The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t had a captain since Mats Sundin departed the team after the 2007-08 season, but if TSN reports are accurate, that will change on Monday. The Leafs are expected to hand the ‘C’ over to hard-hitting (and shooting) defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
The former Calgary Flames product has had a rocky few years. After taking the league by storm with a couple great seasons that mixed brutal checks and powerplay mastery, his offensive numbers began to decline while his defensive prowess came into question. Blame it on him becoming the cover star of the video game “NHL ’09” or perhaps call it “The Curse of Cuthbert,” but for whatever reason Phaneuf fell apart for a while.
Brian Burke made a big trade for Phaneuf during last season and it seemed like the defenseman started to eke out an improved existence in Toronto. That’s not to say he lit the world on fire, but the wayward franchise seems impressed with him right now.
If nothing else, the Leafs and Phaneuf will sink or swim with each other. The team made a big investment when they took on his contract, and while they have some modest cap space, my guess is that they’ll live and die by the splashy trades Burke made for Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and even J.S. Giguere.
Will Phaneuf lead the Leafs to glory or failure? We’ll just have to wait and see.
The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.
Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.
The Predators announced that Fiala is alert and stable in an update.
It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his bigger-picture health.
Members of the Blues and Predators both escorted Fiala off the ice during a stunning moment for all involved.
When you put together a list of “clutch” players, do you put Colin Wilson on it?
Before you laugh that question off – which, really, that’s kind of mean – consider how productive the under-the-radar Nashville Predators forward is during the postseason.
In 33 career playoff games, Wilson had 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points. He’s now at 12 goals and 21 points in 34 games after the first period of Game 1, and there is time to add to those totals.
That’s already pretty solid, but consider his regular season: 12 goals and 35 points in 70 games. He’s only scored 20 goals once in his career.
Yet … for whatever reason, when the games get bigger, the 27-year-old has developed a knack for scoring at a much higher clip. In the case of Game 1 against the Blues – his first game of this postseason thanks to injuries – he deflected P.K. Subban‘s booming shot for the 1-0 goal. Watch it above.
And wonder: is it hasty to consider him clutch?
Jeremy Roenick is so impressed by Erik Karlsson, he almost likes him as much as Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion does.
As a reminder, Dorion … didn’t exactly go the humble route in his praise of the all-world defenseman. When speaking of Karlsson’s play through ridiculous injuries, he provided quite the quote, as the Ottawa Citizen reports.
“Was I surprised? A bit,” Dorion said. “What do you say? I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but, you believe in whatever you believe in, and they always say God rested on the seventh day, I think on the eighth day he created Erik Karlsson.”
Surely Karlsson’s critics will love this.
Anyway, Roenick and Keith Jones had some fun with such comments, as you can see in the video above.
For more genius Swedish fun, enjoy the Henrik Lundqvist video above. That’s a bonus, folks.
The NHL Broadcasters’ Association named the three finalists for the 2017 Jack Adams Award on Wednesday: Mike Babcock, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan.
The Jack Adams is given to the head coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success.”
It might tickle some to realize that Babcock and McLellan once coached together on the Detroit Red Wings’ staff. All three coaches share the distinction of bringing teams to the playoffs who failed to make the postseason in (at least) the previous season.
The Maple Leafs missed from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Columbus failed in its previous two seasons. And, of course, the Oilers hadn’t seen the playoffs since falling in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
One could make an argument for each coach in a number of ways.
Babcock molded a Maple Leafs team topped by young players, showing a refreshing willingness to take the good with the bad (especially for a guy who’s known for his scowl). McLellan broke that Oilers slump, gradually finding a lineup that could be “more than just Connor McDavid.” The Blue Jackets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL to the point that they’d get Torts fired; instead, they boasted a power play that baffled opponents for much of the season and Tortorella enacted some (gasp) progressive ideas to help Columbus compete.
Now, you could critique all three in different ways – barely making the playoffs, riding hot goaltending, deploying Connor McDavid – but that’s part of the fun, right? There are certainly some cases to be made for snubs (Bruce Boudreau, perhaps even Joel Quenneville?), yet this trio of finalists is strong nonetheless.
The NHL has a more traditional rundown of each coach’s credentials, by the way.