Fernando Pisani should embrace reality and accept a training camp tryout

Confidence is a funny thing. While just about any hockey player probably grapples with fears and doubts from time to time, some combination of luck, courage, talent, hard work and confidence propelled them to the NHL level. Yet as pride and confidence might help a previously obscure player gain his 15 minutes of fame, those same thought processes can also be his undoing during times of uncertain employment. (Especially when good old-fashioned greed enters the picture.)

In most peoples’ eyes, five years isn’t a long time. The reality of professional sports, however, is a lot can change in five years. Just look at the career of Jonathan Cheechoo; he scored a league-leading 56 goals in the 2005-06 season but now finds himself mired in minor league irrelevance.

Such a predicament shouldn’t be lost on one-hit wonder Fernando Pisani. The marginal winger scored 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games during the 2006 playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, becoming something of a folk hero in the process. That outburst ended up being a mirage, as he turned in rapidly decreasing numbers* with the Oilers after signing a four-year, $10 million on the heels of that outlier of a postseason run. That contract finally expired last summer, so the Chicago Blackhawks signed him for one year at the league minimum. They got what they paid for, too, as Pisani generated just 16 points in 60 regular season games and zero in three postseason contests.

Considering how far his career has fallen, you’d think Pisani would take what he can get. The 34 year old forward told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal that he’s not interested in a training camp tryout or a sojourn in one of the European leagues, though.

“Going to camp (without a contract) isn’t a situation I want to be in. I’ll hang tough and see what happens in the next couple of weeks or so,” said Pisani, who has had his nose pressed up against the NHL glass for months, but nobody will let him in, or sign him.

“You never know what’ll happen in the summer. Early on, there were a lot of trades and action, but there hasn’t been much activity the last two or three weeks,” he said.

(snip)

When asked if he might consider Europe, Pisani said: “No door is really closed.”

It’s perfectly fine that Pisani wants to handle this situation on his own terms, I’m just not sure he’s taking the right course of action. While he showed a willingness to kill penalties last season for Chicago (1:25 shorthanded minutes per game), Second City Hockey points out that he wasn’t a very effective penalty killer. He’s also been hounded by injuries, missing 155 regular season games since his magical playoff run in 2006.

If his last few seasons are an accurate portrayal of what he brings to the table, then Pisani is an aging winger with little upside and isn’t a particularly strong defensive player. My guess would be that his best chance to stick with an NHL team would be to change some minds in training camp – or better yet, have a hot string of preseason games – but the former Oilers forward looks primed to opt to hope for a break or two.

Then again, he got really lucky during one summer just five years ago, so maybe the bounces will go his way one more time.

* – Since signing that contract, Pisani scored 28 points in 2006-07, 22 in 07-08, 15 in 08-09 and 8 in 09-10 before departing for Chicago.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

Green will be judged on progress of Canucks’ youngsters

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Expectations have officially changed in Vancouver.

Whereas the last few years the Canucks have tried to stay competitive and make the playoffs (failing miserably the last two seasons), the plan now is to develop their youth with an eye towards the future.

“I’m not sitting up here and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to win the Stanley Cup next year,'” new head coach Travis Green said today.

“But I will tell you we’re going to get better.”

Green was hired after four seasons as head coach of Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica. He understands that the Canucks need to keep injecting youth into their lineup. He knows that’s why he was hired, despite his lack of coaching experience in the NHL.

“We need to get younger, that’s no secret,” he said.

So, for Green, it will not be wins and losses that he’s judged on for the next year or two. Instead, it will be the progress of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, Brendan Gaunce, Olli Juolevi, Jonathan Dahlen, and any other youngsters in the organization.

A veteran of over 1,000 NHL games as a player, Green is not expecting this to be a smooth ride. Young players make mistakes. They are inconsistent. They can be immature. Sometimes they progress, only to regress.

“You have to let them learn on the fly, some of them,” said Green. “You have to give them rope. You want them to swim, you don’t want them to sink. (But) you want them to go through adversity as well. I think it’s good for young players to go through adversity.”

Green started his coaching career in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. Combined with his AHL experience, he believes he’s learned a thing or two about getting through to younger players.

Not that he’ll be Mr. Nice Guy all the time. He intends to push his players. He’s more than willing to make them uncomfortable, if that’s what he thinks is required.

“I want my players to be accountable,” he said, “in what they do, how they prepare, how they practice. But I think if you build relationships and you communicate with players, they appreciate it — especially today’s player. I don’t play a lot of mind games. They always know where they stand. At the end of the day, when I was a player, you always wanted to know where you stood.”

The end goal — whether it’s two years down the line, or even three or four — is to produce a winning team that can compete for a championship.

“We know where we’re at,” said Green. “I know the management group understands that, I feel confident in that. But hey, I want to win. No one likes winning more than me. I want to see our team get better. I want to start the process and push the envelope with these players, and see improvement.”

Related: Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

Report: Vegas’ first-ever game will be preseason tilt in Vancouver

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to be busy this fall, and they’ll reportedly start their work north of the border.

Per the Review-Journal, Vegas has finalized its preseason schedule and, pending league approval, will play its first-ever game on Sunday, Sept. 17 against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The Golden Knights have submitted a loaded, compacted preseason schedule, which makes sense. The players selected in June’s expansion draft will have little to no familiarity with one another, meaning head coach Gerard Gallant has a massive task in trying to build chemistry.

More, from the Review-Journal:

On Sept. 19, they’ll travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche at Pepsi Center followed by a trip to San Jose Sept. 21 to face the Sharks at SAP Center. The road portion of the preseason concludes at Anaheim against the Ducks Sept. 24.

The first of the three home games at T-Mobile will be Sept. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings. The other home games are Sept. 28 against Colorado and Oct. 1 vs. San Jose.

Vegas team officials wouldn’t comment to the Review-Journal about the preseason schedule. According to the report, the timing of the Vancouver game hinged on the dates for the Canucks-Kings games in China this fall (Sept. 21 in Shanghai, and Sept. 23 in Beijing.)

Habs announce Emelin underwent knee surgery

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On Wednesday, Montreal announced that d-man Alexei Emelin underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and would be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks as a result.

Emelin, 31, was hurt near the end of the regular season with a suspected knee injury, and missed the final few games down the stretch. The ailment kept him out of the Habs’ first four playoff games against the Rangers, though Emelin did return for Games 5 and 6.

In the finale, the veteran Russian rearguard scored his first playoff goal, but only saw 16:11 TOI.

The knee injury and subsequent surgery marred what was an otherwise healthy campaign. Emelin appeared in a career-high 76 games, and averaged a career-high 21:19 TOI per night, leading the team in hits.

Next year is a big one for Emelin. He’s heading into the last of a four-year, $16.4 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit.