Kukla's Korner

Caputo reminisces with Bruise Brother, Grind Liner Joe Kocur

Blog: The Malik Report By George Malik

From the Oakland Press's Pat Caputo:

On YouTube, you can see dozens of Kocur’s fights. But do yourself a favor. Also check out a couple of his goals, especially the one in Game 1 of the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. Kocur intercepted a clearing pass, faked out Flyers’ goalie Ron Hextall, and roofed a backhander that literally popped the water bottle sitting atop the net into the air. Steve Yzerman couldn’t have scored a prettier goal. It broke a 1-1 tie early in the first period, and the Red Wings were on their way to a four-game sweep and their first Stanley Cup title in more than four decades.

AWood40 has the goal, of course:

“Nothing could beat that,” Kocur said. “Hextall was going one way and I was going another. I probably could have just slid the puck in the net, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

Kocur, who resides in Highland Township, will be inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame on June 23 in Troy. He holds an annual celebrity softball game in Highland Township. It benefits the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children, a non-profit with no paid administrative staff, which helps needy families and supports numerous charitable causes. This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 27 at Duck Lakes Pine Park.


Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink

Saturday Night Hockey Notes

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

- So, if someone told you in mid-winter or last Wednesday that the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Bryan Rust and Matt Murray, would play for the Stanley Cup, you would have said what?

- One minute to play in Game 7 protecting a one-goal lead and Sidney Crosby was on the bench for the Penguins. Mike Sullivan has some stones.

- I had trouble watching Steven Stamkos play in that terrific Game 7 against Pittsburgh. I kept worrying someone was going to hurt him.

- The longer the playoffs go, the more I wonder: How many offside goals did we miss in our lifetime?


Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The St. Louis Blues Cleared Their Dressing Room Today

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Jeremy Rutherford and Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post Dispatch,

There are many questions facing the club this summer, perhaps some that will have light shed on them Tuesday, when general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock meet with the media.

But on Saturday, it was the players' turn to look back and look ahead. Here's a collection of news and notes from those interviews:  

• David Backes had an emotional post-game interview following the Blues' Game 6 loss. During part of it, describing the kind act of teammate Steve Ott giving him "something" to help the captain stay in the lineup, knowing that would mean Ott wouldn't play, Backes broke into tears.

"I think I'm getting a Visine endorsement after that interview," Backes joked. "I've seen a bit of it and quite a few people have referenced it. That was real, that was raw, that was my heart right on my face and coming right out of my tear ducts. It's one of the hardest things I've done as an athlete is emerge out that room and have to face these cameras with that sort of emotion all over the place. In hindsight, I'm glad I came out and I talked. I think people could see how much it meant — and I was speaking for the whole group — what that opportunity and this run meant to these guys and that we didn't get it done. The sting of that is with every guy in this room."...

• Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was at the center of much trade speculation last offseason and that expects to be the case again this summer. He will be entering the final season of a four-year contract that has a salary-cap hit of $4.25 million.

"It was a wild year with all the rumors going on, and it might plant the seed of doubt in your head," Shattenkirk said. "But that's not my decision. I'm happy to be coming back here next year. I have a year left and this is where I want to be next year. That's out of my hands unfortunately."

much more

Filed in: NHL Teams, St. Louis Blues, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Blog: The Puck Stops Here By PuckStopsHere

Today I will make my prediction for the Stanley Cup finals.  This year the series will be played between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  This is San Jose's first ever finals appearance.  This is Pittsburgh's first finals appearance in seven years.

I argue that neither of these teams is an elite team.  That should be important to hockey fans.  They are being short-changed from seeing truly elite teams.  In a wrestling or boxing analogy we have the main event in the biggest show of the year in the Stanley Cup finals.  Instead of two legitimate main eventers battling against each other we see two mid-carders promoted to the main event for this big show.  It is lacking the excitement that could exist.  There is nothing to say that two mid-carders cannot have a good fight but it lacks the intrigue of legitimate main eventers.

In this case we have a San Jose team that missed the playoffs last year meeting a Pittsburgh team that looked like it might miss playoffs earlier this season before they fired coach Mike Johnston.  Elite teams shouldn't have been thought of as teams that could miss the playoffs within the last year.

Continue Reading »

Filed in: | The Puck Stops Here | Permalink

Different Opinions On The Future Of Steven Stamkos

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Bay Times,

The season is over. Now there's only the door. And Stamkos walking through it. And his introductory news conference, in Toronto, Detroit, Buffalo or wherever.

It's just a question of when No. 91 walks through that door, be it July 1, when he can become an unrestricted free agent, or sometime after.

Feel free to surprise us with an eleventh-hour contract, guys.

It would be the salary cap upset of the century.

Let's not get all weepy here or turn this into an Adele song. Stamkos will make tens of millions of dollars no matter where he goes, and the Lightning will carry on.

It still feels like the end of something.

I think the Lightning is crazy for letting 312 goals and 26 years old walk. I think Stamkos, given the talents around him, is crazy to walk. No one is to blame. Everyone is to blame.

How did a deal not get done last summer? How?

read on

from Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun,

Continue Reading »

Filed in: NHL Teams, Tampa Bay Lightning, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Storylines For The Stanley Cup Final

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun,

It is a rare fantasy players’ bracket that remains intact in this upset-fraught chase to the Stanley Cup, though no doubt some statistical smarty pants picked the Sharks and the Penguins to be the two left standing and will never let you forget it.

But there are still predictions to be made.

Here is one man’s prognostication of the storylines that will be ground into paste during all those travel-day plane flights:


* On San Jose coach Pete DeBoer, a slight underdog to be hoisting the Cup 19 days from now or fewer, while the two men who fired him as head coach, Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey and Dale Tallon in Florida are, respectively, looking up from 30th place with the Toronto Maple Leafs and adapting to having been replaced as GM by the Panthers.

* On Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan, ever-so-slightly favoured to be drinking from Lord Stanley’s old cuspidor while silently celebrating that the man who fired him from his only previous NHL head coaching job, Peter Chiarelli, has since been fired himself and is currently trying to solve the Rubik’s cube with 29th-place Edmonton.

* On Penguins’ Phil Kessel, who appears to have given up hotdogs for scoring clutch goals, and Justin Schultz, dismissed as part of the problem in Edmonton, playing on the Pens’ power play.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The Toronto Maple Leafs Helped Out The Pittsburgh Penguins

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

Larry Murphy one more time.

To the most cynical of Maple Leaf followers — and few bands of collectively-minded folk have more reason to be cynical — you can see why it might feel that way.

Just as Murphy was booed as a Leaf and transferred to Detroit only to become a Stanley Cup champion twice (!!) as a Red Wing, here we are in 2016 with Phil Kessel, a reluctant star found wanting as a franchise player in Toronto, just four wins away from earning a Stanley Cup ring with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Same rotten deal, right?

Well, not quite. Murphy was traded in 1997 for future considerations, which were essentially nothing. Kessel, to boil it down, was dealt to Pittsburgh for a first-round pick next month and prospects Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington, as well as $47.6 million (U.S.) worth of extremely valuable salary cap relief spread over seven seasons....

The similarity is Murphy wasn’t flourishing as a Leaf when he was traded but did so in Detroit, where he was surrounded by a much stronger roster. Kessel is having a heckuva playoff, but it’s useful to point out that on a talented Pittsburgh team he’s doing so as a third-liner facing third defence pairings, a big difference from his days as a Leaf when he always received first-line minutes against the best opposition checkers.

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Credit Goes To Jimmy Rutherford

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,

Jimmy Rutherford looks at Mario Lemieux. Mario Lemieux looks at Jimmy Rutherford. They nod their heads in unison. Then, as if they were following a Hollywood script, they both break into huge grins.

It is an acknowledgement of very few words. Then again, not many are needed here. The message to Rutherford from the Silent One — aka Magnificent Mario — is clear enough.

A job well done, Mr. General Manager. Just one more to go, one obstacle to overcome, one road block to conquer en route to the Stanley Cup — the San Jose Sharks.

It is mere minutes since the Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup final, and the owner and general manager are relishing the moment.

In Rutherford’s case, he certainly has earned the right.

In his two-year stint running the Penguins, he has torn apart the roster, brought in one of the most polarizing figures in the sport in Phil Kessel, and made a coaching change. Now, he is four victories away from guiding the Penguins to a Stanley Cup, exactly one decade after he did the same with the Carolina Hurricanes.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Captain Talk For The Los Angeles Kings

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times,

Senior reporter Frank Seravalli of The Sports Network in Canada tweeted on Friday morning that he heard Brown had been told he would no longer be captain of the Kings, adding that the team wanted to go in a different direction.

Brown could not be reached for comment. A front office executive did not dispute the item but objected to an interpretation of the news, stating, via text, that Brown had not been “stripped” of anything.

The Kings, also, would not confirm if the new captain would be Kopitar, who would be starting an eight-year contract worth $80 million this upcoming season.

The change in captaincy, if it takes place, would be the first for the Kings since 2008, when Brown took over after Rob Blake signed with the Sharks as a free agent. Blake, now the Kings’ assistant general manager, finished his playing career in San Jose and took over the captaincy from Marleau with the Sharks in the 2009-10 season.  

Brown’s leadership style during the Kings’ two Stanley Cup winning runs, in 2012 and 2014, was collaborative in nature. He had plenty of assistance from more vocal types such as Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, plus behind-the-scenes help from quieter leaders such as Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

But with the Kings winning one playoff game the last two seasons, changes are inevitable, even cosmetic ones. Brown, 31, has been a bottom-six forward making top-six money: He has six years left on what was an eight-year, $47-million deal signed in 2013.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Los Angeles Kings, | KK Hockey | Permalink

A Busy Off-Season For The Tampa Bay Lightning

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,

There's the (10?) million-dollar question of whether Yzerman can re-sign captain Steven Stamkos to a long-term deal before or after he reaches unrestricted free agency July 1. There's wing Nikita Kucherov, another potential building block, a 30-goal scorer this season due a hefty raise from $700,000 as a restricted free agent.

Top defenseman Victor Hedman and forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are due new deals after next season, as is Vezina Trophy-finalist goaltender Ben Bishop, unless Yzerman decides to deal Bishop or 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy in the next year.

And Yzerman has to balance all that with a relatively flat salary cap while considering a potential expansion draft.

"The next two summers will kind of define our team the next seven or eight years," Yzerman said Friday. "I have an idea of what we want to do. And we're doing our best to get everyone to buy in to what we're trying to do and keep it together."

But the Lightning realizes that after returning nearly the entire team from last season, next year's team could have a much different look.

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, Tampa Bay Lightning, | KK Hockey | Permalink

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