Boston Bruins

NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

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NHL Power Rankings: Flyers tough at the top

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

With the NHL trade deadline little more than a month away, the time has come for plenty of moves to take place. Which teams will stand pat with their teams confident in their roster building at the beginning of the season, and which teams will make an epic splash with an Ilya Kovalchuk-level move this season.

As weve seen, those kind of major deals can either pull a team apart or push them together. Thats always the ultimate chance when altering the chemistry of any hockey team.

There are plenty of rumors out there about Ottawa defenseman Sergei Gonchar with some even suggesting that Boston might be interested and that kind of player could be the one missing link for many teams to become Stanley Cup contenders.

Tomas Kaberle is also going to be available in the coming weeks with Toronto once again on the ropes, and it really likes itll be a healthy market for puck-moving defensemen for the first time in recent memory.

Teams have already evaluated what they have, and now its time to get bold with a move or two and get busy winning or get busy losing. Without further ado, here are this weeks power rankings:

1. Philadelphia Flyers (32-12-5, last week: 1) The Flyers are the biggest, baddest hockey team in the land and now they have Chris Pronger back. They also beat down the defending champs on national television Sunday.
2. Vancouver Canucks (29-10-9, last week: 2) It wasnt a banner week for the Canucks with three overtimeshootout losses, but you cant fault them too much for that in the socialist NHL, right?

3. Dallas Stars (29-14-5, last week: 4) The Red Wings finally whooped up on the Stars last weekend and handed them their first loss in January, but hats off to a Dallas team that has been good all season.

4. Detroit Red Wings (29-13-6, last week: 4) The Red Wings have hung in there admirably, and will be getting Daniel Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk back after the All-Star break. Watch out for the Winged Wheels.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-5, last week: 8) Hats off to the classy Marty St. Louis, who has topped 20 goals in a season eight consecutive years. The Bolts have won four in a row, and look like theyre legit.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (30-15-4, last week: 6) The Penguins are fighting valiantly, but life without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin isnt going to be easy.

7. Boston Bruins (27-14-7, last week: 5) Who would have ever thought that Brad Marchand would be the rookie that everybody is talking about? He leads all NHL rookies with a plus-21.
8. Nashville Predators (27-15-6, last week: 11) The Preds are streaking, and much it is all about Pekka Rinne. The rangy Nashville goalie is 9-1 in his last 10 starts and has allowed one goal or fewer in six of those games.

9. Washington Capitals (27-14-8, last week: 7) Alex Ovechkin snapped out of a goal-scoring funk with a hat trick last weekend, and the competition with Tampa Bay will end up being a very good thing for the Caps.

10. Montreal Canadiens (27-17-5, last week: 10) Apparently, the Habs are taking umbrage with all this talk that only one Northeast Division team will make the playoffs.

11. Phoenix Coyotes (24-16-9, last week: 9) The Desert Dogs are 10-8-5 at home this season. That just isnt going to get it done.

12. Chicago Blackhawks (26-19-4, last week: 12) The one-sided loss to the Flyers was a pretty indicator of how much lesser the Blackhawks are as a team this season.
13. Anaheim Ducks (27-20-4, last week: 15) Saku Koivu wins in his return to Montreal and the Ducks are making due without Ryan Getzlaf in an impressively gutty showing.

14. New York Rangers (28-19-3, last week: 16) The Rangers havent been the best in their last seven games, but its going to do nothing but help with Marian Gaborik on track offensively.

15. San Jose Sharks (25-19-5, last week: 21) You would think that the Sharks would get angry or embarrassed given the way theyre underachieving this season. Youd be wrong.
16. Colorado Avalanche (24-18-6, last week: 14) The good: the Avs have Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. The bad: the Avs are brutal defensively and got blown out in two straight games.
17. Minnesota Wild (24-19-5, 20) The Wild are in the periphery of the playoffs, but its going to be tough to stay there for Minnesotas Wild Bunch.

18. Atlanta Thrashers (23-19-9, last week: 17) The Thrashers lose Toby Enstrom to injury and get spanked by the Lightning by a 7-1. Guess hes kind of important, eh?

19. St. Louis Blues (22-18-7, last week: 19) The Blues seem to really be stuck in neutral right now, and have won two of their last 10 games. They cant even get Kyle Wellwood on waivers for cripes sakes.

20. Carolina Hurricanes (23-19-6, last week: 16) The Hurricanes arent exactly burying their chances to catch up to a Thrashers team thats struggling. For a team with a strong young leader like Eric Staal, the Canes seem to take too many shifts off.
21. Los Angeles Kings (25-22-1, last week: 18) I love Dean Lombardi, but it might be time to lay low in a safe house for a while.

22. Calgary Flames (22-21-6, last week: 22) The Flames have pulled themselves to within a handful of points of a playoff spot out west, but methinks theres a better chance of Jarome Iginla getting dealt than Calgary making the playoffs.

23. Buffalo Sabres (22-21-5, last week: 25) Ryan Miller will be playing until either A) his limbs fall off or B) the Sabres are eliminated from the playoffs.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-20-5, last week: 27) The Blue Jackets have taken points in five straight games, but really need to turn it on.
25. Florida Panthers (21-21-5, last week: 24) The latest four game losing streak for the Panthers should be taken as their official white flag of surrender for this season.

26. Toronto Maple Leafs (19-23-5, last week: 26) Brian Burke needs to trade Tomas Kaberle or get off the pot. The Leafs are going nowhere but inviting the Bruins to the lottery once again.
27. New Jersey Devils (16-29-3, last week: 30) The Devils are 6-0-1 in their last seven games and Ilya Kovalchuk is finally starting to look as advertised. Wonder if Lou Lamoriello is muttering Its about time in the Devils management box.
28. Edmonton Oilers (14-25-8, last week: 29) The young Oilers are struggling big time, but at least GM Steve Tambellini didnt have any goaltenders hang up the phone on him.
29. New York Islanders (15-25-7, last week: 28) Would love to have been a fly on the well for that ever so brief chat between Evgeni Nabokov and Garth Snow.

30. Ottawa Senators (17-25-7, last week: 27) Looks like theres a full Ottawa housecleaning set to take place with the Senators beginning soon. Its about time that dirty room was cleaned up.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.