Cross Checks: Toronto Maple Leafs
This summer, however, we have seen that infused with new faces, diverse backgrounds and fresh ideas.
Nowhere is that more apparent than the league's movement toward embracing analytics.
Whereas champions of advanced stats have previously been the subject of scorn and derision from the mainstream hockey world -- labeled as nerds or contrarians and mocked for never having played the game at the professional level -- their insight is now being courted. Many of these bloggers and statisticians have made huge leaps in collecting and interpreting data, primarily possession statistics, as predictive for a team's success.
Teams are starting to recognize that as a valuable asset.
On Tuesday morning, TSN's Bob McKenzie broke the news that Tyler Dellow, one of the people at the forefront of the advanced stats movement and followed by many via his Twitter handle @mc79hockey, has been hired by the Edmonton Oilers.
Dellow's hiring, which a source confirmed to ESPN.com, is just the latest in this trend toward more innovative additions to a club's traditional front office or hockey operations staff.
Before Dellow, professional poker player Sunny Mehta was hired Friday by the New Jersey Devils to head the team's new analytics department (a move that was recommended by new owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer) and FiveThirtyEight analytics writer Eric Tulsky has worked for teams, including the Nashville Predators. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs, a consistent target of those in the advanced stats community for the club's atrocious possession numbers, seem to realize the need for a new perspective.
In November, months before the Leafs' epic collapse, GM Dave Nonis said he felt that many advanced stats being employed were "not accurate" or relevant. Apparently, others within the organization now feel differently. The Leafs hired youngster Kyle Dubas as an assistant general manager after the 28-year-old proved himself at the junior hockey level in large part because of his strength in employing analytics.
This is still new territory. These jobs signal a paradigmatic shift in the making, but by no means have traditional types been given the heave-ho.
What will be perhaps the most fascinating part of this phenomenon is how these two groups co-exist. How much of a club's resources will be devoted to analytics and how much will the findings dictate the club's hockey-making decisions? Will these new hires be given a sense of autonomy by the organizations, or will they have to fight against a healthy dose of skepticism from front-office vets who aren't yet on board with using Fenwick and Corsi stats as meaningful methods of evaluation?
The landscape is changing, and teams are keen on gaining any type of competitive advantage. If those forward-thinking clubs start to reap the benefits, you can imagine there will be many more teams scouring the bowels of the Internet for the type of statistical wunderkind who might give them a leg up too.
Hair bands and hockey hair: a marriage made in heaven. We're dropping the needle on 30 songs that say something about each of the 30 teams, using nothing but cheesy videos from the 1980s. The Eastern Conference list is below -- feel free to mullet over. (Western Conference is here.)
BOSTON BRUINS: "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds
Everyone's all caught up in the West Coast domination thing, but you can't discount the Bruins, the hardest team in the East. They changed very little in the offseason, have been good for many seasons and have had their core together for many seasons. Replacing Jarome Iginla's 30 goals will not be easy, but somehow these guys always find a way to win, no matter how many goals leave. And if they can find a way to beat the Canadiens ...
Slow change may pull us apart
When the light gets into your heart, baby
Don't you forget about me
Don't don't don't don't
Don't you forget about me
BUFFALO SABRES: "Road To Nowhere," Talking Heads
This was as close as we could get to "We're On The Road To Finishing Last, So We Have a Better Chance of Getting Connor McDavid Or We'd Even Take Jack Eichel, As Far As That Goes."
They can tell you what to do
But they'll make a fool of you
And it's all right, baby, it's all right
We're on a road to nowhere
CAROLINA HURRICANES: "Mad World," Tears For Fears
No offense to Tim Gleason, but there's not much new happening here. Which, as you might expect, is how a team that finished so low in the Eastern Conference and failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season should operate. Sarcasm. No wonder Jim Rutherford left.
All around me are familiar faces
Bright and early for their daily races
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: "Here I Go Again," Whitesnake
So, you're Scott Hartnell, playing fairly well on one of the league's most desirable teams. Then, poof, you're suddenly dealt to Columbus, with little indication as to why. It's enough to make your hair stand on end. More, that is.
I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
And I've made up my mind,
I ain't wasting no more time
But here I go again
Here I go again
DETROIT RED WINGS: "Broken Wings," Mr. Mister
Who are we to stand in the way of obvious symbolism? Man, the Red Wings really miss Nicklas Lidstrom.
So take these broken wings
And learn to fly again, learn to live so free
FLORIDA PANTHERS: "Money For Nothing," Dire Straits
Dave Bolland is a good player, but five years at $5.5 million per? The Panthers must feel his intangibles are off the charts, because his tangibles -- which were never great, as he has never scored 20 goals in a season -- are declining to disappearing.
That ain't workin'
That's the way you do it
MONTREAL CANADIENS: "Under Pressure," Queen and David Bowie
Getting to the final four is a great selling point for every team in the league -- except if you're the Canadiens, whose fans consider anything short of a parade to be a failure. Can Carey Price rebound from his playoff injury? Can P.K. Subban continue to light it up without causing a brush fire in the dressing room? Will the Habs get back to the conference finals? And so on.
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: "Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin
If there was a state of denial, it's New Jersey. It's not enough that Martin Brodeur, the greatest goalie not named Patrick Roy, is unceremoniously being pushed out -- the team's scoring woes are to be addressed by a frequently injured Martin Havlat and a decent-but-declining Michael Cammalleri. Whether it's on the ice or off, this franchise is not what it used to be, but no one in Newark seems all that concerned.
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no girl to make you smile
But don't worry, be happy
'Cause when you worry
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: "Is There Something I Should Know?" Duran Duran
Even with a new building on the horizon, the Islanders are still considered a team to stay away from. Heck, it's so bad, they aren't even on national TV this season. And their offseason signings -- Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Cory Conacher and Jack Skille -- show only the downtrodden or desperate decide to head to the Isle. Somewhere, a frustrated Clark Gillies is throwing boulders at a Sasquatch.
Maybe next year, maybe no go
I know you're watching me every minute of the day yeah
I've seen the signs and the looks and the pictures that give your game away yeah
There's a dream that strings the road a broken glass for us to hold
And I cut so far before I had to say
Please, please tell me now, is there something I should know
Is there something I should say that'll make you come my way
NEW YORK RANGERS: "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)," Cinderella
The Rangers will always have King Henrik. But their chances of returning to the Cup finals are looking as arid as the setting in this video, after losing Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Richards and replacing them with Dan Boyle, Lee Stempniak and ... Tanner Glass? Zoinks.
Don't know what you got till it's gone
Don't know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It's just this song
And it ain't easy to get back
Takes so long
OTTAWA SENATORS: "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)," Glass Tiger
Jason Spezza is now a Dallas Star. Weird, huh? First longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson moves on, then Spezza bails. Sounds like some woe is living in O-town.
Oh can this be true
If you could see what I have seen
Broken hearts and broken dreams
Then I wake up and you're not there
Pain finds me everywhere
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: "I Don't Care Anymore," Phil Collins
Are they even trying to be good? Something just doesn't feel right about this team.
Well, you can tell everyone I'm a down disgrace
Drag my name all over the place
I don't care anymore
You can tell everybody about the state I'm in
You won't catch me crying 'cause I just can't win
I don't care anymore, I don't care anymore
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: "Say You, Say Me," Lionel Richie
Sidney Crosby, you're good, you're special and, doggone it, people like you. You're great, you're really, really great. A shining star, truly. But, dude, you have one Stanley Cup. So, now you've got a new coach -- a new friend, of a sort -- who can show you how to win. And, if you somehow lead your team to the big prize, people will be dancing on the ceiling.
As we go down life's lonesome highway
Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two
A helping hand, someone who understands
That when you feel you've lost your way
You've got some one there to say I'll show you
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: "Sledgehammer," Peter Gabriel
Get ready, Bolts fans. This could be your year. GM Steve Yzerman has made some savvy moves in his relatively short tenure, stacking up on good defensemen in the offseason and re-signing Ryan Callahan. That, coupled with the return to health of super sniper Steven Stamkos and stonewall Ben Bishop mean these aren't your Chris Gratton-variety Lightning.
I've kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won't you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: "Land Of Confusion," Genesis
Dave Nonis decries the use of advanced stats in the NHL. Then, after new sheriff Brendan Shanahan rides into town, the Leafs hire a noted advanced-stats guru as the assistant GM. Who's in charge here again? How long will Nonis have a job? Is the captain staying or going? Is James Reimer the backup? So confusing.
There's too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can't you see
This is a land of confusion
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: "Turn Me Loose," Loverboy
Alex Ovechkin's summertime heartache aside, you know he wants to be turned loose by whomever his coach happens to be, and this season he's got Barry Trotz behind the bench. Will it happen? Will he be given the green light by yet another coach? And, if so, will he actually try while backchecking?
I was born to run
I was born to dream
The craziest boy you ever seen
I gotta do it my way
Or no way at all
The question is very simple: Who is the all-time franchise player for each team in Canada?
In Montreal, Maurice "Rocket" Richard's accomplishments are well-known. And there is a reason the trophy for the leading goal scorer is named after him.
Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson have since moved on, but their legacies were created with the Flames and Senators, respectively.
Trevor Linden is back with the Canucks as team president, but his playing days might have made the biggest impact in Vancouver.
The Jets are a two-part question because a large part of their history now belongs to the Coyotes and the rest comes from the Thrashers.
Lastly, Wayne Gretzky is the obvious choice for the Oilers, but can anyone top The Great One?
Now it's time for you to vote. Who is the most important player for each Canadian team?
You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page, or hit us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
Seriously? We should have more votes for your team than any other.
What we're saying is we need your help selecting the top Leaf of all time. And what a wealth of players to choose from. Maybe that's the problem -- too much selection:
Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Borje Salming, Felix Potvin, Teeder Kennedy, Howie Meeker, Turk Broda, Curtis Joseph, Phil Kessel, Dave Keon, George Armstrong, Frank Mahovlich, Rick Vaive, Lanny McDonald, Tiger Williams, Baldy Cotton, Dion Phaneuf, Todd Gill, Rocky Saganiuk, Hap Day, Gary Roberts, Darcy Tucker, Jiri Crha. And that's just a partial list, some of which was serious.
Tell us who you feel is truly Mr. Maple Leaf. Who would be the one player to represent the Maple Leafs?
You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page or, if you're hitting us up from the Twitter, use the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.
Don't let that whole "1967" thing bring you down.
"I’m excited and intrigued to see some of the options [that] will be laid out in front of me," Martin Brodeur told ESPN.com on Monday. "It’s something that’s new to me; it’s going to be fun."
Technically, Brodeur did in fact enter free agency two years ago, but that was really just because it took Devils GM Lou Lamoriello some time to come around on the idea of a two-year deal.
This time, it’s for real. Brodeur is almost surely changing teams, something Devils fans probably never thought they would see in their lifetime. But Brodeur is eager for a new challenge before he wraps up an incredible career. He’s got one of the sport's big-time agents in Pat Brisson of CAA Sports.
Brodeur is willing to look at different types of fits.
"It depends on the opportunity," Brodeur said. "I’m pretty open-minded about things. For me, this is a year that’s going to be a challenge for me regardless of where I land, first because it’ll be in a different organization, second because it’ll be a new [role]. It’s something where I think I’m just going to really enjoy the game and not worry about carrying a team. I’m just going to be a piece of the puzzle for a team, hopefully."
Whether that’s mentoring a young starting goalie or even helping a more established starter, Brodeur is ready to be that guy.
"It’ll be fun for me just to see what the opportunities are," he said. "But I’m open-minded, whether it’s a team with a good young goalie or being in a spot where I’ve got a chance to win a Stanley Cup again ... just look forward to seeing what’s out there."
Brodeur also knows it may not happen on Day 1 of free agency for him. He needs to patient as Brisson works out the market for him.
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan publicly stated over the weekend Toronto had some interest, although I don’t think there’s much money to spend there. Not to mention James Reimer hasn’t been traded yet.
What about Tampa Bay? It needs a backup goalie. Just a thought.
What now for Tampa?
The Tampa Bay Lightning shed $5.65 million in cap space Sunday night with their three trades, fueling no end of speculation that the club was going to be quite active come Tuesday. Perhaps ... but this is about Tampa creating roster/payroll flexibility moving forward whether that’s for signing a player or two come Tuesday or for having that space to do something over the next few months.
"It gives us some options," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told ESPN.com on Monday. "Really, prior to yesterday, other than trying to sign a backup goaltender, we really weren’t in a position to do anything at all. And we may end up doing nothing [Tuesday] other than signing a backup goaltender, but we’d like to explore [the free-agent market]."
Yzerman pointed to possibilities both up front and on defense.
"We’d like to get potentially a center or maybe a winger," said Yzerman. "And then, we have seven defensemen signed and we’d like to carry eight. Depending on fit and contract, whether it’s a really expensive guy or a low-end one-way, we’ll try to add one more defenseman."
Yzerman said he'd prefer a right-handed defenseman. The Bolts GM would not discuss specific names, but sources have confirmed Tampa’s interest in UFA blueliner Matt Niskanen as well as veteran Dan Boyle, among others.
Tampa joins the likes of Detroit, Toronto, Montreal and the New York Rangers on the list of teams interested in Boyle, as well as places where he would be happy to sign, according to a source.
Niskanen, well, he’s wanted by nearly everyone. He could fetch north of $6 million a year on the open market Tuesday. I don’t believe Tampa will bid like crazy; the deal would have to make sense for them.
Around the market
- Speaking of Niskanen, likely the most sought-after blueliner on the market Tuesday, his agent, Neil Sheehy, was busy Monday trying to pare down the long, long list of teams interested in signing his client.
"We are narrowing the list to a workable number today. I can't say how many but rather a workable number," Sheehy said via email.
- Brad Richards is set for free agency for the second time in his career. Bought out by the New York Rangers, the veteran center would be a valuable addition at the right price. His leadership was on full display during New York’s playoff run and his hands are still capable of helping any power play. Reached via text Monday, Richards didn't want to comment, saying he wanted to keep a low profile on the eve of the market opening.
- Paul Stastny’s agent, Matt Keator, was working Monday to shorten the list of suitors. Some 15 teams showed interest since the speaking window opened. Keator said Monday morning it was time to work it down to a more workable list, planning to speak with Stastny to identify the top suitors, which another source suggested would include St. Louis. Colorado, of course, also would remain in the mix right to the end, either way.
The Stastny situation continues to affect the Jason Spezza trade scenario to some degree, most notably with the Blues’ interest in both players. One source did suggest Monday that the Dallas Stars might renew their exploration of the Spezza situation. As I reported Saturday, the Stars have talked to San Jose about Joe Thornton, but either way would like to pick up another top-end center.
- About eight to 10 teams have circled back to the Thomas Vanek camp with interest. Minnesota, of course, is one of those teams, although as we reported last week, the Wild have expressed to Vanek’s camp that they won't do a long-term deal. Despite that, Minnesota remains very much part of Vanek’s wish list, although where exactly he ends up Tuesday remains to be seen. Sounds like he’ll have to decide between a shorter-term deal in Minnesota (where he really wants to play) or a bigger offer elsewhere. Meanwhile, Vanek met with Wild coach Mike Yeo on Sunday, a source confirmed, to talk about his possible fit.
- After Josh Gorges refused to accept a trade the Toronto, the Habs must either find a trading partner with one of the 15 teams on Gorges’ approved teams list or put him on waivers, my TSN colleague Bob McKenzie reported earlier today. Will the prospect of going on waivers convince Gorges to take the trade to the Leafs?
- Jussi Jokinen hits the market Tuesday as it appears the Penguins won’t be re-signing him.
A source told ESPN.com that Jokinen’s camp offered to re-sign for $4 million a year, a raise over the $3 million he made this past season, but the cap-challenged Penguins feel it’s too much money.
Jokinen’s agent, Todd Diamond, wouldn't divulge those kinds of details, only to say he still hoped to hear back from Pittsburgh before the market opened Tuesday.
"Our last conversation was that they would get back to us, but we haven’t heard back yet," Diamond said Monday morning.
"We have three or four other teams that we’ve spoken to. But I think with these potential trades possibly happening [Jason Spezza, etc], that may also create more interest for Jussi and other players in his position. It’s a pretty fluid situation right now."
Diamond also represents forward Leo Komarov, who wants to return to the NHL after a year in Russia. The former Maple Leafs forward played well in the Olympics for bronze-medal winner Finland, and there’s a lot of interest in him, according to Diamond.
"I don’t have enough fingers to count how many teams have called," said Diamond. "He’s a very popular player right now. He’s 27 and brings lots to the table."
- Speaking of interest, there's plenty as well apparently in Martin Havlat, who became an unrestricted free agent after the San Jose Sharks bought him out. A source told ESPN.com approximately 10 teams have called on him since he was bought out. The long list of injuries have minimized his impact over the past few years, but at the right price, there are teams that can’t help but wonder if getting him on the rebound would be a nice bargain and a solid gamble if he can stay healthy.
- TSN's Darren Dreger reported Monday that the Maple Leafs would make one more push on pending UFA center David Bolland, but it wouldn’t be more than five years or above $5 million a year. Not sure that’s going to get it done.
- Pending UFA winger Radim Vrbata has seven or eight teams on his trail, although the Coyotes remain in the mix. It was expected agent Rich Evans and the Coyotes would talk again Monday at some point.
PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps emotionally driven and certainly frustrated, veteran general manager Bryan Murray revealed more than a little after the NHL draft Saturday regarding his failed attempts so far to trade star center Jason Spezza.
For starters, the Ottawa Senators GM said a potential deal with the Nashville Predators was scuttled because Spezza didn’t want to go there -- the Preds are on Spezza’s list of 10 teams he won’t go to.
"[Preds GM] David [Poile] talked to me, and we couldn’t go there," Murray said. "I told [Spezza’s agent] Rick Curran that today, I had a deal sitting there if I wanted to do it, but he was on the list of no-goes."
Poile also confirmed the potential deal.
“I've talked to Bryan about Jason, and I was told through [Spezza’s] agent that he didn’t want to play for us. And that was confirmed by Bryan," Poile said Saturday.
The hint was that Murray could have gotten Patric Hornqvist and Nic Spaling, the two players who went to Pittsburgh for James Neal.
“They’ve done their James Neal trade, so that has gone away,” Murray said. "Anaheim’s gone away with Kesler, so the field narrows a little bit. But yeah, they might need to have a little change in approach, as well as I do.”
The question now is whether Spezza would consider changing his mind on Nashville if his situation drags on. After all, he is the one who asked for a trade.
“Maybe David and I will have a conversation later on, I don’t know that,” Murray said. "We talked today but didn’t indicate anything about a trade because of the Neal trade. But he may come back to me.”
It’s clear that the classy Poile had a hint of frustration in his voice as he talked about Spezza not wanting to go to Nashville.
“I’m not going to pitch somebody if they don’t want to play for us,” Poile said. "This game is hard enough as it is. You’ve got to be fully committed.”
Poile sees Nashville as an attractive place for a player with a team that’s improving.
“I want to be optimistic. I think we’re closer than a lot of people are giving us credit for," Poile said.
“I have no problem selling my team, and I think it’s an easy sell. What we have on the ice, what we have off the ice, the city, the atmosphere, no state taxes, there’s a lot of advantages to playing in Nashville.”
And what he’d dearly love is a center of Spezza’s talents, or perhaps Paul Stastny (UFA on Tuesday).
“If I had it on my wish list, I would like to get a No. 1 center, and we’re going to try to get that,” Poile said. "If that happens the next couple of days or it happens in free agency or it happens through a trade that would be great. If it doesn’t happen right now, I have patience. I don’t think we really have an age problem on our team, but I think we’re really getting the correct pieces in place to be a more competitive club than we’ve been in the last couple of years.”
For the Senators, it may very well be that once Stastny is taken off the market, some of the teams who were chasing him will come back on Spezza.
"We’ll continue to talk and, over the course of time, I’m sure people that miss out on July 1 may come knocking, but we’ll have to wait and see," Murray said.
"Jason’s a 80-90 point guy, and you don’t get that return in any kind of trade in this league today, but I’m hoping we get something fair for the organization, so that we can put a player on the ice and maybe get a prospect or two and go from there."
A source told ESPN.com that Murray had another conversation about Spezza with St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong on Saturday morning, the Senators trying to pry the Blues’ second-round pick in a possible package. But the Blues stood pat for now, although it’s believed their interest in Spezza remains strong. The same can be said for the Chicago Blackhawks, although they’ve got to figure out their salary-cap situation to have any chance to make a deal work with Ottawa.
The Blues also have interest in Stastny, so that’s another potential avenue, although half the teams in the league have approached Stastny’s camp.
HABS TRY TO MOVE GORGES
Talk about out of left field, news broke by my TSN teammate Bob McKenzie on Saturday that the Maple Leafs and rival Montreal Canadiens had talked about a potential Josh Gorges trade. Only one problem, Toronto isn’t among the 15 teams that Gorges has listed on his partial no-trade provision as clubs he’s willing to go to. But what it does tell you is that Gorges is in play, only thing is, Montreal needs to find a partner among those 15 teams listed.
Gorges, 29, has four more years on his deal at a $3.9 million cap hit.
The Leafs did trade for a blueliner, getting Roman Polak from St. Louis in exchange for Carl Gunnarsson and the 94th overall pick. Toronto retained $200,000 of cap space in the transaction.
NEW SALARY CAP
Perhaps the biggest buzz item of the weekend was the salary cap, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association announcing Friday that it would be $69 million for next season.
That’s about $1 million less than what most teams had budgeted for, which is no small deal.
For teams like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, every dime matters when you’re a cap team and having a lower-than-expected cap greatly affects potential moves and certainly the ability to spend.
"Yeah, it affects every team that’s close," Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Saturday. "It affects us for sure. We’ve got to find a way to get below it. It was a little lower than we thought and hoped."
The Blackhawks are trying to find a No. 2 center, the Bruins had hoped to re-sign Jarome Iginla, the Rangers have Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman headed to free agency, and the list goes on.
Having a cap that’s a $1 million less than expected is far from ideal for many of these cap teams.
What’s most interesting is that in the negotiations over setting the cap number, it was the NHL Players’ Association wanting it at $69 million while the league wanted it at $70 million. The NHLPA’s concern was that a $70-million cap would lead to more escrow payments for players next year.
That’s a valid point, it’s just rare for the players to be arguing for less spending and the league wanting more.
"Role reversal," chuckled one team executive.
Stars GM Jim Nill said he’d like to add a piece or two to his forward group but did not divulge his specific targets.
Sources suggest he’s talked to San Jose about Joe Thornton and also to Ottawa about Jason Spezza.
What he found out is that Thornton at this point has no intention to waive his no-movement clause.
AVS TO TALK TO STASTNY
Agent Matt Keator was a popular man this week in Philadelphia, courted by half the teams in the league on the subject of his client and pending UFA center Paul Stastny.
It’s clear Colorado will need to boost its last offer to Stastny (believed to be a number that starts with 5) in order to retain his services.
"We’re going to continue talking, I’m going to talk to him probably tomorrow," Avs executive Joe Sakic said Saturday. "We’ll see where we’re at."
Stastny dearly wants to stay in Denver. But he’s going to get offered more money elsewhere, so he will have to balance those two thoughts.
"That’s what you get when you’re an UFA, the ultimate decision is Paul’s," Sakic said. "I’m sure there’s lots of teams that have interest, where they’re going to go financially, I don’t know, but I know what we can do. Hopefully it will work out, but we’ll see."
Daniel Alfredsson, 41, continues to mull over his playing future.
"I think right now, Daniel -- not unlike a lot of veteran guys in his situation and his age -- just wants to take his time and make the right decision," his agent J.P. Barry of CAA said Saturday. "He wants to feel 100 percent before he makes any decision.
"I think he’s leaning towards playing, we all think that, but at the same time he needs that time in the summer to feel 100 percent."
If Alfredsson does return, it’s likely only for Detroit.
NISKANEN READY FOR MARKET
Matt Niskanen is almost surely gone from Pittsburgh, the cap-challenged Penguins unable to match what the UFA blueliner will fetch on the open market both in term and dollars.
Don’t be surprised to see Niskanen and his agent Neil Sheehy fetch north of $5 million a year and term around five or six years for the puck-mover.
FLORIDA'S NO. 1 PICK
Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he was close on one particular offer to trade away the No. 1 overall pick Friday night.
And while Philadelphia and Vancouver made strong pitches, the club that made Tallon think the most was Tampa Bay, a source said.
Imagine if the two Florida clubs had gotten together for that kind of blockbuster.
Here's the standard pattern when NHL coaches are hired: The new coach sits at a table or stands at a podium and describes how he wants to correct the mistakes of his predecessor, or outlines his philosophies and how he sees good things ahead for Team A or B or J. And then the first question the fan or the radio host wants to know is: Is he a good fit?
It's a great throwaway question and it's likewise prompts a great throwaway answer. But it's at the heart of whether the hire is a good one or not, and there is no way to know when the man is standing at the podium or sitting at the table whether or not it will be a fit. After doing all their due diligence about work ethic, planning and other tangible things, ultimately general managers make a decision based on their gut as to whether the new man will take his new charges places his predecessor couldn't go.
Well, we can do that too: Use our gut to look at the tumbleweed of coaching stories rolling across the NHL prairie. And for what it's worth, we agree with David Poile's gut feeling that Peter Laviolette, a veteran of the hockey wars at many levels, was the right guy for the Predators. Now, some of those wars Laviolette's won spectacularly, and in some he’s been vanquished. We have watched him excel in Carolina, where he taught them the "forever" value of a Stanley Cup championship in 2006, and we've watched him in tough places such as Philadelphia, where he somehow managed to guide an odd collection of the aging and the punkish to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010 -- a run that included a historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against Boston. Those are the kinds of experiences that will put Laviolette in good stead in Nashville. It will not shock us at all if the Preds are back in the postseason next spring, provided Pekka Rinne stays healthy in goal. We're pretty sure Poile's gut told him the same thing.
By a show of hands, who doesn't think John Stevens will be behind an NHL bench as head coach somewhere next season? Right now, the question is whether the current Los Angeles Kings assistant has another Stanley Cup ring to box up when he makes the move. Last summer, Stevens’ name was mentioned as a possible successor to Alain Vigneault in Vancouver, but we know how that turned out. Now that John Tortorella has been dispatched by new hockey boss Trevor Linden, many think Stevens is a natural to fill that void. We do too, but it was ownership that steered former GM Mike Gillis away from Stevens and in Tortorella's direction, so through no fault of his own, is Stevens too close to the former regime? Just asking. What might make all this super simple is if Laurence Gillman, the assistant GM to Gillis, gets the job as GM, as he would have been privy to the thought process heading into last offseason and would presumably be a good fit with Stevens (see, there’s that term again).
Lots of people have linked Barry Trotz to the Vancouver job, although it appears Trotz would like a smaller-market franchise. Hard to imagine a place where Trotz wouldn’t be a good fit, but let's say that Vancouver doesn't work out, wouldn't it be interesting to see how the longtime Nashville Predators bench boss looked behind the Florida Panthers bench? Lots of good young talent there and Trotz is both demanding and a natural teacher. This is a team that needs to move forward and, with Roberto Luongo in theory providing the Panthers stability in goal for the first time in a number of seasons, the expectations should be high for this team next season. Trotz has been through those kinds of situations many times over the years in Nashville, and we think he has the perfect personality for that job and the tools that GM Dale Tallon has assembled in Florida.
Kirk Muller, Kevin Dineen, Adam Oates
It's not much of a surprise that new Carolina GM Ron Francis cut ties with Kirk Muller after the Canes missed the playoffs again. They haven’t been to the dance since their surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009. Muller was the "it" guy a few years back after he was considered a key piece of the Montreal Canadiens’ coaching staff when they shocked Washington and Pittsburgh en route to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals. Muller, who spent five years as an assistant coach with the Habs, had 17 games of head-coaching experience (with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League) before the Hurricanes swooped him up to replace Paul Maurice. But the Canes were never really a factor in the playoff hunt in the parts of three seasons Muller coached there. Now, Francis must find a coach who can get more from Eric and Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, and figure out how to improve a team that went from 25th to 19th in goals allowed per game last season but still has miles to go defensively to be a playoff team. Kevin Dineen, who did wonders in getting Florida to the playoffs in 2012, is an obvious candidate, but what about a cerebral guy such as Adam Oates? Sure, things didn't end up the way anyone wanted in Washington, but you can't argue against the production that Oates got out of Alex Ovechkin, at least offensively. Carolina had the 28th-ranked power play this season, and that’s right up Oates’ alley too, as the Caps were second overall with the man advantage.
Speaking of Washington, no real traction to the idea that Wayne Gretzky might end up in Washington in a president of hockey operations kind of role, especially given that it's not entirely clear whether owner Ted Leonsis is even considering such a position (Leonsis did not return an email seeking comment). But let's imagine for a minute that's the route he goes; why wouldn’t it make sense to have a guy like Gretzky at the top of your hockey food chain? This isn’t about gimmickry or glad-handing or publicity appearances, but making use of one of the greatest hockey minds of all time. Not sure we see Gretzky in a GM role, which is also open in Washington, but in terms of assessing the value of players and the elements that go into making a successful organization, you can’t imagine Gretzky wouldn’t be a wealth of information for any team. And of course, who wouldn’t want to see the dynamic between the greatest player of all time and one of the greatest yet most polarizing players of this generation in Ovechkin? There's nothing to suggest that it’ll actually happen, but it doesn’t stop us from pining for such a hockey meeting of the minds.
And, finally, we keep hearing that perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs are nearing a decision on whether to bring back Randy Carlyle as head coach. We understand new president Brendan Shanahan needs to do his due diligence but, as we noted, won’t it all come down to gut for Shanahan and presumably GM Dave Nonis? Does it not come down to the basic question of whether management believes that Carlyle can return to the Leafs dressing room next fall after their precipitous fall from grace down the stretch and command the respect needed to return to the playoffs next spring? Yes, the Leafs are a young team that's still learning. Was this collapse just another part of the learning process? And is Carlyle the man who can help them learn from it, just as he was supposed to help them learn from their collapse in Game 7 against Boston in the first round of the 2013 playoffs? From our perspective, it’s hard to imagine that there would be enough confidence in that room to move the team forward if Carlyle returns. And the quality of people available would be the tipping point for us. Regardless of what happens, Shanahan and the rest of the management team owe Carlyle an answer one way or the other, and sooner rather than later.
A source confirmed to ESPN.com Wednesday that Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke has communicated an interest to Shanahan, the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, about a potential job in the Leafs' hockey front office.
On the same day Trevor Linden was named president of hockey operations in Vancouver, which comes after Joe Sakic got a similar gig in Colorado last year, it appears MLSE is looking for something similar.
Shanahan talked to the Calgary Flames last year, but nothing came of it.
Whether this has more legs remains to be seen, but on the surface this appears to be a good fit given Shanahan’s Toronto-area roots and a perceived desire for a while now to help run an NHL team.
The Leafs crashed and burned over the past month, falling out of a playoff spot after losing 10 of their last 12 games. They were officially eliminated from postseason contention Tuesday night.
* Wild: 5-0-1 in last six games, clinch playoff berth with win.
* Jason Pominville (MIN): Two goals (third multi-goal game this season); no goals in previous seven games.
* Bruins: 114 points (most in NHL).
Stars 3, Predators 2 (SO)
* Tyler Seguin: Game-deciding goal in fourth round of SO; second SO goal this season (2-7).
* Stars: 89 points, hold second Western Conference Wild Card (two points ahead of Coyotes).
* Jamie Benn (DAL): Goal (34); third straight game with a goal.
* Predators: Rliminated from playoffs with loss.
Blue Jackets 4, Coyotes 3 (OT)
* Ryan Johansen (CBJ): Second GW OT goal this season (Mar. 29 vs CAR).
* Blue Jackets: 89 points, hold second Eastern Conference Wild Card; 4-1-1 in last 6 games.
* Coyotes: 0-2-3 in last five games.
Red Wings 4, Sabres 2
* Red Wings: 90 points, hold first of two Eastern Conference Wild Card spots.
* Red Wings: 4-0 vs Sabres this season.
* Red Wings: Three goals in third period.
* Mike Babcock (DET): 414th win with team; most in franchise history.
Flyers 5, Panthers 2
* Flyers: Clinch playoff berth with win (17th appearance in last 19 seasons).
* Flyers: Outscored FLA 4-0 in second period (entered with minus-12 goal differential in second period this season).
* Claude Giroux (PHI): Two goals (had two in previous 15 games).
* Vincent Lecavalier (PHI): Goal, assist; reaches 20-goal mark for 13th time in 15-year career.
Rangers 4, Hurricanes 1
* Rangers: Won 11 of last 12 games versus Hurricanes.
* Rangers: 8-2-1 in last 11 games overall.
* Brad Richards (NYR): Two PPG; reaches 20-goal mark for 10th time in 13 NHL seasons.
* Martin St. Louis (NYR): Three assists; first three-point game as member of Rangers.
Capitals 4, Blues 1
* Capitals: First win in regulation since March 18.
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Goal, two assists; fifth season with 50+ goals (most among active players, t-6th all-time)
* Nicklas Backstrom (WSH): Two goals, second multi-goal game this season and first since Nov. 1.
* Blues: Lost 3 straight for first time all season
Most 50-Goal Seasons in First 9 Seasons - NHL History
Mike Bossy 9
Wayne Gretzky 8
Guy Lafleur 6
Alex Ovechkin 5
Brett Hull 5
* Penguins: Clinch Metropolitan Division title (third division title in last four years).
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): Two assists (66); six straight games with point.
* Penguins: 36-4-1 when scoring first this season.
* Jets: Eliminated from playoff contention (franchise hasn't been to playoffs since 2006-07).
FROM ELIAS: Sidney Crosby recorded two assists in the Penguins’ 4–2 victory over the Jets in Winnipeg. Pittsburgh has won the last 25 regular-season games in which Crosby had at least two assists, including his league-leading total of 18 multiple-assist games this season.
Sharks 2, Kings 1
* Sharks: First regulation win vs. Kings this season (2-2-1 vs. Kings this season).
* Logan Couture: GW goal in second period (21); fifth GW goal this season.
* Kings: Eight-game road win streak snapped.
Avalanche 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
* Avalanche: Won five in a row; four in overtime or shootout, the other by one goal.
* Rangers: 7-1-1 in last nine games.
* Tyson Barrie (COL): Game-tying goal in third period, game-winning goal in shootout; has at least one point in four of his last five games.
* Semyon Varlamov (COL): 29 saves, NHL-leading 39th win of season.
Blackhawks 3, Wild 2 (SO)
* Blackhawks: Snapped 3-game losing streak; this was the 21st time this season the Blackhawks have gone to OT and they have yet to score in the OT period in any of those games. FROM ELIAS: That is tied for the most such games in a single season dating back to the 1983-84 season when the NHL reinstated OT in the regular season.
* Blackhawks: 101 points; second 100-point season in last three seasons, fourth in last six seasons.
* Corey Crawford: 25 saves, 30th win of season; third 30-win season in last four seasons.
* Marian Hossa: Only goal in shootout; 1-for-6 in shootouts this season.
Maple Leafs 4, Bruins 3 F/OT
* Maple Leafs: Won two straight after losing previous eight.
* Maple Leafs: Most goals in a game since scoring four on March 8 vs. Flyers.
* Nazem Kadri (TOR): GW goal in OT; first career OT goal.
Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 0
* Columbus: First-ever victory in Philadelphia (entered 0-5-0 with a tie all-time).
* Columbus: move 2 points behind Flyers for third playoff spot in Metropolitan Division.
* Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ): Fourth shutout of season (ties career high set last season).
TORONTO -- On a night full of drama, with an injury to Toronto's top goaltender and a blown third-period lead drudging up ugly memories of last spring, the final result was the Toronto Maple Leafs living to see another day.
Take a breath, Leaf Nation.
Nazem Kadri's overtime goal handed the Maple Leafs a 4-3 win over the powerhouse Boston Bruins, keeping Toronto's slim playoff hopes alive.
But did the gritty victory come at too big a price? Jonathan Bernier, who has saved this team's bacon on so many nights this season, left the game with what sure looked like a fairly serious injury, unable to put any weight on his left leg as he exited with the help of a trainer.
This is the same Bernier whose five-game absence because of a groin injury in late March ignited a season-turning, perhaps season-ruining, eight-game losing streak that dragged the Leafs down the standings and out of a playoff spot.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said the team would not know the severity of his goalie’s "lower body" injury until an MRI exam was performed Friday.
But it didn't look good.
Give James Reimer some props. The much-maligned backup was cool under pressure (stopping 10 of 11 shots) despite giving up the tying goal to Patrice Bergeron.
"He gave us a chance, good for him, we needed that and he needed that," Carlyle said. "It's great."
Reimer will need to be great over the Leafs' final four regular-season games for Toronto to pull this off.
The Leafs got a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins on this night, which probably wasn't predicted by many. It kept Toronto alive, albeit still a long shot to make the playoffs.
Still a long shot because those pesky Columbus Blue Jackets (how do you not love that hard-working bunch?) won again Thursday night in Philadelphia to remain a point ahead of the Leafs for the final wild-cart spot in the Eastern Conference. Columbus also still has two games in hand on Toronto.
Wonder if Toronto falls a point or two short behind Columbus if the Leafs will look back to losing all three games to the Jackets this season, all in regulation, by a combined score of 13-3. Ouch.
Of interest, both the Jackets (85 points) and Maple Leafs (84 points) play their final three games of the regular season next week on the road, and both clubs play each of the Florida teams within that set.
Of course, Columbus perhaps is looking up to being only two points behind the Flyers for the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division rather than being so focused on the wild-card spot.
For Toronto, there is no other way in. It's wild card or bust, and it says here that the Leafs have to at least get seven out of those eight remaining points on the line to get in. Remember that the Jackets hold the ROW (regulation and overtime wins) tiebreaker on the Leafs, as does Detroit (86 points), the Red Wings sitting in the other wild-card spot and not looking as if they will relinquish it.
The Leafs are left hoping playing six games in nine days to end the season will somehow be too daunting a task for the Jackets.
In other words, the Leafs need help.
On this night, Toronto helped itself with a spirited effort against the best team in the East.
"We talked about it this morning, about the team we were playing, we're very familiar with them and there's obviously the rivalry," said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.
"Tonight we showed a lot of resilience to win that game in overtime."
Well, you can imagine what the 19,609 fans at Air Canada Centre were thinking after the Bruins erased a 3-1 Leafs lead with a pair of third-period goals, Boston outshooting the home team 17-5 in the third and totally dominating; all the while memories of Game 7 from last spring springing to life for Leafs fans.
Instead though, Kadri's OT goal kept those playoff ghosts from TD Garden locked in the closet.
A nervy victory, but two straight, and Toronto can still breathe.
"That's all we're trying to do, keep controlling what we can control," said Leafs winger James Van Riemsdyk, who tallied his 30th goal of the season Thursday night. "That first win against Calgary let us exhale a little bit and gave us back some of that confidence that we can close games out."
The Bruins? They probably deserved a better fate in back-to-back nights, outplaying both Detroit and Toronto for large stretches but still coming up with a pair of losses.
It doesn't really matter at this point, the Bruins are locked into first in the East, but this is a proud bunch that accepts losing like it's the plague.
"We have to execute better, especially in our own zone," said Bergeron, again sensational on this night while collecting a goal and an assist. "We have to control the puck and make the simple play. We’re hesitating at times.
"We were up and down tonight and we can't do that."
Yeesh, lofty standards I guess.
Interestingly though, if the Leafs somehow beat the odds and make the postseason, Boston probably would get Toronto in the opening round for a second year in a row.
"They have a lot of offense, it's always a battle against them," Bergeron said of the Leafs. "They stayed resilient tonight. But we got to be better."
No, Toronto has to be better. But Thursday night was at least a step in that direction.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made it clear to Ryan Callahan’s camp that they want the player past this season.
The pending UFA's agent, the veteran Steve Bartlett, told ESPN.com Tuesday that he chatted with Steve Yzerman in Buffalo over the past weekend, at which point the Bolts GM made it clear they'd like to talk extension after the season.
Yzerman, also reached Tuesday, said for now the focus is on hockey, on making the playoffs and on doing well in the playoffs. The GM will focus on Callahan’s future later.
"He’s just going to play hockey and we’ll talk when the season’s over," Yzerman told ESPN.com.
But it’s clear the Bolts hope the former Rangers captain is more than just a rental.
"Yeah, we’d love to sign him," said Yzerman. "He’s a good fit, a good person, a good player, has style of play that really complements our group well; he’s fit in really well. So we hope to sign him. But we won’t talk until after the year."
Tortorella could be outEven though he still has four years and $8 million left on his deal, I think it is more than likely that John Tortorella will be fired as head coach after the season in Vancouver.
I like Torts, but he was never the right fit for that team.
The Canucks built a blue-line corps meant for a quick transition game, but the club has played more of a chip and chase, shot-blocking game this season. As one NHL scout told ESPN.com, "The wrong system for that set of players."
The real question in Vancouver is whether that’s going to be enough change. I suspect ownership continues to debate internally whether or not to fire GM Mike Gillis and that’s really going to be the biggest decision of all.
Personally, I would allow Gillis at least one more year to redirect the ship. I think he’s earned that.
Gillis, by the way, also has four more years on his contract.
Talks renewed between Markov, HabsThings went quiet between the Montreal Canadiens and Andrei Markov's camp after both sides talked on the eve of the March 5 trade deadline.
Markov’s agent, Sergei Berezin, however, said the dialogue with Habs GM Marc Bergevin was renewed over this past weekend regarding the pending UFA blueliner.
"I met with Marc a couple of days ago when they were here [in Florida]," Berezin told ESPN.com Tuesday.
"I don’t think we’re in any rush to get anything done. I have an idea what they’re offering, they know what we want, and I don’t actually think we’re that far apart. I’m hopeful in the end it will work out."
Jagr, Devils to talk extensionThere was also activity on the Jaromir Jagr front. The future Hall of Famer is a pending UFA but has really enjoyed his time in New Jersey.
A source told ESPN.com Tuesday that Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, met with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello a few days ago and both sides expressed a desire to get Jagr extended. However, those talks would wait to get going for real until after the season.
Wild win Folin derbyThere was massive interest in college UFA blueliner Christian Folin, 23, and as colleague Craig Custance first reported Monday night, the Minnesota Wild won the derby.
One of the hot rumors that’s made the rounds around NHL circles is that Folin’s camp was demanding a guaranteed NHL roster spot for next season, which was a deal breaker apparently for some teams.
"We weren’t demanding, we were seeking, there’s a difference there, there are no guarantees," Folin’s agent, Dan Plante, told ESPN.com Tuesday.
Plante said it wasn’t a formal request, it was more about the process and wanting to know where the Swedish blueliner would fit in the organization’s plan. But yes, teams that communicated a real chance for Folin to play in the NHL season obviously got a leg up.
"The message to teams was, 'When Christian decided to leave school, he wanted to have a real shot to be on your team next year,'" Plante told ESPN.com Tuesday. "But there’s no guarantees, we know that. We said, 'Hey, do you see him fitting in on your team next year and challenging for a spot?' We got lots of 'yes' responses to that.
"We wanted to find the safest environment for the kid."
They feel they found it in Minnesota, where there’s a Wild blue-line corps that’s still a little thin overall and where Folin can definitely step in next season and be a contributor.
"He’s what we need," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com Tuesday. "We love his combination of size and mobility plus he’s a right-handed shot. We’re just so happy and thrilled to have landed him."
The Wild had shown interest in Folin for more than a year, in fact.
Just what kind of player can the 6-foot-3 right-handed blueliner be?
"He has a chance to be a real good No. 4 [defenseman]," said one NHL team executive.
Said an NHL scout: "A very late bloomer. Big, skates well and has a hard shot; needs work defensively, average passer."
Bruins winning in notable waysWhat pleases Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli the most about his team’s incredible run over the past two-plus months is the consistency in his team’s game, which is so important with the playoffs around the corner.
"We don’t always win in perfect ways, but when we have deficiencies, we tend to take care of them, which is nice to see at this point in the season," Chiarelli told ESPN.com Tuesday.
Most notable is the way in which the Bruins’ blue-line corps survived the injury loss of Dennis Seidenberg.
"It’s given a few of our young guys more opportunities to defend, which is important come playoff time. To really know how to defend in our system," said the Bruins GM.
Seidenberg was an especially impactful player on the penalty kill, but the Bruins entered Tuesday night’s NHL action eighth overall on the penalty kill, not to mention third overall on the power play.
It’s worth mentioning because the Bruins most often get lauded for their five-on-five play, which as always has been top-notch this season under head coach Claude Julien, but it’s not the only reason they’re winning.
"Sometimes overlooked in all this is that our special teams have been really good," said Chiarelli.
One of the major power-play contributors has been Jarome Iginla, who seems to have found the fountain of youth this season in Boston. He's slated to be a UFA July 1, and there has been expressed mutual interest on both sides to continue the relationship, although contract talks between the Bruins and veteran agent Don Meehan of Newport Sports would wait until after the season.
"Absolutely," Chiarelli responded when asked about having interest in bringing back Iginla.
"I’ve talked to Donnie and we’ll look at it, like we look at everything else, after the playoffs."
Carlyle's futureThere are some people who have wondered over the past few days if the Toronto Maple Leafs might be contemplating a coaching change this late in the season to try to salvage their playoff chances, the reeling club having lost eight straight before hosting Calgary on Tuesday night.
I don’t think that’s going to happen in terms of right now. That’s just not the style of GM David Nonis, whose patient approach since taking over the club has been his best attribute -- even if Leafs fans are angry and disillusioned right now. I don’t think Nonis would see any benefit at all in a coaching change this late in the season.
Randy Carlyle’s future, however, will no doubt be on the table after the season if Toronto misses out. That’s not to say for sure he’d get canned, but I think Nonis will have no choice at that point but to evaluate whether Carlyle is the best choice in terms of bringing along the team’s young talent.
Regardless of whether the Leafs make the playoffs or not, I expect Nonis would continue with his patient approach going into next season, preaching the development of young players. Nonis has a long-term view for this club, which has been rare for a Toronto GM over the past 30-odd years.
I suppose what’s going to be interesting in that regard is just how patient Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke will be if the Leafs miss the playoffs.
One thing to keep in mind: The Leafs GM who hired Carlyle was Brian Burke. Yes, Nonis was Burke’s right-hand man at the time, but the fact is, as Leafs GM, he hasn’t yet hired his own coach.
If there’s anyone in the world who knows what Randy Carlyle is going through right now in Toronto, it’s Ron Wilson.
Just two years ago in early March 2012, after a late-season skid that dropped Toronto out of a playoff spot, Wilson was fired as Maple Leafs coach and replaced by Carlyle.
So yeah, with the Leafs currently mired in an eight-game losing streak that has dropped them out of a playoff spot and completely freaked out the league’s biggest hockey market, Wilson knows what his replacement is living.
“In Toronto, everything is always out of perspective; they’re either winning games and they’re planning the parade route,” Wilson said on Monday from his home near Hilton Head, S.C., “or you lose a couple of games and everything gets over-exaggerated.”
What Carlyle is going through now, Wilson has felt it.
“It’s pretty hard to coach there without allowing some of these things to kind of affect you,” Wilson said. “That goes for the coaches, but the players, as well. You can’t go anywhere without hearing about what’s going wrong or all this kind of stuff.
“I really feel for the coaching staff and, above all, for Randy right now. He’s got the same thousand-yard stare that I had. But at the end, you almost feel like it’s completely out of your control, everything takes on a life of its own. It’s unbelievable.”
Wilson’s 2011-12 Leafs lost 10 of 11 games before he was fired in early March by former Leafs GM Brian Burke.
“I can’t blame Burkey for what he did,” Wilson said. “He was trying to salvage the season. We had had a good season until we got on that losing streak, that so-called ‘18-wheeler’ that Burkey talked about. It happens, and it takes on a life of its own, and you feel like you have no control, you can’t find a way to get out of it.”
But just like the rest of us, Wilson remembers how it looked for the Leafs just less than three weeks ago after Toronto had some big wins in tough buildings and sat comfortably in a playoff spot. Then the train began going off the tracks.
“It was just a few weeks ago when they played so well in Anaheim and L.A.,” Wilson said. “I mean, what’s happening now, it’s not about goaltending. A lot of nights when I watch the Leafs this year, I think to myself they should be down 4-0, but they’re up 3-2. It’s not goaltending, I don’t think.
“I watched the last two games this weekend; I thought they played OK in those games, but right now they’ve got no puck luck. It’s like maybe they used up all their puck luck earlier in the season when they were getting outshot but still won games. You might say they had a lot of puck luck in those games and it’s dried up now. A lot of the players are squeezing their sticks right now, which tends to happens in these situations.”
Wilson thought the Leafs were on their way to ending the losing streak Saturday at home against the Red Wings.
“I thought after the first period against Detroit on Saturday they would pull away at some point,” Wilson said. “But it never happened; they made a couple of catastrophic errors, like a giveaway at the wrong time. You ask yourself, ‘Why would a guy make a mistake like that, it’s a total lack of awareness.’ That’s kind of what clouds your mind when you’re in a slump like this.
“You wonder why a defenseman didn’t back up a forward in a certain situation or why a forward missed a backcheck. ... When it’s going bad, those things snowball and there’s not much you can do to stop it.”
Wilson, meanwhile, hasn’t coached since his Toronto exit, but remains interested in returning under the right circumstances.
“I would if the situation is right,” said the longtime coach, who also had stints behind the bench in Anaheim, Washington and San Jose and led Team USA’s silver-medal run at the 2010 Olympics. “But I’m not in a position where I say I’m desperate for job.”
* Joe Pavelski (SJ): Third hat trick of the season; Pavelski and the Stars' Tyler Seguin are the only players with three this season.
* Sharks: At least one point in 12 of last 13 games.
* Sharks: Four-point lead over Ducks in Pacific Division (SJ has played 3 more games than ANA).
Avalanche 5, Predators 4 (COL wins SO, 2-1)
* Gabriel Landeskog (COL): Two goals and game-winning shootout goal; 23 goals on season are career-high.
* Avalanche: Win ends 3-game losing streak (0-2-1).
* Matt Cullen, Roman Josi (NSH): Two goals each.
Blackhawks 4, Stars 2
* Blackhawks: 1-2 on power play; 1-17 on power play previous four games.
* Patrick Sharp (CHI): Two assists; four goals, six assists in four games against Stars this season.
* Tyler Seguin (DAL): Assist; nine-game point streak (seven goals, 10 assists during streak).
* Ryan Garbutt (DAL): Two goals (13, 14); second multi-goal game of season and career (108th career game).
* Stars: Loss clinches playoff spot for Ducks (idle).
Canadiens 2, Sabres 0
* Canadiens: 4-0 vs Sabres this season (only three goals allowed).
* Canadiens: Won five straight versus Sabres; won three straight games overall.
* Max Pacioretty (MTL): 32nd goal of season, one shy of career high (33 in 2011-12).
* Carey Price: 24 saves, fifth shutout of season (second career 30-win season; 38 wins in 2010-11).
FROM ELIAS: Carey Price made 24 saves as he led the Canadiens to a 2–0 win against the Sabres in Montreal. It was Price’s fifth shutout of the season and his 20th clean sheet for the Canadiens over the last four seasons. (He had eight in 2010–11, three in 2011–12 and four in 2012–13.) Price is the first Montreal goaltender to register at least 20 shutouts over a four-season span since Ken Dryden did so over the final four seasons of his NHL career (28 from 1975–76 through 1978–79).
Blue Jackets 4, Red Wings 2
* Blue Jackets: Two power play goals; were 0-for-35 on power play in previous nine games.
* Ryan Johansen (CBJ): Two goals (29); sixth career multi-goal game (fourth this season).
* Red Wings: 4+ goals allowed in seven of past 12 games.
Kings 5, Capitals 4 (LA wins SO, 2-0)
* Alex Ovechkin (WSH): Two goals (48), assist; ninth multi-goal game this season (only second such game the Capitals have lost).
* Kings: 12-3-0 in past 15 games; won seven straight road games overall.
* Kings: Trailed 3-1 entering third period.
* Capitals: Second loss in past six games (both came in shootouts).
Blues 5, Maple Leafs 3
* David Backes (STL): Second career hat trick, first of season; fourth multi-goal game of season.
* Blues: 40-2-5 (.861 win pct) when scoring first; ranks second in NHL.
* Jonathan Bernier (TOR): 44 saves; third loss with at least 44 saves this season, tied for most in NHL.
* Maple Leafs: Lost six straight, allowing 21 goals during stretch; have scored three goals or less in each.
Coyotes 3, Penguins 2
* Coyotes: 2-0-0 versus Penguins this season.
* Coyotes: 8-3-1 in past 12 games.
* Sidney Crosby (PIT): Assist; three goals, four assists in past five games.
* Evgeni Malkin (PIT): DNP due to sprained foot.