Author: Mike Halford

Mike Milbury

Milbury’s ‘tongue-in-cheek’ remarks about Perry discussed, says NBC exec (Video)


Comments about Corey Perry made by NHL on NBC analyst Mike Milbury have been addressed and discussed, per NBC/NBCSN executive sports producer Sam Flood.

“I talked to Mike and told him that even though it was a tongue-in-cheek segment that built to a compliment — with Mike saying that he’d want Corey Perry as a teammate — word choice matters, even when attempting to be humorous,” Flood said in a statement, released Thursday.

“Mike understood.”

The comments occurred during Wednesday night’s broadcast of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Rangers and Lightning. In discussing the Western Conference Final between the Ducks and Blackhawks, Milbury was asked how he’d stop Perry, the second-leading playoff scorer with 16 points.

Here’s video of the discussion:

Game 3 of the Chicago-Anaheim series goes tonight at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Report: Five years, $15M for McLellan in Edmonton

Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli

According to multiple outlets (see here and here and here), Todd McLellan has struck it rich.

McLellan, who on Tuesday was introduced as the new head coach in Edmonton, has reportedly received a five-year deal worth $15 million — a $3M average annual salary that, for a brief time, made him the NHL’s highest-paid coach.

He has since been eclipsed by new Toronto bench boss Mike Babcock, who signed a reported eight-year deal worth $50 million on Wednesday — an AAV of $6.25M but, due to the contract’s front-loaded nature, could possibly reach $8 million in salary in each of Babcock’s first three seasons.

As for McLellan, his deal — though not as long as Babcock’s — still has plenty of term, which will allow him to grow with a young Oilers team that will get even younger next season when Connor McDavid (in all likelihood) makes his NHL debut at age 18. McLellan will also be tasked with further developing a relationship with 23-year-old Taylor Hall and 25-year-old Jordan Eberle, who he coached on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

Babcock predicts ‘pain’ for Leafs, who are a ‘massive, massive challenge’

Mike Babcock

If there was anything to take from Mike Babcock’s introductory presser in Toronto on Thursday, it’s that the newly minted head coach really, really gets the challenge at hand.

“If you think there’s no pain coming, there’s pain coming,” Babcock said, one day after agreeing to become the 30th head coach in team history. “I’m looking forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun and the journey.

“It’s gonna be a long one, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Babcock, who yesterday stunned the hockey world by inking a mega eight-year, $50 million contract to join the Leafs after 10 seasons in Detroit, didn’t get into specifics about a pending rebuild (he deferred questions about Dion Phaneuf’s future, for example, saying he still needed to speak with players.) Babcock was, however, brutally honest and blunt about tough times ahead, suggesting things will get worse in Toronto before they get better.

“This is going to be a long process,” Babcock said. “This is going to be a massive, massive challenge.”

Babcock then presented an interesting juxtaposition with regards to Toronto itself. He was effusive in his praise for the city and market — “I’m thrilled, excited and proud to be [here]”– but also acknowledged it’s been a difficult place for players.

At no time was this more evident than last season. Phil Kessel constantly feuded with the media, Nazem Kadri was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, players were ripped for an ill-fated decision to stop saluting fans, and Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul threatened to sue TSN after an unseemly tweet about them went to air.

So, how to solve such a toxic situation?

Victories, said Babcock.

“We need to create a safe environment for the players — right now, it’s a hard place,” he explained. “Winning creates a safe place for players.”

There doesn’t promise to be much winning in the immediate future, though. While Babcock was relatively mum on which players could or might be moved, the writing’s been on the wall since team president Brendan Shanahan and assistant GM Kyle Dubas conducted their rip-it-back-to-the-studs renovation of the front office and coaching staff in April. It was a clear indication of a wholesale remodel, which means players will eventually be on the move — Kessel and Phaneuf topping the list — and, in speaking with Sportsnet after the presser, Babcock did hint that part of the long-term plan included stockpiling draft picks, so that director of player personnel Mark Hunter could “go get some good players.”

It’s why Babcock was keen to sign a contract with lengthy term (heck, the Leafs were willing to go even longer than the eight years). He knows this isn’t a one- or two-year plan. For him to see it fully through, he needs to be in Toronto for the long haul.

“I never came here to make the playoffs, I came here for the Cup process,” Babcock said. “I don’t just want to get there.

“I want to win the Cup.”

Related: Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’

Flyers stay busy, sign journeyman Palushaj

Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens

One day after signing a veteran defenseman out of the KHL, Ron Hextall went and got himself a forward.

Aaron Palushaj, who split last year between Medveščak Zagreb and Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, has agreed to a contract with the Flyers, the club announced on Thursday. No details were announced.

Palushaj, 25, was the 44th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, then spent two impressive seasons with the University of Michigan at the NCAA level — the same level where Philly’s recently-hired head coach, Dave Hakstol, spent 15 years at the University of North Dakota.

Palushaj was drafted by the Blues but never played for the team, instead making his NHL debut with Montreal followed by stints in Colorado and Carolina. All told he’s played 68 games at the NHL level, scoring three goals and 14 points.

It’s fair to assume Palushaj was signed mostly for depth purposes at forward, and could spend some time with the AHL Phantoms next year.


Flyers won’t trade Del Zotto, but ‘something will have to give’ on crowded blue line

Flyers add to crowded blueline, sign veteran KHLer Medvedev (Update: one year, $3M)

Report: Devils spoke with Guy Boucher about coaching gig

Guy Boucher Getty

Busy last few days for Guy Boucher.

Boucher, the former Tampa Bay bench boss who’s been coaching in Switzerland, has reportedly had discussions with GM Ray Shero about the Devils’ vacant gig — this after Boucher lost out on the Toronto job, which went to Mike Babcock.

News of Boucher speaking to New Jersey, reported on Wednesday by TVA, shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. He’s held in relatively high regard despite getting fired by the Bolts after just two-and-a-half seasons in charge; last year he led Bern to a second-place finish in the Swiss National League A, and a playoff semifinal appearance.

(He’s also in good standing with Hockey Canada, for what that’s worth. Boucher, along with Dave Cameron and Willie Desjardins, made up the talented assistant coaching staff to Pat Quinn at the 2009 World Juniors, and Boucher was picked by Hockey Canada to coach its team at the 2014 Spengler Cup.)

According to TSN, the Maple Leafs — who were unsure if they’d land Babcock — flew Boucher in from Switzerland this week after team president Brendan Shanahan interviewed him at the World Championships. TSN also reported that the Leafs may be interested in bringing Boucher aboard as one of Babcock’s assistants but, with head coaching jobs still available in New Jersey, San Jose, Buffalo and — technically — Detroit, it stands to reason that Boucher will keep his options open for the time being.