New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils

Why it might not be safe to expect a significantly improved Rangers team

4 Comments

People love to trot out the Albert Einstein quote that insanity involves “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yet in some ways, it’s almost as dangerous to assume the flip side of that: doing the same thing and expecting the same results.

Many New York Rangers fans probably had this thought at least a few times last year: “If only our team had more talent.” The 2010-11 squad seemed short on talent – and arguably their most gifted skater Marian Gaborik experienced one of the worst years of his career – but they hustled and scrapped their way to a playoff spot (along with a surprising +35 goal differential).

Those same fans must have been delighted when GM Glen Sather tried to answer that hypothetical question by hauling in the biggest fish of free agency: Brad Richards. Even weary Rangers fans likely rejoiced because unlike Chris Drury or Bobby Holik, Richards already showed that he could produce as a top-line forward.

It’s tempting to think that Brad Richards + 2010-11 Rangers = division title (or more), but there are a few crucial reasons why that’s a risky assumption. Let’s count them down, then.

Why Richards might struggle

Signing a 31-year-old playmaker to a nine-year deal is always risky, even if it’s a cap-circumventing contract. There are two other reasons that the Richards deal is even more worrisome, though:

  • Richards and Gaborik’s health: As you may remember, Richards dealt with concussion issues right as rumors heated up the most around last season’s trade deadline. One can only assume that he’s OK, but it’s not exactly the most promising sign – especially since his partner in crime is renowned for being wildly injury prone.
  • The inherent problems with free agents: Richards developed fantastic chemistry with Loui Eriksson during his time with the Dallas Stars. A passer like Richards should make most linemates better, but there’s no guarantee he’ll make the same great music with Gabby.

That being said, the Rangers should feel happy that they landed a player as talented as Richards. Most likely, he’ll be a difference-maker on most nights. He might be asked to do too much, though.

Breakout players already got paidsource: Getty Images

The Rangers saw a staggering array of important players hit free agency this summer. Mysteriously enough, they experienced career years just in time for their next contracts.

The most notable players who received fat raises were Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle. Most expected Staal to be in line for a huge bump entering the 10-11 campaign, but the other three – particularly Boyle – raised their profile considerably.

How sure can we be that they’ll be able to achieve at the same rate next season? Dubinsky and Callahan were particularly vital to the Rangers and certainly bring some great energy to the ice (especially Callahan), but it might be a little tougher for them to lay down in front of a slap shot now that their mortgages are settled. Then again, in Callahan’s case, that might be a good thing; he suffered two injuries after blocking shots last season.

Staal’s concussion issues

The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t the only Atlantic Division team whose outlook is blurry because of a major player’s concussion problems. Staal might not be a marquee player like Sidney Crosby, but he’s extremely valuable to the Rangers. Their defense drops off substantially from their top guys to depth defenders, so his current prognosis is very troubling.

Henrik Lundqvist is used to bailing his over-matched teammates out, but with Staal sidelined for an unknown amount of time, the Swedish stopper will need to be even better than last season. (Unless Richards & Co. meet some lofty expectations on offense, that is.)

***

This doesn’t mean that the Rangers are hopeless. Still, it might be wise to temper expectations about a team who overachieved last season, even if they added a hugely talented player.

The Avalanche ‘got our ass whooped tonight’ versus the Habs

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 10:  Artturi Lehkonen #62 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his first period goal during the NHL game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre on December 10, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Yikes! Well, at least it’s over now.

The Montreal Canadiens, led by four goals from Max Pacioretty, destroyed the Colorado Avalanche by a final score of 10-1 on Saturday, this result coming just over a month after the Habs allowed 10 goals against Columbus.

The Habs led 5-0 before the midway point of the first period. They had six goals before the end of the first period. Hitting double digits seemed like an inevitability, as the Canadiens skated their opponents into the ice, making the Avalanche look foolish in their own end.

Frustrations boiled over late in the game when Alexei Emelin threw a massive hip check on Joe Colborne, adding further insult for the Avalanche.

The last time Montreal scored 10 or more goals in a game? Feb. 24, 1990, per the NHL.

Lots of fun for the Habs and their fans. But that was a completely miserable display from the Avalanche, which can fall to last place in the league’s overall standings, depending on the outcome of the Arizona-Nashville game tonight.

This was a game you would think the Avalanche would get an additional boost for. Jarome Iginla was playing in his 1,500th career game. Gabriel Landeskog returned from injury.

Nope. Didn’t happen. The Avalanche manufactured a lousy 16 shots on net. Goalies Calvin Pickard and Semyon Varlamov were both pulled in this one.

“It was embarrassing and we got our ass whooped tonight,” said Landeskog, per Mike Chambers of the Denver Post.

This is the third time in two weeks that an Avalanche core player or coach has ripped the effort or performance of the team. This is a core group that is no stranger to criticism for poor performances over the last few years, going back to Patrick Roy’s tenure.

After this, what is left to say?

“I’m going to take the blame for that one because we weren’t prepared to start the game,” coach Jared Bednar told the Denver Post.

“They’re the best team in the league with the best record at home and we’re all the way down in the standings and we weren’t prepared to play. So that one’s on me.”

Bill Dineen, former NHL player and coach, passes away at age 84

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-6-44-57-pm
Leave a comment

TORONTO (AP) Bill Dineen, the hockey icon who played with and later coached Gordie Howe, has died. He was 84.

The American Hockey League confirmed in a statement that Dineen died Saturday at his home in Lake George, New York.

Dineen, born in Arvida, Quebec, played 324 games in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cup championships in Detroit alongside Howe. Dineen made more of an impact as a player in the AHL, where he was a four-time 20-goal scorer over six seasons with Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester and Quebec.

“Bill Dineen devoted his career to our sport, winning two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, shaping the lives of numerous players during decades of coaching and crafting a hockey legacy that carries on today through his sons,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to the Dineen family on the passing of this distinguished and greatly respected individual.”

Dineen went into coaching after retiring as a player, taking the reins of the WHA’s Houston Aeros for six years starting in the 1972-73 season. He helped the Aeros win Avco Cup titles in 1974 and 1975 with teams featuring Howe and sons Mark and Marty.

Dineen was named the WHA’s coach of the year in 1977 and 1978. He spent a final WHA season as coach of the New England Whalers but was fired after 71 games with the Whalers in fourth place.

Dineen later coached the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers for the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons, giving him a chance to coach son Kevin.

He also spent six years as coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings, leading them to league titles in 1986 and 1989. Dineen was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2014.

Dineen’s sons Shawn, Peter, Gord, Kevin and Jerry all went on to professional hockey careers. Kevin Dineen, a veteran of 1,188 NHL games, is a former head coach of the Florida Panthers and is currently an associate coach with the Blackhawks. Gord Dineen played 529 games in the NHL and is an associate coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

Report: Sens protesting Kings goal after clock issue

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Trevor Lewis #22 of the Los Angeles Kings scores a goal on Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators to take a 3-2 lead as Marc Methot #3 and Anze Kopitar #11 react during the second period at Staples Center on December 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

There was more than one controversial moment during Saturday’s game between the L.A. Kings and Ottawa Senators.

Sens defenseman Mark Borowiecki was given a major penalty for slamming Tyler Toffoli from behind into the boards, causing the Kings forward to undergo the league’s concussion protocol before he eventually returned to the game.

Later in the evening, there was a report from Darren Dreger of TSN that the Senators are protesting the Kings’ third goal of the game, which came with two seconds left in the second period. It was a pivotal moment in the game, as L.A. took a two-goal lead into the third period, before eventually winning 4-1.

Senators coach Guy Boucher didn’t place blame on a clock issue, but instead he put the onus on his team to not get scored on in that situation late in the period.

From LA Kings Insider:

“I’ll be honest with you, at that point for us we’ve just got to shut it down. We keep it at 1, it wasn’t about getting a goal there it was about getting off the ice. We had done the job in the second period, we had looked very good, we had the momentum, we needed to get into the third period with a one-goal lead. We’ve done it so many times this year coming back so I was confident we could come back, so no. I’m not looking at clocks, I’m not looking at penalties, I’m looking at ourselves just doing better.

The Kings now begin a stretch of nine games away from home. They play seven of those games before the holiday break, before resuming the trip on Dec. 28 versus the Canucks. The trip ends the following night in Edmonton.

Video: Unlikely combatants Kucherov and Daley drop the gloves

1 Comment

Emotions were running high at times during the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, in a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.

Unlikely combatants Nikita Kucherov and Trevor Daley dropped the gloves for a spirited scrap early in the first period, after the two got tangled up in front of the Pittsburgh goal.