James O'Brien

Via Rochester Red Wings

PHT Morning Skate: Miracle on Grass?

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

A collection of fantastic little Tweets from @LordStanley should start your morning off with a chuckle or three. (BarDown)

We’ve frequently seen minor league hockey teams come out with some great promotions revolving around jersey gimmicks, yet the MiLB’s Rochester Red Wings are really outdoing themselves by commemorating the “Miracle on Ice.” Was Miracle on Grass the right call, or should the headline have been Miracle on a Baseball Diamond? (Rochester Red Wings via The Hockey News)

How the Philadelphia Flyers are coping with salary cap “jail.” (Sportsnet)

Sean Avery with a fascinating take on (his) life after hockey. (The Players’ Tribune)

If you’ve seen the great 30 for 30 documentary “Big Shot,” you get the impression that John Spano Jr. – the guy who served hard time for trying to swindle the NHL and New York Islanders – might have a shaky future. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for grand theft and forgery related to a job he took after the fiasco with the Islanders. (The News-Herald)

Brad Richards isn’t ruling out returning to Chicago

Joel Quenneville, Brad Richards, Duncan Keith
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When you’re set for life as far as money goes, why not strive for glory?

All this time, with well-documented belt-tightening coming for the Chicago Blackhawks, the assumption was that Brad Richards would be among those out the door. Not so fast, though.

The 35-year-old told CSNChicago.com that it’s not out of the question for another run, even if it means taking less than he might receive in the free agent market.

“I haven’t talked about anything. My attitude is, everything’s wide open now,” Richards said. “I know the situation here. I knew it before I signed here. But obviously it was an amazing year. So if they want to discuss something I’m obviously going to discuss it.”

After being bought out by the New York Rangers last summer, Richards took a below-market $2 million to chase his second Stanley Cup ring with Chicago. It sounds like he’d at least discuss doing something similar, even if the parameters of the deal might be different.

The expectations may be a little different, too.

Richards enjoyed a sheltered role with Chicago in 2014-15, beginning almost 70 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, and that would likely continue to some degree. With some supporting cast members likely out, patience might be a little thinner if his production would come and go once again.

Take a look at his monthly output from last season:

October: four points in 10 games
November: 12 points in 14 games
December: three points in 10 games
January: 10 points in 13 games
February: three points in 13 games
March: four points in 13 games
April (before playoffs): one point in three games

In the hypothetical situation of a Richards return, he may feel a little more heat if his numbers are similarly erratic.

Either way, Richards believes he made the right choice, as the Chicago Sun-Times notes.

“I got everything I wanted and more,” Richards said. “I’ll never forget. No matter what happens, where I go, the Chicago Blackhawks are part of my heart forever. … Could have been just a quick stop. But now, I’ll enjoy coming back to this city forever.”

Pens introduce Sullivan as head coach of AHL affiliate

Winnipeg Jets v Vancouver Canucks
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As expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins officially announced Mike Sullivan as the head coach of their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mike to the Penguins’ organization,” Penguins associate GM Jason Botterill said. “Mike adds a wealth of experience thanks to his many successful years coaching in the NHL and AHL, and with USA Hockey. We believe he will do a great job developing our prospects to prepare them for the jump to the NHL.”

Sullivan, 47, is about as seasoned a coach as one can expect to find at this level.

Along with spending two seasons as head coach of the Boston Bruins, Sullivan also has plenty of experience as an assistant, largely working with John Tortorella. He also brings the perspective of a former player to the bench, as he appeared in 709 regular season games and 34 playoff contests in his NHL career.

The Penguins are hiring Sullivan to replace John Hynes, who became the youngest NHL head coach during this offseason when he signed on with the New Jersey Devils.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup parade

Chicago Blackhawks Victory Parade And Rally
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Once again, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, which means Chicago will celebrate the huge accomplishment with a big parade on Thursday.

Many burning questions will be answered.

  • How many people will attend the parade?
  • Which players/coaches/other hangers on clearly haven’t slept much/at all since Monday? Not exclusive to that question: who might still be “under the weather” and liable to test various broadcast delays?
  • What’s the over/under on players who still aren’t clean-shaven?
  • Will there be goofy sunglasses?

Coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET while the parade itself begins at 11 a.m. ET, and you can watch along thanks to CSN Chicago:

CLICK HERE TO STREAM THE CUP PARADE

Update: Rainy weather is making for some challenges, but the stream link should work.

Bishop or Vasilevskiy? Lightning will go with ‘both’ for now

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three
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By leaning on Ben Bishop even as he fought through a groin tear, the Tampa Bay Lightning made it clear that the big netminder is their goalie of the present. That said, many wondered if we were getting a glimpse of the future when Andrei Vasilevskiy made his presence felt in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Actually, it seems almost inevitable that Vasilevskiy will be a part of that future; the real question is whether he’ll end up being the top guy over Bishop.

No reason to rush

With Bishop’s recent run and Vasilevskiy’s status as a first-rounder, these questions seem reasonable. That said, it’s clear just how hasty many of us are being.

GM Steve Yzerman admitted that the franchise will need to choose at some point, but as he told the Tampa Bay Times, it seems like they’ll enjoy the best of both worlds in the meantime.

“At some point we’ll have to make a decision, but not yet,” Yzerman said. “Whether that’s one year or two years from now, I don’t know. But I know we’ve got Bish, who has proven to be one of the top starters in the league, and we’ve got a really talented young guy.”

As usual, Stevie Y is smart when he opts to “enjoy it for a year or two.” Considering how unpredictable goaltenders can be, why box yourself into a corner prematurely?

A fork in the road (eventually)

Both goalies’ contracts run through 2016-17; Bishop, 28, would be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent while Vasilevskiy, 20, would be an RFA.

The Lightning could see any number of scenarios play out. After a season or more, it might be determined that Bishop’s $5.95 million cap hit will end up being too rich for Yzerman’s taste, at least with key players needing new deals. Conversely, the Bolts may see enough of Vasilevskiy to decide that he’s not quite ready to carry the No. 1 mantle in 2017-18 and beyond.

While “goalie controversies” can lead to headaches, it’s better to have two viable options than none (something Lightning fans have quite a bit of experience with, actually).