Francois Beauchemin

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Celebrate Labor Day by pondering the ‘hardest working’ NHL defensemen

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It’s Labor Day (or Labour Day), so hopefully you’re getting those last summer nights/hot dog grillings out of your system.

(Not just talking to you, Phil Kessel.)

With the holiday in mind, it seems sensible to get into the theme of things and ponder the “hardest working” players in hockey. For the record, these lists are based on stats, so feel free to project your own opinions about hustle/grit/other things that would show up on a John Cena t-shirt.

If nothing else, it’s refreshing to discuss some stats that don’t get as much attention.

Defensemen tend to be some of the biggest workhorses in the sport, so this first post will be devoted to them.

For forwards and goalies, check out this post.

Sheer volume

In maybe the least surprising development imaginable, Ryan Suter continues to stand out as a guy who just logs an inane amount of ice time.

Suter headlines a list of five players who’ve logged at least 8,000 minutes of regular-season ice time from 2013-14 through 2016-17.

1. Suter: 9,201:55
2. Drew Doughty: 8,906:33
3. Erik Karlsson: 8,897:18
4. Shea Weber: 8,116:20
5. Alex Pietrangelo: 8,055:50

(Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Roman Josi are very close behind them.)

Killing penalties is one of the toughest jobs, and it can be a very specialized one. Using the 2013-14 to 2016-17 standard, only one defenseman logged 1,000 penalty minutes. Meanwhile, six players logged at least 900.

1. Andy Greene: 1,115:48
2. Alex Pietrangelo: 996:28
3. Zdeno Chara: 986:38
4. Karl Alzner: 935:08
5. Jay Bouwmeester: 945:03
6. Francois Beauchemin: 900:15

(Big-minute guys Doughty and Weber also ranked up high in penalty killing.)

For a significant defenseman, Pietrangelo carries a considerable workload. Consider how much tougher his role has become over the last few seasons.

2013-14: 52.3 percent offensive zonne starts vs. 47.7 defensive
2014-15: 48.4 offense, 51.6 defense
2015-16: 46.9, 53.1
2016-17: 43.1, 56.9

Pietrangelo still manages to produce offensively, so the 27-year-old is quite the all-around gem.

Gritty leaders

However you feel about certain “grit” stats and how helpful they actually are for a team, it’s easy to admire players who put their bodies on the line.

Using the framework of 2013-14 to 2016-17, Kris Russell easily leads the NHL in blocked shots with 907, even doing so in 277 games while Dan Girardi comes in second place with 719 in 300 contests. Russell blocks a hearty 3.3 shots per game.

It’s easier to understand Girardi slowing down when you consider the bumps and bruises he likely endures. Girardi blocked 719 shots during that span, and he also delivered 690 hits. (Shea Weber is a similar bruiser: 637 blocked shots, 644 hits in 313 games.)

Karl Alzner piles up those grit stats while spending a lot of time on the PK, which is predictable but also commendable.

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These stats don’t guarantee that the listed defensemen work “harder” than others. Still, it’s easy to get lost in possession stats and other considerations, and lose sight of how much effort goes into the dirty work in hockey.

If you’re bored and hockey-starved on this holiday, consider clicking around the above links to notice certain names that show up consistently. It might give you a greater appreciation for players you otherwise might have dismissed.

It’s Anaheim Ducks day at PHT

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When Randy Carlyle began his second stint as Anaheim Ducks head coach, many wondered if there would be a big drop-off from Bruce Boudreau.

One season doesn’t make a coach’s run – unless you’re an unfortunate soul like Dallas Eakins – but so far, Carlyle’s been a solid success. The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth season in a row and fell to the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Western Conference Final.

Granted, that’s not to say that it was all good, as the Ducks will surely pour over the way their playoff run ended. There’s also concern that the Ducks’ core could be aging out, at least in all of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler being 32.

The summer ended up being interesting.

GM Bob Murray let backup Jonathan Bernier walk in favor of Ryan Miller, while Reto Berra provides additional depth behind Miller and John Gibson. They didn’t lose Sami Vatanen or Josh Manson to the expansion draft, but Shea Theodore‘s absence is likely to sting. Simon Despres’ days with the Ducks are now over, too. Murray also brought in veteran and familiar face Francois Beauchemin.

The biggest move on defense likely ends the seemingly endless Cam Fowler trade rumors, instead signing Fowler to an eight-year, $52 million extension that kicks in starting in 2018-19.

They also kept Patrick Eaves around after a successful would-be “rental” at the trade deadline, handing the hugely bearded forward a three-year deal carrying a $3.15M cap hit.

So, the Ducks endured some changes, yet they also haven’t endured the sort of seismic alterations Anaheim experienced last summer. They now stand in an interesting spot, especially when it comes to the Pacific: will they hold off the Edmonton Oilers and other opponents once again? Will they remain legitimate Stanley Cup contenders or slip closer to the wild card?

PHT will break down the Ducks from several angles on Wednesday.

Avalanche to buy out Beauchemin

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The Colorado Avalanche will buy out the final year of Francois Beauchemin‘s contract.

The Avs will still be stuck with a $4.5 million cap hit for the 37-year-old defenseman, but they’ll save $1.5 million in actual dollars.

Beauchemin also had a no-movement clause, so the Avs will no longer be obligated to protect him in the expansion draft. That leaves them free to protect Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Nikita Zadorov, plus seven forwards. (Or, they could protect another defenseman — perhaps Mark Barberio, or even one they add in a trade — then only protect four forwards.)

Beauchemin played 81 games for the Avs last season, averaging 21:31 of ice time. He had five goals and 13 assists.

‘There’s going to be a lot of turnover’ in Colorado

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Here’s what we know about changes in Colorado this offseason.

There won’t be one at the top, as GM Joe Sakic got a vote of confidence from team president Josh Kroenke.

There won’t be one behind the bench, as head coach Jared Bednar got a vote of confidence from Sakic.

There will, however, be changes to the roster.

“There’s going to be a lot of turnover,” Sakic said on Tuesday, in an interview with Altitude Sports 950. “We’re going to get some younger guys in here. We’re expecting to be a much quicker team and a much more competitive team.”

To hear Sakic explain it, the likes of J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost, A.J. Greer, Matt Nieto and Sven Andrighetto will add speed and skill to the club’s “young core.” It’s believed that core consists of two of Sakic’s untouchables — Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon — and may or may not include the likes of Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie and captain Gabriel Landeskog.

That puts question marks on a number of others.

One has to wonder what the future has in store for 31-year-old Carl Soderberg, who had a disastrous year offensively with just six goals and 14 points in 80 games. Soderberg is on the books at $4.75 million annually through 2019. Another pair of experienced forwards, Blake Comeau and Joe Colborne, have one year left on their respective deals at $2.4 and $2.5 million. Both failed to muster much production last season.

Then there’s the defense.

“We’ve still got to work on our back end,” Sakic explained. “That’s a work in progress. Hopefully we’re going to have a signing here soon that we can announce (KHLer Andrei Mironov, who’s reportedly on his way to Colorado), so we’re waiting and seeing if we can do that.

“But for sure, that’s an area that we would like to improve.”

With just four blueliners under contract — Barrie, Erik Johnson, Francois Beauchemin and Mark Barberio — Sakic has some decisions to make. Fedor Tyutin and Cody Goloubef are UFAs but, given the GM’s desire to go young, probably aren’t in the plans. Nikita Zadorov and Patrick Wiercioch are RFAs.

As for how Sakic plans to remodel his defense? Well, it certainly doesn’t sound like he’ll be spending money on the open market.

“We’re not going to be players in free agency,” he said. “We want to grow our kids and keep the youth movement going, and try and develop and have them grow together.”

Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like Sakic could be more active on the trade market this summer than he was during the regular season. If the plan is for “a lot of turnover” and the preference is to stay quiet in free agency, it’s the only logical way to make changes.

“We’ll be on the phone quite a bit,” Sakic said.

Report: Avs bringing d-man Mironov over from Russia

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Andrei Mironov, the Russian defenseman taken in the fourth round by Colorado in 2015, is on his way to North America.

Per Russian news outlet Championat, Mironov has opted to leave Dynamo Moscow in the hopes of cracking the Avs roster. The 22-year-old appeared in 19 games for Dynamo last season, scoring four points.

Mironov is an interesting prospect. The Avs took him after he was passed over in the previous three drafts, making him the club’s first Russian draftee since 2004.

Mironov was a member of two Russian squads at the World Juniors — helping the team to consecutive bronze medals in ’13 and ’14 — and, in 2015, was one of the youngest players (20 years old) to be named to the country’s entry into the World Championships.

Given the Avs are coming off an absolutely dreadful year, there should be a competition for minutes next season. That would figure to play into Mironov’s favor. What’s more, the Avs only have four d-men under contract moving forward: Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Francois Beauchemin and Mark Barbeiro.