Mike Smith

Under Pressure: Mike Smith

8 Comments

The Coyotes took a big chance when they signed goaltender Mike Smith to a six-year, $34 million contract in the summer of 2013. They were betting on him being one of the league’s top goaltenders and that’s not what he was last season.

Before making the trip to Arizona, Smith had struggled to establish himself as a starting goaltender, but he broke out in 2011-12 with a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 67 games. He was just as effective in the playoffs and led the Coyotes to the conference finals for the first time in their history.

He wasn’t nearly as effective in the shortened campaign though, which raised questions about whether his 2011-12 performance would ultimately prove to be an aberration. Clearly the Coyotes decided that Smith had more great seasons in him as the small market team locked him up.

The first year of his new contract wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great either. He was inconsistent and posted a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage in 62 games before an MCL sprain ended his season.

“Goaltending through the middle of the season for me wasn’t where it needed to be,” Smith admitted in April, per the Arizona Republic. “I was kind of doing some soul-searching, and we lost some games because of that.”

Smith suggested that part of the problem was that the Olympics were looming and he wasn’t sure if he would make Team Canada, so that put extra pressure on him. While those exact circumstances obviously won’t repeat in 2014-15, it’s still fair to say that a lot will be riding on Smith this season.

The Coyotes might not be searching for owners anymore, but the team still needs to grow its fanbase in Glendale as quickly as possible to prove that hockey can thrive there. The best way to attract an audience is with a great on-ice product and whether or not the Coyotes are playoff contenders will largely rest on Smith’s shoulders.

If the 32-year-old goaltender is anything less than great in 2014-15, then this could be another problematic season for Arizona.

‘Canes recall Murphy from conditioning stint

Ryan Murphy
AP
Leave a comment

The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled defenseman Ryan Murphy from his AHL conditioning stint.

Murphy ended up playing seven games and registering one assist during his latest stint with the Charlotte Checkers. The 23-year-old was the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft, but he has yet to establish himself as an everyday NHL player.

Prior to his AHL assignment, Murphy played four games for the ‘Canes, logging an average ice time of just 13:06. He had one assist and was minus-6.

Carolina starts a three-game California road trip Wednesday in Anaheim.

No changes planned to NHL’s concussion protocol

Leave a comment

The NHL has no plans to change its concussion protocol, even after Connor McDavid expressed shock at being removed from last night’s game in Edmonton.

“We have no intention of changing the standards that are employed based on the situation in the game or season,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN.ca today.

McDavid was pulled from yesterday’s Oilers-Wild game with just over six minutes left in the second period. At the time, the game was tied at one and the Oilers were on the power play, seconds away from enjoying a brief 5-on-3 man advantage.

It was an NHL spotter who made the call to have McDavid pulled from the game, much to the 19-year-old’s chagrin.

“I hit my mouth on the ice,” McDavid said afterwards. “You reach up and grab your mouth when you get hit in the mouth. I think that’s a pretty normal thing. Obviously the spotter knew how I was feeling.

“Sh***y time of the game, too, I guess. It’s a little bit of a partial five-on-three and a power play late in the second period where if you capitalize, it could change the game.”

McDavid eventually returned and played 20:38 on the night, but the Oilers lost, 2-1, in overtime.

Though Daly conceded the NHL’s concussion rules remain “a work in progress,” he said the league is “comfortable with how the new protocol is working” and that it’s “always better to err on the side of caution.”

Related: NHL adding more concussion spotters this season

Pre-game reading: What’s the Penguins’ plan for Pouliot?

Leave a comment

— Up top, a good scrap between Anaheim’s Kevin Bieksa and Calgary’s Micheal Ferland. Those two have a history dating back to the 2015 playoff series between the Canucks and Flames.

— What’s the Pittsburgh Penguins’ plan for Derrick Pouliot? That’s a good question, seeing as Pouliot was the eighth overall draft pick in 2012 and he’s only played one game for the Pens this season. Pouliot says he’s not hurt anymore, which seems worth mentioning seeing as he’s still on injured reserve. His coach, Mike Sullivan, says this: “He’s a very good young player, and it’s our responsibility to try and help him continue to grow and develop. … Part of that is obviously he has to play games. He has to get in some games here. We’ll work to do that.” (Post-Gazette)

— It’s getting down to crunch time for the NHL to make a decision on the 2018 Winter Olympics. Their CBA-related offer to the players has reportedly been rejected. To which the National Post’s Scott Stinson argues: Come on, NHL, you gotta be there. “Having the best hockey players in the world showcased at the world’s biggest sporting event, in a tournament that offers the best version of the game, an embarrassment of speed and skill, is a clear advertisement for the merits of the world’s best hockey league, even if the NHL shield is not formally a part of the proceedings.” (National Post)

— Bob McKenzie shares the story of Jack Han, who came to Canada from China as a youngster and is now on the coaching staff of McGill’s women’s hockey team. Han doesn’t have a traditional hockey background, but he’s learning how to use analytics and video to carve out his own niche. (TSN)

— Now that Brent Burns has signed, who are the top pending UFAs that could be had on July 1? Ben Bishop and Kevin Shattenkirk top Sportsnet’s list, but don’t sleep on T.J. Oshie, because the Capitals will need to get creative to keep him — especially with Evgeny Kuznetsov requiring a new deal. (Sportsnet)

— Nobody’s paying big bucks to watch the Vancouver Canucks anymore, with local ticket brokers reporting the lowest interest in decades. That’s mostly because the team isn’t very good anymore. But it’s also because there’s no young superstar like Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine or Auston Matthews to watch on a regular basis. That’s what other teams across Canada have to sell. And it’s selling well in those places. (The Province)

Enjoy the games!

Chara ‘more than likely’ to return from six-game absence tonight

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 7: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates towards the face-off circle during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 7, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hasn’t been in the lineup since Nov. 22, but that all changes tonight when he returns for a key date against the Panthers at TD Garden.

B’s head coach Claude Julien called it “more than likely probable” (per NHL.com) that Chara will play for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury six games ago. It’s a huge addition for a Boston defense that has been without its veteran leader and fellow vet John-Michael Liles, who is currently sidelined with a concussion.

As a result of those two injuries, Julien has been rolling with a six-man defensive unit comprised of Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller.

Krug saw an upward spike in minutes as a result, and it helped him get his season on track offensively — he has seven points in his last eight games, this after going scoreless through the first nine contests of the year.

Carlo has been receiving big minutes as well. The rookie blueliner played over 24 minutes in back-to-back games against the Flyers and Lightning last week, then had 23:33 in Saturday’s win over Buffalo.

Chara had been averaging just under 23 minutes per prior to getting hurt, so it’s safe to assume Krug and Carlo will go back to more conventional TOI tonight.