Getty Images

How do we improve the NHL All-Star Game? (PHT Roundtable)

11 Comments

NHL All-Star Weekend has come and gone for 2018 and now we count the days until next year’s event at HP Pavilion in San Jose. While we wait, the PHT staff has some ideas on how to improve the event for 2019. Let us know your ideas in the comments.

SEAN LEAHY: The most successful addition to NHL All-Star Weekend was the fantasy draft in 2011. Then we had the 3-on-3 divisional tournament idea in 2016, which injected much needed life into the event (Thanks, John Scott!). The current format doesn’t appear to be going anywhere and has brought some competitiveness to the games, especially with $1 million on the line.

Unfortunately, the fantasy draft went away, but bringing it back would provide added value to the weekend. It’s an event to fill the Friday night slot before the Skills Competition and would allow fans to see even more personality from the players — even if they may be a little sauced up, thanks to an open bar.

Let fans vote for the starting lineup for each of the four divisions with the top-vote getters being named captain. The host team would be one of the four captains regardless of the final tally. Then you get the players on a stage again to hold a snake draft and allow trades to further make things entertaining.

The game itself isn’t often the highlight of the weekend. The Skills Competition has traditionally held that title, and for three years it was the fantasy draft. Let’s see that again.

JAMES O’BRIEN: The fantasy draft is all that really matters to me, preferably with players enjoying “some refreshments.” It’s a glorious occasion, with the Skills Competition also providing oodles and noodles of fun.

Really, the specifics of the All-Star Game itself are mostly immaterial, because do you really want to make that game important? Look at the MLB; they’ve strained a hamstring making theirs waaaay too important. Imagine if the All-Star Game decided who has home ice during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final instead of the better record and feel that vein pumping in the side of your head.

If you must, though: East vs. West, every team represented. 3-on-3 is fine with me if it doesn’t call for more snubs, but again, the other stuff is what makes this weekend fun.

[A simple request for future NHL All-Star Skills Competitions]

ADAM GRETZ: I think the obvious answer here is to blend the two best ideas they have had into one really good idea: The 3-on-3 mini-tournament, with a fantasy draft to build the teams.

Fans vote for All-Stars the way they always do with the top four vote-getters across the league being the captains that will pick their teams.

I think the 3-on-3 idea is the one that produces what has been — by far — the best quality game. Even if the players aren’t going at 100 percent like they would in a regular season or a playoff game or any game that matters, the nature of the 3-on-3 matchup is so wide open and fast paced that it is still exciting. Then you add in the fantasy draft component which was still one of the funniest things the league has done and gave us our best chance to see player’s real personalities. Now you’re just doubling the fun with four captains instead of two.

JOEY ALFIERI: The NHL has changed up the All-Star Game a few times, but they’ve tried their best not to make players get too uncomfortable. One new way to change things up would be to randomly select what position players will play. It might be unrealistic to imagine a forward playing goalie, but they should give it a try.

Have an All-Star draft like they did a few times. Once a player is selected by one of the captains, the player chosen will then randomly be assigned a position. Imagine Brent Burns as a goalie, or Phil Kessel playing goalie. Now that would be awesome. A player could get lucky and get his original position, but imagine if he had to play with someone who was out of position. A defense pairing of Erik Karlsson and Carey Price would be pretty cool.

It might not be a realistic option, but it would definitely get more hardcore hockey fans watching the game because it would take players out of their comfort zone. Let’s make it happen!

SCOTT BILLECK: I like the 3-on-3 format on the ice, but I’d like to see it be a little more meaningful. Money is nice, but these guys make enough money that a little spit in the bucket isn’t going to make a big difference.

The 3-on-3 format has been exciting when something is on the line.

Make a trophy. Engrave the names of the winners. Players are inherently competitive. Give them a reason to compete.

I don’t believe it’s possible to go the baseball route, where the winning conference, in this case, would get home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final. Hockey is a contact sport and no owner is going to sign on off for allowing their players to play a heated game.

As for the Skills Competition, bring back those things that made it fun. Keep Saturday as fun as it can be.

Best shootout goal – kind of like the slam dunk contest. Rate the goals. Let Ovi and Subban dress up. Let it be fun for the fans and the players. Saves are nice and all, but people want to see great goals.

Trade: Penguins reportedly land Derick Brassard

Getty
24 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Last year, Derick Brassard was battling the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Game 7 overtime with a trip to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final on the line. Now he’ll hope to join them in a bid for an extremely rare threepeat.

The Penguins went big to land Brassard, sending a package that includes a first round pick to the Ottawa Senators, who maybe quieted the Erik Karlsson trade talk … for a millisecond.

The Trade: Penguins receive Derick Brassard; Senators get a first-round pick, Ian Cole, and intriguing goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson, via TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Note: substantial aspects of this trade could change. For instance, the Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that a third team might be involved in some way to alleviate cap concerns. This post will be updated to reflect changes once final confirmation surfaces.

Update: There may be some twists and turns before this all gets approved. Stay tuned.

Why the Penguins made the trade: It’s been no secret that the Penguins have been looking for center help since losing Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino. Brassard fits that bill, and honestly, stands as a nice upgrade.

At 30, Brassard is still at or near his prime. The Penguins get Brassard for two playoff runs, as his $5 million cap hit runs through 2018-19.

Brassard’s quietly enjoyed a strong season in Ottawa, as he has 18 goals and 38 points in 58 games. He’s just one point shy of tying his 2016-17 total, even though that came in 81 contests. The former Rangers forward is battle-tested in the postseason, too.

No doubt about it, this is a contending team being aggressive to try to win a third straight Stanley Cup. Brassard makes an already-impressive offense that much deeper.

The inclusion of Cole helps make the money work for the Penguins, even if it’s worth noting that Pittsburgh still has some questions on defense.

Why the Senators made the trade: The Senators are in liquidation mode, and to start, this trade helps Ottawa get a first-rounder back after giving one up in the Matt Duchene trade. Granted, the Penguins’ first-rounder could be very low – they’d love it to be the 31st selection – but it’s a key return for the rebuilding Sens.

Gustavsson, 19, isn’t just a throw-in, either. He was a second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. With Craig Anderson already 36, the Senators need to look to the future, and Gustavsson has a chance to be a part of the picture in net.

You can argue that Ottawa’s returns aren’t fully documented yet, as they might move Cole for even more futures:

Who won the trade?

Senators fans are unlikely to be happy with the team cleaning house, particularly with players who helped them make a deep playoff run remarkably recently. Still, they’re diving in with a reset, if not a rebuild, and this is a decent return. Getting a bit more for Cole could help, and Gustavsson’s development will play a significant role in how this move is viewed in hindsight.

The Penguins are going for it, as they have been for some time. Brassard fills a serious need, and while defense is an issue for Pittsburgh, Cole found himself as a healthy scratch and obviously on the way out at times.

This is all about the present for Pittsburgh, and it’s easy to justify such a thought process. Let’s not forget that Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel are 30 while Evgeni Malkin is 31. You never know when the championship window might slam shut.

Your excitement regarding the Penguins’ side hinges on how much you like Brassard. Not everyone is blown away by what he brings to the table.

This is an obvious case of two teams going in different directions, and thus looking for very different returns. Which team got the best value out of the deal, though?

Finally, enjoy this timely Getty photo:

(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

There are “can’t beat them, join them” jokes made about Brassard, but that feeling sort of goes both ways.

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.

Trades fantasy hockey owners should root for

Getty
Leave a comment

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Trades can really liven things up for a sport, so here’s hoping that the intriguing Michael Grabner to Devils move is the catalyst for a memorable stretch of swaps.

While there’s always the risk that a player will struggle to get acclimated to a new city and new teammates, trades can also provide a boost in fantasy hockey. As we wait for more deals to trickle in, it might be fun to picture changes of scenery. Here are some moves fantasy owners should root for.

[More on the Grabner trade.]

Elephants trotting around the room

Look, asking the Senators to trade Erik Karlsson is asking a lot.

It could be quite a late-season boon for owners who’ve been burned a bit by a season that’s not up to his honestly ridiculous standards. Complaining about a defenseman generating 42 points in 55 games is silly, but considering that Karlsson often goes in the first or second round, and fantasy sports are kind of silly by nature, well …

Anyway, a move to a contender could really help him. Maybe he’d enjoy short-term puck luck (his shooting percentage this season is 3.4 percent, half of his career average of 6.8). Considering his puck dispersal skills, setting up teammates who are likely more skilled and more motivated at this point in the season could really be electric.

Max Pacioretty also stands as interesting.

With a 7.7 shooting percentage, “Patches” is also lacking when it comes to lucky bounces. More than that, it has to be a drain on him to lose so often, particularly in a hockey-obsessed market like Montreal. Being “one of the guys” on a contender could really do him good.

Also, it’s been noted, yet it must be said: Pacioretty’s really never played with a great center. Imagine what he could accomplish with a legitimate No. 1? With his contract expiring after 2018-19, the motivation should be there, too.

Some others worth noting in this category:

  • Evander Kane has dealt with injuries and the frustrating knowledge that he’s never suited up in a playoff game in his career. With an expiring contract at age 26, you could argue that Kane has the most on the line of just about any of the most realistic trade targets in the NHL.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, yet with comparable sniping skills, you have Rick Nash. Much like Pacioretty, Nash is getting his goals now after a prolonged slump. While Kane has never tasted playoff play, Nash surely would like to show that he’s more “clutch” than his critics believe.
  • Mike Green got roasted a bit in this PHT roundtable, but that’s based on real-life play. From a fantasy perspective, Green could be fascinating. That said, he plays a huge role in Detroit, and might actually see a downgrade if traded. So maybe he’s a coin flip?
  • Ryan McDonagh and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are both defensemen who will likely be affected by what happens with Karlsson, as they do too see contracts expire after 2018-19. McDonagh seems more likely to move than OEL, yet both could really thrive on better/more driven teams down the stretch.

[Dion Phaneuf: better in fantasy than reality.]

Lightning round

OK, now onto a handful of names that might not come up much/at all, but would be a lot of fun.

  • Goalies with more fuel in the tank: Sorry, Antti Niemi, but there are better options out there for goalie rentals, even with Petr Mrazek off the market. The Coyotes might want to keep Antti Raanta around, but it would be intriguing to see what he could do for, say, the Hurricanes. Raanta’s save percentage is up to .922 this season. Since 2014-15, Raanta is tied with Carey Price and Corey Crawford for the NHL’s best save percentage at .923.

Raanta would be the gem in my eyes. Still, there are some other interesting considerations. Would the Sabres trade sneaky-good Robin Lehner? Could Jaroslav Halak help someone if the Islanders decided they’ve had enough?

  • I’ve stated that the Coyotes would likely lose if they traded Max Domi. Domi’s fantasy owners and new team could enjoy modest-to-significant gains, however.
  • This is more tangential: Jeff Carter might be nearing a return. With that in mind, the Kings might actually be a more beneficial landing pad for a player than maybe they’d seem. It sounds like they’re happy to get Tobias Rieder, though.
  • As always, root for the Oilers to trade skilled players (note: they’re saying they are leaning toward tweaks this time, for what it’s worth). You may very well see that player burn them for making such a move, possibly right away.

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.

Canadian defenseman sorry for removing medal during ceremony

Getty Images
26 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Canadian defenseman Jocelyne Larocque apologized Friday for taking off her silver medal almost immediately after it was placed around her neck at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Larocque, a two-time Olympian, then held onto the medal during the medal ceremony following the United States’ 3-2 shootout victory over Canada on Thursday. Canada had won the previous four gold medals in women’s hockey.

She issued a statement through Team Canada apologizing to the IOC, International Ice Hockey Federation, the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Hockey Canada and her teammates and fans. She says she meant no disrespect but her emotions took over.

”Please understand this was a moment in time that I truly wish I could take back,” Larocque said. ”I take seriously being a role model to young girls and representing our country. My actions did not demonstrate the values our team, myself and my family live and for that I am truly sorry.”

Melody Davidson, general manager of Canada’s national team programs, said she talked to Larocque, who did not mean to be disrespectful.

”She is very remorseful and takes responsibility for her error,” Davidson said. ”Emotions run high at the Olympic Games, and never more so than in a gold-medal game, but at all times we expect our program to act professionally and demonstrate sound sportsmanship. I would like to congratulate the United States on their victory.”

Josh Bailey uses career season to cash in with $30 million extension

Getty Images
6 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The New York Islanders announced on Friday that they’ve extended one of their most productive forwards.

No, not John Tavares, but rather one of his wingers, Josh Bailey, who inked a six-year deal to stay with the only NHL organization he’s known.

“Josh has become one of the core members of the New York Islanders,” said Islanders president and general manager Garth Snow in a statement. “He has developed within our system for several years and it’s exciting to see him mature into the player we always had confidence he would become. To come into the past few seasons and see Josh set new career highs each year, has been impressive and we’re excited to see him continue to do that with the organization as we move forward.”

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Bailey’s deal is worth $30 million, meaning he’ll carry a $5 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season.

Bailey, 28, in the middle of career year, is third on the Islanders in scoring with 62 points and is second on the team in assists with 47. He does lead them in power play points with 28. A first-round pick in 2008, he probably could have earned a bit more on the open market if he went to unrestricted free agency this summer, but he was clearly willing to take less to stay on Long Island with his family.

This deal could have an affect on what Tavares, who can become a UFA on July 1, decides over the next few months. Bailey has been a regular linemate for the Islanders captain for the last several years and now knowing that he’s locked up until at least 2024 should be good news in the sense of some familiarity going forward. (It must also be nice for Tavares to see one of his wingers being kept after watching Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo leave through trades/free agency.)

There are a couple of other pending UFA and restricted free agents for Snow to deal with this summer like Brock Nelson, Calvin de Haan and Ryan Pulock, but obviously Tavares is of primary concern. This deal could go a long way to keeping the captain with the organization.

————

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.