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Around the Rink – New Year’s Eve edition

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For some, seeing the year change from 2010 to 2011 will be a blessing that cannot come soon enough (and maybe not just because it means the Winter Classic will be here that much sooner). Yet for people like myself, there will be some mixed feelings, as 2010 brought along the introduction of Pro Hockey Talk and plenty of other exciting events.

Tonight’s slate of NHL action finishes the year off well, with nine games overall. Here are previews of those contests, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

5:00 pm

Atlanta @ New Jersey

What’s the best remedy for a team that’s on a losing streak, like Atlanta’s three-game skid? Playing against the Devils seems to be that elixir, as New Jersey is currently on a six game losing streak and sits firmly in last place in the NHL. Surely there’s a part of the Thrashers organization (maybe everyone left over from Don Waddell’s era as GM?) that relishes the fact that their team is prospering while Ilya Kovalchuk languishes in New Jersey.

Montreal @ Florida

While Kovalchuk seeing his old teammates might still be emotional, I imagine Jacques Martin’s return to Florida isn’t going to be very moving. The Canadiens are far ahead of the Panthers right now, but with Florida owning six more home games than road games for the rest of the season, perhaps the gap is smaller than it seems?

6:00 pm

Nashville @ Minnesota

The Predators are on a five game winning streak while the Wild are up and down, yet the only thing that separates these two teams is that Nashville has one more charity point this season.

7:00 pm

NY Islanders @ Detroit

The Isles just beat the Pittsburgh Penguins by ending Sidney Crosby’s point scoring streak at 25 games, so they must feel good about themselves. Cue the Red Wings’ music to make them feel sad again.

Ottawa @ Columbus

The Blue Jackets seem to be on an upward trend in the last few games, while it’s amazing the Senators are even somewhat close to a playoff spot in the East with a -26 goal differential.

8:00 pm

Vancouver @ Dallas

The Stars just hosted the top team in the West and lost 7-3 and now they face the Canucks at home on NYE. Not exactly an easy stretch for the Pacific Division leaders, right?

Philadelphia @ Anaheim

The Flyers pounded the Ducks’ division and state rivals last night, so they might be a little bit weary of another California match. Hopefully they’ll be ready to scrap too, as this is a rare contest between the NHL’s most regularly penalized teams over the last few seasons.

8:30 pm

Phoenix @ St. Louis

The Blues will try to win their fifth game in a row as part of a lengthy homestand, but they’ll need to beat the Coyotes, the team with the best road record of all non-playoff teams (10-7-3). One would expect this to be a tight checking, low scoring affair.

9:00 pm

Colorado @ Calgary

The second best team in the Northwest (Colorado) visits the second worst team in the Western Conference (Calgary) in this game. The Avs are currently in the midst of a Northwest swing, as they just beat the Oilers in a shootout, will take on the Flames tonight and then will face the Canucks on Sunday.

Former Sabres forward Jochen Hecht calls it a career

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 01:  Jochen Hecht #55 of the Buffalo Sabres against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 1, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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The Mannheim Eagles announced that German forward Jochen Hecht is retiring from hockey.

(It’s OK to be a little bewildered that he was still playing, just don’t be too mean about it.)

Hecht played 833 regular season games and 59 playoff contests at the NHL level, making his greatest mark as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

His last bit of NHL action came in 2012-13, when he scored 14 points in 47 games for Buffalo.

Since then, he wrapped up his career with the Mannheim Eagles, a team he’s sporadically played for since 1994-95.

Honestly, it’s weird to see Hecht in any sweater not related to German’s national teams, the Eagles or Sabres, even though the Blues actually drafted him:

Then again, he could also look odd in a certain Sabres sweater.

Apparently he got the NHL 16 Hockey Ultimate Card treatment:

Plenty of Sabres fans and reporters fondly remember Hecht, so here’s to a nice career.

Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

vegasice2
via Vegas is Hockey
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Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.

Presenting: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hockey bobbleheads

cannotunsee
via Milwaukee Admirals
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From the Department of Sights You Can’t Un-see: the Milwaukee Admirals are going to unleash hockey-playing bobbleheads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “this fall.”

The Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate continues the fine tradition of headline-grabbing and all-around-odd promotions from the league.

/Pours one out for the Bakersfield Condors and their Seinfeld “puffy” shirts.

Feast your eyes on the rather disturbing duo:

(The replies to that tweet aren’t too weird yet, but it would probably be wise to stay away nonetheless.)

Naturally, there are other bobblehead options available for the two Presidential front-runners, with the Trump ones being especially entertaining.

As the youngest GM in NHL history, Chayka is already making waves

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) His time on the ice done, John Chayka would turn to the tape, spending up to 25 hours to break down the game just played.

He tracked every player on the ice, every possession, touch of the puck, calculating the impact of every decision or movement on the ice.

The attention to detail, to making himself and his teammates better, led Chayka to co-found his own hockey analytics company. Now it’s helped him become the youngest general manager in NHL history, a meteoric rise even he didn’t see coming.

“It would be silly to suggest it wasn’t a little surprising,” said Chayka, named GM of the Arizona Coyotes on May 5. “It’s like anything in life; good fortune, good timing, a lot of that plays into it. I always just try to better myself every day, learn every day.”

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Chayka was like most Canadian kids growing up, playing hockey from a young age on a backyard rink in Jordan Station, Ontario. He had some skill, too, as a high-scoring winger who was good enough to be an Ontario Hockey League draft pick.

Instead of becoming a professional hockey player, Chayka took a different route to the highest level. He opted to attend college instead of playing in the OHL and suffered a back injury that ended any chance of a continued playing career.

Chayka liked the analytical aspect of hockey even when he was playing, logging numbers by hand while meticulously going through every play of each game. Once he teamed up with Neil Lane, a friend with an IT background, Chayka was able to vastly expand the data sets he could analyze.

Chayka and Lane co-founded Stathletes in 2009 and built it up, molding the hockey analytics company to serve the needs of NHL teams and players.

But in 2015, Chayka decided to make a change. The business was in good shape and the Coyotes wanted an analytics person, so he joined them as an assistant GM prior to the 2015-16 season.

“The company was in a position for the co-founder to step aside and let it grow, so it was good timing for me to do that,” Chayka said.

Timing worked out for Chayka again this spring.

After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Coyotes decided to make a change, firing general manager Don Maloney after nine seasons.

Instead of hiring an established hockey front-office man, the Coyotes took a bolder route, hiring the then-26-year-old Chayka, making him the youngest GM in NHL history and the first with a primarily analytical background.

“What people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he’s a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Those smarts, along with a year of watching the Coyotes operations from the inside out, have allowed Chayka to hit the ground sprinting.

Arizona had one of the highest-rated drafts, landing center Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychurn, players who could contribute quickly.

The Coyotes signed top-four defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his rights and added some scoring depth by signing left wing Jamie McGinn, who set career highs in goals and points last season. Arizona also signed captain Shane Doan to a one-year deal.

Chayka has retooled Arizona’s roster by combining his analytical approach with the traditional methods of evaluating players, dispelling the notion that he would be a numbers-only GM.

“It’s a good holistic approach where you’re weighing both options and ideas,” Chayka said. “Where you have agreements and consistency in your approach, then you have a better decision. When you have those disagreements is where you have real opportunity to learn from it. If the data disagrees with the eye or the eye disagrees with the data, now you have a real opportunity to understand why.”

The need to understand got Chayka to this unprecedented point. It should be the foundation to keep him climbing as well.