NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 23, 2021
Rangers Hall-of-Famer Rod Gilbert passes away plus the latest on Jack Eichel, David Savard and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers yesterday announced Rod Gilbert had passed away at age 80. Fondly known as “Mr. Ranger” as a team ambassador and a community relations representative, Gilbert was among the greatest players in franchise history.
An eight-time all-star, he spent his 18-season NHL career with the Rangers from 1960 to 1978. He’s their all-time scoring leader with 406 goals and 1,021 points He also won the Masterton Trophy in 1975-76. Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982 and he became the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.
Gilbert was part of the Rangers’ vaunted GAG Line (Goal-a-Game) alongside Jean Ratelle and Vic Hatfield in the early 1970s. He helped the Blueshirts reach the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and was a member of Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A talented offensive star, Gilbert was also among the NHL’s classiest players. He overcame a serious back injury early in his career to become one of the league’s most popular stars in the 1970s. My sincere condolences to Gilbert’s family, friends, former teammates and the Rangers organization.
THE FOURTH PERIOD: David Pagnotta cites sources claiming Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel has yet to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. It’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be medically cleared to start the 2021-22 regular season regardless of which team he’s playing for.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The impasse persists between Eichel and the Sabres front office over which surgical procedure he’ll undergo. He wants disc replacement surgery while team doctors recommend fusion surgery.
Eichel’s situation has also made him the subject of ongoing trade speculation. Pagnotta suggests a team could still trade for the Sabres center even if he’s unavailable for the start of the season. Given his hefty contract and the Sabres’ expensive asking price, there doesn’t appear to be many clubs keen to take that risk.
THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of the Sabres, the club’s long decline, the recent trading away of several core players and Eichel’s expected departure is hurting season ticket sales for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A decade of suck thanks to meddling ownership and an ever-changing cast of general managers and coaches tend to have that effect on the gate.
THE SCORE: David Savard said the Montreal Canadiens intend to win the Stanley Cup this season. Savard won the big mug last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, defeating the Canadiens in five games. He said he liked how the Habs played against the Bolts in the Final and believes he and others with championship experience can help them go all the way.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Savard was signed by the Canadiens earlier this summer as a free agent. I admire his positive attitude and enthusiasm but I have my doubts we’ll see the Habs hoisting the Cup next spring.
The Canadiens face a tough challenge in the Eastern Conference. The defending champion Lightning, the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes could finish among the top four. The Habs also have to contend with two flawed but still talented teams in the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, aging but still skilled clubs like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, and improving teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils.
They’ll also need promising young forwards Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to take their next steps toward stardom. And of course, they need goaltender Carey Price to be at the top once he’s fully recovered from offseason surgery.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan examines several possible Arizona locations for the Coyotes if the city of Glendale carries forward with its decision to opt-out of its arena lease agreement.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators fans will need to provide proof of double vaccination against COVID-19 to attend their home games this season.