Brian Burke warns James Reimer about instant success, won’t chase Steven Stamkos

Despite “missing” the first day of free agency to some criticism, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has been making some nice moves this off-season. It’s almost like the old, savvy Burkie is back after making some big, questionable investments via trades for Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Burke re-signed Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak to cap-friendly deals and fleeced teams for two promising defenseman (John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson). It’s unclear if the Tim Connolly gamble will pay off, but it seems like a lower risk move than the Brad Richards mortgage many were clamoring for.

That being said, there are no guarantees that these subtler moves will push the Maple Leafs far enough to make a true playoff bid. Burke addressed two questions that might be essential to that process today.

1. Will James Reimer be a one-hit wonder?

It seemed like Toronto suddenly resembled an actual playoff team once Reimer took the reins as the team’s interim No. 1 goalie. Reimer earned 20 wins, a sterling .921 save percentage, 2.60 GAA and even became a meme generator when ingenious Maple Leafs bloggers made an ode to him via a parody of that odious “Friday” song.

Of course, the NHL landscape is littered with the broken dreams of guys who enjoyed all-too-brief runs of goalie stardom. The Columbus Blue Jackets are actively praying that such a fate isn’t in the works for their should-be franchise goalie Steve Mason. Burke brought that subject up to Reimer, asking the young goalie to Google two infamous names in the one-hit wonder tradition: Jim Carey and Steve Penny. Burke simply asked Reimer not to turn into them.

Too bad being an NHL-level goalie isn’t as easy as using a search engine, though.

2. Will Burke go after Steven Stamkos with an offer sheet?

Speaking of not turning into something you’d rather avoid, there is the question that Burke might mortgage some of his team’s future to send an offer sheet to Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty. Burke notoriously fumed when then-Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe poached Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks a few years back. He somewhat amusingly avoided snatching Phil Kessel via an offer sheet by sending a bit more than he would have given up for the contract in a trade to the Boston Bruins. (That package netted the Bruins Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton among other assets.)

So will Burke defy his former stance for the sake of swinging for a personnel home run? While Burke lamented losing out on Brad Richards because the team didn’t front-load the deal enough, he denied the urge to send an offer sheet to one of those stars.

***

Even so, Burke said he thinks that the team has improved and I’m inclined to agree. It’s unclear if Burke took a deep breath and decided to do things his way (rather than bowing to ownership and/or public pressures to make a huge, risky move again), but the results have been promising so far. The Maple Leafs still are a bit lacking in flat-out elite talent, but they’re finally moving in the right direction this off-season. Some might actually listen to the idea that the Leafs are a genuine contender for a playoff spot.

That probably sounds even better to a Leafs fans’ ears than a rousing rendition of “Reimer.”

Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’ (Video)

NBC
1 Comment

Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

————

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.

USHL goaltender scores goal, makes most of celebration (Video)

Sioux Falls Stampede / Twitter
1 Comment

It was a pretty eventful night Saturday in Sioux Falls as the USHL’s Stampede beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-4 to sweep a weekend series.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Stampede scored five unanswered times en route to the win. Along the way, their first goal started the teddy bear tossing and the game’s final tally came off the stick of goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Not only did the kid make history by becoming the first goalie in franchise history to ever score, he followed it up with an impressive celebration.

Berdin, a 19-year-old sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2016, went with the bench fly-by, did some fist pumps, saluted the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center crowd and ended it with a Vince McMahon strut. That kid knows how to celebrate.

————

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.

The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

Getty
3 Comments

Choice PHT Cuts:

Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

*Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

Players of the Night

  • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

  • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
  • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
  • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

Heel of the Night?

While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

Highlight of the Night

Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

Factoid of the Night

Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

Scores

Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
Stars 6, Oilers 3
Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Jets 5, Devils 2
Kings 4, Panthers 0
Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
Capitals 3, Wild 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
Bruins 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Nasty hits, fights, and a blowout in Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens

7 Comments

First, the Edmonton Oilers fell 6-3 to the Dallas Stars. Next: the Toronto Maple Leafs absolutely throttled the fledgling Montreal Canadiens in a game that was ugly even beyond the 6-0 score.

It’s been a bad day for embattled GMs of teams who’ve made polarizing moves in hopes of solidifying Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers (7-11-2) and Canadiens (8-11-2) even finish the night with nearly identical records, just to really hammer home their parallel pains.

You almost wonder if something is in the air this week (spoilers: not love), as nastiness has really ratcheted up since the Calgary Flames – Detroit Red Wings line brawl. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs boast one of the NHL’s richest and bitterest rivalries, and it showed on Saturday.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, Nazem Kadri played a major role in one of the most explosive moments, taking his frustrations out on Shea Weber. Weber and Jordie Benn wasted no time in going after Kadri.

(Criticisms of the hit are totally fair, but it seems strange to go too heavy on “turtling.” Who would be able to stand up to both Weber and Benn? In the heat of the moment, I’d wager most people would go with flight over fight.)

That was the most bombastic moment, but there was also this seemingly unlikely bout between Nikita Zaitsev and Paul Byron:

This absolute dismantling comes after Claude Julien was steaming mad from a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. It’s tough not to read all of this as an indictment of the moves Marc Bergevin has made, especially considering the fact that their rivals dominated them for their sixth win in a row. If you’re the type to draw big conclusions from about a month of a season, you’d look at it as how to build a contender vs. how to waste Carey Price‘s prime.

That’s a little harsh … but either way, these are tough times for Bergevin.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski passed along an interesting take from Julien, who wishes he could bag skate his bumbling players. OK, then.

Auston Matthews was definitely part of the fun for Toronto in his return from injury, including scoring this goal:

(You almost wonder if Mike Babcock was rolling the dice even having his star players out there amid all that carnage, but that goal was a sweet reward.)

[MORE: Why Toronto needs Matthews back for a tough stretch]

Yes, this is an 82-game season, and we’re only at about the first-quarter-mark. Still, teams like the Oilers and Canadiens came into 2017-18 with big expectations and big questions, and so far fans and management can’t like the answers.

By the way, asking for a well-dressed GM: what’s the opposite of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Yikes.