New York Islanders Media Day

Islanders embarrassing off the ice too: Team pulls journalist Chris Botta’s press credentials

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By now you’ve read about it or heard about it on the radio, but the paranoia over having bad things said about the team on Long Island has reached a new high, leading to team pulling the media credentials of one time team PR man Chris Botta. Botta, who worked for the Islanders for 20 years, runs the fantastic Isles site Islanders Point Blank. Of late, Botta’s had his hands full in dealing with the woeful, terrible Islanders, losers of 11 straight games and recent firers of coach Scott Gordon.

Recently, Botta has been critical of the direction the team has taken in firing Gordon and raising questions about what’s going on with goaltender Rick DiPietro, who’s become invisible in favor of 40 year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson. For what Botta’s done on Long Island to provide fans with a consistent and level-headed approach to covering a team he knows intimately you’d think that the Islanders would be happy that anyone giving them that amount of attention would be a good thing given how bad the team has been for the last few years.

Instead, the team treats those who dare question anything that goes on in Long Island like traitors to the throne and cast them aside. Just think of what happened to former color commentator Billy Jaffe who was not brought back to TV this year in favor of Islanders legend Butch Goring. Sounds like the Islanders front office is doing their damnedest to control the message coming out of the home office, doesn’t it? It sure comes off looking that way.

What’s most stunning about this development is that the Islanders come off as looking so thin skinned they can’t take constructive criticism. Questioning Botta’s work ethic here is foolish and wondering if he cares about the Islanders would be even dumber. The guy has been with this team through some of the thinnest years in its existence, you’d have to think he cares about the team more than most people. Silencing him because he dares question the direction the team is going in is insanity.

After all, if the Islanders do this, what’s to keep other teams from denying anyone they don’t like hearing from and turning the press box into a pack full of “yes” men and women who won’t dare question anything at all? Keeping the message clear for what you want to be heard is up to team public relations, it’s not up to the media to “play nice” with the organization.

Instead, the Islanders have instantly put the spotlight on themselves as the bad guys and it’s hard to not think they’re just really paranoid when it comes to doing just about anything. Sure the team is sensitive to having their moves questioned, but that will happen when you’ve been as bad of a team as the Isles have been since Charles Wang bought the team. Now they’re casting aside a guy who used to be one of their own, a guy that used to handle meltdowns like this himself and they’ve got the Professional Hockey Writers Association challenging their actions as well. If the Islanders are going to answer to anyone over this it’ll be the NHL but it doesn’t seem likely that they’d step on the Isles toes to tell them how to do things.

It’s tough to say anything nice here about the Islanders because, let’s face it, they’re cutting off a guy who does the same sort of thing we do here and if it was us in Botta’s shoes I doubt we’d be handling things as graceful and gentlemanly as he has. We’d be shouting from the top of the mountain about injustice and shouting it to anyone who would listen. There’s only one right move the Islanders can make here, but cutting off their nose to spite their face has been so in vogue with the Islanders lately, it’s tough to see them making a good decision to keep Botta in the fold after it’s all said and done.

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.