Posted on: October 29, 2011 10:58 am
Edited on: October 29, 2011 4:04 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Edmonton Oilers continued their hot start on Friday night with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche, their fourth consecutive victory, improving their early season record to 6-2-2, good enough for the top spot in the Northwest Division.
Defenseman Andy Sutton tallied one of the goals during the win, registering his first of the season late in the second period to give Edmonton a 2-0 lead. He also may have drawn some attention from the NHL for an elbowing penalty in the third period when he clipped Avalanche rookie sensation Gabriel Landeskog coming across the neutral zone.
UPDATE: The NHL has announced that Sutton will have an in-person hearing with Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinary expert, on Monday, which gives him the opportunity of suspending Sutton for more than five games. He will not be eligible to play in Edmoton's game against St. Louis on Sunday.
Along with the five-minute fighting major that he and Shane O'Brien received for the post-hit altercation, Sutton was also issued a two-minute minor for elbowing.
Hello, rule 48.
“They may look at it, they might not," said Sutton following the game, via Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal. "I’d do it (that play) again.”
Shanahan may have a busy day on Saturday as Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported that Chicago Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo has a hearing scheduled for 1 PM ET for an incident with Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen during Chicago's 3-0 loss on Friday. There was no penalty called on that play.
More NHL Discipline News Here
Posted on: October 28, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:27 am
In the last two days, all of the Winter Classic news surrounded the roster for the Philadelphia Flyers Alumni Game roster. Eric Lindros: In. John LeClair: In. Mikael Renberg: Not so much.
But what about the Rangers side? The names like Mark Messier and Brian Leetch seem like givens, but the name everybody was hoping to see, Wayne Gretzky? It doesn't look promising on that front.
“No, I’ll be with my family for the holidays," Gretzky told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. “Plus, they don’t need to see a 50-year-old slow guy out there!"
Gretzky is aware that the game has a lot of guys 50 and older, right? Even if he were 80 I think people would love to see Gretzky out there. The family reason, though? Hard to argue with that.
Now if this holds and Messier can't get in his old friend's ear, it does seem sort of right. After all, Gretzky did play a little in New York, but he's identified with the Oilers and Kings. In a way it would seem cheap to me to have Gretzky with the Rangers in an alumni game. He spent just the final three seasons of his career in the Big Apple. Not exactly the defining days of his career.
Still, I can only imagine that Gretzky would be the best player if he took part.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 4:13 pm
Looks like the Edmonton Oilers came to their senses after all. Either that or they just wanted to leave the hockey world in suspense.
The Oilers informed the top overall draft pick from this summer, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that he will be staying with the team instead of going back to his junior team just down the road from Edmonton in Red Deer. His next game will be his 10th with the Oilers, the extent of the pre-contract tryout.
"He knows the spotlight has been on him and will continue to be, but he went out there and did what he's always done," Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said.
Last week the Oilers said they were still strongly considering sending Nugent-Hopkins back and giving him more seasoning in junior hockey. However I'm not sure how many people bought that. Nugent-Hopkins has been nothing but spectacular this season.
He is the team's top scorer with five goals -- including a hat trick -- and nine points. Can you imagine the justification Edmonton brass would have given for sending Nugent-Hopkins back? It surely couldn't be about not being ready to play at the NHL level.
"The Nuge is staying in NHL huh? What a shocker. In other news, sky is blue, grass is green and it's going to be cold in Edmonton in January."
This means that we will get to see a lot more of the Kids & the Hall line with the top pick two years ago Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. As a whole, the Oilers have 48 points. Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle have combined for 26 of those, including 10 of the team's 17 goals. Perhaps the most amazing thing about that line is that Eberle is the elder statesman at 21 years old.
"Taylor and Jordan have been amazing mentors for me," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I'm thrilled that I get to keep playing with those guys."
"The Nuge" -- I admit, I cringe when I type that, but it's just so much more convenient than Nugent-Hopkins -- did have some proving to do as his size was the question, but those questions should be gone. That was the only question to answer, and he nailed it.
Welcome to your NHL career, Nugent-Hopkins. It goes without saying this was the right choice.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:39 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 12:58 am
By: Adam Gretz
The Edmonton Oilers were less than one second away from securing a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Well, technically speaking it was more like half of a second.
Just before the final horn sounded to end the game, Wild forward Dany Heatley picked up a loose puck along the side of the net and somehow managed to find enough of an opening to slip it in past Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to send the game to overtime. Neither team scored in the extra period while Minnesota was able to secure the 2-1 in the tie-breaking shootout thanks to a goal from Matt Cullen and a couple of misses by Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (he shot the puck over the net) and Eric Belanger (he had Niklas Backstrom beat, but fired the puck off the post).
The fact it was Heatley that scored the goal for Minnesota to ruin Edmonton's night had to make it even worse for Oilers fans. Heatley has been public enemy No. 1 in Oil Country for a couple of years now due to his refusal to waive his no-trade clause when he was traded by the Ottawa Senators. After refusing to go to Edmonton the Senators eventually traded him to San Jose where he spent the past two seasons before being traded to Minnesota over the summer in exchange for Martin Havlat.
Elsewhere in the Province of Alberta, the New York Rangers managed to secure a 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames when defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored his second goal of the season when he happened to be in the right place at the right time to play a random bounce off the board and deposit it into an empty net, also with less than a second remaining on the clock.
Rough night for the teams in Alberta, and another reminder that it only takes less than a second to score a goal.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 4:06 pm
One of the rules of the CBA I love is the ability to give young prospects extended tryouts with the parent organization without risking a contract kicking in. It's a great opportunity for players to learn from some NHL experience and, in some cases, prove they are too good to be sent back to their junior team.
These players are known as "Slide-Risk" players. Here's what the CBA rule states specifically:
"In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old player signs a Player Contract with a Club but does not play at least 10 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs) in the first season under that player's Player Contract, the term of his Player Contract and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a player who is age 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs a Player Contract."
To summarize, if a player under the age of 20 doesn't play more than 10 games at the NHL level, his contract doesn't kick in. So that's one more year to hold off restricted free agency. What's not to like about the provision?
This season, there are 12 players who could be returned and have their contract years delayed. Without further ado, let's see the names (in alphabetical order, of course).
Brett Bulmer, Minnesota Wild: Bulmer was selected 39th overall by the Wild two drafts ago, but his toughness and energy seem to be welcome as far as first-year coach Mike Yeo is concerned. Bulmer seems like he has earned a spot on the third line, although he hasn't been playing all that much (9:38 per game). He does have a pair of assists in that time. He might not play a whole lot, but Yeo talks pretty glowingly about him. Verdict: Wild ride continues.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning: This is an iffy call. Connolly, taken sixth overall two drafts ago, has the skill. That's evident by his playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis at times already this season. Here's what coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Tribune: "He eventually will be an NHL player. Now will he be an NHL player starting this year for a long time? It's up to him and it's up to, I think, circumstances, too, for us to see if he can manage it because we don't want to hurt the kids." Verdict: 50/50 still.
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers' top pick in this summer's draft might have surprised a few by earning such a strong look from the staff in Philly, but he has continued to impress. Couturier at this point seems like a fixture already on the team's penalty-killing unit and he is averaging 14:53 minutes on ice per game. He also has a goal and two assists through the first five games. Verdict: Looks like a lock to stay.
Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: The rough-and-tumble defenseman who went third overall two years ago has found himself a defensive partner in Ed Jovanovski, the veteran the Cats brought in this summer. He has only managed 11:49 of ice time in five games, but that's partly because he has racked up 24 minutes in penalties already, getting himself into a pair of fights against the Lightning. Verdict: There seems to be no inclination to send him down. Fine in Florida.
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets: He has played in only three of the Blue Jackets' six games this season, getting on the ice for just 8:18 per game. If he sticks around, his role won't be a big one, likely finding a home on the third of fourth lines. He is their big prospect in Columbus, but he might benefit from more time in the WHL, especially if the team isn't committed to playing him night and night out. Verdict: Could go either way still.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: Landeskog was the player who was universally dubbed with the "most NHL ready" tag prior to this past summer's draft. The expectation for whichever team took him, he would become a fixture almost immediately. That still seems to be the case in Colorado as Landeskog is playing close to 17 minutes a game, has shown solid speed and strength and amassed three points (two goals and an assist). Things are going good in Colorado with him there, that should say enough. Don't mess with a good thing. Verdict: Get comfortable in Denver, kid.
Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils: Many believed the Devils got a steal by grabbing Larsson with the fourth pick of the draft this summer. But the three that went before him look pretty darn good too, so it's understandable. But that doesn't mean he might not be the best rookie of them all. The Calder candidate has been averaging a whopping 24:14 of ice time with New Jersey and is expected to be a rock on the blueline at the Rock. Verdict: Jersey boy for sure.
Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders: The fifth overall pick two years ago was given an extended look last season when he played nine games for the Islanders, totaling two points. He was expected to earn a roster spot this year but he has yet to play because of a groin injury. When he's ready, he'll get his nine-game tryout started and they will go from there. Verdict: Good chance he's staying on the Island.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: There was some skepticism if Nugent-Hopkins was ready for the grind of an NHL season but the Oilers would keep him anyway, it's important the franchise show the future. Well if he's shown anything in the first few games it's that he's good enough to stick around on his own merits anyway. He leads the team in scoring thanks in part to a hat trick already in his career. Verdict: Bundle up for an Edmonton winter.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets turned lots of heads with their selection of Scheifele early in the draft, but he was impressive during camp and the preseason. So he earned his right at an extended look from the team. He does have a goal on the power play but he has averaged just 11:25 of ice time. "We'll do what's best for him," was coach Claude Noel's cryptic response to Scheifele's place. Verdict: A little more seasoning in juniors before a full season in the NHL.
Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks: It wasn't long ago that Smith-Pelly seemed like a bit of a long-shot to make the roster. But he's giving his best effort to make it a tough call on the staff. He has seemed to work well with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon on the third line. Averaging a little more than 11 minutes per game, he has picked up one assist. Verdict: Have a feeling he stays since he can't be recalled if he's sent to juniors again. Few more games will tell the tale for sure.
Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: This is a tough call. From a physical standpoint, Zibanejad seems ready. This hit from his European days pre-draft drew a lot of attention. And earlier this year, GM Bryan Murray said Zibanejad would stay with the Sens. But with just one assist in 12:35 per game and Ottawa being as dreadful as it has been, you wonder if he wouldn't benefit more by being sent down. Verdict: Should probably return to Sweden but gut tells me he stays in Ottawa.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Larsson, Anaheim Ducks, Brett Bulmer, Brett Connolly, Brian Stubits, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Devante Smith-Pelly, Edmonton Oilers, Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Scheifele, Mika Zibanejad, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Nino Niederreiter, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Restricted Free Agency, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier, Slide-Risk Players, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: October 18, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:38 pm
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)
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
Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 3:52 pm
But for the time being, they'll be down Hemsky. The winger is expected to miss at least the next two or three weeks as he waits for pain in his surgically reconstructed shoulder to subside.
“I’m a little weaker than I was. That’s my main concern right now,” Hemsky told the Edmonton Journal. “I have to get stronger and get rid of the pain then I should be back to normal.
“My shoulder is solid, I don’t have a problem with that. I just have to get rid of the pain.
“I want to be 100 percent. I don’t want to get hurt again and miss six months of the season.”
It is important to note here that we aren't talking about a new injury with Hemsky. He had surgery in March to repair a torn labrum and it's still causing him discomfort. So instead of pushing it now and risking further damage or any other problems, he is going to sit out until things get better.
Hemsky played the entire season opener, but left the second game against the Wild after just one period. His health is crucial to the Oilers going forward, so it's a great decision to sit him now so he can come back fully healthy later.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.
First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.
At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.
Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.
They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.
This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.
Not to be outdone
On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.
The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.
But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.
That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.
It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.
Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.
Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.
What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.
If a tree falls in the woods ...
The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.
Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.
I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.
It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.
But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.
"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."
As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.
Hangover Part II
The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.
Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.
Dirty or not?
We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.
Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.
To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.
Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)
Photos: Getty Images
Tags: Al Monotya, Ales Hemsky, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Claude Noel, Colin Greening, Dallas Stars, Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers, Evgeni Nabokov, Jamie Benn, John Tavares, Loui Erikkson, Matt Hendricks, Mike Ribiero, Nathan Horton, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phil Kessel, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Saturday Story, Shanaban, Shane Doan, Taylor Hall, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets