Sergei Zubov Lands in St. Petersburg, Russia

In the past couple of years the NHL has seen aging superstars such as Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov and as of Thursday afternoon Sergei Zubov returning home to finish off their stellar hockey careers. Approximately two weeks after Fedorov made the jump Zubov who is a two- time Stanley Cup winner left the NHL to sign with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. This 39 year-old who has scored 152 career goals and 771 career points was a former 1990 fifth round draft choice by the New York Rangers and enjoyed his greatest moment with the Rangers in ’94 when he played a key role in the Rangers becoming Stanley Cup champions. In 22 playoff games that magical spring he registered an impressive 19 points and ended up a +10. After a one- year stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995/96 this defenseman made his way to Texas and in his third season (1999) with the Stars once again came through in the clutch as he posted a +13 in the playoffs in helping Dallas win their first Cup in franchise history. After 12 seasons in Dallas Zubov who this past season scored 4 points in only 10 games due to a hip injury leaves the Stars as one of the most popular players on that ’99 winning team. In his prime this Moscow native who was known for his accurate shot and puck moving abilities enjoyed his best offensive season in 1993/94 when he scored 89 points and posted a +20. Besides for the Stanley Cup Zubov was also part of the 1992 Russian Olympic team that captured the Gold Medal. With Zubov heading back home the Stars who are looking to rebound after missing the playoffs have a huge hole to fill on the backend. There is no question in my mind that he was by far the most underrated player during the 1990’s at his position. Besides for scoring Zubov was strong in his own end and registered a career +148 rating. The KHL’s gain is definitely the NHL’s loss.


NHL Notes

Josh Harding Agrees To Terms

Goaltender Josh Harding who last season posted a 3-9-1 record with a 2.21 GAA as the Minnesota Wild backup has agreed to a one- year contract with terms not being announced. In his brief career this 25 year- old who just finished his fourth year was originally chosen second round in the 2002 Entry Draft by the Wild. In his first four years he has posted a 19-27-4 record with a 2.49 GAA and a .920 Save Percentage.

Dustin Boyd Re-Signs With the Calgary Flames After completing a successful second season by scoring 22 points the Calgary Flames announced on Thursday that they re-signed 23 year-old forward Dustin Boyd. Taken third round of the 2004 draft Boyd in his career has scored 20 goals and 18 assists in only 132 games.

Successful Surgery For Anaheim Ducks Ryan Getzlaf The news was positive for Ducks leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf who will be fully recovered in time for training camp after undergoing sports hernia surgery last Wednesday. This four year pro who led the team with 91 points decided to undergo the procedure after further aggravating the injury while working out earlier in the off-season.

Kyle Wellwood Signs in Vancouver, Again

Last fall when veteran forward Kyle Wellwood was banished to the minors and criticized for being out of shape no one could have guessed that this 26 year-old would later that season emerge back with the Vancouver Canucks and score a career high 18 goals. After three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs Wellwood who is a former 100- point scorer with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and Belleville Bulls was plucked off the waiver wire by the Vancouver Canucks in June 2008. The Canucks who were looking for help down the middle acquired in Wellwood someone who could chip in with some timely goals and dominate in the face-off circle. This Windsor Ontario native who had a knock in Toronto for not having the best training habits off the ice didn’t fare to well in the fitness tests at the Canucks training camp and was later put on waivers before being assigned to the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose. Showing true professionalism Wellwood who as a rookie in 2006 netted a career high of 45 points, was called up to stay with the Canucks on October 21 and right away began to win over his coach Alan Vigneault. Gradually Wellwood began to get more ice time and was moving up the depth chart and despite enduring a rough patch in the second half that had him go 21 straight games without scoring this former 2001 Maple Leafs draft choice still managed to score 18 goals and 27 points. Even though those aren’t exactly all -star statistics he impressed enough that the Canucks offered him a contract for a second season out west. The Canucks who are still waiting for veteran forward Mats Sundin to make up his mind about playing originally offered Wellwood a one -year million- dollar contract that he immediately turned down. Believing that the offer was low Wellwood instead opted for arbitration where a decision on his contract will be made official on Thursday afternoon. “When they offered the qualifier and Kyle opted for salary arbitration, at that point you’re accepting a contract and you just have to fill in a term,” Wellwood’s agent Mike Liut said. “So we’ll get the terms and the nest stop is training camp.”

Sidney Crosby Brings Stanley Home

Once again Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is showing to be a phenomenal superstar not just on but off the ice as well. On Wednesday news became official that this former 2005 first overall pick has decided to spend his day with the Stanley Cup celebrating in Nova Scotia with fans and minor hockey players. Since breaking into the NHL Crosby has often been criticized for constantly complaining to referees and occasionally to his opponents. After the Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past June against the Detroit Red Wings Crosby took some unfair criticism from Wings veteran Chris Draper for not immediately shaking hands. Truth be told I strongly believe that this 21 year-old who just completed his fourth professional season was overwhelmed at that particular moment at achieving his ultimate goal. I also believe that Crosby was also overwhelmed by the various media outlets who were firing questions his way and therefore making him tardy at shaking hands. Crosby who scored 103 regular season points and 31 in the playoffs will have his day with the Cup on August 7 which just happens to be his 22nd birthday. On that magical day Crosby who enjoyed his best season in 2006/07 with 120 points will be celebrating in Cole Harbour where he will stage a big downtown parade. During the day Crosby who won the Hart, Lester B. Person and Art Ross Trophy in 2007, will give the fans an opportunity to ask him questions during what will be an organized question and answer period. Three or three road hockey games will also be going on involving minor hockey players who play in the Halifax area.

It was also announced that a Crosby hall of fame that would include the much talked about clothes dryer that he used as a kid for target practice would be included.

NHL Notes

Frantisek Kaberle No Longer A Carolina Hurricane

Veteran defenceman Frantisek Kaberle will be best remembered in Carolina for scoring the Stanley Cup winning goal back in 2006 against the Edmonton Oilers.

That game seven goal which gave the Hurricanes their first Stanley Cup is something that is still talked about today in Carolina and it’s something that was acknowledged by GM Jim Rutherford on Wednesday when he officially bought out the nine year veteran. “This move is part of our effort to restructure the Hurricanes’ defense to become bigger and more physical,” Rutherford said. “We thank Frank for his contributions to the Hurricanes, especially the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in 2006.” Kaberle who was a former 1999 Los Angeles Kings third round draft choice who has also played for the Atlanta Thrashers before becoming a Hurricane in 2005 is known for his puck moving abilities. In a total of 523 career games this 35 year-old has scored 29 goals and 164 assists in nine professional seasons. Kaberle who was to earn 2.2 million on that last year is coming off an injury- riddled season that saw him register only one goal and seven assists in 30 games. 

Andy Delmore Back In The NHL

On Wednesday the Detroit Red Wings added some offensive pop to their blue line when they went out and signed 32 year-old Andy Delmore. After spending seven seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets Delmore who is a power play specialist decided to play in Germany. After two campaigns where he scored 19 goals and 66 points in 103 games Delmore expressed a desire for returning to the NHL. His best season was in 2002/03 when he scored 14 power play goals to lead all NHL defenceman. In his NHL career Delmore who has always been knocked for his defensive play has scored 43 goals and 101 points in 283 career games. 

Vaclav Prospal No Longer A Tampa Bay Lightning 

After scoring 19 goals and 45 points last season the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to buy out the three years remaining on forward Vaclav Prospal’s contract. This shocking decision comes only one year after the veteran signed a four- year deal for 14 million dollars. With this decision Tampa Bay will have to endure a cap hit of 1.167 for the next six seasons. Meanwhile Prospal has a day to decide whether to accept the buyout or go through waivers.

Top Prospect Thomas Hickey Blog

When hockey fans talk about what rookie will make the most impact in the upcoming season the popular names such as New York Islanders forward John Tavares, Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman or Atlanta Thrashers forward Evander Kane are usually the first names that fans think about. While all those players are excellent choices to have the biggest impact, every fan seems to forget about Los Angeles Kings prospect defenceman Thomas Hickey. Hickey who played a huge roll on defence in helping Team Canada win their fifth straight Gold during last year’s World Junior Championships is a former 2007 fourth overall pick by the Kings. This 20 year-old is coming off a monster season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League where he scored 16 goals and 51 points in only 57 games. “First and foremost. We made him captain at 18,” said Thunderbirds coach Rob Sumner about his long time captain. “ “That’s not often that it happens. Generally, a 19 or 20 year old will be made captain. But he’s not your average guy. Realistically, he probably could have worn it and been in our captain circle as a 17-year-old.” A couple of weeks ago Hickey who was born in Calgary Alberta ventured to Southern California and achieved his objective of having a solid development camp which was coordinated by current Kings Coach Terry Murray. “There’s a high skill level,” Murray said about Hickey who reported to the main training camp last season a step behind the other players due to an ankle injury. “He’s a very intelligent player. He sees the ice and really moves the puck well. He’s gotten bigger physically. He’s stronger. He shows more confidence, much more authority to manage the game.” Sumner who believes that Hickey can have an immediate impact in the NHL compared his puck rushing abilities to Chicago Blackhawk’s star defenceman Brian Campbell. Other names that came to Sumner’s mind when talking about Hickey’s game were Anaheim Duck’s veteran rearguard Scott Niedermayer and Detroit Red Wings All-Star Nicklas Lindstrom. Hickey who is 5 foot 11 and 182 pounds is being counted upon to make the team and improve during the season on a young blue line that includes Drew Doughty who is entering his second season and 22 year-old Jack Johnson. ‘Looking at the numbers, they’ve got a bunch of guys in here that are totally capable,” Hickey said about the defenceman he will be in competition with at training camp. “It’s up to you to try to come in and make your own name because you’ve got to have respect for the guys that are there.” There is no doubt in Los Angeles that when April rolls around hockey fans all around the world will know who Thomas Hickey is.

Canucks OK with Schedule

Surprisingly Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis didn’t mutter a word of complaint when this year’s schedule revealed that at mid-season his team would be forced to endure a grueling 14 game road trip. Even though this 40- day trip commences during the dog days of the season in late January, the Canucks are more than okay with that scenario since their arena General Motors Place will be occupied by the exciting events of the Winter Olympics. “We have no complaints regarding the schedule and are satisfied the NHL took into account the challenges we faced hosting the Olympics,” Gillis said. Heading into the Olympic break Vancouver will have already played eight of their 14 straight road games. After that eighth game the Canucks will get a two- week breather as the NHL takes a two- week break. After that break Vancouver goes back on the road to finish off their trip which takes them away from GM Place from January 27-March 13. Having this long road trip, which will go a long ways in determining the Canucks post- season fate was not a shock to the Canucks since they knew about their Olympic commitment to lend their building months ago. Aquilini Investment Group which is a corporation run by the family who owns the Canucks have given permission to the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) to use the building which will be known as Canada Hockey Place.

 During the first eight games of their road trip the Canucks will play only one set of back- to- back games. Their longest road flight during this stretch will take them from Miami to Columbus. After the break their second stage of this road trip will have the Canucks play two back- to- back games in Detroit and Columbus and Phoenix and Denver. Besides for the Olympics another benefit to this long road trip is that the Canucks will be playing 10 of their final 15 regular season games at home.