So far this season we've seen a few GMs - Bryan Murray, Brian Burke and Chuck Fletcher among them - warn their players about being shipped out if they don't shape up.
Here's the question: Does this work anymore?
It differs from player to player, but many of them gossip as much as fans and media do and if they don't, their agents fill them in. They know how hard it is to make a deal.
The levelling off of the salary cap has created a near-paralysis around the league. Since the puck dropped on this season, there have been two trades (Ian White/Brett Sutter for Anton Babchuk/Tom Kostopoulos and Scott Hannan for Tomas Fleischmann) that involved active NHL players for other active NHL players.
Few teams are in a position to add salary, and fewer are interested.
Take Brian Lee, for example. There are clubs with interest in giving the Ottawa defenceman a fresh start. But, none of them would do it on waivers. They told the Senators, "If you want to move him, we'll do it, but you must take one of our salaries in return." Murray, with cap problems of his own, said no thanks.
Lee makes $875,000 US. That's how tight it is. Another GM said he knows he's going to add someone, but has to wait until that player's salary comes down to an exact point before he will do it.
The funny thing about all of this is the guy who's made the most trades this season - three - is Colorado's Greg Sherman, arguably the NHL's most secretive GM.
What does work to motivate the players? Pierre LeBrun reported on the Hotstove that Burke's right-hand man, Dave Nonis, addressed the players Friday morning. Nonis apparently told them to stop waiting for a trade or for the coach to be fired and find the solution themselves. Toronto then went out and played its best game since Tom Brady got that hideous new haircut in a 3-2 shootout win over the Boston Bruins.
That's a pretty small sample size, but maybe GMs should tell their players, "Don't like each other or your coaches? Too freaking bad. You're stuck." It worked for Paul Holmgren last December (after the coaching change) and Jay Feaster with John Tortorella and Vincent Lecavalier.
1. Quote of the Week I: Bryan Murray on Taylor Hall: "In three years, he'll be Eric Staal."
2. Quote of the Week II: Dean Lombardi was on Jeff Marek's Sirius show. When he called in producer Jeff Domet asked the GM how he was doing. The reply: "How am I doing? We've lost seven of nine. How do you think I'm doing?"
3. Quote of the Year: Marc Savard ended our interview Saturday night by thanking his ex-wife and kids for their support during his tough summer. As he got up Glenn Healy, who'd been listening, said, "You 're the first player ever to thank his ex-wife."
4. In case you didn't see it on Inside Hockey, Savard admitted he did waive his no-trade to Toronto and Ottawa. Those are the closest NHL cities to his children. He got to watch his son Tyler get a goal and an assist Friday and son Zach set up three Saturday morning.
5. Tim Thomas robbed Francois Beauchemin on Saturday night. Beauchemin said, "When I shot, there was no one in net." That's the exact same thing Nicklas Lidstrom said when Marc-Andre Fleury robbed him in the final seconds of Game 7 in 2009.
6. One of the reasons it's tough to change coaches now: Can you get a strong replacement in-house? A couple of GMs who have great candidates in their organizations said it would be extremely difficult for them to release anyone in mid-season. (That includes NHL assistants and AHL heads.) One said neither his president nor his owner would go for it. All the AHL coaches except Don Lever (Chicago Wolves) are contracted to their NHL teams.
7. You may ask about Bob Hartley or Craig MacTavish or Ken Hitchcock. Here's the issue, as it was explained to me: Unless a team is certain one of them is its long-term guy, they will be offered short-term contracts. That's not exactly appealing. They'd probably decline, which is understandable. Hitchcock, for example, has another year on his contract at $1.3 million.
8. In a loooooong 82-game season, a small motivational trick can make a difference. St. Louis players shouldn't need an "Abuse the Blues" headline in a Vancouver newspaper to get them going. However, teams lose focus over seven months. Davis Payne probably sent a Christmas card to the editorial department and bought every copy he could find. Same reason Alain Vigneault turned Chicago's power play into an issue.
9. So Daryl Katz secures his option on Copps Coliseum and the Oilers are moving to Hamilton. Then, Katz meets with the mayor of Quebec City and the team is moving there. (The organization did handle that extremely clumsily, though.) More likely: There is no company that controls multiple arenas across Canada and Katz is positioning himself to do it.
10. Report from a Western scout on Scott Hannan: "Two things: One, the Capitals must partner him with a puck-mover. (According to Bruce Boudreau, it will be Tom Poti once Poti is healthy.) Second, he has a habit of not moving his feet." That's going to be a problem if not corrected.
11. Was talking to Martin St. Louis as that Fleischmann/Hannan deal was announced. His initial reaction: "That's because of Marcus Johansson. He's a really good player."
12. Another GM's assessment of Colorado: "If you're young and fast, they'll find room for you."
13. There were some rumblings that Bobby Butler hadn't been called to Ottawa for cap and budgetary reasons, not performance. There was some truth to that (they needed to send down David Hale to get him up), but Murray also wanted to avoid the "Saviour" label on a guy who's played all of three NHL games.
14. The Devils, dead last in goals, went real hard after Butler last season. But Ottawa's NCAA scout went even harder.
15. Senators Injury Denial of the Week: Daniel Alfredsson. "I'm fine," he said with a smile when I asked him about rumours that he's really banged up.
16. A U.S.-based hockey fan emailed to say Canadians would be ripping them if one of their teams didn't sell out a game like Dany Heatley's return to Ottawa.
17. Every year, it's the same thing with Forbes numbers. The magazine prints its values for each team and owners immediately start denying them. "They have no idea what our figures really are." There are, however, people who claim only 10 NHL teams make money. This year's estimates support the possibility.
18. Looked back at a piece I did on Ron Wilson when he first got the job in Toronto. He said he never talked to players after games because he knew he'd be too tough. Fits with some of his harshest public comments. However, one player did tell me the strangest thing about all of this is Wilson is much more supportive in private.
19. For example, as the team's struggles got worse, there were at least two occasions where the coach put together encouraging videos. One showed all the things they'd done right early in the season, the other was of hard goals they'd scored, to illustrate the types of plays they needed to make.
20. The Bruins announced Tyler Seguin won't attend the world juniors. Plymouth coach Mike Vellucci blamed himself for Seguin getting cut last year. Vellucci told him the Canadian coaches would want to see his defensive play and, as a result, Seguin overcompensated in camp. Rare to hear a coach admit that. Thought it was pretty impressive.
21. What a huge loss the absence of Steve Downie will be for Tampa. A high ankle sprain ruined Milan Lucic last season. ESPN's Scott Burnside did a great story on how Downie's really changing as a person, too, and it's making him a better player.
22. Since the lockout, one Eastern Conference team has made the playoffs every year despite a minus goal differential. That's good news for the Lightning. In the West, that's happened only once - Columbus in 2009 . (A couple teams were even, though.)
23. Guy Boucher's getting a lot of credit for his 1-3-1 style, which cuts down on shots. However, he's going to have to adjust because teams are starting to figure it out. One way to attack it is have your forwards circle back to pick up speed, because (according to another coach) the Lightning stand pretty still in the neutral zone.
24. Great stat from Jim Hughson: Mark Recchi played in 16 NHL arenas that no longer exist
25. Knowing World Series of Poker Champion Jonathan Duhamel is a huge Canadiens fan, the Maple Leafs offered to have him drop the puck at next Saturday's game between the two teams in Toronto. Duhamel declined. Why? He's got tickets to see George St. Pierre in Montreal that night.
26. With Pekka Rinne out, Nashville turns its net to Anders Lindback. Lindback was selected 207th overall in 2008, but would have gone much higher had he not been diagnosed with Adult Still's Disease months earlier. He needs one injection a day to deal with arthritis-related pains. Other teams were scared off by his condition. The Predators took a gamble, which looks pretty good.
27. Saturday morning, Nazem Kadri came off the ice after the morning skate. No one talked to him. It was astonishing, considering the spotlight he's under. That night? An assist and a huge shootout goal. Coincidence?
28. The NBA, which is taking control of the New Orleans Hornets, is asking an NHL employee to get that team a new owner. David Stern hired Jac Sperling, vice-chairman of the Minnesota Wild. Sperling helped Gary Bettman find Jeff Vinik for the Lightning.
29. Make it happen: Predators play-by-play voice Pete Weber suggested the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame name a media award in honour of the late Jim Kelley.
30. Get well, Harley Hotchkiss.
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