Author: Joe Yerdon

Don Maloney, Dave Tippett

Coyotes GM Maloney questions team leadership, not Doan


Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney has a reason for why his team has been inconsistent this season and it might surprise you: Questionable leadership.

Before you start pointing the finger at Shane Doan, as Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic shares, Maloney says it’s a team-wide problem.

“I really look at it and say it comes back to the leadership in your locker room,” Maloney said. “This is not a condemnation of (captain) Shane (Doan). I’m not pointing a finger at Shane whatsoever. This is the collective group … this group that’s been here for the last four, five years, that knows how we have to play and the focus we have to put in to have that group drag along the rest of the players. And that’s what has me doing a lot of soul searching right now.”

Doan hasn’t been the same player since returning from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Before that, he was playing some of the best hockey of his career. Pointing the finger at him would’ve been rough.

The Coyotes have the same number of points as the Dallas Stars, but the Stars have the tiebreaker edge on the Coyotes for the final wild card spot. If Phoenix can find that consistency they’re lacking, they’ll be a tough opponent in the postseason. 

Lightning prospect Gudlevskis could start in goal for Latvia

Kristers Gudlevskis

BUFFALO — Latvia coach Ted Nolan has an interesting choice on his hand as to who starts in goal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The favorites to get the job are 33-year Edgars Masalskis and Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Kristers Gudlevskis.

Nolan spoke with PHT before leaving for Sochi and while he wouldn’t tip his hand about who starts, one of them has grabbed his eye.

“Right now we’ll make that decision at that time,” Nolan said. “We’ve got one experienced goalie and one up-and-comer and he’s playing well. He’s big, he’s athletic. So we’ll see how it all transpires. We’ll make that decision after we have one pre-scrimmage with Russia when we get there. After that we’ll make the final decision.

Nolan spoke about how 21-year-old Gudlevskis is “learning his way” as a goalie but lauded his play of late with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.

Masalskis was the goalie who helped Latvia qualify for the Olympics in 2012, but it was Gudlevskis who shined and took the starting job from him at the 2013 World Championships.

If there’s anything Nolan knows how to handle from his time with the Buffalo Sabres this season it’s goaltending. Then again, getting to choose between Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth is a little bit different.

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Do Austria, Norway, Latvia and Slovenia have a chance?

Anze Kopitar

You know about the powerhouses of international hockey, the countries that will likely be battling for gold.

But what about the other guys? Y’know, countries many are chalking up as an automatic victories. Do Austria, Latvia, Norway or Slovenia have a chance to win a medal in Sochi?

To be blunt, probably not. But let’s take a look at what they have going for them — maybe there’s a Team USA in 1980 or Belarus in 2002 in the bunch.


Led by New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek — the captain of the team — and Islanders teammate Michael Grabner as the two big guns offensively. Joining them is Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl (and his brother Thomas) as well as former NHLers Thomas Pock and Andreas Nodl, a late addition to the team.

Austria is in Group B with Canada, Finland, and Norway, and Vanek is realistic about what it’ll take to manufacture an upset over the first two in the preliminary stage.

“It’s tough,” he said, per “I don’t want to put any pressure on our goaltending, but it comes down to goaltending. I think anytime you can have a goalie that’s hot and can give you 50, 55 saves, maybe you can get a few odd-man rushes and capitalize on them.

“That’s why you play the game. It’s a one-game shot.”


New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is the only NHL player on the roster, meaning the Norwegians — fan favorites from the ’10 Vancouver Olympics — will have yet another uphill battle in Sochi. Aside from having to deal with Canada and Finland in Group B, Norway won’t have decorated international veteran Tore Vikingstad to help lead the way, as he retired in 2013.

Norway will have to keep opponents off the board, and it does have some quality blueliners to aid in that cause. Ex-Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jonas Holos and Ole-Kristian Tollefson — who played for Detroit, Columbus and Philadelphia — stand out as leaders on defense.


Latvia and their wild fans will storm into Sochi looking to surprise in Group C. The team is led by Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan and features a roster filled with faces new and old. Among the old guys is former Sharks and Avalanche defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh — at 41, he’s the elder statesman and a guy Nolan credits for getting Latvia into the Olympics.

Ozolinsh is joined on defense by former Flyer Oskars Bartulis, former Jet Arturs Kulda, and current NCAA Bowling Green prospect Ralfs Freibergs. The Latvians also have a semi-familiar group up front with Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, ex-Ottawa/Boston shootout specialist Kaspars Daugavins and former Lightning forward Martins Karsums.

Latvia is looking up the pecking order at group mates Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but boasts the most talent of the four minnows mentioned here. Nolan figures if they play hard enough and get some bounces, the Latvians could surprise.

“We took Finland to overtime at the world championships last year,” he said, per “We’re a hardworking team. And now they’re starting to believe. And that’s a deadly combination once in a while.”


The Slovenians are a Kopitar family affair. The team is led by Kings superstar Anze and his father, Matjaz, is the coach. Somehow Anze’s brother Gasper didn’t make the team… which could make the Kopitar family Christmas a little awkward.

As for the rest of the team, you might know former Red Wings prospect Jan Mursak and you’ll get to know a handful of guys with fun names, like the Rodman brothers (David and Marcel), Rok Ticar, Ales Music, and Ziga Pance. They’re all forwards, so for entertainment sake let’s hope they can score in bunches.

As for the outlook? Well, simply qualifying for the Olympics was a huge victory for Slovenia. From the New York Times:

Slovenia, known for Alpine skiers and ski jumpers, has a pool of hockey talent that is shallower than a puddle. A country of roughly two million, it has seven rinks and 148 registered senior men’s players.

“Out of those 148 players, you can maybe pick out 40 players good enough to compete at a high level,” Anze Kopitar said in a recent interview at the Kings’ practice complex.

“And 40 is actually stretching it, so it is a miracle, I think, what we’ve done to be in the Olympics.”