NHL Goalie Equipment: Why It Needs To Stay Big—Not Smaller

If you were an NHL goalie would you want smaller equipment based upon how fast and hard players can shoot the puck, whether it’s a blazing slap shot, or a hard snap or wrist shot?
The talent level in today’s NHL is heads above what it was; not just many decades ago, but within the last 5 years. And along with that the talent and skill level of goalies has skyrocketed as well.
Going back to the question I asked in the first paragraph—would you want smaller equipment if you were in the NHL?
I would say they don’t want smaller equipment if they don’t want to be injured. The second reason they want to do this is the lack of scoring in today’s NHL. It’s entertainment value they’re looking at.
If they want more scoring they better have better snipers in today’s NHL. That’s all there is to it. It takes practice, practice, practice. If they aren’t willing to do that then the NHL will most likely have the major companies who produce goalie equipment, reduce the size of pads, chest protectors, arm pads and even the size of protective pants.
Ex-NHL player Nick Kypreos chimed in on this and talked about the glove, and when it was used as a catching glove. He talked about the goalies in the 70’s who actually used the glove to catch pucks. In today’s NHL it seems to be used as a blocker, like the blocker on the other hand. This I do agree with Kypreos on, but only on this.
I must reiterate what I said before, if you reduce the size of protective goalie equipment, you risk injury that much more because of the ability of players to shoot the puck well over 100 miles per hour, and very hard.
Here is what I think should be done with the goalie equipment. By the way if they reduce the size of goalie equipment for NHL goalies that the same will done for minor pro leagues, top junior leagues and every other league that major goalie equipment makers produce.
Here is what they should do with current goalie equipment. They should redesign the equipment so it’s not as bulky and more streamlined. Not make it smaller. The same level of protection needs to be kept.
That way you reduce the numbers of injuries.
The Pet Peeve Of NHL Goalie Equipment: The Size Of Pads
This has been a thorn in the side of players, NHL officials and every other person who’s against large and bulky goalie equipment which supposedly reduces the ability of players to get the puck past a goalie and into the net.
The size of actual goalie pads has decreased over the years and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA has lets face it, dictated that a cap on the width of a goalie pad. That width limit is 28 centimeters. Or for those in the USA, almost 12 inches.
That I don’t have an issue width. The pad width that is. Where I have an issue is the length of the goalie pad. Yes, I realize there is an actual knee pad they wear underneath the pad to protect against errant pucks making their way between the goalie pad and the knee. There has even been some controversy on the size of the internal knee pad being too big. But goalie pads need to be bulkier in the knee area for protection purposes. Or streamlined design wise. Not smaller height wise. A goalie can’t win in the NHL anymore.
Protection doesn’t seem to be the riding factor anymore. Entertainment value for the bucks fans shell out does. That’s all fine and good. But where the issue is, is having proper protection.
The Height Limit On Goalie Pads:
Here’s some more craziness, or lunacy set forth by the supposed brain trust of the NHL, limiting the height of goalie pads. Five years ago the NHL put into place a rule where the pads could only be 55 percent of the distance between the center of a goalie’s knee and their pelvis.
Basically a leg pad can go only halfway up the thigh, and that’s why I think you require more protection from goalie pants. The powers that be in the NHL don’t seem to understand the absolute necessity of total protection for goalies.
By the way the limit on the height of goalie pads was reduced another 10 percent, to 45 percent in the last two years. Pure nonsense.
And at times goalie pads and equipment have been measured by NHL officials at random. Almost like out of the blue audits by the tax man.
It’s almost like, ”Here I am NHL, come measure my equipment.”
Next, they’ll be measuring the length and width of a goalie mask and neck protector to see it falls within league measurements and parameters.
In ending, two things need to happen here. Players have to be better shooters. They shoot harder than ever, but can’t hit the open pockets of the net a goalie does not cover. That means practice, all the time.
This may be a bit of lunacy on my part, but why not have a coach for shooting? Why not?
As for the size of equipment, like I said it has to be redesigned and streamlined, and not made smaller.
I live in a city where one of the major manufacturers of NHL goalie equipment is, and I actually should do an interview with them, and find out their thoughts on all of this.
But one piece of equipment that needs reshaping and design is the goalie mitt, glove, what ever you want to call it, so goalies aren’t using it mainly as a blocker, and are actually catching pucks. One other thing as far as streamlining and redesigning goes, it will make it easier for mobility purposes if pads, chest protector and arm pads are redesigned as well.

I played goalie in minor hockey in the 70’s, and understand the need for protection even if the NHL wants to keep it’s head in the sand.

Which Teams to Watch Out For in the Playoffs

With the trade deadline approaching it is time for the teams hoping to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to try and acquire whichever pieces of their respective puzzles they need. Some teams need a backup goaltender. Some need a right shot defenceman or perhaps a second or third line center. There are always a variety of players available and when a team makes the right moves it could be the difference between hoisting the Stanley Cup and hoisting your golf bag. Here is a look at a few teams that could be sipping from Lord Stanley’s mug in June.
Washington Capitals
Starting with the best record in the league going into the trade deadline, the Washington Capitals are playing their best hockey in a decade. A lot of a team’s success can be attributed to their goaltender and Washington is no different. Braden Holtby is leading the league in wins, has a .924 save percentage and a 2.17 goals against average, all near the top of the league. Goaltending aside, the Capitals have the most prolific scorer in this generation in Alex Ovechkin. With 39 goals and more to come, Washington, on paper, has the offence and defence to go all the way. What has yet to be seen is if they have the heart and stamina that other teams like Chicago and Los Angeles have shown in recent years.
Vegas Odds: 13/4  Prediction: Lose in Stanley Cup final
New York Rangers
A lot of people are looking at the Florida Panthers as the number two in the Eastern Conference but I think they are still a little inexperienced in the playoffs. This is where the New York Rangers get the edge. They have the experience and depth to make a run in the playoffs. They will most likely make a play for an experienced forward and possibly another defenceman and coupled with arguably the best goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist they have a good chance to make it far into the playoffs.
Vegas Odds: 15/1  Prediction: Lose in Eastern Conference final
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings started the season a little slow but have come around as of late and are playing some good hockey.They are winning more consistently and find themselves four points clear of the Anaheim Ducks and five ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the extremely tough Pacific Division. Always a team to fear in the playoffs, Los Angeles still has their core of players that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. This core includes Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty who are all more than capable of bringing their ‘A’ game in the playoffs.
Vegas Odds: 10/1  Prediction: Lose in Western Conference final
Chicago Blackhawks
Last year’s Stanley Cup Champions look very similar to the Chicago Blackhawks of this year and that spells trouble to the rest of the teams that make the playoffs. One point behind division rival Dallas, the Blackhawks are firing on all cylinders. Although they don’t have much room to work with in terms of salary cap space they don’t have a lot of holes to fill in their roster. In fact they were in a similar situation last year and they found a way to win with the team that Stan Bowman built and that Joel Quenneville coaches. They have a tremendous amount of depth players to compliment their talented core players like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin and with Corey Crawford playing great and now the addition of two-time champion Andrew Ladd, there is no stopping the Blackhawks. Oh yeah, and Patrick Kane is lighting up the NHL right now.

Vegas Odds: 13/2  Prediction: Win Stanley Cup

NHL Expansion

Las Vegas and Quebec City
Which will get an NHL franchise if any?
But Seattle was also a contender I thought would make a better candidate for the NHL, and have more hockey fans dedicated to a team as well. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
The two front runners seem to be Quebec City and Las Vegas. I am making a prediction that Vegas gets it before anyone.
The first three important aspects of expansion are—will the owners own the arena, who owns the team and can they support it financially along with the demographics of the city, state or province that they want to expand in. This excerpt I took from an interview with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly who was on Sportsnet.
There are two cities as I said; really in the running for NHL expansion, Las Vegas and Quebec City. But ask yourself, why aren’t there any 4 major pro sports teams in the city of Las Vegas, despite it being the
epicenter for sports betting and sports books.
The NHL seems to think that it will persuade sports fans to become fans of hockey and watch the NHL, when that’s far from the truth. They’re looking more for market share. They already went into a number of US based markets and faltered money wise—like Phoenix and other markets such as Florida, Carolina, Nashville and Columbus thinking any market is a good hockey market, as long as the owners have mega bucks, and can get an initial season’s ticket base to satisfy the NHL governors, which consist of the owners of the top teams in the NHL, and the NHL executive committee.
One of the main aspects of applying to become the owner of an NHL franchise is giving actual statistical proof the team and business will be profitable. Not just can be. And they have to have a long term vision for the team and the community that actually will work. The governors will always have the final say, not Gary Bettman or Bill Daly who are the NHL Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner respectively.
Does Vegas And Quebec have the numbers to actually be profitable?
Las Vegas has major tourism and gambling, and casinos are the biggest employer in the area. And sports is big amateur and minor pro wise, but not one of the 4 major pro sports has an actual team in Vegas.
Now, as far as Quebec City goes, it’s hockey crazy, but doesn’t necessarily have the population base to support a team. Where as Vegas might, I said might be able to. Gambling on hockey is a tough game handicapping wise, and NHL players gambling in Vegas could be an issue as well as outcome of games being influenced by sports books, or criminals.
The Canadian Dollar’s Major Drop A Big Problem For Canadian and US Teams?  
One other big issue looming over all this is the Canadian Dollar. I looked at what the Canadian dollar is worth today. It’s 74 cents US. That costs Canadian teams more to operate and contribute less to league revenues as well. Players are paid in US dollars for the most part, and an even bigger fee was the team expansion fee of approximately 500 million dollars;which in Canadian dollars is $678, 210, 000.00
That’s 678 million 210 thousand guys.
If you’re canadian like myself you’re thinking you’re getting more money because of the exchange rate. You are, but all that money has to be turned over into US dollars, which leaves very little to play with and actually make a profit with. If you could pay your players in Canadian dollars and make a lot of money through other sources—such as ticket sales, events, concessions, team merch and so on to pay for all this, and come out ahead financially would do a lot to alleviate some of those money woes possibly.
I didn’t say being an NHL owner was a bed of roses awash in cash.
One of the only positive’s out of all this is, Quebec City has an arena in place already, and if the did not would result in many 100’s of millions more to pay out.
This all sounds very depressing but that’s the cost of owning a major pro sports franchise even if you’re a billionaire. There is only so much money to be spread around.
Before I leave this subject, chances are the American teams making the most will be propping up not just Canadian teams because of the weak Canadian dollar, but further expansion into Las Vegas or Seattle could mean further diminishing of league revenues. Especially if major teams aren’t in the black. Like I’ve said in other articles I’ve written on league revenues, what if there were no lucrative TV contracts?
Chances are there would not be any expansion.
There are many variables as to whether a market is successful in getting a team. This includes territorial issues for Quebec. If they actually are successful, that is Quebecor—the company which is a huge media and communications conglomerate, in getting a team will most likely have to pay out fees called Indemnity fees. All that is is just a fee for invading someone’s territory. That team being the Montreal Canadiens.
Th same would happen if there was another team in the Toronto area. An indemnity fee to the Toronto Maple Leafs of many 10’s of millions. If not 100 million. I think that competition is good. What? Has no one heard of competition?
It’s done in all kinds of industry. Yet the NHL is worried about their cash cows being slaughtered. I think it’s a form of corporate welfare.
There are many variables in applying to become an NHL owner beyond being a billionaire. I think they’ll go into Vegas before Quebec which will take longer in the process. As well, a market entrenched already as a hockey mecca would do well, even if the population base is smaller and dedicated.
The NHL seems hell bent on convincing non-hockey towns to conform to becoming NHL fans.
Both Bettman and Daly said that the talent pool in the NHL is better than ever, but I know enough to know if you keep on expanding you’ll water down that talent pool eventually.
NHL expansion has to be very carefully done, because Phoenix didn’t fare so well, and one of the only reasons it’s still there is the cash infusion the owners received from the NHL to the owner Jerry Reinsdorf if I’m correct.
I love NHL hockey and grew up playing ice hockey in a small town in Canada. Whether or not Vegas or Quebec City gets an NHL franchise remains to be seen, and if it’s profitable.
Profitability is more important than aligning the divisions with a new franchise and having symmetry number wise in each division, for regular season games, and playoff rivalries. There is also the issue of revenue sharing which gets sliced even further—and if a team loses money that negatively impacts the whole NHL.
In the end successfully bidding and ultimately acquiring an NHL franchise doesn’t guarantee a thing.
But being in a hockey based community that can support ticket sales and make the team and community prosper will have a greater effect on society, and the NHL.
Would have been interesting to hear from an actual Vegas Sports book on how viable they think the NHL in coming to Las Vegas would be.

We’ll see in the coming months.

Trade Bait: 8 Players Potentially On The Move

The trade deadline is only a couple days away and fans of all teams are on the edge of their seats. There’s teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets that will be huge sellers. There will be plenty of contending teams looking to land some rentals and push themselves over the top to make a deep Stanley Cup run. We’ll be taking a look at the top 8 player’s available going into the deadline.
Eric Staal
This isn’t the old Eric Staal, but he can still be a very effective player on the right team. The price may be steep, but he would help teams such as Nashville and the New York Rangers greatly.  I can also see Anaheim having some interest as he’s a big body and some more scoring depth.
Potential landing spots: Nashville, New York Rangers, Anaheim
Mikkel Boedker
With the Coyotes and Boedker seemingly not being able to get a deal done, all signs point to him being traded by the deadline. He’s a young, quality forward that could fit on a contending team’s second line. I see the Los Angeles Kings as clear front runners for Boedker, with Gaborik out with an injury.
Potential landing spots: LA Kings
Dan Hamhuis
Hamhuis has a no trade clause in Vancouver, but it is expected he will waive to a contending team. There was speculation about his abilities earlier in the year, but he just came back from an injury and has looked quite good. There will be a lot of offers for Hamhuis but I can only see him waiving to a true contender. It has been speculated that there’s lots of interest from the Blackhawks, but I can see Pittsburgh making an offer as well.
Potential landing spots: Chicago and Pittsburgh
Loui Eriksson
Loui is flying under the radar as a potential player on the move. He’s a very skilled forward that can play up and down a line-up. The price shouldn’t be all that steep, and he could put one of the contenders over the top to help on a Cup run. I see Anaheim and Los Angeles having great interest.
Potential landing spots:  Anaheim and LA
Radim Vrbata
It has been a rather underwhelming year for Radim Vrbata in Vancouver. The price won’t be high because of his lackluster play, but he’s still a very useful player. He could slide onto a second line right wing position on the majority of NHL clubs. I’d be shocked if Vrbata was still a Canuck by the end of the deadline. I can see the Blues being interested in him.
Potential landing spots:  St Louis
Kris Russell
Russell is a reliable defenceman that will be a cheaper alternative than Dan Hamhuis for a lot of teams. I expect Pittsburgh to be the front runners, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the New York Rangers were interested.
Potential landing spots: Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers
Jonathan Drouin
Drouin is the only player who isn’t an unrestricted free agent on my list. I expect him to move by the deadline and go to a Canadian market.  Montreal has some pieces to offer for Drouin, and he would help their offensive problems going forward. I can see Vancouver and Toronto having interest, but I don’t believe either of them have the right assets to offer.
Potential landing spots: Montreal, Vancouver + Toronto (?)
Jiri Hudler
Hudler has had an abysmal year in Calgary. The Flames will be shipping him out and could fetch a decent return. I would expect Detroit and Florida to be interested. Detroit could use him greatly during the playoffs, while his experience would be of great use in Florida with all those kids. Maybe it would give Jagr a bit of a break.
Potential landing spots: Detroit and Florida

I hope you enjoyed the read, Christmas is only a couple days away.

How To Get Your Dream Job In The NHL Even if You’re Not A Hockey Player

Most hockey players won’t make a career in the NHL, minor pro leagues or even the OHL or college hockey. But a lot of hockey players or rabid NHL fans don’t realize that things are changing job wise
for people in today’s society, and they want a dream job, not a regular job at a factory, office or physical labor position, or even being in business.
Mind you if you do have a regular job you need to keep a steady paycheck while striving for your NHL dream job. It’s all about doing something you love, enjoy and understand to boot.
What are most of us when we watch our favorite NHL team?
Armchair quarterbacks so to speak. We seem to think we’re better scouts, GM’s and referee’s for that matter. Yes,  I do it all the time while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals.
Think about this for a while though. The wife says to stop wasting your time watching the NHL and not making money,  and wasting money on NHL team merchandise, tickets and going on bus trips to see the leafs. The wife is kinda’ right about spending money and not making any money watching hockey.
But how can you make money working in the NHL, or for the NHL in some capacity doing what you love, or even a business that caters to NHL teams?
Believe me there are ways to make money in the NHL. I’m not kidding.
Years ago I found a website that helps pro hockey players, amateur hockey players or just rabid hockey fans or hockey writers like myself, become scouts, agents, media and even hockey General Managers.
They offer comprehensive courses in these areas along with some of the top GM’s and agents who actually endorse these courses. For those who know Brian Burke who was the GM of the Toronto Leafs, he endorses the hockey and GM course. As well, Harry Sinden who was the the GM of the Boston Bruins endorses this course.
Along with this both Burke and Sinden actually chat with students online in seminars to teach students the tricks of the trade involving GM and Scouting duties. I realize all us rabid hockey fans see is the player deals or issues with regarding player salaries or things they do wrong.
The Hockey GM and Scouting course deals with everyday administrative and sales duties that delve into ticket sales, team merch, alcohol and beverage sales and event planning. So there is more to it than people think. And it helps you become a sales professional as well.
But you don’t have to necessarily become a GM, because frankly it seems rather boring, and I know it would pay a lot more. But wouldn’t you rather do something interesting and be a scout involved in the analysis of players, and eventual recruitment of players who become players on a team you scout for?
I thought so.
I know I haven’t told you the name of the site yet, but I wanted to actually tell you what it’s about.
That way you can make an intelligent decision. There are many scouts who give testimonials on this
course. You cannot just be a scout and GM in the NHL—but the AHL—which is the last step before
the NHL. Or you can become a scout in the Ontario Hockey League(OHL) or other minor pro leagues
or even junior leagues and college hockey teams.
Okay, the name of the company that runs this course is Sports Management Worldwide. It is run by Lynn Lashbrook who owns SMWW, and is an agent himself.
This looks like a great course, and I plan on taking the Hockey GM and Scout course.
Why continue just watching hockey at night and just making the wifey mad while you waste your nights watching games played by players who make a million dollars or more a year, when you can
get a cut of the action—doing something you love—as a scout or GM,  and make some cash as a scout
analyzing players.
Get started with a dream job you’ll love doing on the side, and make the wife happy, and make your friends envious who are rabid hockey fans like you. You might make a hockey fan and scout out of the wife.
You don’t have to be a genius to do this. And you’ll be spending your time productively in the world of hockey.
PS: You’ll see the top scouts and GM’s involved in the course as soon as you click the link above to the sports management worldwide course. They help you every step of the way see if you’re better to suited to being a GM, or Scout.
That’s how dedicated they are to helping people get their dream jobs in NHL or hockey in general.

Much success with your dream job in the NHL.

Sega NHL 94. I Love You!

How does one fall in love? If the object of your affection is the sport of hockey, there are many ways. For me, it started on the floor of a dorm room in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just me, my roommates, a 12-pack of Natural Light — and NHL ‘94. The greatest video game in the history of video games.
I’ll come clean, for the majority of my young life, I watched the great sport of hockey in a manner that most puckheads will hate. Growing up in Los Angeles, I barely paid attention unless my dad was bringing me to the Fabulous Forum. Shout out to the old Forum Club and their wicked strong drinks.
Of course that started to change when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings in 1988. After that, hockey was pushed into a different stratosphere on the West Coast. Still it didn’t capture my imagination until I went to college.
My first year at Michigan, a great way to bond with the roommates was to play sports video games and talk some trash. No, it wasn’t like the famous scene in Swingers. It was far more foul mouthed, and drunk. I had a Sega, and for no particular reason, I bought NHL ‘94 and flipped it on one fall morning. I didn’t go to class for 3 days.
This game became one of the hallmarks of my college existence, and like many, exposed me deep into the NHL and it’s players for the first time. Despite being an LA native, I lived, breathed, fought, and died with the Chicago Blackhawks in NHL ‘94. What Bo Jackson did for football video gaming in Tecmo Bowl, Jeremy Roenick did for hockey. In my agile thumbs, Roenick was unstoppable. At one point in the winter of 1995, the “Roenick wraparound” was outlawed in all ‘bet gameplay’. For those who aren’t quite familiar, there was a flaw in the game where players of certain speed and skill could essentially skate in a circle around the goal and on the backhand — score every time. This was my genius, my nirvana. The guaranteed equalizer. But if there was a bet on the line, the “Roenick wraparound” was outlawed. What were the bets? Typically it was beer — loser buys. There were a few more …ummm… colorful bets. Loser runs naked through the dorm. You get the picture.
I knew every line for almost every team, three deep. Only video games would force a young man to commit to memory the checking line of the Detroit Red wings: Keith Primeau, Bob Probert, Ray Sheppard.  My roommate, a diehard Red Wings fan, had a strange fetish for the New York Rangers and … Alexei Kovalev. Like Rocky on top of a Russian mountain, he would scream “KOVALEV!!!” at the top of his lungs when he would light the lamp. Both he and his Russian foil were worthy opponents.

Alas, my gaming days are now over. I’ve played the XBOX, the PS4, and even the ColecoVison. It will never get better than the Sega Genesis and that one game. No, THE game. NHL ‘94. I love you.

Why the Toronto Maple Leafs need to promote their top AHL prospects

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be hurting the development of their top young prospects if they don’t promote any of them from the Toronto Marlies AHL farm team this season. So far the Leafs have brought up players from the Marlies on an emergency injury basis to fill in when regulars have been sidelined and the majority of these have been journeymen such as Rich Clune and Bryan Froese. The Leafs do have some talented youngsters down the road at Ricoh Coliseum including forwards William Nylander and Connor Brown, but both were out of action at times this campaign with injuries.

The Leafs have been struggling as usual this season, but the Marlies have been a pleasant surprise and as of February 20thwere leading the North Division and the entire league with an impressive record of 39-9-4. The team’s 82 points gave them a 14-point lead on their closest rivals, the Atlantic Division-leading Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. The 19-year-old Nylander was one of the league’s top scorers before suffering a concussion at the World Junior Championships. Nylander posted 32 points in 37 games with the Marlies last season and the centre has 42 in 33 contests in 2015/16.

Brown is a 22-year-old right-winger who racked up 61 points in 76 contests with the Marlies last year and has 13 points in 17 outings this season after returning from injury. Nylander and Brown are seen as key figures in the Leafs’ future and there are some other fine prospects with the Marlies including Kasperi Kapanen, Tobias Lindberg, Brendan Leipsic, Nikita Shoshnikov, Josh Leivo, Jeremy Morin, Stuart Percy and T.J. Brennan. Leivo, Brennan and Percy have all played a handful of NHL contests, but when the Leafs have called up players from the AHL this season, they have been players who have already made their NHL debuts.

The only exceptions this season were goaltender Garrett Sparks; forward Leipsic and defenceman Viktor Loov. Sparks ended up recording a shutout in his first NHL outing and played a few games before he was injured. Leipsic scored in his debut and was then sent back to the Marlies and Loov earned an assist in his first game. All three layers were called up as emergency replacements though. If the Leafs hope to develop their youngsters they need to give them a taste of NHL life this season before it’s too late. Once the trade deadline passes on February 29, each club is allowed just four recalls until the end of the year.

Young prospects need to be given a few games in the NHL so they know what to expect next season. These players need to know what they’re up against when it comes to the speed, skill, strength, and experience of seasoned NHL veterans. They also need to get used to the travelling, practices and lifestyle. What better way to motivate a player than to give him a taste of the highlife before sending him back to ride the buses in the AHL? Once a youngster knows the first-class treatment he’ll receive in the NHL, he’ll work that much harder to make sure he makes it at soon as possible.   

If the Leafs don’t bring up any of their prospects this season they’ll be taking a step backwards by starting at square one in 2016/17. Everything will be new to them next campaign and they’ll have to get their feet wet, which will take time. These players need to know what to expect once training camp starts and they’ll hit the ice running if they already have a few NHL contests under their belt. 

By throwing several rookies on the ice next season with no NHL experience whatsoever will be a step backwards. The proper way to develop possible future stars is to let them experience it for themselves as it will motivate them to aim their goals higher.

Sidney Crosby and The Penguins That We Remember

Well it took a few months but the Pittsburgh Penguins are finally playing like the team they were built to be. The Penguins have been on a tear as of late, going 7-2-1 in their last ten games which puts them alongside the elite teams of the Eastern Conference, such as the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. They also slid into the last wild card spot in the east. A lot of this has to do with the play of their points leader, captain and heart of the team, Sidney Crosby.
Sidney Crosby, the hottest player in the league right now, is finally playing like the Crosby we all remember. A few games ago he had a hat trick followed by two goals and two assists for a four point night. He also just had a career-high seven game goal scoring streak and has climbed to sixth in the league in points with 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points. He also recently became the 10th fastest player to reach 900 points in the NHL. This is a list that includes names like Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux and obviously Wayne Gretzky. This list is comprised of great players, but players that played in an era where scoring goals came a lot easier than in Crosby’s era. This makes Crosby’s achievements even more remarkable.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were built 10 years ago with one of the strongest groups of core players since the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s. The standard that great teams have used to win the Stanley Cup is a goaltender, a great secondary scoring forward and a center-man. They got their goaltender in Marc-André Fleury and they got their big, high-scoring forward in Evgeni Malkin. The final piece of the puzzle was Sidney Crosby. He is the Penguins’ leader, center-man, playmaker and difference maker. The management of the Penguins have done a great job surrounding Crosby, Malkin and Fleury with players that compliment their superstars. Players like Kris Letang and Phil Kessel that are realizing that playing with Crosby is very easy when you just let him control the game like only he can.
The coaching change has been very good to Crosby’s game as well. New coach Mike Sullivan has given Crosby and the rest of the team more freedom to play a faster, higher scoring style of play, and it is paying off. By giving the team free reign of the offence and trusting the goaltending and defence, Pittsburgh is playing its best hockey of the season and looking like the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2008-2009.

A lot of us forgot about Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first half of the season. It was easy to get sidetracked from this storyline because of other narratives such as the Washington Capitals, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane. Now, it is going to be fun to watch Crosby and the Penguins for the rest of the season. The best player in his generation and the team he captains is back where they belong: on the front page.

Metropolitan Division 2015-16

·         Washington Capitals      
o   88 Points Overall
o   1st place in Metropolitan Division
o   1st place in Eastern Conference
o   1st place in NHL
o   Goals For: 187
o   Goals Against: 128
Key Acquisitions: Making perhaps the biggest move of the offseason, the Caps were able to pick up a couple of natural and proven goal scorers. TJ Oshie is fitting in nicely with more offensive talent around him. He currently sits at 16 goals and 18 assists. Justin Williams, who comes over from the Los Angeles Kings is having a very productive year himself. He sits at 19 goals and 22 assists.
Helping the Star Power: Perhaps the greatest scorer of the generation, defenses will always put stress into covering Alex Ovechkin. While he goes against the top defensive pairings night in and night out, the captain has the brass around him to flourish no matter what. Evgeny Kuznetsov (58 points) and Nicklas Backstrom (54 points) lead the way for the highest scoring team in the league.
Vezina Bound? : Braden Holtby is shining behind the league’s best offense. He boasts the best record in the league by far at 36-6-3. He is far away ahead of the pack for the title of “best goalie” in the game.

·         New York Rangers
o   70 Points Overall
o   2nd place in Metropolitan Division
o   3rd place in Eastern Conference
o   6th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 163
o   Goals Against: 143
Blueline Stability: Captain Ryan McDonagh is back in the lineup tonight, and in perfect timing as the Blackhawks roll into Madison Square Garden. The young defenseman returns after missing 4 games from a concussion suffered against friendly rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Born in the USA: Wearing the Red, White, and Blue of the Rangers are a number of players who are familiar with the colors. McDonagh is joined by Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Derek Stepan, and Keith Yandle as American born players. The Rangers are relying heavily on these players in all assets of the game, even leadership. As mentioned earlier, McDonagh wears the ‘C’ on his chest, as well as Derek Stepan bearing an ‘A’ on his jersey.
Where did he go? : Rick Nash has played 45 games this season, with only 12 goals to show for it. Of all the talent on this roster, I would not have picked Mats Zuccarello or Derek Brassard to be leading the way in point totals. I also would not have assumed Nash to be where he is at this point of the year.

·         New York Islanders
o   62 Points Overall
o   3rd place in Metropolitan Division
o   6th place in Eastern Conference
o   10th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 161
o   Goals Against: 141
Nothing more Sacred than the Home Barn: This season is the inaugural year for the Islanders calling the Barclays Center “home.” The Brooklyn Stadium is the newly opened home to the Brooklyn Nets as well. I can’t say I’ve ever been there in person, but from just watching on TV, it doesn’t feel right, personally speaking. Having a car on display in the corner behind the net? Why isn’t the scoreboard centered over the middle of the ice? It is literally over top of one of the bluelines. Behind the net where the car sits, there are no glass seats. It just seems to be a cosmetic tragedy for the average hockey fan in my eyes.
Unquestioned Leader:  Captain John Tavares leads the way for the Isles in points scored and is tied with Brock Nelson for goals scored. However, he was in the race for the Art Ross Trophy last season against Jamie Benn, which came down to literally the last 10 seconds of the season for Dallas. Tavares is not taking last year’s form, but still does lead this team. In hindsight, last season’s stats are definitely a lofty goal to repeat.
Bolstered Back End: I really enjoy, personally, keeping tabs on the young defensemen that the Islanders boast. Nick Leddy was one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire league, coming over from Chicago. He has such a smooth stride and is a great puck mover. He makes skating the puck up and down the ice look effortless. Behind Leddy, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey are in the middle of their prime. They aren’t blowing anyone away with offensive production, but both young defenders are in the green in the plus-minus department.

·         Pittsburgh Penguins
o   64 Points Overall
o   4th place in Metropolitan Division
o   7th place in Eastern Conference
o   13h place in NHL
o   Goals For: 148
o   Goals Against: 144
Points and PIMS: Who leads the team in Penalty Minutes? Evgeni Malkin…that’s right, Evgeni Malkin. While trailing only Sidney Crosby in points, Malkin leads the way for the Penguins with 57 minutes spent in the sin bin. We have become accustomed to guys like the Matt Cooke’s of yesteryear holding that title, but never Geno. The game must be changing.
Back to Form: We all know that Sidney Crosby didn’t have the start we expected. Real quickly, let us have a moment of silence for a good number of fantasy hockey players….Thank you. Recently, the Pens captain has been on the rise, now leading his team in goals and points, with 25 and 30, respectively. Despite the unfortunate start to the season, it’s all about how you finish. Ask Montreal. Sid is now currently averaging 1 point per game, on the dot.   
On the Money: With a roster filled with talent, goals are expected in large quantities from Pittsburgh. Accuracy has proved key, as the Pens have 8 players who are scoring at least one goal out of every ten shots they take.

·         New Jersey Devils
o   65 Points Overall
o   5th place in Metropolitan Division
o   9th place in Eastern Conference
o   15th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 130
o   Goals Against: 136
Snake-bit: Four of the top nine offensive leaders for the Devils are…defensemen. After Lee Stempniak, Michael Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac, there is a dramatic drop off in offensive success. And even those five leaders aren’t scoring at will.
Next in Line:  Cory Schneider is by no means having a Martin Brodeur worthy season. However, he does have his team in decent position to stay right in the thick of things until the end. With the kind of help he is getting from the offense, he has no choice but to stay on top of his game. His record is currently 25-17-6 with a 2.04 GAA.
Finding the right fit: The Devils are having a rough time finding the consistently correct pieces to the puzzle. Players like Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher, Tuomo Ruutu, Jim O’Brien, and Seth Helgeson have all had a crack at finding their spot in the lineup. However, none of them have separated themselves from the pack and solidified their position.

·         Carolina Hurricanes
o   62 Points Overall
o   6th place in Metropolitan Division
o   10th place in Eastern Conference
o   16th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 141
o   Goals Against: 154
End of an Era: After 12 season with the Canes, I believe it is time for Carolina to cut ties with Eric Staal. It was a good run, capped off by a Stanley Cup in 2006. Staal is not putting up numbers like he used to, which is an obvious punishment from Father Time. The Trade Deadline is about a week and a half away, and I would personally say that it’s time. Look to guys like his brother Jordan to lead short-term, and guys like Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk long-term. That process has already begun, but the Canes need to get what they can for Staal now, before it’s too late.
Best young defenseman in the game? :Probably my favorite defenseman in the game currently, along with Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers and John Klingberg of the Stars. There is no better quarterback on the Power Play than young Justin Faulk. He is a deadly offensive weapon who can make plays happen from about anywhere. He currently sits 2nd in points for the Canes with 34.
Mess in the Crease: Similar to that of the Dallas Stars with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the Canes have gone with a 1A and 1B in net with Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. Neither have been much to envy this season. Ward, at 16-11-7, is in the same boat as Eric Staal. They aren’t too old whatsoever, both at 31 years of age. However, what they have now is not working. Mentioned above, the Canes ought to consider letting them go and seeing what they can get before their value plummets beyond return. Let Eddie Lack have his shot at #1.
·         Philadelphia Flyers
o   60 Points Overall
o   7th place in Atlantic Division
o   11th place in Eastern Conference
o   19th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 137
o   Goals Against: 151
Just what the doctor ordered: The aforementioned Shayne Gostisbehere has injected energy into a previously disappointing season for Philadelphia. The Flyers may have dug themselves into too deep of a hole, as far as playoff hopes are considered. However, looking towards the future, the Flyers have their next big thing. Gostisbehere has played 38 games, and has 32 points. 
Familiar Territory: Shockingly enough, the Broad Street Bullies have familiarized themselves with, you guessed it, the penalty box. They Flyers have three players with over 80 Penalty Minutes this season with Radko Gudas, 86, and Ryan White, 81. Wayne Simmonds takes the cake with 117 minutes to think about what he has done.  
Day In, Day Out: The top three scorers for the Flyers, Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds, have shown up day after day, having yet to miss a game. That health is not something many teams can brag about, especially coming from their most vital players.   

·         Columbus Blue Jackets
o   53 Points Overall
o   8th place in Metropolitan Division
o   15th place in Eastern Conference
o   28th place in NHL
o   Goals For: 149
o   Goals Against: 180
Off-Seasons win Championships: While a championship is well out of the question, the Blue Jackets’ offseason was a memorable one. Acquiring one of the hottest names on the market, Brandon Saad came to Columbus with lofty expectations. He had just came with a Stanley Cup ring from Chicago. He had to be an offensive genius, right? With no great players to put around him, the Jackets are just as bad as they have been in recent years. Saad’s play has suffered as well, sitting at third in points with 37. Adding insult to injury, despite the less-than-stellar season, Saad is still the only 20 goal scorer so far for CBJ.
Money Makes the World Go ‘Round: It’s going down the drain, in the form of David Clarkson. I understand he has been injured, but in the 18 games he has played, he has only 2 points. Lest you forget, he will be making $5,250,000 over the next five years, until his contract is up in 2020.

Johansen-Jones Trade: Who won? I think it is too early to say, but he is a key piece of the offense that just went to Nashville. Bring in Seth Jones. Highly regarded in the 2013 Draft, he went 4th overall to the Predators. He hasn’t been noticed as much as many thought he would be. As a defenseman, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He just hasn’t stuck out. Time will tell who will be the winner in this one.  

Florida Panthers on the Prowl

Before the 2015 NHL season began, most hockey pundits predicted the Florida Panthers to merely compete for a playoff spot. Instead, they are fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic division. As of February 19, 2016, the Panthers sit atop their division with 73 points, five more than the second place Boston Bruins. How did a team that has made the playoffs only twice since 2000 suddenly surge to the top of the standings?

            The rise of the Florida Panthers began in 2010 when the team hired Dale Tallon as General Manager. Tallon had been instrumental in constructing the Chicago Blackhawks’ dynasty and was given the keys to rebuild the Panthers. Over the next few years, Tallon was able to infuse the team with new talent through the draft, trades and free agency. The team features players of all ages and backgrounds, but they have come together better than anyone could have expected.

            The Cats are led by the ageless Jaromir Jagr. Still highly effective at age 44, he leads the team in goals and points. Jagr was acquired in February 2015 for two draft picks, and he has turned into a steal. Another veteran carrying the load for the squad is Jussi Jokinen. Signed as a free agent in 2014, the 32 year old is second on the team in assists and third in points.

            While the team has its share of old timers, the roster is full of young talent drafted by the organization. The team currently has eight players drafted by Tallon, all under the age of 25, which are making a significant impact. Jonathan Huberdeau, the 3rd overall pick in 2011, is leading the team in assists and is second in points. Vincent Trochek, Aleksander Barkov and several other forwards have built the Panthers into a very balanced lineup. The last youngster to mention might very well be the best. Aaron Ekblad, the top pick in the 2014 draft, won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. The defenseman is not only strong in his own end of the rink, but also is a significant contributor on the offensive side of the ice.

            The final component of this surprise team is the stellar goaltending of Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya. Luongo, one of the league leaders in save percentage, is in his second stint with the Panthers after a period in Vancouver. Tallon acquired Luongo in March 2014 via trade, and the goalie has been a revelation ever since. Montoya, Luongo’s backup, has posted an impressive 1.91 Goals Against Average so far this season and gives the team two solid goaltenders to rely on. The team is definitely greater than the sum of its parts and has a chance to surprise the hockey world this season.