Tag:John Tortorella
Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Reports: Sean Avery to go on re-entry waivers

By Brian Stubits

Sean Avery will be returning to an NHL rink near you, so it seems.

Of all the news breakers that cover the NHL and New York Rangers, it was the NFL on CBS' own Boomer Esiason who broke the news that Avery will be put through the process of returning to the NHL at lot faster than anybody, including Avery, could have assumed.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post and Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet later confirmed the news that Avery was going to be put on re-entry waivers likely on Monday. Considering he cleared waivers without issue when he was sent to the AHL, it shouldn't be an issue for him to clear them on re-entry. If he does, he would be eligible to play for the Rangers on Thursday against the Ducks in Madison Square Garden.

Avery was assigned to the Connecticut Whale just before the Rangers' season opener in Sweden. Coach John Tortorella, who has always seemed to have a frosty relationship with the New York fan favorite, said he didn't want to "jam" Avery up, believing that they had better players they were keeping.

Among that list of players is Kris Newbury, who is filling Avery's skates on the checking line. He hasn't exactly endeared himself to the fans in New York with his play. Of course, I am starting to doubt anybody can endear themselves to Rangers fans quite like Avery.

After the Rangers announced he would not be on the roster to start the season, he began exploring all of his options. Eventually, Avery said he chose to stay close to New York and play in the AHL rather than go for more money in Europe. He also said he didn't believe he ever had a fair shot to make the roster from the beginning and that he doubted he'd be back with the Rangers this season.

When the team finally played at the new Madison Square Garden last Thursday, the crowd erupted into a "We want Avery!" chant. There was a banner hanging from the rafters asking for Avery to come back and to send Torts (Tortorella) to the Whale.

Well apparently the fans have been heard. Avery could be back in a blue shirt by the end of the week.

Maybe the best news? HBO's 24/7 can once again follow Avery for their series coming up.

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

Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 11:04 am
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers get MSG debut do-over

By Brian Stubits

The refurbished Madison Square Garden finally hosted a Rangers game on Thursday night, and it wasn't enough like old times for the fans. And I'm not talking about the $9.50 domestic beers.

No, the fans in attendance were longing for the old MSG, where Sean Avery delighted them on the ice. OK, maybe they were just longing for Avery.

There was also a banner hanging from the upper level earlier in the game in support of Avery. Mysteriously, it was gone later in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the fan didn't have a change of heart midway through the game and took it down him/herself.

The case of Avery is an odd one. He is a player that all the teams in the NHL apparently don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, including the Rangers, who sent him to the AHL's Connecticut Whale. If you ask 100 people to describe Avery the player in one word, the most flattering response you would receive is "agitator."

He's like a member of the Rangers family. Johnny Ranger fan can insult him all day long, just like I can call my brother a jerk (hypothetically, of course). But don't you even dare to call my brother a jerk. It's in the same vain. Avery might just be an ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off, but he's THEIR ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off. He's a fan favorite. His antics have gone over well in New York, clearly.

But honestly, this wouldn't be that big of a deal if the Rangers were playing better, specifically Avery's replacement, Kris Newbury. Sure, they are 3-3-2, but it has been less-than inspiring. This is a team that had a lot of hype after an offseason that saw them catch the biggest fish swimming in the free-agent lake. The combination of Brad Richards with Marian Gaborik would be gold, I tell you, gold. The Blueshirts would finally be able to give Henrik Lundqvist the kind of scoring support to show he is a Vezina-quality goaltender.

Well, it hasn't happened yet -- the scoring, not Lundqvist showing he is Vezina-quality. The Rangers offense has scored 16 goals in eight games. Even the mathematically challenged should easily recognize that as two goals per game, not very impressive.

“I’ve known [Gaborik] for a month now,” Richards said. “It would be great if we’d come in here and click perfectly. Realistically, we have some work to do, and we’ve got to get to know each other on the ice. We’re both used to having the puck. That’s a work in progress, for sure.”

“It’s no secret that we have to put more pucks in the net,” Ryan Callahan said after Thursday's game.

This has coach John Tortorella tweaking the lines, trying to find the right combinations. The pairing of Gaborik and Richards just hasn't produced yet the way they hoped. Gaborik was practicing on Friday with Wotjek Wolski and Erik Christensen on one line while Richards was with Brandon Dubinsky and Callahan on another.

It's under that backdrop that the Rangers welcome the Ottawa Senators to new-look MSG on Saturday. You know the Senators, the team most everybody saw as being the worst in the Eastern Conference this year but has surprised the masses by winning four games in a row? The plus side is that the Senators could be the team to jumpstart the typically sluggish Rangers offense. Ottawa has surrendered a league-high 39 goals in 10 games.

Let's look at that game as a second chance to make a first impression at home.

Scorer's delight

Speaking of that Rangers season debut at MSG, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who spoiled the party with a 4-2 win in New York. With the victory they remained one of the surprising starters of the season, improving to 6-2-1.

But I pose this question: What's more surprising, Toronto starting so well thanks to Phil Kessel's nine goals, or Penguins forward James Neal being tied with Kessel for the league lead in goals scored? We'll have a chance to see them at the same time on Saturday when the Penguins visit the Leafs.

Normally, hearing that a Pittsburgh Penguins player leads the league in scoring doesn't come as a surprise. Rather, it is expected. But that's expected from guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not James Neal.

Which brings me to that trade from last February when the Penguins acquired Neal. Talk about one of those trades where both sides win. Well, let me rephrase; a trade where it looks like both sides came out well. I caution against calling winner and losers in a trade so soon. But Neal has obviously been producing for Pittsburgh as he seems capable of not only reaching his career-high 27 goals he had in 2009-10, but surpassing it. On the other end, Matt Niskanen and Alex Goligoski, while having very cool surnames, have both been good fits in Pittsburgh and Dallas.

As for the Leafs' sharpshooter Kessel? Well this is what they hoped for when Brian Burke made that trade a couple of years ago. Just for fun, I'd like to point out that Kessel is on pace for an 81-goal, 144-point season and a plus-45 at this time.

Big Z, Max meet ... again

Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins will be in Montreal on Saturday to pay a visit to the Canadiens. Obviously it's an anticipated reunion for some folks who are into that sort of thing.

Chara has already been back to Habs Town since his hit on Max Pacioretty late last season, the Bruins had to go through the Habs on their way to the Stanley Cup. But it will mark the first time Chara has faced Pacioretty in Montreal. OK, OK, we're stretching a bit. The Canadiens just beat the B's Thursday in Boston, so let's just say this one is about the game, shall we?

These are two struggling teams. Montreal got off to such a bad start, it was their worst in 70 years! It led to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn and since then, the Habs have reeled off two in a row, including one over the Bruins. Not that that had much if anything to do with Pearn's dismissal, but at least the Habs are showing signs of getting out of the early season doldrums.

For Boston, they have struggled too, although much more quietly. Interesting considering they are the defending champs and all. In a way this might have been expected. You hear all the time about the dreaded hangover, and that might be in play here. Either way, the Bruins are struggling to score.

The game is just like any other in an 82-game season, but this will quietly be an important one. These teams both want to get on track and in the Boston's case, a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the hated Habs wouldn't help in that regard. But for Montreal, it could help forgive much of the early struggles.

Best games, on paper

Entering the season, these two games appeared to be monster October showdowns: The Sharks visiting the Red Wings on Friday then the Capitals taking on the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. If you had to pick five preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, there's a good chance three or maybe all four of these teams would make that list.

The Sharks have been somewhat slow to start themselves, but seem to have flipped the switch and won three games in a row, all on the road. The Red Wings, on the other hand, began like gangbusters, but have since lost two games to the Caps and previously winless Blue Jackets. However these two are still titans and will be in the Western hunt all year and just might have another playoff battle lined up. (You might remember they played a great seven-game series last season.)

As for Capitals-Canucks? Well one team has played like a Cup contender and the other, well, the Cup contention seems like a long time ago now. Washington finally took its first loss in Edmonton on Thursday night after getting off to a franchise-record 7-0-0 start. Tomas Vokoun has been spectacular. If there has been anything to complain about up to this point, it's nitpicking.

Vancouver meanwhile has a hot mess of a goaltending situation at the moment. Starter Roberto Luongo is more than a hot topic in the city, a lot of the fans want him gone and would like to see Cory Schneider play. A victory over the Capitals, while not incredibly symbolic at this time of the season, would perhaps satisfy the fan base with the notion that things will be OK. Serenity now!

Somebody get him a compass

Ilya Bryzgalov, who is admittedly "lost in the woods" right now and appears to be a broken goalie, is slated to start Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. He better find his way out of the woods in a hurry.

Since his first two starts of the season when he was stellar, Bryzgalov has been a mess, never worse than Thursday's five-goals-on-10-shots showing in "reprieve" of Sergei Bobrovsky. His best showing since those first two was when he gave up three goals to the Kings in an overtime loss. His numbers right now? Ugggly. Try an .870 save percentage and 3.45 GAA. Ouch.

So Peter Laviolette might have decided that what better way to get a goalie's broken confidence going once again than start him the next time out?

Either that or Lavy didn't want to put Bobrovsky back out there either.

Pregame trash talk

One of the great things about Twitter is the ability for players to interact with fans and other players for thousands to see. Ever wonder what players talk about before the puck is dropped in the faceoff circle? Twitter has helped give fans an idea.

But Anthony Stewart of the Carolina Hurricanes and Daniel Carcillo talking a little pregame smack on Twitter before Friday night's tilt? Yes please!

Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) got it started with this: Goin 2 Carolina to throw a beat down on the Hurricanes and on@EhStew13 Just like in bantam when I'd drop u in buckets b4 pracy #indafaaace

Here was the response from Stewart (@EhStew13): You remembered u got Tko'd, keep the Bus in the Windy City, these 2 points aren't for sale #meh.

The short back-and-forth concluded with Carcillo: @EhStew13 we aren't lookin to buy #5fingerdiscount and I recall me havin to double shift in practice bc some1 had post concussion syndromes.

Good stuff. Guys having some playful smack (I'm assuming its playful) for all to see is good fun.

As to the game itself between the 'Hawks and 'Canes in Carolina? Well Chicago is looking for its first win in Raleigh since 1998. Granted there is unbalanced scheduling, but still, that's a long time. Also, Eric Staal needs to improve and that league-worst minus-9 he's sporting at the moment. Ouch.

Back to Vancouver ...

There will be no Green Men sitting by the opponent's box to torment Alex Ovechkin and crew. Vancouver's most famous fans will instead be ... in Bakersfield, Calif.?

Well look at that, the Green Men have turned their antics into appearances at hockey arenas. The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL (originally from the WCHL) will have the spandex-wearing fans at their game on Friday night. Then Saturday will be Star Wars night.

I don't know about you all, but I'd rather see Star Wars night. Either way, these promotions are two big reasons why minor-league hockey is so awesome.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Saturday Story: Jon Quick on fire; Booth dealt

By Brian Stubits

You ever notice that there seems to be 15 or 20 goalies who are described as one of the top 5 in the league? Well I'm starting to get the feeling I know of another.

In case you haven't noticed, Jonathan Quick is having himself quite a stretch in net for the Los Angeles Kings right now. He blanked the streaking Stars in a 1-0 Pacific Division battle, marking his third consecutive shutout. Going back to last Saturday's game against Philadelphia when Matt Carle beat him on the power play, that's 188:10 consecutive minutes without a goal.

If you want to make that even more impressive, the last team he was beaten with an even-strength goal? You have to go back to 13:03 of the first period against the Devils on Oct. 13. That's 286:57 straight minutes.

"Anytime a goaltender gets a shutout, everyone contributes. But you've got to give him a lot of the credit," Kings coach Terry Murray said after the win. "He's focused on the play and he's aggressive to the shots. Tonight he was again on his game, and he just followed up on the game at Phoenix and brought the same game here tonight."

A lot of attention this summer was paid to the addition of Mike Richards in Los Angeles and Drew Doughty's contract. That's all rightfully so. They were massive moves worthy of their attention.

But you can't forget about Quick. When push comes to shove, a team is usually only as good as its goalie. Look at the Bruins and Tim Thomas a season ago.

It's not like we're going off again on another small-sample size judgment parade here. Quick just posted a .918 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average last season. For his career, which consists of 186 games, he has a .914 save percentage. But streaks like this will get you noticed.

Plus, it's pretty great to have him on your Fantasy team, too (#humblebrag).

Booth dealt

When news of the David Booth to the Canucks found its way to the press box at the Verizon Center on Saturday night, the collective response was one of shock. Why on Earth would the Panthers give up Booth for Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson? What was the end game for Dale Tallon?

Well, having had a little more time to digest it, I think I can at least see the rationale for Tallon. That's not to say I buy it, but I can see it.

Booth was more than sluggish to start the season. His one point in six games didn't exactly fit the profile of a player making more than $4 million per season. Considering he scored 23 goals last season and had just 40 points, the perception of him is still high considering his 31-goal season a few years back. That was also before his concussion.

So there was still some high-stock value for Booth. Any longer of a slow start and that would have gone down. But still, only Sturm and Samuelsson for Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick? There has to be more.

Well, consider that obviously Sameulsson and Sturm aren't in the Panthers' long-term plans. When Tallon went on the spending spree this past summer, he signed four lines worth of NHL-caliber players to longer deals. There was no room for the Panthers to begin showing off their expansive farm system.

But with these two deals coming off the books, that's conceivably two roster spots that will be available for highly touted players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden to play. That could be the biggest part of all.

And for the Canucks? Well yea, the deal makes too much sense. Booth with fellow Michigander Ryan Kesler could be magic. Of course, Booth could struggle, too. It's not a completely risk-free trade, but it's close.

How to stay winless in 60 seconds

The Columbus Blue Jackets were so close they could probably taste it. Going in to the final minute against the Senators, the Jackets had the lead and seemed at least sure to get one point. That would have doubled their season total. But the real fish they were chasing was their first win.

Instead, they reminded everybody why they are the only winless team in hockey by collapsing in the final minute, giving up not one, but two goals to the Senators, including the winner with 4.7 seconds left.

"It's tough. It seems like we're not getting any bounces," Rick Nash said. "It seems like we're finding ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games. That's the difference between good teams and bad teams right now."

The saving grace for Columbus? The team is about to get a lift. James Wisniewski will finally make his Blue Jackets debut after his eight-game suspension and Jeff Carter shouldn't be out too much longer.

Still, there is no easy treading ahead. The next seven games will come against teams above .500. At this point, they just need to get the proverbial monkey off their backs because this will only weigh on them the longer it goes.

Long season ahead

The Washington Capitals are flying sky high right now. They are off to a 7-0-0 start and D.C. is buzzing about its hockey team again. Seriously, outside of the arena before Saturday's game against the Red Wings there was a marching band which had one of the adjacent streets shut down.

After they dismantled the Wings 7-1, optimism is even higher. But that's why we have Ted Leonsis around (well that, and he kind of owns the team).

In a nutshell, here's the main message of his blog post to his Caps faithful.

It is October.

It is not how you start -- it is how you finish.

Enjoy the ride.

But don’t ever get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. Thank you. Go Caps!

It's a good moment of clarity from Leonsis, to be sure. Obviously he knows all too well about the Capitals being regular-season warriors who haven't delivered in the playoffs. But I just can't help but notice a more well-rounded and dare I say better team.

Stinking up the place

Rangers coach John Tortorella was brief in his postgame interview after New York's 2-0 loss to the Oilers on Saturday night. Real brief.

I take it he wasn't too happy with his team?

Somebody who was impressed? Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. Not with the Rangers, but with Tortorella's postgame showing. Here is what Wilson tweeted on Sunday.

"Impressive Torts! U just set a new presser record at 16 secs. I'm going to break that record!"

Man, I can't wait for 24/7, this is going to be good.

Habs heat?

A start of 1-4-2 in Montreal? You know this is going to go well.

The Canadiens are just a little slow out of the gate. Part of that is injuries, so there's nothing to really blame there. But free-agent acquisition Erik Cole is yet to do one thing they brought him in for -- score a goal.

Montreal fans can be ruthless. They are serious about their hockey, obviously. So they were clamoring for a shakeup to the roster. So what do they get? Try a trade of Brock Trotter and a seventh-round pick to the Coyotes for Petteri Nokelainen and Garrett Stafford. I'm sure that's exactly what the Habs fans had in mind.

At the least, they expect playoff appearances in Montreal. So the longer the Habs wallow out of the gate, the more pressure coach Jacques Martin will feel.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 20, 2011 5:59 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 5:59 pm
 

Sean Avery chose AHL assignment over Euro offers

By Brian Stubits

Sean Avery could have gone to Europe to play hockey and made millions more. Instead he turned it down to play for the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Connecticut.

"There was a lot of money on the table to go to Russia, but I don't necessarily feel that was something that I wanted to do," Avery told the Connecticut Whale writer Bruce Berlet. "There wasn't enough money to go somewhere like Switzerland. I'm 100 miles from home, and that certainly factors into it, for sure."

Clearly Avery loves New York too much to want to leave. And why wouldn't he? As Kevin DeLury at the New York Rangers Blog points out, Avery has interests in Manhattan, namely two of his own restaurants and the abundance of fashion.

I share this because it seems this is the message fans are always screaming for players to understand. Here we have a guy who took less money to stay somewhere he is happy, making a decision that goes beyond the bank. Of course, it's the dispised Avery and he's choosing between less attractive options than usual, i.e. NHL clubs, it's unlikely to garner any positive sentiments.

Of course, another reason he could be sticking around is the possibility he could be recalled to join the Rangers. It's still an option, however unlikely it might be.

When asked if he thought he might return to the Rangers this season, his answer was "Probably not, I doubt it."

It has been no secret that he and coach John Tortorella haven't seen eye to eye on a lot. Here's some more of what he told Katie Strang at ESPN New York.

Avery, who has been rehabbing an injured right shoulder since reporting to the Connecticut Whale earlier this month, indicated he didn't believe he was given a fair shot to make the Rangers out of training camp.

"I'd say it's pretty obvious," Avery said. "I'll let everyone else decide for themselves.

"[Tortorella] told me it was his decision and that was pretty much it," Avery said.

Avery continued to say that he thinks he can still play in the NHL. The only problem is I can't foresee any team giving him the chance to prove it at this point.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 11:18 pm
 

Now Rangers' Staal could be out for a month

By Brian Stubits

The news just keeps getting worse for the Rangers and Marc Staal. The alternate captain is already scheduled to miss the first two games overseas because of post-concussion symptoms, and there's no telling how much longer it could be.

What was once being described as nothing more than precautionary measures is now being described like this (from New York Post):

“Doctors have said that it could be a week, but it could also be a month,” Rangers GM Glen Sather said of Staal, who has been receiving treatment back home. “I wish we had something absolute, but we don’t."

So the Rangers had little option but to put Staal on the injured reserve list to start the season, meaning he will be out at least the first week. At the sounds of things, though, it's probably going to be longer.

As a result, the Rangers have begun preparing for life without Staal for a few weeks. Larry Brooks at the Post says the team has reopened talks with free-agent defenseman Paul Mara to fill the void. In the meantime, top prospect Tim Erixon is being recalled to make his debut in Sweden, his home nation.

Coach John Tortorella was not thrilled with the way his defense performed in the preseason, electing to waive Stu Bickell and Brendan Bell for purposes of relocating them to the AHL.

So imagine how concerned he is with the prospect of being down one of his team's top defensemen for a few weeks, possibly more. Sather certainly can see the worry.

“If Marc’s out for a substantial length of time, it’s going to have an impact on our club, no doubt about that. He’s our top defenseman, one of our top players, gets the most ice time and is always on against the other team’s top players.

“But it’s something we’ll just have to deal with.”

It's almost impossible to set a timetable on post-concussion returns. The Rangers, for their part, deny any setback has occurred. But it seems to be a matter of semantics. As Bob McKenzie of TSN points out, the Rangers said he'd only be out a short time and now it could be much longer.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: August 9, 2011 7:03 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 9:34 pm
 

Could Richards be the next Rangers captain?

RichardsBy: Adam Gretz

It wasn't a surprise that one the biggest names on the free agent market this summer -- Brad Richards -- landed with the New York Rangers. By now we should pretty much expect it to play out that way. It's not the first time it's happened, and it certainly won't be the last. Some of their recent dips into the deep end of free agency pool, including Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Marian Gaborik, has produced some mixed results (to put it kindly), and not the type of return a team generally likes to see on its largest investment (and I think Richards will prove to be, by far, the best of these signings).

Richards, one of the NHL's best playmaking pivots, signed a nine-year, $60 million deal in early July, and brings with him a $6.6 million cap hit through the end of the 2019-20 season. He's a No. 1 center that's managed to produce like one over his career with Tampa Bay and Dallas. He also has a positive history with current Rangers coach John Tortorella, who he played under for most of his tenure with the Lighting, including the Stanley Cup season of 2003-04 where Richards took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

That history, along with Richards' track record, has sparked some discussion in Ranger-land that the 31-year-old Richards could take over as the teams next captain before the puck drops on the upcoming season. Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record (via Crash The Crease) wrote on Tuesday that the Rangers have three potential options to wear the "C" this season: returning players Ryan Callahan and Marc Staal, and the incoming Richards.

Writes Gross:
Tortorella was asked June 30 – two days before the team signed Richards – about his selection process for the new captain. "I think those decisions will come about come camp," Tortorella said. "We’ll have our talks, we’ll see. Maybe our team changes even more this summer, along the way." That last sentence could be interpreted as a vote in Richards’ favor. Or perhaps not, as Tortorella has no inclination to discuss exactly what his selection process entailed. Callahan said when he agreed to his new contract that, regardless of who wore the captain’s "C," there was strong leadership in the room. And he may be the fan’s choice. But Richards could be the coach’s choice.
The Rangers are in need of a new captain because their most recent captain, Drury, was bought out earlier this summer after a 2010-11 season that saw him score one goal in a 24-game, injury-shortened season.

Tortorella took over behind Tampa Bay's bench midway through Richards' rookie season in 2000-01, and coached him up until the trade that sent him to Dallas in the middle of the 2007-08 season. There's a great deal of familiarity here (on and off the ice) and plenty of success, both on an individual and a team level, between the two men to make the potential captaincy a logical fit.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey 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