Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

No Rebuild For The Pittsburgh Penguins At This Point

(1/23/2022)

from Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Detroit won its last Stanley Cup in 2008, kept its core together too long and aged out. Los Angeles won its last Stanley Cup in 2014, kept its core together too long and aged out. Chicago won its last Stanley Cup in 2015, kept its core together too long and aged out. Detroit has missed the playoffs since 2016 and hasn’t won a playoff series since 2013. Los Angeles has missed the playoffs in five of the last seven seasons and hasn’t won a playoff series since 2014. Chicago has missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and has won one playoff series since 2015. Of those teams, only the Kings are currently in a playoff spot. (By a measly three points.) I keep waiting for the Pittsburgh Penguins to hit a wall, too. But they’re a lock to make the playoffs for an incredible 16th straight season. Full disclosure: The Penguins haven’t won a playoff series since 2018. But the Penguins won their division last season and would have won their first-round playoff series had goaltender Tristan Jarry not soiled the bed. The Penguins’ long-time core won the Stanley Cup in 2009, again in 2016 and ’17 and might be getting a third wind. What makes the Penguins different than Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago? Why haven’t they aged out? That’s simple: The Penguins’ core is a lot better than the core for any of those teams and clearly has more staying power. continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Teams In The Atlantic Division

(1/22/2022)

Matt Porter of the Boston Globe takes a look in the Atlantic Division... The Bruins are a solid team. Are they more? Adding a true No. 2 center would help Bergeron and Tuukka Rask get another shot. Getting something for Jake DeBrusk, whether it’s a package deal for Tomas Hertl in San Jose, or straight up for another player looking for a fresh start, is probably their best option. The Red Wings are in the best shape of any of the Atlantic rebuilders, with Calder Trophy candidates at three positions (winger Lucas Raymond, defenseman Moritz Seider, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic) and lots of cap space. Someone might want Vladislav Namestnikov, Danny DeKeyser, or Nick Leddy as a rental. They could be players by laundering someone else’s bad contract. Though Steve Yzerman probably wants to see what his group is made of, it could be wiser to stop chasing a wild-card spot. The best recent news for Buffalo is that Rasmus Dahlin seems to be putting it together. The Sabres have three first-round picks (their own, Florida’s, Vegas’s) and need to keep surrounding the 21-and-under group of Dahlin, Dylan Cozens, Payton Krebs, and Jack Quinn with talent. They’ve got enough cap space to make the market move at the deadline. As for Ottawa, we’re officially in the time of “unparalleled success” owner Eugene Melnyk promised. In 2019, Melnyk proclaimed that his team would spend close to the cap from 2021-25. Entering the weekend, they were T-31 in the league. more teams and more hockey topics...

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Short Shifts From The Week

(1/22/2022)

from Luke Fox of Sportsnet, 1. We’ve seen what a key absence or two can do to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ blue line — expose its lack of depth. For a club with Stanley Cup aspirations, there should be no question that general manager Kyle Dubas will do his best to bolster his greatest weakness in advance of the March 21 deadline. Would Dallas trade bait John Klingberg make the Leafs better? Absolutely. But we're not certain Klingberg is the perfect solution for this roster’s needs — or that Dubas can put together the best package to land him. There are a handful of cheaper defenders on expiring contracts that check the proper boxes: experience playing against the opposition’s top six; kills penalties; capable of playing the right side; physical; and a cap hit that, with some massaging, could work. Let’s take an early peek at eight impending UFAs, in descending order, who could be on Dubas’s wish list.... 2. Ryan McDonagh was nervous; Victor Hedman was motivated. “I'm not going to lie. I had trouble napping today because I was pretty excited,” Hedman told reporters. Two-time defending champions rarely get dealt an extraordinary test in January, one that might hinder a Norris and Conn Smythe trophy winner’s ability to sleep. But the Tampa Bay Lightning walked into Staples Center Tuesday knowing they only had four defenceman available. “It’s something new. It’s clearly not ideal,” coach Jon Cooper said postgame. “He was excited for this challenge. There’s guys that rise to the challenge. There’s guys that don’t.” In case you didn’t already understand which category Hedman falls into, he went out and scored two pretty goals, set up a third with a primary assist and chugged an eye-popping 32:37 in ice time, propelling Tampa and its four defencemen to a 6-4 win in L.A.... more on each of the above topics plus more notes...

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Rest In Peace Clark Gillies

(1/22/2022)

from the New York Islanders, The New York Islanders are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of legendary power-forward and Hockey Hall of Fame member Clark Gillies. "The entire Islanders community is devastated by the loss of Clark Gillies," Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He epitomized what it means to be a New York Islander. The pride he felt wearing the Islanders sweater on the ice was evident by his willingness to do anything to win. Off the ice, he was just as big of a presence, always taking the time to give back to the local community. The New York Islanders have four Stanley Cups because of the sacrifices he and the members of those dynasty teams made for the franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Gillies family." Gillies, 67, a native of Moose Jaw, SK, was a member of the Islanders from 1974-75 through 1985-86. He was selected by the Islanders in the first round (4th overall) of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. As a member of the Islanders, Gillies played in 872 games (fifth all-time in franchise history), scoring 304 goals (fourth all-time in franchise history) and 359 assists (fifth all-time in franchise history) for 663 points (fourth all-time in franchise history). He played in 159 playoff games for the Islanders, scoring 47 goals and 46 assists for 93 points. Gillies was one of 17 Islanders players that won four straight Stanley Cups Championships from 1980-1983. He also was a member of the group that set the NHL record of 19 straight playoff series wins, a mark that still stands today. continued I am saddended by this news, he was a true power forward. added 11:24pm, How tough was Gilies?  Watch below.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Discussing A Zadina For Brannstrom Trade

(1/20/2022)

Max Bultman and Ian Mendes of The Athletic discuss a Filip Zadina trade to Ottawa for Erik Brannstrom. Bultman: I don’t think it works for Detroit. Change of scenery trades do happen in the NHL, and Brannstrom is certainly young enough that he could very well pop in new surroundings (or, of course, with more time in Ottawa). But I’m not sure Brannstrom really checks many boxes for the Red Wings right now. For starters, he’s not the profile of defenseman they’ve targeted so far under Yzerman — over the last three years, Detroit has gravitated toward defenseman with long, rangy builds, whereas Brannstrom stands 5-foot-10. Add in that the offense hasn’t actually materialized yet for Brannstrom, and the fit looks tenuous. But beyond that, Detroit’s left-side defense pipeline is one of the areas the franchise has invested the most draft capital in recent years — using a first-rounder, three second-rounders, and two third-round picks on left shot ‘D’ in the last three years alone. So trading a young player at one of their positions of relative weakness (scoring wing) for a left-shot ‘D’ who is outside their typical profile at the position is just tough for me to see. The Red Wings will likely need short-term left-side ‘D’ help next year, with some key contracts expiring. But I think it’s more likely they’ll look to add veteran stability to insulate young prospects like Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson when they arrive, rather than another relatively unproven blueliner — even knowing Brannstrom’s pedigree. much more (paid subscription)

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

A Tough Spot For The Media

(1/19/2022)

from Scott Burnside of the Daily Faceoff, There was a time when a veteran reporter like Jim Matheson in Edmonton, a member of the media arm of the Hockey Hall of Fame I might add, would have walked into the Edmonton Oilers locker room on an off day and maybe waited until the television cameras moved on, and sat down next to Leon Draisaitl and asked him about the many problems afflicting the slumping Edmonton Oilers. Maybe Matheson, whom I have known and respected as a true pro since I got in this business almost 25 years ago, would have asked the same questions he asked Tuesday. Questions that were recorded in our new Zoom life and immediately digested, debated and digested and debated some more by folks on social media, the vast majority of whom have never had occasion to speak to a pro athlete, let alone ask one of the best players in the world why his team sucks. That’s not an indictment of the commentary necessarily. Hey, it’s social media. Have at it, although it always infuriates me when other ‘journalists’ weigh in on these kinds of situations in what I can only assume is an effort to curry favor with their social media tribe. Don’t you have anything better to do? But I digress. More than highlight the manner in which the Edmonton Oilers’ season has gone down the rabbit hole, Tuesday’s awkward interchange reinforces the great disconnect that has been created and exacerbated in these pandemic times between the player, coaches and executives of NHL teams and the reporters whose job it is to try and share the stories, good and bad, with the fans who are the lifeblood of the game. continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Overnight Hockey Thoughts

(1/19/2022)

from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, - Elsewhere, I think Edmonton’s looking harder at acquiring a goalie. Remember: Jaroslav Halak has control in Vancouver and doesn’t seem inclined to move. The Oilers are changing course on this issue because missing the playoffs is not an option and the frustration is boiling over. Scouting meetings are in California this week, so owner Daryl Katz can be heard first-hand. I don’t get too riled up about the Jim Matheson-Leon Draisaitl skirmish. It happens, particularly when teams are losing. I’ve been on the receiving end; try to roll my eyes and move on. The added challenge now is, with restricted access due to Covid, there’s no opportunity for a media member and a player to privately sort things out. Only adds to the disconnect. What I would be concerned about from an Oilers point-of-view is the open frustration from Connor McDavid, Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and others. It’s multiple people over multiple days. That’s really bad; only wins stop an avalanche of negativity. - Last week, mentioned that Carolina and Colorado will be in every trade rumour. I’d like to add Florida — for a defenceman. (There are teams who suspect they are in on Jakob Chychrun). It’s an all-in year for the Panthers. They’re really good and one more defender would be perfect for them. - Purely my opinion, but I’m wondering about Patrik Laine. He needs a new contract next season before unrestricted free agency beckons. He’s shown he’s not afraid to play for his qualifying offer (did that this year). It comes down to Columbus. Do the Blue Jackets feel it is the best use of their resources — not only now, but down the road — to extend him at a big number and term? - The lack of cap space will be the biggest impediment to making trades. So many teams are so tight, or in long-term injury. Arizona is using two of three retained-salary slots (Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson), so the Coyotes can only do one more. Other teams with space (Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, Ottawa) could be kingmakers here. more Thoughts

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Playing With Four Defensemen, The Tampa Bay Lightning Defeated The LA Kings

(1/19/2022)

from Mari Faiello of the Tampa Bay Times, The self-proclaimed Tampa Bay “Find-A-Ways” found a way, once again, when the odds were stacked against them. Tuesday against the Kings, injuries to three of their defensemen — Jan Rutta, Erik Cernak and Zach Bogosian — forced the Lightning to start their three-game west coast swing with just 16 skaters. But the team’s tenacity and heavy puck possession made the difference in a 6-4 win in Los Angeles. “(We’ve faced) adversity with guys getting hurt, adversity within the game,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You can look at some of the bounces that went against us, and guys just kept fighting, battling, showed a lot of emotion. ... (We) just executed and closed them out.” To remain salary-cap compliant — the team is maxed out at $81.5 million with 22 players — the Lightning were forced to play without a full active roster since none of the missing players (Rutta, Cernak, Bogosian and forward Ondrej Palat) will go on long-term injured reserve, which requires players to miss 10 games and 24 days.... “You can look at it two ways,” Hedman said. “You can look at it and feel sorry for yourself or you can look at it as an opportunity, and that’s how we approached it (Tuesday).” Hedman contributed three points, including the opening goal in the first period, the primary assist on Nikita Kucherov’s second-period goal and the go-ahead goal in the third. His 32:37 of ice time led the team, 3:19 more than McDonagh. read on Watch the game highlights below.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Thoughts On The Wings

(1/18/2022)

from Max Bultman of The Athletic, Here are 10 thoughts on Nedeljkovic, where Detroit sits at the season’s midpoint, and some potential big decisions on the horizon. - Nedeljkovic has been the Red Wings’ No. 1 for a while now, but Jeff Blashill made clear just how highly he thinks of Nedeljkovic on Sunday. “Through the course of this season, he’s had a number of moments where I think he’s looked like a guy who can really be an elite goaltender in this league,” Blashill said. He immediately followed that statement by talking about how hard that status is to prove, and about the ebb-and-flow nature of the position. By definition, it’s really hard to be elite, and it’s even harder to be at that level consistently. Blashill is smart to include that caveat when he uses that word for that reason. But it’s notable enough that he used it at all, even if speaking primarily about potential. - So far, though, Nedeljkovic’s numbers do indeed put him on the doorstep of that level.... - So, here’s a reality check. Despite being the Eastern Conference’s ninth-place team, the Red Wings’ mathematical path to the postseason is already virtually non-existent. In the NHL’s last five full (82-game) seasons, the final wild-card team in the East finished with somewhere between 95 and 98 points. If that 98 number held up this year, Detroit would need to amass 57 points over their final 42 games — a number that, by points percentage, is better than the first halves (so far) of Washington, Boston and Pittsburgh. more ($$$)

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Today’s Win, A First And Extended Highlights

(1/17/2022)

from Kevin Allen of Detroit Hockey Now, Here are five takeaways from the game: Larkin’s Career Season With 18 goals in 35 games, he’s on a pace to better his 2018-19 season when he tallied 32 goals in 76 games. Coming off last season’s neck injury, Larkin is playing with much more authority. He is using his speed more effectively. Larkin has continued to improve in the faceoff circle. In Monday’s afternoon game, Larkin won 78% of his draws against the Sabres. Larkin was a big reason why the Red Wings controlled the puck in overtime. “I’ve talked about it a lot this year, the ups and downs,” Larkin said. “I’ve really tried to focus on just staying in the middle and being there for the guys and winning hockey games. When you do that, you put the team first and have that mentality, it’s amazing what it does for you personally. I just try to show up every night and play hard. It’s going well right now.” Namestnikov Spark With the Red Wings trailing 2-0, Vladislav Namestnikov scored a shorthanded goal at 10:21 of third period to create the turning point of the game. read on from Bob Duff of Detroit Hockey Now, Over nearly a century of play, the accomplishments and achievements of this franchise have been many. But until Monday afternoon, the Red Wings had never beaten a team three times in overtime during the same NHL regular season. Detroit’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory at Buffalo was the fourth this season by the Red Wings over the Sabres. It was also the third that they’d worked extra time to earn. read on Below, watch extended highlights from today's game.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Hard Work Has Paid Off For Kyle Connor

(1/17/2022)

from Nicholos J. Cotsonika of NHL.com, Connor's journey hasn't been a straight line, but it all goes back to that garage mentality: Work hard to make the most of your talent. Love it so much it doesn't feel like work. "He's always one of the hardest workers on the ice," said Detroit Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who played with and against Connor growing up and trains with him in the offseason. "He's always giving it 100 percent, and it's no surprise. I wasn't really surprised when I [saw] him putting up 25, 30 goals a year. I think he's honestly pretty underrated throughout the League as a goal-scorer." When Connor was little, his family lived in New Baltimore, Michigan. He'd Rollerblade in the cul-de-sac and play hockey in the unfinished basement. Later, his family moved to a house on Blue Cloud Drive in Shelby Township, Michigan, perfect for a kid with his head in the clouds and a drive to play in the NHL. The lot was big enough for his father, Joe, to build a backyard rink, so he could come home from practice, turn on the lights and skate for hours outdoors. Sometimes he'd shoot on a cousin who played goalie. "He was always busy doing stuff," said his mother, Kathy. "He was not a kid that would sit around on a Saturday afternoon." His mother said he would shoot 100 pucks a day when he started working in the garage, breaking a window once, leaving marks on the concrete and cinderblocks. Joe Smaza, his coach then, said it was probably more like 500 pucks a day -- the first 100 as hard as possible to build strong hands, the next 100 to pick one upper corner, the next 100 to pick the other upper corner and so on, each shot with a purpose. "I honestly felt that helped a lot with just having a quick release and just muscle memory and being able to shoot the puck like that," Connor said. "It's something where it's fun as well." much more