Cross Checks: Olli Jokinen
- Daniel Alfredsson expects to be locked out for a “period of time,” but he still fully supports the NHLPA. “Even if this would turn out to be a whole season and I wouldn’t play again, that’s fine with me. I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. But I’d love to play again.” (Ottawa Citizen)
- The Ducks’ Sheldon Souray, going through his third work stoppage, said it would “be utter stupidity and craziness to lose another full season. … Guys are going to lose careers over this. Players are doing what’s right and we feel that for sure. We have a vision and we’re prepared to stick with it.” (Montreal Gazette)
- Olli Jokinen said he honestly was never optimistic the season would start on time and doesn’t think there are many players who were. “If we miss one game this season, I think it’s a shame, with what the players went through, what the fans went through and what the owners went through seven years ago with missing the whole year,” Jokinen said. (Winnipeg Free Press)
- Vincent Lecavalier is getting frustrated by the lockout. “The numbers are showing the league is healthy and since 2004 the league has been better and better each year. There is no reason, I think, that they should put us in a lockout.” (The Tampa Tribune)
- The Flames’ Jiri Hudler was released by the KHL’s Lev Prague to rehab an abdominal muscle injury. (The Calgary Herald)
- Tomas Plekanec has scored seven goals and assisted on seven more in just seven games with the HC Kladno Knights. (Montreal Gazette)
- Ilya Kovalchuk scored his first goal for SKA St. Pertersburg on Wednesday in his team’s 3-2 shootout victory over HC Neftekhimik. (The Star-Ledger)
- A small group remains practicing in South Florida, paying $350 an hour to rent the ice at the Panthers’ facility. (Miami Herald)
- Several financial planners said most players learned from history to prepare early for a potential lockout and are in much better financial condition to survive a prolonged time without a pay check. (The Globe and Mail)
- Some locked-out players from the Vancouver Canucks will play the UBC Thunderbirds in a charity game. (The Vancouver Sun)
- Jason Jaffray was cleared for full contact by doctors after going through spinal fusion neck surgery on April 18 after taking a check-from-behind in a game in late March. (Winnipeg Sun)
- Leland Irving spent the summer sharing goaltending duties with Carey Price and James Reimer, while facing Jarome Iginla, Shea Weber, Josh Gorges and Cody Franson – a group that made the hour commute well worth it, according to the young goalie. (The Calgary Herald)
- Sidney Crosby's agent told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Penguins' star will consider playing in Europe if there is a lengthy NHL lockout. "Sidney wants to play hockey. Of course he would consider alternatives," Pat Brisson said, according to the report.
- Brisson also made it clear two of his other star players -- Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane -- are considering their options, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In an email to the paper, Brisson said his players would play in Europe "under the right circumstances."
- An executive for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn said they are "very interested" in having the Islanders relocate to Brooklyn in 2015 if the team doesn't reach a deal to stay in Nassau, according to Newsday. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that move is "an intriguing possibility. But there's a lot of road between here and there," according to the report.
- Olli Jokinen is hopeful a deal will be worked out between the NHL and NHLPA, but his Plan B would be to play for IFK Helsinki, a team he is part owner of, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
- Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth said he has received a few offers from Europe but hasn't made any decisions, according to The Washington Post.
- Stars center Derek Roy is on target to be ready to play in November as he rehabs from offseason shoulder surgery, according to the Dallas Stars' website.
- Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian will have surgery on a chronic ligament tear in his right wrist and is expected to be out for up to six months, according to the Winnipeg Sun.
Burnside: Ho, ho, ho, my friend. Well, time for the final Daily Debate before the NHL’s Christmas break. Love that there’s a heavy schedule Friday evening to send us into yule bliss with 22 of the 30 teams in action and loads of meaningful games. For me, I’m curious to see how the L.A. Kings fare in Game 2 of the Darryl Sutter era. The Kings nabbed two badly needed points in Sutter’s debut but let’s put their 3-2 shootout victory Thursday night in perspective: It was against the lowly Anaheim Ducks. Still, a win’s a win, but I think the real test for Sutter and his low-scoring troops begins tonight in San Jose.
The Sharks technically lead the Pacific Division but are tied in points with Dallas and Phoenix at 39. Guess what? If the Kings win in regulation, they’ll pull within a point of the Sharks. Go figure. As bad as the Kings have been -- and it’s been plenty bad on the left coast -- they’re that close to being right back in the hunt. Getting Mike Richards back -- he scored the Kings’ first goal Thursday -- is likely as big, if not a bigger factor, in the Kings’ long-term chances of making the playoffs than Sutter’s influence. But we’ll get a much better sense tonight of which direction this team might be headed.
LeBrun: The Sharks have three games in hand on Los Angeles, but it is somewhat stunning that despite the Kings’ disappointing first half, they still have the division lead within their grasp. No team in the Pacific has really found its groove this season. The return of Richards, as you mentioned, is gigantic for them. I thought he was their best forward before he got injured. He’s the kind of two-way, gritty player who Darryl Sutter will absolutely make his go-to guy. I would expect Richards’ ice time to increase under the new coach.
With Richards back in the lineup, the Kings, once again, have their 1-2 punch at center with he and Anze Kopitar, which affords Sutter so much more flexibility in matchups. When you’re playing a loaded team like San Jose, for example, that’s critical when the Sharks can come at you with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Michal Handzus down the middle. Of course, that was exactly the point when GM Dean Lombardi traded for Richards in the offseason. He looked at the top teams in the West such as San Jose, Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago and knew he needed more than one elite center to compete. Now that Richards is back, the Kings can indeed compete.
Burnside: Well, we’ll see whether the Kings can compete or not. As you know, I’m not sold on the Sutter hire as the panacea that some believe it will be. But no question, Richards is the catalyst for the team. He was leading the team in goals scored when he went down with a head injury.
Another pre-Christmas tilt I’m looking forward to is Washington’s visit to New Jersey. The Caps have shown glimpses of breaking out of their season-long funk with four wins in their past six outings. Alexander Ovechkin has looked more Ovie-like in recent games and scored a big goal against Nashville in their last win. For me, though, the Caps can’t start entertaining a playoff berth, let alone a sustained playoff run, until the goaltending stabilizes. Michal Neuvirth is expected to start again for the Caps against the Devils, and it looks like Dale Hunter’s giving the youngster a chance to carve out a niche as the team’s starter. The Caps still rank 23rd in goals allowed per game, but Neuvirth has won three of his past five starts and allowed more than two goals just once in his past six appearances. Like the Kings, the Caps could return to the playoff picture with a regulation win over the surprising Devils (and pending the outcome of the Winnipeg game).
LeBrun: In the Caps' 4-1 win over visiting Nashville, they finally looked at ease under Dale Hunter. One game hardly makes a trend, but that as good as they’ve looked under the new coach, playing a fluid and aggressive game and not showing any of the indecision and hesitance that I saw in the previous games after Hunter took over.
Meanwhile, we don’t have to guess whether Vancouver is on a roll. The red-hot Canucks, winners of 12 of their past 15 games, can take over the Northwest Division lead with a win over rival Calgary tonight. The Canucks are getting some breaks go their way as well. I mentioned this on air at TSN here in Canada on Thursday night, but Terry Gregson, the NHL’s director of officiating, told me that Alexander Edler’s goal Wednesday night against Detroit, upon further review, should not have counted. Gregson’s feeling is that Wings goalie Jimmy Howard did not have a chance to make a save after Jannik Hansen crashed into him.
Gregson discussed it with the on-ice officials from that game. In the end, Gregson (and I agree with him) said it should have been no penalty, no goal -- just a faceoff. That’s little solace to the Wings, of course, since it doesn’t change the 4-2 score from that night. Even worse, Detroit followed that up with a 3-2 loss at Calgary last night with backup Ty Conklin in net. Conklin barely has played this season, and I don’t think head coach Mike Babcock has a whole lot of confidence in him. My suspicion is that GM Ken Holland might look at who’s out there closer to the Feb. 27 trade deadline to see if there’s an upgrade available.
Burnside: That Vancouver/Calgary game is interesting because, a little like the Kings, I think it’s going to reveal whether the Flames are really going to be a player in the playoff discussion or whether they’re going to simply hover in that 11-14 range in the standings. The Flames are coming off a big win over Detroit, as you noted, and are 5-2-2 in their past nine games. A win over Vancouver would not only move them to within a point of eighth place (pending other outcomes of course), but it also would be a huge statement for a team that many of us have been dismissive of for much of the season. Funny, I reached out to GM Jay Feaster about a week ago to talk about the team’s improved play and he respectfully begged off, saying he didn’t want to be discussing the team’s upswing when they still weren’t in the playoff bracket.
With Jarome Iginla edging toward the 500-goal plateau -- he has 497 -- there’s finally some good news around the Flames. I’ll give you a quick guess as to who’s leading the team in scoring, though: the oft-maligned Olli Jokinen, who is riding a five-game point streak and who has 13 points in his past nine games. One thing is for sure, if the Flames fall out of the playoff picture: You can bet Feaster will be fielding lots of calls on Mr. Jokinen leading up to the trade deadline. Your thoughts? And before I close my end of this debate, I want to wish you and your family a very merry holiday, my friend. The same goes for all our readers, too.
LeBrun: I don’t want to be a Grinch, but I still don’t believe in the Flames. I don’t think there’s any way they make the playoffs this season. Their current flirtation with a playoff appearance temporarily masks the real work that awaits Feaster. This roster needs a drastic, offseason overhaul. Luckily for Feaster, he has 13 expiring contracts on payroll, nine players slated for unrestricted free agency led by the likes of Jokinen, Lee Stempniak and Scott Hannan and four players who will be restricted, including Mikael Backlund and Blake Comeau. In short, it finally gives Feaster the kind of roster flexibility next summer to make real changes. But that’s a long time away still.
Merry Christmas, Scotty. Look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia next week for the Winter Classic.
Thought I'd pass on some updates on a few potential unrestricted free agents who might be a little under the radar:
Keep an eye on Johnny Boychuk. He's only 26 years old, but he qualifies as a Group 6 unrestricted free agent. He broke through last season with a solid second half and a very nice playoffs. He led all Bruins players with 39 blocked shots in 13 postseason games (Zdeno Chara was second with 24) and was second only to Chara in ice time per game in the playoffs (26:10) and shorthanded ice time per game (3:18).
Nice ręsumę to have as a potential UFA, but the blueliner wants to stay in Boston, and talks with the Bruins have gone well so far.
"We're hopeful. I think it's positive where we're at," said Boychuk's agent, Gerry Johansson, to ESPN.com on Wednesday. "You never know how it's going to end up, but our priority is to keep Johnny in Boston. It's a nice option to [being UFA], but it's certainly our intention to make it work with Boston. We've had good conversations."
• I can't tell you how many Penguins fans ask me about Matt Cooke. The veteran winger is UFA July 1, and at this point, it doesn't appear his re-signing is close.
"Currently, we're far apart," said his agent, Pat Morris, on Wednesday. "Matt would like to stay in Pittsburgh; both sides would like to get something done, but nothing is imminent."
• Morris also represents UFAs Andy Sutton and Matt Cullen, two current Senators who may hit the market. Sutton is an intriguing option: a traditional shut-down blueliner who was second among NHL defensemen this past season in blocked shots and eighth in hits.
"He'd like to stay in Ottawa, but talks with them have been slow as they try to sign [Anton] Volchenkov first," Morris said.
Cullen might stay in Ottawa, but he's also on the back burner as the Sens focus on Volchenkov.
"He can play the point on the power play and can play wing if need be on a deep team," Morris said. "Ottawa has a great deal of interest in him."
• Center Olli Jokinen, UFA July 1, appears to be headed to market and not staying with the Rangers.
"They have not talked to us. I do not expect them to at this point," said Jokinen's agent, Mark Gandler, to ESPN.com. "I thought he played well in New York. I think he has a lot of value in the league. I think a lot of teams could use him. He has a few good years ahead of him. He's healthy, he's got skill and ability."
The KHL isn't an option at this point. "He wants to play in the NHL," Gandler said.
• Pavol Demitra, 35, is almost surely leaving Vancouver, which isn't surprising given his constant place in coach Alain Vigneault's doghouse over the past few seasons. He didn't produce a whole lot with the Canucks; but on the flip side, he was named to the Olympic All-Star team after a standout performance with Slovakia in February. He will likely sign a lower-base salary with bonuses since he's over 35 years old, which makes him easier to take under the cap.
"He could be a very good value to a team that needs depth in the top six," said his agent Matt Keator to ESPN.com.