Hi, Minnesota? It’s me, Marty Brodeur. I’d like to apply for a job

Matt Larkin
The Wild need goaltending help, and free agent Martin Brodeur awaits an opportunity. (Getty Images)

It’s a tough time to play goalie for the Minnesota Wild. Josh Harding, fresh off an outstanding season in which he led the league in goals-against average and save percentage, already had a major hurdle to climb two days ago. Multiple sclerosis would limit his ability to handle a full starter’s workload. Things went from bad to worse for Harding Wednesday when he broke his foot. The details remain foggy, but so far we know Harding kicked a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate. He’s out indefinitely.

Next up is Darcy Kuemper, 24, who was good but not great in chunks of starting duty last season. In theory, he could step right into Harding’s role, but he’s a restricted free agent and contract talks have not gone well. Wild coach Mike Yeo and GM Chuck Fletcher publicly expressed their frustration about the process. Kuemper has even threatened to bolt for the Kontinental League. Kuemper wants a one-way deal, but the Wild prefer a two-way. Kuemper apparently hasn’t quite played well enough to win the organization’s confidence.

That leaves Niklas Backstrom as the “sure thing.” The Finn is 36 and fresh off core muscle surgery. He looked like a shell of his old self when he did play last season. He’s supposedly healthy now, but he’s only healthy relative to his 2013-14 self.

Minnesota’s net situation is dire enough that GM Chuck Fletcher invited Ilya Bryzgalov back for a training camp tryout. Bryzgalov accepted. Maybe Fletcher simply wants to up the heat on Kuemper’s camp. Or maybe the Wild believe they can get by with a Backstrom/Bryzgalov tandem. Bryz was brilliant at times for Minnesota down the stretch last spring after coming over at the trade deadline, going 7-1-3 with a 2.12 GAA and .911 SP. He left a lot to be desired in the playoffs, however, losing six of nine starts with a yucky .885 SP. That’s the problem with Bryzgalov. You never know when he might Bryzgalov things up.

And that’s where I see an opportunity in Minnesota. Martin Brodeur, this is your cue.

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Concussed Swedish player writes heartbreaking retirement letter

Ryan Kennedy
sticks-492280919

Albin Blomqvist is just 20 years old, but his hockey days are over due to a history of concussions. Blomqvist, who played for Lethbridge in the Western League alongside his brother Axel (a Winnipeg Jets prospect), is now back in Sweden and has penned an article for Hockeysverige.se. It’s a tough read and brings up a lot of important issues for the hockey world.

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Alex Burrows and the Canucks are ready to come back from desolation

Ryan Kennedy
Alex-Burrows

I didn’t really have a true sense of how rough Alex Burrows’ season was until I looked at his game-by-game results. When I did that, I realized that there was only one week in which he actually found the back of the net.

From March 12-17, the Vancouver Canucks left winger scored five goals in four games, the only goals he would score in a 49-game campaign marred by injuries. But Burrows won’t simply sooth himself by blaming bad puck luck.

“Satisfaction is the beginning of regression,” he said. “Never be satisfied, keep working hard. I had a tough year with injuries and broken bones, but it’s a new year, a new chapter. A lot of us weren’t too happy with the season we had and it’s a fresh start for a bunch of us.”

The Canucks, who easily could have gone into rebuild mode after trading away Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler, instead went for a reload instead, with new GM Jim Benning making a big dent in free agency. Vancouver brought in Ryan Miller to be the No. 1 goaltender, while Radim Vrbata and his consistent goal-scoring prowess improves the offense.

“He’s a give-and-go player,” Benning said of Vrbata. “We feel he’ll work well with the Sedins.”

Of course, Burrows has usually been Henrik and Daniel’s running mate, but the agitating point-producer isn’t going to cut up Vrbata’s skate laces before camp this fall, even if the Czech veteran is poised to usurp his role on the top line.

“Funny story,” Burrows said. “I used to play junior with Radim in Shawinigan. He was a first-liner, I was a fourth-liner, but I got to play with him for a few games back then. During the past decade, I’ve always talked to him during warmups. We’ve gotten along. If he’s with the twins, great, or if I’m with them – at the end of the day, winning is more important than personal stats. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

The Canucks will be in tough to get back into the playoffs after missing out this past season. The West isn’t getting any easier and the razor-tipped Pacific Division is a far cry from the old Northwest, where Vancouver basically just had to show up to get the banner.

The new-look forward corps will include the Sedins, Burrows, Vrbata and new second-line center Nick Bonino (acquired from Anaheim in the Kesler trade). And while the Canucks do have some talented youngsters coming up the pipeline – Bo Horvat jumps to mind – the new GM isn’t going to throw them into the fire.

“I come from Buffalo and Boston, where we didn’t rush players,” Benning said. “That’s the philosophy I bring to Vancouver.”

Perhaps Horvat or Nicklas Jensen can make a big impact in camp, but right now the Canucks will rely on their top end and that means everybody, including Burrows, will have to bounce back from a season to forget.

Aaron Ekblad hurt in exhibition game, but why was he even playing?

Aaron-Ekblad-draft

The chance to play for Team Canada in an international event is one of the bigger dreams of most hockey players, no matter how good they are. In fact, I can tell you exactly what it means to every single player I’ve asked, because they all have the same response: “Any time you get to put on that jersey, it’s a great honor.”

So I’m not surprised that Florida Panthers prospect Aaron Ekblad wanted to play at Canada’s world junior exhibition camp in Quebec. But why would the Panthers allow the No. 1 overall pick to play in the mini-tournament against the Czechs and Russians?

In speaking with execs from other teams (attempts to reach the Panthers were unsuccessful), they always like having their top prospects put in situations where they can develop, so it’s not crazy that Florida would want their most prominent draft pick to take on a leadership role in the summer and get some reps as he prepares for his first NHL training camp. Unfortunately, injuries are an unpredictable part of the game.

And after seeing their prized prospect get hurt Tuesday night on a hit from Czech defenseman Lukas Klok, the Panthers must be feeling like they rolled snake eyes:

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Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen sidelined with blood clots

Ryan Kennedy
Kimmo-Timonen

Veteran Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen is being treated for blood clots to his right leg and both lungs back home in Finland, according to the Flyers’ official website.

Timonen, 39, is in the twilight of his NHL career but was still an important part of Philly’s back end last season. His 35 points in 77 games ranked second among Flyers D-men to Mark Streit, while his 20:19 average ice time was part of a pack of four blueliners at the top. Not only that, but Timonen was far and away Philadelphia’s best puck possession player on the back end.

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NHL defenseman Cory Sarich seriously injured in B.C. cycling accident

The Canadian Press
Cory Sarich (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Free-agent NHL defenseman Cory Sarich is recovering in a Calgary hospital after a cycling accident this week.

His agent, Tim Hodgson, released a statement Wednesday saying that Sarich was airlifted to the hospital after being hit by a motor vehicle in Invermere, British Columbia. The release said the extent of Sarich’s injuries isn’t known, but were not considered life-threatening. He remains in stable condition.

The 35-year-old Sarich said it’s been “a rough couple of days and I’m grateful for the support I’ve been receiving.” There’s no timeline for his recovery. Read more

Nashville signs Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy, but were they the right moves?

Ryan Kennedy
Mike-Ribeiro

The Nashville Predators have made a late splash in free agency, inking veteran centers Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to one-year contracts. And while the Preds were desperate for pivots after learning of Mike Fisher’s ruptured Achilles tendon, I’m not sure this was the right path.

Sure, Nashville has long struggled with offense and GM David Poile has now made several moves to address the problem: Along with the new pair of signings, he also brought in Olli Jokinen, James Neal and offense-minded coach Peter Laviolette recently. But with the exception of Laviolette, none of these guys are winners.

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Pens superstar Sidney Crosby to have wrist surgery, but he’s still facing the most challenging season of his career

Adam Proteau
Sidney Crosby

When word broke late Tuesday Sidney Crosby is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in the coming days, it went a ways toward explaining the superstar’s ineffectiveness in the 2014 playoffs. But it does nothing to change the fact the Penguins captain will face the most challenging season of his career this coming year.

The surgery, which won’t cause the 26-year-old to miss any games, won’t reduce the immense pressure he’ll be under with a revamped Pens lineup. Nothing he does in the regular season will silence the people who challenged his status as the planet’s best player. He can win the NHL’s scoring race and Hart Trophy as league MVP as he did in 2013-14 and people will shrug their shoulders. The only way he’ll shut them up is with a strong post-season performance that makes everyone forget about his one-goal, nine-point showing in 13 playoff games (including just three points in the second round) this past spring. Read more