Thomas Vanek

Under Pressure: Thomas Vanek


A simple search of his last name in the PHT search box is all you need to realize that the 2013-14 season was a busy one for Thomas Vanek.

To recap:

Vanek started the season in Buffalo, before he was traded to the Islanders, before he rejected a big offer to sign long-term with the Isles, before he went to Sochi to compete for Austria at the Olympics, before he was part of a group of Austrians that was forced to apologize for partying too much, before he was traded to Montreal, before he was roundly criticized for his play during the playoffs, before he signed with Minnesota, before he was connected to a federal gambling investigation.

Are we missing anything? Probably.

Some of the above — his performance in the playoffs, especially — is perhaps why the 30-year-old winger didn’t get the kind of mega-deal that many predicted he would as an unrestricted free agent. In fact, it was reported in October that the Sabres were “willing to make him the highest-paid player in the NHL.” While that may have been a stretch, certainly nobody was thinking he’d end up with a modest (relatively speaking) three-year, $19.5 million deal.

Granted, it’s possible Vanek left money on the table to play in Minnesota, where most predicted all along the former Golden Gopher, with the wife from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, would end up.

“Thomas may be one of the only players to take a pay cut and a term cut to come anywhere,” said general manager Chuck Fletcher. “Everybody else is doubling and tripling their salary.”

Still, the Wild will be counting big-time on Vanek to give their 24th-ranked offense a lift.

“We feel we can defend,” said Fletcher, “but we only scored 2.4 goals per game, and with Thomas maybe that pushes us closer to 2.6 or 2.7 or whatever the number is — maybe some nights we have a little bit more breathing room. … Scoring goals is a big part of winning games and he’s a game breaker.”

Whether Vanek can be the “game breaker” that the Wild are hoping for remains to be seen. His highest goal-scoring year came when he was in his early 20s (43 goals for Buffalo in 2006-07). His second-highest was when he was in his mid-20s (40 goals for Buffalo in 2008-09). That’s the trend for most of the NHL’s top snipers. Once they reach their 30s, the legs get a little heavier, the body isn’t as fresh as it once was, and the goals become harder to come by. (See: Dany Heatley.)

Not that the Wild would be upset if Vanek could only muster 30 goals, or even just 25. But it doesn’t change the fact that he needs to perform, and he needs to do it under the spotlight of playing in his home state, which just so happens to be the State of Hockey.

“It’s awesome,” said Vanek. “The best thing is my career was winning an NCAA Championship with the Gophers. To be a part of the Wild now and go after the big prize, having a chance to do it here in Minnesota is beyond my wildest dreams.”

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli
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It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take that Netflix-and-chill approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.

Slump busters: Simmonds, Couturier end long scoring droughts in win over Rangers


It’s been a good few days to be a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, as their team delivered not once, but twice during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Flyers picked up a 3-2 OT win over the Predators on Friday before shutting out the New York Rangers, 3-0, on Saturday.

It was a good afternoon for three players in particular.

Both Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier ended long scoring slumps.

Simmonds’ two goals were his first in seven games, while Couturier scored for the first time in his last 13 contests.

Goaltender Steve Mason also had a solid outing against the Rangers.

The 27-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced including this great save on Dominic Moore:

The Flyers lost defenseman Nick Schultz to an upper-body injury in the first period after he took a big hit from Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn defended his fallen teammate by dropping the gloves with McIlrath, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

The Rangers are now on a season-high three-game losing streak. Their lack of effort has to be concerning for their head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Flyers outshot the Rangers 30-14 over the final 40 minutes.

Video: Flyers lose Schultz after big hit from McIlrath


It looks like the injury bug has taken another chunk out of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Flyers, who are already without Mark Streit, Ryan White and R.J. Umberger, have now lost Nick Schultz to injury.

Schultz left Saturday’s game against the Rangers in the first period after taking a hit from Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn went after McIlrath right after he delivered the hit and both players dropped the gloves.

Schultz did not return.

You can watch the entire sequence by clicking on the video at the top of the page.

The 33-year-old has just one assist in 23 games, but he leads the Flyers in blocked shots with 54.

Goalie nods: Bernier has a ‘huge’ opportunity to prove himself vs. Caps

Jonathan Bernier
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Jonathan Bernier hasn’t been very good in ’15-16, but he’ll have a great opportunity to right the ship on Saturday night.

Facing the Washington Capitals is never an easy task if you’re a goaltender, of course, but Bernier can’t afford to be picky with his chances.

The 27-year-old is still looking for his first win of the season, as he has an overall record of 0-7-1. His 3.17 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage are just as bad as his record.

Starter James Reimer is out tonight after suffering an injury in practice and although Bernier probably can’t win the starting job with just one good game, a solid performance would go a long way.

He’ll go head-to-head with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.


Cory Schneider will face the Habs for the second time in two nights. The Canadiens will do the same with Mike Condon. Montreal beat New Jersey, 3-2, in a shootout on Friday.

-The Islanders have yet to confirm a starter, but they’ll likely go up against Ben Bishop on Saturday night.

-Expect Linus Ullmark to go up against Pekka Rinne when the Sabres and Predators clash in Nashville. Rinne is on a season-high four-game losing streak.

-The Oilers may turn to Anders Nilsson against the Penguins. Pittsburgh will decide between giving Marc-Andre Fleury two starts in two nights or going with Jeff Zatkoff.

-The Stars, like Pittsburgh, will have to decide if they want to give Antti Niemi a second game in two nights. They will be going up against Darcy Kuemper, who will be making just his second start of the season.

Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues. He was solid in a 2-1 OT win over the Penguins on Friday night. The Blues will counter with starter Jake Allen.

-The Jets have yet to confirm a starter in Denver. They’ll be going up against Semyon Varlamov, who was pulled in Wednesday’s game against Ottawa after he allowed three goals on 15 shots.

Craig Anderson will look to win his fifth straight game when the Senators take on Arizona. The ‘Yotes still haven’t named a starter.

Jonas Hiller is likely to get the start against San Jose, while the Sharks will definitely be countering with starter Martin Jones. The Sharks goaltender is coming off a loss to the ‘Hawks, but previously won five in a row.

Scott Darling will put his 2-2-1 record on the line against the Kings. Jonathan Quick will probably be between the pipes for the Kings. Quick has a 7-15-1 record against the ‘Hawks in his career.