Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers

Poll: What is the biggest reason for optimism in Edmonton?


The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs eight times in a row. Understandably, their fans are getting a little tired of the whole rebuilding thing.

But even though a ninth straight missed postseason seems likely in the tough Western Conference, there are still reasons for optimism. After all, in sports, there are always reasons for optimism.

Edmonton’s goaltending, for starters, couldn’t possibly be worse this season than it was in 2013-14, when Devan Dubnyk’s early-season struggles helped put the Oilers in a deep hole right off the bat. Now they’ve got Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens between the pipes. Fasth has a .915 career save percentage in the NHL; Scrivens is at .917. At least one of them should be reliable. Right?

Edmonton’s blue line, meanwhile, added a couple of experienced defenders in Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. The Oilers had the worst goals-against in the league last season. Obviously, not all of that was on the defense (we already mentioned the goaltending, and the forwards share responsibility too), but clearly changes were needed.

The hiring of analytics expert Tyler Dellow (a.k.a. the Oilers’ “biggest critic”) has been seen as a positive by many who felt the club had been overly reliant on old-school ideas to build its roster. The signing of Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20 million deal may have been evidence of a willingness to look deeper into the numbers.

And, of course, the Oilers still have their trio of first overall picks — Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov — plus other talented youngsters like Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, and David Perron. Eventually, all that talent has to amount to something good. Right?

Finally, the Oilers will start the 2014-15 season with the same head coach. Which is notable, because Edmonton fired Tom Renney in 2012 and Ralph Krueger in 2013, before hiring Dallas Eakins last summer. Not that Eakins had a dream rookie season behind an NHL bench — far from it — but at least the players won’t have to get used to another new guy.

OK, time to vote. Feel free to add your own reason for optimism in the comments section.

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier
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Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench, and that’s only counting what the Flyers are paying Gagner.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.

Video: NHL drops hammer, suspends Torres for 41 games


One of the NHL’s most notorious hitters has been tagged by the league.

On Monday, the Department of Player Safety announced that San Jose forward Raffi Torres has been suspended 41 games — half of the regular season — for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The length of Torres’ suspension is a combination of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ history of delivering hits to the heads of opposing players, including Jordan Eberle, Jarret Stoll, Nate Prosser and Marian Hossa.

“Torres has repeatedly violated league playing rules,” the Department of Player Safety explained. “And has been sanctioned multiple times for similar infractions.”

The league also noted that Torres has been warned, fined, or suspended on nine occasions over the course of his career, “the majority of which have involved a hit to an opponent’s head.”

“Same player every year,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler said following the hit on Silfverberg. “I played with the guy [in Vancouver]. He needs to learn how to hit. That has no part in our game anymore.”

As for what lies ahead, things could get interesting upon potential appeal:

Torres successfully appealed a suspension under the previous CBA, getting his punishment for the Hossa hit reduced from 25 to 21 games.

Under terms of the new CBA, Torres isn’t categorized as a repeat offender because his last suspension came in May of 2013 — more than two years ago.

Of course, part of the reason Torres hasn’t run afoul of the league in two years is because he’s barely played.

Knee injuries limited Torres to just 12 games in ’13-14, and he sat out last season entirely.