Detroit Red Wings jersey a gift from hockey gods. Here’s why it’s the GOAT

It’s late May in Hockeytown, which used to mean getting ready for the Stanley Cup Final, or at least dealing with a recent end to the Detroit Red Wings season. Instead, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Hockeytown is stuck in limbo, waiting for season’s end to bring the draft lottery and, potentially, the No. 1 overall pick.

OK, to be fair, we knew in February this month would be a dead time for the Wings — Thursday marked three months to the day that they were officially eliminated from the playoffs for the fourth straight season .

And yet, the only NHL team that can already plan a Cup Final watch party hauled in a win Thursday when USA TODAY Network hockey writer Vincent Z. Mercogliano put them atop his NHL power rankings – in jerseys.

Well, no need for a parade down Woodward, but it’s something, right?

At the least, it was a reminder that even as the Red Wings suffer through their worst stretch in nearly four decades, they’re doing so in championship-level outfits. (There’s a reason Wings jerseys have spring up in pop culture everywhere from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to TV’s “Scrubs” to Kanye West’s daily wardrobe.)

With that in mind, let’s look at a few of the things that make the Wings’ jerseys so iconic.

Two-toned triumph

Red Wings' Steve Yzerman celebrates after scoring the Wings' first goal vs. the Phoenix Coyotes during the first period of Game 6 of the first-round playoff series in Phoenix on Sunday, May 3, 1998.

Let’s start with the colors: A gloriously simple red and white. It’s a pairing that dates back to the team’s arrival in Detroit in 1927, when they were the Cougars. Sure, there was a dalliance with gold lettering for a couple seasons, along with a name change – they were the Falcons in 1930-32. But when James Norris bought the team in 1932, the name went red, as did the jerseys.

In fact, it’s surprising how little has changed from those first main Wings jerseys in ’32 to now. White stripes at the elbows? Check. White stripe at the tail? Check. Numbers were added to the sleeves in 1961 and names went on the back in 1977. That’s it.

Compare that to some other Original Six teams. The Bruins started in brown and yellow. The Maple Leafs switched to blue and white soon after Conn Smythe took over in 1927, but took nearly seven seasons to ditch their extreme stripe pattern. Likewise, the Blackhawks were stripe-crazy for the franchise’s first eight years, and didn’t add red as a main color until the 1950s.

Thankfully, the Wings haven’t muddled around with alternate jerseys (outside of league-mandated special events) or trendy colors such as teal or black (unlike a couple other District Detroit teams that shall remain nameless until they stop their playoff losing streak).

Really, the most obvious change to the Wings’ jersey over the years has been the crest on the front.

The winged wheel

Norris, of course, “borrowed” the “Winged Wheel” logo from the Montreal athletic club he grew up with, nicknamed the “Winged Wheelers.”

The wheel was much more prominent then, making up nearly 60% of the logo. The emphasis on the wheel made sense for the burgeoning “Motor City,” even if the placement of the crest on the jersey, with the wheel centered and the wings off-center, appeared a bit awkward at times.

Detroit Red Wings right wing Gordie Howe in action during the 1960s.

Since then, the wheel has shrunk and the wings have extended, seemingly reflective of the way the sport has picked up its tempo over the years. (Aside from the 1990s, that is. The less we speak of the left-wing lock, the better.) Likewise, the logo shifted to the right, with the entire logo (rather than just the wheel) centered between the shoulders for the 1982-83 season. The other big change that season? Mike Ilitch buying the franchise from the Norris family and righting the franchise once more.

Or is that reading too much into a simple tweak of an aesthetic element that probably means more to the folks selling the jerseys than to the ones wearing them? (No matter how many times you hear someone is “just proud to wear the sweater of this ‘organ-i-zay-shun’.”)

Maybe.

Then again, the most recent major change to the Wings’ logo came one season later, when the colors were reversed; the wheel became red once more, almost as if new blood was flowing through the franchise once more. Oh, and some guy named Steve Yzerman had arrived as a bonafide NHL star.

What’s in a name(plate)?

Left to right: Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary celebrate Filppula's goal in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference first round at Honda Center on May 12, 2013 in Anaheim, Calif.

For all the mythology surrounding the Wings – Original Six, Winged Wheel, Mr. Hockey, Hockeytown – one of the most epic bits of team lore is hidden in plain sight, on the back of every jersey: The nameplates.

In 1982, five years after finally adding names to the back of the red jerseys – they’d been on the whites since 1972 – the Wings switched from names in horizontal block letter-style to vertically arched lettering (VAL, for short). The change allowed names to curve along players’ backs and seemingly around their numbers without taking up too much extra space. (The change came in handy years down the line; fitting “Howe” between the shoulders on a jersey is one thing, “Zetterberg” is something else entirely.)

It’s a style that requires a surplus of work, as each letter must be custom-produced for its spot in the name. (That’s a big reason why the names on the Wings’ preseason jerseys are done in regular block-letter style; it’s not worth the effort to curve each prospect’s name around their number.) Pity the poor equipment manager doing it by hand for the 1982-83 roster, which included the last names Ladouceur, McKechnie, Ogrodnick, Rutherford and Schoenfeld.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito (35) and defender Keith Magnuson (3) in action against Detroit Red Wings right wing Gordie Howe (9) during the 1970 season.

Indeed, nearly 40 years later, even as jersey design and manufacturing has leapt light-years ahead, only three NHL teams use VAL – the Wings, Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers. (While we’re here – for six seasons, 2007-12, the Dallas Stars used VAL, too – but on the front of their jerseys, spelling out “Dallas.” The names on the back were still horizontal. Go figure.)

Why make that effort?

Because it represents a player’s need to focus on the small things to succeed? Because Zetterberg is a long name and space is limited on the back of an NHL jersey? Because it flat-out looks cool?

Whatever the reason, it’s the final touch that makes the Red Wings’ jerseys the class of the league, even if some of the players wearing them recently fall short of that standard.

Why do we collect hockey jerseys?

What is it about them that drives us with an urge to fill our closets?

My closets are generally well organized, but there is one in my house that’s less organized than the others: the one where my hockey jerseys live.

I have a modest collection, of just 17 jerseys. Eight of them are Blues jerseys from various eras. The newest is a Jaden Schwartz Winter Classic jersey, the oldest is this one:

Do I need 17 hockey jerseys? No. A good portion of them I don’t have a regular opportunity to wear – they’e Atlanta Thrashers jerseys, and obviously I don’t have season tickets anymore. The Blues jerseys I wear at games I can make it to in St. Louis and Nashville, but those trips aren’t regular. I have local college hockey, and I take that chance to mix and match jerseys. Sometimes it’s a Blues sweater, sometimes it’s a Thrashers sweater, and once in a while I trot out the Peyote Coyote that I saved from when my dad cleaned out his jersey collection in the mid-90s (I should’ve saved them all, dammit).

I’m persnickety in what I buy – most of mine are older. There are a couple 90s Starter jerseys, which aren’t official CCM/KOHO quality, but for the most part I stick with the CCM or KOHOs. They’re better quality to me – there’s more heft. They don’t snag (looking at you, Winter Classic jersey). They feel like an actual sweater should feel. I have a couple RBK Edge Thrashers practice jerseys that I bought at an equipment sale for $25 a pop. I don’t wear those often, and I didn’t even when the Thrashers were still here. They feel like shirts. That’s part of the reason I don’t have many recent Blues jerseys – those RBK ones put me off of them, and then the price tag didn’t help. The cost of an official jersey vs. a Fanatics replica is insane and the quality difference between the two is glaring, like they were with the Reebok jerseys.

I’m an old-school hockey snob, I guess.

I’ve bought jerseys because they were unique, like my Russia Valeri Bure jersey. I’ve bought them because I love the design or color scheme, like the 2004 All Star Western Conference jersey that I have. I’ve bought huge oversized ones (appropriately enough, one is a Tkachuk) because some days I want to wear a hoodie and a jersey, or I want a big one to lounge about in.

It’s like buying any other piece of clothing, I guess, except that closet of 17 jerseys means more to me than my closet of clothes. They’re a snapshot of history. Those Clown Jerseys? That’s me being a teenager. The early 90s road blue? That’s my memory of watching Hull and Oates on KPLR, sitting on the floor in my great aunt and great uncle’s family room. Those Thrashers jerseys? A team that’s gone, but who led me to some great friendships and the world of hockey blogging.

That Patrick Stefan jersey? Yeah, maybe it’s a running joke or a reminder of a poor first choice in an entry draft. But it reminds me of the summer of 1999, when I got to watch a hockey team grow firsthand.

On that note, why do you collect? What is it that you look for in a jersey – is it rarity? Is it as a reminder? Do you focus on the new, old, or everything in between?

Detroit Tigers hockey concept jersey is perfection [Photo]

One thing is for sure, being forced to stay at home gives us plenty of time to get lost in Twitter. Though it usually ends up being a waste of time, every now and then we come across a gem to share with you.

If you are a fan of the Detroit Tigers and also love hockey, we found a mock combo jersey that we are sure you will love.

The jersey was created by Zayn Bartlett (@Zaynbartlett) and it is perfection.

Check it out, along with jerseys for the rest of the American League Central.

Philadelphia Flyers: Ranking the team’s four outdoor jerseys

The Flyers have sported a few different looks as a part of their four outdoor games.

The Philadelphia Flyers have seen themselves in four different outdoor games over their history. Their first came in 2010 as they took on the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park. They played host to the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park in 2012. The Flyers traveled to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017. And lastly, they were the home team at Lincoln Financial in their second outdoor meeting with the Penguins.

That’s four different jerseys the team unveiled for these games. And they were four very different looks from each other. There was a traditional nod to their colors while some went out of the box to create a sleeker look.

So to rank them, we will be taking a few things into account. The main reasoning behind the rankings will be the overall look of the jersey and how they paired it with the rest of the uniform. With that said, it brings us to the bottom of the list with a jersey the team didn’t put much effort into changing.

Peter Laviolette, Philadelphia Flyers

These jerseys should look very familiar. For this Winter Classic, the Flyers went with a nod to their home jerseys. They simply flipped the colors, donning the white jersey with a black nameplate. It was the first time the team had put a nameplate behind their player’s last names.

Other than the new nameplate, there wasn’t much else put into these jerseys it seems. It was just the opposite of what the team wore at home. But it was popular among fans at the time as the team would go on to adopt these as their new away jerseys the following season.

As for creativity, they paired it with their normal attire for away games. The only change, of course, was the white helmets instead of black.

Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers

Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers

This was a different look for both teams. The Flyers and Rangers used a cream style, Philly only really able to incorporate it into the sleeves, the bottom of the jersey and socks. They also added laces to the top.

The usual black shorts added an orange stripe down the side. A black patch was added to the shoulders. And the collar of the jersey was inscribed to commemorate the game. A well thought out addition was the keystone shaped captaincy markings.

The uniform did have some success after the Winter Classic. The team adopted it as their alternate jersey during the 2014-15 season. They removed the patch and collar inscription of course. It lasted for two seasons before the Flyers’ 50th anniversary season jersey took over. It was a solid jersey choice, but hard to rank above the final two selections.

Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers

It was hard to pick which jersey ranks as the best Flyers’ outdoor attire. By the picture, you can tell which one we decided to go with. This pick had a lot to do with how well the team paired the jersey.

The team donned black jerseys for the first time since the 2010 season. It was a sleek look when paired with the all-black pants and helmet. The socks had a bit of orange towards the bottom. The only white could be found around the logo and player numbers. The bigger numbers and nameplates were a key addition that the team’s other outdoor jerseys didn’t have.

Neuvirth did a solid job of matching his equipment for the occasion. While it might be a simple approach, the fans have wanted a black jersey back in the rotation for quite some time. And this has done an admirable job at sufficing that. It has even made its way into the current rotation as it was adopted as the alternate in the 2018-19 season.

It took a while for fans to get on board with this jersey. When images first leaked, there were plenty of complaints. But as time went on and the game got closer, the jersey began to grow on most. It was somewhat of a replica of the team’s black jerseys, just with the colors flipped.

Orange was the primary focus in this one as it took over most of the jersey. The black is highlighted in different spots throughout the jersey as well. The lack of white may be a turnoff to some, but in person, the orange on the jersey pops nicely.

Pair that with the black helmets with the Flyers logo on it and you’ve got a slick uniform. Not to mention the team won their first outdoor game in them. An overtime victory over the Penguins deserves a nod.

While it was easy to rank the least favorable jersey out of the bunch, picking the rest of the way was a toss-up. You could make a case for any of the other jerseys to be the best. It simply came down to the overall aesthetic. We felt the addition of the Flyers logo to the helmets made the 2019 uniform stand out the most.

Be sure to let us know which jersey was your favorite and if you agree/disagree with our rankings!

Pittsburgh Penguins must reintroduce the ‘robot-pigeon’ jersey

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a rich jersey history and now it’s time to reintroduce a classic from the 1990s.

The 2019-20 NHL regular season wasn’t shy to flaunt throwback sweaters in numerous cities. Teams such as the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes all turned back the clock at least once with retro uniforms and specifically from the 1990s.

Let’s not forget that the Arizona Coyotes incorporated their Kachina-themed sweater from the 1990s and early 2000s as an official alternate last season.

After that era was arguably labeled as one of the most disliked fashion-themed years in professional sports, it seems that hockey fans are finally appreciating the unique designs more than ever.

If the NHL should grant teams the promotional opportunity to don a throwback sweater for one game next season in addition to owning alternates, then the Pittsburgh Penguins are left with no choice then to reintroduce the “robot pigeon” jersey.

Which version should Pittsburgh revive?

There’s no doubt that the black edition with the grey triangular yokes on the shoulders and (then) futuristic and horizontal stripes across the chest is the thread that hits the ice.

The Steel City’s white version of this design wasn’t bad by any means, well maybe the whites were so bad they were that good, but the black edition was always more vibrant with its unique details. Let’s not forget that the white version replaced the classic skating penguin version as the full-time home jersey for the 1992-93 season.

Pittsburgh didn’t introduce the black version until the 1995-96 campaign, but it was unveiled as an alternate. Sometimes alternate jerseys are just too good to wear only once in a while, and clearly the Penguins felt that way about one the most unique hockey sweaters of all-time.

The black edition later replaced the diagonal “Pittsburgh” lettered and black road jersey full-time once the 1997-98 season arrived.

Considering that all-time greats such as goaltender Tom Barrasso, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis all donned this jersey — then witnessing the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin wear a modern-day version of the sweater makes for quite the Kodiak moment.

For the record, the Penguins have experienced luck during the Stanley Cup playoffs when they reintroduce jerseys. Look no further than the 2015-16 Stanley Cup run when the team officially wore their then alternates, now official home, sweaters for every home game. That decision worked out well, no?

We’re sure the city of Pittsburgh would welcome this sweater back into the jersey rotation and if it meant another shot at Lord Stanley.

Ugliest NHL jerseys of all time

Through more than a hundred years of the NHL, we have been shown some of the greatest and most iconic jerseys in the history of sports; however, not all jerseys are remembered for being stylish. I am going to be looking at ten of the worst jerseys in NHL history. To be considered, the jersey has to have been worn by an NHL team in at least one game.

Blasty- The Calgary Flames

VANCOUVER - DECEMBER 23: Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Calgary Flames skates with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the NHL game at General Motors Place on December 23, 2005 in Vancouver, Canada. The Flames defeated the Canucks 5-4 in overtime shootout.

In 1998, to celebrate the “Year of the Cowboy”, the Calgary Flames introduced an alternate jersey with a flaming horse on the front. The jersey was not met well by fans and the horse was nicknamed “Blasty”. While the jersey itself is not that ugly, it was the horse logo that made fans mad. In 2000, the jersey was made the team’s road jersey. In 2003, the jersey was relegated back to the third jersey before being retired three years later. The jersey has been hailed as one of the worst in the history of the league. While this jersey is not as outrageous as others on this list, it is still pretty bad.

The Mooterus – The Dallas Stars

In 2003, the Dallas Stars introduced a horrendous jersey that featured a logo of the Taurus constellation on the front. The logo was nicknamed “Mooterus” because of its resemblance to, well, a uterus. Dallas Stars legend Mike Modano, Hall of Famer and Dallas Stars legend, even spoke about his hatred for the jersey on Twitter. The jersey was ripped apart by fans and the Stars soon scrapped the jersey after the 2004-2005 season.

Burger King- The Los Angeles Kings

Sometimes, teams will wear a jersey and you just wonder how this ever happened. This is one of those jerseys. This poor excuse for a jersey was introduced at the beginning of the 1994-1995 season. It is safe to say that fans did not receive it well. They called the jersey “the Burger King jersey” and Kings got rid of the jersey after only one season.

The Fisherman – The New York Islanders

It hurts me to include this jersey because I personally love this jersey, however, I am in the minority. The fisherman jersey and logo was introduced in 1995 and was immediately panned by fans. Fans were vocal about their hatred and even booed the fisherman mascot when they saw him. The fisherman was scrapped in 1997. Fascinating enough, the fisherman is the only logo in NHL history that features a human interacting with a hockey stick.

Wild Wing – The Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Well, this jersey happened. You know that situation when you are running out of jersey ideas, so you decide to just throw your mascot on the front and put them in your jersey? No? Just the Mighty Ducks? This jersey is one of the ugliest jerseys in sports history. Introduced in 1995, the jersey was so hated that it only lasted one season.

Original Coyotes Uniform – The Phoenix Coyotes

At the end of the 1995-1996 season, the Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes. For their jerseys, the Coyotes decided to use kachina-inspired designs, taking on a strong southwestern style. The final product divided fans with some praising the look, while others shunned it and called it ugly. In my opinion, the latter is more accurate. Both of the above jerseys are hideous. The top was the team’s original jersey, which was hideous, but then they decided to take it one step further and introduced the jerseys on the bottom.

Stripes, Stripes, Stripes – The Montreal Canadiens

Umm… before you ask, yes these are real. And no, the photo is not edited. These jerseys were first worn by the Habs during the 1912-1913 season. Following the season, they were retired until 2008, when they were brought back as commemorative jerseys. They were again retired in 2010. I do not need to explain why these jerseys are ugly, but I will anyway. The stripes are distracting and hideous, the logo is stupid, and the overall look makes it look like it belongs, well, nowhere.

Thunder and Lightning – The Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning debuted these jerseys that look like they were designed by a three-year-old at the start of the 1996-97 season. The jerseys were immediately ridiculed, especially for the yellow lightning bolts on the sleeves. There is too much going on in this jersey, not to mention that they are just straight up ugly. The jerseys were retired after the 1998-99 season.

Sleepy Predator – The Nashville Predators

The Preds unveiled these “beauties” at the start of the 2001-2002 season as their third jersey. Mustard yellow is hideous and does not look good as the main color of any jersey, but the worst part was the logo, which featured a saber-tooth tiger that appears as though it has not slept in two months. The craziest fact about these jerseys is that they were worn all the way until 2007!

The Flying V – The Vancouver Canucks

These disgusting jerseys were introduced by the Canucks in 1978 as an attempt to reach a more aggressive image. As you can see, the end result was an ugly excuse for a hockey jersey that made the team look like clowns. The way the V goes up over the shoulders is stupid and the yellow as the main color does not help the look. Who thought that these were a good idea? The jersey was abandoned in 1985, but the colors stayed and were incorporated into the team’s iconic flying skate logo.

Matt’s mail: On the Stars’ playoff positioning, prospects, third jerseys and more

The Stars are now 37-23-8 with 82 points, on pace for 99 points. There are 14 games left in the regular season.

Dallas Stars' interim head coach Rick Bowness confers with the players during a break in the action during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

The Stars are struggling.

For the first time since they were 1-7-1, the Stars have lost five straight games. They have not scored a goal since March 3. They have not scored an even-strength goal since Feb. 29. Their penalty kill is the second-worst in the league since the start of February.

The Stars are now 37-23-8 with 82 points, on pace for 99 points. There are 14 games left in the regular season. Let’s get to some questions.

Are the Stars locked into 3rd place in the Central? It seems like it would be difficult to fall back or move ahead at this point. Stranger things have happened but logic would say they’ll be in 3rd.

In fairness, this question was asked before the Stars lost twice to Nashville without scoring a single goal against Juuse Saros. I guess that falls into the category of “stranger things have happened.” The answer doesn’t change a lot for me even with the downturn in performance for the Stars, based simply on the standings.

Here are the current Central Division standings showing how many points each team is on pace for this season: St. Louis 109, Colorado 108, Dallas 99, Nashville 92, Winnipeg 90, Minnesota 90, Chicago 84.

The Central Division has essentially allowed the Stars a 16-point target (between Colorado and Nashville) to hit to finish in third place in the division. That’s pretty substantial, also given that the Stars’ current pace falls almost smackdab in the middle of the Avalanche and Predators. To put it another way, here are the records’ needed from Dallas to match the other Central team’s current paces.

St. Louis 13-0-1

Colorado 13-1-0

Nashville 5-9-0

Winnipeg 4-10-0

Minnesota 4-10-0

Chicago 1-13-0

There’s a lot of space between a 13-1-0 record to catch Colorado and a 5-9-0 record to fall back to Nashville. At this point, the Stars are better served watching the Blues and Avalanche battle for first place and see who falls into a first-round matchup with Dallas.

Sure, those paces and records are based on the entire season’s results, so things can change if one team gets hot (like the Wild or Predators have done this season) or if one goes ice cold (like the Stars are currently doing).

The losing streak is scary for the Stars, for sure. It’s exposed the team as too reliant on the power play to create offense and as leaning too heavily on Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, who (unfortunately for Dallas) cannot also score goals in addition to preventing them. It’s brought back bad memories from October of this season, when they looked like one of the worst teams in the league. It’s brought back bad memories from March of two years ago, when the Stars blew a playoff spot with an eight-game losing streak.

There are things to be worked on and issues to sort out before the playoffs, and the Stars are lucky there are still 14 games before the postseason to try and round into shape. In that time, they need to create more offense at 5 on 5, find more ice time for dynamic players like Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz, get Bishop on a roll in net, figure out who the sixth defenseman is, find a goal for Alexander Radulov and fix their penalty kill.

That’s a lot of stuff to figure out, and that’s the bad news. The good news is the Stars’ playoff destiny seems relatively safe.

If this continues, though, and the Stars become more in danger of dropping into a wild card spot, maybe it doesn’t matter whether they finished in third or fourth place. A team playing that poor before the playoffs probably couldn’t be depended on to win any sort of series, no matter the opponent.

How long has Bishop actually been hurt?

Ben Bishop told reporters in Frisco on Friday that he was hit with a puck in the knee during morning skate in St. Louis on Feb. 29. So he was injured when Anton Khudobin started against the Blues that night, and then was inactive Tuesday against Edmonton, when the Stars recalled Jake Oettinger to back up Khudobin.

It’s been a quiet year for Bishop and injuries, something the Stars are thankful for. Each of the previous two seasons in Dallas, Bishop suffered late-season injuries that impacted the team’s playoff chase. This season, that Edmonton game has been the only one he’s missed. We’ll see how the next month goes for Bishop.

Bishop made 22 saves against Nashville on Saturday afternoon, but has not won a game since Feb. 19 against Arizona. Bishop will also almost certainly fall short of the 30-win mark he aims for every season.

Currently, he has 21 wins. With three sets of back-to-backs left among the 14 games, he will start a maximum of 11 games. Even if the coaching staff decides three more starts for Khudobin the rest of the year is sufficient (doubtful), that means Bishop wins nine out of 11 games. That’s unlikely as well.

is there a chance we see dellandrea, harley, and robertson at the nhl level next year?

Anyone offensive from the AHL you could see getting called up to give us a spark we need going into playoffs? Last 4 games are worrisome..

Let’s tackle these two questions together.

First, I’m not sure there’s really anyone in the AHL that makes that big of an impact offensively in the NHL this month. Jason Robertson would be the closest one, but I’m sure there is some thought within the organization that he still needs more time in the AHL and can help Texas get into the playoffs. Plus, management has talked before about how much an AHL playoff run helped players like Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson develop into full-time NHLers.

The counterargument would be that maybe a playoff chase in the NHL and postseason run would be more beneficial. I just am not sure if Robertson’s defensive game (he can be a liability in his own zone) and subpar skating balance out the potential that he’s an upgrade defensively over players already on the NHL roster.

The other options would be Joel L’Esperance, Joel Kiviranta or Michael Mersch. Don’t think they would add much in a playoff chase.

As far as next season, things open up a bit more. Corey Perry and Mattias Janmark are unrestricted free agents in the summer, and those seem like natural spots for Robertson and Ty Dellandrea to jump into. Maybe Robertson’s game grows during a playoff run in Cedar Park and sets him up well for next season. Dellandrea is in the midst of his best scoring season in the Ontario Hockey League, with 70 points in 47 games, but figures to be a long-term bottom-six forward.

To me, Thomas Harley is the most interesting case.

The Stars will likely decide in the summer what their plan for Harley is next season. When I talked to general manager Jim Nill about Harley last month, he said the team would decide in June or July what to do with Harley.

“We’re going to evaluate that as we go forward,” Nill said last month. “That’s why we’re watching him, see what he does in the playoffs, hopefully the team goes on a good run. If they don’t, that gives us a chance to get him down to Austin [in the AHL] for a while. … He’s opened our eyes.”

In one sense, he could be counted on like the team counted on Miro Heiskanen in the summer of 2018 before his rookie season. There will be space for him with both Roman Polak and Andrej Sekera becoming UFAs this summer. It’s just about if the Stars think Harley is ready.

The size is already there for Harley, as is the skating. He’s a very confident teenager who can be a bit risky with the puck because he tries to make so many plays. To make a wholly unfair comparison, imagine a defenseman with skating similar to Heiskanen and offensive instincts like John Klingberg. That’s Harley.

If you include Dellandrea, Harley and Robertson in next year’s lineup, here’s what it could look like:

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov

Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski – Denis Gurianov

Andrew Cogliano – Radek Faksa – Blake Comeau

Jason Robertson – Jason Dickinson – Ty Dellandrea

Esa Lindell – John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen – Stephen Johns

Jamie Oleksiak – Thomas Harley

Does that lineup represent an offensive upgrade or does that group of forwards still need more pop? Which brings us to …

Looking ahead to this summer. Do you think its possible we try to move radulov to clear up cap space? To add a bigger piece like a young 2c for hintz and guri? His NMC turns modified on july 1st.

I guess it’s always possible to move a player like Alexander Radulov in the summer. But I don’t think that nets you a young, second-line center that you’re searching for. This is the player you’d be trading: a 34-year-old (on July 5) winger with a cap hit of $6.25 million that is coming off a career-worst goal-scoring year. That’s not going to get the value Radulov probably gets last year at this time.

If I misunderstood, and you just want to use Radulov’s cap space for another player instead of getting that player in exchange for Radulov, that’s my bad. But this is a free agent class heavy on wingers and light on centers. (I think we should also note that Roope Hintz can play center and is probably your second-line center of the future.)

Here are the wingers available in free agency: Mike Hoffman, Taylor Hall, Evgenii Dadonov, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Toffoli. The highest-scoring center on the market is Carl Soderberg. Obviously, Hoffman or Dadonov would be nice additions since they add instant offense, but they’re both more than 30 years old.

When will we get a alternate 3rd jersey?

There’s a possibility it happens next season, though that is not guaranteed.

When it does happen, I am interested in the final product. I thought the Stars did a great job on their Winter Classic uniforms, with the retro feel but modern Victory Green touch. We already know that those jerseys will not be the alternate, but the fact that they looked so good is encouraging when the Stars do decide to get a third jersey.

Could it be an ode to the 1999 jerseys with the giant star superimposed on the chest and arms? Maybe something more simplistic resembling the original jerseys from the early 90s? Maybe a black alternate like Philadelphia, Carolina or Tampa Bay? Or a simple color switch like Pittsburgh? I’m intrigued.

No, the NHL does not have an EBUG problem

The National Hockey League is really good at fixing problems that neither need fixing nor are problems in the first place.

“Problems” such as fans voting goons into the All-Star Game. Spin-o-ramas in the shootout. How players should or should not tuck in their jerseys. The conference playoff format. And now, if we’re to believe its presumed prioritization at the next general managers meeting, the latest pox upon our great sport: 42-year-old Zamboni drivers who serve as emergency backup goaltenders (EBUGs) and have the temerity to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs at home on “Hockey Night in Canada.”

After Carolina Hurricanes goalies Petr Mrazek (who played 25 minutes, 9 seconds) and James Reimer (6:10) were injured Saturday night, the team was forced to dress David Ayres, who was the designated emergency backup goalie for both teams. While he has served as a practice goalie for the Leafs, his primary gig was as the Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate.

(NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN this week that Ayres is “not an employee of the Leafs, Marlies or MLSE [Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.],” something that has been “very widely and wrongly reported” in the aftermath.)

Ayres entered the game in the second period and gave up two goals, causing everyone to freak out — and then the Hurricanes took the game over and Ayres made seven saves in the third period for the win.

The rest is NHL folklore: Ayres was showered with beverages in the Carolina dressing room; the Hurricanes began selling T-shirts with his name and number that benefited his charity of choice; Ayres embarked on a media tour that took him from the “Today” show through several ESPN programs to “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” making him the biggest hockey pop-culture sensation since Gritty. He was named an honorary North Carolinian by Gov. Roy Cooper.

It was fantastic fun. So naturally, the NHL wants to squash the EBUG. As least in its current form.

The general managers have discussed changes to the position in the past — after an accountant named Scott Foster became the first EBUG to make a save in a game, for the Chicago Blackhawks in a victory against Winnipeg back in 2018; and after 37-year-old equipment manager Jorge Alves, a former ECHL goalie, suited up for 7.6 seconds for the Hurricanes in December 2016. (Carolina apparently has an EBUG infestation, comparatively.)

They’re reportedly worried about the experience level and skill of the emergency backup. Sportsnet’s Brian Burke, a former VP of NHL hockey operations, was outraged that a goalie over 40 was the option, saying “it was embarrassing for the NHL” and that there were “a hundred goalies in the greater Toronto area” who were younger, had substantially more junior and minor league experience and could have played.

“It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody’s attention to the issue, and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue,” Daly said via NHL.com. “There’s no easy fixes to it. Particularly, we have to work with the [NHL] Players’ Association. Who’s a player? Who’s not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what’s best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren’t putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game. … So that’s obviously something we have to continue to work through.”

I mean … do they have to continue to work through it? Is this even worth the agenda item at the GM meetings?

Consider this about the current EBUG swarm:

1. There are comets that pass Earth with more frequency than EBUGs enter NHL games. Since the 1965-66 season, when the NHL mandated that a team must dress two goalies, there hadn’t been a case where an EBUG played substantial minutes after both goalies were injured until Foster’s 2018 appearance with the Blackhawks. It’s now happened again in 2020. That’s twice in close to 50,000 games. More teams have played in a blizzard in the NHL since 1965 than have given ice time to an emergency goaltender. Let that sink in.

2. If an EBUG came in and was smoked for like 10 goals, who cares? Where is it mandated, in any sport, that an emergency third-stringer has to display a level of competence? THAT’S WHY IT’S AN EMERGENCY! If the Edmonton Oilers — hockey gods forbid — lost Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the same game, the chances of them winning that game decrease substantially. That’s just horrible luck. Just like it’s horrible luck if a team loses both goalies, which, again, is something that has happened in 0.004% of NHL games played since 1965. The entire concept of the EBUG is that you’re basically screwed. Except …

3. When EBUGs do play, they … are fine, and then the NHL gets a tidal wave of positive media. I know we’re talking a very small sample here, and some are actually applauding the NHL’s proactive approach to “what could happen” if an EBUG gets lit up. But they haven’t been, and instant folk heroes were born both times, and media types who never talk about hockey paid attention to hockey. But by all means, the Leafs lost to their minor league team’s Zamboni driver, so let’s spend two days in Boca Raton, Florida, trying to reroute the comet.

David Ayres' week included many media appearances and a hero's welcome from Canes fans in Raleigh.

My feelings on the matter aside, something is inevitably going to be done with the emergency goalie rules. So what should be done?

I pestered an EBUG for the answer.

Tyler Stewart is the EBUG for the St. Louis Blues. He participates in practices, including for rival teams on occasion. A vending machine worker at the time, he dressed as the Blues’ backup goalie in a 2017 game against the Dallas Stars, watching Jake Allen play the first period from the St. Louis dressing room until Ville Husso arrived from AHL San Antonio near the end of the frame.

“People always ask me all the time if I’d be nervous, and I say, ‘No, not at all.’ There shouldn’t be an expectation level for us. We’re not NHLers. If you do have an expectation level, then you’re dumb,” he told me Wednesday.

Why did he believe the Ayres appearance ended up being so controversial, when Foster’s wasn’t?

“Some of it was his age. Some of it was because it was against the Leafs. My theory is that some of it is because it’s a Leafs guy playing for the Hurricanes,” Stewart said. “After those first two goals, did the GMs think he was throwing the game or something?”

Daly told me that “perception of biased participation” was one reason the emergency goalie rule was changed a few years ago, when team employees could no longer step in to play on an emergency basis.

Stewart recalls that rule change, too.

“From what I was told, it’s the ‘Marty Brodeur Rule,'” he said. “Before this rule, they could use guys in the organization if they needed to. Marty worked for [the Blues] as an assistant GM at the time. He was their EBUG if it happened. And everyone thought that was unfair, to have a Hockey Hall of Fame goalie ready to play.”

According to the 2019-20 NHL rulebook, the EBUG rule is:

“In regular League and Playoff games, if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player’s bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured or incapacitated in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warm-up (except when he enters the game to defend against a penalty shot). If, however, the third goalkeeper is dressed and on the bench when the second goalkeeper becomes incapacitated, the third goalkeeper shall enter the game immediately and no warm-up is permitted.”

There’s nothing on the books currently that suggests this rarely used “break glass for goalie” option needs to have a certain skill or experience level — nor are there age limitations.

Burke suggested that NHL vice president Kay Whitmore, who is in charge of issues such as goalie equipment regulation, should “pick that goalie from the candidates that they have” and there should be a “guy there who meets the criteria” of the “standard that has to be met.”

If someone like Ayres is insufficient, what’s the alternative?

TSN’s Ray Ferraro suggested having a third goalie for every team, paid a standard league salary, who practices with the team and can be available. “If a team chooses to not have him on hand for road games, that’s on them,” he tweeted.

This would also eliminate any worries about bias or conflicts of interest, whether it’s due to quasi-employment with the team or the collection of Leafs jerseys in the closet.

Speaking as an EBUG, Stewart seconded this “third goalie” idea.

“In a selfish way, I hope they add what’s essentially a bullpen catcher. If they’re worried about the conflict of interest, then have the St. Louis guy on the road with the Blues. Have your own guy with you at all times, someone who can fill in when the [NHL goalies] don’t want to practice in the morning, or to play against the scratches,” he said.

Of course, there would be some benefits for a guy like Stewart if his “emergency” job were redefined.

“I’m cool with doing it. They’re staying in five-star hotels, they’re eating like a king. It’s like being one of the boys without being one of the boys. That’s the ideal role. I don’t see why it would be a big expense,” he said.

That sounds reasonable if this is actually an issue that needs addressing. (Narrator: “It’s not.”)

But it does sound like an expansion of the active roster in some way. As Daly said recently: “Who’s a player? Who’s not a player? What qualifies all of that?”

So the solution to the EBUG dilemma is a labor matter, which makes sense: The only thing the NHL does better than fixing problems that don’t need fixing is tethering every decision the league makes to the next collective bargaining agreement.

Jersey Fouls

From the Windy City:

This is a reference to Blackhawks left wing Matthew Highmore, who is No. 36 in your program and No. 1 in this dedicated fan’s heart. Once again, we wish we could have seen the look on the pro shop worker’s face when this request rolled in.

The three NHL deadline trades I (personally) loved most

1. Ilya Kovalchuk to the Capitals. The NHL doesn’t hold a candle to the NBA when it comes to personal beefs, but back in 2009 there was legit heat between Alex Ovechkin and Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, on top of the competitive fire that burned between their teams (and still does).

At the 2009 NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, both Russian stars were on the Eastern Conference squad, and I remember there was a certain tabloid-esque gawking at how they interacted that weekend. But it ended up being the site of their reconciliation, as Malkin helped Ovechkin put on a goofy hat and sunglasses during the trick-shot competition. The catalyst for that hockey peace accord? Ilya Kovalchuk, as the duo hashed out their differences — “talked like men and forgot everything,” Malkin would say — at a Montreal restaurant.

These three players have been linked for 15 years, and I always hoped to see them team up in an effort to win the Stanley Cup. Ovechkin gave his blessing to GM Brian MacLellan, and the trade was made. Kovalchuk said he and Ovechkin have wanted to play together “since we were 13 years old,” even though Ovechkin was 11 when Kovalchuk was 13. But hey, who’s counting?

2. Robin Lehner to the Golden Knights. This was one of the true shocking trades of the day, both because it was assumed Chicago might stick with Lehner beyond this season and because the Golden Knights’ franchise player happens to also be a goaltender. But this move addressed two issues for Vegas.

The first was Malcolm Subban, a backup goalie who could no longer be trusted down the stretch, with a .368 quality starts percentage and a putrid minus-10.41 goals saved above average this season. The second was Marc-Andre Fleury himself, with his numbers for the first four months of the season well off his averages with Vegas. He lost his father in November. A source close to Fleury told me that it affected him greatly, as one might expect. He’s turned the corner this month (7-2-1, .913 save percentage, 2.27 goals-against average), but having Lehner there relieves some pressure while also challenging him.

It’s rare you see championship contenders with established starters bring in another renowned goalie — remember that Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season — at the deadline. This was an aggressive, smart bit of business for GM Kelly McCrimmon.

3. Zach Parise (almost) to the Islanders. I don’t care that it didn’t happen. I still love it. The trade would have sent Andrew Ladd’s contract ($5.5 million AAV through 2023) to Minnesota for Parise’s contract ($7,538,461 AAV through 2025) in some sort of wacky package. The Islanders (for whom Parise’s father played) and GM Lou Lamoriello (who drafted him in New Jersey) were enough for Parise to waive his trade protection. The Wild would have actually found a taker for a contract no one thought they could move. It was perfect! Too bad the news got out before the deal was done, scaring Lamoriello away like a deer when the porch light clicked on. Hopefully they revisit it in the summer.

Listen To ESPN On Ice

Emily Kaplan, Chris Peters and I combined forces to run down all 31 NHL teams at the trade deadline, while also chatting about EBUG legend David Ayres. Listen to the podcast here, and be sure to review and subscribe.

Winners and losers of the week

Winner: Bobby Ryan

It’s one of the images of the season: Bobby Ryan breaking down on the bench as Senators fans cheered his hat trick, which he scored in his first game back after entering the joint NHL/NHLPA assistance program on Nov. 20. “It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game. It was incredible. They supported me and I got to contribute. You can’t write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening, so thank you to all of them,” he said. Best of luck to Bobby Ryan in his continued recovery. He’s lived a life with significant adversity, and we’ve always admired his strength.

Loser: Joe Thornton

Patrick Marleau will get a shot at a “Raymond Bourque” moment with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his San Jose running mate is still a Shark despite his hopes to do the same. It’s a bummer we won’t get Jumbo on teams like the Bruins, Leafs or Knights. It’s a little strange that a team like the Avalanche didn’t push harder for someone with his skill set and experience. Hopefully this isn’t the end. Thornton deserves better.

Winner: Kings of the West

The St. Louis Blues have won six games in a row. The Vegas Golden Knights have won seven in a row. Because the Western Conference is a giant cauldron of parity, neither team is clear of the field for a division title. But they’re both rolling.

Loser: Princes of the East

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning were steamrolling teams a week ago. Then both hit four-game losing skids. That’s OK for Tampa, which is ensconced in second place in the Atlantic Division. But the Penguins entered Friday night six points up on the Carolina Hurricanes, who are just outside the wild-card bubble.

Winner: Chris Kreider

Things got a little dicey between the Rangers and Kreider in the days leading up to the trade deadline, but in the end both got what they wanted: The forward earned a seventh contract year, and the Rangers won’t have to look for another “Chris Kreider type” as they blossom into a contender. Which, by the looks of things, is happening sooner than expected.

Loser: Jimmy Howard

Oh, to be the goalie for a team in the tank. The Red Wings goalie was pulled for the sixth time since Oct. 29 in Detroit’s 7-1 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night. Oct. 29 is a significant date: It’s the last time Howard won a game. He’s 2-23-2 with an .882 save percentage in 27 games. In the past 40 years, only one goalie has had more losses in the first 66 games of his team’s season: Jeff Hackett of the second-year San Jose Sharks in 1992-93, with 25 losses in 31 appearances. He would end up going 2-30-1. Howard is an unrestricted free agent this summer, unfortunately.

Winner: Alex Ovechkin

Congrats to the Russian Machine for finally cracking the 700-goal ceiling last weekend, and for the new addition to the Ovechkin family who’s on the way.

Loser: Alex Ovechkin’s news cycle

Ovechkin becoming only the eighth player in NHL history to break the 700-goal barrier should have dominated the hockey conversation through the trade deadline. But then the Leafs had to go and get beaten by their own Zamboni driver, and Ovi was old news.

Puck Headlines

Jeremy Roenick speaks out after his firing at NBC. “I think anybody [that] knows the situation and knows me knows I got one of the biggest raw deals of all time.”

A cool look at the Stadium Series branding at Air Force.

Projecting the 2020 NCAA men’s hockey bracket.

Good piece on Blake Bolden, hired by the Kings as a scout for the Pacific region. “It’s believed that she is the first black female professional scout in the NHL.”

Residents of Henderson are worried about the new Golden Knights minor league arena.

Shayne Gostisbehere survived the trade deadline. From Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher: “Yeah, you know, that’s been the interesting one. I’ve been here a year and I can’t say I’m always on social media, but I’m amazed at how often I’m trading him.”

It’s been 10 years since one of the greatest moments in Canadian Olympic hockey history: Jarome Iginla’s golden pass that Sidney Crosby converted.

Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)

Behind the scenes at TSN’s TradeCentre circus. ($)

In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN

My feature on NHL executive Kim Davis, and her leadership on diversity and inclusion behind the scenes at the league.

Here’s how you can score free Chipotle by wearing your Caps jersey Friday

Now’s your chance to score some free Chipotle, Caps fans!

By wearing your favorite Capitals jersey on Friday, you can earn a free entree through Chipotle’s “suit up and score” campaign with the purchase of another entree of equal or lesser value.

While all jerseys qualify for the promotion, we recommend Alex Ovechkin’s as he goes for goal No. 700.

So rock your red, grab a friend and head to Chipotle for this awesome deal redeemable Friday, Feb. 21 only.

Seattle Kraken Reportedly Chosen as Name of New NHL team

Could it be? Is the NHL really getting ready to release the Kraken?

According to a story on Russian Machine Never Breaks, John Hoven of MayorsManor.com, joined Sirius/XM’s NHL station to report that the league’s upcoming Seattle expansion team had chosen Seattle Kraken as their name.

A “kraken” doing what it does best

“From everything that I’ve heard, it looks like Seattle Kraken is going to be the name,” Hoven said on the broadcast. “Which is quite surprising, actually, when I was given that information just a couple of days ago. I was a little bit in shock personally, just because we had been told several times previously that that was not the name that they were going for.”

–RussianMachineNeverBreaks.com

Hoven went into more detail on what he’s heard, you can check out the post on RMNB to see a more detailed transcript.

DetroitHockey.Net followed up this news with their own finding that some domain names had been registered recently which could strengthen the case for the Kraken name:

A kraken is a giant squid-like sea monster in Scandinavian folklore said to be found in the seas between Norway and Greenland. Legends dating back to the 13th Century said that one could devour the entire crew of a ship in a single gulp.

Seattle Kraken logo concept by “Sparky Chewbarky”, posted to our message board in 2013

Going back to Hoven’s appearance on Sirius/XM, he later went into some detail on the colour scheme the team is leaning toward.

“It looks like it’s a red and there’s what I call a teal-ish colour. It’s a lighter teal-ish colour, and black. Those seem to be the primary colours they’re going to be going with.”

These colours seem to line up with what we’ve seen from the team so far, from their new arena renderings to the placeholder NHL Seattle the team’s been using as their primary logo since the franchise was announced.

Seattle’s new NHL team – regardless of the name – will begin their first season in October 2021. We’re expecting the name to be announced sometime in the next two months.