As training camps grind on toward opening night next week, it's time to grab the old mailbag and address some of your questions and concerns.
A better job? You mean, the guy who won the
While Julien took the high road in the aftermath of the trade by saying, "there were no issues with him resisting," there's a well-informed belief that the two men had different ideas regarding the effort required to negotiate the path to success. The coach expected two-way discipline on the ice and a strong work ethic off it. Kessel's approach was somewhat more intuitive and less strenuous.
Here's the thing, though: only one of their opinions mattered, and it wasn't Kessel's. Hockey's a team game that requires strict adherence to systems implemented by the coach. Stick to the plan, life is good. Pull in your own direction? There are going to be problems.
"He was no different than any other player that you deal with at times," Julien said after the trade was announced. "You never have smooth relationships because there are challenges along the way. What you need to do as a coach is to convince those guys and make them understand and believe that this is what you need to do to be the best team possible. This is what you need to be the best player possible as well."
Kessel's statistical improvement suggests that Julien knew which buttons to push. Despite his success, Kessel bristled against that approach, something that speaks volumes about his maturity level. So here's a gentle reminder to the young man as he hops the fence: the grass is not always greener on the other side. And if he thinks
The Sutter boys aren't making this an easy read, Ross. Even after seven cuts on Tuesday (9/22), the Flames had 20 forwards on their roster, although that number should be whittled down after Wednesday's game against Edmonton to give us a better idea of where Fleury stands. Still, his play to this point has elevated his profile as the fall's most compelling bubble player.
Not that Fleury's return to action has been seamless. Despite the flashy shootout-winner he scored against the Islanders last Thursday, one observer relayed to me that Fleury, "looked like someone's dad joining the team for a skate."
After another solid effort Monday in Vancouver, Fleury was keeping himself in the mix. That created an interesting problem for the Flames, who already have 14 forwards signed to one-way contracts -- not including Fleury, who is on hand on a tryout basis. If he makes the cut, at least one player needs to be dealt, or an NHL-sized salary must be buried in the minors. If he doesn't earn a spot with the Flames, Fleury has said that he'd be willing to sign a two-way deal and go to Abbotsford of the AHL. To do that though, he'd have to pass through waivers. It's likely he'd go unclaimed -- feel-good story or not, he's still a 41-year-old carrying significant personal baggage after six years away from the league -- but if the Flames let him dangle, there might be someone out there who is willing to take a chance on an affordable vet with some zazz and a little magic left in the stick.
Whatever happens, Fleury's the story I check on first every morning. Love him or hate him, it's impossible not to root for his successful return.
Sorry, Ken, but after looking at the replay a couple dozen times, I came to the same conclusion as the league: the result might have been ugly, but the hit was within the rules of the game...or more accurately, the lack of supplementary discipline was consistent with the way that this type of incident has been interpreted of late.
As far as the timing element goes, I don't think anyone benefits from easing up in preseason. Not the rookies who are trying to earn jobs or the coaches who are trying to assess them. Not the veteran players who are trying to get their timing down. And certainly not the fans who are forced to pay regular season prices to watch patchwork lineups.
If Detroit fans lack confidence in Howard -- and it seems there are plenty who share your concern -- I'd suggest that their fears are inspired by his sparse NHL resume rather than a clear understanding of any gaping holes that might exist in his game. Howard has suffered through his bouts with inconsistency as a pro, but honestly, after four years in Grand Rapids it's time to see what he's got at the next level.
Before you join the scores of panicky Wings supporters who are already patrolling street corners wearing sandwich boards stenciled with "The End is Near," remember this:
That said, there are no guarantees the job is Howard's for the season.
McCollum and Larsson are slated to split time in Grand Rapids. Both could do spot duty, but neither is ready for a full-time employment behind
The Preds may yet make a deal for that elusive sniper, but I don't think the Bouillon signing signals anything so much as the fact that GM
Tough call as of this morning. Out of your two choices, the best bet is Wilson. Though the Preds are notorious for demanding that players pay their dues in Milwaukee, his size, talent and ability to fill an obvious hole make him a better bet to break camp as the team's third-line center. That doesn't suggest he'll be your fantasy gamebreaker, but he'll be in the lineup. It's a trickier call with van Riemsdyk, even though camp reports suggest he's performed like a top nine forward to this point. JVR has more offensive upside, but I think he's still ticketed for a full season in the AHL, with the occasional call-up. That situation could change over the next week, though, so you might want to check back before your draft.
The safest rookie bet (outside of Tavares and Vancouver's
Scuderi and Gill were reliable soldiers, particularly in the playoffs, but we're not talking
That Moller was cut wasn't so much a surprise as was the timing. It was thought that he needed more time to develop his game and the process wouldn't be well served if he were playing a depth role in Los Angeles. But to be sent down before 2009 draft picks
Turris, who clearly was rushed to the NHL last season by a team that needed a box-office draw, is another player whose development will benefit from the lesser demands of the AHL. He simply wasn't good enough to surpass