Finland has added to its managerial group for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, naming Columbus Blue Jackets GM general manager Jarmo Kekalainen as an assistant to GM Jari Kurri.
“Being involved in the Olympics is anyone’s dream in ice hockey.” Kekelainen told IIHF.com. “I didn’t have to think much about my answer when Erkka [Westerlund, head coach] called me.”
The Finns, who captured silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010, are once again expected to challenge for a medal and will benefit from Kekalainen’s keen eye. He’s already blazed trail as the first European GM in NHL history and has gained a reputation throughout the league as a tremendous scout and talent evaluator.
According to NHL European scouting director Goran Stubb, Kekalainen will be responsible for scouting Finns in the NHL before joining the team in Sochi.
“I have watched most of the current players since they were drafted, except the 2011 and 2012 draft years, when I only followed players coming out of Finland. Players like [Chicago prospect] Teuvo Teräväinen,” Kekalainen explained. “Of course the players have matured as players and as people, but at least I have some knowledge of their fundamental character traits,”
Loaded with talent in goal (Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backstrom), the Finns will need to find some depth on defense as veterans Toni Lydman (concussion) and Joni Pitkanen (heel) are currently out of action and won’t be ready to play.
The Carolina Hurricanes continued to shuffle the roster deck on Tuesday, putting defenseman Joni Pitkanen on long-term injured reserve while placing fellow blueliner Matt Corrente on waivers.
Pitkanen, 30, will miss the entire 2013-14 campaign with the effects of a broken heel suffered late last season. While a blow to the team’s defensive corps, Carolina will get $4.5 million in salary cap relief by placing Pitkanen on LTIR, giving them nearly $5 million in wiggle room all told.
Corrente, 25, was surprisingly kept on the active roster yesterday while highly touted prospect Ryan Murphy was sent to AHL Charlotte. But now, as speculated on Monday, it appears that decision was simply a roster compliance transaction — Corrente is being placed on waivers for the purpose of reassignment to Charlotte, and Murphy is expected to be back with the ‘Canes soon.
Hybrid icing has been approved for the 2013-14 season, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed today on NHL Live.
The new rule, which was being applied on a tryout basis during the preseason, had drawn mixed reviews from players. Ultimately, though, enough of them liked it for the NHLPA to give it the thumbs up.
In hybrid icing, the linesman blows the play dead and calls icing immediately if the defending player is leading or tied in the race to the faceoff dots in his defensive zone. The object is to try at all costs to avoid the nasty collisions into the end boards that have led to serious injuries to a number of NHL players, including Kurtis Foster and most recently Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who will miss the entire 2013-14 season.
Now that the rule has been approved, the pressure will be on the linesman to make the correct judgment calls.
NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom doesn’t think that will be a problem though.
“I think for our guys, they’ll be able to handle it easily,” Walkom told NHL.com. “They have to think about two things: player safety and the race for the puck. There is no attainable pass anymore, so they don’t have to worry about that.
“When the puck leaves they have to focus on offside, which will be a rarity when the puck is shot from behind the red line. And [with hybrid icing] they won’t have to skate as far into the end to make their decision. Before they would have to pursue the puck to the end to make sure who touched it, but now they have to skate less distance and make a judgment quicker.”