Keith Jones

Mogilny, others among Hockey Hall of Fame picks for Sharp, Jones

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The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2020 class on Wednesday, mixing no-brainers (Jarome Iginla) with some surprises. Like clockwork, people pumped out takes about Hall of Fame “snubs.”

During the latest episode of “Our Line Starts,” Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp don’t go as far as throwing the “snub” word around.

Sharp and Jones did, however, share their future Hall of Fame picks with host Liam McHugh. You can check out the full episode at the bottom of this post, and the specific Hall of Fame clip in the video above.

[MORE: Who the PHT staff would have inducted into the 2020 HHOF]

Let’s dive into their most prominent choices:

Jones, Sharp make strongest Hall of Fame cases for Alexander Mogilny

In my opinion, the most fascinating thing about Mogilny is his legacy in defecting to play hockey in North America.

But it’s also interesting to find out “which” Mogilny people think of when you ask about the gifted winger. Maybe it’s an age thing, but as much as I enjoyed his work on other teams, my first thought is of his time with the Canucks.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jones puts a lot of emphasis on Mogilny’s time with the Devils, though. Mogilny won a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1999-2000, helping defense-obsessed New Jersey with much-needed offense.

(Granted, Mogilny didn’t set the playoffs on fire, scoring two goals and seven points in 23 games during that run. His prime postseason production was impressive, though.)

Really, we should probably remember Mogilny most for his explosive days with the Sabres. After all, he became the first-ever European captain of an NHL team with Buffalo.

Hall of Fame discussions aren’t always about the concrete, however. Some of it comes down to feelings. Jones explains that his memory of trying to defend Mogilny inspired a feeling of fear. Fear of being burned by Mogilny’s speed and skill. Jones was far from alone.

Daniel Alfredsson

Pretty simple case here. Alfredsson piled up considerable individual stats, and served as a face of the Senators franchise for years.

Sharp said it was probably a “matter of time” for Mogilny to get inducted, but that could be true with Alfredsson as well. I will admit that I blurted out “Scott Niedermayer” when Sharp asked if anyone had a bad thing to say about Alfredsson.

(Then again, Niedermayer probably let Alfredsson’s tantrum go a long time ago, anyway.)

Tkachuk and other mentions

  • Jones seemed pretty emphatic about Keith Tkachuk’s Hall of Fame credentials. (No, I don’t think It’s a Keith Thing.)

Jones points to Tkachuk’s 538 goals (33rd all-time), the most of any eligible player who’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s likely a high compliment that Jones said he hated playing against Tkachuk.

  • In discussing Tkachuk, Jones linked him to a former power forward teammate John LeClair.

Granted, Jones acknowledged that Tkachuk boasts greater longevity and a comparable peak. LeClair’s best years — some strong playoff work with the Habs, that run on the “Legion of Doom” line — prompted Jones to say LeClair joined Eric Lindros as the league’s best “duo” for some time. I’m not sure I agree there, but I do generally appreciate quality-over-quantity Hall of Fame arguments.

  • Sharp brings up Rod Brind’Amour, a name that’s been gaining steam recently.

Whether “Rod the Bod” should be inducted or not, it’s delightful to see more love for dominant two-way forwards. And it’s not as if Brind’Amour was a total slouch offensively.

(Was “Rod the Bod” a slouch in any way, literally or figuratively? /Asks while slouching.)

As former players, Jones and Sharp reflexively mention a lot of their contemporaries. Regardless, it’s interesting to hear their insight on Mogilny and others they believe should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Our Line Starts” discusses Mogilny and other Hockey Hall of Fame hopefuls

Start-11:08 – Reaction to this year’s HOF class (Holland, Hossa, Iginla, Lowe, St-Pierre, Wilson)
11:10-16:45 – Who should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame (or not): Mogilny? Alfredsson? Tkachuk?
16:45-End – Fantasy draft for this year’s 24-team playoff tournament

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

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.

Can Kevyn Adams overcome inexperience to succeed as Sabres GM?

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Fair or not, it’s difficult to avoid the “inexperience” question regarding the Sabres handing the GM keys to Kevyn Adams.

Keith Jones, Patrick Sharp, and Liam McHugh discussed that subject, along with other Sabres issues, in the latest edition of “Our Line Starts.” While Sharp provided some glowing words for Adams, and Jones expressed optimism about holdover head coach Ralph Krueger, the larger Sabres picture is unsettling.

You can watch and listen to the full “Our Line Starts” podcast in the video above. The episode is also included at the bottom of this post. Here’s the specific clip discussing Adams and the inexperience issue:

Sabres present a colossal challenge for GM Adams, even ignoring inexperience

It’s amusing that Kim and Terry Pegula leaning on “E” buzzwords, especially efficiency, in making this change, being that they’re going with a third inexperienced GM in a row.

Let’s be honest, if there’s an “E” you’d use to describe this Sabres era, it would be “erratic.”

Adams represents the fourth GM the Sabres hired since the Pegulas came into the picture in 2013. Ralph Krueger ranks as their sixth head coach. Both Tim Murray and now Jason Botterill only received three years to make their marks as Sabres GMs.

To be frank, it’s difficult to guess what kind of vision Adams has as GM. In a lengthy discussion with The Athletic’s Tim Graham (sub required), Adams emphasized communication. And, yes, the word “efficient” went around a lot.

But there weren’t a lot of specifics. Just about every team claims that they want to emphasize speed and character, two things Adams did key on.

Adams did indicate that he’ll be working closely with Krueger. There can be some drawbacks to coaches having a lot of say in personnel matters, but considering how disjointed the Sabres are right now, having two top front office members on the same page is a plus.

(Yes, the Sabres are absolutely dealing in small victories right now. That’s what happens when you’re rudderless amid a nine-year playoff drought.)

Can Adams rebuild — not just the roster, but also the front office?

Botterill getting fired and replaced with Adams grabs the headlines. Yet, the Sabres absolutely dismantled their staff, almost top to bottom.

The Athletic’s John Vogl captures how scorched-earth the Sabres “barren” system currently looks (sub required), illustrated quickest in his tweet:

Yikes.

It’s not particularly promising that Adams doesn’t just qualify as inexperienced as a GM. He hasn’t served as an assistant GM, either. He was just promoted to vice president of business administration in September.

To be fair, many of us roll our eyes at NHL teams constantly hiring “retreads.”

Still, this situation makes you wonder if it’s really ideal for a novice. Sabres fans aren’t exactly overflowing with patience right now. Neither is superstar Jack Eichel.

Adams isn’t merely being asked to unearth prospects, or clean up the salary cap. While the Sabres’ messaging hinges on “doing more with less,” they’ll need to restock their front office — at least eventually.

Frankly, I view going short-staffed as short-sighted, at least in the longer term. It’s easy to look at a large staff as bloated. However, a savvy team can save millions merely by investing in an analytics staff that would tell people “No.”

Could a larger analytics emphasis have averted disastrous free agent signings over the years? Possibly. Maybe they could have salvaged more from trading Ryan O'Reilly, if that was unavoidable? It’s pretty easy to see how relatively cheap staff members could save teams millions.

The Sabres do still employ an analytics director (Jason Nightingale), but that doesn’t mean it’s an area of emphasis. I personally believe that is where a team can be more “efficient” than old-school, bigger spending teams.

Sabres at least have time to search for answers

Overall, there are a lot of troubling signs for the Sabres, with the inexperience of Kevyn Adams merely being one of them.

That said, it’s crucial to remember that the Sabres will probably look quite different whenever the 2020-21 season kicks into gear. (Or, gulp, 2021-22? Just 2021, then 2022? We live in uncertain times.)

The key is for important people, particularly the Pegulas, to learn from mistakes. Not even going through a GM search ranks as yet another troubling sign, but maybe inexperience won’t matter as much as some think regarding Adams?

It will be fascinating, and maybe a little frightening, to watch it all play out. Speaking of playing out, enjoy the latest episode of “Our Line Starts” below.

Start-12:45 Breaking down the front office overhaul in Buffalo
12:45-16:35 What will life in the “bubble” be like?
19:10-22:50 Discussion on potential hub cities as the official announcement nears
22:50-34:30 Handicapping some of the major awards

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

MORE ON ADAMS, SABRES:

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.

Will 2020 Stanley Cup be the toughest ever to win?

During the latest episode of “Our Line Starts,” Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp argued that the 2020 Stanley Cup might just be the toughest to ever win.

However you feel about that, others argued similarly. Back in mid-April, Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty also argued that the 2020 Stanley Cup might require the most from players.

“I think this will be the hardest Stanley Cup to win out of all of them,” Pacioretty told Gary Lawless of the Golden Knights’ website. “Look at all the obstacles. Who knows when we’re going to play, where, fans or no fans, everything is up in the air …”

Again, Pacioretty made that observation in April, before the NHL announced its return-to-play plans. Jones and Sharp argued their point with more information about the process. The larger arguments remain pretty similar, though.

Of course, as Jones and others also note, there are still a lot of hurdles to clear. Laying out a play to hand out the 2020 Stanley Cup doesn’t mean you’ll reach that destination.

But Pacioretty and others provide some room for debate. Could a run for the 2020 Stanley Cup prove to be the toughest of them all?

How a run to the 2020 Stanley Cup could be especially difficult

While the sheer uncertainty of the situation provides the best fodder, you could also lean on the nitty gritty details. Consider how difficult the path could be for a Qualifying Round team trying to win the 2020 Stanley Cup.

Said team would jump into a high-stakes, best-of-five series with a potentially dangerous opponent. Only then would they make the typical “Round of 16” you’d associate with the postseason.

The NHL hasn’t announced how long each (traditionally best-of-seven) First Round and Second Round series would be. However, we do know that the league aims for best-of-seven series during the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, along with the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

So … yeah, that could present a treacherous path. Especially for teams in that Qualifying Round, but Round Robin teams like Pacioretty’s Golden Knights wouldn’t have it easy, either. And that’s before we get into the logistics of living in a hub city, potentially away from family, friends, and other comforts.

NHL seasons have faced other extraordinary/unusual challenges

Yes, these are strange times — in some ways, unprecedented — but the NHL’s seen other serious challenges.

As you may know, the league faced serious disruption from another epidemic. The 1919 Stanley Cup was not awarded thanks to “The Spanish Flu.” (Gare Joyce recently looked back at that, and how it may illuminate the league’s struggles with COVID-19, for Sportsnet.)

If the NHL manages to award the 2020 Stanley Cup, it won’t be alone in the league forging on during tough moments. Back in 2017, Stan Fischler looked back at the NHL operating during World War II, and all of the challenges that ensued.

Each team had many players who were on active service during the war. In hockey’s “Victory Lineup” at the start of the 1942-43 season, the Boston Bruins had 16 players, the Canadiens 11, the Chicago Black Hawks seven, the Brooklyn Americans eight, the Detroit Red Wings eight, the New York Rangers 19 and the Maple Leafs 14.

Pacioretty himself weighed the significant challenges of going for the 2020 Stanley Cup with some unusual advantages. Most obviously, players will be as healthy as they’ve ever been this late in a season.

Considering how people often complain of rigorous travel, one perk of the “hub city” system would involve far more limited movement. (From a quality of life standpoint, that’s probably mostly negative. Players would prefer to see friends and family, and the comforts of home. But still, it’s worth at least mentioning in passing.)

2020 Stanley Cup not the only unusual circumstance

Thanks to lockouts and/or lockout-shortened seasons, we’ve also seen players enter postseasons in less typical circumstances. Sure, some will worry that the 2020 Stanley Cup winner might get the “asterisk treatment.” There are people who probably still discredit, say, the 2005-06 Hurricanes for winning it all during an unusual season.

Overall, Jones, Sharp, and Pacioretty all have decent larger points. The sheer uncertainty of this situation should make it difficult. That’s especially true for the NHL players who are most aptly “creatures of habit.”

Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman candidly spoke about the many obstacles the NHL faces in determining a 2020 Stanley Cup winner while managing risks. It won’t be easy to win it all, but then again, it rarely is, right?

Check out the full episode of “Our Line Starts” below:

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.

Mike Milbury isn’t a fan of Ovechkin’s hit on Girardi

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Seeing Alex Ovechkin’s big hit on Dan Girardi in the second period of the Caps’ 3-2 win over New York instantly sparked debate. Ovechkin was nailed for charging but he also appeared to hit Girardi up high while also leaving his feet. While both Ovechkin and Girardi downplayed the hit after the game, that’s a lot of things wrong on one play.

NBC’s Mike Milbury says Ovechkin’s hit was unacceptable for a player that’s a repeat offender when it comes to questionable hits and says a suspension wouldn’t be out of the question. Why am I telling you this though? Check out video of Milbury sounding off.

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All right so Milbury pulls back a bit and says they should leave it up to Brendan Shanahan. Hey, maybe Keith Jones is starting to rub off a bit on the big guy.

Video: Capitals, Sabres go in opposite directions

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The Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals essentially went into last night’s big game in the same place and Buffalo’s lead is small yet substantial, but more than anything else, it feels like so much more. Then again, if this season’s tightest stretch runs provide any lessons, it’s this: don’t ever assume anything.

Keith Jones and Mike Milbury went on NBC Sports Talk to discuss the rising Sabres, the falling Capitals and some surprising struggles for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the video below.

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