Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • 2015 NHL trade deadline: Top 10 teams with all the right moves

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    The Stanley Cup chase is wide open, and the NHL trade market was wild in the three weeks leading up to Monday’s trade deadline.

    No true superstars changed teams – unless you count Jaromir Jagr, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer, who joined his fifth NHL team in four seasons when the New Jersey Devils sent him to the Florida Panthers.

    But several important pieces moved, and with prices high, sellers stocked up for the future and buyers improved themselves for the present. More than two-thirds of the league’s teams can say they helped themselves.

    Here are the 10 teams that helped themselves the most:

    10. Nashville Predators

    General manager David Poile gave up prospect Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick, but he got rid of Olli Jokinen, got ahead of the market and got two rentals he originally drafted in Nashville: Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. Franson gives the Predators more offensive punch from the blue line, and Santorelli strengthens them down the middle. Whenever the Predators have had a legitimate shot, Poile has gone for it. Sometimes he has tried to do too much. This time, maybe he struck the right balance – upgrading but not upsetting the chemistry.

    8. Anaheim Ducks

  • 2015 NHL trade deadline: High prices for players, high stakes for teams

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    BOSTON — The Arizona Coyotes had suffered their ninth straight loss, embarrassed by the Boston Bruins, 4-1. They sat near the bottom of the NHL standings, in contention for a top draft pick, not the Stanley Cup.

    Center Antoine Vermette had been moved before the NHL trade deadline twice before. He knew the drill, and he knew he was about to go to a better team. Still, he had spent three years with the Coyotes and bonded with his teammates. He had his family in Phoenix.

    “You’ve got to take it as a man,” Vermette said Saturday night, fighting back emotion in a somber, silent dressing room at TD Garden. “That’s part of the game, unfortunately. It’s not easy.”

    About an hour later, it was done. The Coyotes had shipped him to the Chicago Blackhawks.

    With the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, this is a time of high emotion, high prices and high stakes. Players are dealing with uncertainty and upheaval. Teams are paying up in a seller’s market, hoping to bolster their rosters for what could be wide-open playoffs.

    Several players have switched teams in the past two-and-a-half weeks. Just look at what some pending unrestricted free agents have cost:

    “What’d you get?” Kelly asked.

  • Toronto assistant GM Kyle Dubas talks Leafs, luck & analytics: 'It's not magic'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    BOSTON — The summer of analytics has turned into the winter of discontent. Several NHL teams hired data-oriented people in the off-season and some have struggled so far. The list includes the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs – four of the bottom seven teams in the league standings.

    “Those teams haven’t magically transformed overnight into good teams, and people will jump on and say, ‘I told you that analytics [stuff] didn’t work. Those teams are no good,’ ” said Toronto assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, the summer’s highest-profile hire. “You go on my Twitter timeline after any game the Maple Leafs lose and see that firsthand.”

    There is a simple explanation, though.

    “It’s not magic,” Dubas said. “It’s not really magic. It’s a process, and it’s hard work, and it’s difficult, and you have to push your way through it.”

    To have the best chance of success, no matter the philosophy, you need buy-in throughout the organization and time for the parts to align. You need management to draft, develop and acquire players that fit. You need the coaches to use the players in a way that fits.

    “It just takes time,” Dubas said.

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  • David Clarkson for Nathan Horton: Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets trade problems – and it's best for all involved

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    This is one of those trades where you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s simple. It’s brilliant. It helps both sides.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets had a problem. They had signed winger Nathan Horton to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract on July 5, 2013. But they didn’t insure his contract, and he had debilitating back problems, and his career was almost certainly over. They faced the prospect of paying him $26 million not to play for the rest of this season and the next five.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs had a problem. They had signed winger David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract on July 5, 2013. But he had turned out to be one of the biggest busts in NHL history, and because of the structure of his contract, they couldn’t buy him out without severe pain. He had a no-move clause. They seemed stuck with him.

    So Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen called Leafs GM Dave Nonis with a proposal: You take our problem. We’ll take yours. Clarkson waived his no-move clause, and the teams struck the deal Thursday night, shocking the hockey world.

    He didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations.

  • Three Periods: Long live the Kings; Wild redemption for Dubnyk; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include why the Los Angeles Kings decided to be aggressive and get Andrej Sekera; how a goalie trade fixed more than goaltending for the Minnesota Wild; and notes on Devan Dubnyk’s improvement, Patrick Kane’s injury impact and Alex Petrovic’s cross-check.

    FIRST PERIOD: Why the Kings decided to be aggressive, acquire Sekera

    He felt they deserved it. He felt he almost owed it to them.

    General manager Dean Lombardi traded a first-round pick and a prospect to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrej Sekera on Wednesday – a high price for a rental, even the top rental defenseman on the market – because of what his Los Angeles Kings had accomplished the past three years and how they had looked on an eight-game winning streak.

    “Haven’t we seen this before?” Lombardi asked.

    In 2011-12, the Kings struggled so badly Lombardi changed coaches, replacing Terry Murray with Darryl Sutter. They finished strong, and with a dominant 16-4 playoff run, they became the first No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup.

    In 2012-13, they finished fifth in the West and returned to the conference final.

    THIRD PERIOD: Notes from around the NHL

  • Business as usual for red-hot Los Angeles despite Stadium Series circus

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jonathan Quick made a save and pumped his glove as the final horn sounded. Drew Doughty gave him a hug. The Los Angeles Kings patted heads, high-fived and started to leave the ice as if they had played in any old rink, not Levi’s Stadium.

    As fireworks blasted into the sky, a few had to be called back to salute the announced crowd of 70,205, third-largest in NHL history. Even then, coach Darryl Sutter kept on walking – through the landscaping, down the tunnel, on to the next game.

    To the Kings, Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks was not about the spectacle. It was about business.

    They have won two of the last three Stanley Cups. They hosted the first NHL outdoor game in California last season at Dodger Stadium. This did not compare.

    And two weeks ago, they had four teams between them and a playoff spot. Now they have won seven straight and moved past the Sharks and into third place in the Pacific Division.

    “We’re kind of used to it,” Doughty said. “I think the guys kind of had fun. It’s a cool experience. But at the same time, it’s better just playing at Staples or something like that.”

    Better just playing at Staples Center in L.A.?


  • Why Sharks-Kings might be the most meaningful outdoor game to date

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Patrick Marleau grew up playing pond hockey on a farm in Aneroid, Saskatchewan. He and his brother would brave the cold and snow, and they’d try to keep pucks from falling through a hole in the ice. There was a hole in the ice so their cows could drink.

    He was drafted second overall by the Sharks in 1997. He has played in San Jose ever since, 17 seasons now. The past few years, he has watched several other NHL teams host outdoor games. Last year, he even saw the Los Angeles Kings host the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium.

    “I was wondering if we’d ever get a chance to do it,” he said.

    Now here he was Friday afternoon practicing at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers. At one point, someone fired a puck over the glass, and it splashed in a water feature between the rink and the stands. There wasn’t a cow in sight, but there was a fake shark fin.

    The Sharks will host the Kings on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of more than 69,000, the largest in franchise history. Only two Sharks have played in an NHL outdoor game before, so they used words like “shock” and “awe” and “excited.” This is their turn. This is their time.

  • NHL takes next step in analytics evolution

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. — When the NHL introduced “enhanced stats” to its website Friday, it used some of the same stats that people have been using on their own for years. Only the league didn’t use the names Corsi and Fenwick. After considerable internal debate, in an effort to be accessible and user-friendly, it decided to use shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts.

    To Matt Fenwick, it was like when the NHL went from the Wales and Campbell conferences to the Eastern and Western conferences. The league gained clarity but lost character. It lost a sense of history, part of its charm.

    “It’s an awkward argument for me to make, and I’m certainly not going to make it that loudly because it seems kind of self-interested,” Fenwick said. “I won’t have my name plastered on something for eternity. But on the other hand, having a bad acronym or something instead of it just saying Corsi or Fenwick doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I don’t think the perceived benefits exist.”

    “I think it’s neat,” Fenwick said. “For sure it shows that it meant something and that we weren’t all just wasting each other’s time on the Internet in 2007 and 2009 and all that, right? It was something real.”

  • Three Periods: Tampa Bay lights it up despite power outage; Ducks seek defense; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the Tampa Bay Lightning’s baffling power-play struggles; the Anaheim Ducks’ slump and defensive problems; plus notes on Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jonathan Drouin and Steve Montador.

    FIRST PERIOD: Lightning scoring a lot, but not with the extra man

    The Tampa Bay Lightning leads the NHL in goals per game at 3.22. Steven Stamkos is tied for third in the league in goals with 31.

    The amazing part? They’ve done it without a decent power play.

    They have scored 35 power-play goals, tied for 14th in the NHL. But they’ve had 207 power-play opportunities, the most in the league. So their percentage is only 16.9, ranking 24th overall. They have been especially inept lately, with only four power-play goals in their past 16 games.

    The positive is that the Bolts are one of the NHL’s best 5-on-5 teams, and if they ever get the power play going, look out. But the negative is obvious.

    “Without a power play going, that’s maybe three, four, five more wins throughout the year,” Stamkos said. “That’s going to make a big difference.”


    SECOND PERIOD: Ducks are struggling defensively, and help is hard to find

  • Max factor: Pacioretty matures into leading man on and off the ice in Montreal

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    Max Pacioretty sits in the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room when the reporters approach – cameras, microphones, notebooks, recorders. In the past, he might have stayed seated. If he weren’t scoring, he might have brooded. Now, no matter what, he makes sure he stands and speaks.

    It’s a little thing. He feels almost silly acknowledging it. But it’s a conscious thing.

    “People do notice things like that,” Pacioretty says away from the media scrum. “So at the end of the day, I think it is important for me to give off that image and make sure I handle myself a certain way in front of the cameras.”

    In front of the team, too.

    “Sometimes it can be a difference of attitude for your teammates,” Pacioretty says, “and you want to give off the right impressions and the right body language and set a good example as a leader.”

    Pacioretty, 26, is stepping up this season literally and figuratively.

    He’s scoring goals at virtually the same rate he did last season, when he scored a career-high 39. With 26 goals, he’s on pace for 38. He ranks ninth in the NHL and has nine more goals than any other Canadien – critical for a team ranked 23rd offensively at 2.57 goals per game.