James O'Brien

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Daniel Carcillo ponders retirement (and helping others retire)

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers
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Daniel Carcillo doesn’t know if he’ll play another game in the NHL. He does know that he wants to help other players who are pondering life after retirement.

That’s why the 30-year-old began a not-for-profit organization called Chapter 5, in honor of Steve Montador, who passed away at 35.

Carcillo explained what he’s going for with Chapter 5, and his uncertain future in the NHL, with the Chicago Tribune on Thursday.

“We’ve done this one thing our whole lives and now all of a sudden someone makes a decision for you or if you’re lucky enough, you can make that decision for yourself and say, ‘I’m done and I want to move on.’ When that time comes there’s just no way around not missing what you did for all those years,” Carcillo said.

“I just want to be somebody one or two or 20 or 50 guys can rely on to kind of guide them through.”

It’s one thing to criticize the NHLPA’s exit plan, as he did back in April, but Carcillo is taking the intiative to do something about it.

In a way, it only heightens the impact of his memorable Players’ Tribune entry.

Hey, Brooks Laich and actress Julianne Hough got engaged

houghap
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Actress/dancer/famous person Julianne Hough and Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich announced that they got engaged on Aug. 18.

source:

Their caption reads:

We are overwhelmed with joy and excitement to share with you our recent engagement! #fiancé #love

Hough is the champion of the couple at the moment, as she’s part of two winning teams on “Dancing with the Stars.” She apparently was dating Ryan Seacrest before meeting Laich, according to Fox 411.

Sorry everyone, but you won’t get a better photo of Hough’s engagement ring, as you’ll instead need to settle for this description via People Magazine:

“The ring is over five carats and oval-shaped,” a source tells PEOPLE. “Brooks called Lorraine because he wanted to find the most perfect diamond that was truly beautiful and shined so bright — just like Julianne. Brooks and Lorraine worked together for months to find a ring that reflected Julianne’s grace and elegance. It’s very clean, very elegant, very beautiful and the diamond is the highest quality. It just shines gorgeous.”

Hough also got a new haircut to celebrate the occasion.

This has been a great summer for Laich, 31, in various ways. He told the Washington Post that he’s excited to work on skills rather than just rehabbing this summer, and now he can also work on wedding plans.

So, let’s throw down the gauntlet: where do Laich – Hough rank among the hockey celebrity couples?

Important stuff.

(H/T to Eye on Hockey)

Dallas Stars ’15-16 Outlook

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If there’s one safe bet with the Dallas Stars, it’s that they’ll be one of the most exciting teams in the NHL next season.

That being said, “entertaining” and “successful” don’t always go together in professional hockey.

More than a few times today, PHT’s discussed a few curveballs that might befuddle this team. Even so, this team stands to be electric and boasts one of the highest ceilings of any team in the NHL.

As risky as spending $10.4 million on good (but maybe not elite) goalies might be, there’s a perfectly reasonable possibility that Dallas will find the right formula to make it all work. That’s on head coach Lindy Ruff, as mentioned earlier on Saturday.

Let’s remember though that sports are, ostensibly, about entertainment; it would be a borderline travesty if the Dallas market doesn’t light up the box office for this time.

Just ponder their offensive attack for a minute.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn stand as one of the dynamic duos of the NHL. Jason Spezza has his flaws, yet he’s also often a brilliant playmaker. Patrick Sharp boasts a handsome two-way game and 2015-16 could be much kinder to Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky.

John Klingberg’s potential is almost as impressive as his braids were embarrassing.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Stars can justify all the hype with wins and a deep playoff run. Either way, they’re just about guaranteed to be appointment TV for anyone with even a remote interest in the sport.

That’s a victory in itself.

Poll: What to expect from the Dallas Stars

Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn
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Forecasting the way NHL seasons will play out is almost as much of a fool’s errand as, well, forecasting the weather.

Even so, there are certain teams who feel like “rain in Seattle”-type locks. One way or another, the Colorado Avalanche are expected to produce cringe-worthy possession stats. Even with some significant losses, many will predict that the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will hog the puck.

What do we make of the Dallas Stars?

Few doubted their offense in 2014-15, yet that explosive group stands as a great chance of being even scarier next season.

However you feel about the value of Dallas’ $10.4 million goalie duo, it’s easy to predict better results than the shaky work from before.

The defense is the real wild card, as there are so many young pieces that a huge improvement isn’t that outrageous to ponder, especially if Lindy Ruff’s decades of experience pay off.

One might reasonably pencil them in for a playoff berth – maybe? – but they’re suddenly spending like a contender. What kind of outcome do you expect from this team?