NHL News & Notes to 12 Nov 2019

League

  • 2019 NHL Global Series – the Tampa Bay Lightning (7-5-2) and Buffalo Sabres (9-5-2) played two sold-out (14,000 fans/ game) matches in Stockholm, Sweden last week. The Lightning won both games, 3-2 on Friday, Nov. 8th and 5-3 on Saturday, November 9th. It was the third straight season – and 8th overall – that the NHL has played a game in Europe. NHL Commissioner Bettman was at both games and announced that Boston Bruins & Nashville Predators will open the 2020-21 regular season with a game in Prague. Additionally, Columbus and Colorado will play two games in Helsinki, Finland in either October or November. The league seems to be focusing on Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland for their games for the Global Series as these countries have a tradition of hockey and it’s where many NHL star players are from. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said it was a “dream come true” to play in his home country last week. Hedman was the only Swede on the Lightning roster but the Sabres have 8 Swedes on their roster including number one overall draft pick from 2018 & last season’s Calder trophy winner Rasmus Dahlin. Some see the Europe experiment as a win win as many players are from there and enjoy going back with their NHL teams & the fans are turning out for the games. The NHL has talked a bit about the possibly of one day having a European league but there’s been no sign this is in the near term. The NFL has also been having regular season games in Europe with success.
  • With the NHL’s deal with NBC TV expiring at the end of next season, a lot of people are looking at what the NHL’s TV rights deal could look like. NBC apparently wants to continue to have the USA national TV rights deal but there are other companies interested as well. ESPN, for example, have said they are interested in doing a USA TV deal with the league. The NHL is also looking at online streaming deals as that has become a lot more popular. Amazon is one company that has expressed interest in doing an NHL games online streaming deal.
  • TSN reported recently that there haven’t been any face-to-face meetings between the NHL and NHLPA in the month of October but the two sides have been meeting by phone. The sense is talks continue in a positive manner. The two sides have an CBA agreement in place until the end of the 2021-22 season but are continuing to discuss extending it further.
  • There is a NHL General Managers meeting Tuesday, November 19th in Toronto. The GM will reconvene again in March 2020. One topic that is believed to be on the agenda for these meetings is video review for off-side after a goal is scored. The NHL believes approximately 50-60 goals / season are called back from the video review of off-side plays and the GM’s are going to discuss basically is that the end result they want. There less goals and the fans seem to enjoy that part of the game the most.
  • The Heritage Classic game in Regina on October 26 was a success. A sold out crowd of 33,518 fans took in the game that saw the Jets defeat the Flames 2-1 in overtime. There have now been 28 NHL outdoor games with 1,492,877 fans attending, an average of 53,317 fans / game.

Seattle

  • The Seattle franchise is expected to announce their team name around the January 26th NHL All-Star game which is in St. Louis. Some of the names registered by the OakView Group include Rainers, Kraken, Evergreens, Seals, Emeralds, Sea Lions, Sockeyes, Whales, Eagles, Totems, Cougars, Firebirds and Renegades.
  • Alexandra Mandrycky has a new title, Director of Hockey Strategy & Research. She also signed a new contract with the Seattle team.
  • Seattle hired a quantitative analyst named Daniel Chu in their hockey ops group. He starts in January 2020. Chu is a recent graduate of Simon Fraser University with a Masters degree in Statistics.

Team Management

  • The Arizona Coyotes signed their GM John Chayka to a long term contract extension. Terms of the deal were not made public but Chayka, 30, had a year and a half left on his existing contract. Chayka was hired by Arizona back in 2016 when he was just 26 years old. The Coyotes missed the post season by four points last season and have a 9-6-2 record after 17 games this season. Experts say with new owner Alex Meruelo plus steady progression of good results on the ice, the organization wanted stability in their key management people.
  • Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, became the first Islanders head coach to earn his 60th win prior to his 100th game with the franchise. He’s 60-30-8 in his first 100 Islanders games coached.
  • Former Leafs player Doug Gilmour has left the Kingston Frontenacs organization to take a position as community representative/team ambassador for the Leafs. Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark, Curtis Joseph and Darcy Tucker currently hold the same position of community rep/ambassador with the Leafs. Gilmour held positions such as head coach, GM and team president of the Frontenacs.
  • Golden Knights VP of Entertainment Jonny Greco is leaving Vegas to work for Madison Square Garden. The Vegas pre-game show is regarded as tops in the league and set a new standard for NHL pre-game entertainment.

Scuttlebutt

  • LA Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch in Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota. On the season, he has 3 goals and and 8 assists for 9 points with a -10 plus/minus. Further, Kovalchuk was reportedly told he will not be playing in Kings games for the foreseeable future though he is welcome to practice with the team. New Kings head coach Todd McLellan has a challenge on his hands to turn the Kings back into a winning team. Their record after 18 games played is 6-11-1, tied with Ottawa for last in the league.
  • With LA in a re-tooling / rebuilding phase defenseman Alex Martinez plus forward Tyler Toffoli are rumored to be available. I heard they plan to keep captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty, and GM Rob Blake keeps them apprised of the rebuilding plans, but no other player is unavailable. Cal Petersen is the goalie of the future and they need to move veteran Jonathan Quick but it’s not going to be easy to do so (could be a buy out candidate). Quick has 3 more seasons after this one at a cap number of $5.8 M. Forwards Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are both UFA’s this summer and not expected back. Toffoli has been a healthy scratch a few games this season. He has 4 goals and 4 assists in 16 games played.
  • Penguins star Sidney Crosby reportedly has a sports hernia injury and is considering surgery. He has had the problem since training camp but is said to now be considering the surgery option which could mean he’d miss 4-6 weeks. 
  • Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien – this has turned into a complex situation with Byfuglien saying when he injured his ankle last season, there were still problems with it that he did not tell Jets management about and he went and got surgery on it this summer without consulting the Jets. Experts believe the NHLPA may file a grievance on the players behalf as he is owed $8 M this season and $6 M next. He is currently suspended without pay. It’s not clear if the player wants to return to the NHL but he said to need two – three more months to get his ankle back fully functioning. It’s not really clear why the player did not tell the team about the fact he was still having problems with the ankle and the Jets are in a bit of limbo regarding the salary cap as they don’t really know how much cap dollars to allocate to the Byfuglien situation. Some speculate if the player were to try and return to play in the NHL it may not be with the Jets organization.
  • Apparently the agent for Taylor Hall (same agent that represents Leafs Mitch Marner) has been in discussions with the Devils and GM Ray Shero about a new contract for Hall. The player is a UFA after this season. Hall is in a strong position as there is really no urgency to him to sign until he’s happy, there are other NHL teams that would covet the player as a July 1, 2020 UFA. Hall reportedly does enjoy playing in New Jersey but also wants to win. He’s played in just 5 post-season games in his career so he wants to see signs that New Jersey has a chance to be a top level team in the near future.
  • Montreal has reportedly started contract discussions with defenseman Victor Mete (3 G & 3 A in 18 games played). Mete is in the final year of his entry level deal. No word on term or dollars being discussed. Mete averages 17 1/2 minutes / game of ice time.
  • Oilers first rounder Jesse Puljujarvi said the other day he’s happy to spend this season playing in Finland. Puljujarvi has recorded 11 goals and 20 points in 18 games in Finland this season where the game is played on the international size ice surface. One team that expressed interest in acquiring the player indicated they want him playing on an NHL ice surface before going further in trade talks. Doesn’t seem as though that’s the way it’s going to play out as the player will only return to North America is he’s traded from Edmonton. Seems Oilers GM Ken Holland is OK with the player putting up points in Finland as it’s increasing his market value.
  • Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook has been a healthy scratch recently. Seabrook, 34, has 4 more years at $6.875 M/ season left on his contract. He is seen as probably untradeable. Vancouver Canucks forward Loui Eriksson in Vancouver is in a similar situation, two more years after this season at $6 M and can’t get into Vancouver’s line-up. With the Dallas Stars, captain Jamie Benn is in head coach Montgomery’s doghouse and has one goal plus 5 assists in 18 games played. He’s making $9.5 M for this season and for 5 more season after this one.
  • Senators veteran forward Bobby Ryan, the Sens highest paid player, has been a healthy scratch recently. Ryan has one goal and three assists in 13 games played this season. Ryan is under contract for this season and two more at $7.25 M /per.
  • New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was a healthy scratch a few times already this season. It was the first time in his 13 year NHL career he has been a healthy scratch. He recently suffered an ankle infection injury. Staal has one more season remaining on his contract after this season at a cap number of $5.7 M.
  • St. Louis traded former first rounder Robby Fabbri to the Red Wings for defenseman Jacob De La Rose. Apparently, Fabbri’s agent talked to Blues GM Doug Armstrong and asked if the player could be moved if he was not going to see regular ice time with the Blues.  Fabbri was a highly rated prospect for the Blues but torn the ACL in his right knee in consecutive seasons. Fabbri’s scored 2 goals and added 2 assists in his first 3 games with the Red Wings. Fabbri is a former 1st round draft pick (2014) who has really struggled staying healthy.
  • The Sabres are reportedly looking for a top nine forward as Vladimir Sobotka was injured and it could be a longer term injury. The Sabres started the season with an 8-1-1 record but have lost 5 straight since.
  • The Penguins traded defenseman Erik Gudbranson to Anaheim for F Andreas Martinsen and a seventh-round pick in 2021. NHL experts saw this as the Pens wanting to move Gudbranson’s $4 M salary for this season and next. Anaheim needed a defenseman as Josh Manson is sidelined for 7-10 weeks with an MCL sprain.
  • Winnipeg claimed defenseman Luca Sbisa off waivers from the NY Islanders. Sbisa is reportedly playing in well in Winnipeg. He’s played in 7 games with an average of 16 mins / game of ice time.

Hot Teams

  • The Islanders are 12-3-1 on the season and have not lost in regulation since Oct 11. They’ve allowed just 22 goals in their 12 wins. New York’s next game is Wednesday at Nassau against the Leafs.
  • The Oilers have the forth most points in the league with 26 points after 20 games. Only St. Louis, Washington & Boston have more points than Edmonton. Captain Connor McDavid recently recorded his 400th career point. Only Gretzky, Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux, Crosby, Bryan Trottier, Steve Yzerman and Pierre Turgeon recorded more points before turning 23 than McDavid. Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl leads the league in points with 36 points in 20 games. Draisaitl has an active 10 game point streak going. I saw both players interviewed before the season started and McDavid said one his goals is to work towards being regarded one of the top players all-time and Draisaitl said his goal was to be considered among the elite players in the game with Crosby, McDavid, Kucherov.
  • The Washington Capitals (13-2-4) posted a point streak of at least 12 games (10-0-2) for the first time since a 14-game run from Dec. 29, 2016 to Jan. 23, 2017 (12-0-2). Second year head coach Todd Reirdon does not get a lot of credit as a good NHL head coach.
  • St. Louis have won 7 straight games and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games, plus have 5 straight wins on the road. Overall, the Blues are 12-3-3 on the season.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers have won four straight games and they’ve won five of their past six games (5-0-1). A lot of people are crediting new head coach Alain Vigneault for their success so far. A few of their young players are quietly moving to the forefront; players such as Travis Konecny (age 22 and 19 points in 17 games this season), first rounder Joel Farabee (19) and Carter Hart (21). Swede Oskar Lindblom (23) is tied with Konecny for the most goals on the team (8).

Signings

  • Nashville signed pending UFA defenseman Roman Josi to a max 8 year deal at a cap number of $9.059 M /season. The deal starts next season when the player will be 30 years old and includes a full no move clause for all 8 seasons. Some people believe the 8 year deals for 30 year old players will not be as prevalent as in a faster and younger league $8 – $9 M per season for 33 and 34 year old players are showing to hamstring (salary cap) teams. 
  • Some speculate the Josi signing should get the market for pending UFA St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Apparently the players agent did meet with Blues GM Doug Armstrong but that was back a month ago and there has been no dialogue since.
  • The Predators also signed forward Austin Watson to a 3 year, $4.5 M contract. 
  • The defending Cup champs, St. Louis, signed forwards Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn to 10 day PTO’s. Brouwer went to the Florida Panthers training camp on a PTO but was cut. Brouwer recorded 12 goals and 9 assists in 75 games for the Panthers last season. McGinn appeared in 2 games for Carolina’s AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers before being released. McGinn, 31, played last season also with the Panthers where he recorded 4 goals and 7 points in 19 games before being sent to the AHL.

Milestones

  • Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played in his 1,500 NHL game last week. He’s is the 21st player all-time to play in as many games and 6th defenseman.
  • St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester recently played in his 1200 NHL game. He is the 111th player all-time to play as many NHL games. Bouwmeester is only the 5th active player with 1200 games played (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara are the others). Bouwmeester said as he gotten older he appreciates the milestones more.
  • Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf recently played in his 1,000 career game- all with the Ducks. He is first player in franchise history reach the 1000 Ducks games played milestone.
  • Canadiens head coach Claude Julien coached in his 1,200 game last week. He is 19th all-time in NHL games coached.
  • Leafs head coach Mike Babcock reached the 700 win mark last week. Only 7 other head coaches all-time have as many wins as Babcock and, of active coaches, he has the 4th most wins (Coach Q has 898, Trotz has 822 and Paul Maurice has 705). Babcock said of his success he’s tried to adapt and re-invent himself ever year as things are changing fast (even in his line of work!). Some of the players said he brings professionalism and energy, always trying to be positive and has top level habits plus he sticks to a daily routine. Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie said Babcock really is clear with what he is expecting and wants the players to do things a certain way.
  • Chicago defenseman and first rounder (8th overall in 2018), Adam Boqvist, recorded his first NHL goal last week against Anaheim. He is a big part of the future of the ‘Hawks defense group.
  • Vegas forward Max Pacioretty recently reached the 500 point milestone. He has an impressive 250 goals and 250 assists in his career (626 games played). Pacioretty has had a solid NHL career and is still just 30 years old.
  • Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is just the fifth player of Russian nationality in NHL history to appear in at least 1,100 career regular-season games (also Alex Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Fedorov and Vyacheslav Kozlov). Of the 190 players in NHL history to reach 1,100 games, only two scored more than Ovechkin’s 669 goals in their first 1,100 games: Wayne Gretzky (793) and Brett Hull (679)
  • Leading Norris trophy candidate John Carlson played in his 700th career game last week. He’s recorded 432 points or .61 PPG. Carlson set a frachise record for points in a month for a defenseman with 23 points in the recent month of October and the second most for a defenseman in NHL history.
  • Canadiens captain Shea Weber recored his 100th career PP goal on the weekend, He’s the only active defenseman with as many career PP goals. Weber off to a strong offensive start this season with 14 points, 5 goals, after the Habs first 18 games this season. Weber has as many goals as PK Subban has points (5).
  • LA captain Anze Kopitar recently reached the 900 point milestone (317 goals & 587 assists). Kopitar also has his name on the Stanley Cup twice.
  • St. Louis Blues forward David Perron already has 3 OT goals after only 18 Blues games played this season. Perron is the first player to record as many OT goals prior to his teams 20th game of the season. 
  • Sharks forward Patrick Marleau recently played in his 800th consecutive regular season game becoming just the 6th player all-time, and only the second active player, to achieve that. He hasn’t missed a regular season game since the 2008-09 season.

Leafs

  • The Leafs play at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island on Wednesday and overall play 12 of their next 15 games on the road. Forward Zach Hyman is expected to return for the game which is very positive as he bring a lot- hard work, character player who is physical and battles as hard any anyone for loose pucks. Babcock says Hyman is his the team’s best forechecker. Hyman has been rehabbing the knee for seven months after a knee ACL tear & surgery so it will take him a bit to get back his timing and game conditioning.
  • Forward Mitch Marner was placed on long term injury reserve which means he misses at least 10 games or 24 days. Marner has not missed a game since he was an NHL rookie. The team has said it’s at least a 4 week injury (high ankle sprain). They are definitely going to miss him he is averaging a point a game and the most used forward used on the team’s PK. Marner also leads the team in PP points with 7. Andreas Johnsson, Kapanen and Ilya Mikheyev will have a chance to play more in Marner’s absence.
  • Auston Matthews recorded 10 goals in October for the second straight season. Matthews is 7th overall in the league in points with 13 G & 12 A for 25 points. He looks even better this season that last and when he’s really motivated he’s hard to contain.
  • The Tavares line (Hyman-Tavares-Marner) has yet to play a shift together this season. We will probably see Tavares with Kapanen & Hyman tomorrow. Some of the other lines look like Johnsson-Matthews-Nylander, Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Moore & Petan-Shore-Gauthier. No indication what the team plans are for Jason Spezza.
  • The team seem be playing from behind a lot having given up the first goal of the game in 14 of their 19 games (73.7%) this season.
  • The team has 14 back to back games this season (five between now and the end of December) having already played 5 and have picked up just a single point. Hutchinson had a 0-4 record with a 4.44 GAA and a .879 SV% and of course was placed on waivers and cleared through the league. He was sent to the Marlies on Tuesday. Marlies starter Kasimir Kaskisuo takes over as the Leafs back-up. In 8 games with the Marlies this season, Kaskisuo has a 6-1-1 record with a .928 SV% and a 2.13 GAA. His numbers are good but the NHL is a lot tougher league to have consistent success in. People are expecting Kaskisuo starts on the second night of the Leafs next back to back which is Saturday in Pittsburgh.
  • The Leafs have taken the 3rd most minor penalties in the league at an average of 3.85 / game. Auston Matthews said the other day all the minor penalties take the team out of their regular rhythm of rolling 4 lines.
  • William Nylander has 6 points in his last 4 games after being benched in a game against the Flyers in Philadelphia. Babcock says his battle level has increased resulting in having the puck more and he’s getting more shots on net plus looking a lot more confident on the ice.
  • The team is on pace for 95 points; last season they finished with 100 and in 2017-18 they had 105. Seems what St. Louis and Colorado showed it matters more who is playing well in mid March and into April.
  • After Wednesday at Nassau Coliseum, the team plays:
    • at home vs the Bruins on Friday
    • in Pittsburgh on Saturday
    • in Vegas on Tuesday
    • in Arizona on Thursday 
    • in Colorado on Saturday
  • With the Leafs prospects, Marlies defenseman Rasmus Sandin has recorded 9 points in 8 games while playing on the Marlies top d pairing.
  • Peterborough Petes forward and Leafs second rounder (2019) Nick Robertson has recorded 28 points in 19 games this season on 19 goals. With a 68 game OHL regular season, Robertson is on pace for an incredible 68 goals. Petes teammate Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, a Leafs 3rd rounder from 2017 has 27 points on 4 goals in 17 games played.

Awards & Hockey Hall of Fame

  • Sabres rookie forward Victor Olofsson was named Rookie of the Month for October. He recorded 6 goals, all on the PP, and 4 assists for 10 points in 13 games played. Seems the early race for NHL Calder Trophy is between three young defenseman, Avalanche Cale Makar, Canucks Quinn Hughes and Oilers Ethan Bear. Makar has an incredible 17 points in 17 regular season NHL games played while averaging 19 minutes of ice time per game. Bear leads all rookies with 21 minutes of ice time / game. If I had to bet, I would predict Cale Makar for Calder this season.
  • The Dallas Stars announced that they will retire former Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov’s #56 jersey in a ceremony next season. Zubov leads the Stars franchise in goals, assists, points, power play points for a defenseman. He is entering the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 18th. Zubov joins former Stars players Neal Broten (#7), Bill Goldsworthy (#8), Mike Modano (#9), Bill Masterton (#19) and Jere Lehtinen (#26) in having their number retired by Dallas.
  • Along with Zubov, Guy Carbonneau, Pens GM Jim Rutherford, Hayley Wickenheiser, Russian Vlad Nedomansky, Builder Jerry York also enter this Hockey Hall of Fame on November 18th,

Team Canada

  • TSN reported Tuesday night that Team Canada’s GM for the Spengler Cup, Sean Burke, has asked Wayne Gretzky if he’d consider coaching Canada at the tournament that runs from Thursday, December 26, 2019 to Tuesday, December 31 in Switzerland. Gretzky apparently said he needs a few days to check if can make it work with his busy schedule and will get back to Burke. Would be awesome to see him behind Team Canada’s bench for the tourny.
  • The IIHF World Juniors is in the Czech Republic this year, tournament starts December 26, 2019 and some rumblings are starting so percolate around that event with respect to Team Canada. Center Barrett Hayden (5th overall to Arizona in 2018) is currently with the Coyotes and it’s not clear if he will be made available. Hayden represented Canada last year when the Canadians finished 6th in the tournament, Blackhawks rookie Kirby Dach (3rd overall 2019 to CHI) is playing with the Blackhawks so, similar to Hayden, he may or not be made available by his NHL team but Detroit Red Wings prospect Joe Velano (30th overall in 2018) is expected to be made available. Velano is a 19 year old center from Quebec who is playing with the Red Wings AHL team.
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