Some quick thoughts for a busy hockey weekend:
• Here's an almost unbelievable stat: It has been one year since the Stars got a win in a game that was started by their backup goaltender. That, however, should change soon. Kari Lehtonen's play has hit rock bottom. He allowed three goals on 14 shots before being pulled on Thursday night in Florida and has posted a save percentage of .826 or lower in four of his past five starts. His confidence is blown, his mechanics are off (his glove and his side-to-side motion, in particular), and his teammates play like they expect the worst to happen at any moment. Even coach Lindy Ruff, a man who will take a bullet for his players, has had enough, calling out Lehtonen for not matching the efforts of the other Stars.
It wasn't that long ago that the Stars believed Lehtonen was a player who could help them get to the next level. Now? They have to be wondering whether they can get his head on straight by next season, or if they should look in another direction. Moving him won't be easy, though, not with three years remaining on a deal that carries a cap hit of $5.9 million. Just ask Carolina what it's like trying to sell an overpaid goalie with a history of underperformance.
In the meantime, the Stars need a few stops. And they need to figure out if Jhonas Enroth is someone who can provide them, both now and into the future. The former Sabres starter, acquired last month in exchange for Anders Lindback and a draft pick, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and is looking for an opportunity to start. It might be that Dallas is the team that can give him that chance.
• An insider told SI.com the trade deadline deal that sent promising young defender Simon Despres to Anaheim in exchange for low-ceiling veteran Ben Lovejoy wasn't as surprising as it looked on the surface, saying off-ice issues and broken trust played into Pittsburgh's decision to cut ties with its 2009 first round draft pick. It was pretty clear to anyone who was watching that the big blueliner had glaring consistency issues in his game, but it sounds like they were more than just part of the learning process. Our source wouldn't be specific about what the problems with Despres were, but said they influenced the team's decision not to pursue a new contract with the 23-year-old. To his credit, Despres has made a quick adjustment with Anaheim, putting up a +3 in his debut, and there's no denying that he has the tools to be a solid NHL defender. Sometimes a trade is exactly what a young player needs to get his priorities straight: see Seguin, Tyler. Here's hoping the change of scene helps Despres maximize his considerable potential.
• The acquisition of winger Devante Smith-Pelly wasn't warmly greeted by Montreal's fans, and his first couple of games with the Canadiens did little to convince them they were wrong. But after Thursday night's match in Los Angeles, he may have won a few folks over Smith-Pelly was in full wrecking-ball mode, landing eight official hits (along with a few other cases of non-incidental contact) and creating space for himself and his linemates against a suffocating (all right, interference-heavy) Kings defense. He won't be that effective every night, but that's the sort of physical presence that Montreal's undersized forward corps has been lacking. And if Smith-Pelly can provde something like that with consistency, this team's chances to emerge from the East look a whole lot better.
• New Blackhawk Kimmo Timonen announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of this season. Looks like we've got this year's "Win One For..."
[daily_cut.nhl]• Added to my list of "Players Kids Should Watch If They Want To Know How To Play The Game Right": Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. He's one of those guys who'll never get the credit he deserves because he makes decisions based on team, rather than personal, success. He's always on the right side of the puck, always plays with tenacity and determination, and has surprisingly quick hands. He's a player whom coach Jack Capuano can tap on the shoulder for any situation and know that he's covered. Nielsen may be a long shot for the Selke Trophy as best two-way forward, but he deserves consideration.
• Nice to see two long-time residents of the IR back on the ice this week. Both Tyler Seguin and Kyle Okposo have been practicing with their respective teams. Okposo, out since he underwent surgery on Jan. 20 to repair a detached retina, could be back in the Isles' lineup this weekend. Seguin reportedly could see action next week, but you have to wonder if the Stars will allow him to rush back when the playoffs out of their reach. As much as he wants to be there, it makes sense for the team to err on the side of caution with their franchise center.
• With the Bruins re-signing Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to extensions on Friday morning, it's all but certain that third-line center Carl Soderberg will walk away as an unrestricted free agent this summer. While his play has slipped (along with several of his teammates') of late, he's got size, good wheels and a willingness to wade into the muck to make something happen. In the right situation, he could slide into a top-six role. In a sparsely populated market, he could command upwards of $5 million per season in a three-to-four-year deal. Look for Boston to replace him with either Ryan Spooner (currently centering the top line with David Krejci hurt) or Alexander Khokhlachev.
The 20 Worst NHL Jerseys of All Time
#20: 1995-97 Vancouver Canucks thirds
The spaghetti skate might be the NHL's biggest logo fail outside of Vancouver's own original stick-in-a-rink, but it never seemed quite so excessive as when it was applied to these shocking alternates. Add in the unbalanced yellow V that bisects the logo and slides off to the right side and take away the shoulder and arm piping and you're left with a jersey that's somehow overly busy and sadly plain at the same time.
#19: 2009-11 Ottawa Senators thirds
The Canadiens have an abbreviated nickname too, but you'd never catch them slapping it on the front of a jersey.
#18: 1998-2006 Calgary Flames thirds
Their home/roads from 1995-2000 could have made the cut as well—does anyone know what was going on with the section of trim that leapt up from the bottom and pushed the logo higher?—but the silliness of the flame-snorting horse gives these the edge. That black base didn't go over too well with fans who loved the C of Red, either.
#17: 2001 All-Star Game
This one feels like the designer was romancing fans of soccer or rugby kits, because it doesn't much look like hockey ... oh wait, there's the NHL logo all tucked away over there!
#16: 2003-07 Atlanta Thrashers thirds/homes
The burnt red “motocross” thirds worn from 2008-11 might be more universally despised, but these get the nod because they went from seldom-worn thirds to their standard home kit. The baby blue base that works for the Penguins fails here because of the complementary colors, but the real disaster is the trim that runs down the left sleeve only emblazoned with the word Atlanta—you know, in case the fans watching at Phillips Arena forgot what town they were in.
#15: 2001-07 Nashville Predators thirds
Honestly, the alternate logo on these is pretty awesome, maybe better even than their traditional tiger head. But that hideous mustard yellow base and that square-cut neckline ... did Anne of Brittany design these things?
#14: 2001-07 Edmonton Oilers thirds
Books should have layers of meaning. Movies, songs ... sure, they can too. But team logos? They just need to look cool. That point was lost on artist/minority owner Todd MacFarlane who tried waaaay too hard when he was asked to come up with something new. Ditching the traditional colors was another big mistake.
#13: 2015 All-Star Game
Yes, these were widely panned when they were revealed late last year, but I don't think we've quite yet come to terms with how awful these really are. Give it time, though. The oozing toxic green trim and oversized chrome NHL shield will soon be as fondly regarded as KISS's disco years.
#12: 2011-14 New York Islanders thirds
You know how things work these days. Nothing gets into production without market testing, focus groups and God knows how many meetings. At some point in the process, there had to be alternatives on the board ... and yet somehow, a black jersey with a “dynamic” Islanders wordmark above a player number was the option everyone agreed on. Or maybe they just left the whole thing up to an intern.
#11: 1995-96 Los Angeles Kings Burger King
Ray Ferraro wrote just today on Twitter that the worst-dressed game he ever saw was when the Kings trotted these paeans to fast food out against the salmon-clad Canucks. Why am I hungry all of a sudden?
#10: 1998-93 Phoenix Coyotes thirds
A reminder of just how bad things got in the '90s, these green alternates combined an under-designed alternate logo with a desert green background and a cactus-festooned trim that was as richly detailed as the old 8-bit High Noon game. Peyote may have been ingested during the design process.
#9: 1978-85 Vancouver Canucks deep V
This beaming yellow sweater with deep black and red V neckline instead of an actual logo was the first of many ill-conceived designs trotted out by the franchise. Many fans revere it as an important part of the Canucks' history. And this is why that team can't have nice things to wear.
#8: 2011 Calgary Flames Heritage Classic
Okay, so maybe they do have a bit ol' timey flavor, but they also look a lot like Ronald McDonald's outfit, especially next to the Canadiens' more dignified threads.
#7: 2003-06 Dallas Stars “Mooterus” thirds
No less a fashion expert than Sean Avery ranked this design as the worst jersey ever in an article in Men's Vogue, and he's not far off. In introducing the design, the Stars said “the new logo depicts a constellation of individual stars aligning to form an unstoppable force of nature, a charging bull.” What they overlooked was that stars also aligned to resemble the female reproductive system.
#6: 1995-97 New York Islanders fish sticks
It could have been worse. They could have been inspired by another islander for the logo ... like maybe Gilligan.
#5: 1996-99 Tampa Bay Lightning thirds
Another standout of the sublimation era, this one was the work of someone who finally made the connection between slashing rain and high seas and hockey. And we're all better for it.
#4: 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres thirds
Before #thedress, this horrorshow was the social media fashion phenomenon ... except in this case, everyone agreed: it was mustard yellow and it sucked. In fact, the online animosity was so relentless that Buffalo president Ted Black was moved to utter one of the greatest lines in hockey history: “If it's a turd burger I'll have to put it on a bun and eat it.” We hope that burger came with a shake to wash it down, Ted.
#3: 2009 Montreal Canadiens 1912-13 throwbacks
Looking more like the uniform of a 1920s chain gang rock breaker than a legendary hockey team, this tribute to Montreal's centennial season was so ugly that coach Bob Gainey refused to let his team wear it a second time after its Feb. 1, 2009 debut. Boston's Shawn Thornton, whose Bruins beat the Canadiens 3-1 that night, thought that was the right call. “I was really concerned about it in warmup,” he said. “When there were 23 guys skating around, I was dizzy and I didn't know if I got enough sleep or what.”
#2: 1995-96 Anaheim Ducks Wild Wing
This is the “Showgirls” of hockey sweaters, a debacle so gallingly bad that for some it comes all the way back around to great. Featured a cartoon version of the team's mascot leaping forward in an apparent 'roid-fueled rage along some of the worst name/number graphics ever.
#1: 1995-2006 Bruins Winnie The Pooh thirds
Objectively, this wasn't even the worst third jersey introduced in 1995, but it stuck around so long—10 humiliating seasons—and was such a downgrade from their classic traditional sweaters that it earns the top spot. The dijon yellow body and jagged trim were bad enough, but that sleepy bear head logo? It's like replacing San Jose's fearsome fish with Katy Perry's left shark, only there's no kitsch value here. It was no coincidence the team was so bad for so many of those years. Wearing these took two inches and 20 pounds off those poor souls.