Hockey Hearsay compiles stories from around the hockey world and runs weekdays, 12 months a year.
FLAMES’ HARTLEY OFFERS ROY INSIGHT
The Calgary Herald elicits keenly insightful comments from Flames coach Bob Hartley on Patrick Roy, who is heavily rumoured to become the next coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Hartley coached Roy when both were with those same Avs years ago.
A time-worn theory is that great players seldom made the transference to great coaches in any sport.
“He’s gonna be different than a lot of them because along with a lot of talent he had a fantastic attention to detail,” predicts Hartley. “Coaching is all about details. Patrick never sat on his talent. He’d have a bad game and I’d be driving home from the game with a smile on my face because I knew we’d have a good chance to win the next 10. The next morning the lion would come out of his cage and he’d be on the ice 45 minutes before everybody else, he’d have sat in the video room an hour before everybody else, watching the goals he’d given up, punching the walls. When we started on the ice, he’d skate by me and say ‘I won’t give up that kind of goal again for a long, long time.’ And all I’d say is: ‘I know.’
“He’s the best winner I’ve ever coached. It’s not for me to say what will happen, but for him, in Colorado, it’s a natural. Especially now, with Joe (Sakic, who is the team’s new VP of Hockey Ops).”
Read the entire article to see more phenomenal quotes on why Hartley isn’t the least bit worried about Roy’s legendary hair-trigger emotional reactions.
UTICA, NEW YORK COVETS CANUCKS’ AHL AFFILIATE
The Vancouver Sun writes that the mayor of Utica, N.Y., is bullish on having the Canucks operate their American Hockey League franchise in his city and is fairly confident the team will be well supported if the franchise does indeed land there.
“Utica definitely has hockey in its blood,” mayor Robert Palmieri said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Utica is a hockey town and it’s been that way for years and years and years. I think, quite frankly, bringing in another AHL team makes a tremendous amount of sense. I think Vancouver and Utica would be just a perfect marriage for great hockey in this area.
“I’m very optimistic. We are a city on the rise and I think there is a lot of interest in hockey. Behind the scenes, we’ve been working diligently for multiple months and I’m very encouraged. I think it would be outstanding for civic pride for Utica to have another AHL team.”
KARLSSON, METHOT VS. CROSBY
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points out that whenever Sidney Crosby gets onto the ice, two Ottawa Senators defenseman — Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot — usually aren’t far behind.
“They both skate very well,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “I thought they were able to maintain a gap sufficient enough to stall him. He got some chances, too. So I’m not sure if they stopped him … or he stopped himself … or maybe it was Craig Anderson that stopped him … or maybe it was a combination of all those things.”
“Don’t turn the puck over,” said Methot. “You turn the puck over against a guy like Sidney, and he’ll burn you.”
GREENING’S DREAM COME TRUE
The Ottawa Sun imagines Colin Greening’s Game 3 overtime goal was a moment he had imagined and played out, probably a couple of hundred times, as a kid growing up in St. John’s, NL.
“When you’re in your driveway, you always picture yourself being Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. I shouldn’t say Mario Lemieux, because he was a Penguin,” said Greening. “Scoring the overtime winner, it’s something kids dream of. So to go through it, it’s pretty special. To be able to score a big goal like that, it was huge for us. We lose that game, we’re down 3-0.
“It was nice to have that, but that was two days ago. We’ve got a game (Wednesday). At the end of the day, it’s still 2-1. We’ve got to win (Wednesday). My old coach (Kurt Kleinendorst) in Binghamton had a good saying: ‘With anything like that, you can enjoy it until your head hits the pillow, then the next day is a new day.’
JETS’ TROUBA FITS IN AT WORLDS
The Winnipeg Sun speculates that depending on what happens in free agency this summer, Jets prospect Jacob Trouba could very well be looked upon to jump into Winnipeg’s six-man rotation on the blue-line next season.
“It’s pretty good just confidence-wise, knowing that I can do it,” Trouba said, reflecting on being part of Team USA’s bronze medal squad at the World Championships. “I mean, I know that I can do it, but just showing that I can do it, that’s definitely something that’s helpful and will help me in the summer and going into next year.”
At Michigan he often had to be the offensive catalyst, but with the American squad he was able to focus on his defensive play first and then shift into offensive mode when it presented itself.
“I didn’t have to really force it,” he said. “That’s not my role anymore. I just have to get it into the forwards’ hands and play solid defence.
“I’m glad I went. It was pretty cool. Representing your country’s always pretty cool, and coming away with a medal is a good experience. It was a lot of fun.”
STARS NOT WORRIED ABOUT ERIKSSON
The Dallas Morning News observes Loui Eriksson did not have a good NHL season by his standards. That’s why it was nice to see him tally 10 points (5G, 5A) while playing on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin for Team Sweden at the World Championships. Eriksson got stronger as the tournament went on, and played his best in the medal round games.
“He has a long career that says he is an excellent player in this league, so I have no worries about him,” said new Stars GM Jim Nill. “Even to have one bad year in a normal career, I don’t think that’s cause for concern. But you have to be really careful with not overreacting in a shortened season like last year. It was a strange year, and I know he had a lot of different challenges with which line he was on and how he was used on the power play, so I think we look back and learn from that and move forward.”
He added: “He’s the ultimate professional, he’s a no-maintenance player, he’s just a great example for everyone. If there’s a player I’m not worried about, it’s Loui Eriksson.”
HOUSLEY, WILD LACKED TIMING
The St. Paul Pioneer Press notes the Wild had expressed interest in just-hired Nashville Predators assistant coach Phil Housley as an assistant two years ago, when he coached the U.S. Junior team to the gold medal in the World Championship in Ufa, Russia, but that didn’t work out.
“I would have jumped at the opportunity,” Housley said. “But I respect that. Now, I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. It’s the right time.”
Housley will be in Nashville on Wednesday for the official announcement.
“I’m pretty pumped,” the 21-year former NHL defenseman said Tuesday. “It’s something I wanted to do, but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. I was expecting to put out my resume this summer.”
PATIENCE PAYS OFF FOR WINGS’ KINDL
The Detroit Free Press illustrates how Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, 26, said there were times when he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get a chance to play a significant role for the Wings in the playoffs.
“For two years and a half, you’re the seventh defenseman, of course you’re thinking maybe this isn’t the team I should be playing for,” Kindl said. “Should I go somewhere else? Of course I was thinking this way too.
“But at the time, I always believed in myself that I could be part of this team and it worked out so far. I’ve gotta be confident. I am confident.”
He also noted: “I always wanted to play for this team,” he said. “This is the first year where I’ve been playing all the playoff games. I’m enjoying my life, to be honest.”
BOLTS’ THOMPSON RELISHED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE
The Tampa Bay Times relays that Lightning center Nate Thompson called winning a bronze medal with the United States at the world championship “a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.”
His time there may have even helped his advance work for the 2013-14 NHL season.
“The style of play is completely different,” Thompson said, citing the larger international ice surface, “but it can only help you. There are a lot more plays to be made out there. You’re not really dumping and chasing as much. It’s a lot more puck possession. Whenever you can play that kind of game, I think it can only help you. It improves your game with the puck.”
There’s only one way the Toronto Raptors cabinet shuffle can possibly work, and that’s if it actually does work.
Circular logic or not, a couple of playoff appearances down the road and maybe a lucky sprint to the Eastern Conference final from now, and the events behind the curtain of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment politburo will be viewed as the calm actions of wise men.
If that actually happens, history will write itself. If the decision by MLSE president and chief executive officer Tim Leiweke to fire Raptors president and ex-general manager Bryan Colangelo by keeping him around works out it will look inspired.
But all of that will have to take place. The Raptors will have to make the playoffs. They’ll have to become a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference. They’ll have to be a team that TNT or ESPN might even put on one of their broadcasts once in a blue moon.
But if none of that happens — and who wants to take that bet at the moment? — and the Raptors continue to be the NBA’s version of the chubby private school kid who keeps peeing on their shoes, then the events of the past 24 hours will be as good a place to start as any for someone trying to explain why a rich club in a massive market is on pace for 20 years of various versions of basketball failure.
And the person wearing the latest chapter in the Raptors sordid history will be Leiweke, newly installed MLSE president and CEO hired at great expense — like $6 million annually — to rewrite the entire organization’s history.
Based on the first chapter there is already going to be a plot twist required to get to a happy ending.
A summary, for those who are still covering their ears and singing Happy Birthday at the top of their lungs, trying to pretend this hasn’t happened:
On April 26 Leiweke was announced as the new president and CEO of MLSE, owners of the Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, the ACC and all kinds of other stuff. He makes very clear he wants to bring championships to a company that hasn’t won any, in any sport, and hints broadly that the Raptors are his first order of business.
Even though he doesn’t officially start until June 30 he immediately dives in on figuring out what to do with the Raptors, a matter that’s pressing because MLSE has until May 1st to pick up the option on Colangelo’s contract — a deadline pushed to May 20th by mutual agreement.
It’s clear that in the interim Colangelo fights very hard to keep his job, meeting Leiweke one-on-one over the weekend of May 4th and then sitting in on Colangelo’s presentation to the MLSE board on Tuesday, May 7th which turns into an intense, three-hour grilling of Colangelo who is coming off five straight seasons out of the playoffs.
But even as Colangelo is trying to keep his job, Leiweke is trying to find his replacement, canvassing the NBA for a short list of candidates and hiring a search firm to gather background information and make discreet inquiries to gauge interest.
But as the clock ticks something happens. Leiweke decides he doesn’t want Colangelo to be the person making basketball decisions, but at the same time doesn’t want to fire him. There’s a suggestion that Colangelo may simply offer his resignation.
Instead a new contract is drawn up — terms undisclosed — where Colangelo retains the title of Raptors president but is told in no uncertain terms that what happens to his basketball team is no longer his responsibility. To the surprise of many, Colangelo says “OK” to that.
The seemingly sharp left turn is announced Tuesday on a pair of conference calls where Leiweke and Colangelo each pledge allegiance to the plan, but in the same way a movie hostage might say everything is great even as they have “help me” written on their eyelids.
“Bryan will be retained in president’s position, but will no longer be the GM,” Leiweke said in an interview prior to the announcement. “…. The new GM will have the final decision on all basketball (issues) and will report to me directly. I have structured this in a way where I am 100 per cent convinced that we can create an environment where the new GM will feel comfortable getting opinions from Bryan or others in the organization, but knowing at the end of the day they have the full wherewithal and decision-making power and I have their back on that. “
And if Colangelo — so habitually detail-conscious that he has been known to burrow deeply into discussions about the exact shade of red the trim at the Air Canada Centre floor should be painted — oversteps his boundaries?
“Bryan’s going to have to occasionally take a deep breath and understand now, that a GM is going to have a direct report (to me), and final say-so on all basketball decisions,” Leiweke said later in a conference call. “He’s going to have to live with that. And I hope he can. Because if he can’t, I’m fairly certain we’re not going to fire the Toronto Raptors.”
And Colangelo? He’s okay with this?
“It’s a unique situation for me to be in, not an ideal situation, but I’m going to embrace it and make the most of it,” he said.
It’s not like it can’t work. The things Leiweke says Colangelo will be given to focus on are important. An elite practice facility is the kind of bauble that separates serious franchises from those just happy to be in the NBA. Bidding for and hosting the 2016 NBA All-Star Game to mark the franchise’s 20th anniversary is a worthy undertaking. Working closely with Canada Basketball is important. And there’s no doubt that Colangelo can be a resource if the person who takes his job is willing to listen, and if Colangelo can colour between the lines.
But making it work? Making sure that whatever assets Colangelo might bring will outweigh the potential for distraction? Making sure that the presence of the old GM doesn’t hinder the search for a new one? That will be on Leiweke, too.
“Unlike everyone who kill Bryan, I want this structured in a format that is akin to some of the organizations in the NBA that I admire and respect, which is to have a true day-to-day GM,” said Leiweke.
“My challenge is going to be: can I make Bryan a resource there but make sure he doesn’t interfere, nor does he take away from the new GM’s ability to make decisions. And I’m going to create that environment. And I’m going to be on it day-to-day.”
Leiweke is adamant that this move — his first — was his call, and not foisted on him by ownership, even if firing then promoting Colangelo is right out of the traditionally-muddled MLSE playbook.
It’s almost irrelevant what the real story is, because Leiweke’s job is at least in part to make sure ownership doesn’t do things with their teams that seem doomed to fail.
Whether this is his idea or not, it’s Leiweke’s to wear. It will make sense if it works. Winning takes care of everything.
OTTAWA – It was a mozzarella stick that nearly did Sidney Crosby in.
Sitting in a local restaurant a couple weeks back, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain knew that he was in trouble immediately after biting into the breading with a broken jaw full of smashed teeth.
In fact, he had to reach into his throat and pry out the hot rubbery cheese to keep from choking on it. As you might imagine, it was a harrowing experience.
“It caught me by surprise,” Crosby recalled Tuesday.
While it’s the kind of situation he can laugh about now, it’s pretty clear that his latest injury was no laughing matter.
Crosby lost six or seven teeth – he can’t recall exactly how many – when he was struck in the face by a Brooks Orpik shot on March 30. It was his first shift of the game and he left a puddle of blood on the ice at Consol Energy Center.
Since then, he estimates he’s spent as much time in a dentist chair as he had in the previous few years combined. And that’s not a good thing.
“I don’t like going to dentist,” he said.
It makes his performance so far in these playoffs all the more impressive. He’s played just eight games since returning to the Penguins’ lineup after being sidelined for a month and has quickly managed to put himself among the league leaders in playoff scoring.
By now, that’s a position we’re accustomed to seeing him in.
Crosby’s post-season average of 1.34 points per game is the highest of any player since he entered the NHL in 2005. No wonder it was a point of pride for the Ottawa Senators that they managed to keep him off the scoresheet during 33 minutes eight seconds of ice time in Game 3.
The Senators have tasked the defensive pairing of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot with trying to contain Crosby in this second-round series.
Goalie Craig Anderson played a big role in that during Sunday’s game as well.
“(Karlsson and Methot) both skate very well and I thought that they were able to maintain a gap that was sufficient enough to stall him,” said Senators coach Paul MacLean. “I still look at the tape and he got some chances too.”
Methot wasn’t overly eager to bask in the glory of one successful night.
“I don’t want to go in too far,” he said. “I’ll say one thing and he’ll go out there and have a stellar game the next one.”
While Crosby insists that he feels fine – he’s back to eating virtually everything with a jaw now being held together by a titanium plate – he is also unquestionably playing through some discomfort.
For starters, the shield protecting his jaw disrupts his peripheral vision. It also gets in the way when the puck is in his skates, which is why Crosby hopes he’ll be able to ditch it at some point during these playoffs.
Yet it hasn’t kept him from being a consistent force on the ice.
Jarome Iginla played with Crosby at the Vancouver Olympics and has had a chance to observe the 25-year-old closely since being acquired by the Penguins in late March. Needless to say, he’s come away impressed.
“It’s just reinforced what I already knew,” said Iginla. “He’s a very special player. His determination and focus … you see it every day, it’s not an on/off thing. He comes to the rink and he’s focused and it’s about getting better.
“I think that rubs off on all the guys.”
You can feel it around the veteran Penguins.
This is a focused group of players that expects nothing less than a trip to the Stanley Cup final. There was certainly no sense of worry or concern following the double overtime loss to Ottawa in Game 3.
Heading into Game 4 on Wednesday – a potentially pivotal moment in this series – Pittsburgh seemed ready to flex its muscles.
“With each game as the series goes along, it just becomes bigger and bigger,” said Crosby. “I think at this point both teams want that one pretty bad.”
Sitting in Joe Louis Arena four years ago on the night Crosby lifted the Stanley Cup at age 21, there was every reason to believe that the trophy would be going back to Pittsburgh again and again.
Back then, the Penguins looked like a surefire dynasty in the making.
But a series of bad luck and bad goaltending – not to mention the bad head and neck injuries to Crosby – have kept it from materializing. As a result, the core players on this roster have learned not to take anything for granted.
“Experience is definitely a nice thing to have but it doesn’t guarantee you anything,” said Crosby. “Guys who’ve been in different situations and played in a number of playoff series (know) every one is kind of unique. There’s no storyline that ever seems the same. You go through things but it seems like it never really goes the same way twice.
“So I think you kind of have to prepare for that and make sure you appreciate it and make the most of the opportunities you get.”
In this instance, Crosby has a little more motivation than usual to keep playing long into the spring.
A series of dental surgeries beckon in the off-season – Crosby expects that it will take a couple different procedures to put his mouth back together – and the Penguins star isn’t particularly eager to climb back into the dentist’s chair.
In the meantime, he plans to avoid the mozzarella sticks.