Former Minnesota North Stars GM Lou Nanne was in the press box at the Air Canada Centre this past week and was talking about the state of the game. He said he recently went golfing with Bob Pulford and Harry Sinden and recalled the conversation was dominated by how many less-than-exciting NHL games there have been this season.
And Nanne’s not the only one. An authority no less than Wayne Gretzky recently chimed in on the subject and said that hockey at all levels, “lacks creativity and imagination.” Not sure that’s true. There’s lots of creativity and imagination in the game. Just go to your local arena and watch a minor hockey game and see some of the special things these kids can do. The creativity and imagination is there, but it’s being sucked out by astute and well-meaning coaches. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good example of that. They used to be bad and exciting. Now they’re bad and boring. But they’ll get better and the only way they’ll get better is to play that way. And no amount of shrinking goaltending gear is going to change that.
The late-season scoreboard watching will continue into the final weekend of the NHL regular season.
The Boston Bruins beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 on Thursday night to pull into a tie for third place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit could have clinched a playoff berth for the 25th consecutive season, but struggled on the second night of back-to-back games against teams fighting for their playoff lives.
Welcome to Episode 11 of The Hockey News Podcast.
This week, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press joins the podcast to discuss the Red Wings’ chase to extend their playoff streak to 25 years, their youth movement, and the rumors about Pavel Datsyuk finishing his career in Russia.
We also discuss the latest controversy with the Flint Firebirds, and Jonathan Drouin’s impact on the hurting Tampa Bay Lightning.
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[Music: Metz-Headache; Quicksand-Omission]
As a whole, this has not been a very good campaign for Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings netminder lost his job to young upstart Petr Mrazek and has some of the worst individual stats of any goalie who has played at least 30 games in the NHL this season.
But man, did Howard come up big last night.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your conspiracy theories. Wait, how many games do the Toronto Maple Leafs have remaining this season? Oh, four. And how many games did Nazem Kadri get suspended? Hmm, four. Well, now, isn’t that convenient.
Kadri just happens to be the Maple Leafs best player of late. He also happens to be their hottest scorer, with eight points in his past six games, and their leading scorer with 45 points. (Although that point total definitely puts him in fastest-kid-at-fat-camp territory.) So having Kadri out of the lineup for the final four games of the regular season obviously enhances the Leafs chances of running the table with losses and catching the red-hot Edmonton Oilers for last place overall and the best chance of winning the draft lottery.
Over the weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman created a stir by reporting a source claiming Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk could return to Russia following this season.
Datsyuk, 37, is apparently making this decision for family reasons. He has a year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $7.5 million, which Friedman points out would remain on the Wings’ books because he was past his 35th birthday when he signed the deal.
If Datsyuk decides to finish his playing career in Russia, Ken Campbell suggests offloading his contract to a team in need of reaching next season’s salary-cap minimum, like perhaps the Arizona Coyotes. The Wings could use the freed-up cap room to pursue Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos via free agency in July.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri looked ornery when he got to his feet after being knocked down by Detroit Red Wings’ Luke Glendening. His actions that followed have him in trouble with the NHL.
The league announced Kadri has a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Monday for cross-checking Glendening in the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 victory by Detroit. The incident began with Kadri and the Red Wings center battling to the left of the Toronto net. Glendening swiped at Kadri with him crouched over, knocking the Leaf player to the ice. As Glendening skated toward the Toronto net, the now helmet-less Kadri gathered himself, made a bee line to his opponent and cross-checked him in the side of the head.
If Pavel Datsyuk were to go back home to play in the KHL next season and turn his back on the last year of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, it would leave an enormous leadership and talent void on the roster. But it might not be the end of the world for them.
In fact, if things work out they way they potentially could, it could be a boon for the Red Wings. If Datsyuk were to let the Red Wings know of his intentions early enough, it would open up some valuable cap space and allow them to go after the biggest free agent in the pool, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced Saturday that Stamkos has a blood clot and faces a recovery period of one-to-three months, meaning there is a chance the pending unrestricted free agent has played his last game for the Lightning. It is expected, however, that Stamkos will make a full recovery.