Brian Burke

Under Pressure: Brian Burke

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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 Calgary Flames we picked… president Brian Burke.

Burke might not be the public face of the Flames like he was in Toronto, but he’s still the president of hockey operations, so the buck stops with him.

Back when he first became the general manager of the Maple Leafs, it was after plenty of speculation and his decision to join the team was cause for optimism. Burke came with an impressive resume and the Maple Leafs were a team desperate for success. Perhaps too desperate.

When Burke took over, the franchise had already went the route of trying desperately to make the playoffs at all cost, only to fall short. They had recently started to embrace the notion of rebuilding and starting a new era now that long-time captain Mats Sundin was gone. At the same time, a lengthy rebuild would be a tough pill to swallow for a hungry fanbase that had already endured three straight campaigns without a playoff berth.

We all know how that story ended, but it’s being retold in Calgary. This is a team that resisted the notion of a rebuild for years and couldn’t make the playoffs despite that. Now they’re finally starting to set their sights on the future after parting ways with long-time captain Jarome Iginla. So Burke will once again be tasked with leading a battered franchise towards the playoffs and asking for understanding despite the Flames’ four straight campaigns of futility.

The big difference is that this time Burke isn’t coming in with the same reputation of success. His time in Toronto changed that and consequently it might be just as well that he won’t be front and center as often.

Maybe it’s also for the best that Calgary is in such a similar situation as the 2008-09 Maple Leafs that he’ll get struck with déjà vu. This is a perfect opportunity to show what he might have done if given a second chance. Will he employ the same basic tactics that he used with Toronto with the belief that they could work or even were succeeding when he was shown the door? Or will he do things differently?

What will we be saying about the Flames in four or five years?

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
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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.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.