Weekend Takeaways: Shanahan proven right

Toronto Maple Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan. (Chris Young/CP)

The Leaf crisis that was wasn’t one at all. It turns out Brendan Shanahan knew exactly what to do, and he did it, which was nothing.

He needed to let the market, saddled with mostly non-playoff teams for a decade now, vent a bit. Then let his people work.

Shanahan was called to account by the media with the season not even two months old, and he was accused of hiding by some. Instead, he resisted the temptation to do a big media show and he let Dave Nonis do the talking, which was the right thing to do, and he let the players dig themselves out of a self-excavated “salute-gate” hole.

Just under two weeks later, it’s all fine. For now. The Leafs have nine of a possible 10 points in recent games, nobody got fired or traded and the temperature has dropped considerably.

Maybe Shanahan has a feel for this thing after all.

Other Weekend Takeaways:

With Joffrey Lupul back and back on the scoreboard, it’s still worthwhile to wonder whether left wing is still the right spot for him.

Sure, he likes it, and he’s put up the best offensive numbers of his career since moving there under Ron Wilson. But you watch the problems being on his wrong wing causes him in the offensive and defensive zones on a consistent basis and you really wonder whether at some point a switch back to right wing might make sense.

Former Washington coach Adam Oates, occasionally a Hockey Night in Canada analyst, certainly thinks so. Almost without exception Oates believes players should not play on their off-wing. It worked pretty well when as a New Jersey assistant he switched Ilya Kovalchuk over. Ditto for Alex Ovechkin, although dissection of Ovechkin’s game always draw differing opinions.

Washington coach Barry Trotz had a message he wanted to get out to the Toronto media during an extended chat on Saturday morning, and that was about the excellence of centre Nicklas Backstrom’s defensive game and overall two-way play.

“He’s right there with (Patrice) Bergeron,” said Trotz.

There’s no decision on a World Cup format as far as the possible makeup of the final two entrants.

“Still playing with concepts” is the official word for now.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston was the first to report two weeks ago that in addition to the traditional powers – Canada, U.S., Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland – the NHL and NHLPA were looking at two “amalgamation” teams, one of them made up of all-stars from other European nations.

With Brendan Gallagher now locked up to a six-year extension – a $3.75 million annual cap hit seems a wee bit low, but hey, it’s his call – the Montreal Canadiens will soon focus in on the contractual future of young forward Alexander Galchenyuk, who is in the final year of his entry-level deal.

As is the case with many such players at this stage of their development, it’s still not entirely clear what Galchenyuk will be as an NHLer, which seems to suggest a two-year “bridge” contract is likely.

Canada’s roster for its world junior championships training camp was announced Monday in Vancouver.

As far as whether any of the four NHLers Hockey Canada is targeting — Curtis Lazar, Jonathan Drouin, Anthony Duclair and Bo Horvat — might become available, officials remain hopeful.

“Nobody has said no. Yet,” said one.

The NHL players don’t have to be in the national junior camp and could join the squad as late as Dec. 19.

Zdeno Chara won’t travel and skate with the Bruins this week, but will stay in Boston as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

It’s at least possible he may return Dec. 11 at home against Chicago. The Bruins are 10-4-1 without him.

Minnesota goalie Josh Harding returned to action for his first pro game since Dec. 31 on Sunday night, taking the crease for the AHL Iowa Wild and losing a 5-4 shootout decision in San Antonio.

Harding, whose season was blunted last year by his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, broke his foot kicking a wall earlier this fall and was suspended by Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher. The goalie passed through league waivers last month and was assigned to Iowa.

Against the Rampage, he faced 54 shots, stopping 50, before losing in the shootout. Fletcher believes Harding could help the parent club this year, or he might be attractive to other clubs. Before being sidelined last season, he had some of the best numbers in the NHL, including a 1.65 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.

He’s in the last year of a deal with a cap hit of $1.9 million and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Florida Panthers may be interested in moving some of their UFAs-to-be, including Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky, and that winger Brad Boyes may have interest around the league.

Pittsburgh, without Pascal Dupuis for the rest of the season, might be one possible destination.

The guessing is that Martin Brodeur will sign with St. Louis today or tomorrow unless it has gone badly in practice over the weekend.

Brodeur has an agreed-upon salary in place, and would play this week as the Blues embark on a three-game road trip.

As good as Boston has been without Chara, Tampa Bay has been even more successful playing without ace defender Victor Hedman during his 18-game absence with a broken finger. Hedman returned to the lineup on Saturday. The Bolts were 12-5-1 without him.

Hedman’s return allowed the club to deal Eric Brewer ($2.867 million cap hit) to Anaheim for a draft pick. Brewer had been a healthy scratch six times and had been surpassed on the Tampa depth chart by Andrej Sustr.

Vancouver blueliner Dan Hamhuis won’t need surgery on an undisclosed “lower body” ailment, but he won’t be back soon, either.

Hamhuis is expected to be out until mid-January, at the earliest.

There has to be some concern among NHL scouts about the hot-headed ways of Sarnia junior Pavel Zacha, who received a six-game suspension last week for hitting from behind. This, just after he returned from a two-game suspension for a slew foot.

Zacha has been consistently rated as a Top 10 prospect for next June’s NHL draft.

Ottawa is expected to find out more today about Bobby Ryan’s immediate future – remember, Hedman’s busted finger kept him out for 18 games, and Ben Lovejoy has missed 16 in Anaheim with a broken digit – as the problems seem to be stacking up in the nation’s capital.

Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad and Zack Smith were all healthy scratches at different times last week. The Sens, with the NHL’s lowest payroll despite a new regional TV deal, are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and are allowing 35.2 shots per game. Only Buffalo is worse in that category, and the Sabres are suddenly 5-5 in their past 10 games.

Columbus is now dead last and the leader in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, having won two of its past 17 games.

As if all of the injury problems weren’t enough, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed three or more goals in five of his six starts since returning to action and Artem Anisimov is now out 2-3 months with a torn triceps.

Youngster Kerby Rychel, son of Warren, made NHL debut Saturday night in a 2-1 loss to Nashville.

Calgary goalie Karri Ramo has back-to-back shutouts for the Flames, the first Calgary goalie since Mike Vernon in ’92 to do that. All of a sudden, coach Bob Hartley has two quality puckstoppers to choose from, with Jonas Hiller having been very solid.

Jiri Hudler, meanwhile, has suddenly come to life by scoring in four straight games.

“They work hard and they are relentless,” said Arizona goalie Devan Dubnyk, who lost his first regulation decision as a Coyote to the Flames on Saturday.

Dallas goalie Anders Lindback dropped to 0-5-0 on the season on Saturday, allowing five goals on 47 shots to Colorado. The next warm body to get a shot behind the leaky Dallas defensive shield might be ex-Leaf Jussi Rynnas.

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