30 Thoughts: Coyotes’ Vermette a wanted man

(Rick Scuteri/AP)

You may not have heard this, but sources tell this blogger Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards was slightly agitated that Matt Calvert’s late second-period goal in Saturday’s Boston loss to Columbus counted.

The issue was a shot hitting the crowd-protective netting about two minutes earlier, which should have resulted in the play blown dead. Didn’t happen, which opens the possibility of video review, new for this season. It all comes down this: How quickly does the puck enter the net afterwards?

There are two rulebook locations to ponder. Rule 38.4 (viii) indicates you can review "pucks that hit the spectator netting prior to being directed into the goal." But, Rule 85.1 reads: "If the puck striking the spectator netting goes unnoticed by the on-ice officials, play shall continue as normal and resulting play with the puck shall be deemed a legitimate play. Players must not stop playing the game until they hear the whistle to do so."

That leads to another question: How fast is "prior to being directed into the goal?"

The answer is fewer than eight seconds, which reminds me of fellow Rogers employee…nah, let’s not go there.

On Nov. 13, referees Dave Jackson and Chris Lee asked for help to determine if the puck hit the mesh eight seconds before Jamie Benn scored against Los Angeles. The war room declined to step in, saying in its statement, "This is not a reviewable play since the puck did not cross the goal line as an immediate result of hitting the spectator netting."

The four officials decided amongst themselves it was no goal, the right call.

Ottawa fans will remember two weeks ago, where Rasmus Ristolainen tied it 1-1 for Buffalo approximately 30 seconds after the puck hit the netting in the Senators’ end. There was no official huddle or, as far as I can tell, any statement from the NHL. But, if eight seconds was enough to say, "No dice," well, 30 wasn’t going to be any different. Mr. Baird in Grade 10 Law taught us about precedent, and precedent wasn't good for the Bruins.

But I don’t like this, because it is fraught with peril.

Not that any match is unimportant, but the worst thing for the NHL is a Game 7 to come down to this. We can all come up with different ideas of what immediate means, but does anyone really want to see it?

One of the reasons Hockey Operations isn’t reviewing goals happening after missed offside calls is a debate on how long the play is "tainted." Is it immediate? Ten seconds? What if they cycle it for a minute? The off-the-netting situation is very similar.

I’d love it if the NHL and NHLPA would get together mid-season (All-Star?) and say, "Look, it gets reviewed or it doesn’t, we don’t need anything open to interpretation," or "let’s put a clearer definition together" but that’s not going to happen. The league gets frustrated with arguments like these, because rule changes go through the GMs, the Competition Committee (which includes players) and the governors, so anyone could have objected in advance.

Maybe it gets revisited at the March GM meetings, but any changes (assuming anyone wanted them) likely wouldn’t take effect until next year. With luck, there won’t be reason to regret it.


1. It’s not on the radar screen right now, but the 2015 World Championships may increase in importance because of the to-be-announced World Cup.

The springtime event is used to determine qualification for the Olympics, such as automatic berths and hosts of secondary tournaments for those who don’t initially make it. Usually, the Worlds two years before an Olympics is the big one. In 2012, the top nine finishers received automatic entries, with the next three (Germany, Latvia and Denmark) awarded home-ice advantage in further qualifying, although only the Latvians made it.

The International Olympic Committee wants to know the field by the start of 2017 and, with the World Cup coming in 2016, will the best available players beg out of the Championships four months earlier for extra rest? It would be understandable, which is why it is under discussion to use the 2015 event as the standard. If so, expect a major push from each country’s federation for attendance.

2. Wednesday is an important day on the NHL calendar, and not just to see which players or coaches are first to break their New Year’s Resolutions.

Come Jan. 1, any player signed to a one-year contract is eligible to be extended. There are some interesting cases to watch. It’s believed Boston did significant work with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith before signing them for this season, while I’ve mentioned before the idea Pittsburgh plans to commit longer to Christian Ehrhoff. I don’t know if anything should be expected immediately, but wouldn’t be surprised if the Penguins take a run at hammering out something with the defender over the next month.

3. Other situations to keep an eye on: Blake Comeau (can see him as Pascal Dupuis, wanting to stay in a great personal situation), Brenden Dillon (a new team expected to commit), Cody Franson (tough call), Michael Frolik (talks expected), Mike Hoffman (no talks yet, restricted free agent making a step), Jeff Petry (would be a surprise), Mike Santorelli (not sure there are talks yet, although he’s been very good), Jiri Tlusty (talks started, expected to continue but prime trade bait if nothing gets done) and Mats Zuccarello (team is tight to cap, with several important decisions to make).

4. There’s another name here worth mentioning: Devan Dubnyk, who led Arizona to a 4-2 win over Philadelphia on Monday night, his third straight victory. He stopped 91 of 95 shots in those games, a sterling .958 save percentage. Word is no discussions yet, which could be because the Coyotes’ ownership situation is yet to be cleared up, or because the team realizes it is “married” to Mike Smith, as GM Don Maloney put it last week to NBC’s ProHockey Talk.

With Dubnyk re-emerging under Sean Burke, it will be interesting to see how his value is perceived around the league. It was at a low last summer, but you can see the improvement and growing confidence.

5. The biggest holdup with some of these extensions will be term, especially with uncertainty the dropping dollar throws into cap estimates. “It’s the biggest problem trying to make trades now,” one GM said.

6. Smith has four years remaining on his contract, at a cap hit of just under $5.7 million and an actual cash value of $24 million. Burke left Christmas Eve to join Team Canada at the World Juniors, but the goal now is to work with him in practice, which is why Dubnyk is getting additional run. There was a sense in the organization that Smith was regaining confidence heading into last week’s start in Vancouver, and he made a huge early save on Henrik Sedin that had everyone encouraged. But Kevin Bieksa beat him through the legs and the goalie unravelled, yanked after four goals on 11 shots in 22 minutes. Burke is determined, though, not to quit on Smith.

7. Andrew Barroway attended Arizona’s win over Philadelphia, poised to become majority owner of the Coyotes on New Year’s Eve. His first public comments could come later this week, so we should get a clearer idea of what happens to the team’s roster. The NHL isn’t commenting on this, but a few sources indicated commissioner Gary Bettman would not approve the sale until more of the money from it was put back into the team, especially since the current owners are maintaining a minority position.

8. This may not, however, affect Maloney’s immediate decision-making. The organization is realistic about where this season is going, so it doesn’t make a ton of sense to spend extra now.

Other clubs believe the decision is already made to trade Antoine Vermette, as the team is unwilling to meet his asking price (in the $6-million range). There’s a lot of interest, obviously, with several of the usual suspects already mentioned, such as Boston, Detroit and St. Louis. Saw New Jersey mentioned, but does it really make sense for the Devils to give up the young assets/draft picks Arizona would want?

9. This is guesswork, but two other teams who might make sense? Chicago and Montreal. The Blackhawks do have talented young players/prospects and Vermette would be a perfect fit, a versatile forward who could flit around the lineup. As for the Canadiens, it fits Marc Bergevin’s profile. Look at the UFAs he’s traded for: Bryan Allen, Sergei Gonchar, Michael Ryder, Thomas Vanek and Mike Weaver. He pursued Raffi Torres in 2013, but said no when he didn’t like the price.

10. One under-the-radar name to watch out for on the trade market: Florida prospect Drew Shore, who turns 24 next month.

Shore, who leads AHL San Antonio with 20 assists and 27 points, loses his waiver-free status with two more NHL games played, or, at the end of this season, whichever comes first (credit to CapGeek for a little help). Centres are hard to find, but when you’ve got Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad blocking your way, there’s not enough room for him in Florida.

Shore’s being scouted more than normal.

11. Brad Boyes, complimentary in comparing Barkov and Bjugstad on Hockey Central at Noon: “Barkov is definitely a guy who’s got the vision. I played with him last year… and I really enjoyed it. He’s a guy who is a passer and we actually meshed really well together… As far as Bjugstad, he’s a big kid, he’s going to go around, he's going to shoot the puck. The guy’s got a a phenomenal shot. So he's a different type of centreman.” Barkov’s battled some injury trouble.

Boyes is hoping to re-discover that chemistry with him.

12. Former Washington GM George McPhee is back at it, working part-time for the Islanders. His family moved to Michigan to be near son Graham, part of the USA National Team’s Development program, and he is scouting for New York in the region.

13. Asked for some clarification, and it was received: even if Leon Draisaitl is returned to juniors, he will remain as one of Edmonton’s 50 allotted pro contracts because he played more than 11 NHL games. Jesse Joensuu stays on, too, even though he is overseas. That’s one of the reasons the Oilers traded for Derek Roy instead of claiming him on waivers.

Grabbing Matt Fraser puts them at 47. Getting too close to 50 hurts flexibility, and the Oilers worked to drop a couple when they were right up against it a year ago.

14. In December 2010, Roy was 27 years old, with 35 points in 35 games for Buffalo, his only NHL home. He suffered a torn quad tendon, missing all but one playoff game the rest of the season. He and Lindy Ruff were never sharing a malt with two straws, but, to that injury, he had 383 points in 469 games, 0.82 points per game. Since then, he’s got 119 in 223 for five teams, down to 0.53. He was a healthy scratch eight times in Nashville’s last 12 games, and averaged less than eight minutes per night in the ones he did dress for. He’s 31. This may be his last chance.

15. One coach’s observation after two games of the unique structure behind New Jersey’s bench? Be committed to playing a defensive game.

“They played patient and waited for chances,” he said. “Really clogged up the middle.” (This coach has not played the Devils yet.)

There was also a slight change on the power play.

Adam Oates loves the 1-3-1 setup he used in Washington, and Peter DeBoer did use that, too. But Jon Merrill was stationed on the left, even though he is a left shot. (Merrill scored from there against Dallas earlier this month.) That’s hard for one-timers, and when Travis Zajac scored on the man-advantage against Pittsburgh, Peter Harrold, a righty, was in that spot. Harrold is 17th among Devils in power-play ice-time per game this season. Only Marek Zidlicky saw more action up a man than he did Monday night. Oates demands one-timer options, Harrold is an early beneficiary.

16. The Capitals and the NHL weren’t thrilled when New Jersey hired Oates before asking permission. Even though he was fired, he was still under contract for one year.

Everything was settled on Saturday, and no one would comment on the resolution.

My bet: Washington was annoyed at the protocol breach, but more concerned about the finances. Because Oates is not officially a head coach, there might still have been an obligation. You have to think the solution involved an elimination (or near-elimination) of that.

17. After Monday's shutout loss to St. Louis, Patrick Roy called out his non-producing forwards, led by Gabriel Landeskog, who has not scored in 10 games. He, Daniel Briere, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O’Reilly combined for four goals in that span, two less than the duo of Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.

It is always hard to predict what Colorado will do. But, if you look at their call-ups, usually there is a player or two at the top of the class, and they do seem to like Dennis Everberg, a Swedish free agent signed last summer. But seven different AHL Lake Erie forwards were given a shot in the past five weeks. They are doing a thorough testing of their organization.

18. Probably the least surprised person in the NHL with Johnny Gaudreau’s recent success is Los Angeles Kings associate head coach John Stevens, who has known the rookie since he was five. Gaudreau's father, Guy, coached Stevens’ two boys (John and Nolan, now at NCAA Northeastern) for years.

“Like great offensive players, he’s an inside edge skater,” Stevens said. “And he doesn’t just think a step ahead, he thinks two steps ahead… When we’re preparing our team for players they might not know well, I’ll give them another player as a similar example. For Johnny, I use Patrick Kane.”

19. Stevens says Calgary’s system maximizes Gaudreau’s ability to get open because it creates space for him.

“They have a huge gap, like to play the stretch game. Their ‘D’ can pass it out or skate it out, with the centre swinging back for another outlet.” Gaudreau is usually up ice, finding the open space. The Flames have several players who can make the pass, and he can control it.

Two examples: the 3-0 goal last Saturday against Edmonton for starters.

And Gaudreau's marker that made it 3-3 on Dec. 22 in LA, with Jiri Hudler swinging back to make the pass is another prime example.

20. Entertaining home-and-home between Minnesota and Winnipeg, with both teams winning ugly on the road — the Jets in overtime, the Wild in regulation.

Winnipeg is gutting it out through an injury meltdown of biblical proportions.

“The one thing we want to know,” captain Andrew Ladd said Sunday, “is are we still competing even though we may not be sharp? If the passes are not on the tape or the shots not on net, can we will our way to a win? There’s a calmness on the bench, a sense of confidence that if we stick to the system, we can break things open and not worry about trying to win on one play.”

21. Ladd added that when the blueliners started going down, coach Paul Maurice put it on the forwards to make sure team defence didn’t fall apart. In the offensive zone, Maurice demanded the forwards “reload” properly. Every team’s terminology is different, but the Jets like their defencemen to be aggressive in that area, so two forwards must be ready to cover.

Out of their own zone, Maurice told them they get into the most trouble when they just chip it out. “Instead, he wants us to make a confident play,” Ladd said. “Not forcing anything, just a simple play that puts us in a good spot.”

22. Ladd knows Dustin Byfuglien as well as anyone. Does he want to be a defenceman? “Yeah, I know he does,” the captain said with a laugh. “It works to what he does, jumping on pucks, jamming up the gap. He’s the best in the league at it. He’s been a little smarter in his decision-making, pinching. We want him to be aggressive, with the forwards helping him out… He likes being on the ice as much as possible. When he’s a forward, he’s not on the penalty-kill and when he’s sitting on the bench for long lengths of time, he’s not in the game. He feeds off being in the game.”

23. Almost 24 hours after his ridiculous 28-second tour around Ottawa’s defensive zone, Gustav Nyqvist was too shy to glorify it. “It was a nice goal,” he said, a late contender for understatement of the year.

More interesting, though, is how that play illustrates a change for him. Nyquist has 39 goals in his last 82 games. “I’ve scored more than I thought. I used to be a passer, but worked on the mentality of being a shooter. A lot of it is playing with ‘Z’ (Henrik Zetterberg). When you’re playing with him, you’re automatically more of a shooter. But it’s also the coaches. Mike Babcock still mentions it to me a lot. ‘Blash’ (AHL Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill) was another one who told me not to pass up a good shot opportunity.”

24. Nyquist, asked if he plays “keep-away” against the legendarily good Pavel Datsyuk, laughed: “I won’t win, that’s for sure.”

25. He was not selected the first year he was eligible to be drafted. Detroit took him a year later, 121st overall in 2008. Nyquist said the Red Wings were the only team ever to request an interview with him. That process is why he’s not comfortable saying he’s landed in the NHL for good. “I’ve taken a spot, but I never want to say I feel safe for a spot.”

26. Tomas Plekanec on what he saw in facing Los Angeles and Anaheim six days apart: “They are so good at maintaining the game they want to play, always do the same things. They get it in deep constantly, put the puck at the net, always have guys at the net. And, they are able to do this for 60 minutes. That’s why they are so good, it’s what we need to learn. We can do it for 20 minutes, or 40 minutes, but not 60… Every time we get the puck deep in the offensive zone we are a good team. When we turn pucks over teams are coming at us and that’s where problems start.”

27. Montreal’s centre situation changed during the season with Lars Eller’s injury and Alex Galchenyuk’s development. Bergevin wanted to see more of Galchenyuk at centre, but coach Michel Therrien resisted for awhile.

Plekanec on Galchenyuk: “He looks really confident in the middle…he plays a really offensive centre, a dangerous guy with the puck on his stick. I don’t know how close he is (to playing there full-time), how the coach or the managers feel, but he looks really good.”

I asked Plekanec if he offers Galchenyuk advice. The veteran paused, and as he spoke, was concerned how his words would be interpreted. So, as you read this, recognize it’s coming from someone whose mother tongue is not English. “If he feels he needs to ask, I will answer anything. These days, the young guys…It’s not that they don’t want to hear what you have to say, (but) they know how they want to play. They want to experience it themselves to find out what it’s like first.”

28. Two more from Plekanec.

First, he explained how Eller got the nickname “Larry.” “Someone called him ‘Larry,’ one of the coaches, and it stuck with him. He doesn’t like it, so it’s a good one.”

And, what it was like to go through the Jean Beliveau tribute night and Saku Koivu ceremony nine days apart: “It is hard to describe the feelings. If you are lucky to be part of the Canadiens long enough, you realize what the real organization is about. Those were two unforgettable nights.”

29. Two other contract situations: there were rumours Mike Fisher is going to retire, but he is readying to talk about a future with the Predators. Justin Williams wanted to table his extension discussions if not completed this week, but the Kings asked for more time. The request was granted.

30. Have a Happy New Year everyone. Great success for all in 2015.