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Tag:Marc Savard
Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:57 pm
 

Pronger's wife: He has his good days and bad

By Brian Stubits

Chris Pronger's season was shut down by the Philadelphia Flyers more than a month ago after it was revealed Pronger was suffering from post-concussion syndrome. It's been tough on the Flyers captain, not only dealing with the symptoms but also dealing with not playing.

With a lot of the concussed players, you hear about them having good days and bad days. It affects them so much each day is defined so starkly (and easily, unfortunately).

That's the case too for Pronger. His wife Lauren attended an event that both she and her husband were supposed to be at but Chris had to stay home as it was a bad day. Lauren talked with CSN Philadelphia about how tough it has been for her husband and family.

It's pretty tough to hear, particularly at the end of the video when you can tell that Lauren is doing her best to remain composed, saying that they would love to just have a couple of good days in a row.

Sadly, it's starting to sound similar to what Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard is going through with his post-concussion symptoms.

Tweets like the following are common for Savard to share.

There is a reason why you hear so much about concussions and all the steps to prevent them, because what these guys are going through can sometimes be the result.

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

Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:27 pm
 

Pacioretty still unhappy with Shanahan reasoning

By Brian Stubits

The honeymoon for Brendan Shanahan is over, the grace period gone. Now he's beginning to feel some of the blow back that Colin Campbell put up for years.

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty just finished serving a three-game suspension for an open-ice hit that left Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with a broken nose. He wasn't overly pleased with the punishment from the start, and now he is getting in a little war of the words with the discipline boss.

For some, Pacioretty's hit on Letang evoked memories of Matt Cooke's shot on Marc Savard a couple seasons ago. According to Pacioretty, Shanahan is one of those people.

From the Canadian Press, Pacioretty insisted Monday that Shanahan compared the hit to the Cooke hit, something Pacioretty doesn't feel was fair.

“We didn't bring it up, [Shanahan] brought it up,” Pacioretty said. “You can ask my agent [Alec Schall]. He was on the phone. Ask the GM [Pierre Gauthier]. It happened.

“In the back of my mind it's a completely different hit. Savard's a lefty coming across. He has no idea Cooke's coming from the other side of the ice. I'm not trying to get into comparisons, but they [the NHL] compared it to that and we compared it to [Tampa Bay's Ryan] Malone on [Montreal's Chris] Campoli."

Hey Max, I don't see the problem in the NHL comparing it to the Cooke-Savard incident. After all, Cooke received no punishment (it's never too late for some Colie humor).

"Every hit's different. That's what makes this tough," Pacioretty acknowledged. "There is always going to be that grey area. They're doing the best they can to crack down, but it's not consistent.”

For what it's worth, Shanahan denied making a connection between the two hits in a radio interview. Although he didn't go so far as to say Pacioretty was intentionally lying, just that he was probably a bit emotional and took things the wrong way.

Welcome to the job where you can never please anybody, Shanny.

More NHL Discipline News Here

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:55 pm
 

Max Pacioretty disagrees with suspension



By: Adam Gretz

The NHL suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty for three games on Monday for his hit on Pittsburgh's Kris Letang during Saturday's 4-3 Penguins overtime win, which ended when Letang, of all people, scored the game-winner on a controversial play in front of the Montreal net. 

On Tuesday, Pacioretty spoke to the media for the first time following the announcement and didn't seem to agree with Brendan Shanahan's decision, and also gave his version of what took place on the ice.

Pacioretty said that during his hearing, Shanahan compared the hit to one that Penguins forward Matt Cooke delivered on Boston's Marc Savard two years ago that eventually helped lead to the crackdown on hits where the head is the target and principal point of contact.

"I think that couldn't be further from the truth," said Pacioretty, via the Canadiens website (full video above). "If you look at the situation, me and Letang made eye contact and I think that's what gave me the green light to try and hit him. I felt he put himself in a vulnerable position. Maybe I shouldn't have even thought about hitting him because of the way the wind is blowing right now with head shots. I'd like to see a little bit of consistency. If the onus is on the hitter every single time I'd be fine with the suspension, but you've seen instances where they've placed the onus on the player receiving the hit as well. That's why I'm confused and a lot of other players are confused as well."
More On Max Pacioretty

He also talked about how he felt Letang lowered his head prior to the hit, and that when he looks at the play in slow motion he can see that Letang changed his position as he saw Pacioretty coming. When asked if the suspension would change the way he plays and hits people, Pacioretty acknowledged that in the future he would not deliver that hit, and also added that since the start of the season he's been afraid to hit opposing players.

"This whole year I haven't had many hits," said Pacioretty. "Bbecause, I'll be completely honest, I've been scared to hit people out there. A lot of times you're going in on the forecheck and the defenseman turns his back to you, and things of that nature happen. It's a fast game and injuries are going to happen, and that's why it's tough out there, especially for someone who is expected to finish their hits. The blame is still on me. I made a bad decision and down the road I'm definitely not going to make that hit when someone is coming through the middle. Though, I don't see why I should give him free pass to come through our zone and get a free shot on net."

More NHL Discipline News Here

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

Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:21 pm
 

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

cooke1By: Adam Gretz

Throughout his career Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke has usually been used as an example of what not to do on the ice when it comes to physical play. He's been suspended five times, including the final 10 games of the regular season, and all seven of Pittsburgh's playoff games last year, and is perhaps known most for the hit on Boston's Marc Savard that started his still on-going battle with concussions, and also helped spark the NHL's rule changes regarding hits to the head (rule 48).

Following his most recent suspension, one that hurt the Penguins in their opening round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cooke vowed to change his ways and clean up the way he plays hockey. His claim was greeted -- and rightfully so -- with a sense of, show us, don't tell us, and actions speak louder than words.

A month-and-a-half into the season and he is now actually being used as a positive example of what to do on the ice. At least in the eyes of the Penguins. 

In an article penned by the Canadian Press on Wednesday, Penguins general manager Ray Shero cited Cooke's early season play as an example the NHL can use for what Brendan Shanahan is trying to accomplish with player safety.

From Shero, via the CP:
"For Brendan Shanahan and player safety, here's a guy that they can show on some highlights and the videos, where he's not taking the hit or he is pulling up (in dangerous situations)," said Shero. "He's still got a ways to go. But in the first portion of the season here and exhibition as well, he has changed the way he's played and he's still a really good effective player for us in his role.

"That's good news for us and it's good news for Brendan Shanahan in terms of what he's trying to do."
Through 18 games this season Cooke has not done anything remotely dirty, and has been sent to the penalty box just two times -- once for interference and once for unsportsmanlike conduct for diving -- for a grand total of four penalty minutes. Over the past four seasons through the same number of games he registered 23, 22, 25 and 24 penalty minutes.  Along with that, he also has a positive differential in the number of penalties he's drawn compared to the number of penalties he's taken for the first time in four years.

(Penalty numbers via BehindTheNet)

Matt Cooke Penalties Drawn vs. Penalties Taken: Past Four Years
Year Penalties Taken per 60 Min. Penalties Drawn per 60 Min. Difference
2011-12 (18 Games) 0.3 1.4 +1.1
2010-11 1.8 1.2 -0.6
2009-10 1.4 1.1 -0.3
2008-09 1.6 1.3 -0.3
2007-08 1.4 1.2 -0.2

This is definitely a positive development and a good start for the Penguins, as well as Cooke, because he's always been a valuable player when he isn't sidelined with a suspension or sitting in the penalty box following an ill-timed penalty (he can score, and he's one of the top penalty killers on the best penalty killing team in the league).

But it's going to take a lot more than 18 games for fans -- if not opposing players as well -- around the NHL to believe that he really has turned the page and become a different player.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 9, 2011 12:16 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 6:10 pm
 

Sarich hit on Pens' Cooke: Clean or no?

By Brian Stubits

When it comes to the NHL's new crackdown on hits to the head, everybody just naturally assumed it wouldn't be long before Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins was involved. Well they were right ... sort of.

In Saturday night's Penguins game against the Flames in Calgary, Cooke was on the receiving end of a questionable hit from Calgary's Cory Sarich. Have a look at the hit for yourself.

After watching the hit mulitple times (not quite sure what's up with the audio remix in the middle of the video, though) it looks clean to me. But it's possible that it won't to Brendan Shanahan, the new sheriff in town.

Bob McKenzie of TSN says the early returns are good for Sarich. "Sounds like Sarich's hit on Cooke being viewed by league as 'full body' hit with incidental contact to head. Not deemed 'targeting.'"

There are multiple factors working into play on this one. First of all, the hit drew attention largely because of the way Cooke reacted. He instantly began holding his head after the hit. Sarich took to defending himself a little bit after the game.

"It's out of my hands. We'll see what happens," Sarich said. "I was just coming over. I was actually trying to get a little lower. I was pushing off trying to put something into the hit. I don't know. It didn't look too exciting to me. He made it look more exciting than it really was."

But then there's Cooke's history, which is unlikely to garner him any respect or sympathy from outside of Pittsburgh. Among the hits on his list is the perhaps career-ending shot on the Bruins' Marc Savard.

For Shanahan, though, that cannot weigh in the decision. In this case, Cooke was a victim of the shot, not the other way around. To me it would seem that it was a hit where the principal point of contact was, in fact, the body and the contact with the head was more in line with being incidental.

In this situation, especially concerning such a talked-about player in this realm of hitting like Cooke, Shanahan would be wise to issue a video describing the hit regardless if he hands down a suspension or not. For my two cents, I say not.

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

Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:55 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Boston will be first team to repeat in 14 years

ZC1

By: Adam Gretz

Recent history suggests it's a terrible, pointless idea to pick the defending Stanley Cup champions to repeat. It hasn't been done since 1997-98 when the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals, and only three times since then has a defending champion even managed to return to the finals (the Dallas Stars in 2000, the New Jersey Devils in 2001 and the Red Wings in 2009).

Winning the cup one time is hard enough. But to come back following a shortened offseason, after going through a grueling 82-game regular season and four best-of-seven playoff series just to do it all over again has to take a tremendous toll on the body.

Despite all of that, I'm still picking the Bruins to repeat anyway.

2011-12 NHL Season Preview
They have a great 1-2 punch in net, balanced scoring depth through all four lines and one of the best defenseman in the NHL. What's not to like about their chances to repeat?

Three reasons to like the Bruins:

1) Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask: You can probably count on one hand -- and have fingers remaining -- the number of goalies in the league that are capable of carrying a team all the way to the Stanley Cup, and Boston has one of them in Tim Thomas. A former ninth-round pick that had to bounce around the minor leagues and Europe before finally getting his shot in the NHL, Thomas has become the best goaltender in the league and won two of the past three Vezina Trophies, leading the league in save percentage each year, and is one of the few true game-changers at his position. His margin of victory in the save percentage race last season (.008 points) was the largest in the NHL in over 12 years.

If Thomas isn't enough, his backup, Tuukka Rask, has proven that he's capable of being a No. 1 goaltender as well, and sandwiched between Thomas' two Vezina seasons he ended up getting the starting job in Boston and had the best save percentage in the NHL himself. That, of course, means the Bruins have had the goaltender with the top save percentage in the league three years running. There's not many teams that can say that.

2) Depth down the middle: Unfortunately, Marc Savard's career appears to be in jeopardy due to his ongoing concussion problems, but even without him the Bruins boast impressive depth down the middle with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci leading the way. They may not put up huge numbers offensively, but they're excellent two-way players that can control the puck and shut down whoever is on the ice against them.

Bergeron finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season and is my pick to win it this year.

The Bruins may not have had a single player finish higher than 40th in the NHL scoring race last year, but they still managed to finish fifth as a team in goals scored due to their depth, and even with the losses of Michael Ryder and Mark Recchi this offseason, they're still able to go four lines deep.

3) Zdeno Chara: Of course, any time you have one of the best defenseman in the NHL it's always a boost to your chances, and Chara has become a regular in the yearly discussion for the Norris Trophy thanks to his ability to match up with the other teams top line and also provide offense from the blue line with his booming slap shot. Along with Chara, Dennis Seidenberg is an underrated player on the blue line that is a fearless shot-blocker and can also provide some offense. There's not a ton of depth on the blue line after that, but Chara and Seidenberg are a pair of workhorses that can carry the load, and when you combine their goaltending with the relentless defensive play of their forwards they should able to overcome whatever shortcomings their bottom two defensive pairings might have.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:43 pm
 

50 things to know, ask and watch for this season

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By: Adam Gretz


The biggest thing we're watching as the NHL gets ready to drop the puck on the 2011-12 season is when will Penguins captain Sidney Crosby be able return to the lineup?

The only answer to that question, of course, is simply "when he's ready," and not a moment sooner.

But when will that be? That's the question we've been asking since January, and even though it appears to be getting closer, and optimism about his return is higher than it's ever been since he was knocked out of the lineup on Jan. 6, he's not going to be on the ice when the Penguins open up in Vancouver on Thursday night, and he isn't likely to be cleared for contact until Pittsburgh returns from its season-opening trek through western Canada.

Perhaps just as important as when he returns, is whether or not he'll be the same player he was before he left. Prior to the injury Crosby's game had evolved over the previous two seasons to the point where he went from being a great set-up man to the Penguins' go-to goal-scorer, as well as their No. 1 option in the face-off circle. When he left the Penguins' lineup last season he was in the middle of the best year of his career and was on a pace to shatter just about all of his previous career highs.

Not only due to the length of his absence from the game and from contact, but also because of the nature of the injury, there has to be a question of how quickly he'll be able to be that player again.

So that's the big story we're watching this year, and here the other 49 of our 50 things to know, ask and watch for during the 2010-11 season…

2. CBA Talks: This likely won't be settled during the season, but it's still going to loom large and is the giant elephant sitting in the living room ready to make a huge stinking mess all over the couch and floor if you don't feed him on time. The NFL had its lockout come and go, missing only a couple of weeks of training camp and a meaningless preseason game, and the NBA lockout continues to roll on. And soon it will be the NHL's turn. The last time the league was in this situation we lost an entire season, so there's that to keep in mind. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues to have labor peace. What a strange world we live in.

3. Brendan Shanahan: The first question we have is whether or not Brendan Shanahan will get tired of making those videos? (We hope the answer is no; because they're great). The second question is whether or not the suspensions will continue at the same torrid pace we saw in the preseason, or if that was simply the "message sending" phase? And if so, will the players get the message?

4. Player safety debates: After a disturbingly dreadful summer that saw the untimely deaths of three young players, all of whom were fighters, the fighting debate reached an entirely new level, even though we don't know how -- or if -- the two were connected. Should all hits to the head be banned? Is no-touch icing long overdue? Crosby's concussion is the one everybody is talking about, but there's also Matthew Lombardi in Toronto and his recovery. Marc Staal, the top defenseman for the New York Rangers, is still having problems following the concussion he suffered late last season, and there's concern as to whether or not Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins will ever play in an NHL game again.

5. Winter Classic: The highlight of the NHL's regular season schedule takes place in Philadelphia between two bitter rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, on Jan. 2. It's the first time a New York team has appeared in the game, and the Flyers host it for the first time after losing to Boston in overtime back in 2010. Last year's game in Pittsburgh featured unseasonable warmth and rain, forcing a delay and some miserable ice conditions. Here's hoping Eastern Pennsylvania gives us better weather.

6. Winnipeg Jets return: The playoffs would be great for no other reason than to see a return of the Winnipeg Whiteout, but even though that seems like a long shot at this point their first taste of the NHL since 1996 should make every game at the MTS Centre have the feel of a Stanley Cup Final game.



7. Bruins repeat attempt: Over the past 20 years we've only seen two teams repeat as Stanley Cup Champions -- the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1996 and 1997 Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins seem to have what it takes to return to the top of the NHL mountain.

8. Realignment decision: The NHL hasnt gone through a divisional realignment in over a decade but it appears to be coming. Detroit wants to go to the East and claims that it's been promised that it will happen, and Winnipeg should be headed to the west.  What other changes -- if any -- will we see?

9. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The No. 1 overall pick in the June draft is starting the season with the Edmonton Oilers after a strong preseason effort. Is it simply a nine-game look before he gets sent back to his Junior team, or does he make it through the entire season with the big club? Recent history is on his side for making a full-season stay with the Oilers.

10. The NBA lockout: No, this isn't specifically an NHL issue, but if the NBA lockout rolls into the regular season will the NHL gain more exposure because of it, and, perhaps more importantly, will the league be able to take advantage of that opportunity?

11. Life in Philly without Richards and Carter and with Bryzgalov: After a revolving door of mediocre goaltending and an endless list of questions about the position over the years, the Philadelphia Flyers went all in on Ilya Bryzgalov. And now there are some questions about how they'll be able to score after trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

12. Capitals' offensive/defensive balance: Last season the Washington Capitals went from a run-and-gun offensive juggernaut to a defensive-minded team that went from 15th in goals allowed per game the previous season all the way up to fourth. Can they find the happy medium this season and finally get over the playoff hump?

SW313. Nashville negotiations: It took the arbitration process to get Shea Weber signed to a one-year deal, and he's up for restricted free agency again this offseason. Even worse for the Predators is the upcoming unrestricted free agency of Ryan Suter. And don't forget starting goaltender, and last year's runner-up in the Vezina voting, Pekka Rinne. Two big-time defensemen, a top goalie and three massive contract questions for one of the NHL's most efficient franchises.

14. Doughty's new dough: Drew Doughty is now the third highest paid defensemen in the NHL on a yearly basis, and that means he's going to be expected to play like one of the top defensemen in the NHL. He's shown he's capable of it in the past, but his production regressed a bit last season. When you're making over $7 million a year that can no longer happen.

15. Sales of Dallas, Phoenix and St. Louis: We're still waiting for some sort of resolution to the three ownership sales that have dragged on for quite a while.

16. Year two of Boucher in Tampa Bay: In his debut season Guy Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that surely has expectations high for his second year on the job.

17. New-look Sharks: Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are gone. Martin Havlat and Brent Burns are in. Either San Jose and Minnesota are swapping rosters one trade at a time, or the Sharks feel these are the moves that can finally get them to kick through the door that has been the Western Conference Finals.

18. Perry's encore: OK, let's be honest, nobody had Corey Perry scoring 50 goals and leading the NHL last season, right? He's always been an excellent player -- and a frustrating one to play against, and an easy player to, let's say ... dislike, when he's not on your team-- but prior to last year he only topped the 30-goal mark once in his career. Logic says he returns closer to the 30-goal player he's always been. But logic also said he wouldn't score 50 goals last year.

19. Thomas, the Vezina and the Hart Trophy: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has won the Vezina Trophy two of the past three years, and would have to be the early season favorite to win it again. He's also set his sights on another major NHL award: The Hart Trophy. That one is going to be tough simply because goalies don't typically win that award. It's only happened seven times in the history of the league, and only three times since the league expanded beyond six teams -- Jose Theodore in 2002, and back-to-back wins for Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.  

20. First-year coaches: Is there a Guy Boucher rookie success story among the NHL's new head coaches, including first-year guys like Minnesota's Mike Yeo, Florida's Kevin Dineen, Winnipeg's Claude Noel and Ottawa's Paul MacLean?

21. Pegula-ville: Buffalo has always been a great hockey town, but these people are absolutely stoked about their new owner, and he went on a summer spending spree that topped just about every other team in the league. But will it pay off?

22. NHL starts in Europe: The Ducks, Sabres, Rangers and Kings are all opening their season in Europe. Will one of these teams lift Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season? Fun fact: In each of the past three seasons a team that started its season overseas ended up winning the Stanley Cup -- Pittsburgh in 2008, Chicago in 2009 and Boston in 2010.

23. Brodeur's last hurrah? Martin Brodeur has accomplished just about everything a goaltender can accomplish as a hockey player, but will this be his final year in the NHL? Back in April he hinted that it could be.

BR124. Rangers have a new star: Hello, Brad Richards. You're the latest free agent savior of the New York Rangers! Actually, after so many free agency failures over the years this might be one signing that really does pay off for blue shirts in a big way.

25. Islanders arena situation: What will come of the Islanders quest for a new -- and needed -- home? Is Brooklyn the answer?

26. Sophomore slumps: Do you believe in the Sophomore jinx? Personally, I don't, but I am curious to see what Carolina's Jeff Skinner and San Jose's Logan Couture have to offer in year two.

27. New Panthers ... new results? No team was busier this summer than the Florida Panthers, completely overhauling their roster, in part because they had to spend an obscene amount of money just to reach the NHL's salary cap floor. It's definitely a new team, but is it a better team? I guess that depends on how much faith you have in Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Upshall.

28. How bad are the Senators? On paper, it looks like it's going to be a long season for Ottawa as it celebrates its 20th year in the NHL, but how bad are we talking here? Simply on the outside of the playoff picture, or are we looking at a team that's competing for the worst mark in the NHL?

29. Breakthrough year for Kings: After acquiring Mike Richards the Kings went from being a playoff team in the Western Conference to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with the type of depth down the middle (Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarett Stoll) a team needs to win it all.

30. Hiller's recovery from vertigo: Jonas Hiller says the vertigo symptoms that robbed him of a good portion of his season -- and the playoffs -- a year ago are gone, and the Ducks need that to be the case if they're going to make a push in the Western Conference. Hiller is one of the best goalies in the league and if he's 100 percent healthy can be a difference maker for Anaheim.

31. Heatley back on a top line: Coming off one of the worst goal-scoring seasons of his career Dany Heatley gets a fresh start in Minnesota, and he's going to be relied on to be a top goal-scoring option for the Wild. Was last year the start of a decline in Heatley's career, or does he return to the 40-goal form we're used to seeing?

32. Will Detroit's defense be good enough? The Red Wings defense has declined a bit in recent years, and this year they're looking to replace Brian Rafalski following his retirement. Nicklas Lidstrom still scores like a champ, but he's not getting any younger back there.

33. Is Matt Cooke a changed man? Penguins agitator Matt Cooke claims he's a changed man following a season that saw him earn two suspensions, including a 17-game ban following a hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It's one thing to say it, but we have to see it.

34. Varlamov gets another shot: The Avalanche need the Semyon Varlamov gamble to work out, not just because they desperately need an upgrade in net, owning the worst save percentage in the league last season, but also because their first-round pick in 2012 -- perhaps a very, very high selection -- now belongs to the Washington Capitals as a result of the trade that brought him to Colorado.  

35. Benn will star for the Stars: The Dallas Stars have done a nice job developing forwards in recent years, and Jamie Benn looks like he's ready to become a 30-goal scorer.

36. Bryzgalov will be missed in Phoenix: The Coyotes will struggle to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year as they try to replace Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera. Smith is familiar with coach Dave Tippett, but Bryzgalov was a big part of their success the past two years and he won't be easy to replace.

37. The Blue Jackets will be more entertaining: Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski fill huge needs and Ryan Johansen can be a contender for the Calder Trophy. The playoffs are a real possibility in Columbus, and even if the Jackets fail to qualify, they will at least be a more interesting team to watch this year.

38. Patrick Kane at center: Simply put, how long will this experiment last?

39. Vokoun/Neuvirth/Holtby trio of goaltenders in Washington: An experienced veteran signed for way below his market value and two extremely talented youngsters. Michal Neuvirth still thinks the job is his, and when combined with his talent that level of determination has to be an exciting prospect for the Capitals. Vokoun, though, is no slouch and has been one of the best goaltenders in the league the past few years playing on one of the league's worst teams.

40. Malkin's return to the top of the scoring race: For most players, simply averaging a point-per-game is a success. For a player with Malkin's ability it's considered a disappointment. This season he looks poised to return to the top of the NHL's scoring race and contend for the Art Ross Trophy. Speaking of which...

Sedins

41. Will somebody other than the Sedin's win the scoring title? The past two years two different players from the same family have won the NHL's scoring title. Is it a three-peat for the Sedin twins?

42. Jaromir Jagr: Does he have anything left? The summer of Jagr was certainly interesting, especially if you were following the #jagrwatch on Twitter, but how much does the 39-year-old forward have left in the tank? Philadelphia might need a lot.

43. How big of an issue is Markov's knee? Andrei Markov is still Montreal's best defenseman and he's still fighting through some problems with the knee injuries that have plagued him over the past two years. After losing Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik the Canadiens need him to be healthy.

44. Will Detroit need an upgrade on Jimmy Howard? The Red Wings say they're happy with their goaltending situation, but twice in the past seven months they've tried to add a veteran goaltender, signing Evgeni Nabokov last season only to lose him on waivers before he could report to the team, and making a run at Tomas Vokoun this summer. That's not a coincidence.

45. Center of attention in Toronto: The Maple Leafs have been searching for a true No. 1 center for quite some time, and after missing out on Brad Richards over the summer went with Tim Connolly on a two-year deal. The good news is he's not a bad player, but the bad news is he's constantly injured. Matthew Lombardi is in the mix if he can overcome his concussion problem, but after that it's a relatively thin group. Heck, even with them it's a thin group.

46. Edmonton's defense: The Oilers have loads of potential at the forward positions but their defense is a mess after Ryan Whitney. Who will step up on their blue line?

47. How many games for DiPietro? Like the Oilers the Islanders hope rests with their collection of forwards while serious questions about their defense and goaltending will haunt them all year. For the Islanders the yearly question (as it will be through 2020) is how many games will the oft-injured Rick DiPietro be in the lineup?

48. Bouwmeester: big money, little offense in Calgary: When the Flames gave Jay Bouwmeester over $6 million per year three years ago they were probably expecting way more offense than this. He's averaged just around 27 points per season since signing with Calgary after averaging over 40 during his finals three seasons with Florida, primarily because his goal-scoring ability has suddenly disappeared. Sixty-eight defenseman recorded more points than his 24 last season.

49. Parise's return: Not only his return to the lineup for the full-season, but also his return to being one of the top left wings in the NHL, will go a long way toward helping the Devils in their effort return to the playoffs after a disappointing season a year ago. In a contract year, Parise needs a big season on a personal level to strike it rich next summer.

50. How many 50-goal scorers will we see? During the 2010-11 season we saw one 50-goal scorer (Perry), down from the three we had the previous season. The preseason favorites have to be Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, and Crosby might be able to get into that mix if he returns to action early enough.

Photos: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:59 am
 

Shanahan not happy with criticism of Campbell

By Brian Stubits

Since taking on the responsibility of handling the discipline of players, Brendan Shanahan has been receving nearly universal praise. People had grown tired of Colin Campbell's reign and have embraced the new open and transparent era with open arms.

But the inverse of that equation is that it also has a lot of people continuing to bash Campbell. Let's be frank, the guy was never really liked by fan, feeling that he was unfair, especially when there was anything involving his son Gregory or his son's team.

Overall, fans viewed Campbell as a joke. So they are making jokes like this (rather hilarious) video from Down Goes Brown of the "lost" Colin Campbell suspension video vault. Here he looks at the hit from Matt Cooke that probably ended Marc Savard's career (for which Cooke received no suspension from the league).

Shanahan, however, isn't enjoying his predecessor being the butt of all the jokes. Here's what Shanahan had to say to Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy regarding the criticism of Campbell.

It's actually been really upset me over the last few days, because I still rely on him almost daily.
I just think he's one of the most moral people I've ever met in hockey. He was a great teammate when he played. He's a great dad who raised a son to play in the NHL. He's built the War Room. He's built this whole department. He's one of the reasons I got hired in the first place.
He and I are not one vs. the other. He's helped me transition to do this. It was Colie who recognized that it was time for a new voice. If people want to see this first week as successful, they have to understand that Colin is as responsible for it as anybody else.

However, this is the lay of the land. When you deal in the world of doling out suspensions, you are likely to cross almost every fan at some point. Shanahan will get his fair share of criticism, too. I don't think Shanahan expects anything different on either of those fronts.

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

 
 
 
 
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