Mike Richards heads Flyers off-season surgery list, some question his captaincy

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When you consider all of the chatter directed at Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards today, it would seem like his team was preparing for a playoff game. Obviously that’s not the case, but let’s take a look at some of the interesting Richards/Flyers bits.

The first is the most concrete news: Richards is among five players who are expected to undergo off-season surgery, according to the Associated Press. Richards and Andrej Meszaros will correct wrist problems, Blair Betts will have surgery on his finger and Kris Versteeg was dealing with a ‘stomach muscle’ issue. Three Flyers had hip problems this season/playoffs: Michael Leighton, Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter. Leighton seems certain to undergo surgery for his issues while Hartnell and Carter will know if they need to do the same on Friday.

Combine those wounded players with a banged up Chris Pronger and you have a rather bruised Broad Street Bullies bunch.

The juiciest story of the day revolves around Richards’ comment about CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio, though. Richards reacted to a story Panaccio wrote about his relationship with coach Peter Laviolette, clearly upset by a line in which Richards was described as occasionally “moody and withdrawn.”

Panaccio’s response was pretty simple:

That seems like a fairly isolated situation, but some media members wonder if the Flyers should downgrade Richards from captain to alternate captain. Their reasoning is founded on his squabbles with the media (this isn’t his first moment of criticism with scribes from Philly and beyond) and questions about his ability to communicate.

Both Richards’ teammates and his general manager disagree with the sentiment.

Danny Briere told Chuck Gormley that people shouldn’t question Richards’ strength as a leader.

Q: We’ve talked a lot about Mike Richards over the last couple of days. Can you give us an idea of what it’s like for him, not only having to deal with some criticism, but what he’s like in a room and what you see in him?

“I think, first of all, it’s not warranted, the question about leadership. Questioning Mike Richards, I think that’s totally wrong there. I think Mike Richards is a great captain. He leads by example, by the way he plays, how hard he plays, and the way he sacrifices his body. There are not a lot of guys that do it as well as he does around the NHL, so honestly I think he is the captain for this team. It is well deserved. Honestly I don’t understand what all of this talk is about. I don’t understand it.”

Q: If the head coach can’t communicate as well, won’t that affect the team in some way if he can’t communicate as well with his captain?

“That’s been between the coach and Mike. I am not aware of that, I wasn’t aware of that until Peter said that. That is something that needs to be resolved between them. Obviously, if there not getting along then is probably a little difficult for either party to…For Mike to let the coach know how the room feels and for the coach to let Mike know what he expects of his leader. It’s not just Mike when I say that, but the leaders around me while leading the team. Obviously, it’s not good if that’s the case. Like I said, I was never aware of that. I never saw anything to lead me to believe that before.”

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was also quick to dismiss the criticism and rumors, as you can see from the video footage of his rather amusing press conference.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Now that you’ve heard the Flyers side of the argument, do you think Richards should remain the captain in Philadelphia? Let us know in the comments.

Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

“I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

Gabe Vilardi and Casey Mittelstadt are two centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

As for, Hischier it’s his speed that really stands out.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

Draft lottery odds

Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
Dallas Stars 5.8%
Florida Panthers 5.4%
Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%

Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

“We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

“Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.

Sabres granted permission to speak with Futa

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Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Kings promoted Mike Futa to assistant general manager.

But Futa received that promotion before the Sabres cleaned house last week, and that timing is important to note.

Because it’s now being reported, via a Kings spokesman, that the Sabres have been granted permission to speak with Futa about their GM vacancy.

It’s no surprise that Buffalo has asked to interview Futa. He was a candidate for the Sabres’ GM job in 2013 — a job that eventually went to Tim Murray.

Futa was once thought to be heir apparent to Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles. But when Lombardi was fired, the Kings went with Rob Blake instead.

Some background on Futa, courtesy the Kings:

Futa most recently served as Kings Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel. This upcoming season will be Futa’s 11th season with the Kings.

Futa recently concluded his 10th full season with the Kings, and third in his most recent position. He was named VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel in May of 2014 after serving as Director of Amateur Scouting, a position he assumed on June 5, 2007, when he originally joined the Kings.

Futa came to the Kings when he was appointed Co-Director of Amateur Scouting along with Mark Yannetti. Together, Futa and Yannetti rebuilt and retooled the entire Kings Amateur Scouting staff.

Related: Darryl Sutter wants to keep coaching

Habs sign Quebec League sniper Waked

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On Friday, Montreal agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal with QMHJL Rouyn-Noranda forward Antoine Waked.

Waked, 20, is coming off a strong season in which he racked up 80 points in 67 games. He finished tied for ninth in the league in goals, with 39, in what was something of a surprise. Previously, the Quebec native had never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign, suggesting Waked could be the prototypical late bloomer.

An undrafted free agent, Waked had been tied to the Habs earlier this season, with reports he’d receive an ELC at the end of his junior campaign.