Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings: Wings Legend, Steve Yzerman, Returns For GM Position

In May of 2010, the Red Wings legend left the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in his professional career to take over as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He served as GM until September of 2018. Steve Yzerman stepped down and took an advisor position with the team. Now, he’s chosen to return to the Red Wings.

The Detroit Red Wings are a team in dire need of a little TLC. The Red Wings not that long ago seemed to be an inevitable postseason competitor has become somewhat of a season to season afterthought. The flame that once lit underneath GM Ken Holland has seemingly died off and the team is looking for life.

Yzerman’s Playing Career

But fear not Wings fans, that life may have arrived in the form of a beloved figure in Motor-City. Steve Yzerman, a man who played 1514 regular season games as a Red Wing and 196 playoff games, will return to Detroit as GM. Throughout his playing career as a member of the Red Wings, he was part of three Stanley Cup winning teams. Two of those three were back to backs (1997 and 1998). Yzerman won the Conn Smythe award for his work throughout the 1998 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

To boost his popularity in Detroit, he was not only their longest-serving captain, but he was the longest-serving in league history as he served 19 seasons as team captain.

On Jan 2, 2007, the Red Wings retired the number 19 in honour of the great playing career he had.

Retiring & Front Office Career

However, Yzerman’s life with hockey was far from over. Post-playing career, he went on to show that he has a phenomenal hockey mind. On July 3, 2006, he retired from playing.

A few months later, on Sept. 25, 2006, he was named a team VP and alternate governor to the Detroit Red Wings. In that position, he would see another Stanley Cup championship in 2008 followed by another trip to the final in 2009 where they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins (whom they beat just the year prior).

With a desire for more responsibility, Yzerman was offered a job as VP and GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning and on May 25, 2010, he was introduced as such. Through his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, they would go to a Stanley Cup Final in 2015 (lost to the Chicago Blackhawks) and in the 2017-18 season, they placed first in the Atlantic Division. In the year 2015, he was rewarded for his work as a GM as he was named the 2014-15 GM of the year for getting the Bolts from missing the playoffs to the promise land of the Stanley Cup Final.

Yzerman’s office work is not limited to the NHL as he has spent a significant amount of time with operations of Team Canada. He was the GM of Canada for the 2007 IIHF World Championships, in which the team won. He was also named executive director for Canada’s Men’s Hockey Team for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games, both tournaments saw Canada win Gold. In 2014, Yzerman was awarded the Order of Hockey in Canada. The award recognizes players, coaches and office staff for their contributions to the game of hockey.

Returning to Detroit

And now, after a little while away, it seems that Yzerman will be returning to where he played out his entire playing career. The Red Wings and their fans have gone through a tough few seasons and the excitement of this announcement has given the Wings base some life. There will be a rebuild, it will most likely take a year or two before the Red Wings see postseason action again. However, given the track record of Yzerman, he will give the Wings the tools they will need to get back to where this franchise once was. Postseason bound more times than not.

Stats and awards: NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Some NHL Players Want To Go Home, Don’t Hold That Against Them

Are you familiar with the saying, home is where the heart is? Do you live by it? Even if you don’t, there are many that do. Professional athletes are very much amongst those that live by that saying. Just like you and I, they want to be home. After-all, they are only human.

Picture this, the year is 2024, another season has come and gone. The Toronto Maple Leafs still have Auston Matthews with them until free-agency comes about. The Arizona Coyotes are still an NHL franchise and as we all know, Matthews is from Scottsdale, Arizona and he grew up cheering for the Coyotes.

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Before I go on, let’s back track to this past off-season. John Tavares, the captain of the New York Islanders, became an unrestricted free agent. Once he could, he met with a few different teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs being one of them. What was known to many is that Tavares grew up in the Greater Toronto Area and rooted for the Maple Leafs in his youth. The Maple Leafs were his hometown and favourite team. Ultimately, he signed with the Maple Leafs for seven years. Tavares went home.

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Now, hear me out, I understand the booing when he is on the ice. The booing is completely normal and happens to almost every player who leaves a team and plays for another, some even wind up booed in their return from a trade (yikes). That part is something that myself and everyone else can understand, a fan pays admission and owns that right. However, what I do not like nor understand is the hostility of it all.

Videos of fans voicing their frustrations to Tavares circulate the internet whenever Tavares is in New York. Some stuff is light and humorous, while much of the things being said come off as a little hostile. Grown adults caught on video blowing up and nearing tears while shouting at another adult who made a grown up decision. Fans throwing rubber snakes on the ice, causing hazards to all skating on that side. In his first trip back, Tavares had a jersey tossed at him on his way off the ice following warm-ups.

Of course, this is not a reflection of all Islanders fans. Every fan base has their rotten apples, even the Leafs base that I am a part of. In fact, a good friend of mine tells me that Leafs fans are his least favourite, he also finds them the most problematic. Believe me, I am not saying my base is anywhere near perfect. I mean it was not too long ago that Leafs fans were throwing jerseys onto the ice and some even threw waffles at Phil Kessel (poor guy, I really liked him in Toronto). So, I’ll reiterate, all fan bases have their rotten apples.

Let’s go back to where this rant began, Matthews being a guy from Arizona who grew up loving the Coyotes. Once he is a free agent, if he chooses to go play for the Coyotes, I for one, will respect that decision. People seem to forget this quite a bit, but NHL players are human too. Just like you and I, some want to be home. Personally, someone wanting to play for their hometown is something I have always viewed as honorable. Matthews, whether he continues to play hockey in Toronto or takes his talents back to the desert, will always have my highest respects.

Again, just like you and I, some do want to be home.

player profiles from hockey-reference

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Home Struggles Continue

The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled in their last little while playing at home. This has Leafs fans frustrated and turning on members of the roster.

One roster member in particular received a pouring of boo’s from the home crowd, Jake Gardiner. Now, given the lack of effort on the part of the Maple Leafs as a whole while performing at home, it is hard to pinpoint the main cause. However, given Gardiner’s play as of late, it was easy for fans in Scotiabank Arena to aim their frustrations towards the defender. Their most recent performance saw the Maple Leafs surrender a 2-0 lead to the struggling Colorado Avalanche and lose 6-3. The game saw Frederik Andersen return to play after missing some time with a groin injury. Andersen faced 36 shots from the Avs while the Maple Leafs offense only managed 20 shots.

Maple Leafs outscored and outplayed at home

Throughout their last six home games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been outscored 21-13. Not only that, but throughout those six games, the Leafs were shutout twice. The first team to shut them out through this stretch was the New York Islanders when they defeated the Leafs 4-0. Next, the Nashville Predators downed the Maple Leafs 4-0. Given the Maple Leafs roster, there is a lot of confusion as to why they have had such trouble scoring at home. One player, however, feels he cracked the code on how to make the Leafs struggle.

The Maple Leafs were in Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Dec. 28, 2018. The Leafs went onto win that contest 4-2, with John Tavares scoring twice and Mitch Marner putting up a goal and two assists. Though the win did not come easy for the Maple Leafs. Shot were knotted at 29 a team, the Blue Jackets out-hit the young Maple Leafs squad 24-eight and the Leafs turned the puck over 10 times compared to five for the Blue Jackets. During the post-game media scrum, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno told reporters that the Maple Leafs are in fits when a team gets deep into their zone. Foligno made the claim that “they do not like defending down there at all.”

Perhaps other teams heard what Foligno had to say about their defensive struggles because since that game, the Leafs have lost five of their last seven games. That includes the win over the Blue Jackets.

Frustration within the fans…

The paying fans have been frustrated with the Maple Leafs play at home. Just last night, a number of fans present at Scotiabank Arena booed Gardiner. While it is easy for fans who elect to stay home and save money to say that it is not fair for the crowd to boo their players, they may not be aware of ticket costs.

Personally, I would love nothing more than to go watch a game in Toronto and support the team that was truly my first love, however, as a broke college student, I can only dream of affording to do so. Let’s say for the sake of this post, I put forth the funds to go and watch the Leafs at home and they perform as they have been. It is safe to say that I (probably out more than $500.00 on the ticket alone) would be pretty upset. But to boo one player in particular is just unfair.

Now, I’m not saying fans should come armed with their pitchforks and throw their jerseys (or waffles) onto the ice, but it is OK to display frustration. Compared to what Leafs fans have done in the past, I would say that booing is a respectful show of frustration. It is the furthest thing from cheap to see them play in Toronto, they need to perform better for their fans.

What is next?

Gardiner is just one man on an 18 man roster. All 18 players on their roster must be better and they will be tested in their next game where they will play host to the NHL’s top team and Atlantic Division leader, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The last meeting between the two saw Andrei Vasilevskiy return after missing 14 games due to injury. The Leafs lost 4-1 as Vasilevskiy stopped 48 of 49 shots he would see in his return to action. The Leafs and Bolts play on Jan. 17 and puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.

After their trip down to Florida (in which they’ll play both the Lightning and the Florida Panthers, the Leafs will have many games at home. In the next month and a half, they’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes, the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Edmonton Oilers, the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens and a few other clubs. Hopefully, this trip to sunny Florida will rejuvenate the Leafs and they’ll be hungry for some wins at home.

Stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury Is Unstoppable

When the season had begun, it seemed that the flame underneath the Vegas Golden Knights had been put out. At the mid-way point, however, it is clear that the flame has yet to be extinguished.

The Vegas Golden Knights have won seven straight games and sit in third place within the entire NHL with 58 points. The only two teams ahead of them are Pacific Division leader, the Calgary Flames with 60 points and the Tampa Bay Lightning (who are making a legitimate run for a President’s Trophy) with 68 points. On the seven game streak that the Vegas Golden Knights are riding, they have out-scored opposition 23-9. The stretch of wins also includes a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings which was Marc-Andre Fleury‘s league leading sixth shutout of the season. For a second straight season, it is looking as if the wizardly play of Fleury between the pipes can help the Vegas Golden Knights make a serious run.

The play of Marc-Andre Fleury…

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Last season, Fleury posted a record of 29-13-4 with four shutouts. He had unfortunately missed almost half of the season due to injury. This season, Fleury has already posted six shutouts, two more than his last season. At the moment, Fleury has also played seven less games than last season and as long as he stays healthy, he will have no issue passing his last season games played total. In addition, his 29 wins of last year look as if they will be beaten as well as Fleury currently leads the league in wins with 25. The next closest goaltender to Fleury is Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs with 20 wins. His league leading six shutouts is three away from the next closest goaltenders as former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate, Matt Murray, sits tied with four other goaltenders with three.

With Fleury’s impressive season, the Vegas Golden Knights are looking prime for another playoff run and they could potential find themselves back in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Up next for the Vegas Golden Knights…

The Vegas Golden Knights are home in Las Vegas, Nevada tonight for a contest against the San Jose Sharks. Puck drop for that game is 7 p.m. PT (10:00 p.m. EST). Following tonight’s game, the Knights will be on the road for a couple of games. On their road trip, they will play the Chicago Blackhawks (Sat. Jan, 12) and the Winnipeg Jets (Tues. Jan, 15) before they return home.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Vegas Golden Knights: Down But Not Out

When last season began, people thought very little of the newly founded Vegas Golden Knights. Yet, it didn’t take long for everyone to take notice.

The Golden Knights making the playoffs last season was shock enough for most. They, however, brought the surprises to an even higher level. Last season, they set a high bar for themselves by winning the Pacific Division title in their inaugural season. The Division title was not enough for the squad as they pushed all the way through the postseason to win the Western Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Ultimately, they fell short to a Stanley Cup thirsty Washington Capitals team. 

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Even with the 4-1 series loss in the final, the Golden Knights had little to hang their heads over. This was a brand new team, filled with people who had never played together before. Them bringing their story all the way to the Stanley Cup Final had definitely set a very high bar for the team this season. The Golden Knights, however, are not the same team they were last year.

The 2018-19 Golden Knights…

Now that is not to say that this team is not loaded with talent, because they are. Though they did lose James Neal this past off-season when he signed with current leader of the Pacific, the Calgary Flames. For their loss, they had quite the gain. Prior to the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the Golden Knights traded Tomas Tatar to the Montreal Canadiens for Max Pacioretty. Through 24 games played with the Golden Knights this year, Pacioretty has 15 points. While his 15 points do make an impact, the Golden Knights team is playing better hockey as a whole as of late.

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Prior to the Golden Knights’ 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 1, they had won five straight contests in which they scored 23 goals. Through their last 10, the Golden Knights are 7-3-0 and sit at 29 points just outside of the last wild card slot with plenty of time to go. As previously stated, the Flames currently lead the Pacific Division with 34 points, putting them five games above the Golden Knights for first. The Anaheim Ducks hold second place with 33 points and the San Jose Sharks hold third with 31.

Do the math and they sit one win back of the Sharks for third place in the division. In addition, they are two wins back of the Ducks for second and two and a half back of the Flames for first. The Golden Knights may seem down from last year, but they are most certainly not out.

Up next for the Golden Knights is a contest against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Dec. 4.

stats from NHL.com