Kukla's Korner Hockey

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Matheson handicaps awards races, says Oilers should retire #94, Jets should trade Kane

04/13/2014 at 11:53pm EDT

The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson kicked off his last regular-season slate of Hockey World columns with individual awards picks, and his pick for the Vezina Trophy is a surprising one:

Vezina Trophy (top goalie)

1. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado.

2. Tuukka Rask, Boston

3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay

Had off-ice issues this year which weighed on him but very consistent work. Rask is best Finnish goalie right now, and they’ve got a full stable of good ones around the NHL. Bishop, nursing sore wrist as playoffs loom, is a six-foot-seven giant and a workhorse.

Matheson continues, making a plea to the Oilers to retire Ryan Smyth's number...

I know the Edmonton Oilers likely won’t hang a jersey in the rafters unless he’s in the Hall of Fame (that includes ‘The Voice’ Rod Phillips, the Oilers’ former longtime radio play-by-play man), save for Al Hamilton, the best-ever WHA Oiler.

But it’s time the team relaxes its internal rules.

Gretzky, Messier and Co. were from the glory days up to 1990. Since then, Ryan Smyth has been the face of this franchise, and we’re talking a time period of almost 25 years. A whole generation of fans have grown up with No. 94.

He’s not making the Hockey Hall of Fame, but if they don’t retire No. 94, the Oilers are making a serious error in judgment.

Glen Sather and Kevin Lowe should be up there, too, from the Stanley Cup years, but Smyth richly deserves it as well.

In his "This 'n" That," Matheson suggests that the Jets should cut ties with Evander Kane, among other observations...

- The Winnipeg Jets aren’t going to get full value for Evander Kane, but they have to move him out: the top-line forward is too high maintenance. Would they consider dealing him to, say, the Vancouver Canucks? He played junior there for the Giants. How about Kane for defenceman Alex Edler and a prospect? Scouts say Kane wasn’t like this as a junior so the entitlement has come as a pro with all the money.


- The Detroit Red Wings are hoping to get Henrik Zetterberg from back surgery back by late in Round 1 of the playoffs or, more realistically, the start of Round 2 if they get that far. “He’ll be cleared for contact April 24 but what does that mean — Bumping into (wife) Emma in the kitchen?” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said jokingly. “Does it mean practice or games?” If it were regular-season, they could rough the captain up a bit in practice but teams hardly ever practise in the post-season. Could he step in and play a playoff game with no games since early in the Olympics? Defenceman Jonathan Ericsson should be ready the same time as Zetterberg. “He had cartilage detached in his finger,” Holland said of his second- or third-best D-man after Niklas Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser.

And Matheson wraps things up with some "Short Shifts":

- If Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonis fires general manager George McPhee after 17 years at the same store-counter, what are the chances Calgary Flames team president Brian Burke hires him? Burke ironically replaced McPhee as director of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks in 1987 when McPhee got the Caps’ GM gig and they’ve been longtime GM contemporaries. McPhee, lest we forget, won the Hobey Baker Award in 1982 (Bowling Green University). He and former Edmonton Oilers centre Ray Cote were the first players to ever score three goals in a playoff game without ever playing an NHL regular-season game. McPhee with the Rangers.


- Antti Niemi has had a very average year in San Jose (2.40 goals-against average, .912 save percentage). They’ll start him against the Kings, but he’ll be on a short leash. They will not hesitate to throw backup Alex Stalock in there (.929 save percentage, 1.91 avg. in 23 games).

- What’s with all the new hires of hockey operations presidents? Trevor Linden in Vancouver, Brendan Shanahan in Toronto. “To me, it’s a level of security for the owners on decision making … they don’t want to be talking to the general manager every day about why, say, Alex Burrows isn’t playing with the twins in Vancouver,” said one longtime NHL executive. Big-money decisions can run from the prez to the owner, too. “I think you might see 10 to 12 of these hires now, the richer teams.” Linden and Shanahan are smart guys but very green when it comes to running an entire hockey operation.

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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.

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