Posted on: February 27, 2012 2:25 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 2:29 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Vancouver Canucks, a team that's already quite deep at the center position, added yet another one on Monday by acquiring Samuel Pahlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a pair of fourth-round draft picks.
It's an interesting move for the Canucks because they already have a defensive-minded, shutdown center that plays a role similar to the one that Pahlsson plays in Manny Malhotra, though it's possible that Pahlsson could also spend some time on the wing, and it certainly gives coach Alain Vigneault some options.
The 34-year-old Pahlsson is perhaps best known for his role on the 2006-07 Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks team as a part of a line with Travis Moen and Rob Niedermayer.
He's not going to provide much offense, scoring just two goals in 61 games this season, but he's a difficult player to score against, which has remained true even this season playing on what has been a brutal defensive team in Columbus. Via the data at BehindTheNet.ca, Pahlsson has only been on the ice for an average two goals against per 60 minutes of even-strength play, which was one of the lowest totals on the Columbus roster this season despite playing against some of the toughest opponents on a nightly basis.
Pahlsson was one of the players the Blue Jackets were expected to move on Monday, and now that he's gone, all eyes shift toward Rick Nash.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:44 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 7:02 pm
By: Adam Gretz
This was the only division in the NHL last season to produce only one playoff team, and that was the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks, the team that's won the division three years in a row.
Playoff teams have been difficult to come by in the Northwest in recent years, as Colorado and Calgary are the only teams other than Vancouver to reach the postseason over the past three years; and they only managed to qualify once each. You have to go back to the 2007-08 season to find the last time more than two teams went to the playoffs in the same year out of the Northwest, and it's probably not going to happen this year.
Once you get past Vancouver, the Flames are probably the best bet to reach the playoffs, and even they're not a lock, having failed to qualify two years in a row, and then there's a steady dropoff to a pair of rebuilding teams in Colorado and Edmonton, and a team in Minnesota that seems to be stuck somewhere in the middle between being in contention and in a rebuilding phase.
The Northwest Division (In predicted order of finish):
Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in franchise history last season, losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games. After jumping out to a 2-0 series lead, Vancouver went on to lose four of the final five games of the series. And they not only lost, they were absolutely dominated, losing by a combined score of 21-4. Even with that disappointment in the rearview mirror, the Canucks are bringing back a roster that remains loaded from top to bottom, and is one of the top two or three cup contenders in the league.
Strengths: Just about everything is a strength for the Canucks. They're deep down the middle with Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and the underrated Manny Malhotra at center, and even with the loss of Christian Ehrhoff, they have an excellent defense led by Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo. Roberto Luongo is still one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, and Cory Schneider, his young backup, could probably start for quite a few teams as well. They have quality depth up front with wingers like Daniel Sedin, Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Jannik Hansen and Maxim Lapierre, and they excel on special teams, finishing with the top power play in the league last season and the third best penalty kill.
Weaknesses: It's really difficult to find one. Is there one? An obvious one? The Canucks are as deep as just about any team in the NHL at forward, defense and goaltender and have outstanding special teams. Where is the weakness?
Calgary Flames: A slow start that resulted in just 11 wins in their first 27 games put the Flames in a hole that was simply too deep to dig out of in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs by just four points. It's actually the exact opposite path they followed the previous season when they opened the with a 17-6-3 mark, only to completely fall apart over the final four months of the season and missed the playoffs by five points.
Strengths: Jarome Iginla is simply fantastic. He hasn't missed a game in four years, has scored at least 32 goals in each of those years, and managed to put in 43 during the 2010-11 season. Rene Bourque, Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross and David Moss is a solid group of forwards to put around Iginla, and all have the ability to score somewhere between 20 and 25 goals. A lot of other teams teams can -- and will -- do worse up front.
Weaknesses: How much does Miikka Kiprusoff have left in the tank? He's declined in recent years and his workload might be catching up with him and Henrik Karlsson could (and perhaps should) be getting a bigger role this season. Losing Robyn Regehr could be a significant loss on the blue line, and Jay Bouwmeester's first two years in Alberta have to be considered a tremendous disappointment. In his final three years with Florida he scored 12, 15 and 15 goals. In his two years with the Flames? He's scored seven. Total. And he's taking up over $6.6 million in cap space to be an offensive-defenseman. That's not going to work.
Minnesota Wild: Mike Yeo takes over a team that hasn't made the playoffs in three years, hasn't won a playoff series since it went to the Conference Finals nine years ago, and he's introducing his version of the neutral zone trap (insert your own "it's boring hockey" comment here). Actually, it's pretty similar to the system the Penguins run -- the team Yeo was an assistant with for a number of years -- and is a bit more up-tempo than the Jacques Lemaire trap Minnesota fans witnessed all those years.
Strengths: Yeo is pushing for Mikko Koivu to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward, and he's definitely a worthy player to put on your early season watch list. An excellent two-way player that makes an impact in all three zones and all phases of the game. Dany Heatley, acquired from the Sharks over the summer, is coming off a down year (by his standards) in the goal-scoring department but possesses the best natural goal-scoring ability of any player on the roster and is a legitimate 40-goal threat.
Weaknesses: With Brent Burns no longer on the roster Minnesota has a bit of a hole on its blue line when it comes to providing offense. Marek Zidlicky, who was limited to just 46 games a season ago, was the only other defenseman to register at least 20 points. The 13th ranked power play in the league a season ago lost its top-three power play goal scorers (Burns, Antti Miettinen and Andrew Brunnette). Heatley should be able to help in that area, but will he be enough?
How good is Niklas Backstrom? He hasn't approached the numbers he put up the first three years of his career while playing under Lemaire, and his backups have pretty consistently put up similar save percentages in recent years. Was he a product of the system or is he set to play like one of the best goalies in the league again?
Colorado Avalanche: Their decision to trade a first-round draft pick to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov was panned over the summer, as most observers are expecting Colorado to once again finish near the bottom of the NHL's standings, meaning that pick could turn out to be a lottery selection. The jury is still out on that trade, obviously, but there's no denying the Avalanche needed a significant upgrade in net after a disappointing season from Craig Anderson helped put the Avs at the bottom of the NHL in save percentage last season.
Strengths: The 1-2 punch of Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny down the middle is the foundation of this team, and they picked up another top young forward prospect back in June when they selected Gabriel Landeskog at the top of the draft.
Weaknesses: The Avalanche bulked up their defense this summer by putting an emphasis on adding size to their blue line, but will it result in a better product? Erik Johnson, acquired in last season's blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Blues, has the most potential of the group and is still only five years removed from being the No. 1 overall pick in the entire draft. Even with the addition of Varlamov, goaltending remains a question mark, especially since he's had problems staying injury free throughout his career.
The Avs had the worst penalty killing unit in the league last season. Can a full season of Jay McClement to go along with Daniel Winnick help improve that area?
Edmonton Oilers: It's another rebuilding year, but they're getting closer, slowly but surely, to making an impact. And they might be the most entertaining -- and exciting -- non-playoff team in the league with an impressive list of young forwards led by last year's top pick, Taylor Hall.
Strengths: Even if No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn't spend the entire season in Edmonton, the Oilers still have some outstanding young talent up front. Ales Hemsky is one of the NHL's most creative players with the puck and a tremendous playmaker, typically averaging near a point-per-game. The biggest flaw in his game, unfortunately, is that he tends to miss at least 10 games (or more) per season. Getting him for a full season would be a welcome change. Hall looks to be a star in the making, and players like Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner are loaded with potential and should make the Oilers worth watching every night, even if they don't win a ton of games.
Weaknesses: Defense. Goaltending. Goaltending. Defense. After Ryan Whitney it's a very thin team on the blue line, and additions like Cam Barker aren't likely to help that. Their defense and goaltending, led by Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk, will keep the Oilers at the bottom of the division, as well as the Western Conference, for at least another year.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011-12 Season Preview, Adam Gretz, Alex Edler, Calgary Flames, Christian Ehrhoff, Colorado Avalanche, Cory Schnieder, Daniel Sedin, Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oilers, Henrik Sedin, Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Jordan Eberle, Kevin Bieksa, Manny Malhotra, Matt Duchene, Miikka Kiprusoff, Paul Stastny, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Vancouver Canucks
Posted on: June 4, 2011 8:08 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 8:11 pm
It's Malhotra's first action this postseason, sitting out since taking a near-career-ending puck to the eye on March 16. It's a big lift for the Canucks, more emotionally than anything else. Coach Alain Vigneault has said that if/when Malhotra returned to the ice for a game, he'd be eased back into action.
The loss of Dan Hamhuis is tough. He is a key component to the Vancouver defense that held the Bruins scoreless in Game 1, averaging 22:03 minutes per game this season.
Check out the full Game 2 lineups here.
-- Brian Stubits
Posted on: March 29, 2011 3:32 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 3:41 pm
Manny Malhotra may not have had to travel across the continent to see a surgeon in New York had the Vancouver Canucks center used one piece of equipment.
The thin piece of shatterproof plastic likely would have absorbed the errant puck that struck his left eye in a game two weeks ago. The injury ended his season and could very well endanger his career --- not to mention his enjoyment of life after hockey.
Unlike helmets that became mandatory more than 30 years ago, visors are an option in the NHL. It doesn’t help when wearing a visor is seen as a less macho in a sport that’s all about toughness. That stigma has waned in recent years, but there may be a good portion who still thinks like CBC commentator Don Cherry. He infamously said during a broadcast seven years ago that “most of the guys that wear them are Europeans or French guys."
Fortunately, a survey conducted last season by The Hockey News shows the younger players get it. The review found 65% of players 30 and younger wear a visor. It also showed that only 45% of players 30 and older do.
“It’s tough to see the injuries like the one to Manny Malhotra,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson, one of the last players to play minus a helmet, told CBSSports.com in a Q&A. ”We recommend and encourage our players to wear shields. I wish they all would. All parties involved should be looking out for the players’ best interests.”
Visors are already mandatory in the American Hockey League and in international play. Is it time the NHL follows suit? Or will this be another missed opportunity -- like when Bryan Berard had his career altered by a stick to the eye in 2000 -- to keep another player from suffering the same scary operation similar to the one Mahlotra underwent today?
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 28, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 3:24 pm
San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson performs his daily duties just as he did during his 16-season NHL career. He doesn’t wear a helmet. Just like those days on the blue line with the Chicago Blackhawks and Sharks, that’s not always a good thing. The Sharks had been the trendy pick the last few seasons to win the Stanley Cup, although the franchise has been hammered for their shortcomings come playoff time. The Sharks, who went to the Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history a season ago, are surging of late and begin the week atop of the Pacific Division by four points over the Phoenix Coyotes. Wilson spoke with CBSSports.com’s A.J. Perez about visors, possibly the toughest division in hockey and the headshot rule that led to the suspension of two of his star players.
Q: The Dallas Stars (currently two points out of eighth place) are the only Pacific Division team without a playoff spot. Do you think the Pacific -- which has a shot to become the first division to get all of its teams into the postseason -- is the toughest in hockey?
Wilson: “Points are tough to get, for sure. There are no easy games in the division or the Western Conference. That includes Edmonton, which has a lot of good young players. The Pacific is arguably the most competitive in the league. We knew that coming into the year that it would be difficult and it’d be hard to win as many games as we wanted to.”
Q: With so many teams having a shot at the playoffs this late in the season, how much is that a nod to the salary cap?
Wilson: “We knew the environment we live and operate in. We’re competing at a high level of hockey. There are a lot of really good teams and each is trying to get better. It’s more competitive now than just a few years ago. I think everybody has elevated their level of play. There’s parity. You can’t look at the game schedule and assume anything. It’s quite a change and it’s been great for the fans.
“There are so many one-goal games. There is just so much talent in this league and with the rules, I think it’s pretty exciting hockey. The game is really never over. There are so many great young players that I think we sometimes forget how this good of a game this is. The (salary cap) gets dissected, but the game also hasn’t had this many talented players.”
Q: Last offseason, the league made regulation and overtime wins the first tiebreaker. (Under the old system, shootout wins were counted.) The move lessened the importance of shootout victories, although that extra point is still meaningful this time of the season. Do you like the change?
Wilson: “That’s what we all agreed upon. I would like to see more and more games decided in overtime. I think that’s something we’d all like to see. A tiebreaker for shootout wins is just not exciting for fans. This is the stretch run. I think in many cases the extra shootout point will still determine if a team makes the playoffs.”
Q: Two of your top forwards, Joe Thornton (Nov. 5) and Dany Heatley (March 16), were each suspended two games this season for blindside hits to the head of an opponent. Do you think the league’s players get the dangers of such collisions and has Rule 48 helped?
“The majority of players got it fairly quickly. What we’re trying to do is make the game as safe as possible. This is a fast game with big players and injuries are going to take place. We just have to find a balance. We aren’t going to eliminate all injuries or take away hitting, which is a big part of the game. A few players crossed the line and that had to be addressed.”
Q: You were grandfathered into the league’s helmet requirement since you were already in the league when the rule came into being in 1979. Would you wear one now even if you weren’t required?
Wilson: “I would and it would be one with a shield, too. The speed of the game has changed and everybody can shoot the puck. Player safety is concern for all of us. We want the players to play as hard as they can. At the same time, it’s tough to see the injuries like the one to (Vancouver Canucks center) Manny Malhotra. We recommend and encourage our players to wear shields. I wish they all would. All parties involved should be looking out for the players’ best interests.”
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 5:20 pm
Vancouver Canuck forward Manny Malhotra will miss the rest of the season due to the eye injury he sustained in a game last week, the club announced Monday.
“Following an initial procedure and continued treatment it has been determined through consultation with team doctors and specialists that Manny Malhotra will not return to the Canucks lineup for the remainder of this regular season and playoffs,” the Canucks said in a news release.
Malhotra, 30, was injured during Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche when a puck hit him in the left eye. He underwent surgery, but the Canucks have not released the specific injury Malhotra sustained. The team said in an email Monday that it would have no further comment.
Malhotra, like his stops in Columbus and San Jose, was respected in the locker room in Vancouver. He’s a faceoff specialist and was one of the Canucks top penalty killers this season. He had 11 goals and 19 assists this season.
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images