Tag:Pekka Rinne
Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Barry Trotz: 'Our games started being optional'

trotz1By: Adam Gretz

The Nashville Predators are fighting through a rough stretch right now, having lost five of their past six games and head into Vancouver on Thursday night to play the suddenly streaking Canucks, winners of five straight and eight of their past 10. Two trains that are, for the time being, headed in completely opposite directions.

Barry Trotz, the only coach the Predators have ever known, sounds as if he's starting to become a bit frustrated with his team's work ethic and had some strong words on Thursday afternoon for why their team skates are no longer optional.

Said Trotz, via Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province, “Our skates aren't optional anymore because our games started being optional.”

Under his watch the Predators have always been a team that's been praised for their work ethic, discipline and defensive structure. Through their first 24 games this season they've been out-shot 18 times and are giving up over 32 shots per game, the third-worst mark in the NHL, better than only Dallas and Phoenix. An obvious drop from recent years when the Predators have usually finished the season in the top-half of the league in terms of shots allowed.

The additional shots and chances are obvously creating more work for goaltender Pekka Rinne. A lot more, actually. Especially when you add in the fact he's started nearly every game the Predators have played this year.

The team has been riding Rinne all season and relying on him more than any other goaltending in the NHL. He's started 22 of the team's 24 games, and if is asked to continue at this pace would face one of the heaviest workloads of any goaltender over the past three decades.

He's been great, and they've needed him to be, because the offense has struggled, entering Thursday's game 18th in the NHL in goals-per-game, and having scored just 10 goals over the past six games.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:29 pm
 

Preds' Suter on contract: It's going to get done

By Brian Stubits

It wasn't long ago that the Nashville Predators sort of stunned the league and re-signed Pekka Rinne. It wasn't necessarily them re-signing Rinne that was so surprising, it was the fact that they gave the Vezina quality goaltender seven years and $49 million. Plus the timing was out of the blue, the negotiations were very quiet.

Plus it was just surprising the Preds would give him so much knowing there are two other big free agents to re-sign. After years of operating on such a low budget, many were guessing that meant either one or both of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber wouldn't be back, the team wouldn't be able to afford them all.

That was the prevailing thought by some. The general thinking was that if only one was coming back, it would be Weber. That would have left Suter on the outside looking in.

I have maintained that Nashville sees a window of opportunity opening to win and is willing to spend near the cap starting next season, thus it will do all it can to get the three all under contract long-term. That is starting to look more and more possible.

With Rinne already taken care of and Weber being unable to sign until January since he received his one-year contract this summer, all of the negotiating attention is on Suter. His agent, Neil Sheehy, has been in Nashville to work on a deal for Suter, who is due to be a free agent on July 1.

“I don’t want to get into the substance of the negotiation," Sheehy told Joshua Cooper of the Tennesseean. "The Predators are making every effort to sign Ryan and Ryan wants to be here, but there’s issues you address. I think it’s always best when you can address them with each other. You take a little bit of time to reflect on it and then you come back to further discussions.”

It sounds like most agent speak. Not a whole lot to take out of it other than they are working on a deal. Then there is Suter's comment.

“We’re just talking, trying to figure everything out and that we’re on the same page,” Suter said. “I want to be here, that’s the big thing and they want me here, and it’s going to get done.”

The last part is what really sticks out, a pretty definitive statement: "it's going to get done."

One thing to consider here is that the Predators announced on Wednesday that Canadian businessman W. Brett Wilson bought a five percent minority stake in the franchise. His addition could bring about a little influx of cash to the team.

It's easy to see why the Preds would want to lock Suter into a long-term deal. He is still just 26 years old (turns 27 in January) and if it weren't for his teammate Weber, would be their best defenseman. If he weren't overshadowed by Weber, he would likely be in the Norris Trophy conversation. This season in 17 games Suter has three goals and six assists while sporting a robust plus-11.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 3, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 7:18 pm
 

Was Rinne the right choice for Nashville?

RinneBy: Adam Gretz

There are few positions in professional sports that get as much attention and face as much scrutiny as  starting goaltenders in the NHL. There are also few positions that are as unpredictable, uncertain, maddening and completely random.

Tim Thomas, the winner of two of the past three Vezina Trophies, is probably the best one in the league right now, and he didn't become a full-time starter until he was 32 years old after being a ninth-round draft pick and bounced around Europe and the minor leagues for nearly a decade.

Pekka Rinne, the Nashville Predators goaltender who just signed a contract that gives him the highest average annual salary in the league at the position (seven years, $49 million), is another example as to just how unpredictable the position can be. During an interview back in 2006, former Predators assistant and current Penguins general manager Ray Shero told the story of how the team initially scouted Rinne prior to making him an eighth-round draft pick in 2004 -- they watched him during warmups in Finland because he rarely played in games for Karpat Oulu, a team in the Finnish Elite League. Actually, he appeared in 10 games, winning eight, during the 2004-05 season, but the first night Shero joined a scout, Janne Kekalainen, to watch him was during warmups. Said Shero in the interview: "I watch him and he's taking shots and I turned to Janne after warmup and said, 'It's your call, buddy.' I can barely draft a goalie during the game let alone warmup. "

Needless to say their decision to draft him has paid off, Rinne has become their starting goaltender, a key member of their core, along with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and now, one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.

But was it the right move to give him such a large contract?

I'm not going to deny that Rinne is an excellent goaltender, and based on the way the team around him has played so far this season he's probably their first month MVP. It's also encouraging that the Predators were able to secure one of their home-grown players, and perhaps it's a sign that they will maybe, hopefully be able to keep one -- or both -- of their other soon-to-be top free agents (Weber and Suter). But I'm just not sold on giving out such huge contracts to goalies because, again, the position is just full of so much uncertainty, and one that can be heavily influenced by the team in front of the crease.

Over the past eight years the Predators have had no trouble finding goaltenders that are able to play at a high level, and in almost every season have managed to post a similar save percentage and finish well above (or close to) the league average no matter what their primary goaltending duo has looked like -- whether it was Rinne and Anders Lindback, Rinne and Dan Ellis, Ellis and Chris Mason, or Mason and Tomas Vokoun.

(League average in parenthesis)

2010-11: Pekka Rinne/Anders Lindback -- .926 (.913)
2009-10: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.911)
2008-09: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.908)
2007-08: Dan Ellis/Chris Mason -- .911 (.909)
2006-07: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .922 (.905)
2005-06: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .916 (.901)
2003-04: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .912 (.911)
2002-03: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .911 (.909)
2001-02: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .903 (.908)
2000-01: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .917 (.903)

I'm not sure Rinne can consistently duplicate the .930 save percentage he recorded last season when he finished as a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, and if he's back around the .915-920 area that is his career average, how much worse would they have been with a combination of Lindback and a free agent signing at a fraction of the price next season?

Like the situation in Phoenix with Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, there would have been a drop, but probably not as large as most would expect, or as large as the gap in salary would indicate, especially given the amount of success players like Mason and Ellis have been able to experience in Nashville (and how how much they've struggled away from Nashville). Keep in mind, Ellis, Mason and Rinne all experienced seasons with the Predators where they finished in the top-10 in the NHL in save percentage. They've consistently been able to find productive goaltenders without breaking the bank, why couldn't they continue to do it?

In the salary cap NHL every dollar counts and the wrong contract can have a large negative impact on a franchise, especially when it's a team that may or may not have an endless supply of money to keep other core players. I guess, in the end, it just goes back to my dislike of such large contracts for a position that is so unpredictable, even with seemingly established players, combined with the belief that players like Weber and Suter are simply more valuable to what they do for the long-term.

As E.J. Hradek pointed out on Twitter earlier in the day, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to find quality goaltenders than it is to find franchise defensemen.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:56 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 4:05 pm
 

Predators sign Rinne to 7-year, $49M extension

By Brian Stubits

The Nashville Predators made a huge splash by giving goaltender Pekka Rinne a boatload of cash on Thursday. As in $49 million over seven seasons.

“It’s just a big day for me and obviously I couldn’t be happier right now," Rinne said (from the Tennesseean). "It’s the organization that drafted me and now I have a chance to play next seven years here in Nashville. It feels great and I’m so happy right now.”

The Vezina Trophy finalist goalie was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this coming summer along with Ryan Suter while Shea Weber is facing restricted free agency again, so getting one out of the way this early is huge and makes the task of keeping the three players around long-term a little less daunting.

Or perhaps even more daunting now, some will argue. Committing $7 million a season to Rinne is a massive, massive commitment, particularly to a goalie. The Preds just gave him the highest cap hit in the league for netminders as well as the highest deal in their franchise's history.

This means if they want to keep their core three, they will have to invest around $22 million in only three players as Weber is making $7.5 million this season and Suter, at $3.5 million now, is due for a very big raise, particularly with these two deals on his team.

“Today’s signing is further evidence of our ownership’s commitment to keeping our core intact,” Predators GM David Poile said. “This is the first step of a process designed to retain our key players and leaders. Pekka has grown with our franchise, just recently established our franchise record for career shutouts and is now recognized as one of the game’s elite players. We’re thrilled to know that he will be backstopping our franchise for several years to come.”

If that's the case, the Predators just announced a major change to their organizational approach. Nashville has consistently had one of the league's lowest payrolls. This season they are the third lowest with a shade under $50 million, according to Cap Geek. To keep the core three there, they will have to raise their payroll substantially, probably living closer toward the cap instead of the floor.

Again, this is an extraordinary commitment to a goaltender, one I think caught many off guard. Fact is, the Predators are an organization that hasn't had a tough time finding quality goaltenders. If there were any organization in hockey that might have had the idea that it can always find a good goaltender, it is Nashville with coach Barry Trotz's system. This shows they would beg to differ.

None of that is to say that Rinne doesn't deserve to be in the discussion of best goalie in the league. He definitely does, without a doubt. THe Predators just made their feelings on the matter perfectly clear, making Rinne the top-paid 'minder in the league, as far as cap hit goes. Rinne's agent, Jay Grossman, said that wasn't necessarily the intention of the negotiations, but I'm sure it's a side effect Rinne and crew will take.

In 11 games this season, Rinne has a 5-4-1 record with a 2.50 goals against average with a .922 save percentage. In the early going, Rinne was the only force keeping the Preds in games as the offense struggled. Now he has a very handsom reward.

Rinne, a native of Kempele, Finland, was second in voting for the Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy earlier this year after helping the Predators win their first playoff series. He ranked second in the NHL with a .930 save percentage, third in goals-against average (2.12) and tied for sixth with six shutouts.

He leads the NHL with the most shutouts since 2008-09, and his 22nd last weekend against Anaheim also was his 100th career victory.

Nashville, which started play in the 1998-99 season, drafted Rinne in the eighth round in 2004 with the 258th pick overall. Rinne also has played for Finland in the World Championships in 2009 and 2010.

Some are wondering if the Predators didn't do things in the wrong order here, if they wouldn't have been wiser to sign Suter or Weber first instead of Rinne. To that I say, does it really matter? If the plan is to sign all three players, which it certainly seems to be, then I see little significance to the order of which the signings happen. It isn't always easy reaching long-term deals with players, so if one is ready to sign, then strike while the iron is hot. Not to mention that signing one sends a message to the other two that the team is willing to commit and try for a winner. That's an extra bargaining chip the Preds can use with Suter and Weber.

“Yeah, it’s a great sign," Weber said. "It’s a huge commitment by the team, showing they’re committed to the guys they brought up in the organization. Obviously we’re not thinking about that right now. We’re trying to win games and I’m sure the rest will sort itself out.”

Negotiations with Suter's agent are expected to pick up in mid-November, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. I have to think this Rinne deal will help Nashville at that time.

“Yeah, we are good friends, but I’m the first one to sign, and hopefully those two sign after me," Rinne said. "I can only talk for myself, but it’s no secret we all need those two guys. I’m the first guy to sign, I feel confident they love it in Nashville, but I don’t want to comment on behalf of them.”

So this deal seems good when you are looking at it just through the prism of keeping the three would-be free agents. There is plenty of cap space in Nashville. But when you step back from that narrow approach and see how these three will command more or less 1/3 of the salary cap themselves, you begin to wonder how it effects the rest of the roster. If the Preds are able to keep the rest of their players on the cheap and stay thrifty, then it might not be an issue.

The deal is jaw-dropping. That I get. I mean seven years for a goalie? Only Rick DiPietro and Roberto Luongo are signed for longer terms than that. So I'm sure Islanders and Canucks fans have some feelings on the matter.

But I'm not convinced it's as bad of a deal as many are saying. The big IF in the equation is if the Predators are OK with spending a lot more annually. If they are and then are able to sign Suter and Weber to deals too, then Nashville has a great core on the defensive end to play behind for years. I do feel uneasy about giving a goalie so much money and so many years, but if this is what it takes ...

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Handing out some first month grades

octgrades

By: Adam Gretz

The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.

Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.

Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.

Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.

Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.

Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).

They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.

Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.

Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.

Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October

Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.

Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October

 Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.

Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?

Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October

The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 18, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:38 pm
 

Nashville's power outage on offense

BT1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: a look at how the Nashville Predators are being dominated on the shot charts.

By: Adam Gretz

The Nashville Predators lost to the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Monday night. It was a game that saw them generate just 12 shots on goal, with only eight of them coming in even strength situations. Against any team that would be a shockingly low series of numbers.

Against a young, inexperienced team like the Oilers, a team with serious question marks on its defense (and without its best defenseman, Ryan Whitney) and with a second-year goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, occupying the crease, it's downright stunning.

And it's been a problem all season for the Predators.

A few things to consider:

1) The Predators have been out-shot in every single game they've played this season, and in five games have managed just 115 shots on goal, an average of just 23 per-game, the second worst mark in the league. Calgary is the only team averaging fewer.

2) Only 84 of those shots have come in even strength situations, while Nashville has scored just six of its 14 goals during 5-on-5 play. The Predators have been out-shot 139-84 in even strength situations so far, and been out-scored 9-6.

Here's a game-by-game breakdown that illustrates just how much the ice has been tilted against the Predators so far.

(Shots Att = Shots on goal+missed shots+shots blocked; SOG = Shots on goal; ES SOG = Even strength Shots on goal)

Nashville's Negative Shot Differential
Opponent NSH Shots Att. NSH SOG NSH ES SOG OPP Shots Att. OPP SOG OPP ES SOG
Columbus Blue Jackets 45 31 27 70 34 31
St. Louis Blues 35 16 9 68 33 27
Phoenix Coyotes 36 25 16 57 31 30
New Jersey Devils 48 31 24 67 41 32
Edmonton Oilers 27 12 8 57 25 19
Totals 191 115 84 319 164 139

Yes, in two games this season the Predators failed to record at least 10 shots on goal at even strength.

Basically, the Predators are being dominated when it comes to offensive zone time, as their opponents are keeping them bottled up in their own end of the ice, as shown by the fact their opponents have managed to attempt 319 shots to Nashville's 191.  And that's not exactly a who's who list of the NHL's power house offenses. If you're a Predators fan, thank goodness for Pekka Rinne, because he's facing a shooting gallery every time he steps on the ice, and according to some of the post-game comments on Monday, he's the only player that's getting any praise in the music city.

He's also probably the only reason they've managed to win the two games they did win.

Here's what Predators forward Jerred Smithson said following Monday's loss, via Joshua Cooper of the Tennesseean:
“Just embarrassing. We just got out-worked. It was right from the drop of the puck. If it wasn’t for Peks it could have been 5-1. It seems like I’ve been saying that every time now, but it’s the honest truth, we rely on this guy way too much. We don’t work, we don’t skate, we don’t forecheck, we have a hardworking team that doesn’t work hard and I don’t know, it’s beyond frustrating right now. I’ve never been a part of something like this. It’s gotta change right now, or we’re going to be on the outside looking in – December we’ll be out of this, we have to change it right now.”
He also went on to add "It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s the whole group. Pekka is the exception. He’s the only guy playing his balls off right now and if it wasn’t for him, we don’t have any points. I don’t know what to say about tonight, it was terrible.”

It doesn't get any more brutally honest than that.

Whatever optimism there was coming into this season after the first playoff series win in franchise history a year ago has seemingly been rocked with this start. This group has been built around its two All-Star defensemen (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) and Rinne, while managing to grind out just enough goals to win games 3-2 or 2-1 with a collection of forwards that are castoffs from other teams or young, homegrown players (of which the Predators have a ton) that are still relatively cheap (by NHL standards).

It's a strategy that has led them to the postseason in six of the past seven seasons, and earned general manager David Poile and his staff plenty of worthy praise for putting together a playoff team on one of the NHL's smallest budgets. But there's also been some concern, as Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck address before the season, as to whether or not the current makeup of the roster will ever score enough to allow the team to become a true Stanley Cup contender.

Right now they're not only not scoring, they can't even get into the offensive zone.

Following Monday's game coach Barry Trotz said the Predators were going to "start from scratch." As it stands right now, the Predators don't have the personnel to play a vastly different brand of hockey. Their strengths are still on the blue line and in net and offense will continue to be a struggle, but if they don't reverse this trend of being manhandled when it comes to puck possession they're going to need Rinne to go from a Vezina finalist to an MVP.

And perhaps a miracle worker.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:52 am
 

Daily Skate: Marc Staal still out; lame mascots

By Brian Stubits

STILL STAALED: Marc Staal is still trying to recover from the post-concussion symptoms he has been suffering since the summer, but he's still going to be out for the foreseeable future for the Rangers. He won't accompany the team on their four-game Western Canada road trip. He has gone from being held out for caution in the preseason to still sitting out weeks later. (Newsday)

PELUSO PICKS A FIGHT: Well, not really. But in a figurative sense, the former Senators, Blackhawks, Devils, Blues and Flames tough guy is standing up for fighting in hockey, saying a ban on it "would be stupid." He goes on to assert that depression after playing isn't from fighting, but instead it's poor self-esteem from years of being told all you can do is fight. (Slam Sports)

MASCOT METER: Ever look at an NHL mascot and say to yourself, "Gee, that's really lame?" You aren't the only one. Here is a list thrown together of the eight lamest mascots in the NHL and it's topped by the Canadiens' red-headed furball known as Youppi! The exclamation point is in his name, not my sentence. (Yardbarker.com)

THE BEST EVER: That's the claim of Dejan Kovacevic about Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He thinks the Flower will go down when it's all said and done as the best goaltender the Pens have ever seen, better than Tom Barrasso and the original netminder Les Binkley. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

TROTZ PLOTS MORE: The Predators are perfect at 2-0 even with starting the season the road, but that doesn't mean Barry Trotz is happy with his team. Saying the team has goalie Pekka Rinne to thank for the four points, they are getting back to working even more on defense. Ol' Barry back at it. (Smashville 24/7)

BLADES WEEK 3: Again, for anybody who might be wondering about the Battle of the Blades show in Canada, here is a recap from the third episode. Russ Courtnall and Kim Navarro were booted from the show. They were put together a short time before the show after the death of Wade Belak, who was going to be a contestant. (Puck Daddy)

WHIP IT: Judging from the first week of the season, you are going to hear a lot of a song called The Whip by a band named Locksley this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs are among a few teams that will be using the song when goals are scored this season. Here's a look at the music video. Now it's stuck in your head for good.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Teams with the most homegrown talent

Hgt1By: Adam Gretz

Every team in the NHL says they want to build through the draft, and like any other aspect of the sport, some have done a better job than others, not only based on the number of home-grown players they have on the roster, but also the quality of said players.

It's always been an important part of constructing a roster and has taken on an even greater level of significance in the salary cap era where teams need to get quality production for an affordable price. There are few things more damaging to a team in the cap era than overpaying a free agent and handing out a large contract for a second-or-third tier player.

Looking across the league at every team's opening night roster and you get an idea as to which teams have done the best job at building from within. Here are the three teams with the most homegrown talent on their opening night rosters.

1) Nashville Predators: No team in the NHL has more drafted-and-developed players on its opening night roster than the Predators' 18. Their group ranges from core players like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, to role players like Jordin Tootoo, to young prospects Craig Smith and Blake Geoffrion.

The farm system has always been the lifeblood of the Predators organization, and it has to be. They don't have the resources to acquire superstars in free agency -- and may struggle to keep their own -- and must rely on their own system to continue to produce talent. The concern has to be whether or not Nashville will ever be able to take the next step as a championship contender, or if the organization has hit its peak with this current strategy.

Other teams across the league are not only able to draft and develop same type of core players, they are also able to re-sign them and keep them long-term once they're eligible for free agency and add complementary pieces from outside the organization.

2) Buffalo Sabres: There's a ton of excitement in Buffalo right now thanks to new owner Terry Pegula. He proved over the summer with his spending that he's committed to utilizing every possible resource he can to make sure the Sabres a contender.

The signings of Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino, as well as the trade for Robyn Regehr, made all the headlines, but the Sabres roster is made up of 15 homegrown players. And we're not just talking role players and and roster-filler. Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Derek Roy, workout warrior Drew Stafford and their newest captain, Jason Pominville, were all drafted and developed by the Sabres front office.

3) Detroit Red Wings: While teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, Edmonton and the New York Islanders have collected multiple lottery picks at the top of the draft to rebuild their franchises, the Red Wings have managed to do it by routinely picking near the bottom of the draft, and finding impact players after the first two rounds. Whether or not it's great scouting ability or great player development is a chicken-or-egg debate, but the Red Wings open the season with 15 players they drafted. That list includes Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetteberg and Tomas Holmstrom, taken in the sixth, seventh and tenth rounds respectively, as well as third-rounders Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom.

In the pre-lockout NHL, before the salary cap, some of the Red Wings' best teams were built largely with big-money players from outside the organization, whether it be Brendan Shanahan, Luc Robitaille or Brett Hull. Today, their roster is made up almost entirely of players they brought up themselves, and whatever players they've managed to acquire through trades or free agency are mainly role players (Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller) or players they managed to pick up on the cheap and developed into productive players (Daniel Cleary).

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