Scratched again, Zidlicky rips Yeo: “He wants to play easy hockey”

12 Comments

Mike Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune is reporting a major rift between Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky and head coach Mike Yeo.

Upon learning he’d be a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against Nashville — his third straight as a healthy scratch — Zidlicky lit into Yeo, shedding light on a relationship that has seemingly moved past sour and into the toxic zone.

“I can’t be quiet,” Zidlicky said. “I think three games healthy scratch, it’s more than just like a healthy scratch. [Yeo’s] put me in this position that I am in right now. It’s not easy for me. It’s good for team probably because the guys played pretty well the last two games, but for me, I did everything what he wants me to do.

“I played like 17, 18 minutes ice time, I play just third, fourth line, I stood on the blue line, I didn’t do anything what I did years before. He said everything I do with the puck and without the puck, it’s wrong.”

As those numbers suggest, Zidlicky has seen his role reduce immensely under Yeo. The 34-year-old defenseman was accustomed to playing over 21 minutes a night in a prominent offensive role, but now he’s buried in Minnesota’s third pairing…when he actually gets to dress, that is.

It seems there’s a significant disconnect between Zidlicky’s preferred style — creative, aggressive, offensively oriented — and the way Yeo wants the Wild to play hockey.

“He doesn’t like what I’m doing,” Zidlicky said. “If I’m an offensive player, I’m supposed to play with the top guys. He should show me, ‘You are that guy, and you will be out there the last minute when we need to score.’ There was a lot of times when I just laid on the bench and just wait for my chance. We had a couple meetings about that after 10, 15 games in the season, and I can’t change my style. That’s what I know. That’s for sure.

“He wants to play easy hockey. I tried everything what he wants, but apparently it doesn’t work.”

Following Zidlicky’s rant, Russo said there is “zero doubt” Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher will investigate trading the defenseman. That’s an interesting development, becuse a couple of rumored-to-be-available defenseman (Tim Gleason, Francois Beauchemin) are now off the market after signing contract extensions. A guy like Zidlicky — bad season and all — could be a pretty valuable asset with a track record of offensive production and a big, right-handed shot.

PHT Related

Top 10 rental defensemen at the trade deadline

The Big Question: Which big name(s) will be traded before the deadline?

Beauchemin re-ups in Anaheim | Gleason signs extension with Carolina

GM of the Year George McPhee adds another award for Golden Knights

Leave a comment

George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights continued a big night for the franchise as he was named 2017-18 General Manager of the Year during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Earlier, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for top coach, William Karlsson was named winner of the Lady Byng and captain Deryk Engelland took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.

McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.

Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Pekka Rinne finally wins first Vezina

1 Comment

After being a finalist three other times and serving as the Nashville Predators’ top goalie since 2008-09, Pekka Rinne finally won his first Vezina Trophy.

Rinne delivered an outstanding season, going 42-13-4 with a 2.31 GAA, a sparkling .927 save percentage, and eight shutouts. During his previous Vezina finalist finishes, Rinne finished second (in 2010-11 and 2014-15) and third (in 2011-12).

For much of this past season, Andrei Vasilevskiy seemed to be the frontrunner for the Vezina, and he finished with strong numbers. Still, a sputtering finish allowed Rinne to pass him by.

It seemed like the Vezina voting essentially came down to Rinne, Vasilevskiy, and “everyone else.” Connor Hellebuyck ended up emerging as the third finalist, edging plenty of quality choices among the rest of the pack.

Actually, as you can see from the voting, Vasilevskiy didn’t even finish second. This might be a good time to note that NHL GMs vote for the award instead of players or the PHWA.

As you can see, 10 goalies received at least a third-place vote. Vasilevskiy didn’t get a single first-place one, while non-finalists Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed one No. 1 nod apiece. Interesting stuff.

Much like Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, Rinne is a goalie who managed to win a Vezina despite an inauspicious start to his career. Rinne was selected in the now-non-existent eighth round (258th overall) in 2004 and now owns a Stanley Cup Final appearance, 311 wins, and a Vezina. Not too shabby.

Kings’ Kopitar comfortably wins second Selke

Leave a comment

For the second time during his already splendid NHL career, Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy.

The Los Angeles Kings star edged perennial Selke finalist Patrice Bergeron and breakthrough pivot Sean Couturier. Kopitar’s first Selke win came during the 2015-16 campaign, while Bergeron won it last year.

It’s interesting to take a look at the voting via the PHWA. As you can see, Kopitar won by a fairly comfortable margin, while the jousting for second place was skin-tight.

Kopitar’s been a Selke finalist during four of the last five seasons, so he’s becoming a perennial candidate, too.

Aleksander Barkov is clearly climbing the ranks as one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards, which is what the Selke generally amounts to. (You’ll note, though, the wording of the award specifically calls out “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.”)

Did hockey writers make the right call on the Selke here?

Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant wins Jack Adams Award in landslide

1 Comment

The historic inaugural season for the Vegas Golden Knights continued on Wednesday as Gerard Gallant was named winner of the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award.

The award is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and given to the the head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

The Golden Knights finished with 51 wins and 109 points to become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major North American professional sports leagues to win its division. After a hot start, the Golden Knights saw their goaltenders hit with injury, which included losing Marc-Andre Fleury to a concussion for two months. They would use four netminders to stay afloat and set an NHL record on Feb. 1 with their 34th win, most by a team in its first season.

Voting took place before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Gallant’s magic continued to work as he helped lead the Golden Knights to the Cup Final against the Washington Capitals.

(Somehow, one of the broadcasters left Gallant completely off of their ballot.)

Gallant was a finalist for the award in 2016 while head coach of the Florida Panthers.

Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche and Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins were the other finalists.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.