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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Keep an eye on the goaltending situation in Colorado

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On paper, it seems pretty straightforward — Semyon Varlamov will be the Avs’ starter this season, and Calvin Pickard will be his backup.

But in Colorado, things are never really straightforward.

New head coach Jared Bednar said he’s not sure how his goaltending position will shake out this year, telling the Denver Post that Pickard has a chance to shine with Varlamov on Russian national team duty at the World Cup.

“We’re going to watch him through training camp,” Bednar explained. “Obviously [Pickard’s] going to get a real good look at training camp with Varly gone, to play some exhibition games early. And then we’re going to sit down once Varly gets back how exactly we’re going to split the games.

“That will be determined on how each of them are playing along the way as well.”

Again, on paper, this is Varlamov’s net. The 28-year-old is paid like a No. 1 — $5.9 million annually through 2019 — and has carried a starter’s workload, appearing in 63, 57 and 57 games over the last three seasons.

Pickard, 24, has played 36 career NHL games.

But there are some things to consider.

One, Varlamov’s numbers have steadily declined since his banner campaign three years ago, in which he finished fourth in MVP voting and second in Vezina voting:

’13-14: 41 wins, .927 save percentage, 2.41 GAA

’14-15: 28 wins, .921 save percentage, 2.56 GAA

’15-16: 27 wins, .914 save percentage, 2.81 GAA

There’s also the matter of who’s behind the Colorado bench.

Gone is Patrick Roy, who had a curious relationship with Varlamov and the goaltending position in general, really. Often times Roy’s Hall of Fame resume seemed to bubble to the surface.

When Varlamov played poorly, Roy was there with a critique or challenge. When Varlamov played well, Roy was effusive in his praise.

The constant message, though, was that Varlamov was Colorado’s No. 1 goalie. And, at times, Roy made it seem like Varlamov was team’s most important player.

That might not be the same under Bednar. He’s coming in fresh, with almost no previous relationship to any of the players — and in that regard, Pickard becomes awfully intriguing.

The 49th overall pick in 2010, Pickard showed very well last season (13-7-6, .922 save percentage, 2.56 GAA) and received a couple of votes of confidence this summer. The first was when the Avs sent backup goalie Reto Berra to Florida, all but ensuring Pickard would spent the whole season in Colorado.

The second came in the form of a two-year extension.

Pickard also played very well for Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the World Championship, going 2-0 with a 0.50 GAA and .971 save percentage.

So yeah, definitely something to keep an eye on.

Dallas might be the biggest loser at the World Cup

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And you thought it would be Team USA.

No, the team that’s lost the most at the World Cup of Hockey didn’t even participate — it’s the Dallas Stars.

To recap:

Tyler Seguin suffered an injury during the exhibition campaign, and was dropped from Team Canada. Dallas later revealed Seguin suffered a hairline fracture in his heel.

Radek Faksa was dealing with concussion symptoms after a questionable Ryan Getzlaf hit during the Czech’s blowout loss to Canada. He didn’t play in either of the Czechs’ final two games of the tournament.

Ales Hemsky left Thursday’s win over the U.S. early, and didn’t return. It’s not clear what the injury might be, as Czech head coach Vinny Prospal wasn’t asked about it in his postgame presser.

It’s a tough situation for GM Jim Nill, to say the least.

Seguin is part of Dallas’ dynamic duo with Jamie Benn, and the profoundness of his absence was highlighted last spring, when he only played in one of the Stars’ playoff games due to a lacerated Achilles. The Stars weren’t nearly as dangerous without Seguin in the lineup.

Faksa is a good, up-and-coming center. He made his NHL debut in last season and fared well, with 12 points in 45 games, but really came into his own in the playoffs, scoring five points — including two game-winning goals — while bumping his TOI up to 16:08 per night.

Hemsky’s been something of a disappointment since landing in Dallas, but he’s still a talented guy that performed well in his second year (13 goals, 39 points) than his first (11 goals, 32 points). Hemsky also had a bigger role in the playoffs, scoring four points in 13 games while averaging 15:24 TOI per night.

It’s also worth noting that, during the World Cup, RFA forward Valeri Nichushkin opted to sign with KHL powerhouse CSKA Moscow.

So yeah, hasn’t been a great tournament for Dallas — but there is a silver lining. The Stars don’t have any players competing anymore.

Flames re-sign Freddie Hamilton: two years, $1.225M

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Freddie Hamilton, the older brother of blueliner Dougie Hamilton, has signed a two-year extension with the Flames worth $1.225 million, per TVA.

The deal carries a $612,500 cap hit and, most importantly for Hamilton, is of the one-way variety.

Originally drafted by San Jose in 2010, Hamilton has already been traded twice — once to Colorado (in exchange for Karl Stollery) and once to Calgary, just months after Dougie was acquired from Boston in a blockbuster deal at the draft.

Hamilton, who plays up front, should push for some minutes at the NHL level this season. He appeared in four games for the Flames last season, scoring two points, and established himself as a good American League scorer, with 18 goals and 43 points in 62 games.

Hartnell exercises his takesies backsies clause

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From the Columbus Dispatch:

Early this summer, the Blue Jackets asked veteran forward Scott Hartnell to waive the no-movement clause in his contract. He agreed and supplied general manager Jarmo Kekalainen with a “decent-sized list,” according to Sportsnet.

But after two months of waiting and wondering, Hartnell called Kekalainen back and told him he was retracting his list and standing firm on his no-move clause.

“I put it to rest with Jarmo,” Hartnell said. “I said I’m coming back and I’m not having this over my head during training camp and the first month of the season. I have a no-move for a reason, and it’s there for me now.

Hartnell admitted the situation was “driving me crazy,” adding that he really loves Columbus and his teammates.

But even with that said, the 34-year-old’s still in a bit of a sticky situation.

His six-year, $28.5 million contract has three years remaining and, at $4.75 million per season, he’s pretty expensive for the Blue Jackets moving forward, especially with the likes of Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno in similar boats — both are pricey, locked in long-term and armed with no-movement clauses.

That said, Hartnell does have value.

He scored 23 goals and 49 points last year, leading the club with 10 power play markers while averaging around 15-and-a-half minutes per game. He’s also provided some good veteran leadership with his gritty, in-your-face style of play.

For the record, the Jackets and Kekalainen have never publicly stated why they wanted to trade Hartnell. It could be for salary cap reasons, though the club would get some relief in the form of injured forward David Clarkson, whose $5.25M hit could be put on LTIR.

Defiant Lombardi doubles down on America’s controversial roster choices

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The architect of the disastrous U.S. World Cup entry has defended his blueprint.

GM Dean Lombardi took to the podium on Thursday, just hours ahead of his club’s meaningless finale against the Czechs.

That today’s game has no meaning falls largely at Lombardi’s feet — the club he put together was unable to muster much of anything, especially on offense, in a pair of losses to Team Europe and Canada.

And for that, Lombardi is taking major heat.

But if he and the rest of the American brass have shown anything over the last 36 hours of stinging criticism, it’s a refusal to back down.

Or admit the wrong guys were picked.

“Let me say this,” Lombardi said on Thursday, per ESPN. “If you’re talking about Justin Abdelkader, Blake Wheeler, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Kesler, David Backes — I’ll take those guys any day, any day.

“Those guys have big time heart and when I talk about caring, they’d be the nucleus of the caring and they compete, and they can play for me any day.”

That response was to questions about Phil Kessel‘s exclusion from the team — other exclusions, too — and Kessel’s subsequent tweet, which sent off a firestorm about the selection process.

Ah yes, the selection process. USA Hockey’s decision to go with grit over skill, fueled primarily by incessant stick-measuring with Canada, came under fire right from the start, and that’s largely why the backlash has been so severe.

It’s not just that the American team blew up. It’s that literally everyone predicted the implosion.

Yet there are no apologies coming from the braintrust.

Much like head coach John Tortorella did in the wake of Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Canada, Lombardi staunchly defended USA’s roster choices, and the vision that led to those choices.

There was no backtracking on his theory the tournament “clearly goes through Canada.”

There was, however, a frank admission about the role that vision played in a listless 3-0 loss to the Europeans — a loss that, hindsight being 20/20, was probably more damaging that the Canadian defeat.

“It’s not to say you overlooked them, but I think even the connotation was Europe, so it wasn’t a real team,” Lombardi explained, per CSN Chicago. “It was kind of like, it’s not the same as when you’re going up against what these tournaments are all about, and that’s the nationalism factor.

“I think even just the name, you kind of just said, ‘ah, let’s get through this and get to these guys [Canada].”

To call Lombardi’s philosophy antiquated doesn’t even do it justice. His incessant attempts to compare this squad with the famous ’96 US World Cup team — a victory that happened 20 years ago, by the way — were inherently flawed, something he pointed out after the fact:

(Was Lombardi unaware he wouldn’t have a month to unify his group?)

If there is a silver lining to any of this, it’s that USA Hockey now knows what to avoid for future international best-on-bests.

These tournaments aren’t won by bringing lunch-bucket, hard-hat guys who respond better to motivational speeches and stirring national anthems.

They’re won by bringing your best.