Heading into the 2015 world juniors in Toronto, there were many Canadian players we could basically check off as guarantees long before the roster was decided. Connor McDavid, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Sam Reinhart, Zach Fucale, Darnell Nurse, Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey were all locks, for example.
With the tournament shifting to Helsinki for 2016, Canada’s braintrust will have some tougher decisions to make, as evidenced by the summer camp roster.
The Flames vowed to get bigger last summer and did with the acquisitions of Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland. But president of operations Brian Burke and GM Brad Treliving wanted to beef up the system as well. Three of the five skaters drafted in 2014 are big boys getting bigger. Hunter Smith, Adam Ollas Mattsson and Austin Carroll average 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. Don’t expect that mandate to change.
The Calgary Flames were a nice little story this season, but no team wants to be just a nice story. Signing center Mikael Backlund to a contract that provides upside in both directions is evidence that both the team and the player have their heads on right.
In the aftermath of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s claim last Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs were getting trade inquiries for Phil Kessel, there’s growing speculation over where the 27-year-old scorer could be dealt.
If a Kessel trade happens, Friedman believes it will be a couple of weeks before it takes place. That’s likely because the NHL draft weekend (June 26-27), where many off-season trades generally take place, is fast approaching.
Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer who twice reached the 80-point mark, has value on the trade market. His contract, however, is a sticking point. He has seven years left at an annual cap hit of $8 million. Factor in the projected marginal increase in the cap ceiling for 2015-16 from $69 million to $71 million and it could prove difficult for the Leafs to find a suitable deal.
Friedman subsequently appeared on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central panel to discuss potential destinations for Kessel. He notes Predators GM David Poile had interest in the Leafs right winger, but doubts Nashville is a destination now, pointing out it has young stars like left winger Filip Forsberg and defenseman Seth Jones to re-sign the following season. Other destinations could include the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames.
It’s hard to top Larry Robinson’s resume. Not only did the Hall of Famer win six Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens, but he also hoisted the trophy as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Now the director of player development for the San Jose Sharks after three years as an associate coach, Robinson has been helping this generations’ defenders hone their craft in Northern California.
But there’s always the one that got away and for Robinson, it came in 1989, when he played his last season for the Habs, before joining the Los Angeles Kings the next year. Montreal faced off against Calgary in a rematch of the 1986 final (won by the Habs) and despite the fact the Flames had a slightly better record in the regular season, Robinson believes the Canadiens should have won the Cup.
By Andrew McCormack
The Calgary Flames are out of the post-season, and it’s been 26 years now since they won their lone Stanley Cup in 1988-89 with rookie Theo Fleury on the roster. The 46-year-old native of Oxbow, Sask., who always dreamt of playing in the NHL, is now on a mission to improve mental health through promoting an understanding of the effects of trauma.
The November 2014 release of Conversations with a Rattlesnake – coauthored by occupational therapist Kim Barthel – is the second book by Fleury, following 2010’s Playing with Fire. He chose entertainment writer Kirstie McLellan Day to tell readers about his tough home life as a child, the sexual abuse his junior hockey coach, Graham James, subjected him to as a teenager, his drug and alcohol addiction, and being on the brink of committing suicide. Read more
Tyler Johnson is short and good at hockey. After two-and-a-half rounds of watching the guy lead his Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, we’ve been hearing the same thing on every nightly broadcast. He’s pretty darn talented, but he’s not the first small guy to do big things.
There have been several big-game, undersized players who’ve stepped up in the playoffs over the years. Some played back in the black-and-white TV days. Others skated when radio was high-tech. One of them is stilling playing in Martin St-Louis, but we’ll leave him off the list because he’s still not done writing his legacy.
He’s also the same height as Johnson, and as much as we praised these two 5-foot-8 players for overcoming their size deficiencies, there are other historic playoff standouts who were even smaller.
Here are some of the best.
One day after it was reported that free agent Czech defenseman Jakub Nakladal, 27, was intending on signing a deal in the NHL, the Calgary Flames announced they have come to terms on a one-year, entry-level deal with the sought-after blueliner.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Nakladal’s choices were down to Calgary, Carolina and Chicago, but landing with the Flames likely means Nakladal will have the chance to compete for a roster spot and potentially help a young team that is close to becoming a perennial playoff contender.
While Flames GM Brad Treliving wouldn’t confirm the signing of Nakladal necessarily means he’ll be on the roster next season, he did say the potential rewards for signing the one-time Czech Extraliga defenseman of the year heavily outweighs the risk. Read more