Author: Joe Yerdon

Canada ball hockey - Rosen

They’re playing ball hockey at Team Canada camp


Thanks to insurance costs, both Team Canada and Team USA can’t participate on ice during their respective Olympic orientation camps. That’s not stopping Team Canada from trying to get some work in, however.

As Dan Rosen of shares, coach Mike Babcock coached two groups through drills via ball hockey. They covered up the ice at MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park and treated it like a day on the rink. Sort of.

The point to breaking out the ball hockey game was to help illustrate what Babcock wants to do on the larger ice surface they’ll deal with in Sochi. With international rinks sized at 200×100 there are methods to be addressed.

If they wanted to make this truly authentic ball hockey, however, they’d occasionally drive a car through to keep it lively.

(Photo: Dan Rosen via Twitter)


The Islanders’ future is happening right now

John Tavares

After years of finishing poorly, the New York Islanders piled up an impressive array of draft picks and more than a few of those guys are there already to put the organization on their back.

Any discussion like this begins with John Tavares. If you missed out on what he did for the Isles last season you missed an incredible performance by a 22-year-old. His 28 goals and 19 assists in 48 games led the team in scoring and earned him a spot as a Hart Trophy finalist.

By leading the Isles to their first playoff berth since ’06-’07, Tavares at the very least became a folk hero on Long Island. What he may have actually done though is sealed the deal to be the next team captain. By teaming up with Matt Moulson to provide a killer one-two punch, the Isles have at least one line that can score on anyone in the league.

The fun part for Isles fans and executives alike? He’s not even close to the only young guy emerging.

Among the forwards, there’s a host of young guys thriving on the Island. Josh Bailey (23), Brock Nelson (21), Kyle Okposo (24), Michael Grabner (25), Casey Cizikas (21), Matt Martin (23), and Anders Lee (22) all saw time last season with the Isles. 2011 first-round pick Ryan Strome (20) will join that group this year.

And you wonder why GM Garth Snow mostly stayed away from the free agent market this summer.

Things aren’t any different on defense where Travis Hamonic has emerged as one of the best the Isles have there. At 22 years old he’s playing top minutes in all situations and he’s got other young guys right there with him.

Thomas Hickey (23) and Brian Strait (25) both emerged as key players last season and Matt Donovan (23), Calvin de Haan (22), and Griffin Reinhart (19) will look to crack the NHL roster in training camp.

Of those last three, Reinhart has the highest potential but may stay in juniors. 2013 first-round pick Ryan Pulock could eventually figure into the mix as well.

Long story short, you might look at the Isles roster before the season starts and ask, “Just who are these guys?” Chances are you’ll get to learn them quickly because they’re going to be part of the Isles’ continued rise out of the basement.

Rangers’ Girardi to wear a visor this season

Dan Girardi

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi is going to look a little different on the ice next season.

According to the Rangers, Girardi took to the ice today in a pre-camp workout and was rocking a brand new visor on his helmet, something he’s never worn in his time as a pro.

The reason for him making the change probably have everything to do with what happened to teammate Marc Staal a year ago.

Staal suffered a serious injury after taking a puck in his eye back on March 5. Staal missed the rest of the regular season and returned to play in one postseason game, Game 3 against Washington in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The NHL has made visors mandatory for new players, but that doesn’t apply to Girardi. Seeing him make the switch makes a world of sense not just for logical reasons but also because he’s consistently been a league-leader in blocking shots.

Devils re-sign Henrique to six-year, $24 million deal

Adam Henrique

A summer that’s been filled with rough news for the Devils just got made a lot better.

The team announced they’ve re-signed restricted free agent forward Adam Henrique to a multi-year contract. Sportsnet’s Shawn McKenzie reports it’s a six-year deal worth $24 million.

Henrique was the team’s third-round pick in 2008 and over the past two seasons, he’s shown he fits right into the NHL.

Two seasons ago, he scored 16 goals with 35 assists and was their go-to clutch player in the postseason. His overtime goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals put the Devils into the Stanley Cup Final against Los Angeles.

In that time he’s scored 27 goals with 40 assists in 117 career NHL games. Last year, he spent part of the season in the AHL thanks to the lockout where had his time cut short there thanks to a broken thumb.

What will be curious to see now is how this affects Nazem Kadri’s situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs as he’s in a similar situation to Henrique as a restricted free agent. Kadri was reportedly seeking $6 million a year but denied those reports.

Islanders may have a big question mark in Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov

The New York Islanders last season saw Evgeni Nabokov provide stability to a position that saw endless questions surrounding it last season. After years of watching Rick DiPietro try to lock things down in goal only to see injury throw a wrench into the plans, Nabokov’s steady play led the Islanders back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.

This offseason saw GM Garth Snow opt to bring back Nabokov rather than sniff around at other available netminders because “the team wanted him back.” At 38 years old, his best years are likely behind him. With the Islanders on the rise, is it possible the guy who kept them steady last season will be the one holding them back now? Perhaps.

Nabokov’s two seasons with the Isles have seen him be an average to slightly below-average goalie. Check the numbers:

2011-12:  19-18-3  .914 SV%  2.55 GAA

2012-13:  23-11-7  .910 SV%  2.50 GAA

The goals-against average is OK and while the save percentage might look scary, some of his winningest seasons with the Sharks saw him put up the exact same numbers.

Of course, the Sharks also had issues flaming out in the playoffs earlier than they should have so maybe that’s not the greatest thing to bring up.

As he showed against the Penguins in the playoffs, Nabokov had problems keeping up after the regular season. He stopped shots at a .842 rate (a career postseason low) and if it weren’t for Marc-Andre Fleury’s struggles, Nabokov’s play would’ve come under more fire.

With performances like this, you have to wonder if a team like the Islanders, who have a superstar in John Tavares, a great goal-scorer in Matt Moulson, budding defensive talent in Travis Hamonic and other great youth either already on the scene or on the way, will see their seasons put in peril by Nabokov’s play.

The team seems to support him and pick him up when he struggles, but at some point that kind of magic goes away. At age 38 and after such disappointing play in the postseason, Garth Snow and gang have to be prepared in case he hit the wall already.