In most NHL cities they ask, “Is this the year?” That question usually means if this is the year their team will win the Stanley Cup. The bar has been set a bit lower in Toronto lately though and now the fans wonder if this is the year the team will get back to the postseason. The Maple Leafs haven’t seen the NHL’s second season since the 2003-2004 campaign, the season before the lockout nearly killed the NHL.
This season, the Leafs are off to a 3-0-0 start heading into tonight’s game against Colorado (7 p.m. ET on Versus) and while it’s a position the Leafs have been in before (they started last season 4-0 before losing eight of their next nine), their first goal is making sure it doesn’t get to their heads. With all that potential doom and gloom aside, however, is this a team that can crack the top eight in the Eastern Conference? Why not?
The Leafs are being keyed by their biggest stars and for them that means one player at each key position. Phil Kessel is their best forward and he’s proving it with five goals and eight points so far. Dion Phaneuf is the team captain and top defenseman and his physical play as well as offensive contributions have the team rolling along.
Perhaps most importantly, rising star goalie James Reimer picked up where he left off last season and is doing well to help bail out the Leafs defense when needed. His solid numbers compare better than what he put up last season and gives the Leafs a reason to have faith when he’s in goal. That’s something they haven’t been able to do since guys like Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour were in goal.
If the Leafs can keep up this level of great play and get bigger contributions from Tim Connolly (who has yet to play) as well as Tyler Bozak and Matt Lombardi, there’s no reason the Leafs can’t get to the playoffs. With GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson steering the ship, the experience is there – now they just need the results to match up.
The Nashville Predators boasted some appealing options to take the torch from Mike Fisher as captain, but really there was only one obvious name: Roman Josi.
Josi officially became the team’s eighth captain on Tuesday. Ryan Ellis appears to be second-in-command as “associate” captain, while they seem interested in spreading the leadership wealth around otherwise:
As captain, Josi will see an increased role on the Predators leadership team, which will also see some new appointments. Defenseman Ryan Ellis has been named as the team’s associate captain, while Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm will all serve as alternate captains. In addition, Pekka Rinne, P.K. Subban and Nick Bonino have all taken positions within the leadership group.
If that’s not a sign that the team is taking this seriously – kind of amusingly so – consider that Ellis and Josi “interviewed” for the position and Peter Laviolette evoked military structures in discussing the decision, as sports teams love to do.
Josi seemed flattered when GM David Poile described him as “our Roger Federer,” a fellow Swiss sports star.
At face value, that’s great, especially since it breaks through the near-corporate-speak that saddles announcements like these.
That said, it’s funny to compare the leader in a team sport to a tennis player, among the most individualistic athletes in all of sport. There aren’t many moments of teamwork beyond doubles and rare events like the Davis Cup.
Overall, it’s another strong decision by the Predators. It’s merely fun to tease them a bit about the cornier aspects.
Hockey’s training camps and exhibition games share a lot of similarities, big-picture wise, with other sports.
As much as they’re all about evaluating players trying to make rosters and rule tweaks heading into each season, the “winners” of a pre-season may just be the teams that make it out without any significant injuries. The St. Louis Blues aren’t one of those winners.
The team announced unsettling injury updates for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Zach Sanford on Tuesday.
Sanford is expected to miss five-to-six months after undergoing shoulder surgery. That virtually wipes out an important season for a guy who was still trying to stake his claim to a full-time roster spot.
Bouwmeester’s situation is probably more troubling, potentially, as he’s already a key defenseman for the Blues (averaging more than 22 minutes last season, which was a slight decrease from recent work). The team announced that Bouwmeester suffered a fractured ankle and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
As tormenting as day-to-day updates can be, “check back in three weeks” makes for even greater anxiety.
It does open up some opportunities for other players in the Blues organization, for whatever that’s worth.
This news comes shortly after the Ottawa Senators announced that Colin White will miss multiple weeks with a broken wrist.
You almost wonder if we’ll start to see fewer practice updates like these:
Bad news for the Ottawa Senators today.
The club announced Tuesday that prospect center Colin White is out six to eight weeks with a broken left wrist.
The Senators selected White 21st overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. After two years at Boston College, he signed his entry-level deal in April and appeared in two regular season games for Ottawa. He also appeared in a Stanley Cup playoff game, though he only saw 2:39 of ice time.
That’s certainly disappointing for White, who could’ve had a shot to make the big club out of training camp. One of the question marks for Ottawa had been the status of fellow center Derick Brassard, who had offseason shoulder surgery with a recovery timeline of four to five months.
“I come here and worry about myself, do the right things on and off the ice, take care of my body. If I’m playing well and taking care of my game, I’ll fight for a spot,” White told the Ottawa Citizen prior to training camp.
The Vancouver Canucks dealt with some adverse conditions as they hit the ice at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai in preparation for this week’s 2017 NHL China Games exhibition series versus the L.A. Kings.
According to the pictures, it was a little on the foggy side for their practice.
Is that . . . Henrik Sedin in the distance?
The Canucks and Kings face off Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Arena, before traveling to Beijing for Saturday’s game at Wukesong Arena.
The good news? It appears the fog was lifted in time for the Kings’ practice.