James O'Brien

Robin Lehner,

Under Pressure: Robin Lehner

11 Comments

If you want a hockey example of “be careful what you wish for,” look no further than Robin Lehner.

He’s getting what he likely pined for during his time with the Ottawa Senators – the No. 1 gig – yet he’ll face a challenging situation in Buffalo.

It doesn’t help matters that Sabres fans cringed at the cost of acquiring Lehner.

Lehner cost a first-round draft pick in a loaded draft while the Senators also managed to unload David Legwand’s contract. The 24-year-old may need to do a little convincing early on.

A bumpy 2014-15 season

Whether it was crafty veteran Craig Anderson or fast-food sensation Andrew Hammond, Lehner couldn’t snare the starting gig in Ottawa, and things only got worse when concussion issues ended his season altogether.

It’s easy to forget that Lehner sports a perfectly respectable career save percentage (.914) because his 2014-15 season was so unsightly: 9-12-3 with a mediocre .905 save percentage.

Long story short, Lehner has plenty to prove after a bumpy start to his NHL career.

source: AP
Via AP

A big opportunity, but a huge challenge

That said, he’s definitely getting a fair shot with the Sabres and GM Tim Murray. Murray was nothing if optimistic about acquiring the big Swede, as the Ottawa Sun noted after the trade.

“I think Robin needed a change of scenery,” Murray said. “I think he’s a very talented, big strong, young man that is just scratching the surface and, hopefully, we can bring the best out of him.”

Some might roll their eyes at the idea of a change of scenery making a difference, yet it’s not without precedent. Steve Mason’s resurgence in Philadelphia argues that a struggling netminder can thrive after a career Etch-a-Sketch shake.

Granted, it won’t be easy; Lehner’s essentially going from a holding pattern in Ottawa to a trial by fire with Buffalo. What do you think: will he sink or swim?

Drury, Ruggiero, Schneider headline 2015 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

Rangers Sign Chris Drury And Scott Gomez
3 Comments

The United States Hockey Hall of Fame announced its impressive 2015 class on Monday: Chris Drury, Angela Ruggiero, Mathieu Schneider and builder Ron DeGregorio.

Ruggiero is a trailblazer in women’s hockey, especially for the U.S. She won four Olympic medals, including a gold in Nagano. USA Hockey notes that her 256 games in a Team USA uniform tops any other player in the country’s history.

She also joined the Hockey Hall of Fame, so this has been a big year of recognition for Ruggiero.

Drury (pictured) might as well be synonymous with “winning.” He always seemed to find himself in the right spot to score big goals during his hockey career, so it’s no surprise that he enjoyed such team success: an NCAA title with Boston University in 1995, a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and strong international work. He’s also the only player to win a Calder Trophy and Hobey Baker Award.

Schneider won a Stanley Cup himself with Montreal in 1993 and was part of the World Cup of Hockey team that won it all in 1996. He was a two-time All-Star.

Here is a quick excerpt from a write-up for DeGregorio from USA Hockey:

Ron DeGregorio has helped shape American hockey for more than 40 years as one the most prominent volunteers in the history of USA Hockey and has conceived programs that have resulted in acclaim from around the world.

While DeGregorio’s ingenuity is evident in many areas, perhaps his most significant concept was starting USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 1996. A lightning rod for criticism when it was established, the NTDP has evolved into a revered program that has significantly enhanced elite player development and U.S. success in international competition.

Devils GM: Larsson has ‘only scratched the surface’ of his potential

Adam Larsson
9 Comments

New Jersey Devils blueliner Adam Larsson has been a disappointment at times, especially to those who took the Victor Hedman comparisons a little too seriously.

Still, he finally showed flashes of brilliance once he was “liberated from Peter DeBoer’s prison for young defensemen,” as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski wrote. Apparently the Devils saw enough to sign him to one of those deals that stands as risky today, but could be brilliant down the line: six years, $25 million.

Again, considering his production at this point, a $4.167 million cap hit seems a little steep. Larsson’s just 22 right now – he’ll turn 23 in November – so it isn’t crazy to ponder a significant leap. Defensemen take longer to develop, after all.

Devils GM Ray Shero definitely seems to think that the young Swede’s best days are ahead of him, as the Bergen Record notes.

“I think he’s only scratched the surface of the kind of player he’s going to be,” Shero said. “There’s a reason he was drafted when he was. He’s got a lot of experience already. He’s played a lot of ice time on the (penalty kill) and 5-on-5. He hasn’t had the chance to play a lot on the power play, yet.”

Shero believes the contract stands as a “good deal for both sides,” as Larsson gets a long-term deal while the Devils buy three of his unrestricted years.

Ultimately, though, we’ll probably look at it as either an overpay for a somewhat disappointing prospect (selected fourth overall in 2011) or a brilliant steal for a player who finally hits his prime.

In other words, if things work out, the Hedman comparisons might not be so outrageous after all.

PHT Morning Skate: Yep, Patrick Sharp’s Stanley Cup photos with his kids are adorable

sharpcup
6 Comments

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

OK, so this is actually field hockey related, but still pretty wild stuff about Cuban players defecting. (AFP)

Continuing with the theme of “peripherally about hockey but mostly about another sport” reads, check out this fascinating story about AVM, the company that in many ways spearheaded baseball’s stats movement. Hey, there’s at least a mention of Corsi. (Grantland)

The oral history of Lou Lamoriello’s New Jersey Devils’ days is absolutely worth a read. (The Hockey News)

Twenty-one things to note from Steve Moore’s Smashfest IV, which happened this past weekend. (Sportsnet)

A profile of Gilles “Bad News” Bilodeau. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Is it time for the Edmonton Oilers to find a new captain as Andrew Ference fades from relevance? (Oilers Nation)

ESPN’s Scott Burnside is the latest to take a stab at the “who missed the playoffs last season but will make it in 2015-16?” question. (ESPN)

Get this, these photos of Patrick Sharp, his children and the Stanley Cup are awfully cute. Shocking, right?

Pondering the future for Coyotes, Glendale after two-year lease expires

PNI coyotes main 0102
9 Comments

All things considered, two years of “certainty” probably feel like a decade to the Arizona Coyotes and their fans. Still, it’s more than reasonable to wonder what happens between the Coyotes and Glendale once that brief, compromised lease deal expires.

Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc emphatically admitted that a two-year lease isn’t ideal and that he’d like to begin negotiations to hammer out something more long-lasting as early as August.

Still, Fox Sports Arizona did a great job of pondering the possibilities in two years. Basically, it comes down to staying in Glendale, moving somewhere else in Arizona or relocating somewhere else entirely.

One interesting thing to consider from that Fox Sports Arizona article is that Glendale might have enjoyed the early advantage in this altered arena lease, yet the city must now consider damage control out of backing out on that deal.

“Even if they eke out a victory in the short term … they could still lose in the long term by damaging their brand for future negotiations,” Rodney Smith, of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of law, said last month. “Anyone is going to think long and hard before they decide to do business with Glendale.”

If the Coyotes leave town after two years, they’d take various sponsors and even the Gila River Arena naming rights with them, possibly leaving Glendale with a largely ineffective building.

To some extent, it may seem like the team might have some bargaining power, yet the Arizona Republic notes that leveraging situations such as possibly sharing a building with the Phoenix Suns may not be so easy:

The team has explanations and positive spin for everything, but in matters of public trust, deeds count more than words. And if they can’t afford to fight Glendale in the short term, how can they afford to split costs at US Airways Center for a few years until a new arena is built? How can they afford to be partners in a much bigger enterprise? And in the end, can they get Sarver fully on board?

After some contentious moments between the team and city, it might be tough to imagine LeBlanc getting his wish as far as negotiations starting soon. Perhaps it really would be best for everyone involved if they could find a long-term solution, though?