Playing for the Buffalo Sabres seems to be making David Legwand that much more conscious of being “really old.”
35 doesn’t qualify as such under most terms, but it is a little up there in professional sports, especially for a guy who was suiting up for the Nashville Predators in his late teens.
All of that mileage noted, Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma expects the second pick of the 1998 NHL Draft to remain a “fast skater, an aggressive skater, a smart hockey player.”
“I think I can still contribute and play key roles and do whatever the coaches ask of me,” Legwand said, according to Olean Times Herald.
It all seems oddly fitting that Legwand’s “old legs” are being discussed in prospect-packed Buffalo:
Legwand recalled that day for reporters, as the Buffalo News reports.
“I remember San Jose had the second pick, and my agent looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to Nashville.’ I said, ‘Whoa,'” Legwand said. “Other than that, it was pretty much a whirlwind day. It was exciting, obviously. It’s like it comes full circle to get the chance to play where you’re drafted.”
Many Sabres fans view Legwand as a mere throw-in for the Robin Lehner trade, yet he may pay dividends, and not just on the ice.
To some extent, it feels like a broken record: a long-suffering member of the Edmonton Oilers hopes this is the year.
Familiar refrain or not, there are some reasons for Jordan Eberle to feel a little more justified in their optimism this time around.
Most obviously, the Oilers added another key piece to the war chest in Connor McDavid, someone who’s hyped as a better prospect than Sidney Crosby. Maybe just as importantly, they hired Todd McLellan as head coach.
After a series of fairly “green” bench bosses, they have one who’s experienced success. Even better: Eberle experienced success with McLellan, as they enjoyed nice moments at the Worlds alongside Taylor Hall.
Those wins – not to mention those key changes – has Eberle wondering if he’ll finally be a winner in the NHL, as the Edmonton Sun reports.
“It’s been tough, to be honest, five years of this, it grows on you, you start to think of yourself as a bit of a loser,” Eberle said on Saturday. “For me and Hallsy, personally, going to Worlds and winning and having that winning feeling back, was something that I was really, really proud of for myself, proud of him and proud of our team.”
It’s one thing to feel pride for what amounts to a modified group of Canadian All-Stars. Will that finally transfer to success for the Oilers?
If this continues, that loser label will just get tougher to shake.
At 31, it probably feels weird for Jiri Hudler to be considered a mentor, but that’s been part of his role with the Calgary Flames lately.
Last season, he was the veteran presence on a fantastic line with fresh-faced forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. So far, Hudler’s been skating with another young gun in Sam Bennett.
It sounds like he’s not crazy about being the “old guy,” as he discussed with the Calgary Sun.
“I don’t feel like their babysitter,” Hudler said. “I’m their friend. I’m trying to play my best game. And for them, I want the best they can do.”
The winger also has himself to focus upon.
His $4 million cap hit expires after the 2015-16 season, and with the likes of Monahan and Gaudreau headed for RFA status, he might not necessarily be in it to see the “kids” grow up.
Then again, being a guy who can take young stars under his wing could also be another bullet for his resume.
With Phil Kessel out of Toronto, both Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri move up the list of go-to scapegoats for Maple Leafs fans.
New head coach Mike Babcock isn’t piling on, however. Instead, he sounds awfully positive about what Bozak and Kadri are capable of, and that they’re putting in the work to improve.
On Kadri: Babs doesn’t think that a contract year will be an issue for Kadri. Actually, he believes that the 24-year-old will be “a Leaf for a long time.”
On Bozak: Despite the center’s critics, Babcock doesn’t believe that Bozak is carrying “baggage.”
In both cases, Babcock wants more pace and better two-way play (he wants them to be “200-footers,” which evokes Subway party sandwiches).
Check out Babcock’s full comments in the video below:
As you can see from this video, Kadri also speaks about improving his footspeed, along with becoming a “role model” off the ice.
His 2014 off-season focus provided more entertaining video:
Finally, here’s video of Bozak, who’s moving on to life without his old roommate Kessel.
Training camps can be crossroads, especially for veteran players mulling retirement and prospects who are getting antsy about “making the leap.”
Alex Khokhlachev is in that latter group with the Boston Bruins. You get the impression that he’s going to make noise if it doesn’t work out soon – maybe even next season – based on these quotes from CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty.
“I’ve been waiting two years so [the Bruins] should make a decision: give me a chance [in the NHL] or…I don’t know. We’ll see what they do. I’m not a young guy anymore. I’m 22 already,” Khokhlachev said. “If they don’t give me a chance to play while I’m here…I won’t play in Providence all of my life. I’m still waiting for [my chance].”
(That groan you heard came from readers old enough to cringe at the line “I’m 22 already.”)
It’s been a strange ride for the prospect sometimes conveniently called “Koko.” Back around the 2013 trade deadline, it seemed like Khokhlachev was going to be involved in the Bruins’ eventually aborted Jarome Iginla swap.
The 22-year-old appeared in three games with the Bruins last season (and one in 2013-14), but he didn’t really believe that he received a fair look in that regard.
Khokhlachev also seemed a bit envious of other young players who’ve received the call, noting that they “stepped up.”
Haggerty wonders if he might already be angling for a change:
From the sounds of it, Khokhachev is pining for a fresh start in a different organization and a chance where there are NHL spots readily available. But he won’t have any leverage at all as a player until he finishes out his entry-level contract with Boston, short of picking up and heading back to the KHL and Mother Russia.