Washington Captials Tattoos
Karen Schumacher, Fairfax, Virginia
Washington Captials Tattoos
Karen Schumacher, Fairfax, Virginia
It was good start for the modern incarnation of the World Cup of Hockey. What lessons can we apply from 2016 to improve the format in 2020?
The World Cup of Hockey was what we thought it was, at least among the level-headed crowd who didn't foolishly decry the idea as a crime against humanity. The stakes weren't high enough to rival the thrill of Olympic competition, but even the grumpiest detractors must admit the hockey was good. That's what happens when you get 184 of the best players on Earth competing in the same tournament. It was impossible for the product not to be entertaining as heck most of the time.
Technically, 2016 marked the third World Cup, but since it was the first in 12 years, it felt like a franchise reboot. And with anything new comes a few bugs to work out. The tournament was fun but not perfect. I've spent the last few days pondering tweaks to improve the format in 2020. The NHL has already announced plans for a followup event then, so why not explore how to make it even better?
1. START THE PLAYOFF ROUND WITH A QUARTERFINAL, NOT A SEMIFINAL
Call it the North America Rule, and it's not just because the team was so darned exciting to watch. The North Americans played very well throughout the 2016 World Cup, beating Sweden and Finland and losing a nailbiter to Russia. The kids looked like a top-three team in the tournament and had a .667 win percentage yet didn't even qualify for the playoff round because only two teams from each group made it. That was unfortunate, especially since the North Americans, being the fastest and most unpredictable team in the field, might have given Canada its toughest test.
Next time, let's transition from the round-robin to a quarterfinal instead of a semifinal. It would feel too warm and fuzzy, however, if all eight teams qualified and the last-place finisher got a chance to upset the first-place team. Instead, how about the second- and third-place teams from each group advance to a quarterfinal while the two group winners get byes to the semifinal? Or, better yet…
2. EXPAND THE FIELD TO 12 TEAMS
The World Cup and the Olympics are different beasts, but the IIHF was still involved in organizing the World Cup, so what's wrong with duplicating the Olympics' tournament format? Let's go with 12 teams, with three groups of four in which each team plays a three-game round-robin. Under this format at the Olympics, the bottom eight teams play qualification matches to earn berths in the quarterfinal against the top four teams. Maybe a pre-playoff round is too much hockey for September, so how about the top eight teams straight-up qualify for the quarterfinal, with no byes handed out, while the bottom four head home?
And if this setup still apes the Olympic tourney too closely for your taste, not to worry…
3. DON'T JUST KEEP THE UNDER-24 TEAM…ADD ANOTHER UNDER-24 TEAM
Team North America made the World Cup must-see TV. The likes of Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Auston Matthews dazzled viewers so much that it felt like many fans were cheering for the kids over their own countries. It would be silly to scrap that idea for 2020, as gimmicky as it was. How about double down and insert an under-24 Euro team? A similar setup in 2016 would've created a squad featuring Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Nikolaj Ehlers and Ramus Ristolainen, among others. Like with Team North America, the Euros 2.0 will be allowed to draw from every nation on its continent, meaning young Finns, Swedes, Russians, Czechs and so on will have to play for this squad.
4. ELIMINATE THE CURRENT VERSION OF TEAM EUROPE FROM THE FIELD
'Team Europe' still exists in my proposed format, but only in the same sense as Team North America, as Europe 2.0 will be a young-stars squad. My timing is odd for this suggestion, sure, as Europe just reached the tourney final, legitimizing the team's concept and skyrocketing Ralph Krueger's stock as a coach. But when this tournament concludes, how many of us will look back and marvel at the way Team Europe captured our hearts and brought us to our feet? Team North America won the unofficial Gimmick Bowl. And while the Euro players have banded nicely together under Krueger, most or all would rather suit up for their individual countries. So let's imagine a group layout looking something like…
More teams, more countries represented, more playoff rounds, plus all the gimmicky fun that stole the show in 2016. How about it for 2020?
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. 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
Teams like the Bruins, Coyotes, Rangers, and Oilers will make offers for Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Here's a look at who the front runners are.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba's trade request has set the hockey world abuzz. In a statement through his agent Kurt Overhardt, Trouba claims he wants a bigger role skating on the right side of the blueline and doesn't believe he'll get that opportunity with the Jets. He subsequently said the decision had nothing to do with the city of Winnipeg, the Jets organization or money.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff responded by saying his camp will “work diligently” to resolve this matter, adding they'll have no further comment until a resolution is reached. In other words, Cheveldayoff has no intention of discussing trade possibilities through the media.
As a promising young defenseman with a right-handed shot, the 22-year-old Trouba will undoubtedly attract considerable attention in the NHL trade market. He's also a restricted free agent coming off an entry-level contract. Last December, Overhardt denied a report claiming his client sought an eight-year deal worth $7-million annually. Still, the Trouba camp could seek a long-term deal worth at least $5-million per season.
Cheveldayoff won't just give Trouba away. Given his depth in young talent on the roster and within his system, the Jets GM probably won't want a package of draft picks and prospects. He could seek a good young left-shooting defenseman or a top-six winger as part of the return.
Chris Peters of CBS Sports lists the Boston Bruins, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings as potential suitors. NBC Sports' Adam Gretz adds the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche to that list.
Potential destinations for Trouba depend upon salary-cap space and the Jets asking price. Whoever acquires the young rearguard must have sufficient room to sign him. Protecting Trouba in next June's NHL expansion draft will be another factor.
Cap space is definitely an issue for the Red Wings, who sit $4 million above the $73-million cap ceiling. While they'll get cap relief by placing Johan Franzen ($3.9 million cap hit) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) on long-term injury reserve, they'll still have to free up considerable salary to re-sign Trouba.
The Rangers ($1.4 million) and Avalanche ($1.5 million) are also squeezed for cap space. With several Rangers carrying no-movement/no-trade clauses, it's doubtful a fit can be found in New York. The Avs, meanwhile, lack sufficient depth in available assets to tempt the Jets. Having recently made a coaching change, they could be unwilling to make a significant roster move at this time.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reports the Coyotes have long been interested in Trouba and will remains a serious suitor. They have considerable depth in young assets, but only $2.8 million in cap space. While they could get cap relief with Chris Pronger and Dave Bolland (combined cap hit of over $10 million) on LTIR, it could cost them a couple of good young roster players to land Trouba.
With $5.8 million in cap room, the Bruins have some wiggle room and decent young talent on their roster (forwards David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and the recently sidelined Frank Vatrano) and in their system to make a competitive bid. However, Cheveldayoff could ask for left-shooting blueliner Torey Krug as part of the deal.
The Devils ($12.6 million) and Oilers ($8.9 million) have the advantage in cap room. Of the two, the Oilers have the edge in available young assets. Cheveldayoff could be interested in young defenseman Darnell Nurse, but Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli could be reluctant to part with him.
With lots of promising young players and prospects, the Toronto Maple Leafs could also kick the tires on a Trouba deal. Though they have only $2.9 million in cap room, they should free up over $10 million by placing sidelined forwards Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul on LTIR.
Cheveldayoff has the luxury of time to make a trade, but faces the Dec. 1 deadline for signing restricted free agents. If Trouba remains unsigned by that date, he becomes ineligible to play the remainder of the season.
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.
Team Sweden came into the tournament as a favorite to make the final. And now it's out because of the way it approached the game.
Let’s get something straight here. Sweden did not lose the semifinal game in the World Cup of Hockey because of a disputed goal in overtime. It did not lose because it failed to score on the power play. It didn’t lose because all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist dropped his stick at one of the most inopportune times of his career.
The Swedish players are heading to NHL training camp instead of the best-of-three final in the World Cup of Hockey because they decided - or probably more accurately, had it decided for them - that they were going to play chess until the third period of their 3-2 overtime loss to Team Europe. They played the game afraid to lose and that’s exactly what happened. It was a display of a dull, turgid, safe and utterly ridiculous brand of hockey given their level of talent that came back to haunt them.
And for that we should all be grateful. Even if you’re Swedish. Because perhaps the people who run the national program in Sweden will go back and realize what an opportunity they frittered by taking a bunch of thoroughbreds and forcing them to trot their way around the track. That’s not how these players play in the NHL. That’s not how they’re wired. Players such as Erik Karlsson have to go and holding them back should not be rewarded.
And it this case it was not. Had Sweden somehow underachieved its way to the World Cup final, it would not have highlighted how absolutely terrible this approach was. Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog, who told Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada after the first period that, “We kind of stood around waiting for each other,” capsulized the game plan right there. Then he added: “We’re in the World Cup of Hockey semifinal. You’re not going to give them anything just to play beautiful hockey.”
Sweden was outshooting Team Europe 10-5 after the first period, then took a 1-0 lead 2:31 into the second. Perhaps thinking one goal would be enough to win, the Swedes eventually shut it down and collapsed, sending the game into a lull of ennui that made it darn near unwatchable. And if they had won, they would have been rewarded for it. But they didn’t, so that’s a good thing. Only after Tomas Tatar made it 2-1 12 seconds into the third period did the Swedes decide they needed to play with just a little more urgency. And by that time, Team Europe goalie Jaroslav Halak had found his groove. If not for a Karlsson floater that hit Roman Josi’s stick, the overtime wouldn’t even have been necessary.
The Swedes obviously saw this game a lot differently than your trusty correspondent did. When asked why with all this talent, and a brain trust that included Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom, his team could play the way it did, Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg responded by saying he thought his team played well.
“I don’t think we were passive. I think you’re wrong there,” Gronborg said. “We need to show patience, and I think we showed patience. But at the end of the day when they’re scoring six goals against us in an exhibition game, we didn’t show patience. That’s what happens. This is a very good team we’re playing against. What we wanted to do was obviously make sure we don’t get turnovers and we don’t get odd-man rushes against, and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight. We put ourselves in a position of winning this game. In the offensive zone we don’t put reins on our players. We don’t put defensive assignments in the offensive zone. So I don’t think I agree with you there.”
Looks like we weren’t watching the same game. Nobody said the Swedes had to get all turnover happy and turn the game into a round of pond hockey, but at some point, don’t you realize you’re better than the other team and play to your strengths. The Swedes lost 6-2 to Team Europe in the final pre-tournament game and instead of using that game as a lesson on how to manage the puck better, it responding by thinking it couldn’t try anything creative.
“That’s what teams have done against them and that’s why they lost against this team,” Daniel Sedin said. “They’ve been playing a full-out attack and you can’t do that against this team. They want us to make mistakes and we played a patient game thinking it was going to pay off in the end and it didn’t. It’s easy to say after the game that we should have attacked more.”
Actually, it was quite easy during the game to say that. Anyone who was watching could see where that game was going. And the fact the way it went the way it did is a setback for Sweden, but a triumph for the game. Sweden teased us all tournament, telling us they still hadn't played their best game. They certainly didn't do that Sunday and now they won't have a chance to do it again in the World Cup.
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.