Thrashers start the season without team captain, opt for three alternates

nikantropov2.jpgIt’s a rarity in the NHL but on occasion a team will sometimes go without a team captain. The Minnesota Wild went without a permanent one for years before choosing Mikko Koivu. The Montreal Canadiens last year went without a captain in the wake of former captain Saku Koivu leaving the team.

This year, the Atlanta Thrashers are the team going without a player wearing the captain’s “C” and will instead roll with three players as alternate captains as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tells us.

Forwards Nik Antropov and Andrew Ladd and defenseman Johnny Oduya will begin the season wearing an ‘A’ on their sweater.

Coach Craig Ramsay said he will use other players in the role as the season progresses.

“We are definitely going to have other people take a crack at it,” Ramsay said. “We want to make sure, on this team, it’s team first and everyone has to be a leader. Beyond that, as far as I’m concerned, there have to be followers. Somebody is leading and somebody is putting themselves on the line, even if it’s one good shift. You have to follow it with your good shift and your good effort. We need the leaders to take charge and show the way, but we need people ready to follow in their footsteps and play hard. I think we have those people.”

The Thrashers have not had a captain since the trade of Ilya Kovalchuk in February. Antropov wore an ‘A’ for several games after the trade.

For a team that’s had as much turnover and additions as the Thrashers have had this off-season, not naming a captain right away isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. What also could be playing a role in this decision is the lack of players signed on with the team in the long term.

Take a look at the Thrashers team as far as contracts are concerned. Only ten players are signed beyond this season, and of those ten, four of them have their deals end after next season. Naming a team captain is a commitment to the future for many teams, and the Thrashers could use that type of thing, but they’ve got to be smarter about it.

When the team named Ilya Kovalchuk captain, they were showing their hand to him hoping that by making that sort of commitment to him he’d want to stick around in Atlanta. You could say that perhaps the Thrashers are “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to handing out the “C” but in this case, it’s just not true.

There’s a lot of youth in Atlanta and having someone who’s viewed to be a long-term Thrasher emerge as the team leader is the optimal situation. From a fan’s perspective, however, it’s a bit annoying to not have a team captain out on the ice. The captain doesn’t just lead the team on the ice, he’s the focus of attention for the fans off of it whether they like it or not.

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    Video: Trouba receives match penalty for hit on Flames’ Hrivik

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    Tempers flared during the third period of Monday’s preseason game between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

    Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba received a match penalty for a hit at the blue line on Flames forward Marek Hrivik, leading to a melee along the boards.

    Garnet Hathaway took exception to the hit, immediately jumping in and dropping the gloves with Trouba. Hathaway was also assessed an instigator penalty.

    The hit occurred just after Hrivik dumped the puck into the Jets zone. Trouba stepped up at the line and delivered the hit, sending Hrivik hard to the ice.

    Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice commented on the hit after the game:

    The league’s Department of Player Safety has been busy over the past few days, handing out preseason suspensions to Capitals forward Tom Wilson and, on Monday, Rangers forward Andrew Desjardins.

    Offseason changes to Capitals, Penguins could make the East wide open

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    A handful of Pittsburgh Penguins players whose names are on the Stanley Cup, some of them twice or even three times, are gone.

    The same goes for core players from the back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals.

    The goliaths of the East haven’t fallen apart, but maybe they’ve lost just enough to make the conference winnable for just about anyone. Pittsburgh no longer has forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen, defensemen Trevor Daley or goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Washington couldn’t afford to keep Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk.

    The Penguins and Capitals are still favored to finish 1-2 in the brutal Metropolitan Division, but improvements made by the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes and a return to health for members of the Tampa Bay Lightning have cracked the Eastern Conference wide open.

    “The competition level is as high as ever,” Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “There’s a lot of teams that have a chance to win the Cup. Making the playoffs, it’s very tough nowadays. I think we’re not the only team when we always say, `We want to make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens’ because you just want to make the playoffs and then anything can happen. There’s no real favorites.”

    Pittsburgh is still the betting favorite, and if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. make it happen they’d become the first NHL team with three consecutive titles since the early 1980s New York Islanders dynasty. Then again, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is healthy after a knee injury ended his 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes got a top goaltender in Scott Darling and the Toronto Maple Leafs are only expected to get better now that Auston Matthews and the kids have some playoff experience.

    “Toronto obviously made a big step forward, Columbus is a team that has tremendous upside, made a big move this summer, and then you look at a team like Carolina who’s going to be knocking on the door in the next few years,” said Shattenkirk, who signed with the revamped Rangers.

    In a league with considerable playoff turnover from year to year, there’s no rest for the eight teams that made it last year: the Penguins, Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Bruins and Maple Leafs. But Fleury, now the starter for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, believes his old team has a chance to three-peat, and Alex Ovechkin said the Capitals will be good.

    “Our goal is still to go out there and be the best team in the regular season and be the best team in the postseason,” Washington winger T.J. Oshie said. “It’s not a very far-fetched goal.”

    Some things to watch in the Eastern Conference this season:

    YOUTH IS SERVED

    Matthews is only 20, but now there’s a whole new crop of potential teenage stars, including the New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 pick , Nico Hischier, and the Philadelphia Flyers’ No. 2 pick, Nolan Patrick. The Swiss-born Hischier turned heads with some big-time plays in the preseason and in the process ratcheted up expectations.

    PRICE IS RIGHT

    The Canadiens lost defenseman Andrei Markov and winger Alexander Radulov and traded their top defensive prospect for forward Jonathan Drouin. Montreal probably should make the playoffs despite all the changes because of goaltender Carey Price, who won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2014-15 and missed most of the 2015-16 season with a knee injury.

    “He is the best goalie in the NHL,” Drouin said. “He’s proved it for a lot of years now.”

    Price has some competition in Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington’s Braden Holtby, the past two Vezina winners. The play of those three and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray will likely determine the order of finish in the East.

    C’MON, CROSBY

    After leading the league with 44 goals in the regular season and the playoffs with 27 assists, there’s no doubting Crosby has another MVP season in him. Teammates and opponents always expect him to sharpen another skill, though he could just keep scoring goals better than anyone else.

    “He was always, I think, a passer a little more – always looking for other guys,” Fleury said. “But he doesn’t have a crazy hard shot. It’s just how quick the release is. He’s skating, he’s looking around and the shot comes (from) any angle. His backhand is good too, probably as hard as anybody.”

    BRIGHT LIGHTS ON BIG CITY

    The Rangers added Shattenkirk, re-signed Brendan Smith and traded Derek Stepan to retool while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is still in his prime. Across town, the Islanders are hoping to re-sign captain John Tavares before he can become a free agent next summer New York is where it’s at, and there’s no shortage of drama.

    SUNRISE REDUX

    Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has gone to great lengths to undo some of the moves made in the summer of 2016 when he was shifted out of a position of power. Defenseman Jason Demers and forward Reilly Smith are gone, Bob Boughner is the new coach and big things are expected in South Florida.

    “We’ve got to go in one direction and never look back,” winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. “That’s what we want to do, and Dale Tallon knows that. We want to build something with Bob and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

     

    Flames to receive NHL revenue sharing funds, says King

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    Last week, the Flames stated they would no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary after two years of discussions with the city.

    On Monday, Flames president and CEO Ken King said the organization is now receiving funds as part of the National Hockey League’s revenue sharing.

    From CBC:

    He said the team used to be among the top 10 revenue-earning teams in the NHL who, under the league’s revenue-sharing agreement, contribute funds to the lower-earning teams.

    “We have now crossed the line. We are now receivers. We’ll get a cheque this year. Isn’t that ridiculous, in this beautiful market?” he said.

    “And I can say, sadly, that we have crossed one of the remedies off the list, and that is the new facility. I honestly do not know where that part of the story is going to end.”

    He also stated that the organization’s decision to publicly state it will no longer pursue a new arena in Calgary was not political posturing.

    The Flames currently play out of the Saddledome, which is 34 years old and has drawn criticism from the team, as well as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

    Last week, the Flames released a report online and in local newspaper advertisements, saying they were prepared to contribute $275 million in funding toward a new arena. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded, saying there were some “errors of omission” in what the Flames released.

    NHL suspends Desjardins two preseason games for illegal check to the head

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    The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has issued another two-game preseason suspension, this time to Andrew Desjardins of the New York Rangers.

    The incident occurred during the first period of Saturday’s game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as Desjardins delivered a hit to the head of Miles Wood.

    Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, and a two-game preseason ban on Monday.

    “Desjardins, looking to prevent Wood from cutting to the front of the net, steps in front of Wood and delivers a high hit, which makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” stated the Department of Player Safety in a video explanation.

    “It is important to note that Wood is eligible to be hit on this play, provided it is done in a legal manner. However, rather than taking an angle of approach that results in a legal, full-bodied check, Desjardins takes an angle of approach that picks Wood’s head, making it the main point of contact.”

    The Rangers are in action right now versus the Philadelphia Flyers. They have one game remaining on their preseason schedule after tonight, as they take on the Flyers again tomorrow.

    Desjardins was attending Rangers camp on a professional tryout.