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Around the Rink – Monday, November 22nd

What’s the general percentage of people working on the Monday during Thanksgiving week? I’m thinking somewhere between 80 and 90 percent, but I could be 100 percent wrong there. Either way, whether you’re planning a leisurely day full of hockey watching or in need of a light at the end of the tunnel at work, here are previews of today’s eight games. As usual, the start times are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Dallas @ Toronto

The Stars have won the last four meetings between these two relative strangers and their odds of continuing that streak are solid. They bring in a high-powered offense while the Maple Leafs are struggling to provide goal support for their beleaguered goalies. Toronto’s biggest advantage is probably the fact that they are playing at home, though.

Calgary @ NY Rangers

When I think of these two teams, the first thing that pops into my head is the recent trend that Darryl Sutter often looks like an even more befuddled general manager than mistake prone Glen Sather. (Sutter’s most recent trade seemed silly, as he had to throw useful defenseman Ian White in a deal just to get rid of a troubled family member.)

The Flames come into this game frustrated, as they coughed up a two goal lead in the third period to lose to the Red Wings in crushing fashion. The Rangers are the more rested of the two teams, so we’ll see if that factors into this contest.

Washington @ New Jersey

This game was supposed to be a clash between two Eastern Conference titans, but only the Capitals are holding up their end of the bargain. Meanwhile, the Devils are off to their second worst start in team history and are especially pitiful at home with a 1-5-2 record. Put their sputtering start together with the fact that Martin Brodeur will be out as he rests his elbow and it’s pretty difficult to predict good things for New Jersey. Then again, the NHL often surprises, so you never know.

Montreal @ Philadelphia

The only thing separates these two teams in the standings is one point via an overtime/shootout loss for the Flyers. Last time these two teams met, Carey Price continued his outstanding play with a shutout victory. We’ll see if the league’s stingiest team (Montreal has only allowed 39 goals this season) can shut down its most explosive (Philadelphia leads the league with 75 goals) once again.

Nashville @ Columbus

The Blue Jackets might just be the most surprising team in the NHL, at least in a positive way. Columbus just wrapped up an undefeated road trip, but are only .500 at home. They are currently on a three game winning streak as they host the Predators, who are starting to get things back together after struggling a bit the last few weeks.

7:30 pm

Pittsburgh @ Florida

It’s been a bumpy start to the season for the Penguins – which really isn’t as big of a surprise as you might think – but it seems like they’re starting to heat up (4-0-1 in their last five games). They’ll pay a Panthers team that is pretty stout at home (5-2-0 in Sunrise so far) and Tomas Vokoun is 4-1 in his last five, so this could be an interesting game even if it seems lopsided in star power.

Los Angeles @ Ottawa

These two teams show how quickly things can change in the NHL. The Kings suddenly find the Coyotes rapidly approaching their rear view mirror in the Pacific Division while the Senators seem to go from hot and cold streaks seemingly with the suddenness of a flick of a light switch. Ottawa was outscored 17-4 in dropping the last three games of a four game road trip, so it’s safe to say they are happy to be home again.

Boston @ Tampa Bay

Each of these teams has 24 points (although Boston got there in two less games played), but they got there in different ways; the Lightning with electric goal scoring and the Bruins with outstanding goaltending and defense. One heartening thing for Tampa Bay: they played 13 of their first 20 games on the road, so they are quietly one of the league’s scrappier clubs. That being said, the Bruins are 7-1 on the road so it won’t be a picnic for the Lightning.

Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Contractual details, per the Buffalo News:

Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
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Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

And many would agree with Burke.

In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

Burke is fine with that.

All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.

After firing Boudreau, Ducks GM unloads on core players

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When the Ducks were struggling this season, GM Bob Murray took some not-so-thinly veiled shots at the team’s core players.

And after the club’s disappointing first-round playoff exit to Nashville, he was at it again.

The juicy stuff, from today’s presser following the Bruce Boudreau dismissal.

(Video here):

“Let’s face it: I’d like to know where they heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was the passion, the controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too.

“There’s definite concerns in that area, and I think the core has to be held responsible, and they have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time.”

Murray then shared a few of those “different words” with the assembled media.

If you’re looking for one of the core guys Murray may be referring to, consider Corey Perry.

Having just wrapped the third of an eight-year, $69 million deal with a $8.625M cap hit (that’s a long-term contract, right?), Perry failed to score over the seven-game series against the Preds, and had a team-worst minus-7 rating.

Say what you will about the merits of plus-minus, but minus-7  is minus-7. It’s not good. Hard to see how it could be viewed positively.

Of course, there’s no doubt other core guys are in Murray’s crosshairs. But it’s not just about core guys making big money and failint to produce in crunch time. It’s also about core guys making big money, failing in crunch time and not going anywhere.

Because that affects the futures of the players around them.

Some of Murray’s anger — justifiably — comes with the long-terms deals he’s got on the books, and how they’ll likely hamstring the Ducks this summer. He’s already on record saying this will be an “interesting” offseasonHampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Rickard Rakell and Frederik Andersen are all RFAs, and it’s quite conceivable one or two won’t be with back in Anaheim for the start of training camp.

Had the Ducks made a legit playoff run, it would’ve taken the sting away from (potentially) losing players.

But now?

Consider what Murray said about retaining Rakell, who finished fourth on the team in scoring.

“In keeping certain people, other people may have to go,” he explained, per the Associated Press. “That’s what you get forced into. A couple of big contracts get signed, and you end up following because that’s what you get pushed into, and that’s what they expect.

“We are all guilty of that.”

Blues, Capitals to play exhibition game in Kansas City

Pedestrians walk past the Sprint Center, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The city was preparing for the third round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the arena after the region received 6-10 inches of snow overnight. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Kansas City is going to host another NHL exhibition game.

The St. Louis Blues announced today that they’ll take on the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 at Sprint Center. Both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin will be there, at least according to the press release.

The Blues last played in K.C. a couple of years ago when they took on the Stars in exhibition play. In 2011, a sellout crowd watched the Penguins and Kings at Sprint Center.

A market once considered a candidate for expansion or relocation — particularly after Sprint Center opened in 2007 — the NHL-to-Kansas City buzz has since died down. Last year, there was no interest from Kansas City when the league called for expansion applications.

Sensing an opportunity to make their team a favorite of all Missourians, not just the ones in St. Louis, the Blues have said they’d like to cultivate their fan base across the state in Kansas City.