James O'Brien

Stanley Cup Finals - Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six

Zetterberg: Babcock leaving Detroit was best for both sides

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Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t exactly sound heartbroken about Mike Babcock’s departure from the Detroit Red Wings’ bench.

Perhaps that boils down to hearing the sound of Babcock’s voice for a decade.

“There’s a lot of guys in here who’ve been through the same stuff for many years,” Zetterberg told MLive.com on Thursday. “I think now with the additions of Green and Richards, and the new coach, it’s given us a little fresh start. Obviously, it’s going to be a different voice behind the bench and sometimes you need that.”

Jeff Blashill replacing Babcock as head coach isn’t the only thing that excites Detroit’s verstaile captain.

The 34-year-old also praised Mike Green as “the kind of defenseman we didn’t have” and seems happy about gaining another veteran voice in Brad Richards.

Considering the Red Wings’ recent – relative – struggles (especially two straight first-round exits and just one series win since 2011-12), one might also do the math about Zetterberg’s advancing age and what may appear to be diminishing returns.

Of course, with Pavel Datsyuk possibly out for a big chunk of the regular season and Babcock gone, many will shine the spotlight of blame on Zetterberg if the slightly-new-look Red Wings sputter early on.

Lightning’s Vasilevskiy out 2-3 months after getting blood clot removed

Andrei Vasilevskiy
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The Tampa Bay Lightning announced some tough news on Friday: promising goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will miss two-to-three months after getting a blood clot removed from an area near his left collarbone.

The team revealed that he was being treated for a type of “Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.”

You can read up on the ailment at Vascular Web, but here’s a quick rundown of what the 21-year-old netminder might be going through:

Your thoracic outlet is a small space just behind and below your collarbone. The blood vessels and nerves that serve your arm are located in this space. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is the presence of hand and arm symptoms due to pressure against the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area.

The Lightning seemed comfortable at least leaving the door slightly ajar for Vasilevskiy to push Ben Bishop for starts, even with the latter commanding a $6 million salary cap hit and some pretty nice accomplishments over the last two seasons. That tug-of-war is obviously on pause for the moment.

It’s a tough setback for the 19th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, but one hopes that it won’t be a problem that arises again.

On the bright side, Bishop seems to be over his own injury issues:

The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith believes that the Lightning might make a signing to deal with Vasilevskiy’s absence, even with promising prospect Kristers Gudlevskis waiting in the wings. Perhaps giving Gudlevskis a little taste of the NHL would be wiser, though?

Erik Karlsson has an interesting take on (not) training

Erik Karlsson
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After years of working hard in the weight room during each off-season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson realized that it made more sense for him to take a different approach.

TSN shared video of his discussion with reporters, which provided candid insight on his viewpoints regarding getting prepared for a coming season.

“I do all my conditioning on the ice. I don’t do any conditioning during the summer,” Karlsson said Tuesday. “My issue has always been keeping weight on and trying to get bigger and stronger and if I do that throughout the summer as well, I can’t put any weight on and keep it on during the year.”

It’s strange to hear Karlsson – still just 25 – discuss how he’s adapted his regimen compared to when he was younger. Then again, maybe the Swedish defenseman simply knows his body that well, and perhaps even understands how quickly things can change for NHL athletes.

It certainly doesn’t seem like fitness is an issue for him. He generated 21 goals and 66 points in 2014-15, taking home the second Norris Trophy of his career.

Karlsson also didn’t see a dip in ice time, as he came in a little past 27 minutes per game (27:15) for the third straight season.

It’s not exactly as if he’s loafing out there, as he uses his exceptional skating ability to lead the rush and dramatically improve Ottawa’s transition game.

Some might point to comments like these when scapegoating – that always seems to happen with a small segment of fandom, doesn’t it? – but it seems like Karlsson probably knows what he’s doing.

(H/T to The Score)

Poll: Are the Flyers better off losing (a lot)?

Dave Hakstol
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When you ponder the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster, it doesn’t immediately scream “hopeless.”

That’s especially true if you scroll down starting with the forwards; the one-two punch of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek is complemented by the unusual power play + power forward work of Wayne Simmonds as well some other nice pieces. Combine that group with redemptive goalie Steve Mason and one can understand the optimism.

The glass gets closer to half-empty as you scan that blueline.

Mark Streit is probably the brightest light in that group, and he’s 37. Things get pretty dicey from there, and GM Ron Hextall’s hands were tied with a clogged cap situation.

Could this roster churn out a wild card berth? One would think it’s a possibility, so we’ll start with that poll:

Feel free to disagree in the comments, yet as plausible as a postseason bid might be, it’s tough to imagine the Flyers contending with that bumbling blueline.

Flyers owner Ed Snider won’t like this, but it could be best to swallow a bitter pill of defeat in 2015-16 and gear up for better days.

You never want to throw away peak years for the likes of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. That said, they’re young enough (Giroux is 27 and Voracek is 26) that they could still be elite producers when the smoke may start to clear in a year or two.

Between Luke Schenn and Sam Gagner alone, the Flyers will see $6.8 million in cap space dissolve in the summer of 2016 alone. They’ll also be free of R.J. Umberger’s $4.6 million mark after 2016-17.

(Vincent Lecavalier’s $4.5 million cap hit taunts them through 2017-18, though. Hey, you can’t win them all.)

Beyond gaining financial breathing room, Hextall collected nine draft picks in 2015, 2016 and 2017, so the farm system could be impressive down the road. Naturally, that would only be more apparent if the Flyers end up with a premium pick in 2016.

So, long story short: should the Flyers go into tank mode next season?

Flyers’ biggest question: Will patience persist?

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GM Ron Hextall has introduced something the Philadelphia Flyers’ front office hasn’t seen in some time: rationality.

OK, that’s a little hyperbolic, but it’s been fascinating to watch him run the team with a slow-and-steady approach after years of reckless spending on quick-fix solutions.

Unfortunately, Hextall was handed the salary cap equivalent of a hand grenade while managing a franchise that still aims for the postseason every year. It’s a bit like asking for lightning-fast meals and only providing a cook with an oven.

Really, it would be best if Hextall could let everything marinate for a while.

Through some brilliant maneuvering, the Flyers selected nine players in the 2015 NHL Draft, including two first-rounders who carry positive buzz. Hextall has been stockpiling future selections, too, as the Flyers also currently hold nine picks in both 2016 and 2017.

Again, masterful stuff, but that bodes well for the future. Will the pressures of the present force the ship off course?

As Philly.com reports, Flyers owner GM Ed Snider spoke directly to that issue back in March, and his comments don’t exactly guarantee Hextall the opportunity to ride through what looks like a transitional period on the ice.

“You don’t say when you’ve got Giroux, and you’ve got Voracek, and you’ve got Mason and you’ve got the kind of pieces like Simmons that we have, that, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be patient, we might make the playoffs in 2 or 3 years,’ ” Snider said. “[Bleep] that.”

“We’ve got to make sure our message gets through properly. Patience is great with the kids. But patience isn’t great with the team we have on the ice.”

Uh oh. That puts a lot of heat on Hextall to win now, even with a team sporting possibly fatal flaws.

If expectations aren’t adjusted, a different GM might reap the rewards of Hextall’s reasonable, forward-thinking approach.