliminated has crept back in. The league and NHL Players’ Association continue to work toward streamlining goalie equipment at what seems like a sloth’s pace. Ideas to limit shot blocking or reconfigure the goal posts so more pucks will go off the post and into the net are seen as far too radical.
Meanwhile, the goals continue to dry up. According to the Elias Sports Bureau at this point last season scoring was slightly lower than it is this season, but rallied to end up at 5.34 goals per game. Each of the past five years, goal scoring totals have been essentially identical, never going below 5.31 or above 5.34. That could very well be where we end up this season. The biggest difference between this season and last, said Bob Waterman of Elias, is that scoring didn't vary that much from Day 1 to the end of the season in 2015-16, but there was a glut of goals early this season.
The modern-day low for scoring is 5.14 goals per game in 2003-04, the season before the NHL unshackled its star players. If it breaches that number, it would hit a 61-year low (5.07 was recorded in 1955-56). Perhaps that might be enough to push the NHL to do something about it. Or not.
Corey Crawford has proven once again this season that he’s worthy of high praise, and that will make his absence hurt the Blackhawks that much more. He'll be out 2-3 weeks following an appendectomy.
Patrick Kane is leading the Blackhawks in scoring, Marian Hossa is leading the team in goals and Duncan Keith has been every bit the minute-munching blueliner he has throughout his career, but Corey Crawford has almost undoubtedly been Chicago’s MVP through the first 25 games of the season.
And that will make his absence from the lineup hurt that much more.
Just hours ahead of the Blackhawks’ meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday afternoon, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville announced that Crawford, 31, had fallen ill and wouldn’t be able to make the start, passing the reins over to Scott Darling and forcing the Blackhawks to ink local goaltender Eric Semborski to an amateur tryout in order to suit up as an emergency netminder. Then shortly before the game started, the Blackhawks announced that this won’t simply be a one-game leave for Crawford.
Instead, Crawford could be out a handful of games — if not longer — due to acute appendicitis, and he will be undergoing surgery in Philadelphia Saturday.
“(Crawford) is undergoing an appendectomy today at a Philadelphia hospital,” Blackhawks doctor Michael Terry said in a release. “We are anticipating a full recovery and return to play. We will provide details regarding the timeline of his return after we have more information about the surgery.”
While it’s excellent news that he’s expected to be able to make a full recovery, being without Crawford for any substantial amount of time could be incredibly costly for the Blackhawks. He has been spectacular once again this year.
Of the 32 goaltenders to play at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, Crawford ranks third in save percentage with a stellar .956 mark. The only netminders who have been better are Montreal Canadiens all-world netminder Carey Price and Minnesota Wild keeper Devan Dubynk, but both are only ahead of Crawford by a narrow margin.
It’s not as if the Blackhawks are exactly the dominant possession team they once were, either, so Crawford has been tested often. With Chicago ranking 11th in the league in 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage at 50.7 percent, Crawford has seen 30.4 shots per 60 minutes of action at five a side. That ranks 10th among the 32 500-minute netminders.
Darling is no doubt a passable option as a spot starter in place of Crawford, but his 4-0-1 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .909 SP are a far cry from the Blackhawks starter’s numbers. Chicago will also be set to rely on either Mac Carruth or Lars Johansson as their backup in Crawford’s absence.
UPDATE: The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reported Saturday that Crawford is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.
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