NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2023
The Stars advance to the Western Conference Finals, the notable highlights from the Leafs exit interviews with the media, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
STARS DEFEAT KRAKEN, ADVANCE TO THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars move on to the Western Conference Finals after nipping the Seattle Kraken 2-1 in Game 7 of their second-round series. Roope Hintz opened the scoring, Wyatt Johnston tallied the game-winner and Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots for the Stars. Oliver Bjorkstand scored in the dying seconds of the third period and Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for the Kraken.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars will face off again the Vegas Golden Knights when the Western Conference Finals begin on Friday, May 19. Another bounce-back performance in goal by Oettinger was crucial to the Stars’ victory in Game 7. Johnston, meanwhile, became the youngest player in NHL history to score a series-clinching goal in Game 7.
The Kraken’s first-ever NHL playoff appearance was a memorable one, upsetting the 2022 Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in seven games and pushing the Stars to the limit in this series. However, they looked like they were running out of gas in Game 7. If not for Grubauer’s goaltending the Stars’ margin of victory might’ve been higher. Still, this was a great experience for this second-year franchise, providing them with a solid foundation of experience to build on.
As noted above, the Western Conference Finals between the Stars and Golden Knights begins in Las Vegas on Friday, May 19 at 8:30 pm ET. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 1 in Raleigh on Thursday, May 18 at 8 pm ET.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LEAFS EXIT INTERVIEWS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Kyle Dubas will either return to the Toronto Maple Leafs as general manager or step away. During his club’s exit interviews with the media on Monday, Dubas indicated that he won’t entertain a front-office position with another club and intends to consult his family before reaching his decision.
Dubas is coming to the end of his five-year contract. He indicated that he will be meeting with team president Brendan Shanahan and the owners of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. However, the final say will be with his family, who endured what Dubas called a taxing year. He spent considerable time away from them as he attended nearly every one of the club’s home and road games this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent rumors had linked Dubas to the Pittsburgh Penguins as they’re in the market for a new general manager. Given his remarks, they’ll have to look elsewhere. The Pens have reportedly interviewed 10-12 candidates including former Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and Peter Chiarelli, the former GM of the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.
THE SCORE: Dubas indicated that he would take nothing off the table in terms of his coaching staff and roster if he returns as Leafs general manager. “I would consider anything with our group here that would allow us a better chance to win the Stanley Cup,” he said.
THE ATHLETIC: Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted his fate with the club is out of his control. He has a year remaining on his contract and hopes to return behind the bench. Dubas indicated that there will a full evaluation of everything on the team this season, including Keefe’s performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have been a strong regular-season team with Keefe, including a franchise-record 115-point performance in 2021-22 and 111 points this season. However, they’ve only won one playoff series since he took over as head coach in 2019-20.
THE SCORE: Auston Matthews doesn’t intend on leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility but indicated his intention is to stay put. Matthews said signing an extension with the Leafs before next season is important to him and believes it “will work itself out in due time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews’ willingness to ink an extension is good news for the Leafs and their fans. How long that deal will be and for how much will become hot topics of speculation in Toronto. There’s already media chatter suggesting that he might seek a four-year deal worth an average annual value of $16 million. A maximum eight-year deal could see him pull in an AAV of $13.5 million.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Forget about the scenario of John Tavares waiving his no-movement clause. Asked if he would do so as part of any trade, the Leafs captain expressed his love for the club and his teammates. “I made a commitment here for seven years to be a Leaf and I want to be here,” said Tavares, adding that he takes his role of team captain very seriously.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The theory about Tavares waiving his NMC came about because of the Leafs limited cap space due in part to his hefty $11 million cap hit through 2024-25. There was an assumption among some observers that he might do so if management approached him. Based on his reply, that’s not going to happen.
TSN: Michael Bunting said he’s had no contract extension talks with Leafs management this season. The 27-year-old winger is set to become a UFA on July 1. Trade-deadline acquisition Ryan O’Reilly is also due to become a UFA this summer and sounded more inclined to test the market than re-sign with the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t be surprised if Bunting and O’Reilly are playing elsewhere next season. The Leafs likely can’t afford to retain them even if they wanted to bring them back.
SPORTSNET: Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov revealed he suffered a neck injury in Game 3 against the Florida Panthers that sidelined him for the remainder of that series. A restricted free agent this summer, Samsonov indicated he hopes to re-sign with the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Samsonov is coming off a one-year, $1.8 million contract and has arbitration rights this summer. I expect he’ll be re-signed to a multi-year deal and share the goaltending duties next season with Joseph Woll, who’s signed through 2024-25 at a very affordable $766K.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Calgary Flames have reportedly sought permission from the Leafs to speak with assistant general manager Brandon Pridham. They’re on the hunt for a replacement for Brad Treliving, who stepped down as GM last month.
IN OTHER NEWS…
OTTAWA SUN: The bidding for the Senators is down to four binding offers ranging from $850 million to $1 billion. Toronto billionaires Jeffrey and Michael Kimel of the Harlo Capital Group, Michael Andlauer of ATS Healthcare Group, Toronto real estate magnate Steve Apostolopoulos and Los Angeles producer Neko Sparks entered their bids by Monday’s due date.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected one of them will receive preferred bidder status within the next couple of weeks.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Teuvo Teravainen (hand injury) is moving one step closer to returning to the lineup. He shed his non-contact jersey for practice on Monday and is expected to return to action at some point in the Eastern Conference Finals.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko hopes to gain more playing time, including on the power play, under the club’s new coaching staff.
With the Dallas win last night, I’m 3 for 4, only missing the Toronto-Florida series.
For the Final Four I think the end of the road for Florida has arrived – Carolina in 6
Out West, my dark horse Dallas will take Vegas, also in 6.
Sure doesn’t sound like Dubas has been given a ringing endorsement by anyone to this point, and IF he isn’t back you can bet Keefe and his staff are also job hunting. But that’s a big IF. Looking around, there just aren’t any outstanding candidates other than the usual recycled.
You also have to wonder if Shanahan has outlived his purpose as a highly paid go-between. Why can’t the GM, as with the vast majority of other teams, report directly to the owner(s)?
Well, George, I think you’ve got it wrong. Florida was able to beat Boston, a historically great team, and Toronto, who supposedly were a much better team. And both Boston and Toronto are better than Carolina. Seems to me that Florida is the Cinderella team of the playoffs. I’ll go with Florida in seven.
Dallas v Vegas is harder to call. Dallas has a solid offense and the (arguably) best goalie in the playoffs. On the other hand, Vegas is finally playing as a team rather than a bunch of overpaid stars. In the end, I think Vegas has just enough to squeeze past Dallas in seven.
As for Toronto, I’ll say it, again. The problem isn’t Keefe, it’s Dubas. One of the overpaid Core Four must go so that they can afford better depth and a decent goalie.
Paul, you may very well be right re Florida … I’m just thinking Bobrovsky returning to norm, along with a healthier Carolina, may be the decider.
But you know, if Florida does pull it off again, great for the game. Everyone loves a Cinderella story.
Dubas was the hot young analytics darling. And looky look…once again the playoffs play out the same exact way. Big strong stay-at-home defense and low scoring getting the wins. Meanwhile Toronto and Edmonton front heavy can’t outscore their opponents in the post season. And every year people tell them the same thing. What’s even more baffling for those two clubs is the goaltending moves. IF Toronto didn’t think Jack Campbell was the guy….Edmonton suddenly did? AND if Ottawa was so badly burned by Matt Murray’s …..whatever he’s going through….somehow he’ll find himself in Toronto????
this isn’t armchair gm’ing or hindsight nonsense….those moves were immediately questioned…. So then, with old, slow footed unreliable defenses in both markets you are now relying on young barely there goalies to save your arses. I don’t blame either of those coaches. They played the cards they were given
Dark G, I have always felt that, when it comes to hockey, there are far too many variables in the game for the analytics approach to be a factor.
Need to challenge the anti-analytics just a little bit. Is it the be all and end all that some make it out to be? No, of course not, but it is also an important part of what every NHL team uses to evaluate performance.
Safe to say it is a mix, but they do play an important role.
Every single team in the NHL has expanded their analytics departments, and they would make what we the fan have access to, seem like basic math compared to trigonometry. They measure everything, and they measure who they do it against. How they use that info varies, but they all use it.
3 of the 4 teams in conference finals are top 10 teams when it comes to basic analytics, expected goals for. This includes FLA at #5, Vegas is middle of the pack.
#1 by quite a bit again, is Carolina. Yes, Rod the Bod is an analytics “darling”.
You wouldn’t want actual results and evidence to get in the way of making a good decision?
signing Tavares instead of investing in a solid #1 goalie will be the albatross that Shanahan/Dubas wear as part of their Leafs legacy. Murray/Samsonov were hopeful fillins because the top 4 Leafs took up all of their cap space. Now Nylander will need to be sold for scrap to afford Matthews’ new deal, and eventually Marner will go too.
I am 2 -2 for the second round, missing out on Carolina and Vegas. So far, 2 players have set themselves apart as potential MVP candidates – Bobrovsky and Hintz. With that in mind, I will pick Florida and Dallas in the 3rd round. For those teams to win, Bob must continue his stellar play, and Oettenger has to be more consistent. Both series should be good ones.
The Stars, overall, need to be more consistent. In games 5 and 7 the Stars shut down the Seattle forecheck and they were able to clear the D zone effectively. In the games that Oettinger was pulled, he was hung out to dry by the whole team. I agree that Otter needs to play better in those games, but it definitely was not his fault. The Stars as a team need to show up for all games, not just a few. Vegas is going to be a tough opponent.
What’s to be made of all the social media blowing up over Canada not winning a cup in 30yrs;
Folks pointing their finger directly at Gary Bettman, comments such as “Gary got what he wanted.” “as long as Gary is in charge a Canadian team will never win the cup.” “Gary doesn’t want the cup in Canada” etc, etc
One thing if the comments are coming from unhappy, disgruntle fans. Unfortunately a lot of coming from media folks.
Gary didn’t assemble the team, pick the goaltender, assemble the lines, put the players on the ice.
Were there miss calls, yes absolutely, do they think Gary has an earpiece directly to the ref. “hey don’t call that one, let it go.”
In the Boston game Bruins were on a PP and directly off the draw Barkov, grabbed the puck and threw it, no call. Was it the reason Boston loss the series “NO” there were missed calls or calls not made against Boston.
I’m not sure how Gary could control the cup not going to Canada. He can’t.
Canada best two chances this season were Edmonton and Toronto and we could’ve had a all Canada cup finals.
Toronto big boys didn’t produce in the second round. Yes there could of and should’ve been a call against Gudas for holding the stick.
There also should’ve been a call against Toronto in the TB series for high-sticking at the end of regulation putting TB on a pp to start overtime there wasn’t. Toronto loss 4-1, no that’s not on Bettman.
Edmonton didn’t get any help from their depth players and didn’t produce 5vs5 Draisaitl had 1pt in the last 4 games.
Game 7 after the first period McDavid had less then 5 minutes toi, Draisaitl just over 5, Woodcroft wanted to keep them rested because he knew their minutes were going to grow as the game went on. Relied too much on a rookie goalie, no trust in Campbell.
Toronto, Edmonton will be back next season, Ottawa, and Montreal are progressing. Not sure what is happening in Winnipeg, Calgary or Vancouver important off season.
To say Bettman doesn’t want the cup in Canada, the statement itself maybe true; i don’t know. Bettman doesn’t control who signs where, and who the team signs.
I read 3 of the 4 teams remaining do not have a state tax and that again was proof of Bettman against Canada. What i like about one comment was “it allows the team to pay their players 20% less.” interesting thought. Yes some players may take less, but others are going to say “No this is my value compare to player x.y,z”.
I am definitely not one of those that thinks there is an anti-Canada agenda in the NHL.
That said, I am definitely SICK and TIRED of not giving a rat’s ass about the playoffs after the second round. Sorry but I could have maybe brought myself to cheer on Seattle because they are the closest team to me other than Vancouver… but these teams? Could not care less.
What Florida has done so well is forecheck and Boston and Leaf’s couldn’t handle it, Canes can. They will do the same thing to Floridas D and win in 5 or 6. Vegas will beat Dallas in 6 or 7
Chiarelli getting an interview ? seriously? did the Pens new ownerwhip not see how he ruined the future of the teams he managed?
it would be the opposite management from Hextall, looks for Chiarelli to trade all of the Pens draft picks and prospects for 40 year old players playing on their last contracts as well as scrub goalies and 4th liners
He brought a cup to Boston. is anyone complaining about the McDavid and Draisaitl contracts?