Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:40 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:51 am
By: Adam Gretz
This is Dave Tippett's ninth year as a head coach in the NHL.
During that time he has missed the playoffs just once, and as recently as a month ago it looked like this season just might in fact be the second time.
After a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, it not only looks like his Phoenix Coyotes are going to make a third straight postseason trip (all under Tippett's watch), but they're currently in first place in the Pacific Division thanks to a performance in February that saw the Coyotes go 11-0-1, with the only loss coming in a shootout in Vancouver back on Feb. 13th.
That also happened to be the only game during the month that goaltender Mike Smith did not start, and he pushed his personal winning streak to 11 games with a 39-save performance against the Canucks on Tuesday.
Smith, without much fanfare, signed to a two-year, $4 million contract on July 1 to join the Coyotes, and he has more than filled whatever hole was left by Ilya Bryzgalov when his free agent rights were traded to the Flyers over the summer. His numbers are almost identical to what Bryzgalov put up during his time in Phoenix, while Bryzgalov's production has completely fallen off the map in Philadelphia.
Is it the system? Perhaps. When I spoke to Smith before the season, shortly after he signed in Phoenix, he pointed out how Tippett's defense-first system was attractive and very friendly to goaltenders (keep in mind, Smith played under Tippett for a brief time in Dallas). But right now Smith is simply in a zone and is making every key save the Coyotes need him to make as they continue to grind out wins and chug along against all odds, completely shutting down every opponent they face. That includes the stop Smith made on Mason Raymond during Tuesday's shootout, stopping his spin-o-rama attempt in the second round (starting at the 2:18 mark of the video below).
It's a move that some goaltenders believe is nearly impossible to stop, but Smith simply did not flinch.
During the month of February the Coyotes allowed just 17 goals (not counting "team goals" from shootouts) in 12 games. That includes two shutouts and eight games where they allowed just one goal. What is most impressive about their performance in February is that it came against quality opponents nearly every night. They played just one team with a losing record (Edmonton), and had multiple games with Vancouver, Los Angeles and Calgary, and also knocked off Deroit, Chicago and San Jose. As far as Vancouver and the latter three are concerned, those aren't exactly lightweights in the NHL.
For the month the nine different opponents they faced had a combined record of 262-185-58, and the Coyotes rolled right through them.
After being one of the worst teams in the league in January, they were the best team in hockey in February, and it's put them right back in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:48 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 3:30 pm
There's no time quite like the present. Isn't that what they say?
The present now just happens to be trade deadline month in the NHL. The actual day isn't for another few weeks, Feb. 27, but the whole month will be full of he said/she said, rumors that make you say hmm and others that make you say huh?
It seems like it's been a while since there were some real blockbuster deals looming in the NHL. It's not often there are teams willing to move the big names, the star players. That doesn't mean there weren't some key trades made, evident after the fact. In all, there were four players traded last February that were in the All-Star Game this season -- Joffrey Lupul to the Maple Leafs, Brian Elliott to the Avalanche, James Neal to the Penguins and Dennis Wideman to the Capitals.
There were certainly other moves that were crucial too. Just look at what the Bruins did, acquiring Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley last February, all important to their run to the Stanley Cup last season and in the case of Kelly and Peverley, the Bruins' push this season.
But none of those really stole the show. Not the way this year has the potential to. Or at least had until recently.
A little more than a week ago it looked like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Tim Gleason and maybe even Shane Doan were possible targets to move. Circumstances have changed or the teams have reaffirmed those guys aren't on the move.
Because of parity across the league partly as a byproduct of the points system in place today, there are a lot less sellers. Despite the odds of teams being five or more points back making the playoffs being long, clubs often times refuse to give in and admit they should reshuffle their organization.
It ends up with teams that should be looking to add, teams that shouldn't be looking to do anything and some teams that should probably be looking to sell all thinking the same: Let's add.
"Right now there are different teams trying to make a trade, but the problem is there are only two or three teams that are even willing to make a trade for a draft choice or prospect, meaning they don't think they are going to make the playoffs," Nashville GM David Poile told NHL.com. "What I want now versus what I can later are two different things because of the parity you have in the NHL.
One team that is painfully aware it doesn't stand a shot this season is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are 11 points out ... of 29th place in the league. It's 23 points to the eighth seed in the West. After an offseason that saw them acquire Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, that's a horrible disappointment. You know what that means ...
Yes, the Jackets will be sellers. And, even though they acquired him just seven months ago, all indications are that they would like to part ways with Carter. It's really been a wash of a season for him, fighting through injuries but still only scoring 10 goals with seven assists in 30 games.
“There’s talk about a lot of guys [in here] right now. Our team, with the way the season has gone -- the injuries, the standings, and stuff -- I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anybody on our team if they end up [in rumors],” Carter told the Columbus Dispatch.
The massive hurdle with Carter is figuring out how movable he is. His contract runs through the 2021-22 season with an annual cap hit of $5,272,727 (courtesy of Cap Geek). For a player that's been snake-bitten by injuries this season and hasn't seemed to want to be where he is at all this season, that becomes a tough sell, especially when you consider what the Jackets will want in return. They need everything, but primary concerns are in net and getting better on the blue line.
Still, he's only 27 and has shown with his time in Philadelphia that he can contribute a lot offensively. This will be the first season since 06-07 he didn't score at least 29 goals and more than 50 points. There could be some GMs out there willing to take the risks for the potential, which is still high.
If it does happen, it will be a not-so classic case of buy high, sell low for Columbus -- granted, low with Carter is probably still kind of high. That's not the best way to move on up in the world.
A good chunk of the rest of the Columbus roster will be available if anybody wants to take a shot, too. They'd probably love to move Steve Mason, but it's tough to envision anybody wanting him at this point. Rick Nash and Wisniewski are probably untouchables, Nash being the heart and soul of the otherwise faceless franchise and Wisniewski being the biggest player at their position of need. But the other guys like Antoine Vermette, Vaclav Prospal and more? Take your best shot.
"I've heard rumors I'm going to every team in the NHL," Ruutu told Chip Patterson of the News & Observer this week. "I must be really playing well."
Obviously Ruutu isn't going to get people's gears going, but he could be a good addition for somebody, assuming the price is right. It's unlikely he's going to give any team top-six production, but he's not worthless either. One of the concerns is that he becomes a UFA this offseason, so it could be a rental situation.
The potential is endless, though. The Canucks have some expendables in their quest to bolster the roster for this year's push. Mason Raymond is a target of many. Some still think they should move Cory Schneider, perhaps the hottest backup goalie in the league. The Stars have to decide what side they're on, and if it's the seller side, Brenden Morrow could be up for grabs. The Canadiens have Travis Moen, Hal Gill and Chris Campoli. The Oilers could move Ryan Smyth again. It goes on and on.
Of course we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian Burke always seems to find a way to get in the big trade action.
But it will probably all come back to the biggest, most obvious seller of them all in Columbus.
Tags: 2012 Trade Deadline, Antoine Vermette, Brenden Morrow, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Carolina Hurricanes, Chris Campoli, Columbus Blue Jackets, Cory Schneider, Dallas Stars, Hal Gill, James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Mason Raymond, Montreal Canadiens, Rick Nash, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Suter, Shane Doan, Steve Mason, Tim Gleason, Toronto Maple Leafs, Travis Moen, Tuomo Ruutu, Vaclav Prospal, Vancouver Canucks, Zach Parise
Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 10:18 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The highlight of Carolina's impressive come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night was the diving, desperation glove save by Cam Ward with six minutes to play in regulation (which you can see above), robbing defenseman Keith Ballard from right in front of the net, and in the process tossing his name into the "save of the year" discussion.
Honestly, everything about that play was amazing. Had Ward not been there to make the save, it still would have been a play for highlight reels on the Vancouver side thanks to Mason Raymond's incredible individual effort to deke his way through the offensive zone and set up Ballard. Ward stopped 33 shots on the night, and that was definitely his best.
The Hurricanes fell behind 2-0 in the first period, but rallied with four consecutive goals, including a pair from Drayson Bowman, and the eventual game-winner from Jaroslav Spacek, the defenseman that was recently acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Tomas Kaberle.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: October 17, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 6:00 pm
By: Adam Gretz
It hasn't been a great start to the season for the Vancouver Canucks. Not awful, of course, but Roberto Luongo is off to another one of his slow starts to the season, while the team has dropped three of its first five games. They have also been playing without two of their top forwards, Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, and when the Canucks take against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, Kesler is expected (according to him) to make his 2011 debut.
"It's been too long!" Kesler said on his Twitter account. "The wait is over I will be in the lineup tomorrow night."
After winning the Selke Trophy a year ago as the NHL's best defensive forward, Kesler underwent hip surgery over the summer and has been on the mend ever since.
Of course it will be a welcome addition to the Canucks lineup, not only because of his ability as a shutdown center, but also because his offensive game has blossomed in recent years, including this past season when he finished tied for the team lead in goals (along with Daniel Sedin) with 41. He spent Monday's practice skating on a line with Cody Hodgson and Christopher Higgins. The five games he's missed this season were the first regular season games he's missed since the 2007-08 season.
Also good news: now that's he ready to return to action we may see him take part in more of his trademark interview bombs, as he did on Saturday night to Alex Burrows. Or in any of these examples:
Posted on: August 4, 2011 6:26 pm
By: Adam Gretz
After spending the 2010-11 season playing professionally in Switzerland, Owen Nolan is taking another crack at the NHL -- and perhaps one more shot at a Stanley Cup -- having been signed to a tryout contract with the Vancouver Canucks. Joining him will be journeyman Todd Fedoruk, who last played for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2009-10 season.
The big name here is the 39-year-old Nolan, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 Entry Draft. In 1,200 NHL games he's scored 422 goals with the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild, while also picking up over 1,793 penalty minutes.
Minnesota was his last home in the NHL where he scored 16 goals in 74 games back in '09-10. It's going to be a tough roster to crack, but with injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond that may keep them out for the start of the season, he may have a better shot to open the season if he still has something left. In 24 games with Zurich last season he scored seven goals to go with 19 assists.
Even though he was toward the end of his career with the Wild he still managed to flash some skill, like this coast-to-coast effort against Tampa Bay back in November of 2009.
Posted on: June 14, 2011 9:42 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 10:34 pm
Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis questioned the collision in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final that left Mason Raymond, one of his top forwards, with a serious back injury.
“I didn't see the puck around him,” Gillis said Tuesday. “I thought the Boston player [defenseman Johnny Boychuk] used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back. That's what I saw.”
No penalty was called on the play and no disciplinary hearing was scheduled by the league. The collision occurred seconds into Monday’s game, a contest won by the Bruins, 5-2.
The team announced earlier Tuesday that Raymond had suffered vertebral compression fracture and would be out three to four months. Gillis said Raymond was in the hospital as of Tuesday evening and could remain there until Wednesday as he gets fitted for a corset to stabilize his spine.
“It wasn't a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae,” Gillis said. “It's broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it's a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that.”
Raymond fell awkwardly into the boards and remained on the ice for a few minutes. Despite the back injury, Raymond skated off the ice with assistance. Gillis said he didn’t know why Raymond was not strapped to a headboard and stretchered off.
“I'm unsure,” Gillis said. “I think because he began to move his feet and he had feeling. We wondered about that as well, but I haven't had the chance to ask [trainer] Mike [Burnstein]. But our trainers are excellent trainers, so I'm sure they felt there was no risk at that point because of what he was saying and what he was doing on the ice.”
Gillis said the team is hopeful that surgery won’t be required.
“He's going to face a long, hard recovery,” Gillis said. “We've been told it's going to be very challenging for him and he's going to be in a difficult position for some time.”
Beyond Gillis, many in Vancouver thought the league should have given Monday’s collision as much scrutiny as the Game 3 check that led to the suspension of Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome. Rome was given a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct on a check that left Boston forward Nathan Norton with a severe concussion.
In that instance, the league said the fact the Horton would miss the remainder of the playoffs factored into its decision to ban Rome.
“I'm not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I'm not the right person to ask about that,” Gillis said.
Jeff Tambellini will likely be re-inserted into the lineup to replace Raymond as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault will have to shuffle the lines. Raymond, who had no points in the Finals, was playing wing on the team’s second line.
“For us, injuries and adversity have been part of our daily routine throughout this season and we faced every one of them head on,” Vigneault said. “It's very unfortunate for Mason not to be able to play in the seventh game, but the guys that we have available are going to jump on the opportunity.”
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: June 14, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 12:51 pm
BOSTON --- Vancouver Canucks forward Mason Raymond suffered a vertebral compression fracture when he collided awkwardly into the boards seconds in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.
The team announced Tuesday that Raymond will be out three to four months. These types of back injuries often do not require surgery.
Raymond spun into the corner boards after he got tangled up with Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Replays showed that Raymond’s legs and tailbone took most of the impact with the boards.
Raymond lay on the ice for several minutes before he was helped off by two teammates. He was later transported to an area hospital.
Raymond had no points in the series, but was a fixture on the Canucks' second line.
"Obviously, Mason is a large part of our team," Canucks forward Manny Malhotra said. "To lose a guy early in the game, it changes so many things, as far as how the process goes on the bench and changes. Playing with different wingers and that shuffling happened early, so I think that is a huge blow for any team, especially with such a good player like Mason."
-- A.J. Perez