PHT’s media experts pick their Hall of Fame ballot

It’s Hockey Hall of Fame day here at PHT and with the 2011 induction class being announced at 3 p.m. ET it’s time for everyone to make their case for who they think should get the call from the Hall of Fame this year. The Hockey Hall of Fame has some rules for making the grade though. A committee of 18 voters casts their ballots and at least 14 of them have to agree on a player to get them inducted. It can be tough to get through, but each year the voters generally get a few people they agree on.

Since we don’t have the access to those who are voting, nor would they tell us who they voted for, we put the word out to some of our media friends to see who they would’ve voted for this year. Some gave us deep thoughts on why they picked who they chose, others kept it short and sweet but all around we’re happy to have them give us their thoughts as to who should go in this time around.

Oh yeah, and we’re trying to have some fun with this too.

Joe Haggerty – CSN New England

Pat Burns – It’s time to right the wrong of last season’s selection process while Burns was still living and breathing. A Stanley Cup-winning coach with the New Jersey Devils, Burns is the only guy in NHL history to win the Jack Adams with three different teams and a larger-than-life personality that worked his way up from walking the police beat in Montreal. He was one of the dominant coaches of his era with successful stints in Montreal, Toronto and Boston – not an easy feat to gain acceptance and taste success in each of those Original Six stops.

Joe Nieuwendyk – A three-time Stanley Cup champion, Calder Trophy winner and Conn Smythe winner for his 11 goals in 23 games for the Dallas Stars during the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs, 564 career goals and 1126 career points with some excellent teams in Calgary, Dallas and New Jersey over his 19-year career. The 564 goals ranks him 21st on the NHL’s all-time list and his 93 career game-winning goals put him in the top 10 all-time. He looks and smells like a sure-fire Hall of Fame candidate.

Rick Middleton – Third in Bruins franchise history with 402 goals scored, fourth in points with 898 career points scored and the franchise’s all-time leader with 25 shorthanded goals. When you look at the Bruins’ franchise record books, every player around “Nifty” is already in the Hall of Fame – a fact that makes his omission all the more stunning. Middleton was a three-time All-Star and Lady Byng Trophy winner that always seems to get overlooked when people talk about the greats in Black and Gold history.

Ed Belfour – Just to prove that I’m completely impartial, I give “The Eagle” the nod even though I once saw him throw his goalie pads at a reporter getting too close to his personal locker space. A Stanley Cup win with the Dallas Stars, two Vezina Trophies, 484 career regular season wins to go with 88 in the playoffs, led the league in shutouts four times and five All-Star appearances encapsulate a Hall of Fame-worthy goaltender.

Ray Ratto – CSN Bay Area

Dave Andreychuk

Doug Gilmour

Boris Mikhailov

Pat Verbeek – “Only because anyone with the nickname “Little Ball of Hate” deserves his own wing in the Hall.”

Mike Milbury – NBC Sports

Ed Belfour – “To me he’s automatic. An absolute lock.”

Doug Gilmour – “He’s an absolute Hall of Famer. He did it all.”

Dave Andreychuk – “He’s got 640 goals. Come on now.”

Keith Jones – Versus

Pat Burns – “No brainer. It should’ve been done last year. They have to do it now and right a terrible wrong.”

Joe Nieuwendyk –  “He was the total package. Offensive skill, defensively sound. He did it all and helped win three Stanley Cups.”

Pavel Bure – “There was no one more dynamic than Bure. His talent was so unique and powerful that has to be recognized. He changed games with his speed and ability to score.”

Phil Housley – “His point totals were outstanding. He was a different kind of defenseman and a tremendous American player as well. His offensive game from the blue line was incredible.”

Sarah Baicker – CSN Philly

Ed Belfour – It’s hard not to put him in: A Stanley Cup win, two World Cup titles, two Vezina trophies, a Calder Trophy … and the list goes on.

Joe Nieuwendyk – I was pretty surprised he didn’t get in last year. He should this time.

Fred Shero – Everyone in Philadelphia (myself included) believes Fred Shero belongs in the Hall without question. The man revolutionized the way the game is coached.

Goalie nods: Dell starts for Sharks, his sixth in the last 12 games

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There was a plan in San Jose to try and give first-year backup Aaron Dell some additional playing time down the stretch.

And the Sharks certainly are executing.

Dell, who has basically split starts with No. 1 Martin Jones this month, will get the call tonight when San Jose takes on the Stars in Dallas. He’s certainly earned the call — in five starts in March, he’s going 3-2-0 with a .941 save percentage, and has allowed a grand total of eight goals.

While there’s no goalie controversy at play — Jones is the unquestioned starter — this development has to have provided some relief for Peter DeBoer and company. Dell is a 27-year-old minor league journeyman that made his NHL debut this year, but played sparingly behind Jones for the most part.

Now, he looks like a guy the club can rely on should Jones struggle, or get hurt. Dell’s posted terrific numbers overall — 10-5-1 record, .936 save percentage, 1.85 GAA — and could see even more action over the final eight games of the regular season.

No word yet on who starts for Dallas. Kari Lehtonen played in last night’s shootout loss to Chicago, so logic would suggest it’s Antti Niemi.

Elsewhere…

— As we wrote about earlier, Jaroslav Halak makes his first NHL start in 85 days as the Isles visit Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury is in for the Pens.

Petr Mrazek gets the call as the Red Wings host the Lightning. No word yet on a Bolts starter, though Andrei Vasilevskiy would seem likely given Peter Budaj played against (and beat) Boston last night.

— The red-hot Jonathan Bernier gets another start as the Ducks play host to the Jets. No word yet on a Winnipeg starter, but Connor Hellebuyck did play last night against L.A.

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.