Shea Weber

Crosby, Getzlaf and Stamkos MVP favorites, says oddsmaker


Online oddsmaker Bovada has unveiled its list of odds for this season’s NHL awards, with Sidney Crosby favored to take home his second consecutive Hart Trophy.

Crosby tops the MVP odds list at 7/4, followed by Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, who are both at 6/1.

The full list:

Sidney Crosby (PIT)                        7/4         (+175)

Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)                         6/1         (+600)

Steven Stamkos (TB)                      6/1         (+600)

John Tavares (NYI)                          8/1         (+800)

Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                    12/1       (+1200)

Claude Giroux (PHI)                        15/1       (+1500)

Tyler Seguin (DAL)                          15/1       (+1500)

Evgeni Malkin (PIT)                         15/1       (+1500)

Jonathan Toews (CHI)                    16/1       (+1600)

Anze Kopitar (LA)                            18/1       (+1800)

Corey Perry (ANA)                          20/1       (+2000)

Patrick Kane (CHI)                           20/1       (+2000)

Jamie Benn (DAL)                            35/1       (+3500)

Tuukka Rask (BOS)                          35/1       (+3500)

Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)                 40/1       (+4000)

Johnathan Quick (LA)                     50/1       (+5000)

Carey Price (MON)                          50/1       (+5000)

Erik Karlsson (OTT)                          50/1       (+5000)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)             50/1       (+5000)

In terms of a value pick, or picks, Giroux and Seguin at 15/1 seems enticing. Let’s be honest, the Hart Trophy voting is almost always tied to point production and both of them averaged 1.05 per game last season.

As for other awards and potential value picks:

— You can get also Seguin to win the Art Ross at 20/1, behind the likes of Crosby (1/1), Stamkos (3/1), Ovechkin (17/2), Tavares and Malkin (10/1) and Giroux (15/1). Not sure if Bovada overlooked this, but Seguin finished fourth in the NHL in scoring last year and was three points back of Getzlaf for No. 2 on the list.

— Drew Doughty at 9/1 for the Norris, behind Erik Karlsson (4/1), Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara (11/2), Duncan Keith (6/1) and P.K. Subban (8/1).

— Pekka Rinne at 12/1 for the Vezina. He’s a two-time finalist and plays a ton… now all he needs to do is stay healthy. Sergei Bobrovsky at 15/1 also seems like a decent value bet because, y’know, he won it two years ago.

— Leon Draisaitl currently sits at 7/1 for the Calder. Consider his situation: Edmonton has so little depth at center he could be the No. 2 guy down the middle and end up with the likes of David Perron, Benoit Pouliot, Nail Yakupov and/or Teddy Purcell on his wings.

Veteran d-man Lee going to Preds camp on PTO

The Predators are bringing in some experience on the blueline.

Brian Lee, a veteran of over 200 NHL contests, has been invited to Nashville’s training camp on a professional tryout basis, the club announced on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old rearguard — taken ninth overall by Ottawa at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft — spent the majority of his NHL career with the Sens, recording a career-high 13 points during the 2008-09 campaign. He was acquired by Tampa Bay in 2012 but tore his ACL while skating for AHL Syracuse during the ’13 Calder Cup playoffs, and hasn’t played since.

Lee is a relatively well-known commodity in NHL circles. He’s a former Minnesota Mr. Hockey that played on a dynamic University of North Dakota team featuring Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford (obviously, a few scouts showed up to watch them play), and could have a shot at cracking a Preds blueline that isn’t bursting with depth.

Right now, the top seven projects to be Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Victor Bartley, Anton Volchenkov, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis — but the latter is currently embroiled in a contract negotiation and could end up missing training camp.

Of course, in light of the Ellis situation, here are some suggesting Lee might be nothing more than a training camp body.

If Rinne can stay healthy, could the Preds surprise?


Hockey teams that don’t score a ton of goals can’t afford to get below-average goaltending.

Unfortunately for the Nashville Predators, that’s been the case the past two seasons, as their star netminder, Pekka Rinne, has battled hip issues that have either kept him out of the lineup or adversely affected his play.

Hence, the relief in Music City that Rinne’s hip “feels great” heading into 2014-15.

“I had a good summer,” the 31-year-old said yesterday, per The Tennessean. “I worked hard and stayed healthy. I’m just really excited for this upcoming season. I feel like I’m ready to go.”

In 2013-14, the Preds’ team save percentage finished at .902, the fifth lowest in the NHL. The season before, the number was even lower, at .900. Both times Nashville missed the playoffs.

The Preds would love to see their team save percentage back to around the levels it was in 2010-11 (.924) and 2011-12 (.919), both playoff seasons.

But despite Rinne’s excitement, expectations for the Preds are generally low, as evidenced by online sportsbook Bovada recently setting their 2014-15 point total at just 76.5. (Only Calgary, Florida, and Buffalo had lower totals.)

This is a team that has the potential to surprise, however. It has a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie in Rinne and a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman in Shea Weber. It has promising youngsters in Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg. And to help new coach Peter Laviolette with the offense, it’s added a proven sniper in James Neal, as well as veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen.

While the Mike Fisher injury does hurt, it’s worth noting that the Preds did manage to win 36 games in regulation or overtime last season. That’s the same number as the Dallas Stars, one more than the Minnesota Wild, and two more than the Detroit Red Wings — all three of those teams being playoff teams. A 2-9 record in the shootout was a big issue for Nashville, but there’s reason to believe that could be different in 2014-15.

NHL’s hardest working defensemen in 2013-14


It’s Labor Day in America (and Labour Day in Canada), which means a good number of readers are scanning this during vacation time instead of killing cubicle boredom. With the holiday in mind, it might be fun to consider the admittedly abstract idea of which players “worked the hardest” last season.

A few ground rules before you get too angry on your day off:

1. This is based on 2013-14 stats.

2. Quantity generally beats out quality in many cases, so players who logged 70+ games have a much better chance than someone who was injured but faced tough assignments when healthy.

3. By no means is this a comprehensive list and this isn’t meant to judge subjective things like “effort.” It’s mainly based on how a player was deployed. In other words, team styles and coaching in general made a big impact.

To keep these lists from getting too huge, consider this the “Defensemen Edition.” Goalies and forwards will be considered in a different post.

Ryan Suter

In the eyes of some possession-leaning people, the Minnesota Wild defenseman might be overrated. Even his loudest doubters can’t deny the gargantuan minutes he puts up, though.

Suter led the league in total time on ice (2,411:54) and really blew everyone else away in average time on ice (29:24, with only Erik Karlsson logging more than 27 minutes per contest at 27:04). It’s not like Suter was just getting the glamour minutes, either, as he averaged 2:21 of shorthanded play per game.

Perhaps his “fancy stats” would shine a bit more if he wasn’t playing almost half a game considering the escalating aerobic requirements of playing modern NHL defense? Just throwing it out there …

Braydon Coburn

Two Philadelphia Flyers led their respective positions in shorthanded reps last season, but we’ll get to Sean Couturier in the next edition. Coburn logged 20 more penalty kill minutes (327:21:00) than runner-up John Carlson (307:03:00), averaging just under four minutes of SH time per contest.

There’s no doubt that playing in Philly inflates their stats – the Flyers averaged the most PIM per game with 14.4 per season – but that didn’t make Coburn’s job any easier.

Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo and Dion Phaneuf

OK, this list is probably a lot longer than those four names, but consider this the “all-around” group. Chara and Weber carry significant offensive burdens while also being asked to play top-notch defense, often with tough assignments and matchups. Pietrangelo shouldered the burden of the St. Louis Blues’ Flyers-like trips to the box (14.2 PIM per game) by killing for more than three minutes per night.

You might scoff at Phaneuf’s inclusion, but consider this: he faced tough quality of competition and started his shifts in the offensive zone just 38.8 percent of the time, yet he was also called upon to be a scoring threat from the blueline.

Now, should he carry such a workload? That’s a question for a rapidly changing Maple Leafs front office to ponder.

Erik Karlsson

As much as we justifiably focus on how much work a defensemen is responsible for in his end, what about those who are asked to carry their offense?

In Adam Gretz’s list of the players teams relied upon the most for offense, Karlsson was the only defenseman to make it, as he was involved in a whopping 32.2 percent (74 of 229) of the Ottawa Senators’ goals. That’s more than Joe Thornton, Evgeni Malkin and Kyle Okposo managed for their respective teams.

He also generates a ridiculous amount of the Senators’ shot attempts, overall:

While he doesn’t have a tough penalty-killing workload (1:30 per game), he still was on the ice an awful lot, finishing with the second-highest TOI and TOI averages behind Suter.

In other words, the Senators really on him to work hard … and they probably will only lean on him more with Jason Spezza out of town.


Hopefully this list provided you with some fun, even if it’s – again – not aiming to consider every player who carried a significant workload in 2013-14.

That’s actually a nice task for the comments. If there’s a consensus there, this post might just be modified to consider your choices.

Update: Blocked shots get mixed reviews as a sign of quality defense, but there’s little use denying that it takes courage and counts as dirty work. In case you’re wondering, Andrew MacDonald easily led the league with 242 blocks last season.

Poll: Is Erik Karlsson an elite defenseman?


While defensive defenseman seem to suffer when it comes to Norris Trophy voting,* offensive blueliners tend to get nitpicked an awful lot. In many cases, they’re labeled as double-edged swords; people believe that there’s a strong chance they can hurt their teams when aggressive bids to push the pace fall flat.

It’s pretty difficult to make an argument for anyone other than Erik Karlsson being the best player on the Ottawa Senators, yet that doesn’t mean that he’s a consensus pick as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He’s generally downgraded by the same conversations people had about dynamos like Paul Coffey.

The question is: should he be considered among the very best at his position?

One thing that seems beyond debate is his sterling offensive ability. While most blueliners aim for 60 points and would likely be happy with 50, Karlsson is a rare threat to at least flirt with a point-per-game. Not only that, he creates so many shots that it’s easy to argue that the sum of his offense makes up for any defensive lapses (legitimate or exaggerated).

Silver Seven Sens advances the argument that the gifted 24-year-old makes the players around him better, too. The “fancy stats” smile upon Karlsson as well, as you can see here and here.

Circling back, though, his style can make it easier to pinpoint those moments when things don’t work out. The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy wondered if he’s “too soft” to be an elite defenseman, for one:

In 2012, the Sens star won the Norris Trophy as best defenseman in the NHL. The award, voted on by hockey writers, is notoriously slanted towards blueliners who put up offense and Karlsson was a gem that year with 19 goals and 78 points in 81 games. By contrast, runner-up Shea Weber had 49 points that season, playing more minutes than Karlsson and certainly make the space in front of his netminder a lot scarier for enemy forwards than Karlsson ever could.

But at the same time, is your team ever safe from getting scored upon if Karlsson is carrying the puck up the ice? No doubt the Swede is a special talent, but that attention to detail in his own zone seems to be lacking sometimes.

“Elite” means different things to different people, so let’s leave that to your own discretion. Based on whatever standards you’d like to consider, is Karlsson an elite defenseman?

* – The fact that Zdeno Chara only owns one Norris is pretty mind-boggling.