Author: James O'Brien

New York Islanders v Winnipeg Jets

Report: Flyers, Jets were ‘close’ to making Evander Kane trade


While discussing Evander Kane’s oft-noted uncertain future with the Winnipeg Jets, TSN’s Bob McKenzie provided an interesting nugget: the Philadelphia Flyers came “close” to landing the talented winger.

McKenzie didn’t provide any details regarding who (or what set of assets) the Flyers dangled in this alleged near-trade for Kane, which makes the mind wander even more since offensive firepower is maybe the sole unanimous strength of this Philly team. Would such a hypothetical trade meant a swap for one of Philly’s talented forwards? Perhaps Kane’s name came up when the Flyers decided that they needed to get rid of Scott Hartnell’s contract?

It all seems odd, except it does fit the Flyers restless need to shake things up from year to year, even if still-new GM Ron Hextall is apparently quite a bit more interested in stability over annual 180’s.

Setting aside the perplexing particulars, the 23-year-old would make some sense in a Flyers uniform.

He’s willing to throw his body around and drop the gloves; just consider his boxing-inspired name. Kane combines dazzling offensive potential with that rugged side. Oh yeah, he also makes his fair share of headlines via social media (which might be a double-edged sword in a market like Philly).

If nothing else, it’s a fun scenario to imagine … and maybe a situation people will revisit if Kane’s isn’t happy in Winnipeg, after all.

Grandpa Wayne: Paulina Gretzky’s having a baby


It looks like “The Great One” will soon become “Grampy 99,” as Wayne Gretzky’s daughter Paulina Gretzky shared the news that she’s expecting her first child with PGA golfer Dustin Johnson.

(Note: the Gretzkys might come up with a better nickname than “Grampy 99.”)

Alongside that photo, Paulina Gretzky wrote:

@djohnsonpga & i are so excited to finally share with you all our amazing news..we’re having a baby!!

Wayne’s son and Paulina’s brother Trevor Gretzky (currently in the Los Angeles Angels’ system) seems pretty excited about becoming an uncle:

The New York Daily News points out that Johnson is currently on a leave of absence from the PGA Tour. The two got engaged in August 2013.

Pondering Carolina’s outlook without Jordan Staal

Jordan Staal

While other key Carolina Hurricanes saw their play plummet and/or got injured the past few seasons, Jordan Staal has been reliable (if a bit underwhelming offensively) while playing every game in two campaigns.

After breaking a bone in his right leg on Tuesday, that streak is almost certain to end, leading to an uncomfortable question: where does this bit of bad luck leave the Hurricanes?

TSN’s Scott Cullen described the situation pretty succinctly, at least in a broader sense:

To get a little added perspective, PHT asked Shutdownline’s Corey Sznajder* how Carolina might handle the loss of a 26-year-old center who could tilt the ice in his team’s favor like few other Hurricanes:

“The most underrated part of his game was how he could drive play while not getting fed soft assignments, and I don’t know if anyone on the roster can do that right now. Eric Staal used to, but he hasn’t played those minutes in two years. Add in the fact that he’s coming off an injury and it’s just a tough situation all around.

In theory, Eric might be able to handle those minutes but then you’re going to be leaning on his line for a lot more than you used to.

A saving grace is that they have a couple of good defensive-minded centers who can soak up most of the tough territorial assignments, but who plays the tough matchups against other teams first lines will be interesting to see.”

Indeed, one would anticipate that the Hurricanes might try to absorb Staal’s absence “by committee.”

While his brother Eric might take some tougher shifts – the elder Staal started a luxurious 62.3 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone thanks in part to Jordan’s versatility – one would assume that the Hurricanes may lean on defensive specialist Jay McClement (who was almost the polar opposite to Eric Staal in only beginning 28.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone during his last season in Toronto) more than originally anticipated.

Staal averaged 18:56 minutes per night, with 1:37 of that coming shorthanded and 2:15 on the power play, which is a nice way of capturing his “Swiss Army Knife” identity as an NHL center.

The challenge facing new head coach Bill Peters is finding the right balance between having hard workers with limited offensive skill like McClement doing the “dirty work” versus giving Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and others enough easy scoring opportunities to keep this team afloat. It would be interesting to see if Peters provides any added perspective on this subject as this week goes along, as this is a formidable predicament.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s really not a neat and tidy answer to this question beyond hoping that Staal isn’t on the shelf for too long … and it’s also worth noting this Hurricanes team was already an “underdog” (at best) with Jordan Staal at full health in the first place.

Even so, it’s an intriguing early test and a cruel introduction to the random luck of NHL head coaching for Peters, especially if this issue keeps Staal out of action for a substantial amount of time.

* -For more on how much Staal helped the Hurricanes last season even when his offensive numbers weren’t always awe-inspiring, check out Sznajder’s work here and here.

Hurricanes say Jordan Staal broke a bone in his right leg

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers

Early reports regarding an injury to Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal were ominous for a reason: the team announced that he suffered a broken bone in his right leg in Tuesday’s 2-0 preseason loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Hurricanes didn’t provide a timetable for the 26-year-old’s recovery just yet. He’s set to return to Raleigh, N.C. with the team on Wednesday and is expected to be evaluated by team doctors on Thursday, so we might get a better idea regarding how much time he’ll miss then.

Staal suffered the injury when he was tangled up with Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. The two-way forward was on the ice for several minutes and was unable to put weight on his right leg while being helped to the locker room.

He managed to play in every Hurricanes game the past two seasons since being traded to Carolina, but that streak is likely to end. An already-shaky team can only wince in wondering how long he’ll be out.

Despite nerves, Leafs’ Nylander scores in preseason debut

Wiliam Nylander

For many, the NHL preseason is about shaking off rust and not getting injured. It’s easy to forget that these “irrelevant” games are sometimes life-altering moments for younger players in particular.

As the eighth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, big things are expected from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander. He’s already played with adult professional hockey players in Sweden, yet Tuesday’s preseason game left him undeniably nervous, as TSN’s Jonas Siegel reports.

One could argue that he showed his first evidence of converting that nervous energy into positive results, as the 18-year-old managed to score in Toronto’s 4-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers:

Head coach Randy Carlyle seems like he graded Nylander an “Incomplete” for the night, though.