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Hockey Hall of Fame: Who will make up the 2020 class?

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The Hockey Hall of Fame vote will be different this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 18-person Selection Committee will debate virtually, with the 2020 class announced on Wednesday afternoon. All voting is done via secret ballot, so we never know who fell just short and who made it in a landslide.

The committee can elect a maximum of four male players, two female players, and either two builders or one builder and one referee or linesman. All candidates need to receive at least 14 votes (75%) to get in.

Last year’s class consisted of Hayley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford, and Jerry York.

The question of whether the 2020 induction ceremony, currently scheduled for Nov. 16 in Toronto, will take place remains an unknown at the moment.

So who will get the call this year? Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, and Shane Doan are among those players in their first year of eligibility. One is a lock; another is a possibility; and the third will probably end up in the “falling short” category every time we debate the Hall of Fame.

Let’s take a look at who might make up the 2020 class.

THE LOCK

Jarome Iginla — The one lock. Iginla spent 1,219 of his 1,554 NHL games as a member of the Flames. After breaking into the league in 1996, “Iggy” went on to score 625 goals, record 1,300 points, win two Rocket Richard Trophies, the King Clancy, the Art Ross, and the Ted Lindsay Award. He reached the 50-goal mark twice and hit 40 goals four times. Before he became a six-time All-Star, he won two Memorial Cups with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. On the international scene, he represented Canada at various levels, winning two World Junior Championships, one World Championship, one World Cup of Hockey, and two Olympic gold medals. It was his pass that led to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal during the 2010 tournament in Vancouver.

THE PROBABLY-SHOULDS

Daniel Alfredsson – This is Alfie’s fourth year of eligibility. A veteran of 18 NHL seasons, he has an impressive resume and strong international credentials to make the cut. He scored 444 goals and recorded 1,157 points during his NHL career, and has a trophy cabinet that features Olympic gold and silver medals, the 1996 Calder Trophy, six NHL All-Star appearances, the King Clancy, and inclusion in the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Marian Hossa – He’s a first-ballot HOFer to me, but given how under-appreciated he was during his 19-season NHL career it would be fitting if he’s overlooked in a year absent a large number of locks. For his resume, Hossa has a Memorial Cup title and three Stanley Cup rings to his name. He represented Slovakia at the World Championships eight times, Olympic Games four times, and played in two World Cup of Hockey tournaments — once for his home country and the other for Team Europe. In 1,309 NHL games, Hossa scored 525 goals and recorded 1,134 points. The production continued into the postseason with 149 points in 205 playoff games.

His trophy case lacks a number of individual honors, however. He was runner-up for the Calder Trophy in 1999, the only time in his career he was a finalist for an NHL award. His two-way game was sorely underrated and that was reflected in Selke Trophy voting where he finished 10th or better only three times.

Alexander Mogilny – He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal season in 1992-93 tied him for the NHL’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne. He would finish with 127 points that season. A year later the Sabres named him the first European captain in league history. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club after winning the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and World Championship gold. He also helped the Soviet Union to gold at the World Junior Championship.

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THE POSSIBLES

Rod Brind’Amour — The Hurricanes head coach has seen his support grow since first becoming eligible. The induction of Carbonneau last year could help Brind’Amour make it to Toronto. A two-way stalwart, he scored 452 goals and recorded 1,184 points in 1,484 NHL games. Along with the 2006 Stanley Cup, he also has two Selke Trophies to his name. You can argue his resume is better than Carbonneau’s. Finally, from the News and Observer’s Luke DeCock: “There are 36 players in NHL history who had 15 seasons with 49 or more points. Thirty-five of them are in the Hall of Fame. Want to guess who’s not?”

Curtis Joseph – 454 wins, 51 shutouts, an Olympic gold medal, three-time NHL All-Star. A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, CuJo had himself a fine career, but did not win a Stanley Cup or any individual hardware. Is he Hall of Fame worthy or perfectly fit for the Hall of Very Good ? Only seven goalies have been inducted into the Hall since 1990 via the player category.

Boris Mikhailov – The long time Soviet captain had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing his country. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic golds and eight gold at the World Championships.  The support for international stars has grown with the inductions of Sergei Makarov (2016), Alexander Yakushev (2018), and Vaclav Nedomansky (2019). If not Mikhail this year, perhaps Vladimir Petrov? Sven Tumba? Alexander Maltsev?

[MORE: Our picks for the 2020 Hockey HOF class]

Jeremy Roenick – 513 goals, 1,216 points, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at the Canada Cup and Olympic Games. Roenick’s elite level status only lasted for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. Roenick did not win any individual hardware during his career, so even in classes where there appears to be an opening, the door might remain closed for him.

Doug Wilson – 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold. His name has sprung up in Hall of Fame discussions over the last few years even after having been on the ballot for over two decades. He played during an era dominated by Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, but examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. He finished his up top 20 in points by a defenseman and top 10 in points per game. A fun piece of trivia via Sean McIndoe of The Athletic that bolsters his case: “Here’s the complete list of players who both won a Norris Trophy (peak) and finished in the top 25 all-time in defenseman scoring (longevity), but haven’t been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Doug Wilson, and that’s it.”

THE REST

Tom Barrasso – 369 wins, 38 shutouts, youngest goalie to win the Calder Trophy and youngest winner of the Vezina, 1985 Jennings Trophy, two-time Stanley Cup winner, 2002 Olympic silver medal.

Shane Doan — 1,540 games with the Jets/Coyotes franchise, 402 goals, 972 points, two World Championship gold medals, one World Cup of Hockey gold medal, two-time Memorial Cup winner, two-time NHL All-Star, King Clancy Trophy winner.

Patrik Elias – 408 goals, 1,025 points, Olympic bronze, two World Championships bronze medals, two-time Stanley Cup winner, nine 20-plus goal seasons.

Theo Fleury – 455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner. Here’s something in his favor, via TSN’S Steve Dryden: “Only 15 players in NHL history have averaged at least one point per game in both the regular season (min. 1,000 games) and playoffs (min. 75 games). Fourteen are in the HHOF.” That list includes Wayne Gretzky, Joe Sakic, Phil Esposito, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, and Mark Messier.

Sergei Gonchar – 220 goals, 811 points, five-time All-Star, 2009 Stanley Cup title (two more as a coach), silver and bronze medals from the Olympics and World Championships, eight 50-plus point seasons, five straight seasons with at least 18 goals.

Steve Larmer – 441 goals, 1,012 points, 1983 Calder Trophy, two-time All-Star, 1991 Canada Cup gold, 1994 Stanley Cup title, owns third-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history.

Vincent Lecavalier – 421 goals, 949 points, 2004 World Cup of Hockey gold and MVP, 2004 Stanley Cup, 2007 Rocket Richard Trophy, 2008 King Clancy Trophy, four-time NHL All-Star. It’s not quite the trophy case of 2018 inductee Martin St. Louis, so that could probably leave Lecavalier stuck in the Hall of Very Good.

Jere Lehtinen – 243 goals, 514 points, three-time Selke Trophy winner (as a winger), one Stanley Cup, World Championship gold and three silvers, one Olympic silver, three Olympic bronze medals, one World Cup of Hockey silver, IIHF Hall of Fame inductee.

Kent Nilsson – 262 goals, 686 points, two-time NHL All-Star, 1987 Stanley Cup title, 1978 WHA rookie of the year, two-time WHA champion, IIHF Hall of Famer, Canada Cup and World Championship silver medals with Sweden.

Chris Osgood – 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner.  A good goalie on some great Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?

Keith Tkachuk – 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal. He’s 33rd on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Only four players ahead of him are not in the Hall of Fame; but Alex Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr, and Jarome Iginla will end up there. Maybe Patrick Marleau, too. Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside.

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WOMEN’S CATEGORY

Jennifer Botterill – Since the Hall regularly started inducting women a decade ago, there’s still plenty of catching up to do. Given the number of worthy candidates, there’s no reason at least one of two women should be going in every year. Botterill has had a strong case for some time. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, she also helped Canada win five World Championship golds while averaging over a point per game in her international career (62 goals, 164 points, 162 games). Before starring on the international, Botterill was a two-time winner of the Patty Kazmeier Award, which recognizes the top women’s college player.

Karyn Bye-Dietz – She was part of the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 1998 Olympics and took home silver at the 2002 Games and six World Championships. During the ’98 Games, Bye-Dietz led the Americans with five goals and eight points and finished her international career with 84 points in 51 games. In 2011 she was only the fifth woman to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, and in 2014 was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Maria Rooth – A 2015 IIHF Hall of Famer, the forward represented Finland at the Olympic four times, taking home silver and bronze. She played 265 times for Sweden and finished with 105 goals. Before her international career, Rooth played at Minnesota Duluth where she ended her collegiate career with three NCAA titles, was the second-leading scorer in school history (119 goals, 232 points) and a three-time All-American. She’s also the only woman to have her number retired in the history of the program.

Kim St. Pierre – There are a lot of gold medals in St. Pierre’s trophy case. Inside you’ll find three from the Olympics, five from the World Championships, and one from the Four Nations Cup. The netminder played 83 times for Canada, helping them win 64 times with 29 shutouts. She earned best goalie honors at the 2002 Olympics, as well World Championships in 2001 and 2004. She also won the Clarkson Cup twice with Montreal Stars of the CWHL and was named the league’s top goaltender two seasons in a row.

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BUILDER CATEGORY

Red Berenson – After an NHL career that lasted 987 games and saw him win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, score six goals in a game once, and represent Canada in the famed 1972 Summit Series, Berenson went into coaching. After six seasons as a coach with the Blues and Sabres, he left for the college game and was behind the bench for the University of Michigan until 2017. In those 33 years, he helped the program to a pair of national championships, 11 Frozen Four appearances and 11 conference titles. He won CCHA coach of the year twice, was the 2008 Spencer Penrose Award winner for top D-I coach, and going back to his NHL coaching days, was the 1981 winner of the Jack Adams Award.

Ken Hitchcock – His coaching resume lists 849 wins (third all-time), one Stanley Cup title, and numerous players thankful for his influence and teams who were improved with him behind their bench. He’s also owner of a HOF-worthy sweatshirt.

Mike Keenan – Whether it was his quick hook with goalies or clashing with his players, there was never a dull moment when “Iron Mike” was coaching your team. But he also did win 672 NHL games and the 1985 Jack Adams Award. His teams won four conference titles and he helped lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994, ending their 54-year drought. He also won in Russia, guiding Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the 2014 Gagarin Cup title, making him the first North American coach to win the KHL championship and the first coach to win both the Gagarin Cup and the Stanley Cup. Keenan’s championships also include the 1983 AHL Calder Cup and two Canada Cups, including the legendary 1987 tournament.

Bryan Murray – He compiled 620 wins as a head coach for five teams over 17 NHL season and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 12 times in 13 full seasons behind a bench. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1984 and was named NHL Executive of the Year after building the 1995-96 Panthers team that reached the Cup Final.

Marguerite Norris – Following her dad’s death in 1952 she became the NHL’s first female executive and later was the first woman to have her name on the Stanley Cup after the Red Wings’ won in 1954. In Jen Conway’s case for Norris in 2017, she wrote, “The Red Wings became a more profitable team under her care, and she tried to convince the other owners that televised games were the future. She also advocated for arenas to be more female-friendly and for the farm team system then in place be revamped to be more equitable and fair to all the teams.”

Viktor Tikhonov – The head coach of the dominant “Red Machine” passed away in 2014 and is long overdue for induction for his influence on the game. Tikhonov, a 1998 IIHF Hall of Famer as a builder, led the Soviets to the 1981 Canada Cup, eight golds at the World Championships, two at the Olympics and another coaching the Unified Team at the 1992 Games. He also coached CSKA Moscow and led them to 12 straight league titles.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Power Rankings: Top Draft Lottery memories

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Hockey fans will get something to obsess about on Friday, June 26, as the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will air on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET. If one of the NHL’s bottom seven teams wins the first draw, we might know where Alexis Lafrenière is headed (assuming, reasonably safely, that he goes first). As promising as Lafrenière is, history shows that winning a draft lottery isn’t the only part of putting together a championship team — if you even get that far.

I mean … don’t get me wrong, as this list shows, it often helps. A lot.

The latest PHT Power Rankings list breaks down top memories that have come from draft lotteries. Sometimes we’ll see big winners, losers, or both. Sometimes there will be tragic comedy, or incredible luck (*cough* or both).

The experience of seeing your team’s luck swing on the bounces of lottery balls can be agonizing. It also makes just about every experience a personal one. So, if you have draft lottery memories that didn’t make the cut, absolutely share them.

Try not to ruin your day going over such memories, though.

[How the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will work. It could get complicated.]

1. Penguins land Crosby in strange 2005 NHL Draft Lottery

You know it’s an odd, memorable draft lottery when Sports Illustrated gives it the oral history treatment.

Sidney Crosby also ended up justifying the hype, making the 2005 NHL Draft lottery possibly the most pivotal since the format began.

On one hand, the Penguins received some of the best odds to win. They received three of the 48 lottery balls in the NHL’s strange setup, ranking among four teams with the most. Even so, they had a 6.3 percent chance to win the Crosby sweepstakes. (Somewhere, Brian Burke is still fuming about this.)

You can probably set off a brushfire of hockey debate by asking how much the Penguins’ success hinged on luck — not just landing Crosby, but Evgeni Malkin second in 2004, and a bucket of other high picks — and how much hinged on solid management. There’s no debate that the Penguins came out of the lockout with two enormous additions.

You can also entertain yourself with some Ducks alternate history. What if they did land Crosby? Imagine if Burke’s alleged aims to trade for Joe Thornton worked out? Would Burke still be challenging Kevin Lowe and others to barn brawls as Ducks GM to this day?

*Loosens tie over the whole thing*

Also:

  • The Canadiens only received one lottery ball, yet eventually drafted Carey Price fifth overall.
  • The Sabres had three lottery balls, but chose (*moves imaginary glasses from forehead to eyes*) … Marek Zagrapan? Oof.

That 2005 NHL Draft tops the list of lottery memories. There are plenty of other dramatic swings to mull over, however.

2. Blackhawks lose big in 2004, then win big in 2007

It’s easy to zero in on the top pick of a draft versus the second when you look back at draft lottery swings. But don’t sleep on the third pick, and on, because that’s where the deepest belly laughs and cringes often lurk.

Consider 2004. The Capitals rocketed back to relevance thanks to Alex Ovechkin. Malkin served as the first of the Penguins’ two superstars (but far from the only high picks, as the Penguins marinated in those during a run of profound ineptitude).

The Blackhawks? They chose Cam Barker third overall. Brutal.

Luckily, the Blackhawks ended up trading Barker for a future building block in Nick Leddy. Amusingly, fourth overall pick Andrew Ladd also helped Chicago down the line.

But most luckily, the Blackhawks landed the top pick in 2007 despite having the fifth-best chances (8.1 percent). Chicago selected Patrick Kane, pairing him with Jonathan Toews on their way to three Stanley Cups.

The Flyers suffered through a miserable season, yet instead of drafting Kane, they ended up with James van Riemsdyk. There’s a kinship, oddly, between JVR and Bobby Ryan: two New Jersey natives, who were second overall picks, and enjoyed bumpy-but-productive careers that probably didn’t soothe the wounds of those who were mad about draft lottery results.

Did we mention they were from New Jersey? (Crowd boos.)

[NHL Mock Draft: Lafreniere head of the 2020 prospect class]

3. The Oilers land McDavid, McDavid makes classic McDavid face

Compared to the Sabres’ 20-percent chance, the Oilers were underdogs to land Connor McDavid with the third-best odds (11.5). But the Oilers’ rain and reign of first overall picks continued.

As you may remember, McDavid looked thrilled.

There’s a sound argument for this rankings second, not third, among draft lottery memories. After all, McDavid ranks as the biggest star to emerge first overall since Crosby.

He also made that face.

But the other factor that looms large is the deep failure of the Oilers and the Sabres. Edmonton achieves borderline art in poor development (Nail Yakupov, first in 2012) and poor decisions (trading Taylor Hall, first in 2010) to squander so much good fortune. Only now are the Oilers flirting with the success they were practically gifted, and that hinges a ton on McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Sabres have been a mess for about a decade. They can’t pin that on getting Jack Eichel instead of McDavid, even if they clearly tanked for McDavid.

Hockey fans might want to attribute the success of teams like the Penguins and Blackhawks to premium picks alone. Yet, the Sabres and especially Oilers show us that you can squander such riches.

4. Taylor Hall, lottery ball specialist

Taylor Hall, one-time MVP and himself the top pick of 2010, became a good luck charm for his teams — at least when it came to draft lotteries. The biggest win came when the Oilers won the McDavid sweepstakes in 2015, while the Devils also landed Nico Hischier and most recently Jack Hughes in lotteries with Hall in the fold.

Hall hasn’t just shown a good sense of humor about it. He’s done so multiple times.

In 2015, McDavid:

After 2017, when the Devils eventually added Hischier:

Hall still provided some great barbs in 2019, though he wouldn’t spend much time with Jack Hughes:

So, a question: do we gauge Hall’s continued lottery ball dominance based on where the Coyotes draft, or if he signs with a different team in free agency? This is important, I think.

[PHT Roundtable: Draft Lottery format reactions]

5. Flyers make biggest jump ever

Heading into the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, the Flyers held the 13th rank. Despite that standing, they jumped all the way to the second pick. Philly had a 2.4 percent chance to do that.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like a Blackhawks Barker-to-Kane flip. Early in his career, Nolan Patrick has been some combination of inconsistent and injured (his career outlook is still foggy because of migraines).

Patrick’s health issues make it seem way too harsh to throw the word “bust” around. But that jump to No. 2 definitely didn’t deliver for the Flyers quite like they dreamed.

The next three picks turn the knife deeper for Flyers fans. The Stars drafted a defensive pillar in Miro Heiskanen. Then the Avalanche got a pillar of their own in Cale Makar. Finally, the Canucks might have drafted the “real” top pick in Elias Pettersson.

Ouch.

Honorable mention NHL Draft Lottery storylines and memories

To reiterate, good draft lottery luck doesn’t always translate to the standings. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean you’ll choose the right player.

  • The Thrashers (Patrik Stefan) and Islanders (Rick DiPietro) followed back-to-back blunders, and made blunders around those moves. Trading Roberto Luongo, giving DiPietro a ruinous contract, and so on showed that winning the lottery isn’t everything. Granted, Atlanta eventually struck gold with Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) — at least for a while.
  • Buffalo suffered some bad luck, but they need more than lottery wins. Rasmus Dahlin (2018) looks legit, yet he hasn’t been able to solve the Sabres’ problems. That takes multiple shrewd moves … and, yes, some luck.
  • You could rank the Canucks among the teams that have been burned by bad draws. Even so, some of their best recent picks came outside the true no-brainer range. They selected Elias Pettersson fifth in 2017, and he’d probably be the top pick in a re-draft. The Quinn Hughes pick (seventh in 2018) looked smart then, and brilliant now.

MORE POWER RANKINGS:

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.

NHL Playoffs: How should top four East teams approach Round Robin?

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While the NHL’s Qualifying Round teams fight to make it into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Round Robin is merely for seeding. Such a scenario presents the NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding teams (four in each conference) with many conundrums, including the age-old rest vs. rust debate.

PHT will take a look at such dilemmas for all eight teams in the NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding, starting with the East. We’re going East first because the Bruins a) won the Presidents’ Trophy and b) addressed such debates recently.

We might as well go in order as they would be ranked, too.

Debates for East top four teams heading into NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding

Boston Bruins

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that Bruce Cassidy said he’s open to the idea of resting players during the three-game Round Robin for Seeding.

“Would we like to win all three games? Of course, in a perfect world, but I think with all teams there’s going to be some sort of a preseason mentality worked in with how the lineups are constructed every game,” Cassidy said, via Haggerty. “But if the [veteran players] want to play every game then I’m going to listen to them. It’s their bodies and they would know best. Then in the last game in the third period we’re going to shut our eyes and hope nobody gets hurt in those situations.”

The Bruins are in a heightened situation. While it stings that they may lose the top seeding they earned with 2019-20’s only 100-point season, this is also a roster brimming with veterans.

Most obviously, Cassidy must manage Zdeno Chara (43) and Patrice Bergeron (34). Really, the list goes deeper even than Tuukka Rask, who’s 33.

Brad Marchand is 32, and stands as an example to other contenders. As you may recall, Marchand aggravated a previous hand injury before the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Maybe it was coincidental, but Marchand’s top line struggled during that seven-game slugfest with the Blues. If teams like the Bruins want to go deep, they should emphasize caution most of all.

So, beyond the obvious, there are players who’ve been banged up like Torey Krug. Charlie McAvoy‘s also dealt with bumps and bruises despite ranking as one of the younger Bruins.

Overall, the Bruins rank among the East Round Robin teams with the most incentive to rest key players.

[MORE: How should the West’s top four teams handle rest vs. rust?]

Tampa Bay Lightning

How should the team with the most to lose deal with the Round Robin for Seeding?

Imagine how badly things could play out for the Lightning. We all know that their historic 2018-19 season ended in a stunning first-round sweep. Kenan Thompson mocked it. Andrei Vasilevskiy looked really steamed.

What if the Lightning fall short under these strange circumstances?

It could cost Jon Cooper his job. And there’s the increased risk of scapegoating a lack of “preparedness” if the Lightning take a preseason approach to the Round Robin for Seeding.

You could definitely make the argument that the Lightning took a while to get back into their elite form in 2019-20, too.

But … the Lightning are smarter than to cave to bad takes, right?

Let’s not forget that the Lightning didn’t really take their feet off the gas during that 2018-19 regular season — not really. Rather than resting stars more aggressively, Nikita Kucherov and others chased history.

Personally, it really looked like Victor Hedman was far from 100 percent, even missing some of that first-round sweep.

This Lightning team boasts a fairly old defense beyond Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev. Hedman is 29 already. Steven Stamkos is 30 (ponders own mortality for a second).

Cooper needs to find the right balance. If there’s any hint of failure in that regard, the vultures may start circling.

Washington Capitals

Zooming out, the most logical choice would be for the Capitals to promote rest.

Almost every major Capitals player is 30 or older, with the rare exception of breakthrough winger Jakub Vrana (24). There’s also some incentive to see if Ilya Samsonov (23) is still sharper than Braden Holtby (30).

But 34-year-old Alex Ovechkin doesn’t sit out a whole lot of games. Maybe the unique circumstances (and lack of a Maurice Richard Trophy to chase) might change Ovechkin’s approach, yet it’s not a slam-dunk to sit him. As Cassidy said, coaches will at times defer to players. It wouldn’t be shocking if such an approach occasionally backfires.

All things considered, the Capitals joust with the Bruins for the East Round Robin team with the most to gain from resting aging stars.

Philadelphia Flyers

The knee-jerk reaction would be to say that the Flyers want to shake off rust.

For one thing, the Flyers boast several core players in the younger range. Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are both 23, while Carter Hart is 21. The Flyers also are “playing with house money” as a team that could climb to the top spot if they end up hot during the Round Robin for Seeding.

But the Flyers have plenty of reason to be careful, too.

To start, the drop-off between Hart and Brian Elliott (or another goalie) looks pretty severe. You don’t necessarily want to increase injury risks with Hart, then.

Also, there are veterans to manage. Philly should aim to keep Claude Giroux (32) and Jakub Voracek (30) fresh, not to mention someone like Matt Niskanen (33). While Sean Couturier is only 27, he’s the sort of player you’ll lean on a ton in playoff situations. So you might want to tread lightly there.

Rather than overtaxing go-to guys, this could be an opportunity for others. Could Nolan Patrick crack the lineup if his migraine issues are behind him? Perhaps a prospect from Philly’s impressive farm system will make a jump?

The Flyers have a lot to like about this situation. Even so, they also need to avoid getting too greedy.

MORE ON NHL PLAYOFFS, ROUND ROBIN FOR SEEDING:

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Round Robin teams with most to lose

With Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan kicking in this week, the possibility of the 2020 Stanley Cup being raised remains alive. In recent power rankings posts, we’ve focused on Qualifying Round storylines and matchups. But what about the teams who aim to thrive rather than survive. Today we discuss the top four teams in each conference who will compete in Round Robin for Seeding.

To be more precise, we’re wondering which top four teams have the most on the line. In this case, we’re focused on the top four teams in each conference’s outlooks during entire NHL playoffs, rather than just the Round Robin for Seeding.

Let’s rank them first to last as far as desperation goes in each conference. At the end, we’ll debate who has the absolute most on the line, and who’s playing with house money.

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, so it seems fairest to start with the top four for the East.

Top four East (Round Robin) NHL teams with the most and least to lose

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Imagine if the Lightning draw the Blue Jackets at some point during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(Are you cringing too?)

While the Lightning are lucky that they get to jet-ski around a market like Tampa Bay, the rumblings will grow to a fever pitch if they fall short again. (Like, we might need to physically separate Andrei Vasilevskiy from Kenan Thompson.)

Yes, this franchise owns a Stanley Cup. But that was from the Vincent Lecavalier – Martin St. Louis – Brad Richards era. For all Steven Stamkos has accomplished, he’s had his heart and face broken in many NHL playoffs. At some point, it’s going to get awkward if Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman “can’t win the big one.”

(Speaking of cringing, wait for those takes.)

2. Boston Bruins

The 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winners keep hiding Father Time’s coat and shoes. It’s not just Zdeno Chara hogging the Fountain of Youth/Lazarus Pit at 43, either. Patrice Bergeron remains dominant at 34. You might make a double-take when you realize Brad Marchand is already 32. Oh yeah, Tuukka Rask is 33, too.

You … gotta think the Bruins are peaking right? Right? I mean, I honestly felt like this group would hit the aging curve hard by now, yet they comfortably topped the NHL standings this season.

It’s not just about wondering if the window will close. Even before the pandemic pause, it seemed like pending UFA Torey Krug would represent a tight squeeze. If they want to bring Krug back, you’d think they’d need to break up some of the band.

As much as this group has accomplished, you have to think that Chara & Co. want a second Stanley Cup (and first for star David Pastrnak).

3. Washington Capitals

*Rubs eyes*

Wait a minute, is this really happening? Are the Capitals relatively unfettered by “must-win” pressure?

Well, not exactly. Aside from the occasional Jakub Vrana, this roster’s getting a little up there in age. If for some reason you want to ponder your own mortality during the escape of watching hockey, merely ponder Alex Ovechkin‘s gray hair.

Alex Ovechkin Round Robin NHL
It works for Ovechkin, but still. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

With Braden Holtby‘s pending UFA status lingering, there’s still room for Capitals drama. No doubt, though, slaying that Stanley Cup dragon relieves most of the angst.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

For some, the Flyers kinda slipped up the ranks under the radar. This has been a team that’s mainly been playoff bubble material, at least when the wheels don’t fall off. Now they’re a Round Robin for Seeding away from possibly swiping the East’s top seed.

Don’t blame at least some of the Flyers for feeling pretty loose, then.

Yet … it’s not as if they’re playing with zero pressure.

Obviously, Philly can be a tough market. If the Flyers flounder, people will grumble about squandering a golden opportunity.

Also, for all the considerable youth on this roster, could this be a “sweet spot” between rising talent and aging stars? Claude Giroux (32), Jakub Voracek (30), and James van Riemsdyk (31) all might be heading toward a decline.

Top four West (Round Robin) NHL teams with the most and least to lose

1. St. Louis Blues

Like the Capitals, the Blues recently ended their franchise’s decades-long Stanley Cup drought. I’d wager there are some Blues fans who view the rest as “all gravy.”

Still, when you’re defending champs, you have a target on your back.

Combine that thought with Alex Pietrangelo possibly being out the door, and the temperature rises. What if this is the Blues’ best chance at a second Stanley Cup for quite a while? That thought won’t inspire the “Jaws” theme, exactly, but there’s some heat on the Blues.

2. Vegas Golden Knights

It feels deeply weird to put a third-year team on this list. Shouldn’t the Golden Knights enjoy basically a decade-long “honeymoon phase?”

Well, the Golden Knights are a deeply unusual expansion team.

Rather than being full of young debris, this is a full-flavored contender. And that goes right down to having some expensive players who are getting a little older. Not “Bruins” old, but the core Golden Knights might suddenly enter declines in the not-so-distant future.

Most obviously, Marc-Andre Fleury probably already hit a wall at 35. The Golden Knights made the smart investment to acquire Robin Lehner, but that could set the stage for drama. After all, if we’re being honest … Lehner probably should be the No. 1 guy for now.

The Golden Knights gambled earlier than expected, so if they leave with empty wallets, it will be pretty painful. Not “Joe Pesci’s gruesome death in Casino” painful, but painful.

3. Dallas Stars

The Stars should rank lower. As much as any team, it’s bewildering to realize that they’re basically a hot week from owning the top seed in their conference.

But, honestly, any team that’s thrown Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn under the bus this often faces some bleeping horsebleep if they end with a whimper.

4. Colorado Avalanche

Honestly, it feels like we’re still in the “rising fast” portion of the Avalanche’s growth.

While they’ve made some nice moves, you get the impression something splashier lingers down the road. They haven’t gone all-in by any stretch yet, and most of their core is still so young. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 24, Mikko Rantanen‘s merely 23, and Cale Makar‘s a 21-year-old rookie.

If anything, this feels like the “young kids hit a bump in the road” part of the narrative. Sports can be strange even in pre-pandemic times, though, so who knows?

Round Robin Team with most, least to lose

• Lightning have the most to lose

If they fall especially flat, it could conceivably cost Jon Cooper his job. That’s absurd by any measure, and particularly now, but … it’s also far from unimaginable.

•  Flyers have least to lose

The best might be yet to come for this group, aside from the aforementioned aging players. Probably.

MORE NHL RETURN TO PLAY:
League clears up 2020 NHL Playoffs picture
A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft odds
A look at the Western Conference matchups

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.

NBCSN’s Stanley Cup Final Week schedule: June 8-14

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NBC Sports presents Stanley Cup Final Week on NBCSN, reliving classic Stanley Cup Final games and original films and shows from the past decade across seven nights, beginning on Monday, June 8.

The memorable Stanley Cup broadcasts include the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues’ inaugural championships the past two seasons, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins victory in 2009, the Chicago Blackhawks’ wins in 2010 and 2013, as well as the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings Cup wins in 2011 and 2014, respectively.

Kathryn Tappen and Liam McHugh will introduce matchups throughout the week. Saturday and Sunday’s Stanley Cup clinching broadcasts will feature new commentary from actor and Blues fan Jon Hamm, 12-year-old Blues super-fan Laila Anderson and Capitals forward Lars Eller, who scored the 2018 Stanley Cup winning goal.

Below is each night’s highlighted Stanley Cup Final Week content:

• Monday, June 8: 2009 Stanley Cup Final
• Tuesday, June 9: 2010 Stanley Cup Final
• Wednesday, June 10: 2011 Stanley Cup Final
• Thursday, June 11: 2013 Stanley Cup Final
• Friday, June 12: 2014 Stanley Cup Final
• Saturday, June 13: 2018 Stanley Cup Final
• Sunday, June 14: 2019 Stanley Cup Final

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

MONDAY, JUNE 8 – 2009 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
The opening night of Stanley Cup Final Week features Game 2, 6 and 7 from the 2009 Stanley Cup Final that was won by Sidney Crosby and the PPenguins, after rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 series deficits, against the Red Wings. Evgeni Malkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy in this rematch of the 2008 Cup Final, which was won by the Red Wings.

Kathryn Tappen will introduce the opening night.

• NHL Hat Trick Trivia Hosted by P.K. Subban (Episode 3) – 5 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final Game 2: Pittsburgh vs. Detroit – 5:30 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh – 7 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Pittsburgh vs. Detroit – 9 p.m. ET
• 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins Championship Film – 11 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Pittsburgh vs. Detroit – 12:30 a.m. ET
• Gamechangers: All-Time Greats 2:30 a.m. ET

TUESDAY, JUNE 9 – 2010 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
On the tenth anniversary of the Blackhawks clinching Game 6 to win the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Games 1, 3 and 6 of the Cup Final between the Flyers and Blackhawks highlight NBCSN’s coverage on Tuesday. In overtime of Game 6, the Blackhawks won the Cup, ending their championship drought, which was the longest active streak in the NHL at the time. Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Liam McHugh will host Tuesday’s coverage.

• Who Wore It Best? (Episode 4) 5 p.m. NBCSN
• 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 1: Philadelphia vs. Chicago – 5:30 p.m. ET
• 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Chicago vs. Philadelphia – 7 p.m. ET
• 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Chicago vs. Philadelphia – 9 p.m. ET
• 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Chicago vs. Philadelphia – 11 p.m. ET
• 2010 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Chicago vs. Philadelphia – 1 a.m. ET

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10 – 2011 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
On Wednesday, NBCSN will present Game 6 and 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks. Behind a 4-0 shutout win in Game 7, the Bruins ended a 39-year Stanley Cup drought with the victory. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Tappen will host Stanley Cup Final Week on Wednesday.

• Skates & Plates – 4 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Vancouver vs. Boston – 4:30 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Boston vs. Vancouver – 10 p.m. ET
• 2011 Boston Bruins Championship Film – 11:30 p.m. ET
• 2011 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: Boston vs. Vancouver – 1 a.m. ET
• Top 10: All-Time Records – 2:30 a.m. ET

THURSDAY, JUNE 11 – 2013 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
Three matchups from the 2013 Cup Final (Games 2, 4 and 6) between the Blackhawks and Bruins will be featured Thursday. Chicago won the championship in a thrilling last-minute comeback in Game 6, claiming their second Cup win in four years after also winning the title in 2010. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks won MVP.

McHugh will introduce coverage on Thursday night.

• 2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 2: Boston vs. Chicago – 5 p.m. ET
• 2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 4: Chicago vs. Boston – 7 p.m. ET
• 2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Chicago vs. Boston – 9 p.m. ET
• 2013 Chicago Blackhawks Championship Film – 11 p.m. ET
• 2013 Stanley Cup Final Game 6: Chicago vs. Boston – 12:30 a.m. ET
• Gamechangers: All-Time Greats – 2:30 a.m. ET

FRIDAY, JUNE 12 – 2014 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
NBCSN presents the Kings victory in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Rangers on Friday. Los Angeles’ double-overtime victory in Game 2 will be followed by another double-overtime thriller in Game 5, as Alec Martinez of the Kings clinched their second Cup in three years following the franchise’s first-ever championship in 2012. The Kings’ Justin Williams won MVP.

On Friday, Tappen will host coverage of the 2014 Cup Final broadcasts.

• 2014 Stanley Cup Final Game 2: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles – 8 p.m. ET
• 2014 Stanley Cup Final Game 5: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles – 9:30 p.m. ET
• 2014 Los Angeles Kings Championship Film – 11 p.m. ET

SATURDAY, JUNE 13 – 2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
Saturday kicks off back-to-back nights highlighting franchises’ winning their first-ever Cup, beginning with the Capitals in 2018. Facing the expansion Golden Knights, Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals rallied from a Game 1 loss to win four straight and capture Washington’s inaugural title. Ovechkin was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.

McHugh will introduce Saturday’s coverage and be joined by Capitals forward Lars Eller, who scored the Cup winning goal, during the Game 5 broadcast.

• 2018 Stanley Cup Final Game 1: Washington vs. Vegas – 8 p.m. ET
• 2018 Stanley Cup Final Game 5: Washington vs. Vegas – 9:30 p.m. ET
• 2018 Washington Capitals Championship Film – 11 p.m. ET
• 2018 Stanley Cup Final Game 5: Washington vs. Vegas – 1 a.m. ET
• Gamechangers: Knight Fever – 2:30 a.m. ET

SUNDAY, JUNE 14 – 2019 STANLEY CUP FINAL ON NBCSN
The concluding night of Stanley Cup Final Week highlights last year’s historic Stanley Cup Final between the Blues and Bruins. The deciding Game 7, won by the Blues, capped the team’s memorable turnaround from last place in the NHL standings in January, to the franchise’s first-ever Cup. Ryan O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Tappen will host the concluding night of Stanley Cup Final Week and be joined by actor Jon Hamm and Blues super-fan Laila Anderson during the presentation of Game 7.

• 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: St. Louis vs. Boston – 10 p.m. ET
• 2019 St. Louis Blues Championship Film – 11:30 p.m. ET
• 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 7: St. Louis vs. Boston – 12:30 a.m. ET
• #HockeyAtHome: 2019 St. Louis Blues Virtual Reunion – 2 a.m. ET
• Top 10: Stanley Cup Moments – 2:30 a.m. ET