If Rick Dudley doesn’t stay to GM in Winnipeg, is Kevin Cheveldayoff the next pilot of the franchise?

One of the uglier parts to seeing a team change owners and locations is that that could mean changes in the front office. After all, new owners might want to go in a different direction than what the previous leadership wanted and in the case of the Atlanta Thrashers that might not be all so bad.

One guy who did a lot to help start turning the corner in Atlanta this past season was GM Rick Dudley. Dudley helped pick apart the Chicago Blackhawks last summer after helping build them years ago. He brough Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien into the fold in Atlanta where they both had great seasons. He staked his faith in Ondrej Pavelec to be a key goalie and helped bring in Craig Ramsay to coach to the team. While the Thrashers missed the playoffs yet again, the new owners from True North might be looking to bring their own guys into the mix.

According to Tim Campbell from the Winnipeg Free Press, that connection to the Blackhawks that brough Dudley to Atlanta might be bringing his successor to Manitoba in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM and senior director of hockey operations Kevin Cheveldayoff.

After a Thursday meeting with True North chairman Mark Chipman and hockey senior vice-president Craig Heisinger at the NHL’s scouting combine, current Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley does not appear to be a slam-dunk to move with the club to Winnipeg. Nobody at True North will talk about it and there are strong rumblings here that Dudley will either be re-assigned or dismissed, that True North wants to go in another direction with its own people.

The Free Press spoke to Cheveldayoff here this morning. His first response when asked for a conversation was that such a request would have to go through the Blackhawks.

If Cheveldayoff’s name sounds familiar you might recall him from his work with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL as he was their GM from 1997 through 2009 helping lead the team to two Turner Cup titles in the IHL and two Calder Cup titles in the AHL as the feeder team for the, wait for it, Atlanta Thrashers.

Cheveldayoff was a 1988 first round pick of the New York Islanders as a player but never cracked the Islanders roster after spending three years with the Capital District Islanders out of Troy, New York. A knee injury kept him from living the dream as an NHL player but now with things getting figured out in Winnipeg one way or the other, he’s close to becoming the head man in charge of putting together the Winnipeg NHL squad.

As for Dudley, if he doesn’t stick as the GM in Winnipeg he’ll join Thrashers executive and former GM Don Waddell as front office guys not moving north with the team. Waddell made it clear that he wasn’t moving on once the sale was announced and given how successful he was in building teams in Atlanta, that could be viewed as a blessing in disguise.

If Cheveldayoff is brought in as the GM, it’ll be the first sign that True North is going to do things their way and leave as many front office entanglings from Atlanta in the rear view mirror as they can. As for the players, we’re pretty sure they’re excited to have regional favorite Dustin Byfuglien (from Roseau, Minnesota) as well as young forward Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, and young center Alex Burmistrov. The building blocks and pieces are there for future success, but with as many front office changes as they’re looking at keeping things moving ahead will be a task. Getting Cheveldayoff in there guarantees they’ll have a guy that has some familiarity with the system.

 

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

Here’s what it looked like:

And here’s a fan’s eye view:

After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

“It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.