My take on some of most interesting NHL news and notes for the week of Dec. 28, 2014 to Jan. 3, 2015.
There wasn’t as much buzz over the Chicago Blackhawks-Washington Capitals game this year. Though it was well-attended, the 2.3 TV rating was the lowest in Winter Classic history. That’s a shame, as the conditions was near perfect and the game itself was very good.
Perhaps it’s because of fatigue over seeing the same teams competing in the Winter Classic. It was the second time for the Blackhawks and the Capitals to appear in the event. Maybe it was because the Blackhawks and Capitals aren’t natural rivals. It could be because there was seemingly less promotion for this event compared to previous years.
I don’t believe it’s because the novelty has worn off, but it could be time to start exploring other markets to host the Winter Classic. Though the NHL prefers to stage it in its biggest Eastern U.S markets because of bigger television ratings, it is long overdue for markets like Minneapolis-St.Paul, St. Louis and Denver to have an opportunity as hosts.
Martin Brodeur collected his 125th career NHL shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. That’s an impressive number, but I still find it sad watching the once-great Brodeur, a first-ballot lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame, grinding it out as a third-string goalie with the Blues after nearly two decades as an All-Star with the New Jersey Devils.
Sure, Brodeur’s earned the right to carry on his career well past his best-before date as long as there’s a team willing to sign him, but it stirs up uncomfortable memories of Mark Messier, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano in the twilight of their otherwise illustrious careers.
The good thing about when Brodeur finally retires is we’ll all have collective amnesia over his final futile seasons and remember him when he was at his peak.
It appears Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Florida’s Aaron Ekblad have pulled away from the pack in this year’s Calder Trophy chase. Forsberg currently leads all rookies in goals and points, with Gaudreau close behind. Ekblad, meanwhile, is a distant third in points, but the 18-year-old blueliner logs nearly 22 minutes in ice time and has become a key part of the Panthers defense corps.
Keep an eye on Winnipeg Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson as a dark-horse candidate. He’s out-playing Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec and could earn more starts in the coming weeks as the Jets jockey for a playoff berth in the very tough Western Conference.
The Edmonton Oilers made a series of moves, claiming Matt Fraser off waivers from the Boston Bruins, shipping center Mark Arcobello to Nashville for aging center Derek Roy and dealing unhappy winger David Perron to Pittsburgh for checking-line center Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round pick in 2015.
Oilers GM Craig MacTavish probably isn’t done making moves between now and the March trade deadline. His club has almost no chance of making the playoffs. Roy and Klinkhammer are both unrestricted free agents and could be on the move again by March 2 for draft picks. Defenseman Jeff Petry seems all but certain to be on his way out of Edmonton via free agency in July so don’t be surprised if he’s pursued by clubs like Detroit or Anaheim, who seek a right-handed defenseman,. Goalie Viktor Fasth could hit the trade block if he decides to test this summer’s trade market.
Don’t expect the Oilers to ship out bigger pieces like Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle, unless of course those forwards demand a trade. Young winger Nail Yakupov continues to struggle and he could attract some interest in the trade market, though the Oilers won’t get much of a return for him right now.
The end of Dany Heatley’s NHL career is fast approaching. The Anaheim Ducks demoted him to their AHL affiliate after he cleared waivers earlier in the week. Hampered by a groin injury, the former two-time 50-goal scorer and 2002 Calder Trophy winner went pointless through six games with the Ducks this season.
Heatley, who turns 34 this month, has been in steady decline since 2009-10, his first season with the San Jose Sharks after demanding a trade from the Ottawa Senators. It’ll be surprising if he finishes this season with the Ducks or another NHL franchise.
Speculation over the future of the Arizona Coyotes will persist as long as that out-clause exists in the arena lease agreement between the Arizona Coyotes ownership and the city of Glendale.
Yes, they’ve got a new majority owner in hedge-fund investor Andrew Barroway, who said all the right things about keeping the team in Glendale, but if the team incurs $50 million in losses over five years, Ice Arizona has justification to get out of that lease. Given the growing talk of NHL expansion to Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City or Kansas City in the coming years, the Coyotes could remain a rumored candidate for relocation to one of those markets.