Teemu Selanne

PHT lists #WhyImThankful

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Joe Yerdon and James O’Brien, PHT’s two American writers who will be enjoying a day off today, have each come up with a list of five hockey-related things for which they’re thankful. Feel free to add yours in the comments section, and we hope you enjoy the holiday, as well as tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Showdown between the Rangers and Bruins, on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.

Joe:

1. Legends who keep on keepin’ on: How great is it to see Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr, and Martin Brodeur still playing in 2013-2014? Think about all the accolades, all the goals, all the points, and all the Stanley Cups these guys have won and the fact that they’re into their 40s and still at it. Let’s ignore that it’s likely Brodeur’s final year and definitely Selanne’s last season and just marvel that they’re still top-level players now, 20 years (or more) after it all began.

2. Non-stop jersey debates: You need look no further than Twitter to find out what fans think of different jerseys. Heck, look at any of the posts we’ve done here about a team sporting new duds. People fear change no matter how it’s dressed up. Remember when everyone hated the Dallas Stars’ new look? Now it seems to be considered one of the best in the league that’s not from an Original Six team. No matter what a team does, be it a new third jerseysomething for the Stadium Series or Winter Classic, and even the Olympics — people are going to bark about it.

3. Terrible music in warm-ups: If you’ve ever gotten to a game in time to see the teams warm up, you know you’re about to be assailed with some of the most current music out there. Depending on your tastes, that’s either really good or god-awful. For a guy stuck in the 90s like me, it’s mostly terrible. That won’t stop me from developing musical Stockholm Syndrome though. Take this song for instance – it’s what the Maple Leafs, until recently, warmed up to and I’d heard pumping out of the Bruins room after a win.

What’s the lesson here? No matter how stuck in your ways you might be with tunes, you’ll find a way to like something new (and probably bad).

4. Players doing charity: This seems like a no-brainer thing to be thankful for, but how do you not love this? Whether it’s because I’ve matured or I’ve discovered it’s OK to be human and let good works make you smile, seeing teams visit children’s hospitals and doing other good things in the community just makes you feel good. For example, check out what the Detroit Red Wings did recently at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Is someone cutting onions in here? I need a minute.

5. Players I grew up adoring becoming executives: Listen, it can’t be avoided. We’re all going to get older as time wears on and for all of us that means different things. Being a hockey writer here and at NHL.com, that means getting to talk to plenty of players, coaches, and team executives. In a lot of those situations it means I’m interviewing people whose jerseys I owned or would stay up to all hours to watch on TV to cheer or jeer. After doing the work you have to do, you have to check yourself and say, “Whoa, I just talked to Patrick Roy/Brendan Shanahan/Steve Yzerman/Cam Neely/Chris Chelios/Jeremy Roenick.” Getting the 13-year-old me to stop yelling at me about how cool that is takes some effort.

James:

1. The continued mystery that is the Toronto Maple Leafs: Coming into the 2013-14 season, it seemed like “traditionalists” and “stats nerds” were having a turf war over the Maple Leafs. One side argues they’re a quality team while the other believes they’re riding a locomotive fueled by luck. Through nearly two months, the case study remains delightfully unsettled. If there’s one consensus, it is that Toronto is fascinating to watch. And hardcore hockey fans should be grateful for it.

2. Roberto Luongo’s Twitter feed: Speaking of reliable entertainment, Luongo’s tweets bring the funny on such a steady basis. One great comic tactic is to pour on the self-deprecation. By making himself the butt of many jokes, he doesn’t come off looking like a jerk when he’s dropping barbs on his buddy Tim Thomas. It’s as effective as a stand-up ending a roast segment by flattering his battered verbal victim.Of course, the most important thing is that his jokes are usually really funny. There are other great feeds out there, but Bobby Lou’s takes the gold medal.

3. Olympic goalie debates: That segues nicely into Olympic roster debates, most precisely about goalies. The notion that netminders can be the great equalizer makes for some spine-tingling debates. Should Luongo be Canada’s guy again? Which of the six choices is the best for the United States? Who’s the best option from Finland’s jaw-dropping goalie factory? Being that Ryan Miller nearly willed a scrappy but over-matched American team to a gold medal in 2010, it’s more interesting to discuss who deserves to start instead of, say, who should barely make the roster.

4. Sidney Crosby’s health: Whether you love him or hate him (or just think he’s OK), the NHL is a more interesting and exhilarating place when Sidney Crosby is off the IR. Unfortunately, it’s felt like Crosby has been the hockey equivalent of a cartoon character with an anvil hovering over its head for the last few years. Whether it be concussions or an errant puck breaking his jaw, injury luck hasn’t been on his side, arguably costing him a Hart Trophy or two in the process. Luckily, he’s still just 26, so hopefully he can stay healthy. Even those who can’t stand him might be surprised when they miss him once he’s gone.

5. Tim Thomas and Ilya Bryzgalov, back in the NHL: It feels like bonus time because it was far from guaranteed that either goalie would play in the NHL this season. Thomas is a two-time Vezina winner who was forced to audition for a job with fledgling Florida. The Oilers needed to hit a goaltending glacier before they finally played Bryzgalov’s music. One can only speculate if any of the other 28 teams would have given either one of them a shot.

Capitals bump Todd Reirden up to associate coach

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Assistant coach Todd Reirden of the Washington Capitals talks to the power play unit during a time-out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals announced that Todd Reirden (pictured) was promoted from assistant to associate coach on Monday.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, most directly, the team shared word that he’ll run Capitals training camp while Barry Trotz works with Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Giving Reirden a promotion makes sense, as he’s been linked to some head coaching searches. The Washington Post compiled some of his opportunities:

In the past two years, Reirden has been a serious candidate for two NHL head-coaching gigs. According to the Calgary Sun, Reirden was a finalist to coach the Flames before they settled on Glen Gulutzan, and he was considered for the New Jersey Devils’ vacancy last summer, too. Lane Lambert, another Capitals assistant, was a finalist for the Colorado Avalanche head-coaching job earlier this month, according to the Denver Post.

The Capitals have a pretty well-regarded coaching group, as many credit goaltending coach Mitch Korn with some of Braden Holtby‘s improvement since Trotz took over.

Maybe we’ll see Reirden and Lambert get head coaching gigs at some point, but for now, Trotz’s “coaching tree” stays intact.

Penguins believe Kessel, others can heal up by start of next season

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Going deep enough into the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup often comes with the cost of stacking up injuries, and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid the price.

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others report, Phil Kessel (wrist) and others aren’t guaranteed to be healthy to start the 2016-17 regular season.

“All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction,” GM Jim Rutherford said. “Until they all get here, we won’t know 100 percent where they’re at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down a significant list of players who likely accrued bumps and bruises that may carry over:

Defenseman Trevor Daley, for instance, suffered a broken ankle on May 20. Kris Letang (foot), Nick Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), among others, dealt with physical problems of varying severity at times.

If recent history is any indication, Kessel will probably fight hard not to miss time.

For all the weird criticisms he receives, he’s been remarkably durable, playing in every game during the past six seasons.

That’s impressive stuff, but the Penguins would be wise to keep an eye on the big picture. If it comes down to making Kessel and others swallow a little pride to limit the odds of aggravating injuries, they need to do it.

Even if it means a bumpy start to their title defense.

Win now, worry later: Why the Lightning should go all-in

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 08:  Ben Bishop #30 celebrates with Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in Game Three of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 8, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Lightning day at PHT …

The Chicago Blackhawks employed some great teams in winning three championships so far during the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane era, but there was something special about that first group.

For one thing, Toews and Kane were playing out the final years of their entry-level contracts. Those CBA-powered savings gave the Blackhawks a surplus of players who would eventually be too expensive to retain, most notably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Brian Campbell.

That fantastic group never faced elimination during an overpowering run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Thanks to deft maneuvering by GM Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks were able to reload and put together other strong supporting casts even after big losses, and that could be a profound lesson for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It might be tempting for the Bolts to merely keep their window open as long as possible. Instead, they should take a big swing in 2016-17 and then trust management to recover from any fallout.

Bishop’s expiring contract

The safe move would be to trade away some of the expiring contracts on Tampa Bay’s roster instead of risking getting nothing when they leave.

Many believe that Ben Bishop is on his way out. With one year left on a contract that carries about a $6 million cap hit and Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the Jake Allen-style “you’re the man” extension, it seems like a matter of time.

Keeping Bishop around for one more season might just pay off, though.

For one thing, Vasilevskiy’s shown signs of brilliance, yet his current NHL numbers aren’t overwhelmingly strong. Bishop, meanwhile, kept the Bolts afloat during some tough times in 2015-16.

Even if the Lightning feel like Vasy is the guy, what if he gets hurt? They’ve already seen goalies get injured at inopportune times, and the reigning champion Penguins provide another reminder.

(For more on the Bishop situation, click here.)

Win low, worry later

GM Steve Yzerman deserves ample credit for signing Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to relative bargain deals, but those are still expensive contracts. The squeeze is coming.

That said, the Lightning may want to identify their own Byfugliens and Ladds and go for broke in 2016-17. Let’s not forget how close they were to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance even with Stamkos on the shelf.

It’s tough to imagine the Bolts managing to keep all of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine many opponents managing to contain an attack that features Stamkos, Johnson, Palat, Drouin and other dangerous attackers.

(Plus, another year of evaluation would give Yzerman time to determine who is truly a core member.)

***

It’s a challenging situation, but the Lightning easily rank alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and maybe a few other select teams as the cream of the East crop.

They’re positioned to jostle with the elites for some time, but why not take their best shot in 2016-17 and then make the best of things later on?

Sometimes the difference between really good and truly great comes down to having the courage to make these tough calls.

Under Pressure: Tyler Johnson

TAMPA, FL - MAY 18:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 18, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Lightning day at PHT …

What a difference a year makes.

Last summer, Tyler Johnson was such a huge part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, more than a few people believed that he could ease the pain of possibly losing Steven Stamkos to free agency. He tied Stamkos for the team lead in scoring (72 points) and topped all Lightning players with 23 playoff points during their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

The 2015-16 regular season was a bumpy one for Johnson … in some ways literally.

Painful year

Health was a major obstacle for Johnson, starting with the hangover from a wrist injury he suffered during Tampa Bay’s magic run.

Even afterward, there were moments of pain. Sometimes it came down to flat-out bad luck:

Other times, there were questionable hits:

It wasn’t until late in the regular season that Johnson seemed to feel himself, as he noted to the Tampa Bay Tribune.

“I feel I’ve got the speed back, got everything I can do,” Johnson said. “I’m actually mentally there, not worried about other things …”

Big commitments

He’ll have some things to worry about in 2016-17.

The Lightning handed out a ton of money this off-season, locking up Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy to lengthy deals. They still need to sort out a contract for Nikita Kucherov, a talented forward who rose while Johnson stumbled.

Fair or not, Johnson must prove that he’s a core member of the Lightning

He made a strong argument in his own favor once he was healthy, generating 17 points in 17 playoff games as the Lightning made it to within one game of another Stanley Cup Final appearance despite missing Stamkos.

Still, Johnson faces a fork in the road. Ben Bishop either needs a new deal or (most likely) a trade to a team that will make him “the guy.” Ondrej Palat likely won’t be the easiest player for Tampa Bay to re-sign, either.

Few players could gain or lose more money with one season of play than Tyler Johnson. He can prove that 2015-16 was derailed by bad luck or allow injury concerns to linger.

Millions are on the line, and those personal goals may very well help Johnson drive the Lightning to another deep run.

For all we know, he could also find himself driving out of town.