What can Vegas Golden Knight fans expect from their Year 1 roster? If they're lucky, they might end up with a player who makes an impact like these guys did.
Now that Las Vegas’ new NHL team has a name and a logo, hockey fans everywhere have begun speculating what their expansion roster will look like.
Historically, initial NHL expansion rosters have not been much to look at. They are usually pieces off the scrap heap that the rest of the league doesn’t want. However, there is usually a player that fans can gravitate to and be the “man” in that city, at least for a short time.
With that in mind, here’s an objective look at the best player from each modern-day expansion-team roster.
Pat Falloon, 1991-92 San Jose Sharks
Pat Falloon is most known as the answer to the trivia question: Who was drafted after Eric Lindros in the 1991 NHL draft? In that context, Falloon didn’t amount to much when you compare him to Hall of Famers Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, and Peter Forsberg who were all taken in the top six in that draft.
However, at the time, Falloon was the symbol of promise for the brand new Sharks. Coming right out of junior to the NHL, Falloon played in 79 games leading San Jose in goals (25) and points (59). At 19, everyone expected him to only get better. That didn’t happen as both those totals ended up being career highs.
Brian Bradley, 1992-93 Tampa Bay Lighting
Tampa Bay owner/GM Phil Esposito had no illusions about the quality of players he would be getting in the expansion draft. When he was asked if there are any superstars on the board he responded, “Are you blind?"
That’s what makes Brian Bradley’s first season as a member of the Lightning so surprising. Prior to being the 36th player drafted in the 1992 expansion draft, the 28-year-old center had been in the NHL for six years, splitting time with the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Toronto Maple Leafs, and never scoring more than 19 goals and 48 points.
In the Lightning’s inaugural season, Bradley took the NHL by storm by scoring 42 goals and 86 points. The following season, he scored 24 goals and 64 points, a step back but still better than anything he had done previous to getting to Tampa Bay.
Sylvain Turgeon, 1992-93 Ottawa Senators
It’s hard to find the best player on a 10 win team, but Turgeon was the closest to it in Ottawa’s return to the NHL. Turgeon had spent nine years in the league as a promising player with the Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, and Montreal Canadiens.
Turgeon was a known commodity in Ottawa having come over from the Habs, he was third in Calder Trophy voting in his first year in Hartford, and had all-star team votes in 1986 and 1990. In what wound up being the twilight of his career, Turgeon led the Senators with 25 goals and 104 penalty minutes in that first year and played two more seasons before retiring in 1995.
John Vanbiesbrouck, 1993-94 Florida Panthers
Prior to being drafted first overall in the 1993 NHL expansion draft, Vanbiesbrouck had already established himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Within his nine full seasons with the New York Rangers, he had a record of 200-177-47, with a Vezina Trophy and a first-team all-star nod in 1986.
When he was exposed to the Panthers and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he was easily the best player available. In the inaugural Panthers season, Vanbiesbrouck posted a 21-25-11 record with .924 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average. That was good enough for him to be named a second-team all-star and was one of the Panthers representatives in the 1994 All-Star Game.
Guy Hebert, 1993-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
The Ducks, who were “mighty” at the time, were competitive in their first NHL season due to in large part to goalie Guy Hebert. Hebert, an eighth round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 1987, only played in a handful of games in St. Louis behind Curtis Joseph before he was exposed in the expansion draft.
When the Panthers took Vanbiesbrouck, Hebert was snapped up by the Mighty Ducks with the second pick. It was thanks to his play in the inaugural season that the Ducks finished just out of the playoffs, ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers. He set career highs in wins with 20 and GAA at 2.83.
Hebert became Anaheim’s first franchise goalie stayed there for eight of his 10 years in the NHL.
Sergei Krivokrasov, 1998-99 Nashville Predators
There were other players on Nashville who had more points that Krivokrasov that season, but this 24-year-old right winger was someone they were hoping to build around. Drafted 12th overall by the Blackhawks in the 1992 NHL draft, Krivokrasov never scored more than 13 goals.
With the Predators thinking maybe a change of scenery could help, they made a deal with the Blackhawks to acquire him for future considerations. In that first year in Nashville, the Predators looked like geniuses. Krivokrasov led the team in goals with 25 in 67 games and was the team’s representative at the 1999 All-Star Game. However, he reverted back to his old ways the following season only scoring nine goals in 63 games before the Predators traded him to the Flames.
Andrew Brunette, 1999-00 Atlanta Thrashers
In Atlanta’s second coming in the NHL, everyone was excited about first overall draft pick Patrik Stefan. However, as the 19-year-old was still getting his feet wet in the NHL, it was Andrew Brunette who took the scoring mantle for the Thrashers. Brunette led the team in both goals (23) and points (50).
Brunette’s development into an everyday NHL regular was one of the lone bright spots in Atlanta as they went onto a league worst 14-61-7 record with 39 points. They finished 15 points behind the next worst Lightning.
Manny Fernandez, 2000-01 Minnesota Wild
Just like it was in Atlanta the year before, Minnesota was looking forward to an 18-year-old Marian Gaborik to develop. While he put up 18 goals to tie for team lead, the key cog in Minnesota’s return to the NHL was goaltender Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez made the Wild respectable, making sure they were in most games they played. He posted a 19-17-4 record with a decent 2.24 GAA and .924 save percentage in the 42 games that he played that season. He helped the Wild finish ahead of established teams like Anaheim, Florida, Tampa Bay, and the New York Islanders that season with 68 points.
Geoff Sanderson, 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets
Sanderson was already a known goal scorer through his 10 years in the NHL prior to being taken in the 2000 expansion draft by Columbus. He had reached the 40-goal plateau twice 1993 and 1994 in his time in Hartford and helped the Buffalo Sabres reach the Stanley Cup final in 1999.
So when Sanderson came to the Blue Jackets, he was easily their top goal scoring option. With that he scored 30 goals and 56 points in that first year and was veteran voice on the team until he was given a chance to play in the playoffs again by being dealt to the Vancouver Canucks in 2004.
How good has Devan Dubnyk been for the Minnesota Wild this season? Well, according to his coach: "If he was in Toronto, there'd be no Carey Price."
It’s nowhere on the scale of grand gestures when compared to the ‘triple low-five’ P.K. Subban and Carey Price used to do at center ice, but Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild have a rather interesting post-win ritual. At some point, Staal comes to Dubnyk in the dressing room and says, “You looked like you knew what you were doing tonight,” and the two of them bump fists. “I appreciate that,” is Dubnyk’s response. “I’m just trying to trick everybody just a little bit longer.”
But the fact of the matter is, Dubnyk is not tricking anyone. He’s playing in the best league in the world, one where posers and phonies get exposed pretty quickly. And he’s not only playing, he’s been a dominant force for the Wild this season. Among goalies with a minimum of eight appearances this season, no goalie matches Dubnyk’s .946 save percentage or his 1.65 goals-against average. His four shutouts also leads the league. With 35 saves in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night, Dubnyk was a winner in his 300th career start.
Them’s Vezina numbers. And Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who knows a good sound bite when he sees one, had a pretty bold proclamation when it came to Dubnyk’s status among his brethren in the NHL this season. “If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price,” Boudreau said. “I’m just saying media-wise. I mean, he hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any game he’s played this year. He’s held us in. It was 17-3 in shots in the third period and they didn’t get any.”
Much has been made of Dubnyk’s renaissance since he adopted a technique known as head trajectory, which in its simplest terms, is tracking the puck with your head instead of your eyes. Before Dubnyk started doing it, he was out of the NHL, skating as a Black Ace as the Montreal Canadiens fourth goaltender in the playoffs. Since then, he’s been an elite goaltender in the NHL and he’s being paid like one on the second year of a six-year deal worth $26 million.
And there might be a reason for that. The past couple of seasons, teams have collapsed in front of their nets more than ever, leaving a bunch of bodies from both teams in the way. In those instances, tracking those pucks has become more important than ever. “You have to pick and choose when I’m going to use my height to find pucks and when I’m going to need to get low,” Dubnyk said. “I think it’s more on the rebounds when those pucks do get through or if they hit shin pads. If you can look first, you’re eliminating moves that don’t seem to happen and you’re just more efficient. I always say it should look relatively boring when I’m back there.”
The ability to self-analyze quickly and adapt also helps. Case in point was the goal scored by Tyler Bozak, who pounced on a turnover, then undressed Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba before firing a backhander over Dubnyk’s shoulder. Dubnyk was clearly upset with himself after the goal, but instead of falling apart, he steeled his resolve and completely shut the door on the Maple Leafs.
“That goal goes in and I give myself a quick talking to and I realize that’s not my best way to stop a puck and move on,” Dubnyk said. “And just make sure I do it properly the next time.” And for a guy who sees the ice so well, Dubnyk didn’t notice the shaft of Mitch Marner’s broken stick in front of him for the longest time. In fact, it wasn’t until Ben Smith scored. “Was that the stick or the ice? It hit something,” Dubnyk said. “I actually think it was the ice. I’ll have to watch the replay, but it skipped hard.”
Three years ago, when Dubnyk went from Edmonton to Nashville to Montreal in one season and finished in the American League, those kinds of goals would have destroyed him. But that summer, Dubnyk signed with the Phoenix Coyotes and joined Mike Smith, who was plucked off the same scrap heap as Dubnyk a couple of years before. Then came the trade to Minnesota, then he saved their season, got a big contract and hasn’t looked in the rearview mirror…except to appreciate what he has now.
“It’s a position that’s extremely mental and when things start to pile up, it’s not a position you can play if you’re second guessing what you’re doing,” Dubnyk said. “It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for anybody. That whole year that seemed like forever, I always believed I’d get another shot somewhere. I’ve said it before, but it just allowed me to be grateful that I have a job in the best league in the world.”
The Coyotes are reportedly looking to move out Anthony Duclair, and that was the case as early as this past summer. Duclair was reportedly part of a trade offer Arizona made for Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Last week, Calgary Flames president Brian Burke publicly dismissed mounting speculation suggesting his club could be shopping defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Burke also said a club made what he called an insulting offer for Hamilton last summer.
That team, apparently, was the Arizona Coyotes. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, Coyotes GM John Chayka approached Flames GM Brad Treliving around the 2016 NHL Draft with an offer of young winger Anthony Duclair and a draft pick for the 23-year-old Hamilton. Dreger said the talks didn't go very far and doesn't know why this story recently resurfaced, though Burke obviously had enough.
The Flames might not be moving Hamilton, but NHL insider Pierre LeBrun last Friday told Vancouver's TSN 1040 that Treliving had talks about other players with several teams in recent weeks. Given the Flames' improvement over the last couple of weeks, those discussions have cooled.
While Burke's comments should put an end to the Hamilton trade chatter for a while, this story should further stoke conjecture over the 21-year-old Duclair's future with the Coyotes. He was thought to be a key part of their rebuilding program, with a respectable 20-goal, 44-point rookie performance last season.
Of late, however, there's talk the Coyotes could entertain offers for Duclair, who's managed only four points in 24 games this season. It was believed they wanted a good young player, preferably a center, as a return. Given their pursuit of Hamilton last summer, a promising blueliner could also fit the bill.
SENATORS SEEKING DEPTH FORWARD
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported last Thursday Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was working the phones for a versatile bottom-six forward. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch also reports Dorion's shopping for a forward after placing winger Bobby Ryan on injured reserve.
While the Coyotes are reportedly willing to listen to offers for winger Anthony Duclair, LeBrun claims the Senators aren't interested. That's understandable, as the Coyotes apparently seek a good young player who can help them right away. Dorion can't spare that type of player.
Another option could be Boston Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, who can skate at center or on the wing. The Bruins are apparently talking with several clubs. Spooner's $950K salary-cap hit is certainly enticing, plus he had a 49-point campaign in 2015-16. While Dorion's looking for someone to play on his checking lines, Ryan's injury might make him reconsider.
Bruins winger Jimmy Hayes could be another option. Garrioch reported Sunday the Bruins would like to move him, but Dorion could balk at his poor production (one goal in 23 games) and $2.3-million annual cap hit through 2017-18.
Garrioch also reports Edmonton Oilers left wing Benoit Pouliot could be available. He said the Oilers weren't shopping the 30-year-old veteran, but had spoken with several clubs to gauge their interest. He also notes the New York Islanders are trying to move winger Nikolai Kulemin.
Both players, however, carry rather pricey cap hits. Pouliot is pulling in $4-million annually through 2018-19, while the 30-year-old Kulemin's is earning $4.187 million through 2017-18.
A more affordable option could be Toronto Maple Leafs center Peter Holland. With a $1.3-million cap hit for this season, the 25-year-old is reportedly on the trade block. The Sens and Leafs have a recent trade history, so perhaps this could be a move that helps both sides.
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.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has thrown his support behind a play-in wildcard game for the playoffs. Holland has never had a bad idea...until now.
It’s not often, if ever, that your trusty correspondent disagrees with one of the brightest, most progressive voices in hockey. But when it comes to the notion of holding a wildcard play-in game to give one more team per conference a chance to make the playoffs, that’s where I have to draw the line with one Ken Holland.
Speaking to Gary Lawless of tsn.ca, the Detroit Red Wings GM and the man who brought us 3-on-3 overtime opined that he would like to see the playoff pool expanded to essentially have three wildcard teams instead of two. The wildcard team with the best regular-season record of the three would be guaranteed a playoff berth, while the next two would hold a one-game, winner-take-all event to decide the second wildcard team.
There hasn’t been much of an appetite for this sort of thing among the game's power brokers, thank goodness, but there wasn’t much of an appetite for 3-on-3 overtime at one time, either. Holland can be very persuasive. Not sure if he hypnotizes his fellow GMs by swinging one of his four Stanley Cup rings on a string in front of their eyes, but he has a way of getting them to come around his way of thinking. Here’s hoping they resist the temptation this time.
Here’s why. Because any excitement the wildcard race would create in the markets that are involved would be mitigated by the notion that the league is once again rewarding mediocrity. These teams have 82 games to prove they’re in the top half of the league. That doesn’t seem, at least to these eyes, to be too much to ask. A better idea would be to just give each of the No. 9 seeds a nice, shiny Participation Trophy and send them home for the summer.
Geez, Louise, don’t we have enough parity shoved down our throats by the NHL already? Let’s see, when a team is killing a penalty it is allowed, for reasons nobody seems to be able to explain, to ice the puck with impunity. And if it gets scored on, the penalized player is allowed back on the ice. Players can glove the puck ahead in the defensive zone, but not the offensive zone. The NHL has a draft to ensure that all the best players are distributed fairly. The NHL has a salary cap to prevent rich, large market teams from having a competitive advantage. Teams that lose in overtime or the skills competition get a single loser point for just showing up, which already creates trumped-up playoff races and bogus .500 teams. Someday when the league and the players can agree on it, they'll get around to streamlining goaltending equipment. The NHL awarded a trophy to the best defensive forward for more than 20 years before it decided to get around to establishing one for the league’s top goal scorer. Rather than reward excellence, the NHL has time after time tailored its rules and philosophy to bringing great teams down to the others’ level.
And this would just be another example of that. Last season, the Minnesota Wild limped into eighth in the Western Conference and lost their last five games of the season. The Colorado Avalanche finished five points behind the Wild, losing each of their last six games of the season. Wow, that would have been some game, eh? The only problem is that the way those teams were playing down the stretch, the league might have had to postpone the start of the playoffs to let them finish the game. When you take into account the 11 bogus points the Wild gained for losing in overtime and shootouts, they lost six more games than they won last season. And they still made the playoffs. That’s quite enough, thank you.
Had there been a play-in game in 2011-12, the Los Angeles Kings would have had to play the Calgary Flames in Game No. 83 of the season. If the Flames had won, the Kings would not have gone on to win their first Stanley Cup. If there had been one in 2014-15, the Winnipeg Jets would have faced the Kings and had they lost, we would have been deprived of their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks, one that went four straight, but might have been the closest, most intense and competitive sweeps in the history of the game.
Look, most teams are already in the playoff race until the last quarter of the season. Unless they’re really bad, like say, Colorado is this season. The league constantly trumpets how close its games are, conveniently failing to point out the fact that it’s only that way because nobody scores goals anymore. The NHL loves its parity, but enough is enough. It reminds me of house league hockey where scorekeepers stop adding goals to the winning team if the margin between the teams is more than five goals, as if the kids are too dumb to figure out that they’re actually losing 14-0 if the scoreboard only says 5-0. It’s all a part of the everybody-gets-a-trophy mentality that many observers think is adding to a sense of entitlement in kids that they are now taking into adulthood.
I’m not about to wade into that debate at the moment, but one thing I do know is that there’s no place for it in the best league in the world where the players are also smart enough to know when they don’t belong in the playoffs. And it’s the NHL, which stands for National Hockey League, not National House League.