Archive for the ‘Pacific Division’ Category

Joffrey Lupul’s career took a dramatic reversal in 2006 and the worst part is that he had no way of knowing it was in the works or that it would cause a damaging chain of events.

The Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks were Western Conference finalists a few years after their shocking appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, which was pushed by a goaltending feast from Jean-Sebastian Giguere.

A big role was played by Lupul in their 2006 postseason, as the sophomore scored nine goals, four of which arrived in one game against the Colorado Avalanche. In the words of Ian Laperriere, then a forward for Colorado, Lupul was “making a name for himself.”

Anaheim was a well-built club and despite losing out to the Edmonton Oilers in five games, their postseason mettle was growing and another run for the Cup was on the horizon—just not for Lupul. (more…)

Certain players could not care less that yet another lock-out is plaguing the National Hockey League. Why is that? They already took the liberty of joining various leagues across Europe before the issue became inevitable and forthcoming.

There have been some incredible talents to come and abruptly go in the NHL, as money, playing time and a lack of consistency persuaded them to continue their careers elsewhere.

Tax-free terms on a contract, which the Kontinental Hockey League offers, are something most of us can only dream about. You can’t blame a guy for trying flying to those stipulations. (more…)

Nicklas Lidstrom does not need an introduction. If anything, people are likely running out of superlatives to describe him with.

Put together on one sheet of paper, everything he’s achieved is nothing short of remarkable. Four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Memorial Trophies, one Conne Smythe award, 12 All-Star Game inductions and one Olympic gold medal place him amongst the legends of the sport.

The Calder Trophy was one of the few awards he failed to claim, but that was because his competition was one of the most electrifying players of all time in Pavel Bure. In a dual between a natural scorer and an unflappable defenseman, the scorer was voted as top rookie. It just goes to show you, even a performer with the pedigree of Lidstrom can’t win them all.

Steve Yzerman’s introduction signaled the start of something special in Detroit and Lidstrom is a huge factor in its continuity. Two decades have flown by since the veteran was first positioned into the line-up, during which the Red Wings are yet to come up short of reaching the postseason. Few matters are automatic in this day and age, like someone being fairly suspended by Brendan Shanahan for intolerable violations. One thing you can count on though is that Lidstrom’s name is synonymous with success. (more…)

The 2003 NHL Entry Draft, perceived as one of the best in league history, churned out a bundle of cornerstone players in the first round–a few were also snagged in round two. And to think, such a coveted collection of players was forced to be put on hold for one year due to the lock-out. That distinction should have went to the class of 1999.

Going No.1 overall, Marc-Andre Fleury was chosen to fill the void in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net. Ask, and you shall receive. The 27-year-old has decently done what he’s supposed to–the Philadelphia Flyers beg to differ– after a rookie season that saw much trial-and-error experimenting within the club.

As the second player to have his name called, Eric Staal went straight to work with the Carolina Hurricanes by amassing 100 points as a sophomore and sparking the group towards a Stanley Cup. Florida picked up Nathan Horton and while he wasn’t exactly a leader, he wasn’t a bust either. Nikolai Zherdev, as talented as they come offensively, didn’t solidify his selection with the Columbus Blue Jackets. (more…)

Zero.

As of this moment, that is how many suspensions Matt Cooke and Steve Downie have served together this season. No, it is not a typo and there should not be a one added to it. Suggesting, prior to the regular season, that neither player would be forcefully withdrawn from a game or involved in a serious incident from October to April would be classified as a pipe dream.

Lo and behold, it is now a reality. Cooke and Downie, both of whom got their Ontario Hockey League start-up with the Windsor Spitfires, toned down their physicality and adjusted their playing styles. In contrast to some of their previous on-ice choices, they couldn’t have timed this one any better. (more…)

Some players, no matter how hard they try or how well they constantly perform, go through their careers as under-appreciated and overlooked athletes.  While the same superstars hog the spotlight year in and year out, their media attention is in stark contrast to others who silently finish their shifts on a positive note.

Take Kimmo Timonen for example, a defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers who is lauded by teammates and opponents alike. It’s his 13th year in the National Hockey League and yet he is still somehow hidden from the microphones and televisions too routinely. Maybe it’s his 5-foot-10 frame that makes him hard to find in a crowded dressing room. Maybe the reporters want to interview those with last names that do not have to be double-checked for spelling. We can’t all have fancy, simple names like Mike Richards and Bobby Ryan.

Although he may not mind his underrated label, it is unjust for a hardy veteran to be so overshadowed by better-known players. Perhaps Zdeno Chara will have improved Timonen’s publicity after he was the first rearguard to be hand-picked by the Slovakian’s team in this year’s All-Star Fantasy Draft. But the Finn is merely one of many.

Then there is Ray Whitney. (more…)

Surprises aren’t appreciated by everyone; these people are insistent on being told if something is in the works behind their back. With the National Hockey League’s latest campaign coming upon us, it’s a chance to pour over the players who shattered their expectations—if they had some to begin with—and whose presence graced an organization. For someone to be included in this list, it had to be their career-year to date; that goes without saying.

Next, the leap in their maturation must be a significant one—we’re not exactly going to cram in individuals who raised their highest production by ten points. And the key words are the ‘regular season’, as the playoffs are not why we’re gathered here today. No disrespect is intended for Sean Bergenheim or Joel Ward, who fired all calibers of bullets round for round during the postseason.

If surprises aren’t to your liking, do not read past this point. (more…)