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Bye-bye Burmistrov!

Here’s some fresh news from the Pacific coast that may not seem important, but does take a name off the “centers available” aisle of the Rumor Mill Market..

Vancouver Canucks center Alexander Burmistrov has retired from the NHL, according to agent Dan Milstein. However, an official announcement regarding his future is expected in the coming days. Burmistrov is just 26 years old, so the news of his retirement is certainly unexpected. Some have speculated that he is simply retiring temporarily so he can play in the Olympics. Remember, the NHL is not permitting its players to play in the Olympics this winter, so this may certainly be the case. Still, right now, there is no official word on why Burmistrov has decided to call it quits.

Not Insiders Verdict:  Burmistrov was drafted during a time where lots of Russian players were coming out of the World Junior Championships looking like world-beaters.  There was a near worriless process to go through to have these players come to North America to chase the Stanley Cup.  Players like Burmistrov, Evgeni Grachev, Alexei Cherepanov (RIP), Nikita Filatov and Alexander Radulov were among that group as well, and on the whole, we can now call the experiment what it was – a bust!  Burmistrov started with the Jets, but also was acquired by the Coyotes for a season setting themselves up with key pieces for their franchise overhaul.

Burmistrov never lived up to a number eight overall pick, and I am sure he got frustrated along the way (not when he left for the KHL, just his overall situation.  He was supposed to be a star, but a lack of consustent effort saw him getting less and less prime time minutes, which eroded his confidence, which lowered his production, which starts the cycle again.

Good luck, Alex!  Have fun at the Olympics! 

 

Johansson Set to Return

Dec 22, 2017
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The New Jersey Devils announced today that off-season acquisition Marcus Johansson has been cleared to play and has been activated from IR. Johansson is set to return to the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Johansson is a nice piece to have back, but the Devils have gotten along fine without him, somehow still blazing through the 2017-18 season making a case for the top team in the Metropolitan Division.

Johansson, 27, was acquired from the division rival Washington Capitals this summer for second-round and third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. More of a cap dump by Washington than a fair deal, Johansson was nevertheless expected to help turn things around in New Jersey this season. While that goal has certainly been accomplished, and far beyond expectations in terms of both time and ability, it has been done largely without Johansson. A slew of injuries – lower-body, concussion, bruised ankle – has limited Johansson to just 15 games with his new team. However, his return will still be a boost to the red-hot Devils. A five-time 40+ point scorer coming off a career-high 58-point campaign, the Swedish forward’s offensive talent is undeniable.

When Johansson was traded by the Capitals, I felt it was a huge loss for the Caps.  Johansson isn’t anything special, but he was one of those players that did a ton for his team.  We’ll see, if he can stay healthy long enough, if that untouchable came along with him to the New Jersey Devils.  Even with his missed games, I would pin him down for about 16 goals by season’s end, and that, to me, is the threshold for an ideal “secondary scoring” winger.  He will likely slot right onto the second powerplay unit and begin producing before too long.  Good news for New Jersey, to be sure!!

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Matthews Returning from Concussion?

Dec 22, 2017
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The Male Leafs Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury. Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury.

Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.ammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

“Just normal concussion symptoms I guess, don’t need to go any farther than that,” Matthews said. “I think just later on after the Pittsburgh [game], just colliding with Morgan, later on that night and into the next day I wasn’t feeling very well, went through all the return to play [tests] and all the protocols and everything and obviously they take it pretty seriously. They deemed me obviously out, so I went through all that stuff and I feel great now.”

NOT INSIDERS TAKE:  The Leafs record without Matthews in the past six games was 2-4-0, and despite a hot streak by the third line of Tyler Bozak, James vanRiemsdyk and Mitch Marner, Mattews retains his team lead in scoring.

The idea of whether or not to play Matthews on Saturday is one that has to be made carefully.  The anguish it must be for Mike Babcock to watch his prize weapon sit idly by as his team struggles without him.  Personally, I think leaving it up to the player and coach should be limited to the question of whether or not to get a medical clearance.  In this case, it would be timely to sit him, as SAturday’s game is followed by the Christmas break and the Leafs will have three days off for the injury to be “beyond” healed up.

 

Oilers plan to use healthy Andrej Sekera in all situations

Dec 21, 2017
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It was Game 5 against Anaheim last spring when Andrej Sekera gained the centre red line, gliding on one foot as he pumped the puck deep into the Ducks end.

Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf finished his check on Sekera, a clean, simple part of playoff hockey. It resulted in a torn ACL that ended Sekera’s season, an injury from which he will finally return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup tonight.

Of the many things that have gone wrong for Edmonton this season, not having their No. 3 defenceman this season has been just another match on the fire. But Sekera is finally back, paired with Matt Benning tonight against St. Louis and expecting some power play time as well.

“I feel as good as I need to feel to be playing at this level,” Sekera, 31, said. “I’m ready. I’ll go out, play hard and try to help this team win a game.

“Guys are already 34 games in and I’m zero,” he joked. “I just want to play a hard simple game to make sure (his teammates) like me on the ice and will play with me.”

Every player knows how long the road back from a serious injury can be. For Sekera, it started not long after the Oilers were eliminated last spring, a full seven months ago.

“It was a little bit difficult because after the surgery there are only certain things you can do and (the rehab) gets old,” he said. “But after every stage of the rehab you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“You just have to stay on top of it and be positive — do all the things you need to do to come back healthy and be ready to go.”

Sekera is an important power playplay presence for Edmonton who plays the game the way today’s defenceman is supposed to: by quickly moving pucks in the right direction, making sharp passes on the tape that allow a team to break out cleanly.

“He’s a first-pass guy, always makes the simple play,” centre Mark Letestu told Post Media. “He does a lot of things that go unnoticed that make him so solid, and when he’s gone you recognize the void he leaves, how good he actually is and what he means to the team. When we get him back it will be a big lift.”

With Oscar Klefbom on injured reserve, Sekera will walk into some extra minutes already tonight. He can expect some power play time, and likely some penalty killing work as well.

“The plan is to use him in those situations, but his play and his ability to read and react and the pace he plays at and how he feels physically will dictate how much he gets,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We want him up and running as quick as possible so he’s going to need to experience the power play and the penalty kill. But if it’s not clicking for him right off the bat, we’ll cut him back.”

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/oilers-plan-use-healthy-andrej-sekera-situations/

 

Sabres’ Lehner pays tribute to Hasek with Winter Classic mask

Dec 21, 2017
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Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner is paying tribute to an all-time great with the new mask he’ll be wearing during the upcoming Winter Classic.

The new mask features Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 and a photo of him making one of his signature flop saves.

Hasek tended the net for the Sabres for nine seasons, winning six Vezina and two Hart Trophies, while leading Buffalo to its only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

The mask is much more modern than the one Lehner was skating around with before practice on Thursday.

The first one looks a little bit safer.

The latest edition of the Winter Classic takes place Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York featuring the Sabres and Rangers.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/sabres-lehner-pays-tribute-hasek-winter-classic-mask/

 

NHL Power Rankings: Secret Santa Edition

Dec 20, 2017
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When Adam Henrique returned to New Jersey this week dressed as a Duck, the former Devil received the most hilarious inside-joke gift in hockey history: the Pads of Seduction.

Back in November 2016, Devils backup goalie Keith Kinkaid threw a contest inviting fans to design his next set of pads. Feeling frisky, Henrique entered a design with teammate Stephen Gionta striking the classic George Costanza painting pose.

Well, Kinkaid gave the pads — a thing that exists in real life — to Henrique this week, just in time for the holidays.

In that same generous spirit, we offer up some last-minute shopping ideas in our NHL Power Rankings: Secret Santa Edition.

As always, teams are ranked in order of their current jolliness. The write-ups focus on the perfect gift idea for your favourite club.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

A shiny, new, oversized bandwagon, so the Knights — your new No. 1 seed in Western Conference and the Lightning’s streak killers — can cart all their new fans on a ride to the post-season.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

Respect™, by Calvin Klein. Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves a vat of this new cologne for leading all NHL starters in wins and ranking second only to Chicago’s Corey Crawford in save percentage, while everyone talks about Tampa’s high-powered offence.

3. Nashville Predators

An endorsement deal for Roman Josi. We’re thrilled that marketing dream P.K. Subban inked his deal with Adidas this week. But at a $4-million cap hit, Josi, Nashville’s other best defenceman and one of the NHL’s best bargains, deserves a little something extra in his stocking.

4. Washington Capitals

A $10,000 Hudson’s Bay gift card for Alex Ovechkin, so he can keep cruising the streets of cold Canadian cities and outfitting the homeless.

5. Los Angeles Kings

An oxygen mask for Anze Kopitar, who has been logging an incredible 21:55 hard minutes a night, getting used on both special teams and has bounced back from his most disappointing season to get into the Art Ross race.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

A carbonite freezing chamber, so the Blackhawks can preserve the magic of their five-game winning streak, the longest active run in the league.

7. St. Louis Blues

A juicy contract renewal for GM Doug Armstrong, who is not afraid to makes trades or bench changes and builds a relevant team year after year.

8. Boston Bruins

A 16-inch Sunbeam desk fan, to cool down a bit. Since the Bruins’ core members have returned from injury, this is one of the hottest teams in the league. With games in hand over their inconsistent competition, the third seed in the Atlantic is Boston’s to lose.

9. Winnipeg Jets

An all-star game invite for Blake Wheeler. It was on the Jets captain’s wish list last winter and he’s more than deserving.

10. Toronto Maple Leafs

The game of Operation. You don’t have to tell us where Auston Matthews is sore, just make the body part buzz with these miniature metal tweezers.

11. New York Rangers

A third-line centre, before the Penguins get one. With the Metropolitan Division completely up for grabs, how the Rangers fare in the mid-season trade market could give them an edge over their close competition.

12. New Jersey Devils

A playoff berth, for Taylor Hall. It’s only been Item 1 on his letter to Santa for eight winters now.

13. Minnesota Wild

A lumbar pillow, for Eric Staal. The poor man must be getting tired of carrying offensively anemic teams on his back.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets

Shorter word counts, for Blue Jackets beat reporters who need to file game stories on nights when coach John Tortorella won’t give them any quotes.

15. San Jose Sharks

Beard oil, Costco-sized.

16. Dallas Stars

A sack of power-play points for Martin Hanzal. The $14.25-million free-agency acquisition has just two goals all season and needs something to spark his production.

17. New York Islanders

What do you get the team that has everything (goals galore, a brand-new arena site, an increasingly happy captain)? How about some new pads for Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss? They are the prime contributors to the NHL’s worst team save percentage, .892.

18. Calgary Flames

A brick of inedible, regifted Christmas cake, for every fan who doubted Sam Bennett, he of 12 points in his past 11 games.

19. Philadelphia Flyers

A time machine, so they go back to November and take a mulligan on that 10-game losing streak.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins

A rabbit’s foot. While it may be a bit rich to describe the two-time defending champions as unlucky, Pittsburgh is operating with the league’s worst PDO (96.4), has dealt with a stream of injuries, and should be having a better season.

21. Edmonton Oilers

A lifetime supply of Vicks NyQuil for Connor McDavid. Seeing what the Oilers captain can accomplish when he’s not suffering from the flu has reinforced the need to keep him healthy.

22. Colorado Avalanche

A two-second head start on all draws in January, so the Avalanche can elevate their league-worst 44.8 faceoff percentage.

23. Anaheim Ducks

One more trade for an Adam Henrique-type of impact player who can score goals like this one.

24. Montreal Canadiens

Earmuffs for everyone, so they can block out the constant rumour-mongering and focus on losing 3-2 games.

25. Carolina Hurricanes

A special teams seminar, so Carolina can fix its 29th-ranked power play and 29th-ranked penalty kill.

26. Detroit Red Wings

An all-expenses-paid harpoon fishing expedition for Justin Abdelkader, so he can spear away without reprimand.

27. Ottawa Senators

A fire extinguisher.

28. Florida Panthers

This book by Hal Mooz: Make Up Your Mind: A Decision Making Guide to Thinking Clearly and Choosing Wisely.

29. Vancouver Canucks

A Calder Trophy for Brock Boeser, whose knack for scoring goals will not be deterred by a day on crutches nor a long-term injury to his centreman. Just ask Carey Price.

30. Buffalo Sabres

An updated phone plan for GM Jason Botterill, who’s about to rack up all kinds of long-distance minutes trying to swing trades.

31. Arizona Coyotes

A new arena, possibly in a new city, potentially in a new country.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/nhl-power-rankings-standings-christmas-gifts-ideas/

 

31 Thoughts: Arena deal a massive victory for Islanders

Dec 20, 2017
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• How does arena deal affect Tavares free agency?
• Pens’ two-trade day “the tip of the iceberg”
• Karlsson unlikely to move in near future

As one GM who wants John Tavares to hit free agency laughed last night: “This… is not helpful.”

Ah, but it’s the sweetest melody to the NHL, the New York Islanders and their fans. Two months ago, owner Jon Ledecky and GM Garth Snow met the media at a Manhattan restaurant, refusing to even consider questions about anything other than Belmont Park as the franchise’s future home.

“Our focus is solely on Belmont Park,” Ledecky said, over and over again. We twisted the question every possible way we could think of. He wasn’t having any of it. “We want Belmont to be our permanent home.”

And now it will be. If Long Island had chosen MLS’s New York City FC plan for a soccer stadium, the Islanders would have rocketed to the top of relocation rumours to Houston, Quebec City or Seattle. Now that storyline is dead and buried. This is where they belong. We just need Islanders/Rangers in the playoffs to really re-ignite things.

This is a massive, massive victory — particularly for Ledecky, who has gone out of his way to put a positive face on ownership. You can tell Islanders fans truly like him and wanted to believe in his ability to deliver, but there was a not-so-deep-down worry that yet another disappointment awaited them at the end. Not this time.

They chanted, “Yes, yes, yes,” at Ledecky during the media conference. He replied that they “deserved” the arena. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo petitioned NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to play some games at the old Coliseum in the interim, with Bettman replying he’d consider it if Billy Joel (who was in attendance) opened the new arena.

It will be interesting to see the concert setup. It’s believed that with James Dolan’s involvement, those who play Madison Square Garden are also going to play Belmont. That’s one way to fill dates with so many entertainment options in the Big Apple. The Islanders, who currently rank among the lowest NHL teams in per-game ticket revenue, aren’t going to be anywhere near that spot when they open the doors to the new facility.

That’s three years away — well after Tavares is scheduled to hit free agency.

Undoubtedly, there are Islanders fans who hope that one major announcement leads to another. I don’t get the sense anything’s imminent on the Tavares front, but, by now, we should understand not to read too much into his decision-making.

“As time goes on and you take time to think about things, look at the big picture, it’s very positive for the organization, for us, for the fans,” Tavares said of the new arena deal. “For my situation it’s really exciting news. I’m not going to say it’s going to change or ultimately make my decision, but everything that’s involved in my daily life plays into it and going to the rink, playing games is a big part of that.

“We’ll continue the way things have been going, keeping the communication open and taking it one day at a time. A lot of focus on the ice, on getting us to the playoffs. I’ve always stated how much I enjoy being here, playing here and wanting it to work out here.”

The moral of the story: He’ll let us know when he’s ready. Smartly, the organization is content to wait as long as possible. And, the biggest factor is winning. The Islanders are trending upward in hockey’s toughest division. Staying on that course is the best thing they can do.

But the team and its fans can worry about that another day. Wednesday was a celebration, a huge and well-deserved party.

31 THOUGHTS

1. Tavares’s linemate, Josh Bailey, continues his dream season, finishing Tuesday’s games with 42 points, tied with his captain for third in the NHL. Only Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have more. After setting career highs in 2016–17 with 43 assists and 56 points, he’s on pace for 77 and 101, respectively. Does he really like the attention that comes with it? Bailey laughed.

“Most of it is praise, so that’s okay,” he answered.

2. As you would expect, Bailey threw most of the credit at Tavares and their third, Anders Lee.

“We would not be having this talk if not for those guys,” Bailey said. “If you don’t have it one night, give those guys credit. They pull you along with them.”

That said, a few different sources credited coach Doug Weight for putting Bailey with Lee/Tavares last year and leaving him there. Bailey pointed out that in the Islanders’ final season at the old Coliseum (2014–15), injuries forced then-coach Jack Capuano to put those three together. Bailey responded with 41 points, at that time a career-high. But the trio didn’t stick until Weight re-united them. Did Bailey ever request Capuano try him there again?

“No, I never asked,” he replied. “I believe you are told who to play with, you go out and do your best. I’m not that type of guy to go into [the] office and do that.”

Last year, after taking over as coach, Weight went to Nick Leddy and said he needed the defenceman to be his second-best player every night. Did he have a similar message for Bailey?

“Yes,” Bailey answered. “He told me he needed me to be better, to continue to grow. He also said he believed that I could do it.”

Are you surprised a your success?

“I try not to think about it. I try to approach each day the same. I’ll worry about looking back when the year is done.”

3. A few years ago, there were reports the Islanders were close to trading Bailey to Edmonton for then-Oiler Sam Gagner. Did Bailey think that he’d still be part of this organization at Christmas 2017?

“Yes, I would have believed you if you told me I was still an Islander. I enjoy it here. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be. My wife likes it here and my kids were born here.”

He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season. Has he thought about his future?

“Yes, I’ve thought about it. And the thing I think about is wanting to remain is priority No. 1. It would be nice to play my entire career here. I believe in where we are going.”

What Bailey concedes is that family and maturity have changed him for the better.

“Every player has a time that their confidence is rattled. Earlier in my career it happened a lot more, but as you grow as person, you gain appreciation for veterans who show up game-in, game-out. You know you can rely upon them every night. That’s what I wanted for myself. Yes, I feel good, because when you jump over the boards those with two guys, there’s added confidence. More results mean more belief in yourself. If I have a bad night now, I don’t think about it. It’s gotten to the point where I can turn the page each day, approach everything as a new opportunity, no matter what’s happened, bad or good.”

As any father knows, a lot of that comes from going home to 16-month-old Wyatt and 10-week-old Mack. (Wife Megan has her hands full with two children that age and a husband on a hockey schedule.)

“I owe them a lot of credit,” Bailey said. “Going to them is always nice. It’s easier to leave the game at the rink.”

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4. A few opposing executives on Pittsburgh’s trades for Michael Leighton and Jamie Oleksiak: “The tip of the iceberg.”

5. Call it more of a hunch, but I can see Vancouver making an increased effort to move Erik Gudbranson. It’s unlikely they re-sign him to what he can get on the market, and there is little point to keeping him on the roster if he’s not part of their future. A fresh start would benefit Gudbranson, too. It just hasn’t worked out for team or player.

6. Winnipeg sent out a note last week indicating Shawn Matthias’s availability. Their success has made it difficult for him to get into the lineup; just two appearances in five weeks. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

7. Fresh Start Number Three: Have to think Edmonton moves Anton Slepyshev, too.

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8. I think teams have asked Montreal GM Marc Bergevin what his plans are for Charlie Lindgren. (Have to think Florida was one.) Bergevin does not discuss trade possibilities, so it’s difficult to know. But the fact nothing’s happened tells you something.

9. Two weeks ago, one Western Conference GM said the Oilers still worried him.

“Any team with Connor McDavid is a threat,” he warned.

The Oilers enter Wednesday’s games six points out and with multiple teams between them and the final playoff spot. But I don’t think the GM I spoke to is the only opponent who feels that way.

10. Columbus talked last week about getting Alexander Wennberg back in the habit of carrying the puck. Their prospective No. 1 centre, who took a major step last season, has really struggled. He’s playing 18:20 per game, just two seconds below last season. That’s behind only Artemi Panarin and Nick Foligno among Blue Jackets forwards. (In 2016–17, only Foligno was above him.)

Producer Matt Marstrom asked SportLogiq, which does some tracking for us, to see if Wennberg’s numbers have declined. They found he’s carrying the puck for two fewer seconds at even-strength and six fewer seconds in all situations. While that doesn’t seem like much, what has also dropped is his ranking among teammates. He’s gone from carrying it third-most in all situations and seventh-most at even-strength to fourth and ninth. That seems really low for a player of his ability, and I wonder how much that has to do with Panarin’s arrival. They’ve played a lot together. They’ve got to find the chemistry Panarin and Patrick Kane did.

11. Idea that might make sense only to me: Columbus, looking for a centre, considering a reunion with Derick Brassard. Brassard and John Tortorella worked well together with the Rangers. You know who Tortorella’s assistant was there? Mike Sullivan. And the Penguins are looking for a centre, too.

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12. A few thoughts about Ottawa, the Senators and Eugene Melnyk: When I arrived in the nation’s capital one week ago, the cabbie said, “They might as well fold the team if they trade Karlsson.”

Some of the biggest battles I’ve had with leagues and/or executives come when an event they are extremely proud of is overshadowed by a story (especially a negative one) released at the same time. That’s why I was shocked by Melnyk’s timing, launching a neutron bomb into a terrific weekend. Whoever or whatever you blame for the team’s attendance woes, I can’t imagine the NHL was pleased. Melnyk is a fighter, and there is a theory he felt boxed into a corner by rumours about his finances, a sale, Karlsson and who knows what else. What does a fighter do when cornered? Comes out swinging.

Senators fans responded by making #melnykout a Canadian trending topic the day of the outdoor game, and people who know the market better than I do worried there was going to be lingering damage. Announced attendance was 13,804 Tuesday against Minnesota, and with the Senators low in the standings, you wonder if this could turn into an ugly, self-fulfilling prophecy: “He doesn’t think we support the team? Well, why would we do it now?”

Then what happens if they decide to cut payroll by trading higher-paid players for youth, prospects and picks?

13. During the 2010 Pittsburgh/Ottawa series, Melnyk tried to enter the team’s dressing room during an intermission — only to be intercepted by then-GM Bryan Murray. I was inches away, trying to do an interview at the time, as Murray prevented Melnyk from getting in. Whether the manager or an advisor to current GM Pierre Dorion, Murray found a way to keep the owner in check. It’s another reminder of how much he is missed.

14. Almost six years ago (March 2012), there were rumours of the Desmarais family’s interest in an NHL team for Quebec City. Andre Desmarais agreed to a phone conversation, saying his family “has no interest in owning an NHL team at this stage.” With all of the recent speculation about Melnyk’s future, I made another attempt. A spokesman politely declined on behalf of Andre Desmarais and Paul Desmarais Jr. (Last April, Andre took medical leave from day-to-day operations at his company at the request of his doctor.) For what it’s worth, staying quiet is always the recommendation if you are serious about NHL ownership.

15. When news broke that Ottawa had asked for Karlsson’s trade list, Dorion said everyone’s list was requested in advance. Initially, Brassard told reporters in French that wasn’t the case for him, although it appears the Senators did do it last summer. As for the captain being asked any time sooner than three weeks ago, well… we’ll agree to disagree.

16. So where does it stand? Prior to Tuesday’s loss to the Wild, the Senators had showed life with home wins over the Rangers and Canadiens. But it is a steep, steep climb. I don’t think Karlsson’s going anywhere in the near future. My personal opinion is he prefers to stay in Ottawa, although an ownership change would make his decision a lot easier. Teams have asked about Mark Stone, a sensational player, but were told he’s not available.

What makes that situation even more delicate is he’s represented by Newport, which also handles Karlsson. It’s always a fine line to walk. No one can have enough centres, so I think there’d be plenty of interest in Jean-Gabriel Pageau. You’ve heard Cody Ceci’s name. Same with Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith. All of them have appeal — depending on the price. My sense is Dorion is looking for young NHLers, prospects and/or picks.

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17. Heading into last Wednesday’s win over the Rangers, the Senators ranked 31st in even-strength save percentage and 30th in offensive-zone possession time. (Only Florida was lower.) Craig Anderson improved the first number in wins over New York and Montreal, but it’s tough to win with that combination.

18. Finally, on Ottawa: Whatever controversy envelopes the Senators at this time, it should not overshadow a superb weekend. I’m not a sentimental person, but it was special to broadcast from the shadow of Canada’s Parliament. The rink setup on the Hill was terrific. It was cold and windy for the main event at Lansdowne, but those fans were having a great time. Underrated excellent moment: the smile on Mario Lemieux’s face when his five-goals-five-different-ways was voted greatest moment in NHL history. We see him so rarely, and he stays so reserved. There was no faking that smile.

19. The NHL has two outdoor games (that we know of) scheduled for next season: Boston/Chicago at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 1, 2019, and the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rematch at Lincoln Financial Field, 54 days later. It is “unlikely,” according to one source, that there will be a game hosted by a Canadian city until at least 2019–20. And it would not be a surprise if that matchup included Edmonton.

Last May, the NHL announced it will have games at service academies, with the first one coming between Toronto and Washington at the U.S. Naval Academy in March. So you can expect West Point and the Air Force Academy to get their moments, too.

20. Another thing I think the league is considering: new blood. There are always complaints about Chicago’s outdoor appearances, but I look at it this way: You get what you earn. Some new teams are climbing the mountain, and their merits are being discussed. Tampa Bay makes sense, even if the state of Florida doesn’t host.

21. Speaking of Erik Karlsson, Sportsnet features producer Alex Blair debuts a piece on likely 2018 No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin during Wednesday’s night’s Toronto/Columbus coverage:

Dahlin discussed three players that were his role models growing up. Karlsson is one, and he indicated Ottawa’s captain was one of the reasons he switched from forward to defence at age 13.

“My dad (Martin) told me I could score goals and still do fun stuff with the puck,” Dahlin said of the change of position.

The other two role models? Peter Forsberg — for toughness and physical style of play — and Frolunda captain Joel Lundqvist. The 35-year-old, Henrik’s twin brother, is in his 15th season with the organization and regarded as one of the best leaders in the Swedish league.

22. With all of Winnipeg’s tremendous young talent, one non-Jet exec came back from overseas with high marks for 2017 24th-overall selection Kristian Vesalainen. The 18-year-old has 19 points in 26 games for Hameenliina in the Finnish Elite League. Almost a point per game in this league at age 18 is very hard. Carolina’s Sebastian Aho did it two years ago. Other than that, it’s rare.

23. Get a load of the father-son connections for the USHL Top Prospects Game, to be played Jan. 9. There is Jack Drury (father is Ted); Christian and Cole Krygier (Todd); Philippe Lapointe (Martin); Tyler Madden (John); and Ryan Savage (Brian). That’s 3,520 regular-season NHL games between the five fathers.

24. Last year, Carolina coach Bill Peters made headlines when he bluntly criticized Eddie Lack’s goaltending performance. With an 8–1 loss to the Maple Leafs raw in his mind Tuesday afternoon, Peters refrained from similar commentary on the NHL’s brightest stage.

Scott Darling is struggling adapting to the No. 1 role, but Peters wasn’t going there. He smiled — because he knew the Toronto media was trying.

25. The Ontario meltdown came days after one of Darling’s best performances, a 2–1 victory over Columbus. Asked how he would learn from what happened, he replied: “It never happened. I’ve already forgotten about it.”

Burn the tape?

“Yes.”

26. Carolina’s prospective new owner, Thomas Dundon, is on the team’s current trip. He was taking a tour of Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with Bob Hunter, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s Executive V-P of Venues & Entertainment, prior to the defeat. It’s probably not a coincidence these travels take Dundon’s team through Nashville, a huge success story at this time.

27. One owner at the Board of Governors’ meetings on Las Vegas: “They’ve upped the pressure on struggling teams. It’s tough to explain why you’re going badly when they’re winning the division.”

Ryan Dixon and Rory Boylen go deep on pucks with a mix of facts and fun, leaning on a varied group of hockey voices to give their take on the country’s most beloved game.

28. There are two occasions where a coach ripped his team that I remember pretty clearly. One was Pat Quinn. He was coaching in Toronto when the Maple Leafs blew a Glenn Healy shutout in the last minute. (I’m pretty sure it was against Vancouver.) Despite a comfortable win, he was furious the players let their guard down, because, as a backup, Healy didn’t get a ton of opportunities for a shutout. He didn’t like the idea teammates could do that to each other.

The second was another Toronto coach, Butch Carter. His Raptors laid an egg in one of Antonio Davis’s first games against his former team, Indiana. Carter was furious Davis’s teammates could be so awful in a game they knew meant a ton to his player. So I always notice how these kinds of games go.

Watching the Golden Knights against Pittsburgh, you could tell how much they wanted it for Marc-Andre Fleury. Quinn and Carter wouldn’t have ripped anyone for that performance.

29. Wanted to empty the Derek Dorsett notebook from our conversation with him. First, he confirmed Ryan Johansen’s hilarious story about the penalty-minutes race from 2011–12. Dorsett entered game 82 of the season in second place, nine minutes behind Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Johansen said Dorsett told him to start a scrum, so the latter could “come in hot” and pass Rinaldo. Dorsett, however, said he got only seven minutes out of it and needed more mayhem. The opponent that day was the New York Islanders, and Matt Martin understood what was going on. One fight later, Dorsett owned the crown.

30. In the goodbye article, Dorsett discussed his parents’ ownership of an A&W burger franchise. I cannot allow it to go unreported that he liked his burgers with only cheese on them. Seriously, who eats a hamburger with cheese as the only condiment?

31. Wanted to say thank you to Damien Cox, who invited me to participate in the Lou Marsh voting for the first time in my career. Awarded to Canada’s top athlete, this year’s winner is Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s challenging. This country’s come a long way, and the depth of talent is so great that Brooke Henderson, Kylie Masse (world record holder in the backstroke) and Connor McDavid could not make the top five.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/31-thoughts-arena-deal-massive-victory-islanders/

 

Tracking the Erik Karlsson Rumors

When all of this first came out, it seemed harmless enough.  It was the candor that we’ve become used to seeing and hearing from Drew Doughty.  To be frank, it is always more refreshing to hear honesty than placating clichés and rhetoric,

Again, with no real idea as to what got Erik Karlsson motivated to join in on the UFA salary expectations and all, this was doomed to go south in a hurry, and we are left un-disappointed..  There was nothing direct at him, nor any derogatory sub-current that would implicate Karlsson was some money hungry hog looking for more at the trough.

Even validating that he would go and seek out his ideal contract would have washed over the entire thing.  But here is where Karlsson really blew it with his choice of words.  A real blunder in the court of public opinion that could only result in some form of destabilization.

“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,”

“I like it here, I’m comfortable here, I’ve been here my whole career,” Karlsson said. “It’s something that I invested all my time in and something I would like to see all the way through. But at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, if it’s not the right fit and it’s not going to work out business-wise, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere because that’s what [owners] are going to do, as well.”

Now, intentions aside, what has ensued is the proliferation of a rumor wave that hasn’t been seen since the Eric Lindros saga against the then Québec Nordiques!  Here we take a look at some proposed starting points for a potential Erik Karlsson trade that have been posted on various outlets.

Edmonton Oilers:  The Oilers, especially considering the start they have had to the 2017-18 campaign, have got to figure out something defensively.  You can score all the goals in the world, but if you can’t stop the other guys from matching you, you will still lose!  The unexpectedly bad play of Oscar Klefbom, injury to Adam Larsson along with spotty play, and the known element coming into this season – Andrej Sekera’s recovery that is still ongoing, all combine to make Karlsson the potential “Holy Grail” in terms of a true difference-maker.  

Pretty much every realistic offer starts with newly-signed Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

This simply fills one pocket from the other, leaving more elements required to make it work both financially and positionally.

I view this as a non-starter in terms of trade partners for THIS particular player (Karlsson), but the two teams could manage to make a deal that actually helps both out. Mike Hoffman for Nugent-Hopkins.  Edmonton would have to add a secondary scoring piece like Caggiula or something, and the Senators would have to throw in a pick or prospect, but it gives Ottawa a needed center, and the Oilers a scoring right-winger to play with McDavid (or Draisaitl).

 

4 Things We Learned in the NHL: Leafs Are Lost Without Matthews

Dec 16, 2017
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Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wasn’t pulling any punches, Brian Boyle had three points as the Devils topped the Stars to move into a tie for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Maple Leafs visited the Red Wings’ new home for the first time in an Original Six showdown, and Sharks forward Joel Ward earned his 300th career point in his 700th career game. One thing remains: The Leafs are looking lost without Matthews.

Here are four things we learned in the NHL Friday.

Maple Leafs Looking Lost Without Matthews

Auston Matthews has missed eight games this season and it’s becoming a real problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Earlier this month the Leafs were actually 5-0-0 without their star but the team has since dropped three straight games in which the franchise centre has sat out with an upper-body injury.

“We’re missing a pretty important player who generates a lot of offence for us but that’s no excuse. We have won games when he has been out,” Tyler Bozak told reporters in Detroit following a 3-1 loss to Mike Babcock’s former team.

Toronto was outshot for the fifth time in the past six games.

“Obviously, it makes it easier on the other team because you don’t have to worry about matchups as much, I’d assume,” Bozak said when asked about the effect playing without Matthews has on opponents. “Whenever he’s in they’re going to want to get their best defensive guys and defencemen against him so it makes it a little easier on the other team, for sure. … We’re just going to have to get back to what we do and create a little more offence. We can’t rely on our goalies as much as we have. I think our special teams have to be better as well.”

The Maple Leafs are off until a rare Tuesday afternoon home game when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on the 100th anniversary of the franchise’s first game. It’s unclear whether or not Matthews will be ready to return for that game, but it is clear the coach and management are being patient with the reigning Calder Trophy winner.

“I used to ask players questions [about injuries], but what it is, it’s perceived as pressure from the coach,” Babcock said earlier this week. “And especially anything that lingers, if that makes any sense. That’s not my job as coach. … When you’re putting pressure on the guy and he comes back and he gets injured – and you see it all the time, recurring injuries – it makes no sense. Like you’re better, especially in a situation like we are, you buy a little time. The other thing about it is no matter who’s away you’ve got to find a way to win games. That’s just it, you know? Suck it up, play right, find a way to win.”

The Leafs have just four goals in the past four games without Matthews.

Sabres Waste Eichel’s First-Career Hat Trick

It seems at times that Jack Eichel’s immense talent is being squandered playing for a team that constantly finds itself in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings.

The 21-year-old American recorded his first-career hat trick, tied a career high with four points and had a career-high 11 shots on goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. He was outstanding but his team ultimately fell 5-4 in overtime.

“It’s not good enough to get a point,” Eichel told reporters at KeyBank Center after the game. “It seems like it’s been the reoccurring them here of late.”

The Sabres can thank Eichel for the single point they earned, though, after the third-year centre scored his second and third goals of the game just 10 seconds apart midway through the third period to tie the game at 4-4.

“Jack took matters into his own hands a little bit there in the third and found a way to tie the game, which was a great effort on his part,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said of Eichel’s performance.

It was the first hat trick scored by a Sabres player on home ice since Thomas Vanek did it in April of 2011.

Eichel had four two-goal games as a rookie in 2015-16 and six two-goal games in 2016-17. He had just one goal in his previous nine games before lighting up the scoresheet Friday. The second-overall pick of the Sabres from 2015 now has 11 goals and 28 points in 33 games this season.

Gaborik Reaches Milestone but Cares Not for Symmetrical Statistics

Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik became the 18th active NHL player, and 314th skater in the league’s history, to play 1,000 career regular season games Friday in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, one of his former teams.

Not only did Gaborik join the silver-stick club, but he did so in style, scoring the Kings’ first goal of the game and assisting on his team’s other goal.

It was a big night for Gaborik, yet if you’re a fan of round numbers and symmetry then the third-overall pick from 2000 might’ve ruined your night.

Hypothetically, if Gaborik had failed to register any points and still finished Friday’s game at plus-1 his career stats would look like this:

Games: 1,000
Goals: 400
Assists: 400
Points: 800
Plus/minus: 100

So nice, so clean, but nooooo he just had to go and have his third multi-point outing of the season in his milestone game.

Now his career stats look like this instead:

Games: 1,000
Goals: 401
Assists: 401
Points: 802
Plus/minus: 100

Boooooo!!

All jokes aside, it’s quite the accomplishment for the Slovakian winger, who ranks fifth all time in goals and points among his compatriots.

The Kings, currently in the middle of a four-game Metropolitan Division road trip, will honour Gaborik when they return home for a Dec. 21 contest versus the Avalanche. Interestingly enough, if Dustin Brown suits up against the Islanders Saturday and Flyers Monday then he will be playing in his 1,000th game on the night Gaborik is honoured.

Sedins Were in Vintage Form as Canucks Snapped Streak vs. Sharks

The Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a thrilling 4-3 OT victory over San Jose and in the process picked up their first win at home against the Sharks since Jan. 21, 2012.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin shone in this one, both assisting on Vancouver’s three regulation goals. It was just the second time in their careers that the twins recorded the primary and secondary assists on three separate goals in the same game. The only other time they’ve done that was on Feb. 21, 2016 against Colorado.

Overall, it was the fifth time in their 17-year careers that both brothers recorded at least three assists in the same game. The first time they did it was in a 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Jan. 13, 2007. In that game, each brother had three assists but they only assisted on the same goal twice. That also happened on March 3, 2010 versus the Red Wings and Feb. 18, 2012 against the Leafs.

Also, rookie Brock Boeser continued making Canucks history.

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/4-things-learned-nhl-leafs-lost-without-matthews/

 

Things I missed – catching up

Sep 18, 2017
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I can only watch, read and write so much, so periodically I fall behind.  I’m sorry, but I do have some extra time coming up, so expect me to be posting up a heck of a lot more stuff and far more regularly.  Anyway, here’s what I think is important stuff that I have missed:

  • Bryan Little agrees to 6-year extension with Jets | I really think Bryan Little is a very over-looked and under-rated player.  He consistently puts up solid numbers and has been a solid leadership presence on what was once a very young Jets team.  From the Jets’ perspective, I think they know what they are paying for, and got reasonable value for their money here.  I believe a bit of it is a payment for past performance, but repaying loyalty is something I applaud.
  • David Pastrnak signs 6-year, $40 million deal with Bruins | Boston got great value here.  I am stunned that it took so long, as the Bruins had been offering pretty much this package from the very beginning.  Either way, they needed to get this done, as Pastrnak is their most gifted offensive talent and a complement to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.  Pastrnak’s camp showed class by accepting significantly less than the Leon Draisaitl numbers that had been bandied about in the press.  He’ll still get a shot a bigger money as a UFA while he’s still in peak playing years.
  • Clarke MacArthur fails medical test after concussion plagued seasons With the Ottawa Senators saying that they don’t know why he failed, some have suggested they are trying to bury him on injured reserve a la Joffrey Lupul.  I have a hard time believing that, as MacArthur has always been known as a good team guy, well liked and coach-friendly.  Hopefully he gets better soon.
  • Wild agree to terms with LW Foligno on 4-year, $11.5M deal | I think again, Minnesota got good value for an every occasion player who still has untapped upside.  Foligno is nothing flashy, but fits in well as a third line winger who can move up if needed.
  • Avalanche agree to 2-year deal with defenseman Nikita Zadorov | Second most urgent thing on Joe Sakic’s to-do list is now in the books.  This in no way impacts the much discussion Duchene situation.  Zadorov is one of those guys who I think could still bolt to Russia if he doesn’t see the Avalanche improving.  He is too good of a player to waste of a team being run into the ground by an incompetent GM.  This is really Sakic’s proving ground.  If he mishandles Zadorov, he will be removed as GM.  Write that down!
  • Wild, captain Mikko Koivu agree to 2-year, $11 million deal | I think Koivu’s on the down-slope of his career, but out of respect for their captain, they paid more in order to pay him for less years.  He will continue to be extended like this in perpetuity until he can play no longer.  It is a decent value extension for both sides, and I think the next one will be around the $4.5 million mark.

Well, that’s the important stuff.  I’ll be back to posting tomorrow, so until then, be safe and be sane!  Well, at least safe!

DR

 
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