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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.

Weight hopes Eberle can re-discover ‘eye of the tiger’ with Islanders

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

Jordan Eberle had a difficult season at times in 2016-17.

Yet he still managed to score 20 goals, hitting that mark for a fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. (He put up 34 goals in 2011-12.)

You can understand why having a skilled winger to perhaps play alongside center John Tavares — at least that’s the expectation prior to training camp — would be intriguing for head coach Doug Weight as the new season approaches.

“Jordan, to me, is really, really exciting,” Weight recently told the NHL Network.

Eberle’s first foray into playoff hockey was a struggle, as he recorded only two assists in 13 post-season games and the Oilers made it to the second round.

And that is where Weight’s extended comments get interesting, because it sounds like the 27-year-old forward’s confidence took a bit of a hit during his final campaign in Edmonton and, in particular, during the playoffs, when his offensive production wasn’t there and the public scrutiny intensified.

Several weeks later, Eberle was traded to the Islanders.

“I want him to come in with that eye of the tiger; that fire back that sometimes gets lost,” Weight continued. “It’s tough. You can get cemented in certain roles, you can have some tough times. But Jordan still produced. He’s a helluva talent and I’m excited to get that confidence back in him and excited for him to get here.”

It didn’t take long after the trade for discussions about a possible Eberle-Tavares reunion to begin. Playing for Team Canada, they combined for a thrilling tying goal against Russia in the dying seconds of the 2009 World Juniors semifinal.

One of the Islanders’ top priorities is to get Tavares secured to a new contract, as he enters the final year of his current deal.

Adding a proven scoring winger to Tavares’ line may also help the team’s captain rebound from a season in which his bottom-line production dropped as well, which would certainly boost the Islanders’ chances of getting back to the playoffs.

“[Eberle’s] bringing a right-handed shot as a forward that can obviously shoot and score from anywhere,” Islanders forward Anders Lee recently told NHL.com.

“He’s a playmaker out on the ice and sees the ice extremely well. He can add some extra threats for us on the power play that can really help elevate us.”

Report: Rangers among ‘final two or three teams’ in running to sign Kerfoot

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One of the big issues facing the Rangers this offseason was about depth up the middle.

New York could take a step in addressing that, with a potential solution in college free agent Alex Kerfoot, the former New Jersey Devils draft pick who decided to test the open market.

From the New York Post:

The Rangers are among the final two or three teams under consideration by Harvard free-agent center Alex Kerfoot, The Post has learned.

J.P. Barry, the 23-year-old center’s agent who confirmed the parties’ mutual interest, told The Post that Kerfoot likely would reach a decision no later than Tuesday following a weekend of reflection.

The Rangers traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes and lost Oscar Lindberg in the expansion draft, leaving them in a difficult spot at center heading into the summer months.

Now 23 years old, Kerfoot played four years at Harvard University — the same school as Jimmy Vesey, who became a college free agent last summer and signed with the Rangers — and had a terrific senior year. He put up 16 goals and 45 points and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

The Rangers are facing competition to land Kerfoot, who is from Vancouver and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam. The Canucks are reportedly still in consideration, as well.

According to agent J.P. Barry, Kerfoot and the Canucks management group reportedly had a “productive” meeting last week.

Luongo: ‘I haven’t had any issues’ in return from injury

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Roberto Luongo continues preparations for the upcoming season, after an injury cut his 2016-17 campaign short.

Luongo’s last game was on March 2. He didn’t play again after that due to reported aggravation of a previous hip injury that had required surgery.

However, per the Miami Herald on Monday, the 38-year-old netminder has returned to the ice. Luongo then gave a promising update on his status with training camp approaching in a few weeks.

“It’s good to be able to get back to my regular summer training program. This is my second week … everything feels great and I haven’t had any issues. That’s good,” Luongo told the Miami Herald.

“It’s comforting mentally to know I can go through a rigorous workout and go all out and not have any issues nor think about it. That’s a big first step for me after going through the ups-and-downs of having to deal with my issue last year. It’s nice to have that piece of mind.”

Luongo appeared in 40 games for Florida last season. He still has five years remaining on his contract, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.333 million, per CapFriendly. James Reimer, in his first season with the Panthers after signing there for five years and $17 million, played in 43 games with a sound .920 save percentage.

Once heavily relied upon as a workhorse netminder, starting a career high 75 games one year in Vancouver, the reality is Luongo has a lot of mileage on him and is approaching 40 years of age. As he comes back from this latest injury and considering his age, it will be interesting to see exactly how many starts he gets and who will emerge as the No. 1 goalie in Florida over the course of this upcoming season.

“Listen, this has always been his team,” Panthers goalie coach Robb Tallas told the Miami Herald. “But everyone these days has to manage time better, not just us. Roberto can’t play 60, 65 games a season any more. Reimer shouldn’t either. It only gets tougher every year.”

Islanders face critical time on and off the ice

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

There is quite a bit on the plate of the New York Islanders. On and off the ice.

That includes steps toward finding a permanent home.

That is especially the case given reports last month that this ongoing arena situation — moving from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center in Brooklyn to possibly being on the move again to another local destination — is apparently a factor in the delay of getting star forward John Tavares signed to a contract extension.

Tavares has one year left on his current six-year, $33 million contract. The face of the franchise since the day he went No. 1 overall to the Islanders in 2009, Tavares is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, provided he doesn’t ink a new contract by then.

Read more: Poll: Will John Tavares re-sign with the Islanders?

On the arena front, the Islanders have made their interest in building an arena on land at Belmont Park well-known — a scenario that Tavares believes has “great potential there.” However, it’s been previously outlined that this is a scenario that will still take some time to finalize.

From Newsday Long Island: 

Tavares said he is waiting to see what comes of the Request For Proposals issued July 30 by New York state regarding the Belmont Park development. The Islanders, along with the owners of the Mets and a Madison Square Garden-backed sports arena consortium Oak View Group, are expected to pitch building an arena on the 43-acre lot.

It’s not clear whether the state will select a winner before Tavares would hit unrestricted free agency next July. All bids are due by Sept. 28 and Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency which is handling the RFP, has declined to set a timeline after that.

Of course for Tavares, with an eight-year deal in the offing, he would love to know where he’ll be playing.

Contract negotiations with star players — especially one that is moving closer toward unrestricted free agency — can provide enough tension for fans. The Islanders are not only facing such a negotiation, but an ongoing arena situation as well, and reports suggest the latter may be complicating the former.

Meanwhile, the Islanders have won only one playoff series in the eight seasons Tavares has been with the club. They missed out on the postseason earlier this spring.

Even with a player like Tavares, the Islanders have yet to truly challenge for top spot in the Eastern Conference. For this upcoming season, head coach Doug Weight put onus on the organization to put their star in a position to win and win right now.

They need to sign their star. They will eventually need to settle their arena situation. And there is added pressure to win as Tavares enters his final year of his contract.
It’s shaping up to be a critical few months for the Islanders.
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