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Ducks GM Bob Murray puts blame for team’s lousy start on players, not coach Randy Carlyle

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray can often be outspoken with the media. It’s great for generating headlines and juicy stories considering the fact that general managers usually speak as if they’re reading off of cliche-laden cue cards, but you wonder if the team might benefit from him staying out of the papers.

Regardless, Murray provided some rather interesting comments to Eric Stephens of the OC Register. In a nutshell, the occasionally fiery front office man exonerated Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle while throwing the roster he constructed under the bus.

Of course, this is usually the time when I point how the dreaded “vote of confidence” is usually a kiss of death for head coaches, but let’s at least give the Ducks GM the benefit of the doubt and take a look at his revealing statements.

“I’ve got total faith in Randy,” Murray said. “He’s won a Stanley Cup. That’s not an issue here. It’s up to the players. Enough excuses. Talking about coaches and things gives them an excuse when they have no excuses in my eye.”

In fact, Murray went as far as to say that the team might make a major change via a trade or other transaction.

Murray was also quite clear that he isn’t averse to making a major personnel shake-up if the Ducks don’t start winning soon as he pointed to an upcoming stretch where they play three straight at home and five of the next six at Honda Center.

In other words, the thought breaking off one part of the young core of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan in order to bring in a major piece and shake a team out of its slumber may be entertained.

“Fair question,” he said. “Eventually, that’s going to have to be in front of this group if they don’t get their act together. It’s going to be right in front of them. If they don’t know that then, well, I feel sorry for them.”

Murray might be talking tough about getting rid of Getzlaf, Perry or Ryan but here’s the bottom line: the trio might be flawed in some areas, but they are the strength of this team along with goalie Jonas Hiller.

The Ducks simply need to surround them with quality role players, a depth scorer or two and (the hardest part) a defense that can help clean up their messes (especially on the penalty kill). Anaheim allows a league-high 38.8 shots per game, a startling number that is three shots worse than the second worst team in the NHL (Atlanta at 35.6). You cannot blame effort or preparedness alone for those kind of numbers; it’s clear that the Ducks are just a mess in their own zone.

That’s the kind of thing that falls to the coach and general manager most of all, not subjective concepts such as effort or elbow grease. Perhaps you could question the decision to make Getzlaf their captain – yes, he’s their best player, but he’s not always the kind of guy that sets a good example with his penchant take bad penalties and turn the puck over – but that also is as much about front office decision as it is about the character of guys on the roster.

The Ducks lost three of their lost four games and their 4-7-1 record parks them deep in the Western Conference cellar. It’s early in the season, but they need to make good on their four game homestand. The problem is that each of those four contests are tough; they already suffered a 5-2 loss to San Jose and host resurgent Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and pesky old Nashville. Losing all four of those games is not outside the realm of possibility.

If they fall apart during that stretch, the Quest to Find Who is Truly to Blame will progress from “dreaded vote of confidence” to “heads begin to roll.” I can’t help but guess that the team’s talented young trio enjoys better job security than their addled head coach as well as the general manager who wasn’t the boss until the team started missing the playoffs.

Either way, it could get ugly in Anaheim before things get better.

Marchand might be ‘obnoxious,’ but he helped convince Backes to sign in Boston

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Brad Marchand is one of those players that you hate to play against, but you love him if he’s on your team. That much is fairly obvious.

But last month, Marchand (as well as teammate Patrice Bergeron) proved to be effective recruiters for at least one free agent. David Backes admitted that the phone calls he received from the two veterans definitely helped him settle on the idea of joining the Bruins.

“Talking to [Marchand] a little bit during the interview process before July 1, I hung up the phone and kind of had to take a deep breath and say, ‘Is that the little disturber, pain-in-the-butt? He’s actually a pretty good guy,” joked Backes, per the Bruins’ website.

In an exclusive interview with CSN’s Joe Haggerty, Backes reiterated that both Bergeron and Marchand are a “pain-in-the-butt” to play against, but he quickly added (with a smirk) that Marchand is more ‘obnoxious’ (click the video at the top of the page for the full interview).

So what exactly did Marchand and Bergeron say to Backes during the phone calls?

“Those guys are the best teammates when you get them on your team,” Backes said of Marchand and Bergeron. “When they talk about sharing critical ice, and hard ice, and hard minutes with a couple of lines, to me that’s what you need in this league.”

Backes has always been known for his physical style of play, but at 32-years-old he may not be able to do all the dirty work for much longer. It sounds like both Marchand and Bergeron convinced Backes that the heavy lifting will be a team-effort, as opposed to a one-man or one-line thing.

Of course, the five-year, $30 million contract the Bruins gave Backes was also an effective recruiting tool.

Flames say there’s still ‘no real update’ on contract talks with RFA forwards Monahan, Gaudreau

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 7: Johnny Gaudreau #13 (L) of the Calgary Flames confers with his teammate Sean Monahan #23 during a break in play against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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NHL training camps open in September and although most teams have done the bulk of their off-season tweaking, there’s still at least one team that has some serious work to do.

The Calgary Flames are still working on signing forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to contract extensions. Both players are currently restricted free agents.

“No real update there,” said general manager Brad Treliving, per the Calgary Herald.  “We’ll continue to work away at it.”

The Flames have just under $15 million in cap space remaining, according to General Fanager. There’s a good chance both RFA forwards will take a deep bite into those remaining dollars.

Monahan already said he’d be willing to take less money to get a deal done, but that doesn’t mean he’ll come cheap. The 21-year-old scored 58 goals and 125 points in 162 games over the last two seasons.

As for Gaudreau, he’ll cost a pretty penny as well. The 22-year-old is coming off a season in which he scored 30 goals and 78 points in 79 games.

Here’s an excerpt from the Herald regarding these two players:

With 11 weeks until the regular season begins, here is what we know:

• Both players are restricted free agents and received qualifying offers from the Flames earlier this month. Talks are ongoing.

• Both are expected to receive whopping raises.

• Both are seeking long-term contracts, expressing that they’d like to play together for the foreseeable future.

• Both could be getting paid in the neighbourhood of between $6-million and $7.5-million for between six and eight years (if you use the com parables of Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Forsberg, Seth Jones, Aleksander Barkov, and Nathan MacKinnon).

Thankfully for Calgary, they’ve done a decent job of managing their roster and the cap. Gaudreau and Monahan are the only two players on the roster that still need new contracts. The rest of the team is locked up for at least one more year.

Edmonton will have a captain by opening night, says McLellan

Todd McLellan
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After going without a captain last season, the Oilers will have someone wearing the “C” in 2016-17.

“Will we have a captain? Yeah, we will,” head coach Todd McLellan said on Wednesday, per the Oilers’ website. “We will have a captain.”

The last player to serve as captain in Edmonton was Andrew Ference, who inherited the position from Shawn Horcoff in ’13 and held it for two seasons.

Last year, the veteran blueliner appeared in just six games, and underwent season-ending hip surgery. He was in no position to serve in the club’s leadership group and, ergo, the Oilers opted to play without a captain.

So… who will be next to wear the “C?”

Most are thinking about Connor McDavid. Though he’s not publicly campaigning for the role, the 19-year-old did say it would “be one of the greatest honors. ” Though he missed significant time to injury last year, McDavid still enthralled Oilers fans with a rookie campaign that saw him rack up 48 points in 45 games, finishing as a Calder Trophy finalist.

Of course, there will be others in the mix.

Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Matt Hendricks have all served as alternates in Edmonton, and Hendricks captained the U.S. at this year’s world championships. There’s definitely some leadership to choose from, and it’s worth noting Eberle is one of the most vested veterans in Edmonton, having appeared in 425 games over the last six seasons.

Oilers’ Yakimov going back to KHL — this time, on loan

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Bogdan Yakimov #39 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Bogdan Yakimov is on his way back to Russia.

On Wednesday, the Oilers announced they’ve loaned Yakimov to KHL club Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, the same team he joined after leaving AHL Bakersfield last season.

The 83rd overall pick in 2013, Yakimov has appeared in one game for the Oilers since getting drafted. He’s spent almost all of his time in North America in the AHL, and didn’t impress the club last year when he bolted the farm team to return to his native land.

“He made a career decision to return to Russia and I’m not sure how he played or how many games he played,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said at the time, per the Edmonton Sun (McLellan was then informed Yakimov was away for 11 games).

“Well, that’s 11 games he didn’t spend with us. During his time away, there were a number of players recalled. I would have preferred to see him in an Oilers uniform and he was real close. Now he has to reset his Oiler clock and get playing again.”

All told, Yakimov played in 36 games with the Condors last season, scoring five goals and 15 points.

At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Yakimov has impressive size and is still only 21 years old, so he’s got some value. But it remains to be seen whether he wants to try and push for an NHL career, or opt to stay in the KHL.