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Leading by example: Ekman-Larsson won’t ‘do anything different’ if named Coyotes captain

This post is a part of Coyotes day at PHT…

The youthful Arizona Coyotes underwent a change in leadership earlier this summer, after Shane Doan was informed he wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 season.

Doan turns 41 years old in October and is coming off a difficult year that saw his production drop significantly. But the Coyotes’ decision stirred up quite a reaction and criticism directed at the organization after it let go of its longest-tenured player and captain.

Doan had spent his entire career with the Coyotes franchise, dating back to its final year in Winnipeg before it relocated. But his time with the Coyotes came to an end in June, which means the team will have a new captain for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

According to a report in June, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be named the Coyotes’ new captain. Now 26 years old, he has spent his entire NHL career so far in Arizona, emerging not only as the team’s No. 1 blue liner but one of the best in the entire league.

“I hope I’m ready,” Ekman-Larsson recently told NHL.com. “You never know. I don’t think I’m going to do anything different. I’ll be myself. I’d like to think what I’ve been doing for the last seven years, if I get the ‘C’ on my jersey, that would be why — because they like what I’ve been doing and like what kind of person I am. It feels like something new [is] going on.”

Twice, Ekman-Larsson has reached 20 or more goals in a single season. Last season, his mother’s health weighed heavily on his mind and he missed the final three games to travel home to Sweden after she passed away. His production didn’t reach the same levels as it had over the previous three years but he still had a good season during a difficult time for him and his family off the ice.

His play over the years has garnered high praise throughout the league, including from former Penguins and Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma, who believed Ekman-Larsson “should be a Norris Trophy candidate every year.”

The plan for the young Coyotes is to lean heavily on Ekman-Larsson to carry them in the upcoming campaign, according to general manager John Chayka this off-season. He’s certainly used to that expectation, averaging almost 25 minutes per game last season and drawing difficult assignments as the top defenseman.

Given his body of work since joining the Coyotes as the sixth overall pick in 2009, it seems he’s the perfect candidate to take over the leadership responsibilities.

It’s Vancouver Canucks day at PHT

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Trevor Linden finally broke down and used the ‘R’ word last season.

The Canucks once again finished near the bottom of the NHL standings, 29th to be exact, prompting the team president to call the situation in Vancouver a rebuild.

“I think I was making an effort to appease the people,” Linden told Sportsnet 590 in the spring. “Obviously we’ve been forthright in saying we’ve been transitioning as a team to a younger group and that was becoming a bit of a sticking point with some people. So to get alignment with our fans and our media I used the rebuild word today, which everyone can get their head around.”

Despite placing 29th overall, the Canucks came away from the draft lottery with the fifth overall pick, which turned into Elias Pettersson.

But another disappointing regular season has ushered in significant changes, starting behind the bench.

Coach Willie Desjardins was fired. Travis Green, who had been the bench boss for Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica, was hired as Desjardins’ replacement.

Ryan Miller went to California, signing with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent, which should give Jacob Markstrom a legitimate shot at becoming the No. 1 goalie.

The biggest loss? Nikita Tryamkin leaving the Canucks to return to the KHL.

While looking to transition younger players — Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen, and Olli Juolevi to name a few candidates — into the lineup, the Canucks were active in the free agent market, without spending outrageous sums of money. They added Anders Nilsson in goal, Michael Del Zotto and Patrick Wiercioch on defense, and Sam Gagner and Alexander Burmistrov up front.

The only major task left for Canucks general manager Jim Benning this summer is to sign restricted free agent center Bo Horvat to a new deal. He’s due for a significant raise after a productive third year — 20 goals and 52 points in 81 games — in the league.

Report: Hartley agrees to five-year deal with Latvian national team

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Former NHL coach Bob Hartley reportedly has a new long-term contract.

According to Martin Merk of the IIHF website, Hartley has agreed to a five-year deal to coach the Latvian national team, after original reports stating that he took the gig began surfacing last winter.

From the IIHF:

The Latvians plan with Hartley for the new Olympic cycle after having tightly missed out on qualifying on PyeongChang 2018 before. The former Stanley Cup winner joined the Latvians last spring and led the team at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Germany and France where it finished in 10th place.

Hartley is the second former NHL coach after Ted Nolan (2011-2014) to lead the Latvian men’s national team. He led the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup win in 2001 and later also coached the Atlanta Thrashers and the Calgary Flames. In 2015 he won the Jack Adams Award as NHL head coach of the year but was fired in May 2016.

Hartley has 944 games worth of experience coaching in the NHL. He was behind the bench when the Flames made the playoffs in 2015, defying the odds to reach the second round before they were eliminated.

The Flames took a step back the following season, missing the playoffs. Hartley was eventually let go.

Related: Treliving cites ‘style of play’ and poor special teams among reasons for firing Hartley

Penguins sign McClement to PTO

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have added a veteran center to training camp.

The Penguins signed 34-year-old Jay McClement to a professional tryout (PTO) in a deal announced Friday.

The Penguins have some interesting decisions to make when it comes to finding a third-line center, but what transpires from this opportunity for McClement will be determined throughout camp and the pre-season.

McClement became an unrestricted free agent earlier this summer after his two-year, $2.4 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes came to an end.

He appeared in 65 games for the Hurricanes last season, scoring five goals and eight points. He also led all Carolina forwards in ice time on the penalty kill, averaging 1:51 per game in that situation.

McClement has played in 906 NHL games throughout his career, scoring 90 goals and 244 points.

Related: Penguins shouldn’t rush to replace Bonino

With Talbot at his best, Oilers should be a force in the West

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This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Connor McDavid is the driving force behind the turnaround in Edmonton.

He had a 100 points to lead the league and won the Hart Trophy. Edmonton made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and came within one win of the Western Conference Final.

Not to be overlooked, Cam Talbot provided terrific goaltending and was a pivotal factor in helping Edmonton get back into the post-season.

In his second season in Edmonton following the trade from the New York Rangers, Talbot was a work horse, even exceeding expectations of coach Todd McLellan.

In a time when some goalie coaches believe the days of playing 70 or more games in a season are behind us, the Oilers netminder made 73 starts and led all goalies with almost 4,300 minutes played.

That was by far the largest amount of ice time last season for an NHL goalie, and Talbot was able to sustain a .919 save percentage throughout the whole year. His save percentage went up to .924 in the post-season, as Edmonton got through the first round and pushed Anaheim to Game 7 of the second round.

“This is what you work your whole career towards,” Talbot said earlier last season. “I was working my butt off day in, day out, in New York, hoping to get this opportunity at some point behind (Henrik Lundqvist). And Edmonton, I was lucky enough (they gave) me an opportunity last year. You’ve just got to be ready for it when you get it. … I feel great doing it.”

Talbot just turned 30 years old in July. He has two years left on his three-year deal with an annual cap hit of $4.166 million.

Talbot will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the completion of this contract, and his no-movement clause has only one year remaining before it transitions to a modified no-trade clause in the third year, according to CapFriendly.

The Oilers will soon have a more long-term decision to make with Talbot.

In the short term, his playing time will be a focus this upcoming season. Will McLellan once again rely heavily on Talbot to start in 70 or more games? Or will Laurent Brossoit make the leap as a capable back-up, trusted to take on increased playing time in order to keep the starter refreshed and healthy?

After years of disappointment — and previous first overall selections — the fortunes of this franchise took quite a turn when it won the lottery and the opportunity to select the dynamic phenom McDavid. Edmonton, with McDavid and the rise of Leon Draisaitl up front, Oscar Klefbom on defense and the arrival as an NHL starter in Talbot, took a big step last season.

It may be a tall order for Talbot to duplicate what he accomplished in 2016-17, but another solid season from their starting goaltender should solidify the Oilers as a serious contender in the West.

Related: Poll: Are the Oilers legitimate Stanley Cup contender?