Tag:Kevin Dineen
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 8, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 6:17 pm
 

Panthers clawing to stay in playoff picture

Florida is just one point behind Washington in the Southeast, two behind Ottawa in the East. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter billed Tuesday's matchup in D.C. with the Florida Panthers as a playoff game.

Imagine that, the Florida Panthers and playoff games? That's something we haven't seen in a decade. At this point it seems as real as the idea of the lost city of Atlantis being not far from the shores of South Florida.

And probably just how you'd imagine it would go if the Panthers were in a playoff game, the Capitals scored just 13 seconds in. That was the beginning of a frustrating night for the Panthers who mustered 42 shots on goal against their former goaltender Tomas Vokoun and still lost 4-0. It restored first place in the Southeast Division to the Caps for the time being and dropped Florida to ninth in the East.

Of course it wasn't really a playoff game. There are still 30 games to go before we even hit the postseason. The whole goal for the Panthers is to get into one of those real playoff games, show South Florida what the Stanley Cup playoffs look like. It's been so long it has forgotten.

The question is, will they get there? There has only been one season in the last decade that the Panthers were even truly in the hunt. In 2008-09 they finished tied with the Montreal Canadiens for eighth in the East but lost on the tie-breakers. Outside of that, they have been clear sellers at the annual trade deadline.

It was just over a month ago the Panthers were cruising toward the playoffs. They were way up in the division and were playing legitimately good hockey. They've slowed down. A lot. Most will likely say it was crashing back to reality.

That could be the case. But it's worth mentioning that it is tough to truly assess this team, it just can't seem to stay healthy. For the last couple of weeks the Panthers have been playing without their No. 1 goaltender Jose Theodore (and No. 3 Jacob Markstrom) while also being down strong defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Ed Jovanovski. It's understandable to struggle a bit in that situation.

More on the Panthers
Playoff picture

"You always miss guys that are in the lineup on a regular basis. But if you're a good team you have good depth," winger Matt Bradley said. "Strachs [defenseman Tyson Strachan] has done a great job up from the minors. Guys are doing good jobs getting bigger roles. So there's no excuses for guys out."

That's certainly true, there are no excuses. It's not as if they will get a free pass into the playoffs if you miss x amount of games of manpower.

"What are you going to do? I don't think you feel sorry for us and I don't think anybody on that team on the other side of the ice is feeling sorry for us," first-year coach Kevin Dineen said about Florida's two-game skid. "This is NHL hockey, it's the best league in the world. You've got to understand when you take a good tail-kicking you have to accept it, recognize it and be better the next one."

That started with a postgame meeting on Tuesday. The hallway doors were closed before the Panthers even left the ice and the wait was longer than usual for the locker room to open up. It was clear the team had a little chat after its second regulation loss in a row, the first time the Cats have done that since mid-October.

"Kevin was very positive with us," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We're a team in here, we've got to find ways to get the job done and get it done more successfully on more nights than we are now. It seems like we're around .500 a lot and that's not good enough to get to where we want.

"We've got to stay positive. We stepped up our level. Some nights we're there, some nights we're not. It's these guys in the room. Nobody is going to be coming in to help us. We've got to get this job done in here."

This is new territory for the Panthers organization, being in the thick of a playoff chase. But it's not new for a lot of the players. Remember, GM Dale Tallon rebuilt this roster, there are a handful of guys who not only have experience with playoff races but winning a Stanley Cup, such as Campbell.

When you look at it, the Panthers are still in good shape. The East is whittling down to a nine- or 10-team race (if Winnipeg stays close) for the eight available spots. With the Senators hitting a wall and the Panthers having four games in hand on Ottawa, Florida still isn't in a bad position. But they have to figure things out, and quickly.

"There's urgency obviously within the division, with everyone," Kris Versteeg said. "I think you're going to see that on a nightly basis now. Obviously every team wants to win their division. It's something we want to do."

"It's not about just Washington," Campbell added. "It's about us winning games. If we put together some games and get going here we're going to find ourselves in a playoff spot. But if we don't we're going to be out of it."

One thing that helped launch the Panthers to the top of the Southeast in the first half of the season was their success away from home. They were able to pick up points in bunches while on the road, not easy for even the best teams in hockey to do.

But since their very impressive 2-0 win in Boston on Dec. 8, Florida is just 1-6-4 as the visitor. The difference is made even more clear when you look at what the Panthers have done in their two trips to Washington this season. In 120 minutes of game action thus far, they have been beaten 7-0. Vokoun has stopped all 62 shots he has faced. At home they have outscored the Caps 9-6 in two games.

Getting going on the road again would be a nice way to restart the batteries, give them a jump.

"I don't know. Whether it's line matches or who knows what it is?" Versteeg said. "Sometimes things happen and I'm not sure for whatever reason we've been good at home and not on the road. Obviously you want to be good at home. We've got to find some ways to win on the road, that's for sure."

The scoring for the Panthers has been done largely by the combination of Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann. Together, the line has accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's scoring. So when they have tapered off, it's no mystery the team has too.

But don't expect the Panthers to be busy when it comes to the trade deadline, trying to add the missing pieces to bolster their offense. It's important to remember that whatever Florida does now is bonus, it is building for the future. Tallon has built a roster that hopefully can win in the interim before the team is turned over to the younger players that make up arguably the best farm system in hockey now, players like Erik Gudbranson, who are being slowly phased in.

Don't look for them to do anything to disrupt the long-term plan, the blueprint.

In the meantime, Florida gets to experience a playoff race. Those are as rare as snowy days in South Florida. But actually making the playoffs? Well that hasn't been done since Bill Clinton was the president.

Hopefully for Florida's sake Tuesday's loss in D.C. isn't the closest they get to a playoff game this season.

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

Posted on: January 18, 2012 3:50 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:13 pm
 

Panthers' Jovanovski out two months (broken hand)

By Brian Stubits

The Florida Panthers are so close to being healthy again. They have seen their Southeast Division lead slip all the way down to one point over the Washington Capitals while they have dealt with a rash of injuries, including one to starting goaltender Jose Theodore and at one time seven forwards.

One place they have been lucky in that regard, though, has been on defense. The Panthers have been carrying seven defensemen all season long, rotating the healthy scratch between Erik Gudbranson and Keaton Ellerby, both former first-round draft picks by the organization.

Now they are going to have to rely on both Ellerby and Gudbranson to play together, for their defensive corps finally took a hit. Literally.

The Panthers announced on Wednesday that veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski could be out for as long as two months after undergoing surgery on his broken hand.

How did he break his hand, you ask? By engaging in a fight with the Bruins' Daniel Paille this week in Florida. In an interesting note of skewed stats, it was Jovanovski's first fight in a Florida uniform since 1999.

So that means that Ellerby will be pressed into action. As mentioned, he has been splitting scratches with Gudbranson this season, but Ellerby has been the one in the press box more often than not, including the last eight games. So now he'll have a chance to prove he belongs.

"[Dineen] just said he knows it's been a tough little stretch and he respects the way that I've handled myself," Ellerby told the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday. "It's a tough spot, but he said you're going to get that chance. Lucky or unlucky, it happened [Monday night]. I know he's going to expect a lot from me and I expect a lot from myself. I need to go in and prove to them that I can play in this league and just help the team."

Dineen expressed his own confidence in Ellerby to fill the shoes of one of the Panthers' alternate captains (incidentally, Dineen still hasn't named a full-time captain).

"I'll give him credit that he's put in the work, and now the opportunity has presented itself," Dineen said. "He's had days where you could see he had some real jump and he was trying to go out there and improve. And then there were days that he maybe was not as sharp as he should have been.

"I like his size and his skating and his willingness to be a physical player, and to engage and be a guy that is hard to play against."

Jovanovski, who the Panthers brought back to the franchise this summer in free agency, has two goals and six assists this season for Florida. The injury will ensure a third straight season where he played less than 70 games.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:58 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 3:25 pm
 

Barch suspended one game for insensitive remarks

By Brian Stubits

Florida Panthers forward Krys Barch was given a game misconduct in the team's New Year's Eve victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the end of the first period. Why he was booted remained a mystery until after the game when it was revealed the reason for his ejection was his use of a racial slur toward Habs defenseman P.K. Subban.

After the hearing was delayed for a couple of days (the Panthers haven't played a game since then), the NHL announced on Thursday that Barch was suspended one game for insensitive remarks.

Notice the use of the language. Insensitive remarks instead of racial slur. Barch was adamant that what he said wasn't racist. Barch told Jesse Spector of the Sporting News that Colin Campbell didn't see it as racial.

"If there was any question that this was racial, you'd be done five to 10 games, and [the decision] would be done the day after," Barch said, quoting Campbell.

"I never would ever say anything unjust or racial toward somebody else," Barch told Sporting News.

As for what he said, we'll never know for sure. But Jeff Marek of Sportsnet reported that it was something along the lines of "did you slip on a banana peel?" after Subban fell to the ice following a scrum.

Here is the statement from Campbell regarding his decision.

"Mr. Barch has admitted making the remark, but denies that the comment was racially motivated,” Campbell said. “While we accept Mr. Barch’s assertion, as a player in the National Hockey League, he must be held accountable for making a comment that, in the context in which it was made, and in light of the entirety of the circumstances, was offensive and unacceptable.”

If that's what he said, I'm failing to get the logic of it all. If Campbell doesn't see that as a racial statement -- very much in the air, some will see it that way, some won't -- then why is it suspendable at all? What about using a Vaudeville-esque comedy bit in a chirp is seen as being worthy of a suspension if you don't believe it was a racial statement?

“There is no debate over what was said,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “The content or the context of the comment can and should be debated over what the intent of the comments were. I have a lot of respect for Krys Barch and how he’s handled himself the past five days. This has been extremely tough on him. At the end of the day, all the information was laid out there. We respect the league’s decision and move on.”

There are a lot of people that are going to be taken aback by the brevity of a one-game suspension for Barch's alleged actions. It seems to be a light sentence when compared to Sean Avery getting six games when talking about his ex-girlfriend and using the term sloppy seconds. Many are going to say it's another example of Campbell's old wheel of justice. Remember, it's still Campbell's duty to deal with player conduct cases, not Brendan Shanahan's.

This is in pretty stark contrast to Avery, who clear-as-day said his suspendable words to the gathered media. Plus, the intent of Barch's words is debateable, those of Avery were not.

It's worth noting that Barch called Subban personally and explained to him that there was no racial intent behind his comment at all and Subban understood.

To me it feels like the suspension is being given to Barch because the NHL feels there has to be a suspension. This was a much-discussed story when it happened. But I just can't understand how the NHL can view it as non-racial but still worthy of a suspension. It feels like an image decision more than anything.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 31, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:10 pm
 

No suspension for Kopecky



By: Adam Gretz

The NHL determined on Saturday morning that the incident at the end of Friday's Rangers-Panthers game was worth nothing more than a couple of $2,500 fines.

In the closing seconds Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky and Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto werei involved in a skirmish in front of the New York net. After Del Zotto gave Kopecky a shot up high with his stick, Kopecky responded by dropping Del Zotto with what was basically a sucker punch to the face.

Kopecky was then pulled out of the ensuing scrum by Mike Rupp, who then started to throw some punches of his own at the Panthers forward.

Kopecky received a match penalty for his punch on Del Zotto (Rupp was also given a game misconduct and a five-minute major for fighting), and it seemed like a pretty good bet that Kopecky would sit out at least a couple of games for his actions. Not the case. The league announced on Saturday that Kopecky and Del Zotto have each been fined $2,500, the maximum fine allowed, and both will be eligible to play in their team's next game.

The Panthers host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, while the Rangers will play the Flyers on Monday during the Winter Classic.

Of course, all parties involved will also be eligible to play when these two teams face off again next Thursday in New York, a meeting that could get ugly with some sort of vigilante justice if the post-game comments from Friday are any indication.

Following Friday's game Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that Del Zotto deserved to get smashed in the face for his stick work on Kopecky, while Panthers forward Krys Barch said "You can’t allow that stuff to happen. That’s just not allowed to go on in terms of a teammate getting jumped like that. We’ll take care of that next week."

Mark your calendars.

More From Eye On Hockey

Kopecky sucker punches Del Zotto
More NHL Discipline News

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 11:07 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 1:41 am
 

Kopecky punches Del Zotto leading to late scrum

By Brian Stubits

In the waning seconds of a 4-1 win by the Rangers over the Florida Panthers, as Ron Burgundy would say, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

With just 10 seconds left and the outcome well in hand, the Panthers' Tomas Kopecky was trying to gain a footing in the crease alongside Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto gave Kopecky a cross check and his stick hit Kopecky in the back of the head, so Kopecky responded with a blow to Del Zotto's head, unleashing a massive scrum.

The hit looked really bad and naturally it prompted a response from the Rangers, particularly Mike Rupp. He began circling around the fracas like a shark in the water, waiting for his chance at Kopecky. Despite the lineman trying to take Kopecky away from the pile, Rupp came in anyway and basically ripped Kopecky from the linesman's grasp and unloaded five haymakers to Kopecky's noggin. Both Rupp and Kopecky were assessed game misconducts (not a lot of punishment with 10 seconds left).

After the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said called Kopecky's hit ''a cheap shot. With no honor.''

But Panthers coach Kevin Dineen stuck up for Kopecky.

"That's hockey. Some guy cross-checks you in the back and then follows through. He deserves a good smash in the face," Dineen said of Del Zotto. "He got what he deserved. Then guys who play five minutes a night, it's typical that they would go and try and grab our skill players. We'll see what the response is."

You can guarantee that this already has the full attention of Brendan Shanahan and the league office. This is one of the dirtiest plays you can pull in hockey, a sucker punch to an opponent. I have a feeling that not even Rupp's vigilante justice that is his right hand will be enough punishment for Kopecky in this case.

There is a little precedent for this under Shanahan, too. Remember back to the preseason when James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets threw his own sucker shot on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. That earned the Wiz a suspension for the rest of the preseason and the first eight regular-season games.

Now Kopecky doesn't have the priors that Wisniewski had on his record, but I'd be surprised if Kopecky didn't earn himself an in-person hearing for this punch. That would mean that a five-games or great suspension would be in play. Rupp could have earned himself a phone call from the league as well.

Mark it down on your calendar now, these teams will meet again, and very soon. Next week, Thursday to be exact, the Panthers head up to MSG for the last meeting of the season between the two and Florida's Krys Barch will be ready for it.

“I’m sure we’ll have a meeting next week in New York,” Barch told the Sun-Sentinel. "You can’t allow that stuff to happen. … That’s just not allowed to go on in terms of a teammate getting jumped like that. We’ll take care of that next week."

More NHL Discipline News Here

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

Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:07 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Report: Injury-ravaged Panthers to sign Madden

By Brian Stubits

The Florida Panthers are in a world of hurt right now. As in literal hurt.

The surprising Southeast Division leaders are still holding onto a somewhat comfortable lead over the Winnipeg Jets in the division, but they are missing a lot of players. As in seven forwards, all due to some form of injury.

That has general manager Dale Tallon on the verge of signing veteran free agent John Madden. That's according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Hearing John Madden signs with @FlaPanthers tomorrow."

Madden played most recently for the Minnesota Wild and Russo used to be the beat writer for the Panthers, so he can have a rumor like that covered from both sides.

Then current Panthers beat writer George Richards of the Miami Herald tweeted that the timeline perhaps has been quickened. "Word in the #FlaPanthers locker room is John Madden has been signed and is excited to join the Cats."

Richards added that the deal isn't likely to be announced quite yet. "#FlaPanthers say no announcement on John Madden forthcoming; coach Kevin Dineen left practice early" followed by Tallon saying it isn't done quite yet.

“We don't know how long that's going to take [to get rust off] and when we're getting some other guys back," Tallon said Wednesday.

Either way, there's a lot of smoke, so the fire seems to be close behind.

Like a good chunk of the Panthers roster this season, Tallon has some familiarity with Madden, who was part of the Stanley Cup champion in Chicago that Tallon helped build. He is a tough-nosed center that likely still has some gas left in the tank. He scored 12 goals last season for the Wild.

He would also bring along the intangibles that come with being a veteran and a multiple-times champion in the NHL. In addition to winning the Blackhawks he also lifted the Stanley Cup twice while a member of the New Jersey Devils.

But more importantly, he helps the Panthers get through their injury woes at the moment. As mentioned, seven players are currently sidelined, all of them forwards. Stephen Weiss and Mikael Samuelsson could return soon but it doesn't look as good for Jack Skille, Sean Bergenheim, Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc or Scottie Upshall.

I think it is a solid addition for the Panthers even without those intangibles. He's 38 but he can likely still lead a third or fourth line when the injured Panthers get healthy. Coach Kevin Dineen has been clear that he really likes to be able to run all four lines.

What's more, Madden has long been very good on the penalty kill, a department the Panthers could use some improvement. Their 80.2 percent kill rate ranks 24th in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Top NHL stories and moments in 2011

By Brian Stubits

There was a lot of good in 2011, but also a lot of bad. By bad, I really mean tragedy. It was an unforgettable yet forgettable year all at the same time.

As we hit the heart of the holiday season, here is a look back at the year that was in hockey with the top 10 moments/storylines of 2011.

10. Summer acquisitions -- This is when the magic happens in the NHL's salary cap world and franchises are made or destroyed.

It was over the summer that two teams in particular built the nucleus for their surprising starts this season, the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. Minnesota was the host for this year's NHL Entry Draft and really did leave an impression. Not only did they come away from the draft with a few new prospects in their system but they also swung a deal to land Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks for Brent Burns. The Wild swung another deal with the Sharks that landed them Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. Of course their biggest summer acquisition might have been the hiring of head coach Mike Yeo.

The Panthers meanwhile continued to use the draft to make their system better and also swung a big trade, taking on Brian Campbell's big salary from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. That kicked off a wild spending spree that lasted through free agency and the core of the team that's in first in the Southeast was built just like that. Like the Wild, they also found themselves a new coach who has returned big dividends early in Kevin Dineen.

The unrestricted free-agent class was led by the pursuit of Brad Richards, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers after a day of courting, including from the Maple Leafs while GM Brian Burke was in Afghanistan. But the most intrigue was on the restricted front where Steven Stamkos' future was wildly speculated before re-signing with the Lightning and Shea Weber stayed with the Predators after the biggest arbitration award ever.

A couple weeks in the middle of the year set up the last couple of months in the year and even with what was perceived as a weak free-agent class, this year was no different.

Look back: Free-agency tracker

9. Winter Classic -- As sad as it is to think about, games hardly ever are the top stories in sports any more. But in hockey, the Winter Classic will always matter, it's that big of a showcase and spectacle for the NHL.

As is the case with every Winter Classic -- as fans of all the less-fortunate teams will remind you -- it was a marquee matchup of two high-profile teams from the East with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps eventually prevailed in a game that might be the most memorable Winter Classic thus far for a variety of reasons, one of them makes an appearance later on this list.

But first of all the lead up to the game featured the first 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series on HBO and it was riveting. While technically most of it aired in 2010, it is tied in with the Winter Classic so it counts. It left fans anticipating the next version like a kid awaits Christmas, this year's version featuring the Flyers and Rangers.

Mother Nature also left her mark on the game. It was the first Winter Classic thus far that the weather was so uncooperative that they had to delay the start of the game. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain in Pittsburgh led to the game being pushed to the night and it did provide a pretty memorable setting at Heinz Field. 

Look back: Caps win Winter Classic 3-1

8. Realignment -- While the fruit of this labor will be seen starting in 2012, it was a large conversation for the entire second half of the year, spurred by a development that appears further up this list.

I don't know if there was a person in hockey -- both within the game and covering it -- that didn't have their own idea for how the realignment should be done. In the end the six-division format was blown up, an effort that was from all accounts led by Gary Bettman himself.

The biggest drama in the whole saga revolved around the Detroit Red Wings' desire to move to the Eastern Conference. Well, without an Eastern Conference to move to any more, I guess you could say that was taken care of.

Look back: NHL announces realignment

7. Lokomotiv plane crash -- The KHL is to the NHL as the NHL is to ESPN. That is to say the only time we ever seem to hear about the KHL is when something bad happens.

Unfortunately, that was the case this summer when the airplane carrying the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team barely got airborne before it crashed, killing everybody on board except a member of the flight crew.

The tragedy was already tough enough for the hockey community in North America simply for the fact sheer sadness of the lethal error. But what made it really hit home in the NHL was the number of former NHL players who died in the crash.

Among those who died in the crash were Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and head coach Brad McCrimmon, all of who were in the NHL at some point in their careers. In the case of McCrimmon he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff as recently as last season before he took the chance to be a head coach in Russia.

Nothing from the ordeal was more chilling than the sad, sad story from a professional driver in Dallas who was tasked with picking up the family of Skrastins to drive them to the airport hours after the tragedy. Honestly, I'm getting emotional just thinking about it again. It was truly a horrible day for hockey.

Look back: Lokomovit team plane crashes

6. Vancouver riot -- For the second time in as many Stanley Cup trips for the Vancouver Canucks, the hockey-crazed city erupted into a violent storm following its team's loss in the decisive Game 7. A similar eruption happened in 1994 after the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers.

The night began with a massive gathering in the streets of Vancouver for the fans to all watch the game together on a big screen. Many saw that as an ill-fated moment from the start and boy were they right. Soon after the game and season were finished, the hooligans of Vancouver were just getting started.

Looters took to the streets to cause mayhem, and cause mayhem they did. The result was a night full of rioting embarrassing to the city, a lot of videos to live on in YouTube glory (like this classic), at least 25 people being charged (including Miss Congeniality) and the romance, sports and maybe general photo of the year, the "riot kiss" seen up above.

The unfortunate part (OK, one of them) was the fact that the riot completely overshadowed what was really a great postseason and season for the Canucks. Vancouver was the best team all regular season long and as fine of a year as they ever have.

Look back: Riot erupts after Stanley Cup Finals

5. Brendan Shanahan takes over -- There has been no bigger overarching story in the second half of the year than what Shanahan has been doing as the new head of player safety having replaced Colin Campbell. His arrival on the job has coincided with the attempt to expand and clarify Rule 48.1, the one dealing with headshots. The focus has also been ramped up on boarding.

His impact has been felt from the get-go. In the preseason he was very busy and then really sent some shock waves through the league when he suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski for eight games.

It's at the point now that every questionable hit is immediately scrutinized and I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. Obviously the good is that it continues to put a microscope on bad hits in an attempt to rid the game of them. On the bad side, some clean hits get more attention than they should and the consistency of punishment applications has been a bit bedeviling, just ask the Sabres fans.

However Shanahan has done something that I've yet to find a person complain about and that's making videos for each and every suspension wherein he explains exactly what the thought process was that led to the decision. The first one he made in the preseason was a breath of fresh air and welcome transparency. All season he's been a busy, busy man.

You know you've watched a lot of Shanahan suspension videos when you can recall that he has done videos in front of three different backdrops and you can tell when he gets a haircut.

Look back: A look at Shanahan's handy work

4. Winnipeg Jets return -- At one point, it looked like the old Jets -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- were going to be the team to move to Winnipeg. Fans were elated as it seemed that with a clear potential ownership group and new, albeit small, arena, the NHL would be coming back to the 'Peg after 15 years.

Then they pulled a little switcheroo on everybody when the Coyotes announced they were staying in Phoenix for another year, so attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. A few transactions later and hockey was back in Manitoba (and the NHL had to realign -- Winnipeg in the Southeast?).

The push was one to rename the team the Jets like the old franchise in town and after much debate, the fans won out, although a new logo would be introduced. Not lacking in flair, the Jets showed off their new uniforms in an unveiling at a military base with the players wearing the new duds walking out of a cargo plane.

The first game of the Jets. 2.0 came in their new home at the MTS Centre and they fell in defeat to the Montreal Canadiens, but you couldn't tell. The great hockey city that is Winnipeg was happier than a pig in you-know-what just to have the NHL back. When Nik Antropov became the first player to score for the new Jets, the roar was deafening. Maybe the best way to measure the city's appreciation and love for having hockey back would have been with decibels.

After a slow start (again, they were the Thrashers) the Jets have really come to find a comfort on home ice, as many thought they would. With a 12-6-1 record at home this season, the Jets have the best home mark in the Eastern Conference next to Boston's 13-6-1. It seems that a little excitement really can go a long way.

Look back: Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg

3. Sidney Crosby's concussions -- This was the biggest development to come out of the aforementioned Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby caught an elbow to the head from the Capitals' David Steckel that rocked the game's best player pretty good. He certainly appeared out of sorts but was back in the lineup a few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A check from Victor Hedman led to Crosby experiencing another concussion and he didn't play again for the rest of the season. He finally did return to game action in November, playing eight games before being shut down again for post-concussion symptoms.

Before he went down, Crosby was on pace for one mammoth season. To illustrate how good he was playing before the injury, he still finished the season as the Penguins' leading scorer by a whopping 16 points despite playing only 41 games.

For literally almost a year, the hockey world sat and waited for word on Crosby returning. There was speculation he could come back for the Penguins' playoffs games. There was talk that he might retire. None of that happened, but what did do was bring another reminder of the seriousness that are concussions.

It's not good business for the NHL when the top players aren't on the ice, let alone the best player. I'd like to think it isn't the case, but you have to wonder if Crosby's absence didn't go a long way in facilitating the NHL's actions on trying to remove bad hits as well as enacting strong concussion protocols.

The way the Penguins have handled the Crosby situation has been one of the best parts of all -- or maybe the only good part, depending on your point of view. They have been incredibly patient the entire time, insisting they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize Crosby's health and future.

But because of his most recent setback, Crosby Watch 2011 will move on into Crosby Watch 2012.

Look back: Crosby's recovery efforts

2. Deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak -- The NHL's summer of sorrow began in late spring when the tragic news came down of New York Rangers and former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's death. The autopsy concluded he died of a lethal mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.

Later in the offseason the NHL was then shook by the news of deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, separated by only two weeks. Both players were fighters themselves, each suffered from depression and both apparently committed suicide (Rypien's was classified as such, Belak's death treated as such by Toronto PD).

The news of their deaths was sad and shocking in their own right. These were all players 35 or younger who all shared a role in their hockey careers. It was also a catalyst for the discussion of fighting in hockey. No tie can be drawn between each of their deaths and fighting, but it at least begged the question.

Since the three players died, the conversation has picked up. It was really spurred along by the New York Times' in-depth piece that looked at the life of Boogaard and the study of his brain. The findings of the Boston University lab found Boogaard's brain was already showing signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain due to repeated blows to the head.

Look back: Boogaard | Rypien | Belak

1. Bruins win Stanley Cup -- If he didn't already have the designation by all before, Tim Thomas certainly earned it in the playoffs. He is the best goalie in the world.

Thomas pretty much put the Bruins on his shoulders and carried them past the Vancouver Canucks in a great seven-game series that led to the Bruins hoisting their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Of course Thomas topped it off with a shutout in Game 7 and took home the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP, an incredibly well-deserved award.

But in addition to Thomas, it was one heck of a series. The first six games were won by the home team. We had one game ending a few seconds into overtime. Who can forget the man that scored that goal, Alex Burrows, was caught biting Patrice Bergeron in a scrum and the resulting taunts at Burrows from the Bruins later on.

There was Nathan Horton getting leveled and concussed in Boston in a moment that some feel changed the series. The Bruins responded to that by running the Canucks out of their building in Games 3 and 4. Horton made another impression when he was seen pouring TD Garden ice on the rink in Vancouver before Game 7, a superstitious move that will live in Bruins lore.

We had Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo pumping Thomas' tires after critiquing his aggressive style in net. Then of course item No. 6 on this list, the post-series riot in Vancouver.

The series was about as memorable as it gets. The ratings were as good as they have been in decades, too. And the Bruins' post-championship romp back in New England became a legend with a reported $156,679.74 bar tab that included one Amstel Light. It kicked off a great summer tour with the Cup for the Bruins, Michael Ryder's Cup mishap included.

There is no disputing the Bruins earned the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup after one great Final.

Look back: Bruins win Stanley Cup

Photo: Getty Images

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