James O'Brien

Derek Roy, Nail Yakupov

Yakupov’s a little too young to take McDavid under his wing

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Compared to rookie sensation Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov is a relative veteran of the NHL. Considering his bumpy path through three seasons, it’s no surprise that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of showing McDavid the ropes.

“I don’t think I’ll be a teacher. I’m too young for that,” Yakupov told the Edmonton Journal. “We’ve got lots of old guys to tell him things.”

Actually, judging by his interesting interview with the EJ, the 21-year-old may feel a little wistful that his substitute teachers won’t return to his side in 2015-16.

Yakupov acknowledged the chemistry he eventually developed with Derek Roy, a UFA sitting on the sidelines this summer.

“Especially a guy like Derek, who has played in the league for 10 years. He’s seen everything in the game. He could help a young kid like me,” Yakupov said. Soon as Derek got the puck, I was trying to get open for a shot.

“He gave me so much support and I was happy to be playing hockey again.”

Let’s highlight that last phrase: “I was happy to be playing hockey again.”

Just spit-balling here, but Roy could probably be had for a cheap price, and you could pair Yakupov with him for a third scoring duo outside Taylor Hall – Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The veteran and his pupil don’t represent the same threat that those other duos pose, yet they could enjoy some success against lesser opponents.

With Yakupov also needing to adjust from one Todd (Nelson) to another (McLellan), you almost get the impression that the Russian winger got the rug taken out from underneath him.

It’s a fascinating situation to watch, as he’s still very much in a sink-or-swim phase.

Montreal Canadiens ’15-16 Outlook

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The Montreal Canadiens feature two of the things you look for in a championship contender: an elite goalie (Carey Price) and an outstanding, versatile defenseman (P.K. Subban).

Management seems pretty even-keeled about the team’s flaws, especially on offense. Perhaps a division title (not to mention league-wide trends of lower scoring) can breed patience/complacency.*

To most people, P.K. Subban (26 years old) and Carey Price (28) still seem enviably fresh-faced, yet it’s important to remember that windows of greatness can close with cruel quickness in sports.

One can reasonably expect goalies to age a bit more gracefully, yet Price would need to stand on his head to top the award-hogging season he generated in 2014-15. Subban may still have some upside even considering his current level of brilliance, but for how long will either one remain elite?

Look, it’s true that the Canadiens boast a ton of players who are in or around their primes. Max Pacioretty is just 26. Alex Galchenyuk could rocket up the charts, as he’s only 21, while Brendan Gallagher could very well pester for more than a decade considering the fact that he’s merely 23. Heck, Alexander Semin isn’t even that old at 31.

Even so, there’s a cut-off point where a slow-and-steady approach risks throwing away the best years of two of the most talented players on the planet.

If the coming 2015-16 season isn’t a pivotal one for GM Marc Bergevin to decide if he has the right supporting cast around Subban and Price – coach included – then it sure should be.

* – Feel free to use whichever word you think applies to Habs’ management.

Sydor released on $12K bail; here are the official charges

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The situation is a little clearer for Minnesota Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor as of Friday evening after he was released on $12K bail.

As mentioned in this post, the 43-year-old was arrested on suspected drunk driving and child endangerment charges on Thursday. Sydor reportedly recorded a blood-alcohol level of .30 percent while driving his 12-year-old son to a hockey game.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that he’s facing “two gross misdemeanor counts of second-degree driving while impaired with two or more aggravating factors.”

Those two aggravating factors are: endangerment of a child and his BAC exceeding .16.

The Wild released a terse statement on the matter, not providing information regarding how this may affect Sydor’s status with the team. Their training camp begins on Sept. 17.

For more on the situation, check out PHT’s original post and the Star-Tribune’s update.

Quebec City, Vegas advance to final phase of NHL expansion process

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It appears as if both Las Vegas and Quebec City are going deep into the NHL expansion process.

Friday marked a big day in that regard, as Quebecor confirmed that they’re in “Phase III” while Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper reports that Vegas accomplished the same task.

These reports are also backed up by TVA’s L.A. Lariviere.

It’s pretty much impossible to make “How many phases are there” type jokes – some prefer Austin Powers references, others might throw in “American Werewolf in London” – but the Associated Press indicates that this might be the final step.

A person familiar with the process told The Associated Press that the third stage involves the NHL reviewing the company’s business plan and revenue projections. If approved, the league would be in a position to award an expansion franchise as early as next month, the person added.

In case you skimmed that paragraph too quickly, let’s underline it: the league could award one or both cities an expansion franchise as early as September.

Wild stuff, right?

Related:

Post expansion, could NHL realign with eight divisions?

Bettman doesn’t think loonie’s decline will make expansion to Quebec City a problem

Poll: Is Therrien the right coach for Montreal?

Michel Therrien
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Gauging a Montreal Canadiens coach can be a tricky endeavor.

For one thing, you must consider the expectations that come inherent with being the bench boss of a franchise that has won a record 24 Stanley Cups.

It’s not about excellence alone, however, as management acknowledged years ago that their head coach probably needs to speak French.

“Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach,” Team president Geoff Molson said in a statement back in 2011.

Some hoped that the Habs would part ways with Michel Therrien after the team’s second-round exit to the Tampa Bay Lightning, yet GM Marc Bergevin stood idle.

Back in April, The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd mocked those who yearn for a replacement:

Has the coach of a 110-point team that finished second overall in the league, a team coming off an Eastern Conference final, ever faced so much heat at home? Doubtful. There is a strange reluctance to embrace Therrien here, despite three consecutive outstanding seasons on his watch.

One might break down the arguments in three different ways:

1) Therrien is the best fit, period.

2) Therrien is the best fit considering Montreal’s Francophone requirements.

3) Therrien is not the best fit.

It’s not an especially new debate, yet it’s an intriguing one nonetheless: is Therrien the right guy for the job?