While yesterday’s trade involving Vancouver and Nashville sending defenseman Shane O’Brien to the Predators may not have made waves around the league, Shane O’Brien would not go quietly away from Vancouver just yet. O’Brien, while being quizzed by reporters following the trade got a chance to open up about Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun made sure to get O’Brien’s take on things in Vancouver on his way out the door.
O’Brien, whose contract rights the Canucks retained in July with a qualifying offer of $1.6 million US, said he knew before training camp was a week old that Vigneault wasn’t going to have him on the team.
“I knew I was in trouble,” he said. “I wish I got a little fairer shake in camp. I only played three exhibition games, all on the road, and we flew the day of the game on two of them. And -no disrespect to the players we had in those games -but the three games I played we were nowhere near an NHL-calibre roster. It was the icing on the cake for my career here in Vancouver.
“Last year, I stepped up when we had some injuries and helped our team win the division, and I thought I played with a lot of heart in the playoffs. Every time there was an injury, I’d play well. And when [the injured player] came back, I’d go right back to the bottom of the barrel. It’s tough to play in this league when you know if you have a bad night, you’re going to the press box. After two years, it was still the same thing. No matter what I did, I didn’t seem to stand a chance with that guy.”
If O’Brien tooted his own horn any more here he’d be ready to be part of an orchestra. While O’Brien makes good points about how he played while the Canucks dealt with injury issues last year. O’Brien might need to look at things a little closer though. Let’s face it if you’re getting prime minutes when guys get hurt, when they return from injury you’re not likely going to get the same amount of time on the ice or even on the ice at all. That’s just how the business goes.
That said, giving him a fairer look in camp couldn’t hurt the Canucks. Of course, having a $1.6 million cap hit on a team with major cap issues didn’t help matters at all and with the defensive depth the Canucks have, he was obviously expendable. O’Brien’s ability to take bad penalties on the ice could be proof that he’s not exactly in a team-centric mindset on the ice and these statements certainly don’t point towards being in a team-centric state of mind off it either. Of course, if O’Brien flourishes in Nashville, Vigneault will certainly be hearing about it.
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).