Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty

In a young man’s game, let’s take it easy with the dynasty talk

23 Comments

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, led by their 21-year-old captain, Sidney Crosby, and a 22-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin.

At the time, the Pens seemed like a dynasty in the making. They have not been back to the Stanley Cup Final since.

Because also at the time, there were some young guys in Chicago by the names of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith, and some other young guys in Los Angeles by the names of Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.

Today, it’s the Blackhawks and Kings that are garnering the dynasty talk. No surprise there, given they’ve won four of the last five Stanley Cups, two for each franchise, and both clubs, among other things, have an elite two-way center and an elite defenseman.

And if you go back in time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a champion that didn’t have at least one of those types of players. The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011, had/still have Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. The 2008 Red Wings had Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. The 2007 Ducks had two elite d-men in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, plus a young center in Ryan Getzlaf. And even the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, though their blue line was relatively lacking, had a two-time Selke Trophy winner in Rod Brind’Amour and a young center in Eric Staal.

If that’s the blue print, there are teams today, besides L.A. and Chicago, with the makings of a champion. Look at Columbus, with Ryan Johansen, 21, and Ryan Murray, 20. There’s Tampa Bay, with Steven Stamkos, 24, and Victor Hedman, 23. The Blue Jackets and Lightning also have highly rated prospects in Alexander Wennberg and Jonathan Drouin, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars may need to upgrade their blue lines, but they’re led by young stars up front. The Florida Panthers are loaded with young talent. Ditto for the Buffalo Sabres.

And what about the players that haven’t even been drafted yet? In five years, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, draft-eligible next summer, will be 22 years old, i.e. around the same age Crosby, Toews and Doughty won their first Stanley Cups.

Now, could the Kings become a dynasty? Absolutely. So could the Blackhawks. But let’s also remember how quickly things can change in a young man’s league like the NHL.

Five years ago, Los Angeles finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Five years ago, Chicago finally made the playoffs after missing five straight times.

Look at them now.

Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.

Brooks Laich wants another crack at NHL (with or without Leafs)

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a puck drop against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Brooks Laich wants another shot at playing in the NHL. As he told The Atlantic TO (sub required), if that means being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs, then so be it.

“You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American Hockey League,” Laich said. “If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them, I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else.”

Interesting.

Laich’s biased take: he has plenty more to give at the highest level.

Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.

But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.

Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).

Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.

So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.

Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.

And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.

Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.