michaelyormark

Florida Panthers president Michael Yormark steps in it knee-deep lashing out at beat writer George Richards

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Yesterday the Florida Panthers had themselves a grand sell-off at the trade deadline. They swung deals with every team in their division aside from in-state rival Tampa Bay and also sent Chris Higgins to Vancouver. We actually liked what Florida did by blowing up their team but retaining their biggest pieces and made them one of our deadline day winners.

As will happen during the course of the season, and especially on deadline day, the beat writers will get their patience tested. George Richards of The Miami Herald and the outstanding Panthers blog On Frozen Pond was taking to Twitter throughout the afternoon and giving his thoughts on what he referred to as the #FlaPanthersSalaryDump and #FlaPanthersSalaryPurge. It was an amusing take to have on a day where the home team he’s covering in the midst of helping out everyone else get ready to make a run at or in the playoffs while the Panthers check out of the race for good.

One guy who wasn’t too thrilled with Richards’ take on things was Panthers team president Michael Yormark. Yormark took to his own Twitter account and gave his thoughts on Richards’ take on the day’s proceedings. As you might expect, he wasn’t exactly thrilled.

Before your imagination gets out of hand, the ADT Club is the club seating part of the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida – the home of the Panthers. Think of it as the VIP section of the arena where the seats are cozier, the food is better, and you’re probably there wearing a suit and hanging out with your corporate friends.

The insult, of course, comes across as spiteful and foolish since the Panthers aren’t exactly a team that draws a lot of attention in the first place (particularly on television) and ripping one of your two beat reporters comes across as incredibly petty. Let’s face it, when you’re in south Florida, hockey is just about the last sport that comes to mind and with LeBron James and the Heat getting all the attention in town these days, picking a public argument is about as pathetic as it gets.

Richards has taken the high road in the matter and rather than continuing the public snipe-fest he’s diffusing the situation rather nicely and says that they’ve “done this dance before, just not on Twitter.” Still, Panthers fans just feel deflated by the whole thing as Donny Rivette of Litter Box Cats sums up nicely about the whole dust up.

Exactly what is being implied here by the president and chief operating officer of a National Hockey League franchise? A club with only two regular beat writers (there’s that annoying no-playoffs-in-ten-years thing!). A team which carries a diminished yet ferociously-dedicated fanbase into yet another “rebuild”, albeit one we can actually sign our names to with confidence. One step forward, two big leaps back.

Richards has forever gone the extra mile for Panthers fans in what’s been a limited market, providing video clips and real-time mailbags and a dozen other selfless offerings which a lesser journalist would never expend energy on.

If this is a personal rift between the two then it should be handled as such; not on a social media network. Helluva price to pay for whichever party winds up in the “wrong”, at least publicly.

Publicly biting the hand that feeds, and that’s just what Yormark has done here, never looks good and when you’re a guy in a position of power you have to be a bit more PR-savvy than this. After all, if you’re not liking what the local beat guy is saying it’s never been beyond a team executive before to take them aside and have a lively discussion.

Chances are that Richards and Yormark have been down that road before and perhaps Yormark has had enough of the snark. Doing that in the court of public opinion has it’s pitfalls though and when you’re the president of a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in over ten years in a market that’s hurting for fans. Verbally smacking around the guy responsible for giving your team fantastic coverage, perhaps more than it even deserves, is insulting though.

After all, if you don’t want to be the butt of jokes or the source of extreme sarcasm you need to do something to change that. Yesterday’s moves by the Panthers were the first, but painful, step in that process and if you can’t have fun with the whole thing it just gets depressing. Instead of getting your dander up about it, letting it fly and sticking to the message at hand that things are changing and they’ll get better under Dale Tallon is all the fans need to know. We know Michael Yormark is a smart guy, we’re just hoping next time he’s mad about the coverage he just takes it to e-mail instead.

Brian Elliott’s been steady for up-and-down Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) lunges to make a save against the Nashville Predators during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Sanford Myers)
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ST. LOUIS (AP) Brian Elliott is on a roll. Too bad the St. Louis Blues have little to show for it.

During a prolonged scoring slump, the veteran goalie’s play has bordered on spectacular. He has seized the opportunity since Jake Allen was sidelined by a knee injury in early January.

The 30-year-old Elliott has allowed one or fewer goals in regulation and overtime in five of his last seven starts, a run that has put him among the NHL’s best with a 2.07 goals-against average and .932 save percentage on the season.

“Fantastic,” captain David Backes said after Elliott’s latest standout effort in a 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. “You can’t complain about our goaltending, that’s for dang sure.”

“Our goalie was our best player again. Played great,” coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The rest of the team is in the doldrums, and the bottom line is the Blues have lost four of six. The Blues have scored no more than one goal in five of their last six.

Hitchcock said the offense didn’t work nearly hard enough to sustain chances against the Jets, then put his players through a rigorous workout the next day to drive home the point. The defense is adjusting to expanded roles without Alex Pietrangelo, who is among the league leaders in minutes played but will be sidelined at least three weeks with a right knee injury.

Elliott describes Pietrangelo as the type of player who “stick handles in a phone booth” to get the puck out of the zone.

“Umm, we have some work to do,” Hitchcock said. “It’s pretty obvious.”

Elliott has thrived with a heavy work load and is set to make his 13th consecutive start on Friday at Florida. Last year, Elliott was an All-Star.

“It’s fun, it’s awesome,” Elliott said. “It’s why you play, to play the game and not to watch.”

Before relieving Allen on Jan. 8 in the second period at Anaheim, Elliott had played just three games in the previous 14. There was no question who was No. 1.

Whenever Allen returns, it’s liable to be more of a job share.

“You try not to think about the past and the future, you just focus on the present,” Elliott said. “I don’t really look at the stats, I just keep trying to be the rock back there for the guys.”

The last week or so, the 25-year-old Allen has been jumping into the latter stages of practices. Hitchcock said there’ll be something to talk about when he’s a full participant.

The team is hoping injecting Jaden Schwartz will help revive the offense. The speedy forward was third on the team with 63 points last season but has played just seven games this season and is coming off a 49-game layoff from a broken left ankle heading into Friday’s game.

“It doesn’t matter how many goals we score, you want to keep as many as you can out of your own net,” Allen said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a good amount of goals the last few games but we’re still coming out with some points.”

Despite the scoring drought, the Blues have kept themselves in the vanguard, picking up at least a point in 12 of the last 15 games. Nine of them have been decided by a single goal.

“Good teams get through tough situations,” Elliott said. “When things start clicking we’re going to be a dangerous team.”

Jackets sign d-man Murray to two-year, $5.65 million extension

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Columbus has agreed to terms with young blueliner Ryan Murray on a two-year, $5.65 million extension, the club announced on Thursday.

“Ryan Murray is a talented, smart player who has been a very steady performer on our blue line and we are extremely happy to have this deal completed,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “Ryan has earned more ice time, showed steady improvement and contributed in all situations for us throughout the season.

“We look forward to his continued growth and development with our club.”

Murray, 22, was the second overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, taken one spot behind Nail Yakupov. While the first few years of his career were a disappointment — Murray missed a boatload of time to various injuries — his ’15-16 campaign has been a step in the right direction.

Murray has four goals and and 17 points in 55 games this season, sitting third on the team in TOI per game (22:27).

Of those numbers, the 55 games played is perhaps the most important, as it makes Murray one of three Blue Jackets – Boone Jenner and Gregory Campbell are the others – to have played in every game this season.

Considering Murray’s previous career-high for games played in a season is 66, he’s well on his way to breaking that mark.

Originally slated to become a restricted free agent on July 1, Murray is now locked in with Columbus (at $2.825M annually) through 2018. Of all the club’s blueliners, only he, Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson are signed for that long.

NHL confirms ’17 Draft for Chicago, an ‘ideal setting’

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 18:  Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz of the Chicago Blackhawks prepares to speak to the crowd during the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championship Rally at Soldier Field on June 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Well, it’s official — the NHL Entry Draft is coming to the Windy City for the first time.

On Thursday, the league announced that Chicago and the United Center would play hosts to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, marking the first time in league history the ‘Hawks organization has hosted the event.

“The energy and passion Chicago has for the Blackhawks makes United Center the ideal setting for the 2017 NHL Draft,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “The Draft will be one of the central moments of our Centennial, and the NHL family is looking forward to bringing this signature event to Chicago for the first time.”

Though it’s still far off — heck, the 2016 draft, which will be held in Buffalo this June, hasn’t even happened yet — the ’17 draft already has a few key names attached to it.

Chief among them is WHL Brandon forward Nolan Patrick, the son of ex-NHLer Steve Patrick.

Nolan, 17, scored 56 points in 55 games for the Wheat Kings in his first full campaign, capturing the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s rookie of the year.

He’s expected to be one of the top players selected in ’17, as is Timothy Liljegren, a defenseman currently plying his trade with Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League.

Leafs and Coyotes headline Craig Button’s list of top NHL-affiliated prospects

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 2:  William Nylander #21 of Team Sweden is stopped by Ville Husso #30 of Team Finland during a quarter-final game in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at the Air Canada Centre on January 2, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Maple Leafs and Coyotes featured prominently on Craig Button’s list of the top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects.

Button, the former Calgary GM whose current title is TSN’s Director of Scouting, has two Leafs forwards — William Nylander (1st) and Mitch Marner (6th) — and two Coyotes forwards — Dylan Strome (2nd) and Christian Dvorak (3rd) — in his top six.

Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov is fourth, with Jets forward Kyle Connor fifth.

Click here to read the other 44 youngsters that made the cut.

One of them is Jimmy Vesey (8th), the Harvard scoring sensation the Predators need to sign by August, otherwise he can become a free agent.