Author: Joe Yerdon

Sabres’ Larsson says he’s proven what he can in AHL


The Buffalo Sabres might be in line for a long season, but Johan Larsson wants to be a big part of it.

Uffe Bodin of HockeySverige in Sweden (link in Swedish) interviewed the 22-year-old forward and found out he thinks he’s proven all he can in the AHL and is ready to make the jump to the NHL for good. Poorly translated quotes ahead:

“I’ve proven what I can in the AHL by playing well there,” Larsson said. “Now it’s time to take the next step.”

Larsson added that he feels he’s meant to play in the top-six and he’s worried he’ll start being thought of as a defensive forward rather than an offensive threat. He also said he’ll take any place on the big club if he’s earned it.

Last season in Rochester, he had 41 points in 51 games with 15 goals. In Buffalo, however, he played third and fourth line minutes and had no goals and four assists in 28 games.

If Larsson wants to be in the top six, there’s going to be a lot of competition.

Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart, and Mikhail Grigorenko will all battle in camp for spots up the middle in training camp. While Hodgson is likely to wind up on the wing, Larsson’s performance could help force coach Ted Nolan’s hand with both Reinhart and Grigorenko.

Reinhart, the second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, could be sent back to junior hockey while Grigorenko could wind up back in the AHL. Of course, Larsson could wind up back in the AHL as well. Long story short – training camp will be where the drama is at.

NHLers hold charity games in Slovakia honoring Pavol Demitra

Pavol Demitra

The plane crash that killed all the members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL in 2011 was one of the saddest stories in sports history. The lives lost that day ranged from veteran players who never left Russia to former NHL players who returned to Europe to keep their career going.

One of those players was Pavol Demitra and a host of former NHL players are touring his home country of Slovakia this summer hosting three charity hockey games to raise money for youth hockey in the country as shared.

A team of Slovak stars will face a team of St. Louis Blues stars in the games. Former NHL players Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Peter Bondra, Miroslav Satan, and John Wensink joined up with Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for the effort all to help remember their friend and countryman.

“I am glad that we could pay tribute to [Pavol] this way,” Chara said. “The other good thing was the game was a sellout. It shows people here love hockey. Playing with all these stars from both teams was a great honor for me.”

The two sides have played one game already in Poprad. Game 2 will be on Friday in Trencin followed by Game 3 in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, on Saturday.


McDavid on teams possibly tanking for him: ‘It’s pretty crazy’

Connor McDavid

BUFFALO — When the NHL announced changes to the Draft Lottery process on Wednesday for the 2015 and 2016 Drafts, it was considered a way to potentially combat against teams tanking in the upcoming season.

After all, with players of elite talent like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – possibly landing a franchise-changing player is something some might think stinking up the house for a season would be worth doing to land them.

McDavid doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

The 17-year-old star forward was in Buffalo on Thursday for the announcement that his team, the Erie Otters, would be playing a game in October at First Niagara Center. He was asked his thoughts on the NHL making the lottery changes and how it might all be because of him – a notion he doesn’t necessarily buy into.

“It’s pretty crazy,” McDavid said. “I don’t think too many teams are throwing seasons. I don’t think that’s how hockey works. I don’t think that’s how anyone who plays hockey thinks. Owners, GMs, coaches, players – no one just throws games away. That’s not how it works. Maybe it’s just a bit of a coincidence I guess, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Call it naiveté if you want, but the NHL began looking into fixing up the lottery process back in March.

While the threat of having multiple teams tanking to try and get the best odds is something the league is correct in trying to head off, keep in mind the team with the worst record hasn’t won the Draft Lottery since 2011 when Edmonton did it.

It’s all on Crosby, Malkin to make it work in Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Niskanen

In what might be the least surprising thing you’ll read on this website: If the Penguins are going to push for the Stanley Cup this season, it’s up to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to make it happen.

Yes, we know they’re the two best players on the team by far. Heck, they’re two of the best players in the league. They’ve both won MVP awards and they were vital to winning the Cup in 2009.

Consider this however: It’s been five years since that victory against Detroit. Since then, a myriad of injuries have befallen both superstars. For Crosby it was his head and his broken teeth and Malkin had his knee give way on him. Failing to win in the seasons affected by that is excusable, but last season felt like everything was there for the taking.

Crosby and Malkin were the team’s top two scorers with Crosby winding up with a runaway victory for the Hart Trophy. While Malkin had more injury trouble for parts of the year, 72 points is nothing to sneeze at especially when he played in 60 games. When he’s healthy, he’s a dominating offensive force the same as Crosby.

Yet somehow, success eluded them.

The Pens struggled in six games to knock off the Columbus Blue Jackets and blew a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers before losing in seven games. Crosby looked average for most of the postseason and while Malkin looked dangerous all playoffs long, he was often a man on an island trying to do it all himself.

The Penguins are at their best when both players are able to take over games or share the burden. Think back to that 2009 Cup Final – Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg was able to keep Crosby under wraps, but they had no answer for Malkin. That brand of play was missing in the playoffs last season.

For the Penguins to be at their most dominating, yes they’ll need help from teammates and new coach Mike Johnston certainly has a lot of pressure on him, but they’ll need Crosby and Malkin to show they’re the best every night to do it.

Sakic on Giguere: ‘His achievements speak for themselves’

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere made his retirement from the NHL official on Thursday.

After 16 seasons in the NHL that spanned from playing for the Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and ultimately the Colorado Avalanche – calling it quits at the age of 37 is just fine. He ends his career with 262 career wins, a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2003 and a Stanley Cup in 2007.

Colorado Avalanche president of hockey operations Joe Sakic had this to say about Giguere riding off into the sunset:

“On behalf of the Colorado Avalanche, I would like to congratulate Jean-Sebastien on an outstanding hockey career.  His achievements speak for themselves, from winning the Stanley Cup to winning the Conn Smythe, Jiggy was always a top-notch goaltender.  He was also a very important part of our team during the past three seasons, providing veteran leadership and stability in net.  We wish him and his family the best of luck.”

After being a first-round pick by the Whalers in 1995 (13th overall), he managed to have quite the career and was the face of a Ducks team for nine seasons backstopping them to two Stanley Cup Final appearances. Getting to have a Hockey Hall of Famer like Sakic to say some nice parting words upon retirement makes for a pretty nice gift.