A Wild Tuesday in Hockey
It was a blur of a day in the hockey world, so much so that a couple of significant bookkeeping matters - the release of the NHL schedule and the decisions of the NHLPA to rubber stamp an increase in salary cap and agree to let the current collective bargaining agreement run through to its conclusion in 2011-12 - barely got any discussion at all.
It seemed like Montreal kicked off a hectic pre-draft period of NHL activity last week by trading Jaroslav Halak and it hasn't stopped yet. The awards go tonight, and all in all, the NHL has to be pleased by the news being generated right through to the end of June.
So let's run through the big stories from Tuesday one-by-one:
Hall of Fame passes on Burns
Yes, the Hall of Fame induction process is a wildly inconsistent one at best, all made worse by the fact the committee that makes the decisions on players, coaches, GMs and other hockey personnel refuses to make its votes public. I mean, wouldn't you like to know what the vote was on Dino Ciccarelli, or how much Doug Gilmour missed by?
But secrecy is what these guys believe in most passionately, not openness.
The omission of Pat Burns, however, has nothing to do with the vote to induct Ciccarelli or two women, Cammi Granato and Angela James. It has to do with choosing the late "Doc" Seaman, one of a group of businessmen who owned the Calgary Flames, and longtime NHL executive Jimmy Devellano ahead of Burns in the builder category.
Seaman's posthumous induction is one that would leave many scratching their head, particularly given the fact Harley Hotchkiss was the Flames co-owner that most outside Calgary knew well. Devellano, meanwhile, was an integral part of the Islander organization that won four Cups and has spent the last 28 years with the Red Wings, but in neither case was GM when those teams won championships.
How Burns and his distinguished coaching career was found wanting by comparison is something many would like to understand. But the Hall of Fame's induction committee never, ever explains itself.
Should more players have been inducted? Possibly, although it wasn't a year filled with slam dunks. If the idea was that after years of wrongly ignoring women's hockey that this would be a year that the first female inductees would attract the spotlight by outnumbering the males, I can live with that.
Scott Neidermayer sure didn't pick the best day to retire if he wanted the hockey world to notice. But that's Niedermayer. He never sought the headlines throughout his spectacular career, and from the beginning to the end it was always remarkable to talk to him and feel how little he seemed an NHL star, both in his demeanor and his physical stature.
Never saw Bobby Orr play live. But of the defencemen I have seen, Paul Coffey might have been faster, but nobody was more effortless than Niedermayer, who leaves as the only man to win the Memorial Cup, the world junior championship, the Stanley Cup, the world championship and the Olympics.
Now if he's not a Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility in three years, then they can burn the building down.
Leafs miss out
As of late last week the Leafs were targetting Nashville defencemen Dan Hamhuis, Chicago centre Patrick Sharp and Florida winger Nathan Horton as players they might be able to acquire to enhance the Toronto roster.
Then, in quick succession, Hamhuis' rights were traded to Philly and Sharp was taken at least temporarily off the market, then Tuesday afternoon Horton was dealt to Boston.
So much for Brian Burke's best-laid plans.
Now the Flyers still have to sign Hamhuis before he becomes a free agent July 1st, and while the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks would rather hang on to Sharp and move the likes of Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien to deal with their salary cap issues, they might not be able to get what they want for those players.
Horton, meanwhile, is definitely gone. The Leafs were deep in conversations with Florida but clearly didn't have one of the elements the Panthers wanted, and that was a first-round pick. New GM Dale Tallon got the 15th overall selection from the B's to go with the No. 3 pick the Panthers already own. One Boston newspaper noted that the last time B's GM Peter Chiarelli and Tallon did business, Tallon was the GM in Chicago and extracted Versteeg in exchange for the forgettable Brandon Bochenski.
Horton, with three years left on a $24 million deal, will be fascinating to watch in Beantown. He's loaded with talent but seen to be a little short on the motivation end of things, but now he's in a newly revitalized hockey market where he won't be able to be anonymous like he was in south Florida. He'll also be playing for a taskmaster in Claude Julien, who won't be afraid to demand certain things of Horton that weren't always demanded with the Panthers. Let's see if the talented Horton responds better to playing in a hockey town than another ex-Panther, Jay Bouwmeester, did in Calgary last year.
Gregory Campbell, son of league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, was also included in the deal along with Horton, which changes things for NHL game ops. Until now, Campbell had recused himself from any issues involving the Panthers because of his son. Now, it'll be the Bruins, a team still seething from last season's ruling in which Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke was not suspended for his head shot on Marc Savard.
Oilers move Quinn
Two points on Pat Quinn's dismissal as head coach in Edmonton. First, it wasn't great timing by the Oilers to dump Quinn as coach knowing he'd be in Toronto dealing with the Hall of Fame induction process — he's co-chair of the induction committee — and would have to answer questions about the Edmonton situation coming out of those meetings.
Second, the Oilers are likely going to find keeping Quinn in the organization as a consultant won't work. Everywhere he's been he's gathered all the power to himself and isn't likely to be a co-operative foot soldier while others manage and coach the team.
That said, it's intriguing that he's one of the Hall of Fame voters that kept Burns out, isn't it? Doubly interesting given that Burns has a Stanley Cup ring, while Quinn doesn't, and Quinn and his legion of industry buddies will surely be looking to get his Hall of Fame induction campaign revved up sooner than later.
Habs secure Plekanec
Montreal signed Tomas Plekanec to a six-year, $5 million per season deal, one clearly linked to last week's decision to move Halak to St. Louis and clear up some salary cap space.
Plekanec didn't have a very good playoff run, but he was the team's top forward during the regular season. He's one of the Montreal "smurfs" along with Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri, and now the Habs are committed long-term to all three.
That size issue is one reason the Canadiens were so keen on picking up Calgary Hitman winger Ian Schultz, a big, bruising forward, in the Halak deal.
Will anybody else sign Evgeny Nabokov? The Sharks have cut him loose after paying him $6 million last season. If he wants to stay in the NHL it will be for half that amount or less, and the KHL seems a likely destination.
The Sharks have a couple of young goalies. Philly doesn't seem poised to sign Michael Leighton, and he might be a perfect short-term fit in San Jose.