jmlilesunderrated

John-Michael Liles’ hot start deserves more attention

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Perhaps it’s especially appropriate to discuss under-the-radar performances this week, considering the fact that hockey fans, bloggers, writers and other people around the game might begin campaigning for write-in candidates regarding the All-Star Game voting.

One player who shouldn’t be ignored, even though he almost certainly will be is John-Michael Liles of the Colorado Avalanche. At one point not too long ago, the offensive defenseman was the source of derision, a scapegoat for the Avs’ newly found post-lockout struggles.

After putting up some solid but unspectacular numbers in his seven-year NHL career, Liles now finds himself quietly rising among the league’s leaders in points for defensemen. He nearly scored a hat trick tonight in Colorado’s dominant performance against St. Louis, scoring two goals and adding an assist to help the Avs beat the Blues 6-3.

Liles began the season red-hot. In fact, the 30-year-old defenseman broke an obscure scoring record for defensemen by earning at least one assist in the first nine games of the season, breaking a mark previously held by Ottawa’s Filip Kuba. It seemed like things were going back to “normal” after Liles went five games without a point, but he now has three games with at least one point (three goals and two assists overall) including his great game against the Blues.

That leaves Liles with an elite output to begin the 2010-11 season: he has almost a point per game with three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 17 games. Sixteen points ties him for second place in the NHL for point scoring with Dustin Byfuglien; only Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom have more to their credit so far this season with 17 each.

Does this mean that Liles is an elite defenseman over the long haul? Not necessarily, but the veteran blueliner seems like he’s raising his game. His 22:57 average time on ice is a career high (he only averaged more than 20 minutes per game once in his career, during the 2008-09 season). He’s also making the most of those minutes; his +9 rating ties him for fifth place in the NHL in that category.

It’s not realistic for Liles to threaten a point per game pace for the entire season. Heck, that type of pace might be a bit much to expect from anyone not named Mike Green in this era of hockey. But one thing is certain: Liles isn’t getting the credit he deserves for an outstanding first 17 games.

If nothing else, he’s come a long way from the days when he was a popular choice when someone was looking for a scapegoat.

Sydor named assistant coach of Blues’ AHL affiliate

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Assistant coach Darryl Sydor of the Minnesota Wild looks up at the jumbotron during a video review in a game against the Ottawa Senators, during the NHL home opener to kick off the Senators' 20th anniversary at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Darryl Sydor, after being let go by the Minnesota Wild, has joined the Chicago Wolves as an assistant coach.

The St. Louis Blues, the parent club of the AHL Wolves, made the announcement Monday. It was also announced that former NHLer Daniel Tkaczuk would join Sydor as an assistant on new head coach Craig Berube’s staff.

Sydor, who won two Stanley Cups as a defenseman, spent five years as an assistant on Mike Yeo’s staff in Minnesota. His time with the Wild was marred by an arrest in 2015 for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and sought treatment.

“I know now that alcoholism is a disease and I’m powerless over alcohol,” he told Kamloops This Week in January. “I can never have a drink again and I’m fine with that.”

Red Wings, DeKeyser settle on six-year, $30 million contract

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Seven
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Cancel Danny DeKeyser‘s arbitration hearing on Thursday; it won’t be required.

DeKeyser has agreed on a six-year, $30 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The 26-year-old defenseman is now locked up through 2021-22.

Next up for GM Ken Holland is goalie Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing tomorrow. That hearing, which came at the club’s request, may actually be necessary.

DeKeyser’s deal, on the other hand, always seemed like it would be the easier of the two to get done via negotiation.

“The player and the club both know what the range would be on a one-year deal,” Holland said recently, per the Detroit Free Press. “We continue to have conversation on a longer-term deal. I’m comfortable we can avoid the process. Danny is Detroit born, he’s happy with his role, happy to be a Red Wing. We are happy with his play.”

DeKeyser had eight goals and 12 assists in 78 games last season, while logging an average ice time of 21:48. As an NHLer, he’s proven why he was such a highly sought-after college free agent, and his new contract reflects that.

Rangers sign Russian d-man Zborovskiy to ELC

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 19:  Pavel Karnaukhov #9 of the Calgary Hitmen is checked by Sergey Zborovskiy #2 of the Regina Pats during a WHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 19, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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The Rangers inked one of their better young blueline prospects on Monday, agreeing to terms with Sergey Zborovskiy on a three-year, entry-level deal.

Zborovskiy, 19, was New York’s third-round pick (79th) overall at the 2015 draft, a selection acquired as part of the Cam Talbot trade to Edmonton. He’s spent the last two seasons with WHL Regina, racking up eight goals and 25 points in 64 games last season.

At 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, Zborovskiy has good size, one of the reasons the Rangers were high on him.

Per TVA, the Russian rearguard signed a deal that will pay $633,000 annually at the NHL level. Zborovskiy is expected to return to junior next year.

Ducks sign former first-rounder Noesen to one-year extension

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Forward Stefan Noesen has agreed to a one-year contract to stay with the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim confirmed the two-way deal Monday.

Noesen (NAY-sun) appeared in one game in each of the past two seasons for the Ducks, who acquired him from Ottawa in 2013.

The 2011 first-round pick by the Senators has spent most of the past three seasons in the AHL with Anaheim’s affiliates in Norfolk and San Diego. He scored 32 points in 65 games for the Gulls last season.

The 23-year-old Texas native’s pro career has been hindered by two major injuries. He missed practically all of the 2013-14 season with torn ligaments in his left knee, and he missed four months of the 2014-15 season after an opponent’s skate blade nearly severed his right Achilles tendon.