Rabid Habs

Around the NHL – Week of June 22-28

Habs' Carey Price

2015 NHL Awards 

Thursday night the annual NHL awards were handed out to the top players from the 2014-15 NHL regular season. Canadiens goalie Carey Price was the big winner winning the Vezina trophy for top goalie, the Hart Memorial for MVP of the NHL and the Ted Lindsay Award for top player as voted by hid peers. Price deserved all three awards as he had a fantastic season narrowly missing out on leading the Canadiens to the top team in the league (President’s trophy). Price led the league in wins (44), save% (.933) and goals against average (1.96) and he was second in the league in shutouts with 9. What makes his stats more relevant is Montreal struggled to score last season (something that will have to be addressed in the off-season) so Price was forced to bail out his team at times. Arguably Price is the top goalie in the NHL and given he is only 27 he should be excellent for a good 5-6 years. Congratulations Carey well done.

Other award winners were Bob Hartley of the Flames was top coach, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was top GM, Eric Karlsson took the Norris trophy as top defenseman, Patrice Bergeron won the Selke trophy as top defensive forward, Aaron Ekblad was rookie of the year, Jamie Benn won the Art Ross trophy for being the NHL’s top scorer in points, Alex Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard trophy for scoring the most goals, Corey Crawford won the William Jennings trophy for being on the team who allowed the least number of goals, Jonathon Toews won the Mark Messier award), Henrik Zetterberg took the King Clancy award, Devon Dubnyk won the Bill Masterson for perseverance and Brent Burns won the foundation player award for his charity work.

 

Draft Week Trades 

This week also was the annual NHL entry draft where teams futures are set. This year with the NHL salary cap only going up slightly teams were forced to make trades to shed excess salary. Also, other teams made moves to move up in the draft. I will briefly break down the trades made this week and the implications they will have.

Dougie Hamilton to Calgary 

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Boston traded away up and coming defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for Calgary’s 1st and 2nd round pick in this year’s draft. Hamilton brings Calgary a nasty defenseman who can move the puck and contribute offensively. He is coming off a solid season and would have been due for a big raise. In turn, Boston got three picks in a row in the 1st round. Clearly they targeted a few players in the draft and were afraid of another team picking them

Milan Lucic to LA

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Rugged forward Milan Lucic was dealt to LA for the 13th overall  pick, back-up goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Collin Miller. Lucic makes a nasty LA Kings team even more nasty. Nobody will want to play the Kings next year. There will be plenty of ice packs after LA Kings games. Jones gives Boston a goalie who will compete with Tukka Rask for playing time.

Eddie Lack to Carolina

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In Vancouver this was the third goalie traded in 2+ years. Just two years ago, the Canucks were the ency of many teams with three elite goalies. Corey Schneider was traded to NJ at last year’s draft for Bo Horvat and Roberto Luongo was dealt at this year’s trade deadline back to Florida for current Canucks back-up Jakob Marskstrom and Shawn Matthias. There was even a petition to appeal to GM Jim Bennings to not trade Lack. Carolina is getting a goalie who is just entering his prime and has proven himself to be reliable. It is clear that Canucks GM Jim Benning isn’t trying to win a popularity contest in trading Eddie Lack. It is too early to judge Benning.

Rob Lehner and David Legwand to Buffalo

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With the emergence of Andrew Hammond, aka the Hamburgular, as a viable cheap back-up goalie Rob Lehner became expendable. Lehner is a very capable back-up who will give the Sabres a chance to win every night. David Legwand is a bottom six forward who will see time on the PK.

Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to Buffalo

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The Sabres hit the jackpot with this trade receiving two emerging stars who can be difference makers. In 2-3 years, Buffalo will be a scary team to face. McGinn is a bottom 6 forward and O’Reilly should play in the top six, seeing PP time. Ryan O’Reilly is a fast skater as well.

Griffin Reinhardt to Edmonton

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Griffin Reinhardt is an up and coming defenseman who was the odd man out in NY. He was a key member of Team Canada’s 2013 and 2014 World Junior teams. He should compete for a roster spot this year.

Kyle Palmieri to NJ

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Palmieri brings valuable playoff experience to NJ and is a depth player who will play bottom six forwards and on the PK. Palmieri should benefit from the less tight defenses of the Eastern conference coming from the difficult West. Looking ahead to next season, Anaheim has nine free agents, including Ryan Kesler, to re-sign. Simply put, this was  a salary cap move and a decision was made by the Ducks braintrust to go in a different direction

Antti Niemi to Dallas 

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This trade was a bit of a curious one since it required Dallas GM Jim Nills to allocate 10million in salary to goaltending. Given that only one goalie can play at once that is a lot of money when one considers the rest of the team needs to be paid. Niemi brings the Stars a veteran presence and the Stars receive a goalie looking for a fresh start after falling out of favor in SJ. Expect Niemi to bounce back in Dallas.

Cam Talbot to Edmonton

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As expected the NY Rangers off-loaded their back-up goalie. In doing so, the Rangers received 3 draft picks, which is a high price in any trade. Edmonton is desperate to take advantage of their god fortune and finally capitalize on their many 1st overall picks. Last season, goaltending and defense were the two biggest Achilles heels for the Oilers. You can score a thousand goals but if your goalie lets in a thousand and one goals your team will lose the game. Interest was especially high for Talbot due to his cap-friendly salary and his solid 6 week run as starter when Henrik Lundqvist was out with injury. The risk is Talbot is a career back-up goalie and he will have to prove he can handle the increased workload of a starter and maintain his stats.

Rule changes for 2015-16 season

The other big news this past week was the NHL is adopting some rule changes for next season. The big one is how games beyond regulation are decided. There will be 5 minutes of 3 on 3 hockey followed by the shootout. Hockey traditionalists don’t like the idea as they feel this is too gimmicky. At the same time, too many games are going to a shootout at the moment and I am all for reducing that number. Last season, a hybrid of 3 on 3 was tested in the AHL where OT started 4 on 4 but after the 1st whistle at the 3 minute mark. The problem with this approach is there is no guarantees if and when a whistle will blow in OT. It will be interesting to see if playing 3 on 3 does in fact reduce the number of games going to a shootout. Certainly some teams will be at an advantage over others. To be successful 3 on 3 you need good skaters and a defenseman who can move the puck plus forwards who can finish the scoring chances and play makers.

The other rule change is a coach’s challenge on goalie interference goals. Provided a team has a time-out remaining, they can challenge a goal or no-goal call on the ice. There are usually several of these questionable goals throughout a season. Scoring is at a premium in the NHL so expect coaches to challenge the cal if in doubt. There will doubtless be strategy at play when deciding when to challenge. Unless the coach is pretty sure the call will be overturned,  they are unlikely to burn their time-out early in the game, especially if the team is tired from a 4 in 6 night schedule or 6 in 10.