Author: Ryan Dadoun

Mike Babcock

Coaching Leafs ‘scares the crap’ out of Babcock, sees it as a positive

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There aren’t many active coaches with a better resume than Mike Babcock, but even after dealing with the weight of leading Team Canada to gold (twice) in the Olympics and guiding the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship, he admits that the bench job in Toronto “scares the crap out of (him),” per the Toronto Sun.

And he meant that as a positive.

Venturing away from a franchise he’s grown familiar with to an intense market hungry for success after a decade of nearly uninterrupted failure was a bold decision on his part and one he made with eyes wide open, but he thinks the fear associated with it will get him “dialed in.”

At the same time, he is putting it all in perspective.

“The reality is, I’m the coach of this team,” Babcock said. “I’m not carrying the weight of the world on my back.

“I’m going to go to work in the morning. I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’m going to go home to my family and then the next day I’m going to do it again. But if you think I’m carrying around the weight of the world, I didn’t do it when I coached Canada at the Olympics (and) I didn’t do it when I coached Detroit.”

With the Leafs engaged in what might prove to be a long-term rebuilding process, this season isn’t likely to be about competing for a playoff spot. Instead this is an opportunity for Babcock to establish his system and do his part to help instill a culture change that involves a team-first mentality. So while fans might not rate this season in terms of wins and losses, they will be looking for evidence that a foundation is being set that will eventually lead to success.

In the short-term, that’s likely how Babcock will be judged. Eventually, more will be expected.

Shea Weber’s knee feels good, is motivated after watching Preds’ exit

Shea Weber
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The Nashville Predators took the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, but they were missing Shea Weber for most of that series. That has to lead to “what if” scenarios playing in some fans heads, but the silver lining is that the subluxed kneecap that prevented Weber from playing beyond Game 2 shouldn’t be an issue going forward.

The top-tier defenseman “feels good” as he awaits the start of training camp.

“It’s exciting to be back,” Weber told the Predators’ website. “As more and more guys roll in here, it’s just going to get more exciting and feel like we’re ready to go for the season. It’s good seeing familiar faces and try to get back into a routine.”

As for what could have been, Weber admits to thinking about that over the course of an offseason that was far longer than Nashville had hoped. At the end of the day, Weber sees it as a source of motivation and confidence.

“We know we’re capable of doing anything we put our minds to, but we also can’t take our foot off the gas,” he said.

Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

Trevor Linden
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The Vancouver Canucks have certainly had their critics this summer, but president Trevor Linden insists everything is going according to plan.

“There’s no question that, after seeing things for a year, I knew we had to make some changes and get to a better place,” Linden told the Vancouver Province. “There were things I wasn’t happy with. I knew we had to do some restructuring and put new processes in place.

“That’s what I’ve spent the last month doing, and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. Whether they show up in wins and losses this season, I don’t know, but this is a long-term vision.”

Convincing others that his and Canucks GM Jim Benning’s vision is the right one though will take some doing. After all, Benning got booed by season ticket holders when he revealed that he could have traded Ryan Miller, but opted to deal Eddie Lack instead (that trade came with a return of two picks — third and seventh rounders). There’s been a number of other divisive moves in Vancouver, from giving Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett’s significant contracts to the acquisition and five-year, $21.875 million signing of “foundation piece” Brandon Sutter.

How those moves work out will go a long way towards determining Benning and Linden’s popularity in the short-term. However, if Vancouver is to be successful, it will need to see results when it comes to the drafting and developing of prospects. That was an issue for the Canucks for years beginning with the start of the cap era, but Bo Horvat’s solid rookie season might someday be viewed as a turning point.

“To me, the two most important things moving forward are the amateur scouting side and the player development side, and there are many aspects to player development,” Linden said. “There’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports science, there’s the medical side, nutrition, and they all have to be integrated.

“The only way we’re going to get better is to draft and develop our players. Then we have to do a good job of developing them and getting them here as quickly as possible. That takes up most of my time.”

So for now the Canucks still have a pretty old core, but perhaps in a few years the franchise will start to see the rewards of Linden’s focus on drafting and developing. In the end, the work he’s doing there could pay far greater dividends than the more high profile trades and signings Vancouver has recently engaged in.

Blue Jackets extend PTOs to Sheppard, Pihlstrom

James Sheppard
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With a rather large pool of unsigned veteran players to choose from, the Blue Jackets have opted to increase the competition in their training camp. To that end, Columbus announced that forwards James Sheppard and Antti Pihlstrom have been extended professional tryout offers.

Sheppard is coming off of a one-year, $1.3 million deal for the 2014-15 campaign. He started the season with San Jose, but was dealt to the Rangers on March 1 in exchange for a 2016 fourth round pick. He finished the season with seven goals and 18 points in 71 contests.

The 27-year-old is a veteran of 394 games and has recorded 91 points and 192 penalty minutes over that span.

Pihlstrom is a different case as the 30-year-old hasn’t played in the NHL since 2008-09. Instead he’s spent parts of the last four campaigns in the KHL. He had 16 goals and 28 points in 60 contests with Ufa Salavat Yulayev last season.

Columbus only has 11 forwards inked to one-way contracts, but that doesn’t include Alexander Wennberg or Boone Jenner. When those two are factored in, it’s hard to see Sheppard or Pihlstrom making Columbus’ opening game roster unless there’s an injury.

Daniel Paille searches for contract as camp looms

Daniel Paille
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This has been a rough free agent market for veteran players in general, so it’s naturally been particularly hard on those looking to bounce back after a rough campaign.

As the Bruins battled for a playoff spot they decided to scratch Daniel Paille for their final nine games. It was under those circumstances that the 31-year-old forward entered the free agent market and with training camp just around the corner, he remains unsigned.

Paille feels ending the season with a prolonged period in the press box is a big part of the reason he doesn’t have a contract right now. It was an unfortunately way to end his tenure with the Bruins, but he still cherishes his time with the organization even as he searches for a new home.

“I’m looking for that opportunity to really come out firing,” Paille told CSN New England. “I feel like I’m a different person after coming through this summer. I felt like I did everything that I could last year, and there were certain things that were out of my control. But now it’s over with, I’ve moved on and I’m looking forward to a new opportunity.”

Coming off of a three-year, $3.9 million deal, Paille is still hoping to land a guaranteed contract rather than settle for a professional tryout. He also hasn’t ruled out signing in Europe.

Paille has 85 goals and 172 points in 570 career games with the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. He won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.