New York Islanders Tattoos
James J. Cauley, Dundee, Scotland
James J. Cauley, Dundee, Scotland
Tomas Tatar is swarmed by his Team Europe teammates.
Tomas Tatar is swarmed by his Team Europe teammates.
Team Europe looked like an awful idea early on, but Ralph Krueger's group shocked Sweden -- and almost everyone else -- by battling their way to a berth in the World Cup final.
Organizers of the World Cup of Hockey might want to get some kind of anthem together for Team Europe. You know, just in case.
Chances are, even after Europe’s 3-2 overtime win over Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey semifinal Sunday afternoon, the team with no country will not be able to beat Team Canada twice to take the title next week. But given that almost nobody predicted it would get this far, well, you never know.
Who would have thought that eight days after the tournament began, Team Europe would be in the semifinal and Tomas Tatar would score at the 3:43 mark of overtime to send it to the final? Just shows that anything can happen in this game, and sometimes does.
Give Team Europe its due credit. It was taken to the woodshed by Team North America in its first pre-tournament game, then found itself behind 5-1 to the kids after the first period of its second pre-tournament game. But since then, Team Europe has been a consistent, if unspectacular, force in the proceedings.
Against Sweden, Team Europe played the way it had to in order to be successful. It played a cautious style, waiting for its opportunities to create offense off the transition. And it worked, with Marian Gaborik tying the score 1-1 in the second period, then Tatar scoring the winner just 12 seconds into the third period.
The Swedes, on the other hand, have no excuse for the way they played. This is a squad whose senior advisors are Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom. It has some outstanding offensive talent and an explosive defense corps. And it played a style that was passive and boring and, ultimately, destined to fail. And when it happened, anyone who enjoys the more creative side of hockey should have cheered. Loudly.
During an intermission interview with Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada after the first period, Gabriel Landeskog summed up the Swedes’ approach to the game, along with pretty much everything that is wrong with hockey. “We kind of stood around waiting for each other,” he said. “But this is the semifinal of the World Cup of Hockey. You’re not going to give them anything just to play a beautiful game.”
It was anything but a beautiful game, but it was enough to send Team Europe to the final of a tournament and put itself in a position almost nobody thought it would be when the tournament started.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Hurricanes are going in the right direction, but unless their youngsters step up and they get better goaltending, the playoffs are out of the question this year.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 7th in Metro
Stanley Cup odds: 68-1
Key additions: Lee Stempniak, RW; Teuvo Teravainen, LW; Bryan Bickell, LW; Viktor Stalberg, LW
Key departures: James Wisniewski, D; Riley Nash, C; Nathan Gerbe, LW; Brad Malone, C
-Can the young defense keep it together? The Hurricanes found their form once rookie blueliners Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin took on bigger roles last year, and they’ll need to continue their ascent if Carolina has any shot at the playoffs. Justin Faulk is still the main man on the back end, but all the Hurricanes’ young defensemen have a coach in Bill Peters who believes in them. They already played without a safety net once, so they’re bound to improve. Will there be hiccups along the way? For sure. But the Canes have more work to do up front, so the defense can grow organically without worrying about hurting the result.
-Does Cam Ward have anything left? Although he showed glimpses of his old self in 2015-16, Ward, 32, also got beat up on the scoreboard just as often, if not more. Taking a big pay cut may put his mindset in the right perspective, but there likely won’t be another NHL contract in Carolina for the veteran goaltender once his new two-year pact expires. If anything, he becomes a solid mentor once Alex Nedeljkovic gets a chance to see his first action in an NHL arena.
-Who will step up at center? Jordan Staal and Victor Rask are pencilled in, but the Hurricanes need a youngster to step up, too. Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho have all played center and wing in their careers, so none can be considered a true NHL pivot just yet. Lindholm must get stronger first, while Aho hasn’t played a shift in the league, so give the inside track to Teravainen. He cut his teeth in Chicago and has the Stanley Cup ring (and scoring heroics) to prove his worth. If none works out, there’s always the 2017 draft class to check out.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
From a statistical perspective, the Carolina Hurricanes are a very interesting team. Last season they finished 11th in score-and-venue adjusted Corsi with a mark of 51.4 percent, and 29th in PDO at 98.3.
Some people are optimistic about Carolina’s chances because of those numbers. The first suggests they do a good job at controlling play, a genuine sign of talent and potential future success, while the second suggests they were a bit unlucky in converting that territorial advantage into results.
While that may be true, it’s likely that the Hurricanes are one of the few exceptions to the rule. One look at their roster and you’ll see why, as this team is pretty low on scoring talent and goaltending ability.
In net is the biggest area of concern as the team inexplicably re-signed Cam Ward, whose .915 save percentabe ranks 49th of 52 goalies who have played 2,500 or more minutes over the last three seasons. That’s not good, and one of the biggest reasons the team has consistently low PDO.
Up front isn’t much better. Over the last three seasons, Carolina has been below seven percent shooting in each season. Their last three seasons rank 77th, 88th and 81st overall respectively. Other than Jeff Skinner, there really isn’t a pure goal scorer on this team and while shot volume is great, the puck needs to go in once in a while.
Only six players on the team have an above average shooting percentage relative to their position. Two of them, Lee Stempniak and Bryan Bickell, are new additions interestingly enough.
There’s some reason for optimism though. The aforementioned Skinner is still young, as are Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask, and Sebastian Aho, three kids with offensive potential ready to blossom. Newly acquired Teuvo Teravainen should greatly help the cause too.
The D is stock full of potential too with fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin as well as last season’s breakout defensive stalwart Jaccob Slavin. With the underrated Justin Faulk as the No. 1, and the young guys ready to step up, the D-corps should be very strong for years to come.
It’ll take time for this team to become one of the East’s best, but they’re on the right path. This year looks to be another difficult one unless the goaltending situation gets figured out, or the team solves it’s scoring woes. They’ve got a solid process down, it’s time to turn it into results.
Up next: Minnesota Wild
Previously: Toronto Maple Leafs | Edmonton Oilers | Vancouver Canucks | Columbus Blue Jackets | Calgary Flames | Winnipeg Jets | Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Montreal Canadiens | Colorado Avalanche | New Jersey Devils | Ottawa Senators
The way Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand are meshing at the World Cup, it's easy to envision Marchand in a Penguins' sweater. One problem. It'll probably never happen.
There's no doubt that Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand have talked about it. They skate together in the summer and are making magic in the World Cup of Hockey. Lots of it. And with just 263 shopping days left until Marchand stands to become an unrestricted free agent, it’s never too early to start envisioning Marchand playing alongside Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After all, Marchand is the winger Crosby has never had. Throughout his international career, the challenge has been finding a winger that meshes with Crosby and that search has often been a challenging one. But here at the World Cup, Crosby, with some help from Marchand, delivered on the big stage and was the biggest reason Canada won its 14th straight best-on-best game dating back to 2010 in Vancouver and will advance to the final against either Sweden or Team Europe starting Tuesday night. There were a lot of contributors to Canada's 5-3 win over Russia in the semifinal, but it was Crosby and Marchand who provided the spark.
“That’s a long ways away,” Marchand acknowledged when asked last night about the possibility of playing with Crosby. “There’s championship games here, we got to think about that first. But we’ll deal with whatever needs to be dealt with down the road. But it’s a lot of fun playing with Sid, there’s no question about that. But for now we’ll keep that to here.”
He kept that open-ended enough, didn’t he? So let the Brad Marchand Free Agent Watch officially begin. It makes so much sense on so many levels.
Except there’s almost no chance it’s going to happen. The Boston Bruins, who must be growing weary of losing star players as salary cap casualties, seem to finally have their financial house in order. There has been an ongoing dialogue between the Bruins and Marchand all summer and all signs point toward him signing a long-term deal in Boston, likely for eight years and somewhere in the range of $6 million per season. In fact, don’t be surprised if something gets done with Marchand before the start of next season.
And that’s a good thing for the Bruins. Smart call on their part. Because Marchand’s play in the World Cup has been nothing short of brilliant with Crosby. And if he has another season in 2016-17 like he did in 2015-16, the price would continue to rise. Marchand is on a very team-friendly deal in Boston and deserves a raise of at least $1.5 million on a long-term deal. In fact, the first couple of years of that deal might be a bargain for the Bruins still.
So we’ll have to be content with Crosby, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron being a marvel for Canada. And while both Marchand and Bergeron have been terrific, Crosby has been otherworldly. When asked why Crosby has been so good in the World Cup, Canadian defenseman Shea Weber mused, “Because he’s only had a month-and-a-half off? I don’t know. It looks like he just kept skating.”
Indeed. In fact, it looks as though, at the age of 29, Crosby might actually be getting better. The 2016 playoffs will be remembered as the point in his career when Crosby channeled his inner Steve Yzerman. His impressive two-way play was the main reason he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP last spring. But when you watch him strip the puck off Dmitry Kulikov, drive to the front of the net and make a poised 1-on-1 play the way he did on Canada’s first goal of the game, it sure looks as though he may not have actually hit his ceiling. When Crosby struggled through Vancouver, and to a lesser extent Sochi, he might not have scored a goal like that one. Add to the fact that he went 12-5 in the faceoff circle and you may be seeing a player who is actually approaching his apex. It’s little wonder that Crosby and Marchand are running 1-2 in tournament scoring at the moment.
“I just think he knows how good he is and he’s more patient with what he’s doing,” Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said of Crosby. “When things don’t go well, he doesn’t get frustrated. When people crosscheck him he doesn’t get riled up. He just knows he’s going to have success over time. The other thing that happens when he plays with Toews and not on the same line, but Toews does a lot of stuff so he can do what he does. So to me that's a pretty good one-two punch.”
Crosby is part of a core group – Bergeron, Weber, Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are the others – who have been together through both the Vancouver and Sochi Games and on this team. That certainly helped Canada when it went down 2-1 in the second period and things were looking dicey for, oh, about five minutes there. Seventy-two seconds after Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Russians ahead 2-1 late in the second period, Crosby dug out a loose puck and sent it to Marchand for the easy goal.
And that Crosby vs. Ovechkin thing? Well, that’s becoming as big a rout as Canada vs. Russia, isn’t it? Crosby has bettered Alex Ovechkin in two playoff series and in international competition, his Canada teams are 4-0-0 and have outscored Russia by a 25-8 margin. “I don’t think it’s over,” Crosby said when asked whether Canada-Russia as a compelling game has run its course. “If you look at their team, they have some pretty special players, a lot of talent, a lot of skill, exciting guys to watch and it’s great hockey.”
Particularly when Crosby is playing in it.
The Canadiens could continue to shuffle their blueline by moving out Nathan Beaulieu for help on the left wing, while the Islanders are in a tough position with restricted free agent Ryan Strome still unsigned before the team-imposed deadline.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shocked the hockey world in June by swapping popular free-wheeling blueliner P.K. Subban for the more defensively responsible Shea Weber. With training camp opening later this week, he might not be done tinkering with his defense corps.
Francois Gagnon of RDS (via The Score's Craig Hagerman) reports Bergevin said he's fielded offers for rearguard Nathan Beaulieu. The Habs GM said he wasn't shopping the 23-year-old, but added it's his job to listen and evaluate offers from rival teams that could improve his club.
If Bergevin's comments sound familiar, it's because he said almost the same thing about Subban back in June. We all know how that turned out.
Beaulieu isn't on the same talent level as Subban, but he has potential as a second-pairing defenseman. In his sophomore campaign last season, he finished with a respectable 19 points in 64 games. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has upside and an affordable contract ($1 million) for 2016-17.
What Beaulieu might fetch for the Canadiens and how to replace him on the blueline are two key issues for Bergevin. NBC Sports' Mike Halford points out the Canadiens are thin at left wing beyond first-line Max Pacioretty, so perhaps Beaulieu could be dangled as bait to address that need.
One option could be Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane. His recent off-ice legal issues sparked trade speculation this summer, and the Sabres are always on the lookout for good young players. However, Bergevin will likely pass on that potential headache.
The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers have depth in wingers and need blueline depth. It's believed both clubs prefer a top-pairing puck-mover, so Beaulieu might not interest them.
Cap space is also an issue. With just over $855K in cap room, Bergervin can't afford to take on much salary in a potential Beaulieu move.
Halford also suggests promising Mikhail Sergachev, selected ninth overall in this year's draft, could replace Beaulieu if he proves NHL-ready in training camp. Placing that much pressure on the 18-year-old Sergachev, however, could prove a costly gamble for the Canadiens.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR ISLES, STROME
The clock is ticking on restricted free agent winger Ryan Strome's contract negotiations with the New York Islanders. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the Islanders policy of cutting off contract talks with unsigned RFAs when training camp opens, implemented under previous owner Charles Wang, remains in effect.
Strome, 23, has until Sept. 22 to agree to a new contract with the Isles or miss the upcoming season. He's coming off an entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit of $863K.
If Strome's still unsigned after that date, a rival club could be tempted to ink him to an offer sheet. However, Isles GM Garth Snow told Brooks he doesn't rule out matching an offer for Strome beyond that cut-off date.
Strome managed only 28 points last season, but had a 50-point campaign in 2014-15. If he's still unsigned after Sept. 22, a GM seeking a young playmaker with upside could contract Snow with a trade proposal.
If Snow is willing to entertain a trade of Strome, perhaps he should give the Canadiens a call. They're lacking depth at left wing and Strome can skate on either wing. The Habs are reportedly listening to offers for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.
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.