End of an era for Detroit Red Wings

It’s the end of an era for the Detroit Red Wings as the club’s 25-year playoff streak will come to an end this season and the team will play its last ever game at the Joe Louis Arena on April 9th. The postseason streak began in the 1990/91 campaign and is the third-longest in NHL and pro-sports history. The Boston Bruins posted the longest streak of 29 seasons from 1967/68 to 1995/96 while the Chicago Blackhawks went 28 seasons from 1969/70 to 1996/97 and the St. Louis Blues enjoyed a 25-season run of their own from 1979/80 to 2003/04.
The Red Wings won four Stanley Cups during their streak, which took place over a quarter of a century while playing at the Joe Louis Arena. However, the rink which opened in 1979 will be demolished later in 2017 after the Wings’ new home, Little Caesars Arena, opens in September. The new rink will also be the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. The Red Wings and Detroit fans will get the chance to say their final goodbyes to Joe Louis Arena with a game against the New Jersey Devils on the final day of the 2016/17 season.
Since the Red Wings streak began, there have been a total of four work stoppages in the NHL, plenty of rule changes, the introduction of a salary cap, five different U.S. presidential administrations, and the Soviet Union still existed. In addition, former NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning was just starting high school. Unfortunately, franchise owner Mike Ilitch, who was also the founder of Little Caesars Pizza and owner of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers, passed away earlier this year as the streak was about to end.
The Red Wings have had five head coaches during the streak along with three different team captains and general managers. The Wings have been so good during that stretch that they haven’t had a top-10 draft pick since 1991. The club was cup contenders for so long due to the emergence of draft picks such as Hall of Famers Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov and smart deals and free-agent signings including Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan. Stanley Cups were won in 1996/97, 1997/97, 2001/02 and 2007/08.
The first cup win of the streak ended the team’s 42-year drought without a championship. The 2002 cup-winning squad was one of the strongest in league history as it featured 10 Hall of Famers, with Pavel Datsyuk likely making it 11 in the future. Ilitch was a free spender in the early years of the streak and paid millions of dollars for top-name players, but the Red Wings also made the playoffs for the first 11 seasons after the salary cap was introduced after the 2004/05 lockout. They’re the only franchise to reach the postseason every year since the salary cap came in, until this year that is.

The end of the streak isn’t a complete disaster for the Red Wings. Fans may have seen it coming since the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the past three seasons, but they’ll now start to rebuild with this summer’s draft. Detroit may finish in last place in the Eastern Conference this season for a higher draft pick and also made several deals at the trade deadline for prospects and draft choices. And who knows, a brand new 25-season streak may begin later this year when the Red Wings christen Little Caesars Arena.

The clock is ticking on the Arizona Coyotes

It appears the sands of time are running out on the Arizona Coyotes. The desert sand that is, as the NHL franchise may soon be saying adios to the city of Glendale and the state of Arizona. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has tried to keep the team in Arizona for about a decade now, but even he admits it may be time to relocate. Bettman and the Coyotes want a new arena in Phoenix for the club to play in, but they want taxpayers to fund it. Without a new rink, they’re threatening to leave the city.
The Coyotes currently play in Glendale, which is a city of about a quarter of a million people and approximately 10 miles from Phoenix. The NBA’s Suns currently play in Phoenix and the NFL’s Cardinals play in Glendale and neither team seems to have a problem drawing fans. However, the Coyotes are having a hard time convincing people to drive the half hour from Phoenix to Gila River Arena to see them play.
The rink is relatively new as it opened in 2003 and holds 17,125 fans for hockey. The current lease between the NHL team and the arena allows the club to leave after the 2017/18 season and it appears it may exercise that option. Fans living in Phoenix can’t just walk to the rink like they do in Toronto, Montreal and New York City, etc, and there isn’t a very good transit system in place to take them there. Of course not all Coyotes fans live in Phoenix though, meaning out-of-towners have a longer drive to attend games and moving the club to Phoenix won’t solve this.
Bettman has said the franchise won’t stay in Glendale and is hoping for a satisfactory outcome to the situation via Senate Bill 1149. This bill would provide the Coyotes with $225 million of public money for a new rink in Phoenix or the East Valley area. Of course, the local government doesn’t see the need to build a new arena just 12 miles away from a rink that’s just 14 years old in Glendale. The NHL says the Coyotes are losing tons of money each year playing in Glendale, but politicians blame that on the fact the team has made the playoffs just three times in the past 11 years.
The Coyotes used to play in Phoenix for just over seven years and attracted fewer fans than they did when they first moved to Glendale though, so taxpayers don’t see what will change if the team moves back to Phoenix. The local government used to provide the Coyotes with $15 million a year in an arena-management agreement, but that ended in 2015 and it seems the franchise misses that cash injection. The Suns NBA team doesn’t want to share a rink with the NHL team though, so Bettman may have no choice but to pull the Coyotes out of Arizona.

It’s doubtful taxpayers will be asked by the government to fork over money for another arena in the area, so unless somebody has a change of heart or comes up with another solution it could be lights out for the Coyotes. Of course, the NHL shouldn’t have a problem finding another city to relocate to as Seattle, Portland and Quebec are all reportedly interested in a franchise, whether it’s an existing one or an expansion team.

Veteran goalies grab the latest NHL headlines

Veteran NHL goaltenders took over the spotlight between March 2nd and 11th as several of them set new milestones. Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets posted his third consecutive shutout on March 7th by stopping 33 shots in a 2-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Russian netminder also shut the Devils out 3-0 two days earlier when he stopped all 20 shots he faced. That was his second straight shutout as Bobrovsky began his streak on March 2nd when he made 38 saves in a 1-0 whitewashing of the Minnesota Wild.
Following the March 7th win over the Devils, the 28-year-old Bobrovsky had gone five straight games allowing two or less goals. He then came back to earth on March 10th with a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, but still managed to post his fourth straight win by stopping 29 of 32 shots. His last loss in regulation time came back on February 19th, a streak of six games. Heading into the week of March 14th, Bobrovsky had a 36-13-4 record with a goals-against-average of 2.07, a 93.0 save percentage and six shutouts.
New York Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist made the headlines as he won his 404th career game to move past Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr and into 10th spot on the all-time wins list. Lundqvist achieved the milestone on March 7th in a 5-2 road win over the Florida Panthers. The 35-year-old Swedish native stopped 43 shots to win his 30th game of the season. It was the 11thtime Lundqvist has posted at least 30 wins in a season and no other goalie in NHL history has managed to win 404 games in his first 12 campaigns and win 30 games in 11 of their first dozen seasons.
The only season Lundqvist failed to record 30 wins was in 2012/13 when the NHL played a condensed 48-game schedule due to a lockout. He still managed to win a league-high 24 games that season in 43 games though. Unfortunately for Lundqvist, he is currently sidelined with a hip injury as he hopes to climb the all-time wins list. He needs 44 more victories to move past Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito, Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk to move into sixth place on the list. Only two other goalies have managed to win at least 30 games in 11 different seasons. They were Hall of Famers Patrick Roy with 13 and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur with 14.
Another goalie on a hot streak is Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators. Anderson took some time off earlier in the season to take care of his ill wife. But he’s gone 8-2 since coming back and won his sixth straight game on March 11th with a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. He’s allowed two or less goals in seven of those outings and is leading the Senators on a charge to a first-place duel with the Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division. The 35-year-old Anderson was tied with Bobrovsky for third in the league with a 93.0 save percentage and had a record of 21-8-1 with a sixth-best 2.23 goals-against average.
Jonathan Quick has returned to the net for the Los Angeles Kings as they attempt a late-season push at making the playoffs. Quick was injured in the first week of the season and returned to action on February 25th. The 31-year-old has won four of his five starts since returning to the crease, including three consecutive victories. Quick appears to be back in top form already as his goals-against-average stood at 2.38 on March 13th and his save percentage was 91.7. The Kings recently traded backup goalie Peter Budaj to Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop, but it looks like Los Angeles will pin their hopes on Quick down the stretch run.
Meanwhile Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins has already won a Stanley Cup, but he’s still technically a rookie this season. Murray has won four of his past five outings and enters the week of March 14th with a very impressive record of 26-8-3. He also had four shutouts along with a 12th-best goals-against average of 2.33 and was sixth best in the league with a 92.5 save percentage. The 22-year-old Murray shouldn’t be forgotten about at the end of the season when the votes are tabulated for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the rookie of the year.

And last but not least, 31-year-old veteran Brian Elliott may have struggled earlier in the season after joining the Calgary Flames in the summer, but he’s been red hot lately. Elliott earned his second straight shutout on March 11th with a 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets after shutting out the Montreal Canadiens 5-0 in his previous outing two days earlier. Elliott has now won eight consecutive games as the Flames try to sew up a playoff spot and his save percentage during that streak is over 94.0.

NHL rosters set for stretch run after tame trade deadline day

While the NHL trade deadline is probably here to stay, it appears to be getting less dramatic year after year. Most clubs are beginning to figure out it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to wait so long into the season to try and improve their rosters. Why wait until the final 20 games to make your team better when it could be done earlier? It takes a bit of time for most players to adjust to their new surroundings and teammates and by the time newcomers feel comfortable after arriving on deadline day the season is basically over.
Overall, blockbuster trades are becoming rare these days due to the number of no-trade and no-movement clauses being handed out in contracts. Most NHL stars move from team to team in this era via free agency rather than trades. Unless more players agree to moves in the future, trades such as PK Subban for Shea Weber will become a thing of the past. There will always be deals on trade deadline day though as teams have one last chance to enhance their rosters before the stretch run and to add depth to cover for injuries.
There were bigger trades in the days leading up to this year’s deadline on March 1st than there were on deadline day itself. These included the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Danny Kristo and a second-round draft pick in 2017 and Patrick Eaves being dealt from the Dallas Stars to the Anaheim Ducks for a second round pick in 2017. Fans also saw the Tampa Bay Lightning send goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings along with a fifth-round draft pick in 2017 for goaltender Peter Budaj and defenceman Eric Cernak along with a second and seventh-round pick in 2017.    
In addition, the Minnesota Wild picked up centres Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from the Arizona Coyotes along with a fourth-round pick in 2017 for centre Grayson Downing, a first-round pick in 2017, a second-rounder in 2018 and a fourth-round pick in 2019. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired centre Brian Boyle from Tampa for winger Byron Froese and a second-round pick in 2017 and the Montreal Canadiens picked up defenceman Jordie Benn from the Dallas Stars for fellow blueliner Greg Pateryn and a fourth-rounder in 2017.

The Vancouver Canucks traded left-winger Alexandre Burrows to the Ottawa Senators for left-winger Jonathan Dahlen and the St. Louis Blues dealt defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk and goaltender Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals for forwards Zach Sanford and Brad Malone along with a first-round pick in 2017, a second-rounder in 2019 and a conditional seventh-round pick. Other pre-deadline deals saw the New York Rangers acquire defenceman Brendan Smith from the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa obtain forward Viktor Stalberg from Carolina, the Chicago Blackhawks pick up defenceman Johnny Oduya from Dallas and Montreal trade forward David Desharnais to the Edmonton Oilers for defenceman Brandon Davidson.  
As for trade deadline day itself, there was a total of 20 official trades which involved 37 players and 12 draft picks. There were several veteran players on the move as Steve Ott ended up in Montreal, Thomas Vanek went to Florida, Jarome Iginla was sent to Los Angeles, Kyle Quincey went to Columbus, Mark Streit went to Pittsburgh, Valtteri Filppula ended up in Philadelphia, P.A. Parenteau went to Nashville, Eric Fehr to Toronto, and Drew Stafford to Boston.

While several of these players may have a positive impact on their new teams for the remainder of the season, none of them are considered to be young NHL stars in their prime. There should be numerous deals made between the end of the season and June though as teams try to juggle their rosters prior to the June 21st expansion draft for the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL Entry Draft two days later.