NHL realignment

PHT Morning Skate: Where we look at realignment, Olympics, Leafs


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Rather than move Detroit or Columbus from the East to West to fix the Conference size imbalance, would it be better to make the conferences geographically neutral like the MLB or NFL? (Rotoworld)

Don Cherry criticized Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf for declining to fight Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust during the Leafs’ 5-2 loss on Wednesday. “I knew they were going to lose when he didn’t answer the bell,” Cherry said. (Sportsnet)

Anaheim Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri looks back on Wednesday’s hat trick. At 22-years-old, he became the second-youngest Ducks player to ever accomplish that feat. (Ducks.nhl.com)

37-year-old defenseman Francis Bouillon was afraid that the lockout would end his playing career. Now that the work stoppage is behind us, the Montreal Canadiens’ blueliner is reaching some meaningful milestones. (Montreal Gazette)

Forward Aaron Volpatti is looking forward to bringing his physical game to the Washington Capitals. (Washington Times)

Former head coach Ron Wilson figured the Maple Leafs firing him a year ago “was kind of inevitable,” according to his friend and current Capitals assistant coach Tim Hunter. He thinks Wilson, 57, would also take another coaching position if the opportunity presented itself. Wilson had a 648-561-101-91 record with Anaheim, Washington, San Jose, and Toronto. (Toronto Star)

New Jersey Devils forward Ryan Carter confirmed that he sustained a concussion on Feb. 18. On the plus side, he thinks he might be able to return Saturday. (New Jersey Online)

On the anniversary of Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, Steve Yzerman reflects on Canada winning gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics. (ESPN.com)

Top New York Rangers prospect Chris Kreider is back in the minors. (New York Newsday)

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado