Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
Of course, a lot has changed in the last three weeks, where the Leafs have picked up 14 of a possible 20 points. So much so that general manager Brian Burke, whose self-imposed holiday trade freeze begins Wednesday, is having difficulty deciding what to do with the team’s many soon-to-be free agents.
Does he shop them around for draft picks? Does he try to sign them to new contracts? Or does he simply allow their current deals to expire?
“Obviously, the answer I give you Wednesday is different than after our 0-8 start,” said Burke. “So we’re in the process of finishing that evaluation, which of those guys we would like to extend and which we are going to cut loose at the deadline. And then the second thing will be what is a reasonable price for extending a certain player. If the price tag is not reasonable, then we’ll unload him at the deadline.”
from Spector at FoxSports,
Whether or not you choose to believe the speculation there are three significant factors preventing Lecavalier from being dealt this season; his “no-movement” clause, his expensive contract, and the NHL salary cap.
It’s widely believed last season Lecavalier was close to being dealt but a disagreement between the club’s owners prevented such a move. Regardless, it was easier to move him last season as he didn’t have a movement clause.
Sure, his whopping 11-year, $70 million-plus contract with a movement clause would start this season but Lecavalier was a hot commodity last season and the Bolts ownership could have moved him without his permission to any club they wished.
Phoenix Coyotes’ defenseman Ed Jovanovski has been suspended for two games, without pay, for an incident in NHL game #436 against the Minnesota Wild, December 7, the National Hockey League announced today.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Jovanovski will forfeit $67,357.52. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
At 9:34 of the third period, Jovanovski delivered a forearm to the head area of Minnesota’s Andrew Ebbett. No penalty was assessed on the play.
from Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province,
What a difference two games make. Two straight losses and the Canucks couldn’t look lower.
The coach is steamed, the players bitter — some so frustrated Tuesday they refused to talk after the game (hello, Mikael Samuelsson).
Maybe it will do them some good. Back-to-back wins to start this road trip didn’t.
from Ian Busby of the Calgary Sun,
The Thrashers have done everything possible to make it attractive for Kovalchuk to stay.
This off-season, they dipped into the free-agent market to bring in fellow Russians Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov.
Although Kovalchuk doesn’t want to talk about hitting the open market, he admits staying in Atlanta is a solid option because his family has settled there.
The only thing that was missing was making the Thrashers a contender, and they are this season with a 15-9-3 record heading into tonight’s meeting with the Calgary Flames.
“The team has taken tremendous steps this off-season by signing free agents,” Kovalchuk said yesterday after practice at the Corral. “I think we’re a very competitive team right now.
“We’re playing better. We became a better team, bigger and stronger. We have much more experience and our special teams are much better than last year and that’s a huge difference.”
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
This isn’t cause for Mayor John Hickenlooper to start planning a parade, but it at least helped get Avalanche coach Joe Sacco in a good enough mood to call off practice Tuesday.
Colorado regained first place in the Northwest Division on Monday night with a 4-0 victory at St. Louis, and it stayed there when the Calgary Flames lost 2-1 at Los Angeles in a game that ended as the Avalanche was en route back to Denver.
Also, the Avalanche is back in second place in the Western Conference, behind only San Jose, and will be there going into tonight’s game against Minnesota at the Pepsi Center because all three of the teams a point behind Colorado — Calgary, Chicago and Los Angeles — didn’t play Tuesday night.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t add or deduct points in the standings for perceptions and expectations, so it doesn’t matter that each Avalanche misstep so far this season generally is viewed as a sign that a slide down the standings is inevitable.
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
Three times this season, the Bruins have recorded two or more fights in a game. All three times, they have won.
On the other hand, some of the Bruins’ worst outings - last Friday’s 5-1 stinker against Montreal the latest example - have come when they’ve tucked their tails and sleepwalked through a game without showing any resistance.
“We’ve touched on that a few times this year,’’ Ference said. “There’s certain teams you play against that let you sleep. I’m sure that’s what some teams like to do with us, let some of our guys sleep.
“The onus comes upon yourself to create your own emotion in the game. Get yourself engaged without having to be pulled in by the other team. It’s something that can slip away from your game if it’s not brought to your attention.’’
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
What the Capitals either don’t realize, or don’t acknowledge, is how Ovechkin’s little two-game ban was actually a blessing in disguise. It helped him heal for starters; but far more importantly, it also demonstrated to every player on their team that they can now play at an elite level, even without their most important contributor.
This is a pivotal part in the evolution of any championship team, which is what the Capitals imagine they are, after making the playoffs in each of the past two years, and pushing the Pittsburgh Penguins to the limit in the second round last spring.
The Penguins ultimately won last year’s championship, putting Ovechkin’s rival, Sidney Crosby, one up in terms of their personal battle.
But the Penguins’ evolution was greatly enhanced these past two seasons by the adversity they faced. Two years ago, when Crosby missed 29 games with a high ankle sprain, Evgeni Malkin stepped up his level of play and picked up virtually all of the scoring slack. When Crosby returned, the Penguins were measurably better overall.
from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,
Thanks to The Gap, life is better these days for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
No, they have not landed new wardrobes thanks to a sponsorship deal with the clothing retailer, but they have, as Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock pointed out about the Leafs last week, “found the right balance between offence and defence.” To mix coaching and transit metaphors, that is known as minding the gap.
Hockey coaches love to go on about the gap – the distance between the forwards and the defencemen. Keep the gap at the right distance at both ends of the ice, coaches say, and keep the distance constant as you move up and down the ice, and success will follow.
from Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider,
Question: Do you have a target date in mind for a return?
SMYTH: “No. I’ve got to listen to what they say. Obviously I want to be back right now, but it’s a matter of letting nature take its course and listening to the trainers and the doctors.”
Question: Are you giving any thought to that three-day Canada trip as a possible return, just to have a target to shoot for?
SMYTH: There are always positives, for sure, but I’ll see what the doc says on Saturday and then I’ll know more. For me to speculate on something, over the top of the doc, I don’t want to do that.”
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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