Top Line: Patrick Kane for MVP; Calgary GM situation update; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Patrick Kane has already won two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Calder Trophy ... and that was all before the Blackhawks' winger began playing the best hockey of his career. Trailing Sidney Crosby by just one point in the scoring race, the Art Ross is within his reach this season ... and so is the Hart.
• Much virtual ink has been spilled during the past 24 hours about the Flames' front office situation after the team fired GM Jay Feaster. Here's a look at some of the best work:
Eric Duhatschek examines the candidacy of former Calgary great Joe Nieuwendyk to replace Feaster, and says that the Stars GM might be better equipped for success as a result of his struggles in Dallas. But former teammate Marty Turco says that Nieuwy isn't interested.
• Brian Costello says it was Feaster's poor record at the trade table that sealed his fate.
• Scott Cruickshank notes that, amid all the hubbub, coach Bob Hartley was given a vote of confidence that ensures he will at least finish out the season behind the Flames' bench. And George Johnson says that while president of hockey operations (and acting GM) Brian Burke covets obstreperous players, there will be room for small, skill guys as well. Burke went to some length to prove it.
• Is the NFL about to steal one of the NHL's greatest innovations?
• Ted Nolan has always gotten along well with those below him in the chain of command. It's the people above him with whom he's had trouble.
• Milan Lucic offers a solid rebuttal to those (including me) who have concerns about his ability to be effective on the big Olympic ice. I still don't see him making the cut, but there's no denying that he offers something to Team Canada that no other forward does ... and that might be enough to sway GM Steve Yzerman.
• This particular display of skill won't get him on Team Canada, but it sure got Lucic on the highlight shows. What a titanic bout this was:
• Matt Duchene promised that he'd break out of his slump soon. Last night, he delivered, putting the Avalanche on his back and carrying them to a win over the Jets. A couple more games like that and he will be back in the mix for Team Canada.
• Memo to Team Canada: In the event of a shootout in Sochi, please send Mike Babcock off the bench immediately. It might not be his fault that the Red Wings have lost 11 straight skills competitions dating back to last season, but there's no use taking chances, right?
• Injuries to key players are complicating the selection process for Team USA, which is just days away from the roster deadline. It's interesting to read U.S. GM David Poile's take on Ryan Callahan. Poile evidently values Callahan's leadership qualities to such a degree that he is willing to overlook the Rangers' captain's poor play this season as long Callahan's knee recovers in time.
• So, what John Tortorella is saying here is that Zack Kassian isn't smart enough to play top-six minutes for him. It has to be fun going through life knowing exactly how little your boss thinks of you.
• Now that he's playing regularly for the Capitals, rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov has withdrawn his trade request. Not a surprise. Orlov's demand was all about stopping his seemingly endless yo-yos between Hershey and Washington, and getting a chance to prove himself at the NHL level. He's making the most of the opportunity.
• It's pretty obvious from watching this that "Jingle Bells" isn't a thing in Russia. Or, if it is, the song somehow escaped the attention of Alex Ovechkin.
• Rogers Communications opened the vault in an attempt to lure James Duthie away from TSN. Here's how it played out.
• Bob Cole wishes he felt the love the way Duthie did, but at this point he has no idea if he is in Rogers' plans for next season. The legendary broadcaster is easily the most polarizing voice in the game, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him cast aside in the expected rebranding of the Hockey Night In Canada production. Still, there are many (myself among them) who value his history in the booth and his high energy over his occasionally erratic calls. Here's hoping there's a place for him in the new world order.
• Count the Blues among the teams that are nervously watching the rising salary cap. The league as a whole is making more money than ever, but lower-revenue teams such as St. Louis will be challenged to find new streams that allow them to remain competitive in the future.
• It would help the Blues' situation tremendously if they could just convince local fans to come to games. Right now, they're staying away in droves despite the team's on-ice success.
• Even with all the talk about expansion of late, there hasn't been much buzz about Houston. It's the biggest American city currently without an NHL team, and it would slide ideally into the Western Conference, but does that mean it's a natural when expansion eventually comes?the greatest assist of his life.