Kukla's Korner

Iced Coffey

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Always a day when hockey dominates the headlines, the 2014 NHL trade deadline supplied the usual array of moves that leave you scratching your head, or eager to see the outcome for the teams involved. Let's take a look at some of the big moves and see if they pass the stink test a day later.

* Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2014 second-round pick -- Fans of both teams can make pretty good cases for either loving it or hating it.

If you're the Lightning, you get a solid rental in Callahan, a heart-and-soul guy who was the Rangers' captain and a very popular player in New York. But Callahan hasn't thrived under Alain Vigneault this season and talks on a new contract never gained the proper traction. If you've listened to the pre-deadline talk, many think Callahan is destined to sign with the Buffalo Sabres, his hometown team. Callahan certainly won't replace St. Louis' goals, but brings other assets for as long -- or short -- as he remains in Tampa. For Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, the trade ends the distraction of an unhappy veteran player wanting out and adds a couple of assets in the draft picks from the Rangers.

For the Rangers, St. Louis is a gritty, dynamic player who makes this season's Rangers better, maybe much better. He is a terrific offensive player, whose desire can't be questioned. Being reunited with Brad Richards may light a fire under Richards, which would be an excellent benefit for the Rangers too.

But -- and you knew  a but was coming -- St. Louis is 38 and the Rangers traded a younger player and two picks for a player who has to deliver now.

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Defense still rules the rinks

A few Olympic thoughts on Sochi as we look forward to the stretch drive to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* Say whatever you want, but defense still wins championships -- or gold medals -- as Canada proved so conclusively in its run to the gold medal. Watching the Canadians play defense, you just got the feeling no one was going to dent the Maple Leaf. Carey Price made some terrific stops to be sure, but the Canadian defensive play just smothered the life out of some pretty good clubs.

* And while Canada may not have scored as many goals as people would have liked, sometimes you have to credit the other guys, like Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick, who made the 1-0 loss to Canada cosmetically close with his fine play. Ditto Henrik Lundqvist, who was the best player for a depleted Swedish team in the gold medal contest.

* Bottom line, Canada rules. No ifs, ands or buts.

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  Tags: sochi+olympics

Tortorella left looking like a fool

Maybe John Tortorella lost it when he realized Bob Hartley had schooled him and made him look like a dope.

Maybe Tortorella just couldn't take Hartley standing on the Calgary bench looking as innocent as lamb. 

Any way you look at it, Hartley won this one, even if the Flames lost the game to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night.

Icing your fourth line or enforcers to start a game isn't business as usual in the NHL, or Vince McMahon would be the commissioner. But remember, Brian Burke now runs the Flames and he is on record as wanting more truculence, and Hartley should be well versed in giving the boss what he wants by this point. Plus, Hartley is no stranger to having a truculent edge himself.

In the final analysis, the start of Saturday's game would have been met with a shrug by just about everyone if Tortorella hadn't added to the spectacle by going to the end of the bench to give Hartley a piece of his mind. Hartley was obviously not at all interested in owning a piece of his mind.

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  Tags: john+tortorella

Outdoor Views

In terms of unforgettable moments, the alumni game at Comerica Park may linger longer in the hearts of hockey fans, but you cannot dismiss that the 2014 Winter Classic was a huge hit for the NHL.

Certainly seeing Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay together again and the "Russian Five" reunited on the ice one more time rate as must-see moments from the alumni game, as does seeing so many former NHL players turn back the clock. But New Year's Day also had plenty of moments for those who attended the actual Winter Classic to savor.

In fact, the crowd can savor itself, as 105,491 were said to be in attendance at the famed "Big House" in Ann Arbor. The league said 105,500 tickets were sold for the game, so only nine dropouts proves Wings and Leaf fans are a pretty hardy bunch to have withstood an average temperature of 13 degrees and snowfall that made the game picturesque, but something less than an artistic success.

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New deal puts onus on Lundqvist, Rangers to win now

Much of the sports talk in New York City in recent days has been on a lucrative, long-term contract and what it will mean to the team in ensuing seasons.

And no, the talk isn't about the reported seven year, $59.5 million deal Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is getting from the Rangers. No, this signing is going way under the radar because the Yankees signed former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury to one of their typical big-bucks deal.

Heck, the Lundqvist deal is even being pretty much ignored because the two equally crummy NBA teams were facing one another Thursday night.

But in reality, this may well be the biggest of the stories currently competing for space on the back of the city's tabloids. Why? Because if the Rangers are to win a Stanley Cup in the forseeable future, Lundqvist will have to take a starring role.

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  Tags: henrik+lundqvist, new+york+rangers

Ken Dryden’s stance on fighting too logical to resist

Over the past couple weeks, I have been putting together a tome on how fighting in the NHL is slowly, but surely becoming extinct and will soon die a natural death thanks to a number of factors, but mostly to disinterest more than anything else.

But then Ken Dryden came along in the Globe and Mail and that was that. Dryden, he of the Hall of Fame career and legal pedigree made my points so much linine for the bird cage. After all, when you can listen to Ken Dryden, whose epic "The Game" remains one of the standards of writing on sports -- as opposed to sports writing -- then I gladly step away and highlight some of his well founded opinions on why fightning is done.

His opinions, in responside to those of Bobby Orr in his new book, are sure to be picked apart on pre-game shows across North America, but you can be sure, Dryden's way is coming to a rink near you.

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  Tags: ken+dryden

Getting late early in Philadelphia

Three games and six days.

That's all the time Peter Laviolette got with the Philadelphia Flyers before being dismissed Monday morning, thus becoming the first coaching casualty of the 2013-14 season.

But in reality, you can't look at the decision as either hasty or rash. We all are aware that the rejiggered division alignment was going to make things stickier in the Eastern Conference, what with the Red Wings joining the mix for the eight playoff berths. So, for a team like the Flyers, one that disappointed in a big way during the truncated 2013 season and then went out and added Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit, the expectations were there in plain sight.

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Kovalchuk’s new nickname ‘The Fraud’

“I am never surprised by anything that happens in this game today.”

Lou Lamoriello sure got that right Thursday while participating in an unanticipated conference call with media memebers after the shocking news that Ilya Kovalchuk had bolted for Russia.

But as Lamoriello said, we can't really be surprised anymore, can we? Especially in this case when Kovalchuk's money grab made LeBron James' "Decision" pale in comparison.

Remember all the vitriol when James, who was a free agent at the time, held court with NBA teams looking to sign him and then held a tacky announcement show on ESPN? Sure, you can blame James and his group of advisors for lacking marketing savvy, but James wasn't bolting on a valid contract that had more than a decade to run.

"The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me,” Kovalchuk said in a statement that reeks of hogwash.

You know there won't be a press conference in North America because he would have to answer some pretty hard questions.

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For Devils, waste not, want not

Now what?

That's the question the pulses through the minds of New Jersey Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello and a legion of Devils fans after Thursday's shocking news that Ilya Kovalchuk had heeded the call of Mother Russia and returned home to a life of fulfillment in the Kontinental Hockey League.

So Kovalchuk has instantly become yesterday's news, a bittersweet chapter in team history where his precise shots and great speed are coupled with a lost first round draft pick and thoughts of what might have been.

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Lamoriello steals the show with Schneider deal

Amidst reports of more financial turmoil surrounding the New Jersey Devils, Lou Lamoriello sent a clarion call Sunday at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with the trade that brought goalie Cory Schneider -- and his two-year contract worth approximately $8 million -- to the Devils.

“I’m not going to get into anything that has to do with our organization, but if you notice what we did today, I think that’s an indication that we’re pushing forward and we’ll be announcing some of our free-agent signings in the very near future.”

Sure sounds like the Devils are open for business, as Lamoriello made quite the splash at his own draft party, treating his fans to a double-barrel solution to questions about the team's goaltending. The answer being Schneider, both in the present and future.

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About Iced Coffey

Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.


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