This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
1. Pavel Bure — 836 votes
2. Trevor Linden — 332 votes
3. Markus Naslund — 159 votes
4. Mark Messier — 97 votes
When you think of the Canucks, often times memories go straight to 1994 and their run to the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers. While they lost that series in seven games, one of the most memorable players during their playoff run that season was Pavel Bure.
The “Russian Rocket” led all playoff goal scorers in those playoffs with 16 and had 31 points overall. Had things gone differently in that Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, it’s possible he would’ve won the Conn Smythe Trophy and canonized as the patron saint of Vancouver.
Instead, all he did was score 254 of his 437 career goals for the Canucks in a career marred by injuries. For the NHL, he was the human highlight reel using his blazing speed to get behind defenses and make goaltenders quake as he came roaring in to score. His back-to-back 60-goal seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 stand out as his best work in Vancouver and reasons why they retired his No. 10 last season and led to his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
While he doesn’t have the all-time standing in goals or points the way Naslund and Linden do, Bure’s breathtaking play helped make him the fans’ choice as the greatest player in franchise history.
By the way, congrats to the fans who attempted to swing the vote for Messier. You cracked the leader board.
By now you should all know about Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
When the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Final in 2012, Ekman-Larsson wowed fans who hadn’t had much of a chance to see him play with his ability to carry the puck and generate offense from the blue line. His ability to play strong in all three zones had many believing they were watching a future Norris Trophy winner.
Two years since then, the Coyotes have fallen out of the playoff picture but Ekman-Larsson’s play hasn’t fallen off. If anything, the 23-year-old is leading by example.
Over the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson has averaged over 25 minutes of ice time per game. Last season he played nearly 26 minutes per game and the ice time paid off as he had career-highs in goals (15) and points (44). His point total was second to Keith Yandle on the team defense and 14th best amongst defensemen in the NHL. Of the players ahead of him on the NHL list, only Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber saw more ice time.
While Yandle carried a bit more of the offensive load, Ekman-Larsson is taking care of business strongly at both ends of the ice. He’s also a major threat on the power play as 22 of his 44 points last season came with the man-advantage including eight goals.
When you check out Ekman-Larsson’s possession stats (courtesy Extra Skater), his game is strong.
In his first three seasons he had positive numbers that ranked him out amongst the best on the team. While his possession numbers fell off last season, the punch he and Keith Yandle provided offensively helped keep the Coyotes in the hunt for the playoffs all year.
As he enters his fifth season, Ekman-Larsson has all the hype and the skills to back it up. Now it’s his time to break through and enter the pantheon of other elite, young defensemen.
Most hockey fans remember Don Waddell as the former GM of the Atlanta Thrashers and the guy who wasn’t able to turn them into anything other than a regular lottery team.
Since stepping down from that job and seeing the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, he’s spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was just recently hired by the Carolina Hurricanes as the new team president.
Waddell’s job there, according to Luke DeCock of the News & Observer, will be to get the team’s finances in order and it’s a challenge he’s eager to tackle.
“My focus is on revenue-generating departments,” Waddell said. “Obviously, I’ve still got lots of other departments that need time and service, but my biggest focus is how we’re going to generate revenue in the short and long term.”
It’s easy to take shots at Waddell’s work with the Thrashers, and let’s face it some of his moves are still worthy of derision, but he’s someone who’s been a big figure with USA Hockey and he’s respected through the sport.
Still, moving from one Southern market to another in a means to try and help the Hurricanes generate better business is an interesting move.
When the Arizona Coyotes took forward Max Domi with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, they knew they were getting an offensively gifted player. Now they’re hoping he can be the guy to help give them a lift perhaps sooner than later.
Domi, the son of former NHL roughneck Tie Domi, has been an exceptional player for the OHL London Knights the past two seasons. Two years ago, he scored 39 goals with 87 points. Last season he topped his point total putting up 93 points with 34 goals.
Just like his father, he’s got a bit of the agitator in him as well as he had 90 penalty minutes last season. But it’s the offensive skills the Coyotes selected him for and now they may need to call on him to help keep the team in the playoff hunt out West.
Arizona lost Radim Vrbata to the Vancouver Canucks in free agency and bought out Mike Ribeiro after what Coyotes GM Don Maloney said were less-than favorable circumstances. For as poorly as things worked out with Ribeiro, he was still fifth on the team in points with 47. Vrbata was second with 51 including 20 goals.
The Coyotes were able to acquire Sam Gagner from the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s guys like Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker, Martin Erat and Shane Doan who shape up to carry the bulk of the offensive load. If you enter Domi into the equation and things start to look up, especially if he can use his skills to provide a spark.
If there’s an upside for Domi heading into training camp it’s that there shouldn’t be too much competition from other young players to battle for a spot with the big club.
Domi came close to cracking the lineup last season and with an added year of junior play to his record, you’d have to think he’ll be in a better position to make the Coyotes this time around.
If he can’t crack the lineup, he can go back to London and dominate for one more season. Only question there is whether there’s anything to be gained by going back to juniors.
When the New York Rangers signed defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year deal, they’re hoping he can do for them what he did with the San Jose Sharks. They want Boyle to create chances from the blue line, generate offense, and quarterback a power play that’s been in desperate need of a guy to do that for a while.
No big deal, right? Boyle knows he’s going to need to get it done in New York as Steve Zipay of Newsday shared.
“There’s going to be some pressure, I know,” said Boyle, who had six goals and 18 points with the man-advantage in what he termed a subpar 2013-14 season. “I’m just going to try to help, maybe provide some different looks.”
When you look at the Rangers setup on the power play, you can understand why they believe adding Boyle will help. Ryan McDonagh is an all-world player on the blue line and will get his time there, but after that things got a bit weird.
Dan Girardi was generally paired up with McDonagh at even strength, but it was Brad Richards with him on the power play. Now that he’s in Chicago after being bought out, that opens that spot up. In the playoffs, John Moore played the third-most minutes on the power play followed by Raphael Diaz, Anton Stralman, and Marc Staal.
It’s easy to see how Boyle will fit in there, now it’s just a question if at 38 years old he can still bring it.