Saturday, August 30, 2014

Binghamton Senators unveil new jerseys


The Binghamton Senators announced new jerseys for the upcoming season on Saturday.


The Ottawa Senators top farm club made the announcement during its’ annual open house at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.


The jerseys aren’t too different from the ones worn during the 2013-14 season, but now feature red under the arm on both the home and road jerseys. An Ottawa Senators patch is on the right shoulder.


Have a look:


Binghamton will look to qualify for the playoffs for a third consecutive year this season. In 2011, the AHL club won the Calder Cup defeating the Houston Aeros in six games.



Friday, August 29, 2014

(Very Short) Bridge Deal for Schultz… one year, $3.7M

























August 29, 2014, 1:31 PM ET [101 Comments]








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Justin Schultz scored pretty big in his new deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Not only does he get a raise from his entry-level specified deal to $3.675 million, it's only a one-year deal so he's got the ability to go looking for an even bigger raise as a restricted free agent again next summer.

In announcing the extension, Craig MacTavish said Schultz has "Norris Trophy potential". I'm not sure I entirely buy that. Yes, he's a tremendous offensive talent. Yes, defensemen tend to take a couple years longer than forwards to fully develop as pros. Even so, Schultz is already 24 years old and still has a LONG way to go, especially in the defensive aspects of the game, before he'd be considered any sort of realistic candidate to be chosen as the best defenseman in the NHL.


At any rate, there is no doubt the Oilers will be building their blueline around Schultz and (soon) Darnell Nurse in the years to come. It's equally certain that Schultz has some HUGE figures already in mind for his next contract and will get them if he has a good season.


More to come...



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Puck Headlines: Minnesota goalie controversy; women’s hockey fancy stats; Sarich on crash


Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.




NECA created this Jason Vorhees figure based on the weird not-very-classic "Friday The 13th" NES game. This November, you can buy the mask. [Dread Central]


A classic Earl Sleek cartoon in honor of the NHL an its officials trying to work out a new deal. [John Shannon]


Craig MacTavish on the Justin Schultz deal: “I think that Justin has Norris Trophy potential and I don’t think there are too many people who disagree with me in that regard.” Aca-scuse me? [Cult of Hockey]


Interviewing the man behind an advanced stats site that aims to be the Extra Skater of women’s hockey. [Hockey Wilderness]


Goalie controversy in Minnesota! [ND Goon Blog]


Really interesting piece on Alex Ovechkin, Putin and Ukraine. We'll have a take on this soon. [RMNB]


Cory Sarich opens up again his bike accident. "I have so much to be thankful for, it's crazy. It's amazing how an accident like this puts things in perspective.” [Denver Post]


Former Edmonton Oilers goalie and Portland Pirates assistant coach Michael Minard was sentenced to two months in jail after pleading no contest to a charge of sexual misconduct with a 13 year old girl. “He sent her information about the girls he had been involved with and sexual acts he performed with them, the report said. He asked her for pictures with less clothes on, and she sent several of her in her underwear and of her covering her breasts with just her hands, according to Detective Gerry Lincoln of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. She told police Minard sent her a photo of his genitals and said the texts became more sexual in nature after that.” [Bangor Daily]


Here’s an “NHL 15” demo review. Spoiler: It’s awesome. [Examiner]


The only thing the Dallas Stars have to fear are these things. [Defending Big D]


Jeremy Morin is in make or break territory for the Blackhawks. [Second City Hockey]


Can Pekka Rinne find his form again for the Preds? [On The Forecheck]


Leafs legend Dave Bolland is getting his number retired. By the London Knights. [LFP]


Finally, here’s a DIY hockey rink constructed by the mad geniuses at Cottage Life.




Report: Moore-Bertuzzi lawsuit removed from court docket


We still haven’t heard from Steve Moore’s camp on an agreement reached in the Moore-Todd Bertuzzi lawsuit, but further signs the two sides are close were reported by TSN’s Rick Westhead Thursday.


According to Westhead, the two sides are currently negotiating the terms of a confidentiality agreement. In his report, Westhead says even if there were issues with coming to terms on a confidentiality agreement, an arbitrator would step in.


The trial was scheduled to be heard in Ontario Superior Court beginning Sept. 8.


Related: Report: Moore, Bertuzzi still negotiating confidentiality pact



Video: Bruins participate in commercials to promote NHL 15


Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is the EA Sports NHL 15 cover boy and this week the video game company released a couple hilarious commercials to promote the game.


Bergeron and teammate Brad Marchand participated in the commercials, which were released over the last two days.


In his commercial, Bergeron reads poetry professing his love for the game of hockey while Marchand sings a ballad describing his addiction for the game.


Have a look:


Bergeron beat out Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban for the honor.


The video game is due out next month.



Did Edmonton cave on Justin Schultz’s 1-year deal?



Mar 20, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz (19) skates with the puck against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Rexall Place. Buffalo Sabres won 3-1. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)



Guest blogger: Sioux … who are the Rangers’ best prospects?


(Editor’s note: Sioux didn’t offer this up as a guest blog, but rather as a topic of conversation. I thought it was a terrific topic, and as I started to try to write the post, thought, what the hell? Why not just use Sioux’s e-mail as a post? So I did. Good job, Sioux!)


(Also: Now’s the time to volunteer for guest blogs. We’ve got about three weeks before camp opens and plenty of days of chatter to fill. Drop me an email at rcarpini@lohud.com).

Who are your TOP Prospects for the Rangers? If you look at the names that are signed, the Rangers have 37 prospects out of the 50 contracts.


Has the competition ever been this deep before, for the prospects coming into this preseason. Ten or more could skate for a Blueshirt on opening night. Take a look at the list – the cupboard is stocked! How do you rank them? The next in line to make the team (i.e. Miller), or their “Top Potential” even if it takes years to get there (Duclair/Buchnivich) ?


This year all eyes are on Miller. Is this the year he makes the team as a starting center? Who replaces Richards as a center for Marty St. Louis & Hagelin’s line? AV called him out last year, he needs to be more of a PRO on and off the ice. Nothing will be handed to him. You almost have to give him the No. 1 prospect number coming into this year as the most watched prospect, with No. 2 going to Hayes after all the hype in signing him.


If Miller isn’t ready you would think Oscar Lindberg has to be right on his heels. After leading the Wolfpack in scoring last year and the Sweden elite league MVP the year before. Could this “horse race” be any closer? Or does Lombardi steal the spot out of camp?New York Rangers v Edmonton Oilers


I’ll group the next three together. Kevin Hayes, Ryan Haggerty, Danny Kristo, all played four years in college. All can score. Hayes & Haggerty signed for two years, and Kristo for another year then a RFA. Hayes comes in with all the hype over the summer, as the second coming of THE KREIDER. He sure looks like he’s built for the NHL. He played on the best line in college last year, and was up for the Hobey Baker Award. His linemate Johnny Gandreau won the award. Some thanks would have to go to Hayes, right? This reminds me when Ryan Duncan won the award in 2007, playing on the same line with Toews & Oshie. Ryan has to share that award with T.J & Johnny.


The next two prospects that will help the Rangers, that should be in your Top 10 would be Anthony Duclair & Pavel Buchnivich. At 19 years of age when do they start to get real consideration, next year? Or will they have to go through the “Pack PRO-cess” first? THE DUKE put up 99 points last year, tells me he’s ready to play AHL minutes right away. Buchnivich is really an unknown outside of the games he’s played against team USA, so it’s tough to judge how close he is to playing for the Rangers.


McIlrath and Connor Allen lead the way on the Blueline for the Wolfpack. Allen with 31 points, and McIlrath with 17, I’m not sure who is ahead of who here. Both have different jobs on the Wolfpack. I could see McIlrath getting minutes if the Rangers need toughness. If there is a weakness on the team it will be the lack of GRIT & JAM to use a few of Wicky’s words.


Dan Boyle, Lee Stempniak and Tanner Glass were signed to fill in the voids from last year’s departures. Boyle will help the Power Play, Stemp could ride shotgun to D. Moore, and Glass is the Grit that replaces Dorsett/Carcillo.


Matthew Lombardi & Chris Bourque are a couple of vets that will be role players if needed. But Bourque is only 28 he isn’t considered a prospect, but its hard not to like his numbers in the AHL 26-66 for 93 pts in 2012 and getting 51 NHL games the last 5 years.


Rumors of Ryan Malone getting a PTO, does he steal a spot from someone above?


How would you rank the prospects if you had to give them a number?


1- MillerIHOCKEY-WORLD-USA-SUI

2- Hayes

3- Fast

4- Lindberg

5- Kristo

6- Allen

7- McIlrath

8- Skjei

9- Duclair

10- Buchnivich


Perhaps Skjei, The DUKE, & Buch could have a higher prospect number, but they won’t be in lineup to help the Rangers THIS year.


How would you rank them?


—Sioux


Photos by Getty Images.



With Ott gone, who will be Buffalo’s next captain?


Since the start of 2013, three different players have worn the ‘C’ in Buffalo — Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott — and they have all been traded. That’s created something of a leadership vacuum for the Sabres going into the 2014-15 campaign.


Fortunately, there have some candidates to fill that void.


Perhaps the most obvious player is Brian Gionta, who inked a three-year, $12.75 million contract with Buffalo over the summer. The 35-year-old doesn’t have experience within the Sabres’ organization, but he has a strong resume after serving as the Montreal Canadiens’ captain and winning the Stanley Cup.


He could prove to be a mentor for the young Sabres and aide them in their rebuilding efforts. After his tenure with Buffalo ends, the team could then hand the captaincy to one of the young forwards that’s established himself and symbolically complete the transitional period at that time.


The Sabres might also opt to go with a younger option to put the focus more squarely on their future. Tyler Ennis, for example, is an interesting choice. He’s just 24 years old (25 in October), but already has 267 NHL games under his belt. On top of that, he’s starting a five-year, $23 million contract this season, so he’s someone that will be around for the rest of Buffalo’s rebuild and then still be young enough to lead them once the Sabres are on the other side of it.


Ennis plans to learn from Gionta and the other veterans on the team, but he also recognizes that at this point he should take on more responsibilities in the locker room.


“It’s time for us (Ennis and Tyler Myers) to take over now,” Ennis said, per team’s website. “It’s a good balance of older guys, middle guys ready to take over and lot of great young kids coming up.”


Another option is for the team to pass on naming a captain this season. As a rookie, Sam Reinhart isn’t expected to take on that role, but the 18-year-old is, as Flames president Brian Burke put it, an “Einstein on the ice” and might be a serious candidate in a year or two if everything goes right. On top of that, if Buffalo has a bad season, it could end up drafting a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.


Would it make sense for the Sabres to leave the position vacant for now in the hopes that one of their promising young players will claim it? That’s up to head coach Ted Nolan, but he certainly has a few interesting paths he could take.



Johnston: Teammates need to do more to help Crosby


Sidney Crosby is the reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, but whether or not the Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup in 2014-15 will depend on far more than just his performance.


New Penguins head coach Mike Johnston seems to think that Crosby has done his part to make the team a success and it’s up to his teammates to do more to help him out.


“You don’t ever question his work ethic,” Johnston told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You don’t ever question his commitment. For a guy his age coming into the NHL and carrying the load that he’s carried, I believe he’s done a phenomenal job.


“Do we have to lessen the load? Yes. We have to ensure that other players on our team take some of the responsibility off his shoulders — both in leadership and also in performance. He is a captain, and he is a leader, but it doesn’t all rest on Sid.”


Crosby obviously isn’t the only major offensive threat in Pittsburgh, but the team’s balance has been put into question. GM Jim Rutherford has attempted to address that with the acquisitions of Steve Downie, Nick Spalling, and Patric Hornqvist. If Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett can stay relatively healthy this season after missing large chunks of 2013-14, then the Penguins’ depth might be less of an issue going forward.


Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that this team is incredibly dependent on Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They can’t win the Cup by themselves, but Pittsburgh will have a very hard time staying competitive if those two aren’t at their best.



Fanspeak: Dominik Hasek voted greatest Sabre in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series .


Buffalo Sabres


1. Dominik Hasek (1449)


2. Pat LaFontaine (549)


3. Gilbert Perrault (528)


Although he is no longer a member of the squad, Ryan Miller provided the Sabres with superb goaltending for years. Before his era though, the Sabres had an even better goalie playing between the pipes. That’s not a knock on Miller, but few netminders in the history of the game can compare to Hasek.


The Chicago Blackhawks took him in the 10th round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t make the transition to North America until 1990. By the end of the 1991-92 campaign, Hasek was 27 years old and had only played in 25 NHL games. Chicago already had Ed Belfour so they sent Hasek to Buffalo in exchange for Stephane Beauregard and a fourth round draft pick (which became Eric Daze).


It was in Buffalo that Hasek made a name for himself as he led the league in save percentage an incredible six straight seasons from 1993-94 through 1998-99. He won the Vezina Trophy in five of those six campaigns and claimed it again in his final season with Buffalo (2000-01).


Although he was never able to win the Stanley Cup with the Sabres, he gave it his all, posting a 1.77 GAA and .939 save percentage in 19 games in Buffalo’s 1999 trip to the Stanley Cup Final.


The Sabres later traded him to the Red Wings and he went on to win two championships with them while staying competitive well into his 40s, but there’s no question that he was at his peak during his tenure with Buffalo. He earned the nickname The Dominator, which is appropriate because no goalie could match him while he wore a Sabres’ jersey.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

AHL gets drug testing program; Szabados re-signs in SPHL; Kesler wears short-shorts for ALS (Puck Headlines)


Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.


• Nicklas Backstrom finally received his silver medal from the 2014 Olympics. Backstrom was set to go for Sweden in the gold medal game against Canada until he was disqualified by testing positive for a banned substance - Zyrtec D. It's an allergy medication. [RMNB]


• Third and final part of BSH's interview with Flyers GM Ron Hextall. They talk fancy stats, importance of the AHL team, and Hextall's relationship Chris Chelios (after fighting him years ago). [Broadstreet Hockey]


• More Flyers: new center Ryan White tore his left pectoralis muscle in an off-season workout, and underwent successful surgery. There is no timetable for his return. [Philadelphia Flyers]


• The AHL is implementing a drug testing program, and it will be administered by the same folks who run the NHL's program. Guess the 'honor system' is no longer good enough in the minors. [ProHockey Talk]


• Last year Team Canada goalie Shannon Szabados made headlines by becoming the first female to play in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Szabados has been re-upped by her team, the Columbus Cottonmouths, for another season. [Columbus Cottonmouths]


• USA Hockey was not pleased that its logo was featured in a campaign ad for U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden (R-MN). The ad has since been removed. [Star Tribune]


• Here's a list of the Top 5 Overrated NHL Players as ranked by THW. Surely the list won't enrage anyone at all. [The Hockey Writers]


• Sportsnet fills out its talent lineup for the upcoming season with familiar names from CBC. Rogers gigantic television deal with the NHL caused a huge shakeup within Canadian sports media; most notably, taking away control of the iconic brand Hockey Night in Canada from CBC. [Kukla's Korner]


• If anyone says you're on the computer too much, just tell them you're brushing up on your goalie skills. You see, goalie coaches aren't readily available in beautiful San Diego, California. So, Team USA (U18) and Boston College goaltender, Thatcher Demko, who comes from the classiest city in the world, used the internet and DVDs to refine his talent. [World Junior 2015]


• Put as much stock into this as you'd like, NBC's Dan Patrick talks relocation (Carolina and Arizona), and expansion of the NHL. Big fan of DP, but hockey is not something he covers often on his simulcast morning show. [ProHockey Talk]


• To keep the expansion circus going, here's a look at the arenas teams could play in. [Sports Illustrated]


• Pundits keep telling Jets players they're going to be crappy this season. Captain Andrew Ladd hears all the talk and hopes the team uses it to their advantage, "I think as a group we can use it as motivation to tell each other that no one's really giving us a chance and there's nothing wrong with that." [Winnipeg Free Press]


• Five questions facing the Kings this season, and their captain is one of them. [NHL]


• NBC Sports group will air 25 college hockey games this season on TV and through other media outlets. Notre Dame has 12 games on the broadcast schedule. This shouldn't be a surprise given NBC's relationship with the ND football program. [Broadway World]


• Sonny Milano was drafted by the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) in 2012, and he'll be joining them this upcoming season after de-commiting from Boston College. There has been speculation that Columbus, who drafted Milano in 2014, would be inking an entry-level deal to join the big club, but it turns out he hasn't even been approached by the Jackets. [MiHockeyNow]


• Scott Gomez won't be the only aging vet looking to The Lou for work in the fall, Tomas Kaberle is likely to tryout at Devils camp as well. Kaberle spent last season in the Czech League. [Fire and Ice]


• Finally, it's a few days old, but here is new Anaheim Duck Ryan Kesler taking the ice bucket challenge. It is not only awesome, it is slightly NSFW if your work discourages men in tight, short shorts. [YouTube]




Poll: Will the Sabres surprise critics this season?


We already talked about why the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche aren’t the best analogy for the 2014-15 Sabres, but that alone doesn’t mean that Buffalo can’t surprise its critics.


If some of their young players breakout, if Ted Nolan can get everyone on the same page in his first full season as the team’s head coach, if Tyler Myers starts playing like the guy they thought they had when he won the Calder Trophy in 2009-10, then they might start to turn some heads.


Sure, that’s a lot of ifs and arguably one of the biggest factors working against Buffalo is that its entering the season with far too many unknowns. Every team has question marks going into training camp, but the Sabres seem devoid of reasonably safe bets.


On top of that, they were so bad last season that it would be a substantial step forward for them to even finish in 29th place. Still, with expectations at rock bottom and a young core full of players eager to prove themselves, could they end up turning some heads by at least being competitive in the battle for a playoff spot?



Ryan White has surgery on pectoralis muscle


Ryan White‘s plans to compete for a roster spot with the Philadelphia Flyers during training camp have been hampered after he injured his left pectoralis muscle while training last week.


He had surgery as a result and there’s no timetable for his return, per the team’s website.


The 26-year-old forward agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month. The deal is worth $575,000 annually if he plays in the NHL.


White had two goals, six points, and 50 penalty minutes in 52 games in Montreal Canadiens. He has 17 points and 232 penalty minutes in 141 career contests.



Under Pressure: Mikhail Grigorenko


Mikhail Grigorenko is just 20 years old so it’s unfair to expect the world of him, but at the same time this should be a very important season from his perspective.


The Buffalo Sabres’ attempts to bring him to the NHL before he was arguably ready has created a situation where he’s already in the final season of his entry-level contract despite the fact that he’s played in just 43 games. The other way of looking at it is that Grigorenko has failed to live up expectations thus far despite being given multiple chances to prove himself in the NHL after being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.


“From past experience I realized it’s probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL,” Grigorenko said in July. “If I want to play in the best league in the world, it’s just on me. No one’s going to make me play just because I was drafted in the first round. I just have to go out there and be the best.”


It is worth adding that Grigorenko has continued to show plenty of potential when he’s played in the QMJHL even if his performance with the Sabres has left something to be desired.


Although the Sabres are focused on the future and are therefore structured to provide young players with opportunities, Grigorenko is far from a lock to make the opening game roster. The silver lining is that he can now be sent to the AHL, which will give him a chance to gain experience playing against men so that he’s better prepared to eventually make the leap.


So this isn’t a make or break campaign for Grigorenko, but because his contract’s expiring, the difference between a breakout season and one where he’s stuck in the minors could be huge for him financially. Additionally, with Sam Reinhart looking to make an impact this season and the possibility that the Sabres will get another top forward prospect in the 2015 draft, Grigorenko might start to find himself becoming a smaller factor in the Sabres’ plans if he doesn’t establish himself in the not too distant future.



Is Colorado’s rise a fair example of what might happen in Buffalo?


The Buffalo Sabres are frankly expected to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2014-15. It’s easy to see why: They’re a rebuilding club coming off of a season where they posted a 21-51-10 record. They could have added six wins last season and still finished in last place. For that matter, they could have scored 37 more goals and still ranked 30th offensively.


The short-term situation is so bleak that there are Sabres fans rooting against their team as they’ve already abandoned hope of them being competitive next season and just want them to be able to draft a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.


Chris Stewart, who came to Buffalo from St. Louis in February as part of the Ryan Miller trade, doesn’t want the fanbase to write the Sabres off.


“Look at the Colorado Avalanche two years ago,” Stewart recently said. “They were a last-place team, and they were arguably one of the best teams in the league last year. So the past is the past. You look at our team now and there are 13 or 14 new faces. So we come in and think of last year as an anomaly.”


Of course you’d be hard pressed to find a player that wants to lose or, for that matter, one that is going to paint anything other than an optimistic picture going into the season, but does Stewart have a point? Does Buffalo have a chance to follow in Colorado’s footsteps?


Let’s move past the obvious answer, which is: Of course. Anything can happen, so obviously there’s a chance that Buffalo will make the playoffs. But is it a big enough one to give Stewart’s argument validity?


Well, first off, he is correct that the team will look very different than the one that opened the 2013-14 season, which right off the bat actually makes this story a lot different than the one in Colorado. The Avalanche team that surprised the hockey world in 2013-14 wasn’t substantially altered from the one finished with a 16-25-7 record in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign.


Additionally, different isn’t automatically better. The Sabres have lost Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek for example and you can make an argument that no one on their current roster is better than those two players — at least not yet as some of their youngsters have high ceilings.


A few things did change in Colorado though. Patrick Roy took over as the team’s head coach and, in addition to giving them new hope, he joined goalie coach Francois Allaire in helping Semyon Varlamov take a huge step forward. Varlamov was at the center of the Avalanche’s success as they were bombarded with shots all season and relied on him to stand tall.


Meanwhile, Buffalo struggled largely in spite of Miller’s goaltending last season so while the new combination of Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth might prove to be solid, the single biggest change that bolstered the Avalanche wouldn’t have quite the same effect on the Sabres.


What Buffalo needs is for its defense to improve, but more than that, they need someone to find the back of the net. Colorado saw its offense improve in part thanks to a strong rookie season from Nathan MacKinnon and while the Sabres have some promising young forwards that might step up, they have a far bigger gap to overcome.


The Avalanche’s offense wasn’t great in the lockout shortened campaign, but Buffalo’s offense last season was statistically the worst of the 21st century.


It’s that gap that will be difficult for the Sabres to overcome in a single campaign. They do have some noteworthy scoring threats such as Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis, but their top two lines don’t look overly promising on paper.


So maybe Colorado isn’t an ideal example for Buffalo, but the thing about a young team is that you never know quite what will happen. It seems realistic to assume that this will be a season of growing pains for the Sabres, but if they find their groove early in the season, then they might surprise people.



Thursday’s HockeyBuzzCast Discusses The Best Cup Winners

























August 28, 2014, 12:14 PM ET [18 Comments]








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The HockeyBuzzCast is live today at 1pm ET. My blog will be posted later this afternoon, because on today's podcast we have some very special guests. Be sure to tune in!
Try Relay: the free SMS and picture text app for iPhone.


Join the Discussion: » 18 Comments » Post New Comment


Looking to make the leap: Sam Reinhart


Prior to ever being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, Sam Reinhart pointed to the number of young players getting an opportunity around the league as a positive sign for himself moving forward.


At just 18, Reinhart is hardly out of place on a young Sabres’ team, which boasts four centers 24 or younger.


“I think if you look at a lot of young guys coming into the league, you look at the opportunity that they get, that’s the big thing, you have to be ready for that,” Reinhart said. “That’s probably the best thing that I’m looking forward to, is an opportunity to play and prove myself.”


Buffalo used the second overall pick to select Reinhart in June and the hope is the Vancouver native can make the leap to the NHL just three months later.


“He’s a high-end talent and also extremely intelligent,” Sabres’ general manager Tim Murray told NHL.com. “That’s what you see shift to shift, the intelligence. Some shifts it doesn’t work with the puck, other shifts it does. But you see he’s always on the right side of the puck. He’s always around the puck.


“That’s why he has the puck so much; not because of his high-end skill, but he knows where to go to get the puck, he knows where to go when he has the puck. He’s an extremely intelligent hockey player.”




The 6-foot-1, 185-pound center spent the last three seasons with the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League where he scored 99 goals and 252 points in 199 games. His 105 points during the 2013-14 season saw Reinhart finish fourth in points in the WHL.


But it wasn’t until an invite to Team Canada’s senior men’s world championship camp that Reinhart really felt he could handle the NHL game.


“Was pretty amazing to see just how I handled practice one compared to practice three and really picked up the pace. I felt comfortable and pretty quick out there,” said Reinhart. “Really turned out to be a positive experience and it’s really paying off right now.”


In addition to his own experience, Sam has been watching older brothers Max (Calgary Flames) and Griffin (New York Islanders) the last several years as they attempt to follow their father Paul’s footsteps to the NHL.


“Most of it just watching how they handled it from a distance to be honest,” Sam Reinhart said. “Its not as much advice them giving me it’s just seeing how they handle it and the sorts of things they do.”


As far as his biggest asset is concerned, Reinhart says “I think I use my hockey sense to my advantage. That’s a good aspect to have at this age, everything else you can work on. I’ve been motivated and am motivated to keep working on that and be the best I can.”


For a Sabres’ team with a young nucleolus, Reinhart should fit in nicely.


Related: Looking to make the leap: Griffin Reinhart



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eichel, like McDavid, will showcase his skills in Buffalo this fall


It’s no secret that not a lot of people are betting on the Buffalo Sabres to make the playoffs next season. In fact, they are a popular choose to finish at or near the bottom of the NHL standings.


If that does happen, there will be a silver lining for Sabres fans as the upcoming draft is shaping up to be a great one. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have the potential to develop into players that a team could build a successful franchise around and both will give Buffalo fans an early preview of what they’re capable of this fall.


Eichel has been invited to the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 25, which will be held at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center, per NHL.com. He’s set to play for Boston University this season.


“He’s one of the most heralded incoming freshmen to come to Boston University in a long time,” Boston University coach David Quinn said. “He’s not only a great player but a great kid and will have a lot to offer our program both on and off the ice.”


Eichel is also expected to headline the States’ world junior team, which is looking to rebound after falling to Russia in the quarterfinals in 2014.


Roughly a month after the All-American Prospects Game, the Sabres will host an OHL game between the Niagara Ice Dogs and McDavid’s Erie Otters.



Boston extends affiliation with Providence, Pandolfo named development coach


The AHL Providence Bruins will be sticking with Boston for the foreseeable future. The two sides have inked a long-term affiliation agreement that will preserve the organizational status quo.


“On behalf of the Bruins organization we are happy to have our relationship with the Providence Bruins extended,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, per the team’s website. “Having our AHL affiliate so close is a great asset to not only our hockey team, but to our fans, as they can watch our prospects develop. I’d like to thank H. Larue Renfroe, Jeff Fear and Matt Poore and the rest of the Providence Bruins organization for their continued commitment to Bruins Hockey.”


Boston did announce some front office changes at the same time though. Assistant general manager Don Sweeney will take over as Providence’s general manager. The retired NHL defenseman has been working under GM Peter Chiarelli since 2006.


They also added Jay Pandolfo to the staff as the franchise’s development coach. Pandolfo had 100 goals and 226 points in 899 NHL games with New Jersey, the New York Islanders, and Boston. He officially hung up his skates in January after playing in 18 contests in 2013.



Poll: Was 13-14 a fair representation of what Detroit was capable of?


Detroit barely made the playoffs in 2013-14 and was promptly dismissed by the Boston Bruins in the first round. In terms of points percentage, it was the team’s worse season since Mike Babcock became the head coach and yet he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. The reason for that isn’t hard to decipher.


The Red Wings had to overcome a lot just to get to the postseason. They set a franchise record with 421 man games lost due to injuries and it wasn’t just a question of the quantity of the injuries. Detroit’s top two players, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were each limited to 45 contests.


Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, forward Johan Franzen, and free agent acquisition Stephen Weiss are just a few of the other players that spent a portion of the season on the sidelines.


Given all of that, were the Red Wings truly a merely average team last season as their record would suggest or were they a good squad that was simply unlucky? Injuries are part of the game and it’s assumed that every team will deal with some hardship over the course of the 82-game season, but when the amount of time players have spent on the sidelines becomes record-breaking, it’s hard to just dismiss it as business as usual.


At the same time, an argument can be made that the Red Wings were fortunate in other regards. Gustav Nyquist stepped up with an impressive 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games. It’s too early to know if he can replicate those results, but it certainly seems like he got hot at the right time.


This isn’t an entirely academic question. Whether or not Detroit was unlucky last season doesn’t change the result, but keep in mind that they’ll be entering the campaign with roughly the same roster. If you buy into the argument that Detroit underperformed in 2013-14, then it’s not unreasonable to make the leap that they are a serious candidate to do meaningfully better in 2014-15.



Alfredsson’s future remains uncertain with camp looming


One of the bigger X-factors surrounding the Detroit Red Wings is a player that isn’t even on their roster.


Daniel Alfredsson turned some heads last summer when the long-time Ottawa Senators captain decided to sign a one-year deal with Detroit. Although he was once a star player, the Red Wings were well aware that at the age of 40 (he turned 41 in December), he would be more of a complimentary forward.


In that role, Alfredsson performed largely as advertised, scoring 18 goals and 49 points in 68 games and helped the team squeak into the playoffs even as the Red Wings coped with a number of major injuries to key forwards.


Now an unrestricted free agent again, Alfredsson’s future with the team remains uncertain. He has some interest in returning to Detroit, but only if he feels he can contribute. With training camp just a few weeks away, it sounds like he still hasn’t found the answer he’s looking for.


“I haven’t talked to him in about a month,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “He’s training hard. He’s training to play. He does want to play. When I last talked to him, he said he felt good — he wanted to feel great. He would love to play another year. He wants to play for us. He only wants to play if he feels he can contribute. The best test for him is to skate a couple weeks prior to training camp.


“I’ll talk to him next week. We’ll wait 10-12 days. Do we sign him to a contract? Does he just want to come to camp? I’m lobbing everything out there.”


Of course, it takes two sides to reach an agreement and even if Alfredsson wants to come back, it’s debatable whether or not the Red Wings should sign him. Alfredsson would provide the team with veteran leadership and additional scoring depth, which might prove particularly valuable if Detroit’s sickbay fills up again this season.


At the same time, he’ll be 42 before the campaign ends so it’s fair to wonder if he has enough left in the tank. Additionally, if they sign him, he will be taking ice time away from one of the Red Wings’ young players and that might slow their rebuilding efforts.


As Holland noted, it’s entirely possible that Alfredsson might join the Red Wings as a training camp invite to provide both sides with more time to evaluate the situation and decide what is in everyone’s best interests.



Sarich’s near-fatal accident; CHL goalies pushed to grow-up too fast; Vegas baby! (Puck Headlines)


Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.


• Dude. Really? I get it's the Cup but did you have to rock the Ducks gear? Salt, meet wound.


Cory Sarich was in a near-fatal bicycle accident after a truck turned in front of him without signaling, causing Sarich to skid under the truck, and be run over by the rear wheel. The Avs player is lucky to be alive, escaping with "five cracked vertebrae, burns on his shoulder and wrist from the truck’s muffler, a swollen left arm and leg, a large laceration on his head, and a serious case of road rash." [Calgary Herald]


• Fascinating look at the experiences of goalies in the CHL, and astronomically high expectations placed on them to succeed. This article was inspired by the recent retirement of 20-year-old goaltender for the London Knights, Jake Patterson. [Buzzing the Net]


• In Part Two of the conversation with Flyers GM Ron Hextall, Travis from BSH talks forwards and goaltending. (Pretty awesome to see another GM devote time to talk to a blogger.) [Broadstreet Hockey]


Dustin Penner is still looking for a home this upcoming season. It definitely won't be in Philadelphia, so says Hextall. Which probably means Penner will be a Flyer by Christmas. [ProHockey Talk]


• Based on past history at training camp, it's highly unlikely Penner would accept an offer to attend Jets camp. Paul Maurice has declared it is going to be 'brutal'. [Winnipeg Sun]


• Wysh wrote earlier about the NHL's next four targets for expansion. As expected, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has denied the reports of expansion. [Sports Business Daily]


• The location that has caught everyone's eye is Las Vegas. Here's the thing, if a team is established there NHL and NHLPA are going to have to make a definitive statement on sports betting and what is expected of players, home and away, while in the city. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]


• Nothing is set in stone, so naturally Sean Gentille goes ahead and suggests some names for the future (maybe, possibly) Vegas franchise. [Sporting News]


• Your requisite daily Kyle Dubas article. The Leafs assistant to the GM is learning ropes and talking magic formulas. [The Star]


• The Oilers are confident they'll have defenseman (and big liar) Justin Schultz under contract before camp starts. That is, if he agrees to a P.K. Subban-esque bridge contract. What I wouldn't give to see someone swoop in and offer-sheet Schultz, but that's just my inner-bitter Ducks fan talking. [Edmonton Journal]


• Jamie Baker replaces Drew Remenda on the Sharks TV broadcasts as color commentator. Bret Hedican will replace Baker as radio color commentator. [San Jose Sharks]


• The one thing holding up the Moore-Bertuzzi settlement: a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement. [TSN]


• Another sad story of a former NHL'er who has been unable to adjust to regular life following the end of his career, and his most recent run-in with the law. [The Province]


• Fancy stats can help you win your fantasy hockey league, here's how. [Keeping Karlsson]


• Forty-Two 2015 draft-eligible Americans (i.e. JACK EICHEL) have been assembled to play in the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo on September 25th. [USA Hockey]


• Leave it to Sully and Force of the Green Men to make the Ice Bucket Challenge death-defying. [Vimeo]




Fanspeak: Gordie Howe voted greatest Red Wing in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series .


Detroit Red Wings


1. Gordie Howe (1535)


2. Steve Yzerman (968)


3. Nicklas Lidstrom (578)


4. Pavel Datsyuk (194)


5. Sergei Fedorov (144)


6. Terry Sawchuk (115)


It’s not surprising that Yzerman and Lidstrom finished so high on this list. They were Hall of Fame players and leaders of the Red Wings during a golden era of Detroit hockey.


At the same time, having Howe top this list feels right. The Red Wings have a rich history and so many greats have played for them, but Howe is one of the best players of all-time and had a profound impact on Detroit.


He led Detroit to four Stanley Cup championships, won the Hart Trophy on six occasions, and also claimed the Art Ross Trophy six times. He made his debut in 1946 and didn’t play in his final game until 1980.


He also ranks third on the all-time points list, behind just Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky and no one has surpassed him yet in games played despite the fact that for most of his career, the NHL only had a 70-game season.


For the vast majority of that, Howe was a member of the Detroit Red Wings. His tenure as a player with them ended when he retired in 1971, but he eventually resumed his career when he joined the WHA’s Houston and participated in one final NHL season in 1979-80 with the Hartford Whalers after the NHL-WHA merger.


Howe remains the Red Wings’ all-time leader in games played, goals, and points.



Hextall nixes rumors of Penner attending Flyers camp


Having gone the entire summer without a contract, UFA forward Dustin Penner will probably have to accept a training camp invite this fall in order to continue his NHL career.


One team that doesn’t sound interested in extending said invite? Philadelphia.


From the Courier-Post:


Despite rumors, it looks like the Flyers will not be offering training camp tryouts to free agent forwards Dustin Penner and Ryan Malone. The latter reportedly pleaded no contest last week on a DUI charge and agreed to a “pretrial diversion program” on charges of cocaine possession earlier this summer. It would be rather shocking to see any NHL club take a flier on him.


When Hextall was told about the Penner rumor specifically he said, “I haven’t heard that.”


Penner, 31, split last season between Anaheim and Washington with mixed results. He had some good stretches with the Ducks — including one where he netted 19 points in 18 games — but faded as the trade deadline approached, and failed to do much after his arrival in Washington. Penner had just one goal and three points in 18 games with the Caps, and was allowed to walk in free agency.


Two-time Stanley Cup winner and four-time 20-goal scorer, Penner has the resume to potentially land a gig this fall… but his issues with weight and conditioning are well-documented, and could prevent him from catching on for a 10th NHL campaign.



NHL expansion talks emphatically shot down


Last night, the Interweb was set aflame with news that the NHL was going to expand to Las Vegas.


Shortly thereafter, NHL expansion was trending — in addition to Sin City, the likes of Seattle, Quebec City and a second team in Toronto were all bandied about, thanks partly to this tweet from Sports Business News:


On Wednesday, a bucket of cold water was tossed on the whole thing. Make that buckets of cold water.


First, from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:


“We are in no different position today with respect to expansion than we were the last time we answered the same questions,” he wrote in an email to National Post on Wednesday. “There has been interest expressed, we have and will listen to the interest, but we haven’t defined a process and certainly no decisions have been made.”


Then, from outgoing MLSE CEO and president Tim Leiweke (per Toronto’s Fan 590):


“The commissioner and I had other business this morning, so we talked for a while and this came up. I asked him, ‘did I miss a meeting?’ And he laughed and said, ‘no.’


“What I can tell you, 100 percent, as of this morning, for sure? This isn’t on the agenda right now.”


Finally, there was a report from King 5’s Chris Daniels, who has been on the NHL/NBA-to-Seattle beat for quite some time:


All of this, of course, won’t completely silence rumblings The Province’s Tony Gallagher made with his article on Tuesday, which claimed NHL expansion to Vegas was a “done deal.” The league’s imbalance — 14 teams in the Western Conference, 16 in the Eastern — and potential to score huge revenue with expansion fees are in plain view; the NHL also has some major history with Vegas, having hosted its annual awards show there (and the L.A. Kings have been playing an exhibition series at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for years.)



Tim Leiweke on Fan 590


In his first interview since confirming his exit from MLSE by the summer of 2015, Tim Leiweke explains his rationale for leaving the organisation after a short stay, denies the reports about the NHL expanding, and talks about the immediate future for the clubs he oversees.





Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited unofficial team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast). Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, a weekly feature piece, the "Leafs Notebook", along with a Web TV show the "Maple Leaf Hangout".




Fanspeak: Rick Nash voted greatest Blue Jacket in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series .


Columbus Blue Jackets


1. Rick Nash (545)


2. Sergei Bobrovsky (135)


3. Marian Gaborik (54)


The overwhelming selection of Nash as the franchise’s greatest player is hardly surprising. Columbus had the first overall pick in their third draft (2002) and used it to select Nash. In the decade that followed he was the face of the franchise.


The young franchise didn’t have much success during Nash’s tenure and struggled to find capable linemates for him, but Nash was effective in spite of that, reaching or surpassing the 30-goal milestone in seven of his nine seasons in Columbus.


He is by far the team’s leader in goals scored with 289 (the next highest is R.J. Umberger at 120) and also holds the franchise records for games played, assists, and points.


Nash became the team captain in 2008 and seemingly committed to spending his career with Columbus by agreeing to an eight-year, $62.4 million contract. However, in the second season of that deal he demanded a trade and his request was fulfilled during the summer of 2012. At the time, the future looked bleak for the Blue Jackets, but they rebounded quickly and earned their first playoff win in 2014.


He’ll likely go down as a player that helped give the team an identity early in their history, but it would be good news for the Blue Jackets if a decade from now, Nash wasn’t still running away with the title of the franchise’s greatest player.


Bobrovsky is the team’s new MVP and if he has sustained success in Columbus, then he might surpass Nash in these types of votes. The fact that Gaborik, who is a great player, but had a shaky tenure with Columbus, ranked third speaks to the need for the team’s young forwards to prove themselves. Ryan Johansen certainly took a step in that direction when he scored 33 goals and 63 points last season.


So while Nash is the undisputed winner of this poll, the real question is if that will still be the case if we do it again in 2024.



NHL-to-Vegas talks gaining steam


The possibility of NHL expansion has become a popular topic lately and Vancouver Province columnist Tony Gallagher’s recent report has only added fuel to that flame.


He wrote:


Sources close to the situation have indicated Las Vegas is a done deal, the only thing to be determined being which owner will be entitled to proclaim that he brought the first major league sports franchise to Sin City.


Gallagher went on to suggest that one or more other western cities were likely to be included in the NHL’s eventual expansion plans, but it was the idea that the NHL going to Vegas is a done deal that obviously attracted the most attention.


Although the idea of an NHL team being founded in Sin City might seem like a pipe dream, the suggestion of it happening isn’t without precedence.


Back in December, TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggested that Vegas was second to only Seattle on the list of possible expansion destinations for the NHL. However, at the time he added that there “are no formal plans for expansion.”


The NHL also has established a presence in Las Vegas as the Kings have played an annual preseason game in Nevada since 1997 (with the exception of 2004 and 2012 due to the lockouts) and Vegas has hosted the league’s award show.


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was noncommittal when talking about the possibility in June, but he also wasn’t dismissive.


“I know Las Vegas is an important city,” Bettman said. “Whether or not it’s a city for the NHL to put a team in is still to be determined. We have not done any investigating as to whether or not the city could support the NHL or looked at potential ownership groups. If the owners were to approve expansion, we would certainly begin looking more closely at Las Vegas and other potential markets.”


Bettman also said back in 2009 that it was only a matter of time before Vegas got a professional sports team. Whether or not its the NHL that first takes the plunge into Vegas remains to be seen.


Related:


Is the NHL getting closer to putting a team in Vegas?



Johnston will enter camp looking for wingers for Malkin


Evgeni Malkin meshed well with James Neal and Jussi Jokinen last season, but neither of his wingers are returning to Pittsburgh for 2014-15. As a result, one of Mike Johnston’s first tasks as Pittsburgh’s new bench boss will be remaking the second line.


Rather than focus on three-forward units, Johnston is more interested in finding at least one winger that each center can count on playing with regularly and then change up the third player as the situation warrants. The idea is that it will provide each line with a degree of stability without completely sacrificing flexibility. So for example, Johnston likes the way Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby play together, so they’re projected to typically make up two-thirds of the first line.


Before his 2013-14 campaign was cut short due to a knee injury, Pascal Dupuis was typically the third man on that top unit, but that might not be the case under Johnston.


“(Dupuis) can play anywhere in the lineup,” Johnston told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He certainly has played well with Sid before. Can he play well with (Malkin)? That’s what we’ve got to see.”


Patric Hornqvist, who was acquired from Nashville in the Neal trade, is another serious contender to be Malkin’s partner.


Although neither is likely to start the season as Malkin’s full-time linemate, 22-year-old Beau Bennett and 2014 first round draft pick Kasperi Kapanen will also be watched closely during training camp to see where — and in Kapanen’s case if — they might fit in.


Regardless of who Johnston picks, the bigger question regarding Malkin is his health. He was limited to 60 games last season and has a lengthy history of injuries. If he stays healthy, he’ll likely be effective with almost any wingers, but if he keeps ending up on the sidelines then obviously it won’t matter who he’s been paired with.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Poll: Who should be Columbus’ next captain?


The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone two seasons without a captain since they traded Rick Nash.


“I’m comfortable (without a captain),” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch in October. He didn’t want to conform to a timetable when it came to making his choice, instead saying that he would hand out the ‘C’ only “when the time is right and if you’ve got the right player and he’s ready at that time.”


In other words, either the timing wasn’t right last season or they didn’t have any player that was ready for the responsibility. Perhaps that’s changed.


Brandon Dubinsky, who came to Columbus in the Nash trade, has emerged as one of the team’s leaders and has made a long-term commitment to the franchise by agreeing to a six-year, $35.1 million contract over the summer.


“Everybody’s anxious to have a captain, but we have a lot of guys who lead,” Dubinsky argued after signing that deal. “Everybody leads in their own way, but collectively we play hard for each other and find a way to get it done. It’s a big honor to be in this position and have this role with this team, but there’s a lot of guys on this team, and it’s much bigger than myself.”


Defenseman Jack Johnson is another contender for the role. He’s got two-plus seasons under his belt with Columbus now and is signed through 2017-18. He’s also one of the biggest workhorses in the league as he ranked 13th in minutes per game in 2013-14.


The Blue Jackets have some other noteworthy veteran leaders locked up to long-term deals like forwards Scott Hartnell and Nathan Horton, but Hartnell is a new addition and Horton has only played in 35 games thus far.


There’s also a chance that the Blue Jackets might go with rising star Ryan Johansen to put an emphasis on their young core, although his contract situation needs to be dealt with first.


So who do you think will be the Blue Jackets’ next captain? Did your preferred choice go unmentioned? Do you think they’ll go through another season without naming a captain?