Jason Brough


Five NHL team stats you may find interesting


129.9% — The combined power play and penalty kill rates of the Columbus Blue Jackets, by far the highest in the NHL. The Jackets’ power play is converting at a ridiculous 39.3 percent, while their PK is a very respectable 90.6 percent. Young center Alexander Wennberg leads all NHLers with eight PP assists, and nobody would’ve predicted that. So yeah, Torts’ job is probably safe for now. Amazing what a 10-0 win can do for a team. (Also, a really good rookie defenseman.)

80.7% — The lowest combined rate, which belongs to the Calgary Flames. It’s still early in Glen Gulutzan’s tenure as head coach, but that’s not particularly encouraging, given Bob Hartley lost his job in part due to poor special teams. Last season, the Flames had the 22nd-ranked PP and 30th-ranked PK. This season, the PP and PK are 30th and 29th, respectively. So if anything, the Flames’ special teams have taken a step back.

-5.4 — The shot differential of the Montreal Canadiens, who have only lost one game in regulation. Which is to say, welcome back, Carey Price! Because the only team with a more negative shot differential than Montreal is Arizona (-6.3), and the Coyotes (4-7-0) are dead last in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks (9-3-1) are another winning team with a negative shot differential (-4.1). In a related story, Corey Crawford was named the NHL’s second star for last week.

$6.3 million — The combined cap hit of Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Brandon Pirri, and Mika Zibanejad, four new Rangers forwards who have combined for 19 goals and 19 assists in 13 games. Granted, there are performance bonuses attached to Vesey’s contract, and Zibanejad will require a hefty raise next season, but hats off to general manager Jeff Gorton for getting creative with a team that appeared to be in trouble after last season.

.864 — The Flyers’ team save percentage, the lowest in the league. What’s especially perplexing is that Philly had the same two goalies last season, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, and their team save percentage was .915, tied for fifth overall. Wish we could explain it, but we can’t. At least nothing has changed in Carolina, Winnipeg, Calgary, Dallas, Toronto and Arizona. Those six teams all ranked in the bottom 10 of save percentage last season, and they do again this season.

NHL odds: Desjardins replaces Torts as most likely to be fired first


John Tortorella is no longer the favorite to become the NHL’s first coaching casualty of the season. Torts has been replaced by Vancouver’s Willie Desjardins, who’s now getting 2/1 odds from online bookmaker Bovada.

The Canucks have lost nine games in a row, and have just one regulation victory in their first 13. So it’s no surprise that Desjardins is on the hot seat, even if Vancouver’s management and ownership may deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the team’s direction.

Desjardins was hired by the Canucks in 2014, after Tortorella was fired. Vancouver made the playoffs in Desjardins’ first season, but lost to Calgary in the first round —  a series in which Desjardins’ tactics and deployment were heavily criticized.

The honeymoon over, the Canucks proceeded to have a nightmarish 2015-16 season. However, injuries were blamed for the team’s 28th-place finish and Desjardins was not fired.

Instead, Desjardins was asked by management to play with better defensive structure. Though things looked promising for the first four games of the current season, all Vancouver wins, that optimism was extremely short-lived.

As for Tortorella, his prospects have improved since the Blue Jackets lost their first two games. Columbus is now 5-3-2, with a 10-0 destruction of Montreal among its victories.

The full list of odds:


Colorado will ‘ride’ Pickard, who’s off to hot start for Avs

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It’s always interesting when a backup goalie gets off to a hot start, and it’s even more interesting when there’s a struggling starter, too.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Colorado, where Calvin Pickard (3-0-0, .946) will get the nod against the Coyotes tonight, while Semyon Varlamov (2-6-0, .881) sits and watches.

“If we have a hot goalie,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told the Denver Post, “then we’ll ride him and kind of move on from there on a week-to-week basis.”

Pickard is certainly hot. He shut out the Wild on Saturday, then relieved Varlamov Sunday and didn’t allow a goal in a period of work.

Pickard, 24, is actually just picking up where he left off last season, which he finished with a .922 save percentage in 20 appearances. He re-signed for two years over the summer, for a cap hit of just $1 million. He’ll still be a restricted free agent when his contract expires.

Varlamov, meanwhile, is signed through 2018-19 for a cap hit of $5.9 million. And with 320 career NHL starts to his name, the 28-year-old’s body of work is obviously much larger than Pickard’s.

But it does bring up an interesting scenario, should Pickard continue to play well. Would the Avs consider protecting him over Varlamov in the expansion draft?

It’s probably too early to ask that question, but hey, we asked it anyway.

The Avs continue their four-game home stand Friday against the Jets. The Bruins visit Sunday, the Kings Tuesday.

Benning remains resistant to more aggressive Canucks rebuild


The Vancouver Canucks may have lost nine straight games, and they may only have one regulation win in their first 13, but true to form, their general manager isn’t giving up yet.

In the face of renewed calls for a more aggressive rebuild, Jim Benning told The Province newspaper that he wasn’t interested in trading a player like Chris Tanev.

“Tanev is a big part of our group and we’re not looking to move him,” Benning said. “Chris is still young and one of our better defensemen …. It all starts with your D-men and getting out of your own zone fast and getting through the neutral zone. We miss Chris when he’s not playing.”

Of course, all the reasons Benning provided for keeping Tanev are the exact same reasons for trading him. The 26-year-old would net the Canucks a solid return, one that could be put toward a brighter long-term future for the franchise.

But so far, Benning has resisted such trades. It was a similar response over the summer when it came to Jannik Hansen.

“We’re not moving Jannik,” he said in July. “I thought he was excellent for us last year and with the way the game is going with speed and skill, he fits that description perfectly. And we have him under a good (cap) number the next couple of years, so we’re not looking to do anything.”

The problem is, the “next couple of years” don’t look so promising for the Canucks. Hence, the argument to get what they can now for Tanev, Hansen, Alex Edler, or whichever veterans (not named Sedin) won’t still be in their primes when the club is ready to be competitive again.

Now, would the Canucks be even worse without Tanev, Edler and Hansen in the lineup?

Yes, they would.

But let’s face it, the argument to develop the Canucks’ young players in a “winning environment” kind of loses strength when all the team does is lose.

Vancouver continues its six-game road trip tonight in New York against the Rangers.

Related: Benning says Canucks need Virtanen in Vancouver, not the AHL

Goligoski off to a frustrating start in Arizona


The Arizona Coyotes gave Alex Goligoski a hefty contract this offseason, because they felt he “plays the new age of defense,” i.e. he moves the puck well and has the ability to join the attack.

But it’s been a frustrating start for Goligoski with his new team. Though the 31-year-old does have six assists in 11 games, he’s also a team-worst minus-8, with some of the worst possession numbers in the league.

The fact the Coyotes are 4-7-0 doesn’t help either.

“Coming to a new team you want to come in and have an impact, be a good teammate and player and help the team get wins,” Goligoski told the Arizona Republic, “so it’s a little frustrating in the sense that we haven’t started out the way we wanted, or the way I wanted, but it’s a long season.”

Goligoski spent the last five seasons in Dallas, where the Stars are much farther along than the young Coyotes.

In Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Ducks, Arizona iced a lineup that featured an 18-year-old (Jakob Chychrun), two 19-year-olds (Lawson Crouse, Dylan Strome), a 20-year-old (Christian Dvorak), and two 21-year-olds (Max Domi, Anthony Duclair).

With all that youth, there are bound to be mistakes.

“He’s probably had to defend a lot more here in the last 11 games than he had to overall in Dallas,” said assistant coach Jim Playfair.

Excuses aside, the Coyotes need the Goligoski signing to work out. He’s under contract through 2020-21, for a cap hit of $5.475 million.

The hope is that the Coyotes will soon be able to play the type of hockey in which Goligoski can thrive, because being forced to defend the entire game is not his strong suit.