The Czechs are going with a familiar face to spearhead their leadership group at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
Tomas Plekanec, who captained the team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the most recent world championship, will wear the “C” this fall, the Czech Ice Hockey Association announced on Monday.
Plekanec, 33, has a wealth of leadership experience to draw on, having also served as an alternate captain in Montreal for the last two seasons. He’s expected to be a key catalyst for an underdog Czech team at this tournament, especially in the playmaking department — last year, Plekanec’s 40 assists came within five of a career-best for helpers in a single season.
It’ll be interesting to see who the Czechs eventually add to their leadership group next to Plekanec.
On paper, the 2015-16 season was a less impressive version of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s impressive 2014-15 run.
They made a deep run, but they couldn’t quite get to the Stanley Cup Final another time. The Bolts finished second in the Atlantic Division once again, but only with 97 standings points instead of the outstanding total of 108 from 2014-15.
In reality, the Lightning finished the year with a lot to be proud of, though.
All things considered, there were a lot of positives to take from pushing the eventual champs to a Game 7.
If you weren’t impressed by the Lightning’s work during the season, maybe an impressive off-season did the trick?
GM Steve Yzerman answered to huge questions in the affirmative by re-signing Stamkos (eight years, $68 million) and Victor Hedman (eight years, $63 million) to long-term contracts at very reasonable rates.
Along with those massively important contracts, Yzerman locked down other important players in Andrei Vasilveskiy and Alex Killorn. He still has a tough nut to crack in re-signing Nikita Kucherov, but he’s laid the groundwork for that to happen.
If hitting all the right buttons with Stamkos and Hedman wasn’t enough, the Lightning made some very nice value moves.
There’s a chance Cory Conacher could re-discover some of the brief magic he enjoyed before Tampa Bay traded him for Bishop. Handing James Wisniewski a PTO could leave the Bolts with one of the deepest defenses in the NHL (or at least provide a nice Matt Carle replacement).
There’s still work to do, but overall, the Lightning’s outlook is very sunny. PHT explores the team’s biggest questions on Monday.
In the long term, there are some questions about the San Jose Sharks’ defense.
What’s even more troubling is, like the Sharks’ forwards, the defense’s upper ranks might see Father Time nipping at their heels. Burns is 31, Paul Martin is 35 and three defensemen are 29 in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and newly signed blueliner David Schlemko.
This isn’t to say that the Sharks will age as rapidly as Melisandre, but that group prompts more questions about how long San Jose’s window might be hope.
Quite a promising present
So, maybe it won’t be a strength forever … but wow, this group sure looks promising on paper heading into next season.
Burns gets the most attention thanks to his booming shot, strong all-around skills and bizarre presence, yet Team Canada isn’t oblivious to Vlasic’s subtler brilliance. Paul Martin might be slipping a bit, but he’s still a useful player.
The signing of Schlemko really ties the room together, though.
The point isn’t that Schlemko is a star or better than the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. The very different nature of their roles makes a comparison a little risky.
Instead, it argues that Schlemko is the sort of supporting cast player who can push the Sharks closer to having a quality defenseman on the ice during every shift.
Beyond those four blueliners, the Sharks have some interesting options. Braun enjoyed some nice playoff moments. Brenden Dillon has his flaws, but perhaps he’d flourish if used in more protected situations.
With Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo among those waiting in the wings, it’s not as though the Sharks are totally devoid of young talent on defense.
In an age where it almost feels like teams would give up vital organs for difference-makers on defense, San Jose’s group looks primed to rank among the elite. After struggling when the likes of Roman Polak were caught in bad situations, the Sharks have a great chance to trot out a remarkably balanced group in 2016-17.
EA Sports released top player rankings for NHL 17 about a week ago, but it isn’t too late to needlessly argue about them.
Now, it’s important not to take this stuff too seriously. There are plenty of things to cool down any diehards who feel like Their Guy was disrespected, but do note that ratings sometimes get tweaked.
Still, there are some fun observations and debates that can come from pouring through these rankings, especially if you’re … well, bored.
Did Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin chime in on the debate? /Scratches chin
Weber came in with a blazing 94 rating:
Weber wins the digital battle with Subban, who lags behind as a 91. To the naked eye, EA seems to disagree with the analytics-based argument that Subban is the better all-around player than Weber at this juncture:
Here’s the thing, though: if you break both down rating by rating, each guy looks pretty great in NHL 17. Perhaps the real debate comes down to whether Weber really is that great defensively or not.
Then again, maybe EA just has a blind spot for Nashville Predators past and/or present? Pekka Rinne‘s high rating is sure to ruffle some feathers:
Some other debate-starters
Need some other fun ones to bicker about? Sure you do:
- Jonathan Quick comes in at a 93, leaving him as the second-ranked goalie behind Carey Price. Surely no one will be irritated by Quick edging Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby and other netminders, right?
- Sidney Crosby comes in first overall with a 95 rating, which is bound to make someone mad.
- Ryan Suter‘s rating is higher than Erik Karlsson‘s mark. Karlsson is only ranked 17th and even though his numbers are nice, you’d think Karlsson would be superhuman in the land of video games. (Just saying.)
- Is John Carlson‘s really a top 50 player? Few should question his scoring ability, but he’s another guy who is polarizing from a defensive standpoint.
Again, take it easy with this stuff. None of these choices are “Mike Richards being higher-rated than Anze Kopitar” bad.
You can have a lot of fun batting around different observations, as these player rankings often provide an interesting window into the way the hockey world sees things.
And, hey, at least Dustin Byfuglien‘s getting some much-deserved recognition.