John Tortorella, Brad Richardson, Tom Sestito

Three things the Canucks haven’t done well under Torts

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Yeah, yeah, the Vancouver guy’s writing another blog post on Vancouver. Well, I’m sorry, it’s not my fault the Canucks have gone from one of the NHL’s best teams to one of the NHL’s worst, all in such a short time. Plus, I think I’ve watched enough of this team over the years to add some decent perspective.

So since John Tortorella’s such a hot topic, and general manager Mike Gillis doesn’t want to comment on his coaching situation, lest he “lend credibility to what’s out there with bloggers,” here are three things this blogger has noticed about the Canucks under Torts:

1. They can’t move the puck

Specifically, from their end of the ice and into the attacking zone. Which is important in hockey, and also something the Canucks used to do really well during their salad days with Alain Vigneault behind the bench.

Mike Babcock — a good coach, we can all agree, right? — is always talking about the importance of getting the puck moving out of the defensive end in order to transition quickly through the neutral zone and into the opponent’s end, WITH POSSESSION.

“The game’s real simple, the more time you spend in your zone, the less time you spend in their zone, the more you dump the puck because you got no speed on the rush,” Babcock said last season.

“If you’re efficient coming out and move the puck and you do it right once, you’re coming with speed, you don’t have to dump the puck, you probably get some sort of entry, or at least you give up possession and get it right back. Dumping the puck is awful when you’re just dumping it in and changing. You spend the whole game in your own zone wearing yourself out.”

I have a theory why the Canucks have had trouble with this under Tortorella, and it relates to the forwards collapsing toward their net in the defensive zone. While this strategy may lead to more blocked shots, there’s a catch. Once the puck turns over, the forwards aren’t in a great position to start the transition. And if you haven’t noticed, the Sedins aren’t exactly lightning fast. It takes them a while to get back up the ice. The last thing they need is more ice to cover.

2. They can’t capitalize on rebounds

Tortorella wants his players to shoot the puck. From anywhere and everywhere. Even if it’s just flinging the puck on net. And the Canucks have bought into that, for the most part. Going into tonight’s game, they’re averaging 30.7 shots, the 12th-most in the NHL.

Shooting the puck, regardless of whether there’s a reasonable chance of scoring on the shot, can be an effective strategy if you have the players to capitalize on rebounds. The Canucks have some players that fare OK in those situations, like Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins. And wouldn’t you know it, those two lead the team in goals, with 22 and 17, respectively.

The Sedins, on the other hand, are not those types. When they’re on their game, they play hockey like it’s basketball, using misdirection to find open teammates, often with the goalie being caught out of position. If you just throw the puck on net and tell the twins to go into traffic and get rebounds, it’s not going to work. You might as well tell a dead dog to go fetch.

Now, to be fair, Tortorella has said he doesn’t want to turn the Sedins into grinders. That may be so, and by the way, I don’t believe for a second that the twins are wholly victims of the system. They started declining before Torts came to Vancouver, and they’ve needed to be better for a while now. But that being said, after Vigneault was fired, if I had been in charge of picking a coach to get the Sedins going, Torts wouldn’t have been at the top of my list, or really anywhere near it.

3. They give up way too many odd-man rushes

A classic example of this came in the 6-1 loss to Dallas. Here’s Alex Edler with one of the worst pinches you’ll ever see:

This has been an issue all season. Dan Hamhuis, like Edler, has struggled with this, too. And these are not bad defensemen we’re talking about. Edler was good enough to play regular minutes in the Olympics for Sweden, which won silver in Sochi. Hamhuis may not have played big minutes for Canada, but he was good enough to be part of arguably the best blue line ever assembled in international hockey. So he’s got that going for him.

But this is what Tortorella wants his defense doing: making aggressive pinches to keep pucks alive in the attacking zone. In contrast, Vigneault would often talk about making “high-percentage plays.” Which is why it’s totally wrong to label Tortorella a super conservative coach and Vigneault some sort of run-and-gunner. It’s just not true. They’re simply safe and risky in different areas.

Anyway, I’m not sure how this all ends. My guess is Tortorella isn’t back next season and Gillis keeps his job, but I’m just a blogger speculating.

What is wrong with the Kings?

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, front, of Slovenia, picks up a loose puck as Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog, of Sweden, pursues in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The first year of Anze Kopitar‘s $80 million contract extension may end up being the worst year of his NHL career.

In a full 82-game season, the 29-year-old center has never put up fewer than 61 points. But with just six goals and 27 assists in 54 games, Kopitar, the reigning Selke Trophy recipient, is on pace for only 46 points in 2016-17.

Last night, Kopitar was held pointless for a fourth straight game as the Kings fell, 4-1, to the Bruins at Staples Center.

“Can’t chase the lead,” said head coach Darryl Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “Early goal, just a constant theme. Chase the lead. Need some production out of the top end of your lineup to overcome that.”

With the loss, the Kings found themselves four points back of the second wild-card spot with only one game in hand on Calgary.

Sutter was asked if there was one thing that concerned him above anything else.

“Yep,” he said. “Production from the top end. Absolutely, 100 percent.”

Given Jeff Carter has scored more than his share of goals (29), the coach was clearly talking mostly about Kopitar.

That being said, Marian Gaborik only has six goals himself, and that’s a problem for Kopitar because the Kings, after losing Justin Williams and Milan Lucic in the last two years, aren’t exactly swimming in high-scoring wingers.

Gaborik, who turned 35 just a few days ago, is signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $4.875 million. Combine that with Dustin Brown, 32, being signed through 2021-22 for a cap hit of $5.875 million and the Kings have over $10 million in cap space tied up in two aging wingers who aren’t providing many goals.

So, that’ll be the challenge for GM Dean Lombardi going forward. It just remains to be seen if there’s a solution.

The Kings host Anaheim tomorrow.

Report: Berglund, St. Louis talking contract extension

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues in action in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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These are busy times for Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

In addition to dealing with the Kevin Shattenkirk situation, Armstrong has to address the future of Patrik Berglund, the 28-year-old center that, like Shattenkirk, is a pending UFA.

Here’s the latest, from the Post-Dispatch:

The club is believed to be in talks with the center and Berglund told the Post-Dispatch that there is is mutual interest from both sides on an extension. His agent, Peter Wallen, did not return a message and Armstrong was unavailable.

“I would like to still be a Blue,” Berglund said Monday, before the Blues broke for their five-day bye. “I think everybody in here and upstairs knows that I want to be a Blue, too.”

Berglund has spent his entire nine-year career in St. Louis, emerging as versatile forward that can play the middle or wing. He’s also found the back of the net 17 times this season, and is flirting with matching or surpassing the career-high 22 he scored back in ’10-11.

As mentioned above, Berglund’s in the last of a three-year, $11.1 million contract that pays $3.7 million annually. With signals of a Shattenkirk trade getting stronger, it’s reasonable to think Berglund will be kept around.

Simply put, the Blues might be unable to handle more significant roster turnover. The club has moved on from the likes of Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott in recent years, and lost some of its identity in the process.

Welcome Drew Stafford to the trade rumor mill

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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Another name to add to the pile as we gear up for next Wednesday’s trade deadline:

Drew Stafford.

Stafford, the 31-year-old winger that’s spent the two-and-a-half seasons in Winnipeg, has reportedly been the subject of trade calls, per ESPN.

Stafford’s had an injury-plagued campaign, limited to just 39 games due to upper- and lower-body injuries, yet still managed to rack up 12 points while averaging just over 13 minutes per night.

It’s easy to see why teams are making calls.

Stafford has history as a productive goalscoring winger, finding the back of the net 21 times last season (with a career-high of 31 back in ’10-11). He’s got enough ability to play up and down the lineup and, what’s more, he’s about as pure a rental as they come — Stafford’s a pending UFA, in the last of a two-year deal that pays $4.35 million annually.

What’s more, the Jets are one of those “are they buyers or are they sellers?” teams.

Winnipeg is only four points back of Calgary for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but would need to leap two teams — the Flames and the Kings — to get there.

The Jets have also played 63 games, to Calgary’s 61 and Los Angeles’ 60.

In the end, Stafford’s contractual situation and the team’s glut of forwards could see him move along. In addition to all the youngsters Winnipeg already has up front, the likes of ’15 first-rounders Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic are still looking to make the leap.

Preds’ Forsberg becomes first player since 2010 to score back-to-back hat tricks

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Remember when Predators forward Filip Forsberg couldn’t buy a goal at the beginning of the season? Yea, neither do we.

It may be hard to believe, but Forsberg didn’t find the back of the net until the 14th game of the 2016-17 season. He didn’t score his second until game no. 19. But the 22-year-old has really put it together.

On Tuesday night, he scored three goals in a 6-5 OT loss to the Calgary Flames and he netted a second hat trick in two games in Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche (you can watch his latest hat trick by clicking the video at the top of the page).

It’s the first time in Predators history that a player has back-to-back three-goal games and he’s the first player in the league to do it since Canucks forward Alex Burrows in 2010.

Despite his slow start, the two hat tricks now put him on pace to hit the 30-goal mark for the second consecutive year, which is really impressive.

“It’s tough to explain,” Forsberg said, per NHL.com. “Sometimes it feels great but you don’t score, and sometimes you feel bad but you still score. Tonight was a lot of fun.

“I think I always felt a responsibility, and I think that goes for every player in this locker room. Everyone wants to contribute and help the team win. Obviously I can’t expect myself to score a hat trick every game, but I just try to work hard and if I can score goals, I’ll take that as well.”

Not only has he been better, but the whole team is showing that the slow start they endured in the first few weeks of the season was just a fluke.

The Predators are comfortably sitting in a playoff spot (if that even exists in today’s NHL) with 67 points in 60 games, which puts them in the first Wild Card position. They’re one point ahead of Calgary with a game in hand and five points ahead of Los Angeles, who’s on the outside looking in.

Nashville is also neck-and-neck with the St. Louis Blues for third in the Central Division. Both teams have the same number of games played and points, but the Blues have three more regulation/overtime victories.