Chris Pronger thinks Mike Richards is a fine captain

It’s the summer story for the Flyers that never quite dies a peaceable death. When Flyers captain Mike Richards had his abilities as the team leader called into question after the Flyers were swept out of the playoffs by the Bruins, Richards was quick to defend himself and the team from what went down as a disappointing end to their season.

Of course, that’s not always accepted right away and sometimes people feel the need to hear it from someone not directly called into question. When it comes to sounding off at reporters and media stories, who better to talk to than defenseman Chris Pronger. Pronger spoke with the media today to talk about how his back injury is holding up and he addressed the talk surrounding Richards and his role in the locker room.

CSN Philly’s Sarah Baicker gets the scoop from Pronger that he believes all is well with Richards as the young captain of the Flyers.

“What good does that do?” Pronger asked, about the idea of Richards stepping down. “That is the most ridiculous thought I have heard yet.”

“This is on-the-job training for Mike,” he continued. “I was brought in to help him be a captain and do all the rest of that and kind of help with my experiences. I think I got here, he was 24. He’s now 26. I think he’s made some strides.”

While the job inside the room as a captain is one thing, dealing with the media is another thing entirely and in Philadelphia that means things can get a bit tricky. One of the things Richards stressed in his talk with Flyers Files’ Chuck Gormley was working on his relationship with the media and not being as confrontational with reporters. If there’s one thing Pronger’s figured out in Philadelphia it’s how to keep things lively with the press as well as giving them enough of his time to make them not kill him in print, something Richards is still figuring out.

“Everybody does things their own way,” Pronger said. “I wasn’t always this vocal with the media or this patient. It takes time, you have to have those experiences. I think when you go through tough times, maybe this is one of them for him, you learn an awful lot about yourself, you gain a lot of experience. This game and life is not easy.”

It’s especially tough in Philadelphia where the team hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975 and the fans are anxious to see the Flyers take home the big prize. For Richards as the captain, the pressure is a bit higher on him to keep the team winning and given how close they came to winning it all last season, it’s not stunning to see him facing some hardships this offseason after such a meek exit from the playoffs.

One thing Pronger helps Richards do is take the heat and focus off of him so he can do more on the ice and focus. How it pays off in the seasons to come remains to be seen, but if Richards adopts Pronger’s style of handling adverse times and aggressive media, at the very least we’ll be entertained by the sarcastic answers and confrontational scrums after the game. For now, it’s a learning experience for Mike Richards and one he’s learning a lot from now.

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

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The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.