Chelios, Niedermayer, and Shanahan headline 2013 Hall of Fame inductees

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Three former NHL stars — Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer, and Brendan Shanahan — and two others — retired female player Geraldine Heaney and late ex-coach Fred Shero are this year’s inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The big announcement was made today in Toronto.

Chelios and Niedermayer, both defensemen, were eligible for the first time, while Shanahan, a forward, was voted in on his second year of admissibility after being passed over in 2012.

Not one of the above three can be considered a surprise.

As per usual, it’s the omissions that will cause the most heated debate. Rob Blake, Paul Kariya, Rod Brind’Amour, Keith Tkachuk, Sergei Zubov, Phil Housley, Dave Andreychuk, Eric Lindros, Tom Barrasso, and many others remain on the outside looking in. As does former coach Pat Burns, who died of cancer in 2010.

The induction ceremony will take place in November.

From the release:

Chris Chelios, a native of Chicago, Illinois, after two successful seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers (1981-83), joined the Montreal Canadiens and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team in 1984-85 and was also runner-up as Rookie of the Year to Mario Lemieux. He was part of the 1986 Canadiens’ Stanley Cup winning team and won the James Norris Trophy as Defenceman of the Year in 1988-89. Traded to Chicago in 1990, Chris went on to play nine season with the Blackhawks and was a five time first or second team All-Star and two-time Norris winner. Chelios continued his career in 1999 with the Detroit Red Wings, winning Stanley Cups in 2002 and 2008. He finished his 26 year playing career at the age of 48 with the Atlanta Thrashers and Chicago Wolves in 2009-10.

Scott Niedermayer grew up in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and was a member of the Kamloops Blazers 1992 Memorial Cup championship team. Selected by the New Jersey Devils in the 1st round (3rd overall selection), he went on to play 13 seasons with the Devils from 1991 to 2004, winning Stanley Cups in the 1995, 2000 and 2003 seasons. In 2005, he signed as a free agent with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks where he was a two-time first team All-Star during his six seasons, as well as being a key part of their 2007 Stanley Cup winning team. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP that season. On the international front, Scott also won gold at the World Junior Championship in 1991, gold at the World Championship in 2004, and gold at two Olympic Games in 2002 and 2010.

Brendan Shanahan was born in Etobicoke, Ontario and after two seasons with the London Knights (OHL) was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the 1st round (2nd overall) in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. A member of the New Jersey Devils for four seasons, Brendan was signed as a free agent by the St. Louis Blues in 1991. He player four seasons with the Blues and had back to back 50 goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 – being named a 1st team NHL All-Star in 1993-94. Brendan went on to play two seasons in Hartford before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1996, where he played nine seasons winning the Stanley Cup on three occasions (1997, 1998 and 2002). Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the New York Rangers, he played two more seasons before retiring in 2008. Representing Canada internationally on numerous occasions, he was a member of Canada’s 2002 gold medal winning team.

Gerladine Heaney was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and grew up playing hockey in Toronto Aeros – an association she would remain with for 18 seasons. As a member of Canada’s national team she won seven IIHF World Championship gold medals and was named the IIHF World Women’s Championship’s Best Defenceman in 1992 and 1994. A member of Canada’s 2002 gold medal Olympic team, Heaney also won silver in 1998.

In the Builder Category, Fred Shero was elected. Shero began his coaching career in 1959-60 with the St. Paul Saints, and progressed up the ranks with a career culminating in nine seasons in the National Hockey League. His Philadelphia Flyers won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975 and he also took the New York Rangers to the final in 1979, where he also had the role of General Manager. In 734 NHL regular season games coached, his teams had 390 wins, 225 losses and 119 ties. Shero passed away on November 24th, 1990.

Image via Hockey Hall of Fame website.

Related: Hall of Fame to announce class of 2013 tomorrow

The Buzzer: Eichel hat trick, Schneider robbery, Gaborik’s 1,000th game

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Players of the Night: 

Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: Eichel ended a four-game goal-less drought with some authority on Friday. After scoring in the first period, Eichel watched as his Sabres blew a 2-1 lead to trail 4-2 with 10 minutes to go. Eichel then turned on overdrive, scoring twice in 10 seconds to tie the game and force overtime. Sadly, his efforts were in vain as the Carolina Hurricanes got the winner 2:15 into the extra frame. It’s Eichel’s first career NHL hat trick.

Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils: What an inspirational story Boyle has been this year. On Friday, Boyle scored twice, including the game winner, to bring his goal total to eight on the season. His second of the night was also his 100th of his career.

Highlights of the Night:

Eichel showed a good bit of patience on his hat trick goal:

Cory Schneider committed robbery on this save:

Sam Gagner scored on a pretty backhand deke to give the Vancouver Canucks the win in overtime, ending a four-game losing streak:

Factoid of the Night: 

MISC: 

Scores: 

Hurricanes 5, Sabres 4 (OT)

Devils 5, Stars 2

Rangers 4, Kings 2

Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 1

Canucks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Melnyk threatens to move Senators if ‘disaster strikes’

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If you’re looking for someone to spoil an upcoming function, you may want to give Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk a call.

On the eve of the Senators’ outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, and on the night when Ottawa’s greats from yesteryear took the ice with Parliament Hill as a backdrop, Melnyk did his best to steal the spotlight from the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters, Melnyk threatened to pull the plug in Ottawa and relocate the team if disaster struck.

“If it becomes a disaster, yes,” Melnyk said. “If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes. But, for now, we are on the cusp of doing OK.”

The doom and gloom continued, with Melnyk suggesting he isn’t going to waste a “lifetime of working hard” to support the Senators.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “The bigger question is whether I’m prepared to blow all that money I made over many years in a different industry in a different country. How long can you underwrite a team?”

Melnyk reiterated that he’s not looking to sell the team, a statement he made earlier this week in the Ottawa Sun, and used McDonald’s as an example on Friday. 

“It won’t. It just won’t happen,” he said. “It’s a franchise. Imagine if you own a McDonald’s franchise, but you can move it. But why would you sell it? It’s something that’s very difficult to buy.

We’re doing OK here. Not great, but we’re doing OK. It’s just too much fun. What else do you do? I’m a Canadian. I’m a hockey fan, fanatically a hockey fan, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Melnyk said the Senators have “cut everything to the bone,” saying the Senators have one of the thinnest management groups in the league.

“We want to keep and maintain great players,” he said. “You can’t keep spending at the top end and getting the lowest revenues. It doesn’t work.”

According to CapFriendly, the Senators are at just over $73 million in projected cap space.

Melnyk called the Senators disaster on the ice this season a “crappy streak” that every team goes through.

“We have way too much talent with this team not to perform,” he said.

When asked if his comments on Friday could take away from the luster of the event taking place in Canada’s capital this weekend, Melnyk said no.

“It keeps the newspapers selling and the radio people listening,” he said.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Marian Gaborik plays game No. 1,000 on Friday

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Marian Gaborik has already hit two milestones that end in double zeroes this season.

On Friday night, and at the world’s most famous arena, he hit his first that ends in three.

Gaborik took to the ice at Madison Sqaure Garden in his 1,000th NHL game as the Los Angeles Kings took on the New York Rangers.

It’s not a bad backdrop for the veteran of 19 NHL seasons.

Gaborik played 255 games with the Blueshirts between 2009 and 2013, hitting the 40-goal plateau twice and recording his career-best season in 2009-10, scoring 42 goals and adding 44 helpers for 86 points in 76 games played.

Gaborik has only played 11 games this season after starting the year on the shelf with a knee injury. Gaborik only returned to the lineup on Nov. 24, but he set two milestones in his return, hitting 400 career NHL goals and 800 career NHL points earlier this month.

Coming into Friday’s game, his stat line read 800 points in 999 NHL games.

As Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston points out, perfect symmetry could be achieved if Gaborik finishes with a plus-one in the plus-minus column in the game and he is held without a point.

I’m sure he’d rather have a new puck to add to his mantle… but think of the stats, Marian.

UPDATE: He didn’t think of the stats. 


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Check, mates: NHL top lines are expected to do it all

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By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

Tyler Seguin doesn’t consider it a challenge. He sees it as an opportunity.

Every time Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock sends Seguin and his linemates over the boards against an opponent’s top line, he knows he has a job to do.

”Out-check the other line and let the skill kind of take over,” Seguin said. ”It’s fun.”

Fun? Sure. It’s also increasingly common in the NHL as coaches seek to put their top lines on the ice against the other team’s best forwards to create matchup problems that often lead to goals.

Goodbye to the likes of Bob Gainey and hello to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom. All can help keep the puck out of the net almost as well as they can put it in.

”We’re seeing less of the old Don Luce, Craig Ramsey, Brent Peterson lines,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, referring to defensive-minded forwards of yesteryear. ”We have guys like Bergeron; Sid goes up against top guys. So I think you’re seeing more of the power against power than we have in the past.”

Power against power is the name of the game in hockey today as players such as Bergeron, Crosby, Backstrom and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews embody the kind of top-line stars who can double as shutdown centers. Crosby was so good in that dual role at the 2014 Sochi Olympics that Canada won a gold medal – and he was so dominant offensively the past two seasons that the Penguins won consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Crosby is well aware of the modern duties of a top-flight center.

”You have more responsibility defensively,” he said. ”You’re covering a lot of space, so it’s just something you’ve got to be aware of.”

Before the season, reigning MVP Connor McDavid of Edmonton cited defense and faceoffs as areas he wanted to improve. He already has the dynamic offensive capabilities and sees that as the next step in his evolution.

”It’s more rounding out your game,” McDavid said. ”Being a defensive guy, being able to be put out there in the last two minutes to defend a lead, just to be able to be trusted by your coach out there.”

Coaches have to be able to trust their top players in all situations, particularly since the days of strict shutdown lines are dwindling.

”The systems are about defense, and everyone needs to play it,” Backstrom said. ”That’s what the mindset is – to be good defensively and offensively.”

The best defense is good puck possession because often the most productive players aren’t as sound in their own end. Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella considers it essential to make elite offensive players spend time in their defensive zone, figuring they’re more apt to try to do too much in the neutral zone and turn the puck over.

Good two-way players also have that mindset when they’re matched up against top skill guys.

”They’re so good offensively that sometimes they can forget about their defense, and that’s when you can take advantage of them,” Philadelphia Flyers No. 1 center Sean Couturier said. ”They’re thinking so much offense that once they turn the puck over they’re going to try plays to get turnovers. That’s when you can take advantage of them most of the time.”

That’s the danger of going skill on skill. Few see Calgary Flames stars Johnny Gaudreauand Sean Monahan as defensive stalwarts, but coach Glen Gulutzan continues to put them on the ice against other top lines.

Gaudreau said ”sometimes the best offense comes from playing against other top lines.” And the strategy has multiple benefits.

”It makes sure that your top guys, they’re aware that they’re out there against the other sharks, so to speak, in the league,” Gulutzan said. ”Now they’re a little more conscious defensively. And what you hope is that, through a course of a season, you’re making your guys more defensively aware and come playoff time those things will come in handy.”

Seguin said he thinks the playoffs lead to concerted defensive efforts to shut down certain players, though that largely comes from coaches leaning on their top defensemen. Hitchcock and other coaches said putting their best defensemen against opponents’ top forwards is the most important matchup no matter the situation.

Of course, it helps to have forwards who thrive on tough matchups and understand balancing priorities.

”A lot of times you’re getting matched up with better players, so I think playing offense the whole game isn’t realistic,” Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said. ”Most of the time it’s just being in the right places and knowing where you are on the ice as opposed to chasing everybody around and that whole ‘shadow’ thing. You’ve just got to be in right areas and right zones.”

Playing responsible defense is one piece of the transition to offense, whether it’s winning board battles or faceoffs or taking the puck away. But top players are counted on and paid to score, so keeping others off the board simply isn’t good enough.

”If it’s 0-0, we’re still kind of mad as a line,” Backstrom said. ”We want to win that match. It would be nice if we could score against them.”