Photos: Summer vacation

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
As a child, Boston Bruins president and Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely played baseball. He was a left-handed pitcher and played until he was 16.

He jokes that he was never involved in any hockey-style fights on the diamond, but he did smash a few batting helmets in his day.

[+] EnlargeTom Glavine
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsBefore he became a Hall of Fame pitcher, Tom Glavine received a scholarship to play hockey and baseball at UMass-Lowell and was also drafted by the Los Angeles Kings.
During his hockey career with the Bruins, Neely always followed baseball. He was a fan of pitching and paid attention to a local kid pitching in the major leagues named Tom Glavine. The Billerica, Massachusetts, native was a starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and had just won his first Cy Young Award in 1991.

The southpaw posted a 20-11 record, along with a 2.55 ERA in 246 2/3 innings of work to help the Braves win the National League pennant.

Not only did Glavine excel at baseball, he also was a standout hockey player. He received a scholarship to play hockey and baseball at UMass-Lowell and was also drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round (No. 69 overall) in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.

He decided to focus on his baseball career, and this weekend he will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

After winning his first of two Cy Young Awards in 1991, Glavine was invited to practice with Neely and the Bruins at the old Boston Garden.

Glavine was 25. Neely was 26.

“Even back then he certainly was well on his way to a great career,” Neely said. “Being a local kid and actually being drafted by another sport was something, I think, a lot of athletes would have made a mental note of, so to have him come out was kind of cool, because he’s a guy playing a different sport, and not many baseball players played hockey -- Larry Walker being another one -- but not many played hockey. So, it was kind of cool to have him out there. It’s a cross interaction with a different athlete from another sport.”

[+] EnlargeCam Neely
AP Photo Cam Neely, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005, said he knows how Tom Glavine feels as Glavine heads to Cooperstown for his induction this weekend.
During one drill, Glavine scored a goal that was assisted by Neely.

“It was more of 'Let’s just have some fun with him out here,'” Neely recalls. “Obviously, if you get drafted you have some abilities, right? Someone saw something in you and thought you could play, so I think it was kind of cool to have a baseball player out on the ice with you, knowing he was drafted in the NHL.”

The two remained in contact once in a while.

When Atlanta still had an NHL team, the Thrashers before they relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets, Glavine would attend games when the Bruins were in town. During baseball’s offseason, he would attend Bruins games at the Garden, too. He wouldn’t ask for tickets, and most times the Bruins didn’t even know he was in the building.

“He’s a guy, obviously, like most athletes, whether you’re a pro or not, you follow the hometown, unless you play against that team, right?" Neely said.

Neely was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. As Glavine heads to Cooperstown, Neely understands what the days and hours are like leading up to a player’s induction.

“You start to reflect on all the people that helped you become the athlete and person to be able to have that great honor,” Neely said. “For me, a lot of the guys I spoke to, when you start preparing your speech you start thinking way back, like your parents getting up early to take you to practice. You think about all the coaches, volunteers and parents that helped along the way, and then you get into your teammates at the pro level and everything that they helped you accomplish.”
Brad RichardsBruce Fedyck/USA TODAY SportsNewly-acquired Brad Richards figures to center the second line for the Hawks next season.
The Chicago Blackhawks still have to make a move or two before the season begins to get under the salary cap, so their roster will change in the near future. But let's take a glance at what the organization could look like at the NHL and AHL levels based on the current roster.

In the first of two parts, here are projections for the NHL level:

Projected lines
LW Patrick Sharp -- C Jonathan Toews -- RW Marian Hossa
LW Brandon Saad -- C Brad Richards -- RW Patrick Kane
LW Bryan Bickell -- C Andrew Shaw -- RW TBD (Jeremy Morin/Kris Versteeg)
LW TBD (Peter Regin/Brandon Mashinter/Morin/Versteeg) -- C Marcus Kruger -- RW Ben Smith

Projected defenseman pairings
Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya -- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy -- Michal Rozsival/David Rundblad

Projected goaltenders
No. 1 Corey Crawford
No. 2 Antti Raanta

Summary: The Blackhawks' top-6 forwards are easy to project. The unknowns come after that.

Bickell and Shaw are likely to remain on the third line, and it makes sense for Kruger and Smith to be on the fourth line again. It should be interesting to see who that final person is on each of those lines. You could make cases for Versteeg and Morin on the third line. Versteeg may not have had a tremendous playoff run, but he still played a top-9 role for much of last season. The Blackhawks are hopeful he'll be a different player after rehabbing his knee this offseason. Morin was promised a larger role when he re-signed in June, and he could be best suited for the third line with his offensive ability.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Morin
Derek Leung/Getty ImagesJeremy Morin was promised a larger role when he re-signed in June.
As for the fourth line, it all depends on what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants there. He normally likes having at least one player in his lineup who plays an enforcer role. He lost that when Brandon Bollig was traded this offseason. Mashinter could be the replacement there. If Quenneville is willing to use the best overall player, he could opt instead for Versteeg, Morin or Regin.

Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom could also be in the mix for spots, but it's hard to see where they fit in with so many one-way forwards on the roster now and with their cap situation. If the Blackhawks move a forward or two, Teravainen could start in the NHL. Quenneville was certainly impressed by him on the final day of the prospect camp. Teravainen could very well play a center or wing role on the third line to begin the season.

With the defensemen, there likely won't be many changes from last season. Keith-Seabrook and Oduya-Hjalmarsson will again be the top two pairs. Leddy should again be the mainstay as the fifth defenseman, and he'll likely have a rotating partner again. Rozsival should have a similar role to last season where he plays about half the games. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman traded a second-round pick for Rundblad, and Bowman expects him to be utilized more this season. The Blackhawks also have three prospects in Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns who are close to being NHL ready. If the Blackhawks move a defenseman or two, those players will likely be the first to get crack at the NHL. Kyle Cumiskey, who they recently signed, also has NHL experience.

Finally for the goaltenders, the Blackhawks will start the season as they ended the last one with Crawford as the No. 1 and Raanta as the No. 2. Raanta struggled in the backup role last season and will aim to be more consistent this season. The Blackhawks recently signed Scott Darling for some organizational depth at the position. Darling showed some promise last season in the AHL, but he doesn't have any NHL experience. The Blackhawks are still looking to add another two-way goaltender with NHL experience, according to a source.
BOSTON -- After Jarome Iginla signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche at the start of the free-agent period on July 1, the Bruins suddenly had a vacancy at right wing on their top line.

General manager Peter Chiarelli quickly endorsed Loui Eriksson for that role to play alongside center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic. Eriksson brings a different skill set than Iginla did, but Chiarelli is convinced Eriksson can handle it.

During a Thursday afternoon conference to introduce the Bruins’ newest assistant coach, Joe Sacco, head coach Claude Julien also said he believes Eriksson can perform on the top line.

“Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year,” Julien said. “I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.

“But at the same time, Chris Kelly will be coming back, so are we going to look for somebody to be a third-liner, or are we going to look for somebody who’s going to be replacing Iggy? There are a couple of things here that we have to resolve, but at the same time, we do have some young players in Providence that are going to deserve a look. So, when training camp starts, I think a lot of those decisions will probably be taking place.”

Kelly suffered a herniated disk in the fourth-to-last-game of the regular season at Minnesota. He did not play in the playoffs and eventually had offseason back surgery. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of training camp Sept. 18.

Kelly has the ability to play both center and the wing. For the majority of last season, Boston’s third line consisted of Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson.

After Iginla’s departure, Chiarelli also said he’s happy with the team’s second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith, so it’s likely that trio will remain the same. The Bruins’ energy line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton no longer exists, since Thornton signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Heading into camp, the Bruins have six players -- Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Alexander Khokhlachev and David Pastrnak -- for two forward positions.

Overall, the salary-cap-challenged Bruins have been relatively quiet this offseason, but Julien believes the organization will be ready for the 2014-2015 season.

“Well, right now I think there’s still some time and there’s still some things that can be done and there’s no doubt we’re still working on a few things,” Julien said. “But nonetheless, we don’t feel like we're in a real tough situation.”

#ESPNplayerNHL: Best of Canada's teams?

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
Ice hockey is Canada's game. So we expect passionate responses when we ask about the seven NHL teams north of the border.

The question is very simple: Who is the all-time franchise player for each team in Canada?

In Montreal, Maurice "Rocket" Richard's accomplishments are well-known. And there is a reason the trophy for the leading goal scorer is named after him.

[+] EnlargeCanadiens
AP PhotoIs Maurice "Rocket" Richard the most important player in Canadiens history?
Toronto has had plenty of stars wear the Maple Leaf -- Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Dave Keon, Mats Sundin, just to name a few.

Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson have since moved on, but their legacies were created with the Flames and Senators, respectively.

Trevor Linden is back with the Canucks as team president, but his playing days might have made the biggest impact in Vancouver.

The Jets are a two-part question because a large part of their history now belongs to the Coyotes and the rest comes from the Thrashers.

Lastly, Wayne Gretzky is the obvious choice for the Oilers, but can anyone top The Great One?

Now it's time for you to vote. Who is the most important player for each Canadian team?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page, or hit us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.

Kane dominates adult hockey league game

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
Growing up, Patrick Kane played on local rinks throughout his native Buffalo, New York.

Recently, the two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks forward returned to his hometown to do that once again.

The results, naturally, were devastating. For his opponents, anyway. Five goals. Five assists. A 13-5 win.

Read more »

Photos: Summer vacation

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23

#ESPNplayerNHL: Lightning's best?

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
Vincent LecavalierDouglas Jones/USA TODAY Sports

Attention, Lightning fans: We need to hear from you.

We want to know whom you consider the face of the Tampa Bay franchise.

The team has played 21 seasons, won one Stanley Cup and made seven postseason appearances.

Which player has meant the most to the team during that time?

Is the current leader of the team, Steven Stamkos, already the ultimate franchise player? Are the heroes of the not-so-distant past -- Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards -- still the Lightning's biggest stars?

Now it's time for you to vote. Who is the Lightning's franchise player?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, hit us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.

Photos: Summer vacation

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18

#ESPNplayerNHL: Red Wing debate

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
Red Wings GreatDave Sandford/Getty Images

Red Wings fans, you've made your voices heard when asked who was Detroit's franchise player. But there seems to be an era argument.

The long list of talented players that have passed through Hockeytown was narrowed down to Gordie Howe vs. Steve Yzerman.

So who is king of Hockeytown: Howe or Yzerman?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL, using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.

#ESPNplayerNHL: Great for two?

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
Wayne GretzkyGetty ImagesIs Wayne Gretzky the face of two franchises?
Deciding on a franchise player can be a difficult decision. You have to consider everything that a player meant to the team. It's a combination of talent, wins, effort, character and those intangibles that truly represent your team.

It is a debate that could go on for days, weeks, even years.

But is it possible for one player to be the face of the franchise for two organizations?

If anyone could do it, it would be Wayne Gretzky.

In nine seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky won eight Hart trophies, seven Art Ross trophies and two Conn Smythe trophies. And there is a matter of the four Stanley Cups he won while with the organization.

In eight seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Gretzky took the team to the Stanley Cup finals and won a Hart Trophy and three Art Ross trophies. He also heightened the exposure of the game for an entire country.

Now it is time for you to vote. Who is the Oilers' franchise player? Who is the Kings' guy?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL, using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.

#ESPNplayerNHL: Top Wild player?

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
State of Hockey, huh? Well, not according to the results of our franchise player project. Turns out fans of the Minnesota Wild are behind the curve when it comes to voting for their favorite team player of all time.

And, I've got to tell you, it seems like you've got plenty of candidates, new and old, serious and not: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Manny Fernandez, Dwayne Roloson, Marian Gaborik, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Niklas Backstrom, Derek Boogaard, Brian Rolston, Nick Schultz, Matt Johnson, Brad Bombardir!

If one player could represent your team in the Hall of Fame, who would it be? C'mon, Wild fans, bring those votes.

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
John VanbiesbrouckMitchell Layton/Getty ImagesJohn Vanbiesbrouck was heads and shoulders above the competition in the 1996 finals.
Florida Panthers fans, we know you're out there. We've heard about you. As a matter of fact, in 1996, it was like an infestation or something.

More to the point, we know you've had some great players to watch in your day. Pavel Bure, Roberto Luongo (twice!), Scott Mellanby, John Vanbiesbrouck, Ed Jovanovski, Stephen Weiss, Paul Laus, Olli Jokinen, Rob Niedermayer, Jay Bouwmeester, Peter Worrell. Not a bad list.

So show us you're all-in, no matter how lousy your team has been since, well, pretty much ever, and help us pick your favorite player in franchise history. Tell us who you feel is truly Mr. Panther. If one player could represent the Panthers in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which one would it be?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from the Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
Doug GilmourDavid Cooper/Getty ImagesCould you bear to have Doug Gilmour as the Leafs' top franchise player?
Toronto Maple Leafs fans, you have no excuse. For some of the other teams lacking votes for our best franchise player project, I can see what's happening -- not enough history, not enough good players, not a big enough fan base. But the Leafs? The Buds? The Make Believes?

Seriously? We should have more votes for your team than any other.

What we're saying is we need your help selecting the top Leaf of all time. And what a wealth of players to choose from. Maybe that's the problem -- too much selection:

Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Borje Salming, Felix Potvin, Teeder Kennedy, Howie Meeker, Turk Broda, Curtis Joseph, Phil Kessel, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Frank Mahovlich, Rick Vaive, Lanny McDonald, Tiger Williams, Baldy Cotton, Dion Phaneuf, Todd Gill, Rocky Saganiuk, Hap Day, Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Jiri Crha. And that's just a partial list, some of which was serious.

Tell us who you feel is truly Mr. Maple Leaf. Who would be the one player to represent the Maple Leafs?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from the Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.

Don't let that whole "1967" thing bring you down.

#ESPNplayerNHL: Best Predators player?

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
The Nashville Predators don't have the longest history. After all, it was just 16 years ago that the franchise was created. (Their first game was Oct. 10, 1998.)

But a short history doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty of talent to pass through Bridgestone Arena.

[+] EnlargePredators
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesDespite the Predators' short history, the franchise is long on talent.
David Legwand, the first pick in franchise history (No. 2 overall in 1998), played 956 games and posted 566 points (210 goals, 356 assists) before getting traded to Detroit this past season. Martin Erat was in Nashville for 11 seasons before requesting a trade in 2013.

You can't forget about departed defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Ryan Suter.

And what about the goalies: Tomas Vokoun and Pekka Rinne?

Last, but obviously not least, the current face of the franchise: defenseman and three-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.

Weber has 131 goals and 216 assists in 607 games for the Predators.

So who is truly Mr. Predator?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.