Willie Desjardins, Trevor Linden

Poll: Will the Canucks make the playoffs?

31 Comments

Look up ‘fall from grace’ in the dictionary and the Vancouver Canucks logo has to be taking up some space under the definition.

It’s hard to believe just three seasons ago the Canucks were back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winners heading into the playoffs as a favorite to get back to the big dance for a second consecutive year.

Fast-forward to the 2014-15 season and the obvious question has to be asked, will the Canucks even make the playoffs?

They’ve done an all-important clean out of the front office. Mike Gillis and John Tortorella are gone. In is arguably the most popular figure in franchise history, Trevor Linden, and his hand picked soldiers Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins.

But now comes the tall task for a trio in-experienced as the lead man in their respective roles.

Linden and Co. have to find a way to get Vancouver, which missed the postseason for the first time since 2008, from the 28th-ranked offense back to the second season.

Other teams that missed the playoffs last season –  like the Nashville Predators, who added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen, have certainly bolstered their chances.

The upstart Colorado Avalanche, who surprised many by qualifying for the playoffs in Year 1 under Patrick Roy, added savvy veterans Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere to help their young stars along.

Benning’s new cast members to help jump-start the Canucks offense includes Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino and Linden Vey, they’ll have to help the likes of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows bounce back from off years.

Vrbata and Bonino are both capable of contributing 20-plus goals at the NHL level and have done so previously. Vey meanwhile has five assists in 18 career NHL games.

Then there’s room for young kids, but who can make the leap? Is Nicklas Jensen ready, and able, to contribute regularly at the NHL level? He had three goals and six helpers in 17 games with the Canucks last season.

Can one of their prospects jump from the Canadian Hockey League right to the NHL?  Bo Horvat, 19, had  74 points in 54 games in his third OHL season with the London Knights last season.

With more questions than answers heading into the 2014-15 season, we ask you Canucks fans, will Vancouver qualify for the playoffs this season?

Related: For Desjardins, responsibilities include both winning and entertaining

Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

2 Comments

Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Getty
6 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.

Sydor named assistant coach of Blues’ AHL affiliate

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Assistant coach Darryl Sydor of the Minnesota Wild looks up at the jumbotron during a video review in a game against the Ottawa Senators, during the NHL home opener to kick off the Senators' 20th anniversary at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Darryl Sydor, after being let go by the Minnesota Wild, has joined the Chicago Wolves as an assistant coach.

The St. Louis Blues, the parent club of the AHL Wolves, made the announcement Monday. It was also announced that former NHLer Daniel Tkaczuk would join Sydor as an assistant on new head coach Craig Berube’s staff.

Sydor, who won two Stanley Cups as a defenseman, spent five years as an assistant on Mike Yeo’s staff in Minnesota. His time with the Wild was marred by an arrest in 2015 for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and sought treatment.

“I know now that alcoholism is a disease and I’m powerless over alcohol,” he told Kamloops This Week in January. “I can never have a drink again and I’m fine with that.”