Here are a few news items from around the NHL.
Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend
- This weekend is Hockey Hall of Fame weekend with the following individuals being inducted:
- Gary Bettman (Builder category)
- Willie O’Ree (Builder category)
- Martin Brodeur (Player category)
- Jayna Hefford (Player category)
- Martin St. Louis (Player category)
- Aleksander Yakushev (Player category)
- Leafs announcer Joe Bowen (Media category)
- NY Post columnist Larry Brooks (Media category)
- Here is a bit about each of the inductees.
- Leafs announcer Joe Bowen also was named this year’s recipient of the Foster Hewitt Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.
- Note: the Hockey Hall of Fame is not part of the NHL; it’s an entirely separate entity.
- Jets forward Brendan Lemieux was suspended for 2 games for an illegal check to the head of Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck. The play happened in the second of the two game series against the Panthers in the Global Series in Finland. Lemieux, 22, is the son for former NHL player Claude Lemieux.
- Former LA Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has officially applied for NHL reinstatement. Voynov was close to being deported after a domestic assault conviction back 3 years ago (when he was a member of the LA Kings) but ended up leaving the USA voluntarily and has played in the KHL the past 3 seasons. Many people are against the league giving the player another chance so Commissioner Bettman would have to consider that plus what message it sends to allow the player back in the league. The Kings still retain Voynov’s rights but apparently are not interested in bringing him back. The NHL says they are still looking at the issue and getting the facts and have no time frame on when something on the matter will be announced.
- The league has tentative plans to have games in Prague, Stockholm, Germany and Switzerland next season. The league has these games in cities where the star players of the team’s represented are from such as the recent Global Series in Finland where Jets star Patrik Laine and Alex Barkov of the Panthers are from. Currently in the planning stages, the league is apparently looking at having preseason games in Germany and Switzerland as well as season-opening game in Prague and two games in Stockholm (Global Series) in November.
- Gary Bettman was over in Finland for the Global Series and indicated on the topic of NHL players playing in Winter Olympics, the owners feel the same as in the recent past – there is no benefit for them to disrupt the season to have the players playing in the Olympics.
- NHL/NHLPA arbitrator Shyam Das is still evaluating the appeal for Capitals forward Tom Wilson. I expect something to be announced soon. Wilson was given a 20 game suspension and is trying to have it reduced. The Capitals 20th game is November 19th. Wilson is losing ~ $60 K for each game he misses.
- While a number of goaltenders have complained about the smaller goalie equipment (chest protectors), the league recently said they are not going to be making any further adjustment to the new rule.
- The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has an out clause where the league can opt out on September 1, 2019 (effective at the start of the 2020 season) and the players can similarly opt out on September 19, 2019. Donald Fehr intends to see this CBA discussion/decision through but he’s 70 years old so a replacement as head of the NHLPA would be occurring within the next, estimated, 2 years.
- The league wants to know from the players at or around this season’s all-star break (January 25, 2019; game in San Jose this season) if they want to do a 2020 World Cup. Some people see the All-Star break as the first indication if the two sides will agree to not re-open the collective bargaining agreement. Many knowledgeable people see that there is real momentum with the league – Vegas success, expansion Seattle team, gaming industry partnerships, healthy growth of revenue year over year (the salary cap has been going up each season) plus in the summer of 2021 the league needs a new USA TV deal that could be lucrative. I heard one commentator note the league and players don’t trust each other very much and there is a history of sour labor relations so this could be a factor as we approach Sept 2019 – when the league and players can opt out of the CBA.
- Some teams are behind the scenes pushing for the NHL to have more than the 16 playoff teams. When Seattle is approved, there will be 32 teams and 16 playoff teams which means half the league misses out on additional (playoff) revenue. Commissioner Bettman reportedly is of the position only 16 teams should make the post-season.
- The Seattle Hockey Partners announced Monday that they’ve hired former Canucks COO Victor De Bonis as their new COO. The Seattle Group in the same announcement also said they are adding Ken Johnsen as a Construction Executive. Johnsen will oversee the KeyArena $800 M renovation as well as the development of the franchises new practice facility that’s located in the north end of Seattle. De Bonis left the Canucks organization last March after 23 years with the franchise. Seattle group’s CEO Tod Leiweke and De Bonis both worked for the Canucks back in 1994-1999.
- The December 3 & 4th Board of Governors meeting in Sea Island, Georgia is when the NHL is expected to vote and announce Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise.
- The Nashville Predators extended goaltender Pekka Rinne for 2 more years at $5 M per season. Rinne, 36, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. I was a bit surprised they extended him as Juuse Saros is suppose to be ready to be a number one and Rinne will be 38 in the final year of the new deal. Rinne did, however, win the Vezina trophy last season for the league’s top goaltender. Rinne has had a good start to the season though missed about a week with a suspected concussion. In 7 games played this season, Rinne has a 1.63 GAA with a .948 SV%.
- Tampa Bay signed forward Yanni Gourde, 26, to a 6 year extension at an annual avg value of $5.16 M. The deal includes a full no trade clause in the first 3 seasons and a partial no trade condition in the final 3 seasons. The Lightning also need to get forward Brayden Point signed but apparently both sides have agreed to wait until the off-season to discuss a deal. Point will be a RFA at season’s end.
- As was announced on Sunday, John Stevens is out in LA and former Canucks coach Willie Dejardins is the team’s new interim head coach. Stevens had been in the final year of his contract. Also dismissed with Stevens was Kings assistant coach Don Nachbaur. The Kings other assistant coach Dave Lowry remains and former NHL player Marco Sturm has joined Desjardins staff as an assistant coach. Sturm is regarded as a top up and coming coach and has experienced success coaching Team Germany. Some see him as a future NHL head coach. Stevens was 49-36-9 from the 2016-2017 season plus 13 games this season as the Kings head coach. GM Rob Blake said the team lacked enthusiasm and passion and it was noticeable right from the start of the exhibition season. The Kings have the fewest points in the NHL with 4 wins, 8 losses and 1 overtime loss after 13 games played.
- The Flames are 6-3-1 in their past 10 games and are leading the Pacific Division. The team lost 9-1 at home against Pittsburgh on October 25 and, since then, they are 4-0-1.
- Head coach Bill Peters really relies on the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm for most of the offense. Other players are reportedly asking for more ice team such as 3rd liners Sam Bennett and UFA signing James Neal.
- The team has come back from being behind after 2 periods five times in the 15 games this season & have outscored their opponents 28-11 in 3rd periods. Head coach Bill Peters seems to have the players motivated and credits the players for being strong mentally to keep working when things aren’t going well.
- Off-season acquisition forward Elias Lindholm has turned into an excellent addition to the team. He can play center or wing but plays on the top line and has 9 goals in his first 14 games with the Flames. He’s the first Flames player to score as many goals in his first 14 games with the franchise since Doug Risebrough did back in 1982-83. He’s skilled offensively plus defensively aware. His career high in goals is 17 in his rookie year so he could easily double that total this season. Lindholm is on a reasonable 6 year deal at $4.85 M /season.
- Starting goaltender Mike Smith has struggled this season and currently has a 3.71 GAA and a .871 SV%. Smith was excellent for half of last season then got injured and was not the same after he returned. At age 36 and a pending UFA, the team may need an experienced goaltender next season.
- Defenseman Mark Giordano has exceeded expectations this season. Fifteen points in the team’s first 15 games while being excellent defensively and playing over 24 minutes a game. Gio is an older player (35 years old) in a young league but still the top defenseman on the team by a lot.
- Flames prospect Dmitry Zavgorodniy has been added to the Russia Roster for the Canada vs Russia series that started Monday, Nov. 4th in Kamloops. Zavgorodniy is a LW that’s playing this season for Rimouski of the QMJHL. Zavgorodniy, 18, will play for Russia in the 2 games against the QMJHL all-stars. The player has impressed at Flames training camp and as a seventh round draft selection, 198th overall in 2018, no one expected much from him. His also a smaller player but is making strides in his development.
- The Leafs played an excellent road game Saturday night in Pittsburgh and won 5-0. The team now has a 6-0-0 record on the road this season. It’s the first time they’ve started as strong on the road since the 1940-41 season when they went 7-0-0 before losing a road game.
- The team is on pace for 105 points, the same as last season.
- Morgan Rielly is leading the NHL in scoring from a defenseman with 6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points after 14 games played. Morgan recorded 6 goals all of last season. Just 24 years old, Rielly is still getting better every season. His offensive numbers rank him among franchise leaders for points this early in the season. Most points through team’s first 14 games for defenseman in Leafs franchise history:
- 20 pts Borje Salming 1980-81
- 19 pts Harry Cameron in 1917-18
- 18 pts Borje Salming 1977-78
- 18 pts Tomas Kaberle 2009-10
- 18 pts Morgan Rielly 2018-19
- John Tavares is on track for his top season as far as points, he’s on pace for 94 points whereas his career high is 84.
- Mitch Marner, for me, is the player offensively that drives the Leafs. He makes so much happen with his skating a passing ability and brings a lot of energy every game. Will be interesting to see what his next contract looks like. For me, he’s as valuable as any player on the roster.
- Goaltender Freddy Andersen has started strong this season with 2.28 GAA & a .924 SV%. Freddie has been a noted slow starter; his October stats since he’s been in Toronto are:
- 2016 – .876 SV%
- 2017 – .896 SV%
- 2018 – .919 SV%
- I’ve liked forward Zach Hyman’s game this season though he has just the one goal. He brings a hard working, consistent effort every game.
- The team has struggled a bit at home, though, going 1-4-0 in their last 5 games at home and being outscored 14-6. They’ve been outscored 7-0 in the first 2 periods in their past 5 home games. Marner says they need to get in on the forecheck and work the puck down low in the offensive zone.
- Something has to give on the Nylander situation soon. The organization is not revealing much in terms of if they are considering trading the player but with the December 1st deadline approaching (if the player is not signed by Dec 1 he can’t play in the NHL this season), something soon has to happen. I really think the organization wants to keep the player and he wants to stay but the two sides can’t agree on dollars. Myself, I see Nylander as expendable as Kapanen can play his role just as well (and for cheaper).
- The team has 2 home games this week, Tuesday vs Vegas and Friday vs New Jersey and then play the Bruins on Saturday in Boston.
Streaks & Milestones
- Hottest teams (last 10 games played):
- Nashville 8-2-0
- Minnesota 7-2-1
- Lightning 7-2-1
- Islanders 6-2-2
- Canadiens 6-3-1
- Edmonton 6-3-1
- Flames 6-3-1
- Jets 6-3-1
- Coyotes 6-4-0
- Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal recently recorded his 400th career goal. Staal reached the milestone in his 1,106 career games (.36 goals / game). There are only 5 other active NHL players with 400 goals:
- Alex Ovechkin (617 goals)
- Patrick Marleau (538 goals)
- Ilya Kovalchuk (421 goals)
- Sidney Crosby (417 goals)
- Marian Gaborik (407 goals)
- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews recored his 300th career goal. Toews reached the milestone in 806 games (.37 goals / game). Toews is the 6th ‘Hawks player to record as many goals and the second player drafted in 2006 to record 300 goals (Phil Kessel is the other).
- Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his 50th career shutout recently. Fleury is 28th all-time in goaltender shutouts; tied with former Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood.
- Sabres forward Jason Pominville recently played in his 1,000 career game. Pominville, now 35, has recorded 710 points in the 1,000 games.
- Leafs defenseman Ron Hainsey also recently played in his 1,000 career game as did Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza. Spezza is the third player from the 2001 draft to play 1,000 games (Dan Hamhuis 1,038 games and Tomas Plekanec 1,001 games are the others). Spezza is in the final year of his contract and is having a more productive season that last season. He’s recorded 10 points in 14 games. He recorded just 26 points last season and was not used much by former Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock. Spezza recently said regarding a new contract, he doesn’t care about the money saying he has enough but really wants to stay in Dallas after this season.
- Alex Ovechkin is 8th place all-time in powerplay goals with 234 PP goals. Dave Andreychuk is the NHL all-time leader in PP goals with 274.
- Vancouver Canucks rookie star Elias Pettersson became the youngest Canucks player ever to record 5 points in a game. Brock Boeser and Pettersson have incredible chemistry on the ice and seem to really enjoy playing together.
Odds & Ends
- Former Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty returns to Montreal on Saturday as Vegas plays the ‘Habs at the Bell Center. Pacioretty has recently missed time with an injury but is getting better and should play on Saturday.
- Canadiens captain Shea Weber is rehabbing his knee from off-season surgery and has been traveling with the team since the start of the season. Weber is expected back playing in December sometime.
- Rangers veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is two wins away moving into 7th place in all-time wins. With the two more wins, Lundqvist would tie Jacques Plante with 437 career wins.
- Oilers back-up goaltender Mikko Koskinen has won his first 3 appearances this season. Koskinen has won against league-leading Nashville plus against Chicago and Detroit. He currently has a .935 save percentage and a 2.02 GAA. Koskinen, a native of Finland, says he wear jersey #19 because his favorite player growing up was Steve Yzerman. The Oilers really need a steady back-up as the past two seasons their back-up’s have won just 5 games (in each season). Oilers starter Cam Talbot is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- While Ottawa (5-6-3) has not had a strong start, they have to be excited about defenseman Thomas Chabot. Chabot (18th overall in 2015) is leading the team in points with 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points while playing over 22 minutes a game. Last season in Chabot’s rookie season the player recorded 25 points in 63 games. Wondering if the 21 yo defenseman could possibly a future Senators captain.
- Arizona has the league’s top penalty killing percent at 92.1%. The Coyotes have had just 3 PP goals scored against them this season. The team also has a league-leading 7 short handed goals. The team is 7-6-0 on the season.
- The Oilers returned first round selection (2018) defenseman Evan Bouchard to his junior team, the London Knights, and Ottawa returned Alex Formenton (47th overall in 2017) to his junior team, also the London Knights. Both players will be playing for Team OHL in the upcoming Canada vs Russia Series. Team OHL plays Russia on November 8th in Sarnia. Both players are also expected to play for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Tourament that is in Victoria and Vancouver starting around Christmas time (2018).
- San Jose Sharks emerging star forward Timo Meier has recorded 11 goals in team’s first 14 games. It’s the most goals of any Sharks player through the team’s first 14 games in franchise history. Meier, 22, recorded 21 goals in 81 games last season for the Sharks. Logan Couture has also had a strong start to the season with 16 points in the team’s first 14 games. Couture also has an active 9 game point streak going (5 goals and 9 assists).
- The Oilers signed forward Alex Chaisson to a training camp PTO and he now has 6 goals in the 9 games he’s played in. He’s been moved onto the team’s second line which is centered by Leon Draisaitl. Chaisson has scored on 46% of his 13 shots this season. He won a Cup with the Capitals last season but wasn’t offered a contract there this summer.
- The Carolina Hurricanes and the agent for forward Sebastian Aho are working towards a long term contract for the player. Hurricanes GM Don Waddell indicated the two sides are not too far apart of their financial valuing of the player. Both the team and player want to do a long-term deal. So far this season, Aho has 17 points in 14 Hurricanes games on 4 goals. He started the season recording a point in each of the team’s first 12 games.
- Sharks center Joe Thornton is back playing after missing 9 games with an infection in his knee.
- The NY Islanders are playing better hockey under new head coach Barry Trotz. The team has at least a point in 7 straight games going 5-0-2 and the team is currently leading the Metropolitan Division.
- Some knowledgeable hockey people see Canucks head coach Travis Green as a early season leading candidate for Coach of the Year. The team was not expected to do well at all this season and are currently sitting second in the Pacific Division with a 9-6-0 record. Watching a bit of some of their games, the players are really working hard; the team is in almost every game they play.
- The Coyotes had a 5 game winning streak going before losing Monday night to the Flyers. Former Marlies goaltender Calvin Pickard picked up the win for the Flyers and now has a record of 3-1-1. Both Flyers goaltenders, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, have injuries so Pickard is getting a chance to play.
- The Penguins have lost 4 straight games since going 4-0 on their Canadian road trip last week. The team was very frustrated Monday night in their 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at home. Goaltender Matt Murray was pulled after 2 periods.