1. Happy for Darryl
Perhaps the rarest sight in hockey these days isn’t something a player does by himself or with the help of his teammates. I think it might be Darryl Sutter’s smile.
Not-so-affectionately nicknamed the Jolly Rancher, Sutter doesn’t seem like one for sentimentality and if there’s a quality he has to spare for anyone, it seems to be sternness. All that melted away, though, as the Kings routed the Devils. The lasting image for me of the Kings’ Cup run won’t be Jonathan Quick making red-light save after red-light save, Drew Doughty playing some of the most dynamic two-way defensive hockey I’ve seen in a long time, or Dustin Brown picking up his performance after playing like garbage in the previous five Stanley Cup Final games. It’s going to be Darryl Sutter smiling and laughing on the ice with his players.
I know the way he left Calgary wasn’t on the best terms and he sure did his best to unsettle what had been a terribly successful franchise, and there’s something to be said for letting coaches coach and getting management types to go about the business of managing. But nonetheless, Darryl Sutter raising the Cup above his head — 20 years to the day from when he took his first NHL coaching gig — with a big old smile on his face, brought one to mine as well. He got robbed in Game 6 in 2004 (shoulda used that timeout) but no matter how he left things with the Flames, it’s tough to say there’s been a more singularly deserving coach in the last few years. The only argument I can really see being made is in favor of Dan Bylsma, who won the Cup with Pittsburgh after just 25 regular-season games as an NHL head coach. And it’s not like Sutter had the two best players on the planet playing for him.
To be quite honest, I couldn’t be happier for him.
2. Kings follow reasonable blueprint for success
There’s a lot of talk every year about teams following the "blueprint" of the previous year’s Stanley Cup winners on their quest to replicate the champions’ feat, and certainly, the Kings were successful in their attempts to both copy and improve upon the Bruins, who did much the same with the Blackhawks before them.
To win the Stanley Cup, teams need a young top-five two-way forward who plays in all situations (Toews/Bergeron/Kopitar) playing in front of Norris-quality blueliner (Keith/Chara/Doughty) who is paired with a minutes-eating workhorse defensive stalwart (Seabrook/Seidenberg/Scuderi). They also need a strong, relatively high-scoring second-line center (Sharp/Krejci/Richards), and received good scoring from the top-six wings (Kane, Byfuglien, Versteeg, and Hossa/Horton, Ryder, Marchand and Lucic/Brown, Penner, Williams, and Carter). All three teams also had strong defensive gameplans complemented by relentless forechecks, carried out across all four lines with ferocity.
The only difference, really, is in net. Antti Niemi was a good but ultimately replaceable goaltender who got hot at the exact right time behind an excellent team. Tim Thomas had a season and playoff for the ages. Jonathan Quick did him one better on both fronts, and is a less-expensive, decades-younger version of Thomas.
However, Chicago found it impossible to replicate their success because of their poor cap management and because their goaltending was therefore not very reliable. Boston had to sell off pieces and were plagued by injuries and the natural regression that perhaps comes with relying heavily on a 37-year-old selfish kook between the pipes. But the Kings seem set up to succeed for a while. They’re swimming in cap space and have almost no hard decisions to make this summer with respect to re-signing anyone.
Winning the Cup or even being in competition for it isn’t easy to replicate from one year to the next, but it sure looks like no one’s been in a better position over the last few years than the Kings.
3. How do you feel about Radulov?
The rumors have circulated for a while about what will happen with Alex Radulov. The Predators won’t be having him back after the whole alleged glug-glug incident against Phoenix, and though the Rangers reportedly expressed an interest earlier this summer they have also reportedly backed off from it because he seems like a real jerk.
I guess the question is, do you think he fits in Calgary? Or, more accurately, do the positives of signing him (namely: He’ll score a lot and be a legitimate top-six winger if he really does want to stay in the NHL, and likely wouldn’t take much of a time commitment given the lack of interest in North America) outweigh the negatives (namely: He might be a pain in the ass to deal with and maybe his teammates don’t like him).
Obviously the primary competition to sign him would be from the KHL, rather than the NHL. If he’s motivated by more than the desire to stay in the NHL (namely: Money, and lots of it, tax-free), then there was never a chance he would come to Calgary anyway.
I just think there are going to be a lot worse options on the market than Radulov, and if the Flames can have him for relatively little, I figure it’s worth it. He’d certainly help buoy whatever illusions of "Going For It" is still lingering in Feaster’s brain better than just about anyone else the Flames might reasonably approach.
4. Davidson rumors won’t go away
I’ve found it curious that despite denials from all sides, there are still persistent rumors that John Davidson might jump from the St. Louis Blues to the Calgary Flames. These latest whispers came first from Columbus, where Davidson was said to have spoken with team officials — and it was wondered aloud, albeit laughably, whether this might prompt Rick Nash to stay on with the organization that drafted him — and in turn kicked back to St. Louis, from whence the Calgary rumors originated.
5. MacTavish back could be bad news
With respect to the above item on John Davidson, it seems Craig MacTavish has been brought back to the Oilers organization in much the same role Davidson is said to have sought with the Flames: One above the general manager, where he will have a hand in pretty much all aspects of the NHL club. Shrewd hire by Edmonton, in my estimation.
Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe are running the club like they’re in search of a Moe Howard to tell them what to do, and MacTavish isn’t that guy, he’s probably going to approach things wisely, starting with hand-picking the next coach. I thought he was a bit hard-done-by when he was behind the bench — after all, they took away all the toys from his near-Cup run and replaced them with the palest imitations they could find — and didn’t deserve to be run out of town. The league’s most legendary coaches couldn’t have made the Oilers win.
And now that MacTavish, a smart, thoughtful guy if ever the Oilers had one, is actually calling the shots? I think a lot of the clowning around up north, unintentional though it may be, is more or less over. Probably bad news for the Flames going forward, no?