Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres

Renovation Watch: Major slippage


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

Generally speaking, things have gotten quite a bit worse for the five most dramatically altered teams in the NHL since we last took a look at them before New Year’s. Here is a glance at how each squad fared, in order from highest standings position to the lowest (wins are the tiebreaker in one case, if it really matters).

Philadelphia Flyers

Record on Dec. 29: 21-10-4 for 46 points
Current record: 25-12-4 for 54 points

The Flyers already found themselves behind the New York Rangers for second in the Atlantic Division in the earlier edition; now it just seems like that surging, scrappy squad is that much further out of reach. Still, it’s likely that few teams want to tangle with this explosive Philly team, even if the wrong Russian seems to be in net most nights.

Minnesota Wild

Record on Dec. 29: 20-12-6 for 46 points
Current record: 22-15-6 for 50 points

It actually seems like Minnesota is righting the ship in most recent times, but maybe that’s just compared to their jarring fall from grace that was quite clear in the last Renovation Watch. They’re currently second in the Northwest Division, which is good for seventh overall in the West. It’s not an understatement to say that they have a tenuous grip on a playoff spot at the moment.

Florida Panthers

Record on Dec. 29: 19-11-7 for 45 points
Current record: 21-13-8 for 50 points

The Panthers have been exceedingly average lately, but give them a break. They’re taking some challenges in stride, especially when it comes to the health of their goalies. It’s tough to really be intimidated by this team as they’re currently constituted, but they are getting things done. Florida remains first overall in the once-again-weak Southeast Division.

Buffalo Sabres

Record on Dec. 29: 17-16-3 for 37 points
Current record: 18-19-5 for 41 points

Is it crazy to wonder if Lindy Ruff’s borderline-vampiric reign as the Sabres head coach is in danger? The NHL’s longest tenured bench boss is experiencing perhaps the most disappointing season of his time in Buffalo as the team’s summer splurge might not even amount to a playoff spot. They’re currently stuck in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and are only on top of the lowly Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Record on Dec. 29: 9-22-5 for 23 points
Current record: 11-26-5 for 27 points

Speaking of coach firings, the Blue Jackets finally handed Scott Arniel a pink slip. Let’s face it, though, the team’s problems aren’t about X’s and O’s. They don’t have much talent to speak of, especially for a team that perennially gathers high draft picks. Really, the wrong Scott might have been fired, or at least both Scott Howson and Arniel deserved the axe.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)

Lightning lament life as a .500 team

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have plenty of time to rise above mediocrity, yet it still must be deserving to finish at .500 for two straight months.

After last night’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders, that’s exactly where they find themselves:

Record at the end of October: 5-5-2

Record at the end of November: 11-11-3

As of this writing, the Lightning found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It all stands as a pretty tough thing for the reigning Eastern Conference champs to swallow.

The uncomfortable-yet-vital question is: can the Lightning break out of this funk?

Looking at their schedule, it won’t be easy, at least not right away.

They crawl through California during a three-game road trip to start December, and they also face six of eight on the road from Dec. 2 – 18.

The Lightning soak up home dates to finish 2015 after that, but what damage will be done by then?

Frankly, the Bolts will need to dig deep to break this pattern. If nothing else, they’ve fought with their backs against the wall before.

Dubinsky won’t change, and he won’t go easy on Crosby


Sometimes a suspension will shame a player, or at least inspire him to change the way he plays.

That apparently won’t happen regarding Brandon Dubinsky‘s one-game timeout session for cross-checking Sidney Crosby.

Dubinsky told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch that he won’t alter his style, whether it’s against Crosby or someone else.

“Nope,” Dubinsky said. “You know, I’ve played the same way my whole career and I’m not going to change. The next time I have an opportunity to play (Crosby), I’m going to play him hard.”

In case you’re wondering, that next opportunity comes on Dec. 21 in Pittsburgh, assuming that both players are healthy and not suspended.

One can understand Dubinsky’s perspective, although such honesty would be that much more interesting if there’s another incident with Crosby. His initial reaction to the hit was interestingly candid, admitting that his “stick rode up” on his adversary.

Would that stance – which, from a harsher view, might seem flippant to Dubinsky’s critics – open the door for a bigger future bit of a discipline?

Maybe, maybe not … but at least his comments aren’t as inflammatory as what John Tortorella said (at least on the record).