Working Overtime, Coach

By: Nick Lanciani

This week I present to you a short post on my thoughts on changing the OT format and the addition of the coach’s challenge, as well as a tidbit on the potential Las Vegas expansion.

Overtime

Shootouts have got to go- at least for the most part, that is. The only shootout scenarios that belong in hockey are penalty shots and the breakaway skills competition (which on another note, the skills competition was a bit stale this year).

I get it, when the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins meet up in a shootout, we’re all in for entertainment. Watching Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, and Evgeni Malkin trade shootout goals while Corey Crawford and Marc-Andre Fleury stuff others is highly addictive.

But then we get long shootouts- like the one that went twenty rounds this season between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals before Nick Bjugstad sent everyone home with his second attempt of the shootout, or basically every shootout the Boston Bruins have been in this season.

Please NHL, make it stop.

I’m all in favor of adopting the AHL’s overtime format that they began using this season. Overtime is seven minutes long, split between three minutes of 4 on 4 hockey and four minutes of 3 on 3 action (of course, the change between 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 isn’t technically done until the first whistle after three minutes of overtime).

If nobody scores in overtime, then the game heads to a shootout.

Personally, I’m a fan of simplifying an adaption of the AHL’s current overtime format and having ten minutes of sudden death overtime (5 minutes of 4 on 4, stop, switch sides, 5 minutes of 3 on 3). My format would eliminate the absurdity surrounding when teams make the switch from 4 on 4 to 3 on 3 and keeps the initial swapping of sides from the 3rd period to the beginning of the 4 on 4 overtime (and adds another swapping of sides between 4 on 4 and 3 on 3).

Ultimately, whatever reduces the number of overtime games that end up going to a shootout to about 5% (the equivalent of the actual effects of the AHL’s current overtime policy) is good enough for me. The league doesn’t completely throw out shootouts, but doesn’t have to rely on them more than necessary.

Coach’s Challenge

Another topic for consideration next season is the coach’s challenge. While this new addition would make sense for the league, it is nothing more than a procedural show that would slow the pace of the game way down.

I’d vouch for something similar to college hockey- simply making offsides, goaltender interference, and delay of game penalties reviewable. You’re probably saying, “but that’ll just slow the game down anyway” and you’re right. But this would take away the extra formalities of making the ref have to listen to what the coach is challenging, why he’s arguing, and so on an so forth.

Essentially, it’d streamline the decisions similar to how the refs and linesmen already confer when there’s a situation they can presently discuss amongst themselves (goals on the ice before they’re reviewed, delay of game penalties, and whatnot). Most of the time, if something needs to be reviewed, it gets reviewed. If not, then some off ice official steps in and makes the on ice officials take a look at it again (under video review).

Look, the coach’s challenge is just a way to drum up business, whereas simply making the plays in question (goalie interference, delay of game, and offsides) reviewable eliminates intentional stalling by a coach challenging the play at hand and ensures that for a call on the ice to be overturned or confirmed, conclusive evidence must determine the right way of the call.

As was seen in the Hockey East Championship this year, the refs went to video review for a play that was deemed a goal on the ice, but awfully close to being offsides. Video conclusively showed that the Boston University forward entering the zone was, in fact, just barely offsides, overruling the call on the ice and reverting the score from being 2-0 to 1-0 in the first period.

The entire process didn’t take longer than any current reviewable play in the NHL. So at the end of the day, if college hockey can make something look easy, then the NHL should be able to implement it seamlessly, right?

And after all, aren’t the purpose of the minor leagues, college hockey, and the junior leagues simply a testing ground for not only who teams draft and develop, but also the development of the game and subsequent rules of the game ultimately in the major league (the NHL)? If not, then- well, come on people…

This Week’s One Liner- VEGAS BABY!

Look, if the National Hockey League is sold on the results of the feasibility of an NHL franchise in Las Vegas, then fine- build an arena of about 15,000 and see how long it lasts- otherwise, if you’re looking to add to the Western Conference before adding to the Eastern Conference, for God’s sake Seattle is dying to get a team. Oh and so are Quebec City and Hartford, but you know… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Wild Card Roundup

By: Nick Lanciani

The Wild Card spots are pivotal in determining first round Stanley Cup Playoffs matchups. As things are right now, we’re in for a special treat. All standings are as they were at the time of when this was written at approximately 1 PM on Saturday.

Eastern Conference Standings

Atlantic Division

  1. MTL 97 pts. (72 GP, 45-20-7)
  2. TB 95 pts. (72 GP, 44-21-7)
  3. DET 87 pts. (70 GP, 38-21-11)

Metropolitan Division

  1. NYR 95 pts. (69 GP, 44-18-7)
  2. NYI 90 pts. (72 GP, 43-25-4)
  3. PIT 88 pts. (71 GP, 39-22-10)

Wild Card

  1. WSH 88 pts. (72 GP, 39-23-10)
  2. BOS 83 pts. (71 GP, 36-24-11)
  1. OTT 81 pts. (70 GP, 35-24-11)
  2. FLA 78 pts. (71 GP, 32-25-14)
  3. NJ 73 pts. (71 GP, 31-29-11)
  4. PHI 73 pts. (73 GP, 29-29-15)
  5. CBJ 68 pts. (71 GP, 32-35-4)
  6. CAR 61 pts. (70 GP, 26-35-4)
  7. TOR 60 pts. (72 GP, 27-39-6)
  8. BUF 47 pts. (71 GP, 20-44-7)

The Eastern Conference divisional standings are pretty much set with roughly ten games to go across the league. In the Atlantic Division a raging battle for first place continues for the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Detroit Red Wings sit comfortably in third place.

The red hot New York Rangers sit atop the Metropolitan Division lead with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins battling for second, while the Washington Capitals are in control of the first Eastern Conference wild card spot and tied with the Penguins at 88 points.

Realistically, the Capitals are a shoe in for making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season given that their wild card status could become a divisional spot earned in the playoffs, meanwhile the battle for the second wild card position is anybody’s guess.

Last year’s President’s Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins, find themselves in a bit of a predicament. Jekyll and Hyde hockey certainly isn’t Eddie Shore hockey. With 83 points on the season, the Bruins sit two points ahead of the Ottawa Senators who have 81 points and a game at hand on the Boston.

The Sens hot streak is just as fiery red as their jerseys currently. With Andrew Hammond stealing games and Curtis Lazar stealing burgers off the ice, the Senators look to be a point eating machine.

At one point in the year, the Florida Panthers looked like they were capable of the seemingly impossible- making the playoffs. After both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured at the same time, creating a desperation situation in net for the Panthers, at least Luongo is back in the lineup as Florida maintains a shred of hope.

The Bruins take on the Panthers Saturday night in what should be one of Boston’s biggest tests in the month of March. If the Bruins cannot beat the Panthers, then not only are the Senators that much more of a legitimate playoff contender, but they become that much more of a threat to thwarting Boston’s playoff run.

We know Boston is coming off of a loss to Ottawa heading into the game with Florida, however one loss to the Senators in an otherwise dominating month of March for the Bruins isn’t enough to knock them off of their game entirely. The Bruins effort was questionable, but if they are able to come out playing like a team that wants to win and ensure a win against the Panthers, then there’s a chance they can hold off the rallying Senators.

Past Boston, Ottawa, and Florida in the standings the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers still have a chance at pulling themselves up in the standings and stealing the last wild card spot. However, realistically the Devils haven’t been a contender all season (or for that matter, since the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals), while the Flyers have plenty to do to make their franchise better before taking on a playoff run in the next couple of seasons.

Ultimately for Bruins fans, they hope their team decides to make a choice and stick with it- either win and be in, or be ready to do some restructuring in the offseason, without any playoff hopes for 2015. For Senators fans, streaking at the right time with a youthful and energetic roster just might make them the unlikely heroes of this season, similar in fashion to the Los Angeles Kings recent playoff success.

And if Florida, New Jersey, or Philadelphia somehow remarkably made the playoffs at this point, then perhaps it is time to head to the bunkers.

Western Conference Standings

Central Division

  1. STL 96 pts. (71 GP, 45-20-6)
  2. NSH 94 pts. (72 GP, 43-21-8)
  3. CHI 92 pts. (70 GP, 43-21-6)

Pacific Division

  1. ANA 99 pts. (73 GP, 46-20-7)
  2. VAN 84 pts. (70 GP, 40-26-4)
  3. CGY 83 pts. (71 GP, 39-27-5)

Wild Card

  1. MIN 85 pts. (71 GP, 39-25-7)
  2. WPG 84 pts. (71 GP, 36-23-12)
  1. LA 82 pts. (70 GP, 34-22-14)
  2. SJ 78 pts. (71 GP, 35-28-8)
  3. COL 78 pts. (71 GP, 33-26-12)
  4. DAL 76 pts. (71 GP, 33-28-10)
  5. EDM 51 pts. (71 GP, 19-39-13)
  6. ARI 50 pts. (71 GP, 21-42-8)

The Western Conference has been the more dominant conference for the last five or six years. The top three teams in the Central Division are comfortably perched with enough points spread between them and the first wild card spot. The St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and the Chicago Blackhawks all make great choices for potential deep runs in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks are much further than the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames- so much so in fact, that Anaheim’s 99 points currently hails them as first in the league standings and the race for the President’s Trophy.

All season long, the Minnesota Wild and the Winnipeg Jets have looked like teams that could make a playoff run and be surprised by what happens. While the Wild look like a much better team than they were earlier in the season, the Jets are beginning to trend the other way.

The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, and even the Dallas Stars look hungry enough to try to take one of the current Western Conference wild card teams out of contention. While the Kings and Sharks could certainly pressure the Flames and Canucks and bump them out of their current divisional tickets to the playoffs, both teams are just as capable of obtaining a wild card position.

While earlier in the season the Avalanche and Stars looked like they would be immensely distanced from playoff hopes, they find themselves in position to strike as long as they win and their divisional, conference, and current wild card holding foes lose. Colorado now has 78 points on the season, which is exactly what San Jose has.

Whereas the Sharks have been trending away from playoff hopes, the Avalanche have been quietly stepping towards a potential playoff run. Intriguingly the defending Stanley Cup champion, Los Angeles Kings, are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. While there’s a chance they’ll miss out on being able to defend their 2014 title, the Kings still are the Kings.

It is unimaginable to count out Los Angeles at this point of the season. Both of their Stanley Cup championship runs began with a late season surge that continued well into and all the way through the playoffs. Would the Kings like to be a bit more comfortable at this point than they are now? Certainly. But at the end of the day, they have risen above the pressure they’ve felt before and could make a statement to do that again.

Although the Stars have a mathematical chance, their realistic playoff hopes are just about as doomed as the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes seasons have been. So for Calgary fans and Canucks fans, maintaining ground in the divisional standings is everything right now. The Wild look to continue to improve and solidify their wild card position, as the Jets look to start turning things around and distancing themselves from potential organizations that could overtake them.

San Jose fans simply look for a redeeming horizon from last year’s playoff exit that has them as the current annual playoff joke, as Avalanche fans simply look for pulling the goalie with five minutes left to actually work in their favor. The Sharks season is a bit of an embarrassment, considering the occasional lack of drive in their roster. At least Colorado can say that they’ve had the kind of season that they’ve had based on the fact that injuries have plagued their goaltending all year long.

In any case, the race is on for Western Conference wild card teams to make the playoffs. And like I said, we’re in for a treat as hockey fans that can’t get enough of watching every waking minute of game action and the playoff atmosphere that is just about to come around this time of year.

Some Trade Deadline Analysis- Expert Analysis

Colby Kephart takes a moment out of the week to give some analysis on how he thinks a few teams made out on their deadline deals.

Trade Deadline Roundups

By Colby Kephart

Buffalo Sabres LogoBuffalo Sabres

Cleaning house and praying for McDavid are all things the people in Buffalo are doing. Embrace the Tank, the competition to finish last place in the league might be given Buffalo now. Tim Murray said only a few people were off limits, and this was seen when veterans and small name players were traded.

There were a few surprising moves, such as the trade with Montreal, which saw Buffalo giving up Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell for picks and prospect.

Mitchell, when healthy, was having a good season and became a more consistent scorer than Matt Moulson or Brian Gionta.

Flynn was a very small name at the start of season, but he was a hard worker for Buffalo and a very good penalty killer. Both of them are great role players and I could see one if not both players breaking into the Montreal roster.

Buffalo fans saw yet another change in goal- ever since Ryan Miller left Buffalo, goaltending has been up for grabs. We saw both goalies leave, the first move sending Jhonas Enroth for Anders Lindback and a conditional 3rd round pick. This was brilliant move, for the operation tank, Lindback has struggled all year and will guarantee Buffalo a few more losses.

The move I am happy with is sending Michal Neuvirth for Chad Johnson for conditional 3rd round pick. Chad Johnson signed a multiply year deal at the start of this season, meaning he will be back next season to be a backup to either a young goalie in our system or a free agent signing.

The Sabres also saw a loss in experienced players with the moves of Chris Stewart, Drew Stafford, and Tyler Myers.B_HSHvkU0AM_N9V

The first deal was the trade with Winnipeg before the deadline; I have mixed feeling about this move. Buffalo gave up a 1st round pick, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, Drew Stafford, and Tyler Myers for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian and Jason Kasdorf (prospect goalie). I love the addition of Bogosian, and Kane, but the Sabres gave up a lot for those players.

Kane announced before the trade, he was done for the season due to an injury to his shoulder. That was the best part of the deal, Kane a highly skilled forward, won’t be adding wins the season due to his injury, pushing buffalo closer to McDavid.

The second trade came late in the day of the deadline and sent Chris Stewart to Minnesota for a 2nd round pick. Everyone in Buffalo knew Chris Stewart was going to leave Buffalo, yet the only question was where and for what. I think Buffalo could’ve have gotten a little more from the deal, but it made sense to send another player to Minnesota or “little Buffalo” as I refer to it.

(Tank Photo Credit: Kevin Gee @kgfrombeelo)

Unknown-4Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is trying to hold onto the 1st wildcard, so no surprise they added depth in both forwards and on the blue line. I am very impressed with the management in Minnesota; it was nice to see humility within the NHL. Minnesota is a special case; they have a strong mixture of youth players and have enough experience to keep winning into the playoffs.

Minnesota made 3 deals on deadline day. The first deal was a great story; the deal brought Jordan Leopold home to his family in return for Justin Falk and 5th round pick. Jordan Leopold’s daughter, Jordyn, wrote a letter to Minnesota asking them to trade for the dad, who was in Columbus, but wasn’t playing much. Leopold was a top 6 defender in the past few years, but because of his age he had fallen out of the top 6, so the move to Minnesota could rebirth his career. Even if he becomes a depth defenseman at least he will be home with his kids.

The next pick was the exchange in younger players the deal saw Zack Phillips to Boston for Jarred Knight. In this transaction, both team are hoping that relocation can spark these players and continue developing.

The last deal saw the addition to the forwards with Chris Stewart coming over from Buffalo for a 2nd round pick. Chris Stewart can add a spark to Minnesota. We saw a lot of this in Buffalo, as he is not afraid to drop the gloves. Stewart can also add an explosion of offensive ability with fast skating and being strong with the puck. I think Minnesota will make the playoffs and give a top seed a run in the playoffs.

UnknownNashville Predators

Nashville was one of the biggest surprises of this season, sitting in first place in the whole league. They added James Neal and other pieces and experienced a huge step-up in younger players like Filip Forsberg. However could they have made a huge mistake by not adding at the deadline? Nashville made one trade before deadline day and the deal added depth both offensively and defensively.

After Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis determined no one was off limits and the big names must go, the deal saw Nashville send a 1st round pick, Olli Jokinen and Brendan Leipsic to Toronto for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. I love the addition of Cody Franson; he is only 27 years old and still has the ability to be a top 4 defender.

Santorelli is a role player and can play his role well. He is a step up from Leipsic, but I think the Preds could’ve gotten more from the Maple Leafs. I understand giving up their 1st round pick assuming that they will have either the 29th or 30th overall pick in the draft.

The issue Nashville has is a lack of playoff experience. If you look at teams who go far in the playoffs, they add big name players. The New York Rangers added Martin St. Louis and the Los Angeles Kings added Marian Gaborik last year, and even this year the Chicago Blackhawks added Antoine Vermette.

No offense to Mike Santorelli, but he is not enough of an impact player to get 8-12 playoff goals or even getting to the double digits in points. I personally think Nashville will see an exit in either the 1st or the 2nd round because they didn’t add a big name.

Unknown-3Toronto Maple Leafs

Is the rebuild real in Toronto? I honestly don’t know any more after this deadline day. Toronto has struggled over the past few season to make the playoffs (or they see an early exit, like in 2013). That’s not the issue in my eyes.

The issue to me is they never add players to change their current fate. So when GM Dave Nonis said they were going to clean house and trade big players like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, I saw change and big names on the move. Then they made four trades and only two on deadline day- I was shocked and saw same old Toronto missing a huge chance.

The first deal was possibly the GM move of the year and saw David Clarkson go to Columbus for the injured Nathan Horton. Horton hasn’t played for months and Clarkson was a way overpaid forward, who wasn’t living up to his contract. So Horton gets put on the long term Injured reserve and his contract doesn’t completely count against the salary cap.

The second deal before the deadline was with Nashville. This trade saw Toronto get a 1st round pick, Olli Jokinen, and Brendan Leipsic for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. This deal fit what Nonis had told the media and his team about cleaning out the roster and initiating the rebuild.

This deal got them another 1st round pick and two players who will work hard. Jokinen then played a few games and was very unhappy with his new team. So the next deal still made sense to me at the deadline- Jokinen was traded to the Blues for Joakim Lindstrom and a conditional sixth round draft pick. This move was still smart, sending an unhappy veteran player for a young prospect and a pick.

Now Detroit was very interested in Phaneuf and Toronto couldn’t make the deal happen. They were asking a lot for their captain, but in the long run wouldn’t let him go. This was confusing because in a rebuild you have to let some players go that you don’t want to, like what Buffalo did with Ryan Miller.

The final deal made absolutely no sense to me at all. The deal was Korbinian Holzer to Anaheim for Eric Brewer and a 5th round pick. Toronto gave up a 27-year-old defenseman for a 35 year old man with a bigger contract. Holzer had less than 40 games played with this team, never really got a long run, and to just get rid of him is beyond me.

The Maple Leafs essentially gave up a future kid that they could have developed (and used, badly). Toronto did not give up any big pieces like they said they would, they have the same base players and if changes aren’t made they will have the same disappointment at the end of each season.

2015 NHL Trade Deadline Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

I finally got a chance to get around to recapping all of the trades made today at the deadline, so I present to you my hard work. This post will be updated throughout the day. What is known is shown.

The Boston Bruins started the day off with the acquisition of F Brett Connolly (who is a pending restricted free agent) from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick.

The Tampa Bay Lightning then made a move to get D Braydon Coburn and sent D Radko Gudas, a 2015 1st round pick, and a 2015 3rd round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In the third move of the day, the Montreal Canadiens acquired D Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick and a 2015 conditional 5th round pick. If Montreal wins in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, then the pick becomes a 4th round pick. If Montreal advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, then the pick becomes a 3rd round pick.

Montreal then made their second move at the deadline, as the Canadiens sent a 2016 5th round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for F Brian Flynn.

The St. Louis Blues acquired D Zbynek Michalek and a 2015 conditional 3rd round pick from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Maxim Letunov.

Chicago Blackhawks F Ben Smith was traded to the San Jose Sharks for F Andrew Desjardins. San Jose retained 50% of Desjardins’s salary on his current contract (he’s a pending unrestricted free agent).

New Jersey Devils D Marek Zidlicky was sent to the Detroit Red Wings for a 3rd round draft pick. New Jersey retained $1 million of Zidlicky’s salary.

The San Jose Sharks traded F Tyler Kennedy to the New York Islanders for a 2016 conditional 3rd round pick.

San Jose sent F Freddie Hamilton to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for D Karl Stollery.

The Pittsburgh Penguins traded D Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 7th round pick to the St. Louis Blues for D Ian Cole.

The New York Islanders sent backup goalie G Chad Johnson and a 2016 3rd round draft pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for G Michal Neuvirth.

In their second move of the day, the New York Islanders sent F Cory Conacher to the Vancouver Canucks in a swap for F Dustin Jeffrey.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded D Jordan Leopold to the Minnesota Wild for D Justin Falk and a 5th round pick.

Toronto Maple Leafs F Olli Jokinen was traded to the St. Louis Blues for F Joakim Lindstrom and a 2016 conditional 6th round pick. The draft pick can become a 4th round pick in 2015 if the Blues reach the Stanley Cup Finals and Jokinen plays a role in it.

Buffalo Sabres F Torrey Mitchell was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for F Jack Nevins and a 2016 7th round pick. Buffalo retains 50% of Mitchell’s salary.

D Ben Lovejoy returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a deal with the Anaheim Ducks that sent D Simon Despres to Anaheim.

The Minnesota Wild kept their friendship going with the Sabres and acquired F Chris Stewart from Buffalo in exchange for a 2017 2nd round pick. The Sabres retained 50% of Stewart’s contract (so $2.1 million if you’re curious).

F Sven Baertschi has been traded from the Calgary Flames to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2015 2nd round pick.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded D James Wisniewski and a 2015 3rd round pick (DET) to the Anaheim Ducks and got F William Karlsson, F Rene Bourque, and a 2015 2nd round pick in return.

The Arizona Coyotes acquired G David Leggio from the New York Islanders in exchange for D Mark Louis.

The Boston Bruins sent F Jordan Caron and a 2016 6th round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for F Max Talbot and F Paul Carey. The Avalanche will retain half of Talbot’s salary.

Toronto Maple Leafs D Korbinian Holzer was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for D Eric Brewer and a 2016 5th round pick.

Anaheim also acquired F Michael Sgarbossa from the Colorado Avalanche for D Mat Clark.

F Jared Knight of the Boston Bruins was traded to the Minnesota Wild for F Zack Phillips.