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NHL Insider

Red Wings head into summer with question marks

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 7:18 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- They might have bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after winning just one game, but it's not sitting well with the Detroit Red Wings and they're not exactly bashful about the upcoming off-season.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland did not meet with reporters at Joe Louis Arena during Monday's locker cleanout/team photo function, but the message couldn't have been any clearer from players and coach Mike Babcock -- Detroit is going to be a major player on July 1, when free agency starts.

"As I've watched these teams go on and I hear, 'Well, this team hasn't won a playoff series since '[2002] and this one just won their first one,' you know, it might seem a little selfish but I don't mind being selfish ... I think we should be there every year," Babcock said near the start of his talk with reporters. "We think with some ... tweaks and some good work in the off-season from our players and us as a management team, we can be way better."

Pens trying to determine how playoffs 'unraveled'

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 7:09 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero will spend the next weeks trying to determine how, in his words, "188 days in the regular season went down and kind of unraveled for us in 10 days."

Pittsburgh's players already believe they know why a Stanley Cup Playoffs favorite fell apart during their six-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals loss to the Flyers, allowing 30 goals and not resembling the team that mounted a late-season 11-game winning streak.

Simply, they couldn't match the Flyers in any critical area: goaltending, star-power contributions, the penalty kill, the power play, responsible play in the defensive end, physicality or the intangibles. It wasn't one area that doomed the Penguins, it was every area.

Perhaps that's why, two days removed from a 5-1 loss in Game 5 in Philadelphia, both Shero and coach Dan Bylsma still had a "how-did-that-happen" look while addressing reporters Tuesday. This was the their second consecutive first-round playoff exit, but no one associated with the Penguins saw this one coming – not this early, not this way.

Will Lidstrom retire or return? He won't say

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 6:30 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about whether Nicklas Lidstrom should come back for a 21st season or retire. The only guy who doesn't, at least publicly, is the legendary Detroit Red Wings captain himself.

"I try and push (it aside) during the regular season and even in the playoffs, but I get reminded by [the media] a lot," Lidstrom said Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings cleared out their lockers and took the team photo. "You don't want that to become a distraction to the team or to myself. I push that aside."

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 34
SOG: 148 | +/-: 21
He kept pushing it aside in his own mind, too, after Detroit made a quick exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by losing a Western Conference Quarterfinal series to Nashville in just five games. Lidstrom went through the traditional post-game handshake line like he's done many times before, both on the winning and losing sides.

"[I] never thought [in the last few seconds] that this was going to be my last game," said Lidstrom, who turns 42 on Saturday and has gone through this postseason process about retirement a couple of times before. "I didn't get into those thoughts at all."

Chu: Excited for title game on home soil

Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:12 AM / NHL Insider

Julie Chu - Special to

America's Julie Chu is blogging about the Women's World Championship for READ Julie's Second Blog
(Photo: Getty Images)

We spend a whole year training and preparing for the opportunity to play for a gold medal and [Saturday] we have that chance. So, it doesn't take a whole lot to get extra enthusiastic or excited for it. This is our time to be able to showcase the preparation that we've done all year long.

Canada is a great team and they've had some great games and done really well this tournament, also. We don't expect it to look the same as it did in our 9-2 win last Saturday. We're going to be prepared to come out and know that we are going to have to battle right from the start and play a solid 60 minutes of hockey if we want to be successful.

At the same time, I think our approach is really the same. They have great goaltending and they have a lot of skilled players so we want to make sure that we take the shifts one at a time, we have to get pucks to the net again with a lot of traffic in front of the goalies eyes. When we have an opportunity to capitalize, we have to make sure that we do, because I know on the other side if we give up too many opportunities they'll do the same. So, it should be a great battle and a great game. I think it's exactly what we want out of our championship, playing one of our biggest rivals at a sold out arena and hopefully getting a chance to come away with a gold medal.

Cheveldayoff will 'explore all options' to improve Jets

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:33 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their first season in Manitoba this past weekend, but general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff's chores are only beginning.

The Winnipeg franchise has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five consecutive seasons and owns only one visit to the postseason over its 12 seasons. The Jets finished 11th in the Eastern Conference this season in posting 84 points, their third-best finish in the organization's history.

But the League's fourth-worst road mark, a 26th-place finish in goals-against, and a bottom-third penalty kill doomed the Jets this season. An end to the season in which the Jets won only three of their final 10 games leaves Cheveldayoff with plenty of work this summer. Cheveldayoff did not provide specifics during his season-ending press conference Tuesday, but he repeatedly stressed the need for patience, including from himself.

Questions surround Flames this offseason

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 7:07 PM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY – Three consecutive years without a playoff appearance leaves a lot of questions to be answered around Scotiabank Saddledome.

Despite eight consecutive campaigns with 90-plus points, the Calgary Flames are on the outside looking in yet again, prompting questions about the organization’s current ability to be a contender.

More so, Calgary's futility has prompted more discussion about more wide-sweeping changes than ever before.

Burke eyes trade market to improve Maple Leafs

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 1:54 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Brian Burke believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are too small and need to find a top-line center and goaltender during the offseason in order to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs' general manager said Tuesday during a season wrap-up press conference in Toronto that he doesn't see a lot of answers to his team's problems via free agency, so he will undertake the roster re-tooling through trades during the summer. He believes that the team has the assets to acquire the needed resources.

Burke, who has had his position with the Leafs for four seasons, expressed particular displeasure over the Leafs' 8-0 loss on March 19 in which his team was pushed around by the bigger, stronger Boston Bruins.

"My view on how hockey teams are built and how hockey games are won has not changed," Burke said. "I still believe that big, physical teams win hockey games, and if you have two evenly-matched teams from a skill perspective, the bigger team's going to win. We need to get bigger. That's my top priority as far as an overall priority."

With the Florida Panthers reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, the Leafs now have the longest postseason drought of any team in the League at seven seasons. Burke said he hasn't slept in two months because of that, but as he has said in the past, the last thing he wants to do is construct a roster that's only good enough to claim the No. 8 seed and lose in the first round.

Jets: Bigger expectations to come next season

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 7:51 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The equipment bags sat scattered across MTS Centre's home dressing room as the Winnipeg Jets said their early-April goodbyes.

The early departures have become a rite of April for the club. Sunday cemented that ritual further after the Jets finished their first season in Winnipeg anchored in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 37-35-10 record.

Andrew Ladd
Left Wing - WPG
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 50
SOG: 265 | +/-: -8
The organization has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the past five consecutive seasons and has struggled to edge much beyond the 80-point mark in that span. With only one trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a 2007 visit that ended with a sweep by the New York Rangers -- there is significant work to be done to move the club up from the League's bottom-third and make it a viable Playoff contender on a yearly basis.

"It's not acceptable to be sitting here doing this at this time of the year," Jets captain and two-time Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ladd said.

Boucher on Stamkos: 'It's just desire'

Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:27 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG – Steven Stamkos needed a run of 23 goals in his final 26 games to become the first center to hit the 60-goal mark since the 1995-96 season.

Stamkos managed just such a run, and he did it in the teeth of the Stanley Cup Playoff race for a Tampa Bay Lightning club that saw injuries decimate its roster and, ultimately, its postseason hopes.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 60 | ASST: 37 | PTS: 97
SOG: 303 | +/-: 7
But Lightning coach Guy Boucher has far more to say about the work ethic of his 22-year-old star who became the 20th player to score 60 or more goals in one season than he does about the physical skill set that Stamkos possesses.

"What I like is that he just pushes always for more," Boucher said. "He just wants more all the time. It's never enough, and it's not the goals. He never has enough of getting better -- that's why he scores the goals. It's a by-product of his attitude, his work ethic, and his willingness to pay the price.

"It's not just about skill," Boucher continued. "Skill, in his case, is not the biggest [factor] in why he scores those goals. It's just desire."

Doan happy to see Coyotes finally win division

Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 11:49 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Much has changed about the National Hockey League since 1995, when Shane Doan broke into the League with the Winnipeg Jets.

For one, the Jets left town and became the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes have gone through myriad of changes in the front office, behind the bench, on their jerseys and even on where they've played.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 28 | PTS: 50
SOG: 226 | +/-: -8
Over that time, only two things have been constant -- Doan and the dearth of banners in the rafters of Arena.

Now, there's just one.

Phoenix's 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild Saturday at Xcel Energy Center secured the first division title -- or title of any kind -- since the Jets/Coyotes franchise entered the National Hockey League 33 years ago.

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