The Maven's Haven

  • Monday, July 09, 2012

    A Storm's A-Coming, Back to Buffalo's Future, and a Devlish Replacement

     Jim Rutherford is turning the Hurricanes into a power. The acquisition of Alex Semin comes at a price, but it’s also a message to Carolina fans that the Canes mean business about becoming a contender. The real challenge—apart from Semin proving his worth—is for coach Kirk Muller, starting his first full season as the lead bench boss. It’s up to Muller to extract the best out of a gifted offensive force who has remained an enigma nonetheless since his NHL debut.

    • The NHL's astonishingly successful Winter Classic concept has spawned new offspring; the latest being on the collegiate level at Chicago's vast Soldier Field. Dubbed "The Hockey City Classic," the February 17 double-bill will feature Notre Dame vs. Miami of Ohio and Minnesota against Wisconsin. Promoters figure that the crowd could exceed 60,000.

    • One of the most important NHL quiet-hires has evolved into one of Bettman's Best. That would be ex-NHL defenseman Stephane Quintal. The onetime top Boston Draft pick works under Brendan Shanahan as Manager of Player Safety (alongside Rob Blake), yet another superb addition to the Shanny Group.

    • When considering Shane Doan's future shelf life, it's important to remember that this intense competitor has 16 years on his NHL tires. How many more? That's the question factoring into his new contract. Shane Doan’s Friday deadline for potential Coyotes’ buyer, Greg Jamison, has come and gone; the Phoenix captain had given Jamison until July 27th to show significant progress in buying the league-owned franchise. Meanwhile, Doan hasn’t been sitting on his hands. Shane has already visited New York City, Philadelphia, and Montreal as possible future destinations for himself. The Phoenix Business Journal’s Mike Sunnucks reports that the NHL wants to sell the Coyotes to Greg Jamison's group for $170 million, but Jamison is approximately $20 million short. Plan B could be for the league to reduce the figure to a more manageable price.

    • Now that the Draft is in the dim, distant past, it's worth looking ahead to October and who among those plucked could make an instant impact in the NHL. One pair of draftees generally overlooked belongs to Buffalo. Centers Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall) and Zemgus Girgensons (14th overall) each could be surprise starters. That, of course, will depend on training camp performance. Grigorenko and Girgensons are 6-3, 200 pounds and 6-2, 198 pounds, respectively, which is consonant with the Sabres theme, "Bigger, Faster, Tougher." Underlining the point, Girgensons calls himself a skilled power forward. "I like to hit; I like to score," he says. "That's my game." Who knows; it may be in the NHL in the Fall.

    • Don't look now, but ex-Ranger-Islander Mathieu Schneider has become one of the most significant members of the NHL Players' Association negotiating team. The former defenseman's title is "Special Assistant to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr." As such, Schneider is as apt to be quoted on negotiation issues as his boss. After the union made a number of presentations to owners last week, Schneider -- not Fehr -- offered a promising commentary: "There are a lot of these issues where we have the same common goal," said Matty. "It's about coming to an agreement and how we get to that goal." Schneider also has added another title to his repertoire, as recently appointed Team USA’s director of ice hockey for the 19th World Maccabiah Games. He spoke of his excitement over accepting this position to my associate, Allyson Gronowitz: “I knew it was something that I really wanted to do.” How involved he’ll be, however, is not yet clear-cut. “A lot of it’s going to depend on how my ‘day job’ goes—the collective bargaining at the Players’ Association,” Schneider revealed. “Hopefully we’ll get that wrapped up quickly and I can spend a little bit more time helping to put the team together.” Interestingly, Matty was born in Manhattan but got his early hockey instruction in New Jersey, where he was tutored by his father, Sammy, who frequently ran hockey camps. The oddity here, is that Schneider never played for the Devils but his first-ever exhibition game (as a Montreal Canadien) was against New Jersey at the Meadowlands.

    • No NHLer ever played harder over 18 big-league seasons than just-retired-from-the-Island Steve Staios. Signed as part of the Maple Leafs management team, Staios will give his boss, Brian Burke, plenty of bang for his buck. "Steve was a 'working man's player' -- ready to play every night, competing to the best of his ability regularly against the other team's best players," says Burke, "and he was an exemplary teammate." As Toronto's Player Development Advisor, Staios, 39, will advise management on prospects and players at all levels of organization.

    • Brandon Dubinsky leaves many friends in New York now that he's moving on to Columbus. Dubie had become the quintessential New Yorker, at ease with many Gotham personalities. I recall being at a pre-Christmas party with Dubie and how I was so impressed with his savoir-faire. Brandon has made it clear how much he appreciated his time with the Blueshirts. My only question: How many remember who drafted him to MSG in the first place? None other than current Coyotes g.m. Don Maloney.

    • With a good two months remaining for Lou Lamoriello to make further bolstering moves for hisDevils, Lamoriello still can scan the free agent list where the likes of Jochen Hecht, Brett Clark and Carlo Colaiacovo remain available. Then again, Larrupin' Lou might very well put his accent on youth. This could finally be the maturing year for Mattias Tedenby who, at 22, could slot right into Zach Parise's empty left wing spot. Just slightly smaller than Parise, Tedenby can match Zach in speed and creativity. The trick will be for him to display goal-scoring prowess and -- most important -- defensive awareness.

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