Before I came to Pro Hockey Talk, I covered the Dallas Stars on a
daily basis for Defending Big D. When the Stars traded for Kari
Lehtonen, I sat down to watch nearly every game Lehtonen played in last
spring, before his back injury knocked him out of the NHL for nearly a
year. It was obvious that it was going to take some time for him to get
back to full form and when he did, there’s a chance he could be an elite
goaltender. All of the tools are there; he just needs the work ethic
and desire to go along with his talent.
Last night against the San Jose Sharks, Lehtonen proved that he still
has the ability to be a great goaltender. Stopping 45-of-47 shots, most
of them of the outstanding and incredible variety, he gave his team the
opportunity to get off to better starts than the Stars have seen in the
past few weeks.
Has he answered the Stars’ goaltending prayers
with just one game? Doubtful. But he’s certainly given Joe Nieuwendyk a
much better feeling than I’m sure he had after Lehtonen’s shaky
performance against Pittsburgh. Says Lehtonen (per
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News) –
how his back feels)
“It’s the best it’s been. I don’t know if
it’s 100-percent. I think
it needs a few more games, but it was a huge step in the right
direction, and it was nice to see that I’m able to play at this level
(On knowing he was going to get the start)
whole day is totally different when you know you’re going to
play. I think the first game in Pittsburgh I was a little bit too excited, and it ended up going pretty
badly. I was able to be more calm in net, and that really works for me
best. I think I gave some rebounds that I wasn’t happy about, but it was
great to see our guys battling for those and [San Jose] didn’t have a
lot of second chances.”
The Stars are back in the
playoff hunt — sort of — after their shocking 8-2 win over San Jose.
Should they continue to ride Lehtonen, especially after such a
“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’
“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”
The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.
It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.
Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.
All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.
‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO
One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.
John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.
More, from the League:
Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.
“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.
“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”
Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.
During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.
Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.
Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.
The Winter Classic Alumni Game is back this year, scheduled for New Year’s Eve at Gillette Stadium between former members of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
Today, the NHL announced the rosters and coaching staffs.
Famous ex-Habs that will take to the outdoor ice include Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, and Mats Naslund. Behind the bench will be Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Demers and Guy Lafleur, among others.
The home side will counter with Bruins legends Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and “Nifty” Rick Middleton, while Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and Derek Sanderson will be among the coaches. (Quite a trio of personalities right there.)