2010 Stanley Cup finals: What this series means for both teams

bobby hull.jpgOnce the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins were ousted from the second round of the playoffs, it became clear that this year’s Stanley Cup finals would not have a “been there, done that” feeling. The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers ensure that whoever wins the Cup will end a long drought for a historic NHL team.

In this first post, I’ll take a look at what’s at stake for each franchise (and fan base). After that, there will be chatter about which players have won Cups and which ones might be looking at their last chance.

Long time coming

Despite being (more or less) a fixture among the Eastern Conference contenders since their infamous Broadstreet Bullies days, the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t managed to raise the Cup since 1975. They couldn’t it make it happen with volatile puck-mover Ron Hextall or Eric Lindros’ Legion of Doom or the one-two center punch of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau.

Chicago Blackhawks fans have been waiting even longer since their last sip from Lord Stanley’s trophy. The last time the Original Six franchise won it was 1961 … when there were six teams and the Bobby Hull-Stan Mikita combination captivated the Windy City.

Forgive fans for either franchise if they fail to “act like they’ve been there before.” Not many of them have, particularly with a large young fan base in Chicago.

Is it now or never?

There’s reason to believe that this might be the best chance that both teams will have to win a Cup, even though the Flyers may be forgiven for taking a “Just happy to be there” mentality and both teams are stocked with plenty of young talent.

I’ve documented Chicago’s looming cap headaches already and one can only imagine Antti Niemi’s restricted free agent contract will make for more challenges (more on that later). Barring some Scott Gomez to Montreal type trade miracles with the likes of Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, my guess is that the Blackhawks will go from a ridiculously deep team to a squad that depends heavily on its big contract guys in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa. That might not be enough in an always-loaded West.

With Philadelphia, you have to wonder if they’ll be able to make it back simply because of their Eastern Conference superiors. I’ve stated before that the Capitals should be able to bolster their lineup with oodles and noodles of cap space this summer. It’s no secret that Philly struggles with their cross-state rivals in Pittsburgh (0 for 2 in playoff series in the Crosby Era), too. It could be years before the Flyers have another chance to get to the finals without going through one – if not both – of Pittsburgh and Washington.

It’s a cliche to say that young players like Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux shouldn’t “take this trip for granted because you never know when you’ll be back again” but it’s true. Just ask a player like Gary Roberts, who won a Cup with the late-80s Flames and didn’t see the finals again until he was a greybeard with the Penguins in ’09.

They need to cherish this moment and … most importantly, they need to win.

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    Jacob Trouba requests trade from Jets

    CALGARY, AB - MARCH 16: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    While every hockey fan in Canada was focussed on their national team’s World Cup semifinal game against Russia, there was some pretty significant NHL news coming out of Winnipeg.

    It was at that point that the agent for Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba announced that his client has requested a trade from the team.

    Trouba, the Jets’ first round pick in 2012 (No. 9 overall), is currently unsigned as a restricted free agent.

    With NHL training camps starting to get underway, Trouba has informed the Jets he will not attend camp and would like a trade so he can have “the opportunity to reach his potential as a right shot NHL defensemen.”

    The statement also mentions that the trade request is not about money.

    Here is the complete statement from Trouba’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, via Sportsnet.

    “Our client, Jacob Trouba, will not be attending the Winnipeg Jets NHL training camp. Since May, we have been working with the Jets management in an effort to facilitate a trade of Jacob’s rights. Both parties continue to work on this matter.

    There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

    To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

    Our client has nothing but respect for the people and City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jets, its fans, management and ownership – our desire to get him moved has everything to do with opportunity. We will continue to work with the Jets in good faith to achieve this end.”

    This certainly creates an interesting preseason storyline in the NHL.

    Even though a trade request would seem to hurt the Jets’ hand when it comes to negotiating a deal with another team, right shot defensemen are an extremely valuable commodity in the NHL, and it’s not often that a good one that is still only 22 years old becomes available. There should be no shortage of teams lining up looking to acquire his rights. The New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche immediately come to mind as three teams that could definitely use a player like him.

    In 211 career games Trouba has scored 23 goals and added 49 assists. He appeared in 81 games for the Jets this past season and logged more than 22 minutes of ice-time per game.

    Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia vs. Canada

    MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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    Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their  World Cup semifinal game.

    Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.

    It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.

    Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will center that line instead.

    If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever

    The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.

    Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

    NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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    The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

    On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

    “Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

    It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

    The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

    Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

    Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

    According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

    After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

    Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

    VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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    Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

    Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

    You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

    … Well:

    “Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

    Fantastic.

    Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

    Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

    ***

    Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

    Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

    There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.