blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: September 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Fewest & Most Games Needed to Win Stanley Cup

With the Tampa Bay Lightning completing a 22 game playoff culminating in being crowned 2020 Stanley Cup Champions, it's time to do some math and see how many games it typically takes winners to collect the requisite 16 wins en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.  

The chart below shows the number of playoff games needed to win the Stanley Cup since 1987, by year, team and number of games.

Year: Team (Games)              Year: Team (Games) 
1987: Edmonton Oilers (21) 2006: Carolina Hurricanes (25)
1988: Edmonton Oilers (18) 2007: Anaheim Ducks (21)
1989: Calgary Flames (22) 2008: Detroit Red Wings (22)
1990: Edmonton Oilers (22) 2009: Pittsburgh Penguins (24)
1991: Pittsburgh Penguins (24) 2010: Chicago Blackhawks (22)
1992: Pittsburgh Penguins (21) 2011: Boston Bruins (25)
1993: Montreal Canadiens (20) 2012: Los Angeles Kings (20)
1994: New York Rangers (23) 2013: Chicago Blackhawks (23)
1995: New Jersey Devils (20) 2014: Los Angeles Kings (26)
1996: Colorado Avalanche (22) 2015: Chicago Blackhawks (23)
1997: Detroit Red Wings (20) 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins (24)
1998: Detroit Red Wings (22) 2017: Pittsburgh Penguins (25)
1999: Dallas Stars (23) 2018: Washington Capitals (24)
2000: New Jersey Devils (23) 2019: St. Louis Blues (26)
2001: Colorado Avalanche (23)         2020: Tampa Bay Lightning (22)
2002: Detroit Red Wings (23)
2003: New Jersey Devils (23)
2004: Tampa Bay Lightning (23)

Since the expansion of each playoff round to seven games in 1987, none have swept all four rounds to hoist the Cup in 16 games, nor have any skated in four Game 7s using all 28 possible games. The average number of games needed to win the Stanley Cup is 22, with the Edmonton Oilers (1988) playing the fewest games (18), and the Los Angeles Kings (2014) and St. Louis Blues (2019) skating in the most (26).

Three other times a team skated 26 playoff games in a single postseason (Philadelphia Flyers 1987, Calgary Flames 2004, Tampa Bay Lightning 2015).  In each instance, these teams lost to their favored foe in the Stanley Cup Final (Edmonton Oilers 1987, Tampa Bay Lighting 2004, Chicago Blackhawks 2015).
Fans prefer fewer games. Owners don't mind the additional revenue that accompanies a longer series. But whatever is needed will suffice.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Length By Days And Games.
* See also NHL League Size And Regular Season Length.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Win Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Final Appearance Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Championship Droughts.

History of NHL Relocation

Since the league's inaugural season in 1917, the NHL has presided over the relocation of thirteen teams, four prior to the cementing of the Original Six in 1942 and the remaining seven clubs commencing in the mid-1970s.

The chart below shows each instance of the relocation of a NHL team, sorted by year, old team name and new team name.

Year       Old Team Name New Team Name
1920 Quebec Bulldogs Hamilton Tigers
1925 Hamilton Tigers New York Americans*#
1930 Pittsburgh Pirates Philadelphia Quakers#
1934 Ottawa Senators St. Louis Eagles#
1976        California Golden Seals        Cleveland Barons#
1976 Kansas City Scouts Colorado Rockies
1980 Atlanta Flames Calgary Flames
1982 Colorado Rockies New Jersey Devils
1993 Minnesota North Stars Dallas Stars
1995 Quebec Nordiques       Colorado Avalanche
1996 Winnipeg Jets Phoenix Coyotes*
1997 Hartford Whalers       Carolina Hurricanes
2011 Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets

* Team was victim of NHL Renaming
# Team was victim of NHL Contraction

As indicated by the footnotes above, several teams have endured change in the form of renaming and contraction. The number of NHL teams and regular season games played by year may be found here.

Seven active NHL teams are a product of relocation (Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets).  The current record for the most relocations by a single NHL team is two, held jointly by the Quebec Bulldogs (Hamilton Tigers, New York Americans) and Kansas City Scouts (Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils). Only twice has a relocated club carried their team name to the new town (Flames, Stars).

The most recent NHL team relocation saw Atlanta lose their second team in 31 years (Flames 1980, Thrashers 2011) and Winnipeg land their second club in 32 years (Jets 1979, Jets 2011). The New York Islanders moved a mere 27 miles west from Uniondale to Brooklyn in 2015. The team now splits its home games between Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center until their new rink in Belmont is ready in 2021.

In 2013, the Glendale counsel voted 4-3 to keep the Coyotes for five more years, narrowly averting a relocation of the club to Seattle or Quebec City.  While the NHL prefers expansion over relocation owing to the spectacular fees for owners, the continued financial struggles of several Sun Belt squads may yield more relocation in the years to come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

NHL Stanley Cup Championship Droughts

Last night the Tampa Bay Lightning won their first second Stanley Cup (2004, 2020) with a Game 6 win over the Dallas Stars. The NHL's other 30 teams, however, extended their respective win-less droughts by another year.  The chart below describes, in descending order, the number of years each team has gone without winning a Stanley Cup, showing the last year they hoisted the hardware (if ever).

Team       Seasons           Last Cup Win
Toronto Maple Leafs 
Buffalo Sabres
Vancouver Canucks
Philadelphia Flyers
Phoenix Coyotes*
New York Islanders
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
San Jose Sharks
Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadiens
Florida Panthers
New York Rangers
Nashville Predators
Dallas Stars
Winnipeg Jets**     
Minnesota Wild
Columbus Blue Jackets      
Colorado Avalanche
New Jersey Devils
Carolina Hurricanes
Anaheim Ducks
Detroit Red Wings
Boston Bruins
Los Angeles Kings
Chicago Blackhawks
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning

*   Includes record of Winnipeg Jets prior to relocation to Phoenix
** Includes record of Atlanta Thrashers prior to relocation to Winnipeg

The average drought rests at 21 seasons with longest being 52 seasons (Toronto Maple Leafs), four seasons shy of the all-time win-less streak of 54 seasons (New York Rangers 1940-1994). Not only has Toronto failed to win since the NHL expansion beyond its original six teams, they haven't reached the Stanley Cup Final during that span. In fact, they've yet to win a playoff series since the 2004 NHL lockout.

More intriguing than the length of each team's drought is the fact that 10 of the 31 current NHL teams (32%) have never won the Stanley Cup. In fact, 4 of the 31 teams (13%) have never skated in a Final in their franchise history (Phoenix Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets).

In eight months the quest for the Stanley Cup continues for 16 of the 31 clubs that qualify for the postseason. Early Vegas odds favor the Avalanche (6 /1), Lightning (7.5 /1) and Golden Knights (9 /1) to capture the Cup, followed by the Leafs (11/1) and Bruins (14/1), with the Red Wings (350/1) pulling up the rear.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Win Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Final Appearance Droughts.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Length By Days & Games

The 2020 NHL playoffs began on August 11 and ended on September 28, boasting 79 games in 49 days. During this time, the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning skated in 22 games, for a total of 95 games (70 + 3 + 22) since the unprecedented suspended and abbreviated season that began twelve months earlier. 

Tampa Bay's playoff run begs the question, how long does a typical NHL postseason last? The chart below describes each postseason since 1987 (when the NHL expanded each playoff round to seven games) by start date, end date and length (i.e., total days and games).

Year       Start Date / End Date    Days       Games      
April 8 - May 31     
April 6 - May 26     
April 5 - May 25     
April 5 - May 24     
April 3 - May 25     
April 18 - June 1     
April 18 - June 9     
April 16 - June 14     
May 6 - June 24     
April 16 - June 10     
April 16 - June 7     
April 22 - June 16     
April 21 - June 19     
April 12 - June 10     
April 11 - June 9     
April 17 - June 13     
April 9 - June 9     
April 7 - June 7     
April 21 - June 19     
April 11 - June 6     
April 9 - June 4     
April 15 - June 12     
April 14 - June 9     
April 13 - June 15     
April 11 - June 11     
April 30 - June 24     
April 16 - June 13     
April 15 - June 15     
April 13 - June 12     
April 12 - June 11     
April 11 - June 7     
April 10 - June 12   
August 11 - September 28   

Since the NHL expanded all four rounds of the playoffs to a seven game series, the maximum number of playoff games that could possibly be played if all series went to a Game 7 is 105. Alternatively, the least possible number of playoff games if all 15 series resulted in a sweep is 60 games.

In terms of total games played in a postseason since 1987, the fewest is 79 games (2020).  Only four times has a playoff lasted more than 90 games (1991, 1994, 2014, 2016), the longest postseason being 93 games in 2014. The average playoff length during this span is 86 games.

Only twice in the past 32 postseasons has a playoff lasted fewer than 50 days (1992, 2020) and just seven times has it exceeded 60 days (2003, 2004, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017), the longest lasting 64 days (2011, 2019). The average playoff length during this span sits at 57 days.

With each team playing approximately 70 games before the regular season was suspended due to COVID-19, 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning skated in 95 games (70 + 3 + 22) during 362 days dating back to the opener on October 3, 2019, representing 99% of the days in a calendar year and leaving only 108 days off between the Stanley Cup winning game and opening night of the next regular season.

Players on the 7 teams that did not skate in the 2020 postseason will enjoy 306 days off between regular season games, an additional 7 months or 198 days over their Cup winning counterpart. For those suffering such a playoff drought, here's hoping that rest translates into success.

* See also NHL League Size And Regular Season Length.
* See also Fewest And Most Games Needed to Win Stanley Cup.

Today In NHL History - Heatley's Car Crash

On September 29th in 2003, Dany Heatley wrecked his Ferrari 360 Modena into a wall ejecting himself and passenger teammate Dan Snyder in the process.

Heatley escaped with a broken jaw, bruised lung and kidney, minor concussion, and torn ligaments in his right knee, returning to post 25 points in 31 games that season. Snyder suffered a severe skull fracture, never regained consciousness, and died six days later.

With the support of the Atlanta Thrashers community and forgiveness of Snyder's parents, a remorseful Heatley received only three years of probation on a charge of second-degree vehicular homicide.

That's today in NHL history.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Today In NHL History - Downie Hits McAmmond

On September 25th in 2007, the Philadelphia Flyers reckless rookie Steve Downie delivered a vicious headshot to Dean McAmmond rendering the Ottawa Senators unfortunate forward unconscious.

Downie received a match penalty and 20 game suspension for the second period preseason cheapshot, the fourth longest in NHL history, surrendering $63,101.60 in salary. McAmmond missed 10 games owing to injuries. Downie apologized to Dean after Ottawa's 4-2 victory.

That's today in NHL history.

* See also Today In NHL History - Downie Slewfoots Crosby.
* See also Today In NHL History - Downie Punches Blake.
* See also Today In NHL History - Pronger Hits McAmmond.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Today In NHL History - First Female Player

On September 23rd in 1992, Manon Rhéaume became the first woman to play in a NHL game. The appearance came in a preseason affair for the Tampa Bay Lighting against the St. Louis Blues. Wearing number 33 in honor of her idol Patrick Roy, Rhéaume stopped 7 of 9 shots in her one period of play before being pulled.

Winning Olympic silver (1998) and World Championship gold (1992, 1994) with the Canadian women's team, the older sister of NHLer Pascal Rhéaume and mother of one continues to stop pucks for the Flint Generals' practice squad. No other woman has ever played in the NHL.

That's today in NHL history.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Today In NHL History - 2004 NHL Lockout Begins

On September 16th in 2004, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the 2004-2005 season would not proceed as scheduled owing to a deadlock in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. What would have been the NHL's 88th offering was officially canceled on February 16, 2005. The dispute was ultimately resolved on July 22, 2005.
At the heart of the 310 day 2004 NHL Lockout was an owner proposed mechanism to link league revenues to player salaries in an attempt to lower the alleged 76% of gross revenues attributed to player costs and $273 million in collective owner losses during the 2002-2003 season. NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow disputed these financial findings and refused to allow a cap to be applied against player salaries.

In the end, a cap was born and a season lost marking the first time since 1919 without a Stanley Cup champion. Though the 1992 NHLPA strike and 1994 NHL Lockout disrupted play, never before had a North American major sports league lost an entire season to such strife. Among the side effects of the stalled season was a temporary global redistribution of NHL talent and a unique lottery system for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft to direct Sidney Crosby and others to deserving teams.

That's today in NHL history.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Today In NHL History - Richard Brodeur

On September 15th in 1952, Richard Brodeur was born in Longueuil, Quebec. Stopping pucks for 16 seasons in the WHA (Nordiques: 7) and NHL (Islanders: 1, Canucks: 7.5, Whalers: .5), the pint-sized netminder won the Avco World Trophy with Quebec (1977) and led Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Finals (1982).

Skating seven seasons in the WHA before returning to the team that took him 97th overall in the 1972 Entry Draft, Brodeur found himself on the Islanders bench behind Billy Smith and Chico Resch. The next year he was traded to the Canucks and his NHL legend was born.

Trimming his regular season 3.35 GAA to a stingy 2.70 in the 1982 playoffs, King Richard forged an unlikely path through the Flames, Kings, and Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks Cinderella story ended, however, when he met his former team in the third of their four year dynasty.

Winning club MVP honors for three years ('81, '82, '85) before being traded to Hartford for Steve Weeks in 1988 and subsequently retiring from the game, Brodeur remains a West Coast hockey hero .

Today Richard resides in Vancouver playing with the Canucks Alumni team, teaching toddlers and teens his trade at King Richard Brodeur's Hockey School, supporting local charities through the Richard Brodeur Celebrity Golf Classic, and painting local landscapes and childhood hockey scenes that may be found on display at Diskin Galleries.

Richard Brodeur. Once a Canuck. Always a King.

That's today in NHL history.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Today In NHL History - Jared McCann Hugs Ref

On September 13th in 2015, Vancouver Canucks prospect Jared McCann scored his first goal for the pro club during an all-rookie match-up against the Winnipeg Jets during the 2015 Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC.

What made the marker memorable was McCann's election to celebrate with the referee, engaging him in a long embrace and a pat on the head before his teammates arrived to rejoice the milestone.
When asked afterwards why he hugged the referee after whistling a wrist shot past netminder goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, McCann remarked "he looked lonely over there, he looked like he needed a hug". The Canucks added three more goals to beat the Jets rookie quad 4-1.
That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Anson Carter Snubs Canucks

On September 13th in 2006, Anson Carter rejected a one year $1.7 million offer from the Vancouver Canucks to skate with future Art Ross winning twins Henrik (2010) and Daniel Sedin (2011) on the 'Brothers Line', electing instead to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets for one year at $2.5 million.

Having led the team in goals (33) and earned the club's Most Exciting Player award (2006), Carter was confident he had a home in Vancouver and allegedly demanded a three year contract worth $9 million. The signings of the Sedins, Roberto Luongo and Willie Mitchell, however, depleted the club's resources for Carter.

The top line vacancy was eventually awarded to Alex Burrows who thrived with the Sedins and succeeded Anson as the Canucks Most Exciting Player for three consecutive seasons (2008, 2009, 2010).

Carter's tenure with Columbus lasted 54 games (27 pts) before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2008 5th round pick (Tomas Kubalik). Carter collected just one point in his 10 games with Carolina, skating only 64 games in what would be his final NHL season. Despite earning an invite to the Edmonton Oilers training camp the following season, the right winger failed to crack the roster.

And like that, he's gone.

Anson Carter's ten season NHL career spanning eight different teams (Capitals, Bruins, Oilers, Rangers, Kings, Canucks, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes) was over at the age of 32. One can only wonder what might have been if Carter had renewed with the Canucks and skated with the Sedins as they entered their prime playing days. I wonder if player agent Pat Brisson overplayed his hand advising Anson to chase market value when a hometown discount would have been far richer.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Today In NHL History - Heatley Trade (OTT-SJS)

On September 12th in 2009, the Ottawa Senators shipped a disgruntled Dany Heatley and a 5th round pick in the 2010 Draft (Isaac MacLeod) to the San Jose Sharks for Jonathon Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and a 2nd round pick (Kent Simpson).

The two-time 50 goal scorer (2006, 2007) and Calder winning (2002) winger publicly demanded a trade three months earlier, a mere two years into his six year $45m deal with the club, handcuffing GM Bryan Murray into settling for less than market value for his prized possession.

The washed-up Rocket Richard winner (2006) Cheechoo mustered a measly 14 points in 61 games for the Sens and was bought out of the final year of his contract which would have paid $3.5m in 2010-2011. Heatley, meanwhile, enjoyed a 10 point improvement over his prior season skating with 1997 first rounders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

The tide of the trade finally turned in 2012 when Michalek outpointed (60pts v 53pts) and outscored (35G v 24G) Heatley at almost half the cap hit ($4.3m v $7.5m) to lead the Senators in scoring. Heatley posted his 2012 numbers for the Minnesota Wild, his third team in four years, after the Sharks swapped the winger for Martin Havlat on July 3, 2011.

That's today in NHL history.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Today In NHL History - Gino Odjick

On September 7th in 1970, Wayne Gino Odjick was born in Maniwaki, Quebec. Fighting heavyweights Dave Manson and Stu Grimson in his NHL debut, the Algonquin Assassin earned the game's first star establishing himself as a fan favorite and formidable foe.

Taken 86th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1990 NHL Draft, Odjick played in 605 games over 12 seasons with 4 teams (Canucks 444, Islanders 82, Flyers 30, Canadiens 49) collecting 2567 penalty minutes and 137 points (64G, 73A). Skating alongside best friend and offensive phenom Pavel Bure in 1993-1994 Odjick scored a career high 16 goals. Gino's most famous offensive moment for the Canucks came on a 1991 penalty shot against Calgary Flames netminder Mike Vernon.

From beating a pair of black eyes into Jeff Brown for rumored indiscretions with Kirk McLean's wife to brawling the St. Louis Blues when Glenn Anderson refused to answer the bell for spearing Bure in the eye, Odjick defended his teammates to a fault on and off the ice.

When Mark Messier and Mike Keenan chased Captain Canuck Trevor Linden out of town, Odjick was the first to set the record straight:

"He (Messier) just wants to destroy everything so he gets the power. He didn't break a sweat for the first 10 games and just waited for (former coach) Tom Renney and (former GM) Pat Quinn to get fired. He talks to ownership all the time and he's responsible for Keenan, and he's part of most of the trades. Look what happened with (ex-Canuck and current Islander) Trevor (Linden) when Keenan gave him (hell). Did (Messier) come over to him and say, 'Look, Trev, we're with you?' He didn't say a word. How can you be captain like that? How can the team be together that way? He's not with the players. He's the one who controls everything. I don't blame Keenan for what's happened. Everything he does, he does in the name of winning. But everything that . . . Messier does is for more power. They signed him to help us, but all he wanted was most of us out of there so he could bring in his own people. He just wanted to tear it apart and do it his way."

As he put it, "I never wanted to fight just to see if I was tougher than one guy. I never wanted to be known as the toughest guy in the NHL. I just wanted to be known as a guy that took care of his teammates."

Gino retired in 2002 after sustaining a concussion from an errant puck during a Montreal Canadiens practice. Today he works in Vancouver with the Musqueam Band developing the Musqueam Golf Center.  

On June 26, 2014, Gino penned a letter to fans announcing that he was in the "biggest fight of his life" battling a rare heart condition called AL amyloidosis leaving him with only months or weeks to live.
"In my heart, I will always be a Canuck and I have always had a special relationship here with the fans. Your ‘Gino, Gino’ cheers were my favourite. I wish I could hear them again. You have been amazing". 
Gino heard those cheers again just days later when thousands attended a rally staged outside Vancouver General Hospital, where he was receiving treatment, and again weeks later when he attended the dedication of his childhood rink in Manawaki, Quebec in his honor. 

Thankfully, #29 won this fight and will hear the cheers for years to come. 

That's today in NHL history.

* See also Today In NHL History - Gino Odjick Runs Hasek.
* See also Today In NHL History - Gino Odjick Fights Blues.
* See also Today In NHL History - Odjick's Penalty Shot.