Ryan Dadoun

Hedman’s stellar play draws attention to Olympic omission


Defenseman Victor Hedman need some time to develop into a player worthy of the expectations thrust upon him when he was taken with the second overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry, but he’s certainly been a big part of the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In fact, Hedman has been playing at an elite level for a little while now and it’s gotten to the point where it’s encouraged of a reexamining of Sweden’s 2014 Olympic roster decisions. He was left off that team as they went with a defensive core of Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, and Henrik Tallinder. That group is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but was there really no room in there for Hedman?

Swedish coach Par Marts was the one to reject Hedman and he doesn’t regret that decision, per Aftonbladet. As he pointed out, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight and he argued that Hedman wouldn’t have gotten the ice time he deserved if he was put on the roster, in part because they leaned towards the defensive pairings in Detroit (Ericsson-Kronwall) and Chicago (Hjalmarsson-Oduya). At the same time though, plenty of star players go into the Olympics with the understanding that they won’t get the minutes that they’re accustomed to.

“I was surprised that he didn’t make the team,” Blackhawks defenseman Hjalmarsson said during Tuesday’s press availability. “Obviously he’s a good player.”

Hedman admitted to being disappointed, but he said it wasn’t difficult for him to switch his focus to Tampa Bay’s next game after finding out he wouldn’t make the team. Certainly he has plenty to be pleased about at this point as he took another step forward in 2014-15 and needs just two more wins to win the Cup.

Marts did leave the door open to him reaching out to Hedman over the summer. The fact that he didn’t make the 2014 team was eyebrow raising, but it will be a far bigger story if NHL players go to the 2018 Olympics and Hedman is once again left off the roster.

Shanahan not expected to hire new GM before draft


Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan has spent the offseason dramatically altering the team’s staff in preparation for what could also be a summer of significant changes from a roster perspective. That’s created a number of big vacancies and while he’s already found a new bench boss in Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs aren’t expected to hire a new general manager before the NHL draft, per the Toronto Sun.

If that proves to be the case, then the Leafs might end up making some significant trades with its current three-headed setup that includes Shanahan, and co-interim general managers Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas. Shanahan doesn’t believe it’s as complicated as it sounds though.

“We talk every day,” Shanahan said. “If people want to talk to us, they know where to find us.”

As for which of them teams should reach out to, Shanahan said that teams can contact whichever one they feel most comfortable with.

When the vacancy is finally filled, the Maple Leafs might not go with an external option. It’s possible that either Dubas or Hunter will get the role despite their relative lack of experience. Shanahan might also decide to assume the GM duties on a long-term basis.

In the meantime, Toronto is open to moving the fourth overall pick and there’s reportedly been inquires from other teams about Phil Kessel’s availability.

Report: NHL-KHL nearing transfer agreement


The NHL and KHL have a memorandum of understanding that was extended until June 30, but in the not too distant future the two leagues might have a transfer agreement. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the two sides are close, per Sportsnet.

The difference is that a transfer agreement would create a system where there could be fees per player that switches leagues. Right now the memorandum of understanding only states that the two leagues have to respect each others contracts. So, for example, Ilya Kovalchuk had to get his NHL contract voided before he could go to the KHL.

If the two leagues are able to secure a transfer agreement, it would mark the first time since 2004 that the NHL has had one with Russia.

The deal would reportedly run for four years, which is in line with of the NHL’s agreements with other European countries.

Report: Competition committee debates changes to goalie equipment, blocked shots


Prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, the NHL shortened the maximum length of goaltender pads, which itself is determined by the height of the netminder, in the hopes that it would lead to increased scoring. However, goaltenders’ save percentage rose to .915 this season, which is the highest it’s been since the statistic was first tracked in 1983-84.

With that in mind further changes are being considered, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. While keeping the goaltenders protected remains the priority, they want to fight against gear that’s primarily about blocking shots.

Among the possible alterations would be to make goaltenders wear tapered jerseys to prevent them from being able to obscure oversized equipment.

There might also be changes coming for other players as well. NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider reportedly suggested a ban on certain types of blocked shots. Per Friedman:

Without his commentary, it’s difficult to know exactly what he proposed, but in 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey recommended banning full-body sliding while in the defending zone.

I’ve spoken to players about this before, and they make a good point. You’re going to have to legislate it out, because many are told that if they don’t block shots, they won’t play.

The emphasis on blocking shots has been a matter of some debate from a tactical standpoint for a while. Obviously a shot that doesn’t even reach the goaltender isn’t going in the net, but players that block shots are also putting themselves at risk of injury. Former coach John Tortorella, who was a big advocate for even top-end skilled players blocking shots, was often scrutinized for his emphasis on the tactic.

As Pat Quinn noted, “I talked to (team doctor) Mike Bernstein and he said the injuries are terrible. He said so many of them are coming from the blocked shots and they’re fractures, and they’re not easily healed.”

There’s no question that blocking shots is a big part of how the game is currently played and really it’s a question of degrees not absolutes. Perhaps putting in rules to reduce certain types of blocks though would lead to fewer injuries and more goals.

If any of these potential changes happen at all, it likely won’t be until the 2016-17 campaign at the earliest.

Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final sets NBC ratings record


The second game of the Stanley Cup Final was an exciting back-and-forth battle and it appropriately attracted a big audience. NBC announced that Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory over Chicago had a 4.8 metered market rating, which is a new record compared to the previous Stanley Cup Final Game 2s that have aired on NBC.

Among the contests it beat was Game 2 of last year’s New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings series. That contest went to double overtime and posted a 4.56 rating.

NBC was also the top network in both Chicago (22.6 rating) and Tampa Bay (15.1) over the course of the game. Buffalo (8.6), Milwaukee (6.7) and Ft. Myers (6.5) were the other markets in the top five.

Monday and Wednesday’s contests will air on NBCSN and Game 5 will be on NBC on Saturday. If they’re necessary, Game 6 and 7 will also air on NBC. All of the remaining contests have 8:00 p.m. ET scheduled start times.