Hockey Hearsay compiles stories from around the hockey world and runs weekdays, 12 months a year.
STICK RULE CHANGE VEXES SENATORS’ LEHNER
The Ottawa Citizen illustrates that now any NHL goaltender who is 6-6 or taller is allowed to use a 28-inch stick. Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, however, is 6-5, and has been forced into using a 26-inch version.
Lehner’s take: “They took two inches away from me and it’s the same as what a guy who is 5-11 can have … it’s just a guessing game, it feels like. It’s a little weird.”
The Ottawa Sun observes that Lehner said he tried Nathan Lawson’s stick in training camp because he has a 26-inch paddle and it was different.
“I’ve got to bend my back, bend my legs more and I’ve got to change my posture and all that kind of stuff,” said Lehner. “I understand equipment … but it’s like telling a player who has been shooting with a stick for their whole life (to change) … (It’s like going) to (Jason Spezza) and take his stick, take off 10 inches and expect him to hit his shot every time. It’s the same for us, except we’re not shooting, we just have to feel comfortable in our stance. It’s tough.”
The Sun notes Lehner has used the 28-inch stick for the past five years.
“I’m not complaining about it,” Lehner said. “It’s a tough spot like this. I didn’t find out before camp, I found out in the middle of camp and then I had to re-order my sticks.”
BOYLE: CANUCKS PLAYERS WILL NEED THICK SKINS
Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle gives CSNBayArea.com a very blunt assessment of what the Canucks players are probably going through as they adapt to their new coach. Boyle played under John Tortorella in Tampa Bay.
“He’s definitely going to light a fire under certain people’s [rear ends]. That’s for sure,” Boyle said. “I’ve always said you need thick skin to play for him. The guys that don’t have it are probably going to fall apart, but if you have thick skin, there’s definitely some good things that are going to come out of that. Depending on what type of player you are, guys are going to react differently to his coaching methods.”
Boyle continued: “He wants to win. He definitely has a different approach than most coaches. It’s well documented; it’s in your face and pretty loud. It’s definitely tough at times, but there’s no question he wants to win. That’s pretty obvious.”
“The attention,” he said. “I’d rather just go out and have nothing said and nothing written about me. Looking back now, I guess it’s pretty cool. But it doesn’t make a guy’s career, I don’t think, if they win a Norris Trophy or are a finalist. I mean, my uncle was one of the best defensemen in the league for a long time, and he never won the Norris. He was Rookie of the Year, but I don’t think a Norris makes or breaks you.
“It just was kind of an inconvenience.”
He added: “I know I probably shouldn’t say that, but it is. I want to be the best player. I just want to be the best player … without anybody noticing. Some guys love the attention. Some guys play in the NHL just so they can say they played in the NHL. I just like playing … and want to win a Stanley Cup.”
PENGUINS REMOVE JAGR LOCKER ROOM TRIBUTE
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports an image bearing the likeness of Jaromir Jagr was quietly removed this summer from a ring of Penguins greats that circles the upper wall of the oval-shaped home locker room, replaced with that of another standout alum, Mark Recchi.
Team officials declined comment on the move, other than to say the Penguins didn’t want a currently active opponent having such a presence in that area.
Nothing else about Jagr’s recognition from the Penguins has changed, including an image in the hallway just outside the locker room.
Jagr currently plays for the New Jersey Devils.
KINGS REMAIN HIGH ON KOPITAR
The Los Angeles Times reflects on how the topic of expectation was addressed at Anze Kopitar’s season-ending meeting with Kings coach Darryl Sutter. In March, Sutter had said that Kopitar was the best all-around centerman he had coached, and even last week he noted that Kopitar was only 26.
“When you’re a top player, everyone is going to have a season where if you get 60 points, they’ll say you should have had 80 points,” Sutter said. “Eighty, you should have had 100. You know what, it’s just about winning. He’s not even in his prime yet.
Said Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, on the subject of Kopitar rebounding from his slump against the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs last spring: “That’s part of the gig. It’s a different challenge than he’s ever faced. He’ll get through it just like he got through everything else. If you look at him, he’s in the best shape he’s ever been.
“The thing about Kopi that people don’t realize, and he doesn’t get enough credit for — he’s a 200-foot player, in the [Pavel] Datsyuk mold. That’s the beauty of him. He can still make major contributions to winning because he’s not all one way.”
“It’s been a while that we haven’t had as much depth at the forward position as we do this year,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “A lot of guys can contribute in different areas of our lineup and I’m looking forward to seeing everything. A lot of new faces, a lot of things. There might be growing pains, might not. Who knows? We’ve got some good veteran players that have been around the league and know the game.
“It would be nice to watch us go.”
How far does Brodeur believe they can go?
“I think we can make it to the playoffs,” he said. “That’s the step we have to look at. It’s not trying to win anything more than just getting ourselves in the playoffs. We’ve missed it twice in the last three years and it’s tough for such an organization that prides itself on being competitive every single year. Lately, that’s slipped, so we have to get back at that.
“I don’t know what people think about our team, but I have a lot of faith in the way that we are built. We have a little more size. We got some good speed adding Brunner in training camp. I think that really gives us a good dimension at the forward position.”
ALZNER BELIEVES IN HIS CAPITALS
The Calgary Sun points out the Washington Capitals went into the playoffs last spring on a 15-2-2 roll, but lost out to the New York Rangers in the first round.
“I think we’re the team that went 15-2-2 — I really believe that. Everybody feels really good right now,” Capitals blueliner Karl Alzner said. “I think guys have a lot of confidence right now and believe we’ll carry it into the season.
“It’s not an excuse, but we have a tough time with the Rangers. I don’t know if it’s the Rangers personnel or the way (former head coach) John Tortorella had them playing, but we struggled against them and, unfortunately, caught them in the first round.
“You need a really good team to win the Cup or even make it to the finals, but you also need to get a little bit lucky and get good draws.
“One thing (Troy) Brouwer said to me when they won the first Cup in Chicago, they had some good draws in the playoffs, against teams they knew they could beat. I think we have the right personnel again, and I hope we get the right bounces when we need them and get things to fall the way we need them to fall.”
CAPITALS’ ERAT WONDERS WHERE HE FITS
CSNWashington.com relays Martin Erat openly wonders where he fits into Adam Oates’ plans after being a fourth line left wing in Tuesday’s opener.
“I don’t know,” Erat said. “He didn’t talk to me and I have no idea what the plan is right now. It’s hard. I have no idea the reason I’m there where I am.
“If you play 11 years in the league I don’t think you lose your position because of three or four games in the preseason.”
He added: “I’m going to do what’s best for the team. Like, I’m not going to decide I need to go and scream somewhere. It’s between me and [Oates] and we’ll see how it goes.”
Young defensemen usually take longer to develop, which Shea Weber addressed.
“It’s a whole different game now compared to what it was 10-15 years ago. It’s a younger league now,” Weber said. “You see a lot more 18-, 19-year-olds come in and dominate.”
Also: “It’s tough not to have expectations if you’re ranked to go No. 1 in the draft. That’s part of it. He’s going to have expectations. But you have to realize that he’s still young and there’s still learning for him, and it’s going to be a lot different playing against bigger guys rather than guys in junior. I still think he’s going to have a great year and be a big part of our team.”
“I’ve always been a guy who shoots for the stars and doesn’t give a rat’s butt what anyone thinks, but obviously you’ve got to be a realist at times,” he said. “With the guys we brought in, I’m excited because two years ago no one cared for us very much.
“I know our expectations in this room are a lot higher than anyone on the outside looking in, but that’s exactly where we want to be, in an underdog role. After a while you want to be a team that other teams come in and are intimidated to play and that’s what this organization is striving for with the young guys coming up.”
Blossoming center Shawn Matthias echoed Versteeg.
“We believe in ourselves, that’s the key,” Matthias said. “I can’t give a crap what other people say. We had that attitude two years ago and didn’t listen to outside opinions and look what happened.”