In a lot of ways, the 2015-16 season represented more of the same for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The results were nearly identical to 2014-15, right down to finishing in the basement of the East (69 points last season, 68 the one the year before).
Indeed, Brendan Shanahan is probably correct in saying that the Maple Leafs earned the No. 1 pick “the hard way,” or at least “earned” the higher draft lottery odds that helped them land Auston Matthews.
The big question, really, is how long will fans be patient with the Maple Leafs taking baby steps in the right direction?
Naturally, the team tried to make more a leap forward in seeking Steven Stamkos and, to a less dramatic extent, Jimmy Vesey.
They fell short in those regards, but that doesn’t mean that management merely idled while hoping for improvements from in-house development.
Beyond those big moves in net, the Maple Leafs made some minor adjustments. They handed surprising money and term to Matt Martin while taking short-term fliers on veterans Milan Michalek and Roman Polak.
On paper, this team still looks quite a few steps away from being a playoff contender, but perhaps we’ll start to see things come together?
A lot of that rides on the work of Matthews, Morgan Rielly and other young players (William Nylander, Mitch Marner) who may or may not make a lasting impact on the regular season roster.
Will the rebuilding plan start to pay dividends? PHT explores the iconic franchise on Tuesday.
The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly handed the 34-year-old a PTO, according to former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward.
It’s something the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander also mentioned on Monday.
With Bryan Bickell added to the mix during this off-season, the Hurricanes seem interesting in adding some beef. It’s unclear if Torres is really in the sort of condition to make a mark, but Carolina’s going to at least take a look at him.
Beware, pre-season opponents and training camp teammates.
The Washington Capitals announced that Todd Reirden (pictured) was promoted from assistant to associate coach on Monday.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, most directly, the team shared word that he’ll run Capitals training camp while Barry Trotz works with Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Giving Reirden a promotion makes sense, as he’s been linked to some head coaching searches. The Washington Post compiled some of his opportunities:
In the past two years, Reirden has been a serious candidate for two NHL head-coaching gigs. According to the Calgary Sun, Reirden was a finalist to coach the Flames before they settled on Glen Gulutzan, and he was considered for the New Jersey Devils’ vacancy last summer, too. Lane Lambert, another Capitals assistant, was a finalist for the Colorado Avalanche head-coaching job earlier this month, according to the Denver Post.
The Capitals have a pretty well-regarded coaching group, as many credit goaltending coach Mitch Korn with some of Braden Holtby‘s improvement since Trotz took over.
Maybe we’ll see Reirden and Lambert get head coaching gigs at some point, but for now, Trotz’s “coaching tree” stays intact.
Going deep enough into the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup often comes with the cost of stacking up injuries, and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid the price.
“All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction,” GM Jim Rutherford said. “Until they all get here, we won’t know 100 percent where they’re at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down a significant list of players who likely accrued bumps and bruises that may carry over:
Defenseman Trevor Daley, for instance, suffered a broken ankle on May 20. Kris Letang (foot), Nick Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), among others, dealt with physical problems of varying severity at times.
If recent history is any indication, Kessel will probably fight hard not to miss time.
For all the weird criticisms he receives, he’s been remarkably durable, playing in every game during the past six seasons.
That’s impressive stuff, but the Penguins would be wise to keep an eye on the big picture. If it comes down to making Kessel and others swallow a little pride to limit the odds of aggravating injuries, they need to do it.
Even if it means a bumpy start to their title defense.