Wilson: Sharks don’t believe in rebuilding, want to ‘reset on the fly’

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With a number of key players ready to hit free agency at the end of next season — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture — San Jose GM Doug Wilson could go a number of directions with his club’s future.

One direction he won’t go, though, is the way of a rebuild.

“We’re not a team that’s going to miss the playoffs for five or seven years and go into a rebuild,” Wilson told CSN Bay Area. “We don’t believe in that.

“We want to reset on the fly, and it only works when you have players that understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and participate in it.”

To that end, Wilson has already begun contract extension talks with Couture, a pending RFA likely to get a hefty raise on his two-year, $5.75 million deal that expires next July.

The decision to lock up Couture now is a no-brainer.

The 24-year-old emerged as arguably the club’s top player in 2013, a guy head coach Todd McLellan said was “driving the bus” down the stretch and through the playoffs.

(According to reports from CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz and CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, sounds as though San Jose could extend Pavelski this summer as well.)

This does beg a question, though: What becomes of the guys that used to drive the bus?

Thornton and Marleau will be 35 and 34, respectively, when their deals expire at the end of 2013-14 (both have full no-movement clauses, according to Capgeek.)

Boyle will be 38, with a modified NTC where he can select eight teams he won’t accept a trade to.

If Wilson’s goal is to ‘reset on the fly,’ dealing any of these three could be in play.

Center depth is hard to come by in the NHL, and the Sharks have it in spades with Couture, Thornton, Marleau and 2012 first-rounder Tomas Hertl, who’s expected to challenge for a roster spot next season.

Boyle’s no stranger to trade rumors, as his name made the rounds at this year’s deadline.

Finally, there’s Wilson’s history.

He’s remade the Sharks on several occasions already by making “hockey trades” — Michalek/Cheechoo-for-Heatley, Setoguchi/Coyle-for-Burns, Heatley-for-Havlat — rather than trying to stockpile picks.

This year he did more of the same, moving out Ryane Clowe, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray at the deadline while bringing in Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres.

In the end, though, Wilson says his decisions moving forward are tied to two things — financial flexibility, and players who “get” what the Sharks are doing.

“We have a lot of flexibility going forward. We have lots of flexibility in two years, which ties into some of the players [Pavelski, Couture] that you’re asking about us signing this summer,” he explained.

“We’ve been fortunate to have players that understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.