Author: Joe Yerdon

Ryan Malone

Former Lightning forward Malone ‘shocked’ he had cocaine


Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone has been having a hard time of late. He was bought out of his contract by the team in late June and in April he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession.

As it turns out, the cocaine part of the story was a surprise to him at the time.

Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports Malone was unaware he had cocaine on him when he was pulled over by police.

“I asked where it came from,” officer Andrew Visser wrote in his report. “And he said he was just shocked.”

Malone plead not-guilty to the charges, but according to court documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times he had 1.3 grams of cocaine in his possession. He also initially refused a field sobriety test but had a blood-alcohol level of 0.112 and 0.116 when he was booked. The legal limit in Florida is 0.08.

Malone is currently a free agent and may not be likely to land with a new team until his legal issues are sorted out.

It’s Minnesota Wild Day at PHT

Ryan Suter, Zach Parise

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Minnesota Wild.

Ever since the Minnesota Wild locked up Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million deals things have slowly improved only to see their fate end the same way in the playoffs.

Two seasons ago, they stole their way in as the seventh seed in the West and got the bum’s rush out in the first round in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, things got a bit better as they vanquished the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in the first round to earn a rematch with the Blackhawks. Things improved slightly as they bowed out in six games.

It’s that steady improvement in the face of difficult situations that gives fans in Minnesota hope for even more improvement.

The Wild saw injuries befall just about everyone they put in goal. Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding started the year as the tandem and while Backstrom dealt with nagging injuries, Harding was brilliant. That stellar play was submarined by his struggles with his medication while playing with Multiple Sclerosis.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was Ilya Bryzgalov and Darcy Kuemper holding down the fort with Bryzgalov standing tall while helping beat the Avs. If you predicted that would happen before the season, let’s hope you’re sitting on the beach relaxing as a new millionaire.

If there’s truly a reason for Wild fans to be excited about the years to come, it’s thanks to the emergence of a few key young forwards. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter all had solid regular season play followed by flashes of brilliance in the postseason. Adding them to the mix with Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville helps give the Wild a very gifted set of forwards.

Things weren’t so bad on the blue line either. Suter logged an incredible number of minutes and former Calder Trophy finalist Jonas Brodin had a solid season, although seemingly not as strong as his rookie campaign. Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella stepped up their play to help give their blue line a boost. They’ll need to be that much better next season as the Central Division and Western Conference figures to be brutally difficult once again.

Offseason recap

Minnesota’s summer was virtually too easy to predict. After lots of rumors and speculation, Thomas Vanek inked a three-year, $19.5 million deal to go back to his American home. After playing college hockey at the University of Minnesota and always having a home in the state, it seemed inevitable he’d go back as a free agent. Even after a less-than impressive turn in the playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens didn’t scare the Wild away and they may be able to get a steal of sorts because of it.

With Vanek in the fold, they parted ways with Dany Heatley whose contract expired. He and defenseman Clayton Stoner both landed in Anaheim while they brought back Justin Falk who had been with the New York Rangers.

They also added former Vancouver Canucks forward, and Golden Gophers standout, Jordan Schroeder. There’s never not a homecoming of some sorts in the State of Hockey, but it’s Vanek who comes away as the prize.

Eberle happy to have ‘familiarity with the head coach’ this season

Jordan Eberle

The Edmonton Oilers are heading into next season doing something they haven’t done the past three years — break camp with a new head coach.

From Tom Renney to Ralph Krueger to now Dallas Eakins, there’s been someone new at the helm in Edmonton each of those years. Having a host of different voices and systems to get accustomed to can be a bit of a pain for any team. It’s even more troubling for one that has a host of young players and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.

That’s a point forward Jordan Eberle made sure to make as Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal shared.

“With the same coach, we can pick up where we left off,” Eberle said. “At the start of last year, we struggled and that’s going to be a big thing for us. We have to start the season well because, last year, we really dug ourselves in a hole early on and that killed us. Plus, it gives you confidence if you can start off winning; you realize you do have a good team.”

The Oilers didn’t exactly close the season in thunderous fashion going 9-10-1 in the final 20 games. Still, the point of having the same head coach for the first time since Renney’s second and final season in 2011-12 remains and Eakins has a lot to prove for himself as well.