Cam Barker, Patrick Marleau

Can Cam Barker get his career back on track in Edmonton?

2 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks parted ways with a lot of talent after they won the 2010 Stanley Cup, but there was one should-be “star” who didn’t even make it that far: Cam Barker.*

The Blackhawks wisely got rid of the so-so offensive defenseman’s pricey $3.08 million cap hit by trading him to the Minnesota Wild for what amounted to an expiring contract in Kim Johnsson on February 12, 2010. After putting up 40 points in just 68 games played 2008-09, Barker’s play was already slipping a bit in Chicago; he managed 14 points in 51 games before that trade. His game really fell off the map in Minnesota, though, as he only scored seven points in 19 games to finish the 09-10 season and was downright pitiful in 2010-11 (five points in 52 games with a -10 rating).

Rather than stomaching the final year of that weighty contract, the Wild opted to buy out Barker during this off-season. Barker and the Wild can sugar coat that decision by saying it was “just business” but the ultimate message is that the defense-starved franchise paid Barker to go away.

Luckily for Barker, the hockey world tends to give top-five draft picks a chance or two at redemption (at least when they’re still young – Barker is just 25 years old). The even more defensively decrepit Edmonton Oilers decided to take a short-term risk on Barker, signing him to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

I must admit that I snickered at the idea on first impact, especially since Barker is known for being a bit of an … adventure in his own end. The dollar amount seems a tad bit high for a player whose stock is at an all-time low, but the one-year deal makes it an intriguing gamble for Edmonton. Let’s not forget that Barker hasn’t had a lengthy fall from grace; he’s only two seasons removed from being a fairly prolific contributor on the Blackhawks blueline. Barker also dealt with some injuries last season, so it’s possible that a cleaner bill of health might help him rebuild his career.

This Winnipeg Sun piece reveals that Barker is optimistic about bouncing back during what could be a pivotal season in his still-young career.

“You’re hurt, you’re coming back from injuries, it’s really tough to get the ball going,” he said. “And I didn’t start off the season that well. A lot of contributing factors, but I’m feeling healthy now, completely good to go.

“It (being released) worked out for the best, for me anyway. I end up in a great place in Edmonton.”

(snip)

“It’s a huge year for me,” he acknowledged. “It’s when I reestablish myself and get back to where I was two, three years ago.”

While I’d wager that Barker probably won’t heal many of Edmonton’s wounds, it’s not outrageous to wonder if they might benefit quite a bit from the gamble. If nothing else, Barker will get every opportunity to sink or swim on a threadbare Oilers defense.

* -Scoff all you want at the notion that Barker should be a star, but he bares the weighty historical burden of being drafted right after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004.

Stunner: Team Europe beats Sweden, advances to World Cup Final

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 25:  Marian Gaborik #12 of Team Europe is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a second period goal against Team Sweden at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at  Air Canada Centre on September 25, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

When the World Cup began earlier this month, Team Europe, a collection of players from eight European countries that did not have their own team in the tournament, was thought to be the weakest team in the field.

Not necessarily a bad team, but one that seemed like it would have trouble keeping up with the hockey superpowers that made up the remainder of the field. That thinking seemed to be confirmed in the pre-tournament games when the North American young stars team skated them out of the building in what the European team admitted was a wakeup call.

All of that is why they still have to actually play the games, and in a short tournament like this anything can happen. 

In this case, anything did happen.

Thanks to their 3-2 overtime win over Team Sweden on Sunday afternoon in the World Cup semifinals, Team Europe has clinched a spot in the World Cup final series and will take on Canada in a best-of-three round that begins on Tuesday night.

It’s been an incredible and almost unbelievable run so far Europe. They frustrated the United States in their opener and shut them out, beat the Czech Republic in overtime, and then on Sunday shut down Sweden to advance to the final. 

The biggest part of their success has to be the play of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has been their best player the entire tournament.

On Sunday, he stopped 37 out of 39 shots and improved his save percentage in the tournament to .946.

The other big star for Team Europe on Sunday was Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar who scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.

After Marian Gaborik scored late in the second period to tie the game at one, Tatar opened the third period with a goal just 12 seconds in when he followed up his own shot and beat Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist to give Europe its first lead of the game.

Sweden’s Erik Karlsson scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Europe now haas to get ready to face a Canadian team that is 4-0 in the tournament and outscored its opponents by a 19-6 margin.

Canada beat Europe in the first round 4-1.

Sounds like Blues will be more aggressive

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

With their former captain now a member of the Boston Bruins and their coach on year-to-year deals, it’s appropriate to say that the St. Louis Blues are in a period of transitions.

It’s also a convenient choice of words, as it sounds like the Blues are going to change the way they transition on the ice.

That’s the indication given by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and players like Chris Porter approve.

“The play in the neutral zone will fit this team great with the speed and the size that they already have in place,” Porter said. “I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for the guys, I think it’s just a little tweak here or there.”

Perhaps hiring Mike Yeo had something to do with taking a more modern approach?

Either way, getting more aggressive makes a lot of sense for the Blues, at least on paper.

With David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of town, younger and speedier players get to take more of a role. Some Blues fans will probably view this tweak – big or small – as a long time coming.

Of course, there’s a give-and-take when it comes to situations like these, and becoming more attack-minded sure makes retaining Kevin Shattenkirk that much more important. The underrated blueliner still expects to be moved despite being named an alternate captain, yet you wonder if these changes might prompt GM Doug Armstrong to try to pull some strings to keep him around.

(Giving Alexander Steen a contract extension means that much less room for the likes of Shattenkirk.)

Even if the Blues eventually need to part ways with Shattenkirk, there are some other nice assets who can use this change as a catalyst to push this team up another level.

In an ideal scenario, the Blues would enjoy those improvements and keep Shattenkirk to reap those rewards.

Update: Clarke MacArthur suffers concussion

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Update: As many feared, Clarke MacArthur suffered a concussion. The Ottawa Senators announced that he will be “evaluated daily.”

***

Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

Update: Here’s a GIF of the hit.

Robin Lehner certainly has swagger

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Robin Lehner #40 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.

That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:

“There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.

Hey now.

As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.

Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.

If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.

Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”

Sounds like a guy to watch.