Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Robin Lehner Deserves A Long-Term Contract Somewhere

(1/22/2020)

from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, The Blackhawks should have a pretty good idea of their playoff chances by the time the trade deadline rolls around Feb. 24. They have a gruelling schedule in February, with all but three of their 14 games away from the United Center. But they’ve actually been a better team on the road than at home this season. Not including tonight’s game, they have 11 more games, eight of them on the road. So the picture should become a little clearer in the coming weeks. If the Blackhawks are still in playoff contention, there’s no way they even think of trading Lehner. They might not be able to trade him even if they want to make a deal because as enticing as a top-tier goaltender would be for the playoffs, there are precious few teams that are playoff bound that need a goaltender. The Edmonton Oilers, who are getting good, but not great goaltending, are one of those teams. The last time they made a deadline deal to get a goalie was 2006 and it worked out pretty well. They made a deal for Dwayne Roloson, who carried them to the Stanley Cup final and might have won it for them had he not gotten hurt in Game 1 of the final. Regardless of whether Lehner is dealt by the Blackhawks, it’s impossible to argue that he doesn’t deserve the long-term deal he was seeking from the New York Islanders over the summer. There have been a total of 37 goaltenders in the NHL who have played at least 60 games over the past two seasons and of those goalies, Lehner is second in save percentage to Ben Bishop. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Yzerman Pleased With Givani Smith And Blashill Trying To Make A Point

(1/22/2020)

from Ansar Khan of Mlive, Givani Smith has scored two goals in 14 games with the Detroit Red Wings but hasn’t celebrated either, since they came late in one-sided losses. There will be more goals and many more games for the big, abrasive forward. Smith has made a good impression since being recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Dec. 30. He forechecks hard, grinds down low, plays physical and doesn’t back down. General manager Steve Yzerman likes what he’s seen, telling people in the organization he’s pleased that Smith goes to the net aggressively. continued from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, A little after noon Tuesday, a pair of goaltenders wanted to know where their Detroit Red Wings teammates were. Practice was supposed to be underway, but the only players on the ice were Jonathan Bernier and Calvin Pickard, who went through skating and shooting drills with goaltending coach Jeff Salajko. The question came up because they wanted to face shots. The answer: Detention. Practice was delayed about half an hour because coach Jeff Blashill was adamant players stick around until they understood the assignment regarding systematic play. The Wings, who lost to the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, on Monday, take a five-game losing streak into Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Wild. “It was a meeting that I wasn’t going to leave until we had it straight,” Blashill said after an optional practice at Xcel Energy Center. “We have to get better at our d-zone coverage. So until everybody had a chance to make sure everybody understood, we weren’t leaving that meeting, and if it went a little long, it went a little long.” continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

A Meeting And Injury Updates

(1/21/2020)

from Dana Wakiji of DetroitRedWings.com, Although only 11 players took part in the optional on-ice practice, every player was part of a lengthy meeting beforehand. "It was a meeting that I wasn't going to leave until we had it straight," Blashill said. "We gotta get better. I talked about it last night. We gotta get better in our D zone coverage. So until everybody had a chance to make sure everyone understood, we weren't leaving that meeting. If we went a little long, it went a little long." Bowey said he thought everyone got a lot out of the meeting. "Just right now I think it comes down to structure for us, supporting each other all around the ice," Bowey said. "I think in the D-zone especially, we got to close quicker, make sure it's harder for other teams to get their top players rolling around in our defensive zone and I think just focus on that. I think we have a really good structure put in place by the coaching staff and if we just follow that, do that to the best of our abilities, it puts us in good spots to come away with wins. I think that's certainly a focus now, focusing on doing the little things right, supporting each other all around the ice and knowing who we have to cover and knowing when to shut down plays." more and other topics including an injury update on Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, "(Mantha's) still a ways away, a month maybe," Blashill said. "It's not a progress thing. I don't know if I gave you a bad timeline to start. I don't remember the timeline I gave you, to be honest with you. It just is what it is. It's gonna be a long process before he's healed." Unlike Mantha, Athanasiou had started skating before the team left. "His is a healable thing that will be healed. It just depends on when," Blashill said.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Will The Montreal Canadiens Think Of Trading Tatar And Weber?

(1/21/2020)

from Brendan Kelly of the Montreal Gazette, The big talking point as the Canadiens start their bye week is what Bergevin is going to do with his week off while many of his players are off vacationing in the sun. The Feb. 24 trade deadline day in the National Hockey League is hurtling toward us with frightening velocity and the discussion among hockey opinion-makers and Canadiens fans this week is what the general manager’s strategy should be in the next month. As a good pal of mine, a former stock trader, always says: “sell high, buy low.” That’s true on Wall St. and it’s also true in pro sports. If you believe that, then Bergevin should be dealing assets in the coming weeks. In terms of high value, you don’t get much better than Tomas Tatar and Shea Weber and that’s why he should, at the very least, go out and see what fellow GMs might offer for those two. Tatar is having another great season, with 43 points in 50 games. We all love Tuna — even more so after he scored that beauty of a shootout winner Saturday — but he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in summer 2021 and will naturally be looking for a lengthy high-price contract that off-season, a deal for a 30-year-old that would be silly for Montreal to sign. Weber, 34, is more obvious trade bait. He is also having an amazing season, but this one is just an age thing. He will not be the same kind of player when the Canadiens’ young prospects come to maturity. read on

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

It’s Bad

(1/20/2020)

Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on all the losing with the Detroit teams but I am just going to try to highlight the Wings. We knew it’d be bad. We signed up for bad. But at some point, a pointed question: How long before it’s bad enough to do something about it? The Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons have been in various stages of rebuilds for about four years.... If you happen to coach in Detroit right now, you can’t win. Also, you can’t lose. Because the Wings and Tigers are in full teardowns, Jeff Blashill and Ron Gardenhire get some slack, despite historically awful records.... The Wings have the worst record in the NHL, by far, and will have the best shot at the No. 1 pick. Blashill is 148-178-51 in five seasons, incredibly the third-longest-tenured coach in the ax-happy NHL. He’s on the thinnest ice, pun intended, although Steve Yzerman has strongly supported him. It’s not just that the Wings’ well-compensated veterans — Frans Nielsen, Jimmy Howard, Mike Green, Justin Abdelkader, etc. — have failed, it’s that the touted young players — Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou — have either been hurt or stagnant. Gerard Gallant, recently fired by Las Vegas, could be the next guy in charge, whenever that is.... The lack of urgency to fire coaches here is not about management being lazy, detached or cheap (although we can revisit those charges). It’s about owners — Chris Ilitch, Tom Gores, Martha Ford — who have mapped out plans of patience and aren’t ready to blow their covers with showy firings.... Would Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock win more games with these Wings, who have lots of injuries, no defensemen and no goaltending? Not before their heads exploded (literally!).... ’m not letting the coaches off the hook. (Yes you are!) (No I’m not!) I’m suggesting talent acquisition is a much larger issue than talent development.... That’s where Blashill, 46, has to show more, and you wonder if a few young players have stopped getting the message. It wouldn’t be a surprise, considering they’ve heard his voice since he coached some of them in Grand Rapids. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Defensemen Society

(1/19/2020)

from Ryan Dixon of Sportsnet, Dan Hamhuis is seated on the baseline of a slightly busted semi-circle. The 16-year NHLer is one of seven Nashville Predators defencemen participating in a group chat about all aspects of the position they play. It’s early December, post-practice, and backwards hats, hoodies and athleisure rule the day. The sweaty jerseys and socks have been whisked away, equipment staff are busy toiling in other areas of the team facility and the dressing room has pretty much cleared out apart from the blue-liners when Hamhuis, speaking to the idea that defencemen belong to their own little tribe, suggests that if he walked into a room full of hockey players he didn’t know, he’d eventually be able to sort out who else is part of the brotherhood without having to ask. “I think there’s a personality thing,” Hamhuis says. “I don’t want to blanket it, but I think you kind of can.” He opens it up to the room: “What do you guys think?” Ryan Ellis, plunked on a chair facing Hamhuis, senses his opportunity. “It’s like we’re more win-oriented,” he says, igniting a round of chuckles. That’s not exactly how Hamhuis was framing things, but you can see why the joke plays well. Whether it’s a bunch of blueliners skating in today’s green-light game or retired guys from more staid eras past, you don’t have to probe very hard to discover a common pride. “You’re not out to get goals and points as much as forwards,” says Hamhuis. “We’re more under-the-radar kind of guys, doing things that maybe don’t get the glory.” continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Henrik Lundqvist Watching Just Like Eli Manning Did

(1/18/2020)

from Peter Botte of the New York Post, “They’re not easy discussions, but Hank and I also have had good conversations regarding the situation we’re in,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “It’s about players adapting in their careers, and as their careers evolve. “[Lundqvist] is in a situation where he’s obviously not playing the amount he’s played in the past. That doesn’t mean he’s not a really good goalie. We have faith in him. But our organization feels that we’re gonna have three goalies here as of right now, and it’s just kind of the way it’s evolved and the situation we’re in.” The Rangers (23-19-4) have won four of their past five games, with Shesterkin and Georgiev notching two wins apiece, sandwiched around a 5-2 loss Jan. 11 in St. Louis in Lundqvist’s lone appearance between the pipes during that stretch. “It’s a bit of a challenge, for sure. In the end, you want to play. If you’re in this room, you want to play games,” said Lundqvist, who has one year remaining on his contract at a $8.5 million cap hit with no indication he’d be willing to waive his full no-trade clause. “I understand the big picture here, and at the same time, [Georgiev and Shesterkin] are playing well, both of them. I’m trying to focus on the things I can control, and that’s the way I practice and prepare. “It’s important for me not to overthink it too much, and I’m sure it was the same for [Manning] when he went through it. I know I can play well when I get the next opportunity to play and get my chance.” more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Carolina Hurricanes Without Dougie Hamilton

(1/18/2020)

from Luke DeCock of the News & Observer, There’s no replacing Hamilton, who picked up where he left off last season as an offensive dynamo, not only creating chances for others but finishing them himself, and doing a far more credible job in his own end at the same time. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce were already shouldering a heavy load as part of the defensive foundation with Hamilton; their nights aren’t going to get any shorter. Slavin played 25:23, third-most this season, in Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Pesce played 25:34, second-most for him. That’s the new normal for both in the post-Hamilton reality. The Hurricanes are hoping the way they played isn’t. Hamilton’s absence alone doesn’t excuse a dismal performance against a Western Conference bottom-feeder after Sebastian Aho staked the Hurricanes to the lead in the first four minutes. “That’s a huge part of our team missing,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “But we have a lot of guys in there. I don’t think we were sharp. That was clearly evident.” The Hurricanes were in the market for a top-four capable defenseman before Hamilton went down, but that quest was upgraded from “if possible” to “by all means necessary.” Unfortunately for them, everyone else in the NHL knows it. Whatever the prices they saw before were, they just went up. Fortunately, they have the salary-cap space to do it, and maybe even add a veteran depth guy as well. Ideally sooner rather than later. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Ready For The Bye Week

(1/17/2020)

from Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic, All the bye weeks are scheduled around the 2020 All-Star break – which takes place Jan. 24-25 in St. Louis. Seventeen teams will have their bye weeks going into the All-Star weekend and 14 teams will have their bye weeks coming out of it. Tampa and Anaheim play their final games before the break this Friday (Jan. 17). Most teams have either seven or eight days off. Colorado has the longest stretch without games.... According to Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland, it took the league time to get the bye-week scheduling correct, but he believes the new, revised schedule is “perfect” – because it maximizes the benefits to players and staff, but minimizes the disruption to the NHL regular season schedule. “It’s trial and error,” said Holland. “When we went into those first manager meetings (to discuss how to implement bye weeks), I looked at those Olympic years, when everybody had 10 or 11 days off, and everyone seemed to enjoy a 10-day mid-winter vacation. If you were in the Olympics, you loved being part of the tournament. If you didn’t play, you loved taking a break. But everyone was on a level playing field. “To the credit of the schedule maker and the people at the league, they came up with this idea of, half the league shuts down pre-All Star and half the league shuts down after. So, you continue to have games – because it’s important to have the league on TV on an every-night basis.” much more (paid) on this topic plus other, in-depth topics, take some time and read them all...

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Next Coach To Be Fired

(1/17/2020)

from Jared Clinton of The Hockey News, in a year that has been among the most coach-unfriendly in NHL history, here are five candidates to be next in the firing line: Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings Blashill has the remainder of this season and the entirety of next on his contract, but it’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which he’s back behind Detroit’s bench to finish out his pact. The truth is that there’s not much about this season that is solely Blashill’s fault. His roster is among the worst in the league, the Red Wings lack depth at all positions, the veteran players they do possess are on the back-nine of their respective careers…the list goes on. Those are all the failings of past management, areas that current GM Steve Yzerman has been tasked with addressing. That said, it’s impossible to believe any coach, particularly one who’s not a first-year bench boss with the organization, is going to be able to survive a season that has been this abysmal. The Red Wings are on pace for the lowest point total of any team in an 82-game season in the post-lockout era. Detroit only recently scored its 100th goal of the season. The Red Wings have a minus-81 goal differential. If we wanted to keep piling on here, we definitely could. Let’s just leave it at this: Blashill appears to be a sitting duck and it’ll be legitimately surprising if he’s coaching the Red Wings next season. four more coaches...

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Topic Of The Day Is Jeff Blashill

(1/16/2020)

from Ansar Khan of Mlive, Coaches generally bear the brunt of the blame in bad times, so it’s no surprise many fans are calling for Jeff Blashill’s ouster with the Detroit Red Wings on pace for their worst season in 34 years. Media has speculated whether he might be replaced by former Red Wing Gerard Gallant, who on Wednesday became the seventh coach fired this season when Vegas replaced him with Peter DeBoer. Blashill is blocking it out and continuing to search for solutions to improve this team. “I learned right away, in this league especially, not to pay any attention -- especially when it’s not going well, to any of that stuff,” Blashill said. “Certainly, I appreciate the passion of our fanbase 100 percent. I think our fanbase overall has an idea of where we’re at in the building process, more so than when I probably first got the job. I think they understand if you have a salary cap and a draft, then the nature of pro sports is cyclical, and they understand where we’re at in the cycle.” continued from Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News, Replacing Blashill with former Wings’ player and Yzerman teammate, Gerard Gallant, who was fired Wednesday as Vegas’ coach, is a popular notion right now. But Larkin, who has had no other NHL coach other than Blashill, fully backed Blashill after Thursday’s practice and highlighted Blashill's strengths. “We’ve grown together in this league and I have a lot of respect for him,” Larkin said. “He’s a great guy, a great dad, and great coach and he’s well respected in the room. “He’s my coach, and I’m his player, and that’s about as far as it goes.” more