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.
SB Nation shares its All-Bargain Team. Victor Hedman has to at least be an honorable mention, right? (SB Nation)
Another bit of support for why Mikael Backlund is considered a hidden gem for the Calgary Flames. (The Score)
Want to track line combinations? This is one site aiming to do so, which cannot be easy considering how often NHL coaches tweak their lineups. (Roster Resource)
Apparently even Gabriel Landeskog thinks the Colorado Avalanche’s possession stats were batty last season:
As dangerous as Alex Ovechkin is from the faceoff circle area, here’s compelling evidence that Steven Stamkos deserves credit as the king of that angle:
Another fun shot chart from War on Ice’s interface: Patric Hornqvist could really be a monster on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play:
TSN 1200 had The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle on to talk about how RFID’s might be used to track player movement and give NHL teams (and maybe fans) a whole new set of stats to consider. The NBA already has instituted such ideas; here’s one good example. (TSN 1200)
P.K. Subban answers fan questions for NHL.com:
After months of mixed (at best) statements between the player and the team, Evander Kane said he was happy to be with the Winnipeg Jets recently.
What really matters is how Kane and the team performs going forward though, really. At 23, Kane is at or around the peak years for a star forward, so fellow prominent Jets scorer Blake Wheeler might be fair in throwing down the gauntlet as he did with ESPN’s Craig Custance on Tuesday:
Update: Apparently Kane came across Wheeler’s comment and offered this rather interesting rebuttal:
Naturally, it’s not just about Kane. Wheeler shared his take on what he thinks will be a winning strategy for Winnipeg:
In some ways, Wheeler’s speed-oriented strategy talk reminds of Taylor Hall hoping that the Edmonton Oilers can evoke the New York Rangers’ puck possession and speed from their 2014 postseason run in that it’s all about playing to a team’s strengths.
Of course, such a strategy will be a lot more successful if one of the league’s budding power forwards can flirt with (if not, dare we say, best) his 30-goal form from 2011-12.
In case you’re wondering, only eight percent of PHT voters said the Jets shouldn’t trade Kane, while a slight majority said Winnipeg should only move him if there’s a strong market. Long story short, the jury is very much out on a power forward with a lot of potential who draws quite a bit of controversy.
It happens with almost every great defenseman: mistakes are made considering the substantial ice time and challenges they face and those gaffes are often magnified when there’s a narrative at the ready. So it goes with Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara: as he gets older, any mistake or rough series serves as a catalyst for questions about a decline.
Really, though, it’s actually somewhat difficult to state empirically that Chara is already on the downside of his career.
Yes, he’s 37, but his possession stats remain strong even amid tough assignments and he was a deserving finalist for the 2014 Norris Trophy. Changes to his ice time have been subtle, at least in the last couple seasons. In the grand scheme of things, most critiques about his ability to maintain elite form are anecdotal.
Still, there’s one thing that’s not really up for debate: as the largest specimen to ever play dominant NHL hockey, he probably has to really work hard to stay mobile enough to thrive in a game that gets faster every year.
Luckily, Chara recognizes that. He told CSNNE.com that he’s emphasizing footwork, quickness, speed and agility in his offseason training.
“It’s no secret that for a big guy of my size you always have to work on the quickness,” Chara said on Monday. “You have to try to always be on top of that, and your footwork. It’s not so much about being strong as it is also being quick.”
Chara is a renowned fitness freak, so if anyone can keep things going despite seemingly improbable size and the natural decline that comes with age, it’s someone who almost seems to defy logic like “The Big Z.”
Even as they bring along promising young defensemen, the Bruins are still banking on Chara remaining among the best in the game.
While there’s some controversy surrounding the series’ jump to the Xbox One and Playstation 4, it’s difficult to quibble with NHL 15 featuring Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron as its cover star (even if that honor came down to fan voting).
In a way, it almost seems to fit into this summer of “advanced stats,” as Bergeron is typically the type of player who doesn’t get his due in video games, as they tend to glorify the high-scorers over everyone else. As the games have deviated from “arcade” styles, nuances show up in the gameplay, and few players do everything as well as the Bruins’ two-way forward.
That doesn’t mean that the 29-year-old has any issues with that bygone era of games. In fact, it sounds like he was once a big fan of the classic versions of EA’s series.
NHL 15 raised some eyebrows with some rather amusing and unexpected ads featuring Bergeron and his teammate Brad Marchand, prompting quite the one-liner from the B’s pivot:
For reference, here’s Marchand signing:
(Click here for Bergeron’s bit.)
The cover voting came down to Bergeron and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who probably still had the more enjoyable summer considering that lucrative contract extension and the Habs’ triumph in a seven-game series against Boston in the 2014 postseason. Bergeron referenced that today:
NHL 15 released in North America today. Reviews have been … mixed so far.
The Arizona Coyotes’ roster seems fairly set according to Cap Geek’s count, yet things get a lot cloudier when one wonders how well some of those players might actually fare in 2014-15. If an abbreviated list of professional tryouts is any indication, the Coyotes could boast one of the most competitive training camps in the league.
Defensemen Jamie McBain and Matt Smaby join forward Matt Kassian as players with tryout invites while the team mulls over a few more, according to AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan.
Here’s a quick rundown of each player:
- McBain (pictured) has 275 games of NHL experience at age 26. He spent most of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes, although he was part of the Buffalo Sabres’ beleaguered defense last season. McBain isn’t that far removed from 30 and 27-point seasons, so it’s reasonable to think he has a shot at redeeming his career. His possession numbers were shaky in 2013-14 in particular, yet that’s probably a common refrain for skaters on that woeful Buffalo squad.
- Smaby, 29, hasn’t played in the NHL since his 32 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010-11. He played for Munich in Germany (DEL) last season.
- Kassian, 27, played 33 games with the Ottawa Senators last season, managing two points and collecting 63 penalty minutes. Obviously there’s probably no expectation that he’ll provide much-needed offensive help, yet he could bring a rugged edge if the Coyotes need it. His rough style might inspire people to wonder if he’s related to Zack Kassian, but that’s not the case.
Interestingly, all three of these players were second-round picks.
In other Coyotes news, the team hired former NHL forward Steve Sullivan as a development coach on Monday.