Say What?!? - Aug. 31
Say What?!? - Aug. 31
“Marc Savard won’t play this year. Nothing has changed in our monitoring. He’ll be examined and he’ll be declared unfit to play.”
- Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
“Marc Savard won’t play this year. Nothing has changed in our monitoring. He’ll be examined and he’ll be declared unfit to play.”
- Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
Sidney Crosby has won 22 straight and his only concern is making it 23...Swedes must be smarter...Carey Price on beer league hockey.
Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby is on something of a roll lately. Not only did he win his second Stanley Cup in the spring, he enters the World Cup of Hockey semifinal riding a 22-game winning streak in a Canadian uniform dating back to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
Since losing 5-3 to USA in the last game of the preliminary round, Canada won the next four games en route to the gold medal. Crosby’s teams then went 6-0-0 in Sochi and 9-0-0 in games in which he played in the 2015 World Championship before going 3-0-0 in the World Cup. Crosby has nine goals and 20 points in those games, including the golden goal in overtime in Vancouver and a goal in the 3-0 win in the gold medal game in Sochi.
“I didn’t even know about that until today,” Crosby said. “Those don’t really matter going into tomorrow, right? It’s all about tomorrow right now.”
SWEDES CAN’T PLAY ‘STUPID’
Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said his team can’t afford a repeat of its play in the final pre-tournament game when it lost 6-2 to Team Europe, the same team it plays in the semifinal Sunday afternoon. “We played a really stupid game,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We turned over too many pucks at their blueline, at our blueline, all over the ice. When you do that against a team with that much skill, you’re in big trouble.”
Team Europe coach Ralph Kruger said that late in that game, Frans Nielsen pointed to the Danish shoulder patch flag and reckoned he had lost to the Swedes about 200 times during his career. He then said how happy he was to finally beat them. The Swedes know they’ll be playing an opponent motivated by a desire to knock off one of the world’s hockey powers.
“I said right from the beginning I thought it would be great for the guys on Team Europe to have a chance to beat some of these teams,” said Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson. “Good for them. I wish then all the best, except for on Sunday.”
CAREY PRICE HAVING SOME FUN
During his media scrum yesterday, Canadian goalie Carey Price seemed a little perplexed by a question from Marc-Andre Perreault of TVA Sports in Quebec. Perreault asked Price why Canada always comes into these big games saying it’s just another game when clearly there is so much on the line.
“Because that’s what it is,” Price said. What followed was this rather interesting exchange:
Perreault: “But in my beer league, when we play Maggie’s Corner Store, we get all excited.”
Price: “I don’t know. Maggie’s Corner Store must be pretty good, huh?”
CANADA, TEAM EUROPE WILL KEEP IT PREDICTABLE
Exciting hockey doesn’t always win, but boring hockey almost never loses. And that’s why Team Canada and Team Europe will continue to play predictable hockey for the rest of the tournament.
“I don’t like to feed my family on hope. I like to feed my family on know,” said Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. “I don’t like surprises, not on Christmas, not on my birthday. So I don’t want it anymore. I want it under control.”
Team Europe, meanwhile, won’t be in the mood to trade chances, either. “We’re playing a boring style of hockey, but it’s proving to be a successful one,” said Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar. “We’re proud of it and we’re going to keep doing it.”
BUT TEAM EUROPE WILL BE FAST
If there was one thing we learned about Team Sweden from its game against North America it was that the Swedes had all sorts of trouble handling the speed of the under-24 team. Team Europe is considerably older, but coach Ralph Kruger is keenly aware that it will have move quickly in order to win.
“There’s no question that we really need to be a strong transition team,” Kruger said. “We’ve created a lot of offense out of that. And (Sweden) is probably the best in the world at just defending and staying within their structure right through an entire game. We need to be patient with that. I’m expecting a one-goal game and we need to find our advantage like we did against the Czechs. It will be a similar game at a higher level and we’re going to have to pick it up."
Team USA put a bow on one of its worst performances ever on the international stage when it lost its final game in the World Cup of Hockey.
So what are we left to think of Team USA after the debacle known as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey? That’s probably the only question left to contemplate after watching a tournament that started with so much promise and progressed into a six-day tire fire.
There is so much to contemplate about this team. Surely it was not as bad as its record indicated. There were notable omissions on the roster, yes, but so notable that this team couldn’t muster a single goal against a hybrid team of players from third-world hockey countries? So glaring that it could not beat a Czech team that had only three NHL defensemen, not a single one who is a top-four for his varsity team?
Well, let’s see what we can come up with here:
Is this the worst best-on-best showing for an American entry in the history of the game?
Statistically, there’s no question. This team went 0-3-0, finishing the tournament with a 4-3 loss to the Czech Republic in a game in which the American team couldn’t even salvage some pride. But practically speaking, probably not. That dubious distinction still belongs to the 1998 Olympic team, which entered the tournament as the co-favorite to win the gold medal. It had six players who had scored 50 goals in the NHL and five players who would go on to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That team won just one game in the tournament, against Belarus, was beaten 4-1 by the Czechs in the quarterfinal, then trashed their rooms in the Nagano athletes’ village.
This team was bad, even worse than the 1976 Canada Cup team that was loaded with non-NHL players, but given the expectations and talent level of the 1998 team, that still represented the nadir for USA Hockey. This one is close, though.
Is this one of the rare times where the eye test clearly supersedes analytics?
At first blush, you might think so, but once you dig deeper into the numbers, it becomes a little less convincing. It’s easy to forget that Team USA outshot its opponents in each of its three games, even the game against Canada. Overall, it outshot its opponents by a 110-78 margin and the shot attempts were a mind-boggling 212-148. But you also have to remember that the Americans were playing from behind most of the time, so it’s natural that a team sitting on a lead is going to let up and a team playing from behind is going to pour it on.
Still, though, according to www.naturalstattrick.com, the score adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi was plus 24.6 against the Czechs Thursday night and plus-15.1 against Europe. Against Canada, it was (gulp) minus-29.3. The Americans also outhit their opponents by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 90-42, which suggests they were chasing the play quite a bit. Actually, they were chasing the entire tournament. And when it comes to the eye test, was there any time that it seemed the Americans were dictating the pace of the game, where they had things under control, where they were successfully executing a game plan?
“You fall behind early in this tournament and before you know it, you’re 0-and-3 and packing your bags,” said Team USA winger Blake Wheeler. “I think that first game (a 3-0 loss to Team Europe) was the killer. We could just never really recover.”
Did the Americans leave their best goaltender in the stands and on the bench?
Well, we’ll never know how well Cory Schneider would have done had he been given the N0. 1 job on this team because he was never given a real chance. His only action was to mop up the game against the Czechs, a game in which he stopped all seven shots he faced. But we do know that Jonathan Quick surrendered seven goals on 51 shots and Ben Bishop allowed four on 20 shots in what could only be characterized as a shaky performance.
There were some goals against Europe and Canada on which Quick did not have much of a chance. The goaltending wasn’t near good enough and the defensive coverage was so lacking that it made Quick look even worse.
The coach defended his roster and liked its compete level. So if that wasn’t the problem, is it just a matter of USA’s players not being good enough to compete at this level?
Well, it’s pretty difficult to convince anyone that Patrick Kane isn’t one of the NHL’s best players. He has the scoring championship and Hart Trophy to prove it. He also hasn’t scored a goal in a best-on-best tournament since the Olympics in Vancouver. Only four forwards on the team scored a goal and all were outscored by defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who had two. Team USA had 11 power-play opportunities in the tournament and scored just once.
“This team has been kind of characterized as a team just full of plumbers and grinders,” said Team USA coach John Tortorella. “I don’t agree with that. I think we have some really good offensive people. I think we have a really good mix. The bottom line is we leave here with nothing, and so certainly we can’t be happy about that. In a tournament like this, I think you’ve got to be really careful not to lose your mind as far as what’s going on with some of the guys.”
What does the future hold for USA Hockey?
Well, first, you’d have to think there will be some kind of housecleaning done here. Don’t be surprised if a young, bright mind such as Bill Guerin has a more prominent role in the best-on-best player selection process. Mike Sullivan, who won a Stanley Cup this spring, will likely be at the top of the list of coaching candidates. The people who put this team together did it based on a completely flawed logic, then hired the wrong coach and picked the wrong group of players.
As far as players are concerned, there are some loyal men who have likely played their last games for Team USA. Jack Johnson and David Backes were healthy scratches. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Ryan Kesler and Pavelski are all getting on in their careers. The play of young stars such as Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel assures that the program is in good hands, but it won’t do any good if USA Hockey sticks with the same group of people who put these teams together.
The Penguins and Red Wings have capable goaltending duos, but the younger goaltenders are ready to take over for their veteran counterparts. Meanwhile, the Lightning have to decide how to proceed with free agent-to-be Ben Bishop.
Prior to the NHL Draft in late-June, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the subject of considerable trade speculation. Having lost the starter's job to Matt Murray in the playoffs, reports claimed the long-time Penguins netminder could hit the trade block. At one point, the 31-year-old was linked to the Calgary Flames.
The Flames, however, opted to acquire the more-affordable Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the draft. Over the course of the summer, Fleury's name largely faded from the rumor mill. However, Murray's rise to prominence and the fact the Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June's expansion draft will ensure Fleury's future remains a topic of interest in this season's trade market.
TSN's Bob McKenzie doesn't expect Penguins management will attempt to move Fleury before the start of the season. He feels they'll want more time, perhaps even up to the trade deadline (Feb. 28) to see how their goaltending shakes out.
McKenzie also notes Fleury's no-movement clause could also affect his trade status. However, if approached with an opportunity to play for a club where he'll be the starter, he could waive it. Fleury must submit a list of 18 preferred trade destinations.
Players carrying no-movement clauses must be protected in the expansion draft, unless they're willing to waive it. The Penguins are unlikely to leave the promising young Murray available, as he would be certain to be scooped up by the Las Vegas franchise. The preferable option is trading Fleury to a team of his choosing.
Fleury, meanwhile, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jonathan Bombulie he had a good meeting with Penguins management this summer. He also said he never requested a trade and wishes he could play his entire career in Pittsburgh. However, Fleury acknowledged that he'll have to wait and see how things go over the course of this season.
HOWARD COULD BE UNPROTECTED COME EXPANSION
The Detroit Red Wings could also face a choice between two goalies in 2016-17. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will once again be their goalie tandem. The Wings have nearly $9.3 million invested in the duo, who struggled with inconsistency in 2015-16.
Howard, 32, was the subject of trade conjecture this summer. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports the Wings explored trading the veteran netminder, but his contract (three years remaining) and cap hit ($5.29-million AAV) proved difficult to move.
St. James expects the Wings will stick with their current goaltenders this season and perhaps leave Howard exposed in next June's expansion draft. If Howard shows improvement, it could also improve their efforts to trade him.
BISHOP’S CONTRACT STILL AN ISSUE FOR BOLTS
Meanwhile, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times included goaltender Ben Bishop among a list of players Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could move to free up salary to re-sign winger Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning have around $6.2 million in cap space, and it could cost up to $6 million annually to re-sign the 23-year-old Kucherov. Yzmerna must also re-sign RFA blueliner Nikita Nesterov, which will push him over the $73-million cap ceiling.
Sidelined forward Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million) will start the season on long-term injured reserve, providing Yzerman with some short-term cap relief. However, the Bolts GM be forced to clear some payroll before Callahan returns in late-November.
Bishop carries a $5.9-million cap hit for this season. He's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. With promising Andrei Vasilevskiy signed through 2019-20 and the high cost of re-signing the 29-year-old Bishop, he seems the likely trade candidate.
However, Yzerman has also suggested he could keep his goalie tandem intact for the coming season, as it could improve the Lightning's Stanley Cup chances. Smith also mentioned center Valtteri Filppula ($5-million cap hit, no-movement clause) and defenseman Jason Garrison ($4.6 million, no-trade clause) as other trade options.
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.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Maple Leafs invited Brandon Prust to training camp on a professional tryout and NHL veteran is hoping to follow Brad Boyes’ footsteps in turning a PTO into a contract.
Brandon Prust is no stranger to tryouts. As a teenager, Prust used a camp invite to crack the London Knights roster ahead of the 2002-03 OHL season. He eventually helped the Knights capture the franchise’s first Memorial Cup in 2005.
Now, at 32, the veteran of 486 NHL games is relying on the experience of his successful OHL tryout to help him with his latest camp invitation.
The Toronto Maple Leafs invited Prust to training camp on a professional tryout, and the London native, who had a season to forget last year, is hoping to follow Brad Boyes’ footsteps in turning a PTO into a contract.
“That was kind of before I had any idea,” Prust said of his inexperience going to Knights camp. “I was just kind of going out – I had an invite to camp. Went out, did my thing and made the team. You take your experiences, especially being an older guy. You take all your experiences [from] throughout your career. It’s kind of what makes you a little wiser as you get older.”
Last summer, heading into the final year of his four-year, $10 million contract, Prust was dealt from the Montreal Canadiens to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Zack Kassian. In his first game against the Canadiens, on Oct. 27, Prust suffered a left ankle injury, which derailed his whole season. He initially missed 11 games due to the injury.
Seeing his teammates go 3-5-3 in his absence Prust says he was over aggressive in his rehab attempting to return.
“I had never had an ankle injury before so I definitely pushed myself,” Prust said. “I wanted to get back. The team was struggling a little bit. You want to get back and help. Pushed it a little bit. Obviously looking back, I might’ve waited a little longer.”
Prust appeared in 35 games for the Canucks last season prior to being placed on waivers in February. The 6-foot, 195-pound forward appeared in nine games with the AHL’s Utica Comets before mutually agreeing with the Canucks to part ways. The decision to move on was key for Prust, who knew he was heading into unrestricted free agency. Being healthy enough to have a proper summer of training was crucial in order for Prust to show interested clubs he could still play at the NHL level.
“Obviously that was important for me, just didn’t feel confident and comfortable with injury last year,” he said. “That was the main objective: getting [the ankle] straightened out and figured out so I can focus.”
Prust finished his ninth season with just seven points and 59 penalty minutes – his lowest totals since his rookie season. Asked to assess his year in the Canucks organization, Prust was blunt.
“Well obviously it wasn’t very good, right? It was one of my worst years as an NHLer,” he said. “Got to bounce back from it.”
Prust had a few camp offers to mull over this summer, but his decision became clear when the Maple Leafs came calling. Growing up two hours outside of Toronto, Prust was admittedly a Leafs fan as a child.
“I always watched the Leafs growing up and always dreamed of playing for the Leafs and putting on the blue and white jersey,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I kind of chose Toronto. I knew my heart would be in it and it would definitely bring that passion out in me.”
With Leafs camp set to open this week, and his ankle feeling “back to 100 per cent”, Prust has been busy working with skating coach Barb Underhill to regain, and refine, his stride.
“It’s tough because you’ve had habits for so long and had a certain way,” Prust said. “You definitely have to really focus. You’re not a sponge where you can naturally do it. You really have to practice, and really have to mentally think.
“Since I’ve been with her, I even told her, ‘I’m laying in bed at night thinking of my stride and changing my stride and what I got to do’. She’s like, ‘I didn’t want to do that to you’, but that’s just natural, that’s how you are. I think just being at my age, it’s kind of what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to drill it into your brain.”
Prust admitted his game could’ve benefitted from working with Underhill two or three years ago.
“It’s just little tweaks and little things that, if you can make it natural, if you can practice enough, you can change some things,” he said. “Obviously not going to turn myself into the fastest guy in the league, but little things to get me to the puck quicker, little things that can make me move better laterally – they’re going to help me in the long run.”
Though Prust would like to see his childhood dream come to fruition, the numbers are stacked against him heading into camp. Toronto signed rugged forward Matt Martin to a four-year, $10 million contract on July 1. Rich Clune, who split last season between the Leafs and Marlies, is still with the organization on an AHL contract. On top of that, the Leafs have just two contracts remaining before they reach the max of 50.
“I know if I go out and play my game, and show them that I can still move, I know that I’ll get a fair shot,” Prust said. “I know I can crack the lineup if I prove it. I know what I’ve got to do.”