Good luck to Jay Woodcroft.
He inherits a jigsaw puzzle team with all the wrong pieces. And Splinters Woodcroft can't play goal. Then again, neither can the Smith-Koskinen tap-dance duet. But you knew that already. So, how come ex-goalie Ken Holland has not?
What in Heaven's name is Ken waiting for? Seriously, when will the embattled g.m. trade for a Number One goalie? There's a goodie available in the East right now. And he'll get 'em in the playoffs for sure.
One more thing. Watching the All-Star Game on tv, I couldn't miss the fearsome frown on Leon (The Lion) Draisaitl's disgruntled mug one time when Connor McDavid returned to the bench. And that got me thinking about The Lion. That grimace may, or may not, reflect Leon's feeling about Captain Marvel and his team. Or both. Yeah, it was hard to tell for sure, but if a visible snarl was symbolic about how Mister Two feels about his bud, and his club, well: YIKES!
Good luck, Jay! Better find those goalie pads! Maybe the savior, Evander Kane, can loan you a pair.
WHAT MAKES THE CANES TICK? DON WADDELL
Among The Big Three of National Hockey League Cup contenders, the Carolina Hurricanes rank either first, second or third – take your pick.
What can't be denied is that general manager Don Waddell – arguably the most underrated among his peers – has done a phenomenal job creating an elite team in the fair city of Raleigh.
With that in mind, I thought it only reasonable to offer this exclusive interview with Waddell, leading off each of Don's answers with the topic. To wit:
KEYS TO THE CANES SUCCESS THIS SEASON: "Playing fast. Having great special teams as well as outstanding goaltenders. Plus, the players buying into coach Rod Brind'Amour's system."
KEYS TO BRIND'AMOUR'S COACHING SUCCESS: "The players respect what Rod asks of them. They understand his systems and there's good communication. Rod is an open book with all our players."
GETTING ALONG WITH A CANDID AGGRESSIVE OWNER: "We communicate multiple times a day. He's very passionate about having the best team we can have; and he provides the resources as we are a Cap team. We have very open and honest conversations about everything we're trying to do. There's feedback when I need to push back on some things."
TONY D'ANGELO WORKING OUT OUT SO WELL ON DEFENSE: "For starters we knew we needed a power play guy. Then, we spent many hours talking to everyone who knew Tony. This included players he skated with and, as things have turned out, teaming Tony with Jacob Slavin really allows Tony the freedom to be offensive-minded."
CHALLENGES LOOKING TO THE TRADE DEADLINE: "I'm always looking to improve my team; which is a Cap team. That always plays into my decision-making. As we prepare for the playoffs, depth at every position becomes important."
THOUGHTS ON THE LACROSSE-STYE 'MICHIGAN' MANEUVER: "It adds to the skill in our league. Our fans deserve to see these special talents. We also know that not every player can pull it off."
FINAL WADDELL WISDOM: "The season is a long haul so I want to be able to provide my players with the best environment that I can. We've done that by upgrading our locker room and building a new state of the art practice facility."
1. MARTY ST.LOUIS COACHES HABS: A friend of St.Louis says, "He's the most motivated person I Know." I say he can't play goal!
2 BRAD MARCHAND GETS 6-GAME SUSPENSION: A teammate says That Brad Boy was reacting to a previous dirty play by goalie Tristan Jarry. I say Marchand owns the NHL's best Bad Boy act. I can't wait to see his next routine.
3. NEW 3-YEAR DEAL FOR CRAIG BERUBE: I say genius will out. Well-earned and well-liked is Pal Craig.
4. TUUKKA RASK A HALL OF FAMER: So says THN's Matt Larkin. I say "No Way!" Want a goalie who belongs and isn't in the HOF? Lorne Chabot did what Rask couldn't: Two Stanley Cups (Rangers, Leafs), plus 73 career shutouts plus two Allan Cups!
5. MIKE SMITH LOSES BOTH BACK-TO-BACK GAMES: I say. what did you expect from a goalie who'll be 40 in March. Yoo-hoo, Dave Tippett. Next time, start Evander Kane.
FUTURE DESTINATIONS FOR FLEURY, GIROUX, KESSEL:
Chances are that goalie Marc-Andre and forwards, Claude and Phil will be wearing different uniforms after the Trade Deadline.
Right now nobody – not even the Insider-insiders – knows. But I've discovered one analyst – the inimitable Gus Vic – who always has the ultra-insights. Check 'em out:
FLEURY: He'll wind up either in Washington, Colorado or Edmonton. The Caps goaltending is insufficient to win 16 playoff games. The Avs usually can outscore their mistakes and – no matter how you shake it, Darcy Kuemper is a gamble not worth taking. Meanwhile, The McDavids will be lucky to win a first round game with Miko Koskinen or Mike Smith. Answer: Colorado: to show up the Knights who dumped him!
GIROUX: Boston needs a second line center to replace David Krejci. Not that it'll put the B's past the second round; not with spotty goalies. The three better teams that must beef up their scoring are Minny, St.Lou and Nashville. Answer: The Predators need it most.
KESSEL: The Wild is about to enter Cap Hell next season and a Phil rental is in order. The guy has two Cup rings; and that's enough to attract g.m. Bill Guerin. Then, again, the Rangers could use a bit more scoring depth although Phil doesn't give enough straight line play. Answer. The Wild for the above reasons.
I'M JUST SAYIN':
* College Hockey is booming in the States. Exhibit A: TSN is showcasing 20 additional NCAA hockey games this month. Both men's and women's contests.
* The Winter Classic at Boston next season already has "Insiders" guessing the Bruins prospective foe. That the Rangers are the obvious choice does not necessarily mean it will be the Broadway Blueshirts. Could be a surprise.
* Now that the Red Sox have bought a controlling interest in the Penguins, don't be surprised if it's Pittsburgh. And that would make it two teams wearing black-and-gold. (Hey, could happen. Sox have clout.)
* You tell me: Has Nazem Kadri attained superstar status? (My view: close but no Kadri.)
* Tough choice for next Blackhawks g.m. I'd go with the interim guy, Kyle Davidson. He knows the organization better than the other candidates. If not Kyle, why not Neil Smith?
* I'd hate being a Flyers fan if they took my Claude Giroux away.
* Yeah, the Knights look strong but that franchise's biggest mistake was unloading Marc-Andre Fleury.
* Department of Just Wondering: Do you figure the Bruins are happy about the Red Sox taking over the Penguins? (Or, do you think the Red Sox care?)
* Serious contenders who have to worry about their goaltending include Colorado, St.Louis, Edmonton, and, yes, even Pittsburgh and Toronto.
* Serious contenders who don't have to worry about their goaltending include Tampa Bay, Florida, Rangers, Boston, Minnesota and Carolina.
* I was surprised when I learned that money magazine, Forbes, has lumped three teams together, each valued at $975 million; The Devils, Golden Knights and Islanders. Come to think of it, each has a state of the art arena.
* I trust the very-informed John Shannon when he writes that NHL owners are keeping Gary Bettman at the top of the NHL. It's obvious that The Commish's 32 bosses know that they've got the best leader the league ever has had.
* Ditto is my trust in State of Florida guru Al Greenberg when he says the Bolts got a bargain in Pat Maroon for two more years at a million per.
* Had it not been for Maroon's constant harassing of the Islanders in their seven-game set – 1-0 decision in Game 7 – the series could have gone to the Island.
* Say what you will but I say now that Tuukka Rask is finis as Boston's puck-stopper, he can blame it on the Butterfly that did in his hip. Bruins won without him up to Tuukka's return and should be all right with the Swayman-Ullmark vaudevillians.
* Last word on The All-Star Game in Vegas. Pal Sean Mccaffrey has an intriguing idea: Make Vegas the permanent All-Star Game base. Good thinking, Sean, but unfair to NHL cities wanting the honor of hosting such an event. That said, here's the equation: Vegas=hockey hotbed.
* This from the Rue De Rumeur: Cats shopping ex-24-goal man Frank (The Tank) Vatrano as part of a piece for another defender. The Tank has been relegated to the bottom six; also has been a frequent healthy scratch. His contract is up and Florida would have to let him go for no return. Remember: Aleks Barkov's extension hits next season. (Thanks: Al Greenberg.)
WHO SAID IT? "He looks like Bobby Orr out there. Some nights, however, he looks like iron ore." (Answer below.)
ERIC, THE GREAT, STATISTICIAN: Long Island-based Eric Hornick, 58, is celebrating his 40th anniversary as the dean of NHL stat folks. I call this Union College grad "The Mike Emrick Of Hockey Arithmetic." In an exclusive interview, I'll be presenting Hornick's views about his intriguing and most important gig as a Figure Filbert for the Islanders and other NHL outlets. Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald calls Hornick "The best in the business." For those interested in getting into the business, I present Eric's debut here. Part One of Five.
HOW STAT KING HORNICK BROKE INTO HOCKEY'S NUMBERS GAME:
"I was eight when the Islanders began play and I fell in love with the team. I always liked numbers and started compiling my own data on the team.I also read a book on sports stats by Arthur Friedman who did stats for the Rangers, Knicks and Mets. That really got me interested. In 1980, when Jiggs McDonald arrived to do Isles play-by-play he was very approachable and I started bringing him information at the games. In the summer of 1981 he arranged an interview with the team but g.m. Bill Torrey wouldn't hire me because I still was in high school.
"But I stayed in contact with Jiggs and the following January – at age 18 – I joined the (SportsChannel) broadcasts as their statistician. At the time I had no idea how long it would last so very early on I had Jiggs' sidekick, Ed Westfall, autograph my media guide. And you, Stan, autographed one of your books. My first NHL game was January 21, 1982. It was the same night that the Isles began their 15-game winning streak." (On Monday, Eric will compare the primitive stat tools of 40 years ago with today's technological marvels.)
TEN SECOND TRIVIA: Has an NHL team ever won or tied every game played on home ice in one season? In 1929-30 the Bruins won all 22 of their home games.
A LITTLE BIT OF BURKE: Now that he's a big deal executive with the Penguins, Brian Burke has been somewhat muted since his Canadian blabbering days at Sportsnet. That's why I was tickled that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Seth Rorabaugh recently caught up with Burkie.
Brian made a couple of points that interested me, especially since he once had a stint within the NHL's inner sanctum and knows how Bettman, Inc. works. Asked how the NHL will continue managing in these Covid-infested times, Burke was bullish.
"The NHL is ready to meet the challenges ahead," he insisted. "And I'm impressed with the way crisis after crisis has been dealt with effectively and professionally by the NHL."
What about BB's choice as Hero of the Penguins? "Mike Sullivan because he figures out a way. Next man up!"
A GOALIE TO GRAB: Portland Winterhawks goalie Taylor Gauthier is undrafted but you can bet he will be. On Wednesday night he became a record-breaker. By not allowing a goal for the first 2:39 of the contest with Spokane, Taylor recorded the longest shutout (minutes) streak in club history.
In the 9-0 rout of the Chiefs, Gauthier sapped Brendan Burke's previous record of 174.57 set during the 2013-14 season. Tonight he closes in on WHL history, 32.55 shy of the league's all-time record for longest shutout streak.
P.S. He attended the Maple Leafs camp but Dubas, Inc. passed on him. Hence, Gauthier remains a prized free agent.
'WHY WOMEN'S HOCKEY DOESN'T BELONG IN THE OLYMPICS'
That's not my headline and it explains why I put it in quotes. It ran above Rosie Dimanno's Toronto Star column the other day. She opens thusly: "Through two Group-Stage games, the Canadian Women's hockey team outscored the opposition, 23-2 and outshot them 118-44. That's not sport; that's abomination domination."
Rosie's point is in the headline and my point is that it has aroused our Seattle-based reporter Glenn Dreyfuss to "demonstrate how wrong Ms.Dimanno's suggestion is."
Glenn points out that "between 1956 and 1988 the Soviet men's hockey team compiled a record of 55-5, outscored opponents 446-115 and won seven gold medals. The U.S. did capture the other two gold medals in this 32-year stretch but only with wins over the USSR, a pair of the greatest upsets in sports history. And Canada? Zero gold medals.,
"Would Rosie have suggested kicking Canada to the curb, or cancelling the competition? Virtually every Olympic athlete will tell you that regardless of the outcome, they're glad for the experience, and to meet competitors at the highest level.
"For hockey federations trying to upgrade their teams and interest in their countries, withdrawal from Olympic participation would be counter-productive."
Our Al Greenberg also TKO's Dimanno's collapsable column. To wit: "How a Canadian woman can suggest dropping the program is beyond me. Women's hockey has never been more popular and has more support in the USA and Canada. Dropping it will cut major development programs and be a blow to the sport."
And, in case you're wondering, I agree wholeheartedly with Dreyfuss and Greenberg.Or, to answer Ms. Dimanno in pure Brooklynese: Fuhgedaboutit!
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Tom Webster on Kings defenseman Rob Blake.