Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

Renovation Watch: Running Wild


Every now and then, PHT will glance at the teams who changed the most during the 2011 off-season in Renovation Watch.

A lot has changed since the first edition of Renovation Watch. For the most part, the dramatically altered teams have been smash successes, but there are a couple who have been let downs. Let’s get to it, then, in order of the best to worst records.

Minnesota sits atop the league

Record: 20-8-4 for 44 points

The Wild won their only game of the first weekend to start things off, but most of us didn’t expect the good times to roll like this. Minnesota currently leads the league with 44 points thanks to their suffocating defense, fantastic goaltending and timely offense. They’ve fought off injuries admirably, although losing Mikko Koivu looks to be their biggest test yet.

Flyers flex their muscles

Record: 20-7-3 for 43 points

The Wild have one more point, but considering the fact that Philly has two games in hand, some would argue that the Flyers are a bigger success. They lead the NHL with a staggering 110 goals, which averages out to 3.67 per game. Much like Minny, they face a serious challenge with Chris Pronger out the rest of the season (and maybe the playoffs?) and Claude Giroux in concussion limbo.

Florida flabbergasts us all

Record: 17-9-6 for 40 points

It’s likely that even the most fervent Panthers pom-pom wavers didn’t see this coming. The Rats are seven points ahead of the disappointing Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. That’s not an insurmountable deficit, but the Panthers seem primed to break their playoff hex.

Sabres disappoint

Record: 16-12-3 for 35 points

Buffalo came storming out of the gate in Europe and sustained it a bit to begin, then hit a big brick wall. Now they’re up and down, although newcomers Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff haven’t delivered. Their scoring margin captures the mixed results: 86 goals for and 86 goals against.

Columbus collapses, then crawls

Record: 9-18-4 for 22 points

It’s strange to give the worst team in the league a little leeway, but considering how terribly things started, the Blue Jackets are at least saving face lately. A big reason why is Curtis Sanford, although Jeff Carter is gradually getting his game together. A month ago, you’d give Scott Howson an “F.” Now it’s more like a “D” with a “C-” hovering in the horizon. (Small victories.)

Florida: 17-9-6 for 40 points

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?