Tag: B.J. Crombeen

Boston Bruins v Arizona Coyotes

Gagner back in Coyotes lineup after ‘frustrating’ healthy scratch


With just three goals and 10 points in 27 games, it’s safe to say Sam Gagner’s first season in Arizona hasn’t gone especially well — which culminated with his healthy scratch in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Wild.

Tonight, Gagner will draw back in for a tilt against Edmonton, but still sounds like he’s stinging a bit from his stint in the press box.

“I don’t think this one was as expected,” Gagner told the Arizona Republic, alluding to an earlier healthy scratch during his Oiler days. “I don’t think this one was as expected. I feel like I want to be out there helping the team get out of it. It is what it is.

“It upsets you and it fires you up, and it makes you want to go out and prove yourself. I’m not happy with the way my season’s gone personally or the way the season’s gone for the team.”

Gagner, 25, was the biggest acquisition in Arizona’s quiet summer, coming from Tampa Bay along with B.J. Crombeen in a cap-clearing move by the Bolts (the Coyotes sent just a sixth-round pick in return.) On paper, the move looked to be a nice get for the Coyotes — they didn’t give up any assets, and Gagner was pegged to replace the offense left following the Mike Ribeiro buyout.

Now, though, the move doesn’t look as sharp.

Gagner’s struggled to fit into Dave Tippet’s system, one that is predicated on defensive awareness and sound two-way play. Case in point: Tippett’s explanation as to why he parked Gagner on Saturday…

“There’s a second effort without the puck that I think can improve in his game and sometimes when offensive players get in a slump, they think the only way to get out of it is to create offense.

“So they start thinking about not defending and just all about offense and in actual fact, good defense lets you play good offense because it lets you play in the offensive zone. Simple as that.”

Given Arizona’s woeful season, their fuzzy financial future and GM Don Maloney’s earlier roster shakeup, it’s fair to speculate that Gagner could be in play come trade deadline time. He’s in the second of a three-year, $14.4 million deal with a $4.8 million cap hit — a little spendy given he’s in a down year, but possibly worth a shot for a team needing center depth and willing to gamble on Gagner for next season as well.

Looking to make the leap: Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin was disappointed he didn’t crack Lightning roster last year, and it’s easy to understand why.

The third overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry draft, Drouin was returned to QMJHL Halifax while his Mooseheads teammate — Nathan MacKinnon, taken first overall — stuck with Colorado and had a dazzling rookie campaign, scoring 24 goals and 63 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy.

What’s more, Drouin was the only one of the top six picks that didn’t make his NHL debut last season. Though he was lauded as an “incredible talent” by GM Steve Yzerman, the organization thought another year of seasoning in junior would serve Drouin well.

“As the year went on, Jonathan got better and better,” Yzerman said in July, per the Tampa Tribune. “When he went back, he was like the No. 1 penalty killer, ran the power play, played in all situations.

“He was dominating at both ends of the rink.”

Clearly, things went well for Drouin at the junior level. Now the Bolts will see if their strategy pays off in the bigs.

It’s expected that Drouin will have a job in Tampa Bay come October. Yzerman jettisoned a trio of veteran forwards prior to July 1’s free agent frenzy (Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen), bought out the remainder of Ryan Malone’s contract and didn’t re-up with the likes of Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. It’s also tough to think Drouin would gain much from going back to junior, and he isn’t eligible to play with AHL Syracuse.

So the opportunity in Tampa Bay is there, but Drouin will have competition. Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are entrenched at Drouin’s preferred left wing spot, and it’s possible someone could shift over from the crowded RW situation (where Ryan Callahan, Richard Panik, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly currently top the depth chart.)

Another thing to consider is Tampa Bay’s “no rush” mentality. The club has been very deliberate in bringing along its recent prospects and embraces the notion that maturation is a marathon, not a sprint. Drouin is still only 19 years old and relatively small (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) by NHL standards; if he’s not ready for the leap, it sure doesn’t sound like the Bolts will push it.

Just ask head coach Jon Cooper.

“Jonathan Drouin is not someone we’re investing in for one year,” Cooper explained. “We’re investing in him for a decade or more. Why would we want to rush the finished product?”

It’s Tampa Bay Lightning day on PHT

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite a pretty successful year — 46 wins, 101 points, snapping a two-year playoff drought — the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t rest on their laurels this offseason.

Instead, Steve Yzerman emerged as one of this summer’s most active GMs, making a series of moves that put his team in the conversation of Eastern Conference elites. Tampa Bay went big on vets in free agency, adding the likes of Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov and Brenden Morrow while retaining the services of Ryan Callahan — keeping the prize piece acquired when Martin St. Louis went to the Rangers at the trade deadline.

Speaking of trades, there were plenty of those too.

Yzerman was like a blackjack dealer on speed. The day prior to free agency, he flipped Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipped Gagner to Phoenix (along with B.J. Crombeen) for a sixth-round pick. Just hours after moving Gagner, Yzerman was at it again, sending forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks.

Oh yeah, he also acquired d-man Jason Garrison from Vancouver on draft day. There was that too.

When the dust finally settled, the fruits of Yzerman’s labor were evident — he rewarded his young players (Calder nominees Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat got matching three-year, $10M deals; Vezina finalist Ben Bishop got a two-year extension), brought in experienced vets, but also cleared roster space for some of the club’s ballyhooed prospects to try and make the leap, like Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne.

As such, the Lightning look to be a force for next season. There’s depth down the middle in Boyle, Johnson, Steve Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula; a solid top-six defense in Stralman, Garrison, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, Radko Gudas and Eric Brewer; better depth in goal (important, as things fell apart in the playoffs once Bishop went down and Anders Lindback was forced into duty) and a Jack Adams finalist behind the bench in Jon Cooper.

Yzerman was careful not to get too excited following all his moving and shaking this summer. But he couldn’t deny being happy with how the plan came together.

“We like the moves that we’ve made,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.”

It’s Arizona Coyotes Day at PHT


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

For years the dominant story surrounding the Coyotes was their struggle to find an owner and if that quest would force the team out of Glendale. They were finally bought last summer and while the five-year out clause that activates if the team loses $50 million means that the looming threat of relocation hasn’t completely vanished, the on-ice product itself is now front-and-center.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, things didn’t go quite as well as planned in 2013-14. The Coyotes struggled offensively due in no small part to the fact that Mike Ribeiro failed to live up to expectations after inking a four-year, $22 million contract. Ribeiro went from averaging roughly a point-per-game in Washington to recording just 47 points in 80 contests last season. It was later revealed that his behavior was also a problem.

In the end, defenseman Keith Yandle led the team with 53 points, but he also had a team-worst minus-23 rating. A plus/minus rating isn’t always a great indicator of how a player performed, but it is noteworthy in this case given that, as Coyotes coach Dave Tippett noted in April, Yandle was inconsistent defensively.

Inconsistent would also be a good word to describe Mike Smith’s play. The 32-year-old goaltender, who is playing out a six-year, $34 million contract, was prone to severe hot-and-cold streaks and his overall performance was still a far cry from his 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 2011-12. That being said he had gotten into a rhythm before an MCL sprain injury cut his season short.

That forced Thomas Greiss to serve as the team’s starting goaltender for the final weeks of the season and while he held his own, he got very little offensive support as the Coyotes went on a 1-4-3 stretch to close out 2013-14. That late season collapse caused them to concede the final Wild Card spot to the Dallas Stars.

Offseason Recap

Citing the aforementioned behavior issues, Coyotes GM Don Maloney bought out the remainder of Ribeiro’s contract. He also watched Radim Vrbata and Greiss walk as unrestricted free agents.

Devan Dubnyk signed a one-year, $800,000 contract to serve as the team’s new backup goaltender. The Coyotes also acquired forward Sam Gagner, along with B.J. Crombeen, from the Lightning (after he had been dealt from Edmonton to Tampa Bay) in the hopes that he will bolster the team offensively.

BizNasty says it ‘sucks’ not returning to Coyotes

Paul Bissonnette

Free agency can be tough for players that aren’t superstar goal scorers or shut-down defenders. Such is the case for Paul Bissonnette.

While you likely know Bissonnette better as “BizNasty” from his work on Twitter, his job as a fourth liner with the Arizona Coyotes appears to be up now that they’ve acquired B.J. Crombeen from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona shared, Bissonnette is upset to leave the team that’s helped him become a NHL celebrity despite the lack of flashy statistics.

“It sucks,” the Coyotes’ fan favorite said Tuesday. “It’s really sad because I had a blast there for five years. I met a lot of awesome people — got really close with the fans and the community and I’ll really miss them.”

During his five seasons in the desert, Bissonnette racked up seven goals, 21 points and 318 penalty minutes in 187 games.

As for where BizNasty may wind up next, he said he’s not sure yet but he’s talking with a couple different teams.  He also said he hasn’t ruled out playing in Europe. If you’ll recall, he suited up for Cardiff Devils in Wales during the most recent lockout.