Pressing questions in the Pacific
As training camp arrives, every NHL team is facing a pressing question. We've looked at the
Has Jumbo Joe gotten the message this summer? All the changes on the blueline, the new man behind the bench, the addition of so much Cup experience. Things are going to be different in San Jose. And with those differences comes the elimination of excuses -- for the Sharks in general and Thornton in particular.
He is a superior talent, and one of the game's most dangerous offensive players. But as the Sharks try to break their streak of two-and-done seasons, it's up to him to recognize that all the pieces are in place...save for one. It's no longer enough for him to be a top-five scorer, an elite passer who can create chances from the periphery. For the Sharks to get past the second round and live up to their paper, Thornton has to combine his natural gifts with consistent desire to become the game's most dominant physical force. Simple as that.
We all know Thornton can be that player. We've seen it in fits and spurts over the years. But in the past he's been content to rely simply on his tools, to be just good enough. That's fine during the regular season, but when the stakes rise, his predictability makes him too easy to defend.
So here's the good news: Unrestricted free agent
But like the fabled monkey paw, Selanne's return is a gift with a price. The Ducks already are over the cap, and they need to move salary
The fact that Selanne has waited this long to make his decision -- at least publicly -- has benefited the Ducks in their efforts to deal with cap pressures. But to bring him back, GM
Heading into last season, the obvious question was, "Can this team compete for a playoff spot?" At the time, it was touch and go. The core was graying and burdened by a legacy of recent postseason failures that suggested their best days were a decade behind them.
After a creative, and at times daring, makeover by co-GMs
The surprising team that eliminated both the Ducks and Sharks in the playoffs last spring was far more representative of the club that will take to the ice this fall than the one that staggered down the stretch to a fifth-place finish in the West. There's a different atmosphere around this team, a sense that with a better run of health (top blueliners
But there's also the recognition that the window of opportunity is closing on several key contributors.
The Yotes made the most significant move on draft day -- and, arguably, the entire summer -- when they acquired
Of course, you have to give to get, and the Coyotes had to sacrifice a pair of blueliners.
That said, GM
Sauer proved to be a solid, stay-at-home type with Colorado. He can play on the third pairing and bring some security when down a man. He has no sizzle to his game, but then again, the same thing can be said about the entire Phoenix blueline corps. It looks to be a reasonably sound group and, backed by a full season with
In exchange for accepting that cap on salaries -- what a brutally repressive device that's been, eh? -- the NHL Players' Association extracted a stipulation that each team spend a
That the re-building Kings have sat somewhere around $33 million all summer has led to wild speculation about the lengths they'll need to travel in order to get to that minimum, including dealing away core youngsters
Put down your fleecing shears. It's not gonna happen.
The Kings currently have 17 players under contract, with free agents O'Sullivan,
Which is about the same time that their playoff hopes will be pronounced DOA.