A post-Canadian Thanksgiving compendium of news and views for your dining and dancing pleasure:
* It’s good to be Eric Boulton these days. You’re 39 years old, whatever skills you had as a hockey player are clearly in decline, you’ve never scored more than six goals in a season and you haven’t played a playoff game in more than eight years, and yet there are still executives at the NHL level who are willing to offer you a contract.
In this case it was New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, who gave Boulton a one-way deal worth $575,000. It’s a deal that increases by $25,000 for every playoff round the Islanders win this season, playoff wins that will almost certainly be earned without Boulton ever seeing a minute of ice time. So if the Islanders win the Stanley Cup this season, Boulton will make $100,000 for being a good guy and working out with the scrubs.
Outstanding work if you can find it. So outstanding, in fact, that there’s an excellent chance Boulton will be paid more for doing less than almost any player in the league this season and will earn more than Islanders star John Tavares compared to what he contributes.
Let’s say the Islanders deploy Tavares in about the same manner this season as they did last. That means Tavares will earn $6 million for 1,695 minutes of ice time, as he did last season. That would give Tavares an average of $3,540 per minute played. In order to equal that contribution, Boulton would have to play a total of 162 minutes this season. Last season, Boulton missed 33 games with injuries, but in 2013-14 he missed only five while injured, playing in 23 and being a healthy scratch for 44. That season, Boulton played a total of 147 minutes.
Part of the reason for this is Tavares is badly underpaid. But I wonder how he feels knowing that every time he steps over the boards, he’s earning the same wages as a guy who contributes almost nothing on the ice for his team.
* As hard as it may be to believe, even a superstar like Steven Stamkos has issues with confidence. So when he scored a goal in the Lightning’s second game of the season, on Saturday afternoon in Buffalo, he exhaled something of a sigh of relief.
“I’ve gotten off to a bit of a slow start the past couple of years not scoring in the first couple of games, so it always helps with the confidence,” Stamkos said. “You know it’s going to come and you go through some droughts and there’s some doubt that can creep into your head. But I’ve learned over time that I can handle it better now than I would have at the beginning of my career. And confidence is big in all aspects of life in general, so when you have confidence you feel good.”
* The Lightning were undoubtedly happy to get out of TD Garden with a win on Monday, and not only because it was the first time they had done so in 11 tries. After all, it was an afternoon game in Boston almost two years ago in which Stamkos broke his leg. “I remember we went straight to Montreal after that game and we went to that bar in Montreal, Ziggy’s, and we were thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” recalled Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And then we went out and played unreal in that next game.”
* If any team will have a comprehensive scouting report on Sabres rookie Jack Eichel, it will be the Lightning. Tampa has already played the Sabres once and face them three more times in their next 13 games. By Nov. 10, they’ll have played four games against Buffalo and will be done with the Sabres for the season. “It’s pretty remarkable what (Eichel) has done for the fan base,” Cooper said. “It looks like he’s somebody the hockey community has really rallied around and he looks like the real deal, so good for him.”
* With two assists in his first game, Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi is currently outscoring Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Tyler Seguin, Henrik Sedin and Claude Giroux, all of whom finished in the top 10 in NHL scoring last season.
* Two coaches who were identified as being on the hot seat going into the season were Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins and Todd Richards of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both their teams started the season 0-3-0. Particularly concerning is the situation in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets dropped a home-and-home to the Rangers in games in which they finished the first game looking terrible and starting the next game looking just as bad. Then facing the Sabres at home, the Blue Jackets looked listless and ineffective in a 4-2 loss to a team playing on the road without its No. 1 goaltender.
The Blue Jackets have had terrible starts every year under Richards and have made the playoffs just once in those three seasons. After getting out of the gate with a 3-1-0 mark last season, the Blue Jackets effectively took themselves out of the playoff race by going 1-9-1 in their next 11. In 2013-14, they started the season 2-5-0 and in 2012-13 were 3-7-2 to begin the season.