Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Now What Toronto?

(5/16/2022)

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, This is eight seasons for Shanahan on the job, with his hand-picked general manager Kyle Dubas and the GM’s hand-picked coach Sheldon Keefe. In sports, that’s a lifetime on the job. In those eight seasons, six of them in the playoffs, one of them bottoming out which brought them, Auston Matthews, they are one of just five teams in the NHL to not have won a playoff series in that time. Toronto. New Jersey, Detroit. Los Angeles. Seattle. This is the company the Leafs now find themselves among. New Jersey won a bunch of Stanley Cups years ago. The Red Wings had an amazing run of championships and near championships. The Kings won two just before Shanahan was hired. As also-ran go, the Leafs are in their own territory.... A team with an owner would be firing somebody this week because that’s what owners tend to do. They act emotionally. They hear fans. They don’t always do the right thing. And sometimes an owner says to his president, you have to fire your general manager, and the president says no. And the owner counters with, okay, then I’m firing you. And maybe the owner is firing the GM. And maybe that means the coach is going too. The difficulty in all this is that Shanahan has positioned the Leafs to succeed, except when it matters most. Dubas has done some fine work, only the teams he has built haven’t won a thing. Keefe has an amazing regular-season record as coach, but a .421 record in the post-season. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Coaching Style Will Matter To Lou Lamoriello

(5/14/2022)

from Larry Brooks of the New York Post, No, of course Lou Lamoriello did not seek his players’ permission to dismiss Barry Trotz, are you kidding me? But you also couldn’t be more naive if you believe that feedback elicited during the players’ exit meetings did not influence the Islanders’ supreme hockey leader’s decision to cut ties with the coach who had brought the franchise its greatest run of success since the Dynasty. Those meetings, according to sources with knowledge of the events, did not include the threat of mutiny. But we are told that enough players — and ones who mattered — expressed frustration over the team’s single-dimensional, safety-first, safety-last, grinding approach to the 82-game marathon in this era in which high-end skilled athletes dominate the regular season. Chances are that these conversations ratified Lamoriello’s independent, eye-test analysis rather than opening his eyes to fissures that might have developed during this longest season. When it comes to Lamoriello and coaches, it is never about what has been accomplished in the past. It is always about whether Lamoriello believes he has a coach who can take his team to the next level. The next level always means the Stanley Cup. Even though Trotz has already won one Cup, with Washington in 2018, that mattered about as much as it did to Lamoriello when he fired Larry Robinson in New Jersey a year and a half after winning the 2000 Cup. continued

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

League Wide Talk

(5/14/2022)

from Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, - Tony Amonte scored 416 goals as a speedy winger, but the Hingham product might have been going a little too hard on the forecheck during an NBC Sports Boston segment after Bruins-Hurricanes Game 6. Noting that Bergeron’s former agent, Kent Hughes, is now Montreal’s GM and that Bergeron “grew up watching the Canadiens,” Amonte claimed Bergeron will finish his career with the Habs. “I’ve heard a little bit,” Amonte said, sounding less than confident in his take. “Rumblings have been going on. People have been talking a little bit.” There’s a better chance Tom Brady finishes his career with the Expos. - Could see Winnipeg leaning into the hard-to-play-against style of Barry Trotz (who, yes, hails from Dauphin, Manitoba). No team with a vacancy could use Trotz more than the Flyers, who have lost their way. - A first-round exit was a stinger for Minnesota, which got seven goals in six games from budding superstar Kirill Kaprizov but couldn’t get past the Blues. Roster-wise, the Wild are in decent shape, with a fair amount of good contracts around Kaprizov (47 goals, 108 points in the regular season). No better example than center Ryan Hartman, who delivered 34 goals and 65 points at a $1.7 million price tag. But GM Bill Guerin might be hamstrung by last offseason’s buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, whose combined cap hit jumps to more than $12 million next season (and $14 million in 2024 and ‘25). more notes and other hockey topics too...

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Tour Ted Lindsay Award Finalists

(5/13/2022)

TORONTO (May 13, 2022) - The National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today the three finalists for the 2021-22 Ted Lindsay Award are defenceman Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, forward Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. The TLA is presented annually “to the most outstanding player in the NHL,” as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA. Josi is seeking his first TLA as a first-time finalist, while McDavid is looking to receive his second consecutive and fourth TLA in six seasons, and Matthews is vying for his first TLA after finishing as a finalist last season. Each of the three finalists contributed exceptional individual seasons to help their respective teams reach the playoffs  Josi led all defencemen in points, McDavid captured his fourth Art Ross Trophy and Matthews won his second Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. Earlier this week, Josi was also announced as a finalist for the James Norris Trophy, and Matthews and McDavid were each named finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy. The 2021-22 TLA recipient will be announced later this spring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs (exact date TBD). Formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award, the TLA is the namesake of the first president of the original Players’ Association and NHLPA pioneer, Ted Lindsay. This season marks the 51st presentation of the award. The three TLA finalists received the most votes from their fellow players based on their 2021-22 regular-season campaigns, and are listed in alphabetical order as follows:

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The St. Louis Blues Advance To Round 2 Of The Stanley Cup Playoffs

(5/13/2022)

from Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Confident, cohesive and a little crazy, the Blues stepped off the bus that freezing Winter Classic afternoon in beach wear. Undaunted by Minnesota (both the hockey team and the elements), the “Beach Boys” won the outdoor game. And so, after every Blues home win since, Beach Boys music blared. Sure enough, it happened Thursday at Enterprise Center, as Minnesota’s players, suddenly on summer vacation, became “Beach Boys” themselves. The swagger-fueled Blues swatted away the Wild for the fourth time in six games, winning 5-1 on Thursday to advance to the second round. And along the way, the Blues overcame seemingly all the adversity — be it injured defensemen and a struggling goalie — and all their adversaries — be it Kirill Kaprizov or Marcus Foligno, who said Thursday morning: “We went into Vegas last year in that hostile arena, crazy fans, much louder than this rink, and we stole a game. That's what we have to do tonight.” They didn’t do it. And while I’ve never been to the Vegas rink, I can’t imagine it being that much louder than Enterprise Center was Thursday night. And we knew the Blues needed to demoralize the Wild early — but really, it was a two-period process. And an impressive one. Nick Leddy (Nick Leddy?) scored the first and only first-period goal, but after two, the Blues led 4-0. How did they do it? With confidence and cohesion. They killed penalties diabolically. They won puck battles on the boards. And they got contributions from seemingly everyone. And really, that’s the spirit of the playoffs — and the spirit of this team. The Blues are, indeed, a team. And it takes a team. continued Below find the game highlights and handshakes.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Choke Is A Difficult Word To Use

(5/12/2022)

from Mark Spector of Sportsnet, • With the series in their grasp — tied 2-2 and at home in Game 5 — Edmonton came up small. They started slow, had a burst early in the second period, but had just 14 shots on goal after 40 minutes. Then, after a third-period flourish that forced overtime, Edmonton coughed up a goal on the first shift of overtime. Even with a second chance to win after an awful regulation, they came up short once again in OT. • Choking can be defined by an uncharacteristic performance at the most crucial moment. When the heat is on, and an athlete does something he wouldn’t normally do, that’s a choke job. Well, the two biggest self-inflicted wounds in this series were authored by 40-year-old goalie Mike Smith, whose Game 1 turnover cost his team the game, and a head butt late in the second period of Game 5 that will see Nurse miss Game 6. Those aren’t kids making five-star mistakes. Those are Edmonton’s leaders. • On the overtime goal in Game 5, Evander Kane — as good a forward as Edmonton has had for weeks — committed the neutral-zone turnover that led to Adrian Kempe’s winner. He couldn’t deliver the puck to L.A.’s zone, the quick turnover left Connor McDavid in a poor spot to defend, and Duncan Keith with an impossible gap. The veteran defenceman was exposed wide by Kempe, but a victim of a play by Kane that left tired Oilers in a bad spot against a fresh Kempe. “Competition brings out the best in you, but sometimes it brings out the worst in you,” Murray said that day. “If you stop competing, you are never going to break through. And you are going to be in one of those teams that were also-rans your whole life. “You're going to choke.” The moment was too big for this Oilers team in Game 5. They choked. But that doesn’t mean the series is lost. more

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Pittsburgh Penguins Could Use Tristan Jarry Right About Now

(5/12/2022)

from Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Everybody in hockey – OK, with the exception of the Rangers -- is hoping this Crosby injury is relatively minor. He’s too good for the game to miss more time. His performances are must-see entertainment. But the Penguins, still up 3-2 in the series, are going to need more than just Crosby to get that fourth win to finish off the Rangers. They also will need Tristan Jarry. I get the love affair with Louis Domingue. Pittsburgh justifiably has made him a hockey cult hero. He deserves every bit of that after coming off the bench cold in the second overtime of Game 1 with a full belly of spicy pork and broccoli and making 17 saves to give the Penguins a chance to finally win in the third overtime on Evgeni Malkin’s goal. I also get that Domingue, a career journeyman by definition, hasn’t been awful. He made a huge third-period save on an Artemi Panarin shot in Game 3 moments before Danton Heinen scored the winning goal for the Penguins. He also made a tremendous save on 52-goal man Chris Kreider on a four-on-one early in the third period Wednesday night to keep the Rangers’ lead at 4-3. Domingue should never have to buy another dinner or drinks in Pittsburgh again even if his meal is something more substantial than spicy pork and broccoli. But Domingue has allowed 15 goals in his four starts. His save performance in those games is .873. That’s just not good enough. That’s why it was so encouraging to see Jarry, who hasn’t played since April 14 because of a broken foot, on the ice for the Penguins’ optional skate Wednesday morning. more Below watch the game highlights from the Penguins 5-3 loss to the Rangers.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

The Tampa Bay Lightning Are Down But Not Out

(5/11/2022)

from John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times, In a Stanley Cup playoff series filled with stars and backstories, we have been obsessed with the ramifications of penalties and the influence of pressure on Toronto and Tampa Bay. We wonder about momentum and motivation and mindset. And we forget that sometimes it just comes down to moments. Game 5 was like that Tuesday night. For a long stretch, the Lightning looked dominant and their knack for rising to the occasion seemed an integral part of the plot. And then, once again, foolish penalties became an issue and Toronto came roaring back. Both teams scored during a thrilling third period and, for a while, it looked like they might be heading to overtime for the first time in the series. Until the seemingly mundane chore of taking the puck up the ice cost the Lightning dearly in a 4-3 loss. And, in 48 hours, we’ll know if it cost them a chance for a third consecutive Stanley Cup.... This is new territory for the Lightning. At least this current version of the team. The Lightning have faced elimination only one time in the past two postseasons, and that was a Game 7 at home against the Islanders. The last time they faced the prospect of needing to win both Games 6 and 7 of a series was the 2015 Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks. They lost Game 6 that year, 2-0. “We’re here to win the series,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “We lost a game (Tuesday). Like I said, we let this one slip away. That’s on us. But we haven’t let the series slip away, we let a game slip away.” more Below are the game highlights.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

All About The Draft Lottery

(5/10/2022)

from Mike Johnston of Sportsnet, The Montreal Canadiens carry the best odds this year after finishing a league-worst 22-49-11 only one season after a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens have held the No. 1 pick an NHL record five times, however all those instances occurred between 1963 and 1980. The last time a Canadian franchise besides the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs had the top pick was in 1996 when the Ottawa Senators used it to take Chris Phillips. WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS YEAR’S LOTTERY? The draft lottery underwent a couple tweaks to its format in 2021. Not only was there the addition of a 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken, but the NHL downsized to two lotteries instead of three. There had been separate draws held for each of the top three picks from 2016 to 2020. Two new changes go into effect this year and the main alteration is a big one. Teams will now be restricted from moving up more than 10 spots in the pre-draft order. This means that unlike in the preceding years, not all teams participating in the lottery are eligible to win one of the top two picks. The main purpose for this change was to ensure the team that finishes last in the standings in the regular season won’t be slated to pick any worse than third overall. Also going forward, no team can win the top pick in the draft lottery more than twice in a five-year span. Whichever team wins the No. 1 pick on Tuesday will only be eligible to do so one more time between 2023 and 2026. The Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils each won the draft lottery multiple times over the past decade. more I'll have a post going up at 5:45pm so you folks can discuss the lottery picks.

Paul Kukla (Kukla's Korner)

Patrick Marleau Announces His Retirement

(5/10/2022)

from Patrick Marleau at The Players' Tribune, I was three years old when my dad, Denis, took me to skate at the local rink in Aneroid for the first time. He said I got halfway around the rink, turned around and headed back to him, handing him the chair he’d given me for balance. “I don’t want this,” was all I said, and then I turned and went back out on the ice.  I fell in love with being out there at a young age. Hockey has always brought me a happiness I can’t put into words. It’s the smell of the rink, the laughs with my teammates, the competition, the thrill of victory, and yes, even the sorrow of defeat that fuels the fire to go out and try again. I was lucky to find my passion when I did, from that very first lap. Soon, I was skating each and every chance I got. Sometimes, that was on the dugout of our family’s farm. There was a watering hole that the cattle used to drink from, and in the winter it would freeze. So, we would make a hole for the cows to get what they needed, and the rest would be frozen and waiting for my brother and I to play our own version of an NHL game. I idolized Mario Lemieux growing up, so I would pretend to be him winning Stanley Cups for the Penguins. Right there, during those brutal Saskatchewan winters, my dream was born. I’d come home in tears with frozen feet, and my mom would slowly warm me back up. Those core memories, all centered on hockey and family, make up so much of who I am. They are still the most important things in my life today. continued