Farewell to the Regular Season
One of the better untold stories of this Leaf season was how a group of players was found out planning a helicopter trip from New Jersey into Manhattan for a night of partying the day before a game against the Devils.
Once head coach Ron Wilson got wind of the fun, he called a bed check. Oddly, none of those players are with the Leafs any longer.
Other bits and pieces from the final weekend of the NHL season:
- It will be interesting to see if there are any takers at all for Olli Jokinen, a poster boy for underachievers, in unrestricted free agency this summer. Will anybody pay this $5 million player more than $2 million? At least, anybody in North America?
- So St. Louis finishes 15th overall and misses the playoffs. Montreal finishes 19th and makes the playoffs. The schedule isn't balanced, but still, that seems a bit out of whack.
- It took him a full season of professional hockey split between the AHL and NHL, but Saturday night in Montreal was the first time Christian Hanson seemed to actually understand the advantage being a big body in the pros can be.
- Don't forget, teams can vault upwards up to four positions in Tuesday's NHL draft lottery. So the Islanders theoretically could yet draft first two years in a row.
- John Tortorella leaving Marian Gaborik on the bench in a season-ending shootout to the Flyers isn't exactly like Marc Crawford letting Wayne Gretzky sit in Nagano. But it's in the same conversation.
- It's great that Brian Burke is somehow willing to be Team USA's general manager for the upcoming world championships in Germany. But given Burke's personal hardship over recent months, USA Hockey should not be asking him to do an extra month's work. The bureaucrats just hope Burke will convince more American players to want to play knowing he'll probably be running the Olympic program four years from now in Sochi.
- Phoenix is probably the best example
that building through the draft isn't the only way to go. Of their
last 15 drafts, the Coyotes only have two first round picks currently
on their roster as contributing players. Those players are Martin
Hanzal (17th overall, 2005) and Shane Doan (seventh, 1996). The guts
of the Phoenix lineup was acquired through trades and free agency,
plus, of course, one of the best waiver pickups in recent memory,
goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Meanwhile, teams like the Islanders, Lightning, Blue Jackets and Panthers keep picking high and keep going nowhere. The only point, folks, is that there's more than one way to do it, and smart GMs know that.
- Could be Nazem Kadri's last junior game tonight as he and his London Knights play Kitchener in Game 7 of their OHL series.
- Islanders owner Charles Wang wants
every NHL team to make the playoffs. Others simply want more teams.
How about this for a little April intrigue? How about a week-long
elimination tournament, with the winner getting the first overall
pick in the entry draft?
The only logistical problem would be what to do with teams that had already traded their first pick away. But otherwise, if they held that tournament of non-playoff teams starting today, which team would win and would your Leafs have a shot?
- Love Steven Stamkos and his season.
Just fabulous. But those who keep complaining that he wasn't on the
Olympic team need to give it a rest. The team won, already. Ditto for
those who suggest he's a Hart candidate. You've got to at least make
the playoffs, folks.
The Bolts, by the way, look like the likeliest candidates to blow up the entire organization with a new owner riding into town. (Check that: Both GM Brian Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet were fired this morning.)
- Think about this statistical
comparison. Washington defenceman Jeff Schultz led the NHL this
season with a plus-50. Edmonton forward Patrick O'Sullivan was a
league-worst minus-35. That means O'Sullivan was on the ice for 85
more even-strength and shorthanded goals than Schultz this season.
That's quite incredible.
Best plus-minus on a non-playoff team? That's Dallas defenceman Mark Fistric with a plus-27. Worst plus-minus on a playoff team? Ruslan Fedotenko's minus-17 with the Penguins.