Next season’s Minnesota Wild team will be a significantly different one compared to the 2010-11 version, but it remains to be seen if they’ll actually see much improvement. (This point is especially true if you’re among those who believe that Dany Heatley’s career is heading toward a steep decline.)
Perhaps the biggest area of worry used to be Minnesota’s primary strength: defense. While their offense could be improved – again, that’s a matter of debate – and they employ an expensive but above average goalie in Niklas Backstrom, their defensive corps is a question mark at best. The Wild allowed 32 shots per game last season (tied for sixth worst with the New York Islanders) and they traded away their All-Star defenseman and ice time leader Brent Burns during the off-season. If anything, their summer swaps to acquire Heatley and Devin Setoguchi mark a step or two backward defensively.
Of course, there are a few mitigating factors. The biggest change will probably be in their overall scheme, as GM Chuck Fletcher fired Todd Richards in favor of new head coach Mike Yeo. The Wild are also making baby steps in the right direction with some of their most recent moves: signing solid puck mover Mike Lundin and giving Jordan Hendry a training camp tryout today.
Neither one of those moves will make a dramatic difference – Lundin will likely slide into either the second or third defensive pairing while Hendry might not even make the team – but both players provide Minnesota with simple defensive options in case things start to get ugly. With Burns’ 25 minutes per game out of the picture, Marek Zidlicky (21:46 minutes per game) and Greg Zanon (21:33) might be asked to pick up the slack. The two very different defensemen bring some positives to the table, but they’re not exactly an ideal top pairing either. The Wild might give Nick Schultz the nod over Zanon, but that doesn’t really change the picture in a significant way.
Again, Hendry isn’t likely to do much more than provide the Wild with depth, but adding him to the mix seems like a nice low-risk move going into training camp. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about Hendry, who had a rough final season with the Chicago Blackhawks that ended with a torn ACL, but he probably deserves another shot at being a everyday NHL blueliner.
This is a case of two sides needing each other: the Wild need help on defense while Hendry needs a chance to get his career back on track. In a best case scenario, you might not even notice Hendry very often if he makes the team – that’s basically his ideal job as an economical, bottom pairing defenseman.
(H/T to Rotoworld.)
If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.
The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.
Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?
Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.
” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.
That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.
Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?
The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.
The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.
The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.
Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.
With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.
Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.
You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.
Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?
It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.
Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.
It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?
One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.
This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.
The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.
They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.
Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.
Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.
Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6
Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.