Tag: Marian Hossa

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Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup? Here are PHT’s picks…


Not to brag, but half of PHT staffers correctly predicted the Los Angeles Kings would win the Stanley Cup last season. We’re back to try again in 2014-15. Feel free to add your picks below. Also, don’t forget to suggest we have no idea what we’re talking about. Like last year when all those people ripped two of us for picking the Rangers to make the Final.

Jason Brough: Tampa Bay Lightning over St. Louis Blues

The first thing that any Cup winner needs is great players. Analysis! (But seriously, sometimes people forget this.) Well, the Lightning have three players who have shown they can be elite at their respective positions. Steven Stamkos is, obviously, one of the best in the game. But there’s also Victor Hedman, who finished ninth in Norris Trophy voting last season, and Ben Bishop, who finished third in the Vezina Trophy race. Other things to really like about Tampa Bay: a deep defense, a strong contingent of contributing youngsters, a handful of experienced vets, and a good coach. Maybe I’m getting sucked in by a trendy pick and I should just play it safe with Chicago or L.A. But that’s boring, and this group that Steve Yzerman has assembled gets my nod.

Mike Halford: Pittsburgh Penguins over Los Angeles Kings

You guys remember what happened the last time Pittsburgh changed coaches, right? Granted, the switch from Michel Therrien to Dan Bylsma happened during the season rather than over the summer, but the fact still remains — there’s a new face behind the Pittsburgh bench, and that’s probably a good thing. There’s no denying the Pens got stale and frustrated under Bylsma, and it’s wise of Mike Johnston to preach (for now, anyway) that they should be enjoying themselves, rather than suffocate under the pressure of expectations. And hey, this is still a pretty good team. Pittsburgh has the NHL’s best player (Sidney Crosby), the best one-two center combo in the league (assuming Evgeni Malkin’s healthy), its best bottom-six forward depth in years and gifted puck-movers on defense in Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff and Paul Martin — guys that can get pucks onto the forwards’ sticks. Too many people are sleeping on the Pens.

James O’Brien: Chicago Blackhawks over Montreal Canadiens

It’s easy to imagine the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings playing hot potato with the Stanley Cup for ages, yet with just one more season of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews being paid below market value, the clock may be ticking on Chicago’s staggering depth. Luckily, they still have the 2014-15 season to flaunt their almost unfair array of talent, and guys like Brandon Saad (and maybe eventually Teuvo Teravainen?) seem primed for great things. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt to employ Brad Richards when he has a) plenty to prove and b) money to earn. Meanwhile, out East, Montreal is positioned to take a big step forward after an often-promising 2013 postseason run. P.K. Subban and Carey Price are up there with any one-two punch, Alex Galchenyuk seems ready to leap and P.A. Parenteau bolsters a forward group that suddenly looks pretty deep.

Ryan Dadoun: St. Louis Blues over Boston Bruins

I (incorrectly) picked the Blues to win the Stanley Cup last season, and I’m sticking with that prediction for 2014-15. There’s no shortage of worthy contenders, but what makes me gravitate towards St. Louis is its elite defense and offensive depth. The big X-factor is Brian Elliott. In the past, when he was hot, he was one of the best goalies in the league. It’s just that, when he was cold, he was unworthy of a roster spot. But he’s been a superb backup in St. Louis, and at the age of 29, perhaps he can become more consistent as the number one goaltender. As for the Bruins, they have an elite netminder and a balanced offense. Zdeno Chara isn’t getting any younger, but he’s still a force, and they’ve got some great young defensemen that seem capable of taking the torch.

Cam Tucker: Chicago Blackhawks over Pittsburgh Penguins

Preface this by saying my prediction will almost certainly be wrong. But let’s get on with it anyway… The Chicago Blackhawks were one goal away from reaching last season’s Stanley Cup Final and their core group of players still includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith. So they do have the top-end talent, and I’m not overly worried about their goaltending with Corey Crawford. I still think that in a very difficult Western Conference, this team will remain at or near the top, and when the playoffs conclude, they’ll be back atop the NHL like they were two years ago. The Penguins should’ve knocked off the New York Rangers last year and didn’t. It’s a gamble with them this season. They have a new coach in Mike Johnston and Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled at times in the postseason. But if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are at their best, the Penguins should still be a force in the East.

Dhiren Mahiban: Chicago Blackhawks over Boston Bruins 

Chicago’s core is solid. More than solid, actually. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa up front along with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya on the back end know what it takes to win, and will lead this team back to the promised land. The Blackhawks’ time to win is now, before Kane’s and Toews’ new monster deals kick in next season and some tough choices may need to be made. Add offseason signing Brad Richards, who will want to prove his doubters wrong after how things ended in New York, and this team has exceptional depth (I didn’t even mention Marian Hossa or Brandon Saad).  The Blackhawks have been the model of consistency — winning at least 44 games each season, excluding the lockout-shortened season — since 2008-09. There’s no big reason things will change this year.

Risk Factors: Washington Capitals edition

Barry Trotz

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Washington Capitals

1. How effective, really, is Barry Trotz as a coach?

We only ask because, during all his time in Nashville, he only led the Predators to a pair of first-round playoff victories. Eight times he missed the postseason completely, including his last two seasons there.

Yeah, yeah, the Preds weren’t exactly stacked with all-stars. But they weren’t completely bereft of them either. In 15 seasons behind the bench, getting past the second round, at least once, was a reasonable ask.

“Barry’s teams have always played with structure, discipline and intensity, and I look forward to him leading us to success for many years to come,” said Caps GM Brian MacLellan when Trotz was hired.

Structure. Discipline. Intensity. Not quite the calling cards of the Washington Capitals in the Alex Ovechkin era. So when you look at it that way, the hiring made a lot of sense.

But there’s a risk when any coach comes in and says things like, “At first there will be some pain. … It’ll be uncomfortable for some guys.”

The risk is players get turned off and tune out. They hear things like, “Alex has got a bit too much glide in his game,” and take it personally, rather than constructively.

Look, all we’re saying is there’s a reason the Predators hired a coach with a “fun way to play” as a replacement for Trotz.

2.  2C

If you’re not familiar with the importance teams place on the second-line center position, you really haven’t been paying attention.

This offseason alone, Anaheim added Ryan Kesler, Dallas got Jason Spezza, St. Louis signed Paul Stastny, and Chicago picked up Brad Richards in hopes of addressing that all-important spot.

Meanwhile, the Caps appear to be going with a 19-year-old rookie, Ande Burakovsky, who’s never played a game of professional hockey.

It wasn’t for a lack of looking. Rather, it was a lack of qualified candidates. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, and Brooks Laich were the three others who auditioned this preseason. I.e., another rookie, an undersized forward who’s probably better suited to the wing, and a 31-year-old who hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Will the Caps live to regret not ponying up for Mikhail Grabovski, instead of giving an aging Brooks Orpik $27.5 million over five years?

“I guess my overall philosophy is we’re going to have to develop one of our young guys to play second-line center,” MacLellan said in June.

By throwing one of them in the deep end, and hoping he can swim.

3. Is Ovechkin willing to grow?

We all know he can score. And he’s paid handsomely for it. Without Ovechkin, the Caps would probably still be an afterthought in D.C.

But it’s fair to ask, at 29 years old, is he willing to grow as a player? Namely, is he willing to work at becoming a better two-way player?

It’s no coincidence that there’s a distinct relationship between teams with Selke Trophy recipients and teams that win Stanley Cups. Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk have each won the award in recent years, and they’ve each won the Cup. Anze Kopitar is another example of an excellent two-way forward. He’s won two Cups in the last three years.

Now, granted, all four of those players are centers, and Ovechkin is a winger. In many ways, he’s limited in what he can do in his own end by his position. Then again, so is Marian Hossa, and he’s a great two-way forward who thrives on creating back pressure and stealing pucks.

Nobody’s asking Ovechkin to go out and win the Selke. But he’s out on the ice for a third of the game, and captains need to lead by example.

“He got 51 goals last year, and I’d love for him to get 52,” Trotz said. “But not at the expense of the other side of the puck.”

It’s going to be a fascinating season in Washington.

Risk Factors: Chicago Blackhawks edition

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Chicago Blackhawks

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

Chicago Blackhawks

1. Did they really solve the 2C problem? Much was made of Chicago’s lack of depth at center last year, especially in the Western Conference Final when Michal Handzus — who gamely tried to fill the second-line center spot — was overwhelmed in the playoffs.

Zeus is gone now, though, and in his place steps Brad Richards, the New York Rangers castoff that inked a modest one-year, $2 million deal to join the ‘Hawks in July. On paper, Richards is a nice fit; a veteran presence with good playmaking ability that’s been to two Stanley Cup Finals, winning once.

But that’s on paper.

There’s no denying that Richards, 34, is in the twilight of his career. The Rangers opted to buy out the remainder of his nine-year, $60 million deal this summer following a tough postseason in which he scored two points over his final 10 games and was dumped to the fourth line during the Cup Final.

Chicago will rejuvenate Richards to a certain degree. He’s going to be surrounded by talent on a (projected) line with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, and will run the point on the second powerplay unit. But in terms of strictly upgrading the 2C position, other contenders in the West did more.

The Anaheim Ducks acquired Ryan Kesler from Vancouver to slot in behind Ryan Getzlaf. The Dallas Stars traded for Jason Spezza to play behind Tyler Seguin. The Blues, who often used David Backes as their No. 1 center last year, added Paul Stastny to the mix. And lest we forget the quality tandems already in place in Colorado (Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene) and Los Angeles (Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter).

The Western Conference has become an arms race down the middle and if you can’t keep up, you could be out — just ask Stars GM Jim Nill.

“If you want to be one of the elite teams, you have to have it,” Nill told the Globe and Mail earlier this summer. “You look at the other teams that are winning on our side now, you need to have two elite centermen.”

2. The cap crunch. Per CapGeek:


“[The salary cap’s] gotten a lot of attention, and rightfully so,” Hawks GM Bowman explained, per CSN Chicago. “But what I’ve tried to say all along is that we’re going to get it worked out and we’re going to be compliant come [the start of the season].

“It’s one of those topics where we’ve had a lot of discussions internally, we know how we’re going to make it work.”

Bowman wouldn’t reveal how Chicago will get cap compliant, though many have speculated one two defensemen — Johnny Oduya or Nick Leddy — will be traded. If that happens, it’s going to chip away at one of the club’s strengths; the next men up on defense are David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Adam Clendening, and one of them might get called into action earlier than expected now that Michal Rozsival’s sidelined with an upper-body injury.

There’s another wrinkle to this cap situation. Compliance is one thing, but what about wiggle room?

Teams like to operate with some breathing space beneath the ceiling in the event something unforeseen happens. Injuries, slumps, ineffectiveness can often cause for a roster shakeup… and then there’s the trade deadline.

The ‘Hawks were hamstrung last year, resulting in Rundblad and Peter Regin being the lone acquisitions of significance — nice pickups, but ones that were relatively minor compared to what Los Angeles (Marian Gaborik), St. Louis (Ryan Miller, Steve Ott), Anaheim (Stephane Robidas) and Minnesota (Matt Moulson) did. Granted, not all of those deals worked out and the Kings were the only Western team to best Chicago, but the value of having trade deadline flexibility can’t be understated; during Chicago’s Cup championship in 2013, the Handzus pickup proved invaluable.

3. Age and health. Rozsival (36), Marian Hossa (35), Richards (34), Oduya (33), Patrick Sharp (33 in December) and Duncan Keith (31) have played an awful lot of hockey over the last two years, be it regular season — especially during the condensed ’13 campaign — playoffs, and international (everybody but Richards played in the Sochi Winter Olympics.)

At some point, it’s going to have an effect.

As mentioned above, Rozsival is currently sidelined with an upper-body injury. Hossa’s been dealing with a lower-body issue throughout camp and has a lengthy history of ailments while Sharp looked lethargic at times during last year’s run to the Western Conference Final, scoring just two goals in his first 14 games.

Health-wise, one of the more underrated stories over the last two seasons was the durability of Chicago’s regulars. Patrick Kane missed 12 games last year to a lower-body ailment, which was a rarity; he’s played 80 games or more four times in his career (and played 47 of 48 during the lockout-shortened ’13 season). Bryan Bickell missed 23 games with a variety of bumps and bruises, yet rebounded to show up when he often does — in the playoffs — scoring seven goals in 19 games.

But in the NHL, injuries are unavoidable. The grind and physical toll often wears down even the fittest of players and we’re talking about a collection of Blackhawks players that are getting older and have played a remarkable amount of games over the last 24 months.

Even Chicago’s second power-play unit looks great

Brad Richards

It should be no surprise that the Chicago Blackhawks have, at least on paper, an intimidating top power-play unit given the number of offensive weapons they have at their disposal. There’s probably a few general managers out there that would love to trade their top unit for the Blackhawks’ second group though.

It helps that Chicago added Brad Richards over the summer as he can man the point on the second power-play unit.

“I’ve played it pretty much 95 percent of my career,” Richards told CSN Chicago.

He’ll likely be joined by Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook. That group makes Patrick Kane very optimistic about their special teams.

“You look at our units and you could say, ‘Which are the first and second (units)?’” Kane said. “When you have two good units, it picks up the power-play numbers and generates a lot more opportunities to score. With him on the point, he’s another added weapon. I’ve seen him a bunch over his career snap it from the point or make good passes to guys with open nets.”

It’s doubtful that many people will look at the Blackhawks’ second power-play unit and feel that it’s just as good as the top group, which includes Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp, but Kane’s point about the advantage of depth is well-taken.

The question now is if this lineup will be as good in practice as it looks on paper. The Blackhawks haven’t been able to score a power-play goal thus far, but that has to be taken with a grain of salt given that it’s still the preseason. They had a 19.5% success rate with the man advantage in 2013-14.

Fanspeak: Alfredsson voted greatest Senator in franchise history

Ottawa Senators v New York Rangers - Game One

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.