Columnist: Babcock approaches ‘patriotic minefield’ as Canada’s coach

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As one of the most respected coaches in the league – not to mention the bench boss of the 2010 gold medal team – Mike Babcock seemed like a pretty obvious choice for Team Canada. They made it official on Monday.

While the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly believes that it was the right choice for the team, it might not be the same for Babcock, who Kelly believes is entering something like a no-win situation.

Kelly describes the gig as a “patriotic minefield,” especially after a successful first run.

Canada rides a metronomic wave of Olympic hockey emotion. With a gold in hand, we’ve crested the peak of the manic phase, and are headed down toward depression. The microscopic attention span of the public can only properly focus on the win that follows the disappointment of a loss. That’s the first high. Everything else is chasing a feeling that diminishes.

Even in a profession where job security seems perpetually flimsy, Kelly asserts that being behind Canada’s bench is the greatest pressure a coach can face.

We talk a lot about the pressure of coaching. At the professional level, that’s cultural and self-imposed. Every guy who earns the spot in the middle of the bench gets a bunch of mulligans along with it.

This is real pressure, because it has so little to do with professional competence. It’s standing at the head of an army you’ve only just met, and hoping they don’t need to be told what to do. If they lose, it’s on you. No do-overs.

Of course, there’s the counterargument: you get to guide what’s essentially an All-Star team, only with the motivation of representing your hockey-mad country as an added advantage.

(H/T to the Detroit Free Press.)

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.