Rink Fries: Trade notes, personality from officials and why the Flyers believe

On this edition of Saturday Headlines, Elliotte Friedman breaks down the trade deadline outlook for six NHL teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks.

Asked to describe what the mood is this close to NHL trade deadline one manager told me this week it’s a combination of GMs still not getting their asking prices along with an underlying fear the players they hope to move don’t get injured. 

To nobody’s surprise the Jake Guentzel injury is being looked at around the league as a cautionary tale that if you wait too long to make a deal the price you didn’t like yesterday can turn into zero tomorrow.

The Pittsburgh Penguins dodged one here with Guentzel’s injury status still keeping him on the trade boards and I think we’ve all wondered how long Calgary Flames GM Craig Conroy can temp fate with Chris Tanev.

Some NHL trade notes….

• As Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night, two teams have approached the Philadelphia Flyers about Sean Walker and Nick Seeler as a package.

• Dallas continues to search for a second-pairing, right-shot defenceman.

• We suspect the Detroit Red Wings are looking for a forward, but don’t be surprised to see them try to pick up a defenceman with bite. The Wings may have a lot of blueliners but they don’t have anyone “smelly” (hard to play against).

Thank you, Garrett Rank

Once upon a time, hockey officials had personality and weren’t shy about displaying it. Books were written about officials (I highly recommend Dick Irvin’s Tough Calls: NHL Referees and Linesmen Tell Their Story) and officials wrote books about their time in the sport. But since the NHL took the names off the backs of the officials’ sweaters the league has valued anonymity with them. No names, no interviews, just make the calls. 

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Now, a ref like Wes McCauley has loosened it up a little with some of his colourful calls and while there’s some who think he takes it too far, the majority of fans enjoy it.

I hope we one day get to the point where refs are comfortable not just announcing penalties and reviews, but also taking time on the ice to explain why calls like goalie interference were made. Now we just get a blanket “After further review it was determined we did have goaltender interference — no goal.” A little more description would go a long way to helping fans (and broadcasters) understand what the thinking behind certain calls is.

As an aside, my favourite referee story revolves around a saying the great Mickey Ion often shared with his linesmen. He’d gather his crew to centre ice before the game, hold up the puck and say “Gentlemen, what you need to remember tonight is this: when I drop this puck the three of us become the only sane people in this building.”

You know that’s true.

When the Flyers started to believe they could be a playoff team

Interesting point made by Flyers captain Sean Couturier on my radio show this past week. When asked when the Flyers felt they could do this and really become a playoff team, he cited a couple of moments specifically.

Firstly, Oct. 24 against Vegas when the Golden Knights were still undefeated. Philly took a 2-1 lead into the third when Paul Cotter tied it up and then Shea Theodore scored the game winner with 33 seconds left. They gave the defending Cup champs all they could handle. 

“From there on we believed we could play with anyone”, Couturier said.

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Couturier also mentioned losing to San Jose a couple of weeks later (Nov. 7), which gave the Sharks their first win of the season.

“It could have been a breaking point for us, but then we responded right away by beating Anaheim who was pretty good at the time and L.A. in L.A. on a back to back … from there it took off.”

Candidates to become the next OHL commissioner

With the Barrie Colts facing the Wolves on Wednesday in Sudbury, I’m assuming that decisions around the bounty investigation will be announced early this week.

The search continues for a replacement for OHL commissioner Dave Branch, poised to retire at season’s end.

The leading candidate heading into the process, Kitchener Rangers CEO Joe Birch, who’s worked at various positions in the OHL off and on going back to 2006, pulled out and it sounds like an extension with the Rangers is imminent.

Everyone is extremely tight-lipped about who else is still involved here, but other names include North Bay Battalion GM Adam Dennis, former VP of Hockey Ops for the Los Angeles Kings and former Owen Sound Attack GM Mike Futa, and at least one other candidate.

Over-age prospect of interest

Plenty of NHL interest in Oshawa Generals over-age defenceman Connor Punnett, who can sign a pro deal on March 1. Punnett is six-foot-two and plays with a punishing edge that has piqued the curiosity of a number of NHL teams. Plenty have checked in, but seven teams have shown what is described as “sincere interest.”

A new PWHL attendance record on the horizon?

Sounds like the attendance record the PWHL set in Toronto of 19,285 may not last the season. There’s talk the April 21 Toronto-Montreal game could be played at the Bell Centre, which holds just over 21,000 for hockey.

Discussions are on-going.

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