All posts by Brandon Maron

Lightning 1 of 2 clubs to vote against 24-team playoff format

The Tampa Bay Lightning feel the proposed 24-team playoff format gives an unfair advantage to some teams.

"I brought the format to my team. They didn't feel it was fair that certain teams that probably wouldn't have made the playoffs would have a chance to make the playoffs in a best-of-five series," Lighting winger and NHLPA representative Alex Killorn said, according to The Athletic's Joe Smith. "My team also felt it was unfair that the teams with a bye would not be as well prepared for a playoff series as the teams that had already basically played a playoff series to get into the playoffs."

"I don't want people to think that we don't want to play. Everyone on our team wants to play. In saying that, we are fine with the vote the PA took and we are ready with it going forward," Killorn added.

Tampa Bay was one of two teams to vote against the 24-team format on Friday. The other was the Carolina Hurricanes, according to The Athletic's Sara Civian.

The Lightning were in second place in the Atlantic Division when the league paused the season on March 12 and are guaranteed a playoff berth under the proposed format. Instead of participating in a best-of-five play-in series, the top four teams in each conference will reportedly be given a bye and partake in a round-robin tournament to determine seeding.

"The only problem I have with that format is that the top teams that have a bye, I don't know how competitive their games will be going forward where the teams at the bottom will be playing playoff games right away and (would be) potentially more prepared for, I guess, the real playoffs," Killorn said.

The NHL is reportedly continuing to work out the details for the format, including whether to reseed or use a bracketed structure following the play-in round and if the first round after the play-in series will be five- or seven-game series. An official announcement is expected early next week.

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Kane: NHL can’t move forward until ‘massive’ racism issue is addressed

San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane still believes there's a long way to go as the NHL deals with racism and hatred tied to hockey.

"For me, it's really just disappointing, it's shocking. And the disappointment comes because I love hockey so much, and I think our sport is the greatest sport by far out of any," Kane said to TSN's Mark Masters and Rick Westhead.

"And all this racism does is drag it down," he continued. "For me, as a player, who really wants this game and this league to grow as big as it possibly can to get on some of the levels that other leagues are on, we're not going to be able to do that until we fix this massive issue that all we've done so far is just cover it up or try to cover it up."

"This is just kind of the beginning of people understanding that there's still racism in hockey whether you want to pretend there isn't or there is," he added.

The 28-year-old has been subjected to racist taunts from fans while playing in the NHL. During the 2019 playoffs, a fan in Colorado told him to "stick to basketball," which Kane later addressed on Instagram.

He believes players still face similar issues today, pointing to Akim Aliu, who recently revealed his past experiences with racism in professional hockey.

"I think there's a lot more stories like that. This wasn't racism from another player on another team or another coach on another team, this was from right in his own locker room," Kane said. "That happens as well, it's happened to me."

"This isn't about Akim being good enough to play in the NHL or not, it's about while he was playing in the NHL, or while he was playing in the AHL, or while he was playing in the OHL, he encountered racism," he added. "Whether that happened yesterday or whether that happened 10 years ago, it makes no difference because the people - specifically to Akim's story - that were causing that sort of racism and displaying those types of remarks and verbalizing that were still active participants in our league, so it is current. It is real. It's not about how long ago it was."

Aliu wrote a piece published on The Players' Tribune last week calling for change across all levels of hockey to improve diversity and inclusivity.

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Weber: 24-team format unfair, but Canadiens excited to compete

Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber is aware that the proposed 24-team playoff format provides him and his team a chance to seize an unexpected opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.

"Obviously, I think we're excited. Do I think it's fair to all the teams that were in the playoffs? No," Weber said on TSN 1040. "At the same time, that gives us a chance to win and it gives us a chance to keep playing."

The NHL is inching toward officially opting for a 24-team playoff format if the league returns to complete the 2019-20 season. On Friday, the NHLPA voted in favor of authorizing further negotiations with the NHL to examine additional details regarding the format.

Montreal sat 24th in the league standings when the season was paused March 12. Despite a near zero percent chance of making the playoffs, the Canadiens would squeeze in as the final team under the proposed format.

"Obviously, the situation we were in where we weren't officially out (of the playoffs) but it would have been a tough road ahead to get in, and I think now it gives us a little bit of hope," Weber added. "At the end of the day, I think everyone's going to consider it, whether they'll give it an asterisk ... it's still the Stanley Cup."

Expectations are that the league will formally announce the approval of the format in the coming days, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, who adds that a timetable or return date is unlikely to also be included.

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Laine eager to return to play, regardless of format

Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine is excited to hopefully get back on the ice this summer and compete for the Stanley Cup, but he knows his game won't pick up where it left off.

"My game is probably gonna look terrible since I haven't skated for two months," Laine said on a video conference call Friday, according to The Canadian Press. "It's always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven't skated."

The NHL is reportedly voting on a 24-team playoff format that'll be used if the league returns to finish the 2019-20 season. Under the proposed format, the Jets would take on the Calgary Flames in a best-of-five play-in series.

Despite the potential expanded field, tougher path to the title, and the likelihood of being quarantined in a hub city, Laine is simply looking forward to competing.

"I just want to play, and I can do whatever format they decide. It's still hockey, but I don't mind the format. It's not an issue for me," Laine said. "I'll have to bring my computer so that I can play some video games. It will be boring, but if that's what it requires to play hockey this summer, that's fine with me. I don't mind and I don't need to go anywhere but my hotel room. So that would be just normal for me on the road.

"If that's necessary, I don't mind it."

The 22-year-old was having a solid season before the pause, recording 28 goals and 35 assists in 68 games.

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Report: Players fought against best-of-3 series due to fear of Price, Kane

With the NHL reportedly in the midst of voting on an unprecedented 24-team playoff format, clubs weren't willing to give two of the league's biggest stars an easy chance to disrupt the postseason.

"The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said Friday on Sportsnet 590's "Lead Off." "They felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said 'two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.'"

Friedman added: "If the players feel that way, the players feel that way. They're the guy that they gotta shoot against and they clearly believe that he is a difference-maker ... The players fought the two-out-of-three because of him."

Under the current proposed 24-team format, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be tasked with facing the 24th-placed Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five play-in series. The Penguins were nearly guaranteed a playoff berth at the time of the season's pause on March 12, whereas the Canadiens seemed destined for a lottery pick.

Price has a career .914 save percentage in the playoffs and is widely seen as the league's best goaltender despite his lackluster play of late. He was voted the best goalie by his peers in the 2019-20 NHLPA player poll.

Similar sentiments were felt in the Western Conference about Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks in a short series.

"I did hear that the Western teams - and now it's going to be Edmonton - they were like, 'two out of three with Patrick Kane? I mean come on.' But it wasn't at the same level as Price."

Friedman added that the results of the vote on the proposed 24-team format are expected to be known on Friday evening or Saturday.

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Fuhr, Trottier headline group of coaches for ‘3ICE’

E.J. Johnston - founder of the new three-on-three hockey league, 3ICE - said last year that the players and coaches who participate will be familiar faces, and he has yet to disappoint.

Grant Fuhr, Bryan Trottier, Guy Carbonneau, Larry Murphy, Angela Ruggiero, John LeClair, Joe Mullen, and Ed Johnston round out the group of coaches for the league's eight teams. In total, they've combined for 23 Stanley Cup victories and six of the eight have made their way into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The three-on-three league is set to debut in June 2021 and travel across North America where teams will play in bracket-style tournaments in different cities every weekend.

"We’re anticipating that we’re going to be able to have a lot of exciting hockey," league commissioner Craig Patrick said, according to USA Today's Chris Bumbaca. "Even more than the NHL’s overtime format, because we’re going to go for a lot of speed and skill throughout and we’re going to look at different rules that enable that to happen more frequently in our game."

While the players remain unknown, Johnston believes he'll be able to attract a good group to join his league. He described the ideal 3ICE participants as "shorter, faster players, with elite hands and stick speed."

"These guys will have NHL pedigree. If the NHL was overtime all the time, they’d still be playing in the league," Johnston added. "The creativity is really what we’re looking for.”

Games will be aired on CBS Sports in the United States and TSN in Canada. They will consist of eight-minute halves and have a running clock. There will be no penalties in the league, only penalty shots.

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Tavares still unsure of fairest way to complete season

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares knows there isn't an easy answer when it comes to the NHL's options for playing out the 2019-20 season.

"I'm not sure I'm completely 100% sold on any format," Tavares said, according to Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt. "But the biggest thing is honoring the regular season as best as we can while still giving each team that deserves the opportunity, or still has an opportunity to make the playoffs, to be a part of that."

Tavares added: "It's difficult to determine the fairest way of going about it, with so many different variables that were out of your control, in terms of games teams have played, the opponents they have left to finish the season, how many home games."

The 2019-20 campaign was paused on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many ideas for a potential return to action have been floated, while a modified 24-team playoff format has reportedly gained the most traction lately.

Tavares, alongside four other players - Connor McDavid, James van Riemsdyk, Ron Hainsey, and Mark Scheifele - are part of the NHL's Return to Play Committee that's been working with the league to figure out a plan.

Tavares confirmed that players do want to resume the season but that a number of factors must be taken into account, including the issue of separating those players from their families.

"Guys understand how fortunate we are to play a game for a living, and if we have that opportunity, we would be very excited about that, especially knowing the state the world is in, and the positivity that could bring back," Tavares said. "But, at the same time, the health and safety measures have to be at the highest of standards."

While Tavares knows things can change dramatically every day, he feels a "sense of urgency" to get a concrete plan in place so that players can have a better understanding of what a return would look like if the NHL gets the green light to resume.

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Ryan Miller says pandemic may force retirement this offseason

Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

While Anaheim Ducks backup goaltender Ryan Miller hopes to keep playing hockey next season, the COVID-19 pandemic could push him to call it quits earlier than expected.

"I mean the desire is there, but there's going to be a lot of factors. First of all, we're all going to have to address this new normal. What that means for sports and life - and wrapped up in that is family and how family is going to need to be taken care of during this time," Miller said to Sportsnet's Gene Principe. "There's a lot of talk here in California that schools are not going to be fully in session possibly into next year, that changes the dynamic around the house and what needs to happen and what's important."

The 39-year-old netminder has spent 17 seasons in the NHL, most recently serving as the backup in Anaheim over the past three years. Miller has performed well with the Ducks, appearing in 71 games while compiling a 29-19-12 record with a .916 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average.

Miller turned in the best years of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, where he spent 11 seasons from 2002-14. He took home the Vezina Trophy in 2010 and put together an impressive 284-186-57 record with a .916 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average with the franchise.

While he believes he still has some gas left in the tank, Miller knows the evolving situation may force his hand.

"Hockey is very important to me but I'm trying to be realistic," he said. "I'm at the tail end of a long career and I would love to play so I'm going to hum and haw for you guys. I really like to play, it's a lot of fun, but I really want to see where things end up."

Miller, who will turn 40 in July, is set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.

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Mark Recchi: Crosby might be closest NHL comparison to Michael Jordan

Hockey Hall of Fame member Mark Recchi believes Sidney Crosby is hockey's closest comparison to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

"Obviously, there's some great ones along the way, but in terms of the work ethic, I heard somebody say Sidney, and Sidney's probably about as close as you're gonna get, except he's not as confrontational as Michael Jordan was, it seems like," the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach said on Sportsnet's "Hockey Central." "Sid's work ethic is the hardest, the teammates have no choice but to follow."

Recchi has had a front-row seat to the Crosby show over the last several years. In 2014, he was hired as the Penguins' player development coach before being named an assistant coach in 2017.

One of the main reasons Recchi chose Crosby is due to the 32-year-old's desire to keep improving on his game while helping his teammates do the same.

"Our practices are unbelievably fast. When we get new guys in, they're not used to practicing at that pace and it takes them about three weeks to a month to catch up to that pace, and Sid leads the way every day," Recchi said. "After practice, he tries to get better at something every day. It's almost, like, lead by example: 'Guys you gotta stick with me and follow along and do the things I'm doing and we're gonna get there.'"

Crosby and Recchi were teammates for three seasons from 2005 until 2007.

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Biggest NHL draft steals: Pacific Division

After looking at each NHL team's biggest busts, theScore's hockey editors are examining the league's best draft steals. With some exceptions in extreme circumstances, the players included must have made significant contributions to the organization that drafted them. Today, we're focusing on the Pacific Division, excluding the Vegas Golden Knights due to their lack of draft history.

Central | Metropolitan | Atlantic

Anaheim Ducks

Dave Sandford / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The pick: Corey Perry (No. 28, 2003)
GM responsible: Bryan Murray (2002-04)
Honorable mentions: Sami Vatanen (No. 106, 2009), Frederik Andersen (No. 87, 2012), Ondrej Kase (No. 205, 2014)

The 2003 draft was monumental for the Ducks. Anaheim went in with two late first-round picks, but ultimately struck gold. They selected Ryan Getzlaf at No. 19 and then took a shot with Perry at No. 28. Both instantly became franchise cornerstones, and helped lead the Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2007.

Perry spent 13 seasons in Anaheim, racking up 751 points over 932 games. His tenure with the Ducks came to an end when he was bought out of the final two years of his contract in June 2019.

First-round picks aren't often seen as steals, but getting a franchise star with one of the final picks of the opening round doesn't happen often. Among all players drafted in the first round at No. 28 or later, Perry ranks second in games played and is tied for first in points.

Arizona Coyotes

Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty

The pick: Keith Yandle (No. 105, 2005)
GM responsible: Mike Barnett (2001-07)
Honorable mentions: Michael Stone (No. 69, 2008), Christian Dvorak (No. 58, 2014)

Getting a top-pairing defenseman in the later rounds is rare. However, the Coyotes managed to snag Yandle in the fourth round in 2005.

Yandle helped the Coyotes reach the Western Conference Final in 2012, logging big minutes on the blue line while contributing nine points in the playoffs. He played in 439 consecutive games from 2009 until his departure from Arizona in 2015. In eight seasons with the Coyotes, he managed 270 points in 495 games.

The Coyotes got a good haul for Yandle at the trade deadline in 2015, shipping him off to the New York Rangers in exchange for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, and a first- and second-round pick.

Calgary Flames

B Bennett / Bruce Bennett / Getty

The pick: Theo Fleury (No. 166, 1987)
GM responsible: Cliff Fletcher (1972-91)
Honorable mentions: Gary Suter (No. 180, 1984), T.J. Brodie (No. 114, 2008), Johnny Gaudreau (No. 104, 2011)

Fleury dominated the WHL prior to his draft year, netting 104 goals and 237 points with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Still, teams were reluctant to grab him in the draft due to his 5-foot-6 frame. The Flames finally decided to take a shot on him in the eighth round, which was a choice they surely don't regret.

Fleury made an immediate impact, helping Calgary win a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1989. In his third season, he set career highs in goals (51) and points (104). Overall, Fleury amassed 364 goals and 830 points in 791 games with the franchise over 11 seasons.

One of the smallest players of his generation, Fleury was doubtful to even make it as an NHL player. Against all odds, he went on to play over 1,000 games and tally over 1,000 points in his career. On top of his Stanley Cup, he also has an Olympic gold medal, and is second all time on the Flames' scoring list, trailing only Jarome Iginla. Not bad for an eighth-round pick.

Edmonton Oilers

Bruce Bennett / Bruce Bennett / Getty

The pick: Mark Messier (No. 48, 1979)
GM responsible: Glen Slather (1980-00)
Honorable mentions: Glenn Anderson (No. 69, 1979), Jari Kurri (No. 69, 1980), Esa Tikkanen (No. 80, 1983)

This one could have easily gone to either Kurri or Anderson, as all three are Oilers legends. The trio of players were a part of all five of Edmonton's Stanley Cups. However, Messier gets the nod due to his overall contributions to the Oilers as captain once Wayne Gretzky was no longer with the team.

After winning four Cups in five seasons from 1984-88, Gretzky was dealt. Messier was then named captain, and surprisingly helped lead the Oilers to their fifth Cup in 1990 without the help of "The Great One." Messier earned the Hart Trophy that season, leading the team with 45 goals and 129 points.

Though Messier ultimately spent less than half his career in Edmonton, his value to the franchise is nearly unmatched. He racked up 392 goals and 1,034 points across 12 seasons with the Oilers. On top of his key role in the Cup victories, he was named to seven All-Star Games during his tenure with the team and ranks third all time in franchise history in both games played and points.

Los Angeles Kings

Denis Brodeur / National Hockey League / Getty

The pick: Luc Robitaille (No. 171, 1984)
GM responsible: Rogie Vachon (1984-92)
Honorable mentions: Bernie Nicholls (No. 73, 1980), Rob Blake (No. 70, 1988), Jonathan Quick (No. 72, 2005)

Robitaille kicked off his career with the Kings in grand fashion, taking home the Calder Trophy in 1987. He remains the only player in franchise history to earn the honor. He didn't slow down afterward, scoring more than 40 goals in each of his first eight seasons.

Robitaille's biggest contribution to the Kings came in 1992-93, when he assumed captaincy with Gretzky injured for a big chunk of the season. He put up a career-high 125 points that season, helping lead the Kings to a playoff berth and their first Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

Robitaille was traded in 1994, but eventually returned for two other stints in L.A. from 1997-01 and 2003-06. He remains the franchise leader in goals (557), and is one of six players to have his number retired by the Kings.

San Jose Sharks

Don Smith / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The pick: Joe Pavelski (No. 205, 2003)
GM responsible: Doug Wilson (2003-present)
Honorable mentions: Evgeni Nabokov (No. 219, 1994), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (No. 35, 2005), Kevin Labanc (No. 171, 2014)

The Sharks managed to snag a franchise center at the tail end of the draft when they selected Pavelski.

He served as captain during his final four seasons with the Sharks, and was integral to the team's success over the last decade. He helped lead the Sharks to their first-ever Stanley Cup appearance in 2015-16 - his first year as captain.

Pavelski ranks second in franchise history in goals, trailing Patrick Marleau, and sits third in points, behind only Joe Thornton and Marleau. Pavelski is one of the most important Sharks players in franchise history and San Jose couldn't have asked for a better pick at No. 205 in 2003.

Vancouver Canucks

Graig Abel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The pick: Pavel Bure (No. 113, 1989)
GM responsible: Pat Quinn (1987-97)
Honorable mentions: Adrian Aucoin (No. 117, 1992), Kevin Bieksa (No. 151, 2001), Jannik Hansen (No. 287, 2004)

Controversy swirled around Bure's selection at the 1989 draft. The Canucks took him late in the sixth round, while many teams weren't sure of his draft eligibility due to his age. The pick was originally deemed illegal by league president John Ziegler, but the Canucks later won an appeal to uphold the pick.

Bure ultimately fell because teams were scared off by the idea of him choosing to play in the Soviet Union instead. While the Canucks didn't take a huge gamble on him at 113th overall, it was a risk that paid off extremely well.

He took home the Calder Trophy in 1992, and helped lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, which they ended up losing in seven games. He led the team in scoring that season with 60 goals and 107 points, and posted 31 points in 24 playoff games.

His career in Vancouver didn't end all that well - he demanded a trade in 1998 and held out into the 1998-99 season. He was soon traded to the Florida Panthers for several players, including Ed Jovanovski, and a first-round pick. Bure's seven-year tenure with the Canucks ended with him tallying 254 goals and 478 points in 428 games.

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