Canucks GM Mike Gillis explains Vancouver’s postseason injuries

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One of the grandest postseason traditions is the unveiling of each teams’ injuries after they’re eliminated from the playoffs. As we’ve already heard, the Bruins were able to survive the majority of the playoffs with a minimal amount of injuries. To win the Stanley Cup, teams need a fair amount of luck to survive the two month war of attrition. Luck on the ice—and luck in the trainer’s room.

On the other hand, Vancouver wasn’t as fortunate in avoiding the injury bug. We knew the Canucks were playing with a ton of injuries. Some of the injuries like Dan Hamhuis and Mason Raymond were obvious. Others players like Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler were battling through injuries that slowed them down just enough to make a difference (even though Kesler refuses to blame any injuries). Neither Sedin, nor Kesler looked like the superstar players Canucks’ fans had grown accustomed to over the course of the regular season. Something seemed wrong, but no one would know until after the playoffs. Well, the playoffs are over and to no one’s surprise, they were both injured.

Mike Gillis dropped the laundry list of injured players in his year-end conversation with the media:

“Dan Hamhuis suffered a serious abdominal injury.

Mason Raymond has a broken back.

Alex Edler has two broken fingers from a slash.

Kevin Bieksa has a bruised MCL from a slash.

Ryan Kesler has a hip problem that we don’t know the extent of yet.

Mikael Samuelsson is out… had an operation on his abdominal muscle tear.

Manny [Malhotra] was a warrior out there but he was operating at less than 100%. He hadn’t skated for 6-7 weeks because of the treatment he had.

Chris Higgins had a foot injury that continued to get worse throughout the playoffs.

Christian Ehrhoff had a shoulder injury that didn’t recover from the 2nd/3rd round onward.

Have I left anyone out? Is that enough?

Henrik (Sedin) had a back injury from being cross-checked in the 2nd round.”

To recap, five of their top nine forwards were dealing with injuries. Their top four defensemen were slowed by various ailments. Still, with all of the adversity, they were still able to come within a single victory of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Many teams can say things would be different if they were healthy, but the Canucks have the best argument of all. Who knows if they would have been able to break through Tim Thomas’ wall—but there’s a good chance they would have narrowed the 23-8 scoring gap in the Final.

Over the course of the offseason, Gillis and the Canucks will have a few decisions to make. Blueliners Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, and Andrew Alberts are all unrestricted free agents. Up front, depth forwards Chris Higgins, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, and Jeff Tambellini are all unrestricted; they also have to deal with restricted free agents including Jannik Hansen and Maxim Lapierre. Decisions have to be made.

If they had it their way, the front office would love another run at the Cup with the roster constructed exactly as it is. The only difference? Next time, they’d want everyone healthy.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”