Maurice compares Toronto media scrutiny to ‘a drive-by shooting’

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Winnipeg Jets bench boss Paul Maurice coached in Toronto for two years, so he can speak to the atmosphere as well as anybody.

So, fire away Paul!

“If you’re saying something good about a player, he’s a rock star, and if a guy has a tough night and you want to deal with the media honestly, you’ve got to be careful about how hard you go at his play because then the next day or maybe even that day, it’s a drive-by shooting,” Maurice said Friday, per the Canadian Press.

“They’ll find something that’s not going and it’s 40 people in the stall figuring out whether they should trade him, play him more or execute him.”

Maurice is known for speaking candidly with media — earlier this year, he responded to a reporter’s query about the Jets’ dressing room accountability by saying “I could make you cry in that (expletive) room” — so today’s comments don’t come as a huge surprise.

And heck, Maurice isn’t even the first ex-Leafs coach to reflect negatively on his time in Toronto this year; back in early January, former bench boss Ron Wilson fired several shots at the core group of players, including Phil Kessel.

“Some of the core players have failed under two or three coaches so it’s got to be the player’s fault,” Wilson said in a radio interview. “You’d have to surmise that some of them might be uncoachable.”

“You can’t rely on Phil. Phil’s problem, and I think it’s pretty much how Phil’s been his whole career, is that he is two weeks on and two weeks off.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Maurice’s latest comments are taken, though. The focus will primarily be on the drive-by shooting line — because, y’know, some might have a tough time finding the lighter side of a drive-by — but Maurice did offer some insightful stuff on coaching in Toronto, including the admission he never felt he truly figured out how to deal with the market.

“It takes a while to get a handle on it,” he explained. “I don’t know that I ever did.”

Oilers have had ‘constructive conversations’ with Petry’s agent, but no contract yet

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When Cody Franson was traded to Nashville, much of the focus leading up to the March 2 deadline turned to Edmonton’s Jeff Petry.

Like Franson, Petry is a right-shooting defenseman in the final year of his contract. Both players can become unrestricted free agents this summer. And unlike Mike Green in Washington — who also matches the preceding description — Petry plays for a team that’s well on its way to missing the playoffs.

Today, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish provided an update on Petry.

“I’ll just say this about Jeff — we really challenged him on a one-year contract and he’s clearly met that challenge. His game is at a level I think right now that it hasn’t been at before and I give Jeff a lot of credit for that,” MacTavish said, per the club’s website.

“As for a contract or what the course of action is going forward, I’ve had many conversations over the last four weeks with Wade Arnott, Jeff’s representative, as you might imagine and they’ve all been constructive conversations but I’m just going to leave it at that and we’ll see what happens going forward.”

The consensus is that Petry, 27, will be traded. Perhaps to Los Angeles, as a replacement for Slava Voynov. Or maybe to the Ducks, who were “pretty adamant about trying to add another d-man” even before Sami Vatanen was lost for 4-6 weeks. That’s just two potential destinations. There are others.

Here’s MacT:

Goalie nods: Gibson’s struggling, but starts fourth straight for Anaheim

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Ducks stick with Gibson

The Anaheim Ducks, losers in seven of their last 10, will keep rolling with John Gibson as they look to get things on track tonight in Calgary.

Gibson, forced into action with Frederik Andersen injured and Ilya Bryzgalov struggling, hasn’t played especially well of late — in four games this month, he’s allowed 13 goals on 101 shots for a .886 save percentage, and has just one win.

“My biggest worry on it is that we are allowing way too many goals,” Bruce Boudreau said following a 4-1 defeat to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, per the O.C. Register. “We’re not losing pretty.”

The Ducks are hoping Gibson, a highly-touted prospect that broke onto the scene late last year — can reclaim some of the form shown earlier this season. In a three-game stretch in late October, the 21-year-old allowed one goal in a win over Columbus, posted a 38-save shutout against the Blackhawks and stopped 27 of 29 shots in a loss to St. Louis.

For the Flames, Jonas Hiller will start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Rangers at Sabres: No word yet on starters for either team.

Canucks at Devils: Eddie Lack vs. Cory Schneider

Leafs at ‘Canes: James Reimer vs. Cam Ward

Bruins at Blues: Malcolm Subban vs. Jake Allen (more on Subban’s NHL debut here.)

Avs at ‘Hawks: Semyon Varlamov vs. Corey Crawford

Wild at Oilers: Devan Dubnyk for Minnesota, no word yet on an Edmonton starter.

Lupul loathes idea of Toronto tear-down

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Plenty of fans and media in Toronto are embracing the idea of a rebuild.

But Maple Leafs players? Not so much. Especially Joffrey Lupul.

“You can’t just throw out a team of young guys and say ‘Well, we’re going to get our [expletive] kicked this year but then we’ll be better the year after because there’s no saying you will be and it could hurt guys’ development big-time I think,” Lupul said, per TSN. “What are we going to just restart with a whole complete group with four guys next year and just try and finish last?

“I haven’t spoken to management at all but I’m sure that’s not their idea.”

Lupul, who has missed extensive time this year to various injuries, is in the second of a five-year, $26.25 million deal that carries a $5.25M annual cap hit. At 31, he clearly doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild — he hasn’t had a deep playoff run since his time in Philadelphia during the 2007-08 campaign — and it could be difficult for Toronto to move him, given his lengthy injury history and the fact his contract runs through 2017 (Lupul also has a no-trade clause, so he can control where he goes.)

Whatever the case, Lupul made it clear he has zero interest in going through a burn-it-to-the-ground-and-build-again movement, noting that there are inherent risks in bottoming out and relying solely on youth.

“You can play a bunch of young guys and lose all year, but who’s to say that those young guys are going to develop? I don’t know,” Lupul explained. I think [the tear-down idea is] maybe more of a media-driven thing.

“There’s trade rumors on every guy in here so who are we going to put on the ice next year? A bunch of draft picks?”

Gallant would be ‘shocked’ if Panthers dealt young talent at deadline

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Just three points out of a playoff spot and in the mix to be a deadline buyer, the Florida Panthers will be interesting to watch as Mar. 2 draws closer.

But to hear head coach Gerard Gallant explain it, any potential deal won’t involve the Panthers’ young prospects.

“I don’t foresee that happening,” Gallant said, per CBS Radio Miami. “We’re staying the course. We’re going to play our young guys, because our young guys are playing real well and they’re a big part of our team.

“I’d be shocked if anything like that happens. You’d have to get an unbelievable offer, but we’re planning on doing this for the long haul.”

It’s easy to see why Gallant was asked about parting with his young stars. Florida’s current position in the standings and reports that the club was interested in Toronto’s Phil Kessel kicked things off — and, obviously, the Panthers have enough tantalizing young assets to pull off a blockbuster. Their three leading scorers are 22-year-old Nick Bjugstad, 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad and 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau while the likes of Aleksander Barkov (who’s 19), Alex Petrovic (who’s 22) and Erik Gudbranson (who’s 23) are key contributors as well.

The club’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio also loaded. Promising prospects like Vincent Trocheck, Rocco Grimaldi, Jonathan Racine and Connor Brickley have played well this year and could be knocking on the NHL door sooner rather than later (Trocheck, Grimaldi and Racine have all made their big-league debuts already.)

Despite this seeming surplus of talent, Panthers GM Dale Tallon sounds loathe to part with any of his youngsters. Instead, veterans like Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann are being dangled, in part to open up more spots on the active roster for young players.

“The young guys are coming up,” Gallant explained. “I don’t anticipate anybody being traded — any of our young players. We’d be shocked.”