Jason Brough

Drouin’s junior team owner believes Yzerman ‘is going to get this back on the rails’


Bobby Smith knows what it’s like to enter the NHL with high expectations. He also knows Jonathan Drouin, and he thinks things should eventually work out with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Smith was the first overall pick in the 1978 NHL draft. Today, he owns the Halifax Moosehead, Drouin’s former junior team.

Having seen up-close what Drouin can do on the ice, Smith believes Lightning GM Steve Yzerman would be wise to salvage the fractured relationship between player and club.

“I know the teams that have traded away this type of player, whether his name is Joe Thornton or Tyler Seguin, normally live to regret it,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think Steve Yzerman, having been not an elite player, a super elite player, is going to get this back on the rails and Jonathan is going to have a long and very good career.”

To be sure, talented young players have not always seen eye to eye with their NHL coaches and/or GMs. The difference in Drouin’s case is the public way that things have played out. Not only did his relationship with Lightning coach Jon Cooper become a story on the NHL’s biggest stage, the Stanley Cup Final, now his agent has come out and publicly requested a trade.

And remember, the last thing Drouin wanted going into this season was to end up in the AHL, which is exactly where the Lightning have assigned him.

“Nobody wants to go to the AHL,” Drouin said in July. “That’s not what I’m thinking about right now. I’m thinking about making the team and making more of an impact. Last year a lot of people said it wasn’t my greatest year, but I gained a lot, I learned a lot, and I’m definitely more ready going into the season, into training camp.”

Without intimate knowledge, it’s impossible to say if the point of no return has been reached in Drouin’s case.

However, it may be worth noting that Patrick Marleau reportedly wanted to be traded in November, and we don’t hear much about that anymore.

Related: Laugh about it later? Lightning players react to Drouin’s trade request

Looks like the Jets have got themselves a goalie

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 05:  Goalie Connor Hellebuyck #30 of the Winnipeg Jets makes a glove save on a break away shot by Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators during the first period at Bridgestone Arena on January 5, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

All the hype that preceded Connor Hellebuyck‘s NHL career appears to have been well-founded.

The 22-year-old Jets goalie improved his record to 9-4-0 with last night’s 43-save win in Nashville. Winnipeg won the game, 4-1, despite being outshot, 44-18.

The shots were 17-4 for Nashville in the first period, yet Winnipeg went into the second with a 1-0 lead.

“It looked like he saw everything and he moves so efficiently in the net,” Jets coach Paul Maurice told reporters. “You had that feeling early on that it was going to have to be something unusual to beat him.”

Hellebuyck’s save percentage on the season jumped all the way to .935 — not bad for a rookie.

The Jets’ two other goalies are Ondrej Pavelec, currently on injured reserve, and Michael Hutchinson.

Pavelec’s much-maligned, five-year, $19.5 million contract expires after next season. He had a 5-6-1 record with a .906 save percentage before he went on IR.

Hellebuyck is also signed through next season, but for the low, low cap hit of $667,500, after which he can become a restricted free agent.

Hutchinson is a pending RFA.

Finland beats Russia in overtime for World Juniors gold

In a thrilling gold-medal game today in Helsinki, Finland completed its storybook World Juniors tournament with a 4-3 overtime victory over Russia.

The hosts very nearly blew it, surrendering the tying goal with just six seconds remaining in regulation. But a terrific individual effort by Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs) won it early in sudden death.

From the IIHF:

In the Russian zone, Aleksi Saarela found Kapanen, who eluded defenceman Sergei Boikov and circled the net to score on a wrap-around as goalie Alexander Georgiev lunged haplessly with his stick.

This is Finland’s fourth World Junior gold medal of all time. They also won in 1987, 1998, and 2014. They have now earned gold at two out of the last three tournaments.

On the way to beating Russia, the Finns defeated the defending gold-medalists from Canada in the quarterfinals, then they took out their rivals from Sweden in the semifinals.

Finland’s Jesse Puljujarvi was named the top forward and MVP of the tournament. Just 17 years old, Puljujarvi is draft eligible in 2016.

USA’s Zach Werenski (Columbus) was named the top defenseman. Sweden’s Linus Soderstrom (Islanders) was the top goalie.


Ron Wilson on World Juniors experience: ‘I learned I could still coach’

WINNIPEG, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Toronto Maple Leafs' head coach Ron Wilson calls instructions to his team during a game against the Winnipeg Jets in NHL action at the MTS Centre on February 7, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Ron Wilson isn’t banking on a return to an NHL bench after leading the Americans to bronze at the World Juniors.

But the former head coach of the Ducks, Capitals, Sharks and Maple Leafs did enjoy his experience with USA Hockey.

“I learned I could still coach,” Wilson told the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I had my doubts there after my Toronto experience. I was getting criticized from all sides. You learn to trust yourself. That’s what I did, I trusted myself and we were rewarded.”

Wilson was as outspoken and self-assured as ever the past few weeks. He called out TSN for hyping up the tournament to the detriment of Team Canada. He called out Team Canada for taking too many penalties versus the Finns. He even quasi-bragged that he “couldn’t tell you any players on the Russian team,” right before the Russians beat his American squad in the semifinals.

Though Wilson said he’d “entertain” an offer from an NHL team, the 60-year-old said he wasn’t “expecting anything” and that the only thing he planned to do now was get back to golfing.

Related: Columnist implores Leafs fans to stop being so mean to Ron Wilson

The Ducks have found their ‘identity,’ and it’s ‘defense first’

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Tyler Kennedy #48 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck as Ryan Kesler #17 of the Anaheim Ducks defends on December 19, 2015 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The Anaheim Ducks defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The past few years, the big question a lot of people had about the Anaheim Ducks was whether they were good enough defensively.

In that way, the Ducks were a bit like this year’s Dallas Stars. You knew they could score, but you wondered about their ability to win tight-checking, low-scoring games in the playoffs.

Things couldn’t be much different this year. Almost halfway through the season, the Ducks have scored the fewest goals in the NHL. After a horrendous start, it’s been defense that’s gotten them back into a playoff position.

“We’ve found our identity,” center Ryan Kesler told the L.A. Times. “I think with this team it starts with defense first and then we’re going to create off that.”

Since the beginning of December, Anaheim has won seven games. Here are the scorelines: 1-0, 2-1, 2-1, 4-2, 1-0, 1-0, and 4-1.

What’s it like to play the Ducks now?

“It was extreme, the biggest trap we’ve seen all year,” Calgary d-man Mark Giordano told Sportsnet. “When we had possession, they fell back.”

And the Flames managed just 14 shots in a 1-0 Anaheim win.

It may not be the prettiest hockey to watch, but for coach Bruce Boudreau, it beats losing.

“What does a coach have to do?” he said. “You do what you have to do to win.”

Boudreau, of course, went through something remarkably similar during his time as head coach of the Washington Capitals. At first, he was criticized because the high-flying Caps didn’t play with enough commitment to defense. Later, he was criticized because they got away from their run-and-gun waysRegardless of the style they played, the Caps couldn’t win when it counted, and that cost Boudreau his job.

Earlier this season, after the Ducks started out 1-7-2, many expected Boudreau to once again pay the price with his job. However, GM Bob Murray chose patience over “rash changes.”

It still remains to be seen whether that was the right decision, but at the very least things are starting to trend in the right direction.

Anaheim is one game into what could be a season-defining eight-game home stand. The Ducks beat the Jets, 4-1, on Sunday. They host Toronto on Wednesday.

Related: Unable to score, Ducks are clogging it up real good