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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Report: Thornton knee injury mostly MCL, not ACL damage

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A fairly significant development regarding the health of veteran Sharks forward Joe Thornton, from NBC Sports California:

Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL.

As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17.

Thornton, who turns 38 in July, suffered the tears on Apr. 2 against Vancouver. He sat out the final three games of the regular season and the first two of the playoffs before returning in Game 3 of the Oilers series. Playing through the pain, Thornton registered two points over four games while averaging just under 19 minutes per night.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” head coach Peter DeBoer said following the series. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

That gutsy performance further endeared Thornton to the Bay Area faithful, and he was pretty beloved to begin with. It also clearly made an impact on his head coach.

Those are just two of the many facets that promise to make up a compelling summer.

Thornton just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M cap hit. He’s played exclusively on three-year contracts since coming to San Jose more than a decade ago, and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp is looking for another.

From Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s perspective, he’ll have to factor in Thornton’s recovery and long-term health outlook to any potential extension. Wilson also has a timing issue at play, as it would behoove the Sharks to sign Thornton after June’s expansion draft, so they don’t have to protect him.

Finally, there’s the added factor of Thornton’s longtime running mate in San Jose, Patrick Marleau, also needing a new contract.

Thornton’s situation does appear the more complex one. Some will argue his down ’16-17 campaign — one in which he only scored seven goals and 50 points — was a sign of father time catching up.

Others will counter it was the byproduct of a brutally long ’15-16, one in which Thornton went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final (and had 21 points in 24 games, it should be noted), then had a short summer before joining Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey.

No hearing scheduled for Wingels after Wilson headshot (Updated)

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Ottawa forward Tommy Wingels doesn’t have a disciplinary hearing scheduled for his late game headshot on Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred with seconds remaining in the Penguins’ 7-0 Game 5 win on Sunday afternoon. Wingels wasn’t penalized on the play, and Wilson exited the ice immediately without celebrating with teammates as the final horn sounded.

Pens head coach Mike Sullivan was asked about Wilson’s condition in his postgame presser, but didn’t have an update. The 25-year-old did not participate in today’s optional skate.

Update:

Wilson has appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh’s 17 games this postseason, and chipped in nicely. He’s scored two goals — including one in yesterday’s blowout win — and four points, while averaging just under 11 minutes per night.

Wingels has been less of a factor for Ottawa. He’s appeared in just nine of 17 games, going pointless while getting 9:53 TOI.

 

Blues owner gives Armstrong vote of confidence

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Given all the upheaval in St. Louis this season, it was fair to ask questions about GM Doug Armstrong’s job security.

So last week the Post-Dispatch did exactly that, posing the query to Blues owner Tom Stillman: Do you think Armstrong’s the right guy for the job?

“Yes, I do,” Stillman replied. “A lot of GMs, I think, are inclined to be focused on what’s going to keep my job next year and the year after. Some would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even though it might not lead to as many wins in the current year.

“That’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival. I think Doug knows that I am in tune with looking at things in that longer-term way.”

Speaking of term, Armstrong is heading into the last of a five-year deal signed back in 2013. At that time, the Blues were coming off an 109-point campaign and Armstrong was the reigning NHL GM of the Year.

In announcing the deal, Stillman was full of praise.

“First, [Armstrong’s] an outstanding general manager, so we want to make sure he’s with us for a longer period,” he said, per NHL.com. “And second, I think you have to give him time to do his work and develop the team he wants to develop.”

If he extends Armstrong, Stillman could probably use the same quote again.

Because the Blues are, again, sort of in a developmental phase.

First, there was the massive hockey operations overhaul. Over the last three months, Armstrong has given six coaches their walking papers: Ken Hitchcock, Jim Corsi, Ray Bennett, Steve Thomas, Rick Wilson and Ty Conklin.

Mike Yeo was inserted as the head coach, while Martin Brodeur temporarily added goalie coach to his assistant GM duties, before dropping the role at the end of the season.

(Brodeur will lead the charge to find a replacement, now that he’s back to being AGM and Conklin was let go.)

The coaching shakeup wasn’t the only significant change Armstrong oversaw.

The club’s younger prospects continued to push for bigger roles at the NHL level. At forward, the likes of Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford both worked their way into the mix, while Robby Fabbri was on pace for a career year before a season-ending ACL tear in early February.

The youth movement could continue into next season, too. Tage Thompson, the 6-foot-5 forward taken 26th overall last year, left Connecticut after his sophomore year to turn pro, and gained some valuable experience with AHL Chicago. Vince Dunn, a defenseman taken in the second round in 2015, had a great year with the Wolves and led all d-men in scoring.

So if there’s going to be an ongoing developmental phase in St. Louis, it makes sense that Stillman wants Armstrong to oversee it. He’s done a good job of it throughout his seven years on the job — he’s the NHL’s ninth longest-tenured active GM — and the club has been successful, with five consecutive playoff appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that “club policy” kept Stillman from talking about actually signing Armstrong to an extension.

Predators’ Johansen done for playoffs after emergency thigh surgery

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Nashville’s Stanley Cup chances were dealt a crushing blow on Friday.

Per Sportsnet, No. 1 center and leading scorer Ryan Johansen suffered a season-ending thigh injury during last night’s OT loss. The ailment will require surgery and 2-3 months of recovery following the procedure.

Update: Nashville released a statement confirming the initial Sportsnet report. The Preds added that Johansen underwent emergency surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and that the procedure was successful.

Johansen, 24, was averaging 20:46 TOI per night through 14 playoff games and, as mentioned, led all Preds with 13 points.

It’s unclear when Johansen’s injury occurred. He played nearly 28 minutes last night, his highest TOI of the playoffs, and was taking regular shifts in overtime, his last coming just before Corey Perry scored the winner midway through the extra session.

Prior to the injury, Johansen had been engaged in an ongoing battle with Anaheim center Ryan Kesler. He took Kesler to task after being hounded throughout Game 2.

“I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that,” Johansen said. “It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”

With Johansen out, Nashville is facing some serious issues down the middle. Veteran center Mike Fisher left last night’s game with an undisclosed injury, and there’s been no update on his status. If Fisher joins Johansen on the sidelines, Calle Jarnkrok could be Nashville’s No. 1 center on Saturday night.

Ward expected to be ready for next season after shoulder surgery

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On Friday, Sharks GM Doug Wilson released an update on the health of veteran forward Joel Ward.

From the club:

“Joel was dealing with a minor shoulder injury last season and, once the season ended, had a choice to either rehab the injury or to have a surgical procedure.

“Joel opted to proceed wot the surgical procedure, which was completed successfully, and he is expected to be ready for the start of the 2017 season.”

This might explain why the 36-year-old had such a tough season offensively. Ward scored just 10 goals and 29 points in 78 games, a significant decrease from his first season in San Jose, when he scored 21 and 43.

This season promises to be a big one for Ward. He’s heading into the last of a three-year, $9.825 million deal — one that carries a $3.275M average annual cap hit — and could be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.

That could be interesting, because Vegas GM George McPhee is very familiar with Ward from their time together in Washington.