Cross Checks: Winnipeg Jets
Hair bands and hockey hair: a marriage made in heaven. So, we're dropping the needle on 30 songs that say something about each of the 30 teams -- using nothing but cheesy videos from the 1980s. The Western Conference list is below, so feel free to mullet over. (Eastern Conference is here.)
ANAHEIM DUCKS: "Maniac," Michael Sembello
Those crazy kids on the left coast will try pretty much anything. Which means it's all or nothing for the Ducks, who, if it weren't for their downtown neighbors, might be living the high life instead of never seeing the third round. But real life is hard, so that's why the Ducks went out and got Ryan Kesler and are sticking with young hotshots John Gibson and Fredrik Andersen in net, no matter what. And they mean it this time. Carpe diem, ducklings!
On the ice-blue line of insanity, it's a place most never see
It's a hard-won place of mystery, touch it but can't hold it
You work for your life for that moment in time, it could come or pass you by
It's a push of the world, but there's always a chance
ARIZONA COYOTES: "Livin' On A Prayer," Bon Jovi
Arizona Coyotes, Phoenix Coyotes ... does it really matter? With the team's arena deal hitting an unexpected bump in the road recently, this team's off-ice fortunes continue to cloud the future. Not to mention that said arena is still so far out in the boonies that no one goes to the games.
We've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot
CALGARY FLAMES: "Holding Back The Years," Simply Red
What's the deal with these perennially lousy teams in Alberta? Not all the Brian Burkes in the world seem to able to fix this broken franchise. Jarome Iginla must be so happy he's not there anymore.
Holding back the years
Chance for me to escape from all I've known
Holding back the tears
'Cause nothing here has grown
I've wasted all my tears
Wasted all those years
And nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could yeah
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: "U Can't Touch This," MC Hammer
"The Blackhawks are so good." "Break it down, ESPN.com!" "They are so good, no one in the West will be able to touch them. Er, until the playoffs." "You had me and then you lost me, ESPN.com!"
Cold on a mission so fall them back
Let 'em know that you're too much
And this is a beat, uh, you can't touch
COLORADO AVALANCHE: "Beat It," Michael Jackson
Time to see what you're made of, Avs. You had an overachieving season followed by a disappointingly early departure from the playoffs. How you respond after all the Patrick Roy glass-pushing and novelty wears thin will reveal your true character. Show us how funky strong is your fight. And, by the way, let's see you do it without Paul Stastny.
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
DALLAS STARS: "Hip To Be Square," Huey Lewis And The News
We're watching you, Tyler Seguin. The fate of the Stars rests on your considerable shoulders. Show us what you've got.
I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around
But I couldn't take the punishment and had to settle down
Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes, I cut my hair
You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care
Because I can tell what's going on
EDMONTON OILERS: "We're Not Going to Take It," Twisted Sister
All those high draft picks, all those low places in the standings, all that disappointment for a passionate fan base, all those seasons of missing the playoffs. Will the fans bail on the Oil?
If that's your best
Your best won't do
LOS ANGELES KINGS: "We Are The Champions," Queen
C'mon, you knew this one was coming: Kings, Queen, defending champions. But, seriously, can anyone dethrone the Kings?
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions
MINNESOTA WILD: "Abracadabra," Steve Miller Band
Who's playing net here? Is it a revolving door again? That never works.
I heat up, I can't cool down
You got me spinnin'
'Round and 'round
'Round and 'round and 'round it goes
Where it stops nobody knows
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: "Notorious," Duran Duran
The Predators never seem to learn. A couple of years ago, they brought in bad boys Andrei Kostisyn and Alexander Radulov late in the season, and their late-night carousing -- in the playoffs, no less -- helped bring the previously rolling Preds machine to a grinding halt. Now, they sign Mike Ribeiro and his ambiguous "behavior issues." Ribeiro -- whose camp sought out the Predators -- says he's changed his ways. Whatever. GM David Poile must be the king of second chances, or he likes living life on the edge.
That's why I've done it again
ST. LOUIS BLUES: "Don't You Want Me," Human League
"Sorry, Ryan Miller, but we've decided to go in another direction. It just wasn't a good fit. No, no, it was us, not you. Yes, we can certainly be friends."
Don't, don't you want me?
You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me
Don't, don't you want me?
You know I don't believe you when you say that you don't need me
SAN JOSE SHARKS: "The Breakup Song," The Greg Kihn Band
Some feel the underperforming Sharks would be best to start from scratch. Will fans forgive them if they don't?
Now I wind up staring at an empty glass
Uh uh uh, uh uh uh uh uh
Cause it's so easy to say that you'll forget your past
Uh uh uh, uh uh uh uh uh
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: "Separate Ways," Journey
Poor Canucks fans. Too many good goalies, not enough good goalies, fired coach goes to the Cup finals with another team ... so confused by the unrequited love they have for their mixed-up team. Everyone who comes to this team and isn't a twin seems to eventually go his separate way.
Caught between confusions and pain, pain, pain
Promises we made were in vain
In vain, vain
WINNIPEG JETS: "The Way It Is," Bruce Hornsby and the Range
You know the Jets aren't really that far away from being the Thrashers, right? And you remember how crappy the Thrashers were, right? This team seems to spin its wheels no matter where it is or who is coaching it. Shame, really.
That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is
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.
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.
Having stable ownership doesn't necessarily denote good ownership, a reality worth keeping in mind as the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a state of chaos. Somehow, in less than three years, the Canucks have gone from being a perpetual Stanley Cup contender to a team in disarray. We're about to find out about the character of this team, and the search for the character (or identity) of this franchise starts at the very top, with owner Francesco Aquilini. On Tuesday, Aquilini fired GM Mike Gillis, ostensibly because Gillis all but came out with a sandwich board that said, "You know, I wasn't so hot on that Tortorella guy to begin with" during a recent radio show. Gillis' comments reinforced the commonly held belief that it was Aquilini, not Gillis, who was driving the bus when it came to hiring coach John Tortorella in the offseason. The comments were bold but ultimately self-destructive for Gillis. So the Canucks are out of the playoffs for the first time in six years and Gillis is gone, which isn't necessarily the wrong call, given how the team's personnel has been mismanaged the past three or four years. Ownership now has to find someone to un-bungle this mess. Whether that means promoting Laurence Gillman to GM or hiring from outside with a proven NHL manager -- which could fall to former captain Trevor Linden, who was named president of hockey operations Wednesday -- this is a defining moment for a franchise that has fallen precipitously from its run to the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. And what of Tortorella? Ownership must also decide if it believes in the combustible coach and, if so, must come out quickly to reinforce that he'll be back. If not, ownership will have to suffer the dual embarrassment of having to fire both a coach and GM less than a year after presenting both with four-year contracts. Sadly, embarrassment is something with which the Canucks are becoming intimately acquainted, and it will be up to ownership to prove it can turn the tide and not simply add fuel to the fires of discontent.
Jets aren't flying high
Speaking of ownership decisions, the Winnipeg Jets continue to flaunt the Atlanta Thrashers' DNA as the Jets will miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season (the third straight since moving to Winnipeg). We've known Paul Maurice a long time. He is a smart, forward-thinking coach, and his impact on the Jets after taking over for Claude Noel was immediate and stunning. But it didn't last. After closing in on a playoff berth at the Olympic break, the Jets won their first two post-Olympic games but have not won two in a row since. They went winless in six games shortly after the break and have suffered from periods of listless team defense, mediocre to awful goaltending, and a lack of offensive production. In short, they are what they've been for most of their existence: an average to below-average team that shows flashes but never enough consistent quality play to be a legitimate playoff team. The question for ownership is whether that is a function of coaching or personnel. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made no significant moves at the trade deadline. That inactivity, coupled with the team's swoon out of contention, raises the question: personnel or coaching? Could the Jets be a playoff team under Maurice next season? Sure. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic, including the emergence of Jacob Trouba as a top-end young defender. The Jets have proved, in some ways, to be a resilient lot, with 15 wins after giving up the first goal, third-most in the NHL. And maybe status quo is the way to go for the Jets, although for a team with so little to show for its efforts over the past decade, "Hang on for another year" is a tough idea to sell to fans.
Not just the shootout for Devils
The New Jersey Devils are on a collision course with missing the playoffs for a second straight season after their surprise run to the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. Most will point to their shocking 0-11 record in shootouts and, yes, that's pretty unbelievable. Win just five of those, and the Devils are playoff-bound. But for us, it's not just the breakdown in the skills competition but the team's inability to overcome. As of Wednesday, the Devils were dead last in wins after falling behind in games. In games where they gave up the first goal, the Devils had come up with just five wins. The Anaheim Ducks have won 20 games when giving up the first goal, best in the league. The Detroit Red Wings, whom the Devils are chasing for a wild-card spot, have 15; the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team holding down the final wild-card spot, have nine. Nine is not a lot. But it's four more than five, and for the Devils, that difference represents the difference between being in and being left behind. Again.
Halak makes curious call
Not sure what to make of Jaroslav Halak's decision that he'd rather not play Tuesday against his old team, the St. Louis Blues, in what was a must-win situation for the Washington Capitals. As it turned out, Braden Holtby was excellent for the Caps, who came up with a crucial 4-1 win as they kept their slim (and growing slimmer by the day) playoff hopes alive. But "I'm not comfortable" as a reason for not being available to take the ice in a crucial moment leaves us more than a little cold. Kudos to Halak for being honest, and maybe there's a backstory but it's the kind of honesty that we're pretty sure is going to make a lot of GMs take notice as Halak heads for the open market as a free agent this summer. Allan Walsh, Halak’s agent, denied in a statement that his client asked out of the game. But it still remains another curious development for a team fighting for its playoff life.
Bishop-less Bolts' hopes are looking grim
What are the chances that the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens if top netminder Ben Bishop is lost to injury? Slim. Sub-slim. Bishop injured his wrist early in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and there's no word on when he might return. Anders Lindback came on to preserve the shutout and keep the Bolts within two points of Montreal in the hunt for home-ice advantage in what should be a terrific first-round matchup. But Lindback has played sparingly, with Bishop earning Vezina Trophy buzz for his work in keeping the Lightning afloat in spite of injury and turmoil that has enveloped the team at various points of the season. And when Lindback has played, he has been OK. Well, let's be honest, less than OK. The 6-foot-6 Swede has not won back-to-back games all season and boasts a pedestrian .884 save percentage. He has exactly 13 minutes of NHL playoff action to his credit. The upside? Well, not sure it means anything, but recently top NHL analysts suggested to us that the Minnesota Wild would have the worst goaltending in the Western Conference come playoff time and maybe the worst goaltending of all 16 teams. Since then, Ilya Bryzgalov has gone 5-0-1 and helped the Wild secure the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Maybe similar reports of doom and gloom will prompt a similar response from Lindback and the Lightning. Maybe.
The focus, as it should be with three weeks to go in the regular season, is on those teams still with a shot at making the playoffs and, thereby, a shot at a championship. But there will be no shortage of drama in the 14 cities where the playoffs end up being unattainable.
That's been the case for a long time in Edmonton, but it doesn't mean the questions surrounding the puzzling Oilers have gone away. Chief among them is whether Dallas Eakins is the answer behind the bench.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, that question is moot. When rookie GM Craig MacTavish, a man who coached the Oilers for eight seasons, went with his gut and canned Ralph Krueger after just one season in favor of hot coaching prospect Eakins last offseason, MacTavish made his bed for the foreseeable future. There are certainly enough questions about how Eakins has handled this team to warrant a change if MacTavish hadn't already played the coaching card last season.
There's also the lack of development of young talent such as Nail Yakupov and the team's miserable defense that ranks 28th in goals allowed per game, has a conference-worst goal differential of minus-61 (only Buffalo is worse in the league) and is 25th in shots allowed per game. But MacTavish is more or less stuck with Eakins for at least another season.
Now it's up to the GM to prove Eakins wasn't a horrific impulse hire by giving him better defensive tools, which might mean moving a top draft pick (the Oilers have the second-worst record in the league as of Wednesday morning) or a top young asset such as Yakupov or Jordan Eberle, and even then precious few game-changing defenders are available for a top return. There is also the issue of whether adding Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth has solved the team's ongoing goaltending woes.
Ah, so many Oilers questions, so few answers, so far away from anything resembling respectability.
Flames' strong foundation
Adding to the sting of the perpetual woes in Edmonton has been the impressive show down the road in Calgary. The common wisdom the past few years has been that whatever problems Edmonton had, the Oilers were still miles ahead of the misguided Flames and had an infinitely brighter future.
But watching the Flames, destined to their fifth straight nonplayoff year, it's hard not to like the team's work ethic, and the foundation in place, even as they struggle to rejoin the playoff fray in the West. While team president and acting GM Brian Burke waits until the dust clears this offseason to find a new GM to replace Jay Feaster, the Flames have continued to stay competitive under coach Bob Hartley.
The feeling is Hartley has earned another shot next season, regardless of who ends up as GM, and it would be a shock if Mike Cammalleri, on a tear lately and the team's only 20-goal scorer, doesn't return despite being able to hit the free-agent market in July. The defense is not where it needs to be, but captain Mark Giordano is a defensive leader around whom this team can build.
Like the Oilers, the goaltending situation is in a state of flux, but Karri Ramo has shown flashes of becoming the man in net. Sean Monahan is the real deal, and Mikael Backlund, who leads the team in faceoff wins, has become a pleasant surprise to give the Flames emerging depth down the middle. They might not possess the raw talent the Oilers have, but the Flames are much more of a team than their provincial rival.
Trotz heading out?
Speaking of change, early hints and rumors suggest seminal changes for a couple of franchises, beginning in Nashville.
General manager David Poile and coach Barry Trotz have been the steadying hands at the Predators' tiller through waters both rough and calm since the team joined the NHL in 1998. It would seem those days might be coming to an end, and it won't be any surprise if Trotz moves this offseason after having coached every single Predators game.
With two playoff misses in a row, it might be time. It is the nature of the game, and perhaps a change would do both the team and the coach a world of good.
One thing is for certain: Trotz would instantly become the most attractive coaching option on the market. What happens in Winnipeg, for instance, if Paul Maurice isn't offered a new contract or, more likely, decides to move on from the Jets? Trotz is from the prairie city and would be an ideal fit. And what about Vancouver, where the ax is almost certainly going to be swung vigorously by ownership after a disastrous season for the Canucks?
If Trotz does go, what does Poile do? Peter Laviolette is going to get another head-coaching job and would be a good fit in Nashville, with Poile knowing Laviolette's work via USA Hockey.
Winds of change for Canes?
And then there are the Carolina Hurricanes, with rumors abound that longtime GM Jim Rutherford is set to step aside or step up into a different position with the team for which he has handled the reins since its days as the Hartford Whalers. Rutherford told us in an email that a decision will be made in the offseason and suggested to local reporters recently that the offseason will be the time for discussing the directions he and the team are headed.
It's assumed that Hall of Famer Ron Francis, currently the team's vice president of hockey operations, would take over the post Rutherford has held since June 1994. Rutherford remains one of the most respected men in the game and has always been a thoughtful, reasoned voice when it has come to discussing changes within the game. He has worked tirelessly to integrate the Hurricanes into the Raleigh, N.C., community. His teams have advanced to two Stanley Cup finals, in 2002 and 2006, winning a Stanley Cup in ’06. The Canes advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, but that was the last time the squad qualified for the playoffs and they will miss again this spring.
Like with Trotz, perhaps it is simply time for a good man to move on.
Just for fun, let's take a look at the Martin St. Louis-Ryan Callahan deal.
In 11 games with the Rangers, two-time NHL scoring champ St. Louis has zero goals and three assists and has recently been battling the flu. His slow start hasn't hurt the Blueshirts, however, who have won four in a row, have gone 7-3-1 since the March 5 trade deadline and are in second place in the Metropolitan Division. That would be good enough for home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today. And let's be honest here: Assuming the Rangers are playoff-bound, they acquired St. Louis not for Game 71 of the regular season but Game 7 of a playoff series.
The Bolts, meanwhile, have seen Callahan adjust much more quickly. The former Rangers captain has chipped in two goals and four assists, and the Lightning have lost only once in regulation (5-1-4) in 10 games since the deadline, good for 14 points.
It's all about defense
Finally, if you need a refresher course in the building blocks to a playoff spot, take a look at the bottom 10 teams in goals allowed per game. How many are going to the playoffs? If you said zero, you might be right.
The Washington Capitals (22nd in goals allowed) have a shot. They are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs (26th) at 80 points, but the Leafs are in free fall and both teams sit behind the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, both of whom also have 80 points but hold the wild-card tiebreakers as of Wednesday.
Spread the net wider to include the bottom 12 teams and the Hurricanes and Dallas Stars are also looking at a spring without playoff dates. Simple stuff, no?
How about the top 10 teams when it comes to keeping the puck out of their own net? All are locks to still be on the ice when the playoffs start April 16. Again, simple stuff, no?
* Bruins: Loss snaps 12-game win streak; had been their longest win streak since 1970-71.
* Bruins: Despite loss, the one point earned moves them ahead of St. Louis for most in the NHL.
* Canadiens: Won three straight on road; 5-1-0 over last six games overall
Rangers 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)
* Ryan McDonagh (NYR): Second career OT goal, third GW goal this season; two assists, including on game-tying goal in regulation.
* Dan Girardi (NYR): Game-tying goal (5) with 3:28 left in regulation.
* Rangers: Fourth straight win; move into second place in Metropolitan Division).
From Elias: The Rangers trailed, 3-2, with time running out in their game against the Phoenix Coyotes but they rallied to win, 4-3, thanks to a tying goal by defenseman Dan Girardi with 3:28 remaining in the third period and an overtime goal by fellow defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It was the first time in Rangers history that they won a game in overtime after tying the score in the final five minutes of the third period and both the tying and winning goals were scored by defensemen.
Flames 2, Sharks 1 (SO)
* Sharks: Clinch playoff berth with one point Monday.
* Sharks: Loss ends four-game road win streak.
* Karri Ramo (CGY): Fifth straight win; saved 33 of 34 shots.
Stars 2, Jets 1
* Tyler Seguin (DAL): Goal (32); ninth straight game with a point (7 G, 9 A)
* Stars: Second straight win (0-3-1 in previous four games).
Senators 4, Lightning 3 (SO)
Most Goals Through 400 Career Games (active players)
Alex Ovechkin 273
Teemu Selanne 258
Steven Stamkos 229<<
Most Games With 3+ Pts, defensemen this season
Erik Karlsson 4
Victor Hedman 3
Andrei Markov 3
P.K. Subban 3
* Jeff Halpern (PHX): GW goal (first this season, fourth goal overall)
* Coyotes: Won six of last eight games.
* Kings: Lost three straight games following eight-game win streak.
FROM ELIAS: The Coyotes, visiting the Kings, scored the game’s first two goals and its last two goals, those last two coming in the third period of Phoenix’s 4-3 victory. It marked the first time in more than five years that the Kings had taken a lead into the third period at home, only to leave the Staples Center without earning a point. The last such instance came on Dec. 1, 2008, when the Maple Leafs scored three third-period goals to win 3-1.
Bruins 4, Wild 1
* Bruins: Won nine straight games (allowed 13 goals in those games).
* Jarome Iginla (BOS): Two goals; six goals, assist in five-game point-scoring streak.
* Tuuka Rask (BOS): 33 saves; allowed one goal in each of last three starts.
* Bruins: First home win against a team from Minnesota since January 27, 1992 (against the then-Minnesota North Stars).
FROM ELIAS: Jarome Iginla scored two goals in the Bruins’ win against Minnesota on Monday, after doing the same in Boston’s victory against Carolina on Saturday. It’s the sixth time in Iginla’s NHL career that he has scored at least two goals in each of two consecutive team games in one season, and the first time he’s done so for a team other than Calgary. The last of his five pairs of back-to-back multiple-goal games for the Flames came back in November 2010. Iginla is the second player to produce two straight multi-goal games for the Bruins this season, joining Brad Marchand, who did it on January 19-20.
FROM ELIAS: Tuukka Rask earned first-star honors by making 33 saves in his 4-1 victory over the Wild in Boston, thereby extending the Bruins’ winning streak to nine games. Rask’s latest victory maintained his season-long pattern of stinginess in interconference games at TD Garden. Rask is 7-1-2 with a 1.17 goals-against average in his 10 home games against Western Conference teams; he has allowed a total of just 12 goals in those games, with no more than two goals allowed in any of them.
Blues 3, Jets 1
* Blues: First team to reach 100 points this season; 8-0-1 since start of March.
* Brenden Morrow (STL): Foal (11); first goal since Feb. 8 (scoreless previous nine games).
* David Backes (STL): Two goals (22, 23) in third period after score was tied at 1-1; one goal in his previous 12 games.
* Jets: 1-3-3 in past seven games.
FROM ELIAS: David Backes took only two shots on goal and scored on both of them to lead the Blues to a 3-1 win over the Jets. That was the 16th time that Backes has scored two or more goals in an NHL game, but only the third of them in which he scored on every shot he put on target. The others were two-goal games against Columbus in Feb. 2007 (his first multi-goal game in the NHL) and against Anaheim in March 2012.
Lightning 4, Canucks 3
* Lightning: 2-0 versus Canucks this season.
* Ondrej Palat (TB): Goal, assist; four goals and five assists in a five-game point-scoring streak.
FROM ELIAS: Rookie Ondrej Palat contributed a goal and an assist in the Lightning’s 4-3 win over the Canucks. Palat leads all NHL rookies with 13 multiple-point games this season, one more than Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon. Ten of Palat’s multiple-point games have come over his last 28 games.
Pressure already on Caps' Kuznetsov
It will be interesting to see how Washington head coach Adam Oates employs Evgeny Kuznetsov during the stretch run. The former first-round pick of the Caps (26th overall in 2010) made his NHL debut Monday after much anticipation and many delays. Oates admitted he was trying to shield the talented winger from expectations in what is a completely foreign game to the youngster. Kuznetsov played 10:22 in his NHL debut (and 14:52 on Tuesday night against the Penguins), lining up mostly on the team’s fourth line, although he did end up playing a shift or two with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. The issue will be how quickly to try to accelerate the learning process for the 21-year-old. The Caps are life and death to make the playoffs and one of the team’s critical areas of deficiency is its depth scoring. After Ovechkin’s 44 goals there isn’t a 20-goal scorer on the roster. The Caps are one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but have two teams to jump over, have played more games and have a poor tiebreaker with just 22 regulation or overtime wins. In short, whether it’s fair or not, how quickly Kuznetsov adapts to the North American game might say a lot about whether the Caps’ streak of six postseason appearances gets to seven.
Jets are passive and winless
There’s the old chestnut about the best deal you make being the one you don’t make. Right now that doesn’t really apply to the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets, of course, made their big move earlier in the season when they fired head coach Claude Noel and then caught fire under new head coach Paul Maurice. But in spite of crawling back to within a point or two of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Jets were strangely passive at the deadline, neither moving potential free agents Devin Setoguchi or Chris Thorburn nor adding pieces that might actually push them into the postseason for what would be just the second time in franchise history. Their competition did not sit idly by. The Phoenix Coyotes added Martin Erat, while Dallas GM Jim Nill straddled the fence by trading defenseman Stephane Robidas to Anaheim while keeping free agents Ray Whitney and Vernon Fiddler (and adding Tim Thomas). Both teams have played well of late and are ahead of the Jets in the standings. Now we’d be praising GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to the skies if the Jets had reeled off a few wins in a row after the deadline to prove not just to the public but to themselves that their strategy was sound. But they have now gone winless in four and have failed to collect a W in the three games since last week’s trade deadline. The bottom line? As of Wednesday morning, the Jets were six points out of the final wild-card spot with two teams to dislodge and they are not in a good situation vis-a-vis the tiebreaker. In short, the chances of the Jets arresting the franchise history of fading to black come playoff time are slim to slimmer.
Fair for Devils to get pick back?
In theory, I don’t have any problem with the NHL relenting on its original penalty for salary-cap shenanigans in the New Jersey Devils' original contract attempt with the erstwhile Ilya Kovalchuk and reinstating their 2014 draft pick by locking them into the 30th pick in Philadelphia. When Daniel Alfredsson explained last summer how he and the Ottawa Senators had basically cooked up his last salary to beat the cap system and the league failed to act, well it just seemed fair that the Devils at the very least should get their draft pick back. But know this, loads of teams aren’t big fans of this decision. So the Devils are locked into 30th; it still robs the teams that draft behind them in the second round of a pick or, rather, positioning. Let’s say the Oilers draft first overall (don’t they always?). The Devils in theory are getting their pick at the top of the second round. Fair? Not for Edmonton or for Florida, etc. And the fact that this draft pick was given back at least in part as a show of good faith for the new ownership group in New Jersey does not sit well with other teams, either. Nor should it given the kind of precedent this has the potential to set.
Struggling a relative term for Bruins
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli admits he wasn’t thrilled with the way his team came out of the Olympic break. First, the Bruins were beaten by lowly Buffalo 5-4 in overtime. Then the Caps got the better of the Bruins by a 4-2 count. Even though the Bruins entered the break on a 3-0-1 stretch, Chiarelli acknowledged you never know how a sudden stoppage in play will affect your team.
“Sometimes you come out of it in a funk,” Chiarelli told ESPN.com this week.
Good thing for the Bruins "funk" is a relative term. Since a disappointing return, the Bruins have rebounded to play some of their best hockey of the season. In fact, they have played so well that at one point this week they overtook Pittsburgh for top spot in the conference in a battle that now seems destined to go down to the wire. Not that the Bruins are necessarily focused on the standings, but rather on making sure their style of play is on display on a consistent basis, as it has been during their current five-game winning streak.
“I liked how we responded,” from the slow post-Olympic start, Chiarelli said.
The Bruins tightened up their defensive game and have been rolling offensively, getting timely contributions from up and down the lineup -- the calling card of the Bruins team that won a Cup in 2011 and then went to the Cup finals last spring.
“For us, it’s about having the four lines and three defensive pairs going and that’s hard to do. You have to have everyone in sync,” Chiarelli said.
This is a Bruins team that underwent significant change up front during the offseason with Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr all headed to different teams. But in recent days, the Bruins’ third line of Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson has caught fire and been a catalyst to their charge to the top of the conference standings. Kelly is a veteran presence down the middle and Soderberg’s skating has improved, which is important for a player with his size. Eriksson, the key to the deal that sent Seguin to Dallas at the draft last June, is making the kinds of plays that the Bruins expected he would when they made the deal.
“That third line has really been key,” Chiarelli said.
As for watching the standings, the Bruins finished behind the Penguins last season, but when the two met in the conference finals, it didn’t matter to the B's when they swept the favored Penguins.
“It’d be nice to be there,” Chiarelli said of the top seed. “But we don’t focus on it.”
Statues all around
It is the season of the statue, apparently. The Philadelphia Flyers will unveil a 1,300-pound bronze statue of Hall of Fame coach Fred Shero at Wells Fargo Center on the morning of March 15. It’s fitting the unveiling of the statue honoring the man who coached the Flyers to their only Stanley Cup championships, in 1974 and 1975, will happen before the Flyers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose general manager, Ray Shero, is Fred Shero’s son. That’s a nice touch. A few weeks later, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have a similar unveiling near their home building in Tampa. A nine-foot sculpture depicting former captain Dave Andreychuk holding the Stanley Cup aloft as he did after the Lightning edged Calgary in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals will be unveiled during a pregame ceremony on April 5. Andreychuk is sometimes a forgotten figure in the Bolts’ seminal run to their lone championship. The focus has often been on Brad Richards, captain Vincent Lecavalier and the recently traded Martin St. Louis, but Andreychuk’s leadership and his willingness to adapt his style at that stage of his career to a more defensive role were crucial to the team’s overall success. Now fans will be reminded of that every time they head to a Lightning game.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Game-winning goal in OT (39, leads NHL); sixth GW goal this season
* FROM ELIAS: Since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, his 15 overtime goals are five more than the co-runners-up Ilya Kovalchuk and Daniel Sedin (10 each).
* Gustav Nyquist (DET): First career hat trick (second career multi-goal game), first hat trick by Red Wings player this season.
Most Regular-Season OT Goals - NHL HistoryJets 2, Canadiens 1
Jaromir Jagr 18
Patrik Elias 16
Alex Ovechkin 15
Sergei Fedorov 15
Mats Sundin 15
>> Elias Sports Bureau
* Michael Frolik (WPG): Second GW goal this season; goals in back-to-back games for first time this season
* Canadiens: 2-5-1 in last 8 games
* Game was played at Yankee Stadium
* Rangers: Seven goals is most by a team in an outdoor game; one of five NHL teams with multiple seven-goal games this season
* Rangers: most goals against Devils since Dec. 26, 1993 (Devils' Martin Brodeur allowed four goals before getting pulled in that game); Rangers went on to win Stanley Cup that season
* Rangers: First team to win multiple outdoor games (also play Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday).
* Martin Brodeur (NJ): Six goals allowed ties career high (done 15 times previously, including playoffs).
Most Goals in NHL Regular Season Outdoor Game
2014 Rangers 7 Devils
2009 Red Wings 6 Blackhawks
2011 Flames 4 Canadiens
2009 Blackhawks 4 Red Wings
2003 Canadiens 4 Oilers
Martin Brodeur Career - 6 Goals Allowed in 2 PeriodsJets 3, Blackhawks 1
2014 Rangers 40:00
2009 Islanders 39:39
2006 Senators 33:57
2006 Penguins 25:29
* Jets: 6-1 under head coach Paul Maurice.
* Blackhawks: 0-2-1 in last three games (lead Central Division with 76 points).
* Al Montoya (WIN): season-high 34 saves.
* Blake Wheeler (WIN): Two goals; has five goals and five assists in his last seven games.
There's the real trade deadline, March 5 at 3 p.m. ET, but there's also the pre-trade deadline on Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. ET. That's when a trade freeze goes into effect for the Olympic break and doesn't thaw until 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 23.
That leaves 10 days after the Olympics for teams to get their shopping done. The question is whether some clubs are going to want to make their move before Sochi instead.
That's just what Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford did in 2005-06, acquiring veteran center Doug Weight before the Torino Olympics break in order to beat out the other teams lining up to bid on the prized rental player after the Games. Weight was a solid addition to a team that would end up winning the Stanley Cup.
"I think teams would like to do what we did with Weight. He was the No. 1 targeted guy that year, and we jumped in early," Rutherford told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "But with teams being so tight under the cap this year, it's probably going to make it more difficult. Because the players those teams want to pick up this year, they're going to need the other team to eat up a bit of cap space to fit them in.
"If they can do it, most teams would like to [make their move before the Olympic break]."
The tough part in adding a player before the break is that a team is carrying his salary and cap hit while he's not playing for two weeks. The flip side is that a team is not scrambling in those final 10 days after the Olympics to make sure it gets the player it wants.
Interesting decision, no doubt.
"It's hard to say what's going to happen with so many teams on LTIR," Penguins GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com on Tuesday, referring to another unique factor for this season. More than a dozen teams are using long-term injured reserve to be over the cap because of injuries, in part because the salary cap went down $6 million last summer. That leaves very little room to maneuver.
Case in point are the Penguins, who everybody expects to replace Pascal Dupuis, who's out for the season. But it's not as if Dupuis' $3.75 million cap hit is $3.75 million of cap space Shero can just easily replace dollar for dollar.
It's more complicated than that. With all the injuries the Penguins have had this season, they've used up some of that cap space just to fill roster spots vacated by injured players. Of course, Shero will look at what's out there on the market in terms of finding a winger, but it's a complicated, delicate salary-cap dance unless it's a pure hockey deal -- dollar for dollar.
Canucks' trade wish
The Vancouver Canucks got defenseman Alexander Edler back Monday night, and winger Alex Burrows and netminder Roberto Luongo are close to returning as well. It's beginning to come together for them roster-wise.
But will they add to it?
If it's doable, the word on the street is that the Canucks would like to add a center before the trade deadline or, if not a center, a top-nine winger. But preferably a center, I think. Brad Richardson has been terrific as a No. 3 center for the Canucks, but I suspect they feel if they can have him centering the No. 4 line and upgrade the No. 3 center spot, they would feel better about their playoff chances.
If there's no fit, keeping Richardson in the No. 3 hole and upgrading the No. 4 center job is another option.
The Canucks are deep on defense throughout the organization, and that's the carrot they're willing to put out there if they can help themselves in a meaningful way up front.
The life of Briere
Veteran winger Daniel Briere has been terrific since being reinserted into the Montreal Canadiens lineup.
Trade rumors were flying after he was a healthy scratch during the holidays, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that he didn't sign in Montreal as a veteran free agent last summer to watch games from the press box. So, no, he wasn't happy.
But he's had an impact since returning to the lineup, and that situation seems to have settled down for now.
What also helped, a source told ESPN.com, is a conversation Briere had with GM Marc Bergevin, reassuring him of his role and value to the team. Credit goes as well to coach Michel Therrien, who found a role that worked for Briere.
With forward Alex Galchenyuk injured and sidelined for six weeks, Briere should have a chance at regular ice time.
Maurice will let results speak
An interesting note to the Paul Maurice hiring in Winnipeg is that all he's agreed to is a contract for the rest of the season.
Maurice and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff agreed they would circle back, but all Maurice is guaranteed at this point is to coach through April.
"It shows you how much confidence he has in his ability," Cheveldayoff said. "It tells you something about him."
Calgary beat Carolina in overtime earlier this season.
The Hurricanes have won three straight at home, while Jeff Skinner has four goals and three assists in those games.
Thirteen of the Flames' 15 wins were by a one-goal margin.
Jiri Hudler has one goals and two assits in his past four games.
The Jackets shutout the Lightning at home earlier this season. They are 3-1-0 at home against the Lightning in the shootout era.
Columbus' three-game win streak is its longest of the season.
Tampa Bay is 18-3-1 when scoring first.
The Lightning are 7-1-0 in their past eight road games and they have outscored their opponents 30-15.
Matt Carle is on a six-game point streak with eight assists in that span.
These teams have not played since December 2011 when the Jets won at home.
The Jets have won 10 games by a one-goal margin this season. The Coyotes are 9-0-9 in one-goal games.
Paul Maurice takes over as head coach with Winnipeg in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
Dustin Byfuglien was moved to forward on Saturday for the first full game since he signed with the Jets. He has one goal and two assists in his past two games.
The Coyotes are 1-0-3 in their past four road games.
Radim Vrbata has five assists in his past three games.
The Kings are 3-0-0 against the Canucks this season and are 4-1-0 in their past five home games against the team from Vancouver.
Los Angeles is 2-for-40 on the power play in its past 13 home games.
Mike Richards and Tyler Toffoli both have two goals and two assists against Vancouver this season.
The Canucks have the league's best penalty kill (89.1 percent).
Jason Garrison has one goals and two assists in his past three games.
Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin both have one goals and one assists against Los Angeles this season.
Information courtesy of Kevin Gibson/TSN
The move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, confirmed at the start of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, was heralded (mostly in Canada, of course) as a cause for rejoicing, a return of a once-proud NHL franchise from a southern wasteland to its rightful place on the snowy prairie.
How's that move working out so far?
On Sunday, the moribund Jets fired coach Claude Noel, who took over after the team's move in the summer of 2011 and failed to nudge the Jets appreciably closer to the playoffs than when they were playing to spotty crowds at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta, where they managed to make the postseason just once in a dozen years, winning exactly zero playoff games.
Sure, you can blame former Atlanta GM Don Waddell and the wildly dysfunctional ownership group in Atlanta -- which allowed a glorious opportunity to join franchises such as Dallas and San Jose in building a viable hockey culture in a nontraditional place to simply fall to pieces -- for the ills that continue to plague the franchise in snowy Winnipeg.
It's a convenient talking point, even if it's no longer true.
The reality is that the failures of this team can no longer be pinned on whatever earlier failures marked the team's time in Atlanta. And the longer this team spins its wheels, the longer it continues to ice a team that does not compete often enough and cannot master the fundamentals of playing competitive hockey, especially now that it is playing big-boy hockey in the Western Conference, this move back to Winnipeg inches closer and closer to colossal failure.
Sure, fans still flock to the tiny MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg, but the honeymoon is long over, as the frequent boos from the stands and the sharp questions asked in the city's competitive media market attest.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who took the job after apprenticing with the Chicago Blackhawks, has played the first card in trying to reverse the tidal wave of mediocrity that threatens this team's future by firing Noel.
The general pattern for young GMs in the NHL is that you get one mulligan when it comes to coaching hires. Hard to imagine that if veteran bench boss Paul Maurice, named Sunday to replace Noel, doesn't get the job done, the next card dealt will have Cheveldayoff in the hand.
For Maurice, whose history includes guiding overachieving teams in Carolina to the 2002 Stanley Cup finals and the 2009 Eastern Conference finals but who twice failed to get the Toronto Maple Leafs into the postseason dance, the bar has been set impossibly low in terms of showing improvement.
But this isn't about improving a Jets team that ranks 25th in goals against, pretty standard for the history of this franchise, ranks 25th on the power play and has lost five straight games during which it's been outscored 24-14.
That's small-picture stuff, and we're guessing that Maurice will be able to effect that kind of short-term change.
But what's at stake is so much bigger, especially given that this season is already a write-off with the Jets 10 points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Moving a franchise to Winnipeg brought with it inherent risks.
Like Edmonton or smaller markets with little recent history of success (sorry, Wayne Gretzky et al was so long ago), the path to viability is clearly marked with little margin for error. Draft shrewdly, develop properly, hire good hockey people up and down the organization, including the coaching staff, and hope that as your team grows and matures and takes steps forward you become the kind of place other good hockey players and people will be drawn to.
We've seen the model happen for years in Detroit and more recently in Chicago and Pittsburgh.
But fail to hit those markers, draft poorly or make poor decisions in handing out long-term deals and that plan falls to pieces in a hurry. Make mistakes and as an organization you're forced to overpay for free agents that would rather be somewhere else or rush young players into roles they're not equipped to handle and the circle of failure spins and spins.
The Jets have failed in many ways to step beyond that cycle in their brief time in Winnipeg.
Their lineup boasts too many castoffs, players who could not fit in with better teams, players such as Devin Setoguchi, the one-time 30-goal scorer in San Jose who wore out his welcome after moving to Minnesota and now has seven goals for the Jets. The oft-traded Olli Jokinen is another player seemingly taking up space on the Jets roster, on pace for fewer than 20 goals.
In recent months, Cheveldayoff has rolled the dice, locking up young pieces of the Jets' convoluted puzzle to long-term deals, hoping they will form the nucleus of what this franchise has never produced: a consistent playoff team.
But already there are serious question marks about those decisions.
Zach Bogosian, the third overall pick in 2008, has failed to develop into anything approaching that lofty draft selection but was curiously inked to a long-term deal that carries through the 2019-20 season with an annual cap hit of $5.142 million.
Dustin Byfuglien had been moved to forward after compiling a minus-17 playing on the blue line. He still has two more years remaining on a contract that carries a $5.2 million cap hit.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is in goal, where Ondrej Pavelec, once thought to be the heir apparent to Kari Lehtonen as franchise netminder, has been an enigma at best and a disaster at worst. He is signed through 2016-17 with a cap hit of $3.9 million. Now, is the fact Pavelec is carrying an .898 save percentage and 3.14 GAA a function of the poor defense played in front of him or simply the fact he is no better than a Grade B goaltender?
Those are questions Maurice will have to come to grips with in the coming days.
It's not all doom and gloom, though.
Jacob Trouba is going to be a special player on defense. Mark Scheifele, another top prospect, has been nurtured instead of rushed. Other promising prospects are in the pipeline.
Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little have justified, at least in part, their contract extensions. Andrew Ladd is a consummate pro and wise choice as team captain, although this team still suffers from a lack of a solid leadership core that can help arrest the skids that ruin playoff hopes, as this current one has done for the Jets.
Evander Kane is a good player, although whether he'll ever become the kind of dominant player offensively this team needs has yet to be seen.
There are pieces in place.
So maybe this coaching change is the catalyst to that long-awaited turning of the corner, which has eluded this franchise whether it has courted sunburn or frostbite.
But over the years, fans both north and south have been fed a steady diet of such maybes and found it entirely wanting.
Bring out the 2010 Stanley Cup Chicago flashbacks. Roberto Luongo may not sleep now for a while, but Dustin Byfuglien is back at forward after playing on defense the past three and a half years.
At least for now, anyway.
Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel is dealing with injuries and a slumping squad, so this is his way to switch things up. Byfuglien will be on the top line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little for Saturday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"The other thing is he’s an impact player who's hard to handle in a lot of areas; he can help us there. It's a change that might be a breath of fresh air. Will it last long? I don't know. We'll take it game by game for now and see where it goes."
Byfuglien will remain on the point on the power play, so the switch is for even strength purposes. Noel tried this very briefly midgame last season.
"We went down this road last year just for a little bit, the end of a period in one game and the end of a period in another game as well. ... It really hasn't been revisited until now," Noel said. "I had a conversation with him a couple of days ago just about some things and his play, this and that, and this came up."
Byfuglien hasn't been a full-time forward since he was so effective at it in the spring of 2010, helping the Blackhawks win the Cup. He switched to defense once traded to Atlanta that summer, in part because he made it clear that’s where he felt more natural and where he prefers playing.
Oh, but was he ever good up front in the spring of 2010.
"He was hard to handle that whole playoff. He scored 11 goals [in 22 playoff games], and he was a factor in helping them win," Noel said. "But he hasn’t done it much since then. So we'll see where this goes."
Quite frankly, with the Jets on a four-game losing streak in the midst of a season that has them last in the Central Division, why not try something like this? What is there to lose?
It's not like Byfuglien was having a stellar defensive season on the blue line, as underlined by his minus-16 rating, worst on the Jets.
Heck, if anything, it might take the attention away from the constant frustration and anger seeping into a group that has been losing too many games. It can be a deflective measure.
"That's not why I'm doing it. It's just about trying to win games," Noel said. "But if it happens to bring us a breath of fresh air, fine. But it's really about trying to change things."
This means breaking up the top line. Blake Wheeler moved to a line with Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen at practice Friday after playing most of the past few years with Ladd and Little.
"Once in a while you need to break them up," Noel said of the Ladd-Little-Wheeler line. "I'm not thinking they won't be back together because they've had really good chemistry.
"But for now, we're just trying to get some things going with our whole group."
Gagner on market?Front-office sources from other teams around the league confirm that center Sam Gagner is available in Edmonton.
He's a better player, to be sure, than what he's shown this season, after a broken jaw in preseason set him back. But he has a contract that makes you blink a little: two more years after this season with a $4.8 million cap hit. His salary actually jumps to $5 million next season and in the final year.
Perhaps more troublesome is the early asking price that the Oilers are apparently looking for.
"They want a top-four D or a power forward. Not sure they can get that for Gagner," said one front-office source. "If they want that, maybe they need to put one of the other kids on the block."
I certainly don't blame Oilers GM Craig MacTavish for possibly trying to move Gagner or another forward from his top-nine group. That's where his strength is, and he's got holes everywhere else. More importantly, it's been a nightmare season, and he can't just sit on his hands and wait out the season without trying to shake things up.
All the power to him if he can net what he wants for Gagner.
Tim Murray in BuffaloIt's going to be interesting how new Sabres GM Tim Murray proceeds on the coaching front in Buffalo.
No doubt his new boss Pat LaFontaine would have hinted strongly to Murray that he’s very fond of interim head coach Ted Nolan.
And certainly I think Murray will give the Nolan experiment a fair shake.
But it’s hard not to think that in the back of his mind he doesn’t have thoughts of Luke Richardson joining him from AHL Binghamton, where the two have had a strong relationship the past few years.
* Penguins: 12th straight home win; first team in NHL history to win at least 12 straight home games in back-to-back seasons.
* Dan Bylsma (PIT): ties Penguins record for career wins as a head coach (232, Eddie Johnston).
* Evgeni Malkin (PIT) two goals, one assist; second straight game with at least three points, had not played since a three-point game on Dec. 14.
* James Neal (PIT): two goals, one assist; has six goals and six assists in his last five games
FROM ELIAS: Evgeni Malkin, playing his first game after three weeks on the injured list, scored two goals and assisted on another in the Penguins' 6–5 win over the Jets. It was Malkin's eighth career game with three or more points against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, his highest such total versus any NHL team. The only other teams against which Malkin has recorded at least five games of three or more points are Toronto and Washington (six each).
Sharks 3, Blackhawks 2 (F/SO)
* Sharks: win snaps four-game losing streak vs Blackhawks; won each of last four shootouts overall
* Brent Burns (SJ): Goal (14); five goals in last seven games
* Blackhawks: lost each of last four shootouts
* Michal Rozsival (CHI): Goal (1); first goal since March 1, 2012.