<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Colorado Avalanche  v Montreal Canadiens

To the Max: Habs name Pacioretty captain

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The Montreal Canadiens are captain-less no more.

On Friday, the club named winger Max Pacioretty the 29th captain in franchise history, filling the void after playing the ’14-15 campaign with four alternates.

Pacioretty, 26, inherits the role from Brian Gionta, who wore the “C” for four years before signing in Buffalo last summer. Like Gionta, Pacioretty is American, making him the third U.S.-born captain in Canadiens’ history (Chris Chelios is the other).

That Montreal chose Pacioretty as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The Habs confirmed the decision was made by a team-wide vote, and Pacioretty is highly regarded within the room, having won the Masterton trophy in 2012 after recovering a fractured vertebra on a hit from Boston’s Zdeno Chara.

He’s also led the team in goals in each of the last four seasons.

As for alternate captains, Montreal will haTve four of them this year — Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher.

Markov, Plekanec and Subban all retain their “A’s” from last season. 

‘Hawks draw heavy criticism for Kane press conference

Patrick Kane, John McDonough
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During Thursday’s press conference — in which Patrick Kane made his first public remarks following sexual assault allegations — Blackhawks team president John McDonough insisted he was “anything but tone deaf.”

Many disagreed.

Vehemently.

McDonough and the Blackhawks organization came under heavy criticism for how they handled today’s presser, in which none of the four speakers — Kane, McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville — answered questions about the situation, saying they would only respond to hockey-related queries.

And that’s what they did.

Despite a number of Kane-related questions from the gathered media, all replies were variations of “we have the utmost respect for the legal process,” and “we have no comment at this time.”

What really drew the public’s ire, though, wasn’t necessarily the ducking of questions — it was the statements that followed Kane’s portion of the presser. McDonough began with a lengthy offseason recap, followed by an outline of the team’s goals for the upcoming campaign.

He, Bowman and Quenneville also expressed their excitement about being back on the University of Notre Dame campus, and getting to see the Fighting Irish take on Georgia Tech in football this weekend.

Hence the accusations of tone deafness.

A gathering of some responses, via social media:

Following the initial four speakers, three of Kane’s teammates — Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and captain Jonathan Toews — met with the media and, similarly, dodged most Kane-related queries.

There was a telling moment, however, when the three were asked if Kane remained a leader on the team:

Related: Patrick Kane claims he’s ‘done nothing wrong’

Good to go(al): Bishop healthy, Gudlevskis likely to return for Bolts’ preseason

Ben Bishop

Finally, some good news in goal for Tampa Bay.

On Thursday, GM Steve Yzerman announced that No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop (torn groin) would be ready to go for the start of training camp, while potential backup Kristers Gudlevskis only suffered a minor arm injury last week, and should be available for preseason games.

Those were very welcome developments.

Tampa Bay’s had issues in the blue paint this offseason — Bishop was dealing with the groin tear suffered during the Cup Final and his projected backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was lost for 2-3 months due to a blood clotting issue.

Not long after Vasilevskiy went down, Gudlevskis suffered an injury during the club’s preseason rookie tournament. It was cause for concern, especially since the Lightning’s other primary option in goal right now is veteran Ray Emery, who’s attending camp on a PTO.

‘Canes prez Waddell sounds off on Semin

Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets
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It was no secret Carolina wasn’t enamored with Alex Semin — that much was evident when it bought him out in June.

But on Wednesday, ‘Canes president Don Waddell made sure there was no secrecy whatsoever about how the club really felt about the Russian winger.

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

“Semin was a very top-end player in the league when the game was played at a slower pace,” Waddell said. “It’s now played at such a high level if you can’t skate it’s hard to compete. Alex lost a step and he tried to play on the outside too much because he didn’t have the speed.

“And then he didn’t buy into the culture that our coach (Bill Peters) was trying to get in the locker room. When you go to practice and you have 22 guys doing things the way the coach wants and one who doesn’t, it usually doesn’t end well. … In simple terms, we paid him $14 million to go away.”

There are two ways of looking at this, really.

One, Carolina has the right to be choked about what transpired after it gave Semin a monster five-year, $35 million deal. His production fell through the floor, there were constant critiques about his effort level and the whole thing reeked of a guy that played hard in a contract year — 44 points in 44 games during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign — got paid, then put it in cruise control, pulling over occasionally to cash a check.

But that said… didn’t everyone kind of expect this to happen?

The contract was hammered almost immediately, with several pundits calling since-departed GM Jim Rutherford crazy for offering it. With all the warning signs that were out there, Semin’s downward slide in Carolina was predictable — in fact, some of the first remarks upon hearing of the Semin contract were those wondering when it would be bought out.

Isles sign Bernier: one year, $750,000

Jonathan Bernier; Steve Bernier
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Last week, the Isles announced that veteran winger Steve Bernier would be attending training camp on a PTO.

Turns out he didn’t even need it.

On Thursday, as the Isles were set to begin camp, the club went ahead and signed Bernier to a one-year, one-way deal worth $750,000.

The move comes on the heels of a busy last 24 hours — last night, the club agreed to a three-year extension with RFA forward Brock Nelson and, today, GM Garth Snow traded speedy forward Michael Grabner to Toronto for a handful of players, including Taylor Beck.

But back to the Bernier signing for a second.

Though he’s never lived up to the hype — he was the 16th overall pick in 2003, and the Blues once signed him to an offer sheet — Bernier is coming off a pretty good year; he matched career highs in goals (16) and points (32) in just 67 games with the Devils last season, averaging just under 13 minutes a night.

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he should provide good size and a net-front presence for the Isles.