Roberto Luongo

Canucks GM Mike Gillis complains about penalty calls; Does he have a point?

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Whether it’s deflecting attention from Roberto Luongo or “planting a seed” for officials in Game 7, Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis called for an “even playing field” when it comes to penalties today.

While he’s not the first GM to pipe up about the issue in the 2011 playoffs – Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray wins that trophy – it might not be a bad strategy. From a sheer numbers perspective, he has a point, too. The Chicago Blackhawks received 27 power play opportunities (scoring six times) while the Canucks only went on the man advantage 16 times (scoring four goals) in the first six games. That’s 11 more chances or almost two more per game.

After a pretty even amount of power plays in the first two games (four for Vancouver, five for Chicago), the difference was especially clear in the first two games in Chicago. The Blackhawks received 14 chances in those two games while the Canucks only went on the PP six times.

We’re not trying to tread into conspiracy theory here, but Gillis is clever to bring up the difference, especially since officiating could make a huge difference in Game 7. If you don’t think it matters, chew on this: the Canucks scored 79 PP goals this season, the highest total in the NHL. Here’s what Gillis said, via NHL.com.

“These are facts. They’re undeniable,” Gillis said. “The first two games everything is relatively equal, the last four games they haven’t been. And when people seem to think we don’t have the killer instinct, it’s pretty tough to have the killer instinct when you’re killing penalties most of the time.

“Our power play was No. 1 in the League and theoretically we felt there were six or seven legitimate calls that weren’t called for whatever reason. That’s six or seven power-play opportunities for us. It’s going to change the outcome of the game.”

(snip)

“I’m very confident that if we play the same way (Tuesday) night and it’s a level playing field we’ll win the game.”

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was wise to leave the controversial comments to his GM, though.

“I’m not going to touch on that. Our players and myself, we need to be focused on the process, putting a good game on the ice,” Vigneault said. “I understand Mike’s frustration. When Raffi Torres hit Seabrook, there was almost a national debate on whether he should play another game this year and we even had media from our media suggest that if the League doesn’t suspend him we should suspend him. Well, the hit on Kevin (Sunday) night was the exact same hit and they didn’t even get a minor and nobody brought it up so I understand his frustration. But, as far as us coaches and players, there’s nothing we can do about that and we just have to go out and play.”

With all the talk of Vancouver’s killer instinct, the referees need to follow their own instincts by calling a fair Game 7. That’s not to say that they didn’t so in the previous six games, but Gillis is smart to shine the spotlight on the referees in this penultimate game, too.

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

 

Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’