The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Holmgren’s can-do attitude, remembering the Cow Palace, those Callahan trade rumors, and more!

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Every Wednesday we publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We call it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little down lately. Just listening to all these general managers saying how hard it’s going to be to make trades before the deadline, it’s really discouraging to hear. I mean, trades and trade speculation is what keeps PHT in business. In terms of importance, it’s right up there with suspension videos and the latest updates on Brooks Laich’s groin. Oh well, at least we still have Paul Holmgren. I liked what he had to say this week: “There are ways we can deal with the salary cap and get around things, if we need to. There will be deals to be made.” That’s the type of can-do attitude we need more of. None of this Mike Gillis pessimism: “It’s tough to find anything but lateral moves and changing the deck chairs.”

Mike Halford: The way the Canucks have looked lately, I’m pretty sure putting a deck chair on the power play would be an upgrade. I too am worried about it being a “dead”-line. (See what I did there? Writing!) Of all the playoff hopefuls, only a few have significant cap space. Most of them are so close to the ceiling they’re licking plaster. I love Holmgren’s “SLRY CAPZ?” attitude. This year, more than ever, GMs are going to need to come up with creative ways to make moves. Putting someone on LTIR with a hangnail? Let’s try it. Suggesting 27 is a good age to retire? It’s an idea. Probably not a good one, but then I’m not a general manager.

JB: At the very least, if it’s a slow deadline, GMs will be coming out of their boots trying to hit home runs in the offseason. All that pent-up frustration combined with another round of compliance buyouts and a rising salary cap? I only hope Holmgren’s still around to partake in the bonanza. If the Flyers miss the playoffs, I’m not sure he will be. And yes, I said the exact same thing about George McPhee last week. By the end of the season, I’ll have checked off every GM in the league and will have a “told you so” post written and ready to publish for each firing. Anyway, say what you will about some of the moves Holmgren’s made as GM — I really didn’t care for that Steve Mason contract, for example — but he’s been a boon for the blogging business.

source:  MH: Which is really all that matters. OK, change of subject: did you see the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls ceased operations? I only bring it up because the Bulls played in my favorite ex-NHL rink — the Cow Palace. Looking back, I almost can’t believe the Sharks called that place home for the first two years of their existence. A livestock pavilion. That held fewer than 12,000 people. And opened during World War II. I will say this, though — the Cow Palace has the kind of history you just don’t get from today’s fancy, newfangled arenas. The Cow Palace lived, man. From Wikipedia: “During a November 20, 1973 concert by The Who, their drummer Keith Moon, passed out from an overdose of horse tranquilizers.” How many current NHL arenas can say they’ve had a horse-tranq OD? The answer is zero. Well, maybe the Saddledome, but only because of all the horses.

JB: It makes me feel old to think of all the rinks that were still in existence when I first started watching hockey. Boston Garden. Chicago Stadium. Maple Leaf Gardens. The Forum. The Aud. St. Louis Arena. Winnipeg Arena. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Oh wait, that one’s still around. Do you remember when the Lightning played in Tropicana Field? Or, as it was known then, the Thunderdome. Which is just fantastic. We don’t need another hero! We don’t need to know the way home! All we want is life beyond…the Thunderdome. Again, I’m not young. I didn’t even need to Google those lyrics. But seriously, that must’ve been a nice intimate setting to take in a game. In 1993, a record crowd of 27,227 watched the Lightning and Panthers play. Little did they know, by the year 2020, over 50 percent of NHL games would be held in baseball stadiums.

MH: I miss the oddities of the old rinks. Like the stairs that players had to climb to get to the Chicago Stadium ice. And the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in Winnipeg. So much nostalgia. Someday, Islanders fans will look back fondly on the asbestos that used to fill their lungs. Moving on: have you seen these Ryan Callahan trade rumors? Not sure what to make of ’em. I feel like the Rangers would be crazy to deal their captain while in a playoff position, but when you look at the big picture…one, the guy is a human band-aid. Always hurt. Two, he turns 29 in March and is no doubt looking for a significant raise. Maybe there’s just no room to keep him.

JB:  Look, if you’re Glen Sather (here, put on this fedora), you at least have to find out what you could get for the guy, otherwise you’re not doing your job. But I’d be surprised if Slats trades him, even if he doesn’t sign him before the deadline. It’s one thing for a non-playoff team to let a player like Callahan walk for nothing. It’s different when you’re 12-5-1 in your last 18 games and could make a deep run this spring. Don’t laugh. If the playoffs started today, the Rangers would play the Flyers in the first round. Winnable, right? If they won that, they’d probably play the Penguins. And we’ve all seen what can happen to Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Meltdown city.

MH: That brings up a good debate: Who has the most pressure to win the Stanley Cup this season? For me, it’s gotta be the Pens — I don’t wanna say they’re in Peyton Manning territory with the “multiple amazing regular seasons, but only one championship” narrative, but it’s pretty startling how little postseason success the Pens have had since winning it all in ’09. Case in point? Here is a list of the teams Pittsburgh has defeated in the last four playoff years: Senators, Islanders. That is all. And when the Pens lose? Whether it’s by collapsing defensively (allowing 30 goals in six games against the Flyers) or drying up offensively (two goals in a four-game sweep versus Boston), they lose badly.

source: Getty ImagesJB: For me, it’s a tie between the Blues and Sharks, with maybe a slight edge to St. Louis. Neither franchise has won the Cup in its history and both have the teams to get it done this year. The reason I might give a slight edge to St. Louis is its proximity to Chicago, home of the defending champs. Blues fans are dying for a championship of their own, and if it finally happens this year, there’s a good chance the Blues will have beaten the hated ‘Hawks along the way. And yes, that’s one of the reasons I’ll keep banging the Ryan Miller-to-St. Louis drum. Jaroslav Halak has been playing well lately, but I still think Miller would give them a better chance.

MH: You’re also going to keep banging that drum for website traffic, aren’t you.

JB: Thomas Vanek trade rumors. Dan Girardi trade rumors.

MH: Shea Weber trade rumors. Edmonton Oilers.

JB: Nazem Kadri trade rumors. Jake Gardiner trade rumors.

MH: Go to work, Google News.

Florida Panthers aren’t afraid to change, but will they actually improve?

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Change is often a necessary thing in sports, and the results can be swift and brutal. There’s a fine line between rolling with the punches and blindly swinging, however.

The Florida Panthers’ history as a franchise makes you wonder if they’ll ever find the right balance between stability and innovation. Amid all these years of flip-flopping and regime tweaks, there may only be one unsettling constant: the on-ice product being middling-to-terrible.

Just look at the way they burn through coaches.

Six of their 14 head coaches were behind the bench for fewer than 82 games, including Tom Rowe, who was seemingly thrown out with the analytical approach last season.

Their GMs haven’t fared much better. Dale Tallon’s probably received the longest leash of them all, and this past year or so made a mess of that situation. And it’s arguable that things have only degraded as Tallon aims to clean up supposed “messes.”

The Panthers didn’t just lose cheap 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas; they also shipped Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Smith was a golden boy of sorts to the more stats-leaning members of the franchise, and while he struggled last season, it sure seemed like the Panthers were eager to get rid of him.

The same could be said about Jason Demers.

MORE: Welcome Demers to the trade rumor mill

As abrupt as the Gerard Gallant firing felt, the Panthers didn’t necessarily give the analytical approach much time. At least from an “optics” standpoint.

Now, parting ways with Marchessault, Smith, and possibly Demers may end up being reasonable in hindsight. Still, there’s no denying that Tallon made some mistakes in his stead; the “computer boys” didn’t sign an atrocious Dave Bolland contract and didn’t pick Erik Gudbranson over superior talent.

The bottom line is that the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since John Vanbiesbrouck led them to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. There’s legitimate concern that this franchise will keep making the same mistakes – and keep changing the cooks in the kitchen – while the results leave much to be desired.

Will Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau share the same frustrating path as Jay Bouwmeester and others before them?

This summer could serve as a serious fork in the road, as Tallon has some building blocks in place and an estimated $20 million in cap space. Even if the Panthers remain a budget team, they’re likely to have some room to work with.

Perhaps they’ll finally make the right changes?

Related

Panthers look to be aggressive in adding scoring

Devils will give top pick Hischier a chance to make team right away

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There’s at least some question regarding whether Nico Hischier is ready to jump straight from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft to becoming an immediate part of the New Jersey Devils’ roster.

If he went back to junior, it would break a lengthy trend of No. 1 choices going to the big time right away.

Devils GM Ray Shero seems pretty optimistic that he can handle that jump, though, as you can see from this presser via MSG:

MORE: Devils pick Hischier over Patrick

As one would expect, Shero said that the Devils won’t rush him if it’s “apparent” that the Swiss-born forward isn’t ready. Still, Shero seems convinced that Hischier has the size, skill, and smarts to earn a spot.

Much like Nolan Patrick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hischier didn’t deny that he wants to make the big time right off the bat.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s my goal, so it is important for sure,” Hischier said on draft night. “I really want to achieve my goal, but I still know I have to prove a lot of things to play there.”

Hey, maybe Taylor Hall could even ease his adjustment?

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.

Hjalmarsson shocked by Blackhawks trade, but Coyotes could improve soon

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Who could blame Niklas Hjalmarsson for being surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks traded him? The move blindsided … well, just about everyone outside of the Blackhawks organization, after all.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to that thought,” Hjalmarsson said, according to the Arizona Republic. “At the same time, I’m trying to always be a positive guy.”

Indeed, the 30-year-old defenseman did his best to say all the right things about the Arizona Coyotes, praising a roster that includes “a lot of young and promising players.”

MORE on the trade here

Described by some as the NHL’s best pure defensive defenseman, Hjalmarsson also gives the Coyotes good reason to be excited by a blueline that’s suddenly quite competitive. Consider the quartet that GM John Chayka helped assemble:

Hjalmarsson: An often-underrated part of the Blackhawks’ run. Consider some of the praise he received even before this move was made.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson: One of the league’s best-kept secrets, “OEL” ranks as one of the most dangerous scoring defensemen. At 25, he’s still deep in his prime.

Alex Goligoski: When you consider the Dallas Stars’ lost 2016-17 season, don’t dismiss the absence of “Gogo.” He might not be perfect, but the 31-year-old is the sort of puck-mover you need to excel in the modern game.

Jakob Chychrun: At 19, he’s already getting reps at the NHL level. The Coyotes could pair him with a veteran and watch him grow.

***

When you look at those four, in particular, it’s easier to see Hjalmarsson’s excitement as more than just lip service. It probably doesn’t hurt that the Coyotes also added Derek Stepan, another sign that this franchise is taking the next step after absorbing other franchises’ problem contracts in the likes of Dave Bolland and Pavel Datsyuk’s last year.

Granted, it will still be an adjustment, as the Coyotes are likely aiming for “respectable” while anything less that a deep run was unacceptable for the Blackhawks.

Still, Hjalmarsson has plenty of power to make this move more palatable than it may have initially seemed.

And, hey, who would blame him for circling Oct. 21 on his calendar?