Who will LaFontaine hire as Buffalo’s next GM?

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During his introductory presser as Buffalo’s new president of hockey operations, Pat LaFontaine said he has a shortlist of candidates for the club’s vacant GM gig.

So, who might be on the list?

Names have been bandied about and there’s no early word on who might be the leading candidate. To streamline things, we’ve compiled a list of who we think might be on that list.

Rick Dudley

Hiring Dudley would fit the theme of bringing ex-Sabres back into the fold. Dudley coached in Buffalo from 1989-92 and has extensive GM experience, having served in that role for Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and Atlanta.

He’s currently working as Marc Bergevin’s assistant in Montreal.

Mike Peca

Another guy with serious ties to the Buffalo organization, the former captain is currently the head coach and GM of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, an Ontario Junior A team owned by the NHL club.

Peca, along with Dudley, was pegged as a potential candidate for the vacant GM gig by ex-Sabre goalie and current TSN analyst Martin Biron.

Neil Smith

The architect of the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup winning-team, Smith has a relationship with LaFontaine from their (brief) time together on Long Island. Smith was given the Isles GM gig in June 2006, only to be fired months later by owner Charles Wang.

LaFontaine, who had been hired as a senior adviser, quit his position in reaction to the Smith firing.

Mark Seidel, former assistant GM with OHL Erie and scout with the Minnesota Wild, said he “keeps hearing” Smith’s name come up regarding the Sabres’ gig.

Paul Fenton

David Poile’s right-hand man in Nashville has long been considered the next quality GM in waiting. The Poile managerial tree has already produced current Pens GM Ray Shero — winner of the 2013 NHL General Manger of the Year Award — and Fenton is largely credited with leading Nashville’s drafts from 2003-08, during which time they selected Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Kevin Klein and Patric Hornqvist.

Jason Botterill

Botterill currently serves as Shero’s assistant in Pittsburgh and — surprise! — has ties to the Sabres organization, having played there from 2002-04. He’s known as the Pens’ cap specialist and has been instrumental in designing deals to keep a number of Pittsburgh’s high-priced players in place.

Others

— Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager (Shero) in Pittsburgh.

— Julien BriseBois, Steve Yzerman’s assistant in Tampa Bay.

— Joe Will, Doug Wilson’s assistant in San Jose.

— Matthew Barnaby. I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: