Author: Mike Halford

Boston Bruins Headshots

Bruins bringing Swedish d-man prospect to North America


Linus Arnesson, Boston’s second-round selection (60th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, will be loaned from SHL club Djugardens to the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence, per Swedish news outlet Expressen.

Arnesson, 20, is scheduled to travel to North America next week, presumably to join Providence for the stretch drive of the regular season and Calder Cup playoffs. This comes on the heels of 41 appearances for Djugardens this season, in which he registered five assists.

Described as a defensive defenseman, Arnesson was a member of the Swedish teams that won silver at both the 2013 and 2014 World Junior Championships. He signed his entry-level deal with Boston last summer.

‘Pressure and stress’ of captaincy caused Thornton to lash out at people, says Sharks GM

Joe Thornton

In a candid Q&A with Sharks season-ticket holders prior to Thursday’s win over Nashville, San Jose GM Doug Wilson provided a glimpse into the organization’s reasoning for taking Joe Thornton’s captaincy away last summer.

“He cares about the game so much,” Wilson said, per the Mercury News. “The reason we took the ‘C’ off him … Joe carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, and he’s got such a big heart that when stress comes on him, he lashes out at people. It kind of impacts them.

“The pressure and stress, I felt, was getting to Joe. And I sat him down and said we need other players to step up and share this. He got it. He didn’t like it, but he got it and he understood it.”

Thornton, who inherited ‘C’ from Rob Blake in 2010 and spent four years as team captain, was embroiled in a bizarre leadership restructuring last offseason that began with losing the letter in late August — Patrick Marleau was stripped of his alternate captaincy as well — only for the team to re-name Thornton to the leadership group at the end of training camp in October, making him one of four alternates for the season (along with Marleau — who was re-instituted — Joe Pavelski, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.)

The Sharks responded with an inconsistent campaign that currently sees them in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Head coach Todd McLellan has repeatedly questioned the team’s identity and, in mid-February, gave a curious interview to Sportsnet’s Fan 590, in which he said the Sharks were “better led” this season without a captain than they were with Thornton in charge last year.

“The situation of removing the ‘C’ from certain individuals isn’t an ideal one, but what we’ve got is what we wanted,” McLellan explained. “We have different people stepping up. We have leadership by committee.

“In fact, this year I believe we’re better led than we were last year without having a ‘C’ on. And that’s not an indictment on Joe Thornton by any means.”

But it sure sounds like an indictment now, especially in light of what Wilson told ticket holders yesterday.

Related: Sounds like San Jose handled stripping Thornton’s captaincy really well

Sabres bidding farewell to ‘turd burger’ jerseys

Kaleta, Hodgson

Buffalo is pulling the plug on its, uh, “colorful” third jerseys.

Today, Sabres president Ted Black told WGR 550 radio this would be the last season Buffalo wears its thirds, which were introduced at the start of last season to bad reviews.

Without delving too deep, everyone basically hated the jerseys right from the get and the Internet was subsequently flooded with negative feedback, which was surprising because nobody ever complains about stuff on the Internet.

In the aftermath, here’s what Black said (from October 2013):

“It’s received a ton of criticism and a lot of attention. I think it had over 4 million mentions on Twitter. I’ve seen it. It’s something that doesn’t offend me. I think people have had a lot of fun with the criticisms of it. Judge for yourself whenever you see it. If you come into the store and you look at it and say I don’t want to buy it or you do buy it, in terms of moving the needles on revenues, it won’t do anything.

“If it doesn’t sell, it won’t really mean anything to our bottom line. It’s a third jersey. If it’s a turd burger I’ll have to put it on a bun and eat it. It’s the way it is.”

If nothing else, kudos to Buffalo for giving us one of the worst jerseys of all time, and the ability to use “turd burger” freely in our headlines.

Snow praises Boychuk’s ‘immeasurable’ influence on Isles

Johnny Boychuk, Kyle Okposo

To hear Garth Snow explain it, re-signing Johnny Boychuk was about more than just an extension.

“Johnny’s influence in our dressing room, both on and off the ice, has been immeasurable,” the Isles GM said upon announcing Boychuk’s seven-year, $42 million deal, per the club website. “His veteran presence is an asset that we are thrilled to help lead our club.”

The symbolism of Boychuk’s contract is obvious. For the first time in a long time, a veteran actually chose the Islanders; Christian Ehrhoff and Dan Boyle balked at the idea after Snow acquired their negotiating rights, and the Thomas Vanek thing… well, you know how that turned out.

That Boychuk opted not to test free agency is important, and shouldn’t be undersold. At 31, he could’ve gone unrestricted and likely been the prize of this summer’s defenseman class which, given the lucrative deals Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik signed in Washington, had to be tempting.

But Boychuk didn’t bite.

“Ever since I came to the Islanders, the organization has been incredible to both myself and my family,” Boychuk explained. “I am proud to be an Islander and look forward to competing every night in front of such a passionate fan base for many years to come.”

In terms of the Islanders’ on-ice product, the length of Boychuk’s contract is key. It represents another building block in a defensive foundation that should stand for years, as he, Nick Leddy (who’s seven-year, $38.5 million extension was meaningful as well) and Travis Hamonic are all under contract through 2020. Combined with a slew of young blueline prospects on the horizon — including a pair of former first-rounders in Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart — the Isles should be absolutely loaded on defense for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the length of this deal could play a different role down the road.

Boychuk will be 38 when the contract expires, a scary number but one that’s part of doing business with a pending UFA. Snow had to sacrifice something in order to get Boychuk to agree to a fairly reasonable cap hit — it’s quite possible he could’ve received more money on the open market — and that sacrifice was term.

Snow agreed to this knowing the risk. Top-flight NHL defensemen are required to play a physical game and big minutes, neither of which help longevity, and we’re seeing that play out across the league this season — like in Boston, where Boychuk’s ex-teammate Zdeno Chara no longer appears to be the dominant force he once was.

Chara, not coincidentally, turns 38 next week.

But those concerns are for a later date. For an Islanders organization that’s headed back to the playoffs and entering its new Brooklyn-based digs next season, the time to strike is now. Today’s big signing confirms it.

(Video) PHT Extra: No Gio, no problem as Flames continue to defy odds

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames

With last night’s big win over Anaheim, the Flames are now 4-0-1 since learning captain Mark Giordano would be lost for the year, and remain in third place in the Pacific Division — ahead of last year’s Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

How are the Flames doing it? I try to explain…