Happy holidays, whether you’re lucky enough to be Tyler Bozak and perennially playing with Phil Kessel, or you’re living in Edmonton and, well, you know.
The budget was tight this year, so we just got one big gift for each of Canada’s seven NHL teams, plus a few stocking stuffers.
CALGARY FLAMES: The Gift of The Ghost of Christmas Past
Things were very merry in Calgary before a six-game losing streak (entering Friday night’s game versus Dallas), the Flames would like nothing better than a quick return to their winning ways.
Bob Hartley: A two-year extension for a coach in the middle of a six-game losing streak? Don’t get anything for Hartley, Christmas came early this year.
Mark Giordano: A spotlight, so one of the league’s most valuable players can get some well-deserved recognition.
Johnny Gaudreau: A second helping of turkey and stuffing, so the Calder candidate can one day grow into a full-on NHL star.
EDMONTON OILERS: The Gift of Hope
The Gift of Goaltending And Team Defence would also suffice and spread much holiday cheer for a franchise that so desperately needs it.
Taylor Hall: Boughs of holly, for him to deck the naysayers with.
Here’s a rough ranking of the rookies on Canada’s seven NHL teams, from the Calder candidates to the cups of coffee.
A few notables: All of the “Calder Candidates” and “Regulars” are forwards, there’s not a freshman defenceman to be seen on a blue line north of the 49th parallel. The closest was Stuart Percy, who had an eight-game audition with the Toronto Maple Leafs before being sent to the AHL. Speaking of the Leafs, they’re the lone Canadian club that doesn’t dress a rookie on a regular basis, but that could change with the return of Brandon Kozun, who surprised by making the club out of training camp but was injured early in the season. Including Kozun, we count 12 frosh forwards on Canada’s seven teams, plus two kid backup goalies.
Rookies listed in order of their NHL impact so far this season.
THE CALDER CANDIDATES:
Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators: A winger with size who auditioned well in 19 games last season (four goals, eight points), and has kept it up with five goals and 11 points in 24 games this year. Stone, 22, was a sixth-round pick in 2010 (178th overall), while Hoffman was a fifth-rounder in 2009 (130th overall).
THE BACKUP GOALIES:
THE CUPS OF COFFEE:
The first quarter of the 2014-15 regular season has provided some answers, but there are still some things we don't know. Here are seven questions for Canada's seven NHL teams:
The Calgary Flames question: Can they keep it up?
The Edmonton Oilers question: Will they ever win a game against a team in the West?
The Montreal Canadiens question: Can they win the Stanley Cup?
The Ottawa Senators question: Who are these guys?
The Toronto Maple Leafs question: Will they find love?
The Vancouver Canucks question: Are they for real?
The Winnipeg Jets question: Will they make the playoffs?
Believe it or not, the first quarter of the 2014-15 NHL regular season has already happened. And with that, here are our picks for first-quarter team MVPs for Canada’s seven NHL clubs. Some of them you will believe and some, perhaps, you will not:
Ottawa Senators: Spoiler alert, we’re going with another goaltender. Craig Anderson can’t be denied, even though he’s won just five of 11 starts for the Sens (5-3-3). Anderson’s .935 save percentage is simply too good to ignore, ranking second among NHL No. 1 goalies behind only the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick (.938). Clarke MacArthur is a candidate, leading the Senators in goals (eight), points (14) and game-winners (three), as well as captain Erik Karlsson, averaging 27:42 in ice time per game. Or you could even go rogue and argue for rookie Mike Hoffman, with seven goals and a team-leading plus-8 in 15 games. But if not for Anderson, the Sens wouldn’t be holding down a playoff spot, and that’s why we like him.
Sam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 5 mths ago
No, we’re not saying that Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is the best goalie among the netminders on Canada’s seven NHL teams. Of course not, not with Carey Price between the pipes in Montreal and Ryan Miller off and running in Vancouver … and Craig Anderson streaking in Ottawa and Jonas Hiller rebounding in Calgary.
Overall, the Jets boast the third-best GAA in the NHL at 1.95, behind only the Chicago Blackhawks (1.83) and St. Louis Blues (1.90). It would be downright shocking if Winnipeg is anywhere close to that number at the end of the season, and a huge victory if they’re in the NHL’s top 10 in GAA, never mind the top three. But for the time being, you can’t argue with the results – and you can’t deny Pavelec’s contribution.
Here is how Canada’s six other teams rank in net, in order of goals-against average (entering Friday night’s games):
Ottawa Senators: 2.37 GAA, 11th overall in the NHL
Montreal Canadiens: 2.47 GAA, 12th overall in the NHL
Calgary Flames: 2.56 GAA, 14th overall in the NHL
Toronto Maple Leafs: 2.60 GAA, 15th overall in the NHL
Vancouver Canucks: 2.72 GAA, 18th overall in the NHL
Edmonton Oilers: 3.33 GAA, 27th overall in the NHL
Sam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 5 mths ago
We’re one month into the 2014-15 NHL regular season, and it’s the end of the beginning but not the beginning of the end for any of Canada’s seven NHL teams. No, not even the Edmonton Oilers, who lost their first five games, won four in a row, then lost four straight heading into Friday night’s winnable contest at Buffalo. (Note: If the up-and-mostly-down Oilers beat the Sabres, it’ll be Edmonton’s first road win of 2014-15; they’re the last team in the NHL without a victory away from home.)
A cross-Canada checkup on the Great White North’s seven NHL teams, in order of how they fared in the first month of the NHL season:
Sam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 1 yr ago
There’s nothing like a good goalie debate. And this is a debate about 30 good goalies, the 30 starting goalies in the NHL.
But first, a clarification. This is a ranking of the 30 No. 1 goalies in the NHL. Every team is represented once, no more and no less. Which means that there’s a few masked men who are not on this list who would certainly make the grade if it was a straight-up ranking of the NHL’s top 30 goalies. But it isn’t. It’s a ranking of the NHL’s top 30 starting goalies.
For example, perhaps you’ll notice that a certain all-time winningest NHL goalie isn’t listed. That’s right, we believe Cory Schneider will take over as New Jersey’s No. 1, supplanting 41-year-old legend Martin Brodeur. Of course, Martin being Martin, he’ll probably prove us wrong by winning 50 games and signing a new three-year contract. But unless he’s got a Dorian Gray portrait hidden in Lou Lamoriello’s office, Brodeur has to slow down sometime. Right…?
And here we go, the NHL's top 30 starting goalies:
1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
It’s always a debate, but the Kings goalie has been the NHL’s best puckstopper over the past few seasons.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
3. Pekka Rinne, Nashville
Sam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 1 yr ago
NHL free agency opened on July 5, and most high-profile UFAs were signed and sealed in the first couple of days. But there’s still a few big names and several serviceable players available; in fact, there’s enough to ice an entire UFA Leftovers All-Star Team. It might be a long shot for the Stanley Cup, but we think it’s got at least a Blue Jackets’ chance at making the playoffs. (Note: Teemu Selanne wasn’t included due to his annual return-to-Anaheim-or-retire rite of summer passage, but everyone else was fair game.)
Here it is, the UFA Leftovers All-Star Team, the best club that money can buy in the middle of the summer. The team’s strengths are up front, especially on the wings, and there's decent overall depth. Weaknesses? Everything else. Blame the GM for skipping the entry draft and waiting two weeks into free agency before starting to build a team…
Center: Peter Mueller. A big gamble, but Mueller is also a big body (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) with a big pedigree (drafted 8th overall in 2006) and he’s only 25. The talent’s there; he scored 22 goals and 54 points as a rookie.
Spare: Andrew Alberts. Let’s get physical.
NHL Power Rankings: Penguins flying high to end season; Flames, Avs, Panthers stay comfy in the basementSam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 2 yrs ago
This is Sam McCaig’s final Power Rankings column of the 2012-13 NHL season.
POWER RANKINGS: Rating the NHL teams from 1 to 30
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: One of their biggest challenges will be finding chemistry on the fly as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Paul Martin work their way back into a lineup that’s still adapting to trade acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Douglas Murray. It’s a good problem to have.
2. Chicago Blackhawks: The ‘Hawks were the NHL’s biggest story in the first half of the season, reeling off an league-record 24-game point streak before they suffered their first regulation-time loss. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa headline a potent offensive arsenal, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the go-to guys on defense in any given situation, and the goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery has been nothing less than phenomenal.
8. St. Louis Blues: If you had to pick a team to pull a Kings – ie. quietly cruise along all season and then break out in the playoffs – you could do worse than the Blues. Fast and physical, deep and talented, and the goaltending has found its form after struggling most of the season.
Sam McCaig at Yahoo Sports 2 yrs ago
Sam McCaig’s weekly Power Rankings column will appear on Saturdays.
POWER RANKINGS: The NHL’s top 10 teams
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: It’s all about getting chemistry with the new guys – and getting a healthy Sidney Crosby and James Neal back in time for the playoffs – as the NHL’s top-heaviest team gears up for a run at the Stanley Cup.
2. Chicago Blackhawks: The ‘Hawks hit a rough patch a few weeks ago, losing five times in a nine-game stretch. The good news? Those were their only five regulation losses all season, and they’ve gone 6-0-1 since.
3. Anaheim Ducks: Inevitably the No. 2 seed in the West, the Ducks have defeated the Blackhawks and Kings in recent showdowns with the conference’s elite.
4. Boston Bruins: They beat up on a couple of non-playoff teams last week, but the Bruins have struggled to score for about a month. Still, they’re too deep and too talented for that to last. Plus, they got Jaromir Jagr so you know they’re good.
6. Los Angeles Kings: The defending Stanley Cup champions won’t have to do it as an 8-seed this time. The Kings have the inside track on fourth place in the West, and home ice in the first round.
Rising Up: Washington Capitals
ALL-STAR TEAM OF THE WEEK