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Fischler Report: The NHL Awards That Should Exist

Stan Fischler offers up some playoff awards that need to exist, breaks down Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators, the NHL's coaching market, the Boston Bruins, NHL free agency and so much more.
Cale Makar

POILE PREVAILS:

Nashville's David Poile is "The Eternal G.M." for a reason. He continually makes superior deals for his Preds. My super scout, David Kolb, explains:

"Getting Ryan McDonagh is a superior move. McD has been the Bolts unsung hero for the past three years. Without him, Tampa Bay does not win. Ryan does everything well -- defend, move the puck, skate with the puck and he owns all the variables.

"The only thing against him is his age. Oh, wait! I can't believe he's only 33!"

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE -- ONE COACHING JOB LEFT

You could get very dizzy watching the NHL's Coach Merry-Go-Round that has been feverishly whirling this spring.

But as that Agatha Christie murder mystery put it: "And Then There Was None."

Well, as the Rick Bowness Winnipeg hire tells us -- in a sense -- there is none; on account of the fact that San Jose doesn't even have a general manager to hire a coach.

Of course, those voids soon will be filled -- they'd better be -- because a managerial S.O.S. is necessary what with all the action soon to unfold regarding the draft and free agent frenzy and whatnot.

My fuzzy crystal ball says that Kevin Weekes would be my choice as Sharks GM and Travis Green as head coach. But that's merely an emotional pitch since I like both guys a lot; plus they're each super smart, likable and laugh at my jokes.

Ergo, we shall see what we shall see!

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YAY BRUINS! DOUBLE YAY FOR JIM MONTGOMERY

One of the best post-playoff stories had to be Boston's hiring of Jim Montgomery as head coach. We're talking about a guy who had to forsake his Dallas gig in December 2019, go into rehab with a hockey future seriously in doubt. He honestly told the world about his woes and then went about the business of cleaning up his act.

Gentleman Jim did the right thing. He worked hard rehabbing and generously was given an assistant's job under Craig Berube in St.Louis. He did that so well that at least three NHL clubs had contacted Montgomery about their coaching vacancies. On the theory that a good man nowadays is hard to find, the Bruins have found one!

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PLAYOFF AWARDS THAT ARE NOT -- BUT SHOULD BE

The Hart, Norris, Vezina and Masterton Trophies are all well and worthy for the regular NHL season. But why aren't there similar prizes for the postseason? Hmmmm?

Our personal and unique Trophy Inventor, George Falkowski, isn't sitting around waiting for those awards to happen, he's created them:

Take your pick:

MORE LIKE BOBBY ORR AWARD: Cale Makar, by far. The young Colorado defenseman has proven that the Stanley Cup playoffs was the perfect stage for letting the hockey world (and even casual fans) know just how good you are. The Conn Smythe underlines my point.

BRYAN TROTTIER AWARD: Nathan MacKinnon. All that speed and offensive brilliance and he still can play defense against the NHL's top guns like Connor McDavid? Yes! Now go win six Cups like Trottier and he'll also get an award named after him.

GOODWILL SPOILED AWARD: Evander Kane. No sooner did Oilers forward Kane re-establish his brand and showcase his talent with 13 goals in 15 playoff games in Edmonton, he sent Colorado forward Nazem Kadri into surgery with a dangerous hit in their conference final series.

Just as soon as you thought Kane had found his way, his "other" side surfaced again. Will Edmonton or some other team take a chance on signing him? His talent says yes, but with the associated-and-all-too-likely-to-happen-again risks that his behavior on or off the ice will bite him...and his team...again.

SALLY FIELD 'THEY REALLY LIKE ME' AWARD: Connor McDavid. It's amazing how the NHL's greatest offensive talent remained unappreciated for so long. As usual, the playoffs provided the stage and he stole the spotlight. An astonishing 33 points in just two rounds will do that. Call him the Mike Trout of the NHL only, unlike the Angels' all-world outfielder, people in the Eastern Time Zone actually got to see how great McDavid was this past spring.

OGIE OLGILTHORPE 'GREAT HAIR' AWARD: Guardian of the Stanley Cup, Phil Pritchard. While he might not have the poofy afro of the legendary hockey movie tough guy, there's no doubt that 'The Keeper Of The Cup' maintains a steady flow of greatness with his blonde locks, as much a part of hockey springs as Lord Stanley's Cup, emerging from its box or the white gloves Phiery Phil wears each year!

MIKE EMRICK 'VOICE OF THE NHL' AWARD: Sean McDonough. I don't know if Sean will grab the Good Doctor's place as the official voice of the NHL on U.S. television, but his effort during the Stanley Cup Final should warrant his consideration.

Perhaps best known for football and baseball, McDonough did a superior job balancing the ebb and flow of the dramatic Final between Tampa and Colorado. He's come a long way from the days when I worked with him on the Red Sox pregame show in the mid-1980's! ESPN and ABC should make him an offer he can't refuse!

Of course, ESPN should also put more of an effort into regular season coverage, but for special events like the playoffs and the Winter Classic (should it be aired on ESPN/ABC), Sean is the man.

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BOOK PLUG FROM THE MAVEN: The very versatile George Falkowski, not only is a hockey caricaturist of note but also a critically-acclaimed author. His latest work is "Meet Me At The Bat." It's a book of 32 short stories based on his Yankees ticket stubs from the mid-1970's through the mid-1980's. Whether it was "The Pine Tar Game" or "Reggie Bar Day," George recounts those colorful Yankees teams as well as the loved ones and colorful characters who shared the games with him. He also has the good sense to have Stan Fischler write the Foreward. Available on Amazon!

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ABOUT THE REAL AWARDS:

Our roaming columnist, Rob Del Mundo in Toronto offers his 20-20 hindsight on playoff awards that the NHL does not give.

Best Defenseman: Same as the Smythe-winner, Cale Makar. "It's scary to think he's not at his peak yet. The kid is talented enough to be another forward on Colorado."

Best Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy. "I overlook a forgettable Game Two of the Final. Every netminder has a dud. Vasy got better as the series went on and it took some strange goals to beat him."

Best Coach: Jared Bednar: "Close call. He and Jon Cooper are excellent, In the end Bednar's suffocation of the potent Bolts offense was the difference."

Best Rookie: "Bowen Byram. Not to take anything away from Seth Jarvis of the Canes, but the end result speaks for itself."

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FOLLOW UP ON RYAN KENNEDY'S FREE AGENT LIST

I liked Ryan Kennedy's THN list of potential free agents from the Bolts and Avs so much that I re-read it three times over the weekend. Not to be greedy, I decided that if it was my dough I was spending, I'd have grabbed Nick Paul, but the Bolts re-signed him. Nazem Kadri tempted me but my conclusion is Valeri Nichushkin is my pick, as long as he doesn't break the bank.

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THIS HOCKEY MAN HAS AN 'ACKS' TO GRIND

Long-time New York sportscaster Rich (The Ack) Ackerman is one of my favorite media guys 'cause he knows his stuff and "gets it."

Rich is rich with off-the-top-of-his-head tidbits. I present one and two.

1. THE UNIQUE BOLTS: "There never has been a team more gracious in losing than the Lightning. You also gotta love that they immediately said: 'Who said we're done?'"

2. ADVICE TO RANGERS: "For the Blueshirts to take the next step, they're gonna have to hit on some mid-round picks, such as the Lightning did. For example: Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli. I'm not sayin' they can -- or need to -- get all of those guys who are significant, but at least one!"

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MIKE BUYS INTO THE BUYOUT WINDOW

Welcome to July! This marks the beginning of the NHL's buyout window. It also means that Our Man About Buyouts, Mike Augello, is ready to take his thinking cap off and put on his fedora marked "Salary Cap." Take it away, Michael:

"With the Cap going up only $1 million to $82.5 million, you could see business being quite brisk before the beginning of free agency. Clubs such as Arizona, Ottawa, Buffalo and Anaheim -- they won't be close to the cap limit -- may serve as drop zones for bad contracts or players on long-term injured reserve. But the majority of the clubs have one or two contracts they might be looking to jettison, including players who were acquired via trade or free agency last summer.

"Toronto could buy out the final two years of goalie Petr Mrazek's deal after a subpar debut. Boston may move on from the final year of Nick Foligno and Florida is possibly considering buying out winger Patric Hornqvist."

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HOW IT FEELS TO BE AN EX-CHAMP

The post-Cup weeping is over and both the defeated Champs and their cross-state rivals now must look ahead. Deserved winners as the Avalanche are, they easily could be ousted in the 2023 version of hockey's World Series.

Guess what? Either the Panthers or the Lightning could do it. But before we predict any event so far away, it's time to have a look at the thinking in Tampa Bay.

My Professor of Florida Hockey Studies, the one and only Alan Greenberg, has concluded his brainstorming and offers this:

"Don't feel sorry for the Lightning. Falling short of a three-peat is not a disgrace. Two consecutive Stanley Cups and a Cup Final is an amazing achievement in the Salary Cap era. Attrition and injuries ultimately did them in against the young and speedy Avalanche legs. Eleven straight series wins is an equally formidable accomplishment.

Winning the Stanley Cup is one of the most difficult championships in pro sports. It takes skill, grit, more grit and a lot of luck. The difference between winning and losing can be a fortunate puck bounce or a missed call. Tampa Bay's three one-goal losses in the Final is proof of that. Those games could have gone either way although the 7-0 flameout in Game Two might have been the piercing of the armor.

Special teams lacked their usual proficiency. The power play, minus Brayden Point, was ineffective. Neither Steven Stamkos nor Victor Hedman managed a power-play tally. Both veterans played tired.

Just as they've done after their two Cup wins, the Bolts will have to shed salaries to maintain their key players. They re-signed late-season acquisition Nick Paul and would like to re-up veteran Ondrej Palat. GM Julien Brisebois has done magic in the past but does not have cap room to keep the squad intact. 

His latest move -- dispatching Ryan McDonagh to Nashville and his $6.5 million salary -- is a big, positive step. That leaves his Bolts less than $1 million in the hole for next season with 20 players signed.

BriseBois called it 'not the most pleasant thing I had to do.' But this gives relief for several seasons. And it might make extending Anthony Cirelli, Eric Cernak, Russ Colton and Mikhail Sergachev beyond next season easier. He still does not have room to extend Ondrej Palat now without further cuts.

Brisebois has a knack for plucking low-priced and highly effective talent, such as Corey Perry, Zack Bogosian and Pat Maroon. There's no reason to believe he won't do it again after the buyout deadline.

The Lightning are far from done. If BriseBois can minimize the personnel losses and the team can stay healthy, as they used to say about the Dodgers in good ole Brooklyn, "Wait 'till next year!"

(NEXT ISSUE: Pal Al will tell us all about the bounce-back Panthers.)

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WHY I'M STILL SAD THAT THERE'S NO SEVENTH GAME

There were lots of reasons to root for a Game 7 final between Tampa Bay and Colorado. But you'll never guess my reason. So, here goes:

I discovered that the super-historians at ESPN had prepared for a Game 7 with sensational archival videos. One of them featured the Maple Leafs' Pete Langelle scoring the Cup-winning goal in the 1942 Final.

That was the series when Toronto was down three games to none and came back to win the next four games. No other team ever has done that in a Final series.

Up until now, the only photo of the winning goal showed a scramble of players in front of the net but no sign of goalie Johnny Mowers in view.

Thanks to the ESPN archives, the mystery has been solved.

What happened was that Mowers dove -- don't ask me why -- to his left (the right on camera) to nab the errant puck. He missed, Langelle got it. When the photo was taken, Mowers was hidden below other players and barely visible. In the video, the goalie can be seen so far away from the net, he might as well be sitting in the stands!

(Thank you, ESPN.)

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* Denver Post columnist Mike Kiszla asks a question: "Dare we (Avalanche) dream of a dynasty?"

* The answer is this: "Dream on, my good friend, dream on." No NHL team ever will win three Cups in a row. Ergo: Fuhgeddaboutit!

* My old pal, Rick DiPietro is making a solid name for himself at ESPN. Watch him on the network's free agency show, July 13.

* Department of Didja Know: New Chicago coach Luke Richardson's brother-in-law is Jeff Chychrun.

* Richardson's nephew happens to be Jakob Chychrun, who you wish was on your team.

* One of the Canadian networks posed this question: "Can the Rangers be a serious Cup threat next year?"

* Affirmative! Solid coach Gerard Gallant has a young, vibrant, well-balanced lineup with a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie. Why not?

* I told my son, Simon, that I give Rick Bowness a year behind the Jets bench and then -- enter Barry Trotz.

* He nixed that. "I predict that Barry will stay retired from coaching." (Upon further review, I believe that Simon has something there.)

* Re: Rick Bowness. He said after leaving Dallas that he'd leave the door open to a possible return. The Peg door was open.

* Johnny Gaudreau, where? Calgary? I hope not. The Flames have had their share.

* NY Post's Larry Brooks says Lou should get him for the Isles. Others suggest the Devils or Philly. *(I can't get into Johnny's head.)

* Hockey Logic 101: Rick Bowness get the Peg gig and his son, Ryan is assistant g.m. of the Senators.

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WHO SAID IT? "When a rookie asked me if he could take my daughter out on a date." (Answer Below.)

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THE TORTORELLA EQUATION

Some of my friends on Broad Street and other points north and south of Philadelphia, still are trying to figure why our dearly beloved John Tortorella would pick the Flyers as his newest coaching challenge.

After all, they stunk out the joint last season and have about as much future as Dave (Hammer) Schultz making a comeback.

One answer to the question was supplied by the discoverers at The Athletic who agreed that the Flyers are in a serious down period. Ah but, here's a good reason for Torts to have taken the gig:

"The Flyers are a team in a major market with a long history and a well-known brand. For someone like Tortorella, the challenge of turning such a club around surely is attractive."

Fair enough; but what I like best is the last line: "Oh, and then there's also the monetary factor."

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IS THIS A BUM RAP AGAINST JESSE?

Mark Spector reports that Jesse Puljujarvi is on the block. Fair enough but this particular Oiler comes with an asterisk. As in he's "polarizing."

Now I don't know which polar Jesse is "izing," but it seems to me that he's getting a bum rap. Either that or His Majesty McDavid may simply want him out of there. 'Cause if King Connor really liked the guy all he had to do would be to melt the Polarizing Cap.

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A THANK YOU, JAMES FOR THIS BIT OF HISTORY

Of all the many historians I know, none come up with more superior photos of old-time hockey in Canada than James Laverance.

According to a fascinating missive from James, the first hockey net dates back to 1898 in the town of Beamsville, Ontario.

"William D. Fairbrother, the inventor of the hockey net, lived in Beamsville," writes Laverance. "During the 1880s he played for Beamsville's men's hockey team.

"Prior to his invention they were using Hockey Goal Cages based out of Chicago and brought to Southern Ontario in 1895. Fairbrother, who played as a goaltender, combined metal frames made by William Vosburgh, a blacksmith, and strung up a fisherman's net between the two posts.

"The idea was soon adopted by the Association and has been part of hockey history since. His moment of invention changed the course of the sport."

Thank you, James Laverance!

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SO YOU WANT TO BE A GENERAL MANAGER (PART 4)

New York Extra columnist, author and hockey analyst Matthew Blittner dug deeply for his general manager feature. His interview with Ray Shero, currently Wild assistant GM is revealing. Check out Ray's points:

A GM's Job: "It's about empowering people to do their jobs. Once those people do their jobs, if they did them well, that's when the g.m. gets to shine. We're not in it for the glory, but, to borrow a phrase from former President Harry Truman, 'The buck stops here. That 'here' is the GM."

Procedure: "The GM has to make the final decision. You have to take all the information, whether it's scouting, analytics, injuries, salary cap or budget. Someone's gotta make the decisions; and that's the g.m. Actually what I do -- or did -- was on my business card. Being a manager of people; and I'm dealing with more than 60 of them"

Trades: "I think there's probably only one trade I've made in my career where everybody was a 'no' and I said, 'I know what I wanna do it. I know the market. That was when we traded for Billy Guerin in Pittsburgh. It worked out really well, but there was no certainty in that."

Overruling The Naysayers: "Part of the going through the process was getting the information to make the decision. But at the same time, it was me empowering the people I worked with and I had the final decision-making. Looking at the job overall, I'd say that the trading part is more like ten percent of the job, yet that ten percent gets the most attention."

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CORRECTIONS RE LAST BLUELINES:

1. Adam Fox did not play in the Maccabi hockey tourney as indicated.

2. Mitch Miller of Ottawa is the manager of the Canadian women's hockey team entered in this year's Maccabi Games hockey tourney that begins July 13 in Jerusalem. (I had him as head of the men's team.)

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Bruins goalie Reggie Lemelin, on when he knew it was time to retire.

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