Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Wild officially change goal song to Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’

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In what might be the most Minnesota post you’ll ever see on Buffalo day, the Wild have announced they’ve officially changed their goal song to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”

The announcement, made on Monday afternoon, came after the club surveyed season ticket holders to see how they felt about making the move a permanent one.

During the playoffs — Game 6 of their opening-round series against Dallas, to be specific — the Wild made the temporary goal song switch to commemorate their beloved hometown artist, who passed away on April 21.

“Our in-arena experience is designed for the fans, so it’s great to be able to show them we take their feedback to heart,” said Wild vice president of brand, content and communications John Maher. “At the same time, it’s our privilege to celebrate an iconic hometown artist that clearly has had an incredible impact on our community and the world.”

Jamie Benn out, Logan Couture in for Team Canada at World Cup

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Back in 2014, Logan Couture said it was “pretty, pretty disappointing” to be left off Canada’s Olympic squad, adding he felt he “should have been on that team.”

Two years later, Couture’s getting some redemption.

On Tuesday, the NHL announced that Couture would replace Dallas forward Jamie Benn on Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Benn had hoped to be ready for the tournament following offseason core muscle surgery but, with training camps just weeks away, it became evident he’d be unable to participate.

Benn’s disappointment is a huge boon for Couture, however.

The 27-year-old earned this Team Canada spot on the heels of a terrific campaign. Though he missed extensive time to a “catastrophic” leg injuries — first breaking his fibula, then discovering an arterial bleed in his thigh — Couture still managed to score 36 points in 52 games during the regular season.

And in the playoffs, he broke out.

Couture led all scorers with 20 assists and 30 points in 24 games, and finished with a handful of Conn Smythe votes. His level of play thoroughly impressed onlookers, and has reportedly been “bulking up” this offseason to withstand the rigors of a full NHL campaign.

While Couture is certainly worthy of the spot, it’s interesting that Canada passed on a pair of talented wingers — Taylor Hall and Corey Perry — to fill Benn’s spot. Couture is versatile and can play across the lineup, but mostly spends his time with the Sharks at center.

 

Under Pressure: Matt Moulson

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This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…

The 2015-16 campaign was not kind to veteran Sabres winger Matt Moulson.

Don’t believe us? Just check the headlines:

Mired in career-worst scoring slump, Moulson ‘just trying to find some confidence’

Bylsma says Moulson ‘needs to get back to playing the way he can’

Your latest pricey healthy scratch: Matt Moulson and his $5M cap hit

Sabres GM pushing Moulson to get into better shape

Despite ‘tough season for all of us to watch,’ Sabres won’t buy out Moulson

Yeah. Tough year.

A three-time 30-goal scorer, Moulson’s ability to find the back of the net abandoned him last year, finishing with just eight tallies in 81 games. That low output looks even worse when you consider the 32-year-old started the year reasonably well — three goals and five points in his first 10 games — before his production literally fell off a cliff.

Which brings us to the pressure point.

From a personal perspective, there’s no question Moulson’s feeling it. Sabres GM Tim Murray said the veteran was “very disappointed in himself” last season. It’s also probably hard for Moulson to ignore that, at $5 million annually through 2019, he’ll continually be defined by that contract, and the fact he’s Buffalo’s fifth highest-paid player.

There will be pressure coming from the organization as well.

Murray already threw down the gauntlet, suggesting that 1) Moulson’s fitness needs to improve and 2) a summer buyout was a possibility.

Head coach Dan Bylsma has also thrown down.

Making Moulson a healthy scratch last December didn’t seem to have much of an impact and, a month later, Bylsma bluntly said “I don’t like where [Moulson’s] game is at.”

Heading into the ’16-17 campaign, it’s clear the coach’s expectations for the group — Moulson included — have risen. This past July, Bylsma said the Sabres are stronger than last year, and suggested they “should be above 95 points at the end of the season.”

Disco Dan also said Buffalo would be deeper next season, which could be a major issue for Moulson. The addition of his former Isles running mate, Kyle Okposo, should give the Sabres another dimension up front, and it remains to be seen how youngsters knocking at the door — like Alex Nylander, Justin Bailey and Hudson Fasching — will work their way into the mix.

Add it all up, and Moulson could very well be looking at more time in the press box.

Looking to make the leap: Alex Nylander

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This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…

If history is any indicator, Alex Nylander — taken eighth overall by Buffalo at June’s draft — should have a decent shot at some NHL action this season.

Mikhail Grigorenko, one of Buffalo’s club’s first-round picks in 2012, spent considerable time with the team in his draft year. Rasmus Ristolainen did the same the season following, and Sam Reinhart made a nine-game cameo in his draft year.

Last season, Jack Eichel — the No. 2 overall pick at the ’15 draft — had a terrific campaign, scoring 24 goals in 81 games to finish fourth in Calder voting.

So what does Sabres GM Tim Murray see for Nylander?

“If you ask me, ‘Could I see him going back to junior?’ I guess there’s a scenario,” Murray said in mid-July, per the Buffalo News. “If you ask me, ‘Could I see him playing wing with [Eichel and Reinhart]?’ I think there’s a scenario.

“He’s just high-end talent, high-end skill. He’s going to be a real good NHL player. It’s a matter of time.”

Nylander had 75 points in 57 games for the OHL Mississauga last season. For that, he was named the league’s rookie of year. He thinks he can make the jump to the Sabres right away, and vowed to do everything in his power this summer to make it happen.

Nylander also has bloodlines working on his behalf. His brother, William — taken eighth overall by Toronto in ’14 — didn’t make the Leafs in his draft year, but was brought over to play with the AHL Marlies.

Last season, as a 19-year-old, William made his NHL debut and fared very well, scoring 13 points in 22 games.

Of course, there are some things working against the younger Nylander.

For one, Alex is looking to crack a much different Buffalo roster than the aforementioned rookies did. This is a team with heightened expectations — earlier this summer, head coach Dan Bylsma said the team was “stronger” and “deeper” than last year, and suggested the Sabres “should be above 95 points at the end of the season.”

Buffalo finished with 81 last year.

High priced veteran Kyle Okposo was brought aboard in free agency, which furthered the notion the Sabres aren’t in a position to play youngsters that aren’t ready.

On that note, it has to be said that Nylander has a multitude of options for next season — he could play in the NHL, the AHL, Europe, or be returned to the Steelheads.

But according to Murray, the kid will get his shot.

“When we selected Alex, we obviously knew he was a talented, skilled player,” Murray said upon signing Nylander to his ELC back in July. “We look forward to him coming to training camp and competing for a job.”

‘Essentially a formality’ — Leafs name Hunter assistant GM

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have a new assistant general manager though, in reality, it’s the same assistant general manager they’ve had all along.

From the club:

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today the club has named Mark Hunter as Assistant General Manager. Hunter, who first joined the Leafs as Director of Player Personnel in October 2014, will share the role along with current Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas.

“Mark’s new title is essentially a formality as these are duties he’s already been performing,” said Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “Brendan and I have been discussing this change of title since last season – as it’s a more appropriate recognition of Mark’s role with the organization since joining the Maple Leafs.

“There are no changes to Mark or Kyle’s duties, or to that of Brandon Pridham, Assistant to the General Manager.”

To hammer home that final quote, Toronto’s PR department explained that Hunter will continue to oversee pro scouting, amateur scouting and player evaluation, while Dubas will continue as GM of the AHL Marlies, overseeing prospects already within the organization, and “leading the Maple Leafs’ player development and hockey research and development departments.”

Hunter, 53, was one of the three Hunter brothers to play in the NHL (Dave and Dale were the others). After retiring, he went on to a decorated coaching and front office career in the OHL, before making the leap to the pros two years ago.