Author: Jason Brough

Pittsburgh Penguins v Los Angeles Kings

Rangers GM considers Stoll ‘a real character guy that made a mistake’


Despite his arrest this offseason for drug possession, the New York Rangers aren’t worried about the character of free-agent signing Jarret Stoll.

“It’s not really a worry,” GM Jeff Gorton said, per the New York Post. “We spent a lot of time talking to him, and going through his incident and moving forward. We were all very impressed with how he handled it and conducted himself and wanted to address it and move on.

“We talked to a lot of people that have played with him in the league and before he got to the league; we’ve talked to trainers and people that have dealt with him — it all came out the same, as a real character guy that made a mistake. We all want to move forward.”

Stoll is expected to compete for the job of third-line center, the role he played with the Kings.

Related: Stoll drug charge reduced to pair of misdemeanors

Blues announce that Lehtera had ankle surgery last week

Jori Lehtera

The St. Louis Blues announced today that forward Jori Lehtera underwent successful surgery on his right ankle on Aug. 4.

According to the Blues, Lehtera “suffered the injury at the end of last season and is expected to be available to skate in six to eight weeks.”

More from Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch, with a quote from GM Doug Armstrong:

The Blues open the regular season on Oct. 8, slightly less than two months from today.

Related: Blues re-sign Lehtera: three years, $14.1 million

Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Darnell Nurse poses for a portrait after being selected number seven overall in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 29, 2013 - Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

For all the young talent they’ve amassed up front, and even if the goaltending proves better next season, you can’t help but look at the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line and think, Oy, that’s not a very good blue line.

And in a league where it’s rare to win a championship without at least one elite defenseman, that’s a problem.

Case in point, when the Oilers made the finals in 2006, they had a guy by the name of Chris Pronger on the back end. He was traded that summer and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

From 2006 to 2012, Edmonton drafted 17 defensemen. The best was Jeff Petry, who’s in Montreal now. Today, the Oilers’ best veteran is probably the newly acquired Andrej Sekera. A solid player, sure. But certainly no threat to win the Norris Trophy. 

Which is why Oilers fans are so hopeful that 20-year-old Darnell Nurse, drafted seventh overall in 2013, can become a cornerstone defender, a la Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, etc.

It’s also why GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want to screw up Nurse’s development by throwing him into an NHL role too soon.

“For a defenseman, it is harder to break into the league properly,” Chiarelli said, per “With Dougie Hamilton (in Boston), he had a good strong core around him, and they are completely different players. Darnell is a defender and a puck transporter. He has a few more nuances to learn as far as defending, but I saw him play at the end of his playoffs and he played well. He has world class speed and strength.

“That is a hard one (whether Nurse is NHL ready). I want to be patient with these guys knowing that they are good young players and you’d like to have them help you as soon as you can.”

The Oilers have a few other promising defensive prospects, including Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. They’re also still hoping Justin Schultz will realize the potential they see in him.

Bottom line: Without a much improved defense, even Connor McDavid will find it tough to bring the glory back to Edmonton.

Related: Todd McLellan is under pressure

NHLPA files grievance on behalf of Mike Richards

Mike Richards

The NHLPA has “filed a grievance on behalf of Mike Richards contesting the termination of his contract” by the Los Angeles Kings, the union announced today.

This move is not unexpected, after the Kings claimed in June that there’d been a “material breach” of his contract that allowed them to terminate it. It soon emerged that Richards was under investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for an incident involving the alleged possession of OxyContin pills at the U.S.-Canada border.

But Richards has not been charged with any crime, so it’s no surprise that the union has filed a grievance on his behalf. The 30-year-old forward had five years and $22 million remaining on his deal. As of today, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

No word yet when an arbitrator may hear the case.

Under Pressure: Todd McLellan

Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli
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With all due respect to Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson — the last three head coaches of the Edmonton Oilers — none of them possess the credentials of Todd McLellan, the new guy.

McLellan got his NHL coaching start in Detroit as an assistant under Mike Babcock. After the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008, he was hired to take over in San Jose. Though he never won it all with the Sharks, he did enjoy a tremendous amount of regular-season success, along with a couple of trips to the conference final.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and an intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, per the Edmonton Sun.

Hence, Chiarelli’s decision to entrust McLellan with Connor McDavid, not to mention all the other young talent the Oilers have amassed the past few years.

“The reason Todd was the top candidate in my mind is his history of taking skill players who learn how to play hard under him,” said Chiarelli.

Note how Chiarelli used the word “learn” there. Because upon being hired, McLellan was asked for a scouting report on his new team. At which point he essentially called the Oilers mentally weak. 

“I think there were games where, if you could get off to a good start and push them out of the game, and get to the mental aspect of them not being in it for the whole night, you thought you had a chance to succeed,” he said.

“That’s something we’ll have to change. There’s going to be games where it’s not going your way, but you’re not out of it. You have to fight through it and you have to keep going.”

Despite all the optimism that’s come with the drafting of a so-called “generational” talent like McDavid, the Oilers still don’t have the roster of a Stanley Cup contender. Simply making the playoffs would be an accomplishment for this group, and even that won’t be necessary in order for there to be progress next season.

The Oilers just have to show signs they’re improving. And then after that, they have to improve some more. Fewer outrageous defensive gaffes, more structure. Fewer times when it appears they’ve packed it in, more sticking to the process (and other assorted clichés).

The results should follow.

“They haven’t had a lot of success as far as wins and losses go, so you have to find other ways to build that mental strength,” said McLellan. “That comes before the games are even played. That comes in practice. That comes in meetings. That comes in being good teammates. So we have some things to work on.”

Related: Vote on whether the Oilers have fixed their goaltending