Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Stars Of The Week

(1/25/2021)

NEW YORK (Jan. 25, 2021) – Montreal Canadiens center Tyler Toffoli and University of Montreal Health Centre (CHUM) respiratory therapist Virginie Hébert have been named the NHL’s “First Stars” for the week ending Jan. 24. Throughout the 2020-21 season the NHL is celebrating the remarkable efforts of the off-ice stars who make it possible for us to play our games amid a pandemic by honoring frontline healthcare heroes from the regions represented by the League’s weekly and monthly “Stars.” Hébert has been a respiratory therapist (RT) since 2017, working to maintain, restore or assist airway function for people who have difficulty breathing. During the pandemic, she has distinguished herself by giving additional trainings to colleagues to share the latest protocols and procedures to follow during this critical period, in order to keep patients and staff safe as well as reduce the risk of virus transmission. For the past 10 months, Hébert and her colleagues have been working selflessly, alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals, to help treat and hopefully save coronavirus patients experiencing respiratory distress. Their duties include tracking patients’ oxygen levels, managing their breathing, assisting with intubations and monitoring patients connected to mechanical ventilators, exposing them to the sickest patients and to dangerous aerosolizing procedures. Hébert’s commitment to her practice as well as to her patients have made her an invaluable frontline healthcare hero within CHUM’s respiratory therapy team. Rounding out the “Three Stars” of the week are Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson. More on each NHL player’s performance can be found below:

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

All Is Well In Montreal

(1/25/2021)

from Jack Todd at the Montreal Gazette, The first move was made before the playoffs began, when Bergevin signed brilliant second-round pick Alexander Romanov to a three-year deal that was announced on July 13, 2020. On Sept. 2, Bergevin sent the first signal that he was playing for real by dealing third- and seventh-round picks in 2020 to the Blues for goaltender Jake Allen and a seventh-rounder in 2022. For the first time since Jaroslav Halak was shipped to the Blues, Carey Price had a bona-fide, blue-chip backup. On Sept. 12, Bergevin sent a fifth-rounder to Carolina for defenceman Joel Edmundson, a solid, experienced 6-foot-4, 227-pound defender. On Oct. 6, Bergevin took his biggest off-season gamble, dealing the somewhat enigmatic Max Domi to Columbus for Josh Anderson, a one-time fourth-rounder coming off shoulder surgery and a one-goal season — then signing Anderson for seven years and $38.5 million. On Oct. 12, Bergevin proved that he wasn’t done. He signed forward Tyler Toffoli, once a key part of the Los Angeles Kings in their championship days, to a four-year, $17-million deal. All that, and Bergevin managed to keep two of his own key pieces in place, signing Jeff Petry to a four-year extension and Brendan Gallagher to a six-year extension. Then in December, Bergevin topped it off by signing veterans Corey Perry and Michael Frolik for the taxi squad at $750,000 each for the season. On digital paper, it looked good. Great, even. But you know what they say about playing the games. Now the Canadiens have played six games, all part of a season-opening schedule that loomed like the Bermuda Triangle, with six straight on the road and no exhibition games to prepare. They still haven’t lost in regulation. read on

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

“A Noticeable Difference In The Red Wings This Season”

(1/25/2021)

from Emily Kaplan of ESPN, In August, Larkin said a handful of players returned to Detroit for optional practices, and by September, there were even more. Then came free agency in October, and Yzerman signed five veteran players -- goalie Thomas Greiss, forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Bobby Ryan, defensemen Jon Merrill and Troy Stecher -- then traded for longtime New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Larkin was on a text chain with his two linemates, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. "It was just like, another great player, another great player," Larkin says. "And then Ty texted: Are the Red Wings a wagon now?" Detroit is probably a bit away from wagon status, but there's a noticeable difference in the Red Wings this season. They split their first four games, but saw momentum halted with five players on the COVID-19 protocol list, and held out of action this weekend in Chicago (where they lost both games). Even still, there's a new swagger to the Red Wings. Detroit's goaltending is far improved (Jonathan Bernier and Greiss have combined for a .904 save percentage, a huge improvement on last season's .886 as a team) and there's more resolve (after being shut out in their opener, Detroit stormed back for a 4-2 win over a talented Hurricanes team in Game 2). "The blue line -- those guys are always screaming for the puck, they want the puck," Larkin says. "They come to the bench, and they're letting me know, and they're letting guys know that we gotta talk. It makes everyone's life easier and I think that's something we were really missing last year. Those veteran guys who came from other teams have just been emphasizing talking and wanting the puck, and it's made a huge difference." more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Top Earning NHL Players

(1/22/2021)

from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes, The NHL’s top-earning player for the 2020-2021 season is Auston Matthews. The Toronto Maple Leafs center was scheduled to make $15.9 million in playing salary and bonus, but will instead earn $13 million net of escrow and including deferrals (a bulk of the escrow payment will be deducted from his July 2021 bonus). Matthews’ off-ice income in 2021 from endorsements, memorabilia and licensing is an estimated $3 million, pushing his total income to $16 million. The athlete endorsement market has gone into a deep freeze during the coronavirus pandemic, but Matthews added new deals last year with Verizon and equipment giant CCM Hockey. They join ongoing partners Nike, Scotiabank and sleep aid Dream Water. Matthews offers a compelling package for marketers. He was on pace to break the Maple Leafs’ single-season goals record before the season was paused in March. He is a young, fashion-forward, Mexican American playing in the hockey capital of the world. Matthews spent part of his offseason training with fellow star center Connor McDavid, who ranks as the NHL’s second-highest-paid player with $15.2 million (both are clients of sports agency Wasserman). The 2017 NHL MVP has one of the sport’s top endorsement portfolios, generating an estimated $4.5 million from partners CCM, Adidas, CIBC, BioSteel and more. McDavid’s No. 97 Edmonton Oilers jersey was the NHL’s second best-seller behind Sidney Crosby’s sweater in 2020. Rounding out the top five are Mitch Marner ($15 million), Alexander Ovechkin ($13.2 million) and Crosby ($11.9 million). more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Top 16 Teams In The NHL

(1/21/2021)

from Dan Rosen of NHL.com, To create the Super 16, each of the 14 participating staff members put together his or her version of what they think it should look like. Those were submitted and a point total assigned to each. The team that was selected first was given 16 points, second got 15, third 14 and so on down to No. 16, who got one point. Here is the Super 16: 1. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0) Total points: 221 Preseason rank: No. 1 The Lightning have eight players who've scored at least one goal and 13 at least one point. Forward Steven Stamkos leads them with five points (two goals, three assists). 2. Vegas Golden Knights (4-0-0) Total points: 207 Preseason rank: No. 3 Alex Pietrangelo appears to be a fit; the defenseman scored his first goal with Vegas in a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday and entered averaging more than 26 minutes of ice time per game. The Golden Knights have shown resiliency by coming back to win games against the Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks after falling behind in each of them. 3. Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0) Total points: 180 Preseason rank: No. 2 The Avalanche responded to their season-opening 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues by scoring 11 straight goals across five periods before allowing two in the third period of a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Nathan MacKinnon scored his 500th NHL point against the Kings. The center has 191 goals and 309 assists in 528 games, all with the Avalanche. 13 more teams

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Off-Season Moves Paying Off For The Detroit Red Wings

(1/20/2021)

from Josh Berenter of DetroitRedWings.com, Eleven Stanley Cup championships. Original Six. The Winged Wheel. Hockeytown. That's the cache that comes with being a member of the Detroit Red Wings, and this season, the Wings welcomed seven new members to the exclusive fraternity as the clubs looks to jumpstart their rebuild. The Red Wings began their offseason by signing Swedish forward Mathias Brome on April 29 and traded for 13-year New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal on September 26 before attacking the free-agent market in October. On the first day of free agency on October 9, Detroit signed veteran forward Bobby Ryan and Michigan native defenseman Jon Merrill to one-year deals. The next day, the Red Wings added 11-year NHL goalie Thomas Greiss and 26-year-old defenseman Troy Stecher, and on October 11, Detroit capped off its new haul by signing center and Red Wings bloodline Vladislav Namestnikov. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he was pleased with the offseason work of executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman. "I think all of them have the opportunity to make our team a better hockey team, without a shadow of a doubt," Blashill said during training camp. "They all have good hockey in them. I think they're a good group in their own different ways that can give us good, good minutes, which is what you need lots of times in the NHL." The Wings badly needed defensive depth after finishing last season near the bottom of the NHL in goals-against average. And with the help of Merrill, Staal and Stecher, along with the return of Danny DeKeyser from a back injury, Blashill said the back end has been stabilized. continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Checking In On The Top 2 Draft Picks From Last Year

(1/20/2021)

from Larry Brooks of the New York Post, It wasn’t so much hype as a sense of anticipation. A year ago, for the first time ever, the first two overall selections in the NHL draft were going to teams based approximately six miles apart, and weren’t we all going to be in for a treat watching the rivalry develop between the Devils’ No. 1, Jack Hughes, and the Rangers’ No. 2, Kaapo Kakko? Well, the future obviously all lies ahead of the two 19-year-olds, which is a pretty good thing considering their one season of NHL past added up to the biggest combined one-two statistical flop in more than two decades.... And let me tell you, Hughes was dancing all night long at the Garden on Thursday, racking up a pair of goals and an assist in an eye-opening performance to co-star with 47-save goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood in the Devils’ 4-3 victory. The young man added musculature to his frame with diligent offseason work that has allowed him to battle in those 50-50 areas, but Hughes just never stopped moving his feet. He was dynamic and quicksilver, on his toes throughout while thriving under head coach Lindy Ruff, who worked as an assistant the previous three years on the other side of the Hudson. “My confidence level is obviously high,” said Hughes, who has six points (2-4) through three contests. “I think it’s always been high, you know, but we’re building and I’m building personally. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Mike Babcock On Johan Franzen

(1/19/2021)

from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, It began with former Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios going on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and alleging that Babcock had verbally assaulted Franzen during a playoff series against Nashville. Franzen, in a subsequent interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, called Babcock a “great coach,” but a “terrible person” and a “bully,” saying he suffered from verbal attacks from the coach. Former Red Wings GM Ken Holland was asked by the Detroit Free Press last December if a player had ever come to him and accused Babcock of verbal abuse. Holland said no.... “(Franzen) had unbelievable years in Detroit,’’ Babcock said. “He was a big man with great hands. When he first came here, we thought he was a checker and he turned himself into an unbelievable player. “When a player that you’ve coached says that about you, it stings you big time. But not only does it sting for that, if you’ve been involved with mental health like I have …'”... “Can you imagine having someone say that about you when you have been involved in mental health as much as I have? Now, I’ve reached out to (Franzen). That’s not going to make anything go away. “It doesn’t matter what I perceive. When you’re talking about this kind of thing, if the person — whether it’s a co-worker, your spouse, your student — if they think that’s the environment, that’s what they’re feeling. Now, I sure wish I would have known about that then. And I could have done something about that. Besides apologize, there’s not much I can do about that now. But does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely.’’ more ($$$) and Babcock addresses other topics too...