Nazem Kadri’s history-making day with the Stanley Cup, a look at the Islanders’ future top blueline tandem, Hampus Lindholm’s offseason home was destroyed by fire, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
TSN: Nazem Kadri’s day with the Stanley Cup was a history-making one as he became the first Muslim to bring hockey’s holy grail to a mosque. The event took place on Saturday in Kadri’s hometown of London, Ontario.
Calgary Flames center Nazem Kadri (NHL Images).
Kadri, 31, is the first Muslim player to win the Stanley Cup, doing so with the Colorado Avalanche in June. He recently signed a seven-year contract with the Calgary Flames. Kadri thanked his family and supporters. “I’m very appreciative, very privileged, and honored to be the first-ever Muslim to bring the Stanley Cup to the mosque,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri played a key role in the Avalanche’s march to the Stanley Cup. He continues to be an inspiration to Muslims who wish to take up the sport of hockey.
NEW YORK POST: The duo of Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov could one day become the New York Islanders’ top defense pairing. They’ve never met as Romanov was acquired in a trade last month from the Montreal Canadiens. Both recently signed new contracts with the Isles.
“The little I know watching him play, he’s obviously a talented player,” said Dobson of Romanov. He skates really well and he’s got a physical presence out there and a high compete level.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dobson enjoyed a 51-point breakout performance last season as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable season for the Isles. Romanov is more of a physical defensive rearguard but can contribute offensively. The Isles will have a solid defense for the next several years if Dobson and Romanov gel as a blueline tandem behind the top pairing of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech.
SPORTBLADET: Hampus Lindholm’s off-season home in Sweden was recently destroyed by fire. The Boston Bruins defenseman was not at the house when the blaze erupted and no one was hurt. Police are investigating arson but it’s believed the fire started in a side building in a battery charger.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lindholm also said he was appreciative of the Bruins for reaching out and offering their help.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: After being bought out by the San Jose Sharks, Rudolfs Balcers is looking forward to joining the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers. He netted a career-high 11 goals last season and believes he could’ve reached 20 with the opportunities he was given with the Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Balcers could have a chance to tally 20 goals this season if he’s given the right role with the high-scoring Panthers.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Sharks, former director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr has joined the Seattle Kraken as an amateur scout.
The Avalanche take Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, highlights of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual state of the league press conference, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Andre Burakovsky’s overtime goal gave the Colorado Avalanche a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.
Colorado Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky (NHL Images).
Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin each had a goal and an assist while Mikko Rantanen collected two assists for the Avalanche, who took a 3-1 lead into the second period. Nick Paul, Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev replied for the Lightning, who rallied to tie the game and force overtime.
Game 2 will be on Saturday, June 19, at 8 pm ET in Denver.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’re in store for a very entertaining, fast-paced series if Game 1 is any indication. The Avalanche dominated the play in the first period and much of the third, while the Lightning once again showed their poise and experience by overcoming that early deficit in the second period. Penalty killing was crucial for the Avs as they successfully killed off three shorthanded situations.
The Lightning’s Brayden Point made his long-expected return to the lineup from a lower-body injury suffered in the first round. Avalanche center Nazem Kadri remains sidelined with a thumb injury with no timetable for his return.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league generated record revenues projected to exceed $5.2 billion as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. He anticipates more significant increases to the salary cap within the next two-three years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per the NHL-NHLPA Memorandum of Understanding from 2020, the salary cap will increase by $1 million annually until the players have paid back their overage of hockey-related revenue still owed to the owners for 2019-20 and 2020-21.
THE ATHLETIC: Bettman indicated the 2022-23 season will return to a normal calendar schedule beginning on Oct. 11.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league doesn’t believe at this point that there need to be changes made to the long-term injury reserve system. It had been discussed during the general managers’ meeting in March with an idea of a playoff salary cap.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That came about over complaints of teams garnering a salary-cap advantage by placing a player on long-term injury reserve, using the cap relief to add players for the postseason, only to see the LTIR player return to action in the playoffs.
The insinuation was that some teams may be attempting to circumvent the cap by leaving players on LTIR when they may be healthy enough to return to action. However, the league hasn’t found any instance where this was the case.
Daly also said the league has begun its investigation of a sexual assault lawsuit filed against Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The suit alleges eight players, including some members of Canada’s 2018 World Junior team, sexually assaulted a young woman in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the players on that team are now in the NHL. It has yet to be determined whether any of them were among those who assaulted the woman.
NHL.COM: Daly said the league is “very optimistic” that it will be able to stage a World Cup of Hockey tournament in February 2024. Discussions between the NHL, NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation are ongoing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I like the idea of a World Cup of Hockey in February rather than September as in previous years. After all, if the league was prepared to shuttered the season for two weeks to accommodate Olympic participation, they can do it for a World Cup.
Unlike the Olympics, the league and the players would reap the financial benefits from a World Cup. The players would be in midseason game shape, making for a better tournament and drawing more potential fans to the game.
DAILY FACEOFF: Daly indicated the players on the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning have been informed that the winner of this year’s Stanley Cup Final will not be allowed to take the Cup to Russia or Belarus in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Three Lightning players – Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy – are from Russia while Valeri Nichushkin is the only Russian-born Avalanche player. There are no Belarussians on either club.
SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Daly also said the arbitration on Evander Kane’s contract termination grievance with the San Jose Sharks may not be resolved until July 13, which is the start of the NHL’s free agent period. The arbitrator assigned to the case isn’t available to conduct the hearing until next month.
Kane is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13. If his case remains unresolved by then, it’s not expected to prevent him from signing another contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will have significant implications for the Sharks. They will have $7 million in salary-cap limbo until such time as Kane’s case is resolved.
It could also affect Kane’s efforts to sign with another club. Interested parties could prefer to await the outcome of his hearing before making offers to him.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: There won’t be any changes in how NHL teams report injuries. It was assumed the league’s partnership with gambling outlets would lead to more specific information being released on player injuries other than “upper-body” or “lower-body.”
OTTAWA SUN: It’s expected the NHL Board of Governors will be informed today that it is business as usual for the Senators since the passing of team owner Eugene Melnyk in March. The club continues to be run by a board of directors and a professional management group while Melnyk’s daughters do their due diligence on the franchise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the club isn’t being sold and it won’t be relocated to another city.
The 2022 Stanley Cup Final schedule is announced, the Stars trade Ben Bishop’s contract to Buffalo, Ryan Miller’s number to be retired by the Sabres, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The 2022 Stanley Cup Final will begin on June 15 or June 18 depending on the outcome of the Eastern Conference Finals.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 6 on Saturday, they will face off against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver for Game 1 of the Cup Final on June 15.
If the Rangers win Game 6 and force a seventh and deciding game of the Conference Final on Monday, the winner of that game will meet the Avalanche in Colorado for Game 1 of the Cup Final on June 18.
WGR 550/THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Dallas Stars traded the contract of Ben Bishop along with their 2022 seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for future considerations. A knee injury ended the 35-year-old goaltender’s career but he hasn’t officially retired because he remains under contract through 2022-23.
Dallas Stars trade Ben Bishop’s contract to the Buffalo Sabres (NHL.com).
The Stars clear Bishop’s contract from their books, allowing them to avoid potential bonus overages in 2023-24. It also makes it easier for them to navigate the salary cap in 2022-23 without Bishop on long-term injury reserve.
As for the Sabres, the move allows them to get closer to next season’s $61 million salary-cap minimum by taking on Bishop’s $4.9 million cap hit for next season, though in actual salary they’ll pay him $3.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some readers might wonder why the Stars didn’t just retain Bishop and put him on LTIR to exceed the cap next season. Once they do that, however, they won’t be able to accrue salary-cap space.
That’s why we hear trade rumors of cap-strapped teams trying to peddle the contracts of permanently sidelined players to teams looking to reach the cap floor. What also made Bishop’s contract enticing to the Sabres is that his actual salary is less than his cap hit.
NHL.COM: Speaking of the Sabres, they will retire Ryan Miller’s No. 30 during a ceremony next season. Miller, 41, retired at the end of last season following an 18-season career, 11 of those spent with the Sabres from 2002-03 until traded to the St. Louis Blues before the 2014 trade deadline.
Miller is the Sabres’ all-time leader with 284 wins and sits second to Dominik Hasek with 28 shutouts. He backstopped them to consecutive Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007 and won the Vezina Trophy in 2010.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Miller for this well-deserved honor.
SPORTSNET: Carey Price recently had a platelet-rich plasma injection as part of his treatment for the knee injury that still threatens to end his playing career. The 34-year-old Montreal Canadiens goaltender hopes to begin ramping up his training as he intends to start preparing to play. “I don’t think I will actually have an idea of how that’s going to look until later this summer when I’ve taken all the necessary steps to get back on the ice again.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The ongoing uncertainty over Price’s status will affect whatever decision they make regarding their goaltending for next season. They could end up shopping for help by placing him on LTIR. They also have Jake Allen under contract for next season and could give Cayden Primeau another try between the pipes if Price can’t play.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: With eight goals, Ondrej Palat has taken over the Lightning goal-scoring lead this postseason. He’s tallied in the last three games, including two game winners.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant could break up his Kid Line of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere for tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The line saw limited ice time during the Rangers’ 3-1 loss in Game 5.
Speaking of the Rangers, one of their fans was arrested and charged with two counts of assault, two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of harassment after sucker-punching a Lightning fan in Madison Square Garden following Game 5 and then punching another fan who attempted to stop him from fleeing the arena. Garden officials condemned the incident and banned the fan from all their venues for life.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At some point in that guy’s life, somebody probably warned him that his temper would get him into trouble…
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: A source indicates Fenway Sports Group will name Kevin Acklin as the Penguins’ president of business operations.
THE ATHLETIC: Sean McIndoe looked at several theories regarding why Canadian teams haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I have two that didn’t appear on McIndoe’s otherwise solid list.
First, Canadian clubs are outnumbered by a much larger margin of American teams than they were during the Stanley Cup glory years of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. That makes it more difficult to build and maintain a Cup contender.
The other is all seven of the current Canadian teams have also suffered the consequences of mismanagement since 1993. Sometimes, those decisions were based on the misguided view that their fans wouldn’t support a rebuild. Others were due to meddling ownership, inexperience or just poor judgment.
Pressure To Win Could Account For Canada’s Stanley Cup Drought
Of Canada’s seven NHL franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only ones holding a playoff berth at the halfway point of the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, seven of the NHL’s 10 “Sun Belt” franchises – Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles, Nashville Predators, Vegas Golden Knights and the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning – would make the playoffs if the season ended today. The Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks would be outside the postseason picture.
It’s been 29 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.
A Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. Since then, a Canadian club only reached the Final six times. Over the same period, a Sun Belt team has won the Cup eight times and reached the Final eight times.
It seems those Southern U.S. clubs have had better luck than their cousins in the Great White North. Actually, luck has nothing to do with it. The cold hard facts are those teams have been better managed and coached compared to their Canadian brethren over the same period.
That doesn’t mean those Sun Belt teams haven’t had their share of troubles. They’ve spent their share of time wallowing among the also-rans, in some cases for many years.
Some, like the Predators and Panthers, were dogged by whispers of relocation while the Atlanta Thrashers wound up moving to Winnipeg. Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes remain in place despite years of multiple owners and questionable management thanks to the sheer force of will of league commissioner Gary Bettman.
Most of those teams, however, still managed to find a way to get it right. They eventually put together a solid front office staff, draft and develop talented players, make shrewd trades and free-agent signings to augment their lineups, and hire the right coaching staff to turn their rosters into contenders.
Meanwhile, Canada’s teams stumble along, sometimes seeming on the verge of becoming serious Cup contenders, only to make costly mistakes that knock them out of the running.
It’s not as though the Canadian teams haven’t hired experienced general managers or coaches. Most have had various degrees of success with previous clubs. So why is it that they seem to struggle in Canada?
Once upon a time, Canadian fans could pin the blame on the low value of the Canadian dollar and the free-spending ways of the rich American hockey markets. That’s no longer the case with the Canuck buck at a higher value, a salary cap leveling the field and a revenue-sharing plan that ensures Canadian clubs will have the same competitive advantage as their American cousins.
The expansion of the league from 24 franchises in 1993 to 32 franchises is a contributing factor. More teams mean more competition for draft picks and established players through trades and free agency. Nevertheless, the Sun Belt franchises face the same challenges and most have managed to do all right for themselves.
Of course, many of those teams are in states with low or no state taxes, paid in American dollars which go much further than Canadian dollars. The warmer weather can also be enticing.
Being able to lead relatively normal lives in those markets is also a big draw for the players. They live and work in much larger cities compared to those in Canada where they’re not the only major sport in town. The NHL is well down the popularity pole in those markets compared to basketball, football, baseball and NASCAR.
The players can go about their lives without being constantly harangued by fans if they’re mired in a slump or their club is in danger of missing the playoffs. They’re not facing packs of reporters tracking their every word and passing harsh judgment on their efforts.
That’s not the same thing for their Canadian peers. Even in the smallest markets such as Winnipeg and Ottawa, the players face a fishbowl existence.
Management and coaches and team owners feel it too. They understand what hockey means to Canadians. They know about the rich histories of the Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. They know how much fans of the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators long to win their first championships.
In hockey parlance, those clubs have little time and space to build and maintain a champion. The mantra among the Canadian hockey punditry is the fans won’t have the patience to go through a long rebuild. They want a winner and they want it now.
Since 1993, every Canadian team has endured long droughts outside the playoff picture.
Ask Leaf fans how much fun it was making the playoffs just once between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Or Oilers fans if they were enjoying themselves while their club reached the postseason once between 2006-07 and 2018-19. Or Flames fans about the lost years between 1996-97 and 2002-03 and 2009-10 and 2013-14. Or Senators fans about the last four years. Or Canucks fans about reaching the playoffs once in the last six years. Heck, ask Canadiens fans how much of a kick in the junk it is to see their team dead last overall after reaching the Cup Final seven months ago.
Those teams, however, weren’t undergoing a rebuilding phase during those lean years. In most cases, they were trying to reach the playoffs.
They changed management or coaches, traded away or acquired players, and set their sights on the postseason. And after they failed, they’d go out and try again and promise the fans and media that they were heading in the right direction, that they had a competitive team, that they were just the victims of injury or bad luck the previous year.
Rarely has a Canadian team told its fans it was engaging in a rebuild. The Leafs were a notable exception. In 2015 and 2016, they shed stars such as Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf for draft picks and prospects, warning its fans that several years of pain were ahead.
Rather than get upset, Leafs fans bought into team president Brendan Shanahan’s plan, or “Shanaplan” as it was later dubbed. They knew their club was long overdue for a true rebuild, that years of patchwork attempts to build a Cup contender wasn’t working. They handled it well throughout 2015-16, accepting the concept of short-term pain for long-term gain as their club rebuilt with young players.
That rebuild, however, didn’t last long. Powered by young guns Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, the Leafs made the playoffs in 2017. The following season, they were among the league’s best, reaching a franchise record 49 wins and 105 points in the regular season. They were eliminated from the opening round by the Boston Bruins, but they seemed destined to become a Cup contender if they stuck to their rebuild.
Instead, the “Shanaplan” was quickly scrapped. They blew up their budget by signing free agent John Tavares to a monster contract and handing out big bucks re-signing Matthews and Marner. They became a club top-heavy in offense but lack sufficient defensive depth to match up well against the league’s best clubs. To date, they still haven’t won a first-round series since 2004.
It came down to impatience on the part of the Leafs’ front office, fueled by the heightened expectations of Toronto fans and media. Rather than stick with the plan, they tried to take shortcuts and are still dealing with the consequences.
The Canadiens appear poised for a rebuild under the new management following this disastrous season. Will they learn from the Leafs’ mistakes or repeat them? It will be difficult to avoid the pitfalls given the pressure cooker they face on a daily basis.
None of the Canadian teams have the luxury of rebuilding out of the harsh spotlight like the Sun Belt franchises. Their demanding markets simply won’t allow it.
Until that trend changes, Sun Belt franchises will remain Stanley Cup contenders while Canadian clubs will be mere pretenders.
Highlights from the recent general managers meeting, the Stanley Cup gets damaged during the Lightning’s boat parade, the latest on a possible buyout for Tony DeAngelo and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti reports league commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly briefed the general managers yesterday on the guidelines for 2021-22 and other issues. Among the highlights:
The league is hoping for an 82-game regular-season schedule in 2021-22 beginning in October and ending in April with fully vaccinated players returning to pre-COVID conditions. It’s also hoped the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs will begin next April and conclude in June.
The league is working on two schedule formats, one of them including possible Olympic participation in 2022, pending the result of ongoing discussions between the NHLPA and the International Olympic Committee.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports resolution on Olympic participation next season must be reached by July 23.
Teams will return to the previous divisional format with each club playing all the others at least twice.
The Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division to make room in the Pacific Division for the expansion Seattle Kraken.
The general managers focussed on the officiating standard for the cross-checking penalty. It’s expected to continue during a meeting of the league’s competition committee today. So far, no rule change is planned.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping things can return to normal for next season.
ESPN.COM: The Stanley Cup is heading to Montreal for repairs after the bowl was dented during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s boat parade yesterday celebrating their second straight championship.
New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some folks on social media are chastising the Lightning for damaging the Cup. However, this sort of thing isn’t new. The Cup has a long history of getting banged up during exuberant celebrations by previous winners. The damage could have been accidental.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers aren’t expected to buy out exiled defenseman Tony DeAngelo until after the July 21 expansion draft.
Speaking of the Rangers, they’ve promoted Gord Murphy as an assistant coach and added Mike Kelly as an assistant. Murphy and Gallant have worked with new Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant in the past.
SPORTSNET: The police investigation into the death of Matiss Kivlenieks death has been submitted to a county prosecutor for review. The 24-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks blast on July 4. The incident is still being treated as an accident and the police have not requested charges be laid.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: An attorney representing a former Blackhawks player who alleges he was sexually assaulted by the club’s former video coach in 2010 is open to the possibility of participating in the club’s review of the accusations. However, it would have to be under the right conditions. They want to know more about the parameters of the investigation and want the opportunity to conduct their own interview of key former and current team executives.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs hired former Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach Dean Chynoweth as an assistant coach.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins hired four new scouts and a coach for their minor league affiliate. Brett Hextall, son of Penguins GM Ron Hextall, will work as an integrated development coach. He’ll work with prospects at the AHL level.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames hired Mitch Love as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Stockton. Love spent the past three seasons as the bench boss of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov’s KHL coaching career has been put on hold after he didn’t submit to doping tests. Markov failed to notify the Russian Anti-Doping Agency of his retirement as a player, meaning he’s still considered an active player. He’d joined HC Vityaz as an assistant coach. Because he didn’t get tested, however, he’s been suspended for a year and a half. “I didn’t know, nobody told me,” said Markov.