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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Looking for a goalie? Crawford says Darling’s ‘definitely’ a No. 1

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LOS ANGELES — It’s already well-established that this summer’s goalie market is going to be interesting.

A slew of guys are set to hit unrestricted free agency, and — in addition to teams needing to address the position — the expansion Las Vegas franchise has to fill out its roster as well.

A name that’s garnered plenty of attention recently is Chicago backup Scott Darling. And on Saturday, the guy Darling’s currently behind — second-time All-Star Corey Crawford — put forth a glowing recommendation for his crease mate.

“Definitely,” Crawford said, when asked if Darling is starting netminder material. “He’s already come along and learned so many things in his first two years. He’s a big guy that can move well, and there’s still a lot of things to learn.

“I had to learn that too, in my second year. Being a No. 1, there’s a lot more that goes into it — a little more pressure, and some other things that start to come up that you have to deal with. But as far as skill and technique and mental toughness and all that stuff, Darls has come a long way.”

Darling, 28, is in the midst of a banner campaign. As mentioned, he has ideal size — 6-foot-6 — and showed extremely well this year as the temporary starter, when Crawford went down with appendicitis.

All told, Darling is 12-5-2 with a .925 save percentage and 2.31 GAA. And his body of work over the course of his brief NHL career lends credence to the notion he could be a No. 1 — in 65 games, he’s posted a .923 save percentage and 2.34 GAA.

Darling is an absolute bargain right now, in the last of a two-year deal with a minuscule $587,500 cap hit.

That will likely change this summer.

And along with it, his zip code could change too.

Chicago’s starting gig will stay with Crawford, who’s backstopped the team to a pair of Stanley Cups. This is his second All-Star Game appearance in the last three seasons, and he further cemented his status as one of the NHL’s best this past offseason, when he was one of three goalies named to Team Canada at the World Cup (along with Braden Holtby and Carey Price, the two reigning Vezina winners).

As such, opportunity and a nice payday are probably coming from somewhere other than the Windy City.

The big question, of course, is where Darling fits in what projects to be a fluid market. Guys with starting experience — like Ben Bishop, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliott, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth — could all come available.

And backups like Darling — Buffalo’s Anders Nilsson, New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid, Ottawa’s Mike Condon and Calgary’s Chad Johnson — are also having good-to-great years, and could be up for grabs as well.

And, lest we forget, there’s a situation in Pittsburgh where one of Matt Murray or Marc-Andre Fleury will have to be left unprotected in the expansion draft.

Whatever the case, Crawford’s words suggest Darling will be a key figure this summer.

“He’s definitely up there for a spot, for sure,” he said. “He’s a great guy to play with, and just a great guy to be around too.

“It’s been awesome having him as a teammate.”

Gaudreau knows targeting won’t go away, so attention turns to Calgary’s response

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LOS ANGELES — This weekend will be a nice reprieve for Johnny Gaudreau.

The diminutive Calgary sniper won’t face many hacks, whacks, slashes or shadows when he participates in the league’s annual All-Star Game.

In fact, he probably won’t face any.

But when Gaudreau returns to the Flames and the regular season resumes, he’ll once again be subjected to targeting, something that’s become a major narrative this year.

“It’s part of the game,” Gaudreau said at Saturday’s All-Star media availability. “It’s not going to go away.

“It’s not going to be the first slash or the last slash I’ve taken. I’ll just play my game and try not to worry about it, try not to get frustrated.”

Just prior to this weekend’s festivities, the Gaudreau situation was front-and-center in Calgary.

After Toronto’s Leo Komarov blasted Gaudreau with a huge open-ice check, ex-Flames tough guy Brian McGrattan followed up a series of angry tweets by telling the Herald “sticking up for each other and being a team is crucial for morale,” adding “it goes so far in the dressing room.”

More, from the Herald:

“Those skilled players get enough abuse as it is as they’re against number one defensive pairings and the top checking line,” said McGrattan. “But with nobody sticking up for them, they’ll get that even more.

“He knows it’s going to happen again in the next week because teams know they can do whatever they want to this guy and nobody is going to do anything.”

The Komarov hit came just weeks after Anaheim center Ryan Kesler acknowledged he was intentionally targeting Gaudreau, and months after Johnny Hockey missed 10 games with a broken finger — which, per Flames GM Brad Treliving, happened on the 11th slash Gaudreau received in a game against Minnesota.

Treliving has emerged as an important figure in all this.

He’s clearly been displeased with how his star player has been treated — after the Wild game, Treliving acknowledged he spoke with NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom — and, in the Herald piece mentioned earlier, Treliving said he was “looking at everything right now” in terms of adding toughness.

Gaudreau touched on his GM’s remarks.

“Brad’s obviously looking into a lot of things, but I don’t think that’s really my call to make,” he said. “The game’s changed today, with speed and skill. At times it’s smarter to have that out there, and sometimes it’s smart to have your toughness out there.”

The strange part with this dilemma that, on paper, Calgary has plenty of guys to answer the bell. The Flames have fought the sixth-most times in the NHL this year (20), and often dress the likes of Deryk Engelland, Garnet Hathaway and Micheal Ferland.

Another enforcer-type, Brandon Bollig, is with the club’s AHL affiliate in Stockton.

So perhaps Calgary’s response won’t be a transaction — perhaps it will guys already on the roster heeding the call to keep the files off Johnny Hockey.

“I don’t really want to complain about it or anything, but some teams like to give it to other players,” Gaudreau said. “At times there’s definitely frustration.”

Sharks better, faster and deeper than last year’s Cup finalist, says DeBoer

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LOS ANGELES — One of the central themes going into last year’s Stanley Cup Final was the speed of the Penguins and Sharks.

But once it was over, all anyone could talk about was how much faster Penguins were.

It’s something Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer remembered with a chuckle at Saturday’s All-Star media session, as he prepped to coach the Pacific Division.

“We were fast… until we saw Pittsburgh,” DeBoer said with a laugh. “That’s obviously something we talked about, and I think we are faster.”

To hear the head coach explain it, speed isn’t the only thing San Jose’s upgraded.

DeBoer says this year’s team is notably improved compared to the ’15-16 group — a team that finished with 46 wins, 98 points and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

(A scary proposition for the rest of the Western Conference, this.)

“I like our team,” DeBoer explained. “I think we’re better than last year, sitting where we are right now. The young guys have added a dimension to our team. I think we’re deeper.

“The big question here is going to be health, and energy. There’s no secret and there’s no hiding from the fact that you go to the Final and then find a way to get back there. That’s just reality. But I think if there’s a group that can do it, we’re set up to do it.”

DeBoer’s comments come after GM Doug Wilson made several unheralded-yet-significant changes to the club’s makeup. The speed upgrade was most evident — highlighted by the free agent acquisition of Mikkel Boedker, one of the quickest guys in the league — but getting faster wasn’t just limited to skating ability.

“Speed isn’t just pure speed, it’s puck movement speed too,” DeBoer explained. “We’ve added [David] Schlemko on defense, who’s a puck-moving defenseman. So I think all those factors make us definitely faster than we were a year ago.”

Changes didn’t just happen in the offseason, either. Already this year, the Sharks have parted ways with young veterans Matt Nieto (waived, claimed by Colorado) and Tommy Wingels (traded to Ottawa).

In doing so, Wilson has embraced a youth movement, implementing the likes of Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

Labanc, 21, worked his way into the Sharks lineup after starring with the club’s AHL affiliate and has emerged as a regular, with 14 points in 37 games. Meier, the ninth overall pick in 2015, is a little less polished and playing in a smaller role — but both he and Labanc have impressed the veteran core.

“[Labanc], just the ability to get in position to score – I think he’s a very, very smart hockey player. He wants to score every night, which is fun to see as an older player,” Joe Thornton said in late December, per CSN Bay Area. “Timo, just his speed stands out, and how strong he is.

“Both guys are playing huge roles on our team right now.”

The club has also been buoyed by the return of Tomas Hertl.

Hertl, who was one of San Jose’s best forwards in last year’s playoffs, missed nearly the entire Cup Final with a knee injury, then missed almost all of the last two months with more knee problems.

Hertl returned to the lineup in San Jose’s final game before the All-Star break, which essentially put the team at full strength.

That, plus a burning desire to repeat last year’s run — only with a different ending — could make the Sharks a very dangerous team over the next few months.

“The guys are hungry to get back,” DeBoer said. “And I like how we’re positioned.”

‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Marchand knows he’s never going to be liked

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LOS ANGELES — The past few days have really embodied all that is Brad Marchand.

Prior to playing in his first-ever All-Star Game, Marchand was in a familiar place — meeting with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety about a dangerous trip on Red Wings d-man Niklas Kronwall.

Ultimately Marchand would avoid suspension for the incident but, on Thursday, was still hit with a hefty $10,000 fine. Later that evening, he scored a pair of goals — his 20th and 21st of the year — in a big 4-3 win over the Penguins.

That put No. 63 in a tie for ninth-most in the NHL, an impressive feat.

And now he’s (rightfully) among the game’s elite at an annual showcase for skill and speed.

So, what does Marchand think of the internal dynamic at play?

“It’s a little Jekyll and Hyde effect, I guess,” he said on Saturday, during All-Star media availability. “You can be good for 81 games of the year, and it takes a two-second play — and that’s the one everyone remembers.

Marchand certainly has a history of plays that folks remember.

— March 2011: Suspended two games for elbowing R.J. Umberger in the head.

— December 2011: Fined for slew-footing Matt Niskanen.

— January 2012: Suspended five games for clipping Sami Salo.

— January 2015: Suspended two games for slew-footing Derick Brassard.

— November 2015: Fined for roughing Gabriel Landeskog.

— December 2015: Suspended three games for clipping Mark Borowiecki.

At the same time, Marchand has emerged as one of the league’s best offensive weapons. He finished sixth in the NHL in goals last year, with 37, and further established himself among the league’s elite with a terrific performance for Team Canada at the World Cup.

The 28-year-old starred on a line alongside Bergeron and Sidney Crosby and, following the tournament, inked a monster eight-year, $49 million extension with the B’s.

In announcing the deal, Boston GM Don Sweeney was effusive in his praise. He called Marchand “a core guy,” and was hopeful he’d spend his entire career in Boston.

On the subject of his career, Marchand admitted things were still a work in progress — at least when it came to discipline.

“One hundred percent,” Marchand said, when asked if he acknowledged the need to make better decisions on the ice. “The play last week [on Kronwall] is something that can be avoided and again, it’s just about being smarter in a situation like that. And again, it is something I’m going to continue to work on.”

Work on it? Yes.

But change? Expect some, just not too much.

“I can’t change the way people view me, or the way they think. I’m not interested in doing that. I just want to play the game,” he said. “I still don’t think I’ll ever be liked.

“And that’s fine.”

Who were the biggest NHL 100 omissions?

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LOS ANGELES — If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that lists are made to be dissected.

On Friday night that theory was tested.

And proven true.

The NHL unveiled the remaining 67 members of its top 100 list at the Microsoft Theater this evening and, as the night progressed, discussions both in-house and on social media went from who got in… to who was left out.

A quick rundown of some prominent omissions, all enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

— Former Blackhawks defenseman and captain Pierre Pilote, a three-time Norris winner.

— Dale Hawerchuk, a five-time All-Star and Calder winner who sits 18th all time in scoring.

— Larry Murphy, a four-time Cup winner and one of the highest-scoring d-men of all time.

— Michel Goulet, a four-time 50-goal scorer.

— Joe Mullen, a three-time Cup winner and one of the highest-scoring Americans in league history.

— Rod Langway, who twice won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

— Cam Neely and Clark Gillies, two of the finest power forwards of their generations.

Some other noteworthy snubs include:

Evgeni Malkin, who’s captured a pair of Cups, a Hart Trophy and a Conn Smythe.

Joe Thornton, currently 24th all-time in NHL scoring.

Zdeno Chara, Cup-winner and Norris Trophy winner.

Jarome Iginla, one of the premier goalscorers of this generation.

There are many more worth considering. Follow up in the comments section, and let us know who you think is missing from the NHL100 list.