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Flames facing questions about possible regression

Saturday, 08.15.2015 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2015-16

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames were among the bigger surprises in the NHL last season.

In the second full season of a rebuild, the Flames advanced to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six years and escaped the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since winning the Cup in 1989.

With last season's successes come heightened expectations this season.

"The message for our group is no different from last year when we said nobody is expecting a lot from us, we can't pay much attention to it," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. "The same has to hold true where people after last year may say the expectations have risen and the outside expectation for where this group will be is probably a lot different from a year ago."

Here are three questions facing the Flames this season:

Calgary Flames fantasy hockey outlook

Saturday, 08.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - Fantasy Insider

As part of's offseason 30 in 30 package, fantasy hockey insiders Matt Cubeta and Pete Jensen will break down each team's fantasy landscape. They will look at the players at the top of the ranks, an undervalued player, an overvalued player, a deep sleeper (players likely ranked outside the top 200 overall players) and the goalie outlook for each NHL team.

Leading the way: Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau

When healthy, Giordano belongs among the top five fantasy defensemen. During the past two seasons, Giordano has missed 39 games but also has posted .76 points per game, second among defensemen behind Erik Karlsson (.85). He's a possession force who covers rating, penalty minutes and shots on goal. Giordano is coming off a season-ending biceps injury and will share offensive responsibilities with Dougie Hamilton, but Giordano is entering a contract year and is an elite-level starting point for your blue line in the fourth or fifth round.

Penguins unveil UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 6:45 PM / News

Wes Crosby - Correspondent

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- With the opening of the 185,000-square-foot UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the Pittsburgh Penguins hope to be considered to host the NHL Draft Combine in the future.

The Penguins' new practice facility, which will also serve as a public skating rink, sports medicine clinic and physical therapy center, was unveiled Friday and will open to the public Monday. Unlike in seasons past, when they primarily practiced at Consol Energy Center when not on the road, Pittsburgh is expected to skate at the complex for each practice this season.

With the perceived advantages the facility provides, the Penguins have expectations for it to become more than a practice rink.

"I think it gives us the opportunity to potentially host the NHL Draft Combine, because we'd be the only facility where you wouldn't have to bring in the medical testing; we already have it here," Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan said.

Burrows backs moves, sees Canucks in playoffs again

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 5:44 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- Alexandre Burrows watched from his suburban Montreal home as his Vancouver Canucks underwent a bit of a makeover this offseason, and he never questioned it.

Now, with training camp about a month away, Burrows said he sees no reason Vancouver can't remain competitive in a tough Western Conference while in the midst of what Canucks president Trevor Linden has called a transition period.

"I put my confidence in our management group of [general manager] Jim Benning and Trevor Linden," Burrows said Tuesday at a charity golf tournament hosted by Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "They're obviously intelligent people with a plan, and last season was the first year of their plan."

Therrien, like GM, defends Canadiens' style, system

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 4:50 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- On July 2, one day after NHL free agency opened, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin met with the media to discuss their moves.

Bergevin was asked about the defensive style of play employed by Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. In response, Bergevin got, well, defensive.

Bergevin fired back at the reporter to identify one aspect of the Canadiens system that makes it so defensive, and claimed the style they play is not much different from the one used by the majority of teams in the NHL.

"What do we do differently than other teams that makes us a defensive team?" Bergevin asked, annoyed with the line of questioning.

During the press conference, Bergevin said he did not feel the Canadiens would be any better off if they allowed 20 more goals in order to score 20 more; he said he feels the lack of offense could be addressed if the power play were to improve on its 16.5 percent success rate of last season.

But at the core -- and Bergevin has repeated this on numerous occasions -- the Canadiens' strength lies in goal with Carey Price and, to a slightly lesser extent, on defense with P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry.

If the Canadiens finish 20th in scoring but first in goals allowed, as they did last season, they should be on the winning side more often than not.

The concern is whether Price will be able to repeat the historic season he just completed. If not, will the Canadiens' lack of offense come back to bite them?

This is why the perception the Canadiens use a stifling defensive style persists in Montreal, and six weeks after his general manager faced questions on it, it was Therrien's turn to do the same this week.

Ducks sign forward Hagelin to four-year contract

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 3:13 PM / NHL Free Agency 2015

The Anaheim Ducks signed left wing Carl Hagelin, a restricted free agent, to a four-year contract Friday. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Orange County Register reported it is worth $16 million, an average annual value of $4 million.

The Ducks acquired Hagelin from the New York Rangers along with picks in the second and sixth rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft on June 27 in a trade for left wing Emerson Etem and a second-round pick.

"It was just a matter of finding the right term and the right number," Hagelin said. "They made a commitment to me with a four-year deal. For me, it's the perfect fit. You have some security going into the season feeling wanted and feeling like you can be a big part of the team. It's one of those deals where they're committed to me and I'm committed to them."

Maple Leafs hire Lemaire as special assignment coach

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 12:59 PM / News

Jacques Lemaire will be reunited with Lou Lamoriello after being hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday as a special assignment coach.

Lemaire, 69, spent parts of seven seasons as coach of the New Jersey Devils under president and general manager Lamoriello, who became GM of the Maple Leafs on July 23.

"I have been working with Lou for so many years and we became real good friends," Lemaire told the Maple Leafs website. "I love the work. Also, you've got [Maple Leafs coach] Mike [Babcock], I worked at the Olympics with him. I feel that he's the best coach around and it'll be a thrill to be able to assist him.

"That's what made me really excited, because Mike called me and Lou called me that same day and I feel that through the two calls, I said I think I can be working with them and bring something to the table."

Luongo optimistic about Panthers' playoff chances

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 12:25 PM / News

The thought of a full season with forward Jaromir Jagr in the lineup has Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo optimistic about making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015-16.

The Panthers finished strong last season, and one reason was the play of Jagr, the leading scorer among active NHL players (722 goals, 1,802 points), who had six goals and 18 points in 20 games after being acquired in a trade from the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 27. Jagr, 43, formed an effective line with two young players, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, helping Florida go 12-6-2 after the trade.

The Panthers re-signed Jagr on April 12, and Luongo said having him back is vital to the Panthers' hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

"He played unreal," Luongo told the Panthers website. "The whole first line played really well together as a three-man unit. If we can get that kind of production every night for the upcoming season, I think we're in pretty good shape."

Penguins sign Gonchar to pro tryout contract

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 12:24 PM / News

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar signed a professional tryout contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

Gonchar, 41, spent five of his 20 NHL seasons with the Penguins, from 2005-10, and was a member of their Stanley Cup-winning team in 2009. He has played for the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens.

Gonchar had one goal and 14 points in 48 games with the Stars and Canadiens last season.

“The Penguins were the only team that I was looking at,” Gonchar told the Pittsburgh website. “We’ve been talking for a while now. We had to wait for them to finish making all of their moves.”

Gallagher pleased with Canadiens' additions

Friday, 08.14.2015 / 10:51 AM / NHL Insider

Sean McCullen - Staff Writer

Brendan Gallagher has high hopes for new Montreal Canadiens forwards Alexander Semin and Zack Kassian.

The Canadiens signed Semin to a one-year contract reportedly worth $1.1 million July 24, a little more than three weeks after the Carolina Hurricanes bought out the final three years of the 31-year-old's five-year, $35 million contract.

"Semin is a guy that other teams have to be aware of," Gallagher said Wednesday at his charity softball game at Vancouver's Nat Bailey Stadium. "He's dangerous every time he's on the ice. He doesn't need much time and space to put the puck in the back of the net."

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Quote of the Day

That's today's game. That's one of the things you have to deal with when you're a championship team. Guys are going to earn more money based on their performance and what they've achieved, [and] deservedly so. [Saad] falls into that category.

— Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville on Brandon Saad, who was traded by Chicago to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason