John Tavares on the Rise

Forward John Tavares, who is already being tabbed as the first overall pick in next summers NHL Entry Draft, showed his intense competitive nature on Sunday afternoon following the first intra squad game at the World Junior Hockey development camp.

Tavares, who exploded for 118 points last season with the Oshawa Generals stood out from the pack yesterday when he scored the first goal for team white and generated plenty of other opportunities in what was a 4-1 loss to team red. “It was nice to get one, but obviously we lost,” said Tavares who is the second youngest player at the camp and one of nine returning members from last year’s gold medal team. “We had a good start to the game, but overall we didn’t play very well.” “A lot of guys were nervous including myself.”

This Mississauga native, who will always be remembered as the first player to be drafted into the OHL at the age of 14, (in 2005), went through a grueling off ice training program this summer and can already see the difference on the ice which spells bad news for his opponents. “I worked hard in the off-season to get stronger and a little bit quicker, so I’ll have my pace up a little bit better,” he said. “Personally I’m just trying to improve in all areas and just help the team in any way I can.”

Paying the ultimate respect to this soon to be 17 year-old was the Team Canada junior coach Benoit Groulx who has admitted to being a big fan of this hulking scoring forward. “I think he’s well prepared for this camp and I think he wants to show everybody that he’ll be an important part of this team,” said Groulx who takes over from Hartsburg who led the team to Gold last year.

Scouts and all hockey people for that matter love prospects who have that burning desire to compete and win and that trait which was shown by Tavares on Sunday in a meaningless intra squad game is one vital reason why he is so good and will be the first round pick next June in the NHL Entry Draft.


Jason Spezza About Ottawa Senators


Looking ahead to this up coming hockey season, one team fans will be keeping a close eye on are the underachieving Ottawa Senators.

After reaching the Stanley Cup finals two years ago, the Sens who were a lot of people’s favorites to win the cup this past season, got off to a phenomenal 15-2 start and had people believing in them until unexpectedly the roof caved in.

Ottawa, who in April barely scraped into the playoffs before getting eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, have made quite a few changes this summer. “I’ve lost some good friends in the last couple of months,” Sens forward Jason Spezza said last week. “I think we expected it.” “Anytime you lose out early you expect it.”

Veteran Ottawa defenceman Wade Redden who has been in the nations capital since coming over from the New York Islanders in 1996, and one of the more popular players, wasn’t resigned and as a result bolted to the New York Rangers.

Another face who won’t be back is their goalie Ray Emery who suffered through a below par injury riddled season. Once looked upon as a promising goalie of the future, Emery will be playing in Russia this coming season.

Other faces not returning include veteran second liner Cory Stillman who was traded to Ottawa at last February’s trading deadline and went on to produce some essential secondary scoring with 19 points in 24 games.

There were various rumors about a lack of chemistry in the Sens dressing room, so to help address the issue, GM Bryan Murray brought in some gritty veteran leadership in defenseman Jason Smith and forward Jarkko Ruutu.

“Jason is a good leader who plays hard,” said Spezza about the former Philadelphia Flyer captain. “Jarkko plays pretty hard and is pretty gritty.” “I think that’s what Bryan was kind of looking for our team to add and felt like we needed.”

Question marks still surround this team who as Murray pointed out at the conclusion of last season needs more scoring.

Strength of their goaltending will be a constant debate as Martin Gerber who won 30 games but was often inconsistent last year will be the number one netminder. Gerber, who won a Stanley Cup as a backup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005, was average at best in last springs playoff defeat.

With the alteration in team chemistry, Ottawa will be looking to prove that last year was just an abbreviation.

Coaching the team is another huge off- season acquisition in Craig Hartsburg. This former Minnesota North Stars All Star defenseman coached the Canadian World Junior in the last two years to back- to- back gold medals at the World Junior Championships.      


Around the NHL

Holmstrom Makes Cup History With Cup


Years from now, Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom will be the answer to a Stanley Cup trivia question.

This gritty forward, who last spring won his fourth Stanley Cup, decided to let his cousin use it to christen their seven- week daughter Alva Felicia in a small ceremony held outside Holmstrom’s hometown of Pitea located in Northern Sweden.

It’s hard to phantom that while the Stanley Cup has been used for so many bizarre events over the years, it has never been used as a baptismal font for a christening until Holmstrom suggested the idea to his cousin Robert Sundstrom approximately a week before getting his turn with the Stanley Cup.

“Tomas came up with the idea when we were sitting in his summer cabin kitchen a week ago,” said Sundstrom. “Me and my wife thought it would be fun to christen our daughter in such as priceless object.”


Bouchard Inks Five- Year Extension with the Wild


Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough had reason to rejoice as he locked up his rising star Pierre-Marc Bouchard to a five year 20.4 million dollar contract. “He wanted to be here,” said Risebrough. “When players are one year away, (from free agency), they can kind of give you the body language that they don’t want to be here.” “In Butch’s case, I was convinced that he wanted to be here.” 

This budding forward who registered 13 goals and 50 assists will be paid 3.35 million next year, 4.25 the following three seasons and 4.3 million in 1012-13 at the end of the contract. “Pierre-Marc is just 24 years-old and the best years of his career are ahead of him,” said Risebrough. “He is a good example of how drafting and developing your own players leads to team success.” “That is why the Wild were willing to make such a substantial and long term commitment to him.”  



Svatos Signs Two -Year Extension With Avalanche


Coming off a 26- goal season, the Colorado Avalanche have rewarded forward Marek Svatos by signing the former 2001 seventh round draft choice to a two year- contract thus avoiding arbitration. “Marek Svatos has been a key ingredient to our success the last few years,” said Avalanche Executive Vice President and GM Francois Giguere. “He’s scored many big goals for this club and we expect him to be a strong force for us again this season.” Of the 26 goals scored he scored last season, 6 were game winners.






Ted Nolan Leaves NY Islanders With Lots of Questions

There are many questions left unanswered dealing with not only the timing of Ted Nolan stepping down as the New York Islanders coach, but also what exactly transpired to lead this former Jack Adams Trophy winner to surprisingly leave the organization.

Nolan, who enjoyed his best season behind an NHL bench back in 1997 when he won the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year, left the Sabres after that season and mysteriously didn’t return to the NHL until two years ago when the Islanders gave him an opportunity.

In his first season, Nolan led his underdog squad to a playoff birth on the last day of the season, before getting eliminated in the first round by ironically enough the Sabres in five games.

This season, the honeymoon period was over for Nolan who according to rumors had many rifts with general manager Garth Snow, and some of his key players. “It wasn’t going to work if two people aren’t on the same page,” Snow told the media after a morning meeting at the Nasseau Coliseum last Monday when they parted ways with Nolan. “He did some good things for us and he’s a good person.” “Last year we snuck into the playoffs and this year obviously was a sub par season.”

A huge question about Nolan leaving due to what is being termed “philosophical differences” is why let him go now as opposed to earlier in the off- season? In a surprising move, Nolan left on the same morning that the Islanders were scheduled to begin day one of their rookie evaluation camp.

With only one year left on his three- year contract, Nolan and Snow saw things differently about why the Islanders struggled so badly last season. Snow believed that the players were underachieving while Nolan back in February voiced a different opinion. “We don’t have natural 50 goal scorers,” said Nolan in what many believed was a shot at this general manager. “We have guys who work for everything they get.” “That’s the way we played.” When reminded last Monday of those comments, Snow replied by saying, “I thought Bill Guerin and Miro Satan were pretty good goal scorers.” “It doesn’t do any good to comment about it, but last summer Ted was in the process of bringing in free agents.” The two frequently disagreed on playing time for the younger players as Nolan liked to depend on his veterans.

Other rumors detail that Nolan who apparently didn’t get along well with star goalie Dominik Hasek in Buffalo, also had friction with his starter Rick DiPietro. Late in the season, his goalie got a leave of absence to attend his grandmother’s funeral. When he returned, Nolan played backup Wade Dubielewicz instead of DiPietro in the second of back- to- back contests against the New York Rangers.

While it seems only a matter of time before Nolan get back behind an NHL bench, the exact reasons and the timing might make future coaches leery about joining the organization. Last year, Nolan finished with a 35-38-9 record. Overall in New York, he went 74-68-21. “I was a little surprised, but at the end of the day they made a decision and are moving in a new direction,” DiPietro said in a phone interview. 


Around the NHL

Shanahan Coming Back For Another Season


After much deliberation, 39 year-old veteran forward Brendan Shanahan has decided to postpone retirement for at least another season.

This grizzled 20 year veteran who produced 23 goals and 44 points last season for the New York Rangers had been offered some media positions but has turned them down to play.

Shanahan, who spent the past two years playing for the Rangers made it clear that New York is his preferred choice to play. Still, Shanahan, who is a three- time Stanley Cup winner from his days with the Detroit Red Wings, said that if things couldn’t be worked out with New York, then he would consider other teams.

This Mimico native who broke into the NHL with the New Jersey Devils in 1987, has enjoyed a hall of fame career that has seen him score 650 goals, 1,340 points in 1,490 games.  


York Joins The Blue Jackets


Veteran journeyman forward Mike York agreed to a one-year contract on Friday with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

York, who in 2000 made a strong impact with the New York Rangers when he broke into the NHL and was named to the All Rookie squad when he produced 26 goals and 50 points, is currently coming off a disappointing season with the Phoenix Coyotes. Playing mostly on the third and fourth line, York managed only 6 goals and 14 points but did serve as a valuable penalty killer.

After the promising first year season, York followed it up a couple of seasons later by posting career numbers of 57 points before his numbers unexpectantly began to decline. Since that time, this Michigan native has bounced around to the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Coyotes and now the Blue Jackets where he will serve as a valuable leader and checker under coach Ken Hitchcock.  



Tortorella Rumored To Be Next Islanders Coach


Rumors have been circulating over the past few days that the Islanders are going to be hiring the fiery John Tortorella to be the next head coach.

Tortorella, who was the bench boss with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the past seven seasons will be meeting on Sunday with Islanders GM Garth Snow who a couple of weeks ago parted ways unexpectantly with coach Ted Nolan due to what was termed philosophical differences. Tortorella’s best moment as a coach came in 2004 when he led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup Championship.

News from around the NHL

Fedorov Makes A Deal With The Devil


On Monday, the New Jersey Devils added some much needed speed and scoring by signing NHL veteran Sergei Fedorov’s younger brother Fedor.

Making a return to the NHL after spending the last two seasons in Europe, this 27 year-old who accumulated 26 points in 49 games with Dynamo last year, was originally a late 2001 draft choice by the Vancouver Canucks who had high hopes for this scorer.

Showing lots of potential, Fedorov spent three seasons in the Canucks system where in 116 games with their AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose, he picked up 65 points. During that time period, he was called up for 15 games with the Canucks and could only register 2 points.

Fedorov, who growing up was often compared to his older brother Sergei, spent the lockout season playing in Russia and didn’t find his way back to the NHL until 2005/06 when he dressed for 3 games.

No financial terms of the New Jersey Devil deal were detailed.   


Leafs Add To Their Coaching Staff


Not surprisingly, the Toronto Maple Leafs new coach Ron Wilson has decided to add a couple of familiar faces to the staff with Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler.

These two have a history with Wilson dating back to the past five years with the San Jose Sharks where the three implemented a bench laptop where they could view the replays while updating real time statistics. “Tim and Rob bring winning experience to the Maple Leafs coaching staff,” said Leafs current general manager Cliff Fletcher. “Their familiarity with (Ron Wilson) coaching style, along with their previous success in San Jose will allow them to quickly bring in a structured system for our players to work within.”

Veteran Keith Acton will still have his role as an assistant with the team.


Glen Murray and Mat Sundin

Murray Clears Waivers



After suffering through an injury-riddled campaign that saw Glen Murray produce only 30 points in 63 games, the Boston Bruins have decided to part ways with the 16 year veteran.

Drafted in the first round, 18th overall by the Bruins in 1991, this Halifax Ontario native was a fixture on the power play and had his best season in 2003 when in 82 games he scored 44 goals and 92 points.

Murray, who also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings in his career, is a two time All Star who has scored 337 goals and 314 assists in 1,009 games.

With one year left on his contract worth an expensive 4.15 million, none of the 29 other NHL teams showed any interest in picking up the 35 year old who some around the league believe is on the downside of his career. More than likely Boston, who recently signed young defenceman Dennis Wideman to a multi year deal, will buy out Murray.


Sundin To Make A Decision On August 1


The million- dollar question regarding the future of free agent Mats Sundin will be addressed on August 1.

After denying reports from a Swedish newspaper earlier this week that he agreed to a two- year 20 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks, Sundin’s agent JP Berry claimed that the former Leafs captain has still not decided on his plans for the coming season. Several teams are still showing interest in the 37 year-old Swede including his former team the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even at his advanced age, Sundin has shown no signs of slowing down as he scored 32 goals and 78 points in 74 games.