Sidney Crosby

PHT Morning Skate: Eddie Lack gets a taco tattoo

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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.

Apparently Eddie Lack really loves his tacos. The Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltender recently added a taco tattoo to his arm.

Sidney Crosby’s off-ice life hardly reflects that of a superstar. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Friday was Marian Hossa’s day with the Stanley Cup and he decided to hang out with fellow cup champs Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik. (Bar Down)

The Hockey News takes a look at the 20 best free agents who could hit the open market next summer. (THN)

Islanders’ great Mike Bossy has been reunited with his “50 in 50 puck”. (TMZ)

Eddie Lack photos courtesy of @EddieLack

Blues’ biggest question: Are they good enough down the middle?

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Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Jeff Carter. Patrice Bergeron. Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg.

Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always have an elite center. As you can see, some of them even have two.

Do the St. Louis Blues?

The answer to that will depend on your definition of elite. If it’s a generous one, then maybe Paul Stastny gets the nod. Otherwise, it’s hard to answer yes.

Next season, the Blues’ top two lines could look something like this:

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny — David Backes
Jaden Schwartz — Jori Lehtera — Vladimir Tarasenko

If one of Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri can step into a top-six role, coach Ken Hitchcock has said that Backes could be moved to the third line.

Regardless of how the lines shake out, it’s no surprise that the Blues were left wanting more from Stastny, their big free-agency signing from last summer.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “We need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Stastny had 46 points in 74 games last season. He then managed just one goal, with no assists, in the Blues’ six-game playoff loss to the Wild.

Not enough from a player who was supposed to be a difference-maker in the tough Western Conference.

“I think in every sport if you’re strong up the middle you’re usually a strong team,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per Yahoo Sports. “The center icemen seem to be the catalyst, usually offensively. They’re the guys who have the puck the most and make maybe the most decisions on the ice based on the number of touches they have in a game.”

Which is why there’s so much excitement in Washington about young Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But we digress.

The Blues are obviously a strong team. Their regular-season record is proof of that. But they haven’t been able to win that elusive Cup, so it’s only natural to pore over their roster in search of why.

Their lack of a truly elite center — and this goes for good teams like the Wild, Predators, Canadiens, Rangers, and Jets — may be as good an answer as any.

Related: Doug Armstrong is under pressure

My, Adidas: Company will reportedly design NHL jerseys in future

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It sounds like shoe company adidas will design NHL jerseys instead of Reebok in the near future.

The details get a little hazy beyond that, which makes sense, as the league and outfitter didn’t confirm anything to TSN’s Rick Westhead (who broke the news).

Westhead reports that the new deal will kick in during the 2016-17 season, but it might begin in 2017-18 instead, according to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.

adidas owns Reebok, the current designer of NHL sweaters, so you’d assume it would be a smooth transition. Instead, Westhead reports that there may be some pretty “radical” changes. Here are some of the key ways things might be different:

  • There are no details regarding how it might happen, but this may open the door for advertisements on jerseys.
  • Granted, sweaters already have a key “ad” on them beyond a team logo: the brand name for whoever makes the jersey. It sounds as though adidas may want to implement its iconic three-stripe trademark in some form. Westhead reports that the deal could double the NHL’s takeaway compared to its current agreement, so that would likely dull the sting of controversy over such an implementation for the league.

“If you’re already deciding on a major NHL jersey overhaul, maybe with adidas striping on the jerseys, then it seems like it would be a good time to introduce the ads, if you plan to do it anyway,” a league source told TSN.

  • It sounds as though Connor McDavid will be featured heavily in ads, while Sidney Crosby may transition from his Reebok pitching.

There are plenty of other interesting details in Westhead’s report, so give it a full look.

Please note that this hasn’t been confirmed by the league, even if there were some murmurs dating back to February. Even so, it may be wise to consider upcoming changes if you were originally planning on buying a bunch of sweaters for the holidays.

Side note: PHT isn’t alone in making Run DMC jokes.

Go ahead, listen to the song, you know you want to.

Poll: Are the Lightning the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

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Standing still can be better than the alternative. While any improvement the Tampa Bay Lightning see will have to come from within after their quiet summer, they also haven’t endured any major losses.

Chicago was the oddsmaker’s favorites to repeat in mid-June, but since then the Blackhawks have parted ways with Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, and Johnny Oduya. To be fair, Chicago has also gotten some noteworthy additions like Artem Anisimov and they have some promising youngsters that might help fill the gaps like Artemy Panarin and Marko Dano.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Blackhawks have made some considerable sacrifices this summer in the name of cap compliance and that’s without talking about the elephant in the room.

Tampa Bay finished two wins shy of Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, so has the uncertainty created by Chicago’s turnover at least made the Blackhawks not quite as good of a bet as the Lightning?

Of course, even if you’re inclined to say that Tampa Bay is now in a better position than Chicago, that’s not the end of the debate. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have strong teams led by elite goaltenders and either one is capable of having a standout season. Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, which came closer to eliminating Chicago than Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues, which has fielded a great team for years, but hasn’t been able to put it all together once the playoffs start — yet.

You could bet on a Los Angeles Kings comeback or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overwhelming squads with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even then we haven’t covered all the teams that can legitimately claim to be serious contenders going into the season.

But this isn’t about who could win the Cup, it’s who has the best chance of doing so, even if it is by a narrow margin in a large field. Is Tampa Bay that team?

Edmonton Oilers ’15-16 Outlook

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With Connor McDavid in the fold there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Edmonton, and rightfully so. The 18-year-old is the best player to come out of the NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby did in 2005.

McDavid finished last season with 44 goals and 120 points while appearing 47 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He added 21 goals and 49 points in 20 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center won both the OHL and CHL player of the year.

Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll bumps in the road for his star forward as he adjusts to the NHL game.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

Front office shakeup

Former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson is now in charge, and has left his mark on the organization in the few months since taking over as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

Chiarelli along with head coach Todd McLellan represent a new era in Edmonton. Nicholson has since re-assigned Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

Joining McLellan behind the bench are three new assistant coaches in Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers.

As Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said in April, “They’re not the same old Oilers, and that’s a start.”

What to expect

Despite addressing issues in goal (Cam Talbot) and making additions to the blue line (Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba and Andrej Sekera), the Edmonton Oilers chances of ending their nine-year playoff drought are slim at best.

Given the Oilers play in the Pacific Division with the likes of the Anaheim Ducks, L.A. Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, making the playoffs is this season is unrealistic.

The Oilers have not reached the 30 win mark in a season since 2011-12 (32) and should see an improvement on their 24-44-14 record from last season.

Related: Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?