Tag:Brian Stubits
Posted on: February 19, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 3:45 pm
 

NHLPA poll really likes Pavel Datsyuk

To recap: Datsyuk is a joy and a pain to play against all at once. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

This Pavel Datsyuk fellow is a pretty good player.

In the NHL Players Association's annual poll, Datsyuk was voted as the best in six of the superlative categories. In addition to being named the most difficult player to play against and the league's smartest player (with a strong 45 percent saying as much) he was also voted the hardest to take the puck from, toughest forward to play against, the cleanest to play against and he was voted the toughest to stop by goaltenders.

What, no interesting man in hockey?

The Bruins and Rangers were also popular among the players for some of the superlatives. No surprise here, but Zdeno Chara was named the hardest shot, Milan Lucic called the toughest player in the league (ahead of teammates Chara and Shawn Thornton), Patrice Bergeron the most underrated player and Chara the toughest defenseman to play against.

For the Rangers, Marian Gaborik was called the best skater as well as the fastest, Henrik Lundqvist was named the most difficult goalie to score on and John Tortorella was voted as the coach who demands the most from his players.

There are a lot more categories that were voted on and you can check them all out here, including the top five vote getters in each category.

But another worth sharing here is definitely the biggest surprise in my eyes. A total of 53 percent of the players do not think the instigator rule should be removed from the game. Considering how vocal a lot of players have been in their dislike for the rule, it was certainly an eye-opener for me.

What wasn't shocking, however, was to see Datsyuk dominate the voting. Fans love the guy because he's a joy to watch, media members love the guy because he's a good quote and apparently players love the guy because he does everything well. If there were a player that this stupid cliché ever fit perfectly, it's Datsyuk: He plays the game the right way.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 19, 2012 10:26 am
Edited on: February 19, 2012 11:12 am
 

Pens re-sign Neal for six seasons, $30 million

Neal was given a big reason to smile by Pens GM Ray Shero. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

While most teams are busy shoring up their rosters for the remainder of this season with the trade deadline just over a week away, the Pittsburgh Penguins have taken a big step toward shoring up their roster for the next half decade.

The Penguins announced on Sunday morning that they have re-signed breakout forward James Neal to a six-year extension worth $30 million. That's a cool $5 million per season. (As a side note, I just love how the Penguins release this information, it will get out either way, might as well control it.)

"I love everything about what goes on here and how we play the game," Neal said. "I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else."

Acquired from the Stars at last year's trade deadline along with Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligosky, Neal has taken his game to a higher level with the Pens. Not to say that he wasn't a good prospect already. By the time this season began, he already had 73 goals before turning 24 years old.

But this season he has already eclipsed his career bests in goals with 30 and points (56) while he's just two away from matching his best assist tally of 28. He was a late fill-in for the All-Star Game roster, his first such honor.

"As we've gotten to know Neal over past year, he really fits with our group," general manager Ray Shero told the team's website. "It's really difficult to find players like this. Neal has size, uncanny release, heavy shot, goes to the net hard, can skate. There's a lot to like even beyond the 30 goals."

I actually really like this deal for the Penguins. Some might think it's a leap of faith to give Neal $5 million amidst his first 30-goal season of his career, but he's been in the mid-to-high 20s in all of his previous seasons and he was still just a pup playing in Dallas. It's not a bold prediction to say Neal is on his way to being a consistent 30-goal scorer.

What it does mean for the Penguins is that they aren't going to have much maneuvering room this summer and next season, as it stands now. According to Cap Geek, the Pens already have $59,566,667 committed to next season's payroll. If the cap were to stay the same -- and who knows with CBA negotiations looming -- that leaves them less than $5 million. Meanwhile, Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham, Richard Park, Cal O'Reilly, Niskanen and Brent Johnson are all free agents of some kind.

But that doesn't mean that I dislike this signing at all. I think it's a very reasonable amount of money for the Penguins, actually. A simple projection out shows this season isn't likely to be a fluke. A $5 million salary for a potential 40-goal scorer is practically a bargain in the NHL these days.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 4:28 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:32 pm
 

Optimism rises in Phoenix in owner search

By Brian Stubits

Perhaps it's just a matter of timing after Seattle announced plans for a new arena contingent on securing NBA and NHL franchises, but there is sight of optimism again in Phoenix.

While the play of the Coyotes of late has increased the optimism they could be headed to the postseason for a third consecutive season, the off-ice story is the one that continues to hang over their heads. And for the first time in a really long time there is something that sounds positive for keeping the team in the desert.

From the Arizona Republic:

For now, there are only whispers. But Jerry Colangelo hears potential buyers are "milling around." Former NHL star Jeremy Roenick said he's been approached by Greg Jamison, the former San Jose Sharks CEO who is trying to raise sufficient funds. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently said there's a third party involved, joining the Jamison Group.

One source said this third party is not only very real, but extremely wealthy and spending serious money on due diligence. That's a great sign. And you can't help but notice the renewed faith in the voice of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.

"We are still hoping for a good ending," Tippett said. "You look at what's happened over the last three years, and we've found a way to stay competitive. I think there's a ton of upside with this team [for any investor]. We just have to find a way to get the deal done."

Now I've learned over the last couple of years (feels like even longer) not to get too excited with any signs of optimism concerning a new owner for the Coyotes. We've been down this road many times and here we are, still looking at the team being owned by the NHL.

As I noted, the timing is a bit interesting. The story comes out within 24 hours of Seattle revealing its plan. To secure an NHL franchise, everybody immediately looks at the Coyotes as the team that would be needed in Seattle for the arena. Whether that's intentional or not, I don't know.

But lending creedance to it being more than just a well-timed response is the story that drifted out last week about Jeremy Roenick saying he was contacted about investing in a potential ownership group. So the iron was a little hot before the Seattle news surfaced.

It's finally coming to the pot of doing it or getting off the pot, if you know what I mean.

This much is certain: The NHL will not allow the city of Glendale to rent the team for another year and another $25 million. That means the endgame is coming. The time for band-aids is over, and the Coyotes actually share that philosophy.

Well this is a good sign at least, but I'll wait for something more tangible.

More from Eye on Hockey

How would Seattle fare with NHL?
Seattle unveils plan for arena
Roenick trying to get involved

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 3:28 pm
 

Video: Rick Nash's wish list put into song

By Brian Stubits

Ever since the word got out that Rick Nash could be traded from the Blue Jackets, I don't think there has been a fan base more excited than the Kings. They need scoring help in the worst way.

The excitement further ramped up when word came down that the Kings might be one of five teams on Nash's approved list for trades considering his no-trade clause. Don't believe me? Just check out this video from the Royal Half, a Kings blog (and great follow on Twitter).

Now I've seen some song parodies before, but this one is outstanding. The lyrics and vocals are enough to make Hall & Oates probably not cry. By the way, for comparison's sake, here's the original song Kiss on My List.

See, it's for reasons like this that I love trade season in the modern age. A part of me hopes the Kings can get Nash as a reward for this effort.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:22 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 3:08 pm
 

Predators trade for Gill, send Geoffrion to Habs

Gill was a member of the Pens' 2008-09 champion team. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Now the trades are starting to roll in. Took a while.

The Nashville Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill and a future fifth-round draft pick from the Montreal Canadiens on Friday in exchange for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney and a second-round pick.

Gill has been one of the few names figured to for sure be on the trading block in what has been a pretty quiet trade season so far. A veteran defenseman on a team that's has sunk out of the race who doesn't have a contract after this season? Of course there would be demand for him.

His addition makes the Predators even tougher to attack. With already the best pair of defensemen in the game with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, Gill brings another strong defensive presence. He comes into a situation that's good for him where he won't be asked to play top pairing minutes. He's only averaged 16:44 per game this season.

“Hal Gill brings our team a number of elements -- size, penalty-killing ability, depth on defense and playoff experience,” Preds GM David Poile said. “He has won a Stanley Cup and played a combined 69 playoff games over the last four years, experience that significantly benefits our team.”

Interstingly, most have been thinking that the Preds needed to upgrade on offense. But realistically, they needed help on the back end as well. The Preds are actually 11th in the league in goals per game with 2.77, equal to the Rangers and Capitals. Defensively they are again 11th in goals against per game, not where you expect a Barry Trotz team to be.

"We felt that we needed to get some veteran experience," Poille said. "I think with Hal Gill we got everything we were looking for."

Some are going to speculate if this means anything for Suter and/or Weber. Stop that. Gill is 36 with no guarantee of being in Nashville next season. If anything, this only helps Nashville's situation with their top defensemen, it shows a commitment to winning and doing it now. They are buyers in an attempt to go for it.

The return package to Montreal isn't too shabby for a 36-year-old rental player. Of particular interest is Geoffrion going to the Canadiens. Of course that's where his legendary grandfather Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion made his Hall of Fame career. Oh, and his great grandfather was Howie Morenz.

NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage

Talk about a legacy and pressure. Geoffrion goes from playing for his hometown team in Nashville to playing for his grandpa's team in Montreal. That's quite a pill to swallow, as he noted via Twitter.

"Wow..what a day...its bitter sweet, going to miss my hometown of nashville, but going to where it all started with my family...MONTREAL!!!"

It seems like a pretty good deal for the Preds to me. You get a good defenseman to help position the Preds for a deeper run this season and they give up a couple of mid-level prospects and a second-round pick. Geoffrion could still develop into a top-six forward, but so far he hasn't been able to show it for the Preds. In the last two seasons he has 22 games in the NHL with six goals and five assists, only three assists in 22 games this season.

The asking price could be pretty big in return. At first brush it looks like a pretty expensive sell and it could prove to be. But the jury is still out on Geoffrion -- granted, he's 23 -- and Slaney while second-round picks very often don't turn to be that big, as Adam Gretz pointed out today.

But if you want to get something you have to give up something.

"The parity that we have in the NHL right now is as close as it's been ... you have to be willing to pay a price to get what you want," Poile said. And he did.

Let's hear your verdict: You like it?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Hockey Weekend in America

Hossa and the 'Hawks are about ready to return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

In case you didn't know -- and chances are you didn't -- this weekend is Hockey Weekend in America. Mostly it's a name attached to a normal weekend of games, but dammit it's Patriotic and I'll be a son of a gun if Old Glory doesn't get me pumped up for anything.

The weekend showcase will be the triple-header early Sunday in what has become the spotlight game of the week now that football is in hibernation until the end of summer. Your choices -- OK, NBC's choices to show you based on where you live -- are Sharks at Red Wings (yes please!), Blues at Blackhawks (I'll take that) and Penguins at Sabres (hey, it looked good at the start of the season). It wraps with a game at 3 ET on NBC Sports Network as the Bruins visit the Wild.

With no slight to that Blues-Blackhawks game back in Chicago (home sweet home, eh 'Hawks?) the Sharks-Wings battle is the one to really watch. For if the Red Wings are still riding their record win streak into Sunday -- a mighty big "if" with the Predators visiting the Joe on Friday night -- then this will be the biggest threat to date.

There aren't many teams that can say this, but the Sharks have had Detroit's number recently. They are one of the few teams who have won in Detroit this season, doing so way back before Halloween. Go back to the beginning of last season and the Sharks are 9-4 vs. the Wings, including the playoffs. That includes five consecutive wins in regular-season matchups.

Must be coach Todd McLellan still knowing a secret or two to beating his old squad.

So while the bout in Motown might be the best from an action standpoint and as far as NHL history is concerned, I argue the more meaningful game is the one in the Windy City.

It was such a massive relief for the Blackhawks to finally end their losing streak that had peaked at nine games. Against the Rangers, no less. That's not like ending the skid against the Blue Jackets -- their final stop on this massive road trip Saturday -- it's the type of win that can really signify that things are alright. Taking down the best team in the league in their barn? Talk about a slumpbuster.

A return to home ice will be nice. Think about how you feel when you walk back in your front door after a vacation. Now think of how great that feeling is when you've had about the worst vacation you can imagine.

Then again, it's not so great when you have a house guest like St. Louis sitting on your porch awaiting for you to let them in. The good news is they aren't the type of guest who trashes your place, they're respectful that way. They are just 10-12-3 away from Scottrade Center.

Extended metaphor aside, there's no better time than now for the Blackhawks to regain their footing. That would put an end to the ridiculously stupid Patrick Kane trade suggestions and allow them to safely put space between them and the playoff chasers in the West.

One thing to consider: Face-off will be at 11:30 local time to accommodate NBC's time slot. That's an awfully early wakeup call after so long away from home.

Southeast showdown Part V

The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals will square off for the fifth time this season Friday night in Florida. Strangely enough, it's going to be the first time that Tomas Vokoun has started a game back in Sunrise, his former stomping grounds, and the first start against the Capitals period for Jose Theodore this season. It's a bit odd that the No. 1 goalies have only received two of the eight starts in this series so far this season.

It makes sense both starters get the nod on Friday. It's another massive night for these teams. If the Panthers can do what they have done twice already this season and beat the Caps at home, they'll move six points up on Washington in the division. That's a nice cushion when we're getting down to 25 games or fewer left this season. Not insurmountable, but nice.

This is the third time these two have met this month. The last meeting was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Capitals in D.C. Coach Dale Hunter referred to that as a playoff game before it began and the Caps make it look as such. Since? They're 1-3-1. By my count, that'd have them eliminated (from the mythical Feb. playoffs, folks).

The good news is that Mike Green might return for the Caps against the Panthers. He's stopped and started so many times this season you'd think he was driving on the Washington Beltway during morning rush hour.

There will be a lot of interesting things to watch for in the game, but one for me will be the intensity of the Caps. In their last visit to Florida, Karl Alzner explained away their poor start by the lack of energy in the building. A pretty soft excuse in a pivotal division matchup.

They can't afford to start slow again. The Panthers have been doing that a lot lately themselves and coach Kevin Dineen is determined to make that stop in such an important game.

Desert streaking dogs

Holy Coyotes that team is hot right now.

Perhaps it's been a push to help garner interest to keep them in Phoenix, I don't know, but the Coyotes have caught fire. Just when you were ready to bury them in the desert sand, they spring off a run like this. "This" would be six wins in the last seven games to get into the playoff seedings at the moment.

To further their standing in the, um, standings, they get their own pivotal matchup. The Dallas Stars, one of the plethora of teams on their heels outside of the playoff picture at the moment, come to the desert on Saturday night.

It's a classic "four-point game" for the teams battling in the West and Pacific Division. Here's hoping there's a better than normal crowd to watch it, should be close to a playoff atmosphere.

Keystone clash rekindled

The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances again this weekend. It's the start of a stretch with a lot of meetings for the intrastate rivals.

It will be the first of four meetings for the teams from now until April 7, the final day of the season. No wonder the chirping between the fan bases has been mostly quiet this season, they have hardly met.

The importance here should be pretty clear. As of now they are jockeying back and forth -- and with New Jersey -- for that all-important fourth spot in the East, the only home-ice award that goes to a non-division winner. It's very possible that these four tilts, starting with the Saturday matinee, will decide that race.

Plus it's about that time of the season where the Flyers could really stand for Ilya Bryzgalov to heat up and carry some momentum into the postseason. He's back in action now after an illness and this is the type of game where it would be so big if he came up humangous big for the Flyers but unfortunately the kind we've come to expect a few bad goals this season.

Sibling rivalry renewed

Unlike the last time the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings met, this one won't be about the coaches. Very much, at least.

Brothers Brent and Darryl Sutter this time get the undercard billing with another battle of teams at the bottom of the playoff picture out West.

After their own long road trip, you'd think coming home might be enough to jolt that putrid 2.07 goals per game number for the Kings. Well they were shut out by the Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center, so you can probably shoot that theory down. Fact is they haven't been able to score much anywhere, no matter if it's at home or not.

The way it stands going into the weekend, L.A. is clinging to the eighth spot out West and Calgary is right behind them. Pretty astonishing I think, but the Flames are still right there.

So you see, this one is about a lot more than a sibling rivalry.

We're going streaking!

Here are the streaks -- both good and bad -- headed into the weekend.

Red Wings: Considering they've been playing a lot at home recently and they have an NHL record win streak going, it's no surprise they've won four straight. Two toughies this weekend with Nashville and San Jose visiting.

Anaheim Ducks: In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Ducks have run off three in a row. They head to the Southeast now and face the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.

Sabres: It keeps getting worse and worse. After seven unanswered goals against on Thursday, they now have a three-game skid. They have the Canadiens on Friday and Penguins on Sunday.

Capitals: Needing to go on a tear late like they have in recent seasons, the Caps are instead sputtering. They do the Florida double-header this weekend entering with a three-game slide.

Wild: Six-game skid ... and likely counting. A back-to-back at the Blues and vs. the Bruins doesn't figure to be the remedy. This weekend could all but officially bury their once promising playoff hopes.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:37 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 1:54 pm
 

Milan Lucic's church in Vancouver vandalized

The vandals left this in their wake. (Vancouver Sun)

By Brian Stubits

OK, isn't this Bruins and Canucks rivalry going a little too far now? I mean, it probably crossed that line a while ago but if you didn't think it had, this will probably change your mind.

The above is a photo of Bruins forward Milan Lucic's family church back in Vancouver, his hometown. It was taken by Lucic's girlfriend Brittany Carnegie after some vandals thought it was a good idea to deface it in the name of the Canuks. Sorry, I mean Canucks, got confused after looking at the handiwork of some obviously hardcore fans.

We took some photo editing liberties to tone it down, so in case you were wondering, just by any off chance, what the entire image looked like/said, here's a description from the Vancouver Sun.

On the side of the St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church is large, black graffiti that reads “F--k Lucic” and “Go Canuks (sic) Go,” along with crudely drawn genitalia.

“This is DISGUSTING!” Carnegie wrote. “Punks did this to Milan beloved church! So disgusted!”

Lucic hasn't been exactly treated kindly by his hometown since the Bruins beat the Canucks in an intense seven-game series. Posters of him have been defaced in the city and a brawl broke out when he showed up at a Greek festival. So yea, he's kind of a big deal there.

I'd admonish the hockey fans of Vancouver here for giving themselves another black eye, but I can't. I just can't call these guys Canucks fans. Isn't it a requisite to spell the team's name right to be called a fan? This had to be the work of the same type of fan who decided it was a good idea to wreck their city after losing the final game.

Speaking of which, the first sentence has been handed down to a rioter and it was for 17 months. Granted, said rioter had a history that greatly contributed to that sentence so it was abnormal, but point is we should start seeing some more soon.

In the meantime, let's leave this rivalry on the ice. That's more than entertaining and heated enough already.

H/t to Puck Daddy

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 16, 2012 4:36 pm
 

Video: Dancing Jackets fan becomes a hit

By Brian Stubits

Who says the city of Columbus doesn't have any hockey traditions?

While they don't have much on the ice to talk about, particularly if Rick Nash and Jeff Carter are traded, there is some, umm, entertainment in the crowd. Check out the rage at Nationwide Arena, the not-so tiny dancer named Kevin Schroeder.

Watch the video here at the Columbus Dispatch's website (wish we could embed it for you, the picture below will have to suffice). Just to be safe, might not want to watch in a place you might be embarrassed. It involves a portly fellow with no shirt.

Schroeder dances for the camera at Nationwide Arena. (Screengrab)

Ah yes, the things the crowd cheers for in Columbus these days.

What's the backstory for something like this (not what's written on his back)? There must be one, right? Yes, yes there is. Thankfully.

A Columbus native, Schroeder says it started at a game in 2002 when his girlfriend wanted to get on the jumbotron. "'You really want to get on?' She said 'Yea.' I said 'a fat guy dancing will get you on.'"

The video became a common sighting at games until Schroeder offered to give the Jackets a new look. That above is it.

"It's all my girlfriend's fault," Schroeder said. Thanks girlfriend.

Perhaps the woman who was interviewed in the Dispatch video put it best: "I find him to be very amusing, but sometimes a little grosses you out."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com