In a young man’s game, let’s take it easy with the dynasty talk

23 Comments

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, led by their 21-year-old captain, Sidney Crosby, and a 22-year-old Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Evgeni Malkin.

At the time, the Pens seemed like a dynasty in the making. They have not been back to the Stanley Cup Final since.

Because also at the time, there were some young guys in Chicago by the names of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith, and some other young guys in Los Angeles by the names of Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.

Today, it’s the Blackhawks and Kings that are garnering the dynasty talk. No surprise there, given they’ve won four of the last five Stanley Cups, two for each franchise, and both clubs, among other things, have an elite two-way center and an elite defenseman.

And if you go back in time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a champion that didn’t have at least one of those types of players. The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011, had/still have Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. The 2008 Red Wings had Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom. The 2007 Ducks had two elite d-men in Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, plus a young center in Ryan Getzlaf. And even the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes, though their blue line was relatively lacking, had a two-time Selke Trophy winner in Rod Brind’Amour and a young center in Eric Staal.

If that’s the blue print, there are teams today, besides L.A. and Chicago, with the makings of a champion. Look at Columbus, with Ryan Johansen, 21, and Ryan Murray, 20. There’s Tampa Bay, with Steven Stamkos, 24, and Victor Hedman, 23. The Blue Jackets and Lightning also have highly rated prospects in Alexander Wennberg and Jonathan Drouin, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars may need to upgrade their blue lines, but they’re led by young stars up front. The Florida Panthers are loaded with young talent. Ditto for the Buffalo Sabres.

And what about the players that haven’t even been drafted yet? In five years, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, draft-eligible next summer, will be 22 years old, i.e. around the same age Crosby, Toews and Doughty won their first Stanley Cups.

Now, could the Kings become a dynasty? Absolutely. So could the Blackhawks. But let’s also remember how quickly things can change in a young man’s league like the NHL.

Five years ago, Los Angeles finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

Five years ago, Chicago finally made the playoffs after missing five straight times.

Look at them now.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.