Dan Bylsma, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke

Dan Bylsma, Dave Tippett will be coaches for 2011 Research Development and Orientation Camp

Just about anyone will agree that the lockout was a stomach-churning disaster. There’s no sense spinning it, whether you’re the NBA or NFL right now or the NHL in 2004-05.

That being said, there were at least a few good things that came from the lockout as far as hockey is concerned. The most important changes came on the ice. Perhaps out of survival or just after some careful consideration, the league decided to limit the amount of obstruction and interference defenders could get away with. (They made other changes to open up the game again, including eliminating the two-line pass infraction.)

Those rule changes helped hockey rebound from the ugly Dead Puck Era and return to its place as one of the more exhilarating professional sports. Hockey’s upward swing seems to come from a combination of factors including those needed tweaks, an influx of young stars and the beauty of HD television.

source: Getty ImagesOne lesson to take away from that situation is that the NHL should be proactive about altering its rules. It shouldn’t take a crisis for the league to ensure that the game is played in a way that allows the most skilled and intelligent players to succeed.

Who knows how much NHL executives actually consider implementing the innovations that are studied at research and development camps, but it’s great to see them take place in general. Last year’s camp provided a look at eventual top prospects such as Ryan-Nugent Hopkins while the league looked at various possible rule changes.*

Last year’s version was the inaugural edition, but information is starting to become available for the 2011 Research Development and Orientation Camp, which will take place between August 17-18. While job-seeking coaches Ken Hitchcock and Dave King ran the last camp, Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett – the last two Jack Adams Award winners – will run the 2011 edition.

“The National Hockey League is coming off another thrilling season that reinforced our view that our game is thriving on the ice,” said Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations. “However, we remain committed to observing trends, studying our game regularly and testing new ideas to ensure it keeps getting better. The Research, Development and Orientation Camp provides a perfect environment to do those things while introducing many of our top prospects to pro hockey.”

The camp also provides NHL talent evaluators their first look at some of the best players available for the 2012 draft. Last year’s camp, the first of its kind, showcased eventual top picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau.

“While our inaugural Research, Development and Orientation Camp was a great success, we expect to make this year’s event even better,” Shanahan said. “We again will assemble a remarkable percentage of the top talents eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft. And this year, we’re providing them with the guidance of two of our League’s outstanding current coaches, Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett.”

We’ll share the list of prospects who will be invited to the camp once that is released and keep our eyes peeled for other relevant details. Once the camps begin in mid-August, we’ll be eager to generate discussion for some of the most intriguing (and potentially useful) changes the league might consider.

* – Want to check out a few of those articles? Here’s some discussion for 3-on-3 overtime, adding four extra inches of space behind the net to bring “Gretzky’s office” back to life, moving an official off the ice to get a different vantage point, tweaking the nets and more.

‘It was frustrating for me,’ says Tarasenko after struggling offensively versus Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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St. Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko has opened up about his play in the Western Conference Final versus the San Jose Sharks, who held the talented forward off the score sheet in five of six games.

It wasn’t until the third period of Game 6 that Tarasenko finally broke his slump, scoring twice as St. Louis tried one last desperation comeback attempt. It didn’t work. The Blues were eliminated and the Sharks are in the Stanley Cup Final.

“They played really tight and they backchecked so hard,” said Tarasenko, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s just experience. It was frustrating for me. I wish I could do better. I’m supposed to do better.”

After a 40-goal regular season, the 24-year-old Tarasenko’s point production through the first two rounds — versus Chicago and Dallas — was solid, with 13 points in 14 games.

But the Sharks kept him in check.

His lack of production became a key focal point as the third-round series carried on. Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock, who signed a one-year extension to stay in St. Louis, admitted Tarasenko was “learning hard lessons” against the Sharks and that he had to fight through the tight checking in order to produce offensively.

As the series continued, Hitchcock added that Tarasenko just needed to play within the system, and that getting away from that is perhaps a “natural tendency” for young players pressing to make things happen in crucial situations.

There had been talk about a rift between Tarasenko and Hitchcock, especially after video replays showed the two in a brief but heated exchange at the bench during the first round. Of course, the coach later downplayed it.

As the Blues’ playoff run ended, there was speculation about why, exactly, Tarasenko didn’t address the media on the same day the rest of his teammates did.

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Ben Frederickson:

More importantly, Tarasenko’s no comment closed the book on his season without addressing the elephant in the dressing room.

There is growing speculation of friction between Tarasenko and the Blues. Is there a rift between the star and his club?

If I’m a member of that front office, I sure would have liked a player under contract until 2023 to squash such a story on Saturday.

On the subject of any perceived issues between the Blues organization and Tarasenko, both parties responded:

 

 

The Russians say they’re in ‘negotiations’ with the NHL to get Voynov into the World Cup

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Yesterday in Pittsburgh, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that Slava Voynov was still suspended and, because of that, would not be allowed to play in the upcoming World Cup.

Bettman also said that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation had been told as much.

However, it seems the Russians — who last week added Voynov to their World Cup roster — still haven’t given up on trying to get the 26-year-old defensemen into the tournament.

From Russian News Agency TASS:

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation is holding negotiations with the organizers of the World Cup – the NHL – concerning the issue of national team’s defender Vyacheslav Voynov,” the RHF’s press service told TASS on Tuesday adding that besides the Russian and US sides the negotiations also involve Rene Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation hopes that the organizers of the international competition will make a positive decision on the issue and the defender will be allowed to be included in the roster of the Russian national team,” the RHF added.

Known in the United States as Slava Voynov he played in the past for NHL’s Los Angeles Kings before the North American Hockey League suspended him over domestic violence charges and the player returned last autumn back home, where he is currently playing for the national team and KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg club.

Time will tell if the Russians can convince the NHL to change its stance. They could sure use Voynov, given the relative weakness of their defense. But Bettman did not sound yesterday like he was open to a negotiation.

The Russians, for the record, have maintained that it’s not the NHL’s decision to make.

So perhaps that’s the big question here — who has the final say on the matter? Officially, the World Cup “is a joint effort of the NHLPA and the NHL, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation.”

It’s just not entirely clear how that bit of boilerplate applies to the Voynov situation.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.