Author: Jason Brough

Phoenix Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks

Despite ‘step in the right direction,’ do Canucks need to alter core?


Should the Canucks stick with the same core of veterans that hasn’t been past the first round of the playoffs since nearly winning the Stanley Cup in 2011?

That was the big question today in Vancouver, as said core was grilled by reporters following a six-game loss to Calgary.

“When you don’t win, everything’s probably up for questioning,” said veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who, like d-man Kevin Bieksa, has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

“It seems to be a popular question we keep getting all the time. I think our core’s been good. It’s a solid group of guys. I still think there’s lots of years ahead of us.”

Hamhuis, 32, and Bieksa, 33, were each asked if they’d be willing to waive their no-trade clauses.

Hamhuis, appearing somewhat taken aback by the question, replied, “That’s not something I’ve ever really thought of. I’m not really prepared to give an answer on that. That’s something I’ll think about if that were to happen, but probably more something to talk with [general manager Jim Benning] about.”

Bieksa said the same went for him: “I’ve never had to cross that bridge before, haven’t heard it brought up by anybody in the organization. I know you guys are poking around; that’s your job.”

Benning will face the media on Wednesday, and will likely say many of the same things that the players did today — that the Canucks still have a solid core, but like any team, they need younger players to keep stepping up, like rookie Bo Horvat did this year.

“You always need young players to come in and surprise,” said winger Chris Higgins. “Next year, who knows who’s going to be the young guy to show up in camp and have a great camp and make an impact on this team? You look at every team that’s successful; they have young guys that come in and surprise every year. This team’s looking for guys like that as well.”

As for the Sedins, who turn 35 in September, they still anticipate having a big role for years to come.

“We have no plans of getting any worse,” said Henrik Sedin. “We’re not young anymore, but I think we showed this year that we can still be a big part, and we can be productive, and we can play well. I don’t see that changing in the next couple of years. With the young guys coming up, it looks good for this organization.

“I haven’t planned to get any worse, as a team. I think our focus is to make the playoffs each and every year and giving ourselves a chance to win.”

The Canucks do have some intriguing forward prospects in the likes of Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Cole Cassels, Jared McCann, plus a handful of others. At least one or two should be able to push for a spot next season, without rushing those that need more time to develop in the minors.

But it was the defense group that came under the most fire in the playoffs, with turnovers becoming a major factor against an aggressive Flames’ forecheck.

Everyone knows that a team that can’t move the puck out of its own end is a team with little of hope of success in the NHL.

The conundrum for management is that the Canucks do not have a blue-chip defensive prospect waiting in the wings. In fact, Vancouver hasn’t drafted a d-man in the first round in over a decade. That 25-year-old Luca Sbisa was given a three-year commitment at a cap hit of $3.6 million was testament to the club’s lack of young options on the back end (Adam Clendening and Frank Corrado are the most NHL-ready.)

Certainly, the blue line is an area that Benning will need to address if the Canucks are going to build on what was actually a surprisingly successful season, save for the playoff disappointment.

“I think we took a step in the right direction this year,” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s a small step, but a good step in the right direction.”

Report: Developers file intent to build arena in Seattle suburb


From ESPN’s Craig Custance, who’s been closely covering the Seattle arena situation:

A new path to bring an arena — and potentially the NHL — to the Seattle area is opening.

RLB Holdings Sports and Entertainment filed a code interpretation request Wednesday with the City of Tukwila, stating its intention to build a multi-purpose arena, a source told …

If progress continues, the early target date to open the privately funded arena in Tukwila, a city just south of Seattle, is the fall of 2017.

RLB Holdings is headed up by Ray Bartoszek, the former energy trader who was reportedly close to moving the Coyotes to Seattle.

We first wrote about the Tukwila alternative in February. Apparently, this is a different parcel of land than the one owned by businessman David Sabey, who had doubts that an arena was the “highest and best use” for his property.

The NHL has made it no secret that it’s interested in placing a team in the Seattle area. The missing piece has always been an arena.

Tukwila mayor Jim Haggerton has bragged about his city’s ability to get big projects done quickly.

“I think I can make a safe statement that this city could do any major project as fast or faster than anybody else,” he told “We have a track record of doing that.”

We may see now if that boast holds true.

Cooper: Lightning have to ‘suck it up’ and ‘fight through’ Wings’ interference

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three

Jon Cooper thinks the Detroit Red Wings are excellent cheaters.

Seriously, he means it as a compliment.

“There are 30 teams in the league and nobody does (interference) more than the Detroit Red Wings, hands down,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Tribune. “The old saying, ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,’ and they do it to a tee. And my message to our guys is, you have to suck it up, you have to fight through it. You have to bring a gun to a knife fight and that’s how it has to go. Good on them. We have to be better.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock would seem to agree with that last sentiment, about having to “suck it up” and “fight through” any obstruction:

The Wings, up 3-2 in the series, can eliminate the Lightning tonight in Detroit.

P.S. — Tampa Bay is 2-for-24 on the power play. So even if the Wings are getting away with some interference, they’re still spending a good deal of time shorthanded. The Lightning just haven’t been able to capitalize.

Friedman: Penguins need to ‘think about’ trading Malkin

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins came up short in the playoffs again, falling in five games to the New York Rangers while scoring just eight goals total.

And you know what another playoff disappointment for the Penguins means — no shortage of ideas on how to fix them.

While the jobs of the coach and GM appear safe, at least one prominent NHL insider — Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman — believes it’s time for the franchise to “think about” trading Evgeni Malkin.

“If you can get two or three pieces including a guy that can play with (Sidney) Crosby, don’t you have to think about it?” Friedman said Monday on Sportnet radio. “At what point do you say, yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that was six years ago? These two guys together make $18.2 million, and we keep losing in the playoffs because we don’t have enough support pieces.”

Remember that the Penguins also have defenseman Kris Letang signed to a hefty contract. In fact, Crosby, Malkin and Letang are each top-25 cap hits in the NHL.

Now, for the record, the Penguins say they have “no interest” in breaking up Crosby and Malkin, so all this could be a complete non-starter.

‘Tis that time of the season, though.

Hiller wants ‘nothing more’ than to show Ducks ‘made a mistake’

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames - Game Six

Here’s something you may not know — of all the active goalies with at least 10 playoff appearances, only three have a higher career postseason save percentage than Calgary’s Jonas Hiller (.932).

Hiller was mostly excellent in the Flames’ first-round victory over Vancouver, posting a .931 save percentage in six games (though he did get pulled in Game 6). Now he’s got his sights set on Anaheim, which happens to be the team that cut him loose after last season.

“At the end, you want nothing more than to beat that team and prove to them they made a mistake not re-signing you,” Hiller told the Globe and Mail. “It should be a fun series.

“I spent seven years there. I know so many people there. Sure, the team has changed since last year, but just to be in that building, which was home for me for so long, it’s definitely going to be special.”

Related: Calgary signs Hiller: two years, $9 million