The New York Rangers could have reset the team’s finances by buying out Brad Richards, creating $6.67 million in annual cap room for seven years. The team could have also escaped a potential compliance penalty that looms in case of Richards’ early retirement.
But general manager Glen Sather opted to stay the course with Richards, betting that a coaching change will revive him. John Tortorella is off to Vancouver to torment the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, and Alain Vigneault will coach the Rangers.
Richards scored just one goal in 10 playoff games. Tortorella scratched him from the lineup for the last two games of the East Conference semi-finals.
This led to much speculation about Richards’ future. Richards would have stirred considerable interest in the free agent marketplace after scoring 11 goals and adding 23 assists in 46 games last season.
“I didn’t feel normal all season,” Richards told reporters shortly after the playoffs. “There are a thousand things it could have been, but I’m not going to dwell on that now.”
With Richards staying, the Rangers are likely to let power forward Ryane Clowe depart via free agency.
The Vancouver Canucks finished the job. They bowed out of the NHL playoffs in four games, allowing the San Jose Sharks to complete their sweep.
Questionable officiating gave them a nudge out the door, but the Canucks deserved to lose that series.
“We put ourselves in the situation where one bad call costs you a game,” Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa told the Vancouver Sun. “It was four games of not executing. This wasn't an isolated incident; we were in a 3-0 hole. We didn't play good enough to win the series. It sucks. There's no way to sugarcoat it.”
They have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games. They are growing old and less relevant.
So what happens now?
General manager Mike Gillis could fire coach Alain Vigneault, but the pool of head coaching candidates is underwhelming.
Gillis could try to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo again, but he will have a tough time finding somebody to take the rest of Luongo’s onerous deal.
The Vancouver Province raised the possibility to moving the Sedin Twins at some point next season to turn the page on this era. That concept seems unpalatable . . . but so does the notion of giving Henrik and Daniel additional years at big dollars.
The Province’s Ed Willes summed up the scenario:
The Canucks were exposed against the Sharks. They were exposed as being too small and too soft to compete at the highest level of an NHL which now rewards other attributes.
This team is no longer close. The window is closed. You saw it over these four games; four games in which the Canucks grew old before our very eyes.
As for the rest of the 2013 campaign, the most exciting part is coming up for the Canucks and that’s all you need to know about what they’ve become.
Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis could have moved goaltender Roberto Luongo before the season started but opted not to, citing the middling trade offers that came his way.
So this distraction dragged into the 48-game season. Coach Alain Vigneault started Cory Schneider in Game 1 and the results were disastrous.
The Canucks fell to the visiting Anaheim Ducks 7-3, thanks largely to terrible goaltending.
“It was just unacceptable to play that way and put my team in that situation,” Schneider told the Vancouver Sun. “You never expect it to go this way. You know what? I was just maybe half a second off and, at this level, that's all it takes. Sometimes you need to make that one big save that will get you in a rhythm and send you on your way. Tonight, I couldn't make that big save. I didn't perform or produce and that's on me.”
After allowing five goals on 14 shots, Schneider gave way to Luongo – who earned heard a nice ovation as he entered the game in relief.
“It was a fun moment,” Luongo told the Sun. “I wasn't really expecting to go in but after the fifth goal, Alain just told me to get in there.
Luongo allowed two goals on 12 shots while other teams watched with great interest. How long will Gillis maintain this untenable situation?
Schneider ascended to the lead role last season. But Luongo has been one of the top goaltenders of his era and he wants no part of a back-up role in Vancouver.
The media stirs this pot constantly, creating a less-than-ideal scenario for a younger goaltender to settle in.
“You know what, it doesn’t matter what market I’m in,” Schneider told the Sun. “If I played this way, it would be unacceptable anywhere in the world. You have to be accountable and responsible and you have to perform and produce, and tonight I didn’t perform or produce — and that’s on me.”
Toronto and Florida, two potential suitors for Luongo, opened their seasons with victories. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is 0-2.
Long-time NHL defenseman Marc Bergevin was one of the great pranksters and quipsters in the sport. He added color to every dressing room he joined.
But now he faces a grimly serious challenge. As the new general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, he must rebuild one of the world’s most storied professional franchises from scratch.
The public relations portion of the job will come easily for Bergevin. After replacing the media-shy Pierre “The Ghost” Gauthier as GM, he charmed reporters during his introductory news conference.
“I played for eight teams, although I may be forgetting a couple,” Bergevin joked. “My luggage was always one team late.”
His immediate tasks include:
Hiring a new head coach. Candidates must be bilingual, as Bergevin is, to deal with the Montreal media and fans. Patrick Roy has campaigned for the job, but reporters are wondering if Alain Vigneault may depart Vancouver after the first-round demise of his Canucks.
Securing his key restricted free agents, goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban, to new long-term contracts.
Beefing up the front office. The Globe and Mail wonders if Bergevin will hire mentor, long-time NHL executive Rick Dudley, from the crowded Toronto front office.
Beefing up the franchise’s scouting of Quebec. Montreal has done a miserable job of drafting and developing players from its own province.
Cleaning up the roster mess. Step One appears to be buying out useless center Scott Gomez, who counts $7.4 million against the salary cap in each of the next two seasons.
The Vancouver Canucks have lost five of their last seven games and seven of their last 10, including a drowsy 2-0 loss at Minnesota Monday night.
The Wild staggered into the game amid a stunning 9-25-7 downturn. But Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding didn’t have to work hard enough to throw his shutout.
“I think you can count on one hand the number of Grade A scoring chances that we got tonight five on five,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters. “We had some possession time but a lot of it was on the outside and not enough in the inside.
“Five on five tonight we didn’t generate enough chances. They took it to us in the second and even though I was playing our top guys tonight a lot of minutes, we had a very hard time finding the inside and getting the chances you need against a goaltender like Harding.”
For the 10th time in 11 games top Vancouver gun Daniel Sedin failed to score a goal. Winger Mason Raymond was a healthy scratch Monday after going pointless in his previous eight games.
The Canucks, leaders of the Northwest Division by 11 points, seem comfortable just plodding along. That needs to change with the playoffs just 10 games away.
“I thinks wins are important, but it’s about playing our game the way we can and dominating teams out there,” Canucks center Ryan Kesler told the Vancouver Province. “We’ve had stretches of it and we’ve got to be a lot more consistent in that department. If we play the way we can, we shouldn’t have a problem winning the majority of games from here on out.”
Playmaker Henrik Sedin offered this assessment to the Vancouver Sun: “We're always looking for wins and it doesn't matter if it's 10 games left. It's about playing our game and trusting our system is going to win us games and not individual efforts. That's what won us games last year and that's what won us games early on in the season, too.”
The Canucks added speedy scorer David Booth in a trade with Florida. They got agitating power forward Alex Burrows back from a minor back injury.
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa picked up his game appreciably in recent games. Defenseman Alexander Edler has been great all season.
But still the defending Western Conference champions sputter.
Their 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks, with Cory Schneider in goal for the injured Roberto Luongo, left observers scratching their heads.
This team can't skate up and down the ice with the talented Blackhawks? Since when is this a mismatch?
“We're aware where our game is right now,” coach Alain Vigneault told reporters. “We're not that far away and we're not good enough right now.”
Burrows had this assessment for the Vancouver Province: "Once they got that third one, the wheels came off a bit. There's concern a bit, but we know we can be better and we know what it takes to win in this league.”
For more on the Western Conference and other hockey topics, check out this posting on STLToday.com.
Roberto Luongo’s lackluster season start continued Tuesday night as his Canucks to the Oilers 3-2. Coach Alain Vigneault gave the veteran goaltender the hook after he allowed three goals in a 5:02 span.
The second goal, after a botched exchange with Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis behind the net, was especially painful.
“It was a frustrating night,” Luongo told the Vancouver Province. “I was really felt good. I was seeing the puck well. I was moving well. I had a good first period, but then they got three quick ones and that's all they wrote. The defenseman yelled, I tried to clear it, it went off Smitty and right on his stick. Sometimes you need some bounces as well. The result is disappointing but the way I felt was the way I want to be feeling every game.”
Cory Schneider replaced Luongo and shut out Edmonton the rest of the way. Afterward, Vigneault wouldn’t say if Luongo or Schneider would start the next game against the Blues.
“I thought Lou looked good in the first, he looked solid,” Schneider told the Province. “It was just some bad breaks and a flurry of sloppy hockey and that's it. Knowing the goalie he is and the professional he is, he'll fight through it and he'll start getting the bounces. In couple months from now this'll be just a memory.”
Luongo is now 2-3-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and a .868 save percentage. He is just killing a number of fantasy teams with those numbers.
And Canucks fans are furious over his spotty play.
“Yeah, of course I know what to expect — same as every other time,” Luongo told the Vancouver Sun. “What’s important for me right now is not the result of tonight, but that I felt like I’m playing the way I should be playing and felt good. Unfortunately, the result was not there. Just keep working and keep my head up and that’s it. Things will turn around, they always do.”
In the wake of Luongo’s Stanley Cup Finals failure, fans are increasing rallying behind Schneider-For-Goaltender campaign. Such public unrest has spurred some wishful Internet thinking about a Luongo-to-the-Lightning deal.
Of course, the team has other issues to contend with while trying to regain its Western Conference championship form. It revamped attack could be something when newcomer David Booth settles in and forward Mason Raymond makes it back from the injured list.
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The Hot List
Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Getzlaf, Alexander Semin.
The Cold List
Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers,John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Vancouver Canucks,