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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It’s Philadelphia Flyers day at PHT

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All things considered, the Flyers had a fairly successful 2015-16.

Led by a rookie head coach and coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs, expectations were tempered heading into the year. There were some onerous contracts on the books,  and the “defense of the future” was still that — something for the future.

Well, mostly for the future.

It’s easy to look at last season and focus on the biggest positive — the breakout of Shayne Gostisbehere. The dynamic blueliner didn’t open the year with the club, but made an immediate impact upon his November recall and quickly put his name in the history books.

He set an NHL record for points in consecutive games by a rookie blueliner, and became the first to score four OT goals in a single campaign. He then capped things off by finishing second to Artemi Panarin for the Calder Trophy.

Ghost was great, no doubt.

But the year wasn’t all about him.

Brayden Schenn also enjoyed a breakout campaign, scoring a career-best 26 goals and 59 points, earning him a four-year, $20.5 million extensionWayne Simmonds cracked the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career, and the goaltending tandem of Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth proved an effective one-two punch.

Those efforts masked what was a modest year from captain Claude Giroux, and a disappointing 55-point effort from Jake Voracek, he of the $66 million contract.

Speaking of contracts, the guy that signs ’em, GM Ron Hextall, had himself a pretty solid season. He unloaded one of the aforementioned albatrosses — Vincent Lecavalier — on the Kings, in a midseason deal that also saw Luke Schenn head to Hollywood.

And the first-year bench boss did well, too.

Longtime North Dakota man Dave Hakstol was an unconventional choice — few coaches make the leap from NCAA hockey to the NHL — but eventually proved his worth, especially late in the year when the Flyers went 12-4-3 down the stretch, and snuck into the postseason.

Philly was eventually dispatched by Washington in Round 1, but not before rallying from an 0-3 deficit to push the series to six games.

There was a real sense Philly building something last season, and the process wouldn’t be rushed. That philosophy carried over to the offseason, where Hextall was reasonably quiet, the biggest splashes being the R.J. Umberger buyout, and a four-year deal for grinding winger Dale Weise in free agency.

That approach makes sense, too.

Eventually, Gostisbehere’s fellow blueline prospects — Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg — will be ready to make the leap, and there are good young talents up front as well (think Travis Konecny, Nick Cousins and, further down the road, ’16 first-rounder German Rubstov).

All that said, Philly still has work to do.

Some unappealing contracts remain on the books — like Andrew MacDonald‘s, and Matt Read‘s — and 38-year-old Mark Streit has one year left on his deal. Hextall pulled off some magic in unloading Lecavalier last season, but that might prove difficult with those three.

As such, the situation in Philly can be summed up like this:

The future is certainly bright.

The big question is when will it all be on display.

Wild owner Leipold to buy out minority shareholder

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Craig Leipold is upping his investment in the Minnesota Wild.

Already the club’s majority shareholder, Leipold is reportedly in the process of buying out Matthew Hulsizer’s 27 percent share, per the Star-Tribune.

Once completed, the deal will bring Leipold’s stake in the club to 95 percent.

More:

Leipold said he and Hulsizer are departing on friendly terms.

The decision is driven by Leipold’s desire to keep the Wild in his family long-term and Hulsizer’s desire to eventually own a larger chunk of the franchise and be more involved in hockey decisions.

Hulsizer, a Chicago businessman, caught on the Wild in February of last year, joining the board of directors as vice chairman and minority owner, taking over the latter title (and stake) from Philip Falcone.

Previously, Hulsizer tried (and failed) to buy the Coyotes out of bankruptcy.

“[Hulsizer] continued to have a higher interest level in being involved in the hockey side like the draft and trades, but I wasn’t willing to give that up,” Leipold said, per the Tribune. “That’s not my style with [General Manager] Chuck [Fletcher], so I certainly wouldn’t let a minority owner have that kind of input to Chuck.”

The deal could take “months” to finalize, according to the Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo.

King comes full circle, joins Canucks’ AHL staff

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Jason King is back with the Canucks.

King, the former Vancouver forward that recently transitioned into coaching, will join Travis Green’s staff in AHL Utica for the upcoming campaign, the Canucks announced on Tuesday.

Back in 2003, King enjoyed a brief spell of fame on the “Mattress Line” with Daniel and Henrik Sedin (two twins and a King, you see.) He scored 12 goals and 21 points that year, in 47 games played.

A serious concussion limited the 34-year-old to just 59 career NHL contests, though he did enjoy some quality campaigns in the German League and, finally, a couple of productive seasons with AHL St. John’s.

After retiring in 2013, King quickly moved into the coaching ranks and helped the IceCaps advance to the Calder Cup Final two years ago.

 

Vegas names ‘outstanding hockey man’ McCrimmon assistant GM

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As earlier reports suggested, George McPhee has found his right-hand man.

On Tuesday, McPhee and the Vegas expansion team announced they’ve hired WHL Brandon owner/GM/coach Kelly McCrimmon to serve as assistant GM.

“Kelly is an outstanding hockey man and we are delighted to have him join us,” McPhee said in a release. “His extensive experience and consistently high level of performance in the game will help us build a strong and successful organization and team.

“His hockey acumen, character, and work ethic are perfect for us.”

McCrimmon, 55, makes an awful lot of sense for Vegas. He’s literally done everything in Brandon short of selling popcorn — though we can’t verify he hasn’t — and his ability to serve and thrive in a variety of hockey operation roles should be a boon to Vegas, which will need to build an organization entirely from scratch.

It’s also probably worth noting that, last year, McCrimmon coached Nolan Patrick, considered right now to be the No. 1 available talent at the 2017 draft.

That draft, of course, will be Vegas’ first and the club will have relatively decent odds at winning the lottery.

McCrimmon has been on the radar of NHL clubs in the past. Last summer, he reportedly turned down an offer to join Toronto’s front office.

Rangers may need King Henrik now more than ever

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

The farewell image of Henrik Lunqvist last season wasn’t a good one — dejected, wearing a baseball cap rather than a goalie mask, looking on as Antti Raanta mopped up a blowout elimination loss to Pittsburgh.

The only thing worse might’ve been Lundqvist’s closing remarks.

“I just didn’t have it in me to make a difference,” he said. “And that’s painful, you know? That’s my job, to try to make the difference there and help the team.”

Coming the Rangers’ rock for a decade plus, it’s a worrisome quote. Because heading into next season, New York probably needs Lundqvist to make more of a difference than ever.

This is no longer the team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Gone are the likes of Derick Brassard, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin.

On paper, the club looks to have its weakest roster in years.

This would suggest Alain Vigneault and company will rely on Lundqvist an awful lot which, in the past, has worked out just fine — No. 30 has been a workhorse and world-class netminder, capturing one Vezina Trophy while finishing as a finalist four more times.

But the past is the past. What about the future?

Looking ahead, it’s hard to overlook a few things. One, Lundqvist was the fourth-oldest starting netminder in the league last year, in which he started 64 times and led the league in shots faced. (Oh yeah, he also turns 35 in March, and makes $8.5M annually through 2021.)

Two, his rough finish to ’15-16 wasn’t limited to just the playoffs.

Prior to allowing six goals on 23 shots in Game 5 — and failing to make it to the third period for the third time in the series — there were signs Lundqvist was slowing down. He posted a .906 save percentage in March, and an .896 in April.

Veteran netminders tiring deeper into the season is nothing new. Last year, 37-year-old Roberto Luongo admitted he was “exhausted” during Florida’s run, to which the Panthers (in part) responded by bolstering their blueline, and adding James Reimer in free agency.

New York didn’t have those options.

The cap-strapped club was a bit player in free agency, adding inexpensive depth guys like Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Adam Clendening and Josh Jooris. As such, the blueline remains a major area of concern, and it’s unclear how much more the team can coax out of Raanta, who matched a career-high with 25 appearances last season.

For now, Lundqvist should get the benefit of the doubt. He’s earned as much, and one unfortunate end to a season shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. Players bounce back, especially the great ones.

But with that said, it’s hard to look at the situation at hand and not be somewhat concerned — because this isn’t just about Lundqvist. It’s also about the team in front of him.

How often will he need to stand on his head?

And, what happens if he can’t?