Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
It's easy to say good riddance to James Neal. He badly underachieved for the Penguins in the postseason. He is a hot head who often took retaliatory penalties that put his teammates in bad spots. He is a dirty player who occasionally tried to hurt people and was suspended three times, including last season for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head and in the 2012 playoffs for charging Philadelphia's Claude Giroux. He wasn't especially popular in the team room because of his arrogance and surly personality....
It's a shame Neal didn't do more here in the postseason. It would have made it a lot easier to overlook his character flaws. But he hardly was alone among the Penguins in wilting under the bright lights. He had two goals in 13 playoff games this spring, one more than Crosby. He didn't get a point in the four-game sweep by Boston in the 2013 Eastern Conference final, same as Crosby. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 38 postseason games for the Penguins, meager production for a player with his skills. There aren't five players in the NHL with a quicker release or better shot. Neal scored 40 goals in 2011-12, playing with Malkin, and had 27 last season despite missing 23 games because of injury or suspension. He should get 40 goals again -- perhaps a few times -- before his career is done.
By trading Neal, Penguins new general manager Jim Rutherford believes he successfully took the first step toward changing the culture of the team room. He talked repeatedly of the character and grit that Hornqvist and Spaling bring and said they will make the club tougher and better prepared for the playoffs.
“I don’t get it. When you talk about winning and losing, I know you want to go to a team to win a Cup, but we’re as committed as anybody. Who knows, maybe we’re closer than anybody thinks."
“You have to sell your team all the time. But there are teams that are national TV or major markets. I get that. But what we have on the ice, what we have off the ice, no state taxes. There’s a lot of advantage to playing in Nashville. But you can ask Peter Forsberg what he thought about Nashville, or Paul Kariya, just to drop a few names of players who might be going to the Hall of Fame."
“I get it. That’s the way the world is right now. There’s a lot of entitlement."
-David Poile, GM of the Nashville Predators on Jason Spezza not wanting to play in Nashville. More from Greg Wyshynski of PuckDaddy.
from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
Neal can score but people say he isn’t a life of the party kind of guy. The feeling in some quarters is he thinks he’s better than he is, too, also he’s been suspended for some foolish stuff. Everybody gets traded in this game but Neal–a scorer in a league where teams crave scorers– has been dealt twice and he’s only 26. From Dallas to Pittsburgh, and now from the Penguins to the Predators, where they’re also trying to get more offence, although they still need a centre for Neal. Hello Paul Stastny, if they can afford the unrestricted Colorado Avs’ playmaker and he might have a hankering to play with Shea Weber on defence, as well.
Neal’s a one-shot scorer. “Exactly,” said Preds’ GM David Poile.
Hornqvist is a better skating Tomas Holmstrom. “Exactly,” said Poile.
Scores his goals 10 to 15 feet from the net. “Closer than that,” laughed Poile.
“He can get 30 goals if he plays with Malkin. This might be one of those trades that turn out for both teams.”
from Josh Cooper of The Tennessean,
There will be some changes for the Predators television broadcast team next season.
Longtime color analyst Terry Crisp will no longer travel with the team, and will move to a "behind the desk" role during home broadcasts.
Stu Grimson, who had been handling radio broadcasts, will take Crisp's spot next to Pete Weber as color analyst, a team spokesman confirmed to The Tennessean.
Nashville, Tenn. – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed goaltender Carter Hutton to a two-year, $1.45 million contract. He will make $700,000 in 2014-15 and $750,000 in 2015-16.
Hutton, 28 (12/19/85), spent his first full season at the NHL level in 2013-14. After starting the season with just one game of NHL experience, he finished the season as the sixth 20-game winner in franchise history, posting a 20-11-4 record to go along with a 2.62 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and a shutout. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native went 13-4-2 in his final 19 decisions of the season, which included a personal five-game winning streak to close out the campaign; he had a 1.77 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and a shutout in those five contests. Hutton also posted a 6-0-1 record when facing at least 35 shots in 2013-14.
from Josh Cooper of The Tennessean,
The new Predators coach is scheduled to be on the main stage at the Music City Sports Festival to talk about his plan for returning the team to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season....
After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons — and having the same coach since the beginning of the franchise — the Predators had turned stale.
Attendance remained steady for the most part, but the franchise would be on the brink of irrelevancy with another non-playoff year.
Laviolette needs to sell his vision hard this weekend, and do it with both gusto and bravado. He is known as a stirring speaker, and he'll need to deliver a haymaker Sunday.
Fans need to come away from his appearance and simply say "Wow."
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
In 2009-10, as coach of the Flyers, Peter Laviolette rolled out Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn as his top four defensemen. The Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before their slipshod goaltending — they leaned on Michael Leighton, Brian Boucher, and Johan Backlund — did them in against Chicago.
Laviolette, hired Tuesday as Barry Trotz’s replacement in Nashville, will take over a team with a comparable defense and an even better goalie.
Shea Weber is a superstar. Roman Josi scored 13 goals and 27 assists while averaging 26:25 of ice time, not far off Weber’s pace (26:54). They have young pace-pushers in Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, and Michael Del Zotto, who will be expected to support the attack in Laviolette’s go-go system. If Pekka Rinne is healthy, the Predators have an ace goalie.
“I’m so bullish on our defense,” GM David Poile said after announcing Laviolette’s hiring. “It doesn’t have a lot of experience. But we’re getting there. It’s a defense that will be intact for 10 years. Give me Pekka and our defense for the next 10 years.”
Rinne and the defensemen will be critical if Laviolette wants to lead the Predators back to the playoffs. Nashville has neither a go-to scorer nor up-front depth. Opposing coaches don’t need to hard-match against Craig Smith (24 goals) or Patric Hornqvist (22). Poile is counting on Rinne, an active defense, and Laviolette’s ability to get more out of Colin Wilson and Viktor Stalberg.
more topics including a look at Landon Ferraro...
As to why I'm walking away, I'm simply out of gas, having written online about hockey since the mid-90's. It's been a feeling of obligation rather than desire which has compelled me to post articles here lately, and when this becomes more like a chore than a hobby that's not good for anybody.
-Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck, where you can read more from Dirk.
You've done well Dirk, best wishes moving forward.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
He’s been running the Preds for 15 years, but you do get the sense the team is at a crossroads.
“We’ve been going an okay job,” said Poile. “But okay is not good enough.”
Laviolette will be expected to make a team that was shutout nine times last season and held to one goal another 16 times into a more dangerous offensive team.
Help in that area could have come in last year’s draft but the Preds were surprised when Nathan MacKinnon, Alexander Barkov and Jonathan Drouin went with the first three picks. That left defenceman Seth Jones for Nashville, not a bad construing prize, but not the flashy offensive help the club was hoping to get.
“We clearly have to find a way to be more dynamic offensively,” said Poile.
Weber’s 23 goals and 33 assists made him the third-leading scorer among all NHL defencemen this season, another reason why he’s invaluable to the Predators.
Obviously, there’s a temptation to move him for several pieces that might spread out the burden on the Nashville roster. But Poile knows from experience — he declined to match Scott Stevens’ four-year, $5.145 million offer sheet from St. Louis in 1989 while running the Washington Capitals — that when you have that kind of blue-line stud, you pay him and you keep him.
more plus shooting down the Babcock to Toronto talk...
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org