Allow me to tell you a story. It’s about an offensively gifted player with the ability to score the most beautiful goals, the type of player who brings fans first to the ticket window and then to their feet. This talented young player, however, has a hole in his game. While he can dazzle and put pucks in the net, he is inefficient in his own zone. He’s not good defensively. It’s affecting other aspects of the game. The team is unhappy. The player is unhappy. Things have become so broken between player and team, that a potential trade is looming.
That player is, very obviously, Steve Yzerman.
In a well-known story in the annals of hockey, Yzerman was a consistent 100-point scorer with the Detroit Red Wings but played the game as if he were allergic to backchecking. Then Scotty Bowman arrived on the scene in 1993, asked his captain to work hard at both ends of the ice, and Stanley Cups rained down from the Detroit skies as Yzerman’s sacrifice and leadership brought joy to the men, women and children of Michigan.
What is sometimes forgotten is the Bowman/Yzerman relationship didn’t begin so swimmingly and got to the point rather quickly where Yzerman was within a breath of being traded to the Ottawa Senators. It seems unfathomable now, but one of the game’s best all-round players was nearly shipped out of town because he was a terrible defensive forward.
That brings us to, very obviously, Nail Yakupov. Read the rest of this entry »
By the Rule of Trophy, P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens was the best defenseman in the NHL last season. Subban won the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to the best defenseman. It’s a simple rule to follow.
Based on the way Subban has been deployed late in recent games this season, coach Michel Therrien doesn’t seem to care about that rule I just invented. Instead of seeing Subban as one of the game’s top defensemen, Therrien appears to view Subban as a liability who should be nowhere near close games in the final minutes.
The Norris Trophy is awarded by a group of people that Never Played The Game, so perhaps the opinion that Subban is the best defenseman isn’t shared by Hockey People like Therrien. Maybe Therrien wishes Subban were better, but the feeling that a player always can be better is baseline thinking by coaches and players alike, but it’s important to not let it warp your view of the player.
For instance, you should never let yourself believe Douglas Murray is a better defenseman than P.K. Subban. Read the rest of this entry »
October was a pretty interesting month in the NHL. I wrote a lot of words about October below this, but you have to write more words above it in order to fill out this upper area before getting to the jump. But I don’t want to give away everything I wrote about up here. I’d like you to be surprised. Isn’t it the worst when someone writes, “Coming up, some thoughts on why Lindy Ruff’s ties are the worst in the league” and then you get to the part about Lindy Ruff’s ties being the worst in the league? Like, you saw it coming? The worst, I say.
I have no opinion about Lindy Ruff’s ties, by the way.
OK, so one more paragraph before we get to 21 things about October. It’s a pretty great month. Baseball, hockey and football all happening at once. Also that other sport where tall people bounce a ball. What did you guys all dress as for Halloween? I saw a lot of Heisenbergs this week. Firefighter never goes out of style. I think I’ve written enough up here.
Hey everyone! Here are 21 thoughts, things and tidbits about what took place in the NHL (or LNH) during the month of October: Read the rest of this entry »
New York Islanders GM Garth Snow paid far too great a price to land Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Giving up a first- and second-round pick in the draft is fine, but including Matt Moulson in the deal is evidence that Snow and the Islanders didn’t see the big picture.
Looking at their goal totals over the past four years, there’s not much difference between Vanek and Moulson. They are both the same age. They are both playing under a contract that will expire after the season. It’s fair to say Vanek is the more “skilled” player, but to portray Moulson as this garbage-collecting goal scorer whose numbers are entirely predicated on playing with John Tavares are exaggerated and unfair. Vanek and Moulson simply have different ways of putting the puck in the net, and both are really good at doing just that.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier has been arguably the worst GM in hockey over the past few years – the contracts of Tyler Myers and Ville Leino are evidence of that, along with extending Patrick Kaleta and adding John Scott in the pursuit of toughness that has submarined the team – but he deserves all of the credit here. It’s possible he’ll be able to flip Moulson for another first-round pick before the trade deadline. That’s a great haul for Vanek.
On just the face of the deal, that’s a lot to hand over to the Sabres for Vanek. There’s no guarantee Tavares and Vanek will work as well together as Tavares and Moulson have for four-plus seasons, and the least of the Islanders’ problems right now are goal scoring. They are among the worst defensive teams in the NHL, and Vanek isn’t contributing to that area.
But a deeper look shows the Islanders may have been bidding against themselves in what was a thin market for Vanek, only because of his hefty $7.1 million cap hit. Read the rest of this entry »
To the surprise of virtually no one, the Calgary Flames decided Wednesday that Sean Monahan would stay with the big club beyond the nine-game trial period for rookies. At the nine-game cutoff, the sixth pick in the 2013 Draft led the team with six goals on 21 shots to go with three assists, and since goals and assists are the only way to judge a hockey player, he was not returned to the OHL’s Ottawa 67′s.
This is, of course, a very shortsighted move by the Flames that can only benefit Monahan, but could also hurt him in the long-term as well.
Judging a just-turned-19-year-old on a mere nine games isn’t easy, but the underlying numbers people either love or hate make it plain to see that Monahan is very likely to hit a wall. This has been hashed out to death, but here are some of the highlights from Monahan’s first nine games courtesy of extraskater.com: Read the rest of this entry »
In 1967, a man by the name of George Gross was tasked with writing about what hockey would look like in the year 2000. Among his predictions for the future, he had referees hovering above the ice – sorry, the ice has been replaced by plastic – and dropping pucks for faceoffs from the sky.
Sure, George Gross was wrong, but I’m pretty sure hockey would be the most popular sport in the world right now if his visions had come to fruition.
So since I’m always looking for a topic for our weekly Bag Skate, I thought I’d give it a try and project what hockey will look like in 2046. I expect everyone to hold me to all of these guesses so be sure to come back to the comments section in 33 years to tell me how great I am. These aren’t necessarily things that will all happen in 2046, but between now and then. Thank you and sorry for this. Read the rest of this entry »
The Flyers decided to fire Peter Laviolette on Monday, three games into the NHL season. Three. That’s 3.65 percent of the season. In football, it’s the equivalent of firing a coach in the middle of the third quarter of the season-opening game.
As is the case most times when a coach is fired in the NHL, the general manager here appears to be far more deserving of being told to clean out his desk while security stands in his office, making sure nothing gets stolen or vandalized. Paul Holmgren, by any objective measure of judging a general manager, has been very bad at his job in recent years, and really should’ve been escorted out of Wells Fargo Center at the same time as Laviolette.
Trades. Free-agent signings. Assessing talent, his own and others. You name it, Holmgren has been hilariously bad at it, and it all seems to stem from the Flyers unbelievably fluky trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 after an 88-point regular season. Read the rest of this entry »