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Gabriel Landeskog (right) and Matt Duchene
The lowly Avalanche seem poised to make some big moves, but potential deals for forward Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene keep stalling.
For several weeks, Colorado Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene featured prominently in NHL trade speculation. With the Avs at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and considered out of playoff contention, GM Joe Sakic is reportedly listening to offers for his core players, with Landeskog and Duchene the most notable trade candidates.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Sakic's set a high asking price. On Jan. 3, Friedman said the Avs GM sought “legit young defensemen or defensive prospects.” Recent rumors linking the 24-year-old Landeskog to the Boston Bruins claimed Sakic sought promising defenseman Brandon Carlo in return, an offer the Bruins apparently rejected.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports Sakic's asking price for Landeskog is higher than originally thought. He said the Avs seek a “top-level defenseman, a first-round draft pick plus.” He adds that's generated a negative reaction from his peers.
Every GM sets an initially high price when shopping a core player, but Sakic's dreaming if he thinks he'll net that type of return for Landeskog. While he has four 50-plus points seasons on his resume, including a career-high 65-points in 2013-14, his production doesn't merit such a lofty return. His sub-par production this season (13 points in 30 games) won't bolster his trade value.
There's been no word on Sakic's asking price for Duchene, but one can assume it's similar to Landeskog's. The 25-year-old center has better stats this season (24 points in 36 games) than the Avs captain and exceeded 50 points five times in his career.
First-line center Nathan MacKinnon is the only Avalanche player who might fetch that big return. Given his age (21) and skills, he could reach his full potential on a deeper roster. Still, a rival GM must give considerable thought toward deciding if MacKinnon is worth a top defenseman, a first round pick and more.
Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun thinks Sakic could make a move involving Landeskog or Duchene in the off-season. Interested parties should have more salary-cap space to work, plus there's usually more willingness at the NHL draft weekend in June to swing deals involving established stars.
DROUIN COULD MAKE FOR GOOD TRADE CHIP FOR LIGHTNING
A year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin generated headlines with his demotion to the club's farm team, followed by a holdout and refusing to play and requesting a trade. Eventually, Drouin withdrew his request, returned to action and became a productive part of the Lightning roster.
But with the Bolts sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture and in danger of sliding further out of contention, perhaps Drouin could be used as a trade chip. In his trade-season preview of the Eastern Conference, ESPN.com's Craig Custance suggests the 21-year-old could be the type of player that fetches some much-needed help for the Bolts' blueline.
Custance observes Drouin is a restricted free agent this summer, along with fellow forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. All will be in line for significant raises, leading Custance to suggest that “at some point the cap space is going to disappear.”
The Lightning's biggest need is another top-four defenseman. If there's one to be had via trade of the same pedigree as Drouin, Custances feels it would make sense to make that move.
Adding a quality rearguard won't be easy. GM Steve Yzerman repeatedly said he's making calls but there's not much happening in the trade market right now. So far, there's no indication out of Tampa Bay suggesting Drouin is available.
Yzerman could be forced to wait until the market improves, but that could be weeks away. By that point, it could prove too late to save the Lightning's season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need speed. And for players on their way up through the ranks, skating acumen is going to be the price of admission for an NHL job
I was having a conversation with an NHL team scout yesterday, which is one of the best parts of my job. I learn so much from these chats and not just about the draft prospects we are discussing, but of the bigger picture as well. While discussing the pros and cons of some prospects, we began to talk about skating and its place in the game today. Simply put, it's becoming a must-have.
"The No. 1 priority is skating," said the scout. "Even if your hockey sense or skills aren't the greatest, at least we can point you in the right direction."
We all know it's a fast game today and you just have to look at all the recent champions to validate the skating argument. Team Canada's World Cup squad suffocated opponents with their skating, taking away time and space at both ends of the ice – though their excellence in the puck possession department dramatically narrowed the amount of time they had to use their speed on the defensive end.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past summer thanks to a team that had speed up and down its lineup. Think about it – how many Penguins from that team would you characterize as slow, by NHL standards? Maybe a couple, at most? Meanwhile, teams had to contest with Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang, among many others.
At the world juniors, Team USA won gold with a similarly dangerous lineup, trotting out the likes of Colin White, Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic to terrify teams.
What's really interesting for me is how speed is going to change bottom-six roles in the NHL. We're already seeing it, with teams employing fewer enforcers, but how far can the concept be pushed? Roslovic might be the perfect case study to keep an eye on, because as a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, he's got a lot of talent ahead of him in the form of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. But if Roslovic, who is leading AHL Manitoba in scoring as a rookie, despite missing games due to the world juniors, is ready for the NHL leap next season, why hold him back if he can contribute from the third line? If defense is coming from speed these days anyway, it seems like a pretty nice way to get more skill in the lineup.
Tampa Bay will have a similar query to address in a year or two when prospects such as Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph come knocking on the door. All three have skill, but they can also skate and play with grit. It's a great problem to have if you're the Lightning.
What happens to prospects that aren't blessed with foot speed? Well, it's going to take them a little longer. We're seeing it with Dylan Strome, whom most of assumed would be full-time in Arizona this season. But thanks to his abundance of other talents and attributes, Strome can zero in on improving on his speed and strength, knowing that an NHL career is close. It can certainly be done, but he'll have to watch out for all the young burners out there on the fast-track while he does it.
Gilles Meloche with the Seals. Image by: Denis Brodeur/Getty Images
As the Sharks get set to honor the 50th anniversary of hockey arriving in the Bay Area, the NHL's newest expansion team would be wise not to make the same mistakes as the Seals.
A bit of unsolicited advice for Bill Foley and George McPhee: take 95 minutes to watch the new documentary, The California Golden Seals Story, for valuable tips on how not to run an expansion team.
Fifty years before there were the Golden Knights, there were the Golden Seals, an NHL start-up trying to make a go of it in a Sun Belt city in the Pacific time zone. Technically, they weren’t the Golden Seals in the beginning, they were just the California Seals. Then they were the Oakland Seals, followed shortly thereafter by the California Golden Seals. Lesson No. 1: find an identity and stick to it.
The doc, written and produced by TV industry veteran Mark Greczmiel, traces the rise (if you can call it that) of the club from its inception in 1967 through its myriad follies, bad luck and occasional bright spots to its ill-fated relocation to Cleveland in 1976.
For Greczmiel, who grew up in the Bay Area, making the film was a labor of love, one he worked on during his spare time for more than two years.
“It’s a project I spent thousands of hours on, and I’ll never make my money back,” Greczmiel said, “but I really thought it was a story that should be told. I’m hoping this movie will shine a light on an era of hockey that a lot of people have forgotten.”
Greczmiel conducted 30-plus interviews, tapping into a variety of voices to weave his narrative, including former team employees and more than a dozen Seals players. Going in, he had a wish list of three men he most wanted to chat with: Carol Vadnais, Gilles Meloche and Wayne Gretzky. All three graciously accepted, but Vadnais, the face of the Seals early in their existence, passed away in the summer of 2014.
Gretzky, it turns out, has a soft spot for the defunct franchise. The first NHL game he attended was with his grandma at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, featuring the Seals. His memories of the club are mostly fond. Mostly.
“I remember seeing the white skates and thinking, ‘Boy, if I play in the NHL, I hope I don’t have to wear white skates,’ ” Gretzky says in the film.
Ah, the infamous white skates. The franchise’s eccentric second owner, Charlie Finley, ordered that all players wear boots that resembled figure skates. The players understandably hated them, as did the club’s trainer. The boots were easily marked by pucks and sticks, so Finley mandated the equipment guys had to paint them regularly, sometimes between periods, to ensure they remained white.
“By the time the skate was thrown out, it would weigh 10 times what it normally would,” said ex-Seal Stan Weir. “It was tough picking up your feet to skate.”
Finley was a legendary promoter and tried all sorts of gimmicks to attract fans. On one occasion, the team paraded a real seal to center ice where the creature promptly fell asleep. They tried “Barber Night,” granting free admission to hair-cutters in the hopes they’d spread the hockey gospel to their customers. Then there was the streaker stunt in which the team paid a young woman to zoom across the ice wearing nothing but skates and the word “Seals” painted across her naked torso. Apparently, it generated some buzz.
Finley also tried to convince the NHL to use orange pucks, he bought all his players garish Kelly green blazers to wear as a “uniform on the road” and gave them matching patent leather green suitcases, with the team logo emblazoned on the side. Former Seal Ernie Hicke told Greczmiel the players, “felt like a traveling circus.”
Some of Finley’s innovations had staying power. Most notably, the Seals were the first team to have player names stitched on to the backs of their jerseys. And while Finley was notoriously cheap when it came to paying employees, he insisted the team fly first class during long road trips, which, as just one of two teams west of Minnesota, were frequent.
One thing he didn’t do was watch his team much. At the beginning of his first press conference after purchasing the club, he took the microphone and informed those in attendance, “I wanna be the first to tell you that I know nothing about the game of hockey.” And his visits to the Coliseum were rare.
“Our practices were a joke,” Walt McKechnie recalled. “For us, it was drop the puck, shots on goal, then scrimmage.”
At the end of one campaign, the PA announcer at the Coliseum bid the fans farewell, promising the next season things would get better. “Then he added, ‘They can’t get any worse.’ ” Greczmiel chronicles.
Finley scared off good hockey men such as Bill Torrey and Frank Selke, Jr., the Seals lost more players to the WHA than any other NHL club because Finley refused to pony up, and they traded away first-round draft picks like hockey cards, including the one in 1971 that became Guy Lafleur.
There was a small handful of gold dust in a mountain of dirt, including Meloche, a superb reflex netminder who had MVP skills in a DOA environment.
“I remember thinking it wasn’t a very good team,” said Gretzky, “but maybe for a two- or three-year span the best player in hockey was their goaltender, Gilles Meloche…how dominant he was, how many saves he made, how miraculous he was every night.”
And the club would go on runs or produce stunning upsets that offered hope. But every time a glimmer of optimism appeared, an anvil fell from the sky. Eventually, co-owners Mel Swig and brothers George and Gordon Gund relocated them to Ohio for two painful, slow-death seasons. At the time of the departure, the Seals had just come off their best season in terms of attendance, and it was widely believed they’d be staying put. But a deal to build a new rink in San Francisco fell through, and the bottom dropped out on the Seals’ golden era. A couple years later, the Gunds purchased the Minnesota North Stars and merged the Barons with their new club. The Barons own the distinction of being the last franchise in the four major North American pro sports to fold.
The movie, available for download on iTunes, is replete with colorful stories told by some of the key figures of the day and quirky appearances by Krazy George, the one-time school teacher whom the Seals hired as a cheerleader after hearing him rile up the crowd one night. ‘The Krazy One’ was known for banging a drum and hollering to incite passion. One time it backfired, when he got into the kitchen of Bruins’ rugged winger Terry O’Reilly, who apparently jumped out of the penalty box and into the stands to chase old George. Good times.
Forty years after the extinction of the Seals, the Bay Area has proven it can support an NHL franchise and then some. The San Jose Sharks (owned originally by the Gunds, coincidentally) are thriving, having done things the right way and benefitting from the impact Gretzky’s trade to Los Angeles had on hockey in California. San Jose has drafted well, marketed with savvy and, wisely, has opted not to bring in any live sharks or bare-naked ladies.
Canadiens winger Andrew Shaw was booted from Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers for a blindside hit on Jesper Fast. Shaw was playing in his first game after missing nearly a month due to a concussion.
Andrew Shaw made his return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup Saturday night after spending the past 14 games on the sideline with a concussion, and less than 17 minutes into his first period of play in nearly a month, Shaw found himself hitting the showers early.
Shaw earned himself the boot from Saturday’s game with the Rangers late for a highly questionable hit on Jesper Fast as he was exiting New York’s zone. Shortly after Fast moved the puck up ice, Shaw approached from the right wing, cut hard towards Fast and drove clean through Rangers winger. The hit sent Fast crashing hard to the ice, and Shaw was chased down by New York’s J.T. Miller, who dropped the gloves in defense of Fast.
With only minutes remaining in the period, Shaw headed to the dressing room as a result of the fight, but the officials ensured that his night was over by handing a major for interference and a game misconduct:
The hit by Shaw is definitely one the league will be taking a look at, but it’s unlikely the hit warrants supplemental discipline. Despite the fact it’s a blindside blow and one that came far later than it should have, Shaw appears to have caught Fast squarely on the shoulder. The result of the hit was unfortunate, to be sure, but that alone won’t make the hit worthy of a suspension for Shaw. In addition, the league may very well rule that Shaw’s punishment of a major penalty and what amounts to two-thirds of a game with the misconduct will suffice.
Even with all of that, though, it wouldn’t be shocking if someone from the league reaches out to Shaw, at the very least. He hasn’t been in the good books with the league almost from the outset of the season. In his very first game in a Canadiens uniform during the pre-season, Shaw landed himself a three-game pre-season ban for a hit from behind and upon returning to the lineup found himself again the target of suspension chatter for a slew foot in his regular season debut. The league reviewed the play, but no discipline was handed out beyond the match penalty Shaw was given.
When he’s been making headlines for the right reasons, Shaw, 25, has been exactly as advertised for the Canadiens. He has six goals and 15 points in 29 games and has been an agitator in the middle of the lineup.
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