Jason Brough

Tiger Williams calls Linden ‘the worst guy’ to run Canucks

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Tiger Williams was a fan favorite during his time with the Vancouver Canucks.

So was Trevor Linden.

Today on TSN 1040 radio, one fan favorite took a run at the other in a big way.

“You know, Linden was loved by all the fans in the Lower Mainland and in British Columbia, but he’s the worst guy you could have running the Vancouver Canucks,” Williams said. “He’s had no experience, and to throw him into that job, that was a bad decision by the ownership group and it’s still a bad decision. If the ownership group, if they don’t know what they’re doing either, they’re hiring the wrong people, then you’ve really got an issue. And I think they’ve really got an issue.”

Williams went on to praise the Canucks’ coaching staff and their scouting department, “but their leadership at the top is zero,” he said.

Linden was named president of hockey operations in April of 2014. The Canucks have tried to stay competitive under his watch, but the last two years have been massive failures in that regard.

Last night, the Canucks fell into 29th overall after losing to the Arizona Coyotes.

Related: Linden claims “complete autonomy from ownership”

Bruins can ill afford to lose Krug for playoffs

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Torey Krug will not play tomorrow in the Boston Bruins’ regular-season finale against Washington.

And that’s all we know for now.

Krug’s status for the playoffs remains unclear after he left Thursday night’s shootout loss to Ottawa with a lower-body injury.

Today, head coach Bruce Cassidy would only say that the 25-year-old defenseman is day-to-day. (Ditto for forward Noel Acciari, who’s got an upper-body injury.)

One of the top point-producing defensemen in the NHL, the Bruins can ill afford to lose Krug (8G, 43A). He’s a big part of their dangerous power play, and only Zdeno Chara averages more ice time.

Of course, the wild card in all this is Charlie McAvoy, the 19-year-old d-man currently with AHL Providence.

From CSN New England:

President Cam Neely said just hours before the game on Felger & Mazz that the Bruins didn’t plan to use McAvoy at the NHL level this season — one benefit is that it wouldn’t burn a year off McAvoy’s rookie deal; if he plays even one game in the NHL this season it would enable him to hit free agency sooner — but Neely also added if “there’s an opportunity where we think he can help us when we need him, then that’s a different story.” 

The Bruins still don’t know who they’ll be facing in the first round. Most likely, it’ll be Ottawa, but Toronto and Washington are also possible opponents.

Whoever they play, they’d love to have Krug. But if they don’t, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide with McAvoy.

Desperate Bolts will have to face Carey Price

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The Montreal Canadiens have nothing to play for in the final two games of their regular season, having already locked up first place in the Atlantic Division.

But tonight at Bell Centre, against a desperate Tampa Bay team, Carey Price will be Montreal’s starter nonetheless. The Habs also play tomorrow in Detroit. Expect to see the backup, Al Montoya, then.

Price started two days ago in Buffalo, a 2-1 loss to the Sabres. Naturally, there was talk he should rest the final two games, lest he suffer an injury.

“Our goaltender wants to stay sharp and he doesn’t want to sit out for too, too long,” head coach Claude Julien countered, per TSN.ca. “Depending on when the playoffs start — whether it’s Wednesday or Thursday night, I have no idea — I don’t know that he wants to sit out for a whole week. So we’ve got to try to manage that as best we can. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game and those things sometimes you can’t really control.”

If Montreal beats the Bolts in an way, the Lightning will be mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.

Another labor stoppage looming?

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If another labor war is brewing for the NHL, Jonathan Toews won’t be caught off-guard.

The Chicago Blackhawks captain shrugged when asked this past week about the bad, old days, like the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season and the delayed beginning of the 2012-13 season not all that long ago.

“Wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “Can’t say anyone should be surprised at this point.”

The NHL announcement Monday that it won’t participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next February shattered the harmony that appeared to be building after the return of the World Cup last year. To many players, it also seemed like an odd choice with the NHL adding games in Europe and making distinct efforts to gain a foothold in China, site of the next Winter Games in 2022.

While Olympic participation isn’t an issue central enough to all 700-plus players to trigger a work stoppage as early as 2020, frustration over how the situation was handled has led many to wonder if the next collective bargaining negotiations will take an ugly turn.

“There’s the question, of whether this puts a dent or a further dent in the relationship that might cause the players to choose to opt out or might make the negotiations more contentious whenever they occur,” Tulane sports law program director Gabe Feldman said. “It’s a relationship-strain issue, and the possibility that this causes a lack of trust from the players and a feeling that although the owners may have exercised their right here that they went about it in a way that didn’t treat the players as partners and that it may be some negative foreshadowing for the next CBA.”

The season was delayed for three months in 2012 before the two sides hammered out the current collective bargaining agreement. It may feel like hockey just went through this, but owners could opt as soon as Sept. 1, 2019, and the players on Sept. 15, 2019 — either of which would terminate the deal before the 2020 season instead of the scheduled end in 2022.

The league offered an agreement to go to Pyeongchang next year in exchange for extending the CBA until 2025, but players rejected what Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk likened to a “ridiculous” bad trade.

“I’ve never seen that done before, where players have to concede or give up something,” Faulk said. “If we would’ve done that, I’m sure they still would’ve tried to pull another one to get some more out of it.”

The Olympics are far from the only issue that will be on the table for the players and the league. The length of contracts and long-term injured reserve are expected to be discussed, and players also are unhappy that 15.5 percent of their pay is withheld in escrow to ensure a 50/50 split of hockey revenue with owners; some have privately grumbled about not getting paid what their contracts say. Players’ agent Todd Diamond believes the league has a “revenue problem” because NHL business is growing at a slower pace compared with other major sports.

Not wanting to rush into a three-year CBA extension without considering the big picture led the NHL Players’ Association to reject the league’s Olympic offer, though it expected talks to continue. Toews and his counterparts around the league instead were rubbed the wrong way by the implication that owners wanted players to give something up for the first time after participating in the previous five Games .

“Just seems like it comes down to, what can they get out of us when the next CBA negotiation rolls around?” Toews said. “We’re already hitting some road bumps with something like this.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said it was too early to comment on whether the Olympic decision might impact labor talks. An NHLPA spokesman declined comment, though executive director Don Fehr said in a Toronto radio appearance, “This is damage which lingers for a long time” because players will remember it.

“If the notion is that everybody will just forget about this, I suspect that’s not going to be the case,” Fehr said on Fan 590.

George Smith, a labor relations professor at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, said there had appeared to be no need for an Olympics guarantee in the 2013 CBA because agreements had been reached in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010 and was well on its way in 2014. He thinks it will be discussed next time, even if it is not the central topic.

“Not all of (the players) have a realistic hope of going to the Olympics, so how far do you want to push that in collective bargaining when there’s going to be lots of other issues?” Smith said. “If there are lots of other issues, this will certainly be in the mix and just another reason to say that maybe once again the NHL and the PA are headed for some sort of dispute.”

Feldman said he was concerned that the Olympics issue could “blow up a system that, relatively speaking, it working fairly well for both the players and owners.”

“Could it snowball or could the sides patch things up?” Feldman said. “We’ve seen what can happen in NHL labor wars. Be careful what you wish for when talking about opting out.”

 

Wild match franchise records with 48th win and 104th point

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DENVER (AP) Devan Dubnyk‘s 40th win of the season was far from easy and came with an assist from a late replay review.

He certainly didn’t mind the result of the unusual ending.

Dubnyk stopped 30 shots and Minnesota caught a break when a goaltender interference call disallowed a goal, helping the Wild hold off the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Thursday night to tie franchise records for points and wins in a season.

“It was pretty crazy,” Dubnyk said. “I’m glad they got that call right even though the fans don’t agree. But it was the right call.”

Nate Prosser, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker added goals for the Wild, who have amassed 104 points and 48 wins in clinching the second spot in the Central Division. The last time they reached those plateaus was during the 2006-07 season.

“It tells you we’re doing something right this season and winning games,” Granlund said.

Tyson Jost scored his first NHL goal, while Matt Nieto and Francois Beauchemin also contributed goals during the home finale for the Avalanche.

Here’s how the divisive play unfolded: The Avalanche had a 6-on-4 with 1:39 remaining after Wild defenseman Christian Folin was called for cross-checking and goaltender Calvin Pickard was pulled for an extra skater. About 25 seconds later, Sven Andrighetto pushed the puck past a sprawled-out Dubnyk. But Minnesota challenged the play claiming goaltender interference and the tying goal was negated.

“Definitely goalie interference,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog didn’t agree. He said the official told him that Nathan MacKinnon pushed a defenseman into Dubnyk.

“Nate’s getting pushed around, just like Nate is supposedly pushing someone else,” Landeskog said. “I think it’s a good goal.”

Zucker scored 10 seconds into the contest to match the Wild record for fastest to start a game – a mark held by him. Zucker also accomplished the feat on Oct. 25, 2015, at Winnipeg. The forward was returning after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury.

“I don’t know if there’s a better way to start a game,” Zucker said.

Niederreiter knocked in a shot off a perfect pass from Eric Staal with 13:17 remaining. Granlund added a valuable insurance goal midway through the final period as Nieto lined a shot that hit off Prosser’s body and went into the net to make it 4-3 with 5:40 left.

It set up a wild finish.

Jost had a nifty goal by sending a wrist shot over Dubnyk. In the stands, Jost’s grandfather was caught wiping away tears.

“He doesn’t really like all the cameras and everybody catching him crying, but he cares a lot about his family and that’s just a testament to how much he cares,” said Jost, who was the 10th overall pick by Colorado in the 2016 draft.

There was a scary moment early in the game when linesman Ryan Galloway was helped off the ice after taking a puck to the face. Wild center Martin Hanzal was trying to flip the puck into the Avalanche zone when it struck Galloway, who left with a towel on his face and blood on the ice.

Dubnyk didn’t go into the season hoping for 40 wins. After all, that’s a big number for a goaltender to imagine.

“If you could tell me at the start of the year that I was going to finish the season with 40 wins, I would have probably said, `Yeah, sure,”‘ Dubnyk said.

In their final home game, the Avalanche recognized the fans by giving away jerseys, framed photos and even a pair of skis. Colorado has drawn well all season despite its dreary record.

“Maybe it’s not deserved, but we appreciate it all the same,” forward Matt Duchene said of the support.