Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Nill ‘not even worried’ about upgrading Stars’ goaltending

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The latest from Dallas’ never-ending goalie saga…

After Kari Lehtonen allowed five goals on 30 shots in a very winnable OT loss against Vancouver, Stars GM Jim Nill once again fielded questions about his club’s netminding issues.

From the Dallas Morning-News:

Q: How about the goaltending? The numbers aren’t good right now, does that concern you?

Nill: “The numbers aren’t good, but at the same time I get back to the injuries and the team that’s in front of them. It’s a challenge for both of them, and I think there have been times when they have really stepped up. I think they both had great training camps, and they both have stepped up a times. We just need to strive to improve every game, but that’s the same for the whole team.”

Q: Could you be looking for an upgrade if one presents itself?

Nill: “I’m not even worried about that. I’m worried about our team right now.”

As Brough wrote yesterday, there’s no easy solution to this mess.

Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have save percentages of .891 and .892 this year. And with cap hits of $5.9 million and $4.5 million through next year, respectively, they’re practically untradeable.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, Nill can do. There’s no real alternative in the AHL. Jaroslav Halak has been floated as a potential trade candidate, given he’s now on the block, and the Ben Bishop rumors have been around for a while. But neither seem very likely (and neither would be cheap).

Andrew Hammond is reportedly available, but would he be a significant enough upgrade to warrant a trade?

Nill did acknowledge that he could place Ales Hemsky ($4 million AAV) and Mattias Janmark ($800,000) on LTIR, and gain some valuable cap space.

But at this stage of the game, his focus appears to be on the players in front of Lehtonen and Niemi — not Lehtonen and Niemi themselves.

Parise (foot) returns from six-game absence tonight

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Having lost three of their last five — and having only scored eight goals over that span — the Wild are no doubt excited to get one of their best forwards back into the lineup tonight versus Calgary.

Zach Parise, who has missed the last six games with a foot injury, will make his return this evening, per the Star-Tribune. The 32-year-old hasn’t played since a 4-0 win over Buffalo back on Oct. 27, and his ailment derailed what was a very solid start to the campaign.

Parise had six points in Minnesota’s first eight games, while shouldering his customary heavy workload (18:22 TOI per night). The Wild, in turn, had a very good start to the year as well.

Minnesota will no doubt hope that Parise’s return to health is something of a foreshadow for the rest of the club. The Wild have dealt with a rash of injuries lately and, because of salary cap concerns, have been rotating through AHL recalls at forward. Erik Haula returned from injury five days ago, and it looks like Haula could play on a line with Parise and Jason Pominville tonight.

 

Talk of firing Gulutzan ‘pretty ridiculous,’ says Monahan

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Calgary might be the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season — well, the biggest one not named the Islanders — and with that disappointing start has come all the requisite grumbling.

Which includes gripes directed at the head coach.

Though he’s only 16 games into his tenure as Calgary’s bench boss, Glen Gulutzan is already hearing calls for his job, per the Calgary Sun. The Flames are 5-10-1 and just one point out of the Pacific Division basement — a far cry from where many expected them to be — but according to one of the club’s best young players, it’s waaay too early to talk about sacking the coach.

“For people to say that is pretty ridiculous,” Sean Monahan told the Sun. “It’s a process and sometimes things aren’t going the way you want them to. I think it’s just a matter of the full 20 guys buying in. We’ve got a lot of skill and you look at our team on paper we’re a good team.

“Right now we’re not showing it on the ice.”

The problems facing Gulutzan are twofold.

One, he was handed the keys to what was supposed to be a dynamic team. Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were already there, as was a defense led by Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie. And GM Brad Treliving seemingly took care of last year’s problem spots — completely revamping the crease with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, then adding some veteran goalscoring in Troy Brouwer — which, as Monahan said, made the Flames look pretty talented on paper.

Which brings us to problem No. 2.

Hindsight being 20/20, Treliving was given a pretty daunting task — revamping Calgary’s entire approach. In firing Bob Hartley, Treliving all but said he didn’t Calgary’s style of play, and that profound changes needed to happen.

“In today’s game, you need to have the puck. You’ve gotta work like hell to get it. And when you get it, you gotta hold on to it, you gotta play with it,” he said back in May. “Think how you defend in the league, too, is an area we look at. … You really break down the chances that we give up… you’ve gotta be able to defend in this league.”

For all their defensive and possession deficiencies under Hartley, the Flames’ offensive talent sure did shine. Everyone will point to Gaudreau and Monahan, but considersome of the other guys that had career years under Hartley: Giordano (21 goals and 56 points last year), Mikael Backlund (12 goals and 47 points) and the now-departed Joe Colborne, who scored 44 points after never having cracked 30.

So 16 games into the Gulutzan era, maybe the struggles shouldn’t be that surprising. This is a team trying to adapt to a whole new system.

Of course, that doesn’t take any of the pressure off the coach.

No more Circus Trips for Chicago

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One of the most well-known scheduling quirks in the NHL is no longer.

On Monday, the Tribune reported that Chicago’s annual Circus Trip — a two-week sojourn in which the ‘Hawks vacate the United Center for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — will be no longer after this season.

Gone too is the annual two-week break the club takes in February, when Disney on Ice comes to town.

More:

The Circus and Ice Show trips have been a staple for the teams for decades and date back to when they occupied the Chicago Stadium. But when the present contracts expired, changes were made.

“The reason we’re doing this is two-fold,” Terry Savarise, Senior Vice President of Operations for the United Center, said Monday. “One is that in future years the Bulls and the Blackhawks no longer have to endure two two-week road trips and a subset of that is that those two two-week road trips had resulted in a compression of our home-game schedules which usually ended up having too many home games for fans in a short period of time.

“There were times when you’d have four home games in a one-week period, which fans didn’t like.”

This year’s Circus Trip begins on Tuesday, when the ‘Hawks take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

From there, it looks like this:

circus

As mentioned above, Chicago also spends considerable time away from the United Center in February.

Things actually kick off on Jan. 31, with a date in San Jose — from there, the ‘Hawks go to Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Edmonton before a quick stop at home for a rematch against the Oilers.

After that, the ‘Hawks are back out on the road again for games in Buffalo and Minnesota.

After just three games, Nakladal cut loose by ‘Canes

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Carolina GM Ron Francis took a flier on Jakub Nakladal in early October, hoping that Nakladal’s efforts with the Czechs at the World Cup would translate into the regular season.

They didn’t.

On Monday, the ‘Canes announced they’ve terminated Nakladal’s contract, after he went scoreless in just three appearances for the club — the last one a shootout loss to New Jersey on Nov. 8.

The 28-year-old spent last season in Calgary — his first NHL campaign after years in the Czech League and KHL — but wasn’t resigned by the Flames, making him an unrestricted free agent. A contract failed to materialize during the summer, but interest rose after Nakladal appeared in all three games at the World Cup, acquitting himself reasonably well.

(His best game came in the Czech Republic’s group finale against the U.S., when he went plus-2 with over 20 minutes of ice time and three shots on goal.)

Nakladal was part of a Carolina defense that’s come under fire this season. He, along with waiver claim Klas Dahlbeck, were supposed to round out the bottom pairing and provide some depth, but that plan never came to fruition.