It will be a strange sight indeed should legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, now an unrestricted free agent after more than two decades with the New Jersey Devils, sign elsewhere.

And while Brodeur reigned supreme as the face of the franchise for years, leading it to three Stanley Cup championships while establishing himself as perhaps the best goaltender of all time, the time has finally come for him to part ways with his long-time team.

That may be a good thing for the Devils.

With the departure of Brodeur, the Devils have since swung full support behind incumbent Cory Schneider, who recently inked a seven-year, $42 million extension.

"He was ready to take that mantle,” former Devils goatlender Kevin Weekes told in a telephone interview last week. “I like that the franchise was able to put that to bed and start that transition.”

[+] EnlargeMartin Brodeur
Andre Ringuette/NHLI/Getty ImagesFormer Devils goalie Kevin Weekes says New Jersey is set up well to move past the Martin Brodeur era.
For a good chunk of last season, Schneider outplayed Brodeur, leaving the Devils in a tight spot in how to handle the situation with an elite, accomplished player who will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Schneider, who was mired in long goaltending controversy in Vancouver before he was acquired by the Devils in a stunning trade in June 2013, was clearly the heir apparent in New Jersey, but Brodeur seemed reluctant to relinquish the throne.

“It’s a unique situation,” said Weekes, now an analyst for NHL Network. “Because he’s Marty Brodeur, he’s earned the right to his influence and impact. Sometimes, the problem with that is it’s not always what’s best for the Devils’ personnel.”

The Devils, who finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs by five points with a disappointing 35-29-18 record, may benefit from having a clear-cut starter moving forward. And Schneider, who posted a 1.97 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage last season, has proved himself more than capable of assuming the No. 1 job.

Weekes, who has known Schneider since he was an NHL rookie, said the 28-year-old Marblehead, Massachusetts, native is a gem.

“He’s a first-rate individual,” said Weekes, who finished his career as a Devil. “Classy, super-intelligent and he handles himself like a pro.”

Weekes was also thrilled to see veteran goal scorer Mike Cammalleri sign with New Jersey as a free agent this summer. He thinks he’ll be a great fit with the Devils and will provide the club with leadership and much-needed offense, especially after a strong 2013-14 season with the Calgary Flames.

“He’s obviously a goal scorer and it’s not just his shot, but also his legs. He kind of got back to doing things to get open space, finding holes, eluding defenders, setting himself up in position to shoot,” Weekes said. “I think he did an unbelievable job at that last year in Calgary. He really rediscovered his game.”

Add in a long-term contract for well-respected blueliner Andy Greene and a healthy captain in Bryce Salvador, and the Devils have a strong veteran presence on their blue line.

But what Weekes is most intrigued to see is how 21-year-old Adam Larsson fits into the plan moving forward. The Devils’ handling of the young Swede has been a puzzling case for many, particularly vexing to some Devils fans who’d like to see the talented prospect develop into the type of defenseman anticipated when he was selected fourth overall in the 2011 draft.

Instead, he has struggled to find a consistent spot among the Devils’ regular defensemen.

“I do know there is definitely a value to having a player earn it -- trust me, I know what that is like,” said the 39-year-old Weekes, who spent time in both the AHL and IHL before cracking an NHL roster. “It’s a curious case for me. He obviously has an exceptional ability, he’s built beyond his years, has a good shot, he’s very smart, a good kid, but for some reason the organization isn’t fully buying in on where his game is at.

“He is still young. But he’s good enough to be an everyday regular.”

That will be one of the many storylines to follow come training camp. Peter DeBoer, who signed a contract extension last season, enters his fourth season as head coach. He’ll have some challenges ahead, but with an Eastern Conference that is wide open -- especially compared to the uber-competitive West -- the Devils should have a good chance to make the playoffs this season.

“I think anything is possible in the NHL,” Weekes said, “but especially in the East.”
Often a team plagued by losing seasons, front-office upheaval and the departure of the club’s cornerstone player would be pretty low on the list of desirable landing spots for free agents.

That hasn’t been the case, however, with the Buffalo Sabres.

Despite the team’s abysmal 21-51-10 record and last-place finish this past season, the Sabres were able to attract high-caliber talent on the open market as the club continues to revamp its personnel in hopes of turning things around.

[+] EnlargeMartin Biron
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesMartin Biron played for the Sabres from 1995-96 until the 2006-07 season.
The Sabres, with first-year general manager Tim Murray at the helm, landed former Montreal Canadiens captain (and Rochester, New York native) Brian Gionta, as well as skilled winger Matt Moulson (who returned to Buffalo after being flipped to Minnesota at the trade deadline).

Even the acquisition of Josh Gorges via trade with the Habs took a pitch -- Gorges called former Habs teammate Gionta to consult whether to waive his no-trade clause this summer.

Not bad for a team that floundered at the bottom of the league standings for virtually the entire year before finishing 30th.

And the influx of new talent, new management and new coaching staff (Ted Nolan was hired in November before receiving an extension this summer, while assistants Arturs Irbe, Bryan Trottier, Danny Flynn and Tom Coolen recently joined the staff) brings a culture change.

“The thing is, it started over a year ago,” said former Sabres goaltender Martin Biron, who still resides in the area with his family. “They traded three captains -- Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, with Ryan Miller also traded -- so that’s four guys gone in a 12-month span. They retooled, rebuilt, brought in some picks, some young players and prospects to try and build from the ground up.”

According to Biron, who retired last season while playing for the New York Rangers, that push toward progress likely started at the behest of team owner Terry Pegula.

“From being in this area, and living here, that change of direction probably came from the top, from Terry and Kim [Pegula] on down. They did a lot of studying and crunching numbers on success and where it comes from. It comes from the draft and developing players,” Biron told in a telephone conversation.

That change of direction likely winnowed the list of GM candidates that ultimately led then-president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine to select Murray as the guy to lead the team (LaFontaine curiously resigned a few months later, less than four months after taking the job). Murray had experience in drafting and developing players from serving as the GM of the AHL’s Binghamton Senators and as the assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators.

“When they switched things up [following the dismissal of former GM Darcy Regier], that was a hot topic on the table. How will you be able to accomplish this?” Biron said of the development aspect. “I think the biggest part of his hiring was knowing [Murray] was going to be on board with that.”

Though they have seen some of the team’s biggest names and most beloved players leave, the Sabres boast some well-respected veterans as well as some burgeoning young leaders such as Drew Stafford. Add in some prospects who are challenging for a spot and a bevvy of draft picks in the future and the Sabres are all of the sudden an interesting team to watch.

One thing that could prove to be an Achilles' heel, however, is their goaltending. After trading Miller to the St. Louis Blues last season, the Sabres are left with Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, neither of whom are considered bonafide starters.

“Obviously, that is a bit of a question mark moving forward,” Biron said. "For many years people in Buffalo have been lucky to have top goaltenders, [Dominik] Hasek, [Ryan] Miller, now they’re going into a bit of an unknown with Enroth or Neuvirth."

But Biron insists that the Sabres are well-stocked between the pipes with an abundance of quality goaltending prospects.

Nathan Lieuwen gained some NHL experience with seven games last season. They also have Calvin Petersen, Russian netminder Andrey Makarov and a pair of Swedes: Jonas Johansson and Linus Ullmark, the latter of whom caught Biron’s eye at a recent development camp.

Biron probably will be keeping tabs on those prospects given his new position as director of goaltending at the HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey, which will open in October.

Between that and regular television work as an analyst for TSN, NHL Network and French-language RDS, Biron won’t be sitting back and taking it easy during retirement.

Already this summer he’s barely had a spare moment bouncing between his son’s baseball and football schedule and his daughters’ horse shows.

“It’s better that way,” Biron said. “I can’t sit around.”
Following the Montreal Canadiens’ success this spring -- a somewhat surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals -- the Habs can expect to have a target on their jerseys when they open the 2014-15 season.

They’ll do so, however, without former captain Brian Gionta and veteran defenseman Josh Gorges. The two well-respected players are now members of the Buffalo Sabres -- Gionta signed as an unrestricted free agent, while Gorges was sent to Buffalo in a trade -- leaving a huge void inside the Montreal dressing room.

Former Hab Mathieu Darche thinks that will be the biggest challenge facing the team this season. But he sees plenty of younger players who are ready to step up.

Chief among those? Star defenseman P.K. Subban, who inked an eight-year, $72 million extension earlier this month.

Darche There's nothing wrong with keeping some cockiness. In every sport you need to be confident, and cockiness is not necessarily derogatory. P.K. [Subban] gets that.

-- Former Hab Mathieu Darche
“My only concern is that I feel like they let go of a lot of leadership,” Darche told in a phone conversation while on vacation with his family in Maine.

“I can see him [Subban] with a 'C' on his jersey,” Darche said. “Why not? If not him, you could go with Brendan Gallagher. You talk about leadership by example. He could have it.”

The 37-year-old Darche, who was a teammate of Subban's with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and for three seasons with the Habs, says he is a “P.K. backer” and lauds Subban's fierce competitiveness and sometimes-polarizing personality. Darche has seen Subban evolve, both on and off the ice, and has nothing but great things to say about the 2013 Norris Trophy winner’s progress toward becoming a true pro.

Subban is learning to straddle the line of being humble while maintaining the trademark swagger that makes him such an electrifying presence on the ice.

“There’s nothing wrong with keeping some cockiness,” Darche said. “In every sport you need to be confident, and cockiness is not necessarily derogatory. P.K. gets that. On the ice, he just wants to be the best player.”

And no one should be worrying that Subban will get comfortable now that he has cashed in on his success. Darche said Subban is driven by wanting to be the best, not by dollar signs.

“If there is one guy I don’t worry about sitting on his contract, it’s P.K. He wants to have his numbers in the rafters at Bell Centre,” Darche said. “He knows the better he is, the better the team has a chance to win.”

Though the negotiation process between Subban’s camp and the Habs was perceived by many as contentious, with a deal being struck after arbitration but before the final ruling could be made, Darche said there won’t be any awkwardness as a result. That’s just not Subban’s way.

Instead, Darche feels the deal is good for both sides. Subban gets security, but Darche thinks that in two or three years, the Habs may feel they got a bargain.

“They were lucky they got the deal done before the arbitrator’s ruling,” Darche said. “He’s leaving money on the table. Trust me, had he made it to unrestricted free agency, he would be making over $10 million a year.”

Darche, who was a key figure within the players' union during the last lockout, is flourishing in the business world since deciding to hang up the skates in 2013.

In fact, he turned down a few NHL opportunities since retirement to work in the corporate world, putting his marketing and international business degree from prestigious McGill University to use while working for customs brokerage company Delmar International.

Darche has enjoyed the experience -- his travels last year took him to China and Vietnam, among other locales -- but he could see himself returning to the NHL if the right management opportunity ever opened up.

He remains connected to the game by doing work for the French-language television station RDS, where he has dissected and analyzed his former team plenty.

He thinks the Habs have a good thing going, despite the departure of some key “glue guys.” Subban is locked up, and they have top goaltender Carey Price coming back after a knee injury during the Eastern Conference finals ended his season in May.

Price’s return should bode well for the Habs, Darche said.

“To me, Carey Price is the best goaltender in the league,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for three years now. It’s night and day what can happen with [Price in goal]. He can take you places. When you’ve got Carey Price, the sky’s the limit.”

Photos: Summer vacation

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
Former Washington Capitals defenseman and Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Langway knows the importance of a stout defense to any club’s success.

He won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1979. He spent a decade patrolling the back end for the Caps, where he won two Norris Trophies as the league’s best defensemen. His acumen was so revered that he earned the nickname “the Secretary of Defense” during his time in D.C.

The Capitals have lacked a strong defensive corps in recent years, but Langway thinks that is starting to change with this summer’s key offseason acquisitions.

[+] EnlargeRod Langway
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesHall of Famer Rod Langway won a Stanley Cup and two Norris Trophies during his career.
The team made some interesting pickups in free agency after a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs, superstar Alex Ovechkin was repeatedly skewered, and both general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates were fired.

The Caps landed the most coveted free agent in the class of 2014, inking defenseman Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million deal. The 27-year-old Minnesota native had a breakout year for the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season and could not have timed it better, setting himself up for a massive pay raise when the market opened on July 1.

The 57-year-old Langway, reached via phone at his residence outside Fredericksburg, Virginia, said he thinks an improved defense will be a huge asset for the Capitals moving forward. The Capitals also added another former Penguin, veteran Brooks Orpik, for good measure to round out a back end that was a weakness for the team last season.

"They have more balanced defensemen now,” Langway told “They have their 1-2 defenseman, their 3-4 that can play against top players but might rather not, and their 5-6 can play on the penalty kill, fill in, or be tough guys that play against tough guys. That can change the momentum. I don’t think the Capitals have had that for years."

Whereas Mike Green was once considered among the elite defensemen in the league, particularly for his offensive abilities, he has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency in recent years. John Carlson has been regarded as one of the top young blueliners in the league, but the defense struggled as a whole this past season. Now, with more depth, certain players like Carlson and Green may have a little less responsibility and a little more freedom to produce offensively.

That won’t be the only positive spillover effect, either. Langway thinks an improved defense could also pay dividends for the likes of Ovechkin, who was routinely criticized for his defensive shortcomings last season despite leading the league with 51 goals and nabbing his fourth Maurice Richard Trophy.

Langway said the better the defense, the more time spent in the offensive zone, which should free up the Russian dynamo.

“He’s a highlight film. When he’s on, he’s a highlight film,” said Langway, who still attends 30-35 Caps games per year and serves as an alumni ambassador for the team at charity functions. “I know he can be a team player because he’s not afraid of the physical stuff. When you have other players on the back end that have the same mentality of the physical presence, not just fighting but taking players out of play when [the] puck is loose, it makes it a lot easier and makes more room for the skill players.”

Knowing that the window to win a Cup these days is becoming increasingly narrow, Langway feels like the Caps are building toward a more well-rounded team that gives them a chance to contend.

“I think they understand that they’ve made a commitment to goaltending. They’ve got the offense. They’ve secured the defensive side of it," Langway said. "They have four or five years to make a difference to make a run at a Cup. How many more years is Ovechkin going to be an elite player in the league?”

Langway has also spotted a star in the making in highly touted forward prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who he calls a “diamond in the rough.” Langway was impressed by the 22-year-old forward in the games he played with Washington and thinks he has a bright future.

All of that is up to new coach Barry Trotz to put together now. Langway doesn’t know Trotz well personally, but he knows enough to know the club is in good hands with a guy whose reputation among hockey types is rock-solid.

“He’s a typical hockey guy, no diamond rings or Rolls-Royces. He’s one of the guys,” Langway said. “He’s been coaching for 15 years. When you last that long -- I've got a lot of respect for him.”
It's not a conscious effort, but former NHLer Scott Walker can sense that he is incorporating certain techniques and strategies from his playing days into his current routine as coach of the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm.

How he manages practice, what he likes in a team meeting, how he likes to send a message -- all those areas have been shaped by his previous experiences.

And having played for the likes of both Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette during his 17 seasons in the NHL, the 41-year-old former Nashville Predator has a unique perspective on the changing of the guard in Music City, where Laviolette replaced Trotz, who was the longest-tenured active coach in the NHL when he was dismissed following his 15th season in April.

[+] EnlargeScott Walker
Don Smith/Getty ImagesScott Walker played for Barry Trotz in Nashville from 1998 to 2004.
Both men are tremendous coaches, according to Walker, but given the amount of time Trotz spent in Nashville, a significant adjustment period should be expected.

"It’s funny because I had both of them and they’re both great people. The overall thing is, it’s going to be different,” Walker told in a phone conversation Tuesday. “It’s going to take a bit -- some players have been through this once or twice, but some players have only heard one voice and it’s going to take them a little while to adjust.”

That’s not a bad thing for the Predators, who finished this past season in 10th place in the uber-competitive Western Conference. A new voice and fresh ideas can be a good thing for everyone involved.

“Sometimes, it can infuse a little bit of excitement amongst the players, not because one guy is bad or good, but just because it’s different. You want to prove to the new coach, that ‘Hey, I’m a good player.' Sometimes, it can be a positive,” Walker said. “Some players will adapt and do well and some will struggle because they like to play under Trotz."

Walker described both men as “very detailed, very prepared,” but there are some obvious differences.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Lavy is a more offensive coach and Barry is a bit more defensive-minded. [Trotz] got the most out of our team. There weren’t too many years where we underachieved. I think that comes from the coach,” said Walker, who played for Trotz in Nashville from 1998 to 2004.

Walker described Trotz as the type of coach who really took time to know each and every one of his players. He cared about them individually. Walker said Laviolette’s strength was his ability to inspire his charges. Having played under Laviolette after being traded to Carolina in 2006, he knows that the Predators' new coach will light a fire under the team.

“Peter was very emotional, very inspirational,” said Walker, who amassed 151 goals and 391 points in 829 career games. “He knows just what to say and when to say it.”

That may be the type of spark the Predators need to get back on track this season. In addition to hiring Laviolette in May, Predators GM David Poile acquired winger James Neal in a trade with Pittsburgh and signed veteran centers Olli Jokinen and Mike Ribeiro.

Walker tries to keep tabs on his former teams -- he also played for the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks, in addition to the Predators and Hurricanes -- but there isn’t a ton of time what with coaching one of the top junior teams out there.

Walker led the Storm to an OHL championship last season, with his team losing to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Memorial Cup championship.

He was always intrigued by the possibility of returning to junior hockey -- he played for Owen Sound as a teen -- and pursuing ownership opportunities (he also serves as owner of the Storm). Developing young players has become his niche, where he remains committed to helping each player develop individually in hopes of reaching the pros.

“For me, my biggest philosophy is, every day helping them get to the next level,” he said.

Seeing that process take shape and the advancement of junior hockey as a whole has been a treat for Walker.

“It’s amazing to see how far junior hockey has come. The talent level is amazing,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
Over the years, the NHL has earned a reputation as the type of fraternity that fortifies its rank with men of a like-minded ilk -- old-school, battle-tested and often resistant to change.

This summer, however, we have seen that infused with new faces, diverse backgrounds and fresh ideas.

Nowhere is that more apparent than the league's movement toward embracing analytics.

Whereas champions of advanced stats have previously been the subject of scorn and derision from the mainstream hockey world -- labeled as nerds or contrarians and mocked for never having played the game at the professional level -- their insight is now being courted. Many of these bloggers and statisticians have made huge leaps in collecting and interpreting data, primarily possession statistics, as predictive for a team's success.

Teams are starting to recognize that as a valuable asset.

On Tuesday morning, TSN's Bob McKenzie broke the news that Tyler Dellow, one of the people at the forefront of the advanced stats movement and followed by many via his Twitter handle @mc79hockey, has been hired by the Edmonton Oilers.

Dellow's hiring, which a source confirmed to, is just the latest in this trend toward more innovative additions to a club's traditional front office or hockey operations staff.

Before Dellow, professional poker player Sunny Mehta was hired Friday by the New Jersey Devils to head the team's new analytics department (a move that was recommended by new owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer) and FiveThirtyEight analytics writer Eric Tulsky has worked for teams, including the Nashville Predators. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs, a consistent target of those in the advanced stats community for the club's atrocious possession numbers, seem to realize the need for a new perspective.

In November, months before the Leafs' epic collapse, GM Dave Nonis said he felt that many advanced stats being employed were "not accurate" or relevant. Apparently, others within the organization now feel differently. The Leafs hired youngster Kyle Dubas as an assistant general manager after the 28-year-old proved himself at the junior hockey level in large part because of his strength in employing analytics.

This is still new territory. These jobs signal a paradigmatic shift in the making, but by no means have traditional types been given the heave-ho.

What will be perhaps the most fascinating part of this phenomenon is how these two groups co-exist. How much of a club's resources will be devoted to analytics and how much will the findings dictate the club's hockey-making decisions? Will these new hires be given a sense of autonomy by the organizations, or will they have to fight against a healthy dose of skepticism from front-office vets who aren't yet on board with using Fenwick and Corsi stats as meaningful methods of evaluation?

The landscape is changing, and teams are keen on gaining any type of competitive advantage. If those forward-thinking clubs start to reap the benefits, you can imagine there will be many more teams scouring the bowels of the Internet for the type of statistical wunderkind who might give them a leg up too.

Photos: Summer vacation

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4

Hair bands and hockey hair: a marriage made in heaven. 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 Eastern Conference list is below -- feel free to mullet over. (Western Conference is here.)

BOSTON BRUINS: "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds

Everyone's all caught up in the West Coast domination thing, but you can't discount the Bruins, the hardest team in the East. They changed very little in the offseason, have been good for many seasons and have had their core together for many seasons. Replacing Jarome Iginla's 30 goals will not be easy, but somehow these guys always find a way to win, no matter how many goals leave. And if they can find a way to beat the Canadiens ...

Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart, baby
Don't you forget about me
Don't don't don't don't
Don't you forget about me

BUFFALO SABRES: "Road To Nowhere," Talking Heads

This was as close as we could get to "We're On The Road To Finishing Last, So We Have a Better Chance of Getting Connor McDavid Or We'd Even Take Jack Eichel, As Far As That Goes."

They can tell you what to do
But they'll make a fool of you
And it's all right, baby, it's all right
We're on a road to nowhere

CAROLINA HURRICANES: "Mad World," Tears For Fears

No offense to Tim Gleason, but there's not much new happening here. Which, as you might expect, is how a team that finished so low in the Eastern Conference and failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season should operate. Sarcasm. No wonder Jim Rutherford left.

All around me are familiar faces
Worn-out places
Worn-out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere
Going nowhere

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: "Here I Go Again," Whitesnake

So, you're Scott Hartnell, playing fairly well on one of the league's most desirable teams. Then, poof, you're suddenly dealt to Columbus, with little indication as to why. It's enough to make your hair stand on end. More, that is.

I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
And I've made up my mind,
I ain't wasting no more time
But here I go again
Here I go again

DETROIT RED WINGS: "Broken Wings," Mr. Mister

Who are we to stand in the way of obvious symbolism? Man, the Red Wings really miss Nicklas Lidstrom.

So take these broken wings
And learn to fly again, learn to live so free

FLORIDA PANTHERS: "Money For Nothing," Dire Straits

Dave Bolland is a good player, but five years at $5.5 million per? The Panthers must feel his intangibles are off the charts, because his tangibles -- which were never great, as he has never scored 20 goals in a season -- are declining to disappearing.

That ain't workin'
That's the way you do it

MONTREAL CANADIENS: "Under Pressure," Queen and David Bowie

Getting to the final four is a great selling point for every team in the league -- except if you're the Canadiens, whose fans consider anything short of a parade to be a failure. Can Carey Price rebound from his playoff injury? Can P.K. Subban continue to light it up without causing a brush fire in the dressing room? Will the Habs get back to the conference finals? And so on.

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: "Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin

If there was a state of denial, it's New Jersey. It's not enough that Martin Brodeur, the greatest goalie not named Patrick Roy, is unceremoniously being pushed out -- the team's scoring woes are to be addressed by a frequently injured Martin Havlat and a decent-but-declining Michael Cammalleri. Whether it's on the ice or off, this franchise is not what it used to be, but no one in Newark seems all that concerned.

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no girl to make you smile
But don't worry, be happy
'Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: "Is There Something I Should Know?" Duran Duran

Even with a new building on the horizon, the Islanders are still considered a team to stay away from. Heck, it's so bad, they aren't even on national TV this season. And their offseason signings -- Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Cory Conacher and Jack Skille -- show only the downtrodden or desperate decide to head to the Isle. Somewhere, a frustrated Clark Gillies is throwing boulders at a Sasquatch.

Maybe next year, maybe no go
I know you're watching me every minute of the day yeah
I've seen the signs and the looks and the pictures that give your game away yeah
There's a dream that strings the road a broken glass for us to hold
And I cut so far before I had to say
Please, please tell me now, is there something I should know
Is there something I should say that'll make you come my way

NEW YORK RANGERS: "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)," Cinderella

The Rangers will always have King Henrik. But their chances of returning to the Cup finals are looking as arid as the setting in this video, after losing Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Richards and replacing them with Dan Boyle, Lee Stempniak and ... Tanner Glass? Zoinks.

Don't know what you got till it's gone
Don't know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It's just this song
And it ain't easy to get back
Takes so long

OTTAWA SENATORS: "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)," Glass Tiger

Jason Spezza is now a Dallas Star. Weird, huh? First longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson moves on, then Spezza bails. Sounds like some woe is living in O-town.

Oh can this be true
If you could see what I have seen
Broken hearts and broken dreams
Then I wake up and you're not there
Pain finds me everywhere

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: "I Don't Care Anymore," Phil Collins

Are they even trying to be good? Something just doesn't feel right about this team.

Well, you can tell everyone I'm a down disgrace
Drag my name all over the place
I don't care anymore
You can tell everybody about the state I'm in
You won't catch me crying 'cause I just can't win
I don't care anymore, I don't care anymore

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: "Say You, Say Me," Lionel Richie

Sidney Crosby, you're good, you're special and, doggone it, people like you. You're great, you're really, really great. A shining star, truly. But, dude, you have one Stanley Cup. So, now you've got a new coach -- a new friend, of a sort -- who can show you how to win. And, if you somehow lead your team to the big prize, people will be dancing on the ceiling.

As we go down life's lonesome highway
Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two
A helping hand, someone who understands
That when you feel you've lost your way
You've got some one there to say I'll show you

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: "Sledgehammer," Peter Gabriel

Get ready, Bolts fans. This could be your year. GM Steve Yzerman has made some savvy moves in his relatively short tenure, stacking up on good defensemen in the offseason and re-signing Ryan Callahan. That, coupled with the return to health of super sniper Steven Stamkos and stonewall Ben Bishop mean these aren't your Chris Gratton-variety Lightning.

I've kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won't you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: "Land Of Confusion," Genesis

Dave Nonis decries the use of advanced stats in the NHL. Then, after new sheriff Brendan Shanahan rides into town, the Leafs hire a noted advanced-stats guru as the assistant GM. Who's in charge here again? How long will Nonis have a job? Is the captain staying or going? Is James Reimer the backup? So confusing.

There's too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can't you see
This is a land of confusion

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: "Turn Me Loose," Loverboy

Alex Ovechkin's summertime heartache aside, you know he wants to be turned loose by whomever his coach happens to be, and this season he's got Barry Trotz behind the bench. Will it happen? Will he be given the green light by yet another coach? And, if so, will he actually try while backchecking?

I was born to run
I was born to dream
The craziest boy you ever seen
I gotta do it my way
Or no way at all

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,!" "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,!"

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.

Troubled times
Caught between confusions and pain, pain, pain
Distant eyes
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

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.