Brent Burns, Mikkel Boedker

Offseason acquisition Brent Burns raises the expectations in San Jose

Expectations are pretty high in San Jose these days. Back-to-back trips to the Western Conference Finals will do that for a team. Then in the offseason, they went out and acquired the best defenseman they could get their hands on when they traded for former Minnesota Wild all-star Brent Burns. It didn’t take long for people to start asking Burns if he was feeling comfortable with his new team.

“Is this a chemistry question?” Burns said with a laugh before his second game. “Do I feel like a Shark? I have all the gear. I hope so. Yeah, it’s going to take a while, but it’s been great.”

Good thing it’s been a good start with his new teammates, because he signed a 5-year contract with San Jose before playing a single game. It was a big life decision for a guy who was only a year away from unrestricted free agency.

“It was pretty easy,” Burns said about the decision to sign an extension. “Me and my family didn’t know much about the city or the organization for that matter. I knew that it was tough to play against them and they had a great team. But right after we got traded, it can be a pretty devastating thing for somebody. The organization was just awesome. It almost takes me back to when I was 18 and pumped up to get one-piece sticks for the first time! The organization does everything they can to make sure you are ready to win—that’s all you have to care about. So it was a pretty easy decision once we started to see all the little things the team did. It was a no-brainer.”

Now that he’s in San Jose for the next six seasons, Burns should start getting used to the expectations. They’re the only team in the league that has been to the conference finals in each of the last two seasons. Before that, they were the #1 seed in the Western Conference before bowing out to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. The team has plenty of talent all over their roster—but until they take the next step in the playoffs, there will always be doubters (whether its warranted or not).

With Burns, the organization adds even more talent to a team that sent more players to the Olympics than most countries.

“Another puck-moving, active defenseman in the rush,” Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan said. “[He has a] Great shot. Huge man, he’s our biggest defenseman and can play physical. In and around the blue paint, we feel that we’re stronger in that area.”

He’s not the only player who can play in the tough areas of the ice. Douglas Murray knows his way around the crease as well—and he’s excited about Burns joining the team.

“He’s an elite player,” Murray said. “He brings that extra dimension offensively and he has a big body too. He’s physical. Danny Boyle has done the heavy lifting as far as offense, so it’s great to have another high-end, top defenseman as well.”

Expectations are sky-high for the Sharks each season. Another trip to the conference finals may be a great season for most teams around the league—but it’s only the first step for San Jose. Not only do they want to make it back for the third straight season, but they want to break through this season. Everyone around the team has hopes that this could be the year it finally happens.

“I think he’s a big piece to the team,” Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn said about Burns. “If you look at the teams that win the Stanley Cup: last year, Zdeno Chara—a big defenseman. You go down the line of teams that win the Cup and almost every team that wins the Cup has that big-time, big man on the back end. Taking nothing away from Dan Boyle, he’s a tremendously gifted player with and without the puck, but he doesn’t bring the size.”

Pacific Division foes know that Burns is going to fill a big void for one of their rivals. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle says Burns brings something the Sharks were missing last season.

“I thought that they had missed Rob Blake type of player and they look to have that element back on their backend,” Carlyle said. “That’s what Brent Burns brings. He’s a big man that can move, he jumps in the rush, big shot, plays big minutes, so I think that’s their mandate [for bringing him in.]”

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan expounded on Carlyle’s take:

“Maybe more with all due respect to Blake, because he has younger legs and can go a little bit more,” McLellan said. “But the same shot, the same tenacity, not quite the same maturity level obviously, but he does replace some of those assets lost when Blake retired.”

Carlyle and McLellan aren’t the only ones who think Burns can bring the “Rob Blake” presence either. Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn admitted that he thinks the team actually found an upgrade when asked about Burns replacing Blake’s productivity:

“With them not having to play together as a pair,” Hahn continued, “it gives the Sharks two sets of D [pairings] now that can truly dominate on the ice. That’s an element that even when Rob Blake was here, we didn’t quite have. No disrespect to Rob, but he was at the end of his career. We’ve never had this element that Brent Burns gives us with Boyle on one pair and him on a second pair. It makes us WAY tougher to match-up against.”

Take note: people around the Sharks think they’ll be “way tougher” to match up against than last season. This is a team that finished with the second best record in the Western Conference, won the Pacific Division crown for the fourth consecutive season, and eliminated both the upstart Los Angeles Kings and perennial power Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs.

We’ll know how much better they are when April and May roll around. But if they are, the Eastern Conference better start preparing themselves.

Report: Wild interested in MacLean, Carlyle for head coaching gig

OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 4: Head coach Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators yells at the on ice-officials following a disallowed goal against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on April 4, 2014 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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With the coaching carousel now in full spin — another gig opened up today, as Bob Hartley was fired in Calgary — GMs are actively seeking permission to speak with potential candidates.

Like in Minnesota, where Chuck Fletcher is working the phones.

Per the Star-Tribune, Fletcher — who has reportedly reached out to Ducks GM Bob Murray about Bruce Boudreau — is now also looking at Boudreau’s assistant in Anaheim, Paul MacLean, along with ex-Ducks and Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle.

More, from Mike Russo:

It’s believed on that same phone call with Murray, Fletcher asked about the status of Ducks assistant coach Paul MacLean. I’ve been led to believe Fletcher has yet to receive permission to talk with MacLean. If that’s true, it likely means MacLean, the former Senators head coach, is a candidate to replace Boudreau in Anaheim. That would make sense since MacLean was Murray’s hire in the first place.

In addition, as I reported in my Boudreau piece in Saturday’s paper here, sources told me that Fletcher did plan to contact Randy Carlyle. I don’t know if that contact has been made yet with the former Ducks and Maple Leafs coach.

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, Fletcher is currently in California. Logic suggests he’s getting two interviews done for the price of one, as both Boudreau and Carlyle live in southern California.

As for MacLean, he’s certainly going to be a figure worth monitoring. One has to think he’s in line to replace Boudreau in Anaheim — something predicted from the moment he was hired — but that’s assuming Murray doesn’t clean house behind the bench.

Treliving cites ‘style of play’ and poor special teams among reasons for firing Hartley

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Brad Treliving started out with a lot of love for Bob Hartley.

“Bob did some very good things here,” the Flames’ general manager told reporters today in Calgary. “He built a foundation in this organization. Apart from all else, he put his heart and soul into this team every day. He bled for this team. Bob’s a good coach.”

Then came the brutal honesty:

“I just felt that at this particular time, for us to move forward, Bob has taken this team as far as I feel he can take it.”

Hence, today’s decision to fire Hartley — a decision that Treliving insisted had nothing to do with any other coach that may have recently become available. (Like, for example, Bruce Boudreau.) Nor was it just to “throw a body on the tarmac” after the Flames missed the playoffs.

The decision to fire Hartley was made for one simple reason — the Flames haven’t been playing good enough hockey.

“Our special teams for a good portion of the year were 30th in the league. There’s some style-of-play issues,” said Treliving.

“Our goaltending was not good this year. That falls on the general manager. I need to fix that. [But] the way we play in front of the goaltender needs to be fixed as well.”

The statistics support Treliving’s assessment. In 2015-16, the Flames had the highest goals-against average in the NHL, and the worst penalty killing.

At five on five, Calgary was also one of the league’s worst puck-possession teams. And while that was the case last season as well, when the Flames made the playoffs and even won a round, remember that Treliving had previously chalked up a good portion of last season’s success to luck.

“I don’t want to characterize this as I’m standing in one end of the corner and Bob’s at the other end, and one’s talking chess and the other’s talking checkers,” Treliving said Monday.

“But in today’s game, you need to have the puck. You’ve gotta work like hell to get it. And when you get it, you gotta hold on to it, you gotta play with it.

“I think how you defend in the league, too, is an area we look at. … You really break down the chances that we give up… you’ve gotta be able to defend in this league.”

And so the search for Hartley’s replacement begins.

“I’ll leave this podium and work will start on who the next coach will be,” said Treliving. “But up until this point, this is about making a decision, doing it in what I believe is the right manner, and then we’ll move on.”

To listen to Treliving’s entire press conference, click here

Related: What does ‘good defense’ mean to Barry Trotz?

Panthers sign Swedish League standout Hultstrom

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 18: Linus Hultstrom #33 of Djurgarden Hockey skates against Linkoping HC at Hovet Arena on February 18, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Florida made a noteworthy move on Tuesday, signing defensman Linus Hultstrom from SHL club Djurgardens.

Hultstrom, 23, just wrapped a terrific year in which he led all SHL blueliners in goals (12) and points (31). In the playoffs, Hultstrom upped his production — 12 points in eight games — paving the way for the Panthers to make their move.

Though undersized — he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds — Hultstrom has been a scorer at virtually every level, and should be in line for a role on Florida’s blueline next season.

Captain Willie Mitchell, who missed the second half of the season with concussion issues, is expected to retire.

Another veteran defenseman, Brian Campbell, will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and it remains unclear if GM Dale Tallon will try to re-sign him.

Jakub Kindl, acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit, failed to impress and made just one appearance in the postseason. Kindl does, however, have one year remaining on his contract.

 

 

 

Strome saga continues, will be a healthy scratch for Game 3

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Ryan Strome‘s tough year just got a little bit tougher.

After seemingly re-establishing himself in the Islanders lineup, Strome will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s Game 3 against the Lightning.

Head coach Jack Capuano will drop Strome in favor of Josh Bailey, who returns from a two-game absence due to injury.

“I try to be a good team guy and I don’t want to draw any negative attention to myself,” Strome continued, per Newsday.

The fifth overall pick in 2011, Strome endured a difficult campaign that included a three-week stint in the AHL.

Those difficulties have carried over to the postseason. After playing the first four games of New York’s opening-round playoff series against the Panthers, Strome was dropped for Games 5 and 6 — but Bailey was hurt in the clincher, meaning Strome drew back in for the opening two games of the Bolts series.

It’s hard to say what exactly got him scratched. In Game 1, he assisted on both of Shane Prince‘s goals, helping the Isles to a 5-3 win — despite fairly limited ice time (12:26, third-lowest among forwards.)

In Game 2, his numbers weren’t as good — no points, two shots on goal, minus-1 rating, 35.9 Corsi — but his ice time jumped to 17:59, easily his biggest of the postseason.

The decision to park Strome probably isn’t about numbers. Following the Game 2 loss, Capuano said the Isles were “a little soft,” which has been one of the complaints about Strome’s game this year.

In fact, the 22-year-old alluded to it today.

“Last series [the message was] I needed to be a little harder to play against,” Strome said. “Points don’t always tell the whole story. I’m always confident in my game, but unfortunately I don’t make the decisions.

“I have to live with it.”