Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke isn't a fan of Kovalchuk-like contracts

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brianburke1.jpgMaple Leafs general manager isn’t exactly a guy that pulls his punches when discussing a topic. He’ll shoot you a glare, give you his opinion and if he doesn’t like your question he’ll let you know it too. When it comes down to business he’s deadly serious, so when Michael Traikos of Canada’s National Post asked Burke about his thoughts on Ilya Kovalchuk’s debated contract with the Devils, you better believe he’s got a few things to say about that.

“No one is going to be able to prove circumvention until one of these guys retires,” the Leafs GM said. “And by then we’ll be in a new CBA. But I’m comfortable that a number of these players are, in fact, going to walk.

“I don’t believe these players are going to play in their mid-40s. And I don’t believe they’re going to play for what they’re making in those final years. So it defies logic. It may not defy the CBA. But it defies logic to think that players are going to serve the term of all these contract s . So that’s why we don’t do them. And a number of teams don’t do them. If the league thinks that this is one that they need to look into, then we support that.”

I’m sure that Burke’s comments will invite questions from peanut galleries across the NHL world saying, “Well no wonder the Leafs don’t win anything,” but I suppose we’ll have to wait a few years to find out if he is right about players not playing out their contracts into their 40s. As for the tactic of doing these deals themselves, let’s just say that Brian Burke might not be getting a Christmas card from Lou Lamoriello, Dale Tallon, Paul Holmgren or Ken Holland any time soon.

“Do you admire a criminal lawyer who gets a murderer off on a technicality?” Burke asked yesterday. “So why would there be admiration or appreciation for finding a loophole that somehow defeats the purpose of a collective bargaining agreement that’s designed to put teams on the same footing?”

To put things in perspective here, since this metaphor provided by Burke is really out of left field, I’m assuming this makes the players the murderers and the GMs the Johnnie Cochran’s of the collective bargaining agreement. Got it.

That said, playing by the honor system when there’s nothing technically illegal about molding the rules to work for you sounds like a recipe to get screwed. Money isn’t an object for the Maple Leafs as they’re swimming in cash, so why not make that money work for you instead of against you? It seems a bit baffling.

Burke is to be admired for having his business principles and sticking to them and trying to build a winning team the “right” way is commendable, but in this brand of the NHL it’s like what noted philosopher and former wrestling superstar governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura said, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.” Like it or not, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal