The Evolution

Brent Burns is having a juggernaut of a season.

He’s ranked third in NHL scoring with 64 points as Burns sits behind Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid for the League’s top scoring race.

The 31-year old Barrie, Ont., native could become only the second defenceman to ever win the Art Ross Trophy-  which is awarded to the League’s top scorer. The only defenceman to win the Art Ross was none other than Bobby Orr. Orr won the award when he was with Boston Bruins during the 1974-75 season.

Burns point totals are unheard of for an NHL defenceman and that’s due to a large part of his abilities. During his first NHL training camp in 2003, he was converted to defence by Minnesota Wild defensive-minded coach Jacques Lemaire. He switched from forward to defense on occasion until the Sharks announced he would stay on defence in August 2014.

With 27 goals this season, Burns is set to post only the 18th ever season of 30 goals scored by a defenceman and only the second since 1993. Mike Green was the last one to do it when he scored 31 goals for the Washington Capitals in 2008-09.

Burns is on pace for a career-best 51 assists for 88 points. He’s starting to look more like a potential favourite for the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the League’s best defenceman. Some say that he’s worthy of consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the League MVP as well.

Over the last ten seasons, the Norris Trophy has been awarded four times to the leading scorer among defenceman. Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty won it last year against Burns and Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson. However,  Doughty just made it in the top-ten in scoring among defenceman.  Karlsson was the best offensive defenceman as he tied for fourth in scoring with 82 points in 82 games.

Doughty’s plus/minus rating was significantly different than Karlsson’s and Burns. Doughty had a plus-24, whereas Burns was a minus-five and Karlsson was a minus-2. It’s kind of why Karlsson and Burns didn’t win the Norris last year. It underlines the most difficult award to win, but to get it right.

Is it time for the NHL to possibly consider recognizing that there are two types of defenceman in the League? Perhaps, although a common misunderstanding when looking at any offensive defenceman is that they take a sacrifice with offense over defence.

Here’s the thing. Chris Pronger was the last defenceman to win the Hart Trophy back in 2000, and the first since Bobby Orr back in 1972. No defenceman has been nominated for the Hart since Pronger last won it. Given the potentially historic season he is having, it might be hard to overlook Burns this time around.

Some would argue that defenceman like Shea Weber are reasons why his defensive, and physical style of play are worthy to win the Norris. Weber doesn’t necessarily put up big numbers, but he’s a strong force on the blue line, who, like Burns, has yet to win the Norris. Don’t be surprised if both defenceman get nominated for the award at the end of the season.

People may not like the way Burns and Karlsson play compared to the way Doughty and Weber play, but sometimes it’s easier to focus on points than actual finer points of the game itself.

Altogether, Brent Burns has done enough to be considered for individual hardware for this years NHL Awards. His skill and value mean so much to the Sharks organization that on Nov. 23 they signed him to an eight-year, $64 million contract which runs through the 2024-25 season. He leads the League with shots on goal, while logging an average of 25 minutes of TOI. He’s  also an offensive force on the power play with the Sharks. Most notably, Burns does play on the penalty kill whenever the Sharks are up or down by a goal.

Talent and skill only get you so far in sports. Brent Burns might come off a bit careless with his Chewbacca-like beard, it might be because he puts so much focus into what he does on the ice.

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Rookie Showdown

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets square off at the Air Canada Centre tonight, the final regular-season meeting between both teams.

Tonight’s game will be the last head-to-head match up between rookie sensations Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Both were chosen No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the 2016 NHL Draft. As the two rookies prepare to battle it out for the second time in their young careers, it’s clear that this is a showdown for rookie of the year.

Last time the two met, the Jets came back for a 5-4 overtime victory on Oct. 19. The Maple Leafs had a 4-0 lead in the second period when Laine led the comeback with his first NHL hat trick. Laine would score the overtime winner following a breakaway miss from Matthews.

Laine has had two more hat tricks this season since that game in Winnipeg four months ago. The Finnish forward is the first rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne (five) and Eric Lindros (three) in 1992-93.

Matthews and Laine are among the favourites to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. They are not the only rookies in contention for the trophy as Mitch Marner, Zach Werenski and Matt Murray have made strong cases to be in the running as well.

This is great. It’s the best thing since Crosby vs. Ovechkin, and it’s no surprise that fans are witnessing some similarities. Foreign player vs. North American player, winger vs. centre, and two potential leaders for their respective teams in the future.

So, who has the edge for the Calder Memorial Trophy right now?

The two 19-year olds have been playing their best hockey recently. Laine has five goals and three assists in the last five games, where as Matthews has five points in his last five games. Note his goal from Sunday night against Carolina was sensational and it will be a highlight reel for a while.

The two are also atop of the rookie scoring race. Laine leads the way with 54 points as he is edging Matthews who has 52 points. Laine is ahead of Matthews along with his teammates Mitch Marner (46), and William Nylander (42). Laine and Matthews are tied for first for goal scoring among rookies with 28 as tonight is a good chance that one of them will be ahead, if not, still tied for most goals scored.

Laine leads all rookie forwards with 15:26 TOI at even strength. Matthews is right behind him at 15:13. Despite playing fewer games, Laine has the edge in even-strength points with 40 over Matthews. That being said, Matthews does lead all rookies with 24 even-strength goals where as Laine has 20.

Taking a look at the advanced stats, Matthews has the edge in Corsi percentages. His shot attempt differentials when players are on the ice is 53.2 percent to Laine’s 48.9 percent. Matthews also has the edge for offensive zone starts with 63.3 percent to Laine’s 55.4 percent. He’s also generating a huge amount of shots with 206, almost 60 more than Laine.

Although they are neck-and-neck in terms of traditional statistics like goals and assists, the underlying numbers suggest Matthews might be having the greater impact to his team. Matthews overall game and chemistry with the Maple Leafs other young players has helped him have a greater impact for Toronto than Laine has had with Winnipeg.

Part of what has made Matthews and Laine so successful this season is the way they approach the game. They don’t seem like rivals, except they are. It’s why they’re linked and why the NHL will benefit from them for years to come. Matthews and Laine should quietly push each other and play off one another, keeping their rivalry in place for the future.

I do feel that Matthews has a very strong case that he’s the League’s best rookie. He has had the bigger moments. You cannot forget his four-goal performance in his first NHL game four months ago, or the highlight reel goals and the Centennial Classic. He’s the Jonathan Toews type player the Leafs have desperately needed for so long. Even if he doesn’t lead all rookies in either major category, he’s a front runner for the Calder.

It’s been a special season for both rookies. If you think this year has been impressive, just wait until they get even more comfortable.

Sid & Ovie

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin first met at the gold medal game at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Folks, North Dakota. It resulted in a one-sided victory for Crosby and Team Canada. When they first entered the NHL later that same year, they became the faces of the league as they revived a fan base after the lockout cancelled season.

In 12 seasons of playing against each other, Ovechkin was the first one out of the two to reach 1,000 career points. He did it in career game number 880 on January 11th, 2017 when he scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ovechkin became the 24th fastest player to reach 1,000 points as he now joins fellow Russians Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny and Alexi Kovalev in the 1,000-point club.

Ovechkin is not the only player to reach 1,000 career points this season. Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin became the 85th player to reach 1,000 career points on January 19th against the Florida Panthers. Ironically, he scored on his former teammate Roberto Luongo as Henrik is the fourth Swede to reach the milestone. On the other hand, Ovechkin’s nemesis, Sidney Crosby, just became the 86th player to reach 1,000 career points.

Crosby is now the 13th fastest player in history to reach the milestone. He reached the milestone tonight with an assist on a  Chris Kunitz goal against the Winnipeg Jets. In 757 career games, Sid the Kid is now the third-fastest of all-time to reach 1,000 points behind only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

The Crosby and Ovechkin debate has been going on for so long, it’s fitting to witness the two of them reach the same milestone in the same season.

When it comes to goals, Ovechkin holds a much bigger lead between the two. He has 551 to Crosby’s 368. Last season, the Capitals captain became the fifth-fastest player to score 500 goals. His consistency is due to his durability as he has only missed more than four games in a season only once, and never more than 10 games.

At the end of their rookie campaigns, it was Ovechkin who went on to win the Calder Trophy. Following that, he went on to win the Art Ross as the League’s top point scorer (2008), six Rocket Richard trophies as the League’s goal-scoring champion (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and three Hart Trophies as the League MVP (2008, 2009, 2013).

Crosby has won the Art Ross twice (2007,2014) , the Ted Lindsay Award three times (2007, 2013, 2014), the Hart Trophy twice (2007, 2014), the Rocket Richard (2010) and Conn Smythe Trophy (2016).

Crosby leads the NHL with 296 multi-point games, 117 three-point games, and 30 four-point games.

With two Stanley Cups to his name, Crosby’s accolades are much stronger. Crosby exploded for 120 points as a 19-year old sophomore during the 2006-2007 season. He is the youngest MVP in history, and the youngest scoring champion in major pro sports history.

While Crosby and Ovechkin kept on dominating in their early years, injuries are another difference between the two. Ovechkin has never been badly injured, yet, Crosby had concussion problems. In some of Crosby’s darkest moments between 2011 and 2012, he questioned whether or not he would ever play again. In consecutive games, during the 2011 Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals and January 5th against the Tampa Bay Lighting, Crosby suffered hits to his head from David Steckel and Victor Hedman. After experiencing concussion symptoms, Crosby did not return for the rest of the season while he missed the first 20 games of the 2011-2012 season.

On the international level, Crosby defeated Ovechkin at the 2010 Olympic Games as Canada knocked Russia out of the tournament in the quarter-finals which resulted in another one-sided victory for Crosby and Canada. Crosby would go on to score the “Golden Goal” in overtime to win the gold medal on home ice against the United States. His goal is one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

Even though Ovechkin has celebrated the World Championships three times, the Washington Capitals have yet to advance to the Conference Finals with Ovechkin.

Last season was especially difficult for Ovechkin. His Capitals were dominant through the regular season and finished first overall to win the Presidents’ Trophy. After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, Ovechkin and Crosby clashed in the post-season for the second time in their careers and for the second time, the Penguins triumphed over the Captials.

About a month later, after Ovechkin and the Russians settled for bronze at home in Moscow at the 2016 World Hockey Championship, Crosby and the Penguins celebrated a Stanley Cup victory with Crosby winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

If they retired today, they’re most certainly heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Their resumes clearly speak for themselves in so many different ways. Generational players are very rare in the NHL yet alone seeing two of them playing against each other on a regular basis (excluding that one time when they were teammates as this years All-Star game). That’s what is so magnificent about this rivalry. It’ll be cherished for a long time.

In honour of celebrating the League’s centennial year, the NHL have named its top 100 players. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby joined the Blackhawks‘ championship-winning trio, and Jaromir Jagr as the active players in the top 100.

There will be a time when the debate of Crosby and Ovechkin will soon be finished. Fittingly, as they reach their thirties, fans now have a glimpse of the what future could hold for some new rivalries in the NHL with the likes of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine.

Pyeongchang 2018

A standoff between the National Hockey League and the International Olympic Committee continues with no end in sight. There is exactly one year before the opening ceremonies begin for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The NHL has downplayed its interest in participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics during the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. However, International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel is optimistic that the players will be at the Olympics.

Last week in New York, Fasel met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, National Hockey League Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr, and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Bach, who made his first appearance with the four gentleman and hasn’t been apart of the previous meetings. The fact that Bach was present at this meeting could be a significant development in this on going debate.

The Olympics have become apart of the NHL labor situation. The League recently asked if the union would eliminate its opt-out option in 2019 and extend the labor pact three years through the 2024-2025 season in exchange for participating in the 2018 Olympics. However, the union refused.

The I.O.C. has indicated that it did not want to cover the cost of travel and insurance to get hockey’s best to the Olympics. The committee spent roughly $14 million on those expenses for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Despite the committee doing so since 1998, the owners were not pleased with this. Fasel recently said that he would get the $10 million for the costs where as Bettman remains unconvinced of this.

The biggest thing of all of is the owners’ reluctance to interrupt the NHL season for three weeks. Although they have done so for recent Olympics, the 14-hour time difference and the small market revenue in South Korea are concerns as well.

Discussions are expected to continue in the coming weeks. The I.O.C. is concerned that if it continues to cover the costs for the NHL players, other professional sports such as; basketball, golf, and tennis will start demanding similar compensation for their athletes in the Olympics.

Players want to participate in a sixth straight Olympics.Since NHL players started playing in the 1998 Nagano Games, the competition has drawn widespread acclaim for its skill level and intensity. Many NHL owners were already unhappy at sending away star players to risk an injury. For John Tavares, it was a bittersweet Olympics for him in 2014. Tavares tore his MCL and meniscus in his left knee where would remain out of the tournament, and it ended his season altogether. Islanders GM Garth Snow sounded off on the I.O.C and IIHF after he found out about the injury.

For a generation of players that grew up watching their idols play in the Olympics, reaching the Olympics has become a dream to rival the Stanley Cup. The NHL should send its players despite the issues at hand.If the issues aren’t resolved and the players don’t go to the 2018 Olympics, they may choose to go to the 2022 Olympics instead, which would likely be held in Beijing, a much better market for the NHL.

Fasel and Bach both want the NHL players to participate in the Olympics, there has been discussions of a “Plan B”. If the players don’t go, they would use lesser talent with the same rules, schedule and format. The idea of an Under-23 event has been rejected at the moment. There have been rumblings from some players that if an agreement isn’t reached, they will defy the League and play for their respected countries regardless.

It’s easy to forget that Bettman was a key reason why the players went to the Games in 1998. Ultimately, these decisions generally seem to come down to money. The question of who will pay the insurance and travel costs for NHL players is an issue once again. The three parties will have to come up with an agreement with one warning, time is running out.

The Kids Are Alright

When Mike Babcock was hired as the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach on May 21, 2015, he warned the fan base and media with the infamous “there’s pain coming” quote in regards to the team’s rebuilding plan.

Almost two years later, Toronto is almost pain-free. The Leafs are in the best shape they’ve been in more than a decade. They currently own a 17-12-8 record that has the Leafs three points back of a wild-card spot and two points behind the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division. A surprise position considering the fact that the Leafs have only made the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons.

The turn around is all thanks to team president, Brendan Shanahan, and general manager Lou Lamoriello. These gentlemen and Babcock have known nothing but success and how to win in their respective careers.

The most impressive piece to the rebuilding puzzle is that it’s being led by an incredible youth core.

Remember Auston Matthews first NHL game? The first game of his young career where scored four goals? You knew this kid has a ton of promise as he’s the type of player the Leafs have desperately needed for so many years. The first overall pick from last summer’s draft has 20 goals for 34-points in 37 games.

Matthews is on pace for 40 goals this season, which would eclipse Wendel Clark’s Leaf rookie record of 34 goals back in the 1985-86 season. The rookie phenom is producing off a 65-point pace, which would come close to Peter Ihnacak’s record off 66-points in a rookie season, despite Ihnacak being 25-years old at the time.

Thankfully, Matthews is not alone in the youth movement. There’s 19-year old Mitch Marner whose perseverance has him second in team scoring with 29-points. William Nylander, who has been up and down the lineup all season, has 26-points which means these three rookies are in the top five for scoring on the Leafs (JVR and Bozak are also in there).

Furthermore, Connor Brown and Zach Hyman deserve recognition for their continuous efforts on the penalty kill along with their speed and skill that come with it. Hyman and Brown are having good seasons for the first time since Hyman last played at Michigan where he was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award (given to the top NCCA men’s ice hockey player) while Brown captained the Erie Otters in his final junior season.

Contributions from their top veterans like James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Nazem Kadri have helped this young team establish themselves. Toronto’s rookies have had the most impact for the team. The kids have a combined 130+ points for rookie scoring and second on that list are the Winnipeg Jets, who have a little over 50-points in combined rookie scoring. Compared to last season’s numbers, the top-point players were P.A. Parenteau, Kadri, Bozak, and JVR (up until his foot injury took him out for the season). Matthews, Marner, and Nylander are expected to surpass those players’ numbers from last season.

The biggest downside to their season is the number of leads they’ve blown in the third period. Frustrating, yes, but the Leafs have the held the lead after 40 minutes 20 times in 37 games. That puts them in a tie with the  Columbus Blue Jackets for the league lead.

One concern is that they’ve won 13 games in regulation and sit 13-1-6 after last night’s overtime loss to the Washington Capitals. But on the bright side to the dismal defense, the Leafs allowed a power-play goal for the first time in 23 penalty kills last night.

It’s not the rookie’s fault but the veteran core isn’t quite good enough since they’ve played on crappy teams in the past. They aren’t good defensively but this team isn’t quite good enough to beat some of the elite teams in the NHL. The defense has allowed too many shots and domination against opponents in their own zone. The defense has the experience to play in any situation, but cheap giveaways and poor communication have cost this team to close out games in regulation. There’s still time for this defense to improve and it has to come along with the offense if the Leafs are going to improve themselves.

The defense has allowed too many shots and domination against opponents in their own zone. Although the blue line has the experience to play in any situation, but cheap giveaways and poor communication have cost this team to close out games in regulation. There’s still time for this defense to improve and it has to come along with the offense if the Leafs are going to improve themselves.

Toronto maybe in the playoff hunt at the moment but this management team should stick to the slow-but-sure rebuild plan as the rookies who are currently in the lineup should continue to develop at the proper pace.

What About P.K.?

It’s been a rough year for P.K. Subban.

After a dismal season with the Montreal Canadiens, Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber. Then, he was snubbed by Team Canada as Jay Bouwmeester replaced an injured Duncan Keith for the World Cup of Hockey. Sure, Subban shoots right and Bouwmeester is a lefty, but Team Canada was going with the right-left defence system anyways.

Since his emergence with Montreal in 2009, Subban is a Norris Trophy winning defenceman who has a lot of offensive upside on the blueline. He is one of the most talented defencemen in the NHL and the talent he has should not be ignored. The 27-year old accumulated 278 points in 434 games with the Canadiens.

Subban has ample time to prepare for what’s to come in the upcoming season. What happened over the summer is nothing but motivation for himself.

He joins a fast, youthful Predator’s team that appears to be on the rise. It features Filip Forsberg, and Ryan Johaansen with an offensive-minded coach in Peter Laviolette. They have a veteran goalie in Pekka Rinne and Roman Josi who could very well be his new defence partner . They are in a very competitive Central Division and it seems like the team who could walk away with the division this season.

Having a successful 2016-17 season means that Subban must produce on a nightly basis and be a locker room presence that the Predators need.

It’s no secret that Nashville sees Subban as a missing piece to become a Stanley Cup contender. Like every team, Nashville will face speed bumps along the way this coming season. You also have to wonder how Subban and the Predators will respond if he goes through a rough patch or an adjustment period. This will be a challenge for Subban since the Canadiens did trade him because they didn’t like his compete level.  Along with that, the way he responded to loses. Subban took a crap load of heat from the press, or like an injury to Carey Price, and, well, Michel Therrien.

Fair or not, Subban has a lot to prove in his first season with the Predators. He’s facing more tension than ever before. Not only is Subban excited for a fresh start, but it’s a huge year for the team as well.

The Predators have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs, but they sure look to have a roster capable of taking a run at the Stanley Cup.

 

 

10 Big Moments From The 2015-16 NHL Season

1. Connor McDavid Injury

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Rookie sensation Connor McDavid sustained a broken clavicle after being tangled up into the boards with Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning. McDavid was sidelined for 37 games. He made his return to the lineup on February 2nd scoring three points. The former first overall pick would finish with 48 points in 45 games and despite the injury, he still got a nomination for the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie.

2. John Scott All-Star

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John Scott was announced the winner of the NHL All-Star fan vote, representing the Pacific Division as the captain. Despite receiving the most votes and tallying just one point in 11 games, this situation was comparable to Roy Fitzpatrick’s All-Star campaign in 2007. Scott was then traded to the Montreal Canadiens, who immediately assigned him to their AHL affiliate. It was reported that the NHL and the Arizona Coyotes had requested that Scott to be removed from the All-Star game. This led to Scott writing an article on the Players Tribune discussing the incident that eventually would have him declared to participate in the All-Star game to captain the Pacific Division.

During the game, Scott scored several points as the Pacific Division would win the 3-on-3 All-Star format with Scott being named the All-Star game MVP.

3. Phaneuf Trade

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In what was speculated that became a reality, Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on February 9th. In the blockbuster deal, the Leafs sent Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert and Cody Donaghey in exchange for Jared Cowan, Colin Greening, prospect Tobias Lindberg, and a 2017 second-round draft pic Both fans and media viewed the trade as a a major shock as a deal like this between the arch-rivals was highly unlikely to happen.

4. Jagr Pases Howe

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Jaromir Jagr reached multiple milestones last season. Jagr moved into third on the all-time scoring list, surpassing Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull with his 732nd and 742nd goals. Jagr then became the sixth player in NHL history to record 1100 career assists. Jagrs‘ biggest milestone came on February 20th as he surpassed the late Gordie Howe on the all-time points list with 1,851 points, moving him into third all time. He’s 19 points back Mark Messier for 2nd all time.

5. No Canadian Team In The Playoffs

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Following the end of the regular season, no Canadian team qualified for the playoffs. This was the second time in league history that the playoffs only had US-based teams. The only other time that no Canadian qualified for the playoffs was in 1970.

6.  Leafs Win Draft Lottery

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It was a painful season for the Toronto Maple Leafs who are currently in full rebuild mode. On the night of April 30th, the Leafs took home the top prize at the 2016 NHL Draft lottery. The Leafs won the number one pick with a 20% chance, the best odds in the lottery. The team selected Auston Matthews with the first pick and he will make his NHL debut tonight against the Ottawa Sentators.

7. Farewell To Rexall Place

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The House Wayne Gretzky built hosted its final NHL game on April 6th. The arena opened on November 10th, 1974 under the name Northlands Coliseum. It was also home to the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the the late 80s, winning 4 Stanley Cups. In a way, the Oilers will be going back to the good old days tonight when they move into their new home, Rogers Place against the Calgary Flames. It will be a young team anchored by an emerging superstar, who is looking to build off the success of his rookie season while being the named the youngest captain in NHL history a week ago.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins Win The Stanley Cup

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After earning second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. The Pens defeated the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals, and the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Eastern Conference Championship. Crosby led the Pens to their fourth cup title against the San Jose Sharks in six games. Crosby edged Phil Kessel to win the Conn Smythe trophy, adding more to his already impressive trophy case.

9. Las Vegas Wins Expansion

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The NHL has settled on Las Vegas as its choice for an expansion team. Quebec City was also considered for expansion and due to the Canadian dollar, the league passed up on it. For some odd reason, Gary Bettman believes that hockey in Las Vegas will be successful just like in Arizona. This would be the leagues 31st team with its first expansion since 2000. The 2017-18 season is the earliest the league would expand and November 18th will be the day the team announces their name and logo.

10. RIP Mr. Hockey

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Gordie Howe, known as Mr. Hockey, passed away on June 10th at the age of 88 after suffering strokes and being diagnosed with dementia. Howe played hockey longer and better than anyone else. In his NHL record 26 seasons, Howe played in 1,767 games and his 801 goals were the most in NHL history until Wayne Gretzky passed him in 1994 and remain the most by a right wing. Howe finished his NHL career with 1,850 points, another record that stood until Gretzky broke it, and he was the first player in League history to play 1,500 games. He remains the oldest player to skate in an NHL game (52 years, 11 days); no one else in NHL history has played past the age of 48.

 

 

2016 NHL Award Nominees: Predictions & Results

Tonight is the annual NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Before the winners are revealed, I ran a poll through Survey Monkey asking 25 people to put in their votes for who could win each award.

Below are the nominees of each award and the results based on who people voted for. The winner/prediction is highlighted in bold in the italic font.

Full results are in the link below.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-6ZHFPHDT/

Hart Memorial Award

cut (4)

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
4%
1 vote
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
40%
10 votes
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackawks)
56%
14 votes
Total 25

Jack Adams Award

cut (7)

Gerard Gallant (Florida Panthers)
32%
8 votes
Lindy Ruff (Dallas Stars)
20%
5 votes
Barry Trotz (Washington Capitals)
48%
12 votes
Total 25

Calder Memorial Trophy

cut-2-624x351.jpg

Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia Flyers)
20%
5 votes
Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
56%
14 votes
Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks)
24%
6 votes
Total 25

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

cut (2)

Pascal Dupuis (Pittsburgh Penguins)
40%
10 votes
Jaromir Jagr (Florida Panthers)
48%
12 votes
Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers)
12%
3 votes
Total 25

James Norris Memorial Trophy 

cut (1)

Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks)
16%
4 votes
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings)
48%
12 votes
Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators)
36%
9 votes
Total 25

Frank J. Selke Trophy

cut (3)

Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
60%
15 votes
Ryan Kesler (Anaheim Ducks)
24%
6 votes
Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)
16%
4 votes
Total 25 votes

Vezina Trophy

cut

Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lighting)
24%
6 votes
Brayden Holtby (Washington Capitals)
68%
17 votes
Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings)
8%
2 votes
Total 25

NHL GM Of The Year

cut (8)

Brian MacLellan (Washington Capitals)
8%
2 votes
Jim Nill (Dallas Stars)
16%
4 votes
Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh Penguins)
76%
19
Total 25

Lady Byng Memorial Award

cut (5)

Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
48%
12 votes
Loui Eriksson (Boston Bruins)
28%
7 votes
Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)
24%
6 votes
Total 25 votes

Ted Lindsay Award

cut (6).jpg

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
16%
4 votes
Brayden Holtby (Washington Capitals)
24%
6 votes
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blakchawks)
60%
15 votes
Total 25

The Rebuild Part II

The Toronto Maple Leafs roster looks very different than it did on Opening Night back in October.

Last summer, Brendan Shanahan made it known that the team planned on creating a fresh, new platform that will eventually become a Stanley Cup contending team with hopes of one day reclaiming glory that was last seen almost 50-years ago. The frame is set and now, it’s time to decorate this Original Six franchise the right way.

It all starts with the front office, which is orchestrated by Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan pleaded patience with Leaf fans as this is a full-out rebuild. This season Shannahan introduced a new, modern, and classy Maple Leaf logo for their upcoming centennial season next year that brings back the true roots of the Maple Leaf franchise and the logo itself. General Manager Lou Lamoriello, who managed to not retain salary of the majority of the trades he made this season, has done well with not rushing the young guns. Then it’s top tier coach Mike Babcock, who established a new system to this rebuilding team and players are buying into the system.

The most important component to properly building a team is to have a solid foundation. While players were expected to dealt over the course of the season, some of the trades surprisingly came out of nowhere. The Leafs were able to move out captain Dion Phanuef, Nick Spaling, Roman Polak, Shawn Mathias, and Daniel Winnik. The most shocking move was the beloved goaltender James Reimer, who was traded to the San Jose Sharks just days before the trade deadline and days after Polak and Spaling were also traded to the Sharks. All the deals and signings that were short lived provided the Leafs with what they wanted to achieve all along.

In fact, after making these trades, the Leafs now have the most draft picks for this upcoming draft. A total of 12 picks, two first round picks (thank you Pittsburgh) with a possible chance that the Leafs could potentially win the draft lottery and could potentially draft Austin Matthews first overall this summer.

Now what’s left is transitioning players from developing with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, to playing full-time with the blue and white. During the final stretch of the season, fans saw the debuts of William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, and Nikta Soshnikov. A few other players, including Connor Brown, Viktor Loov, Frederik Gauthier, Tobias Lindberg, and Brendan Leipsic made short lived NHL appearances who will be key parts to the puzzle. What’s missing is a top goaltender and some physical edge. More pieces will be filled all thanks to the numerous deals that saw the Leafs mainly acquire picks, free up some cap space, and additional prospects to add to their already deep prospect pool.

Right now, the core of the team is Nazem Kadri, JVR, Leo Komarov, Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner. Adding free agents in a smart, decisive way this off-season will make sure that they have the proper value and the Leafs have a lot of freedom to spend the money wisely.

The 2015-16 Leafs season is also a significant step away from the Brian Burke era. Burke had two paths to choose from and sadly, he chose the wrong one. Trading away picks and adding a core the lacked consistency, and leadership. Not to the mention, no true number centreman or defenseman asthey separated themselves from Kessel and Phaneuf. It’s the beginning of the dismantling. It’s smarter management decisions that the Toronto Maple Leafs have lacked in this salary cap era of hockey.

If done right, Leaf fans will see this team be formed with elite talent, and working collectively to win one step at a time that will put the horrors of the past behind them for good.

Be patient Leaf fans, the glory days are coming.

The Rebuild

It’s been 48 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs were victorious. Since then, the team and its fans have endeavoured bad management decisions, and ownership who quickly turned a historic franchise into a bitter disappointment.  1993 and 2003 were the only times the Maple Leafs actually had a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Final. However, they fell short despite having great teams during each run. Let’s not forget 2013, the epic meltdown of game seven between the Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins after the blue and white blew a 4-1 lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs. A haunting memory for fans but hey, at least the tequila shots helped after.

So now, we are in 2015 and for the first time in a long time, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in rebuild mode. As a diehard Leaf fan, I’m happy with the changes that have occurred over the summer from front office changes, to players being traded and building up a solid pool of prospects to hopefully one day, help this team become competitive and contend for the Stanley Cup.

With training camp set to open tomorrow for all NHL teams, here’s a look back on the off-season the Maple Leafs had.

First comes the front office changes. A huge makeover came days after the regular season ended that resulted with the release of Peter Horacheck and the coaching staff, the firing of General Manager Dave Nonis, and releasing its scouting team who undeniably made some mediocre picks in the draft (which did not help the team in any way).

Things began to drastically change on May 20th when the Maple Leafs welcomed former Detroit Red Wing and team Canada coach Mike Babcock, who is now, the highest paid coach in NHL history. Babcock has a success of winning. After all, he did coach the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008, then followed by two Olympic Gold Medals as the head coach for team Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. With no General Manager for the draft, Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas assumed the role as interim GM who actually managed to make solid picks in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

It wasn’t long until they named a new General Manager. In comes Lou Lamoriello who had great success with the New Jersey Devils over the last 28 years. It’s obvious that both gentlemen were brought in for a reason, they have winning backgrounds who are willing to turn this team into a winning team overall as it was once before. Babcock did make it clear that he expects every player to be in shape for training camp, and compete in every single game from October to April.

With that in mind, it seems likely that Brendan Shananhan will have a final say on major decisions based on everyone’s input. With this new group of people in the front office and behind the bench, the Leafs have made some smart signings over the summer. P.A. Parenteau, Daniel Winnik, Marc Arcobello, Shawn Mathias, and Matt Hunwick were singed to short-term deals who could become trade bait for the trade deadline in March. Not only that, but each player will try to re-establish their value in the NHL. Nazem Kadri is in a similar situation as he resigned to a one-year deal and he has a lot to prove for Mike Babcock who has plenty of faith in the skilled player. The Maple Leafs also invited Brady Boyes, Curtis Glencross and Devon Setoguchi to training camp in hopes of staying with the team for opening night on October 7th.

On top of the free agent signings this summer the franchise went through a major shakeup with a big trade. The team traded star player Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Nick Spaling, and prospects Kasperi Kapanenen, and Scott Harrington. Both prospects will be big pieces with the Toronto Marlies this season and for the Maple Leafs down the road. With these additions to the club, management will ensure that no prospect will be rushed to the NHL before they are ready for the show. William Nylander, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, Zach Hyman and other hopeful prospects are going to be given time to develop their skills until they are ready to make the team full-time. Mitch Marner, who the Leafs drafted fourth overall in the draft, will have another season with the London Knights before he is in the Marlies organization.

For a team that has some good players, the Maple Leafs have a very poorly assembled team with a lack of depth up front. They still lack a true number one centre which needs to be adressed if they want to contend in the future. Players including; Tyler Bozak, Joffery Lupul and Dion Phaneuf could become trade bait depending how their season goes. However, Phaneuf will be interesting to watch as Babcock has reached to the captain. Phaneuf has had alot ice-time over the last two seasons, and has a lot of pressure wearing the C on his jersey. With Babcock’s help, Phaneuf could have a bounce back season.

The goaltending situation seems like a game of tug-of-war. Jonathan Bernier will be out to prove that he is actually a legitimate starting goaltender while James Reimer will once again ride as shotgun. It’s far from uncertain that Bernier will be a good enough goaltender in 4-5 years from now. Plus, both goaltenders will be in their thirties when the Maple Leafs will be competitive once again.

With the dramatic changes that happened with the possibility of more coming its this season, the key to contending is to build a solid pool of prospects that a team can develop who can be a part of a team and most importantly, the drive to win. It looks as though we are looking at the window of a true Stanley Cup contender within a 4-6 year range. This is the Maple Leafs time to show the fans and the league that this rebuild is real for this original six franchise.

Only time will tell if it will pay off. Needless to say, with a solid core of prospects who are about to brew up a storm in the AHL along with the right minds in management who can turn this struggling franchise around, it will be an interesting season for the Toronto Maple Leafs who are looking to put the franchise back on the map once and for all.