James O'Brien


Uh oh, Columbus’ cannon will be in NHL 16


To the torment of hockey beat writers who also play video games, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ cannon will apparently be recreated in EA Sports’ NHL 16.

The Blue Jackets believe that the real-life cannon blows up the digital counterpart, but let’s compare them side-by-side with a photo from Getty and EA’s screenshot:

source: Getty Images
Via Getty


Not bad.

For the sake of realism, will EA also post simulated tweets of on-the-scene reporters nearly having heart attacks thanks to the cannon, though? The game should include this nifty bit, too, actually:

It seems like NHL 16 is striving to emulate league arena atmospheres more and more, including the Tampa Bay Lightning’s tesla coil:


Maple Leafs sign Dermott, who they drafted after trading down

Travis Dermott
1 Comment

Draft days really lend themselves to “What if?” scenarios, but that seemingly applied to the Toronto Maple Leafs in particular.

The suddenly analytics-minded franchise traded down twice during the early moments of the 2015 NHL Draft, turning the 24th pick to the 29th pick and 61st, then eventually transformed that 29th into the 34th and 68th selections.

That second move-down happened with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets spotted something even more interesting: Toronto floated a deal to Columbus that would have involved the following before that swap ever happened:

  • Blue Jackets would have received the fourth overall pick.
  • Maple Leafs get choices eight, 34, 38 and 58.

That didn’t happen, yet the Leafs ended up making the 34th pick of the draft anyway by sending the 29th pick to Columbus. That 34th choice ended up being Travis Dermott (pictured), who signed an entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Pension Plan Puppets postulates that Dermott might not have ended up in Toronto’s organization if the Maple Leafs pulled off that exchange of high first-round picks:

Had the trade been made, it would have likely meant the Leafs wouldn’t have moved back later in the first round to select Dermott, and would have instead also had a shot at taking a player such as Travis Konecny, Nick Merkley or Jeremy Roy with their original 24th overall selection.

Really, the hypotheticals can get a little dizzying when you consider the multiple draft picks that actually ended up being involved and the ones that could have been involved. Most obviously, Leafs fans may wonder about various scenarios if they didn’t stick with the fourth pick and land Mitch Marner.

Of course, Marner ended up with Toronto, and so did Dermott. If nothing else, people cannot charge the Maple Leafs with being lazy this summer, and that busy run extends to the draft.

The 18-year-old defenseman scored 45 points in 61 games with the OHL’s Lake Erie Otters in 2014-15.

Here’s that draft day video of Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, which PPP pointed out:

Interesting stuff to ponder during this long hockey summer, right?

Fancy that: Pens hire War on Ice’s Sam Ventura

Pittsburgh Penguins logo

Perhaps there will be a sequel to 2014’s fancy stats summer?

It would be hard to top that this time around, but hardcore number-crunching hockey fans will likely take note anyway, as the Pittsburgh Penguins scooped up Sam Ventura, co-creator of War on IceThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Ventura was hired as a “consultant responsible for analytics.”

The team seems especially excited to add a local, especially one like the 27-year-old, who recently earned a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

“To have someone who grew up here in Pittsburgh, literally in our backyard, to have the skill set and knowledge base that Sam has, he seemed like the perfect fit,” Jason Karmanos told the Tribune-Review. “Once I met him and started talking to him, I knew that he was the perfect fit for our group here.”

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford seems to give advanced stats some serious respect extending back to his days running the Carolina Hurricanes (even if some situations worked out better than others in that regard).

Karmanos said that Ventura’s addition will “augment” the analytics arm in Pittsburgh, indicating that the team may do more in that area in the future.

Ventura’s hiring reminds one of the Toronto Maple Leafs snatching Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf last summer, although it sounds like there’s a chance War on Ice may function for some time. That said, Ventura’s venture shows that the “fancy stats” community can recover from big losses; perhaps Ventura may help the Penguins avoid more letdowns on the ice?

When Katy Perry isn’t enough: Glendale’s latest beef with Coyotes, IceArizona

Katy Perry

Sometimes even Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and the Eagles aren’t enough to turn around concert revenues.

The City of Glendale isn’t happy about IceArizona falling about $1 million short of its stated goals for Gila River Arena, as the Arizona Republic reports.

Peter Corbett’s story is basically a stream of unsettling – if sadly familiar – stats about the area, ownership group and team’s financial struggles. Here are a few key bits:

  • The arena hosted 14 concerts/events, doubling the total from the previous fiscal year. Still, a lot of free tickets were handed out – 16 percent of the 143,000 attendees – and, again, it ultimately meant falling approximately $1 million short of projections. The report indicates that they’ve been about $2 million shy of projections over two years, too.
  • Tom Duensing, Glendale interim assistant city manager, says that Glendale lost $8.15 million in 2013-14 and may lost as much as $8.5 million from this past season.
  • Hockey attendance is down 2.8 percent.
  • But, hey, there are two Taylor Swift concerts coming up!

Coyotes president Anthony LeBlanc released the following statement on the team and ownership’s behalf:

“We are pleased with the revenue generated for Coyotes games and non-hockey events at Gila River Arena thus far this year. We’ve made some great strides on the business side and we are moving in the right direction. Our goal remains to achieve profitability and we are confident that will happen in the future.”

There are variables that make this situation a little bit different, but the theme of lost cash amounts to the same old song and dance. A court hearing is set for July 31, so we’ll find out what happens next soon enough.

Being reunited with Roy in Colorado feels so good for Grigorenko

Mikhail Grigorenko

If anyone will give Mikhail Grigorenko the benefit of the doubt, it’s Patrick Roy.

The fiery Colorado Avalanche head coach was Grigorenko’s bench boss with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts in 2011-12 and 2012-13, his best days with that team. The 2011-12 campaign stands out in particular: 85 points in 59 games, a run that likely inspired the Buffalo Sabres to select him 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the 21-year-old told the Denver Post that he’s thrilled to play for Roy again, this time with the Avs.

“I can’t wait for the opportunity to have him as a coach again,” Grigorenko said. “I had my best years in Quebec and it was great having Patrick as a coach. He was great to me and taught me a lot of things on and off the ice. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me already, and I can’t wait to have him as a coach again.”

It’s probably an understatement to say that Grigorenko needed this change of scenery in the form of being traded from the Buffalo Sabres (and signing a one-year deal reportedly at $675K).

He’s going to a place where his coach could vouch for him, which stands in contrast to Buffalo, where people wondered why Grigorenko was “afraid” of signing a two-way deal and former head coach Ted Nolan slammed his efforts as “lackadaisical.”

Back in March, Roy stood up for the struggling prospect, praising his skills and hockey sense to the Buffalo News.

While some will judge Grigorenko as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade package, his cheap contract strengthens the argument that the Avalanche are making a low-risk move here. If optimism makes any difference, Roy may very well help Colorado strike quite the bargain.