Chris Osgood adapting to a new life as a goalie coach

When Chris Osgood called it a career this summer, it set up this season to be the first since the early 90s that he wouldn’t be preparing for a NHL season in goal. With his career over and the debate over whether he’s a Hall Of Fame-caliber goalie set to rage on for the next few years, Osgood is staying in Detroit but changing things up job-wise.

Instead of being the guy leading the way in goal, he’ll be the one teaching the young goalies coming through the system how to do things better. Osgood is jumping on board with the Wings staff as an assistant goalie coach focusing on helping out Wings prospect goalies in the system. For him, this year’s training camp is going to have a decidedly different feel to it.

Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News caught up with Osgood to see how he’s adjusting to his new role and new life as a teacher on the ice.

“I’m excited about it,” he said, flashing a familiar smile.

“It’ll be fun. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to going up to Traverse City with the young guys.”

Freshly back from his annual summer stay at his home in British Columbia, Osgood spent much of the Red Wings’ voluntary skate Wednesday talking with the Wings’ longtime goaltending coach, Jim Bedard, whom Osgood is to assist.

“I’m not doing too much, now,” Osgood said. “I’m just learning from Jimmy; just kind of riding shotgun, listening to what he says and learning how to run the drills myself, so when I’m in Toledo and Grand Rapids, I can do that.”

For Osgood, the one thing he’ll be best at teaching younger goalies is how important it is to be mentally tough. Through Osgood’s entire career he was a guy who went from being a starter to being swapped out in favor or someone else with a bigger name only to keep proving himself worthy again and again. In the mid-90s with Detroit he traded spots with Mike Vernon. In the 2000s he left Detroit because the Wings were moving on with guys like Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, and even Manny Legace.

It took until 2008 for Osgood to get his redemption in Detroit when he supplanted Hasek in goal during the playoffs and led the Wings to the Stanley Cup. You don’t go through a career like that without having the thickest of skin, a trait that defined Osgood by the time he retired. If Osgood can help the Red Wings’ youth to have that same brand of mental toughness, even the worst of games will only motivate them to improve and help keep them focused on moving forward.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”

Slumping Wild bring Eriksson Ek over from Sweden

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Well, this sure is interesting.

Joel Eriksson Ek, one of Minnesota’s most prized prospects, has been brought back to North America after spending the majority of this season playing for Farjestads in the Swedish Hockey League.

And according to the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo, he might soon join the Wild.

More:

[Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau] said he didn’t know if the plan was to yet start him with Iowa or Minnesota, but I can’t imagine the Wild would recall him if the plan wasn’t to eventually have him in its lineup here.

In fact, he could be on the ice for Wednesday’s practice.

Sources close to Eriksson Ek say he’s flying from Karlstad to Germany to Chicago to here. Can’t imagine he lands and is put in a car to Des Moines, but we’ll see if they do want to give him a few games there.

Eriksson Ek, 20, appeared in nine games for the Wild earlier this season, and acquitted himself well offensively — two goals and five points. But by the end of his stint, he was reduced to fourth-line minutes and sat as a healthy scratch before the club decided to return him to Sweden.

Interestingly, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher suggested Eriksson Ek’s strongest attributes translated well to the NHL level.

“His small ice game is already so good,” Fletcher said, per the Star-Tribune. “Usually with Europeans, a lot of them have to acclimate to the smaller ice and have to learn how to be effective playing on the smaller ice. Joel’s already a very good small ice player. If anything, going back and playing on the bigger ice and handling the puck and making plays would enhance his long-term development.”

It’ll be curious to see if Eriksson Ek — the 20th overall pick in ’15 — developed the way the Wild hoped. He had 16 points in 26 games for Farjestads, and could certainly provide an injection of energy, something the club needs desperately.

Minnesota is 3-10-1 in March, and has fallen way back of Chicago for first place in the Central Division. What’s more, the Nashville Predators have surged to within six points of the Wild for second place, which is a stunning turn of events (on Feb. 28, the Wild were 15 points clear of the Preds.)

The Wild have two home games this week: Tonight against the Caps, then Thursday against the Sens.