The second star: Leaf fans
Marquee free agent David Clarkson finally scored his first goal of the season, and Leaf fans are handling the event with their typical brand of quiet restraint.
The first star: Corey Perry and Alexander Semin
Do me a favor and let me know how many times you can watch this GIF before it stops being funny. I’ve had it running for three straight days and I’m not there yet.
One fun part of any sport’s preseason is getting a first look at the bookmaker odds for various player props. It’s always an interesting insight into what the oddsmakers think about who’ll be the season’s statistical leaders and award winners, not to mention what they expect the betting public to think.
And while it can be fun to argue over the odds assigned to various players, there’s a part of me that’s always found it more interesting to look at the players who get left off the lists entirely. In betting terms, they make up “the field,” a nice way of saying “everyone else who we couldn’t even be bothered to put on this list.” If you’re the sort of fan who appreciates an underdog, it can be fun to go through the various props and try to figure out whether anyone who got snubbed could actually win.
NHL training camps are beginning to open around the league, and that means that after months of trades, signings, hirings, firings, wild speculation, and unfounded rumors, we can finally declare the 2013 offseason over.
How closely were you paying attention to the summer’s news? Take this handy quiz to find out.
If you follow a television series long enough, you’ll eventually hit one of those story lines: The one that is set up brilliantly, seems to be building to an intriguing payoff, and then just kind of gets forgotten about.
The NHL offseason isn’t a scripted TV show. (We know this because scripted TV shows don’t go weeks at a time with absolutely nothing happening.) But that hasn’t stopped this year’s edition from featuring its share of abandoned story lines.
Here are five subplots that seemed like they’d be important pieces of the 2013 offseason but (so far) have turned out to be duds.
The Bruins made headlines last week by trading Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars as part of a seven-player deal. The move was unusual, since Seguin is still only three years removed from being the second overall pick in the draft, and is generally considered to be one of the most promising young players in the league. The Bruins had their reasons — the team was reportedly concerned about his off-ice partying and whether he was committed to winning — but they’re still taking a significant risk.
How significant? Let’s just say that NHL history is filled with examples of teams giving up on young players too soon. So many, in fact, that you could probably fill out an entire roster using nothing but future stars that some unfortunate team let slip away. And today, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Last week was a busy one in the NHL, featuring the draft, several major trades, and the opening days of unrestricted free agency. And while the offseason stretches into September, history tends to show that most of the key moves are made within those frantic first few days.
Some transactions will fly under the radar, while others will be noticed and then forgotten relatively quickly. And then there are the important decisions that catch everyone’s attention, spurring debate and inevitably thrusting some poor soul directly into the spotlight — whether he wants to be there or not.
Here are 10 names from around the league who, for good or for bad, have found themselves solidly in that spotlight after the offseason’s opening act.
Vancouver Canucks starting goaltender (?) Roberto Luongo
The draft-day trade that sent Cory Schneider to New Jersey was supposed to mark the end of a 14-month goaltending controversy in Vancouver. Instead, it seems to have somehow made a difficult situation even more complicated.
By trading away their younger, cheaper option and handing the starter’s job to Luongo, the Canucks were probably making the only move that was available to them. But it’s a decision that’s left them at the mercy of the disgruntled Luongo, who had been waiting more than a year for the team to honor his trade request.
Thanks to Roberto Luongo, Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Rick DiPietro, the past week of NHL transactions will probably be remembered as the Revenge of the Long-Term Contracts. With Luongo trapped in Vancouver and the other three players receiving buyouts that total almost $80 million, teams that tried to beat the system with extended deals are starting to feel some serious pain.
After years of teams signing players to ridiculously long-term deals, often front-loading them to exploit a salary-cap loophole, the NHL moved to put a stop to the practice in the last CBA by limiting contracts to a maximum of eight years. But the contracts signed under the old CBA still remain, and many of them don’t look good.
So I thought it would be a good idea to go through the full list of contracts longer than eight years that were signed during the salary-cap era and do a player-by-player breakdown of all [checks CapGeek] 21 of them.
Wait, 21? I’ve got to be honest, that’s way more than I thought there would be. What the hell, NHL owners? This is going to take a while.
[Strongly considers introducing an arbitrary cutoff like “12 years” and going to lunch early.]
[Ah, screw it, let’s do this.]
Here’s a look at each of those 21 contracts of nine years or longer, as we try to answer one question: In hindsight, did any of them actually turn out to be a good idea?
It’s been one of the NHL’s burning questions for the last 14 months: Where would Roberto Luongo wind up?
After losing his job as the Canucks’ starting goaltender to Cory Schneider during last year’s playoff loss to the Kings, Luongo was clearly on his way out of Vancouver. His massive contract was always going to be onerous for a starter, but it was downright impossible for a backup. And so we all waited for the Canucks to move him. And waited. And waited
Well, we finally have an answer to the question: Luongo’s not going anywhere. Schneider is.
The Canucks pulled a draft-day swerve Sunday by sending Schneider to New Jersey in exchange for the ninth overall pick. (Which Vancouver used to select Bo Horvat.) The deal was the highlight of draft day, a true blockbuster that seemed unthinkable even a few days ago.
It was also a deal that answered one question, but created many more. So here are eight new questions for us to ponder in the aftermath.
We’re about a quarter of the way through this truncated NHL season, and that seems like a good time to have a look at some of the players who are putting up impressive numbers so far.
But while it’s not exactly a shock to see names like Stamkos, Crosby, and Rinne near the top of various categories, some of this year’s other leaders are less predictable. Granted, we’re dealing with a dozen games or so in most cases, so your “small sample size” warning light should be blinking rapidly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to recognize some early season surprises.
When you look around the NHL, you find several teams with unquestioned no. 1 goaltenders. Barring injury, players such as Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Pekka Rinne will be starting every big game for their teams all year long, with an occasional break when the schedule serves up an also-ran.
But not every team’s situation is quite so settled. In some cases, the starter’s hold on the job is shaky. In others, two guys are splitting time equally.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams where the title of no. 1 goalie is still up for grabs.
It’s probably foolish to try to read anything into two days’ worth of games, especially when half the players in the NHL are still trying to get back to pre-lockout form. But that’s no reason not to try, so here are 10 random observations from the NHL’s opening weekend:
The Blues made a statement
The St. Louis Blues entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Western Conference. They looked the part Saturday, pummeling the Detroit Red Wings, 6-0, and outshooting them, 17-2, in a first-period display that played out as a near-perfect depiction of Ken Hitchcock hockey.
The game also featured the breakout performance of opening weekend, with Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko scoring a pair of goals, including a filthy individual effort in his NHL debut. The 21-year-old 2010 first-round pick has spent the last few seasons in the KHL, and could make a major impact if he can bring consistent production to a Blues offense that wasn’t exactly intimidating last year.
But while Tarasenko could be the league’s next big star, let’s hold off on the hype until we see him do it against an NHL-caliber defense.
After an exhaustive six-hour training camp, the NHL makes its long-awaited return Saturday. And while it’s been easy to forget over the past few months of lockout negotiations between grim-faced men in suits, hockey is a sport played on ice by actual hockey players.
Let’s take a look at some of them now. Here are 10 players who’ll be especially interesting to keep an eye on over the next few months:
The Ottawa Senators reserve goaltender Robin Lehner sure picked a good time for his first career shutout: two days after the Senators traded for St. Louis's highly touted netminder Ben Bishop. A little competition never hurt anyone! The trade took place after Senators starting goalie Craig Andersonsliced his finger badly enough to preclude him from playing; Lehner was also called up from the AHL's Binghamton that day and made 28 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Islanders.
It was on Tuesday, though, that the fiery 20-year-old — who became the youngest Swedish goalie to play in the NHL last season when he debuted just two months after turning 19 — really made his mark. Lehner stopped all 32 shots that came his way for the 1-0 shutout victory in Boston, where he was named the game's first star. (Bishop, who was assigned to Binghamton, picked up first-star honors for the AHL affiliate the same night.)
It will be interesting to see what unfolds between Lehner and Bishop. Last season, Lehner helped lead the Binghamton Senators to the AHL's Calder Cup and was named MVP of the playoffs; this year, Bishop has been the AHL's top regular-season netminder for the Peoria Rivermen and was even named the MVP of the All-Star Game.