Stars stick with Seguin-Spezza-Benn line vs. Canucks

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The line of Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn went for nine points in Dallas’ OT loss to Philly on Saturday, so no surprise they’re back together tonight when the Stars host Vancouver.

“It’s something I really want to see,” head coach Lindy Ruff explained, per the Dallas Morning-News. “I think that ice-time-wise it fits better for us because it gives Jason the ice time minutes with those top guys.”

Seguin and Spezza did the most damage against the Flyers, scoring four points each, but it’s Benn who’ll be in the spotlight tonight. The British Columbia native has a habit of roasting the Canucks, going for 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his last seven games.

So… how will Vancouver adjust?

That’s an equally compelling storyline, given the club’s ties to Dallas. Ex-AHL Texas bench boss Willie Desjardins — who led the Stars to the Calder Cup last season — has the Canucks off to a 3-1-0 start to the year and his assistant, Glen Gulutzan, was the head coach in Dallas for two seasons before moving north.

Will Desjardins match his top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Radim Vrbata against the Seguin-Spezza-Benn unit? The group struggled Saturday in its first big head-to-head line match of the season, getting burned by the Tampa Bay trio of Steve Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat:

The Bolts’ top line finished with seven points in the 4-2 win (the Sedins and Vrbata went for just one) and, afterward, Henrik lamented the performance.

“I thought we gave this game away,” he said, per the Globe and Mail. We showed on a back-to-back night we can play the best teams. I thought we could have won the game.

“I cost us the first goal and then we gave them the second goal as well.”

Banged-up Blues: Blais out 10 weeks, St. Louis signs Brouwer

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The banged-up Blues have lost another forward to injury and added some reinforcement.

Sammy Blais will miss at least 10 weeks after undergoing surgery on his right wrist. Blais was injured Tuesday in St. Louis’ 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Blais out long term, Alex Steen sidelined with a high ankle sprain until early December and Vladimir Tarasenko expected to miss the rest of the regular season following shoulder surgery, the team on Wednesday signed winger Troy Brouwer to a $750,000, one-year deal. Brouwer had been practicing with the Blues on a professional tryout.

Brouwer, 34, was the Blues’ choice to sign over Jamie McGinn, who was also brought in for a tryout. A 13-year NHL veteran, Brouwer rejoins the Blues after playing the 2015-16 season in St. Louis.

Where will Mike Babcock end up after Maple Leafs?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock on Wednesday after a terrible start to the 2019-20 season. We already know what direction the Maple Leafs are going to go in — it is Sheldon Keefe’s team now — but Babcock’s future remains unsettled.

Even though his tenure never produced the results it was expected to in Toronto, he is almost certainly going to get another head coaching job in the NHL in the not-too-distant future as long as he wants one. And given his reputation and the fact his name still carries a ton of respect among NHL teams there will probably several options for him when the time is right.

Let’s take a look at what some of those potential options could be.

It could happen, it might make sense, and it might actually work

Vancouver Canucks. Based on their roster moves the past couple of years it is easy to get the sense Canucks management believes the team is closer to winning than it might actually be, and that could put a ton of pressure on the current head coach if they don’t start producing better results. Travis Green is in his third year behind the team’s bench and while they have shown incremental improvement every year, they have hit a pretty big wall the past couple of weeks and are starting to regress back down toward the no-man’s land in the standings they’ve taken up residence in the past few years. How tempting would the opportunity to land a big-name coach be for Canucks ownership if things don’t turn around in the coming weeks and months?

While Babcock’s last two-plus years in Toronto turned into a disappointment where a change was necessary, he did help get things going in the right direction when the Maple Leafs were at a comparable stage to where the Canucks are now.

Minnesota Wild. It is a matter of when, and not if, the Wild make a coaching change. They have one of the worst records in the league, they are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, and a new general manager is going to want his own coach. It is not a great roster, but there is still enough there that a coach like Babcock could do enough to get them to a playoff spot where they bow out in Round 1.

My goodness, this fit might actually be perfect.

It is a real long shot, but still worth considering

Seattle. He takes a couple of years off, continues to get paid by Toronto in the short-term, then becomes the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken/Sasquatch/Sockeyes/Evergreens/Whatever they might be. Given that this team is going to have the same expansion draft rules as Vegas, and with the way Vegas has become an immediate contender, expectations are going to be absurdly high for Seattle to repeat that. An established coach with a championship pedigree would also be a big splash at the beginning. The one potential problem here might be that Seattle’s new front office seems as if it is going to be heavily invested in utilizing analytics and we just saw what happens when Babcock works with a more analytically inclined front office.

He just retires. He goes nowhere. He just rides off into the sunset, makes the occasional appearance on TV as an analyst during the Stanley Cup Final or the Winter Olympics, says goodbye to coaching, and does whatever he wants to do with his free time. The competitor in him may not be ready for this, but just pretend for a second that you were 56 years old, had already accomplished all of the highest honors you could in your chosen profession (in this case a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals) and had millions of dollars sitting in the bank with many more coming your way over the next few years. Wouldn’t you at least consider retiring? Of course you would. And no one would blame you. Honestly he would probably be crazy not to consider this.

It will get suggested, but it probably shouldn’t happen

Chicago Blackhawks. I’m not saying Jeremy Colliton won’t be the solution in Chicago, and I am not even sure this would be a good fit (it probably wouldn’t), but the Blackhawks seem determined to try and squeeze everything they can out of their remaining core, and who is to say Stan Bowman’s desperation to keep that window open couldn’t lead to him at least considering a move like this?

On the other hand, if you just fired your three-time Stanley Cup winning coach, and then within a year fired his replacement only to hire another veteran coach that has been less successful than the Hall of Fame coach you already fired it might paint the picture that you don’t really know what you’re doing and don’t have much of a plan.

San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are still trying to get that elusive championship. A slow start probably put Pete DeBoer on the hot seat and would have made this sort of swap very tempting, but with their improved play of late things have probably cooled off in that regard. This also doesn’t seem like a good fit. What the Sharks need right now is a better goalie, not a better coach.

A return to Detroit: No. Don’t even think about it. Not happening. Shouldn’t happen. Time to move on.

MORE BABCOCK/LEAFS COVERAGE:
Maple Leafs fire Babcock and replace him with Keefe
Underachieving Maple Leafs needed this change

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Q&A: Nicklas Lidstrom on his toughest losses, influence of Brad McCrimmon

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Nicklas Lidstrom spent this past weekend in Toronto taking part in the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Weekend of festivities. He captained one of the teams during Sunday’s Legends Classic and watched as another European player, Vaclav Nedomansky, was enshrined Monday night.

While the former Red Wings captain, a 2015 inductee, is one of four Swedish players in the Hall of Fame, he sees more and more European players who will find their way to Toronto in the near future.

“I think we will have more representatives and more Europeans coming in as they get older,” Lidstrom told NBC Sports this week. “I know [Marian] Hossa’s been mentioned, Pavel Datsyuk is coming up, Henrik Lundqvist, the Sedin twins are coming up. Just talking about Swedes, but in general I think you’ll see more Europeans as these guys get older.”

Lidstrom has spent part of the fall promoting his book Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection, which was released in October.

We spoke with Lidstrom this week about his book, what current defensemen he enjoys watching, and what the “Perfect Human” isn’t good at.

Enjoy.

PHT: You write in the book about your first contract with Detroit and thinking you’ll play a few years and then go back home. What was behind that thinking and were there times later in your career where you contemplated that again?

LIDSTROM: “I didn’t really know what to expect when I first signed with the Wings. I didn’t know what it was like living overseas and playing in the NHL, playing almost twice as many games as I did in Europe at the time. That’s why in my mind I said I’m going to give it a try anyway and play a few years and see how it goes. If I’m not successful I can always move back and play in Sweden again. My mindset wasn’t to play 20 years or play a real long time. It was more just get used to playing and living in the U.S. and the NHL.”

PHT: You also wrote about Brad McCrimmon and how big of an influence he was on you in those early years. Did any of the lessons he taught you — on or off the ice — influence in how you dealt with younger players when you were the veteran?

LIDSTROM: “Yeah, one of the things he mentioned was that you’ve got to go to work every day, meaning you don’t take days off and you’ve got to work hard every day. He said if you do that then you’re a pro. If you do it well you can be a star. That’s something I tried to help younger players with as well, [telling them] just got to go there and work hard and feel good about yourself leaving the rink every day.”

PHT: A lot of players quoted in the book talk about how hard it was to get you off your game. Were you always like that as a player, even as a youth?

LIDSTROM: “No, as I matured and got older I developed that. In my junior years, not that I would lose my temper real bad, but I would try to get even or slash someone back if someone was trying to get under my skin. I would sometimes get sucked into that as a junior player. As I matured and as I got to know the game a lot more and became better I was able to keep my emotions intact and focus on the game.”

PHT: You play through a few different eras of the NHL. Today, there are no Derian Hatcher type defenseman. You have to be a good skater, be able to move the puck well. How do you think a 21-year-old Nick Lidstrom would do in the NHL in 2019?

LIDSTROM: “I think I would have adapted and adjusted to the style of today’s game. That’s what I had to do as a 34-, 35-year-old when they changed the rules in 2005. You have to adjust. You were taught to grab and hold and put your stick around someone’s waist, that was how you were taught when you first came into the league. All of a sudden, that’s a penalty every time you do it, so you had to adjust. As a young player I think I would have been able to adjust to that style, too. I was a mobile defenseman in a younger age, so I think I would have been able to adjust to that type of style earlier, too.”

PHT: Who are the defenseman you enjoy watching the most today?

LIDSTROM: “There’s so many good, young players today. Good skaters, they’re good at moving the puck. They wanted you to be big defenseman and maybe the real skill guys were a couple of every team, or three, four at the most, and now you see the opposite. Now you see skill is what team’s are looking for. They’re looking for skating defensemen and guys that can move the puck and be part of the offense. 

“I saw Rasmus Dahlin here in Sweden a couple of weeks ago when they played Tampa and seeing his style of play, how confident he plays with the puck. Cale Makar, I haven’t seen him play live but I’ve watched some highlights of him recently, too. They’re all good skaters and they can move the puck and they can be part of the offense. There’s a lot more mobility on the backend than there used to be.”

PHT: And the exciting thing is guys like Dahlin and Makar, they’re playing at that level right away. It’s not as if they’re older veterans.

LIDSTROM: “That’s what’s so impressive. Rasmus is 19 and Cale [is 21]. I’m so impressed with how they come in and really take charge of the game. You didn’t see that when I came in or even 10 years ago you didn’t see many players that young coming in and being so important to their teams. That’s another thing that’s impressive: how the young guys and young stars of the league have been able to step in and contribute right away.”

PHT: For all of the team awards you’ve won — Stanley Cups, gold medals — is there a loss in your career that still bothers you to this day when you think about it?

LIDSTROM: “Always when you think back at some of the losses, the one we had in the Olympics in 2002 against Belarus in the quarterfinals was a tough one. That was a real tough loss for us where we were huge favorite and came out on the wrong end of it. 

“The last Stanley Cup Final that I played in, 2009, was hard, too. We beat Pittsburgh the year before. We had a good team and they had a good team, too, which is why it went to seven games. It was disappointing losing that Game 7 at home.”

PHT: When that puck was squirting out to you in Game 7, were you confident you were about to score before [Marc-Andre] Fleury dove across?

LIDSTROM: “No, I can’t say I was confident because the puck was kind of coming on my off side, so I couldn’t get a lot on it. If the puck had squirted out on the other side it would have been like a one-timer. I had to focus more on getting it on net, but I didn’t get as much on it as I would have liked. That’s why when it came from the off side it makes it a little harder to get all of it. I wasn’t overly confident at all that I would score. I knew it was only within seconds of the buzzer, too, so I knew I had to get a shot off quick.”

PHT: Finally, you’ve had the “Perfect Human” nickname for a long time. But tell me, what is something Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t good at?

LIDSTROM: [laughs] “My wife would tell you a bunch of things. I was so detailed in getting ready for games and focusing on everything around the game, but away from the rink my car could be dirty, I could be sloppy with dishes or things around the house. You’re not as focused as you were at the rink. Those kinds of things.”

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Life after Babcock; goalie gambles not paying off

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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.

• Confidence should be gained for the Maple Leafs now that Mike Babcock is gone and Sheldon Keefe is in. [Toronto Star]

• The fun is gone in Toronto. [Pension Plan Puppets]

• Babcock is out, but now the pressure is upped on management. [Leafs Nation]

• “The NHL has to stop letting player safety depend on referees’ judgment calls.” [RMNB]

• “Why punching your opponent in hockey is fine but spitting on him is not.” [The Guardian]

• A look at Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and other NHL players carrying large offensive burdens for their teams. [ESPN]

• Jamie McGinn has been released from his tryout with the Blues, while Troy Brouwer inks a one-year deal. [Blues]

• Some goalie gambles haven’t paid off for a number of GMs. [Yahoo]

• It’s been a mixed bag of results for the Sabres’ blue line. [Die by the Blade]

• In good news for the Sabres, assistant coach Don Granato, who’s been out since Oct. 1 while battling severe pneumonia, was back at practice on Wednesday. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• The Blue Jackets have faced a pretty tough schedule to start the season. [1st Ohio Battery]

Yanni Gourde should not longer be considered underrated; he’s just that good. [Raw Charge]

• Sharks’ Evander Kane pushes growth of hockey at Oakland middle school. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

• Finally, a great development for Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last April:

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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.