Author: Mike Halford

Steve Yzerman

Tire pump? Yzerman says Toews is ‘bigger, stronger, better’ than he was


TAMPA — In 2011, Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas brought tire pumping to the forefront at the Stanley Cup Final.

Four years later, the practice may be back in vogue.

During Tuesday’s media availability, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was effusive in his praise for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, claiming Toews is the superior player of the two.

“The reality is Jonathan’s bigger, stronger, better,” Yzerman said. “He just is. He’s just a tremendous all-around player, great person.

“Over the course of my career my play evolved and through Scotty Bowman. The way he wanted our team to play, we all became more defensive-minded players, more well-rounded players. Jonathan’s been that from day one.”

The Yzerman-Toews comparisons are nothing new (Chris Chelios noted it a while back): No. 19s, Canadians, centers, top-five draft picks (Yzerman fourth overall, Toews third) with each having won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals, Selke and Conn Smythe awards.

Yzerman’s point, however, is interesting. The knock on him prior winning the Cup in ’97 was that he didn’t have the complete game necessary to lead the Red Wings to a championship; Yzerman broke into the NHL as an offensive player, a scorer by trade, and his early point totals (155 points in 1988-89, remember) reflected as much.

Toews, meanwhile, isn’t the same offensive dynamo — he’s never broke the 80-point plateau — but attained playoff success far quicker than Stevie Y. Toews was a captain before he turned 21 and Stanley Cup winner before he was 23, whereas Yzerman didn’t hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug until he was 32.

That said… it’s Steve freaking Yzerman.

A first-ballot Hall of Famer and three-time Cup winner, Yzerman is now regarded as one of the greatest leaders in NHL history. He was the longest-serving captain of any team in North American major league sports upon retiring, and is an icon in Detroit. That reputation of winning has extended to his front office work, where he’s led Tampa Bay to an Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final in just five years on the job.

And this could be why he said what he did today.

Yzerman’s a shrewd guy, and knows how to work the media. The quiet, humble, aw-shucks-he’s-better-than-me routine fits into the narrative that many have written already, where the Bolts are the young, inexperienced, new kids on the block, underdogs against a Chicago team that’s been here before, done this before and is now looking to win a third Cup in the last five years.

To wit, I asked veteran Tampa forward Brenden Morrow — at 36, one of the few guys in this series to play against both Yzerman and Toews — what he thought of his GM’s remarks.

“They’re both competitors, but that’s just Steve being Steve,” Morrow said, smiling. “He’s a very modest and humble guy.

“He was a pretty special player.”

Video: Does Bishop, the tallest goalie in NHL history, mark ‘wave of the future’ in net?

Ben Bishop

He’s 6-foot-7 off skates and nearly 6-foot-10 with ’em on, earning him the (pretty apt) nickname “Big Ben.”

We’re talking, of course, about Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, who over the last two seasons has gone from the answer to a trivia question to one of the league’s most dominant shot-stoppers; after last year’s Vezina finalist nod, Bishop is now playing in his first-ever Stanley Cup Final.

On the Dan Patrick Show, NHL on NBC analyst Pierre McGuire talked about Bishop and how he represents a changing of the guard in goal, in which teams are trending towards bigger, taller ‘tenders.

Jets d-man Brouillette signs in Swedish League

San Jose Sharks v Winnipeg Jets

Former Jets and Capitals blueliner Julien Brouillette has signed on with Swedish League outfit Karlskrona, the club announced on Monday.

Brouillette, 28, spent the majority of last season with Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, appearing in one NHL contest. Previously, he’d made his big-league debut with Washington during the 2013-14 campaign, scoring two points in 10 games.

An undrafted free agent that worked his way up through the minors, Brouillette will now be part of a Karlskrona team recently promoted to the SHL’s top flight. He was set to become a UFA on July 1.

McCauley, O’Halloran, Pollock, Sutherland named Stanley Cup Final referees

Anaheim Ducks v Phoenix Coyotes

The four referees and four linesmen to work the 2015 Stanley Cup Final have been announced, per the NHL Officials Association.


Wes McCauley, Dan O’Halloran, Kevin Pollock, Kelly Sutherland


Derek Amell, Shane Heyer, Brian Murphy, Pierre Racicot

Some notes about the zebras:

— Back-to-back Cup Final appearances for McCauley and O’Halloran, who both worked the Rangers-Kings series last year. McCauley has since formed a “go-to” tandem with Pollock this postseason, as the pair has been tasked with a number of key tilt, including the Rangers-Lightning Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

— Sutherland is back in the mix after last calling a Cup Final in 2011 (Boston-Vancouver).

— Those cut from the conference finals? Eric Furlatt, Steve Kozari, Chris Rooney and Brad Watson. The latter, of course, was embroiled in controversy after an (alleged) verbal altercation with Montreal’s Brandon Prust in Round 2. Prust, who was tagged with 31 penalty minutes in a Game 2 loss to the Lightning, accused Watson of trying “to play God,” adding that the veteran referee “kept provoking me, he came to the box and called me every name in the book.”

Prust later apologized for his remarks, and was fined $5,000 for what the NHL called “baseless and demeaning” comments, and Watson moved onto to the next round.

— As for the linesmen, only Derek Amell returns from the crew that called last year’s Cup Final.

Report: Ex-Oilers coach Eakins interviewed for WHL Vancouver gig


The Vancouver Giants are talking to some pretty high-profile candidates for their bench boss job.

Having already interviewed former Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan, the Giants have also reportedly (per News 1130) spoken with Dallas Eakins, who was fired from Edmonton midway through last season.

Eakins, 48, has never coached at the junior level before, moving directly to the American League following the end of his playing career. He spent seven seasons in the Toronto organization — as both an assistant with the Leafs and a head coach of the Marlies — before taking the Oilers gig in 2013.

To call Eakins’ tenure in Edmonton a disappointment would be a major understatement. The club went 36-63-14 on his watch, missing the playoffs in ’14 while winning just seven times in 31 games this year before Eakins was (somewhat mercifully) dismissed in December.

As far as WHL gigs go, Vancouver is one of the more prominent franchises. The team plays in one of the largest cities on the circuit and has employed two former NHL head coaches, Don Hay and Claude Noel.