Brian Burke

Brian Burke: “We’ll be the guinea pig”

Over the last few days, the term “bear hug” had Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke making headlines as the NHL tested his rule where defensemen could “bear hug” a player near the boards to limit potential for injury. Coming out of the RDO Camp, Burke is back in the headlines as he’s offered up the Maple Leafs as guinea pigs during the preseason to further test some of the potential rule changes. Hopefully there won’t be anymore animal references for the rest of the offsesaon.

GM Brian Burke told QMI Agency that he and the Toronto Maple Leafs were willing to help:

“We’re willing to try it in our pre-season games, the rule changes, the nets and the cameras. The other team has to consent, but if (the league) needs a guinea pig, we’ll be the guinea pig.”

It would be good to see some of the potential rule changes in action with NHL players during live game action in the preseason. The HD cameras and curved glass look like they could instituted around the league as early as this season—but some of the other rules could get a look as well. Burke specifically mentions the shallow nets getting a look; would NHL defenseman make use of the extra space when making outlet passes? Would offensive players utilize the extra room and better passing angles to create scoring opportunities?  These are things that we’d find out as the NHLers played a handful of games under the new conditions.

The more we see these changes in the place, the better equipped the league would be to make decisions that affect the game. It would be nice for fans to be able to have another reason to watch the meaningless games since the preseason is more about preparation than the results. Watching new rules being tested is a better sales pitch than telling fans that the ECHLer on the 4th line has a legitimate shot at making the team next year.

It would be great if the NHL takes Burke up on his offer to try out some of the prospective rules. Put the cameras in the Leafs preseason games to see exactly how much of a difference they’ll make. Find the best camera angles in the preseason so once the cameras are utilized in the regular season, they’re already in the proper location. Put the verification line in just to make sure the referees on the ice have no issues when calling a goal on the ice. None of these rule changes should present a huge problem—but why not make sure in games that don’t matter? There’s no such thing as “too much information” when tweaking the game, right?

Brian Burke just presented the league with an opportunity to test out changes on a grander scale. Hopefully they’ll take him up on the chance to get things right.

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.