NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2020

The Islanders advance to the Eastern Conference Final, the NHL will begin announcing its award winners, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders are going to the Conference Finals. They shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 of their second-round series and face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton.

Thomas Greiss made 16 saves for the shutout while Brock Nelson led the way offensively with a goal and two assists.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a complete team victory by the Islanders. They stifled the Flyers’ offense with their defensive play and aggressive forecheck. Head coach Barry Trotz’s decision to start Greiss over Semyon Varlamov also paid off.

The lack of consistent production by the Flyers’ top scorers was a problem throughout the playoffs. It came home to roost in Game 7 against the Isles defense.

The NHL will begin revealing some of the winners of its individual awards from Sept. 6 to Sept. 13. Those to be announced include the King Clancy Memorial Trophy (Sept. 6), Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Sept. 7), Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award (Sept. 8), Jack Adams Award (Sept. 9), Frank J. Selke Trophy (Sept. 10), Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (Sept. 11), Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award (Sept. 12), and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award (Sept. 13).

A 30-minute program during the Stanley Cup Final will announce the winners of the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, James Norris Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and the Vezina Trophy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I like this format and I hope the league sticks with it going forward. Their annual award show in Las Vegas has a cringe factor comparable to “The Dundies” episode of The Office.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals have reportedly interviewed Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant for their vacant head-coaching position.

SPORTSNET: The Arizona Coyotes have interviewed NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire for their vacant general manager job.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves received a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed defenseman Juuso Riikola to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.15 million.

SPORTSNET: A resolution has yet to be reached allowing the families of the players on the remaining four NHL clubs to join them in the playoff bubble in Edmonton. Discussions are ongoing between the league, the NHL Players Association, and the Canadian federal government.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 28, 2020

The NHL postpones Thursday and Friday games to protest racial injustice, plus the latest on Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Tkachuk in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The National Hockey League yesterday postponed its Thursday and Friday playoff games after the players on the eight remaining postseason clubs decided not to play to protest systemic racism and police brutality.

The decision was announced in a joint statement yesterday by the league and the NHL Players’ Association. Players from each of the four Eastern Conference and Western Conference teams held joint news conferences in Toronto and Edmonton expressing their support of players in other leagues boycotting games in protest.

“Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences. The NHL and NHLPA recognize that much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centered on diversity, inclusion and social justice,” the NHL and NHLPA said. “We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment. We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.

“In this moment, the NHLPA and NHL are committed to working to foster more inclusive and welcoming environments within our arenas, offices and beyond.”

Tom Gulitti reports Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves played an integral role in discussions among the players in both cities. He also praised the white players for their support.

“I think if you look around this room, there’s a lot of white athletes in here, and I think that’s the statement that’s being made right now,” Reaves said. “It’s great that the NBA did this and the MLB and the WNBA. They have a lot of Black players in those leagues. But for all these athletes in here just to take a stand and say, ‘You know what? We see the problem too and we stand behind you,’ I’d go to war with these guys. I hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. This statement that they’ve made today is something that’s going to last.”

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri expressed his hope that the next two days would allow the players to further educate themselves for the betterment of society.

Dallas Stars forward Jason Dickinson believes it’s time for the league to do more.

“We can keep using our words, keep trying to get the message, but it comes down to action,” Dickinson said.

Gulutti reports the players said they hope this shows they are united against racism and to bring about further conversations on the subject with their fans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL faced considerable criticism from the media and from fans on social media for not postponing their games on Wednesday at the same time as the NBA, MLB, WNBA and other leagues. The Hockey Diversity Alliance, which includes players of color such as Reaves, Kadri, guided the decision process that led to yesterday’s announcement by the league and the PA.

These postponements weren’t prompted by the leagues or their team owners. It was a result of their players’ boycotting the games or threatening to do so.  That’s why the NHL received so much criticism. 

It remains to be seen if these actions will lead to these leagues living up to their stated intent to become a more positive influence for societal change going forward. If so, will the leagues’ take the initiative, or will they once again be forced into doing so by their players?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski examined the factors that led to Marc-Andre Fleury losing his starter’s role with the Vegas Golden Knights, prompting his agent to post an image of his client with a photoshopped blade through his back with the name of head coach Peter DeBoer on the blade. Fleury played just one game in the round-robin and one in the first round of the playoffs.

The Golden Knights addition of Robin Lehner at the trade deadline was portrayed as shoring up their backup goaltending if anything happened to Fleury. However, DeBoer began saying he had two starters heading into the playoffs. While the Golden Knights’ coach spoke of goalie rotation during the playoffs, that hasn’t happened yet. Wyshynski also noted the club’s director of goaltending Dave Prior was relieved of his duties following the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wyshynski believes the Golden Knights’ crease should’ve belonged to Fleury to start the playoffs. DeBoer feels otherwise and it appears he has management’s support. 

Fleury struggled at times during the season which I believe led to the acquisition of Lehner., who played well down the stretch and garnered enough trust from DeBoer to earn the bulk of the starts thus far. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation unfolds over the rest of the playoffs and into the off-season.

CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk is defending his teammates, especially Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, from criticism by fans and pundits blaming them for the club’s early playoff exit.

I just couldn’t believe some of the criticism some guys on my team were getting for this and getting the blame for this. Especially the criticism towards Johnny and Monny, it makes me sick. It really upsets me and pisses me off.

Tkachuk acknowledged he and the rest of the Flames’ best players didn’t do enough to get past the first round but shouldered the blame for the lack of production. “Everyone was upset at them (Gaudreau and Monahan) for offensive production. Well, they produced more offense than me. So put the blame on me.” He felt he didn’t do enough to put the club over the top when he was in the lineup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meet the future captain of the Calgary Flames. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 24, 2020

The Bruins and Golden Knights are victorious in the opening games of their respective second-round series, the Capitals fire head coach Todd Reirden, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each had a goal and an assist as the Boston Bruins held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 1 of their second-round series. Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves for the win. Victor Hedman scored twice for the Lightning, who also lost defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the third period to an undisclosed injury.

Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The score flattered the Lightning. They were dominated through the first two periods by the Bruins, who took a 3-0 lead before Hedman’s goals made it interesting. There could be an update on McDonagh later today.

Robin Lehner turned in a 26-save shutout while Mark Stone, Reilly Smith, and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist as the Vegas Golden Knights blanked the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 in the opening game of their second-round series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights blew this open with three goals in the second period. They outshot, out-skated, out-hit, and out-chanced the Canucks. Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves got under the skin of Canucks winger Antoine Roussel, goading him into taking a misconduct penalty in the third period and taunting him for the rest of the game.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights had to deal with an off-ice issue before Game 1. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury attempted to distance himself from his agent’s provocative social media post criticizing coach Peter DeBoer over his client’s lack of playing time.

Referring to his agent, Allan Walsh, Fleury felt he was “just trying to protect me a bit.” He indicated he’s spoken with DeBoer and Lehner and doesn’t want to be a distraction. “I just want to be behind it and move on,” he said, adding he’s focused on winning and what’s best for the team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walsh’s post and Fleury’s response is sparking speculation over his future with the Golden Knights. I’ll have more later today in the Rumors section.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals yesterday relieved Todd Reirden of his duties as head coach. The move comes shortly following the club’s elimination from the opening round of the 2020 playoffs.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports the Capitals seek an experienced replacement to keep their championship window open.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Reirden was outcoached by Isles bench boss (and former Caps coach) Barry Trotz in that series. His firing has generated a lot of conjecture over his possible replacement. Experienced options include Mike Babcock, Gerard Gallant, and Peter Laviolette.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (leg injury) won’t be playing in Game 2 against the Dallas Stars tonight. Defenseman Erik Johnson (undisclosed) is doubtful while Matt Calvert is listed as unfit to play and day-to-day.

WEEI.COM: The Bruins re-signed backup goalie Dan Vladar to a three-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $750K. It’s a two-way deal in the first two years and becomes a one-way deal in the final season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 31, 2020

Recaps of the final day of exhibition games, including updates on Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, John Carlson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: First-period goals by Boone Jenner, Zach Werenski, and Gustav Nyquist powered the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Nyquist finished with two points while teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand collected two assists.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask gave up three goals on 20 shots before being replaced by Jaroslav Halak. Teammate Brad Marchand left the game in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury following a hit on Werenski. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy will provide an update today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins appeared rusty in this contest, but they’ll have plenty of time to sharpen their play during the seeding round-robin before the opening round of the playoffs. The Jackets, meanwhile, showed how much better they can be when they have a mostly healthy roster, something they didn’t have for long stretches in the regular season.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

Reilly Smith scored two goals and Marc-Andre Fleury went the distance with a 22-save performance to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Alex Tuch’s highlight-reel goal put the game out of reach. Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz left the game in the second period following a heavy check from Vegas winger Ryan Reaves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reaves’ arm made contact with Schmaltz’s head during that hit. No word yet if the league’s department of player discipline will be looking at this. It’s interesting that Robin Lehner didn’t split the goalie duties with Fleury. Perhaps he’ll get the start in the Golden Knights’ first game in the round-robin on Monday. 

Viktor Arvidsson scored twice while Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne combined for a 26-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the Dallas Stars 2-0. Stars center Tyler Seguin was scratched from the lineup (unfit to play), while forward Andrew Cogliano left the game in the second period favoring his left leg following a collision with Predators defenseman Yannick Weber.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin is expected to be ready for the round-robin starting Aug. 3 against the Golden Knights. No update was provided on Cogliano’s status.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals defenseman John Carlson didn’t practice yesterday after missing the final half of the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Carlson crashed awkwardly into the boards and was removed from the game as a precautionary measure. Head coach Todd Reirden expects the blueliner will return to practice on Saturday.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson took part in special teams’ practice yesterday. He’s still recovering from a knee injury suffered during the regular season. Johnsson isn’t expected in the lineup when the Leafs face off against the Blues Jackets on Sunday in Game 1 of their qualifying-round series.

THE AHL.COM: American Hockey League president and CEO Scott Howson announced a revised start date of Dec. 4 for their 2020-21 season. Details of their full schedule have yet to be determined.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

Sabres fire GM Jason Botterill, league commissioner Gary Bettman talks about the return-to-play plan, plus the latest on Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Braden Holtby, Josh Anderson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

**UPDATE** 

The Buffalo Sabres have relieved Jason Botterill of his duties as general manager. They’ve named Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams as Botterill’s replacement. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news broke earlier this morning. I hope to have more about this in tomorrow’s update. It was only three weeks ago that Botterill received the backing of Sabres ownership for another season. It’ll be interesting to find out what brought about this sudden change of heart, as well as what it could mean for the coaching and scouting staffs.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes the league’s return-to-play plan will maintain the integrity of the playoffs without being too gimmicky.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

“I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we’re going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players,” said Bettman.

The NHL intends to return later this summer with a 24-team tournament involving a round-robin for the top eight teams and a qualifying round for the other 16.

Bettman indicated the league has worked closely with the NHL Players’ Association since games were paused in mid-March. The two sides continue to negotiate key details, including playing under a quarantine bubble and the location of the two host cities for the tournament.

The commissioner also said the league intends to test every player and member of each team’s 50-person traveling party daily for COVID-19. A player testing positive will be isolated and contact tracing will monitor everyone in close proximity of that player. Bettman said the league has been told an isolated case or two won’t affect their plans to go forward.

Bettman also said the league is in discussions with the Canadian government regarding easing restrictions for the country’s 14-day quarantine period for visitors.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Bettman admitted 56 percent of the league’s players remain outside of their respective NHL cities, with 17 percent of them still in Europe. So we’ve got a lot of people to move around and we have to get people back from outside of North America.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The round-robin and qualifying rounds are a bit gimmicky, but necessary given this unusual situation. Once the playoffs begin, it’s the usual four-round, best-of-seven tournament.

The discussions with the Canadian government will affect the location of one of the two host cities. It’s believed the league wants one in Canada, but that won’t be possible if the government maintains its strict border protocols. That will also affect training camps for the six Canadian teams (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal) participating in the tournament. There’s already talk that some of them could hold training camps in the United States.

Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan involves training camps opening on July 10. The league has a limited time to get their players back to their respective NHL cities.

SPORTSNET: Hockey analyst and former NHLer Kevin Bieksa said several players he’s spoken to remain skeptical of the return-to-play plan. He said they don’t have their equipment and still have skated.

Bieksa added there remains several issues to be sorted out. Not only with the safety measures and protocol and everything but I don’t even know if it’s been discussed with the (NHLPA) and the league how they’re going to divide HRR (hockey-related revenue).”

Some critics have dismissed the proposed tournament as the NHL putting the players at risk solely for the sake of profit. What the league is doing is attempting to recoup roughly half of its $1.1 billion in lost revenue from pausing the schedule. This depends, however, on the willing participation of the players.

With the salary cap tied to hockey-related revenue, the majority of players (based on the 29-2 vote by NHLPA player reps approving the return-to-play plan) are agreeable to this tournament. They aren’t being forced into this. If a majority aren’t confident their health and safety can be assured, they have the power to shut this down at any time.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: cites a report in Sports Business Journal claiming the NHL is halting all negotiations for its next television contract until the end of 2020.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane doesn’t believe whoever wins the 2020 Stanley Cup should have an asterisk beside their name.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are no asterisks beside the NHL teams that won the Stanley Cup during the Second World War when some of the league’s best players were serving overseas. There’s no asterisk beside the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils or 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Cup during lockout-shortened seasons. There shouldn’t be, and won’t be, an asterisk beside the potential 2020 Cup champion.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak is more upset about missing the 100-point plateau than the 50-goal mark. With 48 goals and 95 points in 70 games, Pastrnak was on pace for his first 50-goal, 100-point campaign when the schedule was paused.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said the starting goaltender role is Braden Holtby’s to lose in the playoff tournament. “Braden Holtby’s body of work in playoff games speaks for itself and how he definitely helped our team to win our first-ever Stanley Cup and was a huge, huge part of that,” Reirden said.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson will remain sidelined by shoulder surgery until after September.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Ryan Reaves to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The 33-year-old winger is completing a two-year, $5.5-million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers suggest Reaves’ accepting less money to re-sign with the Golden Knights could be a harbinger of what many of this year’s unrestricted free agents could face when the season is over. However, he likely would’ve had to accept a similar deal from the Golden Knights even without the possibility of a flat salary cap for next season. Before re-signing Reaves, the Golden Knights had over $73 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21.

SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak signed a three-year contract with Czech club HC Vitkovice. He’s still under contract with the Stars for this season but told a Czech paper he might not return if the NHL stages its playoff tournament. Stars general manager Jim Nill said the team can’t make a player return against their wishes. If anyone wants to stay home, that is their decision. His contract expires at the end of this season, so no issues there.”

SPORTSNET: The American Hockey League has formed a return-to-play task force to prepare for its 2020-21 season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

Players mull over the idea of performing in arenas without fans, Ryan Reaves and Evander Kane put aside their differences to help form Hockey Diversity Alliance, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE CANADIAN PRESS (via CTV News): Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and teammate Darnell Nurse, Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, and Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler are among several NHL players pondering playing in arenas without fans under the league’s return-to-play plan later this summer.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

NHL players are accustomed to playing in front of thousands of noisy fans, drawing energy and intensity from the crowds. That won’t be the case during the 24-team playoff tournament, as fans won’t be allowed into the two hub arenas due to COVID-19 concerns.

Nurse believes it will be a test for the players to create their own intensity. Tavares acknowledged it’ll be unlike what the players are used to, but pointed out the game between the boards remains the same.

Wheeler suggests players will have to push aside the distraction of silence and remember millions of fans will be watching them on television. McDavid, meanwhile, acknowledged it won’t be the same. “It’ll suck, but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of fan noise will be a little disconcerting at first, but I expect the players will quickly adjust. As Nurse pointed out, the players will have to find other ways to create their own environment and draw sufficient motivation.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane have a well-documented rivalry. However, the two put their differences aside to become part of the newly-formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, which seeks to eradicate racism from hockey.

I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ed Graney. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he and his staff intend to use their time leading up to the tournament in preparation to face the Edmonton Oilers, their qualifying-round opponent. They intend to work on improving their systems while ramping up their focus on the Oilers as the tournament draws near.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL coaches will have plenty of time to prepare. Late July is the earliest the tournament could begin, though early August seems the more likely time.

NJ.COM: Executives from the seven non-playoff clubs are hoping the NHL will allow them to spend some on-ice time evaluating their players during their long off-season. The New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks failed to qualify for the post-season tournament.

Devils interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald said those teams are hoping to get in some form of game action for their players.

Bring them in in any shape or form. It could be a mini-camp. It could be rookie camp. It could be a rookie tournament. Maybe the Eastern teams get together. Maybe there’s an appetite for all of us to somehow have some sort of mini-tournament. But there’s definitely going to be some push from us at least to be able to have the ability to work with our players in a smaller window, whatever that may look like. We all believe it’s not fair that we go nine months without being able to have contact with our players.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting those teams together could be difficult as they’d all have to follow the same protocols as those participating in the playoff tournament. Perhaps mini-camps or rookie camps would be acceptable, though those clubs might have to pick up the costs of travel, accommodation, and COVID-19 testing.

HOKEJ.CZ: reports Dallas Stars forward Martin Hanzal is considering retirement after spending the past several seasons plagued by back injuries. He’s in the final year of his contract and spent the entire 2019-20 season on long-term injury reserve. With his contract still technically on the Stars’ books, he’ll likely wait until this season is over before making it official.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Craig Morgan reports Hanzal told him two months ago retirement was likely, but he’d wait until his contract expired to make an official decision. Morgan writes Hanzal’s back problems flare up whenever he plays hockey.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oiler Nail Yakupov, the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is bouncing around the KHL with the same frequency as he did during his final NHL seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I attributed Yakupov’s NHL woes to the revolving door of coaches during his four seasons with the Oilers. However, it appears his problems are much deeper than that. He has the dubious honor of being among the biggest draft busts in NHL history.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens mascot Youppi! is the first character from a Canadian-based sports team to be inducted into The Mascot Hall of Fame. He’s also the first two-sport mascot to be inducted, having joined the Canadiens in 2005 after serving with the Montreal Expos from 1979 until the MLB club was relocated in 2004. Youppi! is also the only mascot to be ejected from an MLB game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations, Youppi! One of my favorite mascots of all time.