“Do you think I can be in the media? I can't write. Do you have to be smart?”
- Devils winger Jaromir Jagr
“Do you think I can be in the media? I can't write. Do you have to be smart?”
“Do you think I can be in the media? I can't write. Do you have to be smart?”
- Devils winger Jaromir Jagr
Despite firm denials about Dougie Hamilton trade rumors from Brian Burke, there has been a notable increase in those reports lately.
Calgary Flames president Brian Burke voiced his displeasure over “an army of leakers” creating mischief by claiming his club could trade defenseman Dougie Hamilton. He pinned the blame upon an unnamed team, threatened to unveil said team if the rumors persisted, and added those engaging in such speculation didn't know what they were talking about.
Of course, Burke did this in his own colourful way, driving home the point that his team had no intention of trading Hamilton. For his part, the 23-year-old blueliner acknowledged hearing the rumors but didn't put any stock in them.
The trade chatter surrounding Hamilton kicked around for over a month, with most of it coming from TSN and Sportsnet. In each case, the reports stated the Flames were listening to offers for Hamilton, but weren't trying to trade him.
Of late, however, there was a notable increase in those reports. Factor in some thinking-out-loud musings from some pundits believing Hamilton could be a good fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with the Leafs visit to Calgary on Thursday to play the Flames, and it's no wonder Burke and his GM Brad Treliving publicly denied the rumors.
Still, not everyone is buying it. The Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur reports that, despite the Flames' denials, there are some around the league insisting Hamilton could be had for the right price.
This also isn't the first time Burke took to the press to deny trade speculation over one of his defensemen. In January 2012, when Burke was the Leafs GM, he said there was no truth to reports he was planning to trade blueliner Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for James van Riemsdyk. Six months later, following the 2012 NHL draft, Schenn was swapped for van Riemsdyk.
That doesn't mean the Flames intend to move Hamilton. As Burke noted, they gave up a lot of assets and money last year to acquire and sign him. Hamilton has considerable size, skills and potential. It would be hasty to ship him out simply because he's taken longer than expected to reach his full potential.
Burke's comments could put all the Hamilton trade chatter to rest for the remainder of this season. Depending upon how this season ends, and with next June's NHL expansion draft likely to have a ripple effect upon the trade market, don't be surprised if Hamilton's name resurfaces in the rumor mill.
LATEST ON BISHOP AND FLEURY
The Tampa Bay Lightning could be in need of depth on their defense corps. Since Anton Stralman suffered an upper-body injury on Nov. 12, they have won five of their last 10 games and dropped four of their last five.
Even when Stralman returns, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times believes the Bolts still need to bolster their blueline. He cites TSN's Craig Button observing they lack really good No. 2 and No. 4 defensemen.
Smith notes finding such blueliners won't be easy or affordable. While they could use pending free agent goaltender Ben Bishop as bait near the trade deadline, that creates the problem of finding a suitable backup for Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Earlier this season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman indicated his preference to keep Bishop and Vasilevskiy for one more run at a Stanley Cup. Considering which teams are out of playoff contention by the deadline and which blueliners are available, perhaps Yzerman can address that issue without resorting to putting Bishop on the trade block. Rental players can usually be had for one or two draft picks.
Bishop might not be the only notable goalie available by the trade deadline. Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury's been a fixture in the rumor mill since last June.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford hoped to go through this season with Fleury and promising Matt Murray sharing the goaltending duties. However, Rutherford told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that carrying two No.1 goalies hasn't worked as well as expected. Fleury and Murray are used to starter's minutes but are now forced to split the workload, leading to some recent inconsistent performances from both of them.
Rutherford can only protect one goaltender in next June's NHL expansion draft. He told Molinari he's not feeling any urgency to address the issue, but admitted it's the one most on his mind of late.
Fleury has a no-movement clause, meaning the Penguins must protect him unless he agrees to waive it for the draft or to accept a trade. It's assumed the Pens will shop him at some point this season in order to protect Murray. That move could come by the trade deadline.
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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Two months into the campaign, some of the players who were expected to be difference makers haven’t been able to find their scoring touch. These five scorers are still looking to break through.
If you would have said before the season that the top of the league’s scoring charts would feature the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, no one would have batted an eye. Those three are the usual suspects and players expected to dominate the score sheet.
What some would consider unexpected, however, is that the Jets’ Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine find themselves in the top 10 in scoring, placing sixth and tenth, respectively, through roughly two months of the campaign.
For all the familiar faces and surprising scorers topping the charts, though, there are a handful of notable names who haven’t been able to find their offensive game quite yet.
Here are five key players still looking to find the scoring touch this season:
Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
Despite the fact he’s getting up there in age, Marleau, 37, has consistently been a big time contributor for the Sharks. He potted 25 goals and 48 points in 82 games while skating top-line minutes in San Jose in 2015-16, but this season is looking like a trying one for the veteran winger.
Through 25 games, Marleau has six goals and eight points, and he’s on pace to have the worst overall scoring season of his entire career. He’s had a decreased role this season, skating less than 17 minutes per game, but that can only be blamed so much for his lack of production to this point.
He’s still staring down another 20-goal campaign, because of course he is, but if he can’t start picking up some helpers along the way, this could be a sub-30-point year for Marleau.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
From 2006-07 to 2014-15, Plekanec, 34, only had one full campaign in which he didn’t notch 20 goals. Then his goal scoring slipped to 14 in 2015-16, and it could be headed for a new, ugly low in 2016-17.
It’s still really early in the year, to be sure, but through 24 games, Plekanec has only found twine once and his seven points put him on pace for just 24 on the year. That’s fewer points than he had goals during the 2014-15 season.
However, even if his scoring touch is falling off a cliff this season, Plekanec’s skill in his own end is more than enough to make him a valuable asset for the Canadiens. In tight games, he’s an incredibly reliable player for coach Michel Therrien to have at his disposal.
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Ryan was a bonafide sniper when he was acquired by the Senators ahead of the 2013-14 season. For three straight years, he had posted 30-plus goals for the Anaheim Ducks and only eight players in the entire league scored more goals from the start of 2009-10 to the culmination of the 2011-12 campaign. His goal scoring has dipped in Ottawa, though.
In the three seasons since becoming a Senator, Ryan has two 20-goal campaigns and one with 18, and it’s looking like it could hit new lows this season.
He has managed just three goals and eight points in 21 games, has been skating middle-six minutes and finding offense hasn’t been easy for the 29-year-old. It’s worth mentioning, of course, that he’s been hampered by a hand injury at times this season. Even still, an 11-goal pace? Not great, Bob!
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
No one would ever deny that Bergeron is one of the single most important players to his team in the league. The Bruins without Bergeron aren’t the same team, and not enough can be said about the impact Bergeron’s ability at both ends of the ice can have on a game.
That said, he’s having a tough time finding the score sheet this year.
The 31-year-old has only scored four goals this year and his seven points put him into a tie with Tim Schaller, a player non-Bruins fans haven’t likely given a seconds’ thought to all season. With the skill Bergeron possesses, his whole year could turn around at the drop of a hat, but right now he’s on pace to have a 14-goal, 25-point year. That would see him finish seven points back of his point total during the lockout shortened season.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals winger was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the 2015-16 campaign. After a 37-point rookie campaign, Kuznetsov’s sophomore season saw him post 20 goals and 77 points, good for 10th in league scoring and the best mark on a Capitals squad that features Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. That’s no small feat.
But it’s starting to seem like the sophomore slump was simply delayed until the third year of Kuznetsov’s career. Through 23 games, the 24-year-old has three goals and nine points. By comparison, he had hit the 10-point mark seven games into the 2015-16 season and he could almost do no wrong with the puck on his stick.
If this keeps up, Kuznetsov would finish the season with fewer points this year than he had during his rookie season. Not exactly the encore the Capitals were expecting.
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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.
Brendan Gallagher talks about his favourite players growing up, and the bizarre Montreal "squirrel hat."
Favorite team and player growing up?
I was an Edmonton Oilers fan. My favorite player was Mike Comrie for a bit, then it became Raffi Torres. Those were my favorite players. I was young and I didn’t know.
Who was your mentor?
My Dad, Ian, always coached me when I was young. When I was 12 or 13 he stopped coaching, but he is always someone I could talk to. He understood my game. He’s my strength coach and trains me in the summer. He’s someone who really understands me and my body. He also helps me when I don’t play well and tells me things to help me improve when I’m going through a slump.
Who did you model your game after?
I always liked watching Martin St-Louis. He’s a smaller guy that I could look up to and just see little tricks that he did. I was able to play against him a little bit as well. The thing you always noticed is how hard he competed. Never took a shift off, loved to win. When I watched him play, it stuck with me.
Memories from your NHL first game?
My first game was against Florida at home. ‘Chucky’ (Alex Galchenyuk) scored his first goal in that game. I got an assist. I don’t know how they gave me an assist on it, but that was my first point. I don’t think I deserved it, but they gave it to me. It was special to share that with Chucky. Two rookies playing together. It was pretty cool.
Best thing about being an NHLer?
The food we get on the road. The Canadiens staff treats us pretty good. Whether we’re on the plane or in a hotel, they always have food ready for us.
Worst thing about being an NHLer?
The lack of sleep some nights. After we play and fly to a new city, sometimes we get in at three or four in the morning and we have to get up the next day for practice. It’s probably the worst thing.
First major purchase after signing an NHL contract?
A golf cart. That was pretty sweet. I live on a course, so it’s easy to get around.
Most important skill to work on?
A lot of my game is being in tight to the net. So I like to work on tipping pucks. Being in tight to the crease flipping pucks in the top corner, since that usually is where I find myself. I find when I practise this it helps me in the games.
What’s your craziest fan interaction?
We’ve got a fan in Montreal that makes everyone put on this squirrel hat. Apparently when you put it on, he takes a picture. He always says when you put it on you’re going to score a goal or something the next game. I don’t really believe it. It’s a pretty gross hat. He got me on it too. I bit. I don’t remember if I scored or not, but I put on the hat.
Best advice for a young player?
Don’t get caught up in all the talk around you. Enjoy it. Everyone remembers their minor hockey days. Everyone is always looking too many years in the future. Think about your team and how you can become a good player to help your team win. Also have fun doing it.
– With Murray Pam