PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
It’s looking more and more like Eric Staal and Cam Ward will enter the Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp without new contracts. (News & Observer)
Armed with a tryout contract, Tom Sestito hopes to earn a job with the Pittsburgh Penguins out of training camp so that he can “deter a guy from taking a run at the 90,000 stars on the team.” (Penguins.nhl.com)
The ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors have changed their name to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Their new logo features a rabbit who is wielding a mix between a hockey stick and carrot. (Greenville Online)
The Edmonton Oilers might be a significantly different team with a new bench boss, substantially changed front office, and a new hope in Connor McDavid, but one thing Andrew Ference doesn’t expect to change is his position as the team’s captain. (Edmonton Journal)
Ryan Johansen threw out the first pitch for Cincinnati on Monday and that event gave him a chance to talk with the Reds players about the differences and similarities between the two sports. (Bluejackets.nhl.com)
Finally, it was National Dog Day on Wednesday and that involved a lot of hockey-themed pictures. Here are some of the highlights:
New Jersey GM Ray Shero hasn’t been shy about putting his mark on the Devils and that continued with a fresh series of moves Wednesday.
The team announced that Patrick Rissmiller has been hired to serve as a development coach. The retired forward had a lengthy playing career that included 192 NHL games.
“Patrick Rissmiller has played at just about every level – high school, college, ECHL, AHL, NHL and Europe, and with multiple organizations,” said Shero. “He will work with all of the players in our organization, as well as our prospects. We feel that he is the ideal individual with the necessary experience and background for this position.”
He’ll work alongside Pertti Hasanen and Scott Clemmensen as part of the team’s development staff.
Shero also named Andy Schneider as the team’s newest amateur scout. Schneider is coming over from the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he spent the previous three campaigns serving in the same capacity.
Schneider’s playing career involved a lot of traveling as he had stints in Germany, Austria, and Sweden. He also played in 10 games with the Ottawa Senators back in 1993-94.
Meanwhile, Barry Fisher, who has been New Jersey’s orthopedist since the franchise moved from Colorado in 1982, will not be returning for the 2015-16 campaign, per NJ Advance Media. Michael K. Shindle is taking over as the team’s orthopedist.
Related: Devils won’t offer tryouts to Bernier, Gomez
The Buffalo Sabres’ last two seasons have been among the worst in franchise history, but with optimism about their future high, it hasn’t been difficult to convince fans to come back for more.
In total 16,000 season tickets for the 2015-16 campaign have been sold by the Sabres, which is where they’ve set the limit so that there will still be seats available for individual games as well as mini-packs. Of those season ticket holders, 96 percent of them are fans that decided to renew their commitment following Buffalo’s 23-51-8 campaign. Not that the Sabres necessarily needed the renewal rate to be that high as they still have 2,000 people on their waiting list.
“The fact that we had such a high rate of renewal from our season ticket holders is really a testament to the direction our organization is headed,” Sabres president Russ Brandon said, per the team’s website. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding our team and we can’t wait to get on the ice.”
Of course, selecting Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft is one of the main reasons fans are encouraged about Buffalo’s future. He is seen as a potential generational talent that should be the centerpiece of the Sabres for years to come.
Related: What does Jack Eichel mean to the Buffalo Sabres?
The Philadelphia Flyers have built a great foundation, but it remains to be seen if their supporting cast is ready to help propel them into the playoffs.
Although it hasn’t always been the case, at this point it seems reasonable to bet on Steve Mason providing the Flyers with a strong presence between the pipes. At the same time, the chemistry that Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have developed should result in the Flyers once again having one of the most effective top lines in the league. Even defensively, which tends to be seen as their weakest point, they have a solid anchor in Mark Streit.
A solid starting goaltender, great top line, and an effective offensive defenseman are a good start, but that in and of itself isn’t enough to make a serious contender, as the Flyers exemplified last season.
For example, a championship team typically has quite a bit of offensively depth, which Philadelphia didn’t possess in 2014-15. That problem could be largely addressed though if 24-year-old Brayden Schenn and 22-year-old Sean Couturier are able to make bigger contributions this season. There’s also a chance that newcomer Sam Gagner will prove to be an effective complimentary player or that Vincent Lecavalier or R.J. Umberger will bounce back.
Their defense is an even bigger question mark though. While it’s true that Philadelphia has a very promising group of defensive prospects, it’s entirely possible that none of them will be ready to make major contributions this season. That means that the Flyers might be relying in part on Michael Del Zotto, who has been inconsistent over the course of his career, to have a good season or that 32-year-old Yevgeni Medvedev will make a smooth transition from the KHL and at the very least prove to be a helpful stopgap measure.
There are certainly scenarios that can be painted in which this team bounces back and perhaps even enjoys a lengthy playoff run. However, with so many significant X-factors in play, Philadelphia will be interesting, but not necessarily successful in the short-term.
Often both expensive and inadequate, Philadelphia’s defense has been a point of concern in recent years. However, that was largely because the Flyers lacked homegrown talent as far as the blueline was concerned and thus had to resort to trades and signings in an attempt to compensate.
The future is bright though as Philadelphia has no shortage of promising young defensemen working their way towards the NHL and at the forefront of that new wave is Shayne Gostisbehere.
The 22-year-old has significant offensive upside, as was showcased in his run of 82 points in 119 career NCAA games with Union College, which is a potential area of need for the Flyers as Kimmo Timonen has retired and Mark Streit will turn 38 in December.
He already got his first taste of NHL action last season with a two-game stint and has made a favorable impression on Flyers GM Ron Hextall. He suffered a torn ACL in early November though and that limited to just seven games between the NHL and minors.
The good news is that he was feeling close to 100 percentage as of July, per the Philadelphia Daily News, setting the stage for him to compete for a roster spot during training camp. It will be an uphill battle though as the Flyers already have eight defensemen inked to one-way contract. However, even if he doesn’t make the opening game roster, he will likely be among the first blueliners summoned in the event of an injury.
He’ll need to take advantage of whatever opportunities he can get because while Philadelphia’s current roster is cluttered with blueliners that have NHL experience, there are also a number of less experienced, but highly regarded defensemen looking to leapfrog Gostisbehere, including Ivan Provorov, Samuel Morin, and Travis Sanheim. Throw in Mark Alt, who also made his NHL debut in 2014-15, and Robert Hagg and it becomes clear that Gostisbehere has a ton of competition.
That’s a nice scenario for Philadelphia and it means that if Gostisbehere can eventually establish himself as a regular with Philadelphia, there’s a good chance that he’ll be part of an impressive group.