Remembering Al Arbour

Stan Fischler
Al Arbour (Denis Brodeur Collection/Getty Images)

My first chat with Al ‘Radar’ Arbour took place in Detroit’s old Leland Hotel in 1961, several hours after the defenseman’s Chicago Black Hawks had defeated the Red Wings for their first Stanley Cup since 1938. Al, myself and Toronto’s Hall of Fame goaltender Turk Broda were the last to occupy what passed for the press room. Al was one of the rare bespectacled players and he was wearing the specs that earned him the name ‘Radar.’

I’d seen Al play plenty before and always was impressed with his steady, savvy performances which — for that time — wasn’t easy since he usually was carried as a spare back liner plugged in for emergencies. At 3 a.m. in the Leland there didn’t seem to be much to talk about anymore but Al — Turk, too — was loquacious and funny. He never seemed to tire of telling hockey stories.

Little did I realize it at the time but those ingredients that blended amiability with perception and a healthy dose of toughness were the very same elements that would characterize Arbour as the greatest coach I ever observed and I started watching hockey at Madison Square Garden in 1939. Sure, Scotty Bowman won more games but being the ultimate in coaching also included a human quality that Al possessed over them all.

“It was Al’s personality that made him so terrific,” Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch once told me, “as much as his brains. Radar had a way with players that made you want to play for him. In a sense, he was like your favorite uncle.” The Maven learned that midway in my professional career that veered from writing to the electronic media. Read more

Could Cody Franson make the Buffalo Sabres a playoff team?

Matt Larkin
Cody Franson.  (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Cody Franson sure seemed destined to cash in a-la Scrooge McDuck this summer, diving into a pit of money. With each passing day, his situation increasingly resembles that of the exact opposite: a down-on-his-luck beggar.

OK, so that’s an exaggeration. Franson isn’t wandering the streets asking for a team to sign him. He is, however, running painfully low on suitors. He’s expressed how sick he is of one-year deals and, as a right-shot defenseman, he should command a hefty price tag. But there just aren’t many teams with the wiggle room for a multi-year deal at what should more than double, if not triple, the cap hit of Christian Ehrhoff’s new pact with L.A.

The Kings would’ve been a nice fit for Franson as long as suspended Slava Voynov’s cap hit remained off the books, but they opted for the far cheaper Ehrhoff. The Boston Bruins sure seem like a fit but, with $4.76 million in cap space, would press themselves up against the cap or over it with a Franson contract.

That voice you hear in the distance? “What about us? Excuse me! EXCUSE ME?” It’s that of deep-pocketed Terry Pegula and his Buffalo Sabres. They have more than $12 million to play with, and Pegula loves flexing his financial muscle. The Sabres also happen to have a weak defense corps. It’s no wonder, then, The Buffalo News cites two sources stating the Sabres have offered Franson a two-year contract.

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Andrew Ladd wants extension with Jets, but what will it cost?

Jared Clinton
Andrew Ladd (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the most interesting potential free agents heading to market in 2016 is Andrew Ladd, but the Winnipeg Jets captain made it no secret he wants to stay in Mantioba’s capital.

In an interview with TSN Wednesday, Ladd said he wants to get a contract extension done before the new season begins and said he feels the interest is there from the Jets. But getting it done before the season — we’re now only 40 days away from puck drop — could be difficult. Ladd knows that, however, and said that he’s aware it could take some time.

“I’ve been around long enough that I know sometimes these things take a little time,” he added. “I think both parties are interested.” Read more

Legendary New York Islanders coach Al Arbour passes away at 82

Jared Clinton
Al Arbour passed away Friday at 82. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The hockey world is mourning the loss of one of the most successful coaches in NHL history.

The New York Islanders have announced that Al Arbour, the franchise’s most storied coach, passed away Friday at 82. Before his passing, Arbour was battling Parkinson’s disease and dementia at a hospice in Sarasota, Fla.

“Al will always be remembered as one of, if not, the greatest coaches ever to stand behind a bench in the history of the National Hockey League,” Islanders GM Garth Snow said in a statement. “The New York Islanders franchise has four Stanley Cups to its name, thanks in large part to Al’s incredible efforts. From his innovative coaching methods, to his humble way of life away from the game, Al is one of the reasons the New York Islanders are a historic franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Arbour family.” Read more

Hurricanes’ youth movement continues as Lindholm signs two-year extension

Jared Clinton
Elias Lindholm (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

There stands to be a lot of change in Carolina over the next few seasons, but Elias Lindholm will be along for the ride thanks to a new contract extension.

The 20-year-old winger signed a two-year, $5.4 million extension Thursday that should keep him with the franchise until at least the 2017-18 season. The extension comes in the off-season following a stellar sophomore campaign in which Lindholm notched 17 goals and 39 points while playing second line minutes on a Carolina team that needed the glimmer of hope Lindholm offered.

“Elias played well last season, nearly doubling his offensive numbers from his rookie year,” Hurricanes GM Ron Francis told the team’s website. “We expect he will be a very important part of the Hurricanes as he continues to develop as a professional.” Read more

Futures mailbag: Marner vs. Nylander, one nasty Avs prospect and more

Mitch Marner (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Welcome back to the THN futures mailbag, where I answer all things prospect and draft related. I’m really getting a good crop of questions coming in, so keep that momentum going, folks (hit me up at @THNRyanKennedy with the hashtag #thnfutures). With the major junior season around the corner and the Traverse City prospects tournament also coming up, I may save some questions until the action begins, for accuracy’s sake. So hold tight if you don’t see your submission right away. Let’s get to it:

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Blues’ Berglund needs shoulder surgery, out four months. Who steps in for St. Louis?

Jared Clinton
Robby Fabbri (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When the St. Louis Blues kick off the 2015-16 season, one player who certainly won’t be in the lineup is center Patrik Berglund.

The Blues announced Thursday afternoon that Berglund, 27, will undergo surgery on his right shoulder following an injury suffered during training for the upcoming campaign. The injury, the Blues announced, stemmed from a shoulder dislocation Berglund had suffered during the 2013-14 season.

Making matters worse for the Blues, though, is that the recovery time for the surgery is lengthy: once the procedure is performed, Berglund will have to wait four months to be re-evaluated, meaning he could miss more than half the season. Read more

Daniel Carcillo says he’s ‘98 percent ready’ to retire

Jared Clinton
Dan Carcillo

With more than 400 games under his belt and two Stanley Cup championships to his name, Daniel Carcillo may be ready to walk away from the professional game.

In an interview on WGN radio’s Kap & Haugh, Carcillo said he has been considering moving on from the game. Currently an unrestricted free agent following a one-year, $555,000 contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, Carcillo, 30, isn’t sure what the future will hold.

“This year has kind of been a little bit different,” Carcillo said. “I’ve prepared myself the past two or three years to kind of do some different things. I’ve always had the vision of leaving the game on my own terms, so, not necessarily that I’m going to do that, but it’s definitely in the forefront of my mind these days.” Read more