Getty Images

Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2017 grew the game in many ways

4 Comments

The Hockey Hall of Fame will induct its 2017 class Monday night in Toronto. The seven individuals who will be enshrined include five players and two builders.

Clare Drake, Jeremy Jacobs, Dave Andreychuk, Danielle Goyette, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi and Teemu Selanne will join the many other legends inside the old bank building on Yonge Street forever. Their contributions as a whole, no matter their position in hockey, helped grow the game to what it’s known as today.

Builder

Clare Drake — The most successful coach in Canadian university hockey history won six national championships in 28 years at the University of Alberta. He retired in 1989 with a record of 697-296-37, which comes out to a .695 winning percentage. Drake not only contributed at the university level, he also spent time at the professional level with a year coaching the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA in 1975-76, working as a Winnipeg Jets assistant in 1989-90 and helping out the Dallas Stars during the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was also behind the bench for Canada’s entry at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Drake’s last legacy may be his role in developing players and educating coaches through his contributions to the Canadian Coaching Certification Program.

Jeremy Jacobs — Since purchasing the Boston Bruins since 1975, the franchise has made the Stanley Cup Final six times, winning once. He’s been Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors for the last 10 years was the recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2015 for his “outstanding service to hockey in the United States.”

Player

Dave Andreychuk — Only 13 players in NHL history have scored more goals than Andreychuk, who put up 640 in 1,639 NHL games. Of those 640 goals, 274 came on the power play, the most in NHL history. A two-time All-Star and 2004 Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning, ‘Andy’ hit the 50-goal mark twice in his career. It also hard to imagine many of his goals that weren’t scored from around the blue paint.

Danielle Goyette — A two-time Olympic goal medalist and eight-time winner at the World Championship as part of Team Canada, Goyette hung up her skates with 113 goals and 105 assists in 171 games representing her country. During the 1998 Olympics, she led all players with eight goals. Four years later, in helping Canada win gold, she tied for the scoring lead with 10 points. In 2006, as she helped her country to a second straight gold, she was selected as flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies. Currently, Goyette is the second-leading scorer in women’s Olympic history with 15 goals.

Paul Kariya — Kariya’s hockey accomplishments didn’t just come while part of the NHL. Before he was drafted fourth overall by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, he won the World Junior Championship with Canada and later the NCAA title with Maine in 1993. A year later he would win gold at the World Championship and in 2002 was part of the Olympic winning Canadian side at the Salt Lake Games. Eleven games shy of 1,000 games for his career, he finished with 402 goals and 989 points — on the dot to be a point per game player over his career. A two-time Lady Byng winner and seven-time All-Star, Kariya is well-remembered for his goal during the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, which came 10 minutes after a vicious hit from Scott Stevens of the New Jersey Devils:

Mark Recchi —One of four players in NHL history to play more than 1,700 games, Recchi enters the Hall as a five-time Stanley Cup champion, three of which came during his playing career. He’s one of 10 players in history to win a title on three different NHL teams, and his career ended with 577 goals and 1,533 points. Outside of a 15-game first NHL year, he scored double digit goals in 21 straight seasons.

Teemu Selanne —Selanne introduced himself to the NHL world in spectacular fashion with a 76-goal, Calder Trophy winning rookie season in 1992-93. The goals continued over the next 22 years as the “Finnish Flash” scored 684 of them, good for 11th all-time. He’s also the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history with 43 points in 37 games. His trophy case is filled with one Stanley Cup, a Masterton Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy, four bronze and one silver Olympic medals, and silver and bronze from the World Championship, among many other honors. We all, of course, remember the goal and celebration that helped him break the rookie goal scoring record in 1993:

Also being honored in Toronto are Cam Cole, winner of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award “in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey” as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and late NHL play-by-play man Dave Strader, who is this year’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award honoree for his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

What are you favorite memories from this year’s inductees?

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott

 

Golden Knights’ defense coming into focus with signings

Getty
Leave a comment

As the Vegas Golden Knights’ success gradually goes from shocking to accepted, there’s still the question of what this team might look like next season and beyond. Such questions are only natural when you consider all the key players who still need contract extensions.

Golden Knights management is chipping away at those questions regarding their defense in 2018-19, particularly this week.

On Monday, the Golden Knights signed local favorite and rugged defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year extension worth $1.5 million. (That deal includes $1M in potential performance bonuses, according to Cap Friendly.)

One day later, the team announced a two-year extension for Jon Merrill (pictured). The deal is for $2.75M overall, so it will make for a $1.375M cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The Golden Knights now have five defensemen on their current roster who are signed through 2018-19, if not longer: Engelland, Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, and Brad Hunt. McNabb is locked up the longest, with a $2.5M cap hit kicking in next season and expiring after 2020-21.

The most interesting remaining defensemen to sort out are Colin Miller and Shea Theodore, both pending RFAs. The Golden Knights have been buying up blueliners at bargain rates, but Theodore and Miller could be tougher nuts to crack contracts-wise. (Two UFA defensemen Luca Sbisa and Clayton Stoner on IR.)

Quick look at Engelland and Merrill

Engelland, 35, has been one of the Golden Knights’ ice time leaders with 19:39 per night, collecting 13 points while limiting his time in the penalty box (16 PIM in 41 games) compared to his usual numbers. He’s not perfect, but it’s conceivable that he’ll be worth that minimal cost to Vegas, especially since he’s an ambassador for the still-new franchise.

While Vegas hopes Engelland can bring that veteran presence for another year, they’re likely banking on Merrill to be more effective at a cheap rate.

The 25-year-old has been dealing with injuries and other issues, limiting him to 14 games played.

***

These defensive signings aren’t as important as locking up Jonathan Marchessault, nor is it as crucial as making the right call with the likes of James Neal and David Perron. With Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury seeing their deals expire after 2018-19, management will need to make some goaltending decisions not that long from now.

A little bit of greed can inspire players to go that extra mile and stay that much hungrier, yet it’s also comforting to sometimes have some answers. After this week, there’s some clarity on the blueline, even if some decisions still need to be made.

And, hey, the Golden Knights haven’t really locked themselves into bad contracts yet. Old teams could probably learn a thing or two from these new kids.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Johnny Gaudreau is playing best hockey of NHL career

Getty
1 Comment

Maybe it’s because Johnny Gaudreau has been a productive scorer since day one. Almost literally.

Gaudreau scored a goal in his first NHL game with the Calgary Flames, his only appearance in 2013-14. The slick, undersized forward then generated 24 goals and 64 points as a rookie in 2014-15, and really hasn’t missed a beat.

While there were plenty of questions heading into 2017-18 for Calgary – goaltending, Jaromir Jagr, depth on defense and offense – everyone just assumed Gaudreau would keep scoring. So perhaps that explains why people aren’t making much of a deal about Gaudreau scoring even more than usual.

As of Tuesday, Gaudreau is in a four-way tie for second in NHL scoring with 54 points.

After scoring two goals and six assists for eight points in four games, the Flames forward was named NHL’s first star of the week, ahead of teammate Mike Smith (also red-hot). His point streak actually extends into 2017, a stretch of seven games, five of which were multi-point (two goals, 11 assists for 13 points).

Gaudreau set career-highs in goals (30) and points (78) in 79 games back in 2015-16. While he’s at a solid goal-scoring clip of 15 so far this season, his playmaking is what might make this his best work. Gaudreau is averaging 1.2 points-per game, a pace of about 98 points during an 82-game season.

Upon hearing about Gaudreau’s All-Star nod about a week ago, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan did a great job summarizing what makes him so effective.

“I think he gets the best looks in the National Hockey League,” Gulutzan said, via the Calgary Sun. “He puts himself into position every game to create and shoot. Just the way he navigates himself on the ice and can handle the puck, it’s pretty amazing. For not a big guy, he can strip guys of pucks and get those kind of opportunities, too. It’s a combination of speed, agility and high hockey I.Q. that allows him to do it. He’s our engine for generating offense.”

This goal Gaudreau scored against the Stars on Nov. 24 is a great example of his ability to “strip guys of pucks,” and why he’s such a nightmare to defend.

Gaudreau and the Flames are currently resting up on a bye week, and hopefully not getting too rusty, as Calgary owns the longest active winning streak in the NHL at seven games. Beginning on Saturday, the Flames will play six of their next seven games at home, so there’s a solid chance that they’ll keep their strong play going.

If so, the Flames – and Gaudreau – will be difficult to ignore.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Drouin or Galchenyuk at center? Habs may choose neither

Getty
1 Comment

It’s been a weird season for the Montreal Canadiens, and Tuesday presented a new wrinkle.

With Phillip Danault sidelined (but resting at home) with a concussion after taking that scary Zdeno Chara shot, the Canadiens are dealing with some injuries at center. One would think that might inspire management to keep Drouin in the middle, or – dare we wonder – even give Galchenyuk another shot at center.

Instead, the plan for at least one day is to mark “none of the above,” with Galchenyuk at left wing and Drouin on the right on a line with Jacob De La Rose. This seems like a good time to break out that blinking gif, eh?

To review, Bergevin explained about a week ago that Drouin was better suited to play at wing “in an ideal world.” It was startling to hear Bergevin say that much after dismissing Galchenyuk as a center – to some controversy – back in September.

Maybe this ends up being a short-term experiment; maybe this is what Bergevin and/or Julien wanted all along. But yes, it’s a little odd.

Now, not a lot has changed since PHT did this study of how Drouin was doing heading into a reunion in Tampa Bay.

Despite being 60.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, Drouin’s been a poor possession player. He’s also regressed from an already weak place on faceoffs, winning a pitiful 40.4 percent of his draws this season. With just six goals and 21 points in 39 games, Drouin hasn’t been explosive enough to excuse his other failings. (Numbers via Hockey Reference.)

To that extent, it’s almost surprising the Canadiens waited so long, but it’s still frustrating for many to see them so easily dismiss Galchenyuk’s acumen while seemingly letting Drouin’s shortcomings slide.

Much of that frustration comes from the feeling that they’re essentially mirror images: offensive players who can thrive in the right situations, but can also frustrate their coaches. During Drouin’s Lightning days, Jon Cooper essentially said the same things about his two-way struggles as the Habs have about Galchenyuk. Remember that “two nets” comment?

So, yes, on many levels it’s baffling that the Canadiens are rolling Paul Byron out at center and putting De La Rose in the middle rather than allowing Galchenyuk to get another shot.

The real key might be about a different kind of opportunity: if this is how they get the best players on the ice more often, it may all be worth the headaches and snickers. Because when you line up with Drouin, there’s a solid chance you’ll be getting more reps.

Just look at Alex Galchenyuk’s split stats. It’s a small sample size, but so far in January, his average time on ice is 18:37, a mark that towers over his season average of 15:25. The way Julien sees it, De La Rose can do the heavy lifting while those two (ideally) light up the scoreboard.

“At the end of the day, you have a center who might be a little more defensive when you’re in your own end and I want them to play in the other end. The quicker you can kill the play, the better,” Julien said, via PHT’s Joey Alfieri. “Let those two other guys use their offense to their advantage.”

There are quite a few hockey people who envision a future in which you rarely look at the five skaters on the ice as five different positions, instead letting the situation dictate and transition flow organically. Such a way of thinking would probably be the most positive way to look at this situation. At least beyond the previously stated very-bright-side of getting Galchenyuk on the ice more often, without being to Drouin’s detriment.

If nothing else, Drouin and Galchenyuk are finding some chemistry and rhythm together, and that could end up being a beautiful pairing to watch.

It’s so zany it might just work.

That doesn’t keep it from being zany, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.