"If I had the chance I wouldn't do it again."
- Islanders owner Charles Wang on buying the team back in 2000.
"If I had the chance I wouldn't do it again."
- Islanders owner Charles Wang on buying the team back in 2000.
If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need speed. And for players on their way up through the ranks, skating acumen is going to be the price of admission for an NHL job
I was having a conversation with an NHL team scout yesterday, which is one of the best parts of my job. I learn so much from these chats and not just about the draft prospects we are discussing, but of the bigger picture as well. While discussing the pros and cons of some prospects, we began to talk about skating and its place in the game today. Simply put, it's becoming a must-have.
"The No. 1 priority is skating," said the scout. "Even if your hockey sense or skills aren't the greatest, at least we can point you in the right direction."
We all know it's a fast game today and you just have to look at all the recent champions to validate the skating argument. Team Canada's World Cup squad suffocated opponents with their skating, taking away time and space at both ends of the ice – though their excellence in the puck possession department dramatically narrowed the amount of time they had to use their speed on the defensive end.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past summer thanks to a team that had speed up and down its lineup. Think about it – how many Penguins from that team would you characterize as slow, by NHL standards? Maybe a couple, at most? Meanwhile, teams had to contest with Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang, among many others.
At the world juniors, Team USA won gold with a similarly dangerous lineup, trotting out the likes of Colin White, Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic to terrify teams.
What's really interesting for me is how speed is going to change bottom-six roles in the NHL. We're already seeing it, with teams employing fewer enforcers, but how far can the concept be pushed? Roslovic might be the perfect case study to keep an eye on, because as a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, he's got a lot of talent ahead of him in the form of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. But if Roslovic, who is leading AHL Manitoba in scoring as a rookie, despite missing games due to the world juniors, is ready for the NHL leap next season, why hold him back if he can contribute from the third line? If defense is coming from speed these days anyway, it seems like a pretty nice way to get more skill in the lineup.
Tampa Bay will have a similar query to address in a year or two when prospects such as Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph come knocking on the door. All three have skill, but they can also skate and play with grit. It's a great problem to have if you're the Lightning.
What happens to prospects that aren't blessed with foot speed? Well, it's going to take them a little longer. We're seeing it with Dylan Strome, whom most of assumed would be full-time in Arizona this season. But thanks to his abundance of other talents and attributes, Strome can zero in on improving on his speed and strength, knowing that an NHL career is close. It can certainly be done, but he'll have to watch out for all the young burners out there on the fast-track while he does it.
The Caps and Pens treated us to a scoring bonanza Monday, producing 15 goals. Factoring in the current low-scoring era, was this the wildest game ever?
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins locked horns Monday night under high expectations. The two franchises have become synonymous with high-octane hockey since they debuted Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby 11 years ago. But even by this rivalry's towering standard, Monday's tilt blew us away. Slowly but surely, the game snowballed into must-see TV, stealing eyeballs from The Bachelor. The two teams exploded for 15 goals, including nine in the second period alone, with Pittsburgh pulling out a crazy 8-7 overtime victory.
Any game with 15 goals involving the two biggest talents of the past generation already deserves some hype, but Monday's game is an even more staggering feat when put into context. Plenty of excited tweets suggested the Caps and Pens were putting on a 1980s re-enactment – which is remarkable considering how different the game is today. Scoring is far rarer, goalies much more skilled. Was Monday's game thus the greatest offensive display of all-time, pound for pound, year for year, despite not actually setting a record for the most total goals between two teams?
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto St. Patricks 14-7 Jan. 10, 1920, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 12-9 Dec. 11 1985. Those two games share the team goals record of 21. Two games produced 20 goals, once in 1984 and one in 1986, and six games have yielded 19. That rounds out the league's all-time top 10. Here's a closer look, courtesy of The NHL Official Guide & Record Book:
Most goals, both teams one game
21 – Montreal Canadiens 14, Toronto St. Patricks 7, Jan. 10, 1920
21 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Chicago Blackhawks 9, Dec. 11, 1985
20 – Edmonton Oilers 12, Minnesota North Stars 8, Jan. 4, 1984
20 – Toronto Maple Leafs 11, Edmonton Oilers 9, Jan. 8, 1986
19 – Montreal Wanderers 10, Toronto Arenas 9, Dec. 19, 1917
19 – Montreal Canadiens 16, Quebec Bulldogs 3, March 3, 1920
19 – Montreal Canadiens 13, Hamilton Tigers 6, Feb. 26, 1921
19 – Boston Bruins 10, New York Rangers 9, March 4, 1944
19 – Detroit Red Wings 10, Boston Bruins 9, Mar. 16, 1944
19 – Vancouver Canucks 10, Minnesota North Stars 9, Oct. 7, 1983
Fifteen goals puts Monday night's game nowhere near the top 10, but no game from that list has occurred within the past 31 years. It only seems fair to factor in the era. The league-wide goals per game numbers of the seasons represented in the top 10, in order:
Those 10 games occurred in the NHL's peak high-scoring glory years. That makes Monday night's game all the more astounding. It occurred in a time of 5.50 goals per game, almost tripling the league average.
So what if we divide 5.50 goals per game by each of the 10 rates above, and multiply that number by the total goals in the record-setting games? The goals scored get adjusted way down:
21 goals in 1919-20 = 12.1 goals in 2016-17
21 goals in 1985-86 = 14.5 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1983-84 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
20 goals in 1985-86 = 13.9 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1917-18 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1919-20 = 11.0 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1920-21 = 12.5 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1943-44 = 12.8 goals in 2016-17
19 goals in 1983-84 = 13.2 goals in 2016-17
So, based on those adjustments, last night's 15-goal output trumped all the official highest-scoring games of all-time. If we reverse the adjustment, 15 goals in 2016-17 are the equivalent of 25.9 goals in 1919-20.
The math here isn't perfect, as I haven't applied the adjustment to the 18-, 17- and 16- goal games over the years. There are only so many hours in the day. (update: some readers have kindly pointed out the 9-8 game between the Winnipeg Jets and Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, which would take the top spot!) But we can at the very least say Monday's 8-7 barn burner was among the most entertaining and offensively brilliant exhibitions in NHL history.
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
There's little doubt Shane Doan has the character to be a great addition to a team looking to win, but we're not sure he has what it takes on the ice anymore.
It would certainly make for a great headline, and even a better story, to watch Shane Doan skate off in a sultry night in June with the Stanley Cup lifted over his head. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see one of the great guys in the game get rewarded with the ultimate prize before calling it a career?
So when Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, one of the best news breakers in the business, said on the weekend that Doan might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender, it undoubtedly conjured up a lot of sentiments among those looking for a feel-good story. No question it would be that.
But would it make sense? Well, it certainly would have last year at this time when Doan already had 15 of his 28 goals and looked like he still had a lot left in his tank. This season? Not so much. Doan has only four goals in 42 games and is playing less and certainly contributing less than he has in years. One big reason for his dip in production is his shooting percentage, which has plummeted to just 4.4 percent this season. Doan is shooting the puck almost as much as he used to despite getting about two fewer minutes of ice time per game, but is not finding the back of the net.
All of which makes you wonder whether a trade deadline deal for Doan would make any difference, either for the team getting Doan or the Coyotes. To be sure, the Coyotes would not be getting much in return for Doan. If he were traded on Feb. 28, which is deadline day, he’d still have about $883,000 of cap hit remaining, half of which could be obtained by the Coyotes. So the price to acquire Doan for the stretch run and the playoffs would not be a high one. (If you listened to our podcast, you heard me say there would be $1.8 million remaining after the deadline. Mea culpa on that one.)
But would it be a good move in a practical sense? Well, there are a couple of variables there. First, do you believe that Doan is simply having bad puck luck, something that could very well change with a new team? Or have the hands that have served him for 1,500 games and seen him score 400 goals abandoned him for good? If you’re a true contender, would Shane Doan really be the player to put you over the top?
Perhaps Doan could play on a strong team’s fourth line and add that certain intangible ingredient to a team that needs a veteran presence. But with the game going more in the direction of speed and skill on all four lines, do you really want a 40-year-old guy having to play every other night and keep up with the best players in the world? Let’s put it this way. Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but in the past couple of playoffs in which he’s participated, he’s looked older and slower and less capable of accomplishing things than he has in the regular season. If you get Doan, the danger is you might be paying as much as $800,000 in cap space for a very good cheerleader, the way Ed Olczyk was for the New York Rangers in 1994 and Denis Savard was for the Montreal Canadiens two years later. They both held up the Stanley Cup in street clothes.
It seems to these eyes that Doan might just have waited one year too long to play this particular card, if indeed he’s willing to move from the desert to be a rental. (A call to his agent, Terry Bross, was not returned.) There were so many years previously that Doan had this very opportunity and he turned it down, which might give you the impression that winning a Stanley Cup wouldn’t be all that important to him. So has anything really changed this season?
There were years, even most recent ones, when Doan would have and could have been a difference maker for a team looking for that extra piece to put it over the top. Now, though, that ship appears to have passed. As wonderful as it would be to see, it’s difficult to believe there would be a string of suitors at the Coyotes’ door leading up to the trade deadline.
Thomas Vanek is having a career resurgence in Detroit and as a free agent in July, he could be an attractive option for contenders looking for forward depth.
Left winger Thomas Vanek was a hot property in 2013-14. In a significant (and nowadays, rare) early-season trade, he was shipped on Oct. 29, 2013 by the Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders. At the March 5, 2014 trade deadline, Vanek was dealt by the Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek's stock has tumbled since then. Following two disappointing seasons with the Minnesota Wild, he was bought out of his contract last summer and inked a one-year, $2.6-million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
With the Red Wings falling further out of playoff contention this season, Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News speculates they could become sellers by the March 1 trade deadline. He believes Vanek could once again attract interest in the trade market.
Despite missing 11 games earlier this season with hip and groin injuries, the 32-year-old is putting up good offensive numbers. With 12 goals and 30 points in 33 games, he's on pace for 25 goals and 65 points. The last time he saw those numbers was during his well-travelled 2013-14 campaign.
Vanek does have a reputation for inconsistency, especially in the post-season. But with his solid play thus far, his affordable contract and eligibility for unrestricted free agency in July, he could be an affordable rental player for teams seeking scoring depth at the deadline.
If the Wings decide to put Vanek on the trade block, perhaps the Ottawa Senators will express some interest. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported last Thursday that Senators GM Pierre Dorion continues his search for forward depth. He's seeking someone who can have an immediate impact under coach Guy Boucher.
Dorion's finding the pickings slim so far in the trade market. Garrioch claims only the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche can be considered sellers right now.
While Dorion said he's not fussy over the type of forward he gets, a scoring left winger likely tops his list. The Sens are among the bottom third in goals-for per game (2.49). That lack of production is jeopardizing their chances of securing a playoff berth.
TSN's Frank Seravalli believes the Senators lack sufficient assets to land a top-line left winger. He speculates once-promising forwards Curtis Lazar and Nick Paul could be trade bait. With this year's draft considered a shallow one for talent, Seravalli wonders if Dorion might consider shopping his first-round pick.
Oft-concussed left winger Clarke MacArthur is expected to return to the Senators' lineup by the end of January. He could provide them with an offensive boost, though concerns over his health will linger over the rest of the season.
COULD JETS SHOP A GOALIE?
The Winnipeg Jets are once again struggling to remain in playoff contention in the Western Conference. Goaltending continues to be their Achilles heel. The tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have allowed 3.06 goals-against per game, ranking among the league's worst.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos observes the Jets current goalie setup isn't working. On Tuesday, they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from their AHL affiliate. Kypreos speculates they could move Hutchinson. He said the San Jose Sharks had some interest in the 26-year-old earlier this season.
The Sharks, however, seem to be making do thus far with Aaron Dell as their backup. He's won four of his six starts, with a 1.96 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Hutchinson may have more experience than Dell, but his performance this season (4-10-3 record, 3.23 GAA, .894 SP) won't tempt the Sharks.
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.