Tag:John-Michael Liles
Posted on: January 25, 2012 12:48 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 2:00 pm
 

Maple Leafs give Liles four-year extension

Liles averages 21:32 of ice time this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Toronto Maple Leafs went out and acquired John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche last summer in an attempt to further bolster their blue line. So it makes sense that a half a season later they are signing him to a four-year contract extension.

Yes, the Leafs locked in Liles until he's 35 years old with a new deal just as the NHL hits the All-Star break. His current contract, which runs out after this season, has him making $4.2 million per season. His new contract will pay an average salary of $3.875 million according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

"Not gonna lie...it's been a pretty good day," Liles tweeted while wishing his All-Star teammates the best this weekend in Ottawa.

Liles taking a deal that pays him less than what he's currently making is interesting. To me it shows how much players can value the security of a long-term deal, in this case four more years of remaining in Toronto.

Interestingly, Liles has been out of the lineup since a Dec. 22 game against the Buffalo Sabres. Like so many other players in the NHL these days, post-concussion symptoms have kept him off the ice.

But before the setback, Liles was giving the Leafs solid production on the back end with four goals and 17 assists in 34 games.

With Liles locked in for a few more years, it gives the Maple Leafs a little bit of a logjam at defense -- although not a terribly big one. But it could possibly make one of the defensemen expendable if GM Brian Burke wants to execute one of his patented trades.

Do you like the deal for Liles?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Now Predators' Shea Weber out with concussion

By Brian Stubits

It really is becoming unbelievable the amount of concussions we're seeing the NHL these days. What's more, it seems they keep striking the best players in the league.

Now you can put arguably the NHL's top defenseman, Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, on that list. The Predators made the announcement on Tuesday that Weber, who missed Nashville's game on Monday night vs. the Red Wings, is out with a concussion and there is no timetable for his return.

The folks at Kukla's Korner found the play where it appears Weber would have suffered the concussion, either on the hit itself or on the ensuing hit with the ice. Take a look.

Weber takes a brutal shot on the play and to me it sure looks like it's an elbow from Mark Fistric right to Weber's head. The announcers describe it as Fistric "falling into Weber" but I don't see that, particularly on the last replay. The hit somehow went under the radar -- surprising since it's a star like Weber -- and Fistric wasn't handed any supplemental discipline from the league.

A request was sent to the NHL from CBSSports.com seeking an explanation as to why Fistric's hit didn't warrant a hearing. So far, there has been no response from the league.

Remember, Fistric was already suspended three games earlier this season for charging.

But back to the issue at hand. The Predators -- and hockey fans -- are going to be out the team's best player for who knows how long. It could be a short time, it could be long. Coach Barry Trotz makes it sound like it won't be long.

"He's recovering pretty well, I would say," Trotz said. "There's a chance [Weber could play] Friday."

The good news at least is that as far as we know, Weber hasn't had any concussions in the past.

There is never a good time for injuries like this, and this one comes at about as bad a time as it can for the Preds. They have ben struggling to stop teams of late, an odd occurrence under Trotz. In the last four games, opponents have scored 19 goals on them for an average of 4.75 per game.

Not to mention he has a big source of offense for a team that doesn't have a whole lot of it. So far this season, Weber leads the team in points with 29 and his eight goals are just two behind David Legwand for the team lead. That's an awful lot of slack to pick up.

The announcement comes on the same day that two other teams saw players go down with concussions. Simon Gagne of the Kings and John-Michael Liles of the Maple Leafs will be sidelined for the same reason.

There is no doubt in my mind this concussion issue -- not an "epidemic" according to the league -- will be discussed heavily this offseason and in CBA talks.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Daily Skate: Sabres being careful with Hecht

By Brian Stubits

HECHT OUT: The Buffalo Sabres will be without Jochen Hecht, who suffered a concussion until at least next week as the team is being especially careful with him considering he has a history of concussions. He will be out at least through Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. (Sabres Edge)

GO FISH: Speak of concussions, Capitals GM George McPhee and member of the NHL and NHLPA concussion working group, talked about them recently. Noting that of course you have to be concerned about the players, a non-physical game just isn't as entertaining. “If you go to Europe … it’s not very entertaining. It’s highly skilled, but it’s like trying to watch two guys fish.” (Washington Times)

ROLOSON THANKS SNOW: Dwayne Roloson returns to Long Island to face the Islanders for the first time since he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. And the 42-year-old took the time to say thanks to GM Garth Snow. "When I signed, Garth told me the situation and to his credit he stuck to his word, that when we were out of the playoffs, he would trade me. Very appreciative of what he did" (ESPN New York)

SERGE OF MOTIVATION: The boo birds have found a target of Sergei Gonchar in Ottawa. Unhappy with his performance, the Senators fans have let him know. His coach Paul MacLean suggests he uses it to his advantage. “I’ve been booed, so it’s something that you ... I think it’s a motivator. If your fans are unhappy with how you play, they should express that they’re unhappy with how you play. Conversely, if you play better, they should appreciate that you play better and to me, it’s just a signal that you need to be better.” (Senators Exra

THE UNTOUCHABLES: Here is a list compiled of the 10 most untradeable contracts in the NHL. Not surprisingly it starts with Rick DiPietro. But after seeing Brian Campbell change addresses this summer makes me think in this this era of a salary cap floor, no contract is untradeable. (The Hockey News)

FISHER STORY: Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators is very open about his strong religious faith. He has said in the past one thing he likes about being in Nashville as opposed to Ottawa is the amount of churches. Last summer he came out with a book Defender of Faith about his story. Here's a little more from Fisher on how it came about. (Predators Insider)

BROTHER BOND: When the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to a military camp for a team-bonding retreat, it made defenseman John-Micheal Liles think of his brother stationed in Washington state with the U.S. Navy. Here's a good story on the strong relationship the brothers have. (Globe and Mail)

STROME SENT DOWN: It's about the time of the season where a lot of the rookies who were getting extended looks out of camp are going to be returned to their junior teams beore contracts kick in. That's what the Islanders did with their first pick in this summer's draft, Ryan Strome. (Islanders team site)

MURPHY TOO: The Carolina Hurricanes did the same with their top pick, sending diminutive Ryan Murphy back to Kitchener of the OHL. In Murphy's case, he had been a healthy scratch in the team's four regular-season games, so it seemed pointless to continue to leave him up. (Hurricanes team site)

GABRIEL'S GOAL: One first-round pick who won't be returning to his junior squad is Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog. The No. 2 pick in the draft scored his first NHL goal (video below) on Wednesday night in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he talked to Adrian Dater about it afterward. (All Things Avs)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 29, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:27 pm
 

Northeast Division Preview: Champ B's still tops

By Brian Stubits

For the first time since the 1993-94 season began, the reigning champion resides in the Northeast Division after the Bruins ended their Cup drought with a thrilling run through the postseason. The even better news for Boston (but not so awesome for the rest of the division) is that the Bruins are back almost completely intact.

No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and 98. Only two other teams have made it back to the Finals a year after winning in that time, the Stars in 1999 then 2000 and once again the Red Wings (2008, 09). There's a reason for it, the fabled championship hangover.

But in hockey, I think it plays a bigger part than any other sport. The offseason is as short as it gets, the playoffs as long and grueling as any of the major sports. The Bruins lifted the Cup in the middle of June and reported back to camp in early September. All the while they were enjoying a whirlwind of a summer that included plenty of partying and celebrating a title. The Blackhawks admittedly struggled with it last season (although the roster being ripped apart didn't help matters). If only getting rid of it were as easy as taking a couple Tylenol and drinking Vitamin Water.

If they do look sluggish and lethargic to start the season then the Buffalo Sabres will be ready to pounce on the opportunity. They are hockey hungry in Buffalo these days with hope their Sabres can become power players in the East. As for the other three in the division, the East's Canadian coalition? Well they will all be hoping to resurrect their glory days.

You can't exactly count out the Canadiens and Maple Leafs from the division crown, but this likely is a two-horse race in the Northeast.

Now we'll just have to wait and see how the Bruins respondin their quest for another Cup.

Northeast Division (predicted order of finish)

Boston Bruins: Why mess with a good thing? That's an easy philosphy to live by when you are coming off of claiming the Stanley Cup. Really, the only new additions they have to work into the fold are Benoit Pouliot as a bottom-six forward and Joe Corvo on the blue line. With the solid support all around them of a close-knit group, they should be able to seamlessly slide in and fill the voids left by Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, the only pieces to the championship puzzle missing.

One thing I'm not sure many people realize, but this team is very young in addition to being super talented. There are still five players just among the forwards who will be restricted free agents when their contracts run out. The defense is a bit more grizzled, however, and that's where a good chunk of the leadership comes from, of course including captain Zdeno Chara.

There might be a slight sense of urgency for the B's to repeat as champs as they will have a lot of work to do to keep the team together as 10 of their regulars don't have contracts beyond next season. But GM Peter Chiarelli seems to be preparing for that well, saving the B's cap space to maneuver.

Strengths: What's not to like? They are very balanced as 10 players had more than 40 points a season ago, although two of them have departed (Kaberle and Ryder). Defensively they have plenty of veteran presence and have been a very good unit under Claude Julien. Plus, you know, they have that fella named Chara.

Oh, and how can we make it this far without discussing the team's best player, Tim Thomas? He was simply superb last season and through the playoffs, posting the highest single-season save percentage in league history. It's not as if his backup is chopped liver, either, as Tuukka Rask will be expected to shoulder more of the load for the 38-year-old Thomas this year.

Weaknesses: Despite all of their success when five-on-five, Boston's special teams weren't up to snuff. Without much change in personnel, they are going to have to find a way from within to improve the 20th-ranked power play and 18th-best penalty kill units. The power play was a growing concern in the playoffs, which included an 0-for-21 streak in the opening round win over the Canadiens. They tried all sorts of remedies to fix it, including parking Chara in front of the net, but they found their groove late in the playoffs when Chara and his booming shot returned to the point. Their hope is that success will roll over.

After that, we're just getting picky here. There just aren't too many holes from a team that ranked in the top five both offensively and defensively last season and was the NHL's top plus/minus team. They will have the talk of a championship hangover looming over them for much of the season and they will have the proverbial target on their backs as the champs. Those are hurdles that will be new.

Buffalo Sabres: I'm not sure what fans in Buffalo are more excited about right now: the Bills' 3-0 start or the first full season under Terry Pegula? The Sabres' biggest (and richest) fan ushers in a new era that the fans are still trying to get used to, in a good way: Buffalo is a big spender now. Pegula will make sure of that as he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. And his mouth has expressed some awfully high expectations ... multiple championships.

On that note, the Sabres were active in the offseason, most notably signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to augment the core group that Buffalo has built. But possibly the biggest acquisition they made was the less-heralded of them all, and that was bringing in Robyn Regehr. The stout defenseman should prove to be a great addition as he brings a lot of toughness and all-around defense. Not to mention he will serve as a good influence for assumed partner Tyler Myers, who is in line for a nice bounceback season with more talent with him on defense.

It almost feels like an acquisition, but the return of Derek Roy will be a big boost, too. The front-line center missed the second half of last season due to a quad injury.

Welcome to Pegulaville. Buffalo still can hardly believe it.

Strengths: There is obviously a strong leader, for one. That's a very nice asset to have an owner so willing to win. But beyond him, there's a reason why Buffalo has moved into the conversation to crack the home-ice equation in the East, the new faces likely will make a very good group even better. In particular, the addition of Ehrhoff to the league's ninth-ranked power-play unit will make the special-teams unit a real asset for the Sabres.

Like their division rivals in Boston, as talented as they are all over the ice, their best player probably sits in the blue paint all game long. Ryan Miller didn't have the greatest of seasons last year for Buffalo, but that tends to happen when you come off a Vezina-winning season ... there's only one direction to go. He's still one of the absolute best in the game.

Oh, and the slug logo is gone, wiped away for good. That's positive for everybody.

Weaknesses: The cap situation is a bit troubling. With Pegula's desire to spend, the Sabres actually exceeded the salary cap over the summer, so they will have to be extra diligent with how they manage the roster. Unfortunately, it doesn't leave them much room to try and make any improvements midseason if need be.

Overall, it's not a roster with many holes in it whatsoever. It will just come down to how talented the team proves to be as there are multiple players capable of 50-plus point seasons.

Montreal Canadiens: Last season, without Max Pacioretty or Andrei Markov, the Canadiens captured the six seed in the East and took the eventual champions to the brink. I'm sure this team, almost al of it remains in town, is still stewing over blowing a 2-game lead to its bitter rival in Boston.

I definitely like the signing of Erik Cole in July, he is a solid (and physical) forward who could prove to be one of the bigger acquisitions of the summer for any team. He adds to a good, but not great group of forwards. They are capable, but need to be better than 23rd-best in the league like a season ago.

Where the success of this team will likely hinge is on the blue line. They have a couple of excellent young talents in P.K. Subban and Markov and some solid players behind them like Josh Gorges and Hal Gill.

A few steps toward a return to form for Scott Gomez (just seven goals last season) wouldn't hurt eiher.

Strenghts: Special teams. Under Jacques Martin, the Habs have been good in both departments of special teams, ranking seventh in both phases a season ago. If Markov remains healthy, the power play remains lethal as Subban and him both are excellent with the man up.

It's pretty Wild the goaltending this division features. Like both teams above them here, the Habs have an oustanding man living in the crease. It took fans a while in Montreal, but they finally warmed up to Carey Price, who finally lived up to his expectations last season. Playing a 72-game work load, Price posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The trick will be doing it again, but the safe bet is that he turned a corner and an encore shouldn't be a problem.

Weaknesses: Let's be honest, having to rely on Gomez to anchor a top-six line after a 37-point season doesn't have overwhelming talent. It showed in their scoring totals from last season when they averaged 2.60 goals per game. Cole will help as he not only brings a power game (among the league leaders in hits for forwards) but he can score. They would love to see him at least match his 26 goals from a season ago, that would have been good for second on the team.

A major concern all season will rest on the blue line and the depth there. Adding Chris Campoli after camp began was a nice addition to help with the concern, but they still can't really afford for injuries to set in, particularly for Markov. They just invested in him with a rich contract this offseason, so they are counting on him returning at full strength from the ACL tear and remaining that way.

Toronto Maple Leafs: How much longer will the fans in Toronto put up with a team that can't make the playoffs? The postseason drought stretches back to the lockout as the Leafs have been on the outside each season since. The only other team in the same boat is Florida, and let's just say the fans in Toronto take their hockey a touch more seriously than those in the Sunshine State. There's hope that this could be the season where they break through and return to playoff hockey, but that's a tall order for this group still.

Over the summer, GM Brian Burke really coveted center Brad Richards, but his staff was unable to convince the top free agent to head to Toronto. So as a backup plan he signed Tim Connolly from Buffalo to anchor the team's top line. If healthy, a very big if, Connolly can prove to be a good addition, the Leafs had to get deeper at center. Also, I really liked the quiet addition of John-Michael Liles to the defense.

But not much else will matter if the goaltending situation isn't solved. That has been the achilles heel for years in Toronto, but they think -- or hope -- the answer lies in James Reimer in his first full season in the NHL.

Strengths: As you'd expect for a team built by Burke, they have become a physical bunch in Toronto. The team captain, Dion Phaneuf, is one of the toughest hitters in the league. But there is obviously a danger of that being a weakness if the team is getting sent to the sin bin (or being Shanabanned with the new emphasis on safety) too often.

The second line is probably good enough to be Toronto's No. 1 group. The combination of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin placed second, third and fourth in the team scoring, respectively. Each had at least 21 goals.

Weaknesses: The problem is, the skill on the team doesn't go much deeper. Only six players on the team last year reached double digits in scoring. The fact is the Leafs have two lines that can hold up with most in the league, but the third and fourth lines are where they feel the drop.

The center position remains a concern. Sure, Connolly was brought in to help that and same with Matthew Lombardi, but you can't be sure what you are getting from either guy from a health standpoint. As mentioned, Connolly has a history of injury issues. He has only played more than 70 games once (2009-10) since the 2002-03 season. With Lombardi, he's coming off a concussion that cost him all but two games last season. If either or both goes down, then Toronto is right back to being razor thin down the middle.

Ottawa Senators: This is odd territory for the folks in Ottawa. Never in the franchise's history have they had to actually rebuild. Since originally building the team in the early 90s, the team had a long, successful run that included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07. A couple of the members from the old guard are still around -- Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but the majority of the team is in place to win in the future, not necessarily now.

Expect to see a lot of the kids getting burn this season. It appears as though the team's top draft pick this summer, Sweedish center Mika Zibanejad, is going to make the team out of camp. Another coveted prospect, Jared Cowen, is also making a bid for the roster and join David Rundblad among the defensive corps. Nikita Filatov, who hadn't lived up to his perceived potential in Columbus, will also be given a shot to show what he can do. If he fits in and focuses on his game, his addition could prove to be a steal for Ottawa.

While new coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray are saying all the rights things about this team being competitive this season, it will serve as a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the future.

Strenghts: They didn't score much at all or play defense particularly well, but they were alright on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill, which ranked ninth in the league. Sergei Gonchar can help keep that ball rolling. That will qualify as a positive here.

We'll also throw goaltender Craig Anderson into the category. He wasn't spectacular last season split between Colorado and Ottawa, but he's shown before what he is capable of when he starred for the Avalanche two seasons ago. And his stint with the Sens was encouraging as he was 11-5-1 with his new team.

It speaks well for what is in the system that the team's AHL affiliate in Binghamton won the Calder Cup.

Weaknesses: This says a lot: No player that participated in more than 30 games for the Senators had a plus-rating last season. Chris Phillips was the lowest of them all at minus-35.

This team struggled mightily to score last season and that is unlikely to get easier this time around. Right now there just isn't a heck of a lot of talent to talk about. Spezza was the only player to top the 20-goal mark last year and he barely did so with 21.

The youth is a weakness for now as it will be error prone and show it is green, but the hope is that it turns into a strength down the line.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 24, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 6:48 pm
 

Maple Leafs acquire D Liles from Avalanche

Earlier today, we took a look at the trade market headed into the NHL Draft and noted that Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs would likely be one team making moves.

A few hours before the draft and they've already begun.

The Maples Leafs have traded for Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles for a second-round pick.

In Liles the Leafs are getting a 30-year-old defenseman who has an offensive touch. Last season for the Avs, Liles had six goals and 40 assists. His 46 points were the second-highest total of his career, all spent in Colorado, behind his 49 points in 2005-06.

The Avalanche are clearly in a mode where they are starting over and covet the draft picks at this point and are willing to sacrifice players on the wrong side of 30 to get them.

For Toronto, it acquires somebody who can step in right now and contribute. While the Leafs are in a playoff drought (haven't been in since the final season before the lockout), they took a step forward last season, remaining on the outside of the playoff bubble into the final week. Perhaps Burke thinks he can put together a team that can make it into the postseason while still building for the long-term.

Also on Friday, the Leafs announced that they have hired former Thrashers coach Rick Dudley in a scouting role with the team. Dudley, not retained when the team moved to Winnipeg, is recognized as one of the sharper eyes of talent in the NHL and will begin with his new team starting with the draft tonight.

-- Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com