Author: Jason Brough

Jakub Voracek, Cam Ward

Carolina GM: ‘In five of our losses, we clearly were the better team’


Carolina GM Ron Francis believes his team deserves better than a 6-10-2 record.

“The frustrating thing for us is that in five of our losses we clearly were the better team but did not win,” Francis told the News & Observer. “That’s 10 points. That’s the difference of where we are in the standings and where we could be.

“I also know if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. This is an outcome-based industry and you have to win.”

We touched on the Hurricanes’ scoring issues last week. Statistically, they’ve been one of the best puck-possession teams in the NHL. Right up there with Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago, and Washington.

But there’s more to hockey than simply possessing the puck. The key is actually doing something with the puck. (It’s sort of like that Seinfeld bit about rental-car companies. “You know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”)

Another key is goaltending, which Francis admits “needs to be better.” Neither Cam Ward nor Eddie Lack have been very good. In fact, Carolina is tied with Calgary for the lowest team save percentage (.880) in the NHL.

The ‘Canes host Toronto on Friday.

Report: Winning All-Star team could get a million bucks


The NHL has come up with a unique way to make the players try harder in the All-Star Game.

It’s going to bribe them.

From TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who has the details of the new 3-on-3 tournament format:

It’s believed there’ll be a significant sum on the line for the 11 members of the winning team, perhaps as much as (say it in your best Dr. Evil voice) one million dollars. That’s almost $100,000 per player on the winning team. Is that enough motivation to play at a brisk, entertaining pace for 40 minutes of 3-on-3?

Again, we’re going to find out, and that’s really the takeaway here: if this doesn’t work, nothing will.

Well, I’m not sure “nothing” would work. Didn’t Homer take Bart’s turtle hostage in The Simpsons’ hockey episode? (“Well, boy, you won. So I’m going to live up to my side of the agreement: Here’s your turtle, alive and well.”)

Do any NHLers have turtles? I feel like Brent Burns definitely has a turtle.

Anyway, I wrote yesterday that the biggest problem with last year’s game was the pace. Nobody wants to see the best hockey players in the world mess around for 60 minutes. After the first five or six goals, it gets kinda repetitive. And last year, there were 29 goals scored. That damn cannon in Columbus.

The NHL is expected to officially announce the format later today.

The All-Star Game is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31, in Nashville.

No suspension for Niederreiter; Maatta remains in hospital (Updated)


Wild forward Nino Niederreiter will not be suspended for shoving Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta into an open door on the Minnesota bench. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo confirmed that this morning.

Despite the injury suffered by Maatta, the NHL likely agreed with Niederreiter that it was an “unfortunate” result that would not have occurred if the door had remained closed. (Update: Yep, that was the reasoning.)

“I pushed him and went for a change and I think he toe-picked the same time and the door was open,” Niederreiter said. “You never want to see anything like that. Obviously I feel bad.”

As for Maatta, here’s the latest on his condition, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta remains in an area hospital following a hit from Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter Tuesday night during the Penguins’ 4-3 win at Consol Energy Center, general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday morning.

Team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas is in the process of performing surgery on other patients, Rutherford said, and the Penguins hope to learn more about Maatta’s condition later today.

We’ll pass along more information when it becomes available.

Update from the Penguins:

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta suffered an upper body injury in Tuesday’s game and spent the night in the hospital.

He remains in the hospital today for observation and will be re-examined later in the day.

The upper body injury is not related to previous injuries Maatta has suffered.

Another update:

And another one, from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Injured Pittsburgh Penguin defenceman Olli Maatta did not sustain any internal injuries, as was first feared when he was shoved through an open bench door by Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter Tuesday night, but there’s enough soft tissue and muscle damage to his mid-section that he’s likely to be considered more week-to-week than day-to-day.

It’s still too early, though, to put a precise timeline on his absence from the Penguins’ lineup

Nobody’s got a better blue line than Nashville

Shea Weber, Roman Josi

Three ways to say that Nashville’s strength is on the blue line:

— Of the 48 NHL defensemen with at least eight points, five of them are on the Nashville Predators.

— Nashville d-men have 52 points combined. The forwards don’t have a ton more: 79.

— It’s not just assists the d-men are racking up. They’ve scored a third (17) of the Predators’ 51 goals.

Convinced? OK, good.

In last night’s 3-2 victory over Anaheim — a win that improved the Predators’ record to 11-3-3 — captain Shea Weber scored his sixth of the season, assisted by Roman Josi:

With a limited budget to work with, GM David Poile has already managed to lock up four of his blue-liners. Weber is signed through 2026, Mattias Ekholm through 2022, Josi through 2020, and Ryan Ellis through 2019.

The next one could be Seth Jones, a pending restricted free agent. At last glance, contract talks with the 21-year-old were “ongoing.” Barrett Jackman, 34, is signed through next season.

Now, granted, it’s more than fair to question other parts of the Predators’ roster. For example, do they have the top centers (Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher) to win a Stanley Cup? The same question is asked of good teams like the Canadiens and Rangers. It’s a legitimate concern when you consider the quality of the centers that have won the Cup.

But it’s sure a luxury for coach Peter Laviolette to have the blue line he’s got. Nobody has to play too many minutes. Nobody gets worn down. Josi leads the Preds in average ice time, at 24:56. That’s not nothing, but it’s manageable.

In fact, maybe the Preds have stumbled upon a model for small-market franchises that can’t spend to the salary cap. Think about it. There are only six defensemen. There are 12 forwards. Don’t skimp on the blue line, try to find bargains up front. Hey, just a thought.

52 points by six d-men

Roman Josi: 4G, 9A
Shea Weber: 6G, 4A
Seth Jones: 1G, 9A
Ryan Ellis: 2G, 7A
Mattias Ekholm: 3G, 5A
Barret Jackman: 1G, 1A