Tag: Dany Heatley

Ottawa Senators v New York Rangers - Game One

Fanspeak: Alfredsson voted greatest Senator in franchise history


This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Ottawa Senators

1. Daniel Alfredsson (631)

2. Jason Spezza (132)

3. Alexei Yashin (128)

4. Dany Heatley (97)

5. Marian Hossa (67)

Whether the 2013-14 season was his last or he decides/is allowed to give it one more go, it doesn’t sound like Daniel Alfredsson’s last NHL games will come in an Ottawa Senators uniform. That certainly stings for Senators fans, yet at the same time, it’s clear that “Alf” has accomplished more than anyone else in franchise history.

Actually, it’s not even all that close.

Alfredsson set franchise records – by far – in stats ranging from goals (426), assists (682), points (1,108) and games played (1,178). Chris Phillips will probably catch him in that last category (he’s already at 1,143 games), but no one’s within breathing distance of those other numbers.

Of course, the talented Swede did more than just score.

He was a huge part of some very strong teams that dazzled the Eastern Conference in deep playoff runs, including a run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final (even if that loss to the Anaheim Ducks wasn’t particularly pretty). Alfredsson was known for his all-around play as the franchise saw other talents come and go.

Sure, it’s a shame that he ever left, especially since it delivered a blow to what Silver Seven Sens described as the Alfredsson “mythology” while discussing his return to town last season:

The Alfie legend is certainly part of the mythologizing tendency fans still exhibit when talking about their favourite games and favourite players. I’m guilty of it myself. Collectively, Sens fans were guilty of it the past several years. We talked about Alfie as if he had always been universally loved by Sens fans and as if he would march unquestioning ever forth for the organization. In reality, neither belief was true. For much of his first decade with the team, Alfredsson was a favourite scape-goat. This only increased after the departure of super-villain Yashin. Rather than draw support to Alfredsson, the captain’s C initially proved to be a lightning rod for criticism. He was injured too often, he was too soft, and he was too European. His strong performance in 2006-2007 changed that in the minds of many.

Ultimately, he leaves behind the kind of numbers and memories that speak for themselves.

Under Pressure: Thomas Vanek

Thomas Vanek

A simple search of his last name in the PHT search box is all you need to realize that the 2013-14 season was a busy one for Thomas Vanek.

To recap:

Vanek started the season in Buffalo, before he was traded to the Islanders, before he rejected a big offer to sign long-term with the Isles, before he went to Sochi to compete for Austria at the Olympics, before he was part of a group of Austrians that was forced to apologize for partying too much, before he was traded to Montreal, before he was roundly criticized for his play during the playoffs, before he signed with Minnesota, before he was connected to a federal gambling investigation.

Are we missing anything? Probably.

Some of the above — his performance in the playoffs, especially — is perhaps why the 30-year-old winger didn’t get the kind of mega-deal that many predicted he would as an unrestricted free agent. In fact, it was reported in October that the Sabres were “willing to make him the highest-paid player in the NHL.” While that may have been a stretch, certainly nobody was thinking he’d end up with a modest (relatively speaking) three-year, $19.5 million deal.

Granted, it’s possible Vanek left money on the table to play in Minnesota, where most predicted all along the former Golden Gopher, with the wife from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, would end up.

“Thomas may be one of the only players to take a pay cut and a term cut to come anywhere,” said general manager Chuck Fletcher. “Everybody else is doubling and tripling their salary.”

Still, the Wild will be counting big-time on Vanek to give their 24th-ranked offense a lift.

“We feel we can defend,” said Fletcher, “but we only scored 2.4 goals per game, and with Thomas maybe that pushes us closer to 2.6 or 2.7 or whatever the number is — maybe some nights we have a little bit more breathing room. … Scoring goals is a big part of winning games and he’s a game breaker.”

Whether Vanek can be the “game breaker” that the Wild are hoping for remains to be seen. His highest goal-scoring year came when he was in his early 20s (43 goals for Buffalo in 2006-07). His second-highest was when he was in his mid-20s (40 goals for Buffalo in 2008-09). That’s the trend for most of the NHL’s top snipers. Once they reach their 30s, the legs get a little heavier, the body isn’t as fresh as it once was, and the goals become harder to come by. (See: Dany Heatley.)

Not that the Wild would be upset if Vanek could only muster 30 goals, or even just 25. But it doesn’t change the fact that he needs to perform, and he needs to do it under the spotlight of playing in his home state, which just so happens to be the State of Hockey.

“It’s awesome,” said Vanek. “The best thing is my career was winning an NCAA Championship with the Gophers. To be a part of the Wild now and go after the big prize, having a chance to do it here in Minnesota is beyond my wildest dreams.”

It’s Minnesota Wild Day at PHT

Ryan Suter, Zach Parise

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

Ever since the Minnesota Wild locked up Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals things have slowly improved only to see their fate end the same way in the playoffs.

Two seasons ago, they stole their way in as the seventh seed in the West and got the bum’s rush out in the first round in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, things got a bit better as they vanquished the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the first round to earn a rematch with the Blackhawks. Things improved slightly as they bowed out in six games.

It’s that steady improvement in the face of difficult situations that gives fans in Minnesota hope for even more improvement.

The Wild saw injuries befall just about everyone they put in goal. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding started the year as the tandem and while Backstrom dealt with nagging injuries, Harding was brilliant. That stellar play was submarined by his struggles with his medication while playing with Multiple Sclerosis.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper holding down the fort with Bryzgalov standing tall while helping beat the Avs. If you predicted that would happen before the season, let’s hope you’re sitting on the beach relaxing as a new millionaire.

If there’s truly a reason for Wild fans to be excited about the years to come, it’s thanks to the emergence of a few key young forwards. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter all had solid regular season play followed by flashes of brilliance in the postseason. Adding them to the mix with Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville helps give the Wild a very gifted set of forwards.

Things weren’t so bad on the blue line either. Suter logged an incredible number of minutes and former Calder Trophy finalist Jonas Brodin had a solid season, although seemingly not as strong as his rookie campaign. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella stepped up their play to help give their blue line a boost. They’ll need to be that much better next season as the Central Division and Western Conference figures to be brutally difficult once again.

Offseason recap

Minnesota’s summer was virtually too easy to predict. After lots of rumors and speculation, Thomas Vanek inked a three-year, $19.5 million deal to go back to his American home. After playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota and always having a home in the state, it seemed inevitable he’d go back as a free agent. Even after a less-than impressive turn in the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens didn’t scare the Wild away and they may be able to get a steal of sorts because of it.

With Vanek in the fold, they parted ways with Dany Heatley whose contract expired. He and defenseman Clayton Stoner both landed in Anaheim while they brought back Justin Falk who had been with the New York Rangers.

They also added former Vancouver Canucks forward, and Golden Gophers standout, Jordan Schroeder. There’s never not a homecoming of some sorts in the State of Hockey, but it’s Vanek who comes away as the prize.

Poll: What is the biggest concern for the Ducks?

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry

On paper, the Anaheim Ducks sure do look like a threat in the Western Conference. General manager Bob Murray went out and added a huge piece down the middle in Ryan Kesler, they have promise in goal with budding prospect John Gibson, and veterans such as Dany Heatley will add depth to the forward group.

However, some of those previously mentioned positives could just as easily turn into glaring concerns for the Ducks, who were ousted by the L.A. Kings in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in May. Anaheim hasn’t been past the second round of the playoffs since it won the Cup in 2007.

What happens if Kesler, who has not played a full season since 2010-11, continues to have injury troubles? Since almost single-handedly willing the Vancouver Canucks past the Nashville Predators during the second round of the 2011 playoffs, Kesler has suffered a torn labrum, a shoulder injury, a wrist injury and a broken foot. He has not come near the career-high of 41 goals he set during the aforementioned 2010-11 season either.

In goal, Gibson showed signs this past season that he could be a NHL starter, but lets face it, the sample size is extremely small. Gibson appeared in three regular season games in April, winning all three starts and then made four playoff appearances while going 2-2. With the departure of Jonas Hiller, Murray appears to be content going young in goal; however, it could easily backfire. What happens if the young tandem of Gibson and 24-year-old Frederik Andersen doesn’t pan out? Anaheim is left with 34-year-old veteran Jason Labarbera to be the savior? Labarbera is with his fourth different team in four years.

On the blue line, the Ducks certainly have pieces in the likes of Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin, but where is that stud defenseman? Where is their Duncan Keith or Zdeno Chara? It’s a question even Murray asked recently: “You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar. Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had Scotty (Niedermayer) and Chris (Pronger). That’s in the back of my mind all the time.”

Behind the bench, Bruce Boudreau is fast earning the distinction of not being able to get it done when it matters most. He took the Washington Capitals to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as head coach before being fired during the 2011-12 season. In Anaheim, after missing the playoffs in 2012, the Ducks have made them in back-to-back seasons; however, with a roster like theirs, simply making them is not good enough. Does Boudreau have what it takes to get this lineup to the conference final and beyond? It’s something he’s never done at the NHL level.

So, Ducks fans, what’s your biggest concern heading into the 2014-15 season?

Related: Looking to make the leap: John Gibson

It’s Anaheim Ducks Day at PHT

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry

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

For more entries in this series, click here.

The 2013-14 season for the Anaheim Ducks may have struck fans as being eerily similar to the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

The Ducks finished on top of the Pacific Division and this time around they had the best record in the Western Conference to go with it. Instead of being upended in the first round, like they did in 2013 to the Detroit Red Wings, they were bounced in the second round at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

Having a tremendous regular season only to come up short in the postseason has become an all too familiar trait for Bruce Boudreau coached teams, but you could give a pass on last season as the Kings were just beastly once they got going. That won’t do much to calm down fans who had to watch their hated rivals celebrate their second Stanley Cup in three years.

On the upside, the Ducks got another incredible season from Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Getzlaf led the team in scoring with 87 points while Perry was tops in goals with 43. Getzlaf’s effort was good enough to put him second behind Sidney Crosby in Hart Trophy voting. Perry joining him on the top line gave Anaheim one of the most potent first lines in the league.

Anaheim got career-years from Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault and an offensive resurrection from Andrew Cogliano. Teemu Selanne had an up-and-down final year in the NHL scoring nine goals with 27 points in the regular season and feuding with Boudreau to shining again in the playoffs with two goals and six points before riding off into the sunset… We think.

The Ducks also saw their defense step up big offensively led by Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. Fortunately for them, they’re all young.

Youth was key late in the season as well as forwards Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem, and Jakob Silfverberg all played key roles. They also saw Patrick Maroon emerge as a power forward as well.

In goal, things were a bit of an adventure as they went from Jonas Hiller to Frederik Andersen to John Gibson in the postseason. Gibson’s performances in the playoffs and Andersen’s during the season essentially made Hiller expendable. The Ducks even dealt Viktor Fasth to Edmonton at the trade deadline to further clear up their glut of goaltending.

Offseason recap

Adding Ryan Kesler in a deal with the Vancouver Canucks was an inspired move to help them keep up with the Kings and Sharks up the middle. Losing Nick Bonino to do it was the proper price as who knows if he’ll have another season as good as his 2013-14 season again. Of course, who knows if Kesler will return to his Selke Trophy-winning form. He has to stay healthy.

We’re pretty sure Selanne is going to retire. At the very least they’re going to hang his number in the rafters in January. At worst, he’s going to play one more year in Finland. Either way, he’s out of the equation and they’ve moved on by signing Dany Heatley to a one-year deal. If he can produce more than Selanne’s 29 points from last season, it’s a win.

They locked up Vatanen to a two-year deal and also added Clayton Stoner from the Minnesota Wild to a bizarrely lucrative four-year deal. The Ducks did lose Jonas Hiller to the Calgary Flames and forward Daniel Winnik to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agnecy but with their young players all graduating, they’re not crushing departures.

If things go awry this season, at the very least all Ducks goalies have pretty sweet masks to look at.