Controversy surrounding Flyers' sandy skate issues boils over

The reflexive response is to attach “-Gate” to any controversy (although I wonder what would happen if the Dallas Stars were involved … we already have “Stargate” after all) but perhaps this Flyers-Habs dilemma deserves a couple extra syllables. Maybe we should refer to it as “Sand-on-the-Skategate” instead? Or perhaps the “Great Sandy Skate Debate”?

Either way, the media is buzzing with discussion about the odd story. Puck Daddy includes a media roundup. The local scribes, including Philly.com, discussed the “unsolved mystery” today. And you know it’s a big/ridiculous/embarrassing deal when Deadspin gets in on the action.

If you’re not up-to-date with this odd little story, Brandon shared the initial news (broken by NBC’s Pierre McGuire) and then followed it up with a story that the Montreal Canadiens claimed they were dealing with skate issues of their own. Brandon broke down the situation – including how much of an impact faulty skates can have on a sport with such a thin margin of error – in his first report.

Those “rumors”, first reported by NBC’s Pierre McGuire, was that some some sort of substance had been spilled on the rubber mats that players walk on from the locker room to the benches, which was causing all sorts of problems with their skates not only being sharp but having gouges nearly destroying the blades the blades as well.

The Flyers didn’t exactly blame any sort of tampering or sabotage for the sand ending up on the rubber mats, although according to Seravalli one player did admit there was a substance on the mats that caused these issues.

For those unfamiliar, any sort of sand or sand-like substance is kryptonite for the sharpness of skates and for such a highly skilled sport as hockey having your skates as sharp and in as good condition as possible is tantamount for success on the ice. Yet the Flyers lost players all throughout the game to have their skates repaired, and likely had them ruined once more walking back out of the locker room and to the bench as no one discovered the substance until later in the game.

Eventually, towels were laid across the mats to prevent further damage.

The story went from troubling to (mostly) amusing thanks to the fact that the Flyers still managed to bludgeon the Canadiens 3-0. Anthony Safilippo reported that Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen had the most issues while Scott Hartnell, Darroll Powe and Claude Giroux also needed to head out for extra skate sharpening. On the Habs side, the reaction probably can be summed up by Jaroslav Spacek comparing the Flyers to “figure skaters.” Montreal coach Jacques Martin even blamed, oddly, the sport’s heavy use of composite sticks.

As Brandon mentioned, it’s a good thing that the Flyers won or this could have been a genuine headache for the league. Here I was, thinking that home ice advantage left the series with that limp Montreal loss, but you certainly cannot blame Habs fans for their team not showing up on Saturday.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Predicting McDavid’s season; Should Toronto go after Panarin?

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • A forecast of what’s to come from Connor McDavid this coming season. Hint: Points. Many of them. (Copper and Blue)

    • Because the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t become enough of a juggernaut this summer, perhaps they should trade for Artemi Panarin, just to rub it in. (Maple Leafs Nation)

    • With the possibility that Ryan Kesler missing the whole season, Ducks general manager Bob Murray says he’s confident Patrick Eaves will play a full season this year. (OC Register)

    • In Detroit, a commitment to the kids playing over their veteran counterparts is on the horizon. (Detroit Free Press)

    Casey Mittelstadt is ready to take the next step with the Buffalo Sabres. (NHL.com)

    • The New York Islanders have a contingency plan should their new home in Belmont Park not be ready on time. (IslandersPointBlank)

    • Making sense of Lou Lamoriello’s bottom-six makeover on Long Island. (Elite Sports NY)

    • Summer is slow, so here’s a look at whether teams have more success counterattacking at home or not. (TSN.ca)

    • On the long, difficult and ultimately unknown path to the NHL for goalies. (Chicago Tribune)

    • Jayna Hefford, Canada’s five-time Olympian and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is now the interim commissioner of the CWHL. (The Ice Garden)

    • Staying with women’s hockey, more teams are coming to the Olympics. (IIHF)

    • Willie O’Ree’s hockey tree grows another branch with Ayodele Adeniye’s rise. (The Color of Hockey)

    • The Pittsburgh Penguins have a glut of forwards after signing Derek Grant. (Pensburgh)

    • A case for Freddie Gaudreau’s permanent spot on the Nashville Predators roster. (On the Forecheck)

    • A look at which of the Calder Cup-winning Toronto Marlies will get their shot with the Maple Leafs next season. (The Sin Bin)

    • Shootouts were ousted from NCAA hockey not long ago. Now, not long after that happened, they’re back. (College Hockey News)

    • Flush with goaltenders in the system, Anthony Stolarz could be the man with the short straw this coming year. (Sons of Penn)

    Torey Krug. Should the Boston Bruins trade their defenseman or keep him? (The Puck Authority)

    • Notorious former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington is launching a pot company. (CBC.ca)

    • Here’s what’s behind the uncertain future of Canes play-by-play radio announcer Chuck Kaiton. (The News & Observer)

    • And for those who’ve had enough of reading and want to see how hitting is changing in NHL 19, a gift:


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Jets’ Jacob Trouba awarded $5.5 million in arbitration

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    Defenseman Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets were the first ones to head to arbitration this summer with what was reportedly a five-hour hearing on Friday.

    On Sunday, it was finally announced that the arbitrator has awarded Trouba a one-year, $5.5 million contract.

    That ruling pretty much split the two sides right down the middle as the Jets had offered Trouba a $4 million salary while Trouba had asked for $7 million.

    The Jets now have 48 hours to decide if they will accept the ruling or walk away from it, which would then make Trouba an unrestricted free agent. There is virtually no chance the latter happens. The $5.5 million number would be a $2.5 million raise from his 2017-18 salary.

    Trouba appeared in 55 games for the Jets this past season, scoring three goals to go with 21 assists.

    The extended arbitration hearing — as well as the fact they even needed arbitration — is just another chapter in what has been a difficult story between the Jets and one of their top defenseman. Prior to the 2016-17 season Trouba requested a trade out of Winnipeg and sat out the first 15 games of the regular season before signing a two-year, $6 million contract.

    Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    What will Penguins do with all their centers?

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    This past week the Pittsburgh Penguins added free agent Derek Grant on a one-year contract. Not a major signing, but one that still seems to be a little curious given the current construction of the roster.

    The 28-year-old Grant, you see, is a center. After bouncing around the NHL and recording just seven points (all assists) in 86 career games, mostly as a fourth-line/depth player, he finally received an increased role with the Anaheim Ducks this past season due to to their rash of center injuries and made the most of it. He scored 12 goals (and added 12 more assists) in 66 games and earned himself a one-way contract with the Penguins.

    What makes the signing so curious from a Penguins perspective is it comes just a few weeks after they brought back soon-to-be 42-year-old center Matt Cullen.

    That came after they re-signed restricted free agent center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $2.1 million contract.

    Which came just a couple of months after they give up a bounty of assets to acquire Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators prior to the NHL trade deadline to give them another big-time third-line center to play behind their two superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

    That is … a lot of centers. Six, to be exact, all with NHL contracts, all expected to be on the NHL roster.

    Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said he wanted to make his team deeper after its second-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the additions of Cullen and Grant definitely help accomplish that. It also comes after the Penguins entered last season without much depth at the position following the free agent departures of Nick Bonino and Cullen. They opened the 2017-18 season with the likes of Carter Rowney and Greg McKegg playing NHL roles, a situation that was less than ideal.

    It is the exact opposite now.

    So what can they possibly do with all of these guys?

    Option 1: Somebody moves to the wing. Aside from the fact that Cullen or Grant will probably be healthy scratches from time to time, this is probably the most logical outcome as one of those two could also probably flip to the wing on the fourth line.

    The other candidate to move is Brassard who could move to the left side to play in a top-six role.

    This, of course, runs counter to the reason the Penguins acquired Brassard in the first place which was to help give them a trio of centers that no other team could match up with. Brassard not only has his best value at center, it also forces one of Sheahan or Cullen up into a third-line spot, both of whom would be a downgrade from what Brassard would likely do.

    Brassard’s initial debut with the Penguins following the trade had its ups and downs and probably didn’t work exactly as planned, but it was also only a 26-game sampling. Sometimes it takes time for a player to adjust to a new team, system, etc.

    The other issue with moving one of their centers to the wing? They already have a lot of wingers. Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, and Patric Hornqvist are the top ones. Then there is Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin, free agent addition Jimmy Hayes (potential AHL player), and a crop of youngsters that includes Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon, and Zach Aston-Reese. Moving one — or two — of the centers to the wings is going to take one of the latter group out of the equation, either relegating them to the press box or back to the American Hockey League.

    Sprong, the team’s top prospect, is expected to be on the roster but he hasn’t fully seemed to gain the trust of the coaching staff to this point in his career and, quite honestly, his situation has reached the “believe it when you see it” point when it comes to his playing time and spot on the roster.

    Option 2: Somebody gets traded. Crosby and Malkin are obviously on the untouchable list, while Cullen and Grant were just signed so they are not going anywhere, either — at least not yet.

    That leaves Brassard or Sheahan, with Brassard probably being the most likely player to be used as trade bait because of the value he might still bring back and the fact he has the largest contract and the Penguins are firmly pressed against the league’s salary cap.

    The optics of that would certainly be bad because it would look like they are admitting that acquiring him in the first place was a bad idea (it wasn’t), and they probably wouldn’t get back the value they gave up to get him. His value to them as a third-line center is more than it is as a second-line winger or as trade bait.

    Option 3: Don’t worry about it, somebody is going to get hurt and depth is good. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Evgeni Malkin has played more than 70 games in a season just two times in the past nine years. Cullen is going to be 42 years old. Grant is a bit of a mystery because he really hasn’t produced at an NHL level outside of this past season when his shooting percentage was 18 percent. The glut of centers will probably take care of itself.

    One thing you have to say about Jim Rutherford is that he recognizes his mistakes and is not afraid to correct them, with Mike Johnston and the way he undid all of his offseason moves a year ago being the two most notable examples. After opening last season with only two NHL quality centers on the roster (something that definitely hurt the team) he made sure this summer that is not going to happen again.

    Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Mixed feelings about Anaheim’s ‘Mighty Ducks’ retro-themed third jersey

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    When you’re mining nostalgia, there’s a risk of making us old, crusty types grumble about messing with our memories. One of the biggest ways to do that is to fall short when it comes to mixing the old with the new.

    (But really, the biggest hurdle comes from our own faulty memories. That’s a discussion for a totally different blog, though.)

    The Anaheim Ducks seem to realize that a significant chunk of their fans – and hockey fans who might buy sweaters even if they can’t stand Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf – prefer the goofy, yet lovable, “Mighty Ducks” logo. Between the charm of those looks and the bland, corporate font vibe they have going on right now, it’s pretty easy to understand the appeal.

    So, the Ducks are rolling with the old-school look for their third jersey … well, kind of.

    The team’s press release mentions that Guy Hebert, the goalie many associate with the team’s early days when they’re not thinking about Paul Kariya, was on hand to model the hybrid retro-new duds. As a reminder, here’s one of the uniforms Hebert sported back in the team’s duckling stages.

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    The Ducks’ press release does a good job of capturing the vague “something’s not quite right” feeling about these third jerseys. Their hearts seem to be in the right place, yet there’s just enough “meh” to make this more of a double than a home run.

    Anchored in black, the third jersey features the original “Mighty Ducks” crest with eggplant and jade striping from the Ducks iconic look of its inaugural 1993-94 season. Linking the team’s past and present, the jersey incorporates new into old with a touch of the Ducks current orange coloring represented in the crossed hockey sticks of the team’s original mark. Anaheim’s current jersey number and letter styling is used in the new third sweater, providing a cohesive look to the team’s 2018-19 uniform kits, while the interior collar denotes the franchise’s 25th silver season. The first of its kind to subtly incorporate each of the seven colors (Eggplant, Jade, Anaheim Ducks Orange, Anaheim Ducks Gold, Anaheim Ducks Silver, White and Black) the Ducks have worn throughout the club’s 25-year tenure, the jersey also features silver as a primary accent color in both the triangle of the crest and yoke, paying tribute to the team’s generational milestone.

    As someone whose artistic abilities peaked at “doodles during high school lectures,” maybe I’m not the person to ask here, but I’d argue that it’s pretty tough to “subtly incorporate” seven colors.

    While comparisons to the Sharks’ look rank as some of the better jokes related to this reveal, the unveiling actually reminds me a bit of the Los Angeles Kings. You see, they decided to evoke the Wayne Gretzky silver-and-black look:

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    … Yet, at the same time, tinkering in a way that makes grumbly folks like me grumble. In the Kings’ case, the grumbling came from tweaking the logo.

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    Each nostalgia-themed jersey got a lot right, and if you asked a focus group to pick favorites, they might go with the new looks. That’s the thing, though. When you’re milking hazy memories, you bring out people’s fussy sides.

    Should the Ducks have just followed the Coyotes’ lead in essentially putting out a carbon copy of their old sweaters, rather than this tweaked look? That’s not for us to say.

    Actually, scratch that. They should have. This is still pretty cool, though.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.