Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • Three Periods: The tanking paradox; dramatic drop in power plays; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 7 hrs ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the dueling agendas when teams tank; the reason for the lack of power plays across the NHL; an interesting idea for the draft lottery; another potential angle for video review; and a funny exchange between coaches Todd McLellan and Mike Babcock.

    FIRST PERIOD: When a team tanks, coaches and players aren’t trying to lose

    GMs tank. Coaches and players don’t.

    “As a player,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, “there is not a chance in anything that I ever want to be last. As a competitor, it makes you sick to think that, embarrassed and disgusted that you’re even in the situation. The fact that’s even a possibility is just disgusting.”

    Remember that as the Sabres and Coyotes, the leaders in the race for last place, play Thursday night in Buffalo and Monday night in Arizona. There are dueling agendas in each organization.

    General managers have a long-term view. The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and if their team isn’t in position to compete for it, their job is to maneuver within the system to put their team in position to compete for it.

    THIRD PERIOD: Notes from around the NHL

  • Paul Stastny finally at home in St. Louis: 'Part of me felt like I was a rookie again'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    Paul Stastny was one of the biggest free agents on the market last summer and signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the St. Louis Blues. He had spent eight seasons in the NHL as a skilled, two-way centerman, averaging 0.85 points per game.

    But in early December, he was coming off an injury, and he was struggling, and he was still trying to prove himself to coach Ken Hitchcock.

    “You’ve kind of got to earn your trust and your respect all over again,” Stastny said. “Part of me felt like I was a rookie again and I’d never played 500-plus games in this league.”

    As the season has gone on, Stastny has become more comfortable in Hitchcock’s system. He’s playing in all situations. He’s winning faceoffs. He’s producing more – in time for the stretch run and the playoffs.

    Bottom line: He helps give the Blues three balanced lines, and they have one of the best records in the league.

    Still, he’s slotted as the Blues’ No. 3 centerman, averaging 0.66 points per game. It has been hard to find his niche and his game for several reasons.

    Stastny said that was understandable.

  • Believe the hype: 2015 NHL draft prodigy Connor McDavid is a tank-worthy talent

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Steve Ujvari loves the Buffalo Sabres. He remembers The Aud and The French Connection. He rattles off players of the future like Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart. And whenever the Sabres score these days, he yells at the television.

    “Nooooo!”

    He knows every goal hurts the Sabres’ chances of finishing last in the NHL, and so every goal hurts their chances of drafting Connor McDavid.

    Yes, the last-place team will have only a 20-percent chance of drawing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery, which means, at best, it will still have an 80-percent chance of not drafting McDavid. But those are the best odds available, and McDavid is supposed to be the best player available in a long time, and hope is a powerful thing.

    Ujvari wanted to see for himself. The 46-year-old Buffalo native dug in his closet, found an old Robyn Regehr sweater and replaced the name and number with “McDAVID” and “97.” He drove from his home in Cleveland to suburban Detroit, where the Erie Otters played the Plymouth Whalers on Saturday night on the final weekend of the Ontario Hockey League regular season.

    And if the Sabres don’t get him?

    * * * * *

    The hype is legit.

    But beware.

    Pause.

    * * * * *

  • Three Periods: Blues seek playoff breakthrough; GMs on Crosby, Kane & Calgary; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the St. Louis Blues’ surge in the Central, the Chicago Blackhawks’ success without Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby’s “perfect” play recently, the Calgary Flames’ loss of Mark Giordano, the Detroit Red Wings’ long look at Marek Zidlicky, the Boston Bruins’ less-than-stellar season and notes from the GMs’ meetings this week.

    FIRST PERIOD: Armstrong thinks Blues are ready to take next step in playoffs

    The St. Louis Blues have overtaken the Nashville Predators for the Central Division lead. That seems important for one simple reason: They wouldn’t face the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round if the playoffs started today.

    Looking back at the last three years, the Blues have been burned by bad matchups. In 2012, they lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Kings, the eventual Stanley Cup champions. In 2013, they lost in the first round to the Kings, the defending champions. Last year, they lost in the first round to the Blackhawks, the defending champs.

    SECOND PERIOD: Blackhawks move on without Kane; Crosby’s ‘perfect’

    THIRD PERIOD: Notes from the GMs’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

  • No cure for concussions, but the headache fades for NHL: 'It's a lot better'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. — For three straight years, the NHL’s general managers were consumed by concussions at their annual March meeting. They debated ideas. They made changes.

    The last two years? The subject wasn’t discussed much, if at all.

    “It doesn’t need to be,” said Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “It hasn’t been 100-percent fixed. Nothing gets 100-percent fixed. But the players have done a good job adjusting to it, and it’s a lot better.”

    The GMs did receive an update Wednesday on concussion lawsuits filed by former players, who claim the league didn’t do enough to inform them about and protect them from brain trauma in the past.

    The legal and moral issues aren’t going away. The science isn’t, either.

    And to be sure, there are still hits to the head. There are still suspensions. There are still fights. There are still players who lie about concussions and teams who don’t follow protocol strictly enough, and the problem tends to increase down the stretch and into the playoffs.

    But the league’s efforts have had an effect.

    Bettman has always refused to give hard data for privacy and legal reasons.

    It’s not because the referees have been lax.

  • Sharks GM on Joe Thornton: ‘Our relationship is at really good place’

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 9 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – First things first: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has never asked center Joe Thornton to waive his no-trade clause – the no-trade clause in the three-year extension to which he signed Thornton little more than a year ago – and Thornton has given no indication he wants out.  

    “Joe is not going anywhere,” Wilson said Tuesday at the NHL GM meetings. “Joe is a San Jose Shark. We talked this past summer about the direction we were going. He wants to be a part of it, and he’s followed through on his end of the bargain. He's played extremely well, taking great care of the kids, integrated them in. He’s a good man.”

    But Wilson and Thornton have been at odds since the Sharks blew a 3-0 series lead to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Sharks took the captaincy from Thornton before this season.

    Thornton responded by saying Wilson needed to “stop lying” and “shut his mouth.”

    Owner Hasso Plattner stepped in afterward and asked Thornton to call Wilson.

    How much damage needed to be repaired?

    Did Thornton explain to Wilson why he called him a liar?

    Thornton declined to comment to reporters in Winnipeg.

  • NHL coach’s challenge gets GM approval, with concerns

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 9 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – There will be no red flag tossed onto the ice. There will be no white towel waving from the blade of a stick, a la Roger Nielson.  

    “We’re not going to do something fancy like throwing a flag or setting off fireworks,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

    But if the competition committee and the board of governors approve the recommendation the general managers made Tuesday, the NHL will have a coach’s challenge for the first time next season.

    It will be available in two instances: goaltender interference on scoring plays and delay-of-game calls when the puck goes over the glass.

    In the case of goalie interference, the challenge will cover only goals and non-goals, not penalties. It will be based on contact with the goaltender, not crease presence. The referees will still use their judgment and make the final call, but they will look at video replays and talk to the hockey operations department in Toronto.

    In the case of delay-of-game calls, a challenge can only remove a penalty, not call one. The hockey ops department will overturn a penalty call if video replays are conclusive.

    The league came up with a new standard and a new term.

  • NHL GMs approve 3-on-3 overtime, but what format?

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 9 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NHL’s general managers have recommended 3-on-3 overtime in an effort to reduce shootouts.  

    The question now is which of two ideas to use: five minutes of 3-on-3 or the American Hockey League format. Starting this season, the AHL went to seven minutes of OT – 4-on-4 until the first whistle after the three-minute mark, then 3-on-3.

    The GMs will discuss it with their coaches and players. The competition committee, which includes representatives from the NHL Players’ Association, will discuss it. Ultimately rule changes must be approved by the NHL Board of Governors.

    If all the hurdles are cleared, the NHL could have 3-on-3 OT as soon as next season.

    “We’re trying to make a move to a format that we think is going to decide more games in overtime,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who has been pushing for overtime reform for a long time. “We’re not looking to eliminate shootout. We think the fans like the shootout. But we think the fans will enjoy 3-on-3.”

    Fewer players means less coaching. More ice means more speed and skill. It remains to be seen, though, how it will look in the NHL.

    Some NHL GMs would prefer not to go straight from 5-on-5 to 3-on-3.

  • Life lessons on and off the ice: NHL GMs pay tribute to 'teacher' Bryan Murray as he battles cancer

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. — It was late November. David Poile’s Nashville Predators were visiting Bryan Murray’s Ottawa Senators. The veteran general managers went way back, and Murray was fighting colon cancer. It was Stage 4, the final stage.

    Poile asked Murray if the GMs could honor him at their annual meeting in March.

    “There was an awkward pause,” Poile said.

    The GMs had been honoring one of their peers at the meeting for years. But they had always honored someone after retirement. Murray was undergoing chemotherapy. He was about to turn 72 years of age. But he had not retired, and he had no plans to retire yet.

    “I said, ‘Well, look, this is the right thing,’ ” Poile said. “There was a pause again. ‘Yeah, OK.’ ”

    And so Monday night, after a day of talking hockey, the GMs were to gather for a dinner at a posh resort to celebrate a man with whom they had worked and competed for so many years. Poile was scheduled to speak. The Minnesota Wild’s Chuck Fletcher was scheduled to speak. The Buffalo Sabres’ Tim Murray was not.

    “I would not be able to do it,” said Tim Murray, who once worked with his uncle in Ottawa. “And frankly, one Murray crying in there will be enough.”

    That’s Bryan Murray.

  • NHL GMs attempt to solve mysteries of goalie interference, diving

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 10 days ago

    BOCA RATON, Fla. – The sun shined. The pool glistened. The beach beckoned. But for hours at a posh resort Monday, NHL general managers broke up into small groups, holed up in meeting rooms and discussed hockey minutiae. The main topics: goalie interference, diving and embellishment, and emergency goaltenders.  

    They’ll discuss them again as one group Tuesday, as well as the biggest topics of this year’s three-day meeting: 3-on-3 overtime and video review of goalie interference. If the GMs recommend a rule change, it goes to the competition committee and the board of governors. No recommendations have been made yet.

    “Things seem anal until you get into Game 6 and 7 in the playoffs,” said Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president of hockey operations. “They’re not anal anymore. They’re important.”

    -- Goalie interference: First, before getting into video review of goalie interference, the GMs went over what exactly constitutes goalie interference. They don’t want to go back to disallowing goals because of the black-and-white, toe-in-the-crease rule. But that means the call is subjective, and that means there will be debate.

    It’s not like the refs don’t already know, though.