Tag:Mike Gillis
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:02 am
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:09 pm
 

Morning Skate: Playoff outcasts meet in Toronto

Florida and Toronto haven't made the playoffs post-lockout. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

7 ET, Florida at Toronto

Considering how the last six years have gone in the NHL, it's pretty amazing to think that we're talking about this game and playoff implications at the end of February. They are the only two franchises not to see the postseason in that stretch.

And there is certainly no guarantee both or even one are going to get in this go-round. That's especially true when talking about the Maple Leafs. In playoff position almost all season long, they have hit hard times in the month of February. The goalies are a mess (so it is still like the previous six years in Toronto). All told, the Leafs have lost four in a row and eight of their last nine. Their last regulation win? Feb. 6 vs. Edmonton.

Now they're three points back of Winnipeg (with three games in hand, mind you) and two behind Washington in the battle for that last playoff spot (five behind Florida if the Panthers fall out of the Southeast lead).

The Panthers this season, by the way, are 10-2-2 against Canadian teams. Not that that means all too much. But they're 2-0-0 against the Leafs including a 5-1 win in Toronto at the beginning of the season. And they've won three consecutive on the road.

Florida is guaranteed to be in first place still by the end of the night. But if they want to take their first Southeast crown in franchise history they'll need to win games like this against struggling teams like Toronto.

My question: Who will Capitals fans be rooting for while they're team plays the Islanders? The only way they're happy is as long as it's not a three-point game.

8 ET: Los Angeles at Minnesota

It's the same story, different day for Minnesota. If they lose you have to think they're done in the playoff race. I seem to write it all the time these days and every time they pull off the win. But chasing so many teams in the logjam ahead of them they aren't gaining much traction.

One of those teams ahead of them is in town on Tuesday night, so that helps. Especially when that team has about as hard a time scoring as the Wild. Actually harder, but they have a new addition in L.A. who is supposed to help out that department.

Coming into the night, the Wild continue to hang on by their chinny chin chin. They are five points back of the Stars and Avalanche who are tied with 70 points in the eighth spot. They're three back of the Kings. They have games in hand entering the night on all of them. So, you know, have to make those games count and all that, otherwise they're missed opportunities.

For the Wild keen an eye on veteran Matt Cullen. It might just be coincidental but he didn't have a single point in the Wild's seven-game losing streak but has scored a goal in three of the last four games. They are 3-1 in those games. I'll let you guess which one they lost.

10:30 ET, Philadelphia at San Jose

Welcome back home, Sharks. It must be nice to be swimming in friendly waters again after more than two weeks straight on the road. Philly is waiting for you.

San Jose's nine-game jaunt that began Feb. 12 in St. Louis wasn't very kind to them. They won only two of those games picking up five points in total. They lost a late lead in the final game and they're coach Todd McLellan was knocked out of the game by a fluke play near the bench. Oh, and they lost first place in the Pacific Division to the Coyotes.

So yeah, it's probably very nice to be back home.

And while they have to be tuckered out after playing that final road game on Sunday evening in Minnesota, the Flyers are going to be a well-rested group who has had some extra time to enjoy the sites of San Francisco and the Bay Area, having last played on Saturday in Calgary.

Philadelphia is comfortably in the playoffs, its fight is for the No. 4 seed. But San Jose? You will start to wonder if they're going to even make it here pretty soon if they lose tonight. I'm not saying it's panic time, it's certainly not. A road trip like that is brutal. But if they fail to get any points tonight, they will remain just one point ahead of the two teams in eighth. That starts making it pretty interesting.

Others worth watching

9 ET, Vancouver at Phoenix: Arguably the two hottest teams in the league right now (and not much argument for anybody else) this is a huge measuring stick game for the Coyotes. If they get at least one point tonight they will have earned a point in every game in the month of February. Only once so far have they failed to get two points this month -- a shootout loss to the Canucks, no less.

7 ET, Ottawa at Boston: These two renew acquaintances after the weekend's hotly contested game in Ottawa, a Bruins win. The spread is three in the division for the B's with games in hand, so head to head is Ottawa's best chance to gain ground. Look for some fireworks after last game and Kyle Turris' hit on Joe Corvo that avoided supplemental discipline.

7 ET, Islanders at Washington: Interestingly enough, the Isles are the only team from the Eastern Conference the Capitals haven't beaten this season. This is their third crack at them. With just one point the Caps vault into the eighth spot in the East with the Jets, two points give them the No. 8 spot all to themselves.

Your promised miscellany

  • Check out our brand new Facebook page and like us, because we like you!
  • Monday's Winners & Losers
  • After the Jets allowed four unanswered goals to the Oilers at home last night, Kyle Wellwod called it the "worst loss of the year." (Winnipeg Sun)
  • Did Cody Hodgson ask for a trade out of Vancouver? Canucks GM Mike Gillis won't say one way or the other. (The Province)
  • Sheldon Souray is back and it means the return of one of the best nicknames I've seen this season: Studly Wonderbomb. (Dallas Morning News)
  • Think Mike Mottau is happy to be a Bruin? “I always said that I’d take a puck in the teeth to play for the Boston Bruins,” said Mottau. “Now I’ll get that chance.” (CSN New England)
  • Lastly, here's a pretty neat inside look at what happens when NHL teams make a trade and the call they make to the league, this one the Hodgson-Zack Kassian swap. (Also, note that the Sabres and Canucks made two separate deals, Alexander Sulzer and Marc-Andre Gragnani were technically their own trade.)

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

Posted on: January 8, 2012 4:24 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 4:40 pm
 

Marchand has hearing for clipping; Salo concussed

By Brian Stubits

The Boston Bruins had not one but two players assessed game misconducts in Saturday's very combative Stanley Cup Final rematch loss to the Vancouver Canucks. One of those -- to Milan Lucic -- was rescinded by the NHL. The other one handed to Brad Marchand for clipping has led to a hearing with the NHL.

In a game that had numerous fights, hits and dustups, Marchand's hit on Sami Salo was the worst. With the two on a colision course, Marchand elected to play his own version of the limbo and see how low he could go. He connected with Salo right around his knees, flipping Salo head over heels and hitting the ice with his head.

Take note, too, of the leadup to the hit from Marchand. You see the two players bumped into each other then Marchand threw a couple of jabs at Salo before undercutting him. It doesn't help his case in arguing that it wasn't intentional.

It is a bit interesting that in today's league where teams like the Florida Panthers are listing concussed players as being out with bruised tailbones that the Canucks wasted no time in announcing that Salo did, indeed, suffer a concussion from the hit.

Remember too that Marchand has a discipline past on his short resume already. Earlier this season he was fined for slew-footing Matt Niskanen and last season he was given two games for elbowing R.J. Umberger in the head. We've seen a few times this season how Brendan Shanahan treats repeat offenders.

We know this much, the Canucks weren't happy about it at all.

“You talk about unacceptable plays in hockey,” GM Mike Gillis told the Vancouver Sun, “that's clearly one. I'm not going to comment any further.”

But of course defenseman Kevin Bieksa did. He's always good for an opinion on anything involving his teammates, it seems.

“It's very, very cheap,” Bieksa said. “I can't think of a cheaper hit you can do on the ice. That and a slew-foot kind of go hand in hand. Twenty seconds before that, [Marchand] and Sami have a pretty good collision in the exact same spot. Sami probably gets the better of him. Then second time, Marchand comes back and loses his will and goes down low. A cheap shot from him, and I hope he gets a phone call from the league.”

He is. That's how his hearing will be conducted, over the phone, meaning Marchand's suspension won't exceed four games.

Even the coaches are getting into it. Here's a little back and forth between Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault from the Sun.

“If guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys,” Julien told reporters, “because that's the consequences – you end up paying for taking runs at other guys, too.”

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault was not amused.

"That's a stupid comment," he said Sunday. "What Marchant did, you could end a player's career doing that. I've never seen Sami Salo take a run at any player in the NHL.

"Marchand -- and this is just my feeling -- but someday he's going to get it. Someday, someone's going to say 'enough is enough' and they're going to hurt the kid because he plays to hurt players. And if the league doesn't care, somebody else will."

Marchand addressed the possible suspension on Sunday with reporters, explaining that he was protecting himself when he saw Salo coming his way.

More NHL Discipline News Here

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

Posted on: October 26, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Looking at the starts for Luongo, Ovechkin

PNN1

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: the "slow" starts for Vancouver's Roberto Luongo and Washington's Alex Ovechkin

By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to calm the chaos surrounding the Vancouver Canucks and their starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo, the three-time All-Star was pulled during the second period of their 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night after surrounding three goals on 14 shots. Panic!

Luongo, of course, has been under intense scrutiny, as he always seems to be in Vancouver, and it's reached the point that the local press is writing editorials proposing trades, much to the chagrin of general manager Mike Gillis. Imagine what it would be like if this team wasn't one win away from owning the Stanley Cup just a few months ago.

There is no way to deny that it's been a bad month for Luongo, as his .868 save percentage through his first six starts is near the bottom of the NHL. But he's not going to stay this bad, and it shouldn't be a surprise that he's struggled in the month of October. Throughout his career Luongo has been a slow starter (and at times slow finisher) and plays lights out during the months in between. He's basically a goaltending bell curve.

Let's take a look at his save percentages, by month, for his career and the past few seasons.

Roberto Luongo: Month-by-Month
Month Career 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08
October .914 .907 .902 .902 .903
November .916 .914 .921 .959 .940
December .923 .922 .932 Injured .942
January .921 .947 .922 .876 .908
February .923 .923 .915 .914 .919
March .920 .942 .902 .930 .909
April .904 .961 .867 .918 .820

If you're of the opinion that Luongo can't win when it counts, maybe his decreased production in April, which has carried over to the playoffs at various times in recent years, simply reinforces that belief. But a slow start is nothing new. And while this one has been worse than some of his recent ones, he's eventually going to rebound. Over the past six years Luongo has been one of the best goaltenders in the league when it comes to even-strength save percentage, and even finished second in two of the past three years. He didn't suddenly lose that ability. At least not yet. He's going to play better, so let's calm down with the trade talk and suggestions of starting Cory Schneider, Vancouver, because it's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen.

Ovechkin's start not unlike his previous starts … sort of

Speaking of great players that are off to "slow" starts, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has three goals and four assists through his first seven games of the season. For most players, a point-per-game average at any point of the season is a cause for praise and celebration; for a former scoring champion and two-time MVP it's started conversation as to whether or not we've already seen his best days as an NHL scorer.

(Actually, that may not be entirely out of the question at this point, as most players see their peak performance come somewhere around the age of 25 or 26. Of course, that doesn't mean Ovechkin is destined to become an average player or that his career is going to suddenly fall off a cliff. He's still going to be one of the best and most dominant players in the NHL and a force to reckon with everytime he steps on the ice -- he just may not score 65 goals again.) 

But what about his start to this season? Is three goals and four assists through seven games all that out of the ordinary for Ovechkin? No. No it's not. Have a look.

Alex Ovechkin: Production Through Seven Games
Year Goals Points Shots
2011-12 3 7 21
2010-11 4 8 35
2009-10 7 14 55
2008-09 2 4 37
2007-08 4 6 36
2006-07 4 7 46
2005-06 4 8 28

The biggest difference, obviously, is that his shots on goal are not only way down, but are also the lowest they've ever been through this many games, and that should be a bit of a concern.

The easy suggestion is to simply shoot more(!) but that's easier said than done. Everybody wants to get more shots on goal, whether you're a former 60-goal scorer or a third-line grinder. But there's another team out there with highly paid professionals doing their best to prevent that from happening. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post wrote about Ovechkin's start last week and pointed out how the Capitals are trying --and have been trying -- to get him to become less predictable on the attack, and how other teams have been defending his usual rush of cutting to the high slot.

Maybe "the book" is out on him, and maybe he hasn't adjusted to it yet, but this slow start looks pretty similar to every other start he's had throughout his career, at least as far as his production is concerned, even with the fewer shots on goal (something that's been on the decline in recent years, as Neil Greenberg recently pointed out). Whether or not that's sustainable over the course of the season remains to be seen.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 22, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: October 22, 2011 2:27 pm
 

Gillis defends Luongo, unhappy with editorial

MG1By: Adam Gretz

An editorial appeared in the Vancouver Province on Thursday with the off-the-wall suggestion that the Canucks trade their starting goaltender, Roberto Luongo, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Vincent Lecavalier.

Luongo, of course, has been hearing a chorus of boos and jeers for most of the young season for his play, seemingly a carryover from last year's playoffs, and it's even to the point now where Luongo is talking about how it's no big deal because he's so used to it. No doubt, the Canucks faithful and their franchise goalie have a somewhat rocky relationship.

But the suggestion that appeared in the Province (which you can read right here) was laughable at best, and completely absurd at its worst for a number of reasons. Including the fact that Lecavalier actually has a larger contract and isn't quite as valuable of a player at this point in his career. To call it a "rumor" would be an insult to rumormongers everywhere. All it would do is simply swap the franchise goaltender (and in this particular case, the more valuable of the two players) with the huge contract that is under constant scrutiny for a forward with a larger contract that would likely be under just as much scrutiny for not performing up to expectations. And that's if the trade suggestion had a snow balls chance in hell of ever happening. 

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis, seemingly at the end of his rope when it comes to this nonsense regarding his starting goaltender, made a call into a Vancouver sports talk show on Friday night and went to the defense of Luongo, while also criticizing the paper for a lack of accountability. You can listen to the entire call at Team 1040's website, with the main commentary on the editorial starting around the 14-minute mark.

The biggest problem Gillis had with the article seemed to be that it actually appeared as an editorial, in the front section of the paper, and without any name attached to it. Basically, he wanted accountability, and he mentioned multiple times that he simply "did not like it."

"I've got a real issue with this," said Gillis. "There are bigger issues ... The editorial board of the Province makes a decision that they want a franchise goalie out of here and they already have him traded for another player on another team. Where does that come from?"

"I think that when you have the guys we work with from the Province all the time, if they write something, they're down here after the next day and they're accountable because they have to talk to the players, the coaches, myself or somebody. Where's the accountability in this?"

Following Gillis' appearance on the show, Province editor in chief Wayne Moriarty appeared to counter the general manager's statement and defend the editorial, stating that it was the combined view of the editorial board after debating the issue, and that most editorials in most papers don't have a name attached to them.

"The person who writes it, all that person is doing is putting into words the viewpoint of three or four people," said Moriarty. "The viewpoint of a concensus. So attaching one name to it is somewhat irrelevant because it's not the viewpoint of the person who writes it, it's the viewpoit of a board."

He then followed that statement up by suggesting that Gillis should be more concerned about 14,000 of his premium ticket holders booing his most valuable asset, as opposed to be concerned about what appears in an editorial in one of the local papers.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:18 am
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA



By: Adam Gretz


Georges Laraque spent 12 seasons in the NHL with one specific role: fight. He appeared on TSN Radio on Wednesday afternoon and spoke about how much he hated that role and hated promoting violence, but did it because it was his job. Following the death of Wade Belak later that day, he spoke to the Toronto Sun and called for the NHL and NHLPA to establish some sort of counseling for fighters.

Said Laraque: "Listen, they have to step up. Now more than ever, people have to realize that the job that we did is a really stressful job. Mentally, it’s one of the hardest things. There’s so many guys that have demons and problems with that. We have to do something.

“This, as sad as an incident that it is, is tainting the image of the NHL. If we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be bad. It’s not going to be safe anymore. It’s unbelievable.”

The easy connection here is to automatically associate the three recent NHL deaths (Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Belak) with fighting because all three shared the same role on the ice. We still don't know what impact their role had on their untimely deaths (or if their role on the ice was a symptom of an underlying issue that already existed long before they were in the NHL). This isn't just about fighters or fighting. Both sides (the pro-fighting side and the anti-fighting side) have their own agenda on the subject and it does nothing but clutter everything up with noise at this point.

The issue is why players -- all players, not just fighters -- can't get (or aren't getting) the help they desperately need. Anything that involves any sort of anxiety, depression or therapy still has plenty of stigma attached to it in society in general (and it shouldn't). But it has to be even worse in sports, an industry where everything happens (good and bad) in the public eye.

I've never had depression, so I can't speak as to what it's like, and I certainly don't work under the same spotlight professional athletes do, but I have had my own anxiety issues (OCD tendancies) since late high school/early college. Once I realized it was happening (like, for example, having to turn the car around, drive back home and re-check the same locks that I had systematically checked before, or making sure the stove was still turned off or the toaster was still unplugged) it took me a while to finally admit it and talk about it. I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy to start telling people about it -- because it wasn't -- but finally doing so turned out to be a huge step in facing it and working to overcome it.

It's nothing to hide from or be embarrassed about. Anxiety and depression issues are more common than most people realize, and often times go unnoticed or unreported. Why wouldn't that happen in sports, too? You're dealing with an environment where any potential flaw has the possibility of being used against you by an opponent, a drunk heckler behind the penalty box or, hell, even a potential employer. How difficult would it be for a person in an industry like professional sports where the pressure is immense and the spotlight is constantly on you? And what about a player that's sitting in a pre-draft meeting getting grilled by an executive? Is there a fear that if something like that is revealed it will hurt his chances of being selected or given a contract?

Following the death of Rypien, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis spoke about how he and the Canucks organization were going to continue Rypien's fight against depression. It's a worthy fight that demands more attention than it's currently getting, in society, in sports ... everywhere. Here's hoping he and the Canucks (and the NHL and NHLPA) are not only successful at improving the way these situations are handled, but also changing the culture so that players with a problem are more comfortable and willing to seek out the help they need.

A friend of mine that works in the psychology field (you can check out his website, Psychotherapy Brown Bag, by clicking right here) asked me to include the national suicide prevention lifeline if you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide. Please call 1-800-273-TALK for free, anonymous help that is available 24/7.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.



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