Columbus Blue Jackets are GM Scott Howson's team now, for better or worse

howson.jpgI still think that the Columbus Blue Jackets made a mistake when they fired Ken Hitchcock last season. He was a rare beacon of hockey competence in an organization that rarely – if ever – did things correctly in their puck pursuits. Just take a look at the severe deficit in talent on their roster; I’m actually in the “Rick Nash is overpaid” camp but what choice did Columbus have? He’s really the only player they drafted who could be mistaken for an elite forward.

Going forward, this club has the fingerprints of newly-minted GM Scott Howson all over it (for better or worse). The Columbus Dispatch depicts just how extensive the house cleaning has been.

To say Howson has made sweeping changes within Nationwide Arena would be an understatement.

Every player in the Blue Jackets dressing room this season will fit one of the following criteria: he either was drafted, acquired in a trade, signed to a contract or contract extension by Howson.

Only three players who played as Blue Jackets in 2006-07 – Rick Nash, Rostislav Klesla and Marc Methot – are still with the organization.

Further, late last season, Howson fired the coach he acquired upon his hiring – Ken Hitchcock – and replaced him with his own choice, Scott Arniel.

His players. His coaches. His cross to bear if the Blue Jackets flop again in 2010-11.

Hiring Arniel is really the only noteworthy move Howson made this summer, unless you count claiming fledgling, heart-and-soul forward Ethan Moreau off of waivers as significant.*

* – It’s not significant.

While Howson claims that he wouldn’t take back the contracts he handed to Mike Commodore and Kristian Huselius, I can’t say that there are many deals on that roster that scream “great value.” I wonder if Blue Jackets fans are a little nervous about another season of journeyman backup Mathieu Garon and sophomore slump victim Steve Mason being their two netminders. This summer could have been a golden opportunity for the team to improve itself in net; instead they’ll stick with their below-adequate goalies.

Perhaps it’s all about staying on budget, but the Blue Jackets stood pat while the rest of the Central division went through major changes. That seems like an odd track for such an unsuccessful team to follow, but I guess Howson’s tying his hopes to Arniel being this year’s Dave Tippett.

How do you think Howson is doing? What are the chances of him turning the team around?

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    Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at U.S. Naval Academy

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    As part of the 2018 Stadium Series, the Washington Capitals will host the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL confirmed this news today, which originally surfaced from the AP on May 27.

    To be more specific, the event takes place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which is located at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The game is scheduled for March 3, 2018.

    This will mark the third outdoor game for both the Maple Leafs and the Capitals. The league notes how this contest should have special meaning for Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

    Holding the game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will have particular meaning for Leonsis because his father, Louis, who died in 2007, served in the U.S. Navy for seven years. Additionally, the Capitals have a long-standing relationship with the Naval Academy, which is about a 40-minute drive from Washington.

    As a reminder, the NHL already announced that the 2018 Winter Classic will pit the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Citi Field on Jan. 1, 2018.

    The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators will also square off in the NHL 100 Classic at Landsdowne Park on Dec. 17, 2017.

    As Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final nears, it’s already shaping up to be a busy 2017-18 season as far as special events go.

    WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final – Predators vs. Penguins – Game 1

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    The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin with Game 1 on NBC at 8 p.m. ET tonight. The livestream can be found here.

    (Here is the full schedule, including where to watch each contest in this series.)

    Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins aim for the rare feat of repeat championships, along with their third rings and the fifth Stanley Cup in team history. The Nashville Predators, meanwhile, have never been here before, from guys in their first year with the team (P.K. Subban) to their long-time veteran goalie Pekka Rinne.

    There should be a lot of gold and a lot of excitement in this series, so let’s get ready.

    To start things off, tune into “NHL Live” for an extensive preview on NBCSN. “NHL Live” is underway now and runs until the game begins. Click here for the livestream.

    Then, Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Finally, you can watch some coverage after Game 1 on NBCSN in the form of “NHL Overtime.” Click here for that livestream link.

    The Senators have a very, very, very long list of injuries from the playoffs

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    Every year, NHL teams deal with injuries during the Stanley Cup playoffs, as players fight through the pain of broken bones, torn ligaments, sprains and cuts.

    On Monday, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion went through a laundry list of players dealing with injuries, following his team’s run to the Eastern Conference Final. The detail he went into shows the price some players paid, as the Senators pushed the Penguins to double overtime of Game 7 in the third round.

    It starts with Erik Karlsson, who was dealing with more than hairline fractures in his foot.

    — Karlsson: In addition to dealing with the fractures, Dorion said his star defenseman had muscle issues with his foot.

    Mark Borowiecki: High-ankle sprain. “He would’ve been ready for Game 1 if we got to the Stanley Cup Final.”

    Alex Burrows: High-ankle sprain.

    Cody Ceci: Broken finger. “I think Cody had his finger broken 17 times. I’m not sure exactly how many times. It got broken during the year, it got broken in the playoffs (versus the Rangers). It was put back into place and it broke again. He needed to freeze it before every game.”

    Zack Smith: Pulled rib and abdominal muscles.

    Viktor Stalberg: Rib injury.

    Chris Neil: “Significant” sprained hand.

    Dion Phaneuf: Wrist injury.

    Craig Anderson: Back injury. His back “was in terrible shape during the Rangers series, which we managed to win, so that says a lot about his character playing through the pain.”

    Tom Pyatt: Ankle injury.

    Derick Brassard: Should injury.

    Fredrik Claesson: Back injury.

    Marc Methot: Finger injury. Methot suffered the injury on a Sidney Crosby slash in the regular season. “It never healed to 100 per cent through the playoffs.”

    Mark Stone: Knee injury.

    Ryan Dzingel: Wrist injury.

    The good news for the Senators out of all this? Dorion added that, as of now anyway, none of the aforementioned players require surgery for their injuries.

    After earning Memorial Cup MVP, Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome faces another important offseason

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    Dylan Strome began this season in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes. He ended it in junior, earning most valuable player honors in the 2017 Memorial Cup.

    Strome and his Erie Otters didn’t capture the championship, as their season ultimately ended with a loss in Sunday’s finale. The Memorial Cup title went to the Windsor Spitfires thanks to a dominant performance from Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco.

    Still, Strome posted 11 points in five games at the Memorial Cup, including a record-breaking seven points in a single game. That was on top of a campaign in which he had 109 points in 57 games combined between regular season and playoffs.

    “There are a lot of players who get sent back and have trouble overcoming the disappointment,” Erie’s head coach Kris Knoblauch told NHL.com. “But Dylan has never been like that. That’s a major reason we are here.”

    Taken third overall by the Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, Strome began this season with the big club, but after appearing in only seven games with one assist, Arizona made the decision to send its prized prospect back to juniors. (Remember, Strome wasn’t eligible at the time to play in the AHL.)

    That 2015 draft was loaded with top-end, first-round talent. It started with Connor McDavid, then Jack Eichel as the top two picks. Strome was third, followed by Mitch Marner at fourth.

    The Strome vs. Marner debate and comparisons started well before the draft took place. Marner has played 77 games in the NHL for the Maple Leafs, with an impressive 61 points. Could’ve been rookie of the year had it not been for playing in the same freshman class as Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

    Of the top 11 picks in that draft, Strome has played the fewest NHL games so far. But he also plays center, and physical strength, especially at that position, seemed to be a focal point of his development when the Coyotes sent him down earlier in the year. His skating, too, is something Central Scouting had previously identified as needing improvement, even before the draft.

    “I think Dylan, physically, it’s going to take him some time,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka earlier in the season. “That’s where we got to — that he needs to get stronger.”

    Chayka later added that on-ice performance is what the Coyotes would be keeping track of while Strome was back in Erie. Strome was certainly productive — again. He had a goal and an assist in the Memorial Cup final, before receiving his MVP nod.

    Last year, Strome made the Coyotes roster out of training camp, along with other youngsters Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, and Christian Dvorak.