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NHL Insider

10 candidates for bounce-back seasons

Friday, 07.20.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Disappointing seasons happen to almost everyone. Sometimes they're due to injuries; sometimes they're just bad luck, and other times they are a combination of circumstances.

Here are 10 players who, for a variety of reasons, didn't have their best season in 2011-12 -- but are good candidates to bounce back in 2012-13:

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks -- Getzlaf averaged more than a point per game from 2007-08 through 2010-11, but his scoring touch inexplicably vanished last season when he managed 11 goals and 57 points while averaging 21:35 of ice time in 82 games. Not surprisingly, the Ducks missed the playoffs. It was the worst full-season offensive showing of the forward's career. For the Ducks to get back into the playoffs, Getzlaf has to return to being the player who was among the NHL's best centers in the previous four seasons.


In offer sheet, Holmgren again makes bold move

Thursday, 07.19.2012 / 2:06 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Only two compensation-eligible free agents in the last 15 years have switched teams. That fact, however, didn't stop Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren from signing Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to an offer sheet.

The reported 14-year, $100 million-plus deal, announced by the Flyers on Thursday, is just the latest in a litany of aggressive moves that have marked Holmgren's tenure in Philadelphia.

Holmgren's fearlessness can be traced to his first day on the job, Oct. 22, 2006, when he fired Stanley Cup-champion coach Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with first-year NHL assistant John Stevens.


DeBoer prepares to move on without Parise

Thursday, 07.19.2012 / 1:53 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- While the loss of captain Zach Parise via free agency was tough to take, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer is confident his group can pick up where it left off last season.

The Minneapolis-born Parise agreed to a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Minnesota Wild on July 4. The contract will keep the 27-year-old in his home state until age 40. He had spent his first seven seasons in the League with the Devils.


Who are the best at doing the little things?

Thursday, 07.19.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos are stars because of their offensive skills -- after all, the basic premise of hockey is that you have to put the puck in the net more than the other guy, and they're better at making that happen (for themselves or their teammates) than just about anyone else.

But there's more to winning hockey games than just scoring goals, and not even those aforementioned superstars can do everything. Doing the dirty work and excelling at the little things play a big role in winning games as well.

Here's a look at some of the NHL's best players in four of hockey's lesser celebrated categories:


Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit

The numbers say Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly was the NHL leader in takeaways last season with 101, just ahead of runner-up John Tavares of the Islanders (99). But just about any survey of players and coaches will tell you that Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk is still the NHL's top puck thief.


St. Louis takes in Yankees game, prepares for season

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 1:11 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- After coming within one win of the Stanley Cup Final last year, this summer turned out to be longer than expected for Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning -- the Bolts missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years this past seasons. But with some offseason changes in Tampa and teammate Steven Stamkos coming off a 60-goal season, the six-time All Star is looking forward to an opportunity to get back to the conference final.

"Just been training, golfing, started skating a bit. Obviously taking care of the kids is a thing I do too during the summer," St. Louis told Tuesday as he enjoyed a baseball game at Yankee Stadium with his family.

With his offseason training intensifying as the summer goes along, St. Louis also expressed excitement over the moves Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman made following a disappointing 2011-12 season that saw the Lightning finish eight points out of a playoff spot. After acquiring goaltender Anders Lindback from Nashville on June 15, the club signed forward Benoit Pouliot and defensemen Sami Salo and Matt Carle, adding depth to the roster, especially on the blue line.


Sabres, Lightning potential new East playoff teams

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 11:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Summer may be the most enjoyable time of the year for many; but when it comes to NHL teams, they want to put off the start of the summer vacation for as long as possible.

But for the seven Eastern Conference teams that missed out on the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff party, their goal since the second week of April has been figuring out how to extend their seasons into May -- or even June, like conference champion New Jersey Devils.

So how can the teams that missed the fun turn into postseason hits during the upcoming season? With about a month until training camp opens, examines why fans of the unlucky seven can harbor playoff hopes for 2012-13:


Last season: 39-32-11, 89 points, three points out of eighth place

How it ended: A five-game win streak had the Sabres in a playoff spot March 28, but they lost three of their next four to finish outside the top eight.

Offseason changes: After a noisy offseason last year, the Sabres were a bit quieter this summer. Their big move was trading center Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars for forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy. Along with the addition of rugged defenseman John Scott, the Sabres became a far tougher team to play.


Merrill, Devils happy with development

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 10:32 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- There's no doubt defenseman Jon Merrill has all the tools necessary to one day become a steady force along the blue line for the New Jersey Devils.

That's precisely why the organization selected the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder -- born in Oklahoma City and raised in Michigan -- in the second round (No. 38) of the 2010 Draft. His poise off the transition, ability to quarterback a power play and consistency in killing penalties are areas in which the Devils could certainly benefit.

The only thing seemingly hanging over Merrill's head at this stage in his hockey career is his maturity. As a freshman at the University of Michigan in 2010-11, Merrill led all Wolverine defensemen in points (25), assists (18) and blocked shots (70), while helping lead the team to the 2011 NCAA National Championship game.


Seven candidates for a breakout season

Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 9:45 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Erik Karlsson and James Neal proved they were ready for prime time with breakout seasons in 2011-12, though they did it in different ways.

The Norris Trophy winner and the NHL First-Team All-Star forward both took great leaps forward last season. Karlsson showed why the Ottawa Senators made him the 15th player chosen in the 2008 Entry Draft by improving from 45 to 78 points -- leading all defensemen in scoring by a margin not seen since the days of Paul Coffey. Neal, playing his first full season with Pittsburgh after being acquired from Dallas in February 2011, went from 21 goals to 40 and 39 points to 81, joining Karlsson as a First-Team All-Star.

Both breakthroughs came two years after one of the all-time breakout seasons -- Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, jumped from 23 goals and 46 points as a rookie in 2008-09 to 51 goals and 95 points in 2009-10, proving the Bolts were right to spend the top pick on him.


NHLer's, Blue Jays stick together in Toronto

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 11:08 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

On March 15, the Toronto Maple Leafs were mired in a season-turning five-game losing skid and fans and media alike were starting to criticize the team. But there was one voice of encouragement coming from another sport.

"Hate reading the negativity towards the Leafs," Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia tweeted to his 70,000-plus followers. “Guys play to win, try not kicking them when they are down, but pushing them to finish strong."

For Arencibia, it was the perfect opportunity to show his support for the Leafs and demonstrate solidarity among Toronto's athletes. The Leafs snapped their losing skid that night and Arencibia earned the respect of several NHL players, many of whom he already considered good friends.

And Blue Jays players don't mind staking their claim as the unofficial baseball team of the NHL.


Could Devils have Brodeur's future replacement?

Tuesday, 07.17.2012 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils and their fans certainly breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when veteran goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg decided to re-sign with the organization for two more seasons each.

It wasn't so much that the pipeline of Devils goalie prospects was thin; rather, there's never a definitive timetable as to when a young goalie is prepared to make the professional jump. As it is, Brodeur's longevity has allowed New Jersey an opportunity to gradually replenish its goalie cupboard.

"We're here to win, and right now, the two goalies we feel we have will give us the best chance at winning for a lot of different reasons," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Brodeur and Hedberg. "We have a couple of young goalies we have high hopes for … they have the potential. It's a question of how quickly they can adjust and what they can do."

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Quote of the Day

Hockey means everything to people here [Winnipeg]. They take their team's success to heart. We've had an incredible year and they've given us incredible support.

— Jets center Mathieu Perreault after losing to the Ducks in Game 3 of their playoff series on Monday