Off The Draw
Our usual blend of quick hits heading into a busy hockey weekend:
• Here's a nickel’s worth of free advice from a scout to Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff: If you decide to trade Evander Kane, don’t send him to the Penguins. “The last thing [Cheveldayoff needs] is for Kane to turn into a 40-goal scorer playing with [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin and have to deal with him tearing it up on the highlights every night,” the scout said. “You saw what that did [to Joe Nieuwendyk].”
Nieuwendyk was the Stars GM who sent James Neal to Pittsburgh back in 2011. Neal was a promising but inconsistent forward who had 39 points in 59 games at the time of the trade—decent numbers but not the sort that Dallas was going to miss, especially with Jamie Benn emerging as a top-six forward.
It didn’t take long for the perception of Neal’s value to change once he got to the Penguins. Slotted next to Malkin, he maxed out his potential the very next season, scoring 40 goals, with 41 assists, and earning a trip to the All-Star Game. Meanwhile, the Stars finished in last place in the Pacific Division, and were left to wonder what might have been if they had kept Neal—or if they had at least gotten more in exchange for him than inconsistent defenseman Alex Goligoski.
Of course, Neal would never have been a 40-goal scorer for the Stars—or pretty much any other team for that matter. It was a combination of Pittsburgh’s system and Malkin that turned Neal, a solid top-six forward into a top-10 scorer. But it left Dallas with egg on its face nevertheless, and ended up costing Nieuwendyk his job.
And that is the lesson here for Cheveldayoff. Any deal involving a 23-year-old with as much promise as Kane could blow up in his face, but the GM can do things to manage his risk. Kane, for example, might be a more effective player in the Bruins’ system but maybe he scores 25 goals there. Or he might have success with the Senators or the Sabres, but neither of those teams will sniff the playoffs. All things being equal, a Kane trade could hinge on Winnipeg minimizing the potential for embarrassment while trying to maximize its return.
• Lots of buzz on Friday morning about a potential deal between the Ducks and Buffalo that would see Anaheim acquire defenseman Tyler Myers. Ducks GM Bob Murray is kicking tires around the league while looking for blue-line help, so no doubt he’s made a call to Tim Murray, his counterpart with the Sabres. And given the amount of raw forward talent that Bob Murray can dangle in front of other GMs, you have to think that he’s only limited in his ability to make a deal by how much he’s willing to give up. But I think he would have to vastly overpay to add Myers to his back end. The Buffalo GM, on the other hand, is doing his due diligence while listening to offers, but I think he would have to be blown away to move Myers. Not sure that happens here.
• Speaking of the Sabres, there’s some talk that Ted Nolan might not finish the season behind the bench. Not that a change would impact their chances of success—they could put Toe Blake, Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman in charge of that group and they would still lose 50 games this season—but it’s clear that Nolan won’t be back next fall. A move would at least allows Buffalo to pretend that it isn’t tanking its way into getting the maximum number of balls in the draft lottery. Also, Nolan imploring his veteran players to do their best so they could be traded away to a contender wasn’t well received by at least some in the organization.
• Nice stat courtesy of Ken Campbell: With 47 career regular season points, goaltender Martin Brodeur outscored five of the skaters who were selected in the first round of his 1990 NHL draft class. The cement-handed stragglers: Scott Scissons (Islanders, sixth): 0 points; Mark Greig (Whalers, 15th): 40; Shawn Antoski (Canucks, 18th): 8. Two others, Michael Stewart (Rangers, 13th) and Scott Allison (Oilers, 17th) never played in the NHL.
What to watch this weekend
Blackhawks at Jets (8 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, CSN-CH, TSN3)
Winnipeg was in a tailspin long before Evander Kane became a trending topic. Now that he is, can the Jets find a way to move beyond the distractions in time for what might be their most critical homestand of the season? Friday night’s game is the first of three against Central Division rivals, and Winnipeg needs to get at least five points from them to get back on track. The Jets will also need to do it while dealing the the absence of Kane, who on Friday morning was placed on IR.
Chicago, meanwhile, is looking to kick-start its offense after being shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since the dark days of 2006. The Blackhawks were outshot badly (43–24) in Tuesday's loss to the Wild, and rarely challenged Minnesota from difficult areas. Look for them to focus on creating havoc, and plenty of rebounds, with a heavy physical presence down low.
Rest of the schedule: Maple Leafs at Devils (7 p.m. EST; TVA, SNO, MSG+); Ducks at Capitals (7 p.m. EST; PRIME, CSN-DC); Blues at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EST; FS-MW, FS-O); Penguins at Flames (9 p.m. EST; ROOT, SNW)
Avalanche at Wild (8 p.m. EST; ALT, FS-N)
With Winnipeg on the verge of imploding, there’s a good chance that at least one team that is currently on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture will find its way in. Both Colorado and Minnesota are hoping to take advantage of the opportunity. The Wild have been a different team since they traded for goalie Devan Dubnyk, who has gone 6-1-0 with three shutouts since the move. Coach Mike Yeo called his team’s last game, a 3–0 blanking of Chicago on Tuesday, its “best effort of the year.”
The Avs, meanwhile, are showing incredible resiliency to stay in the hunt. They’ve scored an empty net, game-tying goal in four of their last six contests, getting six points out of desperation and courage. This game should be another close one.
Rest of the schedule: Rangers at Predators (3 p.m. EST; ALT, FS-N); Kings at Lightning (5 p.m. EST; FS-W, SUN); Islanders at Bruins (7 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, FX-CA, MSG+ 2, NESN); Stars at Sabres (7 p.m. EST; FS-SW+, MSG-B); Oilers at Maple Leafs (7 p.m. EST; CBC); Devils at Canadiens (7 p.m. EST; TVA, CITY, MSG+); Blue Jackets at Senators (7 p.m. EST; SN, TVA2, FS-O); Red Wings at Coyotes (8 p.m. EST; FS-D, FS-A); Penguins at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; CBC, ROOT); Hurricanes at Sharks (10:30 p.m. EST; FS-CR, CSN-CA)
Canadiens at Bruins (7:30 p.m. EST; NBCSN, SN, RDS)
As if the NHL’s best rivalry wasn’t reason enough to tune in, this game features two of the league’s hottest goaltenders in Hart Trophy favorite Carey Price, of Montreal, and Tuukka Rask, of Boston. Oh, and there’s also the sideshow of watching Boston’s fans tear into P.K. Subban for his recent diving fine. Should be fun.
Rest of the schedule: Blackhawks at Blues (12:30 p.m. EST; NBC, SN360); Predators at Panthers (3 p.m. EST; FS-TN, FS-F); Flyers at Capitals (3 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, CSN-PH, CSN-DC); Ducks at Lightning (5 p.m. EST; PRIME, SUN); Islanders at Sabres (5 p.m. EST; MSG+, MSG-B, BELL TV); Stars at Rangers (5 p.m. EST; FS-SW, MSG); Avalanche at Jets (6 p.m. EST; ALT, TSN3)
The numbers game
• Anaheim and Nashville enter the weekend at No. 1 and 2 respectively in the NHL standings, with the Ducks now 7-1-0 in their last eight games against the Preds, dating back to Jan. 26, 2013. The two teams will meet once more this season, on March 15 in Anaheim.
• At 35 years and 143 days, San Jose’s Patrick Marleau, the second pick in the 1997 NHL draft—after longtime teammate Joe Thornton (who was taken by Boston)— is now the youngest player in NHL history to appear in 1,300 games, surpassing the old mark held by Scott Stevens (35 years 247 days).
• Gary Lawless slings the blame for the Evander Kane debacle in Winnipeg, and no one comes off smelling like a rose.
• Love him or hate him, you’ll understand how lucky the NHL is to have Sidney Crosby after you read this piece by the great Kevin Allen.
• Goals are still scarce for Dany Heatley, who is now playing in the minors, but he hasn’t given up on his NHL dream.