Ryan O'Reilly

Philip Pritchard on Twitter

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Sanford takes Cup to school; Berube takes it to second home

Leave a comment

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the St. Louis Blues spend their summer celebrating.

The Stanley Cup made its way to New England this past week.

Specifically, it was in Manchester in New Hampshire, the hometown of Zach Sanford. Sanford was born in Salem in Massachusetts but grew up a state over.

Before he was an NHLer, Sanford attended Green Acres Elementary School and he made sure to stop by with Lord Stanley by his side.

Sanford then headed to Pinkerton Academy, where he graduated in 2013. There, he met with his old coach.


Blues head coach Craig Berube already had his day with the Stanley Cup in his hometown in Alberta earlier this summer.

But the former Philadelphia Flyers coach has a soft spot for what he calls his adopted hometown.

Of course, no trip to the Philly area would be complete without the folks from the now-infamous Philly bar, The Jacks NYB. The bar’s social club came up to New Hope, PA to hang out with Berube and the Cup.

The Jacks NYB is where the ‘Gloria’ craze began back in January.

The man they call ‘Chief’ also visited the Buckingham Township Police department.

Berube got yet another parade in New Hope and passed around the Bloody Mary’s.


Meanwhile, the Alex Pietrangelo and the Blues are hosting a raffle to hang out with the Stanley Cup later this month.

The winner of the raffle (and nine of their friends) will get a 20-minute meet-and-greet with Pietrangelo and the Cup in downtown St. Louis on Aug. 24.

Tickets are $1 each, with more information at blues.givesmart.com

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker

 Week 1: Cup heads to the Canadian prairies
• Week 2: Stanley Cup heads east to Ontario
• Week 3: Pat Maroon takes Cup back to St. Louis for some toasted ravioli
• Week 4: Ryan O’Reilly celebrates with grandma
• Week 5: Perron and poutine; Allen gives back


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Botterill’s plan needs to bear fruit in Buffalo

Getty Images
1 Comment

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Buffalo Sabres.

If all the good things they say about Ralph Krueger are true, Jason Botterill will look like a genius who bypassed several more experienced candidates for the head coaching gig in Buffalo in favor of a man with 48 NHL games as a bench boss.

The Phil Housley experiment didn’t work out even though he was hired for some of the same reasons that Krueger now has: a players’ coach that can work well with young players. Two years on from Housley’s hiring, Botterill is once again looking outside the regular carousel of coaches, gambling on guys with limited bench-boss experience in the NHL hoping they can bring something that the establishment cannot.

[MORE: 2018-19 in review | X-factor | Three questions]

Botterill isn’t a rookie general manager this time around. Instead, he’s overseen two more seasons where the Sabres haven’t made the playoffs — a stretch that has now reached eight straight years.

Botterill has been nothing if not bold, both in the trade market, in free agency and his hires. Last summer, he made waves after trading Ryan O'Reilly away for a truckload of players and picks. But Buffalo watched O’Reilly lift the Stanley Cup this past season while being named the playoff MVP to rub it in some more. Oh, and O’Reilly also won the Selke for good measure.

Botterill does get some measure of the benefit of hindsight here. It was a pretty good haul for a player who wanted out. But it’s not exactly how they envisioned it working out. The 2019 first-round pick they received in the package turned into No. 31 in the draft thanks to St. Louis’ triumph. Patrik Berglund, meanwhile, quit the NHL after going AWOL last season.

Some things you can’t control, but at the end of the day it all becomes a part of a body of work, and that body of work has to have more pros than cons.

And there are certainly some pros. Botterill went out and got Jeff Skinner, who would go on to score 40 goals while helping show the Sabres could compete, at least for half a season.

Snagging Brandon Montour at the trade deadline and then plucking Colin Miller off the cash-strapped Vegas Golden Knights are both good moves aimed at re-tooling the team’s back end, one that couldn’t give much help to two goalies that weren’t able to rise above the situation and play lights out.

Speaking of goalies, Carter Hutton didn’t exactly light the world on fire as a starter in his first season in that role last year. He was a very capable backup in St. Louis, but his starting numbers are outside of the top 31 goalies in the NHL, meaning they aren’t starting numbers at all.

It’s not all Hutton’s fault, however. The team’s defensive structure was poor and Housley couldn’t right that ship. Buffalo’s first half of last season was impressive. Hell, they were in first place in the entire NHL at one point. But it tumbled quickly when it began to fall apart.

It’s led Botterill to be aggressive once again with guys like Miller and Henri Jokiharju. Getting Skinner signed long-term is a feather in his cap.

There are only so many fingers to be pointed in other directions before they all begin to navigate in one direction. This time, the gavel will be hanging over Botterill’s head.

He’s gone through one coach and three summers of trying to re-invent the team around the likes of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and now Rasmus Dahlin.

He’s been bold and he’s made some shrewd moves. If they work, he’s laughing.

If not, it might be best to find someone else to lead the Sabres into a monumental offseason next year where they have 14 pending unrestricted and restricted free agents and a lot of cash to work with in the open market.

If progress isn’t made this year, it will most certainly be time to look elsewhere.

MORE: ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Perron and poutine; Allen gives back

St. Louis Blues
1 Comment

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the St. Louis Blues spend their summer celebrating.

The Stanley Cup got a little French-Canadian treatment this past week as it wound its way through Quebec.

David Perron got his day with hockey’s holy grail and didn’t disappoint, making sure a little French-Canadiana made its way into the Mug.

Poutine, which is a mix of fries, cheese curds and gravy, was put into the cup and then spooned onto plates at Louis Restaurant, one of Perron’s favorite hometown spots in Sherbrooke, Que.

The day began with the Cup being flown into an awaiting Perron, who placed it in the front seat of his car and drove it home.

There, his family sat around hockey’s best cereal bowl and feasted on Lucky Charms,

The day continued, including a street hockey game where the winner’s got to drink out of Cup.


Blues backup Jake Allen took his turn on Thursday in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Allen took the Cup to Camp Wonder, a day camp during the summer months of July and August that provides inclusive activities for children and youth with intellectual and physical disabilities.

The visit was made possible through Allen’s Program 34 foundation, which aims to reduce and eliminate barriers in participation caused by poverty, distance, disability and culture.


Other highlights from the week

Friday was Robert Thomas‘ day.

He received a key to his hometown of Aurora, Ont. and had a parade.

Ah, ice cream. A Stanley Cup staple.

Sammy Blais also go his day.

“It’s really incredible the number of people that are here right now,” Blais told CIMT in French (via NHL.com) “They supported me all throughout the playoffs, and ever since I was a kid, they’ve supported me and have been proud. To see them here today, and to bring them the Stanley Cup, it was really important for me to give back to my city.”

And so, too, did Al Macinnis.


As the Blues have been doing all summer, they’ve complied another short video on players’ days with the Cup.

Here’s Tyler Bozak‘s:

And here’s another from its time in Saskatchewan:

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker

 Week 1: Cup heads to the Canadian prairies
• Week 2: Stanley Cup heads east to Ontario
• Week 3: Pat Maroon takes Cup back to St. Louis for some toasted ravioli
• Week 4: Ryan O’Reilly celebrates with grandma


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Ryan O’Reilly celebrates with grandma

St. Louis Blues
1 Comment

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the St. Louis Blues spend their summer celebrating.

Ryan O'Reilly‘s journey to becoming a Stanley Cup champion began long ago.

Along the road of twists and turns and the ups and downs has been his 99-year-old grandmother, Deirdre — or simply ‘Granny O’Reilly’.

And, well, words simply can’t do this justice so spend the next 80 seconds watching the video below (and get the tissues out):

Some moments, man. Beautiful.

O’Reilly, this year’s Conn Smythe winner — and Selke, too — got his day with the Cup this past Thursday in Seaforth, Ont., and the man of many recent accolades got the appropriate reception from

Lord Stanley got another ride on a fire truck, which has become a bit of a theme this summer.

The playoff MVP’s day with the Cup spanned three towns. Along with Seaforth, a second parade was held in Goderich, a small community not far away.

A third and a final stop came in Bayfield where O’Reilly’s parents live. Not satisfied with the idea of taking a car like us mere mortals, O’Reilly took to the air a helicopter to make his journey.

It looks like Doug Armstrong got his day, as well.


Jordan Binnington got his day with the Cup a couple of weeks back, but the Blues put together a montage last week of his day back home in Richmond Hill.

Ditto with Brayden Schenn, who traversed Saskatchewan on his day.

The PHT Stanley Cup tracker

 Week 1: Cup heads to the Canadian prairies
• Week 2: Stanley Cup heads east to Ontario
• Week 3: Pat Maroon takes Cup back to St. Louis for some toasted ravioli


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Central Division arms race only intensifying

Getty Images
4 Comments

It’s the National Hockey League’s version of an arms race, a Cold War of sorts.

The developing and cultivating of assets has been rampant in the Central Division over the past few seasons, if not several more before that. Powerhouses have arisen, some likely — Nashville, for instance, and Winnipeg, too, with their drafting.

Others have forged different paths. The St. Louis Blues tricked the world in January when they sat in last place in the NHL, only to hoist the Stanley Cup in the middle of June in one of sports most remarkable comeback stories.

From Manitoba down through Texas, the Central has become and remained hockey’s toughest division, one where aggressiveness in the trade market, in the scouting department and on the draft floor has paid off in dividends for those who have been patient to allow their teams to blossom. And those who have been able to unload and reload, too, have found success.

Four of the past 10 Cup champs have come from the division, and while the Blackhawks have won three of those, others have come close, including the Predators who reached the Cup final in 2017.

The paths have been many, and it’s resulted in a division full of legitimate playoff contenders, if not Stanley Cup ones as well.

It’s a proper standoff.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the Central Division waters, shall we?

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

On the rise

Dallas Stars: They have grown one of the best defenses in the league, command one of the best goalies in the NHL and added a lethal scoring threat in Joe Pavelski this summer, took a cheap and calculated risk on Corey Perry and took a chance on the oft-injured Andrej Sekera.

If the payoff becomes more goals, a rejuvenated leader in Perry and a stout defenseman that Sekera can be, the Stars, who were a goal away from the Western Conference Final this past season, could be a major player in the division.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs have made their intentions clear. After an unlikely second-round appearance in this past year’s playoffs, the Avs have added the fourth-overall pick thanks to offloading Matt Duchene a couple seasons ago to the Ottawa Senators, who were horrible last season. They signed Joonas Donskoi in free agency, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, too, and pried Andre Burakovsky away from the Washington Capitals and Nazem Kadri from the Toronto Maple Leafs in an aggressive start to the offseason.

Colorado already has some of the best offensive weapons in the NHL with Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. It remains to be seen if their defense takes a hit with the loss of Tyson Barrie in the Kadri deal. But a young team got a good taste in the postseason this year and the additions made can only make the team better.

Still strong

Nashville Predators: The trade-off for adding Matt Duchene was shipping out P.K. Subban. It’s a steep price to pay, but one mitigated by having one of the best defensive cores in the NHL even without Subban’s services.

Duchene should add much-needed goal-scoring to the club, including on the power play where the Preds were abysmal last year (12.9%, 31st in the NHL). The Predators still ooze talent, and they’re a tough-as-nails team to play against, Subban or not. They’ll challenge once again for a third-successive division crown.

St. Louis Blues: The Stanley Cup champs found a way to make the best of the sum of their parts. It’s not that they didn’t have skill, but they also didn’t have a bona fide superstar, at least during the regular season.

But a rugged team that bands together seems to be a squad that can find success, despite whatever perceived lackings they have (see: Vegas, 2018). Jordan Binnington remains a question mark only because we need to see him play a full season at (or at least near) the level he produced after getting his first NHL start on Jan. 7. Ryan O'Reilly was exactly what the team needed and if Robby Fabbri can stay healthy, they could get a good shot of talent injected into the roster.

The Unknowns

Winnipeg Jets: Losing Jacob Trouba hurts. How much so remains to be seen, but taking a top-pairing defender off any team is going to expose a gap that can be exploited.

The Jets are going to get younger once again this season, especially on the back end where they’ve lost Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot. Those aren’t losses that will hurt the team nearly as much, but its experience not on the roster anymore. The Jets will have competition for those spots and could still make a move on the back end (perhaps Jake Gardiner if they could make it work) that would improve that situation.

Signing Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor comes first, however. Andrew Copp, too, along with Neal Pionk, part of their return for Trouba. The Jets still need to sort out their second-line center issue. Who plays with Laine is a big question with no answer at the moment. The Jets aren’t the Stanley Cup contender they were two years ago, and they won’t be riding the same hype train they rode coming into the past season. They also won’t be terrible. They’re still a playoff team, but the ceiling is unknown at the moment.

Did they improve?

Chicago Blackhawks: They’ve made some moves, giving Alexander Nylander a second chance while acquiring Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta to make their defense stouter. And they have a quality 1-2 punch in goal now with the addition of Robin Lehner, who is some of the best insurance you can have with Crawford’s injury proneness.

Will Dylan Strome continue to flourish as he did last season when he joined the team? Alex DeBrincat is a very good player and they still have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Part of their backend is still fossilizing, however. And can Corey Crawford remain healthy? They signed Robin Lehner, so that could take some uncertainty away.

I’m inclined to think Chicago has gotten better and can compete for a playoff spot. I’m just not sure they’re on the same level as the teams above.

The struggle

Minnesota Wild: One wonders where this team is heading. Signing Mats Zuccarello is a good addition and taking a cheap chance on Ryan Hartman isn’t half bad.

But even with that, where is the goal scoring coming from? They traded away Mikael Granlund and Zuccarello has broken the 20-goal barrier just once in his career. Zach Parise isn’t the player he used to be. Eric Staal isn’t getting any younger. Ryan Suter can only play so many minutes a night and Devan Dubnyk took a step down last season, along with the rest of the team.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck