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Coaching change history is not on the Maple Leafs’ side

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New coach Randy Carlyle put his Maple Leafs through a grueling practice and bag skate…after a victory. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

Will Brian Burke’s late-season gambit pay off? Replacing his coach and long-time friend Ron Wilson with Randy Carlyle — the same coaching hire that won their Anaheim Ducks the 2007 Stanley Cup — was a move for the moment to be sure. But it is also a move for the future, assuming that Burke has one in Toronto. In this league, you never know.

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  • Published On Mar 05, 2012
  • Flaws clear in NHLPA-Hockey Night poll

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    Not all hockey fights are the same and this complex issue deserves more than a “yes” or “no” answer. (Terry Lee/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    There’s lots to chew on in the annual NHLPA/CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada Players’ Poll, the results of which were made public over the weekend. Pavel Datsyuk was pretty much acclaimed as the NHL’s best player, Zdeno Chara the best defenseman, and Henrik Lundqvist the best goalie. The players say they think the Canucks are overrated, the Blues are underrated, that they’d love to play for the Blackhawks, they love playing at Montreal’s Bell Centre, and  the Penguins Dan Bylsma is the coach they’d most like to play for.

    There’s lots more, of course, but let’s stop to consider the issues-oriented questions in the poll, namely those on fighting and the instigator rule. There are some serious problems here, and they start with the questions themselves.

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  • Published On Feb 21, 2012
  • The red line debate

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    The parade of concussions and players visiting the NHL discipline czar, continued with Rene Bourque (top) plastering Brent Seabrook on Sunday and adding more fuel to the debate about how to stop the carnage. (Charles Cherney/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    With concern growing in the hockey world about a spike in concussions during the past few weeks, the wide range of proposed solutions has included restoring the two-line offside pass — “bringing back the red line,” as many hockey people say, although the line hasn’t been removed, only the old offside rule that was based on it.

    But it’s very questionable whether the consequences of restoring it would be worth what might be gained.
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  • Published On Dec 19, 2011
  • Crosby and Ovechkin at their crossroads

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    When last seen together, Sidney Crosby was playing at a superstar level, but Alex Ovechkin’s game was showing signs of decline that have become more pronounced. (Photo by Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

    By Stu Hackel

    They’ll be linked forever, it seems, as this generation’s Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux or, in an earlier time, Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe. The Siamese twins of the New NHL’s image machinery,  Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, have once again skated to the forefront of our minds.
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  • Published On Nov 21, 2011
  • Is the NHL backing down on boarding?

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    If the NHL really wants to rid itself of dangerous hits, going light on repeat offenders like Daniel “Carbomb” Carcillo of the Blackhawks is not the way to go about it. (Chris Seward/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    By Stu Hackel

    As we turn the calendar page to November, it’s as good a time as any to review and assess  things in the NHL, and while we have lots of surprises with teams exceeding or falling short of expectations, no performance is more intriguing than the league’s Department of Player Safety (a name we can’t write without thinking it sounds like a government branch that oversees highway construction or traffic enforcement — if not the French Revolution’s Committee on Public Safety from 1793, which protected the new republic from internal and external enemies by using the guillotine as its preferred instrument of deterrence).
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  • Published On Nov 01, 2011
  • Cherry’s apology and Slap Shot mythology

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    On second thought: the threat of legal action against him seems to have helped Don Cherry rethink his attack on the former NHL enforcers he called “pukes, turncoats and hypocrites.” (Leon T Switzer/ Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Great Apology was issued on Saturday night, Don Cherry admitting to the world that he had thrown three former NHL fighters, “my kind of guys, under the bus.” He set the record straight, saying he was wrong to claim that two of them had come out against fighting and linked their problems with substance abuse and addiction to their former occupation.

    That might end the matter in one sense, because the three former enforcers – Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson — said they’d now drop their threat of legal action against Cherry. Nilan, who expressed dismay that a man he thought of as a friend had inexplicably turned on him, subsequently tweeted that he and Cherry “are friends once again.” But while the lawyers may now stand down and the friendship appears repaired, Grimson wants you to know that he isn’t letting Cherry off the hook so easily.
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  • Published On Oct 17, 2011
  • GMs support Shanny, Loko’s rebirth and empty seats in Big D

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    Despite the fears of some general managers, hitting is not disappearing from the game as the NHL cracks down on dangerous play. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    While some NHL general managers prefer to anonymously whisper to reporters about their support or lack thereof for the NHL’s crackdown on dangerous play — a crackdown they called for themselves — one GM at least has the courage to speak publicly: the Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman.

    “This is what the league has to do and I applaud the steps they’ve taken,” Bowman told Tim Sassone of the suburban Arlington Daily Herald. “At the end of the day the players have to stop doing this to each other. Penalties, and making them severe, it’s the way to go. The NHL should be applauded.

    “We want this to be a safe game for the players and they’ve done a tremendous job. I definitely support it. The chances are one of our players will be on either side of it, but that’s how it goes.”

    Bravo to Bowman for his strong support of a safer NHL, putting the game’s interest above his team’s and not buying into the canard that the severe suspensions the league has been handing down so far this season will dilute the game’s physical play. He’s certainly not alone in his sentiment, but it’s refreshing to see a GM who is willing to have his name attached to it in print.
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  • Published On Oct 12, 2011
  • Cherry is an early season bomb

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    Don Cherry and his brand of rock ‘em, sock ‘em hockey will always have fans. (Carlos Orsonio/AP Photos)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Winnipeg Jets got off to a shaky start Sunday night, at least on the ice (although their fans got off to a terrific start, with a standing ovation for their team in the final minute of a 5-1 loss to Montreal). The Senators are off to an even shakier start, surrendering 11 goals in their first two games. But no one has gotten off to a worse start this season than Don Cherry.

    The bombastic former coach overshadowed the arrival of the NHL season with an opening night tirade on Hockey Night in Canada that a few commenters called “a new low” and eventually forced his usually compliant overlords at the CBC distance to themselves from them, a very rare move. Then he only made things worse in his subsequent attempts to justify his initial remarks.
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  • Published On Oct 10, 2011
  • Canadiens and Bruins renew ancient clash

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    Contrasting styles, cultures, genuine enmity and high stakes are on tap as these Original Six rivals meet in the playoffs for the 33rd time in their storied histories. (Photo by Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE)

    By Stu Hackel

    There is probably no more bitter rivalry in North American professional sports than the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, whose 85-year antagonism returned to full-scale, blood-boiling warfare this season.

    The puck drops tonight on the final chapter of this season’s hostilities, the 33rd meeting of these Original Six teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and if it’s anything like the six games the teams played during the regular season, this best-of-seven will overflow with great goaltending, good hard hockey, the classic battle of speed and skill vs. size and strength, and, very likely, a few little dust-ups, unkind words and even some blue oaths.
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  • Published On Apr 14, 2011
  • Is Hockey Night In Canada doomed?

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    The possible sale of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to Rogers Communications sparked fears that Ron MacLean’s and Don Cherry’s beloved telecasts will vanish. (Dave Sanford/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Could Hockey Night in Canada really disappear? That’s what some TV types are wondering in the wake of reports that Rogers Communications is negotiating to buy the majority share of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. It’s the kind of story that makes for sensational reading, but it’s based on lots of assumptions and speculative premises.

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  • Published On Dec 02, 2010


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