Posted on: February 25, 2012 10:50 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
1. Phoenix Coyotes: Is it too soon to give Dave Tippett the Jack Adams Award? Maybe, but it looks like he might have another one coming his way if this continues in Phoenix.
With their 3-1 win against the Oilers on Saturday afternoon the Coyotes won for the ninth time in the past 10 games, a stretch that has seen them go without a loss in regulation, and thanks to San Jose's loss in Nashville, they actually moved into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. For now, anyway.
And this is a team that looked like it may not make the playoffs as recently as three weeks ago.
[Related: Coyotes 3, Oilers 1]
2. Los Angeles Kings: Jeff Carter's debut with the Kings was a rather large success. He didn't record a point in the Kings' 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, of course, but the fact the Kings scored four goals in a single game is impressive enough. Entering Saturday night they have scored just 18 goals in their previous 11 games.
Leading the was captain Dustin Brown as he did his part to respond to recent trade rumors with a hat trick, scoring two power play goals and a shorthanded goal, while also assisting on Willie Mitchell's second period goal.
Big-time performance for a Kings team that desperately needed it. Oh, hey, and another shutout for Jonathan Quick.
[Related: Kings 4, Blackhawks 0]
3. Washington Capitals: A fast start and a huge road win -- 4-2 over the Maple Leafs -- for what has been one of the worst road teams in the Eastern Conference . It's only the third road win for the Capitals in their past eight road games, and it allows them to keep pace with Florida and Winnipeg in the race for not only the No. 8 spot in the East, but also the top spot in the Southeast Division.
[Related: Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 2]
4. Wojtek Wolski and the Panthers: On the same day that the Florida Panthers acquired him from the New York Rangers, Wojtek Wolski was in the lineup for his new team and he not only scored his first goal of the season, it came with less than two minutes to play in the third period to tie the game at two, sending the game to overtime where the Panthers would eventually win in a shootout. That's how you make a debut and make an impact for your new team.
[Related: Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2 -- Wolski traded to Panthers]
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: Entering Saturday's game the playoff chances for the Tampa Bay Lightning were slim, especially now that the team has established itself as a seller. Their 8-1 loss to the Penguins can be described using only one word: Woof.
[Related: Penguins 8, Lightning 1 -- Malkin's highlight reel goal]
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: In what was a classic four-point game in the standings for both Toronto and Washington, the Maple Leafs got off to a slow start giving up two goals just three minutes into the first period and were never able to recover on their way to a 4-2 loss to the Capitals. The Leafs have now lost four in a row and eight out of their past nine. Perhaps being a buyer at the trade deadline isn't the best course of action for Toronto at this point.
Then again, Ron Wilson did his part to throw James Reimer in front of the bus during his post-game press conference, and seemed to be begging for a goaltender to be added. It could be an interesting 36 hours in Toronto.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 10:37 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 10:38 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Pretty much every game is a playoff game for the Toronto Maple Leafs right now.
They entered Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh in a three-way tie with New Jersey and Florida for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, and every possible point is a must. That's why their 5-4 shootout loss against the Penguins was not only costly, but most certianly frustrating. Not only because they didn't gain the two points against one of the many teams they're chasing in the standings, but also because they blew a three-goal third period lead with 10 minutes to play on a night that they completely dominated for the first 50 minutes.
Mikhail Grabovski scored a pair of goals, and thanks to third period tallies from Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak the Leafs opened up a 4-1 lead mid-way through the third period and looked to be well on their way to an important win. And then everything started to collapse. Goals from Steve Sullivan and Joe Vitale brought the Penguins to within one, and then a shot from James Neal deflected off the shoulder of Evgeni Malkin and beat Jonas Gustavsson with just six seconds to play to send the game to overtime and eventually the tiebreaking shootout.
One of the biggest plays of the game, and the one that received plenty of attention after the fact, happened early in the first period when Bozak had what would have been the first goal of the night disallowed for goaltender interference (shown above). If you watch the replay, it's hard to see what, exactly, led to the call.
After the game Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was asked what explanation he received from the refs.
"We bumped into their goalie, and we didn't," said Wilson. "And then it changed to we pushed their defenseman into the goalie, and that didn't happen either. There's nothing you can do, you play on, but just in hindsight right now it's an important goal that got waved off."
Joffrey Lupul, the player that was called for the interference simply said "bad call," when asked about the play.
"Refs make mistakes too, but I didn't touch the goalie," added Lupul. "I don't know if their defenseman skated into him or not, but as far as I know it was a mistake."
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 31, 2012 12:32 pm
We relayed to you a story over the weekend of Don Cherry saying that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke isn't fond of the things Cherry has said about the Leafs and that Burke was even considering going to the CBC with his complaints.
Consider it done. From the Toronto Sun:
Nuts sort of describes the whole story, doesn't it?
Burke is an old-school guy, from lamenting the rats running the league to challenging Kevin Lowe to a fight in a barn set in the backwoods. An affront to him or his family (in this case, his team) will be dealt with.
One of the affronts in this case was Cherry referring to Leafs coach Ron Wilson as a Napoleon ype, saying “I don’t like him ... I don’t like the way he treats the players.”
But complaining about a national commentator's opinion of your team and coach? It's so hard for me to figure out when Burke is being professional and when he's being petulant. I mean I guess he could have challenged Cherry to a fight in a barn.
Everybody knows what/who Cherry is anymore, he's loud for the sake of being loud, his job is to entertain while also being a pundit. I don't know of anybody who puts much stock into what Cherry says in his weekly Coach's Corner segments. Except now for Burke.
The whole story underscores something that I find rather impressive: Burke's ability to succeed despite caring so much what others say. Usually, that's not a trait that will help somebody, particularly in a business like hockey in a market such as Toronto.
More from Eye on Hockey
Posted on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm
One thing you hear most every player, coach and general manager say often is that they don't read the newspapers or listen to sports radio. If they did they might go crazy.
Maybe that explains it for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, because he pretty clearly pays attention to what is said. When the Leafs announced a contract extension for coach Ron Wilson, they seemed to release the news purposely on Christmas to burn the Toronto media. His battles with that group have been pretty well known.
He also appears to have a problem with CBC icon (or eye sore for the fashionistas out there) Don Cherry. Granted, he's not the only one in that department, but still.
“I like Brian Burke. I have nothing against Brian Burke,” said Cherry in an exclusive sit-down interview with the Ottawa Sun on Saturday. “But Brian Burke doesn’t like me. That’s the sad thing. We used to be the best of friends. I used to get St. Patrick’s Day cards from him ... no more.
“Brian Burke does not like what I say about the Leafs. But what am I supposed to say about them? They haven’t made the playoffs in [seven] years. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I guess he doesn’t like it. But I am what I am.”
Sun writer Tim Baines reports in the same story that Burke has become so upset that he has been thinking over taking his gripes about Cherry's critiques to the CBC.
Can you imagine the response that Burke would get if he went through with going to CBC brass? Imagine what Cherry would say in his next edition of Coach's Corner.
The kicker is that Cherry admits to being a Leafs fans behind only his love for the Bruins, the team he played his only NHL game with and coached for five seasons, including two Stanley Cup Final losses. But in case it hasn't been clear for years, Cherry calls things like he sees them.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 3:39 pm
Even after his New York Rangers won the Winter Classic on Monday in Philadelphia, coach John Tortorella still had reason to complain. Let's just say he wasn't fond of the officiating that included a penalty shot being awarded to the Flyers with 19.6 seconds to go.
Asked after the game what his thoughts were about the calls at the end of the game, Torts didn't hold back. You can see it beginning at the 8:45 mark in the video below.
For the audio impaired, here's a refresher on what he said.
"I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game," Tortorella said afterward. "It started with the non-call on Gabby's [Marian Gaborik] walk, he gets pitch-forked in the stomach and then everything starts going against us.
"For two good referees, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe they did want to get it to an overtime. I'm not sure if they have meetings about that or what. They're good guys, I just thought tonight, in that third period, it was disgusting."
Gary Bettman was on that same podium just a few minutes earlier. You know that caught the attention of the league offices and Torts could end up paying for what he said -- literally. That in spite of the fact that a lot of people would agree with Tortorella's view of the officiating. Including Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson.
"I kind of agreed with Torts at the end and his postgame comments," Wilson said on Tuesday. "I was wondering what the heck was going on."
Presumably, Wilson is just a neutral third party watching the game as an experienced hockey man making that observation. Of course, when you are a head coach, the expectations are different. If Tortorella is fined for his remarks, you might expect that Wilson will at least get a talking to that he shouldn't make such comments.
However they're only saying what a lot of people were thinking.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 4:32 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Over the past month-and-a-half it's been the season for firing coaches in the NHL.
While we've already seen changes in Washington, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Montreal, not to mention St. Louis earlier in the year, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson went to his own personal Twitter account as the NHL went to its holiday break and asked for a certain piece of paper (a contract extension) in his stocking for Christmas.
And that's exactly what he received over the holiday weekend.
It's kind of a bold move for the Maple Leafs organization given that Wilson has been behind the bench for three full seasons and failed to make the playoffs in all of them, while compiling a 101-107-38 record entering this season. Through 35 games in 2011 Toronto owns an 18-13-4 mark and occupies the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's slate of games, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, the team that occupies the No. 9 spot (and first non-playoff spot).
The reaction from Toronto seems to be that the Maple Leafs haven't shown enough under Wilson's watch to justify any sort of a contract extension, and that general manager Brian Burke has put his own neck on the line by once again committing to Wilson.
Even if all of that is true (and it very well might be) something had to be done (and probably soon) as Wilson was in the final year of his current contract. Having a lame duck coach isn't really an ideal situation for anybody, and the Leafs certainly weren't going to dismiss Wilson at this point given Toronto's start.
And speaking of that start, it's been Toronto's best one in years, and has been driven almost entirely by the team's power play unit, currently clicking at a 21 percent rate, third best in the league, and the scoring of forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both of whom are in the top-10 in the NHL's scoring race. And that's about it. Scoring depth isn't great once you get beyond Kessel and Lupul, and the goaltending, whether it's been James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens, has struggled.
Unless you believe the Maple Leafs power play is going to continue to be one of the best in the NHL all season, after being one of the worst over the past two years with largely the same cast of characters, and that Kessel and Lupul are going to remain near the top of the points leader board, this has the chance of being a fourth-straight non-playoff season under Wilson if those two areas see any sort of a regression the rest of the way. And I'm not convinced either of those two positive developments will continue all season. They have the look of early season hot streaks and fast starts that aren't going to be sustainable over the long haul of the season.
The Maple Leafs power play, which generates one of the lowest shot rates in the NHL per 60 minutes of power play time, currently owns a shooting percentage in the 18-percent range, by far the best mark in the NHL and significantly higher than what it's managed to shoot at in recent seasons (over the past three years Toronto, as a team, has owned 5-on-4 shooting percentages of 13 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent). The only team to finish a season with a higher power play shooting percentage was the 2008-09 Flyers. The number of shots a team generates on the power play is usually the best indicator of future success, which could be bad news for the Leafs over the remainder of the season.
The playoffs are far from a lock at this point, and even though Wilson has his contract extension right now that's still not a guarantee that he'll be behind the bench next season if his team fails to qualify for the postseason for a fourth straight year with him behind the bench.
More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:54 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 5:19 pm
WASHINGTON -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Francois Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner, there was sort of a sense that the Leafs were getting the worse end of the deal. While it wouldn't be fair to call Lupul and Gardiner the equivalent of a bag of pucks and a zamboni, it didn't seem like the greatest return in the history of trades. Sure, the potential was there, but you never know.
Lupul 's time in Anaheim was anything but spectacular. After a couple of very solid seasons in Philadelphia, he wasn't finding the grass greener on the West Coast. Over a season and a half with the Ducks, Lupul played in only 49 games and had 15 goals with 12 assists. Injuries were as much a concern as anything.
As for Gardiner, well, he hadn't played a single minute in the NHL, so he was pretty much an unknown commodity.
But now, not even a year later, it's looking like one sweet deal for the Leafs and GM Brian Burke. That's because Lupul is scoring at a rate he never has before and has formed one dynamic duo alongside Phil Kessel, the sniper the Leafs have long been looking for.
As of this point, Lupul already has 33 points in just 29 games. That's good enough for the fourth-most points in the league, tied with Henrik Sedin and one ahead of Jonathan Toews. His 13 goals are almost halfway to his career high of 28, which he posted in his first go-round with the Ducks. More impressively, his 20 assists are just six behind his career high he set with the Flyers in 2007-08.
It's been partly a matter of fitting in, partly a matter of health. Despite having made two stops in his career in Anaheim, Lupul said that his comfort level playing with the Leafs this season is at an all-time high.
"Oh definitely. I feel probably the best I've ever felt," Lupul said. "Partially health wise and partially just because when you're getting results and things are going your way you get some confidence. Right now I feel like every game I can be a difference-maker whereas in the past sometimes your confidence is going back and forth. It's definitely a good situation for me, playing first-line minutes."
That's like the old idea some women try to use on men. Treat him the way you want him to act and watch him become that guy. Or something like that. The point is now that Lupul is getting first-line time, he's giving first-line production.
A lot of that has to do with the psyche, too. Confidence can go a long way for a player, not only confidence in himself, but also confidence from the coaches. It can be like a security blanket, a reassurance that allows a player to play looser. Lupul has that going on, too.
"When you make mistakes, which we've made lots of this year, it's good to know the coach trusts you and you're going to be back and you're going to be given a chance to make amends for it," Lupul said.
It becomes a chicken or the egg argument. Lupul is playing better because the coach trusts him while coach Ron Wilson trusts Lupul because he is playing better. Whichever came first, the result is one quality chicken.
Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention more about the pairing with Kessel. Even including the NHL's superstar twin brothers of Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, there has been no better two-person tandem this season than Lupul and Kessel.
We all knew what Kessel was capable of, but this season he is taking things to a higher level.
"Phil's taking the next step in his development as a player," Lupul said. "I think you can see that game in, game out he's better this year than he was last year. I mean last year he'd have the big games where he would be really dominant. Now it seems they are happening more often."
At 24, Kessel is really taking his game to new heights. With his league-best 18 goals, he's well on his way to smashing his career best of 36, which he set in 2008-09, his final season with the Bruins.
But Lupul knows they won't continue to enjoy this kind of success without more hard work.
"We realize things are going to get tougher on us as the season goes, especially on the road, matching up against other teams' best D and checkers," Lupul said. "That's a challenge we both have to be up to."
As for Gardiner, he is blossoming into a very good defenseman for a rather full corps in Toronto. The rookie has worked his way into the rotation in a big way, logging more than 20 minutes in a game on 16 occasions this season. The former first-round pick by the Ducks is finding his own niche in Toronto.
It's not like Francois Beauchemin has been bad for the Ducks. He hasn't. But this is sure looking like one hell of a deal for Burke.
Now if he could only figure out how to fix that atrocious penalty kill, they'd really be on to something in Toronto.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 10:12 am
How quickly things change.
On Friday morning, MLSE (owners of the Maple Leafs, the AHL's Marlies, NBA's Raptors and MLS' Toronto FC) held a news conference to announce the purchase of the company by a joint group of two Canadian media conglomerates, Bell Media and Rogers Communications.
The price of the purchase for the OTPP's 79.5 percent ownership stake is 1.32 Billion -- that's with a B. As part of the purchase, the only minority owner, Larry Tanenbaum, sees his stake rise from 20.5 percent to 25 percent. He had the right of first refusal on a new owner. He will remain the company's CEO.
It's also of note that Rogers already owns baseball's Blue Jays, so with them coming aboard, Rogers now has a hand in all of Toronto's big professional sports teams. Bell, meanwhile, currently owns an 18 percent minority stake in the Montreal Canadiens and announced they aren't looking to sell that share. Let the conspiracy theories begin.
This brings up some really interesting dynamics between two competing companies owning one team. Rogers, which owns Sportsnet, and Bell, owner of TSN. It's certainly a unique agreement to bring together people trying to beat each other out.
"We're all about winning, we're all about championships," Nadir Mohamed of Rogers said when explaining how the two competitors will work together.
That divide was already on display -- somewhat jokingly, mind you -- when Mohamed said it was his goal for Rogers to be the No. 1 company in Canadian media.
So when the Leafs make a move, which network gets the news first? Do they make joint announcements?
There's a lot of fun to have out of this purchase, but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the delicious irony that Leafs GM Brian Burke and Leafs coach Ron Wilson now work for two media companies just a short while after they were in a spat with local media (when aren't they?), with Burke saying people who work in the media or liars.
The comedy continued in the press conference when they continued to refer to the Raptors as an iconic franchise. We kid, Eye On Basketball, but only because we care.
OTPP has held the primary ownership stake in MLSE since 2004, but has held some stake in the company since 1994.