PicturePicture courtesy of vansunsportsblogs.com
It's confirmed. The Vancouver Canucks finally announced the widely speculated on news that they did, in fact, hire John Tortorella as their new bench boss.

After listening to his initial press conference a few things stand out:
  • John Tortorella acknowledges the fact that he put some players in some very difficult situations (Richards, Hagelin)
  • His true intention is to form professional relationships with all constituents (including the media - as long as none of them are Larry Brooks)
  • He doesn't take losing well - "I hate losing. I do...I can't stand losing. If you're a good loser, you're a loser." 

This seems to be generally viewed as a poor fit. An egomaniac, loudmouth coach ordering around some less than enthusiastic veterans. I tend to stray from this view. We all know Torts is a hard-ass, but I think that's exactly what this team needs right now. They have become comfortable and need an overall change in both demeanor and philosophy. People forget about the amazing job Tortorella did coaching the Lightning to a Stanley Cup. Hate him if you want to, but this guy can flat out coach. Maybe there is a reason he spent just a few quick weeks on the open market.

A couple tips for the Canucks players before I go: dive less, whine less and get hit with the puck more. Also, don't lose.

 
 
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Photo courtesy of Ilya Brygalov's toilet paper stash
With the implementation of the new collective bargaining agreement, NHL teams now have been granted the ability to 'buy-out' two contracts. The team can pay the money they owe the player, but here is the kicker: the salary is removed completely from their cap. General Managers get an eraser and capologists rejoice!

There are a couple of key indicators that one would look for when determining a possible buy-out candidate: your team is in a fiery cap hell (see Philly, Vancouver), your play is declining and you have a big cap hit, injury problems, long term, etc. Here are a couple players that fit the criteria:

PicturePhoto courtesy Sarah J. Glover
Ilya Bryzgalov: "Why you heff to be mad?"
"Well, Ilya, we signed you to a giant long term contract and then you got all obsessed with the universe and forgot how to stop the puck"

With a cap hit of $5.67M until 2020 the Flyers NEED to buy this guy out, the problem is they have no replacement right now. Look for them to be in the Jonathan Bernier sweepstakes. If they land him Bryz will be a free agent going into next season.

PicturePhoto courtesy Nick Wass/Associated Press
Brad Richards is 33 years old today. Brad Richards makes $6.67M a year until 2020. Brad Richards was a healthy scratch in must win playoff games for the Rangers this season. $6.67M in the press box is killing this team.

Look for one of two things to happen: either Richards drastically improves his game without Torts' barking at him or his poor, uninspired play continues and he's bought out.

PicturePhoto courtesy Getty Images
Dany Heatley is an all-star. He scored 50 in '07. Sometimes I wonder how accurate the hilarious parody account @danyallstar15 actually is. With loads of talk about off-season speedboating in Aruba and bag skating 6 year olds at hockey camp for not feeding him in the high slot, my guess is very accurate.

He probably is the least likely of the three to be actually bought out because he has just one year left on his deal which will see him make $7.5M next season. Clearly on the decline and a shell of his former self he might be delivering clap-bombs with a new area code in the near future.

 
 
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Reports have surfaced out of Russia and have been confirmed by Sportsnet that Leo Komarov may be leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs to go and play in the KHL for Moscow Dynamo.

Before joining the Marlies, Toronto's AHL affiliate, Komarov played three seasons for Moscow Dynamo. The Leafs lured Komarov to North America with the promise of a real shot to make the big club, which he did by displaying a very unique skillset.

Komarov has hands of stone, an average shot, mediocre skating ability and stands at just 5'10 and 187 pounds. How is he so effective and sought after?

Well, for starters he had 176 hits in 42 regular season games. He added another 22 in 7 playoff games against the feisty Bruins. It's not just the hits though; he defines the term agitator. He gets under the skin of his opponents and he does a couple things consistently that seem to genuinely annoy the opposition's best players.

If you are carrying the puck after the whistle, he makes a valid effort to come over and take it from you, as if it's his puck. He refuses to engage with anybody after the whistle. He speaks multiple languages and intentionally speaks to players in languages they don`t understand. The combination of these little things in addition to finishing every possible bodycheck makes him infuriating to play against.

Every team is after players that can get under the skin of their opposition, and he will be sorely missed by the Leafs and their fanbase.

Photo courtesy of tvasports.ca

 
 
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One thing is for sure, Patrick Roy knows how to win a Stanley Cup in Colorado.  The Avalanche Twitter account sent out this tweet on Thursday confirming the news that had been widely speculated on:
"@Avalanche: COACH ROY: The #Avalanche has reached an agreement in principle w/ Patrick Roy to become the franchise's Head Coach/VP of Hockey Operations."
After various roles ranging from head coach to part owner of the Quebec Remparts, the Avalanche feel Roy has paid his dues and is the right man for the job.
The opportunity before Roy is a great one; the team has some budding stars and a very young core. Maybe a fiery, former pro who knows what it takes to win a cup can put this team over the edge and get them into the playoffs next season.

I'm sure he'll address the players who would "rather be planning their off-season Vegas trips than focusing on hockey" according to an outspoken J.S Giguere.

The next couple of years will be crucial for this franchise and I'm curious to see what Roy can get out of this group, good luck to him!

 
 
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The Stanley Cup Playoffs are back! Along with the wildly entertaining, wire to wire action comes the common storylines that are debated by self- proclaimed hockey aficionados year after year.

With a fresh pint, staring at a mountain of nachos you’ll overhear:

“Man, if the (insert any Pennsylvanian team here) could only get some average goaltending they’d be unbeatable”

“This reffing is an absolute joke!” While this statement usually comes from the fan watching their team head to the box, it has been difficult, at times, to constitute what’s a penalty and what isn’t.

“The Canucks are a bunch of divers” No comment.

One of my favourite things to watch for is what players rise to the occasion and elevate their play at this time of year. There’s been some great examples in the past in the ultimate pest; Claude Lemieux. Highlighted by his 2006-2007 playoff, notching 23 points in just 17 games his level of play always peaked at playoff time. Not only was he scoring timely goals, he was agitating, playing dirty, greasy playoff hockey (ask Kris Draper). There have been others; Ville Leino for example, who seemingly forgot how to play altogether once the playoffs ended but Lemieux is always the guy that comes to mind.

This is a time for passion, and real, authentic winners... guys that want it. Here are a couple guys that have stepped it up:

Milan Lucic: It was tough to watch him play in the regular season this year, knowing what he is capable of. He appeared disengaged and lethargic out there. Rarely hitting, fighting or scoring it looked as though playing almost every second night was taking a toll on the rough and tumble winger.

And then the playoffs started. After scoring just 7 regular season goals, he’s got 3 goals and 7 assists in 9 playoff games. Points are not the most accurate measure of play when assessing a player like Milan Lucic though. In game 7 versus Toronto, down 4-1 in the third, an already defeated Boston team needed a spark in a big way. Lucic could be seen on the bench letting out primal screams and pounding on his chest. When Julien let him out of his cage and onto the ice he went wild! Huge hits, scoring chances and an overall intimidating presence ensued. He inspired his team to keep fighting and they came back and won the game in overtime. The beast is back.

Kyle Okposo: Yes. I’m aware the Islanders only had 6 playoff games. It’s a small sample size but Okposo was a weapon for the surprising Islanders. Okposo had an ordinary regular season with just 4 goals in 48 games but managed to pot 3 in just 6 playoff games. Like Lucic, Okposo plays a physical game and it was shining brightly as he threw his weight around on every shift. He dropped Matt Niskanen with one hard blow in a fight, and proceeded to beak the entire Penguins team skating by their bench. He was one of their most consistent and dangerous players and I would love to see more of it.

Who are you most impressed with? Who else has elevated their playoff game to beast-mode levels?

Enjoy the playoffs, this is hockey at its best!