Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Getty Images

Marc-Edouard Vlasic still really, really frustrated with NHL’s Olympic decison

7 Comments

We know that NHL players aren’t happy that they’ll be playing regular season games this month and not participating in the PyeongChang Olympics, which begin next week. (Those who wouldn’t have been going, of course, would have liked the extra vacation time.)

Since the NHL announced in April that it wouldn’t be sending players for the first time since 1994, players have been outspoken in their disagreement with the decision. “As cool as it for players to be a part of the Olympic experience, it’s a missed opportunity to expand our game,” said Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler during last weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who won gold with Canada in 2014, has been the most vocal.

• When a report came out in Nov. 2016 that the NHL had offered the NHLPA Olympic participation in exchange for extending the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Vlasic responded, “That’s not the way you negotiate things. But, if that is true, all of a sudden they don’t mind having a two-week break in the NHL for a three-year collective bargaining agreement.”

• “It happens once every four years, but now we put in the World Cup, so a condensed schedule happens every two years,” he said via the Mercury News right after the NHL’s decision. “But for the World Cup it’s OK. Guys get injured in the World Cup, but that’s OK. Shorter summers, longer seasons, but that’s OK.”

• “What I’d like is for the NHL to openly give the real reasons for its refusal to go to Pyeongchang,” he wrote last June.

So, yeah, Vlasic is really pissed about not being able to represent Canada again. In a chat with Ross McKeon of SFGate.com, the 30-year-old defenseman detailed the lengths at which he went to get another opportunity.

“I would love to in 2022,” he said. “I’m fighting not only for myself in ’22, but for every other player who gets a chance to do it in 2026, ’30, ’34 and down the road. I’m not just thinking of myself, I’m thinking about all the players who deserve to go.”

That determination is what moved Vlasic to hold a conference call with lawyers and the NHL Players’ Association. Termination of his extension (which was signed July 1) was a possibility. The Sharks could be targeted for a suit, and ultimately Vlasic could be, too, if it could be proved that the product San Jose was putting on the ice during his absence wasn’t as good as if he had been playing.

According to Vlasic, he was told that a court order could be issued if a player still insisted on going. And, ultimately, a player could be arrested for violating the order if he played.

“I don’t think it would have gone that far, but it’s a possibility,” said Vlasic, who noted his initial thought when the league made its decision was to go no matter what.

Vlasic added that players should have Olympic participation guaranteed by putting it in the next CBA, which several players told me they expect to be a topic when negotations begins. He sees the benefits that putting the game on that stage can have, and while he won’t completely ignore the 2018 tournament in PyeongChang, don’t expect him to carve out time in his busy schedule for a game.

“Am I going to watch the hockey? I’ll probably see the highlights,” he told McKeon. “I won’t sit down and watch it.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey schedule

————

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.

PHT on Fantasy: The Monthly Method

Getty

As we get deeper into the 2017-18 season, it’s tougher and tougher to add difference-makers in fantasy hockey. At least if you’re in a league with people who even try to know what they’re doing.

To get an edge and land the sort of players who might help you in playoff series (or to make the playoffs), sometimes it requires breaking things down in different ways. For one thing, you should definitely check out Joey Alfieri’s weekly add/drops, not to mention the great offerings from the fine folks at Rotoworld’s NHL section.

One thing I like to look at is: which players are really rising over the last month or two? Using various sites – both Yahoo’s fantasy section and NHL.com are among the ways to check these things out – I thought I’d share some observations that might help you in fantasy.

  • As far as the tippy top goes, it’s mostly players you’d expect, and thus players who’ve already been taken. The closest thing to an upset in the top 10 scorers during the last two months is Mikko Rantanen, a player many at least recognized was very good. (Rantanen is owned in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues. If he’s available … what are you waiting for? Sheesh.)

With that in mind, you’re probably wisest to break things down into different categories, whether that means narrowing lists down to positions or looking for specific stats.

  • If you look at defensemen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic pops up, especially (but not only) if you look at January. For one thing, he’s picking up his shooting a bit the last two years, with his current 2.06 SOG per game representing a career-high. “Pickles” is a stat-stuffer thanks to his blocked shots, but even more simply, he’s scoring at a much higher level. Vlasic already has 20 points in 49 games after managing only 28 in 75 last season.

You might miss something like that because Vlasic’s 20 points would only rank him 50th among defensemen from a full-season standpoint. His 11 points in January rank third among defensemen; it’s clear that he is along for the ride with Brent Burns, who topped all blueliners that month with 17 points. Vlasic is only owned in 44 percent of leagues. While he’s not necessarily guaranteed to be a top-10 guy for the rest of the season, he’s probably better than the lower-ranking blueliners on your team, particularly if you didn’t invest heavily in the position with high draft picks.

  • Checking out rising players from a monthly perspective could also help you identify people to watch list, even if you don’t add them. Sorting for time on ice, for instance, may help you clue into a player who’s rising in the eyes of a coach. If the luck comes in a wave, maybe you’d grab someone – even for a limited time – who might deliver?

Jordan Oesterle of the Chicago Blackhawks is an intriguing case, for one.

After barely being used in October and November, Coach Q rolled him out for an average of 21:47 in nine December games, and then almost 24 minutes per night in January. His 10 points this season won’t blow your mind, but note that nine of them have come in the last two months.

That’s not mind-blowing, naturally, but in deeper leagues he could be the sort of guy who might be intriguing, particularly if he rides a surge if Chicago manages to get it together.

Ivan Provorov and Esa Lindell are examples of higher-ceiling defensemen who might be available, too, but there are ways to dig deep if you really need to.

  • The monthly method can help you eyeball a goalie who’s finishing the season on a hot streak. After all, the past is the past, and a rough start could deflate a netminder’s value too much at times.

(That said, check their career stats, as a hot streak could just as easily go ice cold once you actually invest in a guy.)

Usual suspects

Using Yahoo’s monthly ranking tool, some familiar names came up. Here’s some quick context for a few of them, going from higher to lower rankings. Please note that I’m skipping heavily owned goalies since you won’t be able to get them anyway:

  • Jonathan Bernier (59 percent owned): Obviously, Bernier’s been a huge part of Colorado’s surge up the rankings. There’s some pedigree there, as a former first-rounder. There’s also plenty of motivation, as he’s fighting for a new contract. Just note that Semyon Varlamov could elbow his way back in if Bernier goes on a prolonged cold streak.
  • Carter Hutton (64 percent): Fantastic month, building a growing resume as a quality backup. Still, the Blues are very much devoted to Jake Allen; Hutton might benefit from a trade, at least in fantasy terms.
  • Jaroslav Halak (57 percent): Last season, Halak made a “too little, too late” run for the Islanders … but it was quite a run in March and April. Like Hutton and Bernier, he’s on an expiring contract. The Islanders are committed to Thomas Greiss contract-wise, with his deal expiring after 2019-20, but there’s not much luxury to just hope that Greiss works out of his awful rut. Halak is an intriguing goalie to watch.

***

Hopefully this week’s column gave you some names to consider, but most importantly, some tools to use to find even more.

Really, it might be fun for you to look at who’s been hot in January, even if you’re not a fantasy hockey type. Perhaps it could help you in Daily Fantasy, too?

(If so, I expect royalties.)

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.

Paul Martin won’t be last problem contract Sharks will want to trade

Getty
2 Comments

The Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka reports that Paul Martin wants a trade from the San Jose Sharks, seeking an opportunity to play after injuries and shaky work have mostly kept him out of the lineup.

Other outlets have backed up this report, and Martin admitted as much himself in a clip you might enjoy more for the beard-stroking as anything else.

If Martin’s contract was expiring in 2017-18, it would be easy to imagine teams taking a shot at him. Such a mountain becomes tougher to climb when you realize that his problematic $4.85 million cap hit won’t expire until after 2018-19, according to Cap Friendly.

There’s no denying that Martin has an impressive resume, yet that costly contract, his advanced age (will turn 37 in March), and lack of play this season really make it tough to imagine the Sharks getting anything other than an equally ugly – or uglier – contract in return for the very-much-grizzly veteran.

The best news is probably just that his contract expires after 2018-19, so even if this remains a headache they can’t cure with a trade-based painkiller, the discomfort should lift soon enough.

The more worrisome thought is this: it’s easy to picture more headlines about the Sharks wanting to trade bad contracts, particularly for aging defensemen who were once very good, in the not-too-far-flung future.

Brent Burns is already 32, and his eight-year, $64M contract just kicked in this season, so that $8M cap hit runs through 2024-25. Burns turns 33 in March.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is about to see his ridiculous bargain $4.25M cap hit expire after this season. The Sharks already made a-near-Burns-sized commitment to “Pickles,” handing him an eight-year, $56M extension ($7M cap hit) that expires in 2025-26. Vlasic will turn 31 in, you guessed it, March.

Burns’ yearly salary works out to make him a little bit easier to trade as his deal goes along, but the bottom line is that those contracts are still pretty scary.

The Sharks are making big bets on some aging core pieces remaining difference-makers for the long-term. Martin Jones turned 28 on Jan. 10 and will see his contract extension ($5.75M cap hit through 2023-24) kick in next season.

When you consider how sneaky-old Joe Pavelski is (33 already, only two years remaining on his deal) and Joe Thornton‘s shrinking window either as a difference-maker or as a difference-maker with the Sharks, you could practically hear the ominous music kick in.

Now, sure, some of this comes down to “the cost of doing business.”

That said, the Sharks likely weighed concerns about Martin’s age and dug themselves a hole with his contract, anyway. Such concerns may only become more abundant over the next few years.

For San Jose, the hope is that Father Time merely shows up late.

UPDATE: The Sharks placed Martin on waivers Monday afternoon.

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.

Awesome dog Charlie drops puck before Hurricanes – Islanders (Video)

Screen via NHL.com

Every now and then, you get that rare opportunity to celebrate two of your favorite things coming together.

Beavis and Butt-Head reuniting for a season. Peanut butter and chocolate teaming up in many glorious candy bar iterations. High on that list: dogs and hockey.

So, kudos to VetDogs.org and the New York Islanders for sharing this treat with us, and credit Charlie with not treating the puck as an actual treat:

Not going to lie, it bums me out a bit that superb dog Charlie didn’t get to “shake hands” with John Tavares and Justin Faulk, but it might have confused the pup, who’s being trained to help a U.S. army veteran.

Charlie seems to be a star at the site, as the front page features “Support Charlie and the Vet Dogs mission,” which is driving a fundraising effort. You can even follow along for … “pupdates.”

There’s a ton of video on Charlie, and it’s pretty much all great. Apparently Charlie was quite the hit on “The Today Show,” and the good news is that all this spotlight isn’t going to his furry head.

Hopefully I’m not speaking out of turn when I upgrade Charlie from “very good dog” to extremely good dog.

Here’s another cool moment from tonight:

More dog fun at PHT:

Watch some very good dogs race during AHL game (Video)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s dog paintings are very good.

Teams celebrate National Dog Day, and it is good.

Matt Murray, pup, Stanley Cup.

Dog gets ice time with puck.

Hampus Lindholm’s absurdly cute, skate-sized puppy.

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

Fight: Pavelski vs. Johansen; Not much fight: Predators against Sharks

2 Comments

The Nashville Predators’ 5-5-2 record isn’t pretty, and their effort in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks wasn’t so pretty either.

Nashville couldn’t get much going against the Sharks tonight, who improved to 7-5-0 on the season. The two teams combined for just 48 shots on goal, so it’s not surprising that a fight and a debatable hit ended up stealing the show.

(You could safely use the eye-roller “These teams don’t like each other” with this one, too, as there were 12 power plays and 54 total hits. Maybe it’s fitting that Joe Thornton ended a milestone night where he scored his 1,400th point [on an assist, of course] by getting thrown from the fray.)

The Predators and Sharks were already playing a physical game, but things started to get nasty when Ryan Johansen hurt Marc-Edouard Vlasic. We’ll see if anything comes of this beyond the contest; in the moment Johansen merely received a boarding minor:

Actually, something did come of it, as Johansen and Joe Pavelski engaged in a rare fight later in the third period:

NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil notes that it kind of looked like a pro wrestling move happened during the fight:

This continues the recent trend of WWE-inspired bouts, as Kevin Bieksa delivered a “superman punch” that would have made Roman Reigns proud in a recent fight.

Indeed, that run of violence overshadowed much of the play.

It’s up to the Predators to bring the spotlight back to the scoreboard, as so far they’re struggling with Ryan Ellis on the shelf and bigger targets on their backs.

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.