Ron Wilson wishes Leafs went younger, sooner

Two months ago I was a bit bullish on Brian Burke. I wasn’t too
enthused with his selections for the USA hockey team for the Olympics,
and his team wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire up in Toronto. He
had been hailed as the savior for the Leafs and I, along with others,
weren’t exactly patient with him realizing his plan. Well, he was right about Team USA and at the end of the season his Leafs looked to be turning the corner.

Burke’s
coach, Ron Wilson, wasn’t too happy with their decisions either, and
wishes they had done differently as well:

“If I could
do anything over again, I would have gone with all the young
guys I thought had made our team at training camp (and) had outplayed a
lot of veterans,” Wilson said Monday.

After the
trade deadline, when the Leafs unloaded most of their team unto the
Calgary Flames, most wandered just how successful a glorified AHL team
could be turn. Turns out, they became one of the hottest teams in the
NHL through March and April.

Wilson cites his lack of
confidence in Vesa Toskala and the team’s reliance on pricey veterans as
a reason for the team’s early failures. It was only after the young
players stepped up, gained confidence and had a solid goaltender behind
them that the team started to gel.

Of course, it was too late at
that point.

Unfortunately, the Leafs gave up their first and
second rounders this year in exchange for Phil Kessel (and next year’s
first), so having some instant help for this season’s foibles isn’t
possible. But Nazem Kadri is on his way, and the Leafs should embrace a
younger approach to rebuilding than trying to win now and rebuild all at
the same time.

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    Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

    NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

    Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

    There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

    A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

    Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

    Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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    After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

    Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

    In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

    The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

    Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

    Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

    The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

     

    Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

    SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

    Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

    Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

    Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

    Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

    That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

    Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

    Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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    Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

    But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

    And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

    Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

    Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’