Cam Tucker

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04: Artem Anisimov #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates his third period goal with teammate Gustav Forsling #42 during a preseason game at the United Center on October 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Red Wings 6-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Canucks loss is Blackhawks gain: Sounds like Forsling may be staying in Chicago

4 Comments

The phrase “asset management” has become all too familiar in Vancouver. It’s usually used as criticism towards Canucks management, led by GM Jim Benning.

In his first draft as Canucks GM, Benning made a shrewd move by selecting Forsling, a young, skilled defenseman from Sweden, in the fifth round in 2014. Seven months later, Benning moved Forsling to the Chicago Blackhawks for right-shooting defenseman Adam Clendening.

Sixth months later, Clendening was moved to Pittsburgh as part of the deal to bring in Brandon Sutter to Vancouver.

So, for the Canucks, a team that needed depth on defense and young players to begin to compete for NHL jobs: No Clendening. No Forsling.

Vancouver’s loss is Chicago’s gain. By all accounts, the 20-year-old Forsling has been very impressive at Blackhawks training camp and continues to make a case to be on the roster.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The problem is, there’s nowhere for him to play.

By signing Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival to one-year contracts this summer, general manager Stan Bowman solidified his blue line, turning a weak spot into a strength. But with those three guys, plus veterans Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Trevor van Riemsdyk, the Hawks already have seven defensemen who aren’t going anywhere.

The Blackhawks wrap up their pre-season schedule Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.

Red Wings’ Ben Street ‘is going to be just fine’ after skate cut to the neck

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Ben Street #38 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on October 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Capitals defeated the Flames 5-4 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on Saturday provided an update on forward Ben Street, telling the Detroit Free Press that Street “is going to be just fine” after suffering a cut to his neck from a skate blade during Friday’s exhibition game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

From the Toronto Star:

Street was involved in a collision along the boards in the second period and the skate of Leaf Justin Holl made contact near his throat. He immediately grabbed his neck with his gloved hand and left the ice, under his own power, before being taken to a local hospital.

“Ben was cut in the neck,” Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. “They explored the wound. There was no major damages. He was taken to hospital last night to make sure. He was released from the hospital last night and he is on his way home.

“He had unreal composure. He had his hand on his neck. I looked up and saw the replay and that’s when I really got scared. I was hoping everything was OK. But we got word pretty quick that it looked like it was going to be just fine.”

The Red Wings signed Street, 29, to a one-year contract on July 1, as per NHL.com.

Street has played 29 NHL games in his career, spending time with the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche organizations.

Chiarelli: ‘I could see there wasn’t a fit’ for Yakupov in Edmonton

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 25:  Nail Yakupov #10 of the Edmonton Oilers reacts after a missed chance to score during the third period of a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on February 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
12 Comments

The reaction continues from Friday’s big trade that sent former first overall pick Nail Yakupov from the Edmonton Oilers to the St. Louis Blues.

On Friday, following the deal, Yakupov had his say: “I think it’s awesome, I don’t know what winning is.”

Bam!

On Saturday, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli offered his thoughts on why Yakupov was no longer a fit in Edmonton, which has traded two of its former first overall picks — Yakupov and, in June, Taylor Hall — in just a few months.

“I don’t know if it’s fair for me to assess why it didn’t work out just by looking at one year,” said Chiarelli, as per video from the Oilers’ Twitter account.

“But I could see there wasn’t a fit. Again … he’s a young player who has skill and talent. From what I saw the year before to what I saw this past year, I thought his game diluted. His strengths — I didn’t think (he was) playing to his strengths. There are other areas of his game that can improve and need to improve.”

Last season, Yakupov, who spent some time on a line with Connor McDavid, played in 60 games for the Oilers, scoring only eight goals and 23 points. But his struggles in Edmonton began long before last season.

“By the time we had arrived here, the new coaching staff and stuff, it was infected already. He had a lot of the past baggage that he was carrying with him,” said head coach Todd McLellan, as per the Edmonton Journal.

“We tried to get him going and it worked for awhile with Connor, and then both their injuries derailed that. People wonder, well, why didn’t you put him back there? Because we didn’t. And Ebs created a bond with Connor that we thought was going to be better. It’s as simple as that.”

Setoguchi, on a PTO with the Kings, gets a chance to play with Kopitar

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Devin Setoguchi #10 of the Los Angeles Kings during a preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center on September 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

The L.A. Kings have one more pre-season game left on their schedule. It goes tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

And veteran forward Devin Setoguchi, battling for a roster spot on a professional tryout with the Kings, will be put into prime position to make perhaps one last impression on the coaching staff.

According to reports, he will begin the game on the wing on a line with Anze Kopitar, which could provide an opportunity for him to strut his offensive capabilities in this pivotal audition.

“If there’d be any impact for Devon tonight that would be getting to play with Kopitar. Hopefully that’s good for him,” said coach Darryl Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

The Kings have 15 forwards listed on their NHL roster, as per General Fanager, but there may be spots up for grabs — at least in the interim — with Marian Gaborik on the injured list, and Tanner Pearson serving a suspension that runs through the first two games of the regular season.

Setoguchi, now 29 years old, played last season in Switzerland, after 471 NHL games for four teams. He has also battled alcoholism off the ice — a battle he detailed for The Hockey News last month.

From the Hockey News:

Setoguchi felt he rediscovered his game in Davos, putting up 11 goals and 24 points in 30 games. Returning to Switzerland, or elsewhere in Europe, would be fine if that’s how things play out, both he and his wife said, but they’re both hopeful for a return to the NHL. “I’ve helped myself, and every day I try to help myself be a better person,” said Setoguchi, now 29. “I feel like I’m a pretty good gauge for young kids as to how quick it can hit and how fast it can stop. I wouldn’t say a mentor, but I think I’d be good to have around an AHL team for a bit. Hopefully someone can see that I’ve turned it around. I can definitely help.

Penguins face a difficult road in their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup champs

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates by hoisting the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

After the Penguins paraded the Stanley Cup through the streets of Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby took it to his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Evgeni Malkin to Moscow and Phil Kessel to a children’s hospital in Toronto as part of the summer-long celebration.

If there’s one thing champions in the NHL have learned, it is to savor those moments because history says they won’t happen back-to-back. No team has repeated as Cup champion since the salary-cap era began in 2005, and the last back-to-back winners were the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

Sorry, Penguins. And sorry to the San Jose Sharks, as no team in the past eight seasons has lost in the final and gotten back the next year.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are rested from an unusually short spring, the Tampa Bay Lightning boast the deepest team in the league and the Washington Capitals are virtually unchanged after dominating the regular season. All those things, plus playing into June, stack the odds against the Penguins raising the Cup again in 2017.

“You’re coming off such a high, it’s going to be tough to get to that (level) right away,” Pittsburg defenseman Trevor Daley said. “How you become a great team in this league is you have the hunger every night. Teams that are proven winners are usually the great teams, the L.A.s and Chicagos. Pittsburgh is right up there now in that conversation. We’re hungry to do it again.”

Because they have two top goalies in Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins are perhaps the best positioned team to repeat in recent history. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.

Online sportsbook Bovada set the Penguins and Blackhawks as co-Cup favorites with the Capitals, Lightning, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Sharks not far behind. It wouldn’t be a surprise if any of those teams make it through a World Cup of Hockey-condensed regular season and a grueling division playoff format and get to celebrate in June.

“The parity in the league allows for a lot of teams to have the same goal and actually legitimately have a chance at it,” said Washington winger Justin Williams, who won the Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. “There’s a handful of teams that have those aspirations and they’re real.”

Rather than parity, commissioner Gary Bettman prefers the term “competitive balance,” which speaks not only to the lack of repeat champions and the death of NHL dynasties but the variance in playoff teams. Of the 30 teams, 24 have made the playoffs at least once over the past three seasons.

“Unless you’re (cheering for) the team in the dynasty market, you could care less,” Bettman said. “All you care about is that your team is competitive.”

Competition isn’t the problem. It’s so high that playoff teams can’t miss a beat or fear they’ll drop out. The Florida Panthers look like a team just beginning a run of playoff appearances with young stars like Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov, but president of hockey operations Dale Tallon knows it’ll come down to breaks and injuries because “it’s going to be a battle to return to the playoffs.”

It’s a battle because the top teams haven’t lost much.

The Penguins made a few tweaks and will be without Cup-winner Murray to start the season, but they can turn to 2009 winner Fleury and still lean heavily on Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang. Elsewhere in the East, the Lightning re-signed Steven Stamkos, the Capitals are primed for another run with Alex Ovechkin and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby, and the Montreal Canadiens should be back in contention with all-world goalie Carey Price healthy after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

Chicago has cycled pieces in and out while winning the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, but the core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith is as strong as ever. The Blackhawks would have liked to go deeper in last year’s playoffs, but not doing so could pay dividends this season as it has in the past.

“It might be good for the guys to have a longer offseason and come back hungry for the start of the season,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.

Trading off years with the Boston Bruins’ 2011 championship mixed in, the Blackhawks and Kings know all too well about the Cup hangover that the Penguins will try to avoid. Peaking at playoff time and maintaining that level amid injuries and bounces takes a lot, plus the system is skewed against back-to-back champions.

“It’s more hard than before when teams were really dominating and could spend so much on salaries and they can buy different players,” said Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa, who lost in the final in 2008 with Pittsburgh and 2009 with Detroit before winning three times with Chicago. “In this modern day, it’s extremely hard. … It’s really, really hard to repeat.”