Geoff Ward

PHT Morning Skate: Larkin helps out COVID-19 workers; Bringing hockey to Egypt

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.

Larkin, others continue to pitch in during COVID-19 pandemic

• Count Dylan Larkin and his family (particularly his father Kevin) among the hockey people who’ve helped healthcare workers the most amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press detailed how they helped donate 50,000 gloves to medical workers in Detroit. It’s another example of inspiring contributions coming from members of the hockey community. Gauruder also describes how other Larkin family members are handling the halt to their ways of life due to COVID-19, which is an interesting bonus. (Detroit Free Press)

• Speaking of hockey players and their fathers chipping in during the COVID-19 crisis, Tanner Pearson‘s dad, Tim, works for Bauer. This story details how much Bauer has produced for healthcare workers, and also looks at Tanner Pearson’s home life lately. No video games or puzzles, but maybe some Scrabble? (The Vancouver Province)

General hockey links

• In the latest edition of “Color of Hockey,” William Douglas explains how Sameh Ramadan aims to bring hockey to Egypt. (NHL.com)

• By taking the reins with SC Bern, Florence Schelling made history by becoming the first woman to GM a major, tier-1 pro men’s team. Could Schelling blaze a trail for women to become “power brokers” in the NHL? Interesting stuff from Matt Larkin. (The Hockey News)

• We’ve pondered how COVID-19 might affect scouting before, and likely will again. However, this is an interesting look from Bob Duff. He ponders the situation for prospects as well as the people scouting them. Said prospects can’t just buy a Peloton bike like Pearson, after all. (Featurd)

• TSN’s Mark Masters profiles one such prospect: the wonderfully named Hendrix Lapierre. Lapierre dealt with a not-at-all-wonderful stretch of three concussions in just 10 months. That would make Lapierre a health question in any draft, so consider him a wildcard under all circumstances. (TSN)

• Flames interim head coach Geoff Ward didn’t spill much tea during his Q&A with Wes Gilbertson. Even so, you might find it intriguing to hear his observations after having time to delve into video. Oh, and there’s another mention of Scrabble. Take that, Monopoly. (Calgary Herald)

• Jon Steitzer breaks down how the Maple Leafs are “sitting on a mountain of wingers.” Hopefully they aren’t recreating the cover of the original PC title “Doom.” That could get weird, if not hellish. (Leafs Nation)

Kyle Connor believes the sky was the limit for his Jets. Intriguing, as I personally wasn’t convinced the Jets were even a playoff team. Connor also says that, of non-hockey sports, he sure does miss golf. Connor and I might not agree on much, although he was indeed playing well individually. (Winnipeg Free Press)

• Another look at the Lightning possibly losing their chance at redeeming that sweep to the Blue Jackets. Beyond that narrative, it would be painful to see no postseason after paying pretty big trade prices for Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. (Tampa Bay Times)

• We recently pondered Frank Seravalli’s concept of dialing back the 2019-20 season standings to 68 games played. Rob Mixer argues that it’s not a good idea from the Blue Jackets’ standpoint. (First Ohio Battery)

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.

Long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames. 

Pending free agents

The Core

The Flames played a little over their heads for much of 2018-19, building some belief that the Flames might possess one of the NHL’s best cores. Unfortunately, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs rained on that parade during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and things got downright soggy at times in 2019-20.

Overall, though? The Flames’ core still looks quite good. Not best-in-class, but quite good.

If nothing else, they boast some serious value.

Thankfully, they didn’t overreact and trade Johnny Gaudreau, who’s almost insultingly underpaid ($6.75M AAV through 2021-22). Maybe 2018-19 inflated expectations for “Johnny Hockey,” but he’s still an excellent player.

It’s actually difficult to tell how much Sean Monahan and/or Elias Lindholm lean on Gaudreau for production, but both are cheap and covered for years, so it doesn’t really matter.

Matthew Tkachuk? He’s worth every bit of that $7M per year through 2021-22. So the forward group is covered pretty nicely.

And, yes, Mark Giordano‘s age (36) is troubling for the future, but we’ll get to that. For now, consider Giordano pretty fantastic (not quite Norris-fantastic, but fantastic nonetheless), and nicely cost-efficient at $6.75M. Giordano’s contract ending after 2021-22 mitigates much of that aging curve concern, too.

Now, not every long-term dollar is well-spent. While Milan Lucic isn’t as bad of a player as the snark suggests, his contract really is a headache. There are other issues, such as Mikael Backlund‘s troubling term.

Ultimately, though … not bad. Not cream of the crop stuff, but you can bump that group up quite a bit thanks to a mix of bargains and relatively limited risks.

Long-term needs for Flames

Consider Cam Talbot’s resurgence triage for the Flames’ goaltending situation. Talbot provided a short-term fix, but considering his pending UFA status and how unpredictable the position can be, will the Band-Aid slip off soon?

There’s quite a bit of uncertainty there, whether Talbot returns or the Flames find the “next” Talbot. Meanwhile, David Rittich presents an unpleasant form of predictability: he’s been consistently mediocre.

Unfortunately, the Flames face questions about how to insulate their goalies. Their defense lacks clarity beyond aging star Giordano, especially if both Hamonic and Brodie played their last games for the Flames. There are worse groups out there, but the Flames may be stuck with “good” while seeking “great.”

In ranking the NHL’s farm systems for The Athletic in January (sub required), Scott Wheeler placed the Flames 26th. Even at such a low ranking, Calgary’s highest rank prospects were forwards (and goalie Dustin Wolf), not defensemen. If the Flames get help on defense, it might have to come via free agency.

Oh yeah … they might need a coach, too, if they aren’t impressed with Geoff Ward.

Long-term strengths of Flames

While the Flames’ forward group ranks a notch or two behind the best of the best, it’s still quite good. The one-two punch of Gaudreau’s playmaking on one line and Tkachuk’s two-way peskiness on another can be very effective.

The Flames also lack a cap hit above Tkachuk’s $7M. That flexibility could come in very handy if other teams need to shed salary thanks to a coronavirus-related cap squeeze.

Even certain weaknesses could be spun as strengths.

Yes, their goalie situation is uncertain, but the Flames also enjoy flexibility. Before you scoff at that point, consider that Sergei Bobrovsky‘s performing at a sub-backup level for $10M per year at age 31.

Who’s to say that the Flames won’t successfully target better goaltending, at better prices, without the risky term other teams hand out?

Such flexibility opens up lanes for free agency, too. Perhaps the Flames could take that next step by landing, say, Alex Pietrangelo or Taylor Hall?

As is, the Flames mostly show the makings of a good team. Last season showed they could flirt with great, while this one reminded that there’s still work to do. They have a decent shot at getting there, even if they aren’t there yet.

(Then again, there’s also the possibility that they already missed their best chance or chances. Hockey’s fickle that way.)

MORE FLAMES BITS:
Looking at the 2019-20 Flames (so far?)
Biggest surprises and disappointments.

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.

Bruins assistant Geoff Ward resigns, takes job in German league

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Claude Julien is in the market for a new assistant coach.

Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli announced Geoff Ward has resigned from his position with the team and has taken the head coaching job with the Mannheim Eagles of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany.

Ward has been an assistant coach with the Bruins since 2007 and was part of the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011. He was responsible for working the power play in Boston and that’s been a bit of a problem there in the postseason.

Seeing him leave to take a job in Germany isn’t shocking as he’s been a head coach there before including with Iserlohn in 2006-07 before he took the Bruins job. He’s also coached in the OHL with Kitchener and Guelph and the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

There isn’t a shortage of capable people to help out behind the bench and Julien and Chiarelli will have plenty of time to find a replacement.