Tag:Alex Ovechkin
Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:03 pm

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash

(Pavol Demitra/Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

For the fourth time this summer, tragedy has struck the hockey world. This time it comes in the form of a plane crash in Russia carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team of the KHL, a team that includes many former NHL faces.

Among those who were on the roster are former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek and Karel Rachunek. The coaching staff was led by former Bruins, Whalers, Flyers and Red Wings defenseman Brad McCrimmon and also contained former NHL players Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev.

Plus, there were numerous others who were prospects for NHL teams. Among those was Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov, who played in 18 games for the Devils last season.

"Words cannot express what has transpired," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "I knew a lot of players that were on that team. Nothing could prepare the hockey community for the devastating news ... [This] has left all of us beyond words.

More on KHL crash

"[Vasyunov] wanted to go over and play a lot and come back here. He was so proud to be a Devil. I can't say enough about him."

Riley Armstrong, brother of Colby Armstrong, is part of the team but was not on the plane. He tweeted after the ordeal that he was OK.

"I'm safe, but thanks for the kind words but pray and think of the players and their families on that flight."

As you can imagine, in a league that now contains many Russian players and has its ties grow every year with Russia's top league, the responses have been numerous and distraught. Alex Ovechkin simply said "I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P ...."

Panthers defenseman and former Lokomotiv player Dmitry Kulikov was left stunned. "It's just an empty feeling. Words can't express how I feel."

Then there was Lightning defenseman Nate Thompson. "A tragic loss for the hockey world. Plane crash with an entire KHL team on board. Thoughts and prayers go out to there families and friends."

Perhaps Demitra is perhaps the best known former NHL player among the bunch. He spent most of his NHL career with the Blues, where he had his best seasons as a player. His best year was 2002-03 when he scored 36 goals and had 57 assists. He was named to three All-Star teams; 1999, 2000 and 2002. He most recently played for the Canucks in 2009-10 before moving on to the KHL.

Moreover, he developed some tremendous friendships in the NHL. The bond he created with Keith Tkachuk in St. Louis was tremendous and Tkachuk was predictably hurt.

"I am beyond devastated by the tragic news involving my good friends Brad and Pavol and the rest of their teammates in Russia. Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed. Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us. This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star- Tribune penned this story back in 2007 (at the bottom of the entry) about the strong bond Demitra developed with Marion Gaborik when the two were playing together for the Wild.

Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins also had lengthy stints in the NHL, even being traded for one another at one point. In the 2007-08 season, the Avalanche sent Skrastins to the Panthers in exchange for Salei. In his one full season in Florida, Skrastins had his most productive offensive year, scoring four goals and 14 assists. The tough-nosed defenseman then played his final two NHL seasons with the Stars. Terry Frei of the Denver Post chronicaled Skrastins' trip to the NHL from Latvia.

"The Dallas Stars are saddened by the loss of former defenseman Karlis Skrastins in today's tragic plane crash in Russia," the team released in a statement.

Salei spent nearly a decade playing for the Ducks in Anaheim before he was signed by the Panthers. Like Skrastins, he had his best offensive season playing with Florida, scoring six goals with 26 assists in 2006-07 before being traded the next season to Colorado.

He was playing with the Red Wings just last season, playing 75 games with Detroit.

Vasicek played parts of seven seasons in the NHL, six of those with the Carolina Hurricanes. Team captain Eric Staal had this to say about Vasicek: "Joe was an awesome guy, always in good spirits, always smiling. It's just a tragedy."

Chad LaRose echoed those sentiments. "It's a shocker, a tragedy. Joe was a great guy. A life ended too early."

Vasicek's final season in North America was with the Islanders where he played alongside Radek Martinek.

"He was one of my best buddies. He was in my wedding. I can't believe this," Martinek said.

Among the confirmed dead is former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman McCrimmon, Lokomotiv's coach. The news was just as somber in Detroit with Wings coach Mike Babcock.

McCrimmon had been an assistant with the Red Wings the past three seasons, having spent time wit the Thrashers, Flames and Islanders as an assistant as well. He left Detroit to lead the KHL team in hopes of becoming a head coach in the NHL some day.

As a defenseman, he put up some absolutely unbelievable numbers in his career. In only two of his 18 seasons did he ever record a negative plus-minus mark and he posted a career-high plus-83 in 1985-86 with the Flyers. He ended his career with a plus-444, the 10th best mark in NHL history. Each of the nine players ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

This will go down as one of the biggest, if not the biggest sports tragedies we've ever seen. About the only things I can think that compare are the plane crashes that affected the Marshall football team and Oklahoma State basketball teams. Hopefully, and we hope with every bone in our body, this is the end of what will be known as the Summer of Sorrow in hockey. This has truly been an offseason from hell and hopefully one that we never see again.

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

Posted on: August 17, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: August 17, 2011 4:06 pm

Matt Bradley calls out Alexander Semin

SeminBy: Adam Gretz

Matt Bradley, one of the Florida Panthers many offseason additions, appeared on TEAM 1200 radio in Ottawa this week and spent some time talking about his former team -- the Washington Capitals -- and what went wrong in the playoffs last season, particuarly why they were swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 33-year-old Bradley said there were a few players that didn't show up in the playoffs, and that the locker room may have been a bit too nonchalant and undisciplined. He also added that some of the players that weren't playing well were getting the majority of the ice time.

His strongest words went in the direction of the supremely talented Alexander Semin, basically saying that he doesn't care to be one of the best players in the world (which he certainly has the talent to be).

Said Bradley, “I don’t mind saying Alexander Semin’s name because he’s one guy who has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league, and for whatever reason just doesn’t care. When you’ve got a guy like that you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he dosen’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That’s tough to win when you’ve got a guy like that who’s supposed to be your best player not being your best player. Or one of your best players."

After scoring 28 goals in 65 regular season games for the Capitals last season, Semin scored three goals in the Capitals five-game series with the New York Rangers in the opening round, before being limited to just one goal and an assist in the four-game series with Tampa Bay. He had just two assists for the Capitals during the first-round exit in 2009-10, but was also a point-per-game player in the playoffs during his first two postseason appearances in 2008 and 2009.

But the focal point of Bradley's comments were last season, where he was also asked if coach Bruce Boudreau maybe stuck with some of his star players a bit too long.

"There were a lot of guys who played well that didn’t probably play as much as they needed to," said Bradley. "But I love Bruce and Bruce is a great coach. He was in a very tough position there because in Washington our top guys are definitely the Stars and the guys that people want to see on the ice, so I totally understand. That just doesn’t happen on our team, it happens on a lot of teams. When you’re paying your top guys a lot of money and those guys carry you through the whole season, and if one of them isn’t going, it’s very hard not to play them. And I understand that’s tough. But I think in the end if you want to win, sometimes you have to sit some of those guys down and maybe send a message and try to get them going."

It wasn't all bad, however, as Bradley said he never worries about Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and insisted that he's "all in" as far as winning. He did add that Ovechkin may need to grow up a little in terms of taking care of himself (perhaps he was referring to this?), but that he also simply wants to win hockey games.

You can listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: August 9, 2011 3:22 pm

Recent No. 1 picks going straight to NHL

By: Adam Gretz

Fans in Edmonton were able to get an up close look at their most recent No. 1 overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, at team Canada's prospect development camp this past week, and the early returns are very promising. He helped cap off a come-from-behind win for the White team during their Red-White scrimmage on Saturday, tying the game in the third period and then winning it with 20 seconds to play.

Donna Spencer of the Canadian Press wrote about the skills he displayed on Friday, while Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, and potentially a teammate of Nugent-Hopkins this upcoming season, called him a "nifty little player" after sitting behind the bench for the Red team during the scrimmage.

It's still not known whether or not he's going to play in the NHL this season, but if recent history is any indicator, it would seem to be a mild upset if he didn't. Going back to 1997 there have been 11 forwards taken with the top pick in the NHL draft, and 10 of them made their debut the same year they were drafted. The only player that didn't, technically speaking, was Washington's Alex Ovechkin, and that was due to circumstances beyond his and his team's control: the NHL lockout. Had it not been for the work stoppage he would have been a lock to make his debut.

What can be reasonably expected of Nugent-Hopkins should he play for the Oilers this upcoming season? Here's a look at what the recent straight-to-the-NHL top picks have done during their rookie seasons:

Top Picks NHL Draft Rookie Season
Player Games Goals Assists Points Avg. Mins. Per Game
Taylor Hall (2010) 65 22 20 42 18:12
John Tavares (2009) 82 24 30 54 18:00
Steven Stamkos (2008) 79 23 23 46 14:56
Patrick Kane (2007) 82 21 51 72 18:21
Sidney Crosby (2005) 81 39 63 102 20:07
Alex Ovechkin (2005)* 81 52 54 106 21:37
Rick Nash (2002) 74 17 22 39 13:06
Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) 65 29 22 61 18:34
Patrik Stefan (1999) 72 5 20 25 14:48
Vincent Lecavalier (1998) 82 13 15 28 13:39
Joe Thornton (1997) 55 3 4 7 8:05

*Ovechkin's first season came after the lockout, which was a year after his draft year.

With the exception of Patrik Stefan, every one of these players has gone on to be a productive player or a star player in the NHL (the jury is still out on Taylor Hall at this point after just one season, but we like his chances).

What's a reasonable expectation for Nugent-Hopkins should he play for the Oilers this season? Well, nobody should expect Crosby/Ovechkin levels because those guys are from a different planet. But 20 goals seems like it would be a solid goal based on recent performances by other top picks, assuming he's able to withstand the physical toll of the NHL. And that seems to be the chief concern for Nugent-Hopkins; it's not his skill or ability, but simply whether or not he has the strength to do it at this point. He currently weighs in at 175 pounds according to Spencer's Canadian Press report from over the weekend. That would make him one of the smallest players in the league

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

Posted on: July 25, 2011 10:32 am
Edited on: July 25, 2011 3:13 pm

Daily Skate: Jets donate to Air Force; Sir Chara

By Brian Stubits

CO-PILOTS: When the Winnipeg Jets released their long-awaited new logo, it was met with plenty of mixed reactions with a lot of people pointing out how similar the design is to the Canadian Air Force's design. Turns out, that was part of the plan. The CBC shared that the Jets and the Air Force struck a partnership in which the Jets will donate $1 million over 10 years to Air Force family charities.

JUST CALL HIM SIR: Zdeno Chara got not one, but two days with the Stanley Cup when his turn came. Spending the weekend back in his home country of Slovakia, Chara was very busy signing autographs, snapping photos, arm wrestling (where he lies down) and even being knighted. What I want to know is if they could find armor big enough for him to fit in. After visiting the Czech Republic (Thomas Kaberle and David Krejci) Slovakia and Finland (with Tuukka Rask), the Cup comes back to North America for some visits in Ontario.

OH, OVIE: Alex Ovechkin didn't exactly get knighted in his recent trip back to Russia, he was awarded in another way. The Russian Machine Never Breaks has photos of Ovechkin being feted at halftime of a soccer match where he was bestowed with the traditional Dagestani burka and papakha, which is a wool hat. Just take a look at the pictures. Ovechkin looks more like Cher from the 70s than anything else. Nonetheless, it's an honor for the Capitals star.

GETTING OUT THE VOTE: As we have shared, August 1 will be a monumental day in New York Islanders history as that's when the proposal for a new arena goes to the public for vote. If the vote passes, the team will stick on Long Island, if it fails then the relocation talk will get real. Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank shares what some displaced Islanders fans are doing to contribute to the effort, starting chain emails encouraging people to go out and vote yes.

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

Posted on: July 19, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 6:21 pm

Stamkos' contract compared to recent deals

By: Adam Gretz

The Steven Stamkos restricted free agency saga finally came to its expected conclusion on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that the 21-year-old forward signed a five-year deal that will keep him in Tampa Bay through the end of the 2015-16 season. His current cap hit of $7.5 million is tied for the seventh largest number in the NHL along with Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik, and it places him behind Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, Rick Nash and Vincent Lecavalier.

It's the first major contract for Stamkos coming off his entry level deal and compares favorably to contracts signed by other young forwards at similar points in their careers. Here's a quick look at how this deal stacks up with the NHL's other top young forwards that have signed their first major contracts in the salary cap era (ranked in order of cap hit)...

Recent Young Players and Their First Big Contract
Player Years Total Dollars Cap Hit
Alex Ovechkin 13 $124 million $9.53 million
Sidney Crosby 5 $43.5 million $8.7 million
Evgeni Malkin 5 $43.5 million $8.7 million
Steven Stamkos 5 $37.5 million $7.5 million
Anze Kopitar 7 $47.6 million $6.8 million
Nicklas Backstrom 10 $67 million $6.7 million
Paul Stastny 5 $33 million $6.6 million
Patrick Kane 5 $31.5 million $6.3 million
Jonathan Toews 5 $31.5 million $6.3 million
Phil Kessel 5 $27 million $5.4 million
Bobby Ryan 5 $25.5 million $5.1 million

Five years is a pretty common contract length, unless you're looking at the Washington Capitals, who have made sure their two best players are taken care of for the next decade (at which point they will still only be in their early 30s). The cap hit puts Stamkos slightly below players like Crosby and Ovechkin and slightly above players like Backstrom, Kane, Toews and Kopitar. And that seems fair based on the on-ice production. He's more productive than the second group and still somewhat behind the first.

The only real concern for Tampa Bay fans at this point -- and this is still years away from being an issue -- is this: Once the deal expires (and yes, we're already looking ahead to the next Stamkos free agency saga) he will be hitting the open market (as an unrestricted free agent -- and that's assuming the age for unrestricted free agency remains the same) at the age of 26, well into the prime of his career.

Salary figures via CapGeek

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

Posted on: March 30, 2011 2:38 am

Morning Skate: 'Canes gain ground in East

WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal let himself have a little glance at the out-of-town scoreboard after overtime Tuesday. 

“I didn’t want to look until the shootout started,” the Hurricanes captain said. “It was a 4-3 final, so I knew the shootout was going to be huge. Then those guys came through with those huge goals.”

Rookie Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu scored in the shootout as the Carolina beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, at Verizon Center. The score Staal mentioned came from the only other game the ‘Canes had to concern themselves with Tuesday, a contest where the Maple Leafs squaked out win over the Buffalo Sabres.

“We got a little bit of help,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “Now we have to go back at it. That’s our fate with the schedule we have this year.”

The Sabres hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and things just got a little tighter. Carolina moved to within three points of the Sabres and both teams have six games left on the schedule – including a head-to-head matchup on Sunday. The Leafs finished Tuesday five points behind the Sabres. 

Carolina’s playoff hopes appeared slightly dim in the second period. Referees missed a high stick by Caps defenseman Karl Alzner that resulted in a gash in Staal’s forehead, a cut which required seven stitches to close. Maurice took issue with a couple other calls, including a too many men on the ice call just before the Caps pulled ahead 2-1 on a Marcus Johansson tally late in the period. 

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  • “This game was so much more important to us than what happened there in the second period,” Maurice said. “I didn’t know what was going on. At the same time, we had to refocus and get back to playing.”

    No matter. The Caps gave it all back when goalie Semyon Varlamov let in soft goal by Skinner that tied the game 1:46 left in regulation. Overall it wasn’t a bad way for the ‘Canes to avoid getting swept by the Caps in their six meeting this season. 

    “The biggest thing coming into the game was where we are in the standings,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you look back on a head-to-head. When you come this far, your focus is on the next game and the future and it was a big two points for us.”

    Maurice added that those points were bigger when you factor in the two players that returned to the lineup for the Caps. Captain and former MVP Alex Ovechkin (out three games with an undisclosed injury) and center Jason Arnott (out six games with an undisclosed injury) were both back in action. 

    “It was a little bit of curve ball when they got their players back,” Maurice said. “We handled that well, too. We wanted to beat at team with their best. Confidence is something that we’ve been searching for. We’ve played hard and played well. You should feel good about wins like this.”

    This victory can’t be savored long. The ‘Canes will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight, another team ahead of them in the East standings. 

    Carolina 3, Washington 2 (SO)
    Toronto 4, Buffalo 3
    Philadelphia 5 Pittsburgh 2
    Columbus 3 Florida 2 (SO)
    Montreal 3, Atlanta 1
    Boston 3, Chicago 0
    Tampa Bay 5, Ottawa 2
    Minnesota 3, St. Louis 2 (SO)
    Vancouver 3, Nashville 1
    Los Angeles 2, Edmonton 0
    Phoenix 2 , Dallas 1 (SO)

    -- A.J Perez
    Posted on: March 29, 2011 7:04 pm
    Edited on: March 29, 2011 7:33 pm

    Ovechkin, Arnott back in lineup for Capitals

    WASHINGTON -- Both Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott are in the lineup as the Washington Capitals take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. 

    Ovechkin had missed the last three games with what Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called nagging injuries. Arnott has not played since March 13, missing the past six games with an undisclosed injury. 

    Ovechkin and Arnott returned to practice in recent days. 

    Follow the game on our GameTacker.

    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: March 29, 2011 2:55 pm

    Playoff Watch: 'Canes look for win No.1 over Caps

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The Tampa Bay Lightning can lock down a playoff spot if they beat the Ottawa Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Washington Capitals in regulation. The Vancouver Canucks can win the Western Conference by earning at least one point against the Nashville Predators tonight. 

    ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.  

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes (35-30-10) at Washington Capitals (44-22-10), 7 p.m. ET
    The ‘Canes enter five points in back of the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Carolina has lost each of the first five meetings between these Southeast Division rivals and the ‘Canes are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. 

    The Capitals could get forwards Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott back in the lineup tonight. (Both have been sidelined with undisclosed injuries.) Washington coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t disclose to reporters at the morning skate if either will see action, but both skated with the team again. The Caps are returning from a season-long six-game trip where they posted a 4-2-0 record. For the month of March, Washington is 11-2-0. 

    Carolina forwards Eric Staal, Cory Stillman and Erik Cole each enter with four-game points streaks.

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (38-26-10) at Phoenix Coyotes (41-25-11), 10 p.m. ET

    The Stars enter the night four points out of eighth, making this final regular season meeting between these Pacific Division rivals crucial. Phoenix has won three of the first five meetings and the last three contests were decided by a goal. Dallas enters 1-3-2 over the last five games, a skid that has seen the Stars drop from fourth to 10th in the West. 

    GOLF WATCH: No new teams will be eliminated today. Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.
    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com