The Battle For Gloria concludes. The Jeff Skinner extension is analyzed. What to do with Corey Perry? As well as everyone’s favorite game returns.
The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped familiar assets, while the Toronto Maple Leafs added a defender in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Red Kelly’s number is going to be retired (again– this time by the Detroit Red Wings) and we now know the opponents in the 2020 Winter Classic and 2020 Stadium Series games.
The Falcon Hockey program at Bowling Green State University has been a topic of debate for the last several years. Has their internal rebuild been successful? Have they returned to their historic, dominant form? Are they good or are they great?
There is a fine line between a good hockey team and a true contender. Good hockey teams in the NCAA win 15-20 games a year, always finish in the top half of their conference, and are capable of winning a post-season series. Yet, their trophy case is left empty and their name vacant from the NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket. If you’re a follower of college hockey, you can name a few teams that fit this mold, but Bowling Green is definitely one of them.
Under Head Coach Chris Bergeron, the Falcons have gradually improved over time. There is an obvious answer to the question regarding their internal rebuild. It has been successful and it continues to be. The only problem is, how exactly do you measure success? In the beginning, it was all about gaining an identity and following the mystical “process” that is often referred to by the team and coaching staff. Fortunately for the program, after several years of good recruiting, expectations begin to change.
Three or so years into the new era, there has to be an adjustment to what is considered success. The coaches, team, and fans eventually want to see results on the scoreboard. During the 09-10 season (before the coaching change), the Falcons only mustered five wins, an incredibly poor result for any college hockey program. The 11-12 season saw 14 wins, including the historic run to Joe Louis Arena in the dwindling years of the CCHA. The 14-15 season was a breakout year, with the Orange and Brown reaching the 20-win marker for the first time since the 94-95 campaign. Twenty wins is good, especially when paired with positive post-season results, but this equation is still missing something. The past three seasons, Bowling Green has earned a +0.500 record, won a first-round playoff series, and then ended it without any hardware.
The Falcons desperately need to take the next step. They may never truly regain the dominance of their historic teams, but how can you expect them to match the talents of George McPhee, Dan Bylsma, and Rob Blake? This team needs to learn who they are now and what they are capable of. To put it bluntly, they need to get their hands on a championship trophy because it has been far too long since they have done so. At this point in their rebuild, this is the only true measure of success and they are right on the cusp of it. Just last season, the Orange and Brown faced a devastating double-OT loss to Michigan Tech in the conference finals. In their current campaign, they are 6-4-3, but are just one point out of first place in the WCHA. With their great depth on offense, overall solid play on defense, and a tandem of Ryan Bednard and Eric Dop in net, this could be the team to do it.
Is it time for Bowling Green to be great? The short answer is yes. The staff has dedicated themselves to this program and have turned it in the right direction. Although the previous few seasons have been positive, players and fans alike are left wanting more. The Falcons are good, but with just one outstanding season, they can be great. Six wins through 11 games isn’t exactly stellar, but they are currently 11th in the Pairwise Rankings (which determine NCAA Tournament eligibility). If they continue to develop as a team, earning positive results along the way, why not them? Why not now? It’s time for the Falcons to respond to the bell and prove that they can be great.
Opening day is always fun (congrats to the Leafs, Blues, Oilers and Flyers for achieving 1-0-0 records, by the way), but I think its safe to say that I actually get more excited for the second day when there’s far more action (don’t even get me started about the first Saturday of the season!).
Tonight, there are eight games on the schedule, starting with three (Nashville at Boston, Montréal at Buffalo [RDS/TSN2] and Colorado at the New York Rangers) at 7 p.m. and a pair (Washington at Ottawa [RDS2] and Minnesota at Detroit [NBCSN]) half an hour later. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Pittsburgh at Chicago (SN360), while 10 p.m. features the evening’s co-nightcaps: Arizona at Anaheim and Philadelphia at Los Angeles (NBCSN). All times Eastern.
There’s certainly some fantastic games on the schedule, but one in particular has caught my eye.
Yes, we all know Detroit missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 25 years. That narrative was played out for the entirety of the 2016-’17 campaign.
Unfortunately, I think that story overshadowed another equally important one, especially among out-of-town fans: for the first time since December 27, 1979, the Red Wings will no longer call Joe Louis Arena home.
I cannot say I ever had the pleasure of walking into The Joe. Heck, I’ve never even been to Detroit. But for those who have, I can only imagine it was a wonderfully magical experience. Few buildings currently standing in the NHL have borne witness to such prolonged greatness.
C Steve Yzerman scored quite a few of his 692 goals between those unpredictable boards, and Nicklas Lidstrom year in and year out proved his defensive prowess by winning seven Norris Trophies and contributing to four Stanley Cup-winning efforts.
Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are just two of the many heralded goalies to man The Joe’s posts, while few defended his designated area like Bob Probert and his beloved penalty box. In fact, after spending so much of his hockey career defending his fellow Red Wings from Wendel Clark and RW Tie Domi and assuming his spot in the sin bin, Probert’s ashes were scattered in the arena’s penalty box following the club’s final home game last season.
But, unless something dramatic happens to Little Caesars Arena before 7:30 p.m. tonight, the time for Joe Louis Arena (and The Palace at Auburn Hills, for all you basketball fans) has come and gone.
And so, a new chapter in the story that is the Detroit Red Wings begins tonight as this team adjusts to its new home and begins work on building “Hockeytown Dynasty 2.0.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think that chapter gets a good starts tonight, as the Wild should be more than able to spoil the arena’s Grand Opening. Minnesota returns much of a roster that won 12-straight games en route to a 106-point season, including G Devan Dubnyk (40-19-5 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.25 GAA last season), F Mikael Granlund (26-43-69 totals in 2016-’17) and D Ryan Suter (allowed only six even-strength or shorthanded goals last season).
For Detroit, G Jimmy Howard will surely get the opening night start and will be under heavy pressure all night. Even though the Wings added D Trevor Daley, Howard may be the only line of defense considering how much Detroit’s blue line struggled last season. Knowing the Wild fired 30.8 shots-per-game last season, he may be in for a long night.
Offensively, the Red Wings have two sneaky-good top lines in Tomas Tatar–Henrik Zetterberg–Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Mantha–Dylan Larkin–Martin Frk, but the real question will be if these six have enough firepower in them to keep this team relevant all season against some of the best defenses. This game should provide an effective litmus test in determining just that.
I feel pretty safe in predicting a Wild win tonight, especially when seeing some bookies listing Minnesota at a -140 favorite.
By: Nick Lanciani
12:01 PM ET on July 1st (precisely) marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period, so of course, you’ve found yourself scavenging the Internet for the freshest hot takes and the best indications of where players will end up. Likewise, you probably just want to know who’s available out there (and I’m not talking about Tinder).
Well fear not, because I’m here to set things straight with a short series of posts about the Top-5 free agents in every category you can think of (UFA forwards, UFA defensemen, UFA goalies, RFA forwards, RFA defensemen and RFA goalies) in this latest edition of Numbers Game posts. RFAs are fun, RFAs are cool, but here’s the thing, other general managers will hate you forever apparently if you offer sheet one of their guys. Also, shouts to you if you’re still reading these. That shows commitment. And heart. And grit.
1. D Tyson Barrie (13-36-49 totals with the Colorado Avalanche)- $2.600 million cap hit, 24 years old
Colorado Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, is going to have quite the offseason to manage squashing the rumors about the Avalanche trading Tyson Barrie and whatnot. But hey, if you’re an opposing GM and you’re reading this, go ahead and give Barrie’s agent a call if Colorado can’t figure things out soon enough. I’ll wait. Barrie had a breakout 53 point season in 2014-2015 and is managing around the same stats and style of play. Hard hitting when you need him, depth scoring when you need it. Come to think of it, maybe I can get the rest of the DTFR guys here to submit an offer sheet (that’s how this stuff works, right?), I mean, why not?
2. D Rasmus Ristolainen (9-32-41 totals with the Buffalo Sabres)- $925,000 cap hit, 21 years old
Don’t let the Buffalo Sabres float under your radar in case there’s a chance things don’t work out for them and Rasmus Ristolainen (who doubled his points total this season from 2014-2015). Plenty of people would tell you the Sabres are doing everything in their power to keep him around and that’s a good thing, but if you wanted to be that guy, be that guy. The only thing that might weigh him down is his plus/minus (which is an outdated stat). In three seasons, it’s gone from a minus-15 to a minus-32 to, most recently, a minus-21. But then again, he plays for the Sabres.
3. D Hampus Lindholm (10-18-28 totals with the Anaheim Ducks)- $894,166 cap hit, 21 years old
This season was the first season, in his three career seasons with Anaheim, that Hampus Lindholm amassed less than 30 points. Although he only missed the mark by two. If you’re a fan of the Ducks and think they’re a good team, then you might suggest his numbers are inflated. But when a 21 year old comes into the league and upends Cam Fowler in his first three seasons, you know he’s legit for Anaheim. Lindholm is due for a big deal that’ll lock him up, however there’s always a chance some other team could meddle with Anaheim’s plans.
4. D Michael Stone (6-30-36 totals with the Arizona Coyotes)- $1.150 million, 25 years old
Tied with Danny DeKeyser on my list for the oldest pending RFA mentioned by yours truly, Michael Stone has improved by far in his first five career NHL seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. In 81 games during the 2014-2015 season, Stone had 3-15-18 totals. This season, Stone doubled everything with 6-30-36 totals in 75 games played. Need I say more if you’re interested in luring away talent for your blue line?
5. D Dmitry Orlov (8-21-29 totals with the Washington Capitals)- $2.000 million cap hit, 24 years old
In his first full season with the Washington Capitals, Dmitry Orlov had 8-21-29 totals. This season beat his 3-8-11 totals in 54 games in 2014-2015 and his 3-16-19 totals in 60 games played in 2011-2012. Nearing his prime, Orlov would be ready to move on from Washington if they don’t seem to have the room and someone else is interested in utilizing his services and time.
D Danny DeKeyser (8-12-20 totals with the Detroit Red Wings)- $2.188 million cap hit, 25 years old
There’s not much else in the RFA defensemen outlet store, so sometimes this is what you got to get. Then again, the Detroit Red Wings should lock up Danny DeKeyser for as long as they can, while locking out Kyle Quincey from the Joe Louis Arena (and Little Caesars Arena, just to be safe).
D Cody Ceci (10-16-26 total with the Ottawa Senators)- $894,166 cap hit, 22 years old
I’ll be completely partial and throw it out there that I’m a fan of the underdog in Cody Ceci. In three seasons, his points have increased from nine in 49 games played in 2013-2014 to 21 points the next season, to 26 points this season. He’s only 22, so as long as you get him out of Ottawa, there’s a good chance there’s still hope with him. All joking aside, the Senators shouldn’t make the mistake of letting another quality, low cost, high reward defenseman get away too soon.