Ales Kotalik clears waivers, sent to AHL’s Abbotsford Heat; Can Jay Feaster clean up Calgary’s mess?

Before we can truly judge the work of new Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster, we must first give him some time to flush out the sometimes-awful moves made by his predecessor, Darryl Sutter.

Much like his brother Brent, Darryl was a solid-to-great coach. Unfortunately it appeared that he was promoted to the level of his incompetence when he became the Flames’ GM, though.

One of his worst moves involved a trade with often-lampooned New York Rangers GM Glen Sather: Sutter sent Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to New York for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins last February.

The move was middling at best from a pure hockey standpoint, but from a salary cap standpoint, it was befuddling. Jokinen’s $5.25 million cap hit was set to expire while Kotalik’s $3 million per year mistake will linger through the 2011-12 season. Worst yet, the team added Jokinen back into the fold again this off-season.

Feaster will enjoy at least a slight bit of breathing room* now that Kotalik cleared waivers to the surprise of few/no one. It won’t be easy for the former Lightning GM, though, as Sutter left behind a team full of aging players with overpriced and lengthy deals. There are some expiring contracts, but they’re mostly of the cheap and overachieving variety as Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and others are making far less than Kotalik.

While the Flames have shown some life lately, the fact of the matter is that Feaster needs to acknowledge the team’s mediocre ceiling. The blueprint of depending heavily on Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff isn’t working, especially considering the lack of value up and down the roster. It will hurt to see Iginla and other pricey veterans go, but how much longer will the team settle for their “seventh or eight seed at best” pattern?

Most top teams enjoy a successful mixture of value and youth; the Flames have very little of either. Feaster has a chance to begin such a transformation over the next month. We’ll have to wait and see which direction he takes.

* – Of course, Flames ownership will still have to pay Kotalik. Unless he bails them out by failing to report to the AHL, of course.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too.¬†They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.