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Short on talent, Kings are in need of overhaul

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

With their teams falling out of the playoff race and the NHL trade deadline just around the corner the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators have sent the message to their fans that changes are probably coming to their roster.

The mindset is simple: The team’s aren’t good enough to win as currently constructed and it is probably time to hit the reset button and start over.  It might mean a step backwards in the short-term for what will — hopefully — be a stronger, more consistent and competitive organization in the not-too-distant future.

There’s another team in the NHL that should look into hitting a similar reset button.

The Los Angeles Kings.

This week they swapped undesirable contracts with the Ottawa Senators when they sent Marian Gaborik packing in exchange for Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf might be able to give the Kings a little more than Gaborik would have over the next few years, but it is probably not enough to move the needle in any meaningful way.

[Related: Senators Trade Dion Phaneuf To Kings]

It’s not that the Kings are terrible. They are not one of the bottom teams in the league and even after losing in Pittsburgh on Thursday night they are still very much alive in the playoff race, sitting three points out of a playoff spot (both a Wild Card spot and the third spot in the Pacific Division) with a couple of teams ahead of them.

Even though they are still “in it,” this season just seems like a re-run over the past three. They’ve missed the playoffs in two of those seasons (and if they fall short this season would be three out of four without a trip to the postseason) and have not won a playoff round since 2014.

After falling short of the postseason a year ago the Kings made some significant changes off the ice by letting go of coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi. The organization said all of the right things about wanting to But the results on the ice are very much the same. A well-coached, well-positioned defensive team that is tough to score against that does a lot of things well but just doesn’t have the high-end talent throughout its roster to take advantage of it and win.

They can’t score. They do not generate a lot offensively. They seem to just lack … excitement. And creativity. And just anything that makes them even somewhat dangerous with the puck.

The big three that was the foundation of their Stanley Cup teams in 2012 and 2014 is still in place.

Anze Kopitar is still one of the great players in the league, but he can’t do it alone. At age 30 he is not getting any younger, either.

Drew Doughty is still a top-tier defenseman, but his contract is up after next season and it is not known if he will re-sign with the team. If he leaves a lot of what makes their defense work goes out the door and there is really no way to replace that.

Jonathan Quick is capable of going on hot streaks where he is unbeatable in net, but he also has stretches where his play dips significantly.

Beyond those three, what else is there here to really get excited about it you’re a Kings fan? Or the Kings as an organization?

You could point to Jeff Carter being sidelined for most of the season and how much his absence has hurt and you wouldn’t be wrong. But he also appeared in all 82 games last season and the Kings still missed the playoffs by eight points.

Dustin Brown had a nice bounce-back season at the start, but his production has cooled considerably in recent months and he’s still 33 year sold and signed for four more years at more than $5.5 million per season. This season will be the first time since 2011-12 he will record more than 36 points in a season. And that required a rather unsustainable hot streak of production at the start of the year to get him there that isn’t likely to be duplicated in future seasons.

Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli represented a next wave of young talent, and they are pretty good players, but now that they are both in the middle of their age 25 seasons this is probably the level of production (maybe 20 goals, maybe 45 points) that should be expected from them on a regular basis. Maybe they are capable of a bigger season on occasion, but probably nothing more than that consistently.

The NHL is getting younger, faster and more skilled every day and the Kings are lagging behind in all of those areas. They are one of the oldest teams in the league, they still try to live through “heavy hockey,” and they just don’t have enough high-end skill outside of their top two or three players. Even worse, there doesn’t seem to be much hope on the horizon that it will be any different unless they make some significant changes to the roster and the way they play.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a scorched earth, Buffalo Sabres-style tank-fest for the next five years, but the current formula and structure in Los Angeles is no longer working with the current cast. They seem to be more than just one or two tweaks away from fixing it.

The longer they wait on hitting the reset button, the worse it is probably going to get.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

3-on-3 overtime in NHL has evolved over past 5 seasons

Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils scores the game-winning overtime goal
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Victor Hedman fondly recalls the NHL’s first 3-on-3 overtime because it was madness.

”It was probably a minute and a half of just breakaways,” the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman said. ”Jason Garrison scored the goal – beat the D-man (and scored) five-hole.”

Trading breakaways and playing at a frenetic pace was what 3-on-3 was about when it debuted in 2015. The idea was to open up the ice for skilled players so fewer games needed to be decided by a shootout.

When All-Stars play their annual 3-on-3 tournament Saturday night, it’ll look like the overtimes of years past, with less regard for defense, of course. But in the regular season, 3-on-3 overtime has become a much more methodical game full of strategy predicated on holding on to the puck and only taking the highest of quality shots.

”You have tactics now,” Hedman said. ”In the beginning, you kind of didn’t know what to do. It’s all about maybe not coming down on an angle and taking a bad shot and it goes out and goes the other way. It’s all about puck possession. … I think as guys have played it more, they’ve learned more and now I think more and more games go to a shootout.”

At the All-Star break, 8.2% of games this season have been decided by a shootout, up slightly from 7.9% in the first four seasons with 3-on-3 overtime. The evolution of 3-on-3 with so many teams opting to circle back over and over has prompted talk about adding a shot clock, forcing teams to stay in the offensive zone and potentially adding time beyond the current five-minute period.

The initial theory was so much open ice made 3-on-3 coach-proof. Coaches and players have figured out different tactics, and the results are noticeable.

”The biggest change is probably the ability to get your players on and not allow them to change while maintaining puck possession,” Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”The goaltenders are used a lot more in terms of making line changes by throwing it back to the goalie. Regrouping – I think at first it was just get in the zone and try to find a give and go somewhere that works. Now, guys are going back, they’re going back, they’re going back, tire out the other team, try to score off the rush.”

There’s more science to 3-on-3 now, and, therefore, less fun. It’s still an entertaining product, only with more players thinking about fatiguing opponents than putting the puck on net as much as possible.

”The most important thing is line changes,” Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano said. ”I think we’ve all learned that you can’t change at the wrong time (because) it’ll cost you an odd-man rush. The puck possession, I think teams are figuring it out.”

A basketball-style shot clock could force more action. But the biggest conversation right now is about extending 3-on-3 OT to seven or perhaps even 10 minutes in an effort to further reduce shootouts.

As one of the players who would be taking on those extra minutes, Hedman is in favor of a longer overtime. But not all players want to see it doubled.

”Maybe a few more minutes tacked on would be cool,” Giordano said. ”We love playing it, but you’d have to look at how it would affect the guys who are playing and the more wear on their bodies with those minutes because 3-on-3 minutes are a lot different than 5-on-5 minutes. It’s a lot more taxing, for sure.”

Goaltenders would also get taxed with a heavier workload. They don’t see as many shots in 3-on-3 as the rest of the game, but almost every one is difficult to stop.

”Every single shot is dangerous,” Flames goalie David Rittich said. ”It’s usually hard. You kind of know you’re going to face some breakaways, 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s, so you’ve got to be ready for everything. … I’m not a big fan of 3-on-3 hockey, actually.”

Goalies are in the minority there. Arenas still feel a special buzz for 3-on-3 overtime, and skaters get to show off the skill that’s not ordinarily possible at 5-on-5.

”I think it’s cool for the fans, too,” Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. ”I just really like playing in that.”

Bettman: NHL puck and player tracking to start in playoffs

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Puck and player tracking is coming to the NHL in the playoffs.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that puck and player tracking will be up and running in all playoff arenas this spring and is expected to be fully operational leaguewide next season.

”There will be more data than ever before,” Bettman said. ”I believe the players will generate something like 200 data points per second and the puck 2,000 data points a second, so in terms of getting inside the game, telling stories, as a fan delving in to get what you’re interested in, you’re going to be able to do more things than ever before and even imaginable.”

The league will test the system – which is a mix of sensors and optical tracking – during certain games in the regular season. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league hasn’t decided which games will be chosen for that testing.

During his annual state of the NHL address, Bettman also revealed there had been a few complaints raised about a team official’s behavior since the topic garnered significant attention at the Board of Governors meeting last month. Bettman and Daly said those complaints were investigated, and none turned out to be of significant concern.

”Obviously, what we announced at the board meeting, some people have followed up and there have been some things reported to us,” Daly said. ”I’ve gotten a couple calls from clubs who have had issues raised with them. This is I think what I’ll expect when we have a platform up and running that people are going to utilize it.”

Bettman also touched on the status of collective bargaining talks with players, a potential deadline to decide about going to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the possibility of changing the All-Star format next year.

Four months since owners and players each decided not to opt out of the CBA that goes until 2022, Bettman said the Players’ Association has taken a ”deep breath” on negotiations. He expects CBA talks to resume in earnest soon, despite the lack of an urgent deadline.

”My expectation is we’ll re-engage shortly in a more energetic way than perhaps we’ve been in the last couple of months,” Bettman said. ”Perhaps knowing there’s more time than we had going into September, I wouldn’t read anything into it other than we’re both still focused on it.”

Bettman brushed off the notion of a deadline for an Olympic decision set by the International Ice Hockey Federation. He continued to say it’s disruptive for the NHL to stop its season to go to the Olympics, which it did five times from 1998 to 2014 before skipping 2018, but didn’t rule out sending players to Beijing.

Some international hockey could be coming closer than Asia before 2022. Bettman alluded to having a ”distinct international flavor” at the 2021 All-Star Weekend, which will be hosted by the Panthers in South Florida.

The league and players abandoned plans to hold a World Cup of Hockey as soon as the winter of 2021, but Daly said there’s a working model on what might be coming at the next All-Star Weekend. Much like the women’s 3-on-3 game at this year’s Skills Competition, that event could showcase the U.S.-Canada rivalry and others.

”I think we have a general understanding of what we’re talking about and what it looks like,” Daly said.

NHL All-Star Game 2020: TV Channel, live stream, rosters, schedule, how to watch

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The NHL All-Star Game is tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Here’s what you need to know about event, including the TV channel, the live stream, rosters of players, what jerseys they’ll wear, some skills competition information, and more.

When is the NHL All-Star Game and how can I watch?

The 2020 NHL All-Star Game takes place on Saturday, January 25 at 8 p.m. ET at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO. The 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be televised on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the tournament online and on the NBC Sports app.

Format, rules for NHL All-Star Game

Four teams (one representing each of the Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan, and Pacific Divisions) square off in a two-round tournament. The three 20-minute games will be played 3-on-3.

In round one, the two Eastern Conference teams (Atlantic vs. Metropolitan) face off, while the two West teams (Central and Pacific) meet in the other bracket. The winners face off in round three.

Teams change ends at the 10-minute mark of each game. Shootouts decide any games that are tied after 20 minutes.

NHL All-Star Game jerseys

The NHL publicized those a few weeks ago. The goal was “to pay homage to the original sweaters of the St. Louis Blues and to transform the city’s acclaimed rhythm and blues history into a tangible form, the 2020 Honda NHL® All-Star Game jersey’s striping mimics a musical staff along the front and sleeves of the jersey. As another nod to the host city, the stitching elements are conducted in an eye-catching silver thread, inspired by the iconic Gateway Arch.”

Anyway, here’s what they look like:

All-Star Skills event

That was Friday night and, it seems a good time was had by all. Click here for a recap of the event, or watch the video below.

Recent NHL All-Star Game history: MVPs and winners

This represents the fifth time an NHL All-Star Game will go with this 3-on-3 format. Before that, the most recent format involved an entertaining (but maybe too embarrassing?) “fantasy draft” format. Since 1947, the NHL has gone with several other formats including Stanley Cup champions versus All-Stars, your typical clash of conferences, and North America vs. “The World.”

Here are the All-Star Game-winning teams in recent years. The events haven’t happened every season, as the Olympics and lockouts sometimes intervened.

2019: Metropolitan 10 – Central 5
2018: Pacific 5 – Atlantic 2
2017: Metropolitan 4 – Pacific 3
2016: Pacific 1 – Atlantic 0
2015: Team Toews 17 – Team Foligno 12
2012: Team Chara 12 – Team Alfredsson 9
2011: Team Lidstrom 11 – Team Staal 10
2009: East 12 – West 11 (OT)
2008: East 8 – West 7
2007: West 12 – East 9

Also, consider recent All-Star Game MVPs:

2019: Sidney Crosby
2018: Brock Boeser (quite memorably)
2017: Wayne Simmonds
2016: John Scott (also very memorably)
2015: Ryan Johansen
2012: Marian Gaborik
2011: Patrick Sharp
2009: Alex Kovalev
2008: Eric Staal
2007: Daniel Briere

NHL All-Star Game rosters

Here are the latest rosters from the league, which account for injuries and other absences.

Atlantic Division

David Pastrnak, BOS (2nd appearance) — captain

Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (1st)

Anthony Duclair, OTT (1st)

Jack Eichel, BUF (3rd)

Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (1st)

F Mitchell Marner, TOR (1st)

Brady Tkachuk, OTT (1st)

Victor Hedman, TBL (3rd)

D Shea Weber, MTL (7th)

Frederik Andersen, TOR (1st)

Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (3rd)

Tuukka Rask, BOS, has chosen not to play. F Auston Matthews, TOR, will attend but not participate in on-ice activities because of a wrist condition.

Metropolitan Division

Kris Letang, PIT (6th appearance) — captain

Mathew Barzal, NYI (2nd)

Nico Hischier, NJD (1st)

Travis Konecny, PHI (1st)

T.J. Oshie, WSH (1st)

Chris Kreider, NYR (1st)

John Carlson, WSH (2nd)

Jaccob Slavin, CAR (1st)

Seth Jones, CBJ (3rd)

Braden Holtby, WSH (5th)

Tristan Jarry, PIT (1st)

Jake Guentzel, PIT, F Kyle Palmieri, NJD, D Dougie Hamilton, CAR, G Joonas Korpisalo, CBJ, and F Artemi Panarin, NYR, were replaced because of injury. F Alex Ovechkin, WSH (captain), has chosen not to play.

Central Division

F Nathan MacKinnon, COL (4th appearance) — captain

Patrick Kane, CHI (9th)

Ryan O’Reilly, STL (3rd)

David Perron, STL (1st)

Mark Scheifele, WPG (2nd)

Tyler Seguin, DAL (6th)

Eric Staal, MIN (6th)

Roman Josi, NSH (3rd)

Alex Pietrangelo, STL (2nd)

Jordan Binnington, STL (1st)

Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (2nd)

Pacific Division

F Connor McDavid, EDM (4th appearance) — captain

Leon Draisaitl, EDM (2nd)

Tomas Hertl, SJS (1st)

Anze Kopitar, LAK (5th)

Max Pacioretty, VGK (1st)

Elias Pettersson, VAN (2nd)

Matthew Tkachuk, CGY (1st)

Mark Giordano, CGY (3rd)

Quinn Hughes, VAN (1st)

Jacob Markstrom, VAN (1st)

David Rittich, CGY (1st)

Jakob Silfverberg (personal), ANA, F Logan Couture (injury), SJS, and G Darcy Kuemper (injury), ARI, were replaced. G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK, has chosen not to play.

Elite Women’s 3-on-3 breakdown, rosters

The two teams will feature nine skaters and one goalie made up of U.S. and Canadian players who are part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association — a group that is boycotting playing this season as they push for a sustainable professional league. The game will go by IIHF women’s rules and feature two 10-minute periods with running time. Penalties will result in penalty shots for the fouled team.

Here are the rosters:

American All-Stars (Coach: Cammi Granato)
F Alex Carpenter
F Kendall Coyne Schofield
F Brianna Decker
F Amanda Kessel
F Hilary Knight
F Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson
F Annie Pankowski
D Kacey Bellamy
D Lee Stecklein
G Alex Rigsby Cavallini

Canadian All-Stars (Coach: Jayna Hefford)
F Meghan Agosta
F Mélodie Daoust
F Rebecca Johnston
F Sarah Nurse
F Marie-Philip Poulin
F Natalie Spooner
F Blayre Turnbull
D Renata Fast
D Laura Fortino
G Ann-Renée Desbiens

Referees Kelly Cooke and Katie Guay and lineswomen Kendall Hanley and Kirsten Welsh will officiate the game.

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• NHL All-Star Game captains
• All-Star Game coaches
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

2020 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, fun moments, Hertl as Bieber

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All-Star Skills competitions bring about memorable moments in plenty of years. Yet, when Tomas Hertl donned a Justin Bieber mask, fans received something truly unusual: nightmare fuel.

Luckily, that (honestly chilling) vision was just one memorable image from the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills competition. Let’s go over the events, winners, and other fun stuff.

Keeping the St. Louis (and surrounding areas) faithful happy

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Ryan O'Reilly rocked a Chiefs helmet during warm-ups, while Jordan Binnington also supported the Super Bowl-bound team. The Chiefs did the Blues a solid during their Stanley Cup run, so why not pay it forward? Most importantly: it looked funny.

Matthew Tkachuk also went for a cheap pop from the St. Louis crowd by taking off his jersey to reveal St. Louis Cardinals garb during the Shooting Stars competition.

The greatest fan service came during appearances by big names of old. Wayne Gretzky — announced, accurately if amusingly, as a former Blue — really kicked things off. Brett Hull took a shot during the Shooting Stars event, and Keith Tkachuk also joined in alongside Matthew and Brady Tkachuk.

Personally, though, the best moment of all of those cameos came when Al MacInnis showed that he could still provide one of the hardest shots of any human.

Dude is 56. Allegedly.

Shea Weber ended up reclaiming his Hardest Shot title, while Patrick Kane won Shooting Stars.

Hertl wears the Bieber mask, creates nightmare fuel

As great as Hertl was at playing off of Jordan Binnington’s feud/friendly wager with Jordan Binnington (the Blues can fill you in on that), the actual execution of the mask makes me think of Michael Myers. You know, the creepy-masked slasher movie villain guilty of untold fictional executions in the “Halloween” series.

It’s still funny stuff, so enjoy the video above. Just maybe don’t let those images of Hertl as Bieber sink into your soul.

*Shudders*

Hertl explained after the Skills competition that the mask slipped, which made it difficult for him to put a decent shot on Binnington. That slip might also explain why it made it look like Bieber was the face for the rebooted “Shape,” which would make Bieber the next William Shatner.

Anyway, Binnington made that save, and also made the St. Louis crowd happy by winning save relay with 10 saves.

Binnington also got to chirp “Biebs,” saying he expected more. Nicely done.

Who won 2020 NHL All-Star Skills events, including Elite Women’s 3-on-3

So, the strangeness was mostly contained in those moments above. Granted, the Shooting Stars seems like it needs some fine-tuning, and I personally prefer styrofoam or otherwise breakable targets to the digital ones in this year’s accuracy competition.

But beyond those quibbles, the rest of the action was straightforward enough that we can breeze through the winners in one convenient spot.

Winners of Elite 3-on-3 Women’s Hockey: Canada 2-1

Hardest Shot: Shea Weber (106.5 mph)

Fastest Skater: Mathew Barzal (13.175 seconds) upset Connor McDavid (13.215)

Accuracy Shooting: Jaccob Slavin (9.505 seconds)

Save Streak: Jordan Binnington (10 saves)

Shooting Stars: Patrick Kane (22, then 2 in tiebreaker)

Itching for more All-Star Skills fun? Check out the 2019 edition.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.