December 23 2016 10:00AM
Back in mid-November, the Calgary Flames went back to basics. They began to play a tight-checking, road style of hockey even before Johnny Gaudreau was injured (but ironically really started to embrace that grinding style in the same game he broke a finger in on Nov. 15). That simplistic "box 'em out" style of play really helped them survive Gaudreau's absence.
When I looked at Calgary's underlying numbers since Nov. 15, two things jumped out at me:
- Man, their special teams are a lot better than they were (in terms of on-ice results).
- Holy cow, they're lucky their special teams are a lot better because they're not generating very much at all at even strength.
December 23 2016 08:00AM
If Seinfeld has taught us anything - and I have been led to believe it has - then today is a very important day.
Today is Festivus, and with it comes a key tradition: the airing of grievances.
What better a subject for that than a professional hockey team hoping to escape its rebuild?
When the season started, it was rife with grievances. The Flames were unwatchable, the entire season was lost because the new coach had no idea what he was doing, the abhorrent special teams only furthered that point, the kids that were just signed to big contracts turned out to be terrible after all, then the steady veterans we thought we could trust were also terrible, the new goaltending was bad, and we were going to have to start doing draft profiles in October.
But then the Flames started winning some games - some on a streak, even! - and things got less bad. Maybe the team started adjusting to that new coach, the special teams stopped being the worst ever, those kids started scoring and veterans started looking like their old selves, at least one goaltender rose from the ashes, and now, they're probably at least going to be playing meaningful games in March. At least. We hope.
There's still plenty to grieve about, though. Let's go for it!
Nation World HQ
December 23 2016 05:00AM
Is JVR on the move in Toronto, Brandon Sutter is the teams 4th best center in Van, Jets bracing for expansion, are the Flames really for real, it's time to breakup McDavid and Lucic, the NHL needs to wake up, travel fatigue is truly a thing, early 2017 draft rankings and more in this week's Nation Roundup brought to you by Violent Gentlemen.
December 22 2016 03:20PM
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports
The Canucks didn't finish paying for Erik Gudbranson when they spent Jared McCann and a pair of picks to land the rugged blue liner from the Florida Panthers. Cap space is an asset, and the Canucks are a week away from the door opening to lay the ground work for how much they'll invest in their prized defenceman.
Gudbranson, playing on a one-year deal valued at $3.5-million, is a restricted free agent at season's end. The Canucks, though, can't begin contract negotiations until the turn of the calendar year.
If the Panthers failed attempts to lock up Gudbranson are any indication, he's not coming cheap either. Gudbranson reportedly turned down a four-year offer valued at $4-million per season before being dealt. Everything we've heard since indicates he's looking to secure something north of the $5-million mark annually on a long-term deal.
That's a tall ask for a player who's never crested 15 points. Then again, Gudbranson's game is predicated on strong play away from the puck. He's a defensive defenceman first and foremost, so we should view him primarily through that lens. With that, let's dive into Gudbranson's career, what we should expect and whether that's worth anywhere near what he's asking.
December 22 2016 02:17PM
The NHLN Notebook is a semi-regular feature of interesting hockey content from the past few days that doesn't quite deserve its own article.
Today's NHLNotebook covers a rough night in Glendale that saw 81 PIMS, Patrik Laine being Patrik Laine and the amazing story of Craig Cunningham.