Friday March 20th, 2015

You may not know the name Matthew Wuest, but you almost certainly were familiar with his ground-breaking work. The former Metro Halifax sportswriter was the genius behind CapGeek, the hockey world’s site of first reference for contract and salary-cap details.

Wuest, who shuttered the fully independent site in January for health reasons, passed away on Thursday after a 2½-year battle with colon cancer.

It’s a terrible loss. He was a young guy, married, and should have had years ahead of him.

But in his brief time he made an impact like few others in the field. CapGeek changed the way the game was reported, understood and followed. It was a labor of love. Wuest had a day job, of course, but CapGeek required countless extra hours, a massive field of contacts and tireless devotion to a service that, frankly, should have been provided by others. Every hockey fan owes him a debt of gratitude for the way he cleared the often muddy waters.

So, too, does the NHL.

Roundtable: Are 3-on-3 OT, coaches' challenge good changes for the NHL?

It’s been just a matter of days since Commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed the idea of the NHL providing official contract data as part of its enhanced statistical package, saying that such information was something of interest only to the media. He was wildly off base in that assessment, as the outpouring of grief over Wuest’s passing should make clear. Few of us knew the man, but we all benefited from his work. It would be a fitting tribute if his passing inspired the league to pick up the torch and carry on his legacy.

• While much of the talk following the recommendation for three-on-three overtime play for next season has centered around the AHL’s hybrid approach, there’s a small chance that the NHL could jump in with both skates and play the full five minutes with just six total skaters. The Southern Professional Hockey League, a lower-tier circuit best known for employing Canadian women’s Olympic goaltender Shannon Szabados, has gone straight to three-on-three in OT since the league’s inception in 2004–05. Though the 2013–14 season, 254 of 400 games that were tied at the end of regulation were decided in overtime (63.5%). “The pace of play in our three-on-three overtime is truly frenetic,” said SPHL President Jim Combs. “The creativity permitted by the amount of open ice for the players, combined with the sheer number of back and forth chances, provides a level of excitement I’m sure would be a hit with NHL fans.” If adding extra time is a concern to the players, this might provide a workable solution.

• The SenatorsAndrew (Hamburglar) Hammond fell short in his effort to break a 77-year-old record last night, but the rookie goalie shouldn’t let a career-worst performance get him down. Even though he coughed up four goals to the Bruins, there’s only one stat that matters. “I never worried too much about my goals-against average,” former Boston great Gerry Cheevers used to say. “They could fill the net behind me. Just as long as I let in one less than the other guy, I was good.” Hammond was plenty good in the 6–4 win that pulled Ottawa to within two points of the Bruins with one game in hand.

Los Angeles Kings recall Mike Richards from Manchester of AHL

• Curtis Lazar may go on to become a legendary captain of the Senators. A multiple Stanley Cup winner. An Olympic gold medalist. A first-ballot Hall of Famer. But after last night he'll always be remembered as the guy who ate the burger that was thrown onto the ice after Hammond’s win in Boston. Rookies, man.

• The Penguins are dealing with some pretty serious injuries—Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist and Pascal Dupuis all are missing from their top six—but it was shocking how few chances they generated against the Stars in a 2–1 loss on Thursday night. They struggled with controlled zone entries, settling for long dump-ins that were too often followed by failed retrievals. Once in the zone, they settled for too many passes up and down the wall rather than battling for space in the middle of the ice. After watching that, it’s not hard to believe that they’ve been outscored 15–4 during their last 13 periods.

• I asked a scout earlier this week about what the trade value of Rangers’ backup/late-season hero Cam Talbot is likely to be. The answer won’t thrill New York’s fans. “Best-case for the Rangers? If they find someone really desperate? Maybe a second rounder,” the scout said. “More likely, though, a third and a little something on the side. Depends on where the [acquiring team] is picking.” He also said that unless he was blown away by the offer, he’d be inclined to retain Talbot if he was Rangers GM Glen Sather. “He’s cheap [$1.45 million] and reliable. You never know what can happen. He’s quality insurance.”

• The same scout on Toronto’s Phil Kessel: “He's a unique talent, but I don’t know about him. I think he’d excel as a supporting player on a top team, but if that’s true do you want to assume the risk that comes with him? You’d have to have faith in your leadership’s ability to bring him into the mix [and] find him a place where he fits in. It would take him a long time to get out from under [this] cloud, you know? I'd prefer a guy with a lower ceiling who was lower maintenance.”

Jaroslav Halak making most of his chance with revived Islanders

• Amazingly, Kessel and the Maple Leafs discovered an even lower setting on their Give-A-Crap meter in Thursday night’s 4–1 loss to the Sharks. They allowed the first goal for the 44th time this season and spent the rest of the game playing catch up ... which by this point is something to which they should be accustomed, given how they haven’t held a lead in nearly five games. It’s now 288 minutes and counting since the Leafs have been in front. And Kessel, who enjoyed an up-close view of all three of San Jose’s even-strength goals, is now a league-worst –35. Say what you will about the analytical value of that stat, but it may actually understate his lack of commitment. “You’ve got to be driven by your best players,” said coach Peter Horachek. “If you don’t have the courage or character to be able to ... be ready to play and to be pushing, then there’s a problem.”

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