Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• William Douglas profiles the hockey journey of Joonas Oden in the latest edition of Douglas’ “Color of Hockey” series. Could Oden’s journey include playing with the Seattle expansion franchise? (NHL.com)
• Connor McDavid recently turned 23, so Frank Seravalli put him in elite company. (TSN)
• NJ.com’s Steve Politi argues that Devils co-owner Josh Harris needs to “look in the mirror” when pondering the team’s problems. (NJ.com)
• Blackhawks fans should relax about the team’s negotiations with Robin Lehner. My take: he’s been fantastic, again … but what kind of package would a contender send to Chicago to land such a talented goalie? If Chicago isn’t asking that type of question, even if they prefer an extension, then I would be worried. (The Rink)
• On the subject of pending free agent goalies, Jimmy Howard‘s really struggling. With Jonathan Bernier injured, the Red Wings might lean on him even more. Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation, folks. Maybe they should put him in situations to succeed so (wait for it) they can trade him to a contender? Just saying, part II. (Detroit Free-Press)
• More goalie talk: Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin continue to dominate for the Stars. Can they keep it up? My feeling parallels that of the Islanders: if not, they should at least be commended for doing it for 1.5 seasons. Pretty tough to maintain such dominance in an unforgiving NHL. (Dallas Morning News)
• Brodie Brazil dares to wonder if the Sharks might be turning it around. (Goaltending ranks among his three reasons.) I dare to wonder if it’s already too late. (NBC Sports California)
• Andrew Berkshire breaks down what broke down for the Canadiens in 2019-20. (Sportsnet)
• The Blues Jackets keep defying those who assume they’re down for the count. (Jackets Cannon)
• Capitals fans vote on the team’s best jersey design. Allow an opinion: the general rule is: less bird, the better. (Nova Caps)
• More jersey design banter: Hockey By Design ranks the Maple Leafs sweaters from worst to first. (Hockey By Design)
It’s going to be a big night in San Jose on Saturday as former captain Joe Pavelski will make his first return to the Shark Tank as a visiting player.
Pavelski and the Stars are rolling in on a six-game winning streak and have been one of the league’s best teams since a 1-7-1 start had them buried in the Western Conference standings.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have never really been able to get on track this season and are now in desperation mode as they look to salvage what has quickly become a lost and wasted season. They are going to need to do a complete 180 in the second half just to have even a fighting chance of making the playoffs.
With Pavelski set to make his return, let’s take a quick look how his departure from San Jose has impacted both teams so far this season.
They also had 38 goals from last year’s team walk out the door when Pavelski signed his three-year contract with the Stars. Even if you assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that Pavelski was going to regress from that number, that goal production from a year ago was still a significant part of the Sharks’ success. He was the leading goal-scorer on the second-highest scoring team in the league, and all of that production just suddenly disappeared. Add in the free agency departure of another underrated forward, Joonas Donskoi, and the Sharks lost nearly 20 percent of their goal total from last year’s team. The only meaningful addition they brought in from outside the organization was a reunion with 40-year-old Patrick Marleau four games into the season. That was never going to be enough. And it hasn’t been.
The Sharks were hoping that at least some of that production could be replaced from within with bigger roles for some of their young players, but it just hasn’t happened. At the halfway point of the season Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen, and even All-Star Tomas Hertl are all on pace for less production this season. The result is a team that is currently the sixth-lowest scoring team in the league (2.65 goals per game).
Maybe the Sharks were right to not match (or exceed) Pavelski’s offer from Dallas. Maybe it would have turned out to be another big contract for an aging, declining player on a team that now seems to have a few of them.
But those goals last year still happened and still need replaced. The Sharks not only lost them, they never found a way to replace them.
Pavelski’s impact with the Stars
Pavelski’s addition in Dallas was significant because he filled their biggest need — scoring depth.
The 2018-19 Stars were one of the most top-heavy teams in the league offensively (and the most top-heavy playoff team), relying almost entirely on Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov to carry the offense. They were so top-heavy that no other forward on the team scored more than 30 points over the full season. Finding someone that could provide a real secondary scoring threat was a must.
That is where Pavelski came in.
While no one should have expected a 35-year-old Pavelski to make a run at the 40-goal mark again, he at least provided some depth that did not previously exist. Whether or not he has provided that depends on how you want to look at it. From a raw numbers perspective, his production is probably viewed as a disappointment. He enters Saturday’s game with only eight goals and 18 total points in 44 games.
As down as those numbers are, it is important to keep in mind that is STILL better than what the Stars were getting a year ago from their depth players. Keep in mind, only four Stars forwards scored more than eight goals during the entire 2018-19 season. Pavelski’s numbers also include a brutal 13-game stretch to start the season where he was virtually invisible offensively. He has been been better since.
Once he started chipping in more offense, the wins followed.
There very well could be something to that. But in the end it’s probably a lot more black-and-white than that.
The Stars were a good team last season without Pavelski and are a good team again this season with him. They are winning with a nearly identical recipe — good defense, great goaltending, offense when and where they can get it.
The Sharks were a good team with Pavelski that also had a huge flaw. They never fixed that flaw, then added to it by losing 52 goals from their lineup with almost none coming back in.
The San Jose Sharks look like they’re sinking. Unfortunately, most signs are pointing toward things getting even worse in 2020.
Boughner calls out unnamed Sharks who are probably Meier and Labanc (and maybe others)
Head coach Bob Boughner slammed unnamed players following Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He wondered how you could dress 12 players when only “eight or nine” showed up. Again, Boughner didn’t mention anyone by name, stating only that they know who they are.
Boughner made the sort of comments you’d hear from a coach when their team is … well, in a tailspin.
No doubt, Labanc and Meier have been a bit disappointing this season, with Meier mired in a four-game scoreless drought, and Labanc at five games.
When your team is 1-8-2 in its last 11 games, there’s usually plenty of blame to spread around. Frighteningly, the Sharks’ schedule hints at things getting even worse, to the point that it may only matter so much even if efforts improve.
Sharks schedule could make a bad situation worse
Saturday ends a grim seven-game homestand for the Sharks where they’ve only managed three of a possible 12 standings points (1-4-1). Closing out a back-to-back set against a rested Flyers team that’s on a four-game winning streak won’t be easy.
Win or lose, the path only gets bumpier from there, with eight of the Sharks’ next 10 games on the road.
Zoom out and you’ll realize that the Flyers bookend what could be a nightmare two months, actually:
@ St. Louis
vs. Tampa Bay
@ New Jersey
Over their next 24 games, the Sharks play eight at home and 16 on the road. Yikes.
The Sharks have played five more games at home (22) than on the road (17) so far in 2019-20, so while things even out a bit from late February through April, this perilous stretch lines up almost perfectly with the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Sharks’ 6-9-2 road record doesn’t portend happy times, either.
A grim long-term future
The Sharks parallel the 2018-19 versions of their hated rivals the Kings in uncomfortable ways.
Like Los Angeles with Drew Doughty, the Sharks made a massive bet on an aging defenseman (in their case Erik Karlsson), figuring that short-term gains would justify likely long-term pains. In both cases, the pain instead essentially kicked in right as those contracts began.
Yes, that’s a very grim, remarkably Kings-like outlook. And, really, the Kings are a few promising prospects ahead of their disliked neighbors, to boot.
Looking at the few shorter-term contracts — assuming the Sharks are smart enough not to turn heel on a very good, if struggling, winger in Timo Meier — there are a few possibilities.
It would be odd to see the Sharks trade Kevin Labanc after he signed that sweetheart one-year, $1M deal. That said, he’s clearly in the doghouse, and maybe a contender would pay a pretty penny for such a cheap rental? Either way, he’s a pending RFA; even if this continues as a disaster season, he’s likely due a raise. Would San Jose really want to pay up if they keep fading?
Brenden Dillon is 29 and will see his $3.27M AAV expire. Elliotte Friedman already mentioned Dillon as a rental candidate in the Dec. 18 edition of “31 Thoughts,” and it’s easy to see why some teams would be interested in the pending UFA. That’s especially true if San Jose retained some of that salary.
Don’t get too tank-happy, though, Sharks fans. The Senators own the Sharks’ 2020 first-round draft pick, so while San Jose has incentive to stockpile futures, they don’t have the same incentive to lose as many games as possible as, well … the Senators do.
Overall, the Sharks’ outlook is troubling. Maybe things go swimmingly and they turn things around, but it seems far more likely that the Sharks will sink.
As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.
What does everybody want? Goals! What does everybody need? Goals! What does everybody love? Goals!
From Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 23, 2019 there were 65,439 regular season goals scored in the NHL. The Penguins (2,425) had the most, while the Devils (1,892) had the fewest if you’re counting teams that played the entire decade (Vegas has 633 total).
While there have been tons of beautiful goals scored at various levels of hockey around the world, we wanted to hone in on the ones that meant the most. Not the prettiest, but the biggest, most significant goals of the last 10 years. Some won championships, others were the final part of a drama.
Five days after Canada won 5-4 following a shootout in the preliminary round, the Americans got their revenge. Carlson’s overtime goal helped the U.S. win their first gold medal since 2004 and snapped Canada’s streak of six straight golds. It also began a decade of growth on the junior level for the program. U.S. teams at the World Juniors have won three gold medals since 2010 and seven medals in the last 10 tournaments.
Iggy! (2010 Winter Olympics)
Zach Parise gave the U.S. hope when he tied the game with 25 seconds left in the third period. But it was Crosby who delivered Canada gold as he called for the pass from Jarome Iginla and slid the puck by Ryan Miller for the country’s second gold medal in three Olympic Games.
How much did the goal resonate? Crosby’s stick, gloves, the puck, and the net used in the game at GM Place were put on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
At first only three people inside Wachovia Center — Kane, Patrick Sharp and Nick Boynton — knew the location of the puck. The rest of their Blackhawks teammates, the Flyers, including goaltender Michael Leighton, and the closest official had no idea, until upon closer inspection it was discovered a goal had been scored and the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.
Alex Burrows slays the dragon (2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
The Canucks had their Stanley Cup dreams ended in Round 2 two consecutive playoffs at the hands of the Blackhawks. Both the 2009 and 2010 series ended in six games, but the third time would be the charm for Vancouver and Burrows would be the hero. Chris Campoli’s clearance was blocked by Burrows, who then fled into the Chicago zone and fired a rocket by Antti Niemi, earning himself the “dragon slayer” nickname.
Bergeron completes the comeback vs. Maple Leafs (2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
The Maple Leafs were looking good up 4-1 midway through the third period of Game 7 against the Bruins and eyeing their first playoff series win in nine years. But then it all fell apart. Nathan Horton cut the lead to 4-2 with 10:42 to go and a wild final two minutes in the third period ended with Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron scoring 31 seconds apart to force overtime.
A few weeks after their series win over the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were on the other end of a dramatic comeback, one that would end their season. Boston held a 2-1 lead late in Game 6, hoping to hang on and force a Game 7 in Chicago. With the Blackhawks’ net empty, it was Brian Bickell tying the game with 1:16 to play. As many were preparing to see overtime, Bolland had other ideas as 17 seconds later he pounced on a rebound in front to send the Blackhawks to a second Cup win in four years.
There was no medal on the line. The only meaning to the game was that the winner avoided the qualification round. A shootout was needed and the U.S. turned to T.J. Oshie, who scored on four of his six attempts to help the Americans beat Russia 3-2.
The game took place in the early hours of a Saturday morning in the U.S., and the reactions from around the country of fans who gathered in local bars to watch showed the impact of the victory. (It also provided us with this amazing photo.)
Poulin shatters American dreams again (2014 Winter Olympics)
The U.S. should have claimed gold. Up 2-1 with under two minutes to play, Kelli Stack’s shot toward an empty net clanked off the post and gave Canada life. Thirty-one seconds later Marie-Philip Poulin broke the Americans’ hearts for the first time that day, tying the game with 54.6 seconds left. She did it again in overtime to continue Canada’s gold medal run at the Olympics.
This wasn’t the first time Philip-Poulin shattered American dreams. Four years earlier she scored both goals to lead her country to gold over the U.S. at the Vancouver Games.
Martinez the Cup winning King (2014 Stanley Cup Final)
One overtime wasn’t enough for the Kings and Rangers, who settled the 2014 Cup Final with a second extra period. With the Kings leading the series 3-1, the fans inside Staples Center were chanting We Want the Cup! and Martinez, who scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, delivered leading a rush into the Rangers’ zone and burying a feed from Tyler Toffoli to help franchise capture its first championship.
Islanders finally advance to Round 2 (2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
The eighth time was the charm. Since the spring of 1993 when David Volek shattered Pittsburgh’s three-peat dreams and the Islanders reached the conference final, the franchise could not find a way out of the first round of the playoffs. But a second consecutive 100-point season was boosted by captain Tavares’ double overtime wraparound to get the monkey off their backs.
Kunitz keeps Penguins’ back-to-back dreams alive (2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
It was a goal that sent two franchises in two different directions. Kunitz’s goal sent the Penguins to the Cup Final that season, which they could win in six games over the Predators to give the NHL back-to-back champs for the first time in two decades. The goal also ended a memorable run by the Senators, who topped the Bruins and Rangers to reach the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2007. Since that night, Ottawa has failed to make the playoffs, failed to reach 67 points and win more than 28 games in a season. They also said goodbye to players like Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel, and Derick Brassard, among others.
Kuznetsov’s winner exorcises demons (2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
It seemed like the Capitals were never going to win the Stanley Cup unless they beat the Penguins. They hadn’t topped their old rivals in seven straight playoff series dating back to 1994, but this one felt different. The back-and-forth series finally came to an end when Evgeny Kuznetsov slipped the puck five-hole on Matt Murray, sending Washington on a path that would end with its first championship.
The game had it all (2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
After blowing a 3-1 series lead the Golden Knights were up 3-1 on the Sharks in Game 7 and things were looking good. But then Cody Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski, who fell awkwardly and hit his head on the ice, causing the game to stop for several minutes. Eakin was given a major penalty and game misconduct, opening the door for the San Jose power play to score four times in four minutes to completely alter the game. In overtime, Barclay Goodrow made the SAP Center roof fly off with the winning goal to send the Sharks to Round 2.
Maroon’s goal cues Play Gloria! (2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs)
It was fitting that the St. Louisan returns home on a one-year deal and scores one of the biggest goals of the season. Round 2, Game 7 against the Dallas Stars and it was Maroon who played hero inside Enterprise Center. The goal set off wild celebrations on the ice and and in the bowels of the arena as the Laura Branigan song Gloria played over and over. Thirty-six days later the Blues would win their first Cup to kick off a summer of partying.
In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we take a look back at the best players of the past decade.
Just because it needs to be said, this is not a list of the best players in hockey right now.
It is a look at the best players over the course of the past 10 years as a whole. That means players that have played at a consistently high level for most of the decade (seven or more years) will get more attention over players that have dominated in more recent years (though there are always exceptions) as a means of limiting recency bias.
Who makes our list?
To the rankings!
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a rocky start to the decade for Crosby as injuries robbed him of a significant chunk of his career when he was playing some of his best hockey. But he still finished the decade as the most dominant all-around player in the league. Of the 257 players that played at least 500 games in the decade, Crosby is one of only four players to average more than a point per game (his 1.23 average was by far the best) while he also won a goal-scoring crown, a scoring title, an MVP, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals. The best goal scorer of all-time continued to dominate the league. Ovechkin’s 422 goals this decade (as of publication) are 79 more than the next closest player, while he won the goal scoring crown in six of the previous nine seasons (including six of the past seven). He is the foundation of the one of the decades most successful organizations with two Presidents’ Trophies and a Stanley Cup.
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators/San Jose Sharks. One of the most impressive individual performances of the past decade was Karlsson dragging the 2017 Senators to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. He was so dominant during that run he actually received Conn Smythe votes even though his team did not reach the Stanley Cup Final. He is a two-time Norris Trophy winner for the decade and a runner-up two other times. One of the most impactful defensemen ever.
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. Bergeron is the player that a significant portion of the hockey world thoughtJonathan Toews was this decade. An elite two-way player in the sense that he can take over a game and dominate a game offensively just as much as he can defensively.
5. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. This almost feels like it’s too low (and maybe it is!) given what McDavid has done since entering the league. But he’s also still only 23 and only played in half the decade. But what a half-decade it has been. McDavid is a lock for 100 points every year, is currently the most feared offensive player in the world, and is a one-man highlight reel every shift. He makes you want to watch the Oilers.
The second tier elites
6. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins. When he is at his best he sometimes looks like the best player in the world. Even when he is not at at that level is still one of the most game-changing forces in the league. He and Crosby were the foundation of a Penguins team that won the most regular season games in the decade, the second most playoff games (three behind Boston), played in three Eastern Conference Finals, and won two Stanley Cups.
7. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. The best goalie of his generation and one of the best to ever play the sport. Lundqvist spent the past decade masking all of the Rangers’ many flaws on defense and taking them on several deep postseason runs that they otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. Don’t let the lack of a Stanley Cup take away from his dominant playoff performances, either. A .922 career save percentage in the playoffs and nearly unbeatable in Game 7s.
8. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings. The Western Conference version of Bergeron. When the Kings’ Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014 are discussed it is usually Jonathan Quick‘s goaltending that gets mentioned first. Or Drew Doughty and their defensive play. But let’s not overthink it here — Kopitar was the best player on those teams, and by a wide margin. An underrated and sometimes overlooked part of his greatness: What he did for the Slovenia olympic team at the 2014 games. That team was far more competitive than it should have been, and Kopitar was the reason why.
9. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning. The best goal scorer of his era not named Ovechkin. Had it not been for a couple of significant injuries taking away his age 23 and 26 seasons he might already be above the 500-goal mark for his career.
10. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins. When Chara and Bergeron were on the ice together, combined with whichever franchise goalie they had in net at the time (Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask) there was not a tougher team in the league to score against.
The rest of the best
11. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. The hype in his draft year was off the charts, and he has not only lived up to it, he may have even exceeded it. One of the league’s best defenseman from almost day one.
12. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks. The best player and the one driving the bus on those Blackhawks championship teams. In terms of individual and team hardware he has a Hall of Fame resume.
13. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals. An elite offensive player, an always underrated defensive player, and one of the best playmakers in the league.
14. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. If you ever argued that he was the best player in the world, you overrated him. Saying he wasn’t quite that good was also not disrespecting him. He was a top-five (maybe even top-three or four at times) center for a long time. There is nothing wrong with that.
15. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks. One of the best offensive players this decade. His problems off the ice will always detract from that and be a part of his story.
16. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. Hate him all you want, he has been one of the league’s best all-around players for five-plus years now. Even before that he was a key part of an elite Bruins team.
17. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings. There was a three or four year stretch where he might have been the best pure defensive player in the league.
18. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers’ consistent mediocrity during his career makes it easy to overlook how good he has been. He is not to blame for that consistent team-wide mediocrity, either.
19. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. When Price was healthy he consistently turned a mediocre-to-bad Canadiens team into something formidable. His 2014-15 season is one of the best individual goaltending performances in recent NHL history.
20. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens/Nashville Predators/New Jersey Devils. He appears to be well into a decline right now with the Devils, but for the first seven or eight years of the decade he was one of the league’s must-see players.