Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
As soon as word leaked that the Blue Jackets had offered wunderkind Guy Boucher the job as coach, questions started flying like snowflakes in a blizzard.
How can the Jackets take a chance on a man who has only one year of pro coaching experience? Do they have the personnel to play Boucher’s innovative system? Will Boucher’s system even work in the NHL?
How embarrassing would it be if Boucher, who would seem destined to field other NHL offers, declined the Jackets’ offer? Why would a guy in Boucher’s position turn them down? Would fan favorite Kevin Dineen still be interested if Boucher said no? Is Dineen even the second choice?
The offer dishes out generous helpings of both excitement and anxiety. For general manager Scott Howson, often criticized for being too conservative and too patient, this is a bold, aggressive move.
But is it the right one?
from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer,
Let’s say this right at the top. If the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, it will be because they were a good enough team and true enough champion to fend off the most relentless band of hockey warriors this sport has seen in a long, long time.
The champagne will taste all the sweeter because the Blackhawks will have earned that Cup the hard way.
That said, here’s why the Flyers look and feel like a team on the verge of winning its first championship in 35 years. Here’s why, as the puck drops Sunday night on Game 5 in Chicago, the Flyers deserve the absolute faith and respect of their fans.
Here’s why: Every step of this long, long road, the Flyers have gotten better and stronger and more fiercely determined. The later it gets - in games, in series, in the tournament - the more prepared they are to meet the rising challenge.
In four series now, the Flyers’ record in Games 1 through 3 is 5-7.
In Games 4 and beyond: 9-0, and counting.
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
• There aren’t a lot of teams lining up to trade for Oilers Sheldon Souray because of his $5.4-million cap hit for two more years. One possibility may be the San Jose Sharks, who need help on the blue-line, especially if Rob Blake retires and they lose his big shot and $3.5-million worth of salary. The Sharks would likely offer defenceman Kent Huskins and forward Torrey Mitchell in return….
• If you were the Oilers, would you give up the first pick in Round 2 for Hawks winger Kris Versteeg, who has two more years left at $3 million a season, a salary the cap-starved Hawks can’t afford? Definitely not off his play in the Stanley Cup final, but Versteeg is only 24 years old and has the ability to be a second-line, 30-goal scorer.
• Let’s face it, the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t need Tomas Kaberle. They have Dion Phaneuf now. But they have a tough chore convincing teams to take the defenceman unless the team wanting Kaberle can get him signed to a three-or four-year contract for, say, Sergei Gonchar-type money ($5 million a year). If so, you give up a top six forward for sure, but Leafs’ fans are dreaming if they think they can get Bobby Ryan for Kaberle.
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
• With Steve Yzerman entering the managerial ranks, the Red Wings legend becomes the center of the GM All-Star Team. The rest of the lineup: Joe Nieuwendyk (LW), Paul Holmgren (RW), Doug Wilson (D), Bob Murray (D), and Garth Snow (G).
• In 2010-11, the Bruins will be free of a $1,383,333 annual cap hit because of the Glen Murray buyout. It would not be prudent to replace that dead money by buying out Ryder and assuming a $1,333,333 cap hit the next two seasons. Part of the reason the Islanders will most likely miss the playoffs again is the $4.75 million cap hit they have to absorb because of the Alexei Yashin buyout. That money could pay for the impact forward they desperately need.
more hockey topics…
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
“We just weren’t quite good enough over the course of the season. But if we had won that final game, would we have been tough enough to compete in the playoffs the way the Flyers have? Could we be where they are now?
“I think so.”
But the Rangers aren’t in Chicago today, preparing for Game 5 of the Final, two victories away from the Stanley Cup. They’ve been done for weeks, one of 14 teams that didn’t make it to the postseason.
“We have to get better,” Sather acknowledged. “And the way we’re going to get better is by staying within our organization and giving our prospects the time to grow and the opportunity to play in New York.
“This has been a long process, and it’s ongoing, but as we go into this summer, our plan is to keep our own players. I can tell you one thing — we are certainly not going to overpay for free agents. If we can improve with a signing that makes sense, we’ll look into it, but we want to give our guys the first shot.”
Big time storms rolling through the Detroit area and more coming, so I may as well do some late night posts while I still have power.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
• If Flyers management figures Leighton as a one-trick pony on a magical ride, they may not be willing to commit to him beyond Games 5, 6 and 7.
The Flyers have yet to say anything official about the direction in which they are heading but they will have choices in what should be an active free-agent and trade market come the end of the season.
Among the best free agents available are Marty Turco of Dallas, Evgeni Nabakov of San Jose and Chris Mason of St. Louis….
• It’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final here on Sunday night. Must-win for the Blackhawks.
• Word around is that Colorado, with all kinds of salary-cap room, has no intention of re-signing free-agent Darcy Tucker. Question is, does anybody else want Tucker at age 35, with all those miles on him?
more hockey notes…
“You know what Toe Blake used to say about the media, don’t you?
“When you’re losing, they can’t help you. And when you’re winning, you don’t need ‘em.”
-Scotty Bowman. The quote really doesn’t have much to do with the story from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun via the National Post, but do read what Cam has to say about the Philly/Chicago series.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
He’s small but not a timid player, yet he’s playing like it, which may be more of an indication of uncertainty and confusion. He’s controlled the puck but seems content to circle and circle, rather than take the puck to areas where he might be more likely to score, and the Flyers are content to let him circle. He did score a pretty breakaway goal in Game 3, but that’s been it.
Four rounds of physical pounding may have taken their toll on the Buffalo native, but that just makes him the same as everyone else.
The same as everyone else, of course, is what Kane can’t be. He’s got to be special and different, and it’s possible he may not be ready to be that player in a Cup final just yet….
This is a series dominated by Canadian-born players, which leaves Kane almost alone in the American spotlight. But he’s got to want to be there. So far, it doesn’t look like a comfy fit.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
It’s a funny thing about home-ice advantage and how it matters in some series more than others. Way back a couple of weeks ago against the San Jose Sharks, home ice wasn’t much of an advantage to the Chicago Blackhawks. In fact, the Blackhawks were playing so much better on the road - seven wins in a row and counting - that they took the unusual step of checking into a local hotel to mimic the effects of the road. The road ruled! Jonathan Toews’ video-game prowess was as much of a talking point as that 13-game scoring streak he piled up to lead the Blackhawks right into the Stanley Cup final.
That was then - and not so long ago either.
Now, in the heart of their series against the Philadelphia Flyers that is tied 2-2 heading into Sunday’s fifth game, home-ice means all to Chicago. Home is where the heart is. Home is sweet. Home is the United Center and its crazy screaming fans, as crazy and as enervated as the 20,000 plus that peopled the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia and helped carry the Flyers to two consecutive victories.
from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
Toward the end of Game 4, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville moved Kane off the top line with Toews and Dustin Byfuglien and replaced him with Andrew Ladd. Kane moved to the second unit, taking Ladd’s place on a line with David Bolland and Kris Versteeg.
Most indications point to the Hawks starting Game 5 with the same configurations with which they ended Game 4.
“I thought there was more pressure in their zone,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “Whether it’s a difference of them being concerned with a couple of different lines, that might be something we’ll be looking at. I thought it was a little more effective in the third period.”
The Blackhawks are clearly getting tired of hearing about how dominant Pronger has been in the final, but they’re not ducking from acknowledging what he has done.
“He’s one of the best of all-time, I guess you can say,” said Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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