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Fischler Report: Feelings About an Incredible Stanley Cup Final

Stan Fischler looks back at the Stanley Cup final and how the Avalanche won. Plus, Stan discusses the Hart Trophy, Barry Trotz, Andrew Brunette, Artemi Panarin and so much more.


1. Hail to the new champs. The better team won.

2. The Avs lived up to their pre-season notices; they were given the best chance to beat the Bolts and came through.

3. Hail to the dethroned champs. They went down valiantly.

4. In the end, attrition doomed them. Their gas tank emptied.

5. The Maven's law rules: no team ever will win three straight cups.

6. Vasilevskiy needed a one-goal game but Kuemper got it.

7. Home ice 'advantage' works if you score more goals.

8. The Isles' 19-straight playoff series wins looks more impressive than ever.

9. Good job for the Bolts doing 11 series wins in a row.

10. Called correctly, the 'too many men' episode could have changed the series' outcome.

11. Darryl Sutter was right: play the Avs at your own peril.

12. The Bolts' core ensures that they'll continue to excel.


"What we have been seeing -- and saw in the Avalanche triumph -- is a clear fact of hockey life: A pedestrian goalie such as Darcy Kuemper can win a Stanley Cup. This never could have happened during the Original Six era, pre-Expansion. Having a 32-team NHL means that goaltending has thinned out.

"Put another way, there are not enough top goaltenders for each team to have a really good goalie, let alone a quality back-up. When a mere quality goalie wins a Cup -- as with Pittsburgh's Murray or the Blues' Binnington -- they had to play over their heads to help win.

"In this run, Darcy Kuemper had an average .902 GAA and at times, looked like a beaten netminder. His weakness was mostly concealed by an excellent lineup featuring the NHL's second-best forward (Nathan MacKinnon) and best defenseman (Smythe-winner Cale Makar). That alone is a killer one-two punch that's been proven hard to beat. In the end, they used their power play to win it all, scoring with the extra man in each of the first three Avs wins.

"Finally, full credit to GM Joe Sakic for adding forward depth at the deadline and drafting another stud in defenseman Bowen Byram!"



Busy-busy covering the Final, Gus Vic took a breather to guess at the next coaching picks. Bruins, New Englander, David Quinn; Red Wings: Unfairly-canned Andy Brunette; Jets: Gentleman Jim Montgomery. (Remember: Gus is just guessing; or Gus-ing, if you will.)



For more than a month after Barry Trotz was released by the Islanders the "Insiders" were left outside when it came to predicting iconic Barry's next NHL destination. They named just about every team but the Woodside Whippets.

The guessing continued right up until's Tim Campbell reached the ex-Islanders bench boss. In a terrific interview, Trotz detailed his reasons for rejecting a new NHL offer.

Stripping through the details, it came down to a pair of factors -- family and fatigue.

Above all -- including hockey -- family comes first in Trotz's life philosophy. Some sensitive family challenges have detoured him from giving the 100 percent effort he believes necessary to run a bench.He didn't mention attrition but I'm convinced that that was part of his reasoning. The man needed a rest.

Readers of my column know that I steadfastly maintained that Trotz would not return this season unless I was advised otherwise. My source was impeccable and proved accurate.



Two fans I know who are good friends of mine -- but not of each other -- had a keen hockey argument. When I asked one of them how the dispute ended, one of them told me this about his adversary: "He's so dumb he thinks the NHL draft is a brand of beer!"



We all know that the better team usually wins the 2022 Stanley Cup. Don't we? And we also have learned that controversy follows a Final like a shadow follows a walk in the sun.

The overtime goal scored by Nazem Kadri in Game Four would have been disallowed if the NHL used the same video review as it does for offsides.

A close, patient, electronic -- offside-type look at the play would confirm what Bolts coach Jon Cooper was beefing about; that the goal was illegal.

But under the present rule, the on-ice officials have to make the call and -- don't ask me how -- all four zebras missed it and, rightfully,

it's become a cause celebre on both sides of the fence.

Good for the NHL for constantly trying to get calls as accurately as possible. Offside challenges prove that the electronic reviews provide the best assessment of what's happening all over the pond.

Hopefully, the next rule change will allow a challenge so that a "Too many men" illegally scored goal can be deleted with video replay.



* If Andrew Brunette was good enough to lead Florida to the Presidents' Trophy, he should be good enough to coach any NHL team.

* The question is this: Does Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff like Bruno as much as The Maven or does he prefer Rick Tocchet who may not want to forsake his cushy tv gig?

* Since Vezina-winner Igor (The Prince) Shesterkin wants to play more games next season and so does Alex (Where's DeAngelo?) Georgiev, there's a conflict.

* GM Chris Drury will solve it by dealing Comrade Al and -- if he's listening to me -- should promote Keith Kinkaid to be Prince Igor's back-up.

* I love the location of Seattle's new AHL farm -- Coachella Valley. It's in California not too far from L.A. Good guy Dan Bylsma will be coaching the baby Firebirds.

* I asked a long-time reporter, scout and father of two collegiate-age players what he thought of the Avs getting away with the extra man episode.

* "He was candid: "If you can get away with it, use the extra player."

* Too many smart hockey people are saying that drafting hotshot Shane Wright is wrong!

* Jared (The Joker) Bednar had to be pulling our legs when asked about the Bolts too-many-men beef.

* "It was nothing," said the Bolt's bench boss. Translated: Bednar

didn't get the penalty his team deserved. That "nothing" turned out to be a turnpike toward the Cup.

* I'm sad that pal Derek King has been pushed off Chicago's coaching pedestal. Not exactly a fair thing but what can you do/

* That said I'm glad Luke Richardson is winding up as King's successor. I've known Goodfella -- Smartfella -- Luke since his Flyers days. Cheerful move by Chi!

* Steve Yzerman is taking his own sweet time to name head coach. Nothing wrong with that; except I hope he picks Travis Green.

* Good quote about Torts in The Athletic: "John isn't always easy to deal with but even on his bad days he provides great insights - just a little too pointed for some."

* Somehow, Paul Maurice coaching Florida doesn't seem right. He'll have to show us that he's not the wrong guy for Andy Brunette's job.

* Although he may not be a big name on the Shawinigan Cataracts, his biggest name takes up a whole sweater-back: Loris Rafanomezantsoa.

* Word I get from somebody who knows is that the team Trots wanted to coach most of all was Philly. (John: Beware of what you wished for!)

* My choice to replace Torts at ESPN is Glenn Healy who can bring his bagpipes with him.

* Good move by Bruce Cassidy luring Sean Burke to Vegas as goalie coach. Now, please tell me, who's gonna play goal for the Knights?



Arthur Staple, The Athletic's main man on the Rangers, got Blueshirt fans blood boiling over a recent Panarin piece.

The theme had a few parts: 1. The Bread Man didn't do enough overall in the playoffs and didn't push them into the Final: 2. He hinted at the possibility of the Rangers trading its ace; 3. An unconfirmed report that "two league sources" said Chris Drury was vocally unhappy about Panarin's play in the postseason.

Staple: "Given Panarin's full, no-move clause for the remaining four years of his contract, it's darn near impossible to see him going anywhere."

According to Staple, although Panarin totalled 16 points in 20 games he didn't have the "constant impact anyone around the Rangers hoped for or needed. If there's a rift, Panarin could ask out, as near-impossible as it would be to move this mammoth contract."

Rangers author and blogger Sean McCaffrey takes a dim view of the Athletic's report on Drury-Panarin and wonders out loud: Why would Drury bury any of his players to anyone? Furthermore, in the event that Drury expressed some displeasure to two of his confidants, why would they then go on to break that trust and run off to a guy who primarily -- actually previously -- has covered the Islanders? (The Maven says the jury is hung on this one.)



As more and more newspapers disappear from view -- along with their hockey coverage -- new forms of hockey publications are surfacing in NHL centers like Detroit and beyond.

In this case, 'Beyond" happens to be South Florida where "Florida Hockey Now" has surfaced. "George Richards, former beat writer for the Miami Herald, does it," reports our Sunshine State reporter Alan Greenberg. "Colby Guy is assisting him. He does freelance work for the Palm Beach Post which recently found out there's a hockey team one county away."


WHO SAID IT? "Defeat does not rest lightly on our shoulders." (See Below.)



Make no mistake, I have the utmost respect for Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. Their respective skills are astronomical and each is a credit to our favorite game; even though I occasionally twit them, just for the fun of it.

What baffles me -- and has for days -- is the discrepancy in Hart Trophy voting for the 2021-22.

McDavid virtually carried Edmonton on his shoulders, arms and hockey stick through the season; with some help from Pal Leon.

Matthews did not carry the Leafs. He was assisted by the likes of Marner, Tavares, Nylander and O'Reilly, to name a few.

With that in mind, how does one explain that Matthews wound up with 119 first-place votes and McDavid only 29; a difference of 90. Is this some macabre joke? Are these voters inhabiting the Republic of Daydreamsville? The vote: 119 to 29 may be correct but it also sounds like the title of a movie -- "Dumb and Dumber."


ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Leafs icon Conn Smythe had his saying painted on the Toronto dressing room wall.



Now that the Final has reached its climax it's worth your while to read Ross Bernstein's excellent oral history -- Raising Stanley. Sub-titled "What It Takes To Claim Hockey's Ultimate Prize," Bernsteins's book quotes winners on various aspects of their Cup triumphs: Here's the Islanders Ken Morrow on Championship coaching:

"Al Arbour was such a commanding presence on the bench. I would compare him to a stern father figure who you respected because he pushed you to be your best. He would kick you in the butt when he felt like you needed it."

Or, Mike Modano on Ken Hitchcock: "Hitch was a great coach. His preparation and game planning was second to none. Our assistant coaches were great too, in Bob Gainey, Doug Jarvis and Rick Wilson. They had a ton of experience and insight that really helped us."

In the "Hands On The Prize" segment, the Devils' Shawn Chambers remembered 1995 in New Jersey: "Scott Stevens got it first because he was the captain. From there it went from the two assistants, Ken Daneyko and Bruce Driver. There really isn't a set order, but one thing is for sure, you don't ever talk about it or discuss it beforehand. That will jinx it for sure."

Steve Yzerman: "When we won it for the first time in 1997 I handed it to our owner Mike Ilitch. As the team captain, I skated a lap with it first to let the fans see it, and then I handed it to Mike."



Journalistically speaking, what's worse than beating a dead horse?

Answer: The constant pounding on Auston Matthews because the Maple Leafs haven't won a Stanley Cup since Pontiacs, Plymouths and Mercuries sped on highways.

Granted, the Maple Leafs' official Goal Machine is fair game for any legitimate criticism. But when does it stop, I ask you; when?

The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons had every reason in the world to bring up the subject after Matthews captured both the Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies. Here's a portion of what he wrote:

"Auston has to win something on his own other than the awards. In nine clinching playoff games, Matthews, the unmatched goal-scorer, has scored just twice." Then, the crusher: "The MVP in hockey doesn't seem like the MVP of hockey!"

Fair enough. But unfair enough if this mantra is repeated into the fall over the next season right up to the playoffs. In other words, enough already.

What I'd like to see is an intense study of an Arizona kid and how he became a better player in the "non-traditional market" than virtually anyone his age in hockey's birthplace, Canada.



Lightning coach Jon Cooper put that question to a media horde in Tampa Bay the day after he abruptly walked out on the journalist's post-fourth-game inquisition.

The usually cool-calm-collected mentor was anything but. Fuming to beat the band over the officials' failure to call the too-many-men-on-the-ice infraction. (Torts would have gone ten times nutsier.)

Rather than implode and say what he really thought; Coop thought better of it and pulled off an orderly retreat.

A day later he put his run-off in perspective with the question: How do you shut off your emotions?"

Under the circumstances of a playoff game, it's virtually impossible because the media third-degree happens so soon after the game.

It explains why some of John Tortorella's finest moments are in the post-game exchanges.

Torts' answer to the How do you shut off your emotions question would be. "I don't!"

In an insightful Athletic piece on Torts, it claims that John's "biggest weakness" is that he doesn't follow scripts. "In an age where most coaches stick to well-worn cliches and word salads," the Athletic notes, "Torts refuses to blather the organization's talking points. He simply can't do it.

"A well-framed question is going to generate a response from him and often it's so blunt and frank that it draws the ire of management and/or the players, leading to hurt feelings and private meetings."

P.S. Yay, Torts!



(Four-time author, columnist and sports authority Matthew Blittner recently wrote an excellent story for The New York Extra on being a general manager. In this excerpt, Matthew reached Mike Johnston, g.m-coach of the highly-successful Portland Winterhawks. Mike addressed the following topics:

Importance Of Scouting: "As a general manager in the Western (Junior) League, I'm involved in first overseeing my scouting staff. That's how I find my players. I have scouts in different provinces and states who are constantly looking for players."

Playing Style: "The second important thing for me, as GM, is to have a template of how I want the Winterhawks to play. And what type of player I'm looking for."

Finding Players: "The third part is recruiting. Once we've drafted a player, or listed one, we then meet with the player's family. Usually, the top players have options so meeting the family is a key part of the process."

Competition: "We're in competition with NCAA hockey. We're recruiting the player to come and skate for Portland. Our players move away from home at 16 years of age. They stay with billet families and go to school on a daily basis. I have to monitor the players from week to week."

Player Development: That's the final piece for us, on and off the ice.

Because they're 16, 17 and 18 year-old kids, how they mature and how they develop will determine their hockey future. When they come to us we have to have a good development plan for them."




Remembered as a part-owner of the Winnipeg Jets (1995) along with Richard Burke, Gluckstern moved the team to Phoenix where it was renamed the Coyotes in time for the 1996-97 season.

But in the New York area -- especially Nassau County -- Steve is recalled as a part-owner of the Islanders. Gluckstern, who recently died at 71, sold his 50 percent interest in the Coyotes to Burke in order to buy the Islanders in 1997 for $195 million with two partners.

Steve's pals, Howard and Edward Milstein, didn't keep the team for long. They cited a bad Coliseum lease and the failure of Nassau County to build a new arena.

Gluckstern and the Milstein's sold the Isles in 2000 for nearly $190 million to Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar.



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