Steve Yzerman has stepped down as executive director of Team Canada, leaving a vacancy. There are questions to be answered before a new chief is hired, but who might be in the running?
If Team Canada is to win its third consecutive Olympic gold medal, it’ll have to do so without executive director Steve Yzerman.
The Tampa Bay Lightning GM announced he was resigning from his part-time job on Sunday, leaving a gaping vacancy. Which prompts the obvious question: who’ll take his place?
The decision will depend on myriad factors, most notably the NHL’s participation in South Korea. If it opts out, and the position becomes less glamorous, the candidate list changes.
And what about Hockey Canada’s philosophy of hiring a Hall-of-Fame calibre player as its Olympic face? Wayne Gretzky, of course, preceded Yzerman at Nagano, Salt Lake City and Turin. There are strong suggestions Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson will replace Rene Fasel as president of the International Ice Hockey Federation. If that happens, what will the impact be on the direction of the Canadian Olympic program, if any?
Assuming the NHL does go in 2018 and Hockey Canada sticks to its current template, and doesn’t turn to one of Yzerman’s lieutenant’s such as Ken Holland or Peter Chiarelli, here are five names they could consider to spearhead the thrust for a natural hat trick of gold medals.
1. Chris Pronger. A sharp, decisive mind and a student of the game. Not afraid make tough decisions. And he’s good with the media. He doesn’t have any on-the-job experience yet, but if surrounded with the right army of hockey people, he could be a strong leader.
2. Joe Sakic. Respect wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone defers to Joe. And he’s getting a sense of what it takes to manage a team as Colorado’s executive director of hockey operations.
3. Brendan Shanahan. Yes, he already has a high-profile job, but it’s one he won’t do forever, particularly given the nature of it. If he went from being the NHL’s chief disciplinarian to Team Canada, he’d be jumping out of a frying pan into another hot skillet, but one with far more appetizing rewards.
4. Mark Messier. His ascension to the ranks of upper management has been slower than expected, but he’s still widely regarded as an authoritative leader. When he talks, everyone listens.
5. Martin Brodeur. He hasn’t yet retired, but that day isn’t too far away. And he’s gone on record saying that if he stays in hockey, it’d be in a managerial capacity, not coaching. You’d have to think he’d have learned a thing or two about running a tight ship from Lou Lamoriello over all these years.
Other options: Cam Neely, Scott Niedermayer, Doug Gilmour.
2016 second-round pick Rasmus Asplund is getting valuable experience with Farjestad back home in Sweden, but he's looking forward to teaming up with Alex Nylander in Buffalo.
The best thing about the prospect world? There are very few “dog days.” The world juniors is in our rearview mirror, but here comes the CHL Top Prospects Game! I’ll be in Quebec City for the festivities on Monday, so stay tuned for coverage next week. As for bad news, while Hamilton, Oshawa and Regina make their bids for the 2018 Memorial Cup, the 2017 hosts from Windsor just found out key defenseman Logan Stanley (WPG) will be out long-term due to knee surgery, putting his participation in jeopardy. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the players with brighter storylines right now.
Rasmus Asplund, C (Buffalo): Though his world juniors ended with another disappointing fourth-place finish, overall it’s been a pretty good year for Asplund. Not only is he one of the top junior-aged scorers in the SHL, but the world juniors gave him another chance to hang out with Alex Nylander, his fellow Buffalo draft pick.
“It’s always fun to be on the same team as Alex,” Asplund said. “He’s an outstanding player and a good guy in the room, too. And now we’re both Sabres.”
Asplund was taken 33rd overall by Buffalo this summer and while it’s always fun to be drafted by the team hosting the event, the talented two-way center was getting approached for autographs the day before he was picked, giving him a preview of how knowledgeable the locals are.
“I was there for two months this summer and it’s an amazing hockey town,” he said. “Everyone is crazy about hockey so it’s going to be exciting to get there soon.”
Asplund is currently playing for Farjestad back home in Sweden. The squad is mid-table in the SHL, but for a young player with NHL dreams, Asplund is getting a golden opportunity to grow his game right now.
“It’s been a really good year for me,” he said. “I’m playing almost 19 minutes every game and in all situations, so the development has been outstanding. I’m taking steps every day.”
While Asplund and Nylander played on separate lines at the world juniors this year, they had chemistry at the tourney in 2016. And with the Sabres rebuilding and both players looking promising for the future, the two Swedish nationals could be starring in different shades of blue and gold very soon.
Mathieu Joseph, RW (Tampa Bay): It’s been a huge year for Joseph, who took silver at the world juniors with Canada. But the talented and energetic winger’s most lasting legacy may be his new franchise record point streak. Joseph has now gone 23 games without missing the score sheet, breaking QMJHL Saint John’s franchise record, which had belonged to Zach Phillips.
Mitch Vande Sompel, D (NY Islanders): I get the feeling Vande Sompel is in his element with the OHL’s London Knights. The offensive defenseman was acquired at the trade deadline from Oshawa and he already has seven points in six games for his new squad.
Daniel Sprong, RW (Pittsburgh): Injuries have devastated Sprong’s young career, so it’s good to see the kid back with Charlottetown and doing what he does best: putting up offense. Sprong has nine points in eight QMJHL games for the Islanders since returning from shoulder surgery.
Dakota Joshua, C (Toronto): It didn’t take long for Penn State to get knocked down a peg. Joshua and his Ohio State mates did the damage with two wins on the weekend and the hardworking center had four points in that span for the Buckeyes, who are climbing in the Big Ten.
2017 Draft Stars
Ian Scott, G – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): It’s not often you hear a goaltender lauded for his leadership qualities, but that’s what some scouts see in Scott, whose big frame has won the Raiders games they shouldn’t have. Scott will get a chance to show off his stuff at the Top Prospects Game.
Dylan Samberg, D – Hermantown Hawks (Minn. HS): Scouts are having a lot of fun watching Samberg, a big, mean D-man in the Minnesota high school ranks. Along with his physicality, the University of Minnesota-Duluth commit is also a great skater – further boosting his stock.
Artyom Minulin, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL): Along with forward Aleksi Heponiemi, Minulin is providing the Broncos with great value from their imports. A smart, two-way defenseman, Minulin leads the Swift Current blueline in points with 34 through 48 games.
Isaac Ratcliffe, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL): Ratcliffe showed deft hands in tight on a game-winner against Windsor on the weekend and at 6-foot-6, his mitts are impressive. The big left winger has seven points in his past eight games and leads the Storm in scoring.
Cameron Crotty, D – Brockville Braves (CCHL): A shoulder injury kept him out of the spotlight for a while, but Crotty is back and has three points in his past three games. The Boston U. commit is a puckmoving defenseman with good size and great skating ability.
2018 Draft Star
Bode Wilde, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL): There was a lot of hype around Wilde, who was seen as a potential No. 1 pick for the OHL before he committed to the NTDP. But the big defenseman has lived up to expectations, using his bomb shot and elite skating to get results. Wilde is committed to Harvard and Saginaw owns his OHL rights.
With 1,000-plus points and nearly 500 goals, Patrick Marleau has been one of the most consistent scorers the league has seen over the duration of his career. Is he Hall of Fame calibre, though?
Patrick Marleau had a third period to remember on Monday night. Less than three minutes into the frame, he scored his 13th goal of the season. Minutes later, he potted goal No. 14. By the midway point, he registered the fifth hat trick of his career, and he capped the frame off with a fourth goal with less than four minutes remaining.
Marleau’s big night made him only the seventh player 35 or older in the past 30 years to score four goals in a night, and the first player to complete the feat since Martin St-Louis managed four goals against the San Jose Sharks almost three years earlier to the day, on Jan. 18, 2014.
It was just another feat in what has been a spectacular career for Marleau, and one that almost certainly ends with him being the last player to ever don No. 12 in San Jose.
He’s the Sharks all-time leader in goals with 497, in points with 1,060 and his 96 game-winning goals isn’t only the best mark in San Jose’s history, but the eighth-most in the recorded history of the statistic. He became the 83rd player in league history to score 1,000 points, has four playoff overtime winners to his name and captured a Western Conference championship with San Jose this past season. During his time as a Shark, Marleau has also won two Olympic gold medals, two World Championship gold medals and has added a World Championship silver.
Even will all that, though, it’s hard to say Marleau’s destined for the Hall of Fame, and he might be the perfect example of a player who would earn his way into the Hall of Very Good.
This is something that was touched on when Henrik Sedin was on the cusp of his 1,000th point, but one of the biggest deciding factors for the Hall of Fame can’t be points alone. There’s a multitude of reasons why that’s the case, but chief among them is that past scoring skews exactly how great a point-scorer some players were and that scoring alone shouldn’t constitute what a Hall of Fame calibre player looks like. Rather, there should be something discernible to show the player was, at one time or another, among or atop the very best players in the game.
For a player such as Sedin, he has the individual awards to prove his dominance. He won both the Hart and Art Ross Trophies during his fantastic 2009-10 campaign, and Daniel Sedin following up with an Art Ross of his own to go with the Lester B. Pearson Award is why he’s deserving to join his brother in the Hall of Fame one day. That’s not to mention that both Sedins were adjudged league All-Stars at season’s end in both 2009-10 and 2010-11.
For Marleau, individual accolades have been hard to come by. He didn’t capture the Calder as a rookie, his best finish in Hart voting was ninth-place in 2009-10, he came in eighth place in Selke voting that same season and he’s twice been the second runner-up for the Lady Byng. And while he’s represented the Sharks at three All-Star Games, he’s never been an end-of-year All-Star, though he came close in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2013-14.
If a player doesn’t have the individual accomplishments, then sometimes it can be the team accolades that put them over the top in Hall of Fame contention. Everyone knows how that has gone in San Jose, though. Marleau has always been a fixture of the Sharks and one could argue a few of those teams were as true as title contenders come. The results were never there, though. All Marleau has to show in terms of team achievement is a Western Conference championship. That could change before Marleau hangs up his skates, but will that combined with his points even be enough?
Even if you wanted to debate Marleau’s Hall of Fame merits on points, it’s hard to see what would put him over the top. There are 31 players in the 1,000-point club who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, including eight active NHLers: Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Patrik Elias, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Sedin and Marleau. Of the 31 non-Hall of Fame 1,000-point players, Marleau ranks 30th in points per game, ahead of only Dale Hunter. When using Hockey-Reference’s point adjustment figures to help even out the change in scoring across eras, Marleau’s points per game only rises to 23rd, ahead of players such as Rod Brind’Amour, Brian Propp, Dave Andreychuk and Pat Verbeek.
And compared to the 1,000-point players, which includes both active and retired players who are no-doubt Hall of Famers like Jagr, Selanne and Ovechkin, Marleau sticks out. 26 of the 31 players have at least one or some combination of an end-of-year All-Star nod, individual award or Stanley Cup. Hunter, Propp, Bernie Nicholls and Jeremy Roenick are the retired players without any of the three, and among active 1,000-point scorers, Marleau is the only one who fails to check that box.
Marleau deserves to see his jersey retired in San Jose someday and he’ll go down as one of the greatest Sharks in franchise history. And when it comes to the Hall of Fame, Marleau might be close, but he’s not quite there.
A look at the latest speculation surrounding Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, and which teams might be a fit.
The Colorado Avalanche may be struggling at the bottom of the NHL standings, but they continue to dominate the NHL rumor mill. As usual, center Matt Duchene and left winger Gabriel Landeskog are the focus of trade speculation. On Tuesday, TSN unveiled their trade board for the March 1 deadline, with the 26-year-old Duchene topping the list and Landeskog, 24, coming in at No. 5.
Appearing on Edmonton's 630 CHED last Thursday, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the asking price for Duchene, a 30-goal scorer last season, is higher than for Landeskog. However, he can see a team that thinks it can win this season pursuing Duchene.
Friedman also said he hasn't heard many rumors involving Colorado's puck-moving defenseman Tyson Barrie. As the Avs need to bolster their blueline, he feels it doesn't make sense to trade the 25-year-old.
Avalanche GM Joe Sakic reportedly seeks a good young defenseman as part of the return for Duchene or Landeskog. That type of deal won't be easy to find this season. NBC Sports' Jason Brough observes a high number of teams are also in the market for young blueliners. There aren't many available and teams carrying those assets will set high prices for them.
Recent trade chatter links Landeskog to the Boston Burins. It was thought the Bruins were unwilling to part with rookie rearguard Brandon Carlo, but Bleacher Report's Adrian Dater claims the 20-year-old could be available after all. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty thinks it would be a big mistake by the Bruins to swap Carlo for less than a genuine superstar.
Last weekend, the New York Post's Larry Brooks suggested New York Islanders GM Garth Snow should offer up blueliner Nick Leddy as part of a deal for Duchene or Landeskog, Brooks felt that move could provide the Isles with a significant boost.
Leddy, 25, is under contract through 2021-22 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. Sakic, however, could have his eye on younger options.
The Montreal Canadiens need depth at center. TSN's Frank Seravalli thinks Habs GM Marc Bergevin could be interested in Duchene, though a deal of that nature probably wouldn't happen until the off-season. However, the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey questions if Bergevin can afford the high asking price for either Avs star.
Are the Canadiens willing to sacrifice promising 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in a package deal for Duchene? With 38-year-old blueliner Andrei Markov's career winding down, moving his possible replacement is a risky notion.
Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is shopping around for a forward. Seravalli's colleague Bob McKenzie believes Dorion could have interest in Duchene or Landeskog. Given the Sens need for scoring depth at left wing, McKenzie speculates Landeskog could be Dorion's preference. However, he guesses the asking price for either player is too high.
Dorion could be asked to part with 23-year-old Cody Ceci as part of the return for Landeskog. That would be a deal breaker for the Sens GM.
The Carolina Hurricanes could be the best fit as a trade partner for the Avalanche. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson notes they have plenty of depth in good young defenseman, are in need of scoring punch and possess the salary-cap room to take on Duchene or Landeskog.
If Sakic is talking with Hurricanes GM Ron Francis, they're keeping those discussions well below the radar. With the Hurricanes jockeying for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, Francis could be unwilling to engage in a major roster shakeup.
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.).
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
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.