Tom Gilbert

Are you not entertained? Linus Omark’s shootout goal causing foolish controversy

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It’s been talked about all weekend long and generating conversation everywhere this weekend. Linus Omark’s shootout goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning where he added a little spinorama twist to the start of his approach and ultimately scored on Dan Ellis to win made the Lightning very upset and got all of the talking heads to weigh in on what they think about it.

After the game, various Lightning players sounded off about how they thought Omark’s approach lacked class and was ultimately disrespectful. Hockey Night in Canada’s Hot Stove panel touched on it last night and got fascinating takes each from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Calgary Sun writer Eric Francis, and NBC’s own Mike Milbury.

LeBrun preached to see the cutdown of the shootout while Francis and Milbury each said it was great to see a “gimmick within a gimmick” put to good use. Francis spoke about how showing personality is frowned upon, a point that was spoken about beautifully by Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy today. As for taking the Lightning to task over their seemingly whiny opinions, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks pulled absolutely no punches in ripping the team and Dan Ellis in particular for voicing their complaints about Omark’s goal.

Ellis wasn’t alone among the crybaby Lightning in condemning the move, which only goes to prove that Tampa Bay lacks more than quality goaltending, it lacks a measure of class despite the presence of Steve Yzerman in the executive suite and Marty St. Louis in the room.

Our view on this is simple. Omark’s move is the exact sort of thing that the shootout was approved for. The NHL brought the shootout in to put an end to ties because teams were tanking out in games in overtime so as to not lose a point in the standings and they wanted to give the fans something entertaining in which to provide each game a winner and a loser. It all seemed like a good idea at the start until the shootout became a staid, boring skills competition in which it’s rare to see a player try something anything new and different in which to score a goal.

What Omark did, for all intents and purposes, is just get a little flashy with the skating. He didn’t try anything ridiculous directly in front of Dan Ellis in order to fake him out of his breezers and embarrass him. He just started his approach with a little something extra to get a “wow” from the home fans. If Ellis stops Omark on his attempt, Omark gets dressed down for it by head coach Tom Renney for “not taking things seriously” and Omark gets ripped in the press for flubbing his chance to win the game for his team.

Instead, Ellis failed to do his job in stopping the shot and Omark adds another highlight reel shootout goal to his résumé. Yeah, he’s done things like this before, some even more flamboyantly, in Sweden and in the minor leagues. Coming up with something creative is something the Lightning should’ve known about already. Apparently these are the sorts of things you’re supposed to stop doing when you get to the NHL. Ridiculous.

The NHL has been looking for their version of the NBA’s slam dunk for years now. Highly skilled goals on the ice don’t get the highlight replay the way vicious hits and fights do and that’s something the NHL wanted to change. The shootout was the perfect answer for that because, let’s face it, the shootout is the perfect breeding ground for instant highlight material. A one-on-one battle between shooter and goalie that puts the game on the line? It’s ideally made for creativity and gratuitous flamboyance. Instead, some old school line of thought bottles all that up because no one wants to be the guy that ruins the game for their team.

This is where that antiquated line of thought has to end and the shootout is treated like the gimmick that it is. You want to end a team game with a circus, then break out the bearded lady and the fire eaters already and let Linus Omark do all the spinoramas he wants to do. The free points given away by reaching overtime is candy enough for the teams to digest, so why not give the fans a show for all the money they plunk down on tickets, cable packages, jerseys, and other merchandise. Gimmicks beget gimmicks and Omark’s shootout goal was like a breath of fresh air in a part of the game that desperately needed it.

If the NHL wants to rope in the regular shmoe to be a fan, they’ll want more guys like Linus Omark doing insane things in the shootout, not less of them. They’ll also want to hear less complaining from other players who think that such creativity is an insult to them and the game. The only thing insulting to hockey is to hear hockey players getting upset about another player doing his job.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19. Byfuglien’s deal also comes after some questioned how badly he wanted to stay in Winnipeg — at All-Star weekend, he raised eyebrows by responding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you,” when asked about his playing future.

The five-year term is also down from Byfuglien’s reported original ask, which was $55 million over eight years.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.

Slumping Wild want ‘a little home cooking’ from ‘restless’ fan base

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Minnesota Wild are in a funk right now.

They’re 3-10-3 in their last 16 games, three points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and just put key blueliner Jonas Brodin on IR with a broken foot.

So, clearly, the team and head coach Mike Yeo are hoping for better times ahead, and Yeo hopes they begin tonight when the Wild kick off a three-game homestand with a date against Central Division rivals Dallas.

It’s interesting that Yeo’s addressing the Xcel faithful, while also acknowledging fans are irked by the team’s recent play. The timing of these remarks comes with the Wild boasting a good record at home (14-8-3) but having really struggled on the road — Minnesota has just nine away wins this year, the fewest among all Central teams.

Of course, there could be other reasons Yeo’s trying to get fans pumped for the upcoming home swing.

The next three games at Xcel are of the measuring stick variety. Dallas currently sits third overall in the NHL and boasts the league’s highest scoring offense (the Stars have also beat the Wild three out of four times this season already).

After the Dallas game, there’s another big one — the NHL’s top team, Washington, comes to town on Thursday.

After the Caps game, Boston — 7-2-1 in its last 10 — takes on the Wild in a Saturday matinee.

Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.

That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.

At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.

” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”

Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.

“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”

Full video of the interview can be found here.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle