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.

Pre-game reading: Does the NHL’s playoff format need fixing?

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— Up top, Brian Boucher and Mike Milbury have their say on NHL participation in the Olympics, something Gary Bettman continues to put into doubt.

— At least fans can still be certain there will be playoff hockey. That being said, does the NHL’s format need fixing? Because as it stands right now, at least one of Washington, Pittsburgh, or Columbus is guaranteed to be gone after the first round, and only one of those three can survive past the second round. The Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets are first, second, and third in the overall standings, respectively. Hence, the debate. (The Washington Post)

— The Caps take on the Blue Jackets tonight in D.C., and Barry Trotz is looking forward to the fight for playoff positioning. The Caps, you’ll recall, coasted to first place in the Metro Division last season. But they can’t afford to coast now. “Having gone both routes now, I prefer this,” Trotz said. “Because it’s more meaningful. … It was in our hands too early last year, and I think it took a little edge off. You get too comfortable for too long, you get too soft.” (Washington Post)

— Don’t expect the NBA’s controversial practice of resting star players to become a common problem for the NHL. Said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty: “I just think hockey’s a different kind of animal where I don’t think guys would want to do it. Guys are stubborn enough to probably fight it if they were asked and that’s how I would see that going down.” (Canadian Press)

— Why Dave Hakstol won’t be fired, by Flyers beat reporter Dave Isaac, who writes: “It took multiple pleas to woo Hakstol from a much more comfortable college job at the University of North Dakota. To fire Hakstol this early would be an admission from Hextall that this part of his grand plan — hiring the coach that he thought would grow with the roster — was wrong.” (Courier-Post)

William Nylander may sometimes get overshadowed in Toronto by fellow Maple Leafs rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But with 20 goals in 70 games, what Nylander has done is still very impressive. (The Hockey News)

Enjoy the games!

Bowling Green goalie Nell leaves school, signs with Rangers

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The Blueshirts added to their goaltending depth on Thursday, signing Bowling Green junior Chris Nell to an entry-level contract.

Nell, 22, just wrapped his junior campaign at Bowling Green, going 17-14-2 with a 2.15 GAA and .916 save percentage. This year, he became the school’s all-time leader in career shutouts, this after a terrific sophomore campaign in which he finished with a sparking 1.31 GAA and .930 save percentage.

An undrafted free agent, Nell now joins an organization with several young netminders in the mix. Mackenzie Skapski, a 2013 draftee, made his NHL debut two years ago but has struggled this season, splitting time between AHL Hartford and ECHL Greenville. Brandon Halverson, a second-rounder in ’14, has also split time between Hartford and Greenville, and was recently recalled to New York on an emergency basis.

New York has also drafted Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin (fourth round, ’14), Slovak Adam Huska (seventh round, ’15) and UMass-Lowell product Tyler Wall (sixth round, ’16).

 

On verge of missing playoffs, Red Wings aim to keep winning culture

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The Detroit Red Wings have no intention of tearing their roster down and undertaking a painful rebuild, a la the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Why not, you ask?

Because even though the Wings are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and even though their leading scorer (Henrik Zetterberg) is 36 years old, they don’t want to lose the culture that made them so successful over the past quarter century.

“There are organizations where they have lost culture,” said head coach Jeff Blashill, per the Detroit Free Press. “They have missed the playoffs, and they miss it 10 straight years. We don’t want to be in this position again. This isn’t OK. That is the approach we are taking every day.”

We have heard other teams say similar things. For example, the Vancouver Canucks. (Which won’t make Wings fans feel great to hear.)

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to maintain a winning culture, the biggest challenge the Wings have is a lack of talent — particularly on the back end.

That’s up to GM Ken Holland to solve, and solve relatively quickly, given his lack of appetite for a lengthy rebuild.

“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said a few months ago.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding.”

Related: It’s going to be a very different draft for the Red Wings

Yeo more surprised than anyone to learn of Stastny injury

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For the second time since taking over as head coach, Mike Yeo has lost the services Paul Stastny.

This time, though, Yeo was caught off guard.

“It may sound misleading, but it was a completely separate injury that kept him out of (Tuesday’s) game and one that we believed would have him possibly in the lineup for us tonight,” Yeo told the Post-Dispatch of Stastny’s lower-body ailment, which will keep him out week-to-week. “We were surprised to hear that this came about yesterday.

“Believe me, I was probably more surprised than all the fans out there. So it’s a difficult one, but one that we’ll have to overcome.”

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious — and it very well may not haven been — but that’s irrelevant now, as an entirely new issue could potentially sideline Stastny for the remainder of the regular season.

The Blues are in good shape for a playoff spot, up eight points on L.A., but are jockeying with Nashville for third spot in the Central Division (both head into tonight’s action with 83 points). St. Louis also has 10 games left.

There’s no denying Stastny’s absence will be felt. Back when he missed four games in early February, Yeo noted how integral he was to the club.

“He’s usually the first guy over the boards for a power-play faceoff or the first guy over the boards for a penalty-kill faceoff, and those are key,” Yeo said, per the Blues website. “He’s a very important player for us. You don’t take out a top-line center from too many lineups where they don’t feel that.”

Limited to just 66 games this season, Stastny has still managed to score 18 goals — third-most on the team — and 40 points. He also averages a healthy 19:08 TOI per night.