Steven Stamkos joins other Pro Athletes for a Nike ‘Snow Day’


During tonight’s Thursday Night Football game with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, Nike will debut their creative and fun ‘Snow Day’ campaign which features Tampa Bay Lightning Forward Steven Stamkos among a cast of other professional athletes.



While this is an insanely creative ad, when it comes to marketing the NHL in the US is falls way short of other campaigns that have been successful in Canada.

Campaigns like this one with Jarome Igilna and Markus Naslund

Or this Classic one with Markus Naslund and Ilya Kovalchuk

Or even this classic Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs one

One has to wonder what can be done to market the NHL and it’s players more effectively in the United States.

‘Snow Day’ also stars – Odell Beckham Jr. (NFL – New York Giants), Le’Veon Bell (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Eugenie Bouchard (Canadian Pro Tennis Player), Antonio Brown (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Elena Delle Donne (WNBA – Chicago Sky), Marlen Esparza (Women’s Boxing), Paula Findlay (Women’s Triathlon), Lauren Fisher (CrossFit Games), Paul George (NBA – Indiana Pacers), A.J. Green (NFL – Cincinnati Bengals), Draymond Green (NBA – Golden State Warriors), Luke Kuechly (NFL – Carolina Panthers), Sydney Leroux (US Women’s Soccer Team), Carli Lloyd (US Women’s Soccer Team), Marcus Mariota (NFL – Tennessee Titans), LeSean McCoy (NFL – Buffalo Bills), Ben Roethlisberger (NFL – Pittsburgh Steelers), Eric Weddle (NFL – San Diego Chargers) as well as Steven Stamkos (NHL – Tampa Bay Lightning).


Source: Creativity

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ducks Getzlaf out 4-12 days with appendicitis



Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf will not play tonight in Dallas against the Stars due to appendicitis.  The Ducks and Pucks blog first reported he flew back home to Orange County today for his surgery which is scheduled for tomorrow.  According to the Anaheim Ducks press release, Getzlaf will be out for approximately 4-12 days.

The Anaheim Ducks also said that Getzlaf has had ‘discomfort intermittently over the last six weeks’.

In eight games this season Getzlaf has scored one assist on the struggling Ducks roster who are 1-5-2 and only six goals scored this season.  This begs the question, if this is his problem with his lack of production, why wasn’t this discovered earlier in training camp?


Posted in News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Happened With the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports

By the time you read this, the Columbus Blue Jackets will have started the 2015-2016 NHL season 0-7.  They have allowed 34 goals and only scored 13 through these seven games.   It’s amazing that a professional hockey team has started the season 0-7 in such dramatic fashion.

The question everyone is asking is…

What’s wrong with this team?!?!?

Now I’m sure you can pick apart players and come up with line combinations until the cows come home.  However, the Blue Jackets problems break down into three areas (below).  Until these three areas are fixed no General Manager will be able to fully determine what Blue Jackets positions need upgrading.  Until the team turns the three areas noted below around first, they’re not going to be able to do much of anything productive on the ice.

Defensive Zone Coverage

After allowing 34 goals in just seven games it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Blue Jackets could not stop pucks going in.  If ever there was one goal that summed up their defensive zone issues, it’s this one from their home game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.

At the five second mark I want you to watch how ALL five players are down in one area leaving the Leafs point men wide open.  Also note how the defensemen are watching the puck and not the players behind them.

Now imagine this happening 34 times over seven games and you’ll get the picture of why the Blue Jackets are in the mess they’re in right now.  Normally, a defending player would take a quick glance back to see if the opposing players away from the puck (left side of the screen) are sneaking into a scoring position like they did here.

THIS kind of defensive lapse is a coaching problem especially if it happens repeatedly over seven games.  Todd Richards and his coaching staff could not stop goals like this from happening.  This alone was justification for his termination.  This is some of the worst case defensive zone discipline I’ve ever seen on an NHL team.


It’s well known Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky told the media that he’s lost his confidence.  Let me show you an example of this.  Just watch and note how he wasn’t ready for this shot on goal and how he reacted too late.

There’s not a lot that can be done here as it’s up to Bobrovsky to work through his confidence issues.  He’s a great goaltender but he needs to get back to believing he’s a great goaltender.

Mental Game is Off

The Blue Jackets lack of mental strength or confidence is a team wide issue.  Over the course of the first seven games you could see the confidence of the entire team erode as each of the 34 goals the Blue Jackets allowed were scored.  A goal would be scored and the team’s confidence and their performance went down hill quickly.

It’s tough righting a sinking ship when the ship has so many holes in it that have been ignored.  Until the new coaching staff solves this, there’s just going to be more of the same.

New Coach In Columbus

With the hiring of John Tortorella as Todd Richards replacement, people are speculating if this is the right hire for the team because the franchise has been sinking hard and fast for a few years now.  This team needs a winner now.

I personally don’t think he is the man for the job based on his performance in Vancouver along with the stories from other members of the NHL media (specifically TSN’s Gary Lawless on the radio yesterday) I’ve heard from about the way he coached (or didn’t coach) there.  He was also an extremely poor assessor of talent and wasn’t able to put together lines to help alleviate the scoring pressure off the Sedin Twins line.

To stop Tortorella’s Canucks, all you had to do is shut down the Sedin Line and watch lines two through four not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a puck.  The Canucks had talent to provide some help but Tortorella could not figure out who could do the job for him.  HUGE red flag here.

What people should look for here is to see if he’s changed his ways from his time with the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks.  The Blue Jackets need a coach to crack the whip and lead them out of the darkness of losing while developing young talent.  The Blue Jackets don’t need a coach who can’t relate to players or properly assess the talent he has on his roster.

“I need to have better listening skills,” Tortorella said during his press conference in Columbus Wednesday. “I want to know what is going on here and then act accordingly as we talk as a group. It’s so important that we do it collectively here. We need to have some honesty amongst ourselves so we can get on the right road.”

Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets need a coach who can teach and guide the players through the challenges of the three points I made above.

Can John Tortorella do this job?  That remains to be seen.

Posted in Analysis | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Coyotes New Marketing Plan – A Good First Start

Photo - Arizona Coyotes

Photo – Arizona Coyotes

As you may or may not know, I covered the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes as the first non main stream media beat reporter and later the NHL (current coverage). Throughout the Coyotes ownership circus, the marketing of the team was basically some gruff slogan set to some up tempo music that appeared in ads and that was it.  That was the best they ever did with marketing plans (pre-new ownership). The team just basically threw money into the wind with their marketing dollars and poorly thought out plans which was really sad to watch happen.  Sure their budgets were limited, but there was no evidence of the marketing team stretching what little money they had for a given season if they even executed their marketing plans at all.

In addition, the Coyotes social media (prior to the new ownership group) was even worse as it was basically an extension of the PR department, which should never happen anywhere.  The concept of the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’ was foreign to all not to mention leveraging social media marketing practices.  For a long time the Coyotes, as well as much of the NHL, didn’t get the ‘social’ part of social media. It’s taken a few years for the league and it’s teams come around into the modern era but now it’s really fun to see some of the things that teams have been doing the past few seasons.

Anyways, I’ve been reading, watching, and in some cases, actually witnessing in person the Coyotes marketing over the years.  I think it’s time to write something about the topic since they’re doing something more than throwing money at a gruff slogan again.

My Background

Over the years, I’ve studied numerous US and Canadian NHL fan bases (for marketing reasons) including Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, and Edmonton.  Over time I learned the nuances of the different countries but cities as well and have used it when writing articles past, present, and future.

I started my AZ Vibe website and social media sites (The domain name has since been hijacked even though I own the name – Long story) from the ground up (start up) to a following, at its peak, of over 500,000 unique visitors a month. I implemented numerous marketing campaigns for years with a bootstrap budget.

Part of my approach to the Coyotes coverage was to fill in the gaps in their coverage, which was and in some cases still is pretty big.  When I started, the team didn’t have the amount of coverage they have today and the demand for Coyotes news was and still is pretty high.  I provided behind the scenes stuff, information that was available in other NHL markets, along with articles that fans wanted. Pretty much a lot of what you see today from the team they couldn’t or didn’t know how to do back then.  It took a lot of feedback and research before I was able to find exactly what the readers wanted.

In 2012 I was hired by Hensley Beverage Company’s Marketing Department to run their Social Media across all their divisions (Anheuser-Busch, Craft Beer, Food, Spirits, and more) as well as learning traditional marketing and advertising (TV, Radio, Print, etc). I brought all I learned from my AZ Vibe experiences and was able to successfully adapt and promote numerous different brands with different campaigns across all their divisions and products. You can see many samples of my work on their Facebook, Twitter, and their website throughout 2012 (More samples below).

Fast forward to 2015….

The Coyotes kicked off their new marketing campaign for the 2015-2016 season that ‘Celebrates the Unique DNA of Hockey in Arizona’. At first I thought “Oh great another ‘throw money at a catch phrase and hope people buy tickets’ campaign”. After years and years of the same thing over and over again, you would probably have the same reaction too.

However, there isn’t a catch phrase this time. There is a multi faceted plan covering numerous traditional and online marketing methods.

According to the Coyotes website…

The multi-channel campaign will consist of outdoor, digital, broadcast, theatrical, social and event experiences, and will honor the uniqueness of the Coyotes’ authentic and inclusive hockey culture.

“This proud campaign is a celebration of our extraordinarily loyal fans who are arguably the most devoted in the entire NHL,” said Coyotes Co-Owner, President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “This campaign focuses on our very bright future on and off the ice and our commitment to Arizona.”

This link has more details on what their initial plan is if you want to learn more. I’m not going to waste your time regurgitating it here.

The main point you should pay attention to in this campaign is that their new marketing plan finally captures the one bit of the culture here in Arizona that has been missing from the weakly thought up and poorly executed marketing plans of years past – The Coyotes finally are showing that they ‘get’ that this market doesn’t have deep roots of hockey tradition like most Canadian NHL markets and many US NHL markets. The thing with Arizona, compared to the rest of the NHL markets in North America, is that the traditions of hockey are just starting to spring roots that will soon grow deep.

No one outside the state of Arizona gets this. No one.

People judging the team have just looked at the surface of the team, which was (and sometimes still is) the ownership circus, as the measuring stick of how successful or bad hockey is Arizona.  Of all the articles that have been written about this marketing plan, most of them were written by great sports reporters who don’t know anything about marketing or business reporters who don’t know a thing about hockey.   Neither of these groups really have shown they have a grasp on the history of hockey in Arizona or what it takes to grow the sport and how it applies to properly marketing the team.

This is why the NHL has fought so hard to keep the Coyotes in Arizona – to keep the traditions of hockey alive and growing at a productive rate.

That said, I have to say this is new marketing plan is a good beginning and a great sign that the Coyotes are indeed here to stay (knock on wood).

What’s missing here?

Even though the marketing plan is a good start, there’s lots of key aspects of marketing this brand that is missing. I’ll explain some of the big ones below.

Marketing to fans OUTSIDE of Arizona

It’s not clear the team gets this or not with the new plan but in the past it’s been ignored. The team’s fan base extends to the 49 other states in the US and provinces in Canada as well as around the world.

For example, how many people in the Coyotes organization know that even in Manchester, UK they have a fan base?

I was chatting with a Coyotes fan from California (before their game with Anaheim last week) about the new marketing plan. He loved the plan but when it comes to people outside Arizona he basically said ‘What about me?’. It’s a fair question that deserves an answer.

One suggestion I made to ownership via Twitter is to create a message board for fans around the world to connect and talk about Coyotes hockey. Twitter and Facebook can only do so much for the average fan. The Coyotes NEED a message board badly. This is a step in the right direction on how you can connect with your WORLDWIDE fan base. Besides, I’m willing to bet that the team truly doesn’t understand the power of a unified online fan base.

I’ll give you a couple examples of the power of a unified online fan base from the Vancouver Canucks Message boards, one of the oldest, and for a time, the most powerful message board in the NHL.

In the 2004 the Vancouver Canucks met the Calgary Flames in the playoffs and little did everyone know the havoc the fan bases would wreak on each other online.

Example 1 – The Flames IP ban ALL of British Colombia from connecting to their site

That’s not a misprint. When the seeds were set for the playoffs the Calgary Flames forums were overrun by Vancouver Canucks fans to the point to where the Flames took the extraordinary step to block ALL of British Columbia from connecting to their website. Yes, the ENTIRE province.

Example 2 – Rallying the troops

One member of the forum during this series worked at the hotel that the Flames were staying at in Vancouver.  He and others helped organize fans to come outside of their hotel and wake them up with horns honking and other partying noises.  The troops were rallied via the message boards and they did their thing.

Granted, these examples are a little extreme and given what happened after the 2011 final (Vancouver Riots) this probably isn’t surprising to you all. The point is that the fan base has a way to interact, unite, talk hockey and be able to connect with other fans from around the globe. The Coyotes simply just don’t have that available for their fans right now and I know a lot of them (having met many of them over the years) would LOVE this.

So how do the Coyotes plan to market the team to fans who live in away game cities and around the world?  That remains to be seen, if at all.

 Latin Marketing

One of the biggest things I learned at Hensley was marketing Bud Light/Budweiser to the Latin population. It’s a completely different ball game than standard marketing of Bud Light/Budweiser and marketing something like Craft Beer. I’m not sure if the new ownership noticed but there’s a HUGE Latin population within a stone’s throw of Westgate. That is an insanely huge market that is untapped by this or any NHL team in other markets if memory serves.

Is this part of the Coyotes ‘grand’ plan?

Marketing/Merchandising to Women

What’s the plan here? How do you plan to bring new female fans into the fold in addition to the current fan base? Also, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard over the years from female fans is the lack of and extremely poor choices of female Coyotes items to purchase (Hint: sequins = bad).  I’ve been told by the NHL in the past that the teams control the merchandising of their products to the fans.

What’s the plan here?  This is a HUGE need for current fans and will be a need if they want to attract new fans.

Get the PR out of the Marketing/Social Media

Historically, the Coyotes social media has been just a boring extension of the PR department. Lame. While the prepared news is part of what needs to be released to the masses, they in no way should have a say in the marketing of the team. They can provide input and send prepared tweets or press releases to the Social Media team to publish.  The PR team in no way should control what’s being sent out via Social Media. That may or may not be the case now but I’ve seen it in the past.  From what I’ve seen this season, their social media accounts are actually social….somewhat.

Lack of being a point of contact for the team

A few days ago a Coyotes fan on Twitter had a question about an electronic ticket and if it was able to be used at recent game. I told her to Tweet the team and see what happens as this is one of the primary functions of any social media team.

No response.

One of the primary functions of the Coyotes social media account is to be the online point of contact for issues such as these. I like the LA Kings solution to this problem (Hint) in their Twitter description.

Again, this marketing plan is a good beginning and foundation for the team moving forward but it remains to be seen if they ‘get’ the bigger picture for their marketing or not.

Samples of my Facebook posts at Hensley

Original Coyotes Press Release for their current marketing plan.

Coyotes Marketing Articles


Posted in Columns | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2016 All-Star Game Commissioner’s Selection – Shane Doan


As you may or may not know, Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan is the final year of his contract, and is in his 19th NHL season.  Doan is also the longest active serving Captain in the NHL and is in the last stages of his storied career. While Doan has spent his career with the same organization the chances of him lifting the Stanley Cup are getting slimmer and slimmer as this season progresses.

Many of you may have seen some of his great performances for the Jets/Coyotes as well as playing for team Canada.  What you haven’t seen over the years is how he has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the team and the Greater Phoenix area.  During the Coyotes ownership circus, he’s spoken up for the team and their fans so many times that I’ve lost count.  There’s been many times over the course of this circus that he could have bailed for a different team.  Each time he’s stayed put in Arizona.

Then add to that the undying support of all the Coyotes fans near and far while having to endure the constant barrage of whether the team will be staying or going. With that don’t forget the sensationalist Canadian media timing negative articles to damage the team as they’re trying to rebuild the franchise.  Some of the articles that came out of Canada over the years bordered on lunacy and the abuse the fans have taken was and sometimes still is pretty brutal.  I’m not going to link any of these articles as you can find them all on Google pretty quickly.

On top of that, there’s a possibility that Shane Doan may not re-sign with the Coyotes next season (this is just speculation).

Finally, let’s not forget that for over six years now the NHL has promised an All-Star Game to Coyotes fans after the 2006 All-Star Game in Phoenix was cancelled due to a work stoppage.

NHL needs to find a way to not only thank Doan for going above and beyond the call of duty during the past six years of the ownership saga but also come up with something for the fans who have gone through insane amounts of abuse and trials during this time.  I mean most fans would have bailed during the unprecedented ups and downs of the ownership saga yet they didn’t.  They stayed and they’re happy now that the team is staying.

So here’s my proposal.

Mr. Bettman, make a ‘Commissioner’s Selection’ to the 2016 All-Star Game for Arizona Coyotes Captain Shane Doan.

Since the logistics involved with bringing the NHL All-Star Game to the Phoenix Area probably won’t happen during Shane Doan’s career why not have him be one of the Coyotes representatives to the All-Star Game?  Plus, have him be one of the Captains during the player selection process.

Everyone outside the State of Arizona may not ‘get’ why this is needed Mr. Bettman but the Coyotes fans, many of whom you’ve met personally over the years, need this.  They deserve this.

Shane Doan – 2016 All-Star.  It’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Five teams that need to have a better 2015-2016 season


Now that the new season is underway it’s time to take a look at five teams that need to have a better season than their 2014-2015 results.  For whatever reason last season, these teams couldn’t put things together and fulfill their maximum potential.  Keep an eye on the teams below as the season progresses.

Anaheim Ducks

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 16: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks dives as he knocks the puck from Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks won 4-2. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 16: Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks dives as he knocks the puck from Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks won 4-2. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Ducks are at the top of my list for one reason – they were built to win it all last season and failed to do so mostly because of their own laziness.  With about a third of the season remaining and the playoffs clinched, the Ducks took their proverbial foot off the pedal and coasted into the playoffs.  The coasting and just plain lazy habits that resulted in inconsistent play was so bad the Ducks TV broadcast team brought this topic up regularly during games.

What happened come playoff time shocked even me – their laziness and inconsistent play carried into the playoffs.  The Ducks never played a full sixty minutes of hockey coasting for 20 or more minutes per game.  As I see it, the Ducks got lucky in the first two rounds as they faced Winnipeg and Calgary who had way too many injuries to field even the slightest opposition to the Ducks.  Had either of these teams not have any injuries, its quite possible that the Ducks would have been eliminated in these rounds.

This may not be related but it needs to be said.  One of Ryan Getzlaf’s biggest knocks against him when he was drafted was his inconsistency.  It makes one wonder if this habit has seeped into his captaincy in the playoffs last year and if the Ducks can overcome this laziness if it happens again.

The Ducks this season need to figure out if they’re really the fierce team they appear to be on paper or the lazy team that we saw the last third of last season and the playoffs.

Winnipeg Jets


The Winnipeg Jets are an average team.  There.  I said it.

They have an average roster, average goaltender, and an average General Manager who seems happy with his average team’s mediocrity year in and year out.   Not really fair for one of the best fan bases in the league to have to deal with this year in and year out.  This team seems to be happy with mediocrity as opposed to wanting to win a Stanley Cup this season.

What is Winnipeg’s goal this season?  More of the average?  Because if that’s the case, it’s not going to be long before the fans will speak their minds by not purchasing tickets.

It’s time for the Jets front office to grow up, take this team mired in mediocrity, and take the next step up.  Upgrade the roster, replace their goaltender, do something to show their fans that the Jets are here to win it all and not just play average hockey year in and year out.

Edmonton Oilers


Now let’s be real here.  I am not (and I’m sure no one else is) expecting the Oilers to make the playoffs this season.  Given how messed up the franchise was for the past eight plus seasons the bar needs to be set really low here.  While everyone will be focusing on Connor McDavid (the Oilers 2015 first round draft pick) they need to watch how the team around him progresses, especially the forward depth.

The expectation for the Oilers this season is to compete on a nightly basis and show everyone they have turned the corner from the train wreck they were in seasons past.

I have a feeling the corner has been turned with this team for the better.

Dallas Stars


Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Tyler Seguin, Ales Hemsky, Jamie Benn, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi.

This team is built for one reason – to leave a path of death and destruction on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.  This team can win it all.  However, last season they fell short of making the playoffs for numerous reasons including the shoddy play of goaltender Kari Lethonen.

Missing the playoffs is inexcusable this season.  So is an early round exit from the playoffs.

New York Islanders


I’ve been watching the Islanders closely for many years while General Manager Garth Snow has been slowly and patiently rebuilding the team from within.  The Islanders have turned a corner from being the leagues door mat to a team that has the potential to not only make the playoffs but do some damage in the deep rounds.

At this time in the history of this franchise the Islanders are in the perfect moment that they’ve been working so hard for many years to attain.  They’ve changed the culture, they’ve built a winning roster, and now they’re playing in a new arena.

This season it’s time for the Islanders to not only win the division but to go deep into the playoffs.   Sure it’s a tall order given the competition in their division but with the potential of this season’s roster, its a very realistic goal.

Posted in Analysis, Columns | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow up: 5 People Who Need To Have A Huge 2014-2015 Season

Last year around this time, I published the following article “5 People Who Need To Have A Huge 2014-2015 Season” I think it’s about time for a follow up and see where things are at.


Ondřej Pavelec – Goaltender – Winnipeg Jets

Last season was a year that Pavelec needed to prove his worth not only in the regular season but in the playoffs as well.  After an average 2013-2014 season Pavelec didn’t fair much better in the 2014-2015 campaign.

Pavelec ranked near the bottom of the league as a goaltender in the regular season and was unable to help the Jets in the post season getting swept by an extremely lazy Anaheim Ducks roster in the first round of the playoffs.

However, it should be noted that according to this article in the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets were not playing with as healthy of a team as possible.

After being swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, head coach Paul Maurice said eight of his players were dealing with “significant” injuries.

Then add into the mix the inability for the Jets to improve their roster last season.  It’s been clear after watching numerous Jets games over the course of last season, the Jets Front Office does not seem to understand that their current roster is pretty much performing at their maximum capabilities.  This includes Pavelec who seemed to regress last season, statistically speaking.

It’s clear to me that Pavelec’s maximum potential is just a journeyman goaltender and doesn’t have the chops to be a #1 goaltender in this league.  He can’t win games or steal games on his own…especially in the post season.  Time for the Jets to trade him while they can.


Dallas Eakins

Dallas Eakins – Head Coach – Edmonton Oilers

If ever there was a poster child for dysfunction in the NHL (since the Gretzky era Phoenix Coyotes) the Edmonton Oilers were it (see previous article linked above for more details).   The Oilers hired Eakins into a situation where he didn’t have much say or room to hire his own staff.  Then add into the mix the Oilers (Pre-Eakins) not knowing or teaching simple development fundamentals that prevented the players from knowing how to succeed in the NHL.

Eakins was surely over-matched in Edmonton. In his first season, he tried to introduce a more complex defensive system when his players still hadn’t mastered defensive fundamentals. The entire team went backwards in a major way. Almost every top player on the Oilers saw his development go sideways or backwards.

David Staples, Edmonton Journal

Eakins became the Oilers whipping boy for all their historical problems since their 2006 cup run but lets face it, this was the right coach in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fortunately, the Anaheim Ducks named Eakins their new AHL coach (San Diego Gulls) and is in the right situation in the right organization to get another crack at succeeding as a head coach.   I’ll be sneaking off to San Diego before too long to see how he’s progressed.



Semyon Varlamov – Goaltender – Colorado Avalanche

If there’s anyone who deserves a pass for their performance last season it’s Semyon Varlamov.  After an incredible 2013-2014 season (41-14 W/L) he followed it up with an injury plagued season that sent him on multiple trips to the injured reserved list with groin problems.

The only real concerns here going into this season is the degree of the groin tear Varlamov healed from and staying healthy this season.  In the NHL, there’s generally two types of groin tears – the small tears that can be easily healed or the deep tears that become a reoccurring issue down the road (See Marion Gaborik’s time in Minnesota for examples of the latter).  If Varlamov’s tear falls into the small tear category, the Avs could see a career year from him.  However, if Varlamov’s groin tear falls into the other category, it could be another long season for the Colorado Avalanche.

As of right now, Varlamov looks like he’s in for another great year:

Semyon Varlamov got his second start in the Colorado net in the three exhibitions so far, played the entire game this time and looked in prime midseason form.

Terry Frei – Denver Post

Keep an eye on Varlamov this season folks.  He’s due for another monster season as long as his groin holds.


Doug Wilson – General Manager – San Jose Sharks

For years I’ve been saying that Wilson isn’t the man for the job in San Jose.  This is simply because of the fact that he can’t build a team that is mentally strong enough to withstand a deep playoff run.  Sure he can build a regular season winner, he’s proved that for years.  However, you don’t become and stay General Manager in the NHL (or any league for that matter) if you can’t win it all.

However, it seems that the Sharks aren’t going to blow it all up and start all over from scratch like the Arizona Coyotes are doing this season.

“We were crystal clear about what we were doing last summer. We used the exact same terminology that the Detroit Red Wings used. We expected to be able to rebuild and compete at the same time. We did the exact same thing after 2003,” Wilson said.

(So much for “a phase that this organization has never gone into in the past.”)

“Make no mistake about it: We expect to make the playoffs and compete every year,” he said. “Coming into this year, we had some cap space. We were looking at three important pieces for us. We wanted to secure a No. 1 goalie, who could fit for now and for the future, and that’s Martin Jones. He’s 25. We wanted to find a find a defenseman who could complement [the Sharks’ other D-men], and hopefully a left-shot guy who could play with Brent Burns.”

Doug Wilson – San Jose Sharks General Manager

Plus Wilson has the blessing from ownership for this rebuild on the fly.

“We are in this rebuild process. Reset, rebuild. There’s no question. Everybody knows when you look at our players, two top stars are getting older. They are both fit. That’s the good news. They haven’t had any major injury like other players. We hope that they can continue to play at that level, or even beef it up a little bit and lead the young ones we have put in to become a strong team.”

Hasso Plattner – San Jose Sharks Owner

Wilson gets a pass but he needs to show improvement on the roster that are beyond the X’s and O’s but in the playoffs as well.



PK Subban – Defenseman – Montreal Canadiens

I watched Subban’s progress this season  on and off the ice and I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t expecting a superstar Duncan Keith-like season.  The main thing I was looking for was how he conducted himself on and off the ice with the new pressures of his huge new contract.

But Subban surprised even me with a monster performance this past season that caught the eye of just about everyone in the league:

As one NHL executive told Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman in March, “Subban is so much better a defenceman now than when he won the Norris Trophy. It’s not even close.”

Eric Engles – Sportsnet

Subban keeps turning in career best performances in the regular season but his game took a step back in the post season…just a tad.  However, that still makes GM’s and coaches notice what he’s doing.

In a nutshell, Subban produced the type of season every GM lays awake at night hoping for; a strong presence in his own end, combined with great numbers on offence.

Marc Dumont – Eyes on the Prize

THEN you have his performance off the ice as with great contracts come even greater responsibilities in the public eye.  Subban did not disappoint with even more career defining moments by pledging to donate $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, poking fun at ‘Hockey Night in Canada’s’ Don Cherry, and a light hearted bout with teammate Carey Price.

Subban silenced a lot of critics last season with his performance on and off the ice.  The question now for this season is not how good Subban is but how much better can he get?

Posted in Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment