Nicklas Lidstrom tops list of top 10 penalty killing defensemen

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lidstrompk.jpgMany people find Norris Trophy voting to be a flawed process because it overvalues offense (since assists and points in general are the easiest stats to track) while overlooking the most important job of any defenseman, namely protecting their goalie and playing their best in their own end. Let’s not throw hockey writers under the bus too much, though, because only the most stubborn stat head will fight this fact: there just aren’t many easy ways to gauge defensive impact right now. We simply haven’t gotten the point where some of the best stats (particularly “Quality of Competition”) are easily digestible numbers.

(I will say that Corsi Ratings might be the simplest “new” stat that people mistakenly think is complicated. This is a slight oversimplification, but a Corsi Rating is basically the same thing as a Plus/Minus only goals are replaced by shots.)

Anyway, the reason why I bring up this point is because it’s possible that the NHL Hot Stove’s list of the top 10 penalty killing defensemen is an interesting (if flawed) exercise. According to that post, they judged the best by time on ice (a decent factor, but something that might be determined by a lack of decent teammates), blocked shots (not a great stat because number crunchers will point out that it’s often a sign of being out of position), shorthanded points (eh, not great) and penalty kill percentage (good, but kind of like TOI).

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for zdenochara.jpgWhile I note that those standards are imperfect, I’d probably use many of the same stats if I was compiling such a list. Let’s look at the top 3.

3. Anton Volchenkov – The “A-train” doesn’t have that name as a sarcastic joke. Known to be one of the League’s finest shot blockers, he’ll patrol the New Jersey blueline in charge of the penalty kill. With solid numbers throughout his entire career, he did dip a bit in the amount of blocked shots last season ending the year with 172. Regardless, he is a machine and a quiet weapon on the blue line and should help Martin Brodeur clear the crease or keep pucks out of the net.

2. Zdeno Chara – It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins play in a defensive-minded system and that allows Big Z to flourish. Chara will continue to log big minutes for the Bruins in his contract season. Playing with the shot blocking phenom Dennis Seidenberg for an entire season could see Chara return to his 2009-09 Norris Trophy winning numbers.

1. Nicklas Lidstrom – What can be said about the ultimate defenseman in the National Hockey League that has not been said already throughout his outstanding 18 year career. Lidstrom is the model d-man in the game today, and though he plays and excels in all occasions on the ice, he averaged 2.56 minutes a game short handed last year with Detroit and earned three short handed points. However, this is the ultimate machine patrolling the blueline and is one reason the Red Wings are constantly competitive.

All of my misgivings aside, that is a solid final three. Volchenkov’s penchant for blocking shots might inflate his value on this list, but he is one of the better single-minded defenseman in the league. Zdeno Chara and Nicklas Lidstrom are the kind of players you throw out there when your team needs a stop, so they make sense in the top two.

Overall, it’s a solid depiction of the best penalty killers in the league. Check out the rest of the list here.

Sakic, Selanne, Koivu, Krupp named to IIHF Hall of Fame

24 Feb 2002:  Joe Sakic #91 of Canada celebrates his assist on teammate Jarome Iginla's goal on goaltendr Mike Richter #35 of the USA during the first period of the men's ice hockey gold medal game during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit:  Al Bello/Getty Images
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This year’s International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame class is star-studded — to say the least.

Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Uwe Krupp headline the list of six inductees, which also includes former U.S. women’s team star Angela Ruggiero and Austrian hockey exec Dieter Kalt.

Sakic, Selanne and Koivu were locks for induction — Sakic is one of a handful of players in the Triple Gold Club (Olympics, World Championship, Stanley Cup) while Selanne and Koivu are arguably the two greatest Finnish players of all time.

Krupp, described by the IIHF as “the finest hockey player Germany has ever produced,” was the first German-born player in NHL history to both win the Stanley Cup, and score a Cup-winning goal. He also coached the national team from 2006 to 2011, helping it qualify for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Ruggiero is regarded as one of the best female players of all time. She won medals at four different Olympic games and helped the U.S. win four World Championships. In 2015, she was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Smith tears into Coyotes after ‘blah’ performance in Edmonton

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 21:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes sprays water in his face during a break from the second period of the NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena on December 21, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Oilers defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Last night in Edmonton, the Arizona Coyotes did what they normally do.

They lost.

But unlike previous losses this season, this one felt different. And afterwards, their veteran goalie really let them have it.

“You could feel it on the ice,” Mike Smith said after the 3-1 defeat, per Reuters. “We were just playing, and it was blah. It was blah. And you can’t expect to play like that and compete against a really good hockey team. That’s what we did tonight. We have to learn from it. Sooner or later, this organization’s got to move forward and not continue to have games like this.”

At 13-24-6, the Coyotes are already out of the playoff race. It’s estimated they’d have to go in the neighborhood of 26-7-6 to qualify for the postseason, and that just isn’t going to happen.

Smith wasn’t alone in lambasting his team last night. The head coach, Dave Tippett, said it was “as poor as we’ve played” in the last month.

Suffice to say, it has been a disappointing season for the Coyotes. Though outside expectations were not particularly high for this group, they were much higher internally.

“Our team is looking to try and make the playoffs this year,” forward Max Domi said back in October. “We’re looking forward to the challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun. The new faces are going to help us out a lot and some guys coming back are going to do the same things they did last year and more.”

Alas, the “new faces” have not been able to make the Coyotes competitive. Alex Goligoski was the big offseason addition. But the 31-year-old defenseman got off to a frustrating start with his new team, and though things have improved slightly since, the jury’s still out on the decision to give him a five-year contract worth $27.375 million.

In fact, Tippett singled out Goligoski and Michael Stone for this poorly timed line change that led to the Oilers’ first goal:

With pending unrestricted free agents in Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Ryan White, and Stone, the Coyotes should be an interesting team to watch as the trade deadline approaches.

That being said, this is not an organization that needs more prospects, more draft picks. This is an organization that needs to start turning the corner.

“It’s a privilege to play in this league and put the Coyotes sweater on,” said an exasperated Smith. “I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I can talk for myself, and know that every game I go into I want to give myself the best chance to play at my best. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but we’ve got too many guys who aren’t doing enough to push this thing along.”

Related: Keller, Strome to meet in gold-medal game at World Juniors 

B’s cancel practice after ‘unacceptable’ loss to Isles

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 02: Head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins gives instructions to Brandon Carlo #25 during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 2, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s fair to say not a single Bruin involved in yesterday’s 4-0 home loss to the Isles was happy with the performance.

Patrice Bergeron called it “unacceptable,” head coach Claude Julien said the B’s were “totally out of whack,” and David Backes said the game was “as frustrating as it gets.”

Sounds like the team in need of a break.

So on Tuesday, it took one:

These are trying times for the B’s. The club’s struggled to find any sort of consistency since the calendar turned to 2017:

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Consistency, or a lack thereof, seems to be the biggest issue. Wins are almost always followed up with losses and, just one game after the victory over Philly — a game in which the B’s said their offense was finally “starting to connect” — they failed to put a single puck past Thomas Greiss.

Despite all this, Boston still sits in reasonably good shape standings-wise. The Bruins are second in the Atlantic Division, on 51 points, but are only three clear of three teams in their rear view: Toronto, Ottawa and Florida, http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/bruins/bruins_insider/2017/01/bruins_fall_flat_in_matinee_loss_to_islanders

Landeskog saying all the right things as trade speculation heats up

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 17:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on during a break in the action against the Montreal Canadiens at Pepsi Center on February 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Canadiens 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Gabriel Landeskog knows his name is out there in trade rumors. But until he’s dealt — if he’s dealt — all he can do is keep doing his thing as captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

And for the record, he doesn’t want to be traded.

“Whether my name is floating around or not, I’m still approaching the game the same way,” Landeskog said Monday, per the Denver Post. “And that is to spread energy, be a good teammate, work hard and try to get better every day. Me being in trade rumors, that’s nothing I can control.”

It’s been reported that the Avs are asking a big price for the 24-year-old winger, a former second overall draft pick. It remains to be seen if they’ll be willing to lower it. Not too long ago, Landeskog was an untouchable in Colorado. In 2012, he was made captain at 19 years old, just after he’d been named the NHL’s rookie of the year.

But the Avs have fallen off a cliff since Landeskog put up a career-high 65 points in 2013-14, the same season Colorado shocked the hockey world and won the Central Division. So far this season, he has just 14 points (8G, 6A) in 31 games, and the Avs are the NHL’s worst team.

Landeskog is signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of almost $5.6 million. The assumption is that the Avs will use Landeskog or Matt Duchene, or even both of them, to fix a defense that badly needs fixing, then rebuild around forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Tyson Jost.

That will be easier said than done, but the Avs (13-27-1) have to do something, because whatever they’re doing now isn’t working.

Related: Fixing the Avs through trades will prove tough