Tag: Oskars Bartulis

Sochi Olympics Ice Hockey Men

Latvia eager to move ahead, give Canada all they’ve got


If you think Latvia will spend the night celebrating their 3-1 upset victory against Switzerland, think again.

Latvia won’t get time to relax as they’ll face Canada on Wednesday and as their players told Olympic News Service, they’re focused and know they’ll give it all they’ve got against the defending gold medalists.

“I won’t shout out that we will beat Canada, but we’ll try,” said goalie Edgars Masalskis. “We’ll do all that we can to give them a tough battle.

“It’s a game, hockey. The game starts at 0-0. Who knows? Maybe we’ll beat them. Of course, we’ll try. We want to battle for medals. In principle, there’s only two games left to win.”

Expectations outside of Latvia for the Latvian team were low headed into the Olympics. Seeing them in the quarterfinals and a win away from having a shot at a medal exceeds most everyone’s expectations. Don’t count on them resting their laurels on beating the Swiss, however.

“It’s tomorrow already,” said defenseman Oskars Bartulis. “We have to forget this game as soon as possible.”

That’s a good way to move ahead. While their chances against Canada may not be great, don’t tell that to the Latvians.

“Everybody has a chance. Chances, chances!” said forward Janis Sprukts. “Canadians also play hockey and we play hockey and, if we play as a team, there will be a chance.”

Anything goes in a single-elimination tournament.

Flyers send Brayden Schenn to minors, waive role players


While it may only be a temporary setback, oddsmakers might want to lower Brayden Schenn’s Calder Trophy chances a bit. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio reports that the Philadelphia Flyers sent the injured rookie center down to the minors today. Schenn is dealing with a shoulder injury, although the severity is unclear (it kept him out for the final week of training camp).

The Flyers also put the following players on waivers: checking forward Blair Betts along with defensemen Oskars Bartulis and Matt Walker.

Schenn and Wayne Simmonds were the most noteworthy returns from a blockbuster trade that sent Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. Philly hopes that Schenn and Sean Couturier can eventually close the gaps created by the Richards and Jeff Carter trades. That process looks to be delayed a bit more with this injury situation, although it was overly optimistic to expect them to plug that hole immediately anyway.

Update: Beyond injury concerns, the Flyers will enjoy considerable salary cap savings by demoting Schenn (even briefly), as commenter jsaq pointed out. Here’s the gist from TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Schenn’s contract, negotiated by the Los Angeles Kings will pay him $900,000 this year, plus $850,000 in entry level ‘A’ bonuses for a total of $1.75 million, however Schenn has substantial ‘B’ bonuses included in his deal that would be very cap unfriendly to the Flyers.

The ‘B’ bonuses in the first two years of his contract pay Schenn $1.265 million and $1.405 million if he plays 25 minutes in each of the 82 regular season games.

These are unlikely, if not impossible bonuses to achieve, although Philadelphia isn’t willing to take the chance and face the possibility of having to absorb a cap hit of just over $3 million, so to cut the cap hit to a reasonable $1.75 million for this season, Schenn will be assigned to the Philadelphia Phantoms for at least one game, therefore nullifying the ‘B’ bonus clause this season.

Trouble coming on the penalty kill?

The Betts move might not mean much to casual fans, but it raises a serious question about the Flyers’ penalty kill. Take a look at the team’s top penalty killing forwards (from an average time on ice standpoint) from 2010-11, with departed/waived players in italics.

Betts: 3:37 minutes per game
Darroll Powe: 3:10
Richards: 2:08
Claude Giroux: 2:06

The Flyers’ next two forwards (Jeff Carter and Kris Versteeg) averaged less than a minute per game, but it’s startling that they’re gone too. Now, it’s safe to assume that Maxime Talbot will take one of the top roles next season, but there are still some spots to fill. (Talbot was second among Pittsburgh forwards with 2:55 per game in 2010-11.)

Wayne Simmonds could be a candidate for PK time, even though he averaged a measly five seconds of shorthanded time per game with the Kings. The team certainly can’t expect Jaromir Jagr to play that role and his countryman Jakub Voracek averaged a measly one second time of SH time per game with Columbus in 10-11.

Considering that teams typically roll with four top penalty kill checkers, anywhere between one and three forward spots seem unclear. (One could even argue that they might not want Giroux playing as many minutes shorthanded now that he’ll carry more of the offensive workload.)

This situation reinforces my feeling that the Flyers were justified in trading Carter but are likely to rue the day they moved versatile former captain Richards. He’ll go to the Kings and make Anze Kopitar’s life significantly easier, while defenses can clamp down on Giroux, Danny Briere and the rest of Philly’s new top guns.

Don’t be surprised if the Flyers end up being a contender even despite their issues next season – especially if their new Czechs click – but their penalty kill could be a problem, unless Ilya Bryzgalov makes an even bigger difference than expected.

Former Adams Award winner Ted Nolan takes job as Team Latvia head coach

Ted Nolan
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Former Jack Adams Award winner with the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Nolan, is back in the game as a head coach but it’s not in the NHL.

Nolan accepted the job as head man for Team Latvia’s hockey team and he’ll help them gear up for future World Championships and eventually the 2014 Olympics. While it was rumored that Mike Keenan was being sought out for the job last week, it ends up being Nolan that takes the job.

Nolan’s job isn’t going to be easy. Latvia finished 13th at the 2011 IIHF World Championships and avoided being sent down to IIHF Division I after surviving the relegation round. As for what Latvia was looking for in a coach, James Mirtle makes note from the Latvian hockey president what they were looking for.

“We were looking for a neutral, authoritative coach with lots of experience and good hockey knowledge,” Latvian Hockey President Kirovs Lipmans said. “This is exactly what we found with Ted Nolan.”

Nolan will be the first North American to coach Team Latvia since 1939 and for him, the cupboard of NHL talent is sparse. The current Latvian NHLers is a short list and unimpressive to say the least. Defensemen Oskars Bartulis, Karlis Skrastins, and Arturs Kulda as well as forward Raitis Ivanans are the only four in the league and Ivanans missed most of last season with a concussion and is still dealing with the effects from that. These are good reasons why Latvia is currently ranked 12th in the world in hockey and why Nolan is getting the call to try and make something out of nothing.

The brand of hockey Nolan will bring is a tough, defensive one that can have great success on the international stage. Nolan can have a tough demeanor, however, and how that works with a foreign team will be curious to see. Despite Nolan’s successes as a head coach in the NHL, he’s only coached for four seasons (two each with Buffalo and New York) twice leading teams to the playoffs.

His record as a coach was solid going 147-140 with 19 ties and 21 overtime losses as well, but issues with the front offices in both Buffalo and Long Island led to his demise. While Buffalo did well moving on from Nolan to Lindy Ruff, the Islanders haven’t made the playoffs again since Nolan took them there in 2007. Here’s to hoping Nolan can work his magic in Riga, Latvia and get a proud country to be competitive once again.

Phoenix’s Scottie Upshall suspended two games for hit on Philly’s Oskars Bartulis


Last night, Phoenix’s Scottie Upshall delivered a violent hit to Flyers defenseman Oskars Bartulis, injuring him and knocking him out of the game. (See YouTube video here) Upshall received two minutes for boarding on the play and while it seemed somewhat unassuming in that it didn’t look like your typical awful hockey hit, the league felt differently.

Today the NHL suspended Upshall for two games for the hit. As far as dangerous hits go, this one certainly does qualify. Bartulis was in a bad position for it and Upshall used his leverage against him to throw him into the boards.

As for what Upshall’s take on it was, he was pretty open about the play and regretted it as he shared on Twitter.

While Upshall didn’t have any intention of injuring Bartulis, it turns out that’s exactly what happened as TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets that Bartulis is injured for the remainder of the season. Bartulis was in the lineup because Sean O’Donnell was out with a knee injury he suffered on Sunday against the Rangers.

Fortunately for Philly, O’Donnell should be back soon but they’ll be shorthanded in the meantime. That means Philly is back on the market in the hunt for another defenseman. Good thing the trade deadline is coming up.

Good news for Philadelphia: Chris Pronger gets green light to resume skating


If you’ve lost track of the Flyers while they’ve been on their five-game road trip, things have not gone well for them defensively. They’ve gone 2-2 on their road swing and they’ve given up 17 goals in the four games they’ve played so far. For a Flyers team that prided themselves on solid defensive play and goaltending, that’s just not getting it done. Those bad numbers also coincide with the absence of Chris Pronger who went down with a broken foot.

Today, the Flyers got some good news as Pronger was given the green light to resume skating with the team. Pronger had two screws put into his foot to help it heal up better and for the Flyers this news comes at a great time. Pronger’s presence is sorely missed in the Philly lineup as they’re not as physical nor are they as intimidating. They’re just also not as good.

Without Pronger, the Flyers have been using Oskars Bartulis to fill out the defensive top six. Kimmo Timonen has also been battling injuries as well making the situation a lot harder for Philly. Pronger is the man that makes it all work though and with him getting back eventually, that’s a good thing for the Flyers.