James O'Brien

Crosby part of Penguins’ pitch, Kane helped Blackhawks court Vesey


When Justin Schultz was the hot draft-pick-turned-free-agent on the market years ago, Wayne Gretzky helped the Edmonton Oilers land that big fish.

Other teams must have been taking notes – about the process maybe more than the prospect – as they’re throwing plenty of star power behind their pitches to Harvard graduate Jimmy Vesey.

Just consider the wide swath of high-level players who sacrificed precious rounds of golf or hours of sunbathing to court the 23-year-old, according to ESPN’s Joe McDonald:

The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane was in Boston for Chicago’s meeting with Vesey. The Devils’ Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri spoke with Vesey, too. The Rangers’ Kevin Hayes, a Boston native, has talked with Vesey numerous times this summer while both work out together. The Islanders’ John Tavares was also in Boston on Tuesday to make his pitch on behalf of the organization. When the Bruins hosted Vesey at the team’s new practice facility, numerous Bruins players were in attendance to greet him. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also reached out to Vesey.

Also mix in Vesey’s buddy Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres, who has the advantage of knowing him a little better (if nothing else).

(If there’s one thing we can agree on with Vesey, it’s that he can’t say he never had the chance to feel special …)

The NHL’s official account even got in on the act of noting the teams who’ve pitched him recently:

All sorts of strong offers

As McDonald reports, Vesey’s agents are doing everything they can to keep the offers rolling in, even denying that any teams are out of the mix.

Even so, some teams are getting kudos for their efforts, whether those remarks are coming on or off the record.

So … yeah, a lot of teams seem to believe that they have a strong chance.

Backlash, plus backlash to the backlash

OK, let’s circle back to a common question. Is Vesey worth the hype?

If you’re obsessing about this, then maybe not. This time of year, his attention is getting inflated, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help a team. The interest is widespread thanks to Vesey being a low-cost, low-risk asset with a decent chance to yield nice results.

ESPN’s Corey Pronman sums up his potential quite well:

Some people bristle at the way this is shaking out:

Others have no issue with Vesey using that leverage.

With all signs pointing to a Vesey decision coming on Friday (or later), others wait with rapt attention or maybe while rolling their eyes.

Come on, some of this is kind of fun. Right?

More on Veseymania

Additional background on the Vesey-seekers

Again, Friday is most likely the decision day, if that early

What might sway his opinion

Subban’s style is a perfect fit for Laviolette’s attacking system

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

This is part of Nashville Predators day at PHT…

Maybe Michel Therrien and P.K. Subban got along well as people – despite speculation otherwise – but they sure seemed to be of two very different hockey mindsets.

You never know how things will play out in reality, but on paper, Subban and Peter Laviolette seem like an almost impossibly good match.

Consider how Laviolette explained his mindset back when he was hired in 2014:

“Everywhere I’ve been, I think guys want to work, generally speaking,” Laviolette said, as the Tennessean reported. “They want to work, they want to play hard. Given the choice, they would rather attack.”

GM David Poile noted his aggressive, offense-minded strategies.

When the Predators traded Shea Weber for Subban, Laviolette said all the right things about each blueliner, yet he also painted a picture to the Canadian Press of P.K. seamlessly fitting into his attacking system.

“I think they’re both elite defencemen,” Laviolette said. “P.K., I think when people might talk about him it would be his skating, the fact that he transport the puck himself, the fact that he can distribute the puck, he’s constantly in motion.”

Boy, “constantly in motion” sure seems like the right mindset for someone playing in an aggressive, attacking system, doesn’t it?

Much like with Erik Karlsson, Subban is the type of defenseman who makes a ton of plays, with a small percentage of those moments going the other way in the form of mistakes.

Many onlookers – and coaches – fixate on the gaffes while arguably losing sight of the bigger picture for a player like Subban. That certainly seemed to be the case during Therrien’s moments of exasperation.

On the other hand, Laviolette generally exhibits quite a bit of patience for the give-and-take that comes with pushing the envelope.

(His patience is a little thinner for passive systems like, say, the 1-3-1 trap.)

Subban currently boasts three straight 50+ point seasons, with his 60th from 2014-15 representing his career-high. It’s conceivable that he could accomplish that much or even more in Laviolette’s system, which should fit him like a glove.

And give opponents fits.

Report: Early on, Avalanche’s coaching search focuses on new blood

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 8:  Head Coach Scott Arniel of the Columbus Blue Jackets talks with a referee during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 8, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

It’s very early – the team calls it “the preliminary phase of the interview process” – but so far, the Denver Post reports that the Colorado Avalanche are mainly focusing their head coaching search on fresher faces.

Three of the top four candidates listed by Terry Frei and Mike Chambers haven’t held a head coaching job at the NHL level before. Jared Bednar (currently with the Lake Erie Monsters), Lane Lambert (Washington Capitals assistant) and Travis Green (Utica Comets) are those first-timers.

Former Columbus Blue Jackets and current New York Rangers associate head coach Scott Arniel is the only candidate who’s been an NHL bench boss before.

Bednar received top billing in the Denver Post article because of his connections in the Avs organization:

Many people reasonably throw more recognizable names around, with former Avalanche head coach Bob Hartley getting a lot of buzz.

It’s possible that Hartley will be in the mix, but he wasn’t mentioned as one of the four candidates who are currently receiving the most focus.

Also, it’s important to note that it’s unlikely that the Avs will go on the record all that often when they don’t need to. Frei and Chambers mention that GM Joe Sakic isn’t expected to comment on the matter until a new head coach is named.

In most cases, the Avalanche will need to receive permission to interview candidates. There’s not much/any precedence for a search to go on this deep into the summer, especially with Patrick Roy voluntarily stepping down, so it’s unclear if Colorado will even get the chance to interview everyone on that list.

It may not be just about who the Avalanche want the most, but also which candidates they can gain access to.

Shortly following Roy’s departure, the team stated that it isn’t planning on promoting from within. That’s an understandable plan … but finding a great fit in mid-to-late August will be easier said than done.

KHL brawler Damir Ryspayev gets a ‘lifetime’ ban


Remember that jaw-dropping KHL rampage from earlier in August? Well, it sounds like the KHL is doing what it can to make sure there won’t be another Damir Ryspayev rampage.

You can see Ryspayev (“playing” for Astana Barys) going after members of Chinese KHL expansion team Kunlun Red Star in the video above, which Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy unearthed.

Last we heard, Kunlun Red Star was pressing charges against the 21-year-old defenseman. It’s unclear how that will play out, but the KHL announced a “lifetime ban” for Ryspayev on Thursday.

Looking through the full release, it’s clear the league isn’t happy with the action of Ryspayev’s team, either:

In addition the KHL paid close attention to the fact that neither the training staff nor the directors of Barys Astana took adequate measures to stop Damir Ryspaev from acting in a manner that violated the rules of the game of hockey.

Here’s the meat of the release, at least once you get to personal statements rather than the drier legal language:

Gennady Timchenko, representative of the KHL’s Council of Directors:

It goes without saying that hockey is a contact sport. But above all, it is a fair contest in which rival players are guided by the rules of the game and spirit of sporting ethics. The League acts as a guarantor of these rules and laws, and cannot allow them to be systematically and grotesquely violated. It is utterly unacceptable to intentionally endanger the safety and fitness of opposing players. Every player’s professionalism is demonstrated by the ability to play a hard, uncompromising game while maintaining full respect for fellow sportsmen and their fans.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, KHL president:

In hockey there has always been space for a fair fight between equal opponents under the principles of fair play. But in hockey, as in any other professional sport, the can be no place for the outright violence displayed by Barys defenseman Damir Ryspaev in the game against KHL newcomer Kunlun Red Star. We are constantly working to attract a new audience and broaden the game’s geographical reach and Ryspaev’s behavior is not merely harmful in a sporting context, it also blackens the image of the league. As directors of the league, we could not allow this incident to go unpunished and so we have taken this decision.

For whatever it’s worth, “lifetime ban” isn’t the only phrasing used by the KHL:

“Term-less” also surfaced:

The message seems clear enough: the KHL doesn’t want him back.

Ryspayev’s agent Shumi Babayev told Sovsport.ru that, while he doesn’t condone his client’s actions, a lifetime ban is too severe and they’ll look to appeal the decision in some form.

Here’s the brawl in another format, if you’d prefer:

Well, if this sticks, he’ll at least be banned from the KHL.

It’s Chicago Blackhawks day at PHT

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 10: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks is congratulated by teammates including (L-R) Jonathan Toews #19, Brent Seabrook #7 and Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 after scoring a goal in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on January 10, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

For the first time since 2011-12, the Chicago Blackhawks failed to win at least one playoff series.

They actually finished the season with one more standings point (103) than they did in 2014-15 (102) when they won the Stanley Cup, so anyone calling this past campaign a failure is shoveling in some serious hyperbole.

That’s the thing when you set the bar as high as this Blackhawks group has, though; a season where Patrick Kane runs away with the Art Ross Trophy and seemingly random signing Artemi Panarin wins the Calder Trophy is still a disappointment.


Another off-season, another round of Blackhawks going out the door because of salary cap concerns.

To GM Stan Bowman’s credit, he did his best to make the best of things.

While he had to stomach the painful concession of giving up Teuvo Teravainen to get rid of Bryan Bickell‘s contract and needed to move Andrew Shaw after dealing with sticker shock, the Blackhawks did end up with three second-rounders and one third-round pick for their troubles.

Honestly, if Brian Campbell still has something left in the tank at 37, it’s quite possible that the Blackhawks managed to improve this off-season, even after some painful moves.

(Especially if that glut of 2016 second-round picks generates a gem or two. With Bowman’s track record in mind, it’s not out of the question.)

While Marian Hossa has lost a step or three, the Blackhawks’ core remains among the best in the league, and most guys are still in their prime range.

Maybe they don’t boast the same borderline-unfair surplus as they do in more robust years, but it’s more than reasonable to peg them for another deep run.