When Ryan O’Byrne signed a contract extension with the Colorado Avalanche, it was natural to make jokes about his own-goal and purse-snatching blunders. Some players have the regrettable moments that we cannot help but rehash over and over again, like hockey-playing versions of that profane Winnebago Man. (One almost wonders if Mark Recchi is retiring in part to avoid jokes about his not-so-scientific critiques of Max Pacioretty.)
Rugged defenseman Andy Sutton probably fits under that category. Hockey fans with long memories will likely spout one line when they hear Sutton’s name: “Are you an expert?” Maybe it’s not as profane a moment as Winnebago Man’s expletive-laced outbursts or as humiliating a moment as “Boom goes the dynamite,” but that awkward exchange with a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter will probably follow Sutton until he retires. The moment was even given the Facebook treatment, one of life’s great backhanded compliments.
If his career path is any indication, then that phrase will need to do some legwork to keep up with his movements. He went from the New York Islanders to the Ottawa Senators during the 2009-10 season, then played with the Anaheim Ducks in 2010-11. He’ll need to find new experts in a new city now, though, as the Ducks traded him to the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Kurtis Foster.
Foster’s story might be the opposite of Sutton’s plot. Where Sutton might receive some jeers and laughter, Foster is an inspirational story. His career was in jeopardy after he suffered a broken leg when Torrey Mitchell hit him after Foster touched the puck on an icing play, but Foster fought back to become an everyday player again.
From a hockey standpoint, it’s a lateral move, though. Sutton is probably more responsible in his own end as more of a defensive defenseman while Foster’s laser beam slap shot makes him more useful offensively. They’re both big guys (Sutton’s listed at 6-6, Foster is listed at 6-5) who are depth blueliners, so it’s not a game-changer.
It will, however, give some Oilers humorists a couple extra punchlines during a strange day of hockey transactions.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.