Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hall of Fame inductees reminisce at fan forum


TORONTO -- Mike Modano is connected to each of his fellow classmates this weekend at the Hockey Hall of Fame in a unique way.


Modano nearly played for coach Pat Burns before his NHL career ever started. One of his highest highs and one of his lowest lows came against Rob Blake and Dominik Hasek. Some of his greatest playoff series came against Peter Forsberg.


Then there is referee Bill McCreary. When the members of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 gathered Saturday in the Great Hall to tell stories about their careers and answer questions from a room full of eager fans, Modano recalled an important moment early in his career.


"I was a little bit of a whiny, spoiled teenager when I started," Modano said. "Bill came up to me, he pulled me aside and he told me, 'Mike, if you show a little effort to work through some of the clutching and grabbing and not try to show us up as far as embellishing some of the falls out there, we're always going to give you the benefit of the doubt.' I've always remembered that."


Modano was a sought-after amateur player while growing up in Michigan. One fan asked him about his decision to play for a Canadian junior team instead of waiting and playing NCAA hockey, and Modano said he would have chosen Michigan State University or the University of Michigan had he gone that route.


Instead, he wanted to play for a Canadian Hockey League team, and Modano thought he was going to end up playing for Burns and the Hull Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.


"I told (Burns' wife) Line that Pat was phenomenally respected around the League, one of those coaches that I always heard players say they loved to play for," Modano said. "He was always up front, honest and told you where you stood and what were his goals, and those are usually the best guys to play for."


When asked who the Olympiques selected instead, Modano quickly replied, "Joe Suk." That proved to be an unwise decision. Suk, a forward from Chicago, had a decent four-year career with Hull, including a 35-goal, 89-point season in 1988-89, but he never played at a level above the ECHL as a professional. Modano ended up with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League and became the No. 1 pick in the 1988 NHL Draft.


Modano was part of the United States team that won the 1996 World Cup against Blake's Canadian team in Montreal, but the defenseman exacted some revenge six years later by claiming the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics on American soil.


He reached the pinnacle of the NHL in 1999, helping the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup in a final series against Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres. That came a year after Hasek and the Czech Republic sent Modano and the Americans home early from the 1998 Nagano Olympics with a disappointing quarterfinal loss.


Though the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings became the biggest rivalry in the NHL in the 1990s, Modano's Stars had a pair of titanic showdowns with Forsberg's Avalanche at the turn of the century. Dallas twice defeated Colorado in seven games in the Western Conference Final, en route to winning the Cup in 1999 and before losing in the Final the following season.


"I would like to say something bad about him," said Forsberg, after Modano had joked about his Swedish counterpart earlier during the event. "I'm trying to think, but I don't have one bad story. It is only good things. He was an unbelievable player. He could fly."


The forum allowed the Hall of Fame classmates to talk about each other and reminisce about some of the experiences that led to this day. Forsberg recalled getting hit in the head with a vintage Blake slap shot on the first day of practice after the Avalanche acquired the defenseman.


Hasek, Modano and McCreary all playfully reminded everyone about Forsberg's physical play, using words like "nasty" and "dirty," though the Swede half-heartedly disagreed. Line Burns talked about the times when Pat had doubts about his coaching career, but said one of his favorite phrases was "never surrender" and he applied that to his life in hockey.


One of Blake's memories was about Modano's trademark look. Blessed with an ability to skate like few players can, Modano also had elite "hockey hair," a blond mullet that flapped in the wind out of his helmet along with his jersey as he skated. Blake said other players were jealous of how Modano's jersey looked as he moved along the ice.


"He was the only guy in the League that when he would skate and get up to top speed, his jersey would blow in the wind," Blake said. "It would flap, and guys would see and comment on it. All of us would try to use fans to get that same look."


But was it a creation of Modano's world-class speed, or the way he wore the sweater? It turns out it was a little bit of both.


"I didn't like having the sweater tight in the arms, so I did go to the trainer and ask for a size bigger," Modano said.



Captain Giordano leading Flames on all fronts


CALGARY -- Captain Mark Giordano has found more than one way to lead the Calgary Flames.


The 31-year-old not only serves as the focal point for Calgary's leadership contingent, the defenseman is at the forefront of the Flames offense. It doesn't stop there for Giordano though. The product of Toronto not only leads the Flames in points, he's tops among all NHL defensemen with 20.


Which leaves but one adjective, albeit a surprising one, for Calgary coach Bob Hartley to describe his leader.


"Boring," Hartley said before cracking a smile.


"He's the perfect example. He's a great mirror. I always enjoy sitting with him. I know we can always count on him. I've said it many times. In Denver, they were calling Joe Sakic 'Ordinary Joe.' Maybe over here we have 'Simple Gio.'"


But Giordano has been anything but boring. With no Flames forward among the NHL's top-40 in points, Giordano has stepped up to take on an ever-increasing role. His six goals and 14 assists lead fellow defenseman TJ Brodie's 15 points. Jiri Hudler, Calgary's top scoring forward, has 14 points.


Somehow, the Flames are third in the NHL in goals scored heading into action Saturday. The answer to "how" lies with Giordano.


"I feel like I've always been a guy who tries to create some offense," said Giordano, who brings an eight-game point streak into the Flames' game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. "I've played power play a lot in my career. With our style of play and the way our forwards backtrack and create turnovers, it helps us jump in the play. If you look at our D-core as a whole, we all try to jump in and create. I think we've done a pretty good job of that this year.


"We have to keep providing that offense, that second wave for our team. That's a good way to score goals in this League now. It's tough to score off the rush, 3-on-2s or 3-on-3s. You need that defenseman jumping in."


Giordano jumps more than most. He's set the example for how others can do it too.


"He's helped me a lot," said Brodie, who's third in points among NHL defensemen. "Even when we weren't playing with each other, he's the type of guy that you can watch him on and off the ice and learn from him. There's things that I've had to take out of his game and put in my game. I think that's helped. Playing with him, he's always open and he always wants the puck, which is nice.


"We sort of think alike offensively and we always want to jump in and be ready. It's been nice playing with a guy like that."


With forwards Mikael Backlund (abdomen), Joe Colborne (upper body), Matt Stajan (knee) and Mason Raymond (shoulder) all on injured reserve with no immediate timetable for projected returns, Giordano insists there's no pressure to produce.


Quite the opposite, he claims.


"I really don't [feel pressure]. I expect myself to try to create and jump in when I can," Giordano said. "I feel more pressure honestly to stop goals from going in our net. Playing against other teams' top-two lines most nights, you have to be ready for them to create offense and get their chances. What me and [Brodie] have tried to do on our end is try to go the other way and play in their end. You know they're going to get one here and there, but our goal is to try to get one the other way so it evens out."


Still, Giordano's effect is easily quantified. With 20 points on 55 goals, he's factored in on 36 percent of Calgary's offense to date.


What can't be measured is the impact he's had on a rebuilding team that currently sits ninth overall in the NHL standings with a 10-6-2 record through 18 games.


"He's a good person; he's an unbelievable person," Hartley said. "He cares about everything. If I'd ask Gio for a list to rate the players as importance on the team, I'm sure Gio's name would be at the bottom of that sheet. He's all about team. It's all about taking care of the teammates, about the organization, and that's what we want to create.


"We want to be more than a team. We want to be a family. He's the best big brother that we can have in the locker room."


And the perfect candidate to set the tone for a rebuilding team that finished 27th a year ago. Not that Giordano will admit it.


"I'm trying to just do everything I can on the ice," he said. "It's easy for you to say things in the room and all that, but if you're not contributing on the ice or doing what you're saying on the ice, I know as a young guy it'd be tough to follow someone who you didn't believe.


"I just try to go out there and the best way to lead, I think, is by example on the ice."



'Calculated' Burns pushed Devils, Daneyko


Ken Daneyko went to Pat Burns with a cigar, a smile, a handshake and a mea culpa on June 10, 2003, less than 24 hours after Burns essentially reserved his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame by leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup championship.


"That's when Pat said, 'You know, Kenny, it's all part of it and I knew it was going to make a difference,'" said Daneyko, the former Devils defenseman. "It was about winning. It always was about winning."


Burns won 501 games in a Hall of Fame career, but it was his victory with the Devils on June 9, 2003 that brought him to the pinnacle of the sport. One of the last monumental coaching decisions of his life happened the day before he became a champion. Daneyko was at the center of it.


Daneyko hadn't played in the first six games of the Stanley Cup Final, but Burns was convinced that the presence of New Jersey's veteran defenseman, a fan favorite known as "Mr. Devil," could help push the team to a win against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Game 7 at Continental Airlines Arena.


As he was so many times in his career, Burns was correct.



HOCKEY HALL OF FAME



Courage, respect marked Burns' career


By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
En route to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Pat Burns became a three-time Jack Adams Award winner, a mentor to Hall of Fame players, a shoulder for his coaching friends to learn on and one of the most respected coaches to ever step foot behind a bench in the NHL. READ MORE ›




"He was calculated," Daneyko said. "He talked to Scott Stevens before he talked to me and said, 'What do you think if I put Dano in tomorrow night?' Scotty said, 'The fans will go nuts, it'll be emotional, and it might be a little lift.' You know how every little thing plays a part. Pat knew that."

Daneyko's disposition and his feelings toward Burns were 180 degrees different nearly two months earlier.


It was April 14, 2003, the day between Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Devils and Boston Bruins, when Burns told Daneyko he wasn't playing in Game 4 even though he had played in the first three games and the Devils were up 3-0.


Daneyko had never missed a playoff game in his career, 165 games. His streak was about to come to an end. He blamed Burns.


"We almost came to blows," Daneyko said. "I knew going into the playoffs that there was a possibility I would be in and out of the lineup. Of course you're competitive and you want to be in, but I understood that. I respected that, but I just didn't like how things were handled."


Daneyko wasn't done, though.


New Jersey lost Game 4 against Boston, so he was back in for the series-clinching Game 5 win. He played in all five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and in three of the seven games of the Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators, including Games 6 and 7.


Daneyko was particularly burnt when he was told he wouldn't be playing in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.


"I'm going, 'How can I play 6 and 7 against the best team in the League, and everybody was saying it that on paper Ottawa was the best team in the League, and then now we're going to the Stanley Cup Final and not play?'" Daneyko said. "You can imagine what I was going through emotionally. I was [mad]. There's no question about it."


Burns had one more emotional rollercoaster for Daneyko to ride.


"We have a team meal the day before Game 7 [of the Cup Final] and after the team meal he takes me outside and says, 'You're in tomorrow night, don't tell the media,'" Daneyko said. "That was it and he walked away. I'm standing outside and to be honest, I was excited but almost in tears and then going, 'What the [heck] is he thinking?'"


After six games wondering why he wasn't playing, Daneyko now wondered why Burns was putting him in. He hadn't played in 17 days. He didn't know if he was capable of helping the team in the championship game.


Daneyko said he called his best friend and his wife at the time. They had to talk some sense into him and convinced him he was capable of playing his role. They couldn't convince him Burns was making the right decision.


"I was resigned to the fact that this might be the wrong decision," Daneyko said. "I just wanted to win now, and I hadn't played in two weeks. God forbid I'm the reason we lose 2-1 because I give it away or make a bad play. Those are the things that were running through my head. I'm thinking like a coach and going, 'This might not be the right decision. Is he nuts?'"


Burns wasn't nuts, or worried about Daneyko being the reason the Devils lose. He was considering the edge New Jersey would gain by having the fan favorite in the lineup. He felt playing Daneyko in Game 7 would give the Devils the emotional advantage they needed.


"He felt the fans would give us a big boost," Daneyko said. "He was right."


The fans cheered when Daneyko wasn't announced as a scratch. They went bonkers when he came on the ice for the start of the game.


"It gave me goose bumps," Daneyko said. "Pat felt like the fans could be the seventh man. Even if it was one small part of it, that was it, and Pat knew that it would be. The fans were a huge inspiration. I was very grateful after that."


The Devils won 3-0. Daneyko shared a cigar with Burns the next day, his respect for the coach at an all-time high.


"How could I complain?" Daneyko said. "How could I not think he pushed every right button? We won the Stanley Cup."


---



Courage, respect defined Burns' Hall of Fame career


Pat Burns started his coaching career 31 years ago as an assistant with the Hull Olympiques who could burrow through his players immaturity with a stern stare and booming voice emanating out of his bearded face, a look born from his work as an undercover police officer in Gatineau, Quebec.


"He would show up at games with a long beard because he had missed a week because he was doing some undercover stuff," said Luc Robitaille, then a 17-year-old rookie with the Olympiques. "He was pretty scary."



HOCKEY HALL OF FAME



Blake used motivation to pave Hall path


By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
Rob Blake became one of the best defenseman in NHL history and will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It took a seat on a milk crate to help convince him he could get there. READ MORE ›




Twenty-one years later, Burns, always revered as the toughest and most hardened man in any rink he was in, raised the Stanley Cup after coaching the New Jersey Devils to a Game 7 win against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.


He had reached the pinnacle of the sport on his fourth NHL coaching stop in 15 years, a tour through the League that had as much to do with fabulous results as it did his disciplinarian tactics.


"Pat was exactly what we needed at that time," ex-Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "We had a team that was a perennial Stanley Cup contender for eight or nine years, but we were getting complacent. We needed a little spark, a little fire, and Pat was the perfect coach."


In between his early days as a cop/coach until the day he stepped away to fight a battle against cancer that years later ended his life, Burns became a three-time Jack Adams Award winner with three Original Six teams, a mentor to Hall of Fame players, a shoulder for his coaching friends to learn on and one of the most respected coaches to ever step foot behind a bench in the NHL.


He won the Jack Adams Award with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins before winning the Cup with New Jersey. He coached in 1,019 regular-season games, winning 501. His teams reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs 11 times in his 12 full seasons.


Monday night in Toronto, two days before the fourth anniversary of his death, Burns will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Burns isn't around to tell his story, so some of the people who grew close to him, clashed with him, admired him, respected him, fired him and won with him are honored to be his voice.


Here are tales of Pat Burns from five people in the sport who knew him well:


LUC ROBITAILLE


"We had never gotten past the first round, and within a few years we ended up in the finals of the Memorial Cup. All of us that played for him, we've stayed close friends and dear to him because we all kind of grew up together."


Robitaille vividly remembers how intimidating Burns could be, but now he realizes why that was the case. Burns was a cop; Robitaille and his Hull teammates were mostly teenagers. He spoke. They listened. He told them to do something. They did it, mostly out of fear.


"He was one intense individual," Robitaille said. "He rewarded the guys for hard work, but we were scared of him."


Hull went 54-18-0 in the 1985-86 season to finish first in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and as the runner-up to Guelph in the Memorial Cup. Robitaille had 191 points, but he left for the NHL after that season and Hull wasn't the same, finishing 26-39-5 in the 1986-87 season.


The drop-off didn't hurt Burns. Former NHL forward Andre Boudrias noticed him during scouting trips for the Montreal Canadiens. Boudrias convinced Montreal general manager Serge Savard to take a flier on Burns.


Savard hired Burns to coach the Sherbrooke Canadiens, Montreal's affiliate in the American Hockey League. He was not disappointed.


SERGE SAVARD


"Every year I was asking Andre, 'Who is the best coach in the [QMJHL]?' He mentioned Pat Burns to me two years in a row. Eventually the job got open in Sherbrooke and I didn't call anybody else. I just called Pat and gave him the job."



Daneyko: Burns had all the right moves



Ken Daneyko went to Pat Burns with a cigar, a smile, a handshake and a mea culpa on June 10, 2003, less than 24 hours after Burns essentially reserved his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame by leading the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup championship.


"That's when Pat said, 'You know, Kenny, it's all part of it and I knew it was going to make a difference,'" said Daneyko, the former Devils defenseman. "It was about winning. It always was about winning."


For full story CLICK HERE.




Sherbrooke went 42-33-4 and lost in the first round of the 1988 Calder Cup Playoffs under Burns. Montreal, under former coach Jean Perron, had a 103-point season and lost in the Adams Division Finals to the Boston Bruins.

Savard wanted to make a change in Montreal. He didn't have to interview candidates.


"I didn't even try to get anybody else," Savard said. "Pat was direct in line and I gave him the job, which was not a mistake."


Burns won the Jack Adams Award and took the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season. They lost to the Calgary Flames in six games.


"He came as a policeman, so he had that reputation that it's law and order and that's the way," Savard said. "He's not like that really, but he was a good motivator. All my players in the first couple of years, they loved him and they would go to war for him."


Burns brought the Canadiens to the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, but they never got past the second round. Savard said the message eventually grew stale, the intimidation factor went away by the end of the 1992 playoffs.


"I was not going to fire him," Savard said. "I told him if he wants to continue we'll work hard together. He said, 'No, no, no, Serge, I want to go on, I want to go somewhere else. I did what I had to do here.'"


Savard knew Burns had a shelf life as a coach because of his disciplinary ways. It didn't scare off other teams.


"He had two offers on the table before he decided to go," Savard said. "One of them was in Toronto and Rogie Vachon called me and wanted him in L.A. It was not like he was out of a job."


Burns chose Toronto. Cliff Fletcher, Toronto's general manager at the time, called it a "credibility coup" for the Maple Leafs.


CLIFF FLETCHER


"Getting Pat for the Toronto Maple Leafs was maybe the biggest thing that happened to the franchise in about two decades. We had a press conference at center ice and we had to have 10,000 people there in June. He was a huge personality. He was a great coach."


Under Burns, Toronto improved by 32 points from the previous season and reached the Campbell Conference Final in the 1992-93 season. Burns won the Jack Adams Award again.


"Pat was very demanding, but he was a real smart guy," Fletcher said. "He made sure that the best players on his team bought his program. He always had a great relationship with his best players."


No matter the amount of talent they had, the players had no choice but to respect Burns. How could they not when he could tell stories like this:


"When he was an undercover police officer they locked him up in Alcatraz of Canada, Kingston Penitentiary, for a month," Fletcher said. "The only one that knew he was there was the warden. Pat was in there to bust up drug rings in prison. He was in there for over 30 days and he said every night he went to sleep with the fear that the warden would die of a heart attack and no one would know he was there. He busted the drug ring.


"Tough guy. Tough guy. But a real good guy. You know what, he was a man's man."


Burns brought the Maple Leafs back to the Western Conference Final in 1994, but Fletcher fired him after 65 games in the 1995-96 season.


"He did a great coaching job, but the shelf life wouldn't be that long only because he was hard," Fletcher said. "He was hard, but he was a great coach.


"I respect him more than any coach I've ever known. He was terrific."


DOUG GILMOUR


"He could sometimes be a big teddy bear. He was awesome."


Gilmour first met Burns after he got the job in Toronto. He quickly found out about the intensity that everyone was talking about, but he also found out more about the man behind the intensity.


Pat Burns won his lone Stanley Cup championship as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2003. (Getty Images)


"Away from the rink you could go talk to him, have a beer with him," Gilmour said. "He loved playing guitar in a band. He rode his Harley. He had other things he wanted to do. But he was very committed. He loved the guys. He loved the game of hockey."


Burns had a funny side too.


"We were playing a little joke in the dressing room in Minnesota, putting cups of water on top of the door so guys would come in and it would fall on him," Gilmour said. "Well the next guy who comes in is Pat. His coif is all done up properly, and we're all going, 'Oh no.' Todd Gill was sitting at his seat and when he saw Pat's hair go all down in front of his face he was just laughing and fell right off. He took the heat for that one, but I was the culprit putting the water on the door. Pat took it in good spirits. He just laughed and said he'd get us back."


Gilmour said he can't remember if Burns did get them back for that prank, but he eventually got under Gilmour's skin.


"I had to play against him when I was in Montreal and he was in Jersey, and that wasn't easy," Gilmour said. "He had guys all over me just to [tick] me off. He knew that would [tick] me off. They won the game. That's just the way he worked."


KEN HITCHCOCK


"His strength as a coach was courage. He said the things that needed to be said. Some of it wasn't pretty at times and some of it was directed at star players, but he had the courage to do that stuff. You need to have a lot of self-confidence, but that's what he had."


Burns and Hitchcock met in 1986, when they coached against each other in the Memorial Cup. Hitchcock was coaching the Kamloops Blazers, Burns the Olympiques. They were 34 years old.


"He had a full time job as a cop and a full time job as a coach, then he opted into coaching," said Hitchcock, now the coach of the St. Louis Blues. "I coached and had a full-time job and I opted into coaching. We both got to know each other. We had a lot of similarities."


They never lost touch.


"When we really leaned on each other a lot was when we got fired," Hitchcock said. "Emotionally and physically we were there. He was my biggest supporter when I got fired and I tried to do the same for him. We were the phone call that never went away."


Burns coached his final game against Hitchcock. It was April 17, 2004 in Philadelphia. Burns announced he had colon cancer the next day.


"We never talked until the end, but I knew he wasn't well," Hitchcock said. "I knew he wasn't well standing on the bench. And the day before the final game I got a phone message from him and he said, 'Hitch, I'm not doing well, I'll call you after the game.' The next morning we talked for two hours. We became even closer."


---



Friday, November 14, 2014

Penguins penalty kill saves win against Maple Leafs


TORONTO -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have the top-rated power play in the NHL, but their special-teams work at the other end of the ice helped preserve a 2-1 win Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.


Toronto had six opportunities with the man-advantage, including a 6-on-4 situation for two minutes late in the third period, but Pittsburgh's penalty killers were perfect.


"It is all about dedication and blocking shots, hard work and goaltending," Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. "All these pieces were on point [Friday] and that's why we came out of here with a big win."


Toronto's power play features one of the best shooters in the League, Phil Kessel, and other players who can really blast from the point, but goaltender Thomas Greiss and the Penguins won this battle at Air Canada Centre.


Eleven of Toronto's shots officially came with the extra man, and a couple more came during a delayed-penalty sequence in the first period with the goaltender pulled. Greiss made a couple of fantastic saves, including connecting with a deflected shot in midair with the paddle of his stick in the final minute.


There has been plenty of attention for Pittsburgh's power play, which leads the NHL at 33.9 percent though that figure has regressed in the past few games. After this 6-for-6, the Penguins are second in the League on the penalty kill at 88.7 percent.


First-year coach Mike Johnston has instilled a puck-possession infused philosophy, and that was evident as the Penguins dominated this game at even strength. They were unable to find any separation because of several near-misses and squandered scoring chances, and took too many penalties.


The team that has the puck more should, in theory, draw more penalties than it takes, but that was not the case Friday.


"There's a couple different guys on it, definitely," Dupuis said. "There is the old cliche that says your goaltender has to be your best penalty-killer. Tonight, [Greiss] was. Marc-Andre [Fleury] and Greiss have been since we had that little skid where I think we gave up six goals in three games, I think our penalty-killing has been really good."


Dupuis is correct about the traditional idea about what makes a penalty-killing unit successful. Analytic studies have shown a goaltender's save percentage while shorthanded is far more random than at even strength.


The teams that can best limit shot attempts despite having one fewer player on the ice can mitigate some of that randomness. Pittsburgh is a middle-of-the-pack team at yielding shot attempts per 60 minutes while shorthanded (18th according to war-on-ice.com) and this game didn't help them improve.


It is an area where the Penguins could stand to be better, even though at the moment the penalty kill is succeeding at an incredible rate.


This was a weird game. Pittsburgh dominated at even strength, collecting nearly 65 percent of the shot attempts, but the Penguins kept taking themselves out of 5-on-5 situations with penalties.


The power play has won them a few games already this season, but it was up to the penalty killers this time.


"We have a lot of confidence in our kill," Johnston said. "We've had one goal in the last six or seven games, and that was the other night against the [New York] Rangers (a 5-0 loss Tuesday). I think our penalty kill has given us a lot of confidence. We have to be able to play in games like this when you have a 2-1 lead and you have to kill a penalty at the end of the game. I thought it was a real character win when you see guys blocking shots like they did [Friday]."



Hall of Fame inductees embody hockey's globalization


TORONTO -- One of the greatest developments for hockey in the latter part of the 20th century was the increased globalization of the game and the development of star players from all over the planet.


The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2014 embodies that movement as well as maybe any group inducted to this shrine to the sport. The four players, from four countries, each played a pivotal role in an important international triumph. Someone from the Class of 2014 won every major international tournament from 1994 to 2002.


Peter Forsberg authored one of the most memorable goals in the history of hockey to help Sweden win gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics; Mike Modano helped the United States win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey; Dominik Hasek claimed tournament MVP honors while leading the Czech Republic to gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics; and Rob Blake helped Canada atone for losses in the previous three tournaments with a victory at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.


"We were all talking about our international experiences and we realized they were all against each other," Blake said. "Whether it was playing against Mike in '96 or Dom in '98, you have that competition and then you are able to look back and enjoy this time together."


Those four players, plus referee Bill McCreary and coach Pat Burns, comprise the Class of 2014. They kicked off induction weekend by receiving their rings Friday in the Great Hall of the Hockey Hall of Fame, where their plaques will ensure their time in hockey is immortalized.


As TSN's Gord Murphy noted during the event, Forsberg not only is a member of the "Triple Gold Club" for winning a world championship, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup, he "took two laps around" by winning each twice. Forsberg's NHL career was short compared to other Hall of Fame members, but his international resume has few equals.


Modano's career was defined by his impact on the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, but also for being one of the best American players and one of the first marketable U.S. stars in the NHL (much like Forsberg and Hasek for their respective countries). The win for the United States at the 1996 World Cup was the seminal moment for a generation of players who helped prove USA Hockey was no longer a major underdog on the international scene, that miracles were not needed to defeat the superpowers.


"It is hard to say," Modano said when asked whether he was surprised about the lasting impact for American hockey. "Like us all at the time, we looked back at '80. That was kind of our moment in the sun and what everyone our age would go back to. I think for Zach [Parise] and [Patrick] Kane and [Ryan] Kesler and [James van Riemsdyk], they go back to '96 as one of those tournaments that they recollect about and remember. It helped get them excited for international play."


Those same superpowers that Modano's United States teams proved they could contend with were humbled by Hasek and the Czechs in 1998. He became the story of the first Olympic tournament with NHL players, defeating the United States, Canada and Russia on the way to one of the most important moments in the country's sporting history.


"This is something I will never forget," Hasek said. "We won the gold medal, we flew with a charter our president sent for us and we came back to Prague and we spend one night in Prague and this night I will never, ever forget. The cheering and big ovation at the airport and the old time square. This is something you will appreciate for the rest of your life."


Canada was the runner-up in each of those iconic moments for Forsberg, Modano and Hasek. Blake became part of the group that restored some order for Canada and earned a measure of revenge for the '96 World Cup when the Canadians defeated the Americans in the 2002 gold-medal game in Salt Lake City.


"When they allowed the professionals to play in the Olympics and the hype of it all, not winning the first one in Nagano and then coming home and having four years to think about it and with this one being in North America and playing the U.S. in the final," Blake said, "that was the height of my international experience.


"I don't know if it was payback, but when you grow up in Canada, the expectations are incredibly high. To be able to accomplish that sticks with you."


McCreary had an ice-level view for this generation of globalization and increased international parody. He was on the ice for the gold-medal games in Nagano and Salt Lake, and has seen how the international players and game have impacted the sport.


"Certainly I think people in North America have been turned on to the Olympic style of play -- speed, skill, passing the puck, lots of odd-man rushes and turnovers and scoring opportunities," McCreary said. "Bringing that style of play to the smaller ice surface has meant eliminating some of the hooking and holding and interference and the center line. That has opened up the game, so you have the speed. The same players who have played in those Olympic tournaments play in the NHL, so you have that skill set and that makes it more exciting. These guys were certainly part of the transformation."



Hasek had only one goal: to be the man in the net


TORONTO -- There was never any other choice for Dominik Hasek. If he was going to play hockey, he was going to be the goalie.


"I was a goalie from practice No. 1," Hasek said here Friday at the start of Hockey Hall of Fame weekend. "I remember I was 3 years old and I always asked my parents and grandfather to shoot at me in the kitchen at home, in the meadow around the house. I never tried to score on anyone. I always was in the net to stop the ball or stop the puck. When I was 6 and at my first practice, I came to the hockey rink as the goalie."


Turns out it was a very astute decision. Hasek received his Hockey Hall of Fame ring with this year's other inductees: Mike Modano, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, referee Bill McCreary and coach Pat Burns (accepted by his widow, Line Gignac Burns). The group will be inducted Monday.


Right from the get-go, Hasek hated giving up a goal. Buffalo Sabres teammate Mike Peca once said jokingly that Hasek stopped 106 of 115 shots he faced in warm-up prior to a game.


"I remember I cried many times when I lost or when I let goals in during practice when I was a kid," Hasek said. "I remember crying when my favorite professional team I was cheering for would lose a game. My grandfather had a handkerchief and he would wipe my tears and tell me I didn't have to cry when I was a kid."


After a brilliant career in Europe, where he was three times chosen Player of the Year and five times Goaltender of the Year, Hasek headed for North America. He had been drafted in the 10th round, pick No. 199, by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1983.


"I always dreamed about one day being a starting goalie in the NHL and it took me a few years," Hasek said. "I was sent down to the minors and I played behind Eddie Belfour, who was the Vezina Trophy winner in Chicago. Honestly at the time I never dreamed of being a Vezina Trophy winner or being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is like a dream, seriously."


Hasek's career kicked into gear when he was traded to the Sabres in August 1992 and got the chance to be the starter for the first time in the NHL.


The high point of his nine years in Buffalo was arguably also the low point: losing Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, 2-1 in triple overtime, against the Dallas Stars. Fans in Buffalo to this day insist Stars forward Brett Hull had his skate in the crease and the goal he scored should have been disallowed. But it counted, and Dallas won the Cup.


"It was tough … difficult for everyone in our locker room," Hasek said. "Especially with the Brett Hull goal, which was sort of on the edge maybe. It was an illegal goal."


Hasek was traded to the Detroit Red Wings in July 2001 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2002 and 2008.


Throughout his career, Hasek had to answer questions about his unique, unorthodox style. He would fling himself from side to side in the net, roll around on his back with his legs kicking in the air, and drop his stick to pick up the puck with his blocker.


"I think the NHL should have made a rule that made it illegal for him to do that," Forsberg said with a smile.


"What can I say about my style?" Hasek said. "When I was a kid I would watch the best goalies, what I could see on TV, and at that time it was European goalies like Jiri Halicek and Vladislav Tretiak. I watched them and I tried to do the same things in practice. There were certain things that were working for me and some things that didn't work for me at all. So that is how I developed my style. I was more flexible than most goalies. I never had a goalie coach as a kid so I developed my style on my own."


Hasek said he knew that's how he wanted to play.


"I had some goalie coaches who maybe asked why I did things a certain way, but back in the day I was strong-willed and they never tried to change me," he said. "I think it worked because I was more flexible than the other guys. My butterfly, I think, was the best in my time. I could reach from post to post with my legs and the whole body was more flexible so I could be on my knees because I was able to reach farther than the other goalies."


Hasek's acrobatic style certainly confused the opposition.


"I think his greatest attribute was that he was so flexible he could have a leg anywhere and he read the play so well," Forsberg said. "I remember a few times you'd maybe beat a guy coming in and he would be right there. If he saw you had your head down he would read the play so he was always close to you and you could never get an easy goal on him."


Hasek, who turns 50 in January, smiles when he thinks back on robbing some of the best players in the world.


"I watched yesterday on TV some of my great saves and I enjoyed it," Hasek said. "I enjoyed so much playing goal. Unfortunately I could not help my teammates score goals, but when the game was 2-1 for us I knew I could be the biggest difference. For me it was all about winning the game."


Hasek won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie six times and won the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player in 1997 and 1998.


The biggest victory for Hasek came in 1998 when the Czech Republic won the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics.


"Nagano was definitely No. 1," Hasek said. "I have to say definitely No. 1 with winning my first Stanley Cup in 2002. In 1998 we came to Nagano as an underdog, but we had a special feeling in the locker room with a coach like Ivan Hlinka and a player like Jaromir Jagr and some other, at that time, underrated players. This is something I will never forget.


"We won the gold medal and then flew on a charter to meet our president [Vaclav] Haval, who sent for us in Prague. We spent one night in Prague and I will never forget that. It is something I will appreciate for the rest of my life."


The Czechs defeated the United States 4-1 in the quarterfinals, Canada 2-1 in a shootout in the semifinals, and Russia 1-0 in the gold-medal game.


The loss stung Canada. Blake, who won gold for Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, credited Hasek.


"He was one of the greatest," Blake said. "You knew you were never going to get an easy one on him. The best game I ever saw or he played against me was in the Olympics in Nagano. He was the best player on the ice and he stopped five of Canada's best shooters (Theo Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, Brendan Shanahan)."


If the Czechs were underdogs at the start of the Olympic tournament, as Hasek suggested, it wasn't long before the other teams started looking over their shoulders.


"After we beat USA in the quarterfinals we started to believe that maybe we can do something more," Hasek said.


It was a big deal not just for the team.


"The people in the Czech Republic still remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when we beat the Canadians in the semifinal," Hasek said. "It was an unforgettable moment."


Hasek retired from the NHL after the 2007-08 season but found himself growing restless. He returned to play for hometown Pardubice in the Czech League in 2009-10 and for Moscow Spartak in the Kontinental Hockey League in 2010-11.


"For me it was easy to retire, but after a few months without hockey I decided to come back just for the love of the game," Hasek said. "But for every player, there comes a time when you have to retire forever, and that day came for me too."


When the call came telling Hasek he had been elected to the Hall of Fame, he was out for a bike ride when he answered the phone.


"The wind was blowing, so I said, 'I can't hear you; call me back,'" Hasek said.


There was never any doubt he would be a goaltender, and there was no other sport for him.


"Hockey is the best sport in the world," Hasek said. "The city I am from, hockey is No. 1, so I am glad I chose hockey."



Kane, Subban slumps among hot fantasy topics


Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar 's fantasy struggles in the early parts of the 2014-15 season have been well-documented. He has seven points in 14 games after putting together a 70-point effort a season ago. Coming into this season, Kopitar was drafted on average with the 19th pick. Right now he ranks 449th among all players in Yahoo fantasy leagues.


It's been an ugly start for Kopitar. However, he missed three-and-a-half games because of an upper-body injury. We can sort of give him a free pass for his struggles due to the injury. An excuse, perhaps. Plus, Kopitar has two goals and two assists in the past three games. Maybe he's breaking out of the slump. If so, the buy-low window may have just disappeared.


If you can't acquire Kopitar, there are two other elite players you should be targeting: Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban . Try and pry either of these guys away from their owners at a discounted price right now. It may be the last chance you have.


Let's take a look at their situations.


PATRICK KANE


Coming into the season, Kane was ranked 11th among all players in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Of players that have remained healthy this season, no forward drafted that early has been a bigger disappointment than Kane, who currently ranks 122nd.



Patrick Kane



Patrick Kane


Right Wing - CHI


GOALS: 4 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 10

SOG: 46 | PIMs: 0 | +/-: -3



For Kane, it's been a bit of a weird start. To begin, his linemates haven't been consistent. He's seen Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and even Jonathan Toews at his side on occasion. The combinations have been shuffled around throughout this season, and quite often. The results haven't been what Kane owners would expect: four goals and six assists in 16 games. Part of this lineup inconsistency has led to inconsistent production as well. Last season Kane recorded at least one point in 46 of 69 games (67 percent) and multipoint games in 19 of 69 (28 percent). This season Kane has points in eight of 16 games (50 percent) and multipoint games in just two of 16 (13 percent).

Another key factor to his sluggish start is the fact he's simply not shooting the puck as often as last season. Kane is averaging 2.88 shots on goal per game, which is a significant downgrade from his 3.29 shots per game last season. While his current 8.7 shooting percentage should rise closer to his career mark of 11.5, the fact he's not shooting as frequently is a little alarming.


While his production isn't where it should be, there are reasons to expect a turnaround. Kane is averaging more ice time per game than last season, including nearly a minute more of power-play time per game (4:07 this season versus. 3:18 last). He still plays on an elite team with plenty of talent around him. And of course the biggest reason to expect Kane to heat up is because, well, he's Patrick Kane.


P.K. SUBBAN



P.K. Subban



P.K. Subban


Defense - MTL


GOALS: 3 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 9

SOG: 31 | PIMs: 24 | +/-: -1



Coming into the season, Subban ranked 16th among all players in Yahoo fantasy leagues. Of players that have remained healthy this season, no defenseman drafted that early has been a bigger disappointment than Subban, who currently ranks 145th. Sound familiar?


Yes, Subban has struggled, like Kane. And yes, he too will come around. Subban has no goals and five assists in his past 11 games, but the biggest problem with his numbers is the fact he has just one power-play point after finishing with 26 and 23 in each of the past two seasons. While his power-play ice time per game is down from last season (from 4:39 per game to 3:48), the Montreal power play unit as a whole should improve once it begins to get more opportunities (it's fifth-to-last in time spent on the power play at 80:37 on the season). Right now the Canadiens rank third-worst in the League in conversion rate (8.5 percent). Last season they had a power play percentage of 17.2. Expect them to get better.












































SUBBAN SHOT COMPARISON
Category
2014-15

Total
Per game
2013-14

Total
Per game
SHOTS

ON GOAL
311.822042.49
BLOCKED SHOTS AGAINST 321.881712.08
MISSED

SHOTS ON GOAL
231.35821.00
TOTAL

SHOT ATTEMPTS
865.064575.57

Shot on goal stats provided by war-on-ice.com

One thing Subban needs to improve on is getting the puck to the net more often. He's averaging 1.82 shots per game. In his previous 284 games, Subban averaged 2.59 shots on goal per game. And it's not so much that he isn't attempting shots as frequently, it's that he's not getting his shots on goal. Check out the table on the right comparing this season vs. last season.


Assuming the Canadiens start to get more power-play opportunities and convert on more of them, Subban's shot on goal totals should increase, which will in turn increase his point production. As with Kane, you simply need to wait out this rough patch. Time will heal all wounds.

---



Unusual road has Kerdiles on cusp of reaching NHL


If you trace it back a few years, the ice hockey timeline for Nicolas Kerdiles seems pretty standard.


A stint with the United States National Team Development Program, a few international appearances, some college hockey, and now his rookie season in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals after his first National Hockey League training camp this past September.


Before all that, before the call to the USNTDP, before going No. 36 to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2012 NHL Draft, Kerdiles' road to professional hockey began 20 minutes from the Honda Center on a suburban street in Irvine, Calif., with a neighbor who needed an extra in a game of roller hockey.


Kerdiles, 20, was born in Lewisville, Texas, to French and French-Canadian parents, and spent his first seven years living in France. A move to southern California didn't have the beginnings of a professional hockey career written all over it, but when the game wants you, it will eventually find you.


Nicolas Kerdiles is tied for ninth in rookie scoring with eight points through 12 games with the Admirals. (Photo: Team Shred Photography)


"For the longest time, it was just kind of where the next game would take me," he said. "I didn't have the most confidence that I was going to make it to where I wanted to be one day. I think the U.S. team was the first time where I really instilled some confidence in myself and thought that there is a chance."


Kerdiles spent two seasons with the USNTDP, winning gold with the Americans in the 2011 IIHF World U-18 Championships before committing to play college hockey with the Big Ten heavyweight University of Wisconsin. The time with the Badgers was integral to his development.


"I had two great years there playing with older people and playing with men," he said. "I think the fact that I was playing against guys that were big and strong in college and I was 18; that really helped my transition into playing in the AHL."


Kerdiles put up 71 points in 60 NCAA games with the Badgers and represented the U.S. once more, this time with the U-20 World Junior Championship squad, before making the transition to the pro ranks after his sophomore season.


Making his professional debut with Norfolk last spring, Kerdiles had a goal and three assists in six regular-season games and helped the eighth-seeded Admirals reach the second round of the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs with three goals and one assist in 10 postseason games, all without missing a beat.


"I think he's taking it in stride. He's been very coachable," said Norfolk coach Jarrod Skalde. "He appreciates the lessons that he's learned so far. For me, it's great having Nic here because he wants to get better and he wants to learn."


Though Kerdiles considers himself a natural center, he's been fluctuating between center and the wing throughout most of his hockey career and has spent most of the young 2014-15 season on the wing with Norfolk. Skalde points out Kerdiles' offensive abilities and his work ethic, and that regardless of position, Kerdiles always seems to have a "nose for the net."


"That's the type of player I am. Skate fast, play hard, and go to the dirty areas," Kerdiles said. "If I can be a guy that guys can get some energy from, whether that's physical play or just grinding out in the corners, then that's something I want to be able to do."


Reflected again and again in the views of rookies on their first glimpse into life as a professional is the struggle to fit into the bigger picture. Kerdiles was no stranger to this, but his piece in the puzzle fit a little easier than most, thanks to guidance from Wisconsin star and current Ducks forward Dany Heatley.


"He gave me tips during training camp. Told me to relax and play confident and just enjoy it," Kerdiles said. "It's a learning experience and I'll get my crack at it, so just keep working hard."


He has heeded that advice. Heading into the weekend, Kerdiles is tied for ninth in rookie scoring with eight points through 12 games, and his six assists are best on the Admirals.


Skalde isn't sure how long the Admirals will have Kerdiles on their roster. The world of pro hockey loves throwing curveballs. But no matter if it's a month or a year, Skalde is confident in Kerdiles' future.


"I think it's imperative to spend time here in the AHL. This is such a great learning ground for young guys," Skalde said. "He's going to absorb so much and the time spent here will just be so good for him. I know that when he [moves on], he'll be ready for that next step. He's a guy you root for, and a guy you want to see have success and play in Anaheim."


Kerdiles is young. He's just barely opened the door for his pro career. He's had inconsistencies and felt a little wobbly on the often unforgiving ground upon which pro hockey is built. But he'll be ready when the Ducks come calling.


"Confidence really is key and that's something I'm trying to work on here in the AHL," he said. "Having that confidence to just know that I belong here and that I'm going to get my opportunity in the NHL one day."


For the latest news, scores and stats from around the American Hockey League, visit theahl.com.



Blue Jackets' Hartnell craving win against Flyers


COLUMBUS -- Having spent seven seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded in June to the Columbus Blue Jackets, left wing Scott Hartnell laughed when asked what kind of reception he expects Friday in his return to Wells Fargo Center.


"It's Philly, man," he said. "I'm sure I'll get a round of applause, but the way I play a lot of cities don't like me. That means I'm doing a good job in that way.


"If I run over (Claude) Giroux first shift I'm sure I'll get some boos."


Hartnell may or may not be jesting about taking a run at his former linemate, but if that would create a spark for the slumping Blue Jackets (4-10-1) then he would gladly risk the wrath of the fans that used to cheer him in exchange for a long-sought victory.


Scott Hartnell returns to face the Philadelphia Flyers with his current team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, desperate to snap a nine-game losing streak. (Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI, Len Redkoles/NHLI)


While he is having a strong start to the 2014-15 season with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 15 games, the Blue Jackets have tied their longest losing streak in history with an 0-8-1 mark. Only the Buffalo Sabres (eight) have fewer points in the NHL than the Columbus' nine.


"It's not the position we want to be in," Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno said. "It's obviously embarrassing from our standpoint.


"If we can go in there and play our game and come out with a win, that would really be gratifying for not only (Hartnell) but the whole team in getting us kick started."


It's not the scenario Hartnell, 32, envisioned when he waived his no-movement clause to join the Blue Jackets on June 23 in exchange for center R.J. Umberger. The Blue Jackets were coming off their second Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance and the future looked bright with a bevy of young talent.


But the combination of injuries, illness and suspension has kept 8-10 players out of the line for most of the season. Hartnell said Wednesday he doesn't regret accepting the trade, one he didn't seek and was upset by at first.


In 517 regular-season games for the Flyers, he had 157 goals, 326 points and 908 penalty minutes.


"You want to be in a place where you're wanted and not be in a place where you're not wanted," he said. "I'd rather be happy and wanted. I know Columbus and what they have going on here is a good thing. It's just a rocky road right now.


"I'm not going to lie, would I do the same thing? Why would I leave playing with (Giroux) and (Jakub Voracek), two of the best players in the League, and what we had going on in Philly? They wanted to go in a different direction."


The Flyers have won three straight and are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with a 7-5-2 record.


"I watch the scoreboard every night and see how they're doing," Hartnell said. "Obviously they're doing a little bit better than us. It's something we need to fix and fix soon, or else the end of the season will be tough to play."


He also admitted one of the first things he did after the trade was to look up the date of his first game in Philadelphia.


"It seemed just like yesterday when the trade happened," Hartnell said. "I'm real excited to go there and see the guys, see the city that I spent a lot of my life in."


He stays in contact with many of his former teammates: "They've got me on this stupid group chat with the 15 guys or whatever they have on there."


Hartnell said he most misses Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who is on injured reserve because of blood clots. They played together in Hartnell's first six NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators before they were traded to the Flyers in May 2007.


Having gone through that experience of his first time back to Nashville as a member of the Flyers gives Hartnell an idea of what to expect Friday.


"It's going to be emotional, for sure," he said. "There's a lot of memories, the 2010 (Stanley Cup) Final and guys I've played all seven years with. Those are the real touching things for me and the friendships I made for a lifetime.


"I had so many good times. I'm looking forward to having more good times in an away jersey."


Columbus coach Todd Richards hopes they began with a win against the Flyers.


"These are the situations where the players rally around the guy, whoever is going back, because they know it's an important game for him," he said. "When it's an important game for him it needs to be important for the whole group.


"There should be a lot to get the guys ready: playing in Philadelphia, a division game, Scott Hartnell is going back. There's lots of reason to be ready for that game."


When Hartnell was asked if it would be special to end the losing skid at Philadelphia, he said, "It would have been nice to do it a few games ago."



Super 16: Predators' Forsberg emerges from '12 class


The Nashville Predators have lacked dynamism at the forward position for years, but they appear to have bolstered the group significantly in that department this offseason.


One move was obvious, adding James Neal in a trade for Patric Hornqvist. Maybe Neal won't score 40 times without Evgeni Malkin feeding him the puck, but he's still scoring plenty on Nashville's top line.


The other "addition" came from within. Filip Forsberg had a goal and five points in 13 games last season with Nashville, at times looking like a tantalizing prospect and others looking like a guy not ready for the NHL. If it weren't for Vladimir Tarasenko, Forsberg might be the breakout star of the 2014-15 season to date.


Forsberg leads all rookies with seven goals and 17 points, and it would be hard to not call him the leader in the Calder Trophy race, though Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad has been even better than advertised and deserves to be on the short list.


Expected to be one of the top picks in the 2012 NHL Draft, Forsberg slipped (a little) to No. 11 for the Washington Capitals. Drafted to be a center, the Capitals reportedly soured on Forsberg before trading him to the Predators in what currently looks like one of the more ill-fated transactions of this century.


It is possible Forsberg will not be able to make the transition to center, but like another player competing for the Calder, Los Angeles Kings forward Tanner Pearson, previous concerns about his skating ability appear to have either been off-base or the young players deserve a lot of praise for correcting the problem. Forsberg's hands and hockey smarts certainly look like potential world-class assets.


His breakout only solidifies a developing theme about the 2012 draft class. It could go down as one of the best ever for European-trained talents. Nail Yakupov was the No. 1 pick, and he looks like a much-improved player in his third season for the Edmonton Oilers. The Montreal Canadiens' Alex Galchenyuk won't technically count with this group, but he did spend most of childhood in Europe and didn't move back to the United States until he was 15. He looks like a future superstar.


Olli Maatta, Tomas Hertl and Frederik Andersen had fantastic rookie seasons last year, while Forsberg, Hampus Lindholm and Zemgus Girgensons could all be great players as well. The accompanying table takes a look at how the European kids (skaters, sorry Freddie) from the Class of 2012 are performing in 2014-15.













































































Player, team TOI/GP Goals Points CF% CF%rel
N. Yakupov, EDM14:483746.47-5.59
A. Galchenyuk, MTL*16:145952.723.61
H. Lindholm, ANA22:501550.660.23
F. Forsberg, NAS16:4671756.885.18
Z. Girgensons, BUF17:323639.372.59
T. Hertl, SJS15:113754.265.54
O. Maatta, PIT19:591657.619.48
Key: TOI/GP = average time on ice per game; CF% = Corsi for percentage; CF%rel = Corsi for percentage relative to team average

Don't forget this draft class also includes maybe the best forward and goaltender prospects not currently in the NHL (Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Vasilevskiy) and the obvious caveat that there will almost certainly be a late-bloomer or three from the later rounds who are currently playing across the pond as well.


DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information.


1. St. Louis Blues (10-4-1)


It is not just the Vladimir Tarasenko Show in St. Louis, though the dynamic Russian is part of why Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz are second and third on the team in scoring. It's the hottest line in the NHL, and has helped the Blues overcome injuries and a slight dip in production from the team's typical top-line guys David Backes and Alexander Steen, who have combined for one less goal and one less point than Tarasenko. Though not eligible for the Calder Trophy because of his age, Lehtera would be second in the League in rookie scoring if he were.


MUST READ: If you live in St. Louis, Denver, Pittsburgh or New York City, the much-anticipated and well-reviewed documentary "Red Army" is playing in your city this weekend (the official U.S. release date is in January). Charles McGrath and Jeff Z. Klein wrote about the film for the New York Times.


2. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-3-1)


Even after getting blown out by the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Penguins have a League-best plus-23 goal differential. If the power play were operating at 28.8 percent (still tops in the NHL) and if goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was stopping 91.8 percent of shots instead of 92.4 (which would still tie his best rate since 2007-08), Pittsburgh's goal differential … would still be second in the NHL at plus-15. The power play (certainly) and Fleury (probably) are likely to regress, but a mostly healthy Penguins team remains firmly among the Stanley Cup contenders.


MUST READ: Smriti Sinha writes about ice hockey in the Himalayan Mountains (be sure to check out the videos too) for Vice Sports.


3. Anaheim Ducks (11-3-3)


A healthy Ryan Kesler might really be the difference for the Ducks, especially if he authors a few games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs like the one he had Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings. Kesler basically lost two seasons of optimal effectiveness from trying to play through injuries during the 2011 playoffs, but did score 25 goals last season and looks a lot more like the pre-2012 version in 2014-15. Anaheim has had one player put up 20 goals and 60 points that didn't predominantly play on the top line since winning the Cup in 2007, and that was Teemu Selanne (26 goals, 66 points in 2011-12).


MUST READ: Matt Eaken of Anaheim Calling breaks down Anaheim's ability to score off the cycle, and suggests focusing on trying to do it less.


4. Chicago Blackhawks (9-6-1)


Four teams have had a Fenwick-for percentage of better than 56 percent in the past seven seasons. Three of them won the Stanley Cup (Detroit in 2008, Chicago in 2010, Los Angeles in 2014) and the fourth lost Game 7 of the Cup Final on home ice (Detroit in 2009). The Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild are currently collecting the non-blocked shot attempts at a rate of better than 56 percent. If that were to hold for the entire season, one of them would become the first plus-56 percent Fenwick team to miss the Cup Final since the Red Wings did so in 2006 and 2007.


MUST READ: Sam Hitchcock of Intelligent Hockey writes about how the stretch pass, of which Chicago is one of the best in the NHL at deploying, can turn defense into offense in a hurry.


5. Los Angeles Kings (8-4-4)


The Kings looked great against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, but otherwise it is now six losses in eight games and only scant traces of the dominant puck possession team they have been for the previous three seasons.


Some of it is undoubtedly motivation related after three consecutive deep playoff runs. Some of it also is very likely health-related from the residual effect of said postseason adventures. Some of it has been player availability, which is part health and part Slava Voynov's suspension.


While Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have combined to miss 11 games, the rest of the forward corps has remained pretty much intact. Goalies Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones certainly haven't been the problem.


The defense corps, which also lost Willie Mitchell after he signed with the Florida Panthers in the offseason, is where the deficiencies have been most noticeable. The accompanying table takes a lot at how the minutes were divided up last season among the top-eight defensemen compared to 2014-15.













































































































'13-14TOI/GPCF%QoTZS%'14-15TOI/GPCF%QoTZS%
Doughty25:42:0058.4730.2454.31Doughty28:25:0054.2230.5948.99
Voynov22:1754.9728.4154.84Voynov23:1144.2129.3939.06
Mitchell20:1955.5427.4952.89Muzzin23:0457.731.149.07
Muzzin19:0161.129.3858.05Regehr20:2447.3828.8638.41
Regehr18:5753.3828.1652.26Martinez20:1148.0327.7243.9
Greene15:5358.4224.9756.82Greene16:1148.8425.4552.85
Martinez15:4056.3125.3756.68McNabb14:2751.3226.560.74
Key: TOI/GP = average time on ice per game; CF% = Corsi for percentage at even strength; QoT = quality of teammates at even strength; ZS% = percentage of non-neutral zone starts in the offensive end

Three guys are playing in excess of two-and-a-half minutes more than they did last season. To this point, it hasn't led to the type of results expected in Los Angeles.


MUST READ: Andrew Leafman of Jewels From The Crown writes about the Kings' troubling possession numbers to this point.


6. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-3-2)


The Lightning might be the best team in the Eastern Conference, but it would be hard to say they are without Victor Hedman. The second-year guys like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Ben Bishop (second year as a No. 1 goaltender) have all avoided taking a step back, and Jonathan Drouin has eight points in 11 games with probably more to give as he gets more adjusted to the new level.


MUST READ: Clare Austin of Puckology writes about evaluating goaltenders based on shots faced by areas on the ice.


7. Minnesota Wild (7-7-0)


Zach Parise has missed the past 10 periods, and the Wild have scored three goals in that span. Minnesota has still managed to control at least 54.3 percent of the shot attempts at even strength in the past four games, which have all been losses. The fewest power-play goals scored in a full season since 2005 is 27, which the Florida Panthers had in 2013-14. The next fewest is 32. Minnesota is on pace for 11. The Wild will not score fewer than 27 power-play goals, or less than 32 for that matter.


MUST READ: Tony Wiseau of Hockey Wilderness writes about what a potential Mikael Granlund contract extension might look like.


8. Nashville Predators (10-3-2)


While Forsberg offers an exciting present and future up front, Nashville remains one of the teams best set up for success on the back end. The Predators have four players among their top-five defensemen yet to celebrate their 25th birthdays. Those four have combined to play 60 games (each has appeared in all 15 for Nashville). That's the most U-25 games played for a team to this point in the season. Only one other team, the Florida Panthers, has four defensemen who will not be 25 years old on Feb. 1 that have played at least 12 games this season.


MUST READ: Jeremy Sargent of On The Forecheck writes about Forsberg. (Side note: Prince Filip might be the perfect nickname for Forsberg, who is very polite, composed and affable during media interviews. Prince-like, even.)


9. Boston Bruins (10-7-0)


Phil Kessel scored two goals Wednesday against the Bruins. One came with Torey Krug and Zach Trotman on the ice; the other with Joe Morrow and Adam McQuaid. This is life without Zdeno Chara. Not only can Claude Julien not put his world-class defenseman on the ice against a player like Kessel, but away from TD Garden opposing coaches have an easier time avoiding Dougie Hamilton and Dennis Seidenberg as well. Put Chara and David Krejci back in this lineup, and they might be a top-two or three team, but top-five is certainly still in play.


MUST READ: Arik Parnass writes for AP Hockey that while playing the rested goalie in back-to-back games might work out for most teams, some (like the Bruins) should still consider going with their ace in important situations.


10. Vancouver Canucks (12-5-0)


The Canucks were considered a top-heavy team and traded away their best player whose last name isn't Sedin in the offseason. One of the best developments for any team this season has been Vancouver's ability to find offense beyond the NHL's most prolific twins. Six forwards have at least four goals and another three have each scored three. The only team in the Western Conference with more four-goal scorers is the Calgary Flames, and three of their players who have done so are defensemen.


MUST READ: Thomas Drance writes that while the Canucks had a successful California road trip with four points in three games, they are going to have to play better to prove they belong in the same class as the Golden State trio.


11. Detroit Red Wings (7-3-5)


The Red Wings are 0-3 in the shootout, but 7-3-2 in games that end in 65 minutes or less is a 109-point pace. Detroit has a great opportunity to continue racking up points in the near future as well. After a game Friday against the Blackhawks, 19 of the next 20 are against teams not ranked above them on this list. None of the 20 are against the top nine.


MUST READ: Sean McIndoe of Grantland explores the Hall of Fame resume for ex- and maybe still future-Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson.


12. New York Islanders (10-5-0)


The Islanders have six players with a Corsi-for percentage of better than 55 percent. None of them were regulars for New York last season. Four were added during the offseason (Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolay Kulemin, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk) and two (Ryan Strome and Anders Lee) spent less than half of 2013-14 at the NHL level.


MUST READ: Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post writes about what the Islanders learned during a successful trip to the Western side of the continent.


13. San Jose Sharks (8-7-2)


It is far too early to panic, but a not-so-little bit of concern about how the Sharks have started this season is certainly defensible. They are a middle-of-the-pack team in Corsi-for percentage and a bottom-third team in Fenwick-for percentage at even strength. The top guys are producing but there has been inconsistent play, particularly against teams considered to be inferior. The bottom of the roster remains a problem, and the youth movement has tapered off after a strong start.


MUST READ: Craig Custance of ESPN.com writes about how Defending the Blue Line helps military families with the costs of playing hockey.


14. Montreal Canadiens (11-4-1)


The Canadiens were a confusing team at times last season with concerning underlying statistics, then they made a couple of moves before the NHL Trade Deadline and improved. The concerning numbers are back, but the roster looks better and the results to this point are there. Confusing they still remain, it would seem.


MUST READ: Jack Han of Eyes On The Prize writes about a couple of areas the Canadiens need to improve in.


15. Washington Capitals (7-5-3)


Hey look, the goaltender with a pretty strong track record started to play closer to expectations and the offense was strong enough against an inferior team and suddenly a previously unlucky team is now in the midst of a three-game winning streak with a pretty manageable schedule between now and Christmas.


MUST READ: Adam Stringham and Jon Press of Japers' Rink dive into what has really been ailing the Capitals when they try to protect a lead.


16. Winnipeg Jets (8-6-2)


When the Jets have a low PDO, it is almost always because of Ondrej Pavelec's save percentage. He is in the midst of a strong six-game run, though it should be noted four of his previous eight starts were substandard. The problem at this point has been a League-worst 4.72 percent shooting percentage at even strength. The Jets have always been able to score, and the goals will come in the near future. How much of this possible improvement Pavelec can retain will determine if the Jets can continue to compete in the brutal Central Division.


MUST READ: Garret Hohl of Arctic Ice Hockey writes about how much can be read into Pavelec's current form.