Top Line: Countdown to hockey; Seth Jones-Shea Weber tandem?; more links
By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Yep. We've found a countdown clock for the start of NHL season. And it can be personalized for your team. Only 50 more go-to-sleeps . . .
• NHL.com continues its 30 teams in 30 days series with a look at the Nashville Predators. Sounds like they feel they've addressed some shortcomings up front -- not sure I'd agree with that assessment, although they'll be tougher to play against -- but they're justifiably excited about fourth-overall pick Seth Jones, who is expected to line up with No. 1 defender Shea Weber in camp. Nice work, if you can get it. The hiring of Phil Housley to assist Barry Trotz gets short shrift at the end of the piece, but if I'm a Preds fan, that's the change I'm most intrigued by. If he can revitalize their special teams as hoped, Nashville's headed back to the playoffs.
• And it sounds like owner Eugene Melnyk is ready to take on Daniel Alfredsson and the Red Wings all by himself. Interesting how quickly what once was just another date on the schedule can turn into an event, but we'll have to wait and see if it develops into an actual rivalry.
• Ready to dive into the deep end of the prospect pool? Here are the highlights from this weekend's 2013 Canadian Mentorship camp which draws Canada's best 14-year-old players. The finale of the event saw Team Giroux beat Team Spezza, 6-5.
• Terry Koshan looks back on a week spent with Team Canada at the World Junior summer camp and likes what he saw. It'll be tough for coach Brent Sutter to continue the unbeaten streak he built up while winning gold in 2005 and 2006, but the decisions he made at Lake Placid prove that he's the right man to get Canada back to the top of the podium.
• Paul Giblin has the story of how the new ownership group in Phoenix came together. This is a nice bit of reporting that manages to piece together the intricate puzzle without drowning in the minutiae. Not sure it would make me feel any better about the team's long-term future in the city, though.
• Red Wings general manager Ken Holland spoke with forward Darren Helm last week and the progress report was promising. After missing all but one game last season, Helm should be in camp on time and could be ready to go for the season opener. The Wings desperately missed the speed and tenacity he brought to the rink, and having him back in the lineup will be a huge boost.
• Of course, with Helm back and Gustav Nyquist expected to re-sign at some point this month, the Wings will be two forwards too heavy. Ansar Khan considers the options, including a Jordin Tootoo trade (a tough sell, given his contract) and the likelihood of re-signing veteran Dan Cleary.
• Jonathan Willis examines the "enigmatic Russian" tag. It's a term that a lot of fans take issue with -- especially supporters of the Capitals -- but in spite of that backlash, sometimes it fits. Stereotype or not, you're going to see it applied when a player of immense talent delivers something far short of his potential for no apparent reason.
• Speaking of Caps fans, looks like there's little to no chance they'll see top prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov rock the red this season ... unless they're watching him represent Russia at the Sochi Games.
• They should, however, see a bit more of top goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer. Don't sleep on the former Memorial Cup winner. He's no can't-miss player, but he finds a way to win wherever he plays. He could assume a big part for the team down the road.
• Nill hopes to see another one of his acquisitions, 21-year-old Tyler Seguin, make the list the next time NHL.com runs a piece on young players who were traded too soon. Tough to top Cam Neely on this list, but Rick Middleton comes awfully close.