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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Avs president gives Sakic vote of confidence

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To hear Colorado team president Josh Kroenke explain it, the worst season in franchise history hasn’t put GM Joe Sakic on the hot seat.

“Joe’s leash hasn’t changed at all,” Kroenke told the Denver Post, when asked if Sakic’s leash had shortened. “Nobody wants to get the Avalanche back to where they were, where we all expect them to be, more than Joe Sakic. We’re going to continue to give him every resource at his disposal and I’m going to help him in any ways he sees that I can.”

Sakic was heavily scrutinized last season, one in which the Avs won just 22 games and finished with a shockingly low 48 points. His roster construction came into question — especially the team’s defense — and his lack of significant movement at the trade deadline confounded some.

Of course, Sakic was dealt a tough hand.

Patrick Roy’s surprise resignation as head coach in August put Sakic and new bench boss Jared Bednar in an extremely tough spot. Losing Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov to long-term injuries was a blow as well. These are just a few of the things Kroenke mentioned in suggesting Sakic “deserves a little bit of leeway” for how the season went.

Interestingly, Kroenke also defended Sakic’s decision not to more one of the club’s “core” guys during the season: Johnson, Varlamov, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog or Tyson Barrie. When the wheels started to come off in late November, the GM quickly ruled out moving MacKinnon (or prized draftees Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost).

As things worsened, Sakic was insistent he wouldn’t make a move for the sake of making a move.

Kroenke was in lockstep.

“Joe and I had lots of dialogue leading up to the deadline and my only message to him was, ‘Do what you think is right for the longterm, we don’t need to do something just to do something,” he said. “If someone thinks we’re in the fire-sale mode based on our record and you don’t think the return is adequate for the player, then don’t hesitate to just sit.”

Publicly, Kroenke’s messages reflect that he and Sakic are of the same mind when it comes to righting the ship, and that Sakic’s job is safe. Sakic, meanwhile, has already confirmed Bednar will be back for a second year on the job.

Now, the focus turns to the players. How many of them will be back?

 

Oilers goalie Gustavsson signs in Swedish League

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The Monster is headed home.

After eight years in the NHL and nearly 200 appearances on his resume, veteran goalie Jonas Gustavsson has returned to his native Sweden and signed with SHL club Linkoping.

The team announced news of the three-year deal on Thursday, just days after Gustavsson and AHL Bakersfield missed qualifying for the Calder Cup playoffs.

The 32-year-old found himself in the American League after a rough stint in Edmonton. Signed on a one-year, $800,000 deal to back up Cam Talbot, Gustavsson struggled to fill the role, going 1-3-1 with a .878 save percentage and 3.10 GAA before getting waived in January.

More: The Gustavsson signing has been a predictably bad one for the Oilers

Gustavsson was replaced by Laurent Brossoit as Edmonton’s No. 2, then appeared in 20 games for the Condors. He did score his first career goal with Bakersfield, so that’s something.

One considered a ballyhooed prospect — he was regarded as one of the top goalies outside the NHL when he signed with Toronto seven years ago — Gustavsson has never really lived up to the hype. He shouldered a couple of heavy workloads for the Leafs early on, and his best play might’ve come in a brief cameo for Detroit in ’13-14, when he posted a .917 save percentage over a pair of starts.

 

 

 

Another day, another Wild player under the knife

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Been a busy week for Minnesota’s health department.

After defensemen Christian Folin (shoulder) and Marco Scandella (hip) underwent arthroscopic surgeries, the Star-Tribune reported that forward Jason Zucker was set for a procedure to repair his sports hernia.

More:

The Wild will make an announcement Thursday after a core muscle injury expert who has operated on multiple professional athletes and several Wild players can better assess Zucker’s recovery time.

Zucker missed three games down the stretch of the regular season with a lower body injury. In his first game back April 6 at Colorado, Zucker scored 10 seconds into the game to match his own team record for fastest goal to start a game.

Typically, Wild players who have undergone core muscle surgery recover by training camp.

Zucker, 25, had a terrific year under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, posting career highs in goals (22), assists (25), points (47) and games played (79).

He also provided GM Chuck Fletcher with tremendous value, putting up quality production on a relatively modest contract at $2 million annually.

 

McLellan fires back at Carlyle’s ‘white glove treatment for McDavid’ remark

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Ah, the timeless art of gamesmanship.

It’s a tradition unlike any other come playoff time, and was on full display ahead of Game 4 of the Ducks-Oilers series.

It began Tuesday, when Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle said Edmonton captain Connor McDavid was getting “white glove treatment” from referees, adding that “the restrictions on anybody touching him” were higher than normal.

Today, his counterpart fired back.

“I hear that yesterday, and I was surprised,” Todd McLellan said, per TSN. “I thought we were supposed to be the team that was whining.”

That “whining” comment was a thinly-veiled shot at Carlyle who, prior to the series, said the Oilers were “going to be whining to the officials” about faceoffs. (Edmonton finished dead last in the NHL in faceoffs this season, the Ducks were No. 1.)

Gamesmanship!

It’s easy to see what Carlyle is angling for with his white glove remark. In Game 1, McDavid drew a tripping penalty on Ryan Kesler, and a holding call against Jakob Silfverberg. In Game 2, he drew a hold on Josh Manson and in Game 3, an interference call on Corey Perry. Given Edmonton’s been reasonably effective with the man advantage so far — three power play goals through the first three games — it stands to reason that Carlyle wants the Ducks to take fewer penalties.

And if that involves questioning the officiating, so be it.

Of course, there might not be much substance to Carlyle’s claims. Most of the aforementioned calls were legitimate, and this comes after a regular season in which McDavid was among the league leaders in penalties drawn. It’s not like this development came out of nowhere.

But it does set the stage for a subplot worth monitoring tonight.

Ducks forward Garbutt signs with KHL Sochi

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Anaheim winger Ryan Garbutt has agreed to join KHL club HC Sochi, the club announced on Wednesday.

Garbutt, 31, fell out of favor this year, getting waived in December despite being one of just 10 players to dress for all 27 games to start the season.

The decision to waive him came after a significant decrease in minutes. Prior to the move, he played just 5:31 in a win over the Sharks on Nov. 26, and 5:50 in a win over Vancouver on Dec. 1.

Last year, Anaheim acquired Garbutt in a midseason deal from Chicago. He performed well for the Ducks, scoring five goals and eight points in 37 games, and scored a goal in the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Garbutt is a polarizing player. Over a two-year span from 2014-15, he was one of the league’s most reckless skaters and found himself in a slew of disciplinary problems.

And the timing of today’s announcement may raise eyebrows. Garbutt played 28 games for AHL San Diego this year and is still on the active roster. The Gulls also just advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

That said, he is dealing with an injury and hasn’t played since Feb. 25.