NHL News & Notes to 22 Oct 2019

League-related

  • There are three outdoor games this season with the first one being this Saturday, October 26 at Mosiac field in Regina with the Calgary Flames playing the Winnipeg Jets. It’s being called The Heritage Classic game. The whole NHL outdoor game has been very successful with 70,000 fans attending some of the games. There is a lot of work, mostly at the league-level, that goes into taking an NHL game outside and preparations for Saturday’s game started about 2 weeks ago. I heard the forecasted temperature for Saturday in Regina is approx 10 degrees celsius. Planners don’t expect the sun to be a factor for players and fans as it’s a 7 PM local time start.
  • The two others outdoor games this season are New Years Day 2020 – the Winter Classic – with Nashville playing Dallas at Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas. On February 15, 2020 LA is playing Colorado at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs. I read where Commissioner Gary Bettman said the outdoor game is so popular every team in the league wants to participate in one and team’s that already have want to be involved in another.
  • Regarding extending the CBA beyond 2022, it was reported this week the two sides have made progress on the escrow issue plus the cap numbers with the new USA TV deal but they still are not on the same page regarding NHL players participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics that are being held in China. The players generally want to go but the league sees no value to them to closing the league for two weeks mid-season.
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently attended a Sports Gaming conference which relates to the sports betting law that changed in the USA in 2018. Basically, as far as the NHL is concerned, betting on games is still in the early stages and the league has taken the approach to partner with gaming companies such as MGM. With the leagues player tracking software that is now scheduled for roll out in the post-season, fans would be able to bet on many different things. Will the team on the PP score a goal, how fast was a shot, etc. Any data element that is tracked could possibly be bet on. https://frntofficesport.com/sports-betting-insight/

Team Management

  • With the New Jersey Devils (2-4-2), AGM Tom Fitzgerald has moved behind the bench to assist head coach John Hynes. Fitzgerald was previously as assistant coach with the Penguins. The Devils are 2-0 since the change was made. I heard where GM Ray Shero said he is not considering removing head coach John Hynes at this time and it’s on the players to turn things around.
  • Jets head coach Paul Maurice won his 700th game on Sunday. He becomes just the 7th head coach to win as many games. Maurice said after the win he still feels young (he’s 52) and hopes there will be many more wins in his future. He added coaching good teams such as the Jets has resulted in him accumulating a lot of coaching wins.
  • Detroit Red Wings Senior VP Jim Devellano underwent successful brain surgery last week for a benign tumor. He expected to fully recover.

Scuttlebutt

  • The Ottawa Senators have put their search for a president of hockey operations on hold. They apparently contacted an existing NHL executive, thought to be Rangers part-time/retired exec Glen Sather, to assist them in their search but it didn’t lead to a hire. Apparently some of the names put forward were not what the Sens were looking for. Other names that were speculated to be contacted last year include former Flyers GM Ron Hextall, current Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, Seattle’s GM Ron Francis, Flyers AGM Dean Lombardi and former Canucks president Trevor Linden. None of those people were apparently interested. 
  • The Minnesota Wild were through Toronto last week and everyone got to see how much they are struggling (2-6-0). New General Manager Bill Guerin was reported to have said he’s not going to be making any panic moves right now but he added everyone is the organization is under evaluation. Head coach Bruce Boudreau is in the final year of his contract. The Wild are said to be older and slower than other teams. Their #1 center is 36 yo captain Mikko Koivu who has 4 assists after 8 games. Some experts question their July 1, 2019 signing of 32 year old forward Mats Zuccarello, 5 years at $6 M /season. They have 35 year old forward Zach Parise under contract for 5 more years, after this one, at $7.5 M so GM Guerin has a lot of tough work ahead of him. Experts say the organization needs a top draft pick or two to start a rebuild but they currently don’t have one. The organization’s home sellout streak recently stopped after 251 games.
  • The OIlers are off to a terrific 7-1-1 start. Head coach Dave Tippett has had remarkable early success with getting the most out of the players. With McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way offensively, they’ve started to play better team defense and are getting very good goaltending. Dave Tippett said they don’t have a #1 goaltender – instead and 1A (Mike Smith) and 1B (Mikko Koskinen). Koskinen is 4-0-0 this season with a 2.21 GAA and a .934 SV%. Smith is 3-1-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .930 SV%. Rookie defenseman Ethan Bear is playing with veteran Darnell Nurse on the team’s top d pairing. GM Ken Holland has to be very happy with new forward James Neal who has 9 goals, tied for the league lead with Bruins forward David Pastrnak. Neal is shooting 33% after team’s first nine games. Neal had just 7 goals all of last season. The team recalled forward Sam Gagner from the AHL late last week where he had 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly looking for a top nine forward and are interested in trying to acquire one of first rounders Islanders Josh Ho-Sang (28th overall in 2014) or Oilers hold out Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall in 2016). I’ve heard the Oilers want a top prospect back for Puljujarvi even though he’s struggled at the NHL level (37 points in 137 NHL games). He’s does have 13 points on 7 goals in 13 games this season in the Finnish league.
  • There is another Russian player that is interested in playing in the NHL, his name is Konstantin Okulov, 24, and in his recent 65 KHL games he’s recorded 25 goals and 19 assists. The Leafs and Canadiens are the two teams that have been identified as most interested in signing the forward.
  • The LA Kings have three NHL capable goaltenders – starter Jonathan Quick, Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen – and would like to move starter Quick. Quick, 33, has 3 years, after the current one, remaining on his contract at $5.8 M /season. He’s struggled this season with a 1-3 record, an .828 SV% and a 5.06 GAA. LA’s 3rd goaltender, Cal Petersen, does require waivers next season so the Kings could lose him for nothing if they can’t move Quick. Experts suggest there is not much of a market for Quick given his contract and performance. He does have 2 Stanley Cups to his credit.
  • Sabres Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had asked for a trade as recently as last season but said the other day he’s really enjoying playing for Sabres new coach Ralph Krueger. Ristolainen basically said he’s enjoying the early season with the Sabres as much any time he’s played hockey. The Sabres have surprised many people with a 7-1-1 start. Goaltender Carter Hutton has had a terrific start with a 5-0 record and a 1.39 GAA with a .953 SV%. Krueger has been able to get the Sabres player to buy in and, as a group, seem motivated. Krueger had been out of he NHL for the past 6 seasons. He most recently was chairman of a European football team so the early results have to be considered a surprise. The Sabres have the longest playoff drought of any NHL team having not made the post-season since the 2010-11 season.
  • Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson is off to an incredible start with 18 points in 10 games to lead the NHL in points. He’s just the third defenseman to record as many points after his team’s first 10 games (Bobby Orr 18 points in 1969-70 & again in 1973-74 season, and Paul Coffey 20 points in 1988-89). Carlson has already recorded three 3 assist games. Could be his year to win a Norris as the league’s top defenseman.
  • Former Vegas forward Erik Haula is off to a strong start in Carolina with 7 goals and 8 points after 9 games. The Finnish forward played in just 15 games last season after injuring his knee in a game on November 4, 2018. He required knee surgery and Vegas moved him, due to their cap crunch, for a prospect (Nicolas Roy) and a 5th round draft pick.
  • Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka signed a contract to play in Finland while he awaits a trade from Dallas. The Stars issued the player a qualifying offer and therefore own his rights but the player did not sign it instead requesting a trade.
  • Sabres rookie forward Victor Olofsson set a record by scoring his first 7 goals on the PP. Drafted by the Sabres in the seventh round (2014), Olofsson attended six Sabres training camps before, this season, finally making the team. He’s got an explosive shot that looks like a Laine or Brett Hull shot. 
  • Apparently former Hurricanes player Justin Williams has not ruled out returning to play for the team this season but it seems he’d be looking at around Christmas time/start of the new year before deciding. Williams is still a good player, he was third in team points last season with 53 plus he was team captain. He also has won 3 Cups.
  • Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris is apparently available and is in the role of 4th line center (#1 Ryan Johansen, #2 Matt Duchene, #3 Nick Bonino) with the Predators. Nashville GM David Polie was trying to trade Turris this summer but Turris has 5 season’s at $6 M /season remaining on his contract. Turris has 3 goals and 3 assists in the Predators first 8 games this season.
  • TSN reported this week there is a growing sense of optimism that Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will return to the team. He is living in Winnipeg as his kids are in school there. I’ve not heard if he is in decent shape or how much time he would need to prepare to play games. The Jets blueline is fairly inexperienced. Josh Morrissey is their number one defenseman with former Rangers player Neal Pionk their #2. Their #3 defenseman Dimtry Kulikov was just granted a leave of absence from the team which leaves 4 rookies on the Jets blueline.
  • Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has recorded a point in all 9 of the team’s games this season.
  • Ottawa is in the league basement after their first 8 games (1-6-1) and their powerplay is 1 for 23.

Signings

  • New Jersey signed first overall draft pick from 2017, Nico Hischier, to a 7 year, $50.75 M deal or $7.25 M / season starting next season. The deal buys three of Hischier’s UFA season’s.  Hischier has recorded 101 points in 157 games played (.64 PPG) on 37 goals but is noted to be a strong 2-way forward. Devils head coach John Hynes said he expects Hischier to vie to a Selke trophy in the future. For the new contract, both Jets forward Kyle Connor (.70 PPG) and Coyotes forward Clayton Keller (.69 PPG) were seen as comparables for Hischier. Hischier is just 20 years old and is the only Swiss-born player drafted into the NHL first overall. I heard both the player and team wanted a long term deal from the start of their negotiations. The deal was signed almost a full season before his current contract expires, similar to Thomas Chabot (8 seasons at $8 M /season), Alex DeBrincat (3 years at $8.4 M with $9 M in the third year), Clayton Keller ($7.15 M for 8 seasons avg .68 PPG) and Avs defenseman Sam Girard. Some other high profile players in the final year of their entry level contract include Islanders forward Mat Barzal (.88 PPG – he’d be looking at $8.5 – $9.5 M /season as a guess) and Blue Jackets Pierre-Luc Dubois (.65 PPG).
  • San Jose signed forward Patrick Marleau to a one year deal at the league minimum $700,000 / season. Marleau enters his 22nd NHL season. He said recently he was really only interested in returning to the Sharks and wants to retire as a member of the organization. Both Joe Thornton and Marleau say they are going to play as long as possible.
  • Florida signed veteran forward Brian Boyle to a one year contract for $940,000 /season (he’ll actually get paid $849 K since he’s not paid for games missed). Boyle scored 18 goals & 24 points last season while playing in the bottom six group of forwards which was split between New Jersey and Nashville. Boyle adds a lot of experience to the Panthers as he’s played in 766 NHL games over his career.

Milestones

  • Coyotes forward Phil Kessel played in his 1000 NHL game last week. He is the first player from the 2006 draft (Kessel went 5th overall) and  the 3rd youngest active player to reach the milestone. Kessel has also played in 778 consecutive games with is the seventh longest consecutive games played streak in league history.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights reached the 100 win mark as a franchise last week. They were the second fastest team to reach the milestone (the Senators in 1917-18 were the fastest).
  • Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is now tied with Terry Sawchuk for 7th all-time in wins with 445. Of active goaltenders, only New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist has more wins (450).
  • Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat became the 4th player from his 2013 draft class to reach 100 career goals (MacKinnon, Barkov and Monahan the others). Horvat was named the Canucks 14th captain in franchise history earlier this season. Defenseman Chris Tanev, Alex Edler and forward Brandon Sutter were named assistant captains.
  • Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg played in his 500th career game (121 G & 138 A for 259 pts) last week. Experts say Silfverberg is the Ducks top 2 way forward. He was named assistant captain at the start of the season with defenseman Josh Manson wearing the other ‘A’. His name was mentioned in trade last season when Anaheim was struggling to win games and Silfverberg was a pending UFA (he’s since signed for 5 season’s at $5.25 M). Ducks are one of the surprise teams this season with a 6-3-0 record under new head coach Dallas Eakins.
  • Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler recently scored his 60th goal as a member of the Ducks. That tied him with Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Niedermayer for most goals from a defenseman in Ducks franchise history. Teammate Ryan Getzlaf recently became the franchise leader in games played (988 games).
  • Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom recently played in his 900th career game (881 pts or .97 PPG)- all with the Capitals organization. Backstrom is a UFA at season’s end. No word on possible contract talks.
  • Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko skated in his 500th career games last week. Only Hall of Famer Brett Hull has scored more goals (359) than Tarasenko (211) with the Blues organization.

Leafs

  • The Leafs are now 10 games into the new season with a 5-3-2 record. They lead the league in goals for with an average of 3.8 goals/game but defending/keeping the puck out of their net is a bit of an issue. Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin are the team’s top two defenseman with Rielly also being 2nd in the league in points (11 after 10 games). The return of forward Zach Hyman next Saturday should help them defend better. Defenseman Justin Holl is getting a chance with Travis Dermott injured and he has performed well.
  • Sounds like Dermott is ready to return but he can’t play in a game until next Saturday, October 26th since there is a rule that players put on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) have to spend at least 24 days on there. The clock on both Dermott’s and Hyman’s stint on LTIR started on October 2nd, the first day of the regular season. Sportsnet was saying on Saturday that when Dermott and Hyman return, the team has to move players out to get under the $81.5 M salary cap limit. Forward Nic Patan has apparently asked to be moved as he wants to play more regularly. Some of the other names that could either be traded to transferred to the AHL include Nick Shore, Jason Spezza, Dmytro Timashov plus defenseman Kevin Gravel, Justin Holl and Martin Marincin. 
  • Auston Matthews now has scored 33 goals in 42 career games in the month of October. Incredible.
  • Disappointing to hear captain John Tavares broke his finger late in last Thursday night’s game against the Capitals. It was a Morgan Rielly shot from the blueline that caught Tavares in the right hand. Tavares said half his hand went numb after. The captain has been incredibly durable in his career and had played 179 straight games with Isles and Leafs since 2017-18 before this finger injury. He was working on the ice with the Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill on Sunday.
  • With Tavares injured, William Nylander moves into his spot in middle of the ice of the team’s first PP. Nylander has a respectable 6 points and 3 goals after 10 games. It took him 26 games to reach 3 goals last season where he missed games before December 1st when he signed his contract.
  • Kasperi Kapanen struggled in his time playing his off (left) wing with Tavares and Marner. He’s looked a lot better since moving onto the right side on the Kerfoot line with Trevor Moore.
  • Babcock talks a lot in his interviews about the importance of winning faceoffs. He believes that’s key in most situations from the PP to being better defensively (winning the draw in the d zone). Forth line center Freddy Gauthier has won 64% of his faceoffs this season to lead all Leafs players (plus he’s 6’5” and 235 pounds). With 2 goals and 3 points and a -1 rating, Gauthier has had a strong start to the season and recently said he’s feeling more confident. The Leafs head coach would like to use Tavares and Matthews for all the offensive zone faceoffs if he can trust the 3rd and 4th line centers, Kerfoot and Gauthier, to win the d zone faceoffs.
  • Some of the reporters were questioning Babcock about his use of goaltenders and why Freddy Andersen started against a weaker Columbus team and back-up Hutchinson starts against the Bruins. Babcock’s reasoning is about getting the most points. The team is more rested in the first game of back to backs so their chances of winning the first game are greater so use your top goaltender to secure 2 points. With a more tired team on the second night, there is less chance of gaining a win.
  • A lot of knowledgeable fans are raving about the play of Jake Muzzin since he arrived in Toronto. The Leafs have 3 of their top 4 defenseman on expiring contracts (Ceci, Barrie and Muzzin are all UFA) but some think if there is one of those players they can try and re-sign it would be Muzzin. There have reportedly been no contract talks between the Leafs and Muzzin though it was said the team needs more time to assess their blue line and haven’t looked how it may look next season.
  • The Leafs have a post game tradition where the player of the game, I believe selected by Mike Babcock, receives the Raptors basketball. The Leafs are integrating the Raptors championship ways more into their team.
  • Defenseman Rasmus Sandin was sent to the Marlies after 6 NHL games. He impressed a lot of people by making the team out of training camp. Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader caught Sandin with an elbow in his last NHL game and Sandin was bloodied. I think it caught the attention of some of the management (he’s a young prospect just finding his way) plus he was getting just 12 minutes a game. With the Marlies he’s on the top d pairing with fellow first rounder (2017) Timothy Liljegren.
  • The Marlies are off to a terrific 6-0 start. They’ve recorded 2 shutouts in the 6 games and have scored 23 goals while allowing just 11. Forward Igor Koshkov has at least one point in every game. Mike Babcock said the other day it’s very positive that their young prospects can be apart of a winning program and learn what that’s like. Leafs AGM Laurence Gilman is General Manager of the Marlies. The undefeated record looks good on both head coach Sheldon Keefe and Gilman. Gilman was AGM in Vancouver before joining the Leafs front office. 
  • The Leafs have 4 games this week –
    • Monday at home against Columbus
    • Tuesday against the Bruins in Boston
    • Friday at home against Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks
    • Saturday night in Montreal

Injuries

  • Evgeni Malkin suffered a soft tissue inujry to his leg in the Penguins 2nd game of the season and will miss at least a month.
  • One of Arizona’s top defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson suffered a cracked fibula (leg) and will miss 3 months. Hjalmarsson suffered the injury blocking a shot. 

Odds & Ends

  • The Blackhawks have an active home sell out streak of 500 consecutive games. This includes 436 regular season games and 64 playoff games. Chicago leads the NHL in average attendance.
  • Former Oilers executive Craig MacTavish was fired from his KHL coaching position after a 3-5 start. No word if he’ll try to get back in the NHL again.
  • Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle currently has the 5th longest games played streak at 800 games. He needs 31 games to reach 4th (Andrew Cogliano) and 164 more games to tie Doug Jarvis for first all-time.
  • Jets forward Patrik Laine is off to a strong start – tied for the team lead with 12 points in 9 games. Jets captain Blake Wheeler said one of his goals is to help Laine become one of the NHL’s top players. Experts have noticed Laine is a lot more focused, professional in his approach and playing a more complete game so far this season.
  • Habs forward Jonathan Drouin is also off to a strong start, he has 8 points on 3 goals after the team’s first 9 games. Drouin additionally has recorded at least a point in 7 of the team’s first 9 games. Head coach Claude Julien said the other day Drouin is playing as well as he ever has as a Montreal Canadien. Of course, Drouin was acquired from Tampa Bay for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (9th overall in 2016).
  • First overall draft pick (2019) Jack Hughes has just 2 points after 9 games. He said the players and especially defenseman are a lot bigger and stronger than in leagues he’s played in (he was most recently with the USA National Development Program). The Devils say he will stick with the team all season, they could return him to junior team before his 10th game and not start his entry level contract.
  • There has already been three instances this season where a player had 4 goals in a game, James Neal, David Pastrnak and Anthony Mantha. Last season there were only 4 times all season a player recorded 4 goals in a game.
  • Former Flyers and Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald has signed with SC Bern in the Swiss League. MacDonald has played 586 NHL games and attended Calgary Flames training camp on PTO but was cut on the final day of the pre-season.
  • Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk said Monday he’s being diagnosed with stomach cancer. Hawerchuk, 56, is on leave from the OHL Barrie Colts where he is the team’s head coach.

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