Last Night’s News 📰
20 IN THE SIX: Following a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs became the first team in the NHL to win 20 games during the 2021-22 season. Leading the way with two goals was Auston Matthews, who is now the third player to notch 20 goals this year.
GOLDEN BOYS: Yesterday, the United States announced its roster for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship, set to commence on Dec. 26 in Alberta, Canada. The Americans return six players from its 2021 gold medal-winning team, as the US will try to win back-to-back golds for the first time in program history.
GUERIN FOR GOLD: On Tuesday, the US men’s Olympic hockey team announced that Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin will take over GM duties for the 2022 Bejing Olympics. Originally the assistant GM, Guerin takes over for Stan Bowman who stepped down in October.
CAM HAT-KINSON: For the seventh time in his career, Cam Atkinson scored three goals in a game to record a hat trick. With his first six coming with the Columbus Blue Jackets, this was the type of scoring the Philadelphia Flyers were hoping for from their offseason acquisition.
Fitting the Bill
Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding NHL participation at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, we now know at least one thing for sure: Bill Guerin will serve as general manager and chief decision-maker for Team USA. The decision was somewhat of a no-brainer in light of Stan Bowman’s dismissal from the role, but that doesn’t make it the right one necessarily.
The Minnesota Wild GM represented the US as a player at three Olympic Games (1998, 2002, and 2006), and boasts deep USA Hockey ties. What Guerin doesn’t have, however, is a particularly strong executive resume. Let’s take a look at his biggest moves to date and see if he’s proven himself to be the right man for the job.
Signs Kirill Kaprizov
Unlike his NHL job, Guerin’s Olympic executive role demands more ego management and star handling rather than drafting and development. One bit of experience he holds in that regard comes in the Kirill Kaprizov contract negotiations from last summer. Contentious talks, complicated by a possible return to Russia, were ultimately resolved with a five-year, $45 million deal for the Wild star. Nicely done, Bill!
Out With the Old
Guerin hasn’t been shy about putting his fingerprints on Minnesota’s roster. That has included parting ways with long-time captain Mikko Koivu, starting goalie Devan Dubnyk, and decorated veteran Eric Staal. Those moves, none of which have backfired, took some guts and showed that the two-time Stanley Cup champion can make tough decisions when needed.
Huge Term for Middling Players
Stability is nice and all, but Guerin seems to have fallen into the trap of securing mediocrity. He doled out seven-year contracts to blueliners Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin—both of whom are solid but neither qualify as being All-Star caliber—and committed eight years to Joel Eriksson Ek, who still has yet to pot 20 goals, this past summer.
To no fault of his own, the Wild’s core has largely been inherited by Guerin. Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, and Kevin Fiala were all acquired by the previous regime, allowing the third-year GM to make little more than marginal additions, including Nick Bjugstad, Cam Talbot, and Jordie Benn. They’re all perfectly solid players, although they do make for an underwhelming resume addition when you consider that Guerin is following the likes of David Poile and Lou Lamoriello as Team USA GM.
Calling It A Career
During a press conference on Saturday, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill stated that Ben Bishop has “reached the end of his playing career,” just hours after the team recalled him from a conditioning stint with the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League (AHL). It was unfortunate that he had to retire like this, as he suffered many injuries in his career, but he attempted to keep playing at all costs. For many hockey players, this is how the end looks more often than not, and it shows that it’s not easy to play this sport for an extended period.
On a more positive note, Bishop had a lot of fantastic moments in his career, mainly after he was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a deal that sent Cory Conacher to the Ottawa Senators. Below are three significant moments from his career.
Glove Save From The Bench
During a game at TD Garden in 2013, Bishop was the backup goaltender in the Lightning’s game against the Boston Bruins. While he was sitting on the bench, Dougie Hamilton made a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone and Carl Soderberg deflected the puck, sending it toward Bishop’s face. Luckily, he was prepared that night and made a problematic stop look easy, keeping the puck from hitting his helmet-less face.
He gave the puck to a little girl in the crowd after the save, making for a great story to go along with the souvenir.
His Best Desperation Save
This may have been his best save in his NHL career, which came after making the worst pass up the ice, although he made up for it with his effort. During a game against the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, Bishop went behind his net after the puck was dumped in and just had to make a routine play, passing it to his defender. Instead, he made a risky pass up the middle of the ice, and Kyle Okposo intercepted it.
After Okposo received the puck, he shot it immediately, but Bishop sprawled to get himself back in front of the net and made a diving effort for the glove save.
Collecting Two Assists Against Montreal
Covering all areas in this section, let’s take a look at his best offensive game, which is an area that is often not discussed when it comes to goaltenders. During a game against the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, Bishop collected two assists in the same game, and they were both well-deserving. Looking at the first goal scored by Vladislav Namestnikov, Bishop made a stretch pass to Steven Stamkos from the defensive zone, showcasing how confident he was at handling the puck. On the second goal scored by Jonathan Drouin, Bishop made a routine play of coming out of his crease to settle down the puck, while Anton Strålman made a stretch pass to Drouin for the breakaway.
Bishop will be missed for his ability to do it all. Whether he was making a diving save or using his puck handling abilities to spring a teammate on a breakaway with a stretch pass, the 6-foot-7 goalie will always be a fan favorite.
Holiday Wish Lists
With the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday season is officially in full swing. For the next few Wednesdays, the Morning Skate crew will be creating a holiday wish list for each NHL team. Enjoy part two of three.
Detroit Red Wings: For either Lucas Raymond or Moritz Seider to win the Calder Trophy at the NHL Awards. Both players have been phenomenal so far this season, and league-wide recognition would be the icing on top of the cake.
Edmonton Oilers: A meaningful trade deadline. The Oilers have two stars on their roster but are still in need of a strong supporting cast. They will take a forward, defenseman, or upgrade in goaltending—they aren’t picky.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers need Aleksander Barkov to get back onto the ice as soon as possible. Their star forward has 18 points in 16 games this season but has dealt with multiple injuries during the first quarter of the season.
Los Angeles Kings: A top-four defenseman! After losing Drew Doughty for 16 games earlier this season, the Kings saw Sean Walker go down with a season-ending injury and Alexander Edler leave Saturday’s game with a potential “long-term” issue. If the Kings want a chance at the playoffs this season, they are going to need some help on the back end.
Minnesota Wild: Things are going well in the Twin Cities. The only thing the Wild can ask for is to keep their momentum going. Could this be the season they make a meaningful postseason run?
Montreal Canadiens: Montreal will take whatever it can get this holiday season. A new general manager, points, goals—the Canadiens will take whatever Santa has left at the bottom of his bag. They understand beggars can’t be choosers.
Nashville Predators: The team will look to remain healthy as the season continues. COVID outbreaks are happening all around the league, and with the Preds battling for a top spot in their division, they can’t afford an outbreak of their own.
New Jersey Devils: New Jersey needs a successful power play under its tree, complete with a red bow. The Devils’ losses due to special teams are mounting and it could determine whether or not they make the playoffs.
New York Islanders: They will take a victory in any shape or form. Their season has been a bit of a trainwreck and they need to get back into playoff contention. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but the Islanders need to start collecting points like their life depends on it.
New York Rangers: The Rangers’ success can be credited to their goaltender Igor Shesterkin. He has been sidelined with an injury since Dec. 3, and if the Rangers want to remain competitive, they’ll need a healthy Shesterkin for the rest of the season.
Ottawa Senators: A way to bottle this current hot streak. With wins in five of their last six, including an 8-2 thumping of the Florida Panthers, the Senators need to find a way to stay hot into the new year.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are also looking to continue their winning streak. For the first time this season, Philadelphia has won three games in a row and, after a horrendous start, the Flyers wish to remain on the right track.