Zdeno Chara wouldn't confirm that he talked with Max Pacioretty, but Pacioretty's agent confirmed that a meeting took place. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Before I get to today's main topic, some interesting news from the Boston Bruins' media scrum on Tuesday.
The last questioner of Zdeno Chara's asked if he'd spoken to Max Pacioretty. Chara said he had, but didn't offer details.
Pacioretty's agent, Alec Schall, confirmed it did occur.
"It was a private conversation," he said later in the afternoon, "so I'm not privy to exactly what was said. But, when it was over, Max indicated he felt relieved. They may never go for lunch together, but the hard feelings between them are definitely over."
Now, all we need to see is Pacioretty make a healthy return, although that won't be until next season.
This is the first time Ive been invited to vote for NHL Awards, and, it's harder than I thought.
You look at the trophies the Professional Hockey Writers Association decides (Hart, Norris, Calder, Lady Byng, Selke), see "five selections" and think, "How tough is it to come up with five guys?"
Picking the winner is, in some ways, easier than narrowing it down. Four guys I left off my Norris ballot could form the nucleus of a Stanley Cup blue-line. There were nine rookies who deserved consideration. After last week's Montreal-Ottawa Thursday nighter, Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, producer Brian Spear and I were debating the choices.
They were making such good arguments that I was wavering like a drunken sailor. At one point, Spear said, "The way this is going, we could get Elliotte to vote for anybody."
After a weekend of deep meditation, here are the choices:Hart Trophy
If Corey Perry wins, he should give $25,000 to Alex Gilchrist, the Ducks' director of media and communications. After every game, Gilchrist sent out so many pro-Perry emails that he may have violated North American spamming laws.
More than one person suggested a split vote between Perry and Daniel Sedin, but I don't think that's right. You've got to make a choice. Perry sees more time on the penalty kill and stays on four more minutes a night. In fact, no forward saw more ice time than he did in 2010-11. That's pretty impressive. But so is Sedin beating him by six points in the scoring race despite playing 300 less minutes.
People argue Perry didn't have Sedin's supporting cast, which is ridiculous. There were five Ducks among the top 27 scorers, more than any other team. But, just as Henrik Sedin's Hart resume was strengthened last season because Daniel missed 19 games, Perry led Anaheim when Ryan Getzlaf missed 15.
For each pro-Sedin argument, there is a strong counter for Perry.
The deciding factor: The Canucks won the Presidents' Trophy by 10 points, the largest margin in five years. They were the first team in 33 seasons to have the best offence and stingiest defence, despite dressing 13 different blue-liners. Maybe they didn't have the quality of Pittsburgh's injuries, but they sure had quantity. Daniel Sedin was a huge part of that, which is why he got my vote. Brutally difficult decision.Calder
Second-toughest choice. You know who is not getting enough respect? John Carlson.
He led all rookies in ice time, both for the season and per game. He was six points behind Kevin Shattenkirk, who led diaper-dandy defencemen in scoring. Carlson and Karl Alzner became the shutdown pair on a team that changed its system at Christmas and charged at the end to win the East. That's pretty good.
P.K. Subban's chances are hurt because he annoys people. That's unfortunate, because he had a major impact on a decimated blue-line. But Carlson had a better year.
So, let's bring in Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner. Top two rookies in points and ice time (although Couture played an extra minute per game, which was on the penalty kill). He had eight game-winners and only Mark Letestu was better on faceoffs.
The biggest arguments for Skinner are that he led rookies in scoring, is three years younger and certainly wasn't expected to have this impact. He was ranked 34th among North Americans in the 2010 draft by Central Scouting. (Boy, did Jim Rutherford hit a 500-foot homer on that one.) I'm really torn on the age issue. Should Couture be punished because San Jose was patient with him? Isn't that the way good teams develop their prospects?
So, it really came down to this: Which one of these players would I choose to build my team around, based on what I saw this season? That player is Skinner.Norris
While nine different defencemen were considered for the five spots, three separated themselves from the group. Only twice since the NHL began keeping plus/minus stats has the Norris winner been a negative. The fact Nicklas Lidstrom is even in this conversation shows how much respect there is for him. Early in my career, I covered a Blue Jays game where Roberto Alomar was given an error for muffing a grounder that no one could believe he even reached.
Alomar blew up after the game, basically saying, "No one else could get to that ball, and I get an error for it." It reminds me of Lidstrom. He's set such a high standard that when he shows the tiniest slippage, it hurts his candidacy.
Anyway, my vote came down to Shea Weber and Chara, who were third and fourth in the NHL in ice time. Chara is everything to Boston. When he struggles, the Bruins drop as a team. Weber is similar, even though the Predators also have Ryan Suter, who could win a Norris of his own some day.
Weber got the vote for two reasons: first, he plays a really physical game and stays on the ice (kust 56 penalty minutes.) Second, as important as Chara is to the Bruins, where would Nashville be without Weber? He was two points off the team scoring lead and plays against the opponents' best players. It's his time.
The last two awards were not as difficult. Voted Ryan Kesler for the Selke and Lidstrom for the Lady Byng.2.
You've heard a lot in the past week about a man you may not have known: E.J. McGuire, the vice-president of Central Scouting, who died at age 58. After last year's draft, when Skinner and Cam Fowler were taken in surprising spots, a few scouts said Central rankings can only be used as a guideline and not the gospel. I called McGuire about that, and he was really good on the topic. He agreed there was one major limitation (not allowed to do face-to-face interviews), but passionately defended the overall approach. It was never personal. Really appreciated that at a time in the sports world where if you so much as disagree with someone, it can lead to the end of a relationship. 3.
Conversation with an NHL player: "I'm voting for the Norris. Who is the best defenceman in the league?" "Pronger." "I can't vote for him, he's missed 30 games." "Who cares? He's still the best. They're not the same without him." A few people felt that way.4.
I've been as hard as anyone on the Sabres' video scouting system, but fair is fair: Luke Adam is the third consecutive AHL Rookie of the Year from the Buffalo organization. A supremely competitive field will prevent Tyler Ennis from replacing Tyler Myers as the NHL version, but he's a good one. Jhonas Enroth saved them when Ryan Miller got hurt. Credit where credit is due. 5.
Luke Schenn had a very interesting take on the Raffi Torres suspension: "I was taught on that play to fake reaching for the puck and then go for the hit. If that's going to be illegal, they are going to have to change the way young players are taught hockey."6.
Hosted a sponsor's event with Pat Quinn a few weeks ago. He said Adam Foote deserved as much credit as Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux for holding together the 2002 Canadian Olympic team.7.
Was surprised no one took at shot at Michael Leighton for a $775,000 US cap hit next season. Asked a team where it might have been a fit, and was told there were two reasons: first, with the bonus cushion gone next year, clubs may want their backup making even less than that. Second, they were scared off by his history of back trouble.8.
For all the talk about Washington's improved system, Jason Arnott admitted he was shocked at how the Capitals looked without the puck during his first game with them. "I turned to someone and asked, 'Is this the way we play?'" he said last week. "I was new, but I decided to say something. You don't win the Stanley Cup like that."9.
A few other Capitals pointed out Alexander Ovechkin really pays attention to Arnott, but that's not what surprised them. "Even Semin listens," one said.10.
This is when the Montreal Canadiens are really going to miss Josh Gorges.11.
Was really impressed with Peter DeBoer and Todd Richards for how they handled their firings. DeBoer went through three different GMs, three different ownership structures and a poor roster. "Ultimately, it's up to you to get the job done," he said. Richards told Mike Russo of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune he "needed to do a better job." Two months ago, Richards was a Coach of the Year candidate and Minnesota is a long way from contention.12.
DeBoer really appreciated that Hockey Canada approached him for the world championship. Nothing better to keep your mind off things when you're so disappointed.13.
There's nobody I know who cannot stand losing more than Paul Maurice. Of course, everyone hates it to some degree, but the way he wears it on his face is unlike anyone else I've seen. Can only imagine what he was thinking as the Hurricanes fell apart against Tampa.14.
Can't imagine Marc Crawford handled the Dallas defeat to Minnesota much better. This was worse than Carolina. Really devastating when you consider how much a playoff berth was worth to Dallas, both financially and in terms of positive momentum. You just had the feeling an emotional decision would lead to a firing after that one. 15.
Bryan Murray is taking a beating for firing Cory Clouston as soon as the plane landed following Game 82 in Boston. Yes, it looks bad. Here's my only question, though: Did Clouston say anything to Murray on the flight? He told the Ottawa media he wanted a quick decision, and from what I understand, the original plan was to wait until Monday.16.
When Clouston got the job, good friends told him if he lightened up a little, he'd be great. Players really liked his approach and structure when he took over, but somehow, things changed. For example, Sergei Gonchar is a guy who needs constant reinforcement. He's been very successful from the off-wing on the power play. Clouston moved him to the other side, and fought to keep it that way even though things didn't work. That caused problems.17.
Another one that didn't go over well came during the last week of the season. The Senators flew Stephane Da Costa's parents and brother over from Paris. Then he played just 6:47 versus Philadelphia.18.
Why did Murray keep the job? I'd bet it has a lot to do with Craig Anderson. The GM admitted, if he could do it over again, he would have acquired Anderson instead of Pascal Leclaire when he had the chance. Murray's children live in the Denver area, so he saw a lot of Anderson over the past two seasons and was very confident.19.
Anderson wouldn'tt talk about his contract situation with Colorado, but it is believed that's the reason his play dropped this season. It's hard to say what was promised, but there was anger between the player and the organization. I think that's one of the reasons Ottawa signed Anderson so quickly.
Anderson did discuss what he thought happened to the Avalanche: "Early in the season, it seemed like we were scoring four or five goals a game... That started to change and we never adjusted."21.
Final bit on Ottawa: Eugene Melnyk is making a big mistake if he really believes the rebuild will only take one or two years. That's a much bigger job. And, if Dave Cameron is not the next head coach, whoever takes over may be asked to consider bringing him on as an assistant.22.
Another GM on Alex Tanguay: "I'd like to get him, but I don't think he'll hit the market." Calgary also wants to keep Curtis Glencross. Hearing that one of the reasons he didn't sign at the deadline is that he thought he'd be traded right away. But it sounds like the offer was decent enough to create optimism that something can get done.23.
Now, Flames fans will ask: what about the cap? First of all, there is room to go over in the off-season, so you can be creative. Second, you have to be ruthless and compassionate at the same time. You can tell a player, "You're not going to be here, but where can we send you where you'll be happy?" Ottawa made sure to trade Jarkko Ruutu, Alex Kovalev, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly where they wanted to go.24.
One executive on the Devils: "Really curious to see who Lou Lamoriello goes to. That's a tough team to coach." Obviously, Kirk Muller is a serious contender. Hearing New Jersey asked to have him as an assistant this season, but the Canadiens said no.25.
Absolutely loved Marty Turco's "bet"
with a Montreal fan. Unfortunately, it illustrates the best and the worst of the internet era. Funny thing that gets blown out of proportion and must be "investigated."26.
Tim Thomas, asked if he grew a playoff beard in college: "I couldn't grow one back then."27.
One opponent on Lubomir Visnovsky: "Can't believe how open he gets setting up for the one-timer on the off-wing." Predators must deal with that.28.
The importance of a fast start: Only one team out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference on Nov. 1 recovered to make the playoffs. That was Buffalo, surpassing Atlanta. The West was a little different, as St. Louis, Columbus and Colorado really faltered.29.
Chris Neil was doing a TV interview last week when Bobby Butler threw a cup of water in his face. I could not believe it. I thought Neil was going to DESTROY him. Instead, he just threw all of Butler's clothes into the cold tub.30.
Washington, Buffalo (although I reserve the right to change if Pronger plays), Boston, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, San Jose, Phoenix, Anaheim.
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