Author: Joe Yerdon

Joe Thornton

Captain no more: Sharks strip Thornton of ‘C’


The inevitable has happened in San Jose.

No, they haven’t made a franchise-altering trade – they’ve stripped Joe Thornton of his captaincy.

Kevin Kurz of shared the update from GM Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan. Instead of Thornton wearing the “C,” no player will enter training camp with a letter. The Sharks will have no captain and no alternates and have no obvious form of leadership. That means former captain, and now former alternate captain, Patrick Marleau also loses his “A.”

As for who the next captain will be, that’ll be determined later and perhaps not before the start of the season. From Kurz:

“A new captain and leadership group will be determined at some point, but not necessarily before the start of the season. McLellan did not rule out Thornton becoming the captain again, although would seem to be a long shot, as the Sharks plan to give their younger players a bigger stake in the club.”

Thornton losing his letter isn’t a big surprise as McLellan said in late June there was the possibility of that happening.

That said, considering how the team has changed its tune regarding he and Marleau saying they’ll be “part of the solution,” it’s just another thing to add to the list of baffling moves the organization has made in the wake of blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs en route to a seven-game defeat.

If you think this is all head-scratching from the outside, imagine what it’s like being a Sharks fan.

Tank defense: NHL changes up Draft Lottery format

Bill Daly lottery

If your favorite team is hoping to tank next season to land Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft, just know their chances of landing the top pick just got worse.

The NHL announced changes to the NHL Draft Lottery that will see the odds of landing the top pick change slightly in 2015 and the lottery process change even more in 2016.

The league says the odds will be adjusted to “more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance in the League.” That means if your team has the worst record next season, their chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the lottery go from 25 percent to 20. That in itself is a 20 percent drop in chances to earn the top pick.

As for how the percentages change for all picks, here’s a handy chart via


As you can see, finishing with one of the three worst records no longer pays off as well in the lottery. Meanwhile, the other 11 non-playoff teams all see their chances of landing the No. 1 pick get a boost.

The team most obviously affected by these changes are the Buffalo Sabres. They’re expected to be one of, if not the, worst teams in the league and may stand the best chance of landing McDavid. Now if they wind up with the worst record, their chances of winning the lottery have gotten worse.

Then again, if the Sabres want to look on the bright side of things, if the New York Islanders and/or St. Louis Blues miss the playoffs, their chances of stealing the top pick have improved slightly since they own both of their first-round picks.

Keep those odds in mind because when it’s time for the 2016 Draft Lottery, there will be a drawing for each of the top three picks, not just the first overall selection. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how the NBA handles their draft lottery.

That means if you have the worst record in the league then, you’re not guaranteed either the first or second overall pick and that team could pick as low as fourth overall.

If teams are going to tank to land McDavid or Jack Eichel, they might find out doing so may not work out the way they intended while burning a season trying not to win too much.

Looking to make the leap: Shayne Gostisbehere

Shayne Gostisbehere

The Philadelphia Flyers are always known as a team loaded with veterans, so when one of their young players pops up on the national radar it becomes a bit of a big deal. When it’s a player who plays a position the Flyers could use help with, their hopes sometimes take on a life of their own.

Such is the case for Shayne Gostisbehere — though he’s already proven he can excel.

The 21-year-old defenseman is coming off a national championship with Union College. There, he was the best player for the Dutchmen and made Flyers faithful hope that they had their next big thing.

Last season,  Gostisbehere had nine goals and 34 points in 42 games. While he didn’t win the Hobey Baker Award — that went to Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau — he was a finalist, and his performance in getting Union their first ever title (he had one goal and four assists in the Frozen Four) was exceptional as he was named Frozen Four MVP.

Shortly thereafter, the Flyers signed him to his first pro deal.

The Flyers snagged Gostisbehere in the third-round in 2012, 78th overall, and he’s anxious to show he can crack the roster right away. His up-tempo play and ability to control and carry the puck through all three zones could provide the Flyers with a weapon they don’t exactly have on the roster right now.

Take a look at what the Flyers are set to start the season with on the blueline: Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Michael Del Zotto, and Nick Schultz are the veterans who should figure to make the team.

Kimmo Timonen could miss a big part of the season with blood clot problems and Schenn, Grossmann, Del Zotto and Schultz don’t inspire a lot of confidence. That leaves the door open for Gostisbehere to potentially force coach Craig Berube to make some difficult decisions in training camp.

The likelihood is Gostisbehere makes a good impression in camp and spends most of the season in Lehigh Valley of the AHL. That said, anyone who saw him play college hockey last season knows what he’s capable of, and perhaps a peek early on in Philly is all he needs to show he can be a NHL player sooner than later.

Report: Burmistrov interested in NHL return, just not in Winnipeg

Alexander Burmistrov

It’s been a year since Alexander Burmistrov bolted the Winnipeg Jets for the KHL but he may be looking to make a return to North America. He just may not want to do it in Winnipeg.

Slava Malamud of appeared on TSN Radio in Winnipeg on Monday and said the 2010 first-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers may be looking to come back.

“He said that he knows that the Jets were looking to trade him, and if that’s the case then he wouldn’t mind it as long as he comes back to the NHL,” Malamud said. “He’s being kind of diplomatic there, but the vibe I caught from that exchange when I read it in the original Russian was that he’s not too hot on the idea of coming back to Winnipeg, and he might want to try his luck somewhere else.”

When Burmistrov was here, he famously clashed with then Jets head coach Claude Noel. Burmistrov’s agent said Noel was the reason he headed back to Russia but Noel said he never had any issues with the now 22-year-old center. Burmistrov later blamed Noel and former Jets forward Olli Jokinen for his struggles in Winnipeg.

Burmistrov has already said he’ll be playing in Russia again next season, but after that a return to the NHL could happen in 2015-16. Should the Jets deal his rights, they’d be selling about as low as you can get for a guy who struggled in three seasons in the NHL before leaving for the KHL.

It’s Philadelphia Flyers Day at PHT

Jakub Voracek,  Vincent Lecavalier , Claude Giroux

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Philadelphia Flyers.

If there was a team whose season best resembled a roller coaster last season, it was the Philadelphia Flyers.

After getting off to a 0-3-0 start, the Flyers fired coach Peter Laviolette and brought in Craig Berube. Things didn’t get better right away as they went 3-6-0 in the next nine games and appeared to be in deep trouble after the first month of the season.

That’s when captain Claude Giroux took over. After decreeing they would make the playoffs, the real Flyers showed up going 39-21-10 the rest of the way and finishing third in the Metropolitan Division. Giroux had a season to remember finishing with 28 goals and 86 points – third best in the league behind Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf. As it turned out, those were his fellow finalists for the Hart Trophy that Crosby ran away with.

That’s neither here nor there though because Giroux’s performance was the kind of thing that makes you a legend in Philly. Not only did he help carry the team, he also helped bring others out their shell.

Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek had a career-years. Voracek had career-bests with 23 goals and 62 points and Simmonds did the same with 29 goals and 60 points.

One guy who had a hard time was Vincent Lecavalier. The new-old guy on the block did have 20 goals, but with just 37 points and looking not like the Vinny of old, he wound up in Berube’s dog house on the fourth line.

On defense, Mark Streit’s first season in Philly saw him produce the most points from the blue line with 44. Kimmo Timonen was next best with 35 and Braydon Coburn’s physicality made him a favorite. Perhaps the biggest surprise came in goal.

Steve Mason was the No. 1 guy in net and didn’t look like the guy we saw at the end of his run with the Columbus Blue Jackets. His .917 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average helped keep the Flyers rolling along all year while Ray Emery battled hard but didn’t put up great numbers.

In the end, all the good stuff didn’t much matter as they were bounced out in the first round by the New York Rangers in seven games.

Offseason recap

While we’ve become accustomed to the Flyers stealing headlines in the summer, the hiring of Ron Hextall as GM virtually slowed that to a crawl.

The big move this summer was the trade that sent Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Flyer R.J. Umberger. The Flyers felt they were done with Hartnell and his contract only to bring in Umberger and his shorter contract but not-as-good performance.

The biggest blow may have come from Timonen discovering multiple blood clots in his system – something that may keep him out for most of the season. That development led to the Flyers taking a chance and signing Michael Del Zotto. Philly also added Nick Schultz on defense to try and help add depth.

One move they haven’t made is moving Lecavalier. While rumors persisted for most of the summer that he would be finding his way out of town, and he nearly was dealt to Nashville, he’s still on the roster and the Flyers want more from him.