Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.
Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.
Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.
Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October
Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.
Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.
Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).
They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.
Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.
Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.
Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October
Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.
Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October
Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.
Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?
Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October
The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Boston Bruins, Brian Burke, Brian Rafalski, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oilers, James Neal, James Wisniewski, Jaromir Jagr, Jaroslav Halak, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Kari Lehtonen, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ottawa Senators, Pekka Rinne, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Seguin, Ville Leino
Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.
While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.
“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”
Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.
But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.
Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.
No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.
Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.
For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.
“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.
This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.
They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.
Any be-Leafers now?
When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.
We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.
Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.
"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"
If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.
Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.
Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.
It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.
Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.
A Star is born
Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.
The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.
Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.
Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.
As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.
The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.
The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)
Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.
But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.
We're going streaking!
As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.
The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.
Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?
The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.
Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.
Quote of the weekend
Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Buffalo Sabres, Claude Julien, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Erik Karlsson, Florida Panthers, Hot Stove, James Reimer, Jason Spezza, Jonas Gustavsson, Kari Lehtonen, Kevin Dineen, Michal Neuvirth, Milan Michalek, Montreal Canadiens, Nail Yakupov, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ottawa Senators, Perry Pearn, Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, Roberto Luongo, Ron Wilson, San Jose Sharks, Sheldon Souray, St. Louis Blues, Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Seguin, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Weekend Wrap
Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:56 am
By: Adam Gretz
For the first time this season the Tampa Bay Lightning demonstrated the raw power of their new Tesla Coils at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday night, unleashing them during the pre-game video presentation. The team says there is still a bit of testing that needs to be done before they can be fired up after every Lightning goal (which is the plan) but we did get to see a brief glimpse of what they're capable of prior to the Lightning's 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Check them out starting at the 57-second mark...
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:25 pm
Here's a question for all hockey players: Whose doghouse would you rather be in, your coach's/GM's or your wife's? Maxim Afinogenov, you remember him from his days with the Buffalo Sabres and Atlanta Thrashers, is one guy who can probably answer that question now.
In case you didn't know already (I didn't), Afinogenov recently married longtime girlfriend and the world's former No. 3 women's tennis player Elena Dementieva. She is now retired (make that two things I wasn't aware of about Dementieva).
Afinogenov is playing in the KHL this season with SKA St. Petersburg, returning to his Russian roots. He's also getting in fights on the ice, something his new wife doesn't seem too fond of. Take a look.
The two have only been hitched for a couple of months, but it seems the honeymoon phase is over. It usually takes a while for that look to come out.
Married men all over the world know that look. That's the look you usually get before you find out you're sleeping on the couch. The disapproving nod that precedes the silent treatment. It can be capable of sending shivers down a man's spine.
Dementieva's look of scorn over a fight is in sharp contrast to Jon Mirasty -- a former boxer -- who couldn't help but smile as he took a few punches to the face in a KHL scrum before unloading on Maxim Yeprev.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 5:23 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 5:29 pm
By: Adam Gretz
We're a little over a week into the regular season which means it's only natural to start jumping to conclusions based on a small sampling of games or head coaching decisions, and we're all guilty of it. Sometimes your initial knee-jerk reaction is accurate, and teams or players are as good or bad as they appear this early in the season, and other times it proves to be way too soon for such a judgement.
What about the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the three teams in the NHL that has yet to win a game this season as of Friday afternoon. After an exciting summer of big-name acquisitions (Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski) is it still more of the same for an organization that has known nothing but losing since entering the NHL a decade ago? Or is it just a slow start hindered by the fact that one of those players (Wisniewski) has yet to appear in a game?
Is there really a goaltending controversy in Washington because Michal Neuvirth started the first game of the season instead of Tomas Vokoun? And is Vokoun really thee guy the Capitals can trust after struggling through his first start? Is Brendan Shanhan's early season run of suspensions going to be overkill?
In the spirit of Tom Symkowski and his Jump To Conclusions Mat in Office Space, we're going to jump to our own conclusions on those -- and more -- early season storylines .
1) New Look, Same Old Blue Jackets
Our Conclusion: Too soon
A lot of the Blue Jackets success (or lack of success) this season will depend on how well goaltender Steve Mason plays, and so far, it's been a less-than-inspiring start for Columbus and its young goaltender.
But it's too soon to think these are the same old Blue Jackets.
For one, Wisniewski is still serving his suspension that runs through the first eight games of the regular season, and that has definitely been a big blow to the Jackets' lineup. Wisniewski is expected to be -- and will be -- one of Columbus' top-defensemen and anytime you're playing without that sort of presence in your lineup it's going to have a negative impact. The biggest issue for Columbus so far, and an area Wisniewski should certainly help improve once he returns to the lineup, has been its dreadful power play, which is currently off to an 0-for-20 start. This should get better when Wisniewski returns, and while the playoffs still aren't a given this season, the Blue Jackets are going to improve and take a step forward.
2) Tomas Vokoun Isn't The Answer For Washington/Capitals Goaltending Controversy
Our Conclusion: Crazy talk. And Way Too Soon
When Michal Neuvirth received the opening night start over free agent acquisition Tomas Vokoun it started the discussion as to whether or not the Washington Capitals had a goaltender controversy on their hands. When Vokoun earned his first start of the season in game No. 2 and struggled during a shootout win against Tampa Bay, allowing five goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there were concerns that he's not the answer in goal for Washington.
Traditionally Vokoun has been a slow starter throughout his career. Tim Greenberg of the Washington Post, for example, recently pointed out that October has been the worst month of Vokoun's career from a save percentage perspective, and generally plays better as the season progresses. He already rebounded on Thursday during the Capitals' 3-2 win in Pittsburgh with a strong performance that saw him make 39 saves, giving his team a chance to pick up two points in the standings.
Vokoun has been one of the best goalies in the NHL in recent years, and even at 35, should have enough left in the tank to help form one of the better goaltending duos in the NHL with Neuvirth. And both will get the fair share of starts throughout the season.
3) Buffalo is a Stanley Cup contender
Our Conclusion: Probably Accurate
The Sabres were already a playoff caliber team with plenty of excitement around them heading into the regular season, and a pair of impressive wins over Anaheim and Los Angeles to open the season in Europe did nothing to hurt that. The Sabres have one of the NHL's best goalies in Ryan Miller and boosted their defense over the summer with Christian Ehrhoff and, perhaps their best offseason addition, Robyn Regehr, to go along with Tyler Myers.
They were already a top-10 team a year ago offensively -- even with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford missing extended time due to injury -- and only added to that firepower up front by signing Ville Leino to help complement their already impressive group of forwards.
With that type of scoring depth, a trio of defensemen like Myers, Regehr and Ehrhoff, and a goaltender like Miller the Sabres should be one of the Eastern Conference's top contenders for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
4) Ilya Bryzgalov Will Be Philadelphia's Savior
Our Conclusion: Too Soon
The Philadelphia Flyers finally have their No. 1 goalie and in his first two starts managed to allow just one goal. Problem solved, right? Maybe.
I'm still not sure he's going to be enough to get Philadelphia it's long-awaited Stanley Cup, and for as much as the Flyers revolving door of goaltenders was criticized last season, they were still in the top-half of the league in save percentage and not that far below what Bryzgalov put up in Phoenix's tight defensive system.
It's not that Philadelphia isn't a good team defensively, but I have some concerns over the age -- and and durability -- of their top-two defensemen, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, I'm just not sure Bryzgalov is going to be enough of an upgrade to make up for what Philadelphia lost up front this summer.
5) Brendan Shanahan Will Be Too Quick On The Suspension Trigger
Our Conclusion: It's simply been the adjustment period.
New rules (or new wording of one of the rules -- rule 48) and a new person in charge of handing out discipline led to a sudden spike in suspensions during the preseason and sky is falling fears that hitting and all physical contact will be removed from the game. It's no different than when we came out of the lockout when the league put an emphasis on eliminating clutch-and-grab hockey and we saw a sudden spike in penalties, which eventually started to regress once players adjusted to the rules. The same thing will happen with Shanahan and the suspensions. The hammer will be dropped early as players figure out what they can and can not do, and once they adjust, business will go on as usual.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Brendan Shanahan, Buffalo Sabres, Chris PRonger, Christian Ehrhoff, Columbus Blue Jackets, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Ilya Bryzgaov, James Wisniewski, Kimo Timmonen, Michal Neuvirth, NHL Discipline, Philadelphia Flyers, Robyn Regehr, Ryan Miller, Steve Mason, Tomas Vokoun, Tyler Myers, Ville Leino, Washington Capitals
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 10:58 pm
Mike Richards the hockey player basically grew up in Philadelphia. He was the centerpiece around which the Flyers were built, their captain by the time he was 23 years old. The next Bobby Clarke, they dubbed him.
Then came last summer, when he was unceremoniously shipped out of town like a package at FedEx. The Flyers had seen the light, and that was the importance of goaltending and defense.
As a result, Richards and his $69 million contract that took effect in 2008-09 were sent to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and cap flexibility. On Saturday night, he'll return to Philly a King. Funny enough, he's back in Philadelphia for a game before even playing in his new home in L.A.
Inquiring minds want to know; what will it be like returning to an arena he once called home, just now as a visitor?
"I expect to be nervous. I think that being on the opposite side playing against a lot of great friends ... I spent a lot of time there, a lot of great friends. It was an organization that game me an opportunity to come in the league. I think it's going to be nice to get it over with and turn the page."
Not to mention it's a pretty darn good game, too. Richards just adds some extra theater to it. But when we are looking at the matchup at hand, we have two genuine Stanley Cup contenders here. Los Angeles received one vote to represent the West from the CBSSports.com preseason picks. With Richards' addition, they have two All-Star worthy centers to go with a good young defense.
Philadelphia didn't have as many believers beore the season began, but that was just because nobody truly knew what to expect. If early returns are any indication, however, shipping Richards and fellow young star Jeff Carter (to Columbus) seems to have put in motion a great base behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers are 3-0-0 and have only surrendered five goals.
So yes, from a hockey standpoint, it's a marquee matchup. There's plenty of intrigue from that standpoint alone. But the homecoming King who scored 133 goals and 350 points in a Flyers sweater is the focal point.
"When you think of Mike Richards you think of Philadelphia, so this is certainly a big event for him and for the fans," Kings assistant coach John Stevens said.
You never can be sure with the notorious Philadelphia fans, but I'd expect to see a king's welcome (seriously, that pun wasn't intended) for Richards, at least at first. Once he scores or assists on any L.A. goal, they will treat him the same as any other opponent.
"I enjoyed playing in front of them every night and was excited to play in front of them," he said. "And I will be excited to play in front of them on Saturday."
There are still seven teams that have yet to play their home-openers, but a few will finally take to the home ice this weekend. The Sabres will return to Buffalo to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night after a very successful trip to Europe. The city is so jacked up for Sabres hockey right now, that place (who knows what name the arena is going by now?) will be rocking.
The Florida Panthers will debut their new all-red arena (and their red jerseys) against the instrastate rival Lightning on Saturday night. The two will play a home-and-home that concludes on Monday with the Bolts showing off their revamped arena for the first time.
The New York Rangers and Kings will remain as road warriors for a bit longer. L.A. doesn't return home until the 18th while New York is traveling all the way until October. 27 when it hosts Toronto at a slightly renovated Madison Square Garden.
Jets past and present
The one other team that has yet to play a game in front of the home crowd, Phoenix, will do so on Saturday. It should be interesting, too.
The Coyotes will host the Jets in what is instantly an awkward rivalry. It sort of feels like domestic abuse. The former Jets who are now the Coyotes meet the current Jets who were once the Thrashers. There is no real animosity to speak of between the two teams, but a lot of folks in the 'Peg still hold a grudge against the Coyotes, even if they have a team back to help close that wound.
Here's the oddity of the weekend: Shane Doan will play against his former team even though he has never left the organization that drafted him. Huh? Of course we're taking some liberties with relocation here, but Doan is originally a Jet, playing 74 games in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix and becoming a career Coyote.
You just have to love Saturday's in the NHL. You are almost always guaranteed your favorite team will be playing, but if not, you will have plenty of other games to choose from. This Saturday, 28 of the league's 30 teams will be in action.
Only the Hurricanes and the Ducks have the night off.
There are still are still six teams in the NHL that have yet to lose (yes, I'm counting OT losses as losses, imagine that). The Flyers, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks all remain unblemished. In the case of the Sharks and Sabres, they'll have to do double duty to remain perfect come Monday.
Best chance for a loss? Have to think it's Buffalo in Pittsburgh with Detroit visiting the Wild next on the list.
On the flip side
Of course, there are still some teams looking for a win, too. The Rangers, Jets and Blue Jackets are yet to experience the thrill of victory. In the case of the Jets, they remain pointless going into the weekend.
Fun with numbers
Small sample sizes create fun little stats such as James Neal of the Penguins leading the NHL in goals (with four in five games), the Senators' Erik Karlsson ahead in assists with six and the Predators' David Legwand in front for points at seven. Even with the small sample size distorting things, did anybody foresee a Predator near the top of an offensive category?
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, David Legwand, Detroit Red Wings, Erik Karlsson, Florida Panthers, James Neal, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Shane Doan, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets
Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:28 pm
HECHT OUT: The Buffalo Sabres will be without Jochen Hecht, who suffered a concussion until at least next week as the team is being especially careful with him considering he has a history of concussions. He will be out at least through Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. (Sabres Edge)
GO FISH: Speak of concussions, Capitals GM George McPhee and member of the NHL and NHLPA concussion working group, talked about them recently. Noting that of course you have to be concerned about the players, a non-physical game just isn't as entertaining. “If you go to Europe … it’s not very entertaining. It’s highly skilled, but it’s like trying to watch two guys fish.” (Washington Times)
ROLOSON THANKS SNOW: Dwayne Roloson returns to Long Island to face the Islanders for the first time since he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. And the 42-year-old took the time to say thanks to GM Garth Snow. "When I signed, Garth told me the situation and to his credit he stuck to his word, that when we were out of the playoffs, he would trade me. Very appreciative of what he did" (ESPN New York)
SERGE OF MOTIVATION: The boo birds have found a target of Sergei Gonchar in Ottawa. Unhappy with his performance, the Senators fans have let him know. His coach Paul MacLean suggests he uses it to his advantage. “I’ve been booed, so it’s something that you ... I think it’s a motivator. If your fans are unhappy with how you play, they should express that they’re unhappy with how you play. Conversely, if you play better, they should appreciate that you play better and to me, it’s just a signal that you need to be better.” (Senators Exra
THE UNTOUCHABLES: Here is a list compiled of the 10 most untradeable contracts in the NHL. Not surprisingly it starts with Rick DiPietro. But after seeing Brian Campbell change addresses this summer makes me think in this this era of a salary cap floor, no contract is untradeable. (The Hockey News)
FISHER STORY: Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators is very open about his strong religious faith. He has said in the past one thing he likes about being in Nashville as opposed to Ottawa is the amount of churches. Last summer he came out with a book Defender of Faith about his story. Here's a little more from Fisher on how it came about. (Predators Insider)
BROTHER BOND: When the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to a military camp for a team-bonding retreat, it made defenseman John-Micheal Liles think of his brother stationed in Washington state with the U.S. Navy. Here's a good story on the strong relationship the brothers have. (Globe and Mail)
STROME SENT DOWN: It's about the time of the season where a lot of the rookies who were getting extended looks out of camp are going to be returned to their junior teams beore contracts kick in. That's what the Islanders did with their first pick in this summer's draft, Ryan Strome. (Islanders team site)
MURPHY TOO: The Carolina Hurricanes did the same with their top pick, sending diminutive Ryan Murphy back to Kitchener of the OHL. In Murphy's case, he had been a healthy scratch in the team's four regular-season games, so it seemed pointless to continue to leave him up. (Hurricanes team site)
GABRIEL'S GOAL: One first-round pick who won't be returning to his junior squad is Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog. The No. 2 pick in the draft scored his first NHL goal (video below) on Wednesday night in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he talked to Adrian Dater about it afterward. (All Things Avs)
Tags: Brian Campbell, Brian Stubits, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Daily Skate, Dwayne Roloson, Gabriel Landeskog, Garth Snow, George McPhee, Jochen Hecht, John-Michael Liles, Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Paul MacLean, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Strome, Sergei Gonchar, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals
Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 3:54 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Last year at this time Craig Rivet was starting his 17th year in the NHL and was the captain of the Buffalo Sabres.
This year, he's signing with the Elmira Jackals of the East Coast Hockey League, the lowest level of minor league hockey associated with the NHL, and taking on what will surely be a different kind of leadership role. Instead of skating with players like Tyler Myers and clearing the crease for Ryan Miller, Rivet will be the oldest player on a team that is loaded with prospects at the earliest stage of their development in their quest to make the NHL.
The Jackals announced the signing in a press release on Monday morning, with head coach Pat Bingham saying, "Craig's experience and leadership qualities are invaluable to any team. His work ethic will be a great example for our young players who are looking to advance in hockey."
Rivet, who just turned 37 in September, is the oldest player on the roster by a sizable margin, while the only other player listed on the roster over the age of 30 is Mario Larocque, a former first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 1996. To his credit, Rivet appears to be excited and eager about joining the team and seems to simply be interested in continuing to play hockey at a competitive level, whether it's with an NHL club or in the minor leagues.
Here's video of Rivet talking about joining the team:
In 923 NHL games Rivet scored 50 goals and logged over 1,100 penalty minutes with the Sabres, Blue Jackets, Canadiens and Sharks. A third-round draft pick by the Canadiens back in 1992, Rivet hasn't appeared in a minor league game since the 1996-97 season when he played 23 games with the now-defunct Fredericton Canadiens of the American Hockey League.
The Jackals open their season on Friday against the Trenton Titans.