Tag:San Jose Sharks
Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:27 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 5:25 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Chicago Blackhawks have become the latest team to be hit with a significant injury.
The team announced on Monday afternoon that forward Patrick Sharp is going to be sidelined for the next three-to-four weeks with what has been described as an "upper body injury" (It's reported to be a broken wrist, coming when he was slashed just before scoring a goal on Sunday night). It comes at a bad time for Chicago as the team is currently riding a four-game losing streak and has also lost six of its past nine games
He was injured on Sunday night when the Blackhawks lost to their divisional rivals from Detroit, 3-2 in overtime, and played just a little over five-and-a-half minutes. He left the game after the first period and did not return.
It's a big blow for the Blackhawks for the near future as Sharp is one of their best, most reliable and most consistent skaters. Through his first 42 games of the season he's second on the team in goals (20), fourth in assists (20) third in total points (40), first in power play points (12) and leading the team with 158 shots on goal.
Assuming it's just a three-to-four week injury he should be back in the lineup sometime in early February. Looking ahead at Chicago's schedule they get the struggling Blue Jackets and Wild this week, before things get significantly tougher with games against the likes of Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver and a home-and-home set with Nashville over the remainder of the month.
More NHL Injuries
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Posted on: January 8, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 3:32 pm
While you were busy worrying about the upcoming summer of labor after the NHLPA declined the realignment plan ...
With all due respect to the guys of Green Day, nice guys really can finish first. Or at least succeed.
Saturday was a milestone day for two of the classiest and most loyal players in the NHL. One milestone awesome, the other simply dumbfounding, on a couple of levels.
First, the awesome: Jarome Iginla's 500th goal in Saturday night's win against the Minnesota Wild. Nobody is surprised that Iginla hit the 500-goal mark in his career. I've seen it argued that he would have passed that milestone a while ago if he had played with some better centers in his time with the Calgary Flames.
It doesn't matter how ugly it might have been. Iginla's had enough beauties in his career, I don't think for one second he was worried about it coming on a pass from the boards that bounced off skates and into the net.
I could go on about with platitudes about the class of guy that Iginla is. People already know that and my personal experience with the guy did nothing at all to change that impression for me. I like to point to this somewhat infamous and incredibly cringe-worthy exchange with Iginla and a reporter earlier this season that Iginla dealt with as patiently as any player could, even though nobody knew what exactly was being asked.
Iginla became only the 42nd player in NHL history to hit the plateau. So we're talking about a pretty exclusive club. Iginla's case is even more unique when one realizes that he became only the ninth player ever to score his first 500 goals with one team.
Every franchise usually has a designated Mr. (fill in the team name). Iginla no doubt is Mr. Flame.
The second milestone also came from a Mr. Franchise type and it was a bit more amazing.
Unless you work for the Elias Sports Bureau or are the biggest Phoenix Coyotes fan out there, it probably caught you by surprise that Shane Doan's hat trick on Saturday night was the first of his career.
It took him 1,161 games to get there, but Doan finally put three in in one game. And it's not like we're talking about a guy who doesn't score. He joins Scott Mellenby as the only other player in NHL history to score 300 goals before his first hat trick.
The most amazing part of all? It took Doan 59 minutes, 59 and 9/10 of a second to get that third goal.
Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.
Like Iginla, Doan has been a consummate professional, a player with the loyalty to a franchise that fans love to see in sports these days. This is a guy who has stuck with a franchise that has been surrounded in questions for a couple of years but has stuck with the only team he has ever known.
A little bit of irony in Doan's goal coming with only 0.1 second left, the Coyotes fell victim to a similar situation earlier this season. The Rangers potted a goal with the same exact amount of time on the clock. The only difference between those two last-second tallies? The Rangers' was for a win, Doan's for the hat trick in an already-decided game.
And all those hats he collected? They are reportedly being donated to the Phoenix Children's Hospital.
It was almost as if Saturday was a night for the good guys in the NHL. Two great honors for two great players. Certainly beats more concussions.
The St. Louis Blues are no fluke, people. This sample size with Ken Hitchcock at the helm is big enough to draw that conclusion.
The Blues are in the Central Division. They compete with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Yet, after Saturday's games, it's the Blues that are sitting in first place of the monster division, for my money the best in the NHL.
St. Louis dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, pitching a 4-0 shutout. The Avs had been maybe the hottest team in the NHL, bringing a four-game win streak into the Lou. Instead they were just another victim for St. Louis.
That moved the Blues to 18-5-5 under Hitchcock. Their sole lead isn't going to last long. By the end of Sunday they will at least be in a tie with either the Blackhawks or Red Wings. But they are right there and will remain right there for the entire season.
The goaltending duo of Brian Elliott -- who had another shutout -- and Jaroslav Halak has rightfully received a lot of the attention for the Blues' success, but the guys in front of them deserve a lot. Just look at what the Avalanche were able to -- or unable to -- do: They only had 15 shots on goal for the entire game. That's why Elliott didn't even get one of the three Stars of the game. The most shots in one period that Colorado had? Seven. In the first they had just two.
I'll admit I'm happy for the fans of St. Louis. It's not a market that gets a lot of recognition as a big one like the cities in the Northeast or Canada, but it's been a strong market for hockey and remains that way. They haven't had a lot to cheer for in the past couple of years but they do now.
And of course the Western Conference has another team to be reckoned with.
The story out of Pittsburgh on Saturday was that the Penguins lost their fourth straight game, something they had not done in two years. On Sunday it was compounded by the announced injuries of James Neal (broken foot) and Jordan Staal (out 4-6 weeks).
But that's taking away from the success of the New Jersey Devils.
Their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh came a night after their 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at home on Friday. They have points in seven of their last 10 games. They have also hurdled the Penguins in the Atlantic Division and are creeping up on the Flyers, four points behind Philadelphia.
A common thread in those two weekend wins? Ilya Kovalchuk had the game-winner. He's up to 15 goals on the season now, tied with David Clarkson for the team lead. He has the penchant for turnovers -- that's nothing new -- but is still as electric as almost any player in the league with the puck on his stick. What Peter DeBoer wouldn't give to continue to get that kind of production from Kovalchuk.
What a day it was Saturday for Danny Briere. The Philadelphia Flyers veteran had a double rarity in the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Senators: He finished off a hat trick with a goal in the final seconds of overtime and dropped the gloves with Kyle Turris (!).
First, here's the bout from HockeyFights.com.
Not terrible for a couple of guys who don't normally go a round. For Briere it was only his third career fight.
But in the end it was his fifth career hat trick that was the biggest moment of the night. Apparently content to take the game to the shootout, the Senators seemed to give up once the clock moved under 10 seconds. It was up to Craig Anderson to keep them alive. He made the first stop on Briere from point-blank range but couldn't prevent the second from slipping in and winning the game with 5.3 seconds left.
They're getting pretty desperate up there in Buffalo where the Sabres just can't seem to do anything right.
It's a solid cast of characters. There's a reason why people thought this would be a contender in the East this season. Add in the ownership takeover of Terry Pegula, and there was a lot of noise coming out of Buffalo. Now, not so much. Really.
That'll happen when you're not scoring much. Like they didn't score in the 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in Buffalo.
Their lack of scoring is the biggest culprit for the following: Since Nov. 12 -- as in the day Ryan Miller met Milan Lucic -- the Sabres have the fourth-worst record in the NHL. The fans are beginning to beg GM Darcy Regier to do something. This isn't how it was supposed to go.
Quote of the weekend
The Caps just got Mike Green back from a hamstring-induced absence that stretched back to early November. Now it might cost him even more time now. If so, that will be the third time that Green has been out with injury. He also had an ankle issue cost him time earlier this season.
The Capitals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday night in San Jose to the streaking Sharks. It was actually the first loss of the season for the Caps when Green played. They are now 9-1-0.
Looking beyond this season, Green will hit free agency this summer and here's one argument being laid out for why the Capitals shouldn't re-sign him. It will be worth a debate for GM George McPhee.
Tags: Brian Elliott, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Craig Anderson, Dale Hunter, Danny Briere, David Clarkson, Ilya Kovalchuck, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Jordan Staal, Ken Hitchcock, Kyle Turris, Mike Green, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Peter DeBoer, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Miller, San Jose Sharks, Shane Doan, St. Louis Blues, Ville Leino, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.
To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.
Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.
It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.
Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.
These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.
It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.
Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”
There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.
The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.
Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.
“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”
It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.
The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.
I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.
He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.
Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.
"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."
Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.
In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.
Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.
"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.
One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.
They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.
But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.
Boom! Madden's debut
The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.
Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.
That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.
I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.
More Wings work
It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.
On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.
Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.
Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.
We're going streaking!
Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.
Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.
Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.
Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.
Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Alain Vigneault, Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dale Hunter, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Jarome Iginla, John Madden, Kevin Bieksa, Mark Recchi, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview
Posted on: December 30, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 3:16 pm
Is there any doubt there's nothing more exciting in the regular season than the Winter Classic? It's by far and away the most-watched game of the season, it has the HBO 24/7 that leads up to it and is treated by the NHL for what it is: the season's marquee game. So every city wants to get their hands on it. Even Miami.
Could you imagine that picture being the setting for the Winter Classic? There are some that can.
Yes, the Florida Panthers would love to host the NHL's annual outdoor game (as would probably 29 other franchises). But there's that whole problem of playing in the tropics and ice, they don't really go together, right? Well, the Panthers think it could happen.
Thanks to the new baseball park opening in a couple of months for baseball's Miami Marlins, it could happen -- meaning literally, they could pull it off. That's because the new ballpark will have a retractable roof, opening the possibility of building a solid rink that would be more than playable.
George Richards of the Miami Herald reports that the Panthers brass would love to speak to the NHL about the possibility of the game in Miami, as farfetched as it seems.
Plus, some of the players would love to play where it's warm.
“Everyone loves coming down here and it would be neat to have a tropical outdoor game," said Kris Versteeg, who played in the Chicago Winter Classic. "People would travel from all over for that. The game and the weather would be great for the fans. It was awesome playing at Wrigley, but I don't want to play in that cold again. But it was a memory I'll always have."
To further lend credence to the idea that it could happen in Florida, remember that the Kings and Rangers played an outdoor game in Las Vegas in the preseason back in 1991 and that worked just fine. With the help of a retractable roof, NHL-quality ice is possible.
But the practicality of it? I'd say very, very low. It's not like the Panthers are a big draw in the NHL, although their success this season helps a little bit. Plus, Florida will have to get in line.
It's expected that next year's game will be held in Washington D.C., likely at Nationals Park. If it doesn't happen next year, it will happen the year after that in the nation's capital. It figures that Detroit/Michigan would be in the conversation. The same goes for the Twin Cities, Denver, St. Louis and even San Francisco. Adrian Dater of SI.com and the Denver Post is begging the NHL to bring the showcase West.
I agree with the sentiment that the NHL should try and drift out of the Northeastern corridor a little for the game, but that's the U.S. hockey hub, so I think those cities need to appear frequently in the rotation. As I said, I think Florida would be way down the list, to the point of not even being on it despite the possibilities.
It would be fantastic for the Panthers and hockey in Florida, would give it tremendous local exposure, but I'm not sure how much the reciprocal effect would be for the NHL. It has more of a Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber vibe to it than anything, but is fun to think about.
On top of it all, I can't imagine the outrage that would come from hockey fans if the game were played in 70-degree weather.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:41 am
Edited on: December 30, 2011 2:30 pm
Fan violence in sports is becoming a bigger problem all the time. It's sad but true.
At a recent game in San Jose between the host Sharks and the visiting Canucks, 16-year-old Maggie Herger, who four years ago had surgery to remove a brain tumor, was left concussed by another fan at the game. Herger says that she was hit in the head by a drunken Sharks fan who had been bothering her and her sister during the game after a San Jose goal.
Here is a video courtesy of NBC Bay Area with more details.
The good news for Herger is that the tumor that is still in her brain was not impacted with the blow to the head, so no internal bleeding was suffered. That's about the only good news you can take from a situation like this.
Making matters worse was another fan taunting Herger as she was loaded into an ambulance. "He looked in and said, 'You're faking it, you don't need an ambulance, suck it up,'" Herger said.
The Sharks issued a statement regarding the manner on Thursday.
"Arena staff, along with San Jose police, interviewed the person who made contact with the injured fan, who stated that the contact was accidental during the celebration of a Sharks goal. Upon being interviewed, others seated in the area of the incident did not report seeing the contact between the parties involved."
After the tragedy that happened at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium where San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death, two fans being shot at a Raiders-49ers game in San Francisco and the stabbing after a Raiders-Chargers game in San Diego, this resonates a little louder. It just seems so pointless and idiotic that people would care that much about a fan of another team being next to them.
Of course it should be mentioned that this in no way represents Sharks fans as a whole or people of California. I think 99.9 percent of all Sharks fan would condemn the actions of the accused attcker as well as the mocking fan by the ambulance.
Another of the sad parts in it all is that Herger said she would love to go back to a game at the HP Pavilion but that she would be terrified to do so. Imagine, being afraid to go sit in a seat for a couple of hours to enjoy a hockey game?
There's just no place for this at sporting events -- or anywhere really -- especially when unprovoked other than wearing certain colors.
H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for the video
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: December 29, 2011 10:06 am
One of the more understated rivalries in the NHL lives on the West Coast and has been bred through playoff hate, the battle between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks (those Canucks sure do seem to have a lot of rivalries). So it's not above the players on those teams, even the captains, to engage in a little gamesmanship.
See: Joe Thornton.
The two foes remade acquaintances on Wednesday night in San Jose (a 3-2 Canucks OT win) and it was what hockey people love to call a chippy contest. Lots of shoving, hitting and animosity. But don't forget taunting. Take a look at Thornton during a captain's meeting with he, the referee and the Canucks' Henrik Sedin.
Oh Jumbo Joe, classic move. It harkened back memories to the Stanley Cup Final from the summer when there were all sorts of taunts revolving around Alex Burrows' finger bite of Patrice Bergeron and then also the little pounding that Daniel Sedin took thanks to Brad Marchand.
I laughed at seeing Thornton's schoolyard bully tactics here, reminded me of what a big brother would do to his younger brother, harmless teasing. Obviously Henrik wasn't terribly pleased afterward, barking some words at Thornton as they skated back to the benches.
But this is when I wonder why the Canucks are despised so much. I get why teams aren't fond of them, on-ice action can do that, but the seeming universal hatred doesn't compute with me. It seems more often than not to me the Canucks are the tauntees, for lack of a better word, than taunters. Sure, Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre (maybe Ryan Kesler to an extent) are pesky and annoy, but the Canucks seem to take a lot more than they give.
It just occurred to me, maybe Thornton was trying to show the referee some of the amazing merchandise left over from the Sharks Shopping Network?
Video courtesy of The Score
Posted on: December 27, 2011 9:45 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 12:17 pm
In the third period of the Ducks' 3-2 win in the Shark Tank, play was briefly halted. Ducks beat writer for the O.C. Register Eric Stephens tweeted out what the delay was all about. "There's a stoppage in play as someone threw an apparent dead duck on the HP ice. Now that's fowl. Fans like it."
He was right. Somebody readlly did throw a dead duck onto the ice. No really, a true dead duck -- or as I like to call it after a 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story, Chinese turkey.
Of course, video was captured of the tossing by none other than the offender's friends. Peer pressure is rough, kids.
As you can see in the video, the man runs all the way down the aisle to the boards before flipping the duck onto the ice in front of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who got the referees' attention then quickly did an about-face and returned to his net. While the duck was removed from the ice, the man was removed from the stadium to the applause of the fans. Whether they were applauding the duck tossing or the fan tossing I'm not sure, but I'd hope it's the latter.
Of course, the part that is unstated as of yet is that this guy literally had a dead duck with him for more than 2/3 of the game, waiting to pull this stunt. Not to mention all the time he had the dead duck before the game and in transportation. Seems to me if you were going to pull a stunt like this that you'd at least get it done with a minute or two into the game. I won't give this guy a lot of credit, but his dedication deserves some recognition.
The Sharks fans are the last fan base that should be teasing the Ducks right now. Anaheim has only 10 wins on the season, three of them have come against the Sharks. The Ducks only have three road wins on the year, two of them in San Jose (including Monday). Yikes.
H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for the video find
Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 4:33 pm
There was a lot of good in 2011, but also a lot of bad. By bad, I really mean tragedy. It was an unforgettable yet forgettable year all at the same time.
As we hit the heart of the holiday season, here is a look back at the year that was in hockey with the top 10 moments/storylines of 2011.
10. Summer acquisitions -- This is when the magic happens in the NHL's salary cap world and franchises are made or destroyed.
It was over the summer that two teams in particular built the nucleus for their surprising starts this season, the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. Minnesota was the host for this year's NHL Entry Draft and really did leave an impression. Not only did they come away from the draft with a few new prospects in their system but they also swung a deal to land Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks for Brent Burns. The Wild swung another deal with the Sharks that landed them Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. Of course their biggest summer acquisition might have been the hiring of head coach Mike Yeo.
The Panthers meanwhile continued to use the draft to make their system better and also swung a big trade, taking on Brian Campbell's big salary from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. That kicked off a wild spending spree that lasted through free agency and the core of the team that's in first in the Southeast was built just like that. Like the Wild, they also found themselves a new coach who has returned big dividends early in Kevin Dineen.
The unrestricted free-agent class was led by the pursuit of Brad Richards, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers after a day of courting, including from the Maple Leafs while GM Brian Burke was in Afghanistan. But the most intrigue was on the restricted front where Steven Stamkos' future was wildly speculated before re-signing with the Lightning and Shea Weber stayed with the Predators after the biggest arbitration award ever.
A couple weeks in the middle of the year set up the last couple of months in the year and even with what was perceived as a weak free-agent class, this year was no different.
Look back: Free-agency tracker
9. Winter Classic -- As sad as it is to think about, games hardly ever are the top stories in sports any more. But in hockey, the Winter Classic will always matter, it's that big of a showcase and spectacle for the NHL.
As is the case with every Winter Classic -- as fans of all the less-fortunate teams will remind you -- it was a marquee matchup of two high-profile teams from the East with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps eventually prevailed in a game that might be the most memorable Winter Classic thus far for a variety of reasons, one of them makes an appearance later on this list.
But first of all the lead up to the game featured the first 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series on HBO and it was riveting. While technically most of it aired in 2010, it is tied in with the Winter Classic so it counts. It left fans anticipating the next version like a kid awaits Christmas, this year's version featuring the Flyers and Rangers.
Mother Nature also left her mark on the game. It was the first Winter Classic thus far that the weather was so uncooperative that they had to delay the start of the game. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain in Pittsburgh led to the game being pushed to the night and it did provide a pretty memorable setting at Heinz Field.
Look back: Caps win Winter Classic 3-1
8. Realignment -- While the fruit of this labor will be seen starting in 2012, it was a large conversation for the entire second half of the year, spurred by a development that appears further up this list.
I don't know if there was a person in hockey -- both within the game and covering it -- that didn't have their own idea for how the realignment should be done. In the end the six-division format was blown up, an effort that was from all accounts led by Gary Bettman himself.
The biggest drama in the whole saga revolved around the Detroit Red Wings' desire to move to the Eastern Conference. Well, without an Eastern Conference to move to any more, I guess you could say that was taken care of.
Look back: NHL announces realignment
7. Lokomotiv plane crash -- The KHL is to the NHL as the NHL is to ESPN. That is to say the only time we ever seem to hear about the KHL is when something bad happens.
Unfortunately, that was the case this summer when the airplane carrying the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team barely got airborne before it crashed, killing everybody on board except a member of the flight crew.
The tragedy was already tough enough for the hockey community in North America simply for the fact sheer sadness of the lethal error. But what made it really hit home in the NHL was the number of former NHL players who died in the crash.
Among those who died in the crash were Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and head coach Brad McCrimmon, all of who were in the NHL at some point in their careers. In the case of McCrimmon he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff as recently as last season before he took the chance to be a head coach in Russia.
Nothing from the ordeal was more chilling than the sad, sad story from a professional driver in Dallas who was tasked with picking up the family of Skrastins to drive them to the airport hours after the tragedy. Honestly, I'm getting emotional just thinking about it again. It was truly a horrible day for hockey.
Look back: Lokomovit team plane crashes
6. Vancouver riot -- For the second time in as many Stanley Cup trips for the Vancouver Canucks, the hockey-crazed city erupted into a violent storm following its team's loss in the decisive Game 7. A similar eruption happened in 1994 after the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers.
The night began with a massive gathering in the streets of Vancouver for the fans to all watch the game together on a big screen. Many saw that as an ill-fated moment from the start and boy were they right. Soon after the game and season were finished, the hooligans of Vancouver were just getting started.
Looters took to the streets to cause mayhem, and cause mayhem they did. The result was a night full of rioting embarrassing to the city, a lot of videos to live on in YouTube glory (like this classic), at least 25 people being charged (including Miss Congeniality) and the romance, sports and maybe general photo of the year, the "riot kiss" seen up above.
The unfortunate part (OK, one of them) was the fact that the riot completely overshadowed what was really a great postseason and season for the Canucks. Vancouver was the best team all regular season long and as fine of a year as they ever have.
Look back: Riot erupts after Stanley Cup Finals
5. Brendan Shanahan takes over -- There has been no bigger overarching story in the second half of the year than what Shanahan has been doing as the new head of player safety having replaced Colin Campbell. His arrival on the job has coincided with the attempt to expand and clarify Rule 48.1, the one dealing with headshots. The focus has also been ramped up on boarding.
His impact has been felt from the get-go. In the preseason he was very busy and then really sent some shock waves through the league when he suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski for eight games.
It's at the point now that every questionable hit is immediately scrutinized and I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. Obviously the good is that it continues to put a microscope on bad hits in an attempt to rid the game of them. On the bad side, some clean hits get more attention than they should and the consistency of punishment applications has been a bit bedeviling, just ask the Sabres fans.
However Shanahan has done something that I've yet to find a person complain about and that's making videos for each and every suspension wherein he explains exactly what the thought process was that led to the decision. The first one he made in the preseason was a breath of fresh air and welcome transparency. All season he's been a busy, busy man.
You know you've watched a lot of Shanahan suspension videos when you can recall that he has done videos in front of three different backdrops and you can tell when he gets a haircut.
Look back: A look at Shanahan's handy work
4. Winnipeg Jets return -- At one point, it looked like the old Jets -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- were going to be the team to move to Winnipeg. Fans were elated as it seemed that with a clear potential ownership group and new, albeit small, arena, the NHL would be coming back to the 'Peg after 15 years.
Then they pulled a little switcheroo on everybody when the Coyotes announced they were staying in Phoenix for another year, so attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. A few transactions later and hockey was back in Manitoba (and the NHL had to realign -- Winnipeg in the Southeast?).
The push was one to rename the team the Jets like the old franchise in town and after much debate, the fans won out, although a new logo would be introduced. Not lacking in flair, the Jets showed off their new uniforms in an unveiling at a military base with the players wearing the new duds walking out of a cargo plane.
The first game of the Jets. 2.0 came in their new home at the MTS Centre and they fell in defeat to the Montreal Canadiens, but you couldn't tell. The great hockey city that is Winnipeg was happier than a pig in you-know-what just to have the NHL back. When Nik Antropov became the first player to score for the new Jets, the roar was deafening. Maybe the best way to measure the city's appreciation and love for having hockey back would have been with decibels.
After a slow start (again, they were the Thrashers) the Jets have really come to find a comfort on home ice, as many thought they would. With a 12-6-1 record at home this season, the Jets have the best home mark in the Eastern Conference next to Boston's 13-6-1. It seems that a little excitement really can go a long way.
Look back: Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg
3. Sidney Crosby's concussions -- This was the biggest development to come out of the aforementioned Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby caught an elbow to the head from the Capitals' David Steckel that rocked the game's best player pretty good. He certainly appeared out of sorts but was back in the lineup a few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A check from Victor Hedman led to Crosby experiencing another concussion and he didn't play again for the rest of the season. He finally did return to game action in November, playing eight games before being shut down again for post-concussion symptoms.
Before he went down, Crosby was on pace for one mammoth season. To illustrate how good he was playing before the injury, he still finished the season as the Penguins' leading scorer by a whopping 16 points despite playing only 41 games.
For literally almost a year, the hockey world sat and waited for word on Crosby returning. There was speculation he could come back for the Penguins' playoffs games. There was talk that he might retire. None of that happened, but what did do was bring another reminder of the seriousness that are concussions.
It's not good business for the NHL when the top players aren't on the ice, let alone the best player. I'd like to think it isn't the case, but you have to wonder if Crosby's absence didn't go a long way in facilitating the NHL's actions on trying to remove bad hits as well as enacting strong concussion protocols.
The way the Penguins have handled the Crosby situation has been one of the best parts of all -- or maybe the only good part, depending on your point of view. They have been incredibly patient the entire time, insisting they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize Crosby's health and future.
But because of his most recent setback, Crosby Watch 2011 will move on into Crosby Watch 2012.
Look back: Crosby's recovery efforts
2. Deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak -- The NHL's summer of sorrow began in late spring when the tragic news came down of New York Rangers and former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's death. The autopsy concluded he died of a lethal mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.
Later in the offseason the NHL was then shook by the news of deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, separated by only two weeks. Both players were fighters themselves, each suffered from depression and both apparently committed suicide (Rypien's was classified as such, Belak's death treated as such by Toronto PD).
The news of their deaths was sad and shocking in their own right. These were all players 35 or younger who all shared a role in their hockey careers. It was also a catalyst for the discussion of fighting in hockey. No tie can be drawn between each of their deaths and fighting, but it at least begged the question.
Since the three players died, the conversation has picked up. It was really spurred along by the New York Times' in-depth piece that looked at the life of Boogaard and the study of his brain. The findings of the Boston University lab found Boogaard's brain was already showing signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain due to repeated blows to the head.
Thomas pretty much put the Bruins on his shoulders and carried them past the Vancouver Canucks in a great seven-game series that led to the Bruins hoisting their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Of course Thomas topped it off with a shutout in Game 7 and took home the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP, an incredibly well-deserved award.
But in addition to Thomas, it was one heck of a series. The first six games were won by the home team. We had one game ending a few seconds into overtime. Who can forget the man that scored that goal, Alex Burrows, was caught biting Patrice Bergeron in a scrum and the resulting taunts at Burrows from the Bruins later on.
There was Nathan Horton getting leveled and concussed in Boston in a moment that some feel changed the series. The Bruins responded to that by running the Canucks out of their building in Games 3 and 4. Horton made another impression when he was seen pouring TD Garden ice on the rink in Vancouver before Game 7, a superstitious move that will live in Bruins lore.
The series was about as memorable as it gets. The ratings were as good as they have been in decades, too. And the Bruins' post-championship romp back in New England became a legend with a reported $156,679.74 bar tab that included one Amstel Light. It kicked off a great summer tour with the Cup for the Bruins, Michael Ryder's Cup mishap included.
There is no disputing the Bruins earned the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup after one great Final.
Look back: Bruins win Stanley Cup
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011 Review, Alex Burrows, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Brad McCrimmon, Brad Richards, Brendan Shanahan, Brent Burns, Brian Burke, Brian Campbell, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Colin Campbell, Columbus Blue Jackets, Concussions, Dany Heatley, David Steckel, Derek Boogaard, Detroit Red Wings, Devin Setoguchi, Florida Panthers, James Wisniewski, Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Kevin Dineen, Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Mike Yeo, Minesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Nathan Horton, New York Rangers, Patrice Bergeron, Pavol Demitra, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Realignment, Relocation, Rick Rypien, Roberto Luongo, Rostislav Olesz, Ruslan Salei, San Jose Sharks, Shanaban, Shea Weber, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tim Thomas, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Riot, Victor Hedman, Wade Belak, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv