Kukla's Korner Hockey
The Florida Panthers nearly stole the spotlight away from the Wings and Leafs during HBO's 24/7 series, and of the Atlantic Division's non-playoff teams I'd argue that the franchise may be a Phoenix Coyotes East off the ice (their financial situation is quite the mess), but on the ice, the Panthers have the greatest chance of serving as not only a playoff spoiler for their Eastern Conference opponents, but also a potential playoff-qualifying team.
NHL.com's "30 in 30" series profiles the Pantehrs today, and they note that Dale Tallon was predictably aggressive in improving the Panthers' roster over the past half-year, trading for Roberto Luongo and signing Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell and another former Blackhawk (the Panthers have more than a few players from Tallon's previous employer's team) in David Bolland; they note that the Panthers' top prospect, Aaron Ekblad, is probably NHL-ready, and of course the Panthers hired a new coaching staff headlined by Gerard Gallant, too...
And in addition to discussing Ekblad's would-be defensive partners and "5 Questions" that the team faces going into the 14-15 season, NHL.com's Alain Poupart engages in a conversation with Tallon that, let's say involves personnel moves which allow more substantive, "We aren't that far off" talk than what was issued by Saturday's profiled team:
The Hockey News's Adam Proteau has penned the first of a two-part "oral history" chronicling the Calgary Flames' 1989 Stanley Cup win, and it never ceases to amaze me how very heavily Cup-winners are challenged in the playoff round that Scotty Bowman insisted is the most dangerous round:
For the second year in a row, the Flames had finished the regular season with the NHL’s top record. In 1988, they’d won their first-round series against the Kings, only to be swept by the Edmonton Oilers in the Smythe Division final. Two years earlier, they’d made it to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, falling to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
But in 1989 – their second year with Terry Crisp as head coach – the Flames proved a more resilient squad. And they had to be right away; In their opening-round series against Vancouver (a team that finished with 43 fewer points in the standings that season), Calgary lost key defenseman Gary Suter in the first game with a broken jaw, then found themselves pushed to the brink of elimination as the Canucks forced a heart-stopping seventh game – and overtime – and yet managed to move on thanks to astounding goaltending from Mike Vernon and the series-winning goal that banked in off Joel Otto’s skate.
TERRY CRISP, HEAD COACH We really dodged a bullet in that first round. You’re that close to being gone and maybe never getting another crack at it. When I look back, I think there must have been a divine destiny somewhere in the first round, because Vancouver took us right to the wall.
CLIFF FLETCHER, GENERAL MANAGER The pressure of the first round nearly did us in. We weren’t the hockey team we had been over the course of the regular season. We were very fortunate to win that series. Mike Vernon had to make three outstanding saves before we managed to shovel a goal late in the first overtime.
AL MACINNIS, DEFENSEMAN If Mike doesn’t make those saves, we don’t move on. But when we got by Vancouver, that’s when I think that pressure was relieved from us, and we felt just felt that, ‘Man, we’re really on our way.’ After that, we lost three games total in the next three series.
TERRY CRISP After that, the guys just put it into gear and away we went.
To his credit, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons' weekly notebook includes exactly one mention of the "advanced stats" community, and it's one that voices a thought many of us have considered since Extraskater.com went "offline"...
When the analytics website @extraskater disappeared on Friday, my assumption was that creater Darryl Metcalf had been hired by an NHL team
(or the NHL itself, given that its new "terms of service" all but ban the kind of activity Extra Skater and Behind the Net engage in)
And Simmons issues a pretty dang solid set of NHL-related tidbits and observations:
If you're transfixed by the Kevin Hayes sweepstakes, the Providence Journal's Mark Divver reports that former Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick and 6'4," 216-pound power forward and Boston College graduate is going about the "wining and dining process" in the usual manner:
I used to think that 22-or-23-year-old players allowing themselves to be treated like accomplished NHL players available for nothing but the price of their contract was, to say the least, a little ego-driven.
That's changed after watching what happens to every NCAA-playing prospect who takes part in the Red Wings' summer development camp on the last day thereof: the team sets up bins in which the players deposit their jerseys, their socks, their pants and pant shells, any sticks or gloves or helmets the team "lent" them, even any t-shirts, hats or shorts the team gave them to wear.
The players pay their own way up to the camp, they pay for their own accommodations, food, attending the camp, and they can't so much as keep a t-shirt or they'll lose their NCAA eligibility. After living in that environment for 4, 5 or 6 years (as soon as players "commit," they've got to act accordingly), suddenly being treated like a superstar in the making and being allowed to get stuff from the vast majority of the NHL's teams, be they baseball hats, team-themed iPads or whatever...
It's got to feel like living in the lap of luxury, so of course they're going to listen to every single team that's willing to give them their pitch as to why NHL Destination X is the best one for them.
Blue Jackets 1st-rounder Sonny Milano to sign entry-level deal, then play for OHL’s Plymouth Whalers
Per NHL.com, this isn't "Red Wings-related" so it's not going in that blog, but this is a KK Hockey entry that has a very "local" angle for the OHL team that plays all but in my backyard and not too far from the boss.
If you needed another reason to go to a Plymouth Whalers game, the team made a very big trade in acquiring Sudbury's Matthew Campagna on Friday, and today, after holding their annual alumni game, the Whalers landed a first-round draft pick who's played with the U.S. National Developent Team Program:
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Sonny Milano will play in the Ontario Hockey League this season rather than at Boston College, the NHL team said via Twitter on Saturday.
The 18-year-old forward will play for the Plymouth Whalers.
Milano, the 16th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, attended United States World Junior evaluation camp in early August. There he said he planned to attend Boston College.
He is eligible to sign an entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets.
Unlike the team's financial struggles under the Jeffrey Vanderbeek adminstration, however, the fact that the Devils are going to lose money this season is actually good news.
Gulitti reports that "new" owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer are spending a significant amount of money cleaning up the legal messes Vanderbeek left them, and they're also investing a good chunk of money in growing the Devils' "business brand," reestablishing ties with local businesses and significantly bolstering the team's hockey operations personnel:
[O]n the business side (non-hockey operations), O’Neil says the team had just 76 employees immediately following the sale. Blitzer said the number is “more than double” that now after O’Neil has spent the last year building up his department to put it in a position to be better able to grow the business of the Devils.
“You just didn’t have personnel there,” Blitzer said. “It wasn’t like anyone was doing anything negatively in that sense. They literally did not have positions filled that were entirely necessary to run a business like this. We kind of found that a little bit shocking in terms of how depleted it was at the time we went in.”
Via SI's Allan Muir, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has every intention of employing Martin Brodeur should the legendary goaltender not find the "right fit" with a championship-contending team, but the Newark Star-Ledger's Steve Politi reports that Lamoriello's standing offer involves a front-office job:
What happens if Brodeur gets to a point where he realizes the right fit isn't there? Lamoriello has the answer. The longtime Devils GM said Brodeur has a job waiting for him with the Devils if he decides to stop playing.
"He knows that," Lamoriello said. "He knows he'll be a Devil for the rest of his life. What Marty has done and the type of personality he is, and what his experience is, it's a no brainer. He's a Devil."
But Lamoriello wonders: Does Brodeur want to work? He's been around enough great players to know that this is not always the case.
NHL.com's "30 in 30" series focuses on the Buffalo Sabres today, with the team's top prospects, Anthony Stewart's presence and steps that need to be taken by both in-the-lineup players like Tyler Myers and top picks like Sam Reinhart faring significantly into the probability of the team turning itself around this upcoming season. The "hook" regarding today's articles comes in the form of surprising comments come from Sabres coach Ted Nolan and the aforementioned Stewart, who issue "We're not that far off" comments to NHL.com's Jon Lane:
Following what he called a "completely unacceptable" season, [Sabres GM Tim] Murray refused to buy into a five-year rebuild and accelerated the Sabres' reconstruction with the signing of five free agents on July 1.
"Probably the best couple of words I heard out of Tim's mouth was when he said 'five years,'" said Ted Nolan, who went 17-36-9 after taking over as interim coach and signed a three-year contract extension in March. "Who knows what's going to happen five years from now? I always, as a coach, just worry about now. My now is preparing this team to be the best we can. If we get the players like we did this summer, it could be a very short rebuild and we get to the point to where we're battling for what everybody wants, and that's the Stanley Cup."
The 2014 Winter Classic was marketed very strongly as a showdown at "The Big House" (a.k.a. Michigan Stadium), but the 2015 Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks hasn't included, oh, say, a "Battle at RFK" angle.
According to the Washington Post's Alex Prewitt and Mike DeBonis, there's a good reason for the lack of location-specific marketing:
Since it was announced in December that the Washington Capitals would host the 2015 Winter Classic, it has been widely assumed the most natural venue for the game was Nationals Park.
NHL representatives visited Nationals Park, in addition to RFK Stadium and FedEx Field, a person with knowledge of the situation said at the time of the announcement, and had pegged the ballpark as the likely site for the annual New Year’s Day game.
But with one month left until the NHL preseason begins and with the Jan. 1 game between the Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks less than five months away, there has still been no official announcement where it will be held, and a source with knowledge of the negotiations said Friday there are hurdles left to clear.
Paul and I scratched our heads regarding the Naples News' rather relaxed interview with Sidney Crosby, who was skating at Germain Arena in Esthero, FL (home of the ECHL's Florida Everblades) alongside Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo...But strength and conditioning coach Darryl Belfry's camp was supposed to be hush-hush from the get-go, so protocol ws followed.
The AP made sure to dispatch a correspondent to speak with Crosby before he left Southwestern Florida, however, and Crosby addressed the state of his not-surgically-repaired right wrist (albeit in classic Cliche Crosby mode)...
Pittsburgh Penguins star center Sidney Crosby's right wrist appears to be on the road to recovery. The reigning NHL MVP said Friday he's pleased with the way his wrist has responded to treatment over the summer and is anxious for training camp to begin as the Penguins try to recover from their second-round collapse in the playoffs.
"It's good," Crosby said. "You want to see how things progress throughout the summer once you start skating and get back to that regular routine. You want to see how it reacts so I'm happy with the way it's gone."
And Crosby addressed his team's roster, behind-the-bench and front office changes as well (and the AP reports that David Clarkson also attended the camp):
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 email@example.com