Ryan Lambert

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Isn’t this what the Leafs wanted?

Phil Kessel tough

Exactly what, apart from what he ended up doing, was Phil Kessel supposed to do in that situation? The whole world is having a good ol’ laugh at Kessel this week after he took a two-hander at John Scott’s ankle. Kessel’s options at the time were threefold:

  1. Fight John Scott and have the Christ beaten out of him.
  2. Skate away from Scott as fast as possible and bear the brunt of the next several decades of laughs that would come his way.
  3. Try to keep Scott away from him long enough for someone to intercede on his behalf, perhaps by wielding his stick like a hatchet.

He obviously chose the third and final of these choices and it proved the most judicious. The time on the IR with a concussion that came with No. 1 was always a non-starter, and the scorn from No. 2 likewise was never an option. And now hockey pundits in every major market, most of all those with reason to dislike Kessel (Boston) or the Leafs (Montreal), laughs at Kessel. The Toronto media, for their part, defended their boy and team as well they should have: The kinds of tactics the Sabres employed in that game, following Corey Tropp asking Jamie Devane to fight following a goal. Devane, an aspiring NHLer with naught but 36 pro games (and 90 PIM in them) to his credit obliged. By KOing Tropp. And, in doing so, allowing the player five inches shorter and 40ish pounds slighter than himself to bounce his head scarily off the ice.

In turn, Sabres coach Ron Rolston put out John Scott and an assortment of other non-skill players. Randy Carlyle, given that he had last change a total lack of things happening in his brain, put out his top line, which included Kessel. Thus began the chaos of a line brawl, David Clarkson leaving the bench, and a goalie fight.

But let’s not forget where all this started: It started when the Leafs themselves started loading up on brainless goons, as a means of becoming “harder to play against.” That the Leafs had none of them (save for Devane) in the lineup mattered not at all; if you’re playing Toronto, you prepare as though you’re going to have to fist-fight some people. Thus the inclusion of Scott in the lineup. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Cleary 2

There has been in the last few days, a seeming run on professional tryout contracts being offered to longtime veteran NHLers as teams turn an eye toward signing them but first want to see how they stack up against rookies, or whoever.

Dave Steckel with the Wild. Guillaume Latendresse with the Coyotes. Mason Raymond with the Maple Leafs. Brad Boyes and maybe, by the time you read this, Tim Thomas with the Florida Panthers (though they might have just outright signed him to a standard player contract). Both Hal Gill and Danny Cleary with the Flyers.

And while Cleary’s is a regular-old PTO for right now, and Paul Holmgren swears up and down that that’s all it is, for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment, the rumor kicking around is that he’s been signed to an absolutely awful contract that will pay him way too much money for not one, not two, but three seasons. This is, you’ll recall, 34-year-old Dan Cleary we’re talking about. The same Dan Cleary whose knees seem to have long since done the sensible thing and called it a career, and are now waiting patiently for the rest of his body to follow suit.

A real Dan Cleary quote about the condition of his knees from the 2012 season included the words “loose cartilage” and “bone on bone” and “a lot of fluid” and that’s not a good way for any living human being to have to describe their knees. That was also a year ago, during which time Cleary just played another 62 largely ineffectual games for the Red Wings. Ken Holland wanted him back, because he does continue to have an odd fascination with Detroit’s borderline lifers long after they’ve outlived their usefulness (see also: Osgood, Chris). But he seemingly did not want him back for three years, and certainly not for the rumored $2.75 million he will receive per annum during that time. And certainly-certainly not with an accompanying no-trade clause. Read the rest of this entry »

Kadri scores

The lack of progress on the Nazem Kadri extension front has been making headlines in Toronto for surprisingly little time, given how important he seems to be to the Maple Leafs’ future plans.

Under normal circumstances — say, if Jonathan Bernier went this deep into the summer without a contract — the local papers would normally be delivered to subscribers’ homes literally on fire. That there has been no such uproar over Kadri’s situation comes as something of a surprise, but perhaps the Toronto media has been so satiated by the team’s acquisition of David Clarkson (the Prize Toronto-Born-And-Bred Free Agent for which they have been ravening for years) and retention of Tyler Bozak (All-Around Good Teammate (Who Also Sucks But Who’s Counting?)) that no one particularly cares that the team probably doesn’t have the cap space to sign Kadri, who you’ll recall was nearly a point-a-game player in the NHL at age 22.

The only thing thing that’s really caused any kind of an uproar in the past few days with relation to the ongoing talks was when he said, “The closer it comes to training camp, it becomes more and more of a distraction. I know I’m being pretty reasonable, taking cap into consideration, when really, that’s not my job.”

Again, under normal circumstances, this phenom high draft pick who was second on the team in scoring in his first full year in the NHL should have everyone in a furor, with talk-radio phone lines jammed by people screaming for Nonis’ head. Instead, Damien Cox of all people(!) is actually pleading for everyone to NOT get worked up, Steve Simmons is saying that Kadri’s confidence in his own abilities is what’s at issue here rather than greed, and Dave Shoalts is praising Nonis for being “patient.” What universe did we wake up in? Read the rest of this entry »

This is so confusing they might not even award the Stanley Cup next year.

This is so confusing they might not even award the Stanley Cup next year.

The NHL has long convoluted its standings in a way that made it nearly impossible for non-hockey fans to understand what the hell was going on. There were points for overtime losses in addition to ties for a period of several years before Gary Bettman and Co. put a bullet in ties’ head following the 2005 lockout.

Now, there’s wins, losses, and overtime or shootout losses, except that not all wins are created equal because wins in shootouts don’t really count as much as regulation or overtime wins in the event of a tie in the standings, which are more common than you might think (Columbus, you’ll recall, missed the playoffs because they had two fewer wins, and three fewer in regulation or overtime, despite having the same 55 points as the Minnesota Wild).

So how, then, did the NHL decide that it could make things even more difficult to figure out? By reconfiguring the conferences so that there were 16 teams in the East and only 14 in the West and also, as a consequence, having to completely change the way in which teams are seeded into the playoffs.

Ah, you thought it was weird when the top eight clubs in each 15-team conference made the playoffs based on the number of points they accumulated but then also factored in how they accumulated them? Well, now things are a lot stupider. Read the rest of this entry »

Haha where did all that money go I don't know Zach it could be anywhere! (AP photo)

Haha where did all that money go I don’t know Zach it could be anywhere! (AP photo)

Tough to read the news about the Minnesota Wild that came out last weekend.

After finally getting two noteworthy free agents after years of having to sell off all the good players in franchise history (Marian Gaborik and, um.. well somebody probably) and making the playoffs for the first time since Barack Obama got elected — the first time — the team got a boatload of bad news: It lost $30 million in a lockout-shortened season.

Woof. That’s a lot of money to lose. That’s more than 40 percent of the salary cap last year, when it wasn’t pro-rated.

A lot of that item is pretty funny, though. “A little birdie,” says the Wild lost that much money. But boy, that birdie probably looked a lot like a front office type leaking monetary details — of which I tend to doubt the veracity — and it probably also looked pretty familiar (as Greg Wyshynski points out, the writer also got similar information from what we can only assume is the same birdie last summer).

It’s hard to feel too bad for the Wild losing that much money last season, given that exactly two-thirds of that $30 million was paid directly to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise for their signing bonuses on those two identical $98 million contracts. So yes, they lost $20 million right there, before the season started, but it’s not like they didn’t know it was coming. You can’t agree to pay that much out and then act like you’re shocked at the losses, which is what this report was supposed to draw out of readers. “They lost $30 million? Boy oh boy.” Softening the beaches for a ticket price increase? It would be, except that already happened. So it’s more like softening the beaches for people who were previously upset that prices went up the season after a lockout. Read the rest of this entry »

"I'll just wait here until someone figures out I can still play."

“I’ll just wait here until someone figures out I can still play.”

Every summer it seems like there are a handful of guys who slip through the cracks of GMs’ attention spans for what seems like way too long, and certainly this offseason has been no exception. While teams scrambled to give too-old or too-mediocre players too much money, others seemed, for relatively few reasons, to sit on the market for far too long.

The interesting thing, though, is that some of these guys are still on the market as a result what seems to be a fit of good sense by general managers league-wide, which as you likely know all too well, is rather a rare thing. Jaromir Jagr, for instance, remains unsigned and now appears to be preparing himself mentally for the possibility that he won’t be coming back to the NHL next year, if ever.

Could it be that general managers now officially see Jagr as being too old? Not worth giving $4 million for a year or something like that? Seems like it would be impossible, doesn’t it? He still put up 35 points in 45 games last season, which is nothing to sneeze at, and his underlying numbers all seem to show that he was pretty effective at driving play, even if he rarely did so in a way that was aesthetically appealing. The only thing I can think of, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, is that his zero goals in the Bruins’ playoff run is what’s keeping interest limited. I can’t imagine that any GMs are that cautious of the fact that he’s now 41 years old, given that they were not shy about giving him slightly more money at 40 and his points-per-game actually went up despite having arguably worse teammates in Dallas and Boston than he had in Philadelphia.

Mikhail Grabovski and Damien Brunner, meanwhile, seem like the more obvious guys for whom teams should — and, you’d think, would — be lined up around the block. Read the rest of this entry »

"The Philadelphia Flyers would like to announce that they do not understand the new CBA."

“The Philadelphia Flyers would like to announce that they do not understand the new CBA.”

Something in Elliotte Friedman’s always-excellent 30 Thoughts really caught my attention yesterday in a way that things in it often don’t. Not that the information isn’t always excellent, but it’s a lot of stuff like, “Oh, I’d never thought of it that way,” or “Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.” However, items Nos. 8 and 9 absolutely baffled me.

To excerpt:

Both Vincent Lecavalier and Daniel Briere have gone from terribly disappointed to pleasantly surprised and excited by the amount of interest in them. All of that interest means both players will command a bigger dollar than expected. … That said, there are a couple of executives who said they wouldn’t be surprised if a team asks to bump [five-year demands] up to seven years with the last two at lower salaries to lessen the cap hit. It’s also expected that Lecavalier will ask for no-move or no-trade protection.

This made me sad and confused, but that was obviously before all the reports about Lecavalier settling on the Flyers for five years at $22.5 million total with a no-movement clause and everyone started getting their jokes about goaltending in. Now I’ve been pushed even farther into my confusion.

Here’s what is fundamentally difficult to understand about deals like the ones Lecavalier apparently commanded, and what Briere will likely pull as well: how silly they are. Read the rest of this entry »