Tag:Mark Recchi
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Bruins and Canucks meet again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Vancouver to start Schneider over Luongo

The Boston Bruins are out-of-this-world good. Six times this season they have beaten their opponent by at least five goals. That includes Thursday's 9-0 rout of the Calgary Flames.

On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.

To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.

Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.

It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.

These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.

It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.

Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”

There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.

The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.

Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”

It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.

The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.

Mr. 499

I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.

He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.

Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.

"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."

Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.

In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.

Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.

"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.

Capitalizing

One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.

They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.

But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.

Boom! Madden's debut

The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.

Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.

That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.

I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.

More Wings work

It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.

On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.

Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.

Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.

We're going streaking!

Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts keep on winning, taking a three-game streak into Friday's matchup with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders: The Isles make the list this week, and it's on the good side! A three-game win streak is on the line at the Ducks on Friday and then the Coyotes on Saturday.

Ottawa Senators: The quietest of the NHL's surprise teams, the Senators have a four-game run going into the home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Sunday.

Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.

Colorado Avalanche: The up-and-down Avs are playing well again, having won three straight. They have a tough Friday-Saturday road trip of at the Blackhawks and at the Blues.

Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.

Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.

Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 25, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 9:59 pm
 

Sharks join Recchi with opinion on Canucks

By Brian Stubits

Not long ago, Mark Recchi, a member of the Bruins team that beat the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup last season, called the Canucks the most arrogant team he ever played in his 22-season career. Kevin Bieksa took exception to the comments, but a lot of fans agreed.

And so did some of the players.

The San Jose Sharks also ran into the Canucks in the playoffs last season and with each having extended runs at the top of the Western Conference, they have a pretty strong familiarity with each other. So it's no surprise that they would share Recchi's sentiments, maybe only surprising that they would actually admit to it.

Douglas Murray and Ryan Clowe were asked about Recchi's words the day before the Sharks and Canucks meet (on Saturday). Neither was going to disagree with Recchi. From Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area:

“Recchi was obviously a very well-respected player in this league for many years, and still is very respected,” Murray said. “For him saying something like that probably means something.

“It’s not the whole team. It’s certain individuals that give them that reputation. I’m not going to call out names. It’s obvious for anyone that watches the game.”

Well for those who maybe don't watch the Canucks all that closely, you're left to yourself to figure it out, right? Well that's where Clowe comes in.

“They’ve got certain guys, and they have [Maxim] Lapierre there who is known for that," said Clowe. "He’s known to run his mouth and play that sort of game. He doesn’t really like backing that up. You have [Ryan] Kesler and [Alex] Burrows who used to do that a little bit more. Apparently the last year, and last couple of years, they’ve tried to not talk as much and just play.”

Yea, can't say those names are a shock. Remember it was just a week ago that the tandem of Lapierre and Burrows was being accused of some dirty shenanigans against the Senators.

The Canucks are an interesting creature to me. They have clearly become one of the most hated teams in the NHL. Canada, which always seems to embrace its own to win the Cup for the country, almost shunned Vancouver in last year's postseason. Their biggest Stars, the Sedin twins, are pretty much everything you could ask for in model players and faces of your franchise.

It's all the more interesting that the Canucks haven't won a Stanley Cup. Usually such hatred is reserved for the teams that win championships, not runner-ups. Did anybody really hate the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s (other than their traditional rivals)?

All I know is that the Canucks keep piling up a list of must-see games with every opponent comment.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 20, 2011 1:24 pm
 

Kevin Bieksa responds to Mark Recchi: Take a nap

By Brian Stubits

Mark Recchi shared his feelings on last season's Vancouver Canucks last week. Let's just say, he wasn't very fond of them, calling them the most arrogant team he faced in his career. That career, mind you, stretched 22 seasons, so he's been around the block.

Of course that caught the attention of the Canucks. With their superstars being rather humble and quiet (the Sedin twins) the role of "team spokesman" seems to often go to defenseman Kevin Bieksa. He was a bit confused/insulted and thus combative when it came time for a response.

Here is what he told Jason Botchford of the Province.

"Isn't he retired? What's he doing? Tell him to go play a round of golf or take a nap. Why is he chirping us?"

Then, Bieksa started to pick apart Recchi's assertion.

"You can call us a lot of things, I don't think arrogant would be one of them," Bieksa said. "This is not even close to the most arrogant team I've even played on.

"The twins are so humble and you may not like playing against guys like (Maxim) Lapierre, and (Alex) Burrows but they're not arrogant. I just don't get it. Mark Recchi can go take a nap."

Take a nap. You have to admit, that's a pretty good response.

There was certainly no shortage of animosity between the two Stanley Cup finalists last season. From the biting incident to tire pumping and Nathan Horton's concussion, things were never very cordial, so perhaps that's where Recchi got the impression.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was a bit more cordial (and most would agree, mature) in his response to Recchi's comments.

"I've known Mark, I've coached Mark, he's a quality person," Vigneault said. "But you can also win with class. You don't need to rub it in. It was a seven-game series. This team, in my mind, is about integrity. We play the right way. They won.

"It is not a very classy thing."

That was the series that keeps on giving. Not only was it an excellent series, but the lasting effects keep on coming. Too bad Recchi won't be on the ice for the rematch Jan. 7 in Boston.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 17, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 7:45 pm
 

Mark Recchi not a huge fan of '10-11 Canucks

recchi2By: Adam Gretz

Mark Recchi spent 22 years in the NHL and most likely played against more than one team that he wasn't particularly fond of. Such is life in the NHL, especially when it comes to lengthy playoff runs and a Stanley Cup chase. So when he says a certain team was "the most arrogant" team he's played against, and "the most hated team" he's ever played against, it's an interesting statement.

Those are the words he used to describe his feelings regarding the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks, the team Recchi and the Boston Bruins defeated in seven games to end their lengthy Stanley Cup drought and give Recchi the third championship ring of his career.

On Thursday, Recchi took some time out of his retirement to make an appearance on Boston Sports radio, chatting with "Gresh & Zo" on Boston's 98.5 the Sports Hub and talked about what it was like to play against the 2010-11 Canucks. Basically, he didn't really care for them.

“In 22 years they are the most arrogant team I played against and the most hated team I’ve ever played against," said Recchi. “I couldn’t believe their antics -- their falling and diving. It was very frustrating. But at the same time, as the series wore on, we knew we were getting to them and we knew our physical play and our skating, I think it caught them off guard a little bit.”

Last year's Finals was an extremely physical series between two teams that seemingly disliked each other more and more as the series progressed. His comments probably a sting a bit for the folks in Vancouver, seeing as how Recchi was born in Kamloops, British Columbia.

In 25 playoff games Recchi recorded 14 points, good enough for sixth-best on the Bruins.

You can check out the full audio of his appearance by clicking here.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Bruins players receive their championship rings

By Brian Stubits

The Boston Bruins received one of the fruits of their labor that was a Stanley Cup title this week, getting their hands on the championship rings.

Here's a description of the bling from NHL.com:

The ring crest features 66 diamonds, including the Bruins' iconic 'B' logo over an image of the Stanley Cup. There are six diamonds around that logo representing the Bruins' six Cup championships in franchise history. One shoulder of the ring features the player's name and sweater number around the team's secondary bear logo. The other side features the Stanley Cup with the years the Bruins have won the Cup – 2011, 1972, 1970, 1941, 1939 and 1929.
There's more to the rings than just what's on the outside. The inside features intricate custom engraving. On one side is engraved the team's playoff slogan that decorated the locker room during the playoff run, "Full 60+ to History." The logo of the Bruins' playoff opponents and the score of each of those series also decorate the interior.

Like any good championship ring, it's a bit ostentatious. Hey, they earned it, so why not?

The players sure seem to like them and that's what matters.

"I mean, it's probably worth more than my parents made growing up," Shawn Thornton said. "So it's a ... I'm kind of speechless. It's unbelievable how much they went out of their way to make sure that everyone was happy. It's great."

Mark Recchi, who already has rings from his time in Carolina and Pittsburgh, was equally impressed.

"But I knew this was going to be nice, but what the Jacobs family did was absolutely amazing," Recchi said. "It kind of blew me away actually. It's very special. The thought that went into this and the little details, it's incredible."

But wait, there's more! You can even have your own! Seriously, you can buy a replica. Here's a video of how they're made, kind of cool.

Photo: Bruins team site

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

Posted on: September 29, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:27 pm
 

Northeast Division Preview: Champ B's still tops

By Brian Stubits

For the first time since the 1993-94 season began, the reigning champion resides in the Northeast Division after the Bruins ended their Cup drought with a thrilling run through the postseason. The even better news for Boston (but not so awesome for the rest of the division) is that the Bruins are back almost completely intact.

No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and 98. Only two other teams have made it back to the Finals a year after winning in that time, the Stars in 1999 then 2000 and once again the Red Wings (2008, 09). There's a reason for it, the fabled championship hangover.

But in hockey, I think it plays a bigger part than any other sport. The offseason is as short as it gets, the playoffs as long and grueling as any of the major sports. The Bruins lifted the Cup in the middle of June and reported back to camp in early September. All the while they were enjoying a whirlwind of a summer that included plenty of partying and celebrating a title. The Blackhawks admittedly struggled with it last season (although the roster being ripped apart didn't help matters). If only getting rid of it were as easy as taking a couple Tylenol and drinking Vitamin Water.

If they do look sluggish and lethargic to start the season then the Buffalo Sabres will be ready to pounce on the opportunity. They are hockey hungry in Buffalo these days with hope their Sabres can become power players in the East. As for the other three in the division, the East's Canadian coalition? Well they will all be hoping to resurrect their glory days.

You can't exactly count out the Canadiens and Maple Leafs from the division crown, but this likely is a two-horse race in the Northeast.

Now we'll just have to wait and see how the Bruins respondin their quest for another Cup.

Northeast Division (predicted order of finish)

Boston Bruins: Why mess with a good thing? That's an easy philosphy to live by when you are coming off of claiming the Stanley Cup. Really, the only new additions they have to work into the fold are Benoit Pouliot as a bottom-six forward and Joe Corvo on the blue line. With the solid support all around them of a close-knit group, they should be able to seamlessly slide in and fill the voids left by Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, the only pieces to the championship puzzle missing.

One thing I'm not sure many people realize, but this team is very young in addition to being super talented. There are still five players just among the forwards who will be restricted free agents when their contracts run out. The defense is a bit more grizzled, however, and that's where a good chunk of the leadership comes from, of course including captain Zdeno Chara.

There might be a slight sense of urgency for the B's to repeat as champs as they will have a lot of work to do to keep the team together as 10 of their regulars don't have contracts beyond next season. But GM Peter Chiarelli seems to be preparing for that well, saving the B's cap space to maneuver.

Strengths: What's not to like? They are very balanced as 10 players had more than 40 points a season ago, although two of them have departed (Kaberle and Ryder). Defensively they have plenty of veteran presence and have been a very good unit under Claude Julien. Plus, you know, they have that fella named Chara.

Oh, and how can we make it this far without discussing the team's best player, Tim Thomas? He was simply superb last season and through the playoffs, posting the highest single-season save percentage in league history. It's not as if his backup is chopped liver, either, as Tuukka Rask will be expected to shoulder more of the load for the 38-year-old Thomas this year.

Weaknesses: Despite all of their success when five-on-five, Boston's special teams weren't up to snuff. Without much change in personnel, they are going to have to find a way from within to improve the 20th-ranked power play and 18th-best penalty kill units. The power play was a growing concern in the playoffs, which included an 0-for-21 streak in the opening round win over the Canadiens. They tried all sorts of remedies to fix it, including parking Chara in front of the net, but they found their groove late in the playoffs when Chara and his booming shot returned to the point. Their hope is that success will roll over.

After that, we're just getting picky here. There just aren't too many holes from a team that ranked in the top five both offensively and defensively last season and was the NHL's top plus/minus team. They will have the talk of a championship hangover looming over them for much of the season and they will have the proverbial target on their backs as the champs. Those are hurdles that will be new.

Buffalo Sabres: I'm not sure what fans in Buffalo are more excited about right now: the Bills' 3-0 start or the first full season under Terry Pegula? The Sabres' biggest (and richest) fan ushers in a new era that the fans are still trying to get used to, in a good way: Buffalo is a big spender now. Pegula will make sure of that as he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. And his mouth has expressed some awfully high expectations ... multiple championships.

On that note, the Sabres were active in the offseason, most notably signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to augment the core group that Buffalo has built. But possibly the biggest acquisition they made was the less-heralded of them all, and that was bringing in Robyn Regehr. The stout defenseman should prove to be a great addition as he brings a lot of toughness and all-around defense. Not to mention he will serve as a good influence for assumed partner Tyler Myers, who is in line for a nice bounceback season with more talent with him on defense.

It almost feels like an acquisition, but the return of Derek Roy will be a big boost, too. The front-line center missed the second half of last season due to a quad injury.

Welcome to Pegulaville. Buffalo still can hardly believe it.

Strengths: There is obviously a strong leader, for one. That's a very nice asset to have an owner so willing to win. But beyond him, there's a reason why Buffalo has moved into the conversation to crack the home-ice equation in the East, the new faces likely will make a very good group even better. In particular, the addition of Ehrhoff to the league's ninth-ranked power-play unit will make the special-teams unit a real asset for the Sabres.

Like their division rivals in Boston, as talented as they are all over the ice, their best player probably sits in the blue paint all game long. Ryan Miller didn't have the greatest of seasons last year for Buffalo, but that tends to happen when you come off a Vezina-winning season ... there's only one direction to go. He's still one of the absolute best in the game.

Oh, and the slug logo is gone, wiped away for good. That's positive for everybody.

Weaknesses: The cap situation is a bit troubling. With Pegula's desire to spend, the Sabres actually exceeded the salary cap over the summer, so they will have to be extra diligent with how they manage the roster. Unfortunately, it doesn't leave them much room to try and make any improvements midseason if need be.

Overall, it's not a roster with many holes in it whatsoever. It will just come down to how talented the team proves to be as there are multiple players capable of 50-plus point seasons.

Montreal Canadiens: Last season, without Max Pacioretty or Andrei Markov, the Canadiens captured the six seed in the East and took the eventual champions to the brink. I'm sure this team, almost al of it remains in town, is still stewing over blowing a 2-game lead to its bitter rival in Boston.

I definitely like the signing of Erik Cole in July, he is a solid (and physical) forward who could prove to be one of the bigger acquisitions of the summer for any team. He adds to a good, but not great group of forwards. They are capable, but need to be better than 23rd-best in the league like a season ago.

Where the success of this team will likely hinge is on the blue line. They have a couple of excellent young talents in P.K. Subban and Markov and some solid players behind them like Josh Gorges and Hal Gill.

A few steps toward a return to form for Scott Gomez (just seven goals last season) wouldn't hurt eiher.

Strenghts: Special teams. Under Jacques Martin, the Habs have been good in both departments of special teams, ranking seventh in both phases a season ago. If Markov remains healthy, the power play remains lethal as Subban and him both are excellent with the man up.

It's pretty Wild the goaltending this division features. Like both teams above them here, the Habs have an oustanding man living in the crease. It took fans a while in Montreal, but they finally warmed up to Carey Price, who finally lived up to his expectations last season. Playing a 72-game work load, Price posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The trick will be doing it again, but the safe bet is that he turned a corner and an encore shouldn't be a problem.

Weaknesses: Let's be honest, having to rely on Gomez to anchor a top-six line after a 37-point season doesn't have overwhelming talent. It showed in their scoring totals from last season when they averaged 2.60 goals per game. Cole will help as he not only brings a power game (among the league leaders in hits for forwards) but he can score. They would love to see him at least match his 26 goals from a season ago, that would have been good for second on the team.

A major concern all season will rest on the blue line and the depth there. Adding Chris Campoli after camp began was a nice addition to help with the concern, but they still can't really afford for injuries to set in, particularly for Markov. They just invested in him with a rich contract this offseason, so they are counting on him returning at full strength from the ACL tear and remaining that way.

Toronto Maple Leafs: How much longer will the fans in Toronto put up with a team that can't make the playoffs? The postseason drought stretches back to the lockout as the Leafs have been on the outside each season since. The only other team in the same boat is Florida, and let's just say the fans in Toronto take their hockey a touch more seriously than those in the Sunshine State. There's hope that this could be the season where they break through and return to playoff hockey, but that's a tall order for this group still.

Over the summer, GM Brian Burke really coveted center Brad Richards, but his staff was unable to convince the top free agent to head to Toronto. So as a backup plan he signed Tim Connolly from Buffalo to anchor the team's top line. If healthy, a very big if, Connolly can prove to be a good addition, the Leafs had to get deeper at center. Also, I really liked the quiet addition of John-Michael Liles to the defense.

But not much else will matter if the goaltending situation isn't solved. That has been the achilles heel for years in Toronto, but they think -- or hope -- the answer lies in James Reimer in his first full season in the NHL.

Strengths: As you'd expect for a team built by Burke, they have become a physical bunch in Toronto. The team captain, Dion Phaneuf, is one of the toughest hitters in the league. But there is obviously a danger of that being a weakness if the team is getting sent to the sin bin (or being Shanabanned with the new emphasis on safety) too often.

The second line is probably good enough to be Toronto's No. 1 group. The combination of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin placed second, third and fourth in the team scoring, respectively. Each had at least 21 goals.

Weaknesses: The problem is, the skill on the team doesn't go much deeper. Only six players on the team last year reached double digits in scoring. The fact is the Leafs have two lines that can hold up with most in the league, but the third and fourth lines are where they feel the drop.

The center position remains a concern. Sure, Connolly was brought in to help that and same with Matthew Lombardi, but you can't be sure what you are getting from either guy from a health standpoint. As mentioned, Connolly has a history of injury issues. He has only played more than 70 games once (2009-10) since the 2002-03 season. With Lombardi, he's coming off a concussion that cost him all but two games last season. If either or both goes down, then Toronto is right back to being razor thin down the middle.

Ottawa Senators: This is odd territory for the folks in Ottawa. Never in the franchise's history have they had to actually rebuild. Since originally building the team in the early 90s, the team had a long, successful run that included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07. A couple of the members from the old guard are still around -- Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but the majority of the team is in place to win in the future, not necessarily now.

Expect to see a lot of the kids getting burn this season. It appears as though the team's top draft pick this summer, Sweedish center Mika Zibanejad, is going to make the team out of camp. Another coveted prospect, Jared Cowen, is also making a bid for the roster and join David Rundblad among the defensive corps. Nikita Filatov, who hadn't lived up to his perceived potential in Columbus, will also be given a shot to show what he can do. If he fits in and focuses on his game, his addition could prove to be a steal for Ottawa.

While new coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray are saying all the rights things about this team being competitive this season, it will serve as a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the future.

Strenghts: They didn't score much at all or play defense particularly well, but they were alright on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill, which ranked ninth in the league. Sergei Gonchar can help keep that ball rolling. That will qualify as a positive here.

We'll also throw goaltender Craig Anderson into the category. He wasn't spectacular last season split between Colorado and Ottawa, but he's shown before what he is capable of when he starred for the Avalanche two seasons ago. And his stint with the Sens was encouraging as he was 11-5-1 with his new team.

It speaks well for what is in the system that the team's AHL affiliate in Binghamton won the Calder Cup.

Weaknesses: This says a lot: No player that participated in more than 30 games for the Senators had a plus-rating last season. Chris Phillips was the lowest of them all at minus-35.

This team struggled mightily to score last season and that is unlikely to get easier this time around. Right now there just isn't a heck of a lot of talent to talk about. Spezza was the only player to top the 20-goal mark last year and he barely did so with 21.

The youth is a weakness for now as it will be error prone and show it is green, but the hope is that it turns into a strength down the line.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 10:31 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 12:53 pm
 

Daily Skate: Seabrook takes stand on head hits

By Brian Stubits

ANOTHER CALL: Meanwhile, another player has stepped up to take a stand on the hits to the head Crosby and other players have been campaigning against this offseason. The Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook has made his feelings clear on head shots, wanting to see more punishment (CSN Chicago). Seabrook has suffered his own concussions in the past two seasons.

MCCRIMMON UPDATE: While most of the Lokomotiv players that were aboard the tragic flight that went down in Russia have been laid to rest, coach Bobby McCrimmon still hasn't. The funeral services for the coach of the Lokomotiv team and former Red Wings assistant will take place this weekend (NHL.com) in the Detroit suburb of Farmington, Mich.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! The pre-production work has begun on the next installment of HBO's 24/7 series, this year featuring the Winter Classic combatants of the Rangers and Flyers. On Thursday the crew from HBO was with New York, grabbing some promotional footage (Pro Hockey Talk) for the popular show.

BRING HIM BACK: Speaking of the Winter Classic, the fans in Philadelphia are trying to bring back Eric Lindros for the game. A petition is making its way around to try and bring back for the former Flyers star as part of the alumni celebration.

FILLING A VOID: The Bruins have a hole to fill in their leadership program with the retirement of Mark Recchi. So who whould wear the voided A? Joe Haggerty at Comcast Sports Net New England suggests that Shawn Thornton is ready and a great choice.

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

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 11:30 am
 

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

SelanneBy: Adam Gretz

Teemu Selanne has yet to decide whether or not he's going to return to the Anaheim Ducks this season, saying last weekend that he still wants to test his knee before making a final decision. If he returns he'll once again be one of the oldest players in the NHL, and be relied on to be a top-scoring threat for a playoff contender in the Western Conference.

Last season, at the age of 40, Selanne was the fourth oldest player in the NHL (trailing only Mark Recchi, Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano) and still managed to finish eighth in scoring and points per game. It was not only a fantastic season for any player, regardless of age, it was almost unheard of for a forward age 40-or-olrder.

Going back over every season dating back to 1979-80, there have been 34 cases of a forward playing in the NHL over the age of 40, and none of them came close to matching what Selanne produced for the Ducks last season. As a group, they appeared in an average of just 56 games and managed to score an average of 31 points.

Here's a look at the top-15 scoring seasons for forwards over the age of 40 dating back to 1979-80, a stretch of 31 seasons:

Top Scoring Seasons For 40-Year-Old Forwards Since 1979-80
Player Age Year Games Goals Points
Teemu Selanne 40 2010-11 73 31 80
Mark Messier 40 2000-01 82 24 67
Mark Recchi 40 2008-09 80 23 61
Mark Recchi 42 2010-11 81 14 48
Dave Keon 40 1980-81 80 13 47
Adam Oates 44 2002-03 67 9 45
Mark Messier 43 2003-04 76 18 43
Igor Larionov 42 2002-03 74 10 43
Igor Larionov 41 2001-01 70 11 43
Mark Recchi 41 2009-10 81 18 42
Gary Roberts 40 2006-07 69 20 42
Gordie Howe 51 1979-80 80 15 41
Ron Francis 40 2003-04 80 13 40
Mark Messier 42 2002-03 78 18 40
Igor Larionov 40 2000-01 65 9 40

Nobody was even close to Selanne, as he managed to score 13 more points than the No. 2 player on the list, Mark Messier, despite playing in nine fewer games. He's also shown no signs of slowing down in recent years, having his point-per-game number increase in each of the past three seasons.

Mark Recchi's multiple appearances on this list are remarkable as well, especially since his career looked like it was over early in the 2007-08 season at the age of 39 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was eventually placed on waivers and landed with the Atlanta Thrashers, a move that proved to turn his career around. After turning 40 he missed only four of a possible 246 regular season games, continued to provide some offensive depth for the Boston Bruins, and was also a solid contributor in the playoffs as they ended their Stanley Cup drought this past season, recording 14 points in 25 playoff games.

Still, there is perhaps no name more impressive on the above list than the presence of 51-year-old Gordie Howe with the Hartford Whalers back in 1979-80. That was the year the Whalers joined the NHL (Howe had played for the team during its WHA days) and ended up finishing the season as the seventh-leading scorer on the team, and 148th out of the 585 players that played in the NHL that season. Granted, that was during an era where the average NHL game featured seven goals (the average NHL game in 2010-11 had 5.59 goals, for example) so he may not have had that many points at that age in any other era, but again ... 51 years old. The fact he even played a single game is mind blowing.

We already knew Selanne is a special talent, and the only thing standing between him and the Hockey Hall of Fame is his retirement, but what he's done at this age is just another example as to how incredible his career has been.

Photo: Getty Images

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