Report: Just Sabres, Leafs formally file paperwork to speak to Babcock


There’s a long list of cities that have been cited as possible destinations for Mike Babcock, but with the race to get him likely approaching its conclusion, there might be just three teams in the hunt. The Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs are the only teams to have filed the paperwork to reach out to the bench boss, per Sportsnet. He also might end up re-signing with the Detroit Red Wings.

It’s worth emphasizing that there’s still time for other teams to file the paperwork and attempt to lure Babcock, but not a lot of it. Babcock recently predicted that he’d know what he was doing by the 20th.

In the case of Buffalo or Toronto, Babcock would be inheriting a team in the early stages of a rebuild, although the Sabres are expected to get a boost from selecting a potential franchise cornerstone in Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Detroit on the other hand is a team that’s in position to make the playoffs next season, although its future is still unclear.

There’s certainly promising youngsters in Detroit, but as Babcock knows, replacing the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the not too distant future will be a monumental challenge.

Flyers will be ‘extremely patient’ with youngsters, but ‘want a winner as soon as possible’


Depending who you ask, it’s either a smart and noble strategy, one that’s been successful for a team like the Detroit Red Wings, or it’s like wanting to have your cake and eat it too, and the reason a team like the Detroit Red Wings hasn’t made a deep playoff run in a number of years.

That strategy is, of course, doing everything you can to win now, while simultaneously and patiently developing youngsters for the future.

It’s what Flyers owner Ed Snider wants to do in Philadelphia, as opposed to tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch, a la Buffalo or Edmonton.

Snider told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the plan for the Flyers is to “be extremely patient with all of the young players we have coming.” But at the same time, GM Ron Hextall is “going to do everything in his power to produce a winner as soon as possible, which means it could be trades, it could be coaching, it could be all kinds of things.”

It’s a similar story in Vancouver, where the aging Canucks “want to draft and develop well, but we want our young kids to learn how to play in a winning environment, so they learn the right way to play.”

The obvious challenge for that type of plan is drafting, because teams that are neither great nor terrible don’t get top-5 draft picks, i.e. players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Drew Doughty.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to find elite players in the middle of the first round, or even beyond. Anze Kopitar was taken 11th overall; Patrice Bergeron and Duncan Keith were second-rounders.

But the win now/win later strategy does put added pressure on the scouting staff to unearth a few “big-time” diamonds in the rough, like the Wings once did to the extreme with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nicklas Lidstrom.

The Flyers have the seventh overall selection in this summer’s draft. They also have Tampa Bay’s first-round pick, wherever that may be.

Related: Hextall insists he’s ‘on the same page’ with Snider

After scoreless series versus Detroit, Stamkos looking forward to ‘fresh start’ versus Habs


Steven Stamkos is happy to be in the second round of the playoffs.

And he’s probably just as happy to be done trying to shake Pavel Datsyuk.

Stamkos was held without a goal in seven games versus the Red Wings, though he did manage to rack up 22 shots.

“The first round was tough when you’re not producing, but that was an eye-opener for me that I can go out there and focus on other areas of the game, whether it was faceoffs or playing well defensively,” he said, per the Canadian Press. “The beauty of it is it’s kind of a fresh start and I’m excited for that chance.”

The Lightning open their series with the Canadiens tonight in Montreal. Stamkos scored five goals in five games versus the Habs, all of them Tampa Bay wins, during the regular season.

Then again, he had four goals in four games versus the Wings, three of them Tampa Bay wins, during the regular season.

“This is a brand new ballgame,” he said. “I think this group has learned the lesson of not paying any attention to what happened in previous games.”

Related: Coach Cooper isn’t worried about Stamkos’ goal drought

Yzerman mum on Filppula’s status after sitting most of Game 7


There were a few eyebrows raised when Valtteri Filppula only played 3:47 over the final two periods of Wednesday’s Game 7 against Detroit — sitting out the entire final frame — but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman wouldn’t comment on a potential injury prior to Friday’s Game 1 against Montreal.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Filppula played just 10 minutes, 24 seconds Wednesday; his last shift was late in the second period. When asked if Filppula was hurt, general manager Steve Yzerman said, “Nothing to report at this time.”

It’s hard to say why Filppula would’ve sat if there was no injury. He seemed to be performing well prior to the decrease in playing time, going 7-of-13 in faceoffs while receiving time both on the power play and penalty kill. That said, he had long stretches between shifts in the middle period and played a mere 130 seconds at even strength.

(It is possible Filppula was hurt on this hit from Pavel Datsyuk.)

The 31-year-old, who averaged over 19 minutes per game during the regular season, did have a bit of a tough time overall in the Detroit series — like several of his counterparts — and saw his ice time drop to 16:27 over the seven games, while finishing with a minus-5 rating.

On the difference between ‘good’ and ‘big-time’ players


Let’s forget for just one second that Mike Babcock has a big decision to make about his future. This post isn’t an attempt to handicap where he’ll end up. We’ve already done plenty of that this season.

This post is applicable to fans of all 30 teams, not just those of the Detroit Red Wings. Because, for me, the one thing that Babcock said last night that really stood out was, per Yahoo Sports, the following:

“In the end, you’ve got to have big-time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So those are questions in our organization that we work towards, drafting good and developing good, but we’ve been winning too much (in the regular season to get high draft picks). That’s the facts.”

When the Wings last won the Cup, they had two “big-time” centers in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and one “big-time” defenseman in Nicklas Lidstrom.

Not just “good,” but “big-time.” As in, future Hall of Famers. Elite. Best of the best.

Since Lidstrom retired, the Wings have not been past the second round of the playoffs.

In a related story, the Philadelphia Flyers never recovered from losing Chris Pronger and the future of the Boston Bruins is in question with an aging Zdeno Chara.

The last five Stanley Cup winners have featured one of Chara, Duncan Keith or Drew Doughty. All three are future Hall of Famers.

As for “up the middle,” Babcock asked last night, “Who’s going to replace Pav?” That’s a good question, because Datsyuk will turn 37 in July. A winner of three Selke Trophies, he’s one of the best two-way forwards in the history of the game.

Another related story: the last five Stanley Cup winners have featured one of Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, or Anze Kopitar. Again, all three are future Hall of Famers.

Meanwhile, there’s a reason there’s so much excitement in Edmonton about Connor McDavid, a center. Yet equally important will be the development of d-man Darnell Nurse.

Ditto for Buffalo, where there’s plenty of excitement for Jack Eichel; just don’t overlook the development of Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.

And for all the strife we’ve seen in Toronto, Leafs fans can at least be hopeful about Morgan Rielly and William Nylander. Toronto hasn’t had a “big-time” center since Mats Sundin. And did you know the Leafs, an Original Six franchise, have never had a Norris Trophy winner? The closest any Toronto blue-liner has come in the modern era is Borje Salming. The Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in the modern era.

Look, nobody’s saying a team absolutely has to have a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a Selke Trophy/Hart Trophy winner at center. There are always going to be exceptions. The 2006 Hurricanes didn’t have an elite d-man, though people sometimes forget they had Rod Brind’Amour, a two-time Selke winner.

The thing is, you don’t build a team based on the exceptions. Otherwise, every NFL team would be looking for the next Trent Dilfer.

“We’ve got lots of good young players, no question about it, and ideally we’ve got some good ones coming,” Babcock said.

But are any going to be “big-time” centers or defensemen?

Not just good.