In-demand Futa ‘will remain a Los Angeles King,’ says Lombardi

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LA Kings VP of hockey ops Mike Futa, considered to be in the mix for Toronto’s vacant GM gig, isn’t going anywhere — at least according to GM Dean Lombardi.

“Mike Futa is still a Los Angeles King and will remain a Los Angeles King,” Lombardi said, per LA Kings Insider. “You don’t think the guy could jump ship now, right?”

Lombardi’s comment came while Futa prepped and continued scouting for the NHL Entry Draft, which will go later this month. Scouting is how Futa established such a strong reputation across the league — in his eight seasons with the Kings, he headed up a department responsible for drafting the likes of Drew Doughty, Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez, Slava Voynov, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. (Jake Muzzin, an undrafted free agent, also came aboard under Futa’s watch.)

As mentioned above, Futa’s been tied primarily to the vacant GM gig in Toronto. But according to TSN, teams have tried in the past to lure him out of Los Angeles — Buffalo and Calgary during their GM searches — and the Kings responded with a promotion, new contract and stipulations about what jobs he could seek out.

Which probably explains why Lombardi was so adamant Futa wasn’t going anywhere.

“There’s a big challenge ahead of us,” he explained. “I don’t think [Futa’s] had time to think about it. He’s been going a hundred miles an hour.”

Bob Clarke really doesn’t care for tanking

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Former Flyers captain and current Flyers executive Bob Clarke hates the idea of tanking.

Like, really hates it.

“It pisses me off that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys . . . and Malkins,” Clarke tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn’t want to be.”

Ironically, Clarke’s remarks were found in an article about the Flyers’ 40-year Stanley Cup drought. Since winning their second straight title in 1975, they’ve been to the finals five times, losing all five times.

Most recently, in 2010, the Flyers lost to a Blackhawks team that was led by Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006, on a goal by Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.

As proven this year by the Rangers and Ducks, it’s not absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom in order to assemble a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks, champions in 2010 and 2013, bottomed out first. So did the Kings, allowing them to draft Drew Doughty second overall in 2008, and win it all in 2012 and 2014. And yes, the Penguins did too, drafting Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. They won the Cup in 2009.

Oh, and has anyone noticed how important Victor Hedman, second overall in 2009, has been in the playoffs for the Lightning, whose captain, Steven Stamkos, was the first overall pick in 2008?

That’s why management in a place like Buffalo has done what it’s done over the past couple of years. And that’s why the Flyers have, until lately, received their share of criticism for choosing quick fixes over long-term solutions. In the salary-cap era, if winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, there are clear incentives to — um, how did Darcy Regier once put it? — “go in a very distinct direction.”

There are no guarantees that direction will work out for the Sabres. Or the Oilers. Or the Leafs. Or the Coyotes. But until the incentives change, teams will continue to tank, whether some people like it or not.

Related: Snider says patience is ‘great with the kids,’ but not with ‘the team we have on the ice’

In defense of Yandle, who’s ‘trying to make some plays’

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Keith Yandle tried to make a play.

Unfortunately, it ended up on the stick of Steven Stamkos, right in front of the Rangers’ net…

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Thank goodness for Henrik Lundqvist.

But the fact no goal was scored didn’t stop reporters from asking Rangers coach Alain Vigneault what he’s seen from Yandle the past couple of games.

“He’s working extremely hard,” replied Vigneault. “He’s trying to make some plays. With the pressure sometimes our D are under, (it’s) a little bit more challenging to make the right play. But he’s got the right idea.”

Vigneault was then asked about the challenge of making the right play under pressure.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “It’s the biggest team that we’ve met this year, and not just when they have the puck, but when they don’t have it, they are quick to put pressure. You’ve got to have
your head up. You’ve got to be thinking a play ahead, and you’ve got to make the right plays.”

The fact is, puck-moving defensemen like Yandle are going to make the odd giveaway. P.K. Subban led the league in giveaways by defensemen during the regular season. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty were up there, too. Those players aren’t out there to clear it high off the glass, and give it right back to the opposition. They’re out there to make plays, with the intention of keeping possession and going on the attack.

On top of that, with more and more teams bringing their defensemen down the wall to pressure wingers on the breakout, more and more plays need to be made in the middle of the ice, right in the danger area. So get your stick on the ice, Kevin Hayes. Be ready for the pass.

That’s not to let Yandle off the hook entirely. When Stamkos is lurking, putting the puck in the danger area is a pretty big risk. There were probably better options available, like spinning off the forecheck and skating with the puck behind the net. But that’s easy to say in hindsight. Also, easier said than done. (“Oh, just spin off the forecheck next time.”)

Yandle had his struggles adjusting to a new system after joining the Rangers in a late-season trade from Arizona. It hasn’t been all struggles though. He had two points in Game 3 versus the Lightning and three more in Game 4.

“We need him tonight to find a way to get a couple more pucks to the net, and we’ll be in good shape,” said Vigneault.

Meanwhile, the Ducks are feeling great about their defensive depth

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Enough has already been written on the Blackhawks’ defense. And with Kyle Cumiskey looking like he could step in for David Rundblad for tomorrow’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, more will be written still.

But this post is about Anaheim’s defense. Unlike Chicago’s, it’s looking pretty darn deep.

It’s so deep, in fact, that veteran James Wisniewski can’t get into the lineup.

“We thought we got all these guys and [Simon Despres] would be the seventh D,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said today. “Now it would be pretty hard arguably to take him out. [GM Bob Murray] did a tremendous job acquiring him.

“I think [assistant coach Trent Yawney has] done a tremendous job as far as handling all six defensemen. I think with their minutes, with their responsibilities, now there’s not a fear of putting any one of them into any situation that comes to the front.”

Deep and talented as the Ducks defense may be, it does not have a Norris Trophy candidate, like Chicago does with Duncan Keith. That’s notable if only because most (not all, but the large majority of) Stanley Cup champions do have that kind of defenseman. Los Angeles had Drew Doughty, Boston had Zdeno Chara, Detroit had Nicklas Lidstrom, etc.

To be sure, the Ducks may one day soon have a Norris Trophy candidate. Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler each have the potential. But both are still very young, at 21 and 23 years old, respectively.

Hence, the importance of veteran Francois Beauchemin.

“He’s the voice,” Boudreau said of the 34-year-old. “Everybody else is so young. [He] is the voice back there. You can hear him talking all the time.

“The other one that’s helping, but not playing, is Wiz. He’s helping the defensemen out there. Obviously he wants to play, but he’s been so professional about all of this. He’ll take [Sami Vatanen] aside, he’ll take the young guys aside and say, ‘This is what Chicago is doing, this is this, this is that.’ Those two older guys are great teachers and the guys look up to them an awful lot.”

Related: Coach Q denies Chicago’s depth issues, but Kesler suggests otherwise

Anaheim’s Lindholm on the verge of big things

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When the Anaheim Ducks drafted Hampus Lindholm sixth overall in 2012, it was somewhat surprising in the sense that NHL Central Scouting had him ranked behind three European skaters — Filip Forsberg, Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Collberg — and the young defenseman from Sweden was taken before all three of them.

Heck, even Lindholm was surprised. “It’s like, whoa, so early,” he said at the time.

Safe to say, the pick has turned out all right for the Ducks. Lindholm has been excellent in these playoffs, paired with veteran Francois Beauchemin, who believes the 21-year-old has the ability to become one of the elite blue-liners in the NHL.

“He certainly does have the potential of becoming that type of defenseman,” Beauchemin said, per ESPN.com. “In five years from now, I’m sure Hampus will be if everything goes well and he keeps improving, obviously he’s got the capability of becoming [among] the top defensemen in the league.”

Lindholm isn’t quite in the elite category yet. He doesn’t play huge minutes like Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty. But for a franchise that won its only Stanley Cup with Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer patrolling the back end, and for a GM, Bob Murray, who’s been searching for “that guy” ever since those two moved on, Lindholm is clearly being groomed for big things.

Oh, and Lindholm isn’t the only talented young blue-liner in Anaheim. There’s also Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, and Simon Despres, all three just 23 years old.

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