Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis

Comparing the 2010-11 Lightning to the Cup-winning 2004 model

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My gut instinct was to call a comparison between this year’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2004 Cup winning version lazy. At first glance, it seems too easy.

Yet after thinking about the similarities in the makeup of both squads, I have to hand it to TSN and other media outlets; there are some parallels. I’d like to take it one step further, though: let’s break down which 2011 Lightning players would fit into the roles of the 2004 model. Some work better than others, while a few comparisons might surprise you.

Casting the ’11 Lightning roster in the role of the Cup-winning ’04 components

Comically undersized, super-skilled Hart Trophy nominee: Martin St. Louis plays Martin St. Louis.

This one’s painfully obvious, but more than anything else, it underscores how great St. Louis has been. Really, he’s been the one consistently great player for Tampa Bay as supporting stars come and go and Vincent Lecavalier waxes and wanes. (Pavel Kubina will play himself again, by the way.)

Stud center: Steven Stamkos as Vincent Lecavalier

You’d think Lecavalier would reprise his ’04 role, but Stamkos is now the Leo DiCaprio to Lecavalier’s Matt Damon. Stamkos scores more points, earns more attention from men’s magazines and ranks as the young center of the future. You know, like Lecavalier was seven years ago.

Clutch center: Lecavalier as Brad Richards

Coming into that 2004 playoffs, Richards didn’t have the same level of notoriety as St. Louis and Lecavalier. Opposing teams paid dearly if they put their lesser checkers against beaver-toothed Richards, as he tore up that postseason on his way to a Conn Smythe trophy and a budget-breaking raise. Lecavalier is already cashing stupidly big checks, but he’s echoing Richards by scoring some absolutely huge goals too.

Journeyman goalie-hero: Dwayne Roloson as Nikolai Khabibulin

“The Bulin Wall” was 31 while Roloson is 41, but they both bounced around the league a bit before playing arguably the best playoff hockey of their careers in Tampa Bay. To extend the analogy, both goalies might not have a chance for an encore. Khabibulin signed an unsightly deal with the Chicago Blackhawks after that Cup victory; Roloson will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

Fascinating head coach: Guy Boucher as John Tortorella

Both coaches are among the best interviews in the sport. Considering Boucher’s scar and Tortorella’s fiery temper, it’s a safe bet that they’re high on the lists of coaches you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, too.

Big minute offensive defenseman: Victor Hedman as Dan Boyle

Sure, Hedman and Boyle have very different backgrounds. Hedman is a Swedish giant who was the second overall pick of the 2009 draft; Boyle is an undersized, un-drafted blueliner from Canada. Yet Hedman is playing a lot of minutes and doing better than many expected in his own end. That’s a lot like Boyle in ’04.

(Hopefully the team will sign Hedman to a deal they can stomach. The Lightning were eventually forced to trade Boyle for a bag of pucks because he was too expensive.)

Grizzled veteran: Eric Brewer as Dave Andreychuk

This one’s a bit of a stretch since Brewer is a defenseman and isn’t as old as Andreychuk. That being said, Brewer’s teammates rave about his leadership and he’s searching for his first Stanley Cup. For the sake of our sanity, Brewer could stand in for Darryl Sydor, too.

Solid supporting cast: Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Steve Downie as Fredrik Modin, Cory Stillman and Ruslan Fedotenko

Each Lightning squad was high on firepower, but you don’t make a deep playoff run without under-the-radar guys contributing here and there. Bergenheim and Downie are the Christopher Walkens of the Lightning since they steal the show with startling frequency.

***

Some of these comparisons are stronger than others, but the more you look at it, the more this year’s Lightning looks like the Cup winning version. If nothing else, this year’s squad is the first to make the Eastern Conference finals since that championship group.

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

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via Colorado Avalanche
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Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

***

Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.