Tag:Carolina Hurricanes
Posted on: December 26, 2011 1:34 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Marc Staal takes another step in return



By: Adam Gretz


Marc Staal was able to take another major step in his return from a concussion on Monday morning when he was not only cleared for contact, but was also able to take part in a full practice with his New York Rangers teammates.

Said Staal, via Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record, "I totally felt fully confident going on the ice and taking some hits. There was no doubt in my mind it was the right thing to do."

Staal, the Rangers' best defenseman, hasn't played in an NHL game since last April due to post concussion syndrome. The concussion is believed to have happened during a game against the Carolina Hurricanes in February when he was on the receiving end of a hit from his older brother, Eric. Marc ended up missing a couple of games immediately after the hit, but ultimtely returned to the lineup. The severity of the injury wasn't fully known until he reported to training camp this season.

At this point Staal hasn't ruled out playing in the Jan. 2 Winter Classic at Philadelphia, but also knows that it's important not to rush himself back into the lineup.

In his four NHL seasons Staal has scored 20 goals to go with 61 assists and is currently in the second year of a five-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $3.975 million. Without him, the Rangers have raced out to a 21-8-4 start and enter the week on top of the NHL's Atlantic Division.

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

Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Ron Wilson's contract and Toronto's fast start

By: Adam Gretz

Over the past month-and-a-half it's been the season for firing coaches in the NHL.

While we've already seen changes in Washington, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Montreal, not to mention St. Louis earlier in the year, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson went to his own personal Twitter account as the NHL went to its holiday break and asked for a certain piece of paper (a contract extension) in his stocking for Christmas.

And that's exactly what he received over the holiday weekend.

It's kind of a bold move for the Maple Leafs organization given that Wilson has been behind the bench for three full seasons and failed to make the playoffs in all of them, while compiling a 101-107-38 record entering this season. Through 35 games in 2011 Toronto owns an 18-13-4 mark and occupies the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's slate of games, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, the team that occupies the No. 9 spot (and first non-playoff spot).

The reaction from Toronto seems to be that the Maple Leafs haven't shown enough under Wilson's watch to justify any sort of a contract extension, and that general manager Brian Burke has put his own neck on the line by once again committing to Wilson.

Even if all of that is true (and it very well might be) something had to be done (and probably soon) as Wilson was in the final year of his current contract. Having a lame duck coach isn't really an ideal situation for anybody, and the Leafs certainly weren't going to dismiss Wilson at this point given Toronto's start.

And speaking of that start, it's been Toronto's best one in years, and has been driven almost entirely by the team's power play unit, currently clicking at a 21 percent rate, third best in the league, and the scoring of forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both of whom are in the top-10 in the NHL's scoring race. And that's about it. Scoring depth isn't great once you get beyond Kessel and Lupul, and the goaltending, whether it's been James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens, has struggled.

Unless you believe the Maple Leafs power play is going to continue to be one of the best in the NHL all season, after being one of the worst over the past two years with largely the same cast of characters, and that Kessel and Lupul are going to remain near the top of the points leader board, this has the chance of being a fourth-straight non-playoff season under Wilson if those two areas see any sort of a regression the rest of the way. And I'm not convinced either of those two positive developments will continue all season. They have the look of early season hot streaks and fast starts that aren't going to be sustainable over the long haul of the season.

The Maple Leafs power play, which generates one of the lowest shot rates in the NHL per 60 minutes of power play time, currently owns a shooting percentage in the 18-percent range, by far the best mark in the NHL and significantly higher than what it's managed to shoot at in recent seasons (over the past three years Toronto, as a team, has owned 5-on-4 shooting percentages of 13 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent). The only team to finish a season with a higher power play shooting percentage was the 2008-09 Flyers. The number of shots a team generates on the power play is usually the best indicator of future success, which could be bad news for the Leafs over the remainder of the season.

The playoffs are far from a lock at this point, and even though Wilson has his contract extension right now that's still not a guarantee that he'll be behind the bench next season if his team fails to qualify for the postseason for a fourth straight year with him behind the bench.

More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Teams that are out of the playoff race right now

jacketsPucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the teams that are probably already out of the playoff race.

By: Adam Gretz


We are not even half way through the NHL season, but we have reached the point where a slow start in the standings is going to be too much to overcome, and you can probably already cross a handful of teams off when it comes to the playoff race. And perhaps more than just the teams you would expect.

The NHL has already seen six head coaching changes during the regular season (and who knows how many more to come), and now that Jacques Martin and Terry Murray have been let go by Montreal and Los Angeles over the past week, all eyes have shifted to Columbus and Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel. Earlier this week general manager Scott Howson refused to blame Columbus' brutal start, which currently has the team at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, on coaching issues.

The season started with such promise for the Blue Jackets, in large part because of the big offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, players that filled two of Columbus' biggest areas of weakness -- A No. 1 center (Carter) and a big-time offensive defenseman (Wisniewski). Unfortunately, whatever optimism that might have been floating around the Blue Jackets fan base in the preseason was crushed almost immediately thanks to a 1-9-1 start the team hasn't been able to recover from.

The eight-game suspension to Wisniewski to start the season, as well as Carter missing extended time due to injury certainly didn't help matters, either.

Entering Tuesday's slate of games the Blue Jackets own a 9-20-4 mark, giving them a league-worst 22 points in the standings. They currently sit (again, as of Tuesday afternoon) 15 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which is now occupied by the San Jose Sharks.

Howson was asked about whether or not the season at this point is already a lost cause, and he refused to acknowledge that, telling Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, “I’m not going to acknowledge that, no. Strange things happen in sports. We’ve certainly dug a hole for ourselves. It's a requirement of being in pro sports to keep banging at the door, no matter what's going on. So, no, I'm not going to acknowledge that."

Strange things do happen in sports, but here's something that hasn't happened in the NHL in its current playoff format: a team overcoming a deficit the size of the one Columbus faces to make the playoffs. More on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, out in Edmonton, Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini is reportedly still of the belief that his team, which currently sits six points out of the eighth spot in the West, can still make a run at the postseason, a claim that has left even Oilers fans in disbelief.

Does either team still have much of a chance? Recent history suggests that no, they don't. I'm aware that it's not exactly an earth shattering revelation to announce a team that is 15 points out of a playoff spot at the end of December is in danger of missing the postseason, but the point here is to see how possible it is to overcome that deficit, and whether or not it's been done recently.

Some things to consider:

-- Going back to the 2000-01 season, a span of 10 full seasons, there have been 62 teams that have been more than five points out of a playoff spot on December 20 (Tuesday's date).

-- Only four of them (or a little over 6 percent) were able to overcome that deficit to qualify for the postseason: The 2010-11 Sabres (eight points), 2008-09 Blues (six points), 2007-08 Capitals (seven points) and 2007-08 Predators (nine points).

You wouldn't think that being just five points in December would be such a tall mountain to climb, but it is. And along with Columbus, that's also bad news for the Hurricanes and Islanders (both nine points out), and leaves Tampa Bay, a team that was just one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, and Calgary (five points out) right on the line. The Ducks, another playoff team from a year ago and just one point ahead of Columbus, are 14 points out and should also be considered out of the playoff race at this point.

-- You might notice Nashville overcoming a nine-point deficit in 2007-08 as the largest number, and since 2000-01, it is. There have been 29 teams that have been 10 or more points out at this point in the season since then, and none of them have been able to come back and qualify for the playoffs.

Even worse, if you go all the way back to the 1993-94 season, the year the NHL scrapped the divisional playoff format (Adams, Patrick, Smythe, Norris) and went to its current Conference playoff format (1 vs. 8, etc.), there have been 41 teams 10 or more points back.

Not one of them qualified for the playoffs.

For a team like Columbus or Anaheim to overcome this it would be completely unheard of in the current playoff format.

Ninety-five points has typically been a good bet to get in the playoffs, or at the very least, still be in the playoff discussion during the final week of the season. For the teams mentioned above to reach that mark they would need to finish with the following records over the remainder of the season:

Columbus Blue Jackets -- (Need 73 points in 49 games): 34-10-5
Anaheim Ducks -- (Need 72 points in games 49 games): 33-10-6
Carolina Hurricanes -- (Need 69 points in 48 games): 32-11-5
New York Islanders -- (Need 69 points in 52 games): 30-13-9
Tampa Bay Lightning -- (Need 65 points in 50 games): 30-15-5
Edmonton Oilers -- (Need 64 points in 49 games): 29-15-6
Calgary Flames -- (Need 63 points in 49 games): 28-14-7

Yeah, that's asking a lot, even for Tampa Bay and Calgary. Obviously, no team is going to throw in the towel on a season, nor do I expect a general manager to publicly admit defeat (which explains Howson's comments), but for the fans? Well, there's always next season. And for others (mainly Columbus and Anaheim), there's always prospective No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov to look forward to.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 15, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 10:18 pm
 

Cam Ward's glove save robs Keith Ballard (Video)



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: December 14, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Hurricanes say Skinner, Pitkanan have concussions

By Brian Stubits

The hits keep on coming (no pun intended).

On Wednesday the Carolina Hurricanes announced that not one but two of their best players are the latest to catch the concussion bug that's spreading through the NHL. Reigning Calder Trophy winner -- and leading scorer with 12 goals and 24 points -- Jeff Skinner and top defenseman Joni Pitkanen are both out indefinitely because of the injury.

That means in the last 48 hours Skinner, Pitkanen, the leading goal scorer Milan Michalek and NHL's leading points man Claude Giroux have all had concussions announced. Throw in Sidney Crosby's possible concussion that was announced on Monday, and you have an all-star caliber list of concussed players.

The Flyers showed on Tuesday that they might be able to withstand the loss of Giroux by destroying the Capitals in Washington 5-1. But the Hurricanes are already in a world of hurt, sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Being down arguably their most talented offensive player as well as their top offensive defenseman will make new coach Kirk Muller's challenge of getting the 'Canes back in the playoff race even more monumental.

But the bigger question at play here has to do with why the players -- some of the league's best, mind you -- dropping like snow in Alaska. Concussions seem to be so much more common these days than they ever were. Why is that if the game hasn't changed much, if at all?

Well primarily the issue at hand is that now concussions are actually being recognized and diagnosed in a way they never were before. How many concussions went unknown through the history of the league is impossible to know, but the number is likely astronomical. However with today's education and attention to brain injuries, they are being treated with more caution.

But it can't be ignored too that this is one of the side effects of a bigger, faster and stronger athlete. Some of the guys on the ice any more are tanks on skates, massive bodies travelling at high rates of speed. Things are bound to get a bit uglier on the injury side.

At this point it's hard to find a player in the league who hasn't been concussed.

Photo: Getty Images

More NHL Concussion News Here

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 7:54 pm
 

Andy Sutton suspended 8 games

By: Adam Gretz

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton had a hearing with Brendan Shanahan on Saturday, and later in the evening it was announced by the league that he has been suspended eight games for his hit on Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky on Wednesday night. He was penalized two minutes for charging on the play, as he clearly left his feet and delivered a blow to the head of the Hurricanes forward.

It's already Sutton's second suspension of the season as he was banished five games for a hit on Avalanche rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog earlier in the year.

"While we acknowledge that on many big body checks a hitters feet may at times come off the ice to a certain degree," said Shanahan in his latest league video. "We felt the degree in which Sutton's skate comes off the ice is excessive."

He also added that Sutton's past history, which includes seven fines or suspensions in his NHL career, as well as the fact that Ponikarovsky did not suffer any major injury as a result of the hit, were all taken into account when reaching his decision.

Here is the full video, which also includes clips of Sutton's past run-ins with league discipline:



More NHL Discipline News Here

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:26 pm
 

Hurricanes trade Kaberle to Canadiens for Spacek

By Brian Stubits

This summer, the Carolina Hurricanes invested $4.25 million per season for three seasons on Tomas Kaberle, a lot of people around the NHL could only laugh, but obviously the 'Canes had faith.

Fast forward to December and the 'Canes have traded Kaberle to the Montreal Canadiens -- as first reported by Darren Dreger -- ending a very short-lived but painful era for the folks in Carolina and, presumably, Kaberle. In return, the Habs sent defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to Carolina.

“This deal brings a solid, veteran defenseman to our team for the remainder of this season and allows us more flexibility with our roster moving forward,” Carolina GM Jim Rutherford said. What he didn't say there was how happy he was he could find a taker for Kaberle.

That's a big burden off Carolina's back, $12.75 million over the next three years that the Canadiens are now on the hook for. Of course, Montreal is no stranger to bad contracts (ahem, Scott Gomez).

When discussing the deal that was signed this summer, Rutherford was about as honest as a GM can get, telling Chip Patterson of the News & Oberserver, "I should have known better." Ouch!

Meanwhile in Spacek, the 'Canes get a player making slightly less money ($3.83 million), and maybe more importantly get a contract that expires after this season.

In the end, you have to like this move from Carolina's perspective, don't you? The marriage of the two couldn't have been annulled quicker for 'Canes fans. To say that Kaberle has been a disappointment would be an understatement. In 29 games played, Kaberle is goal-less and has nine assists while sporting a hideous minus-12. One of his big responsibilities, moving the puck on the power play, hasn't been going swimmingly, either. The Hurricanes are 26th in the NHL in power play percentage.

So sending him out of town is a nice move for Carolina, regardless of what they net in return. Quite honestly, the return isn't all that much but another bad contract. Spacek, 37, has been limited to just 12 games this season and has just three points to speak of. Still, the deal doesn't seem bad for Carolina at all.

"I think that trade is good for me," Spacek was quoted by Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS. "I hope it will be a good one for the Hurricanes."

From a Montreal perspective, however, I'm left scratching my head a bit. What do the Habs stand to benefit from taking on my payroll for a longer commitment for a player that is, even nothing else, past his prime?

"There are no dangers, only opportunities," Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier said about the skepticism of landing Kaberle. No dangers? Really?

It should have been warning enough that this now makes four teams in the last calendar year for Kaberle having begun last season with the Maple Leafs before being traded to the Bruins and joining them for the Cup run. He then signed this offseason with the Hurricanes, who couldn't wait to undo the move.

I'm sure he'll be welcome with open arms by the Montreal faithful hoping the team can turn things around (where's that damn sarcasm font button?).

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Leino, Porter have hearings with Shanahan

By: Adam Gretz

It appears that Brendan Shanahan's schedule is full. Again.

Not only does he have to deal with (we're assuming) Edmonton's Andy Sutton for his hit on Alexei Ponikarovsky during Wednesday's game, it's also been announced that Buffalo's Ville Leino and Colorado's Kevin Porter will have disciplinary hearings for seperate incidents over the past couple of days.

As always, it's important to keep in mind that a hearing does not mean a suspension is automatic, but it sure seems like it's possible.

Porter is being called in for his knee-on-knee hit against the Vancouver Canucks that resulted in David Booth being sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks with a sprained MCL. There was a debate as to whether or not he would face any supplemental discipline, and  the fact Booth is going to be out of the lineup for an extended period of time is not a positive development for Porter.

He was issued a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing.

Leino, meanwhile, is having a hearing because of an elbow he delivered to the head of Philadelphia's Matt Read during the Sabres 5-4 overtime loss to the Flyers on Wednesday night. He was not penalized on the play, but when watching the video, it's not hard to see why Shanahan wants to have a word with him, as he deliberately stuck his elbow out and made contact with Read's head as he skated past him.



More NHL Discipline News Here

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com