Brian Burke is already talking about bringing ‘ugly hockey’ to Penguins

Beyond the comedy of seeing the former fiery Flyers goalie running the Penguins, Ron Hextall becoming the Penguins’ next GM wasn’t that surprising. Brian Burke becoming the Penguins’ president of hockey operations, though? Few of us saw that coming.

But here’s something we maybe should have seen coming. Burke — the man who introduced many hockey fans to the word “truculence,” like Gorilla Monsoon popularizing “solar plexus” — is talking about bringing grit (“ugly hockey”) to the Penguins.

Burke plays to truculent type: bringing ‘ugly hockey’ to Penguins

During an appearance on The Fan Morning Show (93.7 in Pittsburgh), Burke provided a glimpse of how he might want the Penguins to change, and an … interesting take on what made the Lightning so successful.

Let’s dissect Burke’s comments about the Penguins, Lightning, and so on:

  • However you feel about Burke’s take on the game, his vocabulary remains a delight. “Long pants hockey” almost made me choke on my coffee.
  • It’s truly remarkable how many “hockey people” witnessed the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run and ignored the impact of small, quick, skilled players like Brayden Point.

Sure, the Lightning are versatile. They have some larger players, particularly Victor Hedman. But in adding functional grinders like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, the Lightning opened the door for misinterpretations.

Coleman and Goodrow merely made a deep team deeper, but the Lightning won their Stanley Cup because of brilliant, skilled top players, and a front office that made a slew of wise decisions.

The Penguins can absolutely take lessons from the Lightning, not to mention the Blues and Capitals before them. If you want a more functional view of how Goodrow and Coleman made a great Lightning team even better, consider this great piece from Kent Wilson.

Perhaps Burke’s comments about bringing “ugly hockey” to the Penguins won’t provide foreshadowing, though. Let’s remember that Burke jumped through many hoops to bring Daniel and Henrik Sedin to the Canucks. His Maple Leafs teams were as much about landing Phil Kessel as any other move.

To assume that Burke would flush skill out of Pittsburgh altogether would be an overreaction.

Still, it’s a situation worth monitoring, because the Penguins’ previous pursuit of grit/”ugly hockey” ended up, well, ugly.

Pittsburgh’s paid for its pursuit of pugilience in the past

As PHT’s Adam Gretz has chronicled more than once, the Penguins reacted to winning consecutive Stanley Cups as a “small, fast team” in a strange way.

Despite getting the last laugh with those back-to-back championships, then-GM Jim Rutherford didn’t like the way the Penguins were being “pushed around.”

“We’re getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game,” Rutherford said back in 2017.

In calling his shot, the Penguins pursued Ryan Reaves, giving up Oskar Sundqvist and a first-rounder. In hindsight, this push for puglience began the Penguins’ slide to the flawed team they are today.

Much of the focus was on bringing in bigger bodies. Yet, from Erik Gudbranson to Jamie Oleksiak to Reaves and even Jack Johnson, the Penguins merely kept the carousel moving.

Considering how poorly all of that went, you can understand why Penguins fans flinch at Burke talking about grit and “ugly hockey.” Frankly, it sounds like he wants to only slightly remix the off-key tune Rutherford just belted out.

Of course, what really matters is the direction the Penguins actually take. If they add functional grit — grinding players who can drive play, preferably with speed — then don’t trip putting on those long pants. That could be nifty.

Will Hextall and Burke see eye-to-eye?

It’s also fair to wonder how much Burke’s vision will matter with Ron Hextall as GM.

Like Rutherford, Burke loves big, headline-grabbing trades. Both could probably wax nostalgic about various dustups in many rinks/barns. Hextall, meanwhile, rebuilt the Flyers and helped build the championship-era Kings mostly through zen-like patience.

Of course, Mario Lemieux can attest to Hextall being truculent enough. It’s one thing to meticulously rebuild a Flyers team that was a cap catastrophe. It’s another to try to balance the Penguins’ worries about the future with the goals of winning one more with Crosby and Malkin.

For all we know, Burke can provide the sort of headline fodder the media loves, while Hextall nods and just does things his way. (PHT’s Adam Gretz went deep on how that approach might look.)

But there’s at least some room for drama. As Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic noted upon the Penguins hiring Burke and Hextall (sub required), the two haven’t worked with each other before. From LeBrun’s reports, it sounds like Lemieux made a late decision to include Burke in a powerful position.

But it was Lemieux himself, as Penguins CEO David Morehouse revealed Tuesday, who suggested that they approach Burke about joining in a POHO capacity (an idea which they also ran through owner Ron Burkle). The Penguins had already been using Burke as a sounding board on GM candidates.

Overall, it will be fascinating to see how the Burke + Hextall regime works out for the Penguins. Could there be undercurrents of differing philosophies, somewhat like the Maple Leafs seemingly experienced with Kyle Dubas, Lou Lamoriello, and Mike Babcock? Will Burke be mostly hands-off, letting Hextall make his mark? Could it be a case-by-case situation?

Either way, things are rarely dull with Burke or the Penguins. Even if the hockey ends up “ugly.”

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

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    Kings tie franchise mark with point in 11th straight game

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    Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

    LOS ANGELES — Viktor Arvidsson had two goals and the Los Angeles Kings matched their longest point streak in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.

    Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Alex Iafallo netted a power-play goal for Los Angeles, which has earned points in 11 straight games for the fourth time. The last occurrence was 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped 25 shots for Los Angeles.

    Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg and Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.

    Arvidsson – who has 22 goals on the season – has four in the last four games while Doughty has found the net four times in the last five games.

    Arvidsson’s first goal came 82 seconds into the game. Trevor Moore won the faceoff in the offensive zone and made a backhand pass to Arvidsson, who snapped it into the net from the back of the left faceoff circle.

    He also had an empty-net goal late in the third period.

    The Kings extended their lead to 2-0 five minutes into the second period on the power play. Phillip Danault made a great pass between Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon and Hellebuyck as Iafallo buried it into the short side of the net.

    Doughty extended the lead to 3-1 27 seconds into the third period with a wrist shot from outside the right faceoff circle near the boards after Anze Kopitar won the faceoff.


    Winnipeg got its first power-play goal in seven games with 1:23 remaining in the second period when Dubois took a cross-ice pass from Kyle Connor and scored from the left faceoff circle to get the Jets within 2-1.

    The Jets got a five-minute power play after Los Angeles’ Blake Lizotte received a five-minute match penalty for a vicious cross-check to Josh Morrissey’s face. The goal came with 33 seconds left in the man advantage.

    NOTES: Danault picked up his 300th career point and 200th assist. … Winnipeg’s Connor set a career high for most assists in a season when he got his 47th on Dubois’ goal.


    Jets: Travel to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

    Kings: Host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.