Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings can learn from Memorial Cup experience)May 27 2012 at 7:49 AM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Oil Kings can learn from Memorial Cup experience
Goaltender disappointed with both his and the team’s performance, but thinks the team can be stronger because of what they learned this week
By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com
May 26, 2012
Oil Kings grab their luggage after arriving back in Edmonton May 25, 2012.
Photograph by: Rick MacWilliam , edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - Laurent Brossoit is making baby steps after having a night to process the Edmonton Oil Kings’ elimination from the Memorial Cup.
The Oil Kings goalie isn’t hanging his head over a Canadian junior hockey championship tournament that, for the most part, he’d like to do all over again.
A photo of him hanging his head after allowing the sixth goal in Edmonton’s 6-1 loss to the host Shawinigan Cataractes on Thursday ran prominently on websites and in newspapers across the country on Friday.
While his head was up on Friday afternoon when the Oil Kings arrived in Edmonton, the 19-year-old was still soft-spoken when talking with the media.
“A little bit better,” Brossoit said of his mood, after heaping much of the team’s misfortune at the Memorial Cup on himself Thursday night.
“In the moment, it’s kind of hard to look at the positives because the game overshadowed all of the success that I had all year. I can kind of look back now and realize we were successful and I was a key part to get us here and that’s an honour in its own. I just wish, because it was the most important game of the season, I didn’t end up giving one of my worst performances of the season. It’s not a good feeling.”
Although Brossoit wasn’t able to continue his Western Hockey League playoff MVP-calibre play at the Memorial Cup, the Oil Kings’ quick ouster wasn’t his fault. As head coach Derek Laxdal pointed out during the tournament, only the line of Curtis Lazar, Henrik Samuelsson and Stephane Legault played up to its potential, leaving a lot of what the coach likes to call passengers on the ride through Shawinigan, Que.
The Oil Kings are looking to return 20 of their 25 players next season. Brossoit, being one of them, realizes as the sting of losing gradually dulls, he’ll begin looking forward to getting back to next year’s Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
“Experience, I think,” Brossoit said of what the team gained this year. “We were such a young squad and experience is so huge. You look at our play (in Shawinigan) and we were a totally different team because we didn’t have the experience, because we didn’t know what we were facing.
“We ended up playing timid and playing a game that we didn’t play at all that led us there. I think moving forward, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back and we’ve got a lot of experience and it’s going to help us next year.”
Brossoit also helped himself picking up a pair of MVP nods en route to the Memorial Cup. The Calgary Flames prospect caught the NHL team’s attention this spring and is in good position to at least get an invite to Canada’s world junior team tryouts.
“I definitely think I got myself on the radar and that’s a good feeling,” Brossoit said. “But, at the same time, a lot of people will remember the last game. I wish I could have ended it off with a better effort, but it is what it is.”
ROYALTY NOTES: Edmonton fans can fete their WHL junior hockey team on Friday, June 1, at city hall. The Oil Kings and the City of Edmonton are tweaking the details of the event, which would take place during the lunch hour. Finalized details are expected in the coming days.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
|N. W. Bruin|
Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings' boss Laxdal reflects on season)No score for this post
|May 27 2012, 7:56 AM |
Oil Kings' boss Laxdal reflects on season
By Chris O'Leary, edmontonjournal.com
May 27, 2012
Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal
Photograph by: Rick MacWilliam, file , edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - Fresh off of his team’s charter flight home from the Memorial Cup, Derek Laxdal had a look to him that he’d lost touch with in the last few months. He was relaxed.
The Edmonton Oil Kings head coach is out of playoff mode, albeit a little sooner than he’d have liked, but he was in good spirits on Friday afternoon, finally able to take in the incredible run his team has had this season.
“You know what, we’re very proud of our kids. It was an outstanding season,” Laxdal said. The Oil Kings overachieved through the spring, surging through the Western Hockey League playoffs all the way to a Game 7, home-ice championship victory over the Portland Winterhawks. They punched a ticket to Shawinigan, Que. for the Memorial Cup, but ran out of gas at the national junior hockey championship tourney. Their 6-1 loss to the host Shawinigan Cataractes on Thursday night sent them home with a 1-3 record.
That’s the only losing record the Oil Kings were associated with this year. They went 67-22-3-4 this year in their run to the Memorial Cup, posted the best regular-season record in the WHL and won their first everything (playoff game, series, conference title and league championship) since re-joining the league in 2007. None of that was lost on Laxdal, who patrolled the executive flight centre at Edmonton’s International Airport, patting his players on their backs and making sure they were in good spirits.
“You go 67-22 and whatever it was. You ask me at the start of the season, ‘Coach would you take that?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, no problem,’” he said.
“You look at our organization three years ago, it was 16 wins going into 67 wins with playoffs and playing for the Memorial Cup, Western Hockey League champions, you know, what a season.”
On-ice skills aside, the Oil Kings greatest asset this season was their resiliency. Third period deficits were rarely insurmountable, highly-touted opponents didn’t intimidate and even after rolling through to the WHL final with one loss, a 2-1 Winterhawks series lead couldn’t break the Oil Kings.
“Our group has really matured in the last two years and you could see that, just the way we play and the way we carry ourselves and the way the players have developed,” Laxdal said.
“We’re going to be gone for 2 ½ months now and when they come back we’ll go, ‘Wow have they ever matured.’ We saw it last year in our players, the Keegan Lowes, the Griffin Reinharts, the Mitch Morozes.
“We’re really looking forward to training camp in August and putting some new pieces into the puzzle. We know what it takes to win in the Western Hockey League, now we get to step back a bit and say ‘What does it take to win a Memorial Cup?’ and if you look at St. John, you look at London, you look at Shawinigan it’s three pretty good hockey clubs that were built for that tournament.”
While the coach wouldn’t take his eyes off of what was attainable during the team’s playoff run, he said on Friday afternoon that his team – at an average age of 17 ½ years – was built to peak next season.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to get deep into the playoffs and winning the Western Hockey League, obviously you want to do that, but next year’s our year,” he said. “We’ve got 20 of the 25 guys coming back and this year’s experience is only going to help us going into training camp, it will make it that much easier for these guys coming back. “They’ve been there. Now there are no excuses for not being there (again), right? These kids coming back can take these experiences and move forward next year.”
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
|N. W. Bruin|
Edmonton Journal article (NHL combine 'Just another piece of the puzzle')No score for this post
|May 27 2012, 8:04 AM |
NHL combine ‘just another piece of the puzzle’
By Jim Matheson, edmontonjournal.com
May 27, 2012 8:19 AM
Ryan Murray #27 of Team Canada and Austin Watson #26 of Team USA shove each other during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship game at Rexall Place.
Photograph by: Getty Images , edmontonjournal.com
EDMONTON - The NHL Central Scouting draft combine starts Monday at a suburban Toronto hotel where 105 muscular kids of all shapes and sizes will be analyzed by 30 clubs.
What does it all mean?
“It means 83 interviews ... that’s a whole whack of talking,” said Edmonton Oilers chief scout Stu MacGregor, laughing.
Yes, the No.-1 ranked Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting will get an interview.
“But we’ve already talked to him twice,” said MacGregor. “(Oilers general manager) Steve Tambellini will be there for this one, though.”
Yakupov, the Russian-born forward who is listed at five-foot-10-1/2 and 189 pounds, is shorter than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was, but considerably thicker than the Oilers rookie, who was listed at 173 pounds at the 2011 combine.
The Oilers, however, didn’t much care how big Nugent-Hopkins was last May at the combine, how much weight he could bench-press or whether he was a standup comedian in the interview. He was their guy going in and at the entry draft in Minnesota, when they also picked him first overall.
“I’ve never cared how much a player weighs. I think Steve Yzerman was 155 and Pavel Datsyuk as about the same (in their draft years). They got a lot bigger,” said MacGregor.
“The combine is just another piece of the puzzle that (teams) use to whatever advantage or disadvantage ... playing on the ice is the most important thing. It’s not how you do the tests.
“I know the year we took Taylor Hall (first overall in 2010) he wasn’t able to do most of the tests because he had just come off the Memorial Cup and he had some injuries. That takes the workout phase out of it.
“It was important for Ryan (at the 2011 combine) to see how he did in the strength issue. He had a better build than we thought and we had an additional test, working out with our fitness guy Simon Bennett later on. We found out he was pretty good in the gym, too.”
Do the interviews really matter?
“You only have a short window of 20 minutes to talk to the kids,” said MacGregor, “and in most cases either you or somebody on your staff has done a lengthy interview anyway. Something may have come up during the season that we want to ask about.”
An example could be gauging Yakupov’s willingness to be an NHL player and not even think about Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
“He’s told everybody his first goal is to play in the NHL. He understand he might make more money back there (in Russia), but he wants the NHL,” said MacGregor.
Yakupov had a concussion this past season in Sarnia, but there’s no alarm bells there.
“He seemed to recover fine, but we get medical reports (combine test or from the player’s agent) on everything,” said MacGregor.
The Oilers will pick first overall on Day 1 of the NHL entry draft June 22 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and MacGregor again won’t say if they will pick Yakupov, which would give them another weapon up front.
There’s also a cadre of defencemen — Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Matt Dumba — all with puck-moving or skating ability to get the offence charged.
The NHL entry draft isn’t like the NFL draft, where the Indianapolis Colts told one and all they were taking quarterback Ryan Luck before draft day.
“(If) you tell everybody, where’s the suspense for the fans?” asked MacGregor, who says he has a pretty good idea who will be the best player up for grabs at the draft.
“I’m working on it in my mind. Yeah, OK, I’ve got a pretty good idea.”
I know MacGregor likes Murray a lot. He knows Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Co. need the puck in flight, not with their faces pressed against the glass. And the Columbus Blue Jackets will likely take Murray at No. 2 if the Oilers don’t want him.
MacGregor swears Tambellini hasn’t told him yet if they should be drafting by position rather need than as to who’s the best player, with more holes on the Oilers back end.
“My job is to put them in line (by ranking), and then whatever happens with trades or whatever, that’s Steve. He can massage that list however he wants.
“You can’t stop people talking to you (about moving back from No. 1 in a trade) ... depends what people throw at us, but I think we’ll pick (first).”
The Oilers have seven picks in the seven-round draft, including two in the third, one coming from the Los Angeles Kings in the Dustin Penner trade. They have none in Round 7 because they gave up that pick to the Kings in the Ryan Smyth trade.
The Oilers have not selected a defenceman with their first pick in Round 1 in more than 20 years. The last No. 1 blue-liner pick one was Jason Soules (Niagara Falls) in 1989.
“Really? That was the last time?” said the disbelieving MacGregor.
As for Soules, he decided he would rather run into a burning building than break up a two-on-one rush. He wanted to be a firefighter, not a blueliner, although at last look he was involved in a hockey academy in Hamilton, so he’s back to his roots.
In the 33 years the Oilers have been at the NHL entry draft, they have only taken seven defencemen with their initial selection in the first round, five of them came in the first six years including Kevin Lowe (1979), Paul Coffey (1980), Jim Playfair (1982), Jeff Beukeboom (1983) and Selmar Odelein (1984).
The other first pick in Round 1 was goalie Grant Fuhr.
There was also Francois Leroux (1988) and Soules.
“I’d say Coffey and Kevin worked out pretty well,” said MacGregor.
Playfair, the Coyotes assistant coach, played two games for the Oilers. Odelein, who had bad knees, got into 18. Leroux played 11. Soules none.
The Oilers have taken three defencemen with a second pick in Round 1: Nick Stajduhar, 1993, after getting Jason Arnott with their first choice; Mathieu Descoteaux, 1996, after they took Boyd Devereaux; and Oscar Klefbom at 19 last June, after they grabbed Nugent-Hopkins at No. 1.
“I do not buy the theory that you can’t take a defenceman early in the draft because they take too long (to develop to get to the NHL). Did Scott Niedermayer? Did Chris Pronger? Did Drew Doughty? It is a harder position to learn, but maybe we’re in a good position (as a team) for a young guy to learn,” said MacGregor.
In the top 15 at next month’s draft, 10 might be defencemen.
“The only forwards I can think of (being selected in the top 15) are Yakupov and (Alex) Galchenyuk, (Mikhail) Grigorenko, (Filip) Forsberg and the Finn (Tuevo) Teravainen. He could be the most skilled guy in the draft. He’s very talented, great, great stickhandler, not very heavy (165 pounds),” said MacGregor.
Everybody wants Zach
Has there been a hotter ticket than New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise on the free-agent stage in the last 10 years?
You can see how badly he wants to win, the pistons pumping as he hunts down a loose puck in the neutral zone and sends it into the open net to ensure the Game 5 win for the Devils at Madison Square Garden.
He’s the engine that drives the Devils, with due respect to the big wheel Ilya Kovalchuk, who is much better than I thought he’d ever be when they gave him that lifetime contract as a free agent.
But how can there be room for both players next season and beyond when the Devils ownership is an absolute mess and Parise can easily get $8 million US on the open market?
The Devils have no wiggle room because Elias ($6 million) and Dainius Zubrus ($3.4 million) aren’t unrestricted free agents until July 2013, the same with Marek Zidlicky on defence.
There are four scenarios: Parise stays in New Jersey; he goes to Detroit, where the Red Wings will sell him on playing with Pavel Datsyuk, he slides over to the New York Rangers; or Parise, who turns 28 in July, goes home to suit up for the Minnesota Wild.
The Rangers know going after Parise is a better deal than trading for Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash and his $7.8-million salary in exchange for some young assets such as Chris Kreider, Tim Erixon, Derek Stepan or J.T. Miller, a 2011 first-round pick.
If I was handicapping, I’d say Parise winds up with the Red Wings, who have had pro scout Mark Howe watching him all season, with the Rangers No. 2, the Devils No. 3 and the Wild No. 4.
The Rangers have gone after two other Devils in free agency — Bobby Holik and Scott Gomez. But Parise is a different kettle of fish. He’s as good as Nash, not as big, but he does more things.
If the Rangers signed him, and cleared Brandon Dubinsky’s $4.2 million for the next three years, they could afford him, and not have to give up any of their young players.
In Minnesota, the citizenry are awash with expectations that Parise might want to come home. His dad, J.P., runs the hockey program at the exclusive Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school and Parise’s girlfriend is from North Dakota and one of J.P.’s best friends is former North Stars GM Lou Nanne, who holds significant sway in that area. But then again, plenty of NHLers don’t want the pressure of playing before friends and family.
Dominik Hasek coming back to the NHL at 47?
Sorry, don’t buy it for a second, no matter what the story back in the Czech Republic says. There have been absolutely no discussions with NHL clubs about the two-time Hart Trophy winner, and first-ballot Hall of Famer — if he ever quits strapping on the pads.
Hasek is in good shape, but he didn’t play last season and there’s no way he would return to the NHL to be a 25-game backup. His pride wouldn’t stand for that.
“I am waiting and we’ll see. June will be decision time,” Hasek told the newspaper.
There will be scads of unrestricted free-agent netminders on July 1: Josh Harding, Scott Clemmensen, Dan Ellis, Alex Auld, Jonas Gustavsson and other starting goalies who could get traded such as Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas.
I find it interesting that Edmonton Oilers president Kevin Lowe says he wishes he had Saint John Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant on his team when Gallant was a player.
Gallant was one of those unique talents: he could score, fight and get in your face. Over a four-year span with the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1980s he scored 38, 34, 39 and 36 goals respectively while simultaneously recording 216, 242, 230 and 254 penalty minutes respectively during those seasons.
What the Edmonton Oilers need is a mean winger who can score. Teemu Hartikainen might be a big man in the team’s top nine in time, but he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
There is only one guy playing in the NHL today who’s like Gallant and that’s Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins.
To this day, I’m sure the Oilers wish they still had that 2007 second-round draft pick they gave up to the Bruins along with Marty Reasoner to get Sergei Samsonov at the 2006 trade deadline. The Bruins selected Lucic 50th overall in Round 2 in ’06.
Samsonov helped the Oilers for three months, but that was it. There was no sign of him playing in the Kontinental Hockey League this past season.
Jesse Rogers’s ESPNChicago story the other day in which he offered up a possible trade involving the Pittsbrugh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks was intriguing.
The Blackhawks definitely need a No. 2 centre to help Jonathan Toews. In this story, Rogers proposed the Blackhawks go hard for Jordan Staal and give up Dave Bolland, who’s their No. 3 centre, as well as Pittsburgh-born top prospect forward Brandon Saad, former first-round pick Kyle Beach, who was hurt last season, and a draft pick.
The Blackhawks have Marcus Kruger to take Bolland’s spot and Bolland could take Staal’s role as the Penguins’ third-line centre. Saad, who got into a playoff game this spring, could easily make the Blackhawks roster at training camp in the fall. The farm-teamer Beach is a mean centre with a short fuse who has never fulfilled his potential.
I like Roger’s idea, and the Penguins would save some money.
This 'n' That
• NHL teams should explore an offer sheet on Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson, who will be getting low money from the Capitals in a new deal as a restricted free agent with no leverage. Carlson’s blue-line partner Karl Alzner didn’t have any cards to play last season and had to sign a two-year deal at $1.2 million per season. The Caps can qualify Carlson at $877,000, but would probably try for the same two-year deal Alzner got. Carlson, 22, and Alzner, 23, were Washington’s top defensive pairing in the playoffs, going against the other team’s top guns.
• A name to watch in the entry draft as the ultimate wild card is Mark Jankowski, nephew of Montreal Canadiens scout Ryan Jankowski. Jankowski is a six-foot-three, 175-pound centre who will attend Providence College in the fall unless he tries out for a team in the junior British Columbia Hockey League.
• Former Oilers defenceman Kurtis Foster has been doing some commentary work for the NHL Network in the playoffs, a foot in the door to a broadcasting career after hockey. Foster finished the season back in Minnesota, where he originally shattered his leg, but the Wild likely won’t re-sign him., so his NHL days may soon be over.
• With a shallow free-agent pool, winger Jiri Hudler will likely get his $4 million a season from somebody on July 1. There’s no way the Detroit Red Wings want to give him Johan Franzen money — $3.95 million. And the Red Wings don’t consider Hudler, even if he could score 30 gaols, as good as Val Filppula, who makes $3 million and is a better all-around player. Hudler is a smaller player and has to go to a team that has bigger forwards. I could see Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Lightning taking a run at him, and the Ottawa Senators because head coach Paul MacLean is a former Wings assistant coach.
• Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo was not at all happy with Devin Setoguchi’s play last season after he came over from the San Jose Sharks. With a host of young players on the horizon, including Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson and Brett Bulmer, he might be expendable. He’s well-priced at $3 million. The Wild would love to move up from their No. 7 draft slot. Yes, they like Edmonton Oil Kings defender Griffin Reinhart, but he might not be there as the seventh pick. Reinhart’s dad, Paul, played for the father of Wild GM Chuck Fletcher in Calgary during the Battle of Alberta days if you’re looking for a connection. Finn Olli Maata (London Knights) might be there, however.
• World No. 1 women’s tennis player Victoria Azarenka, now 22, once lived with the family of Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in Scottsdale, Ariz., when the Minsk-born tennis ace was 15.
• The Wild are wondering whether defenceman Jonas Brodin, Oscar Klefbom’s Swedish blue-line partner at Farjestads, can play in the NHL next season. He’s slight at 166 pounds, but he was on the ice every shift against Russia’s Evgeni Malkin at the world championship and he doesn’t turn 19 until July. Klefbom, the Oilers’ second first-round pick (19th overall in the 2011 draft), is going to stay in Sweden for one more year.
Would the Wild take a run at Los Angeles Kings power forward Dustin Penner on July 1? Don’t forget that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher was Brian Burke’s right-hand man with the Anaheim Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup-winning team. Most people think Penner’s stock has risen dramatically, but as one NHL executive said: “I don’t know if I’d give him more than a one-year contract. Keep him on a short leash.” Free agents on July 1 don’t get one-year deals, however. They get deals for three years or longer.
• Another unrestricted free agent who will get lots of interest from Cup contending teams on July 1 is Kings centre Jarret Stoll. He’s the perfect No. 3 guy and he’s a right-hander in the faceoff circle, always a huge bonus. The teams that should make a concerted run at Stoll are the San Jose Sharks or the Vancouver Canucks. They both need upgrades in their bottom six.
By the numbers
6 - Playoff goals for Oklahoma City Barons centre Chris VandeVelde.
7 - Games the Los Angeles Kings have lost in regulation over the last 35 games since the Jeff Carter trade.
Matty’s Short Shifts
• The stock of Edmonton Oil Kings winger Henrik Samuelsson rose significantly at the Memorial Cup. He now might be a late first-round pick. If Samuelsson can improve his speed, he’s what most teams are looking for — a power forward with an edge. The Oilers, New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes are all interested, but probably as a second-round pick. The stock of defenceman Griffin Reinhart’s stock stayed the same after the Memorial Cup. “Griffin was outstanding in Game 1, then the whole group hit the wall, other than maybe Samuelsson,” said Oilers head scout Stu MacGregor.
• Will the New Jersey Devils be OK in the Stanley Cup final without any high-end defencemen? Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov, Peter Harrold? Are there really any top-two blue-liners in this bunch?
• Edmonton Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal is pumped to win a Memorial Cup next year with his young charges, with 20 of 25 players probably returning for 2012-13. But I still think the Dallas Stars are looking seriously at Laxdal to coach their American Hockey League farm team in Austin, Texas. Laxdal was once a player in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization along with New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano — if there any NHL assistant jobs open there. Oil • Kings GM Bob Green said before the Memorial Cup that you can’t hold anybody back. “The kids all want to be in the NHL someday and the coaches want to move up, too,” he said.
• This is a make-or-break season for Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. If he’s not the No. 1 the Oilers are counting on, they’ll need two goalies in 2013-14. Dubnyk, who will likely be looking for Corey Crawford money (three years, $8 million) in a new deal after July 1, should get 60 games this upcoming season.
• What player could the Oilers use most with the Cup final looming? Actually two: Dustin Brown, who’s a hitter and a scorer. Or Ryan Callahan, who’s a shot-blocker and a leader. Both are captains and both are gamers and very hard to play against.
• If you’re the Colorado Avalanche, shouldn’t you be calling up the Phoenix Coyotes and offering centre Paul Stastny because the Avs have Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene who can be their top two guys in the middle? Stastny has become redundant in Denver. If they could get a young defenceman, such as Brandon Gormley of the Shawinigan Cataractes who was also a member of the Canadian national junior team, and another piece like Mikkel Boedker, would either side do it? Getting Gormley, off his terrific play at the Memorial Cup, might be a stretch, however. He could be in the NHL next season.
• The last time the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement was set to expire was in 2004. There were no main camps for the NHL players following on the heels of the World Cup that fall. So don’t expect any camps this time around if there’s no agreement in place by the Sept. 15 deadline. And the way negotiations go, there is no pressure to get a deal done until league games are being missed.
• If the 76-point season of Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle wasn’t an aberration and he puts up the same sort of stats in 2012-13, isn’t he a $6-million-a-season player in a new deal witht he Oilers? Stastny’s five-year $6.6-million-a-year package in Colorado looks like a comparable. Stastny had 78 points and 71 in his first two seasons, then 36 in 45 games when he was hurt in Year 3 of his entry-level contract. He signed his five-year deal when he was 24. Eberle had 43 points in his rookie NHL season. He will be 23 after this season.
• Mike Smith is a fabulous goalie, but there’s some petulance in him. While Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan felt sheepish after his outburst at the referees — there is no classier player in the game — Smith wasn’t ready to retract anything. He said that if Raffi Torres got 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa, then Dustin Brown “should be done forever” for his knee hit on Michal Roszival (thigh bruise) in Game 5 of the Kings-Coyotes Western Conference final series. It was a borderline hit, no more, no less. He was mad at Brown, the Kings captain and possible Conn Smythe Trophy leader, for knocking the glove out of his hand, too, as he skated through the crease. That’s legal. Smith, a revelation down the stretch and in the playoffs, has one year left at $2 million, a bargain for a No. 1 goalie. You can bet the Coyotes will tie him up for two or three more years in the $3.5-million range.
Who’s Hot: Bryce Salvador, a defensive blue-liner, has 11 points in 18 games and is plus-10 for the New Jersey Devils.
Who’s Not: New York Rangers winger Carl Hagelin never got on track with just three assists in 17 games after a fine rookie season.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
|N. W. Bruin|
Edm Journal art (Memorial Cup: London Knights, Shawinigan Cataractes on collision course)No score for this post
|May 27 2012, 8:10 AM |
Memorial Cup: London Knights, Shawinigan Cataractes on collision course
By Bill Beacon, Canadian Press
May 27, 2012
London Knights Ryan Rupert, right, scores the first goal pass Edmonton Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit during first period Memorial Cup action in Shawinigan, Que., on Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL/Mathieu Belanger
Photograph by: Mathieu Belanger , Canadian Press/Pool
SHAWINIGAN - The London Knights and the Shawinigan Cataractes will be coming from opposite directions when they collide in the final of the Mastercard Memorial Cup.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Knights have been off since Tuesday, as they clinched a bye to the final by finishing first in the round robin portion of the four-team tournament.
The host Cataractes took the long route, finishing last in the round robin but then winning the tiebreaker game against the Western Hockey League-winning Edmonton Oil Kings and dethroning the defending champion Saint John Sea Dogs in the semifinal.
The Knights (2-1) and Cataractes (3-2) will clash Sunday night in the final amid the clamour of the raucous Shawinigan fans at the Bionest Centre.
The question to be answered is whether the Knights have the advantage of being rested or the Cataractes are favoured for taking momentum into the decisive game.
"I guess we'll have to wait and see," was all Cataractes defenceman Morgan Ellis would say.
The main advantage could be home ice, where a veteran Shawinigan side seems to feed off the deafening noise, which may be intimidating for a mostly younger London team.
"The buildings' always really loud and it definitely helps," said Shawinigan rearguard Brandon Gormley, the Phoenix Coyotes' prospect who has been one of the stars of the tournament with nine points in five games.
The Cataractes also have confidence from having handed London its only loss of the tournament, a 6-2 thrashing on May 20 in which Gormley had two goals and an assist.
"We'll have to play good defence and we need our forwards playing good sound hockey and our goalie playing well," said Knights coach Mark Hunter.
The Knights have succeeded with a defence-first game and strong counterattacking from top forwards like Seth Griffith and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Their specialty is shot blocking, particularly from veteran centre Austin Watson - who is also their scoring leader thus far with four points in three games - and the top defence duo of Jarred Tinordi and Scott Harrington. Watson's linemates, the pesky twins Matt and Ryan Rupert, should also be a factor.
A problem is that Shawinigan's defence aces, Ellis and Gormley, have been particularly effective at getting shots through to the net for forwards to tip in or score on rebounds. Both prefer the well-placed wrist shot to the big slapper from the point.
"It's so hard to score in today's game," Gormley said. "Guys are blocking shots and collapsing down low.
"Any way we can get pucks to the net and keep them in at the blue-line, it benefits our forwards."
The game-winner that sank the Sea Dogs on Friday night was a case in point, as Ellis slipped a shot through that Yannick Veilleux tipped past goalie Mathieu Corbeil to break a 4-4 tie.
It was the Cataractes third game in as many nights and dispelled any notion that fatigue would be a factor.
Hunter welcomed the break because his team had been through a long season and playoff drive that culminated with their victory in five games over Niagara in the OHL final.
Shawinigan finished second to Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season, but then were upset in seven games in the second round by Chicoutimi. That left them a 31-day break before the Memorial Cup, although they didn't sit idle.
Coach Eric Veilleux put his team through a punishing schedule of practices and off-ice workouts to get them into top shape in body and mind.
"We had a chance to talk during that month," said Veilleux. "Many things were addressed.
"When you go through adversity, you pretty much know the reasons why. I don't want to call it an accident, but we lost Game 7, which we weren't really planning on. The right things were said. You find solutions. They were clearly understood before this tournament and that's what we're seeing right now."
Now Shawinigan has a chance to be only the second team to win the Memorial Cup after having to play in a tiebreaker game. The first was also in Quebec in 2009 in Rimouski, where the Windsor Spitfires lost their first two games and then ran the table.
The final will be Shawinigan's fourth game in five nights and their sixth in 10. It will be London's fourth in 10 days.
"They look prepared, physically and mentally," said Hunter. "They're an older team, not depending on 17-year-olds. That helps."
Another factor is goaltending, where Shawinigan veteran Gabriel Girard has been solid while London's Michael Houser has been surprisingly off his game. Girard has been the starter since the Cataractes' second game after Alex Dubeau got the loss in the tournament opener against Edmonton.
He has posted a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in four starts.
Houser was named the outstanding player of the OHL this season after tying a league record with 46 wins and posting a 2.47 average. But at the Memorial Cup, he has let in some soft ones. His average is 3.03 and his save percentage a weak .885.
But history favours London.
The Cataractes are a founding member of the QMJHL but have never won a Memorial Cup. The Knights are seeking their second in seven years, both with brothers Dale and Mark Hunter running the club.
They had a veteran, star-studded team in 2005 that included winger Corey Perry and won the event on home ice.
Dale Hunter was the coach then with Mark as general manager, but the roles are reversed after Dale took time out to coach the Washington Capitals this season.
Mark said the brothers have evolved since their first title.
"We're calmer than we were then," he said. "We know it won't help them if we're too wound up.
"They have to do it on the ice. We're just here to help them along. We don't want them too tight. It's going to be a game with a lot of emotion. And too much emotion is no good either."
© Copyright (c) Edmonton Journal
|N. W. Bruin|
StarPhoenix article (Moodie shows growth)No score for this post
|May 28 2012, 7:34 AM |
Moodie shows growth
By Daniel Nugent-bowman, The StarPhoenix
May 26, 2012
As Alex Moodie prepares to step onto the ice this morning for another spring camp with the Saskatoon Blades, he has his first experience from 2010 in mind.
"I remember going into a meeting right off the start and seeing all of the veteran players there," the 17-year old goaltender said. "I was a lot smaller than I am now. It was intimidating seeing them, but it really showed me how much I had to work to get up to that level and pace where they were."
Having actually experienced that pace for a month this past season, Moodie is no longer playing the part of the intimidated youngster.
With 13 WHL games already under his belt, the 6-foot-1, 161-pound netminder is now the veteran - at least in terms of the 29 prospects attending the orientation camp this weekend.
Although a non-competitive environment, Moodie wants to leave a good impression heading into training camp in August when he'll be vying for the backup position behind Andrey Makarov.
"I want to work the hardest that I can to make sure I can get that spot," he said. "I've been working really hard with my goalie coach and trainer to make sure that, once I get to camp, I'm in tip-top shape and playing the best to my ability."
A fifth-round pick in the 2010 WHL bantam draft, Moodie was called up from the Winnipeg Wild midget AAA team last December when starter Makarov left for Calgary to play for Russia's world junior team.
He served as Adam Todd's backup Dec. 27 against Edmonton only to enter the game in the third period of the 7-2 loss.
Two nights later he was given the start in Prince Albert. Although the Blades fell 5-2, Moodie never relinquished the net.
When Makarov sustained a concussion in his return from the world juniors on Jan. 7, Moodie played in nine more contests. He finished his WHL audition at 9-3 with a 3.42 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage before being sent back to the Wild.
Moodie then completed an 18-1-1 regular season campaign with the Wild - posting a 1.79 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage and three shutouts - guiding them to a semifinal appearance in the Telus Cup Western Regional AAA championship.
"Just being able to play those 13 straight games was the biggest confidence booster anyone could ever get," Moodie said.
The highlight for Moodie was his first start after Makarov's injury when he made 37 saves in a 2-0 victory in Brandon. The Winnipeg native had plenty of family and friends in attendance to witness the historic moment.
The shutout was the first by a Blade during the 201112 season and the first ever by a 16-year-old in club history. He also became the first Saskatoon goalie to blank a Brandon Wheat Kings team on the road since his goalie coach, Ryan Cyr, did so in 2004-05.
"We joked about that a few times," Moodie said. "He was the first one to tell me. He was like, 'You and I are clicking together.'"
Backed by the guidance of Cyr, who doubles as the goalie coach for the Spokane Chiefs, Moodie hopes to continue to improve this summer to the point where he's a full-time Blade in the fall. If that happens, Moodie will likely see more time on the bench than he's accustomed to with Makarov getting the majority of the workload.
With the Blades hosting the Memorial Cup next May, Moodie is eager to help out any way he can.
"It's totally fine because you get to learn from such a prestigious goalie like Andrey is," he said. "Even when you get your chances - this year was a perfect example - you have to take advantage of it.
"You always have to be playing sharp and being ready to go in just like when Andrey got hurt."
Moodie is expected to be challenged for the backup job by Todd and Patrick Johnson. Todd backed up Makarov last season and went 1-4 with a 5.17 goals-against average and a .852 save percentage before a concussion shelved him for the playoffs.
Johnson, who played for the SJHL's Kindersley Klippers, sat on the bench in the playoffs.
Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken said Todd is now fully recovered from his head injury. Molleken added that no player evaluations will be made until the August main camp.
Instead, he's more concerned with the prospects' fitness testing and, in a case like Moodie, how they display leadership for the bantams chosen in the draft earlier this month.
"I think that the players that have been here and have been through this in the past, they need to make the younger guys feel part of it," Molleken said. "That's what it's all about."
While a permanent job on the Blades is his long-term goal, Moodie is ready for a leadership role at the orientation camp.
Moodie missed last year's sessions because he was attending Manitoba's under-17 selection camp, but knows how daunting the weekend can be.
"You really want to help them out because they're in the exact same spot you were in where they're really nervous," he said. "They don't know what to expect, so you just try to calm them down and show them that you just do what you do before you got drafted."
BLADE BITS: The Blades prospects receive a tour of Marion Graham Collegiate this morning before stepping on the ice at Schroh Arena at 10: 30 a.m.
They'll then be put through the paces of a fitness test and end the day by attending a barbecue hosted by some of the current Blades. The players also take to the ice tomorrow morning at 11 a.m.
dnugent-bowman @thestarphoenix.com Twitter.com/DNBsports
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