Trevor Linden joins movement against staged fighting in the NHL

Trevor Linden (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

For decades, anyone who has questioned the usefulness of fighting in hockey has heard the phrase “you never played the game, so you wouldn’t understand” thrown at them. Of course, the idea anyone needs to have been an NHL player to comment on fighting is bogus – are former politicians the only people who are allowed to comment on politics? – but, for the sake of the following argument, let’s say that’s true and only NHLers are permitted to talk about fighting’s place in the sport. How do fight fetishists reply to the comments new Canucks president Trevor Linden made to Vancouver’s Team 1040 Radio yesterday?

If you missed it, Linden co-hosted the show and was asked about his stance on fighting in hockey. Dimitri Filipovic of CanucksArmy.com transcribed them:

“I think that our game is such a great one,” Linden said. “It’s built around speed, and skill, and hard-hitting, not unlike the NFL. Can you imagine an NFL game where a linebacker puts a good lick on a running back and the linemen get in there and drop their helmets and start bareknuckle punching each other in the face? It seems rather odd. And you can see why there are some fans in the States that have a tough time with that. They say, ‘I watch the NFL on Sundays and they hit hard, play hard, and pop up after hits and run back in the huddle’. That’s part of the game.

“Hockey has a different culture, of course. I think there are a lot of fans that don’t care for the needless fighting. The staged, ‘I’m supposed to fight, you’re supposed to fight, so let’s fight. We’re not really mad at each other, but that’s our job’ type of thing. I tend to agree with it. I think the NHL moving forward – whether it be a Steve Yzerman or various others – have come out and had significant stances (against that).” Read more

The Maple Leafs are finally waking up, sign Jake Gardiner to five-year extension

Rory Boylen
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Late Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jake Gardiner came to an agreement on a five-year extension with a $4.05 million cap hit as reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

This past season, Gardiner was in the rumor mill often as trade bait for Toronto to potentially land the No. 1 center they’d covet. After the season, it was speculated he and the team would work towards a short-term bridge contract, kind of like the one P.K. Subban signed with Montreal two years ago. But with the obvious cultural and strategic changes going on in Toronto’s head office, it shouldn’t surprise us that the team deviated from its old patterns.

If all goes according to plan, these surprisingly good moves will become less and less surprising.

If Gardiner hits the peak of his potential, he will become an elite and swift puck-moving blueliner, the kind you need to succeed in a league that is starting to put a premium on possession. But even if his development flattens, his natural skill set is valued in the NHL – and he doesn’t have a no-trade clause attached to this deal (just sayin’).

And though we’ve caught glimpses of Gardiner’s huge upside (especially this past season) his numbers haven’t yet flourished on such a poor team. The 24-year-old’s corsi for percentage at even strength last year was a rather low 46.4 percent, but it was still the highest on Toronto’s roster. His 10 goals and 31 points topped his full-season totals from 2011-12 – and 19 of those points came in the final 41 games, when Gardiner was playing some of his best NHL hockey yet. He was second only to Dion Phaneuf in average ice time per game.

What the Leafs are betting on with this five-year pact is that there’s plenty more to come from Gardiner and he’ll grow into a contract that will look like a steal by the end of it as he matures and the cap ceiling rises. They also bought one of his UFA years, which could be extremely valuable by Gardiner’s age 27 season. Seems like a good bet for a terrible team to make – the latest in a trend that should have Leafs fans excited. Read more

Q&A with Kyle Dubas, the Leafs’ 28-year-old assistant GM

Matt Larkin
Kyle Dubas

The Toronto Maple Leafs shocked the hockey world last week with their progressive hiring of Kyle Dubas, 28, as assistant GM. Diehards were familiar with Dubas already, as he’d been GM of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds since he was 25. Advanced stat heads also danced jigs upon hearing the news, as Dubas is known as a major proponent of metrics like Corsi and Fenwick.

By now, though, you’ve likely read all that about Dubas already. Who is he? And what is it like being an NHL executive before his 30th birthday? I tracked him down for a Q&A.

The Hockey News: You were close to your grandfather, Walter, and he coached the Greyhounds when you were young. Learning from him, did you know from a young age you wanted to be in the management side of hockey?

Kyle Dubas: I grew up probably like everybody else in Canada. I wanted to be a hockey player, and when I was 14 that came to a close. Being around hockey my whole life and around my grandfather, Walter, certainly lent itself to me in learning a lot about the game and the way that it was coached and operated. Once my playing days were forced out of me, it was just a natural for me to want to learn as much as I could about the hockey operations side of it, and I fortunately had that ingrained in me from a young age.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs need bottom-six help and Daniel Winnik can do that

Ryan Kennedy
Daniel-Winnik

As they saw last season with Mason Raymond, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping a couple recent signings can result in great bargains.

The latest is local product Daniel Winnik, who signed with the Buds for $1.3 million on Monday and projects as a third-liner with the squad. Winnik played some very tough minutes with the Anaheim Ducks this past season, ranking third among the team’s forwards in Quality of Competition relative to Corsi.

Winnik was relegated to the press box for four playoffs games by Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, including the first three games of Anaheim’s second-round series against Los Angeles. The Ducks lost two out of three of those games Winnik was scratched for, ultimately losing the series in seven.

A center who can play on the wing as well, Winnik will join a long list of recent Leafs signings who can replace players lost during the off-season such as Nikolai Kulemin, David Bolland and Jay McClement. Another recent signing that fits along with Winnik in terms of strategy is David Booth.

Like Winnik, Booth was cast off by his former team (Vancouver), but brings potential to Toronto at a relative pittance of $1.1 million. Booth struggled through injuries as a Canuck, but he was one of Vancouver’s best possession players when he did suit up and finished more shifts in the offensive zone than he started. Also noteworthy is that both Winnik and Booth drew more penalties than they took this past season.

Toronto was abysmal while shorthanded in 2013-14 and on top of staying out of the box, Winnik can also help the penalty kill, as he led all Ducks forwards in shorthanded ice time (Anaheim finished 15th on the PK; Toronto was 28th overall).

Although the Leafs lost a bunch of forwards, they now have a logjam thanks to the Winnik and Booth moves. Along with those two, Toronto brought back Matt Frattin and Leo Komarov for a second tour of duty and added newbies Petri Kontiola and Mike Santorelli. Along with youngsters from the Marlies (and perhaps even 2014 first-rounder William Nylander), that’s a lot of competition to suss out for coach Randy Carlyle.

Toronto signs Reimer for two years, but will he be a Leaf in two years?

Brian Costello
Toronto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers

The ink is still drying on James Reimer’s new two-year contract with Toronto, but the betting is Reimer won’t be a Maple Leaf in two years.

The two sides avoided an arbitration hearing Friday by agreeing to a two-year deal that will pay Reimer $2.3 million annually. That’s probably fair market value for the 26-year-old native of Winnipeg who had a cap hit of $1.8 million each of the past three seasons. The question remains, however, $2.3 million is a steep price tag for a position expected to be backup for Jonathan Bernier. It’s not a bad salary, however, for any team out there who partway through 2014-15 decides it’s not happy with its goaltending. Did we mention Reimer is a native of Winnipeg?

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NHL logo rankings No. 21: Toronto Maple Leafs

Matt Larkin
MapleLeafsMain

Sacred cow, meet slaughterhouse.

How dare we slot an Original Six team 21st overall in our logo rankings? A healthy faction of Leaf haters will stand up and cheer at this decision. Those who bleed blue and white, however, have likely fallen off their chairs already.

The easiest way to understand our logic: the voting process awarded more weight to aesthetics than to anything else. “But it’s so OLD!” is not a strong enough defense. Cultural significance and understated classiness are desirable qualities, but how good does the emblem actually look? Toronto’s simplistic design fails the eye test in its modern form. it earns points for its iconography – what’s more Canadian than a Maple Leaf? – but it’s rigid, almost too symmetrical, creating a coldness that robs it of its classic feel. The leaf on Canada’s flag looks more like an actual leaf. Toronto’s earlier logos, which often featured “veiny” leaves (leafs? ugh), were warmer, more organic, and far more pleasing to the eye.

Also, covering the symbol in big, blocky writing robs it of its romanticism. There’s no danger of mistaking you for another team, Toronto. A leaf like the one adorning center ice at Maple Leaf Gardens would be far prettier.

Are you brave enough to carve up the famous Maple Leaf logo and design a new one for Toronto? Send your best work to editorial@thehockeynews.com. At the end of our ranking process, we’ll publish our favorite submission for every team. If you enjoy drawing Toronto’s, keep the fun going and try one for all 30 NHL teams.

(All logos below are from Chris Creamer’s website.)

HISTORY OF THE MAPLE LEAFS LOGO

The Leafs weren’t always the Leafs, of course. They began as the Torontos, a.k.a. the Blueshirts, a.k.a. The Arenas in their early NHL days from 1917-1919. The crest was as simple as it gets, but featured an elegant shield and the blue and white we’ve come to know so well.

 

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The five most evil hockey photoshops we could come up with

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Summer is a time for fun in the hockey world. But sometimes that fun can be a little dark. One of my favorite THN issues every year comes before the trade deadline, when we often take a player likely on the move and photoshop him into another team’s uniform based on his possible destination. For instance, we once had Mats Sundin in a Vancouver sweater – the team he would eventually leave the Leafs for, albeit not at the deadline.

With that in mind, I dare you to peruse the five photoshops here, which can only be characterized as wrong.

Above, we see what would happen if Boston’s Milan Lucic had a change of heart and joined Montreal, where he could celebrate goals with current enemy Alexei Emelin. With a special thanks to Andre Valle of the The Hockey News art team (who did all the hard work), here are more of the worst offenders we came up with.

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Rumor Roundup: Could Marc Staal join his brothers with the Hurricanes?

Marc Staal (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes the Rangers should get busy re-signing defenseman Marc Staal. The 27-year-old blueliner is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. His cap hit for this season is $3.98 million.

Barring another concussion for Staal, Brooks believes the blueliner could command at least a six-year deal worth $5.5 million annually. If the Rangers don’t believe Staal’s worth that much, Brooks recommends investigating his trade value.

The Carolina Hurricanes could be among the clubs willing to pursue Staal via trade this season or free agency next summer. Brothers Eric and Jordan are already on the Hurricanes roster. Perhaps the addition of Marc could provide extra incentive for Eric – whose contract expires in 2016 – to sign an extension next summer. Read more