Under Pressure: Paul Holmgren

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, we pick… Paul Holmgren.

No GM made more big financial swings than Holmgren this summer, whether it was $66.2 million to extend Claude Giroux, or $26 million to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere, or the $21 million to sign Mark Streit, or the $22.5 million to sign Vinny Lecavalier.

That’s a lot of money. A lot of money.

While some moves were no-brainers — retaining Giroux was a must, Bryzgalov had lost the plot and needed to go — others were pretty risky ventures.

Holmgren signed Streit as a 35-plus contract, meaning Philly’s on the hook for the entirety of his deal (much like it is with Chris Pronger). What’s more, the veteran blueliner looked like he lost a step last year, especially in the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh when his ice time dropped to 20:18 a night, fifth among New York defensemen.

Then, there’s Lecavalier.

While still a skilled physical presence, the former Tampa captain turns 34 this season and hasn’t scored more than 70 points in five years. He’s also shown signs of injury proneness (missing 44 games in the last three years combined) and, as many have pointed out, didn’t really fit any of Philadelphia’s needs.

Like, say, goaltending.

In an ironic twist, Holmgren’s biggest gamble this season is one he did on the cheap. The Flyers GM is now rolling with one of the league’s least-expensive goalie tandems in Ray Emery and Steve Mason, who will earn a combined $3.15 million this year.

Both come with a fair level of risk. Yes, Emery’s proven to be one of the league’s better backup netminders over the last two years and, in a timeshare role with Chicago during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, put up great numbers (17-1-0, .922 save percentage, 1.94 GAA).

But Emery also turns 31 this month and hasn’t handled a starter’s load since 2007… three years before he underwent major hip surgery for avascular necrosis.

Mason faces just as many questions, if not more. His career nearly hit rock bottom prior to the trade to the Flyers — he called his final few seasons in Columbus “extremely humbling” — and many will be watching to see if he can maintain confidence in Philly, a notoriously difficult town for goalies.

(Part of Mason’s confidence issues stem from years of defeats. At 24, he’s already lost more than 100 games.)

In the end, though, all these gambles come back to Holmgren, who’s entering his seventh season on the job and can’t afford a second consecutive year of missed playoffs.

He’s spent an awful lot owner Ed Snider’s money, which has to be worrisome — even if he’s received a vote of confidence.

“‘[Holmgren’s] not on the hot seat,” Snider told CSN Philly last week. “Not at all. I don’t think anybody can look at the job Paul Holmgren did in the offseason this year and not say it was outstanding.

“Every move a GM makes isn’t going to be perfect. They all make mistakes.”

Strong message? Sure, until you remember another of Snider’s votes of confidence — the one he gave Bryzgalov seven months ago.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

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Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Devils place goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils placed goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

Schneider left after the second period. Keith Kinkaid replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced to earn the victory.

With Schneider sidelined, Kinkaid was expected to start Friday night at home against San Jose.

The Devils recalled goalie Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

The Devils catch a scheduling break with a week off until their next game Oct. 27, the first day Schneider is eligible to return.

Schneider is 4-1-0 in six games this season with a 3.30 goals-against average.

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Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially registered with the NHL because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.:

 

NHL admits off-side challenge error that cost Avalanche a goal

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The NHL admitted on Friday that a decision denying the Colorado Avalanche a tying goal against the St. Louis was wrong.

Mikko Rantanen’s goal late in the third period was overturned after Sven Andrighetto was ruled to be off-side following a video review challenge issued by the Blues.

Now here’s where the fun starts.

Because Andrighetto was not ruled off-side by the linesman when he touches the puck in the Blues’ zone, when he leaves and re-enters the zone that’s considered a (clean) second zone entry. So the goal should have counted and the Avs should have had a power play for a failed off-side challenge.

Here’s the NHL’s statement:

“St. Louis requested a Coach’s Challenge to determine whether Sven Andrighetto of Colorado was off-side prior to the Avalanche goal. The video review decision determined the play was off-side but that determination was based on a play prior to the puck clearing the zone. 

Per Rule 78. 7 (Note 1) Coach’s Challenge: ‘Goals will only be reviewed for a potential “Off-Side” infraction if: a) the puck does not come out of the attacking zone again; or (b) all members of the attacking team do not clear the attacking zone again, between the time of the “Off-Side” play and the time the goal is scored.

Although there was an off-side, it occurred prior to the puck clearing the zone which nullifies any goal review related to that off-side. The entry in to the zone immediately prior to the goal was on-side, therefore the goal should have counted.”

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, appearing on Sportnet’s Hockey Central at Noon on Friday, said he believes the wording of the rule will change in the future.

“The call on the ice was correct,” he said. “The wording in the rulebook is wrong, and that’s where we’re going to have to work with. I think that’s why the rulebook always changes because you come up with unintended consequences, and that was one of them. I don’t think anyone that watched the game last night think that’s a goal we want to count.”

Let’s just go with NHL ’94 rules and turn off-side off, yeah? That’ll stop games from being paused and goals being taken off the board because a player’s skate blade was a millimeter off-side entering the offensive zone.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.