Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,
The NHL offseason isn’t over yet; it’s only mid-July, which means we still have roughly seven weeks until training camp starts. But it’s mostly over, in the sense that virtually all the big signings, trades, hirings, and firings have already taken place. While we’ll probably get the occasional surprise or two over the next month, we’re well into the summer dead zone now.
And you know what that means: It’s time to fire up the NHL Offseason Bizarro-meter! Last season we debuted the system for a breakdown of the Toronto Maple Leafs summer moves, and the poor thing barely survived. But we’ve spent the year tweaking the hardware, and we paid for the extended warranty, so let’s push things one step further by running through the entire league and seeing which teams’ moves made the least sense.
Here’s a look back at every team’s offseason so far, broken down by division and ranked in order of increasing Bizarro-meter score.
from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News,
The Buffalo Sabres' top returning goal scorer and most prominent restricted free agent is back in the fold for the long term.
Multiple sources confirmed to The Buffalo News early this morning that the team has re-signed center Tyler Ennis to a five-year deal worth $23 million. The deal was first noted Wednesday by NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes. It has yet to be confirmed by the team.
Ennis' cap hit of $4.6 million would thus put him behind only defenseman Tyler Myers ($5.5 million) and recently re-signed winner Matt Moulson ($5 million) on the Buffalo roster.
from Justin Bourne of The Score,
The 1990s might have been the golden age for fans of face-knuckling. While the 70s and 80s gave us names like Clark Gillies and Terry O’Reilly, the majority of heavies from those generations still took regular shifts and tried to contribute offensively (those two men in particular combined for 1,100 NHL points). There were exceptions as there always are, but they’re called “exceptions” for a reason.
By the 90s, the team “tough guy” became so specialized, so compartmentalized, that they trained for it exclusively. Guys focused so much on winning their fights - after all, that defined their status, their paychecks, and the league they were placed in - that hockey took a backseat. They took boxing lessons, they hit the gym with custom workouts designed for combat, and they studied on-ice fighting technique. They wore gear that was more conducive to winning fights.
It became a sport within a sport, like boxing on ice. Win your fight against an established heavy, and your status would rise and you’d stay in the league.
from Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic,
It's clear the Coyotes need to bolster their scoring options, but by late July or early August the remaining free agents don't usually provide that type of impact. A trade still is a possibility, and that might be the best remedy.
But even that might take some time to execute — perhaps in training camp when teams have a front-row seat to their deficiencies, and the pressure is on to find solutions. At this point in the summer, patience typically is the smartest course of action. That could end up paying off for the Coyotes.
Because they still have two forward spots available, a prospect such as Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson or Tyler Gaudet could wow the coaching staff and help pick up some of the offensive slack during the season.
Recently acquired center Sam Gagner might capitalize on a new surrounding and finally have the breakout year many have been awaiting. And winger Martin Erat might rediscover his offensive touch in his first full season with the team.
All of these variables could pan out for the Coyotes. Or they might not.
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
Let’s not get too nostalgic here, lest we look like sentimental fools. Let’s just say that this is nice, that it feels right, that it’s too bad it can’t be this way more often in sports. Nothing wrong with LeBron James getting to orchestrate his future, but if there’s one thing the San Antonio Spurs have taught us hardheaded types, it’s that very good players playing together for a long time can do great things.
And if there’s one thing that Toews and Kane have taught us, it’s that two great players are capable of giving a franchise a chance to win a championship every season. What more could a fan base want?
The surprise these days is when athletes stick around. LeBron’s talk about “four, five, six’’ NBA titles with the Heat is silenced now that he has bolted back to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. Carmelo Anthony’s decision to stay with the Knicks wasn’t out of feelings of loyalty. It was because the Knicks could allow him to stack more Maseratis atop each other than other teams could. Winning? A secondary consideration, by about 30 lengths.
Toews and Kane are winners. Two Stanley Cups each. Both with a Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player. A rookie-of-the-year award for Kane and more dramatic game-winning goals than anyone has a right to have. International success for both, but especially for Toews and that country to the north. Canada’s two gold medals the last two Olympics didn’t feel so painful here, not with the Hawks’ captain playing such a prominent role.
from Scott Powers of ESPNChicago,
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Wednesday he understands there will be salary cap challenges ahead after recently re-signing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to identical eight-year, $84 million contract extensions, but it's his job to make it work.
The new contracts for Kane and Toews will go into effect during the 2015-16 season. The NHL's salary cap is at $69 million for the upcoming season, but is expected to increase in future seasons.
"I don't know if there's any more pressure," Bowman said regarding the salary cap at a news conference at the United Center on Wednesday. "I think that's our job to make it work. It's obviously a puzzle to put together, but we're going to make it work. We've been able to do that in the past. I have a lot of faith in the ability to keep that going.
"I have always said the most important thing for us is you can't get star players. Once you do get ones, it's so hard to win. You got start players here who have shown the ability to win. They want to be here. It's not even a discussion point. I'm just thrilled we have two of them. Most teams would die to have one of these players on their team. We have two of them here. We're very fortunate. The rest of the stuff will work itself out. We put a lot of work into finding young players and surrounding these guys with a great supporting cast."
SAN JOSE, CA - San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Jason Demers (@JasonDemers5) to a two-year contract.
"Jason has been a solid, offensive defenseman and is coming off a good season," said Wilson. "His skill set and his age mesh well within our overall group and we're happy to have him signed for two more years."
from Paul Stewart at the Huffington Post,
Shortly after my retirement from the NHL as an active referee, the Hockey News asked me to name the five biggest whiners I had to deal with on the ice. In descending order from one to five, the players were Chris Gratton, Tyson Nash, Craig Janney, Steve Yzerman and Keith Tkachuk. I'll share stories about the other players some other time but for now, I talk about Gratton.
If you ever looked at Chris Gratton's career, he was the type of player that in the era in which I played would have been branded as a pseudo tough guy. He was bold and brave when either playing at home and/or going up against someone much smaller or at the end of a long shift when Gratton had just hopped on the ice. On the road, he could often carry a carton of eggs in his sweater without breaking any.
Gratton also complained about pretty much every call that did not go his way. He'd give my linesmen grief if he sent in a play two feet offside and the play got whistled down. According to him, he was never guilty of a penalty; to the point that, even when he did have a legitimate beef, he'd already cried wolf too many times before.
much more, a good read...
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
This time last year, the St. Louis Blues were the sexy pick to run the table and capture the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. They lived up to the billing early, playing like the NHL's best team for a good part of the season before stumbling down the stretch and flaming out in a first-round loss to the Blackhawks.
It was a familiar story to the team's long-suffering fans. Good ... but not good enough. Again.
That frustrating finish revealed some obvious flaws in the makeup of the club. Compared to conference heavyweights like Chicago and Los Angeles, there wasn't enough talent in the middle. There wasn't enough depth up front. There was an awkward mix on the back end.
To compete with the big boys, St. Louis needed more than a fresh coat of paint. General manager Doug Armstrong has delivered. After his active summer, the Blues may finally be ready for their close-up.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
... since Trotz and his staff assembled in Washington, the idea of the “Capitals Way” has entered their lexicon, another one of the intangible concepts – think “culture change” or “Brooks Orpik’s leadership” – being preached so much.
So what does this mean, exactly? What is the “Washington Capitals Way” Trotz wants to implement, or rediscover, or put back on track?
“I think it’s team-first and you’re able to count on the guy right beside you, across from you,” assistant coach Lane Lambert said. “There’s a lot of togetherness. There’s a lot of team-oriented concepts that we work on this week.”
“I think it’s going to be something we’re still formulating as a staff,” assistant coach Todd Reirden said. “I think a lot of times when you’re forming a model and words you want to use to describe your team before you go out and make those words public, I think you need to interact with the players and watch and now you can develop some of those characteristics after you’ve played, gone through some training camp games and real games. That’s when you get concrete words that define your team.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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