Nick and Pete preview the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.
Happy Meteorological Spring (and when the time comes, actual Spring too as the Spring Equinox falls on… well, it’s written on the calendar in your office somewhere).
Of course, the only day that really matters in March is the 18th (you thought I was going to say the 17th, but we can’t all pretend to be Irish now, can we?).
If you’re new to the sport, that’s the day the Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the idea of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup back in 1892 and thus the Stanley Cup was first played for and awarded in 1893.
The original Cup resides in an old bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and was purchased for ten guineas, which was $48.67 at the time or almost $1,400 in contemporary times.
Anyway, March is a pretty important month.
Teams have added or subtracted to their rosters from the trade deadline and are looking to go down the stretch without any additional injuries or worries heading into the postseason (or for some, the offseason).
Feeling lucky? Is this the year your bracket won’t be busted in the First Round? Let the madness begin with a look at the latest standings forecast* across the league based on all 31 NHL teams’ performances through February 28, 2019.
*Standard disclaimer: This forecast is not an exact science, but rather an educated guess among recent and season long trends, with a foundation steeped in recent records over the last few seasons.
In simple terms, just focus on the standing within the division and less on the point spread. A team isn’t eliminated from postseason contention until they are mathematically eliminated.
Anything can still happen (relatively, of course).
Projected Standings After Five Months
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 121 points (65 games played entering March 1st)
- x-Boston Bruins, 115 points (64 GP)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (64 GP)
- wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 103 points (64 GP)
- wc2-Buffalo Sabres, 90 points (63 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 82 points (63 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 61 points (64 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 60 points (64 GP)
In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still on pace for what could almost be the best regular season in league history. Their franchise record ten-game winning streak was halted by the re-hot Boston Bruins on Feb. 28th.
Tampa should still lock up the division (if not the President’s Trophy) with ease, though they are beatable– as proven by the Bruins recent win (ignoring the back-to-back games), as well as the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 overtime victory on Feb. 7th (more on the Blues later).
Boston, meanwhile, is surging at the right time. After going 7-7-0 in December and 6-3-3 in January, the B’s went without a regulation loss in the month of February, finishing with an 11-0-2 record.
It was the 9th time in franchise history and first time since November 2011, that the Bruins went without a regulation loss in an entire calendar month.
Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very alive and well in a divisional spot and for the second straight season appear destined to battle the Bruins in a First Round rematch from last season.
At least one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be filled by an Atlantic Division team– the first of which being the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs are in the hunt and could knock the Maple Leafs out of the last divisional spot with a good run down the stretch, while the second wild card spot is a little harder to project.
It could be the Buffalo Sabres or it could very well be a team that’s surging in the Metropolitan Division.
- y-New York Islanders, 113 points (63 GP)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 101 points (63 GP)
- x-Washington Capitals, 92 points (64 GP)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (63 GP)
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 87 points (63 GP)
- New York Rangers, 77 points (63 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 74 points (64 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 61 points (64 GP)
John Tavares wasn’t well-received in his first trip back to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders for the Leafs in free agency last July, however, Barry Trotz has been adored by Isles fans as the coach of the Metropolitan Division’s best team.
Despite adding a lot of firepower leading up to the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t quite a surefire powerhouse in the division, but they should be good enough for home ice advantage in the First Round and a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals.
It’s a wide-open race for two or three potential playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division, as the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins all have their sights set on one of two remaining divisional spots or at least one wild card spot in the postseason.
Despite the Capitals edging the Hurricanes and Penguins in this forecast, gut feeling indicates there’s sure to be an upset before the brackets are even finalized.
Carolina is playing really well lately and as those bunch of jerks have shown all season long– you can’t count them out. They also reached 70 points in 61 games played for just the second time in franchise history this season.
The last time they did that was in the 2005-06 season– you know, the one they went on to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
As for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, well, there’s always a chance things go south for some of the teams ahead of them– except the Rangers are rebuilding and the Flyers have gone zero weeks without an injury to one of the eight goaltenders they’ve used this season.
- y-Winnipeg Jets, 104 points (63 GP)
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points (63 GP)
- x-Nashville Predators, 93 points (66 GP)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (64 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (64 GP)
- Dallas Stars, 84 points (64 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (64 GP)
The Western Conference as a whole has been weaker than the Eastern Conference this season, but no division has been quite as lively as the Central Division.
While the Winnipeg Jets soar into the postseason as the top-team in the Central, the St. Louis Blues are attempting to go from last to first– and then some.
St. Louis might not stop at potentially leading the Central Division by the time the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin– they could just very well go on to win the Cup. The Blues are that hot.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators added a lot of grit leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Cody McLeod, Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to bolster their crunch to go along with new addition, Mikael Granlund‘s scoring ability.
Anyway, they’ve been slipping as of late and appear destined to miss out on home ice advantage in what will likely be a First Round matchup with St. Louis.
Finally, one of the Western wild cards will surely come from the Central Division teams. Whether that’s the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars will depend on how hot Colorado’s first line is and/or how injured the Wild and Stars are.
Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for setting the second half of the season ablaze, though not nearly as mightily as the Blues have, but they’ll still end up last in the Central, but about mid-pack league-wide.
- z-Calgary Flames, 111 points (64 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 107 points (64 GP)
- x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (65 GP)
- wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 91 points (64 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (65 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (64 GP)
- Anaheim Ducks, 75 points (64 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 68 points (64 GP)
In the most disappointing division of the season, the Calgary Flames have risen a cut above the rest in the West. Not only do they look to lead the conference, but they look to do so in style.
The Flames are a team that’s destined for a deeper run than just a First or Second Round exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how much will recent playoff experience for the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights play into Calgary’s chances of going far?
Vegas hasn’t been as dominant as they were in their inaugural season, however the Sharks have also had a few slip ups in the last month.
Both teams are looking like they’ll meet in the First Round– a round sooner than their Second Round matchup last postseason. It’s a rematch for the ages for the Golden Knights, as the young franchise looks to continue to add to the nearly 30 years of dismal playoff failure for San Jose.
One of the biggest– and most pleasant– surprises in the Western Conference? The Arizona Coyotes.
The team is destined for a wild card spot this season and just might spoil the party for more than just who they cut out of the playoff picture.
For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a battle until the end. They might make it, they might not, but next season should be better– just stay the course.
And if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and/or the Los Angeles Kings, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.
It’s October whateverth, I know, and the regular season is already underway, but transferring data into a new system and (in some cases) building new rosters entirely can take its time in the midst of catching every game on TV, living life, etc.
So without further ado let’s pretend the 5-3-1 (11 points)– 1st place in the Metropolitan Division– Carolina Hurricanes didn’t actually start the season yet and let’s turn back the clocks to before puck drop on the regular season.
Back then, Andrei Svechnikov had yet to play an NHL game as an 18-year-old rookie. The 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft’s forecasted stats couldn’t be calculated until he stepped foot on the ice. Though his 2-2–4 totals in his first nine games have him forecasted for 18 goals and 18 assists (36 points) over his first 82 games, we’ll pretend we don’t actually know what we know now.
Anyway, the fact of the matter remains the same– prior to the start of any regular season, these forecasted stats are merely educated expectations. A player who performs better than their expected outcome exceeded expectations (makes sense). A player who doesn’t live up to the numbers was either injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak (or whatever).
Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division with a 36-35-11 record and 83 points on the season. Bill Peters was fired as head coach and former Hurricanes superstar Rod Brind’Amour was hired behind the bench. Don Waddell took over as General Manager in the offseason, going from interim to full-time as owner Tom Dundon embraced a new direction to go along with his new reign.
The annual doldrums in Raleigh, North Carolina might be over sooner rather than later with a stockpile of youth in Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Svechnikov and others, in addition to the quietly shutdown defensive pairings that include Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and newcomers Dougie Hamilton, as well as Calvin de Haan.
Carolina holds the longest playoff drought in the league currently, dating back to their 2009 Eastern Conference Finals appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins– just three years removed from their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The Hurricanes haven’t been part of any postseason activity in the 2010s.
Not that this season can necessarily change that, but the end of the drought is soon and the oasis of playoff hockey draws near.
It’s at this point in every forecast where I’d like to remind everyone my degree is in communication– not math– therefore all mistakes are strictly Microsoft Excels fault and for sure not an error of my own. Well, that, and there’s sometimes a little gut-feeling mixed in for players who’ve only played in less than ten games and therefore are projected to score, like, 100 goals or something.
My area of expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers.
Forecasted stats are to be looked at as an utopian perspective– as though everything were to fall into line and nothing bad could ever happen. Some players will pan out and others will fall flat. These are only suggested (expected) outcomes for a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
The good news for Carolina heading into 2018-19 is the realistic expectations are low. There’s only three players that are expected to crack the 50-point plateau, but that doesn’t mean any meteoric rise can’t creep up on any member of the Hurricanes and propel this roster into the postseason for the first time in– by the time April rolls around– a decade.
Brind’Amour is behind the bench now and having no prior NHL experience as a head coach, there’s nothing to point to and say “they’re destined to fail”. The Canes might come out of this with one of the best rookie coaches this season if they make the playofs and given all the expectations of the other rookie coaches around the league.
Washington’s Todd Reirden is behind the defending-Cup champions (so there’s high expectations with room only to fail), David Quinn is coaching a rebuilding New York Rangers bunch (so anything goes), Jim Montgomery is in charge of the borderline Dallas Stars (things could go either way) and Brind’Amour, well, he can only go up what with the roster he was given.
As always, we’ll get into goalies and rookies after the first quarter of the season passes, however, he’s a quick look at the expected top-points scorers for the Hurricanes this season.
Valentin Zykov has shown potential before and if Brind’Amour can finally be the one to light a fire under his playing style, perhaps Zykov just might amass 24-35–59 totals and be like William Karlsson was for the Vegas Golden Knights last season– except this time around, Zykov isn’t a new face in town for a new team.
Aho (27-31–58 expected totals) should easily reach, if not exceed, expectations for Carolina as he enters the world of first line minutes in the post-Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes era.
We’ll neglect the holes in the Skinner trade where Waddell should’ve gotten more, but at least Aho is a positive in the “next man up” category of “players who should live up to being rushed into the spotlight, since there’s nobody else to turn to and have already been part of the organization prior to a rather one-sided trade”.
“Mr. Game 7” himself (Justin Williams) is bound for one last “breakout” year with 22-33–55 expected totals on a rejuvenated Hurricanes roster.
On defense, Dougie Hamilton (44 expected points) supersedes Justin Faulk (39 expected points) as Carolina’s top blue liner after being acquired in the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm trade for Hamilton, Ferland and Adam Fox. In addition, Slavin and Pesce continue to fill-out one of the best kept secrets in NHL defense as pieces of the most underrated top-six blue liners with de Haan now part of the fold.
In goal, well, Brind’Amour has a lot of decisions to make on an almost nightly basis. Neither Scott Darling nor Petr Mrazek look to have goals against averages or save percentages in the starting goaltender range.
In fact, both are in the sub-par backup goaltender range– closer to 3.00 than 2.00– so as long as the Hurricane’s defense limits shots against and lessens the workload, then perhaps the season’s collapse won’t be because of bad goaltending.
Time will tell.
Here’s a roundup of some of the other things that were announced on Thursday from around the league, excluding jersey leaks and the Erik Karlsson trade.
Tyler Seguin is no longer a pending-UFA at the end of the season. Yes, take the 26-year-old’s name off the board of potential free agent forwards in July 2019 as Seguin and the Dallas Stars reached an eight-year extension.
Seguin’s new eight-year, $78.800 million contract goes into effect for the 2019-20 season and carries an average annual value (AAV) of $8.500 million per season through 2026-27.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Brampton, Ontario finished last season tied for seventh in the NHL with a career-high 40 goals and second on the Stars in points with 78 in 82 games. Seguin also led Dallas in power play goals with 14, which was also a new career-high and ranked second in the league in shots on goal (335).
Since his rookie season of 2010-11 with the Boston Bruins, Seguin has amassed 229-276–505 totals in 590 career NHL games with the Bruins and Stars. He won the Cup with Boston in 2011 and returned to the Stanley Cup Final with Boston in 2013, losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Seguin was later traded that offseason on July 4, 2013 to Dallas along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow.
In 49 career postseason games, Seguin has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) and is a five-time NHL All-Star. He has made one international appearance for Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Czech Republic.
Days after I criticized Stars General Manager Jim Nill in my season preview for not getting an extension done yet, nor really negotiating since this year’s draft, this happened. You’re welcome, Dallas. Not to gloat or anything.
The Arizona Coyotes announced a new captain Thursday afternoon for the first time since Shane Doan wore the “C” on his sweater.
Swedish defender, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 27, became just the fourth captain in Coyotes history with the announcement made by Arizona Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka and Head Coach Rick Tocchet.
Ekman-Larsson previously served as an alternate captain the last four seasons (2014-18) and joins Keith Tkachuk, Teppo Numminen and Doan as Arizona’s only captains since their relocation from Winnipeg in 1996.
A native of Karlskrona, Sweden, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman is a two-time All-Star (2015 and 2018) with 102-188–290 totals in 576 career games for Arizona. He is six goals shy of tying Numminen for the most goals by a defenseman in franchise history (108) and holds the NHL record for the most game-winning goals in a season by a defenseman with eight in 2015-16.
He was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (6th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Not to be outdone, the Carolina Hurricanes also announced a new captain on Thursday, swapping the “C” on the front of the jerseys of Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal— last season’s co-captains– with alternate captain designations and placing the captaincy on the shoulders of 36-year-old, Justin Williams.
Williams is in the final season of his current contract with the organization and is the 16th player to serve as captain in franchise history and just the eighth to do so since the Hartford Whalers relocated to Carolina. Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour, made the annoncement.
A native of Cobourg, Ontario, Williams scored 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 82 games last season for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound right-wing is entering his 18th NHL season with 289-444–733 totals in 1,162 career games for the Philadelphia Flyers, Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion (Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014 as MVP of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Carolina also announced that 25-year-old center, Victor Rask, is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his right fourth and fifth fingers. Rask suffered a hand injury while slicing food in his kitchen and had 14-17–31 totals in 71 games last season for the Hurricanes.
While Carolina’s roster was overhauled in the offseason, the lineup was going to be tweaked anyway. Now with Rask’s injury, Brind’Amour will have to make some added adjustments to his forward lines.
If you were hoping for some good news after the Erik Karlsson trade in Ottawa, well, maybe stop reading right now.
TVA Sports reporter, Renaud Lavoie, tweeted that 25-year-old forward, Jean-Gabriel Pageau could be out four to six months and need surgery to repair an Achilles’ tendon.
According to multiple sources, news are not good regarding Jean-Gabriel Pageau today. Could be out from 4 to 6 months and a surgery to repair a Achilles’ tendon could be necessary. @Senators
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) September 13, 2018
Talk about injury to insult for Sens fans.
Pageau had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 78 games played last season. The 5-foot-10, 184-pound native of Ottawa, Ontario has 59-71–130 totals in 329 career games with Ottawa since being drafted by the Senators in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
36-40-6, 78 points, 6th in the Pacific Division
Additions: F Kyle Brodziak, F Josh Currie, D Jason Garrison (signed to a PTO), D Kevin Gravel, G Hayden Hawkey (acquired from MTL), D Jakub Jerabek, F Tobias Rieder, F Scottie Upshall (signed to a PTO)
Subtractions: D Yohann Auvitu (signed, KHL), G Laurent Brossoit (signed with WPG), F Braden Christoffer (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Grayson Downing (signed with Colorado Eagles, AHL), G Nick Ellis (retired), D Mark Fayne (signed to a PTO with BOS), F Brian Ferlin (retired), F Roman Horak (signed, KHL), F/D Joey LaLeggia (signed with STL), F Iiro Pakarinen (signed, KHL), F Kyle Platzer (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), D Dillon Simpson (signed with CBJ), F Anton Slepyshev (signed, KHL), F Nolan Vesey (traded to TOR),
Still Unsigned: D Ben Betker, F Michael Cammalleri, D Darnell Nurse
Re-signed: F Ryan Strome
Then they fell. Hard.
After making a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2017 for the first time since losing in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Oilers missed the postseason in 2017-18.
Seventy-eight points. That’s not the worst, but it’s not great either. They weren’t even a bubble team. Edmonton finished 6th in the Pacific Division and they’re looking to climb before other teams climb over them– namely the Arizona Coyotes and their resurgence of youth.
Milan Lucic‘s second season as an Oiler wasn’t as productive as his first. Down from 50 points (82 GP) in his first year in Edmonton, Lucic amassed 10-24–34 totals in 82 games last season. His size might read “protection for McDavid”, but his game was off– pretty far off with his worst plus/minus (minus-12) since entering the league in 2007-08.
By default, thanks to snuggling up close to the salary cap, Chiarelli let many free agents walk. Anton Slepyshev was tendered a qualifying offer before the forward decided to return home to the KHL.
Ryan Strome was re-signed on a friendly two-year, $6.200 million contract ($3.100 million per season), meanwhile Darnell Nurse remains unsigned.
That’s right, 23-year-old restricted free agent defender, Darnell Nurse still doesn’t have a contract.
It’s fair to assume that most top-4 defenders reaching their prime would earn somewhere around $4.000 million a season on their next contract– and that’s probably what’s holding things up in Edmonton. The Oilers don’t have that kind of money– at least, they don’t have anything more than that to offer.
Nurse won’t attend training camp without a new deal signed, but it’s not Chiarelli’s first rodeo with an RFA holdout. There was Phil Kessel in Chiarelli’s early days as the Boston Bruins GM, then Torey Krug and Reilly Smith took until the eleventh hour to re-sign in Chiarelli’s final season with Boston.
Of course, of those three aforementioned players, Kessel was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rumors have swirled about Edmonton’s desire to move a defender, whether it’s Nurse, Oscar Klefbom or someone else. Given their cap situation, it’d make sense– especially as they added Kevin Gravel and 2018 Stanley Cup winner with the Washington Capitals Jakub Jerabek for depth and signed Jason Garrison to a PTO.
Perhaps the Oilers’ emergency plan is staring us in the face? Then again, perhaps not. It’s hard to tell what the overall plan actually is in Edmonton, let alone what they’re going to do today or tomorrow.
In 2016-17, the Oilers had a plus-35 goal differential. It was their first positive goal differential since their Cup run in 2006. Last season, they were a minus-29.
A porous defense, lack of offensive depth past their first line and an over-reliance on starting netminder, Cam Talbot, added up to mediocrity.
Whereas last season’s expectations were set higher given 2017’s playoff run, this season’s forecast for Edmonton is served with a slice of reality. It’s going to be another long season. There’s no other way around it until Chiarelli digs himself out of cap hell again.
Offseason Grade: D+
The Nurse situation remains unresolved as training camp is soon to get underway, but at least Edmonton gets the benefit of the doubt on letting poor performers walk this offseason.
There’s only one problem– they didn’t do anything to bring better players in, nor does it look like head coach Todd McLellan‘s going to have any holes to fill with youth.
For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.
St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild – Game 5
By: Connor Keith
Thanks to an unlikely scorer, the Blues beat Minnesota 4-3 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center to earn a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Nashville Predators.
Of all the sources for an overtime winner, most would not have selected former first-rounder-turned-First Star of the Game Magnus Paajarvi. Following his 80-game rookie season, Paajarvi has not played more than 55 contests in any of his six other NHL seasons. This year, the third liner made only 32 appearances, notching a lowly eight goals in the process.
But the postseason doesn’t care about experience; it cares only about goals – and Paajarvi notched the first postseason marker of his career Saturday. The play started with Vladimir Sobotka fighting with Martin Hanzal for possession along the far boards after Devan Dubnyk had tried to clear from behind his net. The comeback kid eventually came away with the puck and drove to Dubnyk’s crease through the face-off circle. His attack drew Jared Spurgeon off Paajarvi, leaving the left wing wide open in the slot. Sobotka took notice and centered a pass for the Czech, who top-shelfed his wrist shot over Dubnyk’s stick shoulder for the series victory. Jori Lehtera also provided an assist on the play.
Speaking of first playoff goals, that’s sort of how the game started. Waiting until 7:16 into the last game of the first round, Vladimir Tarasenko (Jaden Schwartz) finally scored his first postseason goal since his two-tally performance against the Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Finals a year ago.
It was a St. Louis explosion to start the game, as Alex Steen (Colton Parayko) followed up Tarasenko’s wrister with one of his own only 3:15 later, putting Minnesota in an early 2-0 hole that loomed especially large since the Notes have not lost this postseason when scoring first.
Ryan Suter (Jared Spurgeon) did find the back of the net on a power play slap shot with 89 seconds remaining in the opening frame (Scottie Upshall is the guilty party for the Blues with his boneheaded cross-check), meaning Stastny’s tally set the score at 3-1 with 12:37 remaining in regulation. It proved to be a very important marker.
Just like the match was dominated early by the Blues, regulation ended at Minnesota’s discretion. First it was Third Star Mikko Koivu (Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund) pulling the State of Hockey back within a tally on a wrister with 9:22 remaining in regulation, thanks in large part to a man-advantage caused by Jay Bouwmeester’s hold on Granlund.
Though St. Louis was completely focused on its defensive efforts – the Blues fired only five shots in the third period – Second Star Jason Zucker (Erik Haula and Jonas Brodin) was still able to level the game with Minnesota’s lone five-on-five goal of the contest. Brodin advanced the puck through his defensive zone before connecting with Haula at the near point with a blue line-to-blue line pass. Haula one-touched a dish to Zucker, who completed the advance on Allen’s net through the near face-off circle. Firing from the slot, he squeezed his shot between the netminders’ skate and the far post to level the game at three-all and force the second overtime contest of the series.
Speaking of Allen, he was at the center of attention for much of the contest – though not always for his 34 saves. The first of two major events in his crease occurred with 5:36 remaining in the first frame when Granlund earned two minutes in the box for a goaltender interference penalty that looked to be a little bit more. Simply driving on Allen’s crease and making contact with the goaltender doesn’t sound like anything egregious, but that ignores the fact that the goalie is pulled to the ice by Granlund’s stick across his neck.
Allen was unharmed by the play, making the event with 6:13 remaining in the second period far scarier. Eric Staal started at his own blue line and possessed the puck all the way to the crease. He initially fired a shot from between the face-off circles that Allen saved, but did not contain. Though surrounded by Carl Gunnarsson and Parayko, Staal looked like he was going to be the first to the loose puck to fire a second shot.
Allen threw his right leg out to defend the far post in preparation, but the shot never came: Parayko managed to snag the puck just before Staal could try to score again. However, that didn’t stop Staal’s momentum, which carried him into Allen’s leg. Staal lost his balance and stumbled head-first into the boards, lying motionless on the ice while clutching his head through for almost two minutes before being helped off the ice. He was later released from the hospital Saturday night.
Conference semifinal action is slated to begin on April 28, but a date and time for Game 1 between the Predators and Blues at Scottrade Center has yet to be determined.
Montréal Canadiens at New York Rangers – Game 6
By: Connor Keith
With its 3-1 victory at Madison Square Garden Saturday, New York has eliminated the Canadiens from the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs and will advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
What makes it that much sweeter for the Rangers is the fact that it is their second-straight come-from-behind victory to clinch the series’ fifth and sixth games. It looked like the Habs were well on their way in the first period, as they led the Blueshirts in shots 11-6 and on the scoreboard thanks to Alexei Emelin’s (Third Star of the Game Alexander Radulov and Artturi Lehkonen) snap shot that found the back of Second Star Henrik Lundqvist’s net only 6:19 into the contest.
Alain Vigneault must have some serious speeches during the first intermission, as his club quickly pounced on Montréal when it returned to the ice. Aided by Jordie Benn holding Pavel Buchnevich 90 seconds into the frame, First Star Mats Zuccarello (Mika Zibanejad and Ryan McDonagh) leveled the contest at one-all at the 2:26 mark of the period.
But that’s not all Zuccarello had up his sleeve. With 6:29 remaining in the second period, he managed to find the game-winner on his stick. The secondary assist belonged to J.T. Miller, who collected the puck behind Carey Price’s net after it was dumped there in an effort to maintain possession in the offensive zone. After winning the puck from Brandon Davidson, he passed to Kevin Hayes at the far face-off circle. Hayes seemed to know exactly where Zuccarello was without looking, as his pass to the scorer was right to him at the near corner of the crease. Price had already committed to saving a shot from a wide open Hayes, so the entire cage was open for Zuccarello to bury an easy snapper.
Losing is a tough pill to swallow for the Canadiens, but New York played excellently in the second and third frames. Montréal could not manage more than nine shots in either period (thanks in large part to Nick Holden’s five shot blocks), and Lundqvist was more than able to save them all.
If the Canadiens are going to blame anyone for their Quarterfinals exit, it has to be their captain. Max Pacioretty could not find the back of the net on any of his 28 shots over the course of the six-game series, and managed only a lone assist in Game 1. Though he did try to inspire his club by scrapping with Jimmy Vesey early in the game, he would have done far better by getting the Canadiens on the scoreboard, especially since one of his teammates is the notorious troublemaker Steve Ott. In the words of South Park, “when your leading goal scorer – who tied for the eighth-most goals in the NHL’s regular season – doesn’t find the back of the net in a playoff series, you’re going to have a bad time.”
Now that they’ve defeated Montréal, the Rangers await the victors of the Bruins-Senators series. Ottawa currently leads three games to two, but Game 6 will be played in Boston at the TD Garden Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Americans can view that contest on NBC, while Canadians will be serviced by both SN and TVAS.
Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks – Game 6
For the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers are moving on to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fresh off a 3-1 victory in San Jose on Saturday night. Yes, the Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games to meet up with that other California team in the playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks.
Of note, Edmonton defeated San Jose and Anaheim en route to their 2006 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Leon Draisaitl (1) kicked off scoring for Edmonton just 54 seconds into the 2nd period, really quieting down the San Jose crowd after a pretty evenly matched 1st period. Adam Larsson (1) and Oscar Klefbom (1) had the assists on Draisaitl’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
After Chris Tierney failed to connect on a pass to Paul Martin in the San Jose offensive zone, Anton Slepyshev (1) scored the game winning goal on a breakaway 56 seconds after Draisaitl scored to make it a 2-0 game for the Oilers. Slepyshev’s goal was unassisted.
At 12:12 of the 3rd period, Mr. Shark himself, Patrick Marleau (3) made it a one-goal game with plenty of time left for the Sharks to tie the game. Logan Couture (1) and Joonas Donskoi (2) were credited with the assists that made it a 2-1 game.
With the goaltender pulled and a last ditch effort in full force for San Jose, Connor McDavid (2) picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone before flip dumping it towards the vacated net and falling to his knees. At 19:59 of the 3rd period, McDavid pocketed the empty net goal and sealed the series for Edmonton. Andrej Sekera (2) had the only assist on the goal.
Upon winning the game, the Edmonton Oilers advanced to the Second Round to take on the Anaheim Ducks, while the San Jose Sharks and their fans were sent home to find something else to do until October rolls around again.
Both Western Conference matchups in the Second Round have now been set and await the announcement for when the next round begins, upon conclusion of the Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins series and Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs series.
Anaheim has home ice in the next round against Edmonton, having won the regular season Pacific Division title.
1. San Jose Sharks– 36-18-7 (79 points, 61 GP)
The San Jose Sharks are exactly where they want to be this time around at the trade deadline. Wednesday is sure to be a busy day around the league, but don’t expect to hear much out of San Jose– not just because of the lack of salary cap space, but rather, because the Sharks don’t have to all that much, if anything at all.
San Jose has a plethora of pending free agents to re-sign this summer and much more to worry about potentially losing to the incoming Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft in June. So yeah, feel things out if you must, but the Sharks really shouldn’t try to mix things up.
Potential assets to trade: D Justin Braun, D David Schlemko
Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Scottie Upshall (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB)
2. Anaheim Ducks– 32-21-10 (74 points, 63 GP)
Barring the team’s looming salary cap maze, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t in that bad of a position heading into this season’s trade deadline. They’re quietly going about the year as one of the league’s best teams and competing stride for stride with San Jose and Edmonton for dominance in the Pacific Division.
Anaheim clearly doesn’t need to sell and it would appear as though they don’t have that much to move– with the exception of draft picks– in order to bring anything substantial in for the long run. The Ducks should look to add without subtracting and continue to add another depth rental player, like they did the other day in a trade with the Dallas Stars for veteran forward, Patrick Eaves.
Potential assets to trade: F Jared Boll, F Ryan Garbutt, D Shea Theodore
Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Taylor Fedun (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Nick Jensen (DET), D Yannick Weber (NSH), F Scottie Upshall (STL)
3. Edmonton Oilers– 33-22-8 (74 points, 63 GP)
Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, has certainly turned the team around in his short time in the northern most organization in the NHL. Yes, it helps that Connor McDavid is an Oiler, however Edmonton is seeing some depth in their roster and that’s something that hasn’t been seen since their 2006 Stanley Cup Final run. Granted, I’m not saying they’ll go that far this year.
A quick glance at their roster reveals that the Oilers have room to grow and develop, in addition to deal. Yes, even as one of the top teams in the Pacific Division, I believe Edmonton will move at least one “major” piece.
Similar in nature to the Taylor Hall trade in the offseason that brought in Adam Larsson on defense, the Oilers are bound to make a big splash at this year’s trade deadline that just might put them over the edge of a fringe playoff team (in terms of predicted success) to a contender that has a chance of at least making the second round.
Potential assets to trade: F Jordan Eberle, F Matt Hendricks, F Mark Letestu, D Mark Fayne
Potential assets to acquire: D Justin Faulk (CAR), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Tyler Johnson (TB), F Ondrej Palat (TB)
4. Calgary Flames — 33-26-4 (70 points, 63 GP)– currently hold the first Wild Card in the Western Conference
It wouldn’t hurt the Calgary Flames to add a missing component or two, except for the fact that the Flames have $0 in cap space. Seriously. Calgary is right up against the ceiling in salary and they don’t exactly have anything worth selling, considering how close the battle in the Pacific Division is, let alone the fight for a Wild Card spot in the entire Western Conference.
A year after trading Kris Russell (and making it look like a steal), the Flames acquired the rental defenseman– with a chance of becoming a more permanent blue liner in Calgary, depending on his audition for the role– Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes about a week ago.
Brian Burke has some interesting decisions to make, in regards to pending free agents, as well as what direction he might take the team on March 1st. Whether they will become serious playoff contenders or early playoff dropouts (or even make the playoffs at all) remains to be seen.
Potential assets to trade: F Brandon Bollig, F Lance Bouma, D Deryk Engelland
Potential assets to acquire: D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Scottie Upshall (STL)
5. Los Angeles Kings– 30-27-4 (64 points, 61 GP)
Well… What I had originally planned to say is irrelevant now.
The Los Angeles Kings made quite a splash on Sunday, acquiring G Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for G Peter Budaj, D Erik Cernak, a 2017 7th round draft pick and a conditional 2017 draft pick. Los Angeles also acquired a 2017 5th round pick in the deal.
While the Kings need a goal scorer, they opted to go boldly in the opposite direction, by bringing in a quality goaltender who will now compete for time with the recent return of Jonathan Quick. Perhaps they are pushing Quick to regain his competitiveness sooner rather than later at such a late point in the season? Perhaps they are testing Quick’s durability with an audition from Bishop in case Quick isn’t as healthy as we think.
Nobody knows but Los Angeles’s front office (we can assume/hope). Despite the move and lack of salary cap room, the Kings could still have another move up their sleeve on Wednesday.
Potential assets to trade: F Dustin Brown, F Dwight King, F Trevor Lewis, F Jordan Nolan, D Brayden McNabb
Potential assets to acquire: F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brian Boyle (TB)
6. Vancouver Canucks– 26-29-6 (58 points, 61 GP)
It is a well known fact that the Vancouver Canucks have been a dumpster fire at asset management for the last few years, so why not burn everything down at this point?
The Canucks will be selling on Wednesday, but how much they sell and what they will sell remains to be seen. Vancouver could play the role of a dark horse at this year’s trade deadline, not in the sense that they’ll add a rental player or two that will put them in the hunt, but rather in the sense that this might be their best chance to be tactically smart.
Bottom line, Vancouver, trade wisely. It’s time to recognize that you’re in a rebuild (injuries aside) and go full throttle. Make an attempt. Take a stab at it on March 1st, because you can’t get much worse than that team in burgundy and blue (that’s also in the Western Conference).
Potential assets to trade: F Alex Burrows, F Jannik Hansen, F Jayson Megna, D Alex Biega, D Philip Larsen, D Luca Sbisa, G Ryan Miller
Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Jimmy Hayes (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F David Desharnais (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)
7. Arizona Coyotes– 22-32-7 (51 points, 61 GP)
The Arizona Coyotes will without a doubt be forced to sell at this year’s trade deadline and they have a plethora of rental players to move for future assets as part of their long rebuild. After making several moves that appeared to be part of a bold strategy at the 2016 draft, Coyotes general manager, John Chayka has yet to see successful results from the roster he reconstructed over the summer.
Additionally, this year certainly might be the end of an era for Arizona. No, not their nagging search for a longtime home in the desert, but rather the face of the franchise since their move from Winnipeg, Shane Doan, may be destined to be on the move to a Stanley Cup contender in a trade reminiscent of the one the Boston Bruins made in 2000 in order to give Ray Bourque a real chance to win the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Potential assets to trade: F Shane Doan, F Anthony Duclair, F Josh Jooris, F Radim Vrbata, D Kevin Connauton, G Mike Smith
Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Jimmy Hayes (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Peter Mrazek (DET), F David Desharnais (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)
*Not participating- Vegas Golden Knights
Yes, the Vegas Golden Knights could have participated at their first NHL trade deadline prior to even taking the ice, however, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley indicated last week that the final installment on expansion fees would not get to league offices in New York City in time for the deadline. The team’s final payment is due April 5th.
Foley added that outstanding documents would be signed in time for the organization to send general manager, George McPhee, to the league’s annual general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida on March 6-8.
Had the paperwork been taken care of in time, Vegas would have been able to acquire draft picks or make trades tied to the expansion draft in June (usually surrounding an agreement not to select a certain player from a team, as historically shown).
According to Mike Cranston of NHL.com, Foley downplayed the importance of trading at the deadline, since the Golden Knights could not acquire players prior to March 1st.
Upon final payment, the organization will be able to sign free agent college players once their season ends (like the rest of the league can, regarding eligible college players), junior players over 20 years of age and free agents from Europe.
After a busy weekend of 22 games, it’s understandable that there’s only two this evening as we begin a new week. Tonight’s action starts at 8 p.m. with Florida at St. Louis (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed an hour later by Anaheim at Arizona (SN1). All times eastern.
If you haven’t checked the standings recently, the one and only Florida Panthers have been on a bit of a surge of late and forced themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff discussion.
Thanks in part to their current four-game winning streak, the 27-20-10 Panthers currently occupy fifth place in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the East, just a point behind Toronto in the second wild card. The simplest reason for why Florida is on the outside looking in has to be the offense, which has managed only 144 goals – the eighth-fewest in the NHL.
Vincent Trocheck has been charged with leading the Panthers‘ attack, and he has 41 points to show for it. 20 of those have been goals, which is also a team-high total. His numbers are indicative of the Panthers‘ situation overall, as many of the leading forwards’ numbers are only slightly lower than Trocheck’s. Then again, Tom Rowe did not build this team to be an offensive juggernaut, so maybe everything is going according to plan.
Regardless, it’s safe to assume that Rowe would like a little bit more productivity on the power play, as the Panthers rank fourth-worst in the league with a 15% success rate. Jon Marchessault has led that attack with 12 power play points, but Reilly Smith is the skater that’s imposed the biggest threat – he’s buried six markers on the man-advantage, the best total in Florida.
Instead, the Panthers earn their pay on the penalty kill, where they rank third-best in the league by stopping 85% of opposing man-advantages. That effort is led by Mark Pysyk, who has 12 shorthanded shot blocks to lead the squad.
Playing host this evening is 31-23-5 St. Louis, the third-best club in the Central Division. When the Blues have found success this season, it’s been on the offensive end, as their 168 tallies are 10th-most in the NHL.
The man behind that attack is exactly who you’d expect him to be. Vladimir Tarasenko not only leads the Notes with 56 points, but he also has the 10th-highest mark in the league. As the Russian continues to grow into being one of the elite scoring threats in the league, the versatile right wing’s game has evolved as defenses have worked extra hard to limit his looks at net. Those 56 points are split evenly between goals and assists, with his 28 tallies leading the club and the assists ranking second on the team.
St. Louis continues that success when they’re provided the man advantage, as their 21.6% success rate ties for sixth-best in the league. Although Tarasenko continues his scoring ways on the power play, it’s actually proven to be Kevin Shattenkirk‘s point of expertise. His 20 points with the extra man lead the team, and he ties Tarasenko with seven power play goals for tops in St. Louis.
The special teams success continues for the Blues on the penalty kill, where they rank fourth-best in the NHL. Led by Captain Alex Pietrangelo‘s 29 shorthanded shot blocks, the Notes have properly stopped 84.6% of opposing power plays.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Aleksander Barkov (+12 [best on the team]) and Trocheck (20 goals among 41 points [both lead the team]) & St. Louis‘ Carter Hutton (four shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (28 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL] among 56 points [10th-most in the league])
Vegas has marked St. Louis a -135 favorite, but I think that might be a little strong. While I do think the Blues will pull out the victory, Florida‘s defense is the reason they’ve surged through the Eastern table. The Notes will certainly have their hands full this evening.
- Phil Esposito (1942-) – If this center was the type to put his awards and trophies on his mantle, he probably had to install another fireplace. In addition to his two Stanley Cups and 10 All Star games, he also won five Ross Trophies, two Harts and two Pearsons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, followed three years later by his #7 being retired by Boston.
- Pierre Bouchard (1948-) – If you’re drafted fifth-overall by Montréal in the 1965 NHL Amateur Draft, you should expect some trophies coming your way. Spending eight of his 12 seasons with the Canadiens, this defenseman hoisted five Stanley Cups.
- Glen Hanlon (1957-) – Vancouver selected this goaltender 40th-overall in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, but he spent most of his 14 seasons with the Red Wings. He retired with a 167-202-61 career record.
- Niclas Wallin (1975-) – Selected in the fourth-round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, this blueliner played most of his 10-year NHL career with the club that drafted him: Carolina. He was a member of the Canes‘ 2006 Stanley Cup-winning side.
No matter how hard Columbus tried, it was not able to get ahead of former Ryan Johansen and the visiting Predators, who won yesterday’s back-and-forth DtFR Game of the Day 4-3.
Nashville‘s lead doubled to two thanks to a Kevin Fiala (Mike Fisher) backhander at the 9:38 mark of the second period, but Brandon Saad (Seth Jones and Second Star of the Game Zach Werenski) buried a tip-in only 58 seconds later to pull the Blue Jackets back within a goal. That theme repeated, as First Star Calle Jarnkrok (Neal and P.K. Subban) scored a snap shot with 4:20 remaining in the frame to give the Preds another two-goal lead, followed by Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s (Alexander Wennberg and Werenski) slap shot only 1:59 later to set the score at 3-2, which held into the second intermission.
Columbus finally pulled even when Werenski (Wennberg and Jones) scored his snapper 3:41 into the final frame, but Mattias Ekholm‘s (Filip Forsberg and Subban) snapper proved to be the winner, struck 5:28 later.
With that victory, road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have pulled within a point of the 64-44-18 homers.
By: Nick Lanciani
In light of the Florida Panthers new look, Peter Karmanos Jr.’s latest debacle and all the expansion talk, I’m here to try to put a few thoughts on the same page.
Some thoughts on Florida’s rebrand…
First, there’s the Florida Panthers rebrand. Am I allowed to say the new logo is growing on me? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously yes, because this is my site, but also because it’s the truth. Look, I’m not obsessed with the new look for the Panthers, but I can respect this shield design as a new, modern, hockey crest. It’s clean and respectful of the organization’s history, now over 20 years old, and really ties itself into the Southern Florida sports scene. While it might look better as a third jersey logo— at least when you put it on their new home sweater, which, by the way has a bit too much going on for my liking— it was time for a change in Sunrise.
Give it a few years and I’m sure the Panthers will figure out how to tweak things to satisfy their entire fanbase, while honoring the 101st Airborne in their humble homage with their fresh look.
Bottom line, not everyone can be like the Dallas Stars latest rebrand a few seasons ago. I mean, just look at the Carolina Hurricanes. They redesigned their image the same offseason as the Stars and, well, it just hasn’t caught on as much as anyone had hoped in the hockey world. While another rebrand would certainly help, the Hurricanes have much bigger issues on their plate, whether anyone’s willing to admit them or not. Which brings me to my second point…
…on Carolina chaos…
(How’s that for a transition?)
Carolina owner, Peter Karmanos Jr., the man responsible for moving the Hartford Whalers back in 1997, has been looking for a dancing partner for a couple of years now to help cover the costs of owning and operating the Hurricanes, albeit while retaining all the power and control that he brought with the Whalers to Raleigh as an odd precondition.
But now it appears as though the focus of that dancing partner might now be in the form of a lawyer, as Karmanos deals with a little over $105 million lawsuit from three of his sons.
Without getting into too much detail, this should be raising red flags (not the hurricane warning kind) despite whatever anyone from the league or Hurricanes organization says. We’ve known for a few seasons now that Carolina is in shambles when it comes to attendance and likewise, that the franchise is not as financially stable at its foundation as the NHL would hope.
Karmanos continues to insist that there is no need to relocate the franchise to a more desirable location (at least from a fanbase perspective), such as Québec City or Las Vegas.
There’s no better chance than now for Karmanos to make a move, whatever that may be, but as the legal battles within his family play out, he might be forced to sell the franchise to an owner in a potential expansion location and get the organization out of Carolina, if there continues to be no immense local interest among potential owners.
What the NHL won’t tell you, and I’m sure, is that they really don’t want to have another Phoenix Coyotes disaster circa 2009. You know, the one with bankruptcy, lawsuits, the league eventually owning the team, Wayne Gretzky as a coach (wait that had nothing to do with it), and that Canadian millionaire that wanted to move them to Hamilton, Ontario?
But alas, my third thought, we’re more than likely on the verge of expansion in the NHL. Like it or not.
…and finally, on expansion.
Las Vegas may surely be coming in the next couple of seasons, but what might be more intriguing is the thought that no news might be good news for Québec City.
Of course, there’s a few holdups with a team potentially venturing to Vidéotron Centre that’s not just a preseason matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Montréal Canadiens next season.
The struggle of the Canadian dollar could scamper the hopes of Nordiques fans once again and the ongoing Carolina catastrophe could scatter current expansion plans. But then again, who knows what relocation talks might be circulating and/or among whom (if any).
What’s next for the league is to decide once and for all whether to delay expansion, accept one or both expansion bids, or nullify any chance of expansion at this time. That announcement is expected June 22nd, conveniently at the NHL’s annual Awards Ceremony in where else? Las Vegas.
Basically, it’s a yes, no, maybe scenario.
While some, like Brian Mulroney, are adamant that the league will look over Québec this time around for expansion, others in the rumor mill are more hopeful that as long as everyone’s distracted with the squabble about a team in the Sin City, then there’s a good chance we’ll see a return of the Québec Nordiques as a delightful surprise.
The league is more than ready to make a go at both locations, regardless of conference alignment atrocities in the eyes of some fans. But your conference woes might see some ease if the Hurricanes situation yields a relocation resolution. And maybe that is the reason, after all, that there’s not much chatter out of Québec on the state of their expansion plans.
A relocation fee is certainly less expensive than a $500 million expansion fee. And since Quebecor is more than willing to dish out $500 million U.S. for an NHL team that would generate all of its revenue in Canadian dollars, then there’s a good chance they could easily find the funds to come up with purchasing and relocating Carolina.
The only issue would be getting Peter Karmanos out of the picture.
That’s no easy feat, as exhibited by the Whalers forceful removal from Hartford and Karmanos’s dedication to Raleigh, which, although hasn’t been tremendous in growing the sport in the community (i.e. building rinks in North Carolina), nor providing the franchise with an adequate practice facility, has certainly been enough to keep the team around this long and with a 2006 Stanley Cup championship at hand.
That was ten years ago. This is now.
Whatever announcement is forthcoming on June 22nd, whether it’s no expansion at this time, yes to expansion or further delaying the thought of expansion, it appears as though the league is more than ready to make a go at both locations. Las Vegas for the first time, Québec City for a homecoming of the sorts.
So while you’re worried about which of your favorite players might get poached by an expansion draft in a year or two, this offseason is sure to have more to it than first expected, as always. And there’s plenty of hurdles to still get over before you can start dreaming about what a team in Las Vegas might look like or seeing what kind of a response the Colorado Avalanche might get in their first regular season game back in Québec.