San Jose Sharks v Anaheim Ducks

Jumbo Jets? Kyle Wellwood signs one-year deal with Winnipeg

2 Comments

Former Sharks forward and Twitter meme superstar Kyle Wellwood has signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets. According to RDS reporter Renaud P Lavoie, the deal is worth $700,000 for next season. The former 5th round pick split time between Atlant in the KHL and San Jose Sharks last season. In 35 NHL games last season, Wellwood put up 5 goals and 13 points. He racked up an additional 7 points in 18 playoff games to finish the season.

Wellwood’s signing was one of the more confusing deals of the offseason. After looking for a contract for over two months, there were initial reports that he had re-signed with the San Jose Sharks—only to be quickly corrected. It didn’t take long for hockey fans around the Twitterverse to start recycling the #KyleWellwoodIsSoFat jokes—even if he’s only 180 lbs these days. For the real jokes, look no further than Wellwood’s new teammate Big Dustin Byfuglien. Oh, I’m sure hockey fans will have fun with the Jets this season.

The news of Wellwood’s signing, of course, comes a day after Yaroslavl’s horrific flight tragedy in Russia. For a player who played in the KHL last season, one has to wonder if the flight and conditions in the KHL had anything to do with his quick contract a day later. His $700,000 contract represents a slight raise from the $650,000 two-way deal he signed with the Sharks in the middle of last season.

If Wellwood can come into training camp in shape, he still has the potential to be a productive NHL player. He’s scored double-digit goals in four of his five full seasons in the NHL. In fact, the only year he was unable to score at least 11 goals was in 2007-08 when he only played 59 games with the Maple Leafs. Still, in 2006-07, he was able to put up 42 points in 48 games. People forget that there was a fair amount of expectation swirling around the Windsor native, as he prepared for the 2007 season.

He’s been struggling to fulfill those expectations ever since.

When at his best, Wellwood is a player with very good speed and above-average hands. If his well-documented weight problems are behind him, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Winnipeg Jets. Over his last two NHL seasons with the Canucks and Sharks, Wellwood has shown that he has improved his two-way game immeasurably since his early days with the Maple Leafs. Using his speed, he could fill a valuable depth role for the Jets as they fill out their team (no put intended) and look for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007.

The Jets are depending on a few young players to continue their development this season. Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov, and Patrice Cormier will all have to take significant steps forward for the Jets to threaten for a playoff spot this season. They’ll also need Bryan Little and Nik Antropov to bounce back this season, Andrew Ladd to replicate last year’s success, and Eric Fehr to hit the ground running with his new team.

Kyle Wellwood should fit right in with a team that has so many question marks. If he can rediscover the potential that he showed early in his career, he’ll provide some much needed depth as the Jets look to impress their new fanbase. That’s a huge “if.” If not, fans will always have the fat jokes to fall back on.

Video: Frustrations boil over as Stars lose again

1 Comment

The Dallas Stars just cannot get it together. And this afternoon in Buffalo, where the Stars dropped a 4-1 decision to the Sabres, captain Jamie Benn‘s frustrations boiled over.

As you can see in the video above, Benn snapped three sticks in total — one on the ice, two while on the bench.

It’s worth noting that Benn committed a bad giveaway on the Sabres’ winning goal in the first period. With the Stars on the penalty kill, Benn had a chance to clear the puck. Instead, he put it right on the stick of Jake McCabe, who beat Antti Niemi to make it 2-0 Buffalo.

With the loss, the Stars’ record fell to 18-19-8. And after 45 games, last year’s Central Division champs find themselves four points back of Los Angeles for the second wild-card spot in the West, with the Kings holding two games in hand.

Credit to the Sabres, who improved to 17-17-9 with today’s well-earned victory. But this one will be remembered for Benn’s very public display of frustration. The Stars get right back at it tomorrow in Manhattan against the Rangers.

Pre-game reading: On Willie O’Ree, who ‘broke so many barriers’ for black hockey players

Leave a comment

— Up top, enjoy Rick Jeanneret’s call after Tyler Ennis opened the scoring this afternoon in Buffalo. Ennis was making his first appearance for the Sabres since Nov. 7. He missed 30 games with a groin injury.

— Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. To honor it, Willie O’Ree will drop the puck in a ceremonial faceoff prior to this afternoon’s Kings-Lightning game in Los Angeles. O’Ree was the NHL’s first black player and has served as an inspiration for present-day players like Tampa Bay’s J.T. Brown. “He broke so many barriers, made it possible for me to play the game that I love. Anything I can do to keep growing the game, keep doing the things he did to help, that’s something I’m willing to do.” (Tampa Bay Times)

— The Detroit Red Wings are probably going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and that could turn them into sellers at the trade deadline. Might Thomas Vanek draw interest? The 32-year-old winger is a pending unrestricted free agent with a cap hit of $2.6 million. He’s also the Wings’ co-leading goal-scorer with 11 tallies in 32 games. (The Detroit News)

— Speaking of the trade deadline, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox has written a “Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling” post. Halfway through the season, only Colorado and Arizona are totally out of the race, but teams like the Wings, Devils, Sabres, Islanders and Canucks need to be realistic about their chances of making the playoffs. At the very least, a Plan B should be put in place now, because March 1 isn’t all that far away. (Sportsnet)

— Derek Boogaard’s father, Len, wants fighting banned from all levels of hockey. And he’s not just passing the buck — he fully accepts responsibility for allowing, or even encouraging, his late son to become an NHL enforcer. “You’re supposed to be looking after your kids. In hindsight it is always, ‘Well, maybe I should have done this, maybe I should have done that.’ When I was taking him to Saskatoon for boxing lessons at 15, it’s like, ‘What was I thinking?'” It’s a compelling read, even if you still think there’s a place for fighting in the game. (Globe and Mail)

— Edmonton used to have the best ice in the league. But that’s not the case anymore at their new downtown rink, Rogers Place. Milan Lucic gives the ice a 6.5 out of 10, which is at least better than the 3 he gave it back in October. “I don’t think there is a 10 out there, but I definitely do feel that they’re going to eventually get it to be an eight and a half or nine.” (Edmonton Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Waived at start of year, Watson’s become ‘a real force’ for Preds

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 12:  Austin Watson #51 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on January 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Seven years ago, hopes were high for Austin Watson.

A big-bodied forward from the OHL, Watson was selected 18th overall by Nashville at the 2010 draft — ahead of the likes of Nick Bjugstad, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Charlie Coyle, among others.

“We were really happy to get Austin. He’s certainly a Predator- type player, doing all the little things to help your team win,” GM David Poile said at the time, per the Peterborough Examiner. “He’s got leadership qualities, and he’s been compared to Ryan Kesler in Vancouver.

“If he’s anything close to that, we’ll have had a very good day at the draft.”

Needless to say, expectations were high.

Yet expectations couldn’t have been much lower at the start of this campaign when Watson, who’d only played 63 games for the Preds over four seasons, was placed on waivers after training camp.

He’d failed to establish himself at the big-league level and was off to AHL Milwaukee, where he’d already spent a good part of his professional life.

That, it seems, was the motivation Watson needed.

Since being recalled in late October, the 25-year-old has been impressive, scoring a career-high 11 points through just 39 games. He’s averaging over 12 minutes per game and has earned not just the trust of head coach Peter Laviolette, but praise as well.

“He’s been doing everything right,” Laviolette said, per the Preds website. “His physicality, his defensive play, his offensive play, he’s been a real force for our team.”

Watson’s been on a tear lately, with three goals and four points in his last four games. Poile said he’s starting to play like the power forward the Preds envisioned back in 2010, and Watson has certainly acquitted himself physically, sitting second among all Nashville forwards with 76 hits.

That’s key for a team that doesn’t boast a ton of physicality. With Watson and the newly-acquired Cody McLeod in the lineup, the Preds feel they’re a tougher team to play against — and they are playing some of their best hockey of the year at the moment, with five wins in their last eight.

Isles chase Rask with three goals on just 15 shots (Updated)

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 1: Goaltender Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins watches a replay during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on November 1, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Boston’s maddening inconsistency was on display once again Monday.

Fresh off a 6-3 win against the Flyers on Saturday, spirits were high. The B’s felt like their offense was finally starting to connect, and there was hope the club could string together victories for the first time this calendar year.

Then the opening 40 minutes of today’s game transpired.

After a nondescript first period, Boston came out flat in the second and were smacked by an Islanders team down the services of Andrew Ladd and Cal Clutterbuck. By the time the middle frame ended, Tuukka Rask had been beaten three times in just over five minutes — two of those goals courtesy Nikolai Kulemin — and was hooked at the intermission, with Zane McIntyre coming out to start the third.

The B’s did out-shoot the Isles 24-15 through two periods, but that hardly impressed the TD Garden faithful:

If the Bruins can’t turn things around in the third, they’ll head into a tough stretch on a rather sour note. Four of Boston’s next seven games are on the road — in Detroit, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Washington — and their home dates include tough matchups against the Blackhawks and Penguins.

Update: Well, that was ugly. Jason Chimera added a shorthanded marker in the third to make the final score Isles 4, Bruins 0.

“Whether it was fatigue or not, I don’t know,” head coach Claude Julien said postgame, per CSNNE. “But we were flat today. It’s very disappointing.”