Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
What happens when three legendary broadcasters, who have been at centre ice to call six decades of Maple Leafs hockey, meet for a beer in a team-themed man cave?
Some of the best stories you’ll ever hear, even though most don’t end with Toronto winning the Stanley Cup the past 48 years.
Brian McFarlane, Joe Bowen and Jiggs McDonald entertained guests on Wednesday night at the home of “Ultimate Leaf Fan’” Mike Wilson, whose downtown residence holds the largest private collection of Leafs memorabilia. The Sun picked some favourites:...
McFarlane and Bowen knew the golden rule at the Gardens: Never rile Harold Ballard.
“He and King Clancy were in the bunker listening to everything you said,” McFarlane recalled. “So you had to be very cautious or you’d be finding other ways to pay the mortgage.”
Bowen and the combustible Ballard coexisted for the most part, but Bowen resented the owner’s rule that broadcasters couldn’t fly or bus with the team as other clubs allowed.
“We had to stand outside Chicago Stadium in a blizzard trying to get a cab, which was absolutely impossible,” Bowen recounted. “Harold would go by us on the warm team bus and give you a little wave.”
In the late 1980s, going commercial also meant Bowen and Watters would share flights with Yolanda MacMillan, Ballard’s on again/off again girlfriend as she pursued him on road trips. MacMillan never travelled light, so Bowen and Watters ended up as her luggage porters.
from Bob McKenzie of TSN,
- There's going to be considerable (trade) speculation, obviously, about the futures of Phil Kessel and many more Maple Leafs leading up to the draft.
Toronto is looking to rebuild and the Leafs' veteran core players will generate varying degrees of interest. Most of them have limited no trade clauses.
Kessel's limited NTC is believed to include eight teams he can be traded to. Prior to the trade deadline, TSN reported those eight teams were believed to be: Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minnesota; Montreal; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.
But that doesn't preclude the possibility of the Leafs finding a suitable deal with a team not on the list and asking the player to amend the list. Also, with each new contract year, it's believed a new list can be submitted by the player so the list can change from year to year. The contract year expires June 30.
- The 2015 unrestricted free agent class is not perceived to have a lot of marquee value, especially as it pertains to forwards, but there does appear to be keen interest in what looks like an intriguing list of defencemen.
Amongst those expected to be available on July 1 are: Pittsburgh's Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff; Los Angeles's Andrej Sekera; Chicago's Johnny Oduya; and, Washington's Mike Green, amongst others.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?
You didn’t think this young, brash Tampa Bay Lightning team was simply going to come into the deafening home barn of the mighty Chicago Blackhawks and win back-to-back games in this best-of-seven 2015 Stanley Cup final, did you?
Maybe you didn’t? But the Jon Cooper-led Lightning certainly did.
And they showed it, too, dominating the hosts in the first period, one in which Chicago registered just two shots on rookie Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
But these Hawks always seem to play their best when their backs are against the proverbial wall. And Wednesday night, faced with going down 3-1 in the series with a loss, Chicago did what it does best — pushed back.
With captain Jonathan Toews scoring his first goal of the final, the Hawks rebounded from their poor opening minutes to register a 2-1 victory, evening the series at 2-2 heading into Game 5 Saturday in Tampa.
The win means this now becomes a best-of-three series in the quest for hockey’s Holy Grail. It also guarantees one more tilt at the raucous United Center, with Game 6 going Monday in Chicago.
Catch the game highlights below...
from Geoff Lowe of Sportsnet,
After coaching in the NHL for 19 straight seasons, Wilson hasn’t been behind the bench since 2012 when he was fired by the Maple Leafs after three-plus seasons in Toronto. After that stint in T.O., the newest coach of the United States National junior team is all too familiar with the pressures that come with the gig.
So what advice would Wilson offer new Leafs coach Mike Babcock?
“I’d just tell him what you have to worry about is keeping everything as tight and as close as you can,” Wilson said on Tuesday’s Dean Blundell & Co. on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “He’s got to make sure the players communicate with the media, that’s the biggest problem they have in Toronto.”
The overload of media attention is just one of the many things Babcock will be facing as he begins his tenure with the Blue and White. Another is dealing with the team’s core of players — most notably captain Dion Phaneuf and top forward Phil Kessel — a group that struggled mightily over the final weeks of 2015-16 regular season.
“I think they’re going to have to make an adjustment to how Mike (Babcock) demands accountability from everybody,” Wilson answered when asked which players will struggle under Babcock. “And I think anybody who’s a little leery of that might struggle.”
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
The template for Brendan Shanahan is found right here — in the rosters, methods and good fortunes of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the building of an eventual champion, Tampa Bay Lightning.
They didn’t become contenders without first bottoming out, without cashing in on early draft picks, without utilizing their American Hockey League teams to develop talent, without strategically using free agency to finalize spots and touch up the roster and without patience.
Lots of patience.
“We didn’t really set a timeline on it,” said Steve Yzerman, general manager of the Lightning, talking about his five-year run on the job.
“I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position of a time-frame because then I’d be held to it.
“We just felt at the time we’re going to try to draft well, look to free agency where we can to try to expedite the process a little bit.
from Joe McDonald of ESPN,
Nathan Horton has his good days and his bad days.
On Friday, he’s celebrating his 30th birthday with family and friends, and his wish is to some day be healthy enough to resume his NHL career.
Horton has been dealing with a degenerative back injury that has kept him sidelined since April 2014. He missed all of last season and the Columbus Blue Jackets traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 26 in exchange for forward David Clarkson.
“Yeah, I’m doing all right. I’m living my life,” he told ESPN.com. “Obviously, my back’s not great but I have my good days, and some OK days. I’m just taking it easy. Eventually it’s going to go away -- I hope. I’m just enjoying my life. I’m healthy and I’m happy. It’s obviously tough because I want to play. It’s only my 30th birthday today, so I know I’m still young. Life gives you curveballs and I’m just trying to be positive and that’s pretty much all I can do.”
from Scott Feschuk of Sportsnet,
“You don’t win without good people, and we’re going to have good people.”
Surely it was a surreal experience for current Leafs players to listen to Babcock’s remarks. He rarely spoke more than a couple dozen words before circling back to his key message: The Leafs, as currently constituted, bite the big one. He really rubbed their faces in it: “Long journey . . . a hard spot . . . there’s pain coming . . . massive, massive challenge.” One can only imagine what players were thinking.
Dion Phaneuf: “I better get to the gym!”
Nazem Kadri: “I better start packing my bags!”
Phil Kessel: “Man, this hammock is super comfy!”
Babcock has the intelligence and fortitude to ignore the copious din that will surround him. He might be the only man in the world who can effect change in Toronto, if he is allowed to do his job. Perhaps, the Leafs will break from their history, and actually let him do it.
-Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch where you can read more on Mike Babcock and the Leafs.
Defenseman Cody Franson, who played almost four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded in March, said Saturday that free agents, like himself, will find the team more attractive now that it's coached by Mike Babcock.
"I definitely think it makes [Toronto] more interesting," Franson told TSN 1050 Radio. "... Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it's an exciting time for people in that organization and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure."
Franson will be a free agent July 1 after finishing the season with the Nashville Predators. He said he would like the chance to return to Toronto.
"One hundred percent; I've always said that I loved it in Toronto," the 27-year-old said. "... I'm hopeful that Toronto's in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they're one of the teams that calls."
Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly agrees that players would choose to sign with Toronto to play for Babcock, who was hired Wednesday.
"When you have a coach like Mike Babcock, your team improves automatically," Rielly told the Toronto Sun. "Players will want to come to play in Toronto and really embrace the role of playing for the Leafs. … We're happy to have him on board."
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province,
During the course of a casual conversation a few years back, Marc Crawford was asked if the impact of an NHL coach could be measured in wins and losses.
Turned out Crawford had given this subject some thought. Without a lot of hesitation, the veteran hockey man said: “It’s seven to eight points a season.”
So there you go, Leafs fans. Your team just paid $50 million for a new coach and, if everything goes right, they’ll improve from 68 to 76 points next season. Surely that must be worth three hours of discussion on the panel.
The Leafs, of course, have become the newest test case for one of hockey’s enduring questions: Does a coach really make that much of a difference? In signing Mike Babcock to a groundbreaking eight-year, $50-million deal, they certainly made coaches all over the NHL happy. But is Babcock the man who can end half a century of misery in The Big Smoke? Can he, through his mere presence, alter the course of this cursed franchise?
You have to admit, it’s a helluva question. We just wish we could give you a helluva answer.
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