Say What?!? - Dec. 28
Say What?!? - Dec. 28
"Awful. It's brain-dead hockey."
- Rangers coach Tom Renney on his team's sloppy play in a 4-2 loss to the Devils Saturday.
"Awful. It's brain-dead hockey."
- Rangers coach Tom Renney on his team's sloppy play in a 4-2 loss to the Devils Saturday.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford dismissed the idea of trading Fleury, and said he wants to see how things play out this season with Fleury and Matt Murray.
The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signing goaltender Matt Murray to a three-year, $11.25-million contract stoked speculation veteran Marc-Andre Fleury could hit the trade block later this season. But according to GM Jim Rutherford, that's not a certainty.
Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Rutherford dismissed that notion, cautioning against the presumption the 31-year-old Fleury is on his way out. The Pens GM wants to see how things play out with his goalie tandem this season.
Creating further uncertainty over Fleury's future is next June's expansion draft. The Penguins can only protect one goaltender. Fleury has a no-movement clause, as well as a modified no-trade listing 18 preferred destinations.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun lists several options facing Rutherford. He can trade Fleury to one of the teams on his list before the March 1 trade deadline or before the expansion draft, ask Fleury to waive his no-movement to be exposed in the expansion draft, buy him out before the draft thus making him a free agent, or cut a side deal with the Las Vegas franchise not to select Murray if he's left exposed.
Rutherford is under no pressure to move Fleury now. Depending upon his roster needs and where the Penguins are in the standings by the trade deadline, he could keep his goalie tandem intact in hopes of staging another run at a Stanley Cup title next spring.
DUCKS MAKING ROOM FOR LINDOLM DEAL?
Over the weekend, the Anaheim Ducks placed concussed defenseman Simon Despres ($3.75-million cap hit) on long-term injured reserve. Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register cites TSN's Bob McKenzie saying the move provides the Ducks with some salary-cap flexibility.
Stephens suggests this could be the first move by the Ducks to free up cap room to re-sign restricted free agent defenseman Hampus Lindholm. He believes the 22-year-old's new contract could be worth between $5-$6 million annually. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the two sides are thought to be about $250,000 per season apart.
Placing Despres, and perhaps sidelined forward Nate Thompson (ruptured Achilles tendon, $1.6 million), on LTIR could free up a combined $5.3 million, giving the Ducks more room to ink Lindholm. However, once Despres and Thompson are ready to return to action, the Ducks must make room for them.
Prior to Despres being placed on LTIR, there was talk defenseman Cam Fowler ($4 million AAV) could be moved in a salary-dumping trade. The 24-year-old recently told Stephens he's not paying attention to the trade chatter and remains focused on his play.
If the Ducks are forced to trade Fowler to make room for Lindholm, they won't lack for suitors. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports the Detroit Red Wings brass recently scouted Fowler. The Ducks asking price, however, was said to include young right winger Anthony Mantha. Elliott points out the Wings are also reluctant to move promising players such as right winger Evgeny Svechnikov.
Garrioch, meanwhile, lists the Wings, Bruins and Buffalo Sabres among the teams with interest in Fowler. However, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty doubts the Bruins can land him. Given the Ducks playoff hopes this season, he speculates they could be unwilling to move Fowler.
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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The Dallas Stars are banged up to an almost unbelievable extent. Six regular forwards are already out of the lineup, and top-six center Jason Spezza appears as though he’ll be added to that list.
The season isn’t even two weeks old and already the Dallas Stars have been decimated by injury.
Already dealing with the absences of Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark, Jiri Hudler, Ales Hemsky, Patrick Eaves and Cody Eakin — also known as half of their regular forwards — the Stars found out Monday that they could also be without Jason Spezza for a period of time. How long exactly is unknown, but Spezza, 33, is questionable for Tuesday’s game due to an injury he suffered Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“(Spezza) left practice with something he irritated last game," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, per the team’s website.
There were no specifics about Spezza’s injury, but him being sidelined for any length of time, even just one or two games, would be an absolute headache for a Dallas team that cannot wait to get healthy.
Spezza remained one of the only entirely healthy members of the Stars’ top six at this point in the season, and he had been leaned on heavily by Ruff. After averaging 17:13 and 16:31 over his first two seasons in Dallas, Spezza had started this campaign on the top unit and was playing nearly 19 minutes per game. In five games, he had notched two goals and three points, too, and that makes his questionable status a serious blow.
Were Spezza the only Stars player on the shelf, the impact would likely be significantly less, but it’s the timing of the injury that makes his ailment so troublesome.
The injury issues for the Stars began before the training camp had even started. Over the course of the off-season, captain Jamie Benn was sidelined with a core muscle injury, sniper Tyler Seguin was forced out of the World Cup due to a foot injury and Cody Eakin found himself on the shelf long-term due to a knee injury. The injuries continued to roll in as the season approached, and it wasn’t just slight knocks.
Janmark, for example, will be out at least five months with a knee injury. Hemsky has been placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Sharp is dealing with a concussion and has yet to return to the ice since taking a jolt from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb on Oct. 20.
Thankfully Benn and Seguin are back healthy and in the lineup, but if Stars players keep dropping like this, expect Dallas’ top six to look a lot more like its bottom six by next week. That would be about the worst possible news for a team as reliant on scoring ability as the Stars.
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Marc Bergevin and Kevin Cheveldayoff.
NHL GMs usually have a longer leash than the coaches they hire. But eventually every GM ends up on the hot seat himself. Here are five who could use a strong season to take some of the heat off.
We're a week into the NHL season, which is nowhere near enough time for any reasonable person to start talking about anyone's job being on the line. Luckily, we're hockey fans and reasonable has nothing to do with it, so let's get to the speculation.
Usually when we talk about hot seats, we look at the league's coaches. After all, as the old saying goes, they're hired to be fired, and as Todd Richards found out last year, it doesn't take too many losses at the start of the season to cost a coach his job. But today, let's aim a level higher. NHL GMs tend to have a little more job security, and most get at least a few years to show progress before they come under fire. And when things get bad, they can often offer up their coach as a scapegoat first. But through all that, at some point, the buck stops with the boss.
Plenty of GMs around the league are probably safe no matter what happens. Guys like Jeff Gorton and Peter Chiarelli have only been on the job for a little over a year. Dean Lombardi and Stan Bowman both have a handful of Stanley Cup rings to ward off any criticism. And John Chayka can't legally be fired due to child labor laws. But others are facing more uncertainty.
I've already singled out on GM for hot seat honors – in Sportsnet's preseason predictions, I chose Chuck Fletcher as being on the shakiest ground, given that the Wild were old, expensive, hadn't made a conference final under his watch and had already fired their coach. I won't pick on him again today, so here are five more GMs who could use a strong season to take some of the heat off.
Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets
On the one hand, you could argue that Kekalainen hasn't been given enough time in Columbus. He's only been on the job since February 2013, and while that actually puts him in the upper half of the league's GMs in terms of seniority, it's still less time than you'd ideally give a GM.
On the other hand… well, how much time have you got? The Blue Jackets haven't won a playoff round under Kekalainen (or anyone else), and they missed the playoffs in each of the last two years. The roster is clogged with bad contracts. Kekalainen made a controversial decision at the draft, grabbing Pierre-Luc Dubois instead of Jesse Puljujarvi. And he's already played his coaching card, having replaced Todd Richards with John Tortorella around this time last year.
Add it all up, and the Blue Jackets are under plenty of pressure to get off to a good start this year. Instead, Tortorella is telling the media that they're not even close. That's not a good combination, and you have to wonder how long it might be before president of hockey ops John Davidson gets the urge to clean house and start all over again.
Garth Snow, Islanders
Remember when Islanders' owner Charles Wang shocked everyone by firing Neil Smith after less than six weeks on the job, then replaced him by promoting the team's backup goaltender to the GM's job? It was one of the most bizarre front office moves in NHL history, and we all had a good laugh while wondering how long Snow would last before Wang replaced him with a popcorn vendor.
As hard as it is to believe, that all happened over ten years ago, and Snow is now the fifth longest serving GM in the league. And he's done a good job, building around John Tavares and putting together a decent young team while weathering off-ice distractions like changes in the ownership ranks and a move to Brooklyn.
But while the Islanders have been good under Snow, they've yet to be great, winning just one playoff round and heading into this season well back of the Penguins and Capitals in most Metro power rankings. Most GMs who get a decade at the helm are expected to accomplish a bit more than that, and even given the limitations Snow's had to deal with, you wonder how long he can last before expectations will climb. Remember, Wang isn't calling the shots anymore, and the new owners have talked about wanting a championship.
Snow hasn't changed coaches since 2010, so he may have that option available if things go bad. But at some point, you'd think he'll need his Islanders to look like true Cup contenders at least once.
Jim Benning, Canucks
Hey, you knew we couldn't have an early-season doom-and-gloom post without finding room for the Canucks.
Strong start aside, the Canucks were widely picked to be one of the league's worst teams, even though they don't seem to think they're rebuilding. That puts Benning in a rough spot if things go bad, especially given his previous comments about how quickly things could be turned around. Signing a veteran free agent to a long-term deal and trading picks and a top prospect for immediate blueline help only cemented the idea that Benning believes he has a contender right now.
That doesn't seem completely fair – you get the sense that the "win now" attitude in Vancouver could be driven from ownership more than the front office – but that's life in the NHL. It's possible that the Canucks surprise us all with a playoff season, at which point Benning can laugh at all the doubters. But if they miss the postseason, or even end up scraping the cellar, then that rebuild will need to come eventually. And the history of GMs of bad teams being allowed to stick around for the cleanup process isn't a very long one.
Ken Holland, Red Wings
Wait, that can't be right.
Ask any fan outside Detroit to put together a list of the five best GMs in the league, and there's a good chance that Holland's on it. Since taking over the Red Wings' job in 1997, he's won three Cup rings and led the team to the playoffs each and every season. He's a fixture in Detroit, and the idea of him being on any sort of shaky ground seems unfathomable.
And yet, here we are. This year's Red Wings aren't expected to be all that good; they have a shot at extending their playoff streak, sure, but nobody is calling them Cup contenders. Several key players are nearing the end of the line, and while the team has some decent young talent ready to play bigger roles, there's not enough there for a full-scale youth movement. The franchise no longer seems to be the destination it once was for big-name talent, and there's a realistic chance that they'll head into a new arena next year with the worst team they've had in decades.
Is all of that Holland's fault? Hardly, although he hasn't helped matters by continually throwing big contracts at questionable veteran free agents every summer. But at some point you wonder if the Red Wings don't decide that it's time for a change in direction, much as they did a year ago when they walked away from Mike Babcock after he'd spent 10 years behind their bench.
All that said, the idea of Holland actually being fired still seems far-fetched. But could there be pressure for him to step aside, perhaps into a more senior or advisory role, while allowing the organization to transition to some new blood? For the first time in nearly two decades, a change could start to make sense.
Marc Bergevin, Canadiens
There are different kinds of hot seats. There's the kind where you've lost the confidence of your ownership, at which point it's really only a matter of time until you're packing up your office. That doesn't seem to be the case in Montreal, where Geoff Molson has always had Bergevin's back, at least publicly.
But then there's the kind of hot seat where the team's fans lose faith and start to turn on you. Sometimes, you can ride that out, but at some point the calls for your head can get tough to ignore. Perception matters, and if it looks like the customers aren't happy with the direction the product is going in, management can eventually be left with no choice but to make a change.
It's fair to say that Bergevin fits firmly into that second category. Granted, this is Montreal, where everyone's seat is already lukewarm on the day they're hired. But after a bizarre offseason that included the controversial P.K. Subban trade and Bergevin's continued insistence on sticking by Michel Therrien, the GM might not fare especially well in a vote of no-confidence among the fan base.
Of course, Carey Price can fix all of this by getting healthy and playing like a Hart candidate again. But if the Habs struggle at any point this season, calls for change are going to come in loudly. You'd have to think that Therrien would be the first on the block, and Bergevin might have no choice but to make a coaching change. But either way, he'll be under a spotlight all season long – even more than usual in Montreal.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Less than a year ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were surrounded by uncertainty and controversy. But thanks to great leadership, it's blue skies for this team in 2016-17.
The last time the Tampa Bay Lightning played in the Center of the Hockey Universe™, there was a fair bit of drama surrounding them. It was late March and their star player, one of the most dynamic scorers of his generation, was on the cusp of becoming an unrestricted free agent and leaving for nothing. And their top prospect was toiling in the minors after leaving the team and demanding a trade.
The fact that the Lightning played so well despite the chaos that surrounded them is a testament to the strength of the franchise. And the fact they were able to do it and still get to the Eastern Conference final last season made them better and stronger. So when they came into Toronto Tuesday with a 4-1-0 record and all kinds of accolades following them, there was almost no drama in their wake. As we all know, Steven Stamkos decided to stay and take an eight-year deal for less money than he would have earned on the open market and the prodigal son, Jonathan Drouin, found his way back into the fold, to the point where he wants to sign an extension with the Lightning and be there for a long, long time.
“Yeah, the boring Tampa Bay Lightning,” joked Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It’s rare.”
A team that many people expect to be at or near the top of the NHL standings this season has already made it to the top of a pretty prestigious list. ESPN The Magazine recently ranked the Lightning the No. 1 franchise among the 122 in North American professional sports in its Ultimate Standings, which it bases its rankings on fan surveys and financial analysis in terms of how it rewards its fans for the time, money and emotion they invest in the team. And of course, it all starts at the top. Seven years ago, Jeff Vinik purchased the team and the arena for less money than he spent to buy the hotel across the street from the rink. Since then, he has transformed the Lightning into the model franchise in terms of community involvement and engagement, and it has helped that the Lightning have played 43 playoff games the past two years and are one of the league’s top contenders. And in Steve Yzerman, they simply have one of the best GMs in the game, one who simply does not blink when it comes to contract negotiations.
“It was tough and I know it weighed on (Stamkos),” Cooper said. “And as much as we were sitting here saying, ‘Oh, it’s just white noise, blow it off, don’t worry about it,’ for sure it had an impact on him.”
The good thing now, though, is it’s just all about hockey for these guys. Stamkos signed, went to the World Cup and was productive and hit the ground running this season. Combine that with the fact that the Lightning has an opportunity to do something special this season and that it has a bright future and it’s a good time to be a part of this organization.
“It’s one of the top places to play in the NHL for sure, and it’s not just because of the great weather,” Stamkos said. “You look at the team we’ve been able to assemble and the guys that are willing to sign on and stay with this core bunch of guys because of the talent that we have and the runs we have made and the experience we’ve gained and we want to see that to the end. That’s pretty rare in today’s sports that guys want to stick together and whether it’s take a little less money or in Kuch’s (Nikita Kucherov) case take a bridge deal, that’s pretty special from an organizational standpoint and a player’s standpoint, to be part of a group that wants to be together.”
And nobody knows about that better than Stamkos, who was reportedly offered $10 million a year to go to Buffalo, which would have paid him $2 million more for one fewer year than the contract he signed with Tampa. Toronto was also in the mix and intrigued him, but in the end, he decided to stay where he would be most happy and have the best chance to win a championship. The questions followed him and Yzerman all last season, but to their credit, neither allowed them to affect his performance.
“There really wasn’t that much drama around here, to be honest with you,” said veteran winger Brian Boyle. “One guy might have felt it, but the rest of us didn’t.”
But almost nobody in the organization was free of it. There were questions about Cooper and his handling of players in light of Drouin’s departure and Stamkos’ unwillingness to sign early. When Cooper signed a contract extension last season, it seemed to indicate that the organization had backed their coach and drawn a line in the sand with some of the players. But it turns out they all ended up on the same page and the organization is stronger for it.
“I take some consolation in the fact that guys don’t think you stink,” Cooper said, “and if they do, they don’t say that publicly.”
Are things perfect for the Lightning? No, because they’re not for anybody. This organization is going to have to figure out what to do with goalie Ben Bishop and in addition to Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat will be restricted free agents at the end of this season. And there’s only so much cap room to go around. But the Lightning’s experience with these things and a steady hand at the rudder give you the impression they will persevere through it.
“It’s all about hockey now,” Cooper said.