<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

St Louis Blues v Dallas Stars

Benn, Hemsky ‘very doubtful’ for most of Stars’ preseason games

Dallas captain Jamie Benn and winger Ales Hemsky — both of whom underwent major hip surgeries this summer — look as though they’ll miss a fairly significant chunk of the club’s exhibition campaign.

“We’re going to monitor them,” GM Jim Nill said on Monday, per Stars Inside Edge. “They’re on their schedule; they are feeling very well, and they are starting to do full practices.

“Very doubtful they’ll play the first four or five exhibition games. We are hoping to get them in the last couple games, which is the best-case scenario. We are going to play it by ear. We’ve gone this far, it’s a long year, and we are going to make sure they are 100 percent before they play.”

Benn, the NHL’s reigning scoring champ, actually underwent two hip surgeries this offseason to address femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, which resulted in bone spurs that formed on the head of his femur.

Hemsky, a major disappointment in his first year in Dallas, was hampered by hip problems all season long before eventually deciding to go under the knife.

As for their lineup returns, Dallas kicks off its preseason campaign in Florida on Sept. 22, the first of seven games.

Looking at the calendar and taking Nill’s 4-5 game prognosis into account, it looks like both Benn and Hemsky would draw in for the club’s penultimate exhibition contest — on Oct. 1 versus the Lightning — or, failing that, take part in the last preseason game in Chicago on Oct. 3.

‘Nothing wrong’ with B’s coaching staff, says Marchand

Claude Julien, Brad Marchand

Boston forward Brad Marchand has given Claude Julien and his coaching staff a vote of confidence.

Well, sort of.

“There’s nothing wrong with our coaching staff,” Marchand told CSNNE. “That wasn’t the reason that we didn’t make the playoffs last year. We didn’t have guys pulling their weight.

“When you look at the system, it’s worked for a long time now.”

After the Bruins fired GM Peter Chiarelli in mid-April, many expected Julien to follow him out the door. Club president Cam Neely refused to give the veteran head coach a vote of confidence, only saying that Julien’s fate would be decided by the new GM — which just so happened to be Chiarelli’s ex-assistant, Don Sweeney.

In early June, Sweeney made the call to bring back Julien for his ninth season behind the Bruins’ bench. But unlike Marchand’s remarks above, Sweeney wasn’t as enamored with the club’s system and playing style, suggesting changes needed to be made.

Julien agreed.

“Teams’ forechecking has changed a lot, so there are things we feel we can do with our transition game that we feel we can do a lot better with creating some speed,” he said this summer, per the Boston Herald. “We had already kind of addressed that and we’re going to introduce that into camp like we do every year.

“To me, those aren’t changes. Those are adjustments like we do every year.”

As for those adjustments, two major ones are on the horizon for this season — defensemen moving up, and weak-side wing overloads, both in an effort to improve the breakout.

For more on that, read this insightful Boston Globe article.

And here’s the full Marchand-Torey Krug interview on CSNNE:

Rantanen wants to follow in footsteps of Duchene, Landeskog, MacKinnon

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

When the Avalanche took big Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen 10th overall at this year’s draft, they — knowingly or not — put a fair bit of pressure on the kid.

This is a club, after all, with a history of not just throwing its top picks straight into the mix, but also getting great results from it:

Matt Duchene, taken 3rd overall in ’09, finished as a Calder finalist for rookie of the year.

Gabriel Landeskog, taken 2nd overall in ’11, won the Calder.

Nathan MacKinnon, taken 1st overall in ’13, won the Calder.

This puts a fairly big spotlight on Rantanen as Colorado’s camp opens this week. The 18-year-old, who already has three years of professional hockey experience under his belt (with TPS Turku of the Finnish league), inked his entry-level deal in July and is now focused on sticking in Denver.

“I have to show them I’m worth the signing, and do everything I can to make the lineup,” Rantanen said, per the Post. “They basically said, ‘Let’s see how the camp goes,’ and of course there are big exhibition games to come.

“There has not been big talk yet.”

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Rantanen was seen by pundits as one of the most NHL-ready players eligible at the draft.

The Avs were surprised to see him fall to No. 10 — per the Post, GM Joe Sakic figured he’d go in the top eight — and there does appear to be minutes available at Rantanen’s preferred right wing position, though he can also play the middle.

Poll: Which contract situation will be the biggest distraction?

Steven Stamkos

There are two universal truths about guys going into the final year of their contracts.

One, they want to get a new deal done before the start of the season.

Two, they don’t want it to be a distraction.

There are few certainties in life, but these are two of ’em. The next time you hear a player say “I’d like for this to linger on as long as possible,” or “I look forward to answering questions about this every day,” it’ll be the first.

There are, of course, several prominent NHLers facing this exact situation.

Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, Carolina’s Eric Staal (and Cam Ward), Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd (and Dustin Byfuglien), Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Arizona’s Shane Doan and St. Louis’ David Backes are all 23 days away from the start of the regular season, at which time they’ll officially enter the final year of their respective contracts.

To date, Stamkos (see here), Kopitar (see here) and Ladd (see here) have been most prominently discussed; that said, Staal has received plenty of coverage and it’s worth noting that, of all the players mentioned, only Byfuglien and Seabrook play defense — a highly-coveted position on the unrestricted free agent market.

When voting in this here poll, a few things to consider:

— How much could the distraction really derail things? Like Carolina, for example. The ‘Canes aren’t supposed to be any good this year anyway and, to be blunt, don’t generate a ton of national discussion.

— Why are some of these guys flying under the radar? All has been quiet on the Seabrook front in Chicago, though that’s likely due to the club’s more immediate (and, pressing) cap concerns. This bit from ESPN is almost all we’ve heard on the Backes extension.

— Is there any additional pressure if it’s a captain? If so, that could further complicate things for Stamkos, Ladd, Backes, Doan and Staal.

Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments section.

NHL to implement concussion ‘spotters’ at games (Updated)

Sidney Crosby

The NHL is taking a page from the NFL when it comes to concussion protocol.

Over the weekend, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Le Journal de Montreal that, this season, there will be “spotters” in the stands looking for signs of player concussions.

This is, as mentioned above, similar to the move the NFL made in 2012 with its ACT Spotters, a program in which certified athletic trainers were in place at every game — in the press box — to watch for potential head injuries.

This year, the NFL placed even more power in the spotters’ hands, allowing them to stop the game and remove a player showing signs of a possible concussion.

There will be some differences between the NHL and NFL systems, however.

From Le Journal (translated):

In the NFL, observers are physicians who are employed by the league and are not confined to a single city.

NHL will be different.

It will not necessarily be a doctor (not a requirement) that will take this position and in addition, that person will be paid by the local team. It will be placed in the stands at a secret location and will always remain in the same city.

Le Journal reports the NHL decided to implement spotters because “too many teams decided to flout” the previous concussion protocol, which called for potentially concussed players to exit the ice and head to the “quiet room” for examination.

Update: Here’s further info from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, some of which is contrary to the Le Journal report.

There have been club concussion spotters for the past few seasons — people hired by teams — but this season they will be independent. There will be two designated people per building with varied backgrounds who will split the games.

Their only given job on any given night will be spotting for any visible signs of concussion. They will log all those incidents into a file.

If or when a club wants to use the league spotter instead of their own, they can do that, in which case the spotter will have communication abilities down to the bench to talk to the trainer. But on most nights, because most clubs want to maintain this responsibility in-house, the new independent spotters are there just logging incidents.