Getty

Jeff Skinner is quietly putting together another outstanding season

9 Comments

Don’t look now, but the Carolina Hurricanes are making a little bit of a push in the Eastern Conference.

After their 5-2 win over Buffalo on Friday night, the Hurricanes have now won four of their past five games (including wins over Columbus, Boston and St. Louis) and are now three points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot with still two games in hand and two head-to-head matchups remaining.

Given their current point paces, the Flyers are on track to reach the 93-point mark this season, while the Hurricanes are just a little bit below on a pace for 92 points. A playoff spot, as of this moment entering the second half of the season, is certainly within reach.

Leading the way for the Hurricanes right now is winger Jeff Skinner.

With his two-goal effort in Friday’s win, he has now had consecutive three-point games and has picked up eight points in his past five games. That has helped put him on track for a career season in Carolina that really isn’t getting much attention.

Skinner has always been a productive player (he has two 30-goal seasons before age 24 in the NHL) but he is taking it to a new level this season. He is currently on pace for 34 goals and 70 points this year, all of which would be new personal bests. This should not be a huge shock because even though it seems like he has been around forever (and this is already his seventh season in the NHL) he is just now entering the portion of his career where scorers hit their peak production, something we noted back in August during our Hurricanes preview day.

For Skinner, that peak production is putting him among the NHL’s current elites when it comes to goal and point production.

The only players to hit the 34/70 marks a season ago were Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Joe Pavelski.

This season the only players other than Skinner on pace for it are are Crosby, Ovechkin, Tarasenko, Jeff Carter, Cam Atkinson, Auston Matthews, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine (though, Laine’s injury probably takes him out of that running).

Skinner’s name always seemed to get mentioned in trade rumors in recent seasons, but fortunately for the Hurricanes they have remained just that. Rumors. Because you’re probably not going to find many other players in their mid-20s that produce like he does and are still signed for two more full seasons at less than $6 million per year.

The Hurricanes are at the halfway point and they are still very much in the playoff race. Skinner’s career year has been a big reason why.

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Getty
Leave a comment

The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.

Donald Trump tweets about Penguins’ White House visit

Getty
20 Comments

Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would accept an invitation to visit the White House. You can read all about that here, including the Penguins’ brief statement on the matter.

On a day in which NFL teams are drawing attention for how players (and owners) are acting during the national anthem, Donald Trump took a moment to confirm the Penguins’ visit, and also to praise them on Twitter.

Trump issued this tweet on the matter:

This came about four minutes after he addressed the NFL once again, finishing with this tweet:

While NHL players haven’t been as outspoken as athletes in other sports, there have been some reactions to Colin Kaepernick and the situation as a whole.

A year ago, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he would bench a player who sits during the anthem, something Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones stated was not a problem. Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, however, did have an issue with Tortorella’s stance.

Of course, those comments surfaced about a year ago, so it’s plausible one or more of those opinions might be different, in either large or small ways, as of today.

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (one of the standouts of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s team) criticized Trump on Twitter last night:

The 2017-18 regular season kicks off on Oct. 4, so we’ll see if there are any larger protests or statements from teams and/or players.

For more on how this situation is playing out with other sports, check Pro Football Talk (including this post), Pro Basketball Talk (Mark Cuban’s comments are the latest there), Hardball Talk (noting that Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem), and other sites under the NBC umbrella.

Bruised Blues: Add Robby Fabbri to a worrisome list for St. Louis

Getty
2 Comments

It sure looks like the St. Louis Blues are going to limp into the 2017-18 season (sometimes literally).

The team announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the remainder of training camp after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The Blues say that they will re-evaluate Fabbri, 21, in 10 days.

It’s difficult to say how bad this issue is, but knee injuries – particularly involving knees that are already problems for athletes – can be tricky.

Even if this is a mere short-term setback, it’s staggering how long the Blues’ injury list is even before their season-opener.

Alex Steen was ruled out of training camp (and possibly beyond) just days ago because of a hand injury. Zach Sanford‘s push toward being an NHL regular is on hold thanks to being sidelined for multiple months with a shoulder issue, while a fractured ankle puts Jay Bouwmeester‘s 2017-18 season in some question, too. (More on Sanford and Bouwmeester here.)

Patrik Berglund might not be back until late 2017 or even into 2018 with his own shoulder issues.

While such injuries open up opportunities for younger players to make even temporary jumps, it’s tough to stomach as Mike Yeo preps for his first full season behind the Blues bench.

In Fabbri’s case, this is a considerable disappointment, as he was starting to show the zip at the NHL level that’s made him such a prolific scorer in the OHL. Here’s hoping he gets over these issues, as considering his size, a significant loss in speed could be a serious problem for Fabbri.

Coyotes want to retire Shane Doan’s number in the future

Getty
3 Comments

After more than two decades the Arizona Coyotes and Shane Doan parted ways this offseason, ultimately resulting in the 40-year-old forward retiring from the league.

The decision to part ways with Doan was part of a massive overhaul that dramatically changed the outlook of the team, ending a lengthy chapter in its history.

The Coyotes would eventually like to honor Doan by retiring his number “at a time that is right for him.”

That is what team owner Andrew Barroway said at a Coyotes’ town hall meeting, via Sarah McLellan.

“The relationship with Shane Doan has improved,” Barroway said. “We’ve reached out. We’ve spoken with Shane. Everyone loves him. He’s a class act, great guy.”

There are no plans for any sort of an official announcement this season, but Barroway said the Coyotes will revisit it next summer.

Doan spent is entire career playing for the Coyotes organization dating back to its days in Winnipeg (he played one season with the original Jets). During his career he appeared in 1,540 regular season games, scoring 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 total points. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists, total points, even strength goals, power play goals, and shots on goal.