Patrik Elias

Patrik Elias doesn’t want to be Devils captain; Is it time for Zach Parise?

We’ve discussed some of the vacant captaincies around the NHL and while there are six teams without a captain, the New Jersey Devils available “C” was one situation that seemed automatic to make a pick on. The most veteran player left in New Jersey was Patrik Elias having been a Devil since 1996 and winning two Stanley Cups with the team.

Unfortunately for the Devils, Elias doesn’t appear to be as keen on being the team’s captain as some would hope to be.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice talked to Elias about the available position as the team’s visible leader and he’s less than enthralled with the idea of once again being the Devils captain and that might have a bit to do with the past.

“I don’t need a letter to know what I’m supposed to do,” he said this morning during a break from his training camp physical. “I had the C. I didn’t like the situation the way it was handled when it was taken away. I don’t want to be put in that position again. I think I can help all the young guys and be a leader no matter what. It won’t matter to me.”

Elias was named Devils’ captain before the 2006-07 season by then head coach Claude Julien. He was stripped of the C by Brent Sutter at the start of the 2007 training camp. Sutter told the media about it before discussing it with Elias.

While Elias has worn the “A” ever since then, the idea of being captain again is one that he hasn’t been comfortable with. Who can blame him after what happened under Sutter. So if not Elias… Then who?

In our look at open captain positions around the league, our suggestion was for Zach Parise to get the call as the Devils captain. Of course, the problem there is that he’s signed up for one more year in New Jersey and could hit unrestricted free agency in July. If you think that’s not a situation that’s hanging around in the mind of the Devils, Elias made it clear when asked if Parise should be the guy to be named captain.

When I asked Elias if he thinks Parise will be given the C, he replied,“Hopefully. Then again, you don’t want to have a captain for one year.”

Here’s to hoping Devils fans won’t have a hard time sleeping for the rest of the season thinking about that one.

If it’s not going to be Elias and if it’s too tenuous of a situation to give the “C” to Parise… Then who? The choices there are slim.

If you want to stick with a lifetime Devils player, then perhaps Travis Zajac is your guy. If you want to go with a guy who was a captain with another team, Ilya Kovalchuk is going to be with the Devils for a little while longer. If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate, then how about Anton Volchenkov who’s as much of a leader on defense as anyone on the team.

Of course, there’s also the possibility the Devils could end up being “that team” and going without a captain for the season or, more confusingly so, go with a captaincy that changes from month to month. What’s the fun in that though? No matter how the Devils choose to handle it, there’s going to be some manner of controversy beneath the surface. If it’s Parise, the pressure to get him signed to a long-term deal mounts. If it’s someone aside from Parise, the questions about whether he bolts in the offseason are there unless he gets a deal done.

Maybe Elias might want to take the captaincy just to keep the drama from blowing up in Newark.

The timing of the Gudbranson trade was…interesting

Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) gets up from the ice after being pushed in the second period during a preseason NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
AP
Leave a comment

It seems like only yesterday that the Florida Panthers were raving about Erik Gudbranson.

Except it wasn’t yesterday.

It was earlier this month.

“Guddy has taken a big step for our team this year,” coach Gerard Gallant said, per the Sun Sentinel. “He’s very confident, moves the puck real well and is a big part of our blue line.”

“He’s really going to be a special player for a lot of years in this league and hopefully for a lot of years with the Panthers,” said veteran d-man Brian Campbell.

Now, Florida had just signed Gudbranson to a one-year contract extension, so of course there was raving to be done.

But it still surprised many when he was traded to Vancouver yesterday.

For example:

Not that Gudbranson was given away for nothing. The return the Panthers got from the Canucks was considerable. Jared McCann could be a top-six forward one day, and there was more.

“The fact we were able to add draft picks this year, second and fourth round, 33 and 93, we felt gave us two picks that we got back that we lost on the trading deadline,” general manager Tom Rowe told reporters.

Rowe also conceded that trading Gudbranson was a “very, very difficult decision.”

The timing, though.

The timing was pretty hard to ignore.

Rowe, of course, was just named Florida’s new GM. He replaced Dale Tallon, who was “promoted” (or demoted, depending who you ask) to the role of director of hockey ops.

It was all part of a big, managerial shakeup — one that was driven in large part by analytics:

Would you be surprised to learn that Gudbranson did not have a particularly high Corsi?

From Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com:

Panthers

Now, we’re not saying the Panthers made this trade solely because of advanced stats. When there’s a salary cap, difficult decisions need to be made. Gudbranson will need a new contract next summer, and he won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Added Rowe: “The way [Michael Matheson] played in the playoffs and at the World Championship for an outstanding Canadian team really gave us more of a comfort level to do this.”

Still, it was only two years ago that Tallon was saying Gudbranson was “likely going to be the captain of our team some day.” And it was only a few weeks ago that Tallon called Gudbranson “an important part of our young core who has continued to develop into a reliable, physical presence on our blue line and a strong leader in our locker room.”

So yeah, whether or not you like the deal for the Panthers, it’s more than fair to wonder who, or what, was the driving force behind it.

One thing’s for sure — the Panthers are going to look very different on the back end next season. Gudbranson’s gone; Willie Mitchell is unlikely to be back; and Campbell is an unrestricted free agent who may test the market.

In the playoffs, no defenseman played more for Florida than Gudbranson. After him, it was Campbell.

Related: People are wondering — do the Florida Panthers know what they’re doing?

Some tough decisions await the Blues

4 Comments

Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

1 Comment

The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?