"If we can squeeze a few more games in with the black I won't mind."
- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson on winning their first game in their new third jerseys.
"If we can squeeze a few more games in with the black I won't mind."
- Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson on winning their first game in their new third jerseys.
Sergei Petrov swings stick at Nikita Tikhonov
After arguing a penalty call, a Russian amateur player swung his stick at the head of a referee and threatened to kill him in the locker room. The player has been banned for life and the team has been disbanded by the local hockey association.
A veteran player in a Russian amateur league has played his final game, and the last action of his career was a violent stick-swinging incident that saw him strike a referee in the head.
In a shocking video that surfaced earlier this week, a game between two Russian sides got ugly after an interference penalty was called during a contest in the Buryatia Hockey Championship, a league located in Siberia. The team in blue, referred to as “Armeec,” or Soldier, protested the call almost immediately, with the player called for the minor penalty initially refusing to take his seat in the penalty box.
As the conversation at the front of the penalty box progresses, No. 6 from Soldier, identified by Championat as Sergei Petrov, began to argue the call.
Referee Nikita Tikhonov explained the incident to Championat on Thursday, saying that it started as soon as the interference call was made. From there, Petrov approached Tikhonov, pushed the referee and asked the reason for the penalty. Tikhonov then handed Petrov a penalty for contact with an official. Petrov wouldn’t sit in the penalty box despite being told to do so, and, upset with the call, he struck Tikhonov:
“The blow was aimed at the neck and head, I (blocked it with my) hand,” Tikhonov said, according to Championat. “The stick broke on my arm. The second referee who tried to stop the blow, he broke his finger.”
Tikhonov said Petrov then threatened to kill him later in the locker room.
Unsurprisingly, the Buryatia Hockey Federation has come down hard on both Petrov and his club.
According to Championat, the league has handed Petrov a lifetime ban from the federation, forbidding him to play for any other team, and the club itself has been broken up. Several other players have been suspended — five, according to Championat — for their actions leading up to Petrov’s outburst, with the remaining players allowed to sign on elsewhere if they choose to continue playing this season.
Tikhonov told Championat that Petrov has reached out following the incident and he apologized for the incident.
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The 1998 expansion draft results.
Let's take a look back at five fairly big names that have been called at expansion drafts and how they managed to avoid ever actually playing for those teams.
Now that the Vegas Golden Knights have a name, a logo, and a future head coach, everyone is turning their attention to June's expansion draft. Who will the Knights end up with? Matt Murray? Jakob Silfverberg? Trevor van Riemsdyk? Maybe even an established veteran who waives a no-movement clause, like Dion Phaneuf or Rick Nash?
Those are all reasonably big names, and if the Golden Knights wound up picking any of them, you'd think it would make for a memorable moment.
Then again, maybe not. You see, sometimes NHL expansion teams end up taking big name players, and everyone just kind of forgets about it. That's because there's no guarantee that any player taken by an expansion team will ever actually play for that expansion team.
So today, let's take a look back at five fairly big names that have been called at expansion drafts of the past, and how they managed to avoid ever actually suiting up for the fledgling franchises that chose them.
Tim Kerr, 1991
Early NHL expansion drafts of the 60s and 70s were fairly standard. A handful of good players were picked, including names like Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Bernie Parent. But for the most part, the established teams didn't offer much in the way of talent, and the expansion franchises patched together a team with whatever they could find. That's why most of the early expansion teams were awful.
But by the time the second wave of expansion had hit in the 1990s, the new teams were willing to get a little more creative. Oh, they'd still be awful. But they realized that just because they drafted a player didn't mean they had to keep him, and it became common to see trades worked out as soon as the expansion draft was over (and sometimes even sooner).
Take the 1991 draft, for example. That was the weird expansion/dispersal hybrid that featured the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota North Stars, which we covered in some depth over the summer. The most famous weird pick from that draft was the very last one, in which the North Stars picked quasi-retired Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur because they didn't want any Quebec Nordiques and the rules wouldn't allow them to pass. But another well-known sniper was also taken that day.
That would be Tim Kerr, a four-time 50-goal scorer for the Flyers who'd been slowed down by injuries. By 1991, he hadn't put together a full season in four years. But he was still scoring at well over a point-per-game pace when he did play, and seemed like the sort of guy who could be a good gamble for a contender.
The Sharks weren't a contender, but the Rangers were. And so the Sharks grabbed Kerr off of the Flyer's unprotected list, and then immediately flipped him to the Rangers in exchange for Brian Mullen. It was a smart deal for San Jose; Mullen ended up being their second-leading scorer in their debut season. It worked out worse for the Rangers, as Kerr struggled through another injury-shortened year before being dealt to Hartford.
Daren Puppa, 1993
Here's a fun way to confuse hockey fans of a certain age: Ask them how Daren Puppa ended up with the Lightning back in 1993.
Chances are, they'll tell you some version of the same story: Puppa was splitting time in Buffalo with newcomer Dominik Hasek, then was traded to the Maple Leafs in the big Grant Fuhr/Dave Andreychuk blockbuster. He backed up Felix Potvin in Toronto for their epic playoff run, then went to the Tampa Bay Lightning in that summer's expansion draft.
Just about everyone remembers it that way. But there's a slight problem: The Lightning were already in the league in 1992-93. Their expansion draft had been the year before, when Puppa was still with the Sabres.
That glitch in the matrix can be explained by an oddity of the 1993 expansion draft: There were actually two of them. The first stocked the two new teams, the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The second allowed the three most recent teams, the Sharks, Senators and Lightning, to pick players from those two newcomers.
That's what happened with Puppa. It was actually the Panthers who snagged him from Toronto. Then the Lightning took him off of the Panthers' hands.
Fellow goaltender Glenn Healy followed a similar path, but with an additional stop. He went from the Islanders to the Mighty Ducks to the Lightning over the course of the double draft. But he didn't stop there. The Lightning turned around and flipped him to the Rangers in exchange for a third round pick.
Not too many players get to be the property of four teams within a few hours, but it all worked out well for Healy. He won a Stanley Cup in New York the next year, backing up superstar Mike Richter.
Speaking of whom…
Mike Richter, 1998
As every Rangers fan knows, Richter played his entire 14-year career in New York, debuting in 1989-1990 and sticking with the franchise until 2003. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.
That's why it may come as a surprise to see Richter's name show up as one of the picks in the 1998 expansion draft. But indeed he was, taken by the Predators and becoming an inaugural member of the first NHL team ever put together in Nashville.
For six days. Then he became an unrestricted free agent. Then he re-signed with the Rangers.
That sounds ridiculous, but what the Predators were doing actually made perfect sense. This was back when the NHL had a weird draft pick compensation rule for teams that lost free agents. The Predators knew that Richter would never play for them, but when they technically "lost" him to the Rangers, they got a free draft pick from the league for their troubles. They did the same with another one of their expansion picks, Uwe Krupp.
(By the way, that same rule led to Richter departing New York a second time, this time in a trade to the Oilers in 2002. Once again, he simply re-signed with the Rangers a few days later.)
Mathieu Schneider, 2000
In addition to being a very good defenseman for most of his career, Mathieu Schneider is one of the great "played for everyone" guys of his generation. He had a 20-year career, during which he played for a staggering 10 different teams. He was traded seven times, in deals involving everyone from Kirk Muller to Wendel Clark to Sean Avery. He got around.
So you'd assume that he must have suited up for an expansion team at least once. Nope. But he was drafted by one in 2000, when the Blue Jackets joined the league.
Schneider had finished up the 1999-2000 season with the Rangers, because apparently they need to be involved in every one of these things. He was scheduled to hit UFA status, so you can probably see where this is going. Yes, it's another one of those shady compensation pick deals, in which the Blue Jackets wound up claiming a fourth-rounder in the 2001 draft after Schneider signed with the Kings later that summer.
The Blue Jackets probably didn't mind too much, since Schneider was already 31 at the time and only had a few years left in him. "A few" ended up being a full decade's worth; he played until 2010.
As a side note, the Blue Jackets ended up flipping that fourth-round pick to the Panthers in a deal that brought Ray Whitney to Columbus. So in a sense, Whitney and Schneider were sort of traded for each other. I'm not sure how many trades in NHL history involve two players who could account for 42 seasons and 18 teams, but I'm guessing it's not many.
Mike Vernon, 2000
We'll close with yet another goaltender, since there's something about the position that just seems to attract expansion draft shenanigans. Marc-Andre Fleury, keep your head up.
By the time the 2000 offseason rolled around, Vernon had just about done it all over the course of a long career. He'd won a Cup with two different teams, been a Vezina finalist, won the Jennings and the Conn Smythe, and pummeled Patrick Roy. He had a good run.
The one thing he hadn't done was get picked in an expansion draft. The Minnesota Wild took care of that, plucking him from the Florida Panthers in a move that made everyone go "Wait, Mike Vernon once played for the Florida Panthers?"
He did, for a few games at the end of the 1999-2000 season. But he never played for the Wild. They turned around and traded him that same day, sending him home to Calgary to finish his career. Other familiar names that were picked by the Wild and then immediately traded include Joe Juneau and Chris Terreri.
As for Vernon, he played parts of two more seasons in Calgary before retiring as a Flame in 2002.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
The Blue Jackets celebrate a goal in their 10-0 win over the Canadiens.
After 20 or so games, the playoff hunt is starting to get much clearer and as surprising as it sounds, expect the Blue Jackets to be in the post-season.
Each month is an end and a beginning for NHL teams. String a few good months together and it probably means a playoff berth. A couple bad months though and it'll cost you.
Every month we like to highlight three teams that are trending up and three teams that are trending down to get a better sense of the landscape of the league. These aren’t your typical trends citing best and worst records in the league because those things can be fickle over a single month of hockey.
Instead we’ll dig a bit deeper toward each team’s underlying numbers. We've got a projection model that assesses each player’s value that’s updated daily throughout the season that can estimate point projections and playoff chances. It’s based on the past three seasons of a player’s Game Score and it’s what we used for season previews for each team. These posts are a way to check in with how teams have progressed, comparing how good they were projected to be at the start of November and how that’s changed since.
Here’s which teams are playing better and worse over the last month, as well as a look at the current projected playoff picture.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs aren’t exactly tearing up the league right now, but they’re definitely not the bottom-feeder many expected. They’re currently playing at an 86 point pace – a huge improvement from last season – but may be even better than that with a projected point total of almost 92 points. That probably seems far-fetched to a lot of you, but they’ve got decent shot rates, their goaltending is trending up, and they’ve got one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Last year’s team was a mess that couldn’t score, but when you add a full season of James van Riemsdyk plus three of the league’s best rookies, you get an offensive powerhouse. Defense is still a big concern and that’s why their expected win percentage is around .500 and not higher. Still, that’s likely much higher than most would expect and I doubt many see them just above 40 percent to make the playoffs, which they just might be.
Remember just a couple weeks ago when everyone was worried about the Predators? They’re now playing how we thought they would. They had the biggest Corsi jump this month going from a 26th ranked 47.2 percent in October to a third best 54.3 percent in November. To go along with that, they also had the third highest points percentage behind only Chicago and the next team on this list. By my model, the Predators are a top five team, an almost lock for the playoffs and a legit Stanley Cup threat this season. That’s pretty much what most of us expected from them before a slow start soured some opinions. While that’s understandable, this team should continue rolling along now that they’ve ironed out whatever issues plagued them in October.
Columbus Blue Jackets
A team that many thought would be competing with the Canucks and Coyotes for last place is somehow a top 10 team this year in points. Go figure. Not only that, they’re absolutely destroying some very good teams in the process. No one saw them being this good (and they won’t continue being this good), but I was cautiously optimistic about their chances before the season started, pegging them as a bubble team. They’ve surpassed that so far and have seen the biggest playoff chance increase this month going from 41.5 percent to 73.3 percent. What’s most important though, is that it isn’t all a transparent PDO mirage, the Blue Jackets are playing really good hockey lately. They controlled 52.3 percent of the shot share in November, a modest jump from their 48.9 in October, plus they’ve got some talented scorers and great goaltending that can out-score their possession rate, too. Columbus isn’t a great team, not unless they keep their possession rates up a bit longer, but it’s safe to say they’re at least an above average one right now.
Tampa Bay Lightning
After talking about one team lighting up better teams, we now arrive at one of those very teams. Columbus trounced Tampa Bay 5-1 on Tuesday and there was never really a point where the Lightning were really in it, getting dominated 27-13 in shots through the first two periods. The team has now lost three straight and face St. Louis and Washington next, so things might get uglier before they get better. By their expected win percentage, the Lightning dropped from an elite powerhouse at .551 to an okay playoff team at .526. Part of that is losing Stamkos, but they also just haven’t played really well either. SB Nation’s Lightning blog Raw Charge goes into this deeper here, but the basic gist is that the team isn’t dominating play like you’d expect a team with this much talent to. They were a bottom 10 Corsi team in November. That’s not a good sign, but with their roster, and Anton Stralman coming back soon, they should be able to bounce back.
I was much higher on Philadelphia than most before the season started, and that’s been somewhat justified by their consistent top 10 shot rate this season, yet the team continues to flounder with an 11-10-3 record. All of it comes down to goaltending as Steve Mason looks more like the Columbus version of himself than the one who’s given Philadelphia respectable goaltending during his tenure there. This year, Mason ranks 42nd among goalies with seven or more starts with a .898 save percentage. In the three seasons prior (this time looking at goalies with 50 or more games) he’s 11th with a .921. Up until this season, Mason has been a borderline top 10 goalie for the Flyers, but he’s looked like a sieve on numerous occasions this year. With the Blue Jackets surging, the playoffs are looking more and more unlikely for the Flyers with each passing game. Mason looked terrific in a win against the Bruins Tuesday, so all hope is not lost, but he needs to start doing that on a consistent basis for the Flyers to reach the post-season.
New York Islanders
Woof. Has there been a more disappointing team this season? Probably not, as many people had them in a playoff spot. Instead they’re challenging for worst in the league. The biggest problem here is that the losses of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen have created some big holes that none of the young guys have been able to fill yet. John Tavares is practically on his own island as the lone good forward on the team. The Islanders rank second last in Corsi this season at 45.9 percent, ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and have looked uninspired on most nights. It’s baffling that there hasn’t been a coaching change yet after their putrid start, especially considering some of the head-scratching decisions made by Jack Capuano. Among his most egregious decisions, he’s put Cal Clutterbuck on the first line, sent Ryan Strome to the press box, and placed Andrew Ladd on the fourth line. None of those moves make much sense, but the Islanders descent towards the bottom suddenly does.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
After 20 or so games, the playoff hunt is starting to get much clearer, but there’s still some teams that currently hold a spot that are likely to fall out, while the same is true for some of the teams on the outside looking in. Based on the games that have already been played, and what we think is likely to happen over the next 60 games, here’s how the playoff picture shakes out.
In the East, two teams currently in a spot – Ottawa and New Jersey – likely find themselves out of it by the time the season comes to a close in favour of two much stronger teams from the Atlantic: Boston and Florida. Yes, Florida has struggled, but they’ve had some big turnover and need some time to gel. They’ve also dealt with some big injuries early on. The next month or so will be critical in showing that the talent they’ve got on paper can translate onto the ice. In the West, everyone currently in a spot should stay that way, but there’s still a few teams that can make things interesting.
Virtual Locks (90 percent or more): Chicago, Pittsburgh, Montreal, San Jose, Los Angeles
Safe Bets (70-90 percent): Washington, Nashville, St. Louis, Rangers, Minnesota, Anaheim, Columbus, Boston
Squeaking In (50-70 percent): Florida, Edmonton, Tampa Bay
On The Bubble (30-50 percent): Winnipeg, Toronto, Philadelphia, Calgary
Fighting For Life (10-30 percent): Dallas, Ottawa, New Jersey, Detroit, Colorado, Islanders
Pretty Much Out (10 percent or less): Carolina, Arizona, Vancouver, Buffalo
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.