Let the offseason deals begin! Last night it was announced that the Calgary Flames sent forward Alex Tanguay and defenseman Cory Sarich to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward David Jones and defenseman Shane O'Brien.
Most notably, Alex Tanguay will once again don the Avalanche uniform. Having been drafted by the club as a first-round pick in 1998, and having played for them for the first six seasons of his career, Tanguay is no stranger to Avs fans. He was a key player in the Avs' 2001 Stanley Cup winning team, and became a fan favorite in Colorado. Now 34 years old, he seems to be past his prime in his career. With teammate Cory Sarich, also an experienced veteran, Tanguay looks to bring experience and leadership to the Avalanche locker room. Perhaps, the change will refresh both players' careers.
Meanwhile, the Flames bring in two young guys in David Jones and Shane O'Brien. Jones is a two-way forward who plays a gritty game, but also knows how to produce. He is a solid third line player. Meanwhile, O'Brien has also established himself as a tough defenseman who gets in his opponents' faces. The two bring toughness and youth to a Flames club looking for a new face after losing star forward Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.
Overall, the trade is a fairly even exchange: two veteran guys for two young guns. It should be interesting to see how they can fit in with their new teams. Best of luck to those four and their teams.
Today, in a move that perhaps surprised no one, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced that he will use his second compliance buyout on goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. He has 7 years and $34.5 million remaining on his contract. The terms of the buyout call for the organization to pay Bryzgalov $1.643 million over 14 years not to play for the team.
Signed as a free agent after the 2010-2011 season, Holmgren had high expectations for Bryzgalov. The goaltender had just come off of solid seasons in Phoenix, in which he led the Coyotes to two playoff berths. Holmgren realized his immense potential and quickly signed him to a 9-year, $51 million contract in Philly, placing Bryz in the position of the Flyers goalie for the future.
However, Holmgren's decision proved to be premature and far too hopeful. In his two seasons with the Flyers, Bryzgalov played incredibly inconsistent and failed to perform under pressure in Philly. Although the team made the playoffs in the 2011-2012 season, Bryzgalov failed to establish his presence in net as a reliable goaltender. The Flyers were forced to rely purely on offense in their first round triumph over Pittsburgh, but quickly fell the next round to the New Jersey Devils in five games. This past season, the team came up short and failed to make the playoffs.
While the failures of the past couple seasons cannot be completely placed on Bryz, they certainly have a lot to do with him. A team's confidence stems from its goalie's play; if the goalie is playing on top of his game, the team often follows suit and plays with confidence as well. However, the opposite case occurred for the Flyers. Opponents quickly discovered Bryzgalov's weaknesses and exploited them. Seemingly routine shots for any goalie found ways through Bryzgalov. A frustrated and dejected Bryzgalov was openly unconfident, especially with the media, and his pessimistic attitude spread amongst his teammates.
Thus, the buyout of Brygalov's contract is a necessary move for Holmgren, who already announced he would buy out forward Danny Briere's contract as well. With the two compliance buyouts, the Flyers free up $12.17 million of cap space over the next two seasons. The issue now becomes who takes over the net for the Flyers. Steve Mason, who the team acquired at the trade deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets, is a decent option; however, he too has been inconsistent in the past. So look for Holmgren to make another big splash in the goalie market this summer.
Hockey fans woke up Friday morning to three announcements for three different organizations that finally put to rest lingering questions and confirmed speculation about who would become the new head coaches of the Dallas Stars and the New York Rangers, as well as the coaching situation in Phoenix. First, Dallas announced that they have hired Lindy Ruff as their head coach, and held a press conference to introduce him later on. Shortly after, in a long-anticipated press conference, New York General Manager Glen Sather officially welcomed Alain Vigneault to the organization. And to cap off the busy morning, Phoenix announced that they have signed head coach Dave Tippett to a new contract.
After being fired during the regular season by the Buffalo Sabres, Ruff became one of the most sought-after coaches on the market. Known for his strict demeanor, Ruff is a solid fit for a young Stars team in the rebuilding process. After yet another frustrating season for the Stars and a year that included many changes, notably the firing of General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk, head coach Glen Gulutzan, and the trading of team captain Brenden Morrow, the organization needed a man who could bring matters under control. And that man is Ruff. He emphasizes discipline and holds his players accountable, a trait that is of great value when dealing with young players. With the addition of Ruff, the Stars bring in an experienced and accomplished coach who can lead the team in a new direction.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have hired another coaching gem on the market today--Alain Vigneault. Fired by the Vancouver Canucks after another early exit in the playoffs, Alain Vigneault's goes from one star-studded team in Vancouver to another highly skilled one in New York. After another disappointing season for the Rangers, Sather opted to go with the calm, collected Vigneault, whose coaching style contrasts with that of the fiery previous head coach, John Tortorella. Perhaps Vigneault can help Rick Nash develop his two-way game as a member of the Rangers; and perhaps his coaching style will satisfy frustrated goaltender Henrik Lundqvist enough to convince him to stay in New York once his contract expires at the end of the 2013-2014 season. For the past several years, the Rangers have seemingly been knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup. The question that remains is whether or not Alain Vigneault will help the Rangers finally achieve their full potential.
In other coaching news, the Phoenix Coyotes announced that they will keep Dave Tippett as their head coach. Although the specific terms of the deal have not been released, reports say the contract keeps Tippett in Phoenix for the next five seasons. Since Tippett's arrival in Phoenix in 2009, the team has made the playoffs three out of the past four years, winning the Pacific Division and advancing to the Western Conference Finals in their 2011-2012 campaign. This past year, the team took a step back, finishing 10th in the Western Conference. However, if his new contract actually is for five years, he has ample time to re-energize his team and make them a legitimate contender for the Cup.
After two shockingly short conference final series, hockey fans will have the pleasure to witness an original six matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals: the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks. In a 2013 postseason that has been full of surprises, these two teams have demonstrated most so far that they have what it takes to win Lord Stanley's Cup.
Neither team is a stranger to the Stanley Cup Finals, nor winning the Cup for that matter. Only two years removed from winning hockey's ultimate prize, the Bruins look to bring the championship back to Boston. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, having won the year before the Bruins, seek to prove that they are the best team in the league this season.
Although Chicago is the heavy favorite on paper out of the two, there really is little difference between the two teams, which should make for a highly competitive series. Both teams' backbones truly are their goaltenders. Corey Crawford has played consistently stellar for the Blackhawks throughout the playoffs, giving his team a chance to win game in and game out. Meanwhile, his counterpart Tuukka Rask of the Bruins has put on a show this postseason, including making 134 saves on 136 shots in Boston's series sweep of Pittsburgh in the Conference Finals. Furthermore, both teams' depth allows them to rely on secondary scoring. Although star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have been relatively quiet during the playoffs, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have stepped up and produced for the Hawks. But when on their game, Toews and Kane are a lethal combination that will give the Bruins trouble. Meanwhile, the Bruins roll all of their lines, counting on their fourth line as well as their defensemen to score much of their goals. David Krejci has also had a breakout postseason, leading the league in scoring during this year's playoffs, while Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have developed a special chemistry, both scoring several timely goals throughout their playoff campaign. If the Bruins can continue to play their defensive style of game, they will frustrate their opponents and give the Blackhawks all they can handle.
Overall, this series features two evenly-matched teams that both play in outstanding hockey markets so there will be a loud, exciting atmosphere surrounding this series. Although these teams did not play each other during the regular season, expect hard-hitting, physical, tight hockey between these two soon-to-be rivals. May the best team win.
On Saturday night at 8, the Eastern Conference Finals kick off with game 1 between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. The two teams faced off three times this past season, with Pittsburgh winning all three by one goal. Expect the closeness of these three games to carry over to this series.
This series features two incredibly similar teams: they can score, they play exceptional defense, they get solid goaltending, and they have depth. The Penguins boast a star-studded lineup, stacked with some of the best players in the NHL who consistently produce for the Pens. After replacing Marc-Andre Fleury as starting goalie, Tomas Vokoun has played well despite not being tested much. Their counterpart, the Bruins, possess a tough lineup that can frustrate teams with their ability to shut down their opponents and prevail in tight games. Netminder Tuukka Rask has helped keep his team in these games when it matters most.
The one main difference between them is their style of play. While the Pens rely on an overwhelming amount of skill and talent throughout their lineup, the Bruins emphasize aggressiveness and strength on the puck. Although Pittsburgh wins many of its games by blowout scores, the team has also proven it can win significant close games. Meanwhile, Boston thrives under pressure and wins a majority of its games by one or two goals.
Although the teams are too close to predict a winner, look for this series to go seven games. Expect an electrifying atmosphere and an exciting series overall.
There has been much speculation among hockey fans about the future of John Tortorella as head coach of the New York Rangers. Today, Glen Sather, the team's general manager, announced that John Tortorella has been relieved of his duties. The firing comes only a few days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs by their second-round opponent, the Boston Bruins, in five games.
Hired by the club during the 2009 season, "Torts" brought a new identity to the team, one that stressed defense and discipline. Over the past four-plus seasons, the Rangers improved under Tortorella, making the playoffs every year except the 2009-2010 season. In their 2011-2012 campaign, the squad earned first place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season; however, that year's playoffs, arguably their best under Tortorella, they were once again disappointed in the third round by their Atlantic Division rivals, the New Jersey Devils.
After yet another disappointing finish this year, a change had to be made. One of the Rangers' biggest problems was their inability to score, especially on the powerplay, which finished 23rd overall in the league. With a team full of skilled forwards, namely Rick Nash and Brad Richards, Tortorella was never able to get the best out of his top line. Nash never quite found his niche in his first year in New York, and Brad Richards was a healthy scratch for the Rangers in games 4 and 5 of the second round.
Another concern for the Rangers regarding Tortorella was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's future as a New York Ranger. The Vezina Trophy candidate has one year left on his contract with the organization and there has been indications that Lundqvist disagrees with Tortorella's coaching style. Although Sather denied that this had any impact in his decision to fire Tortorella, this may have been an underlying factor.
Perhaps the main reason as to why Tortorella was fired is because the Rangers failed to achieve their primary goal with him as coach: the Stanley Cup. In his conference call with the media, Sather stated, "Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and we didn't achieve that goal."
Sather has plenty of options to choose from for the new head coach of the team. Alain Vigneault, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, Lindy Ruff, fired this season by the Sabres, and even Mark Messier, former team captain, are all attractive options for Sather. Although he has not given details of who his candidates are so far, Sather has said that he hopes to have a new coach by the NHL Draft. As for Tortorella, he is now on the coaching market once again.
Everyone always enjoys witnessing the team "scrub," the least likely player to make a difference, actually step up. Well hockey fans, it's safe to say you can now hop on the bandwagon of defenseman Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins.
Krug was called up by Boston from their AHL affiliate in Providence because of multiple injuries to Bruins defenseman. In his first NHL playoff game (Game 1 against the Rangers), Krug scored the game-tying goal for the Bruins on the powerplay. After receiving a pass from blueline partner Dougie Hamilton, Krug stepped in and took a slap shot from just inside the faceoff circle that found its way through Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, considered by many to be the best goaltender in the league. The Bruins then went on to win the game in overtime.
Skeptics who considered Krug's game one performance to be a fluke were silenced shortly into game two. After receiving a pass between his legs from teammate Nathan Horton, he walked in and took a snap shot from the faceoff circle that again went through Lundqvist, scoring the game's opening goal. He would later add an assist in what would become a 5-2 Bruins victory.
Although it is quite early in his career, the 22 year-old shows promising signs of becoming a highly reliable offensive defenseman for the NHL squad. His poise and confidence under the pressure of the playoffs and the hockey spotlight in Boston can make him a mainstay on the team. Plus, his ability to put the puck in the other team's net, while keeping it out of his own, makes him an asset to the Bruins. Can he continue to produce for the Bruins in this series? Will he stay with the team when the injured defensemen are healthy? We can only find out.
Tonight at 10 PM ET the battle of California begins with game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal matchup between the Kings and the Sharks. This series features two teams who play different styles of hockey yet are easily capable of winning games when it matters most.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings have proven that they aren't "hungover" from last year's championship. Do they have what it takes to do it again? The team uses physicality and strength to wear down and overpower their opponents. They rely on big bodies to out-muscle their opponents. Jonathan Quick has established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the game today and has been solid throughout the season and the first series. The Kings displayed resilience and persistence on the puck in their first round series against the Blues, in which they rallied to overcome a 2-0 series deficit and ultimately won in six games. Their style of play will give the Sharks the same trouble that it did the Blues.
Meanwhile the San Jose Sharks have been knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup Finals for years but they never can get there. Could this be their year? The Sharks finally have all of the ingredients to make a run for the Stanley Cup. They finally have what they have been lacking in years past: a goaltender. Antti Niemi, who won the Cup his rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, has been superb for the Sharks all year and is a Vezina Trophy nominee this season. The team plays a finesse style, relying on puck possession to tire out their opponents. The Sharks surprised many in the first round of the playoffs by sweeping the Canucks in an upset victory. They will be a difficult challenge for the Kings.
Ultimately this series will come down to depth. Expect both teams to heavily rely on their second and third lines to step up. It should be a tight series--one that will definitely be worth it to stay up and watch for East Coast viewers.