Whoever coaches the Winnipeg Jets next season will be asked to get the best out of forward Evander Kane on a nightly basis.
Here is the list of current NHL players who scored 30 goals in a season at age 20: Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Smyth, Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, Marian Gaborik.
And Evander Kane.
Paul Maurice knew what would happen when he scratched Kane in Toronto
over the weekend, especially since he felt it was important to play his "best lineup" even though the Jets were out of the playoff race. But it doesn't necessarily mean this story ends with the most obvious conclusion -- a trade out of Manitoba.
Even if that's what Kane really wants.
There have always been questions about how strong this marriage really is. Kane signed just before business closed prior to the 2012 lockout. It was a bit of a surprise, as earlier that day, there was a belief things wouldn't get done. He's under contract for four more seasons at a cap hit of $5.25 million US, although his salary rises above that number.
He played hard through a bad wrist once play resumed - on-pace for 29 goals over a full season. This year's been a disappointment, although there would be plenty of bidders if he were available.
There is strong statistical evidence Kane is entering the prime scoring years of his NHL career. That's a very good contract for a player of his ability. From the list above, only Bergeron and Gaborik had a lower cap hit on their second contracts. (Jagr and Smyth not included. Different era.)
Kane is 22. Part of the problem is that Winnipeggers see another native son, Jonathan Toews, with a Stanley Cup ring and a gold medal at 22 and say, "Why can't we have that, too?"
Every organization's biggest enemy today is patience, both internal and external. Montreal fans wanted Carey Price traded because they thought he was immature. What if that had happened? Philadelphia felt it had very legitimate reasons to trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The Flyers got some real good players in return, but Los Angeles took the chance on both (eventually) and it paid off with a Stanley Cup.
It just shows you how hard it is to win trades once a team decides it absolutely must get rid of someone -- especially if that player has established himself as a true NHLer. If other clubs feel you're in a position of weakness, it's worse. Teams now have to ask themselves if they really tried all available options before giving up on skilled young talent.
That doesn't mean GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can't quietly test the market. And, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Jets, with an excess of defencemen, try to acquire another forward to increase their options.
But, if I was Cheveldayoff, I'd tell Kane, "Whether it's Paul Maurice or not, whoever coaches this team next year is going to be tasked with getting the best out of you. You're too valuable to give up on too early. So you better be ready for more of this."
1. In 1990, as a freshman at Canada's Finest Institution (the University of Western Ontario), I went to an Ontario Hockey League playoff game between London and Niagara Falls. Don van Massenhoven was announced as the referee, and the crowd booed like crazed maniacs. I remember thinking, "This guy is either really good or really awful." Almost 25 years later, we have the answer, with van Massenhoven receiving deserving ovations in St. Louis and Detroit as he ended a 1,366-game refereeing career.
2. Of all the things he accomplished, returning from a terrible 2005 injury made him proudest. Van Massenhoven was hit in the face by a puck, requiring seven hours of reconstructive surgery and the insertion of metal plates. It wasn't an easy road. Hopefully, the NHL finds a place for his institutional knowledge.
3. Whenever we get close to the end of a season, you hear the usual rumours about potential changes on the bench and in front offices. I try to be very careful about this stuff, because it isn't always accurate. There's a lot of it this year, more than normal. One of the difficulties with predicting change is how one dismissal affects others. There are a couple of current coaches with the potential to create a domino effect. The first is going to be Barry Trotz. If the Predators make a change, there is going to be a lot of interest. There are teams who think he will benefit from a fresh start and more offensive punch.
5. One of the toughest things coaches/executives who think they are in trouble go through is "the second round" of change. The first comes right at the end of the regular season. If you survive that, you worry about guys who lose earlier than expected in the playoffs. Coaches will be watching Pittsburgh. You can't swing a dead cat on the internet without seeing speculation about Dan Bylsma's future. If he is available at some point, there are going to be chasers.
6. The Penguins are an interesting study. They've lost 500 man-games to injury
and still ran away with the Metropolitan Division. That's very impressive. But, other teams don't speak about them the way they speak about Boston. Ask about the Bruins, and you get statements like, "No weaknesses." Ask about Pittsburgh, and you get comments like, "They are not committed to team defence." Very soon, they can try to prove everyone wrong.
7. Clarke MacArthur, who did not have a good relationship with his last coach, went to Paul MacLean's defence
last week, saying it looks like the Senators overachieved last season. "We're young. We're learning. [MacLean] is trying to get us to play with structure and under pressure. We're still on the way up, I believe. A lot of guys in this room think that."
8. MacLean said last week the Senators gave up 11 chances per game last season, and are up to 18 a night in 2013-14. That's tough on your goalies. The organization is concerned with repeated mistakes and with the lack of progress by Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. You can see the stress on MacLean, going through his first major adversity as a head coach in an intense market. But, his job being in question makes little sense to me.
9. Ten months ago, MacLean won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year and received a three-year extension, which begins next season. Quite likely, he gets another job if he's let go, but, let's say for argument's sake he doesn't. Then, the Senators, who have a tight budget to begin with, are going to pay him to do nothing? Will it hurt their ability to do other hockey business? That makes a lot less sense than sitting down with a guy who's got you into the playoffs two years in a row and saying, "We have some concerns, let's figure out how we're going to fix them." Also better than a sixth coach in eight years.
10. You can't help but wonder if Ottawa's decision will be influenced by something also faced by the likes of Toronto, Vancouver and Washington -- the budgeting of playoff revenue. I'd be curious to hear how many home playoff games each of these franchises expected. (It sounds like the Maple Leafs hoped for three.) It is rare for a team that makes the post-season not to include this kind of projection a year later. And, if that goal is endangered, frustrated owners write blog posts like
, "Media Says It All About Last Night's Game" complete with links to the gory details.
11. Here's a quote from Adam Oates about Alexander Ovechkin, not long after Oates started coaching him: "The one thing I made sure he'd know is that anything I told him would stay between us...I need this kid to trust me." So, when the coach publicly said his captain quit on a Dallas goal last week before speaking directly to Ovechkin about it, well, you can see their relationship is going sideways.
12. George McPhee wouldn't discuss his future at the GM meetings: "The Hockey Gods will get you if you worry about your next job while you've got one." Depending on what Ted Leonsis decides, if Calgary isn't in his future, a couple execs said they wouldn't be surprised if McPhee ends up with Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey.
13. In Vancouver, the Aquilini family's gone quiet, letting the season play out before announcing any decisions. One owner said last week he thinks they are looking at the financial implications of a "clean sweep," starting all over again. It's a big number, because you also have to factor in the replacements and how much that will affect your on-ice business. Do you want to buy out anyone? What do you want to add? Mike Gillis was telling the truth last week when he said he didn't know if he'd be back. I don't think anyone there knows yet what ownership will do.
14. Florida's got an assistant GM opening, and teams are curious to see if the Panthers will promote their director of scouting, Scott Luce. They've got a strong prospect base, and, if Luce is not promoted, will that mean he becomes available to other organizations?
15. Dale Tallon likes his ex-Blackhawks. Could see a role for Dave Bolland around Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Brandon Pirri.
16. It's a smart move for P.K. Subban and Montreal to wait until after the season to talk contract, because there obviously are issues beyond money that need to be discussed. One of them is that I think Marc Bergevin wants to extend Michel Therrien, so as not to go into next season with the coach having just one year remaining on his contract. That's a distraction.
17. There's no question Therrien is harder on Subban than the other Canadiens. As we move into the newer-friendlier era of coaching, Therrien is a rarity, a Bob Knight-style throwback. And, if you ever read about Knight, he was hardest on his best players, especially for defensive mistakes. Subban won the Norris Trophy playing for Therrien, who has Montreal in the playoffs for the second straight season after falling to dead last in the East. Bergevin knows what everyone else might not care to admit: like it or not, they're good for each other -- right now.
18. Ken Daneyko on David Clarkson: "Bobby Holik, Scott Gomez, and now David fit in Jersey well. The team was as good for them as they were for the New Jersey Devils. There's still time for him to find his niche in Toronto....he can be a valuable player for them." He said both team and player will have to adjust for Clarkson to be successful. "The Leafs are wide open...the Devils not as fast. He's caught in-between a lot."
19. Daneyko had another suggestion. Clarkson is playing 58 seconds per game on the power play. Last year, it was 3:33. The season before, 3:03. It might not be the worst thing to put him on it this week, just to try and end the season positively.
20. Two of James Reimer's best performances in recent weeks were games he came off the bench out of nowhere. He stopped 41 of 42 in brilliant relief victories over Los Angeles and Boston, situations where it would have been easy to fail. The odd thing about Reimer's last seven starts is they've begun poorly -- 15 goals in the first period (.815 save percentage), 13 in the second, third and overtime (.912). Wonder if there's something he can address to solve that problem.
21. Obviously, there's a lot of talk about with Randy Carlyle to Winnipeg if Maurice doesn't stay. I'm not sure if anything was ever offered to him after Anaheim, but Carlyle didn't think working for the Jets was a good idea at the time. He'd be seen as the "coach-in-waiting" after Claude Noel, and didn't think that was fair.
22. One exec, after watching Los Angeles/San Jose last week: "That series would be carnage." Don't think Anaheim/L.A. would be any different.
23. Marian Gaborik went scoreless in his first three games for the Kings, then followed with 11 points in his next 13. What he's done is put everyone in the right spot. Yes, they've lost three of their last four, but still look much more balanced and dangerous. And a perfect example is Dustin Brown.
24. It hasn't been an easy ride between Brown and Darryl Sutter, who wanted to move his captain to the third line. It's similar to Jordan Staal in Carolina, who's battled with the expectations of a big contract. Teams say, "Be who you are," but sometimes players think they have to change and be more offensive. It affected Brown during the season and at the Olympics. Forget the money. Just do what you did to make it.
25. That's why you have to keep a close eye on Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl, who took off the no-contact jersey in practice. If he can come back, it settles San Jose's lines. Instead of having Joe Pavelski on a line with Joe Thornton, you can put those two -- and Logan Couture -- on separate lines. If the Sharks do get LA, this could be hugely helpful.
26. Zac Rinaldo's situation in Philly reminds me of Ben Eager's in San Jose's. You may remember Eager took a major penalty against Vancouver in the 2011 Western Conference Final and the Canucks made the Sharks pay. Eager begged to go back into the lineup to make amends, but Todd McLellan wouldn't do it. He couldn't take the chance. Rinaldo can be a useful player, but is he at the point where the Flyers can't take the chance?
27. John Vogl of The Buffalo News quoted Tim Murray as saying he doesn't think "there's any appetite right now to change" the draft lottery. "I believe if there is an appetite to change it, if they're going to make a drastic change, it has to be something like three to five years out so it doesn't affect somebody that's in that position now." I looked into this, and it sounds like it's still something the NHL wants to do. And, although it's not always easy to get full agreement between them, the NHLPA agrees with the anti-tanking idea. I guess we'll have to wait and see where it goes.
28. A little more than a week ago, Andrew Barroway was looking to purchase 75 per cent of the New York Islanders -- although there were questions about his ability to raise the capital. Now, The Sports Business Journal's Chris Botta reports Charles Wang may maintain majority ownership in the beginning, with Barroway having the ability to take control later. We heard the same number for the value of the club, $370 million.
29. One thing about Wang: he is very loyal to GM Garth Snow. Even if he had only a minority stake in the team, there were questions about what kind of assurances he may want about Snow's future.
30. Another follow-up from the last blog: the NCAA defenceman Edmonton targeted was the one they got, Jordan Oesterle. They were trying hard to keep it quiet, because other pursuers were thinking he might go back to college. Someday, I'm going to write a book on all of the things teams and agents accuse each other of doing when it comes to recruiting NCAA free agents. It's hilarious.
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