Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • Three Periods: Maple Leafs need new approach more than new coach

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the frustration of Leafs Nation and Brendan Shanahan’s approach as team president, plus notes on 3-on-3 overtime, the salary cap, Jack Johnson, Pascal Dupuis, Alex Hemsky and more.

    FIRST PERIOD: Maple Leafs need new approach more than a new coach

    Leafs Nation is frustrated, and should be. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the richest franchise in the NHL. Yet they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They haven’t made the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons, and when they did make it, they blew a three-goal lead late in Game 7, lost in overtime and fell in the first round.

    They have owners who compete head-to-head in their main businesses. They have a corporate boss headed out the door. They have a president who didn’t hire the general manager, a GM who didn’t hire the coach, a coach who didn’t hire his assistants. They have a roster that lacks a No. 1 center, a No. 1 defenseman and more.

    Coach Randy Carlyle was asked this week if the Leafs had found their identity yet.

    “No,” he said. “I just think we’re too erratic and we’re too inconsistent.”

    THIRD PERIOD: More notes from around the NHL

  • Despite cancer battle, it's business as usual for Senators GM Bryan Murray: 'We live our lives'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    TORONTO — The NHL’s general managers held their November meeting Tuesday at the league office in Toronto. They sat around a football-shaped table in alphabetical order by team. Off to one side, between the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ron Hextall, was the Ottawa Senators’ Bryan Murray.

    He didn’t have to be there. His wife has been telling him he’s old enough to retire for four or five years now, and he will turn 72 on Dec. 5. But hockey has been his life, and he isn’t ready to retire yet even though he has cancer and it has reached Stage 4, the final stage. So he postponed chemotherapy by a day to discuss minutiae like the dry scrape before overtime.

    “We live our lives,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be involved as long as I have been. I go to the hospital. I see young people, young mothers and young children. And if I can’t be strong and brave, how can they be?”

    “I had the opportunity to sell the idea, if that’s the right word, that colonoscopies for all of us are important,” Murray said. “I thought the message could be and should be loud enough that it might affect some people and save some people.”

    He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

  • NHL scraps the dry scrape, makes goal review change at GM meetings

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 5 days ago

    TORONTO – The NHL has scrapped the dry scrape.

    In an effort to end more games in overtime – and avoid the shootout skills competition – the NHL ordered Zambonis to scrape the ice without laying water between the end of regulation and the start of OT this season. The idea was to improve ice quality, making it easier to pass, shoot and score. 

    Problem was, it was a buzzkill. Here were two teams in a tie game headed to overtime and … everyone … had … to … wait.

    The dry scrape took about five minutes on average but as long as 6 1/2 minutes in some cases, and the early returns didn’t show much effect in ending more games in OT. 

    So at their annual November meeting Tuesday, the NHL’s general managers decided to park the Zambonis. Crews will now shovel the ice between regulation and overtime the same way they do during TV timeouts.

    NHL executive Colin Campbell said there would not be a dry scrape before shootouts, the way there was in the past. Zambonis made only four passes in the middle of the ice then, and players still handled the puck wider than that lane without complaint. 

    Other key points from the GM meeting:

    “It didn’t really happen, but it happened,” Campbell said.

  • Four years after his passing, Pat Burns inducted into Hall of Fame: 'His name is here forever, and that’s important'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    TORONTO — The best way to honor a coach is to listen to him, to learn from him. So listen to the video clip they played of Pat Burns before his Hockey Hall of Fame induction on Monday night, learn from it. Thin, sick, dying of cancer, Burns stood at a lectern and said: “You don’t cry because it’s over. You’re happy because it happened.”

    This is a happy thing. This happened: Pat Burns went from police officer to hockey coach. He became the first three-time winner of the Jack Adams Award. He became a Stanley Cup champion and, finally, a Hall of Famer. Yes, it is sad he died at age 58 nearly four years ago. Yes, it is a shame he wasn’t inducted while he was still alive. But what would he say now?

    “At his first Hall of Fame induction opportunity, a lot of people were outraged he didn’t make it in,” said his son, Jason Burns, on stage Monday night. “A lot of people but him.”

    Jason remembered being nervous to bring up the news when the selection committee passed on his father in 2010. But Pat was not bitter. He did not blow up. He said it was an honor just to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

    Then he did what he always did. He coached.

    He was so much there …

    “No. No. No.”

  • Martin Brodeur still hoping for NHL chance, says 'not about ego or anything'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 5 days ago

    TORONTO – One day Martin Brodeur will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame as an honored member. He has won 688 regular-season games, more than any other goaltender. He has won four Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goaltender. He has won three Stanley Cups.

    But Monday night, Brodeur entered the Hall to support the late Pat Burns, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the Cup in 2003 and finally received his due. Told he would delay his own induction by a year if he returned to play this season, because players aren’t eligible until three years after retirement, Brodeur just laughed.

    “That’s all right,” Brodeur said. “It’s not a big deal.”

    Brodeur hasn’t given up. He still wants to play at age 42. He’s still willing to go to another team, even though he has spent his entire 21-season NHL career with the Devils. He’s skating three or four times a week, and he has set no deadline.

    “I’m here if somebody needs me,” Brodeur said. “I’m going to keep myself ready. Whatever happens, I don’t need to make a decision. I don’t want to cheat myself of any opportunities if it happens later on. I’m just taking it day by day.”

    What role is Brodeur willing to accept?

  • The legend of Dominik Hasek: From hockey heretic to the Hall of Fame

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    TORONTO — One day in January 2002, Dominik Hasek was in goal while the Detroit Red Wings practiced at the other end of the ice. He spent the dead time doing his visualization drills, flopping all over the crease, foiling imaginary foes, until Brendan Shanahan had a free moment and grabbed a puck.

    Four years before, Hasek had stoned Shanahan in a shootout at the Nagano Olympics, giving the Czech Republic a stunning 2-1 semifinal win over Canada. Now here they were again. They were in an empty arena with nothing at stake, but they were two all-time greats going head to head a month before the Salt Lake Olympics.

    Shanahan broke away …


    Shanahan tried again …


    Shanahan tried once more …


    Finally, Shanahan had enough, and Hasek went back to battling his ghosts.

    “I enjoy to be competitive, not only in the game but also in the practice,” Hasek said the other day. “I really enjoy it.”

    This is the legend of the Dominator.

    Be it the biggest stage or backstage, Dominik Hasek was determined to stop the puck. He saw, practiced and played the game differently than any other goaltender, and he will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night as the greatest of his era, if not all-time.

  • Three Periods: Stralman's complete story; Lehtera looks like a veteran; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Anton Stralman completing his game with the Tampa Bay Lightning; Jori Lehtera anchoring the STL Line after joining the NHL; plus notes on the rest of the Blues’ offense, Cory Schneider, Connor McDavid and goalie mask designs.

    FIRST PERIOD: Stralman becomes more complete with health, opportunity

    When the Tampa Bay Lightning held pro scouting meetings before free agency, some people in the room pushed for Anton Stralman.

    Others thought, “Anton Stralman?” The defenseman the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted in the seventh round in 2005? The guy who bounced between the AHL and NHL for two years, got traded to the Calgary Flames and then got flipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets? The guy who tried out for the New Jersey Devils and couldn’t land a contract? The guy who ended up with the New York Rangers and became solid but unspectacular?

    “I thought he was a really good defenseman,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He’s better than that in my eyes.”

    Two keys: health and opportunity.

    Stralman wants to put all the pieces together now.

    SECOND PERIOD: Lehtera looks like NHL veteran after coming over from KHL

  • Bloodlines and 'utter desire': Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko was born to score

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

    They would skate for three or four hours in the subzero Siberian night – minus-20, minus-30, sometimes even minus-40 degrees Celsius. Yes, the temperature could plunge that low. They could skate, Tarasenko said, “forever.”

    Now Tarasenko is a 22-year-old winger starring for the St. Louis Blues, ranking among the NHL leaders with nine goals and 19 points in 15 games. He has a wicked shot, deft passing touch, keen hockey sense, strong drive and humble attitude. He is a case study of nature and nurture, DNA and development, talent and commitment.

    He often talks hockey with his father, now a KHL coach. He still speaks to his grandfather after every game, knowing his grandfather has risen early halfway around the world – at 7 a.m. in Novosibirsk for a 7 p.m. faceoff in St. Louis – to watch the Blues live.

    Well, he speaks to his grandfather after almost every game.

    “Sometimes when it’s bad game and I know he’ll be a little bit mad at me,” Tarasenko said with a smile, “I don’t call.”

    The Blues don’t want to overhype Tarasenko. But when they talk about the future, they talk about living up to enormous potential. When they shy from comparisons, they kind of make them anyway.

    It’s in his blood.

  • One year after brutal injury, Steven Stamkos says he 'may never' be quite the same

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    He still feels it a year later. He might feel it forever. Though Steven Stamkos is scoring again for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a rod and a screw remain in the right leg he snapped against a goal post 365 days ago. Sometimes it’s stiff. Sometimes it’s tender in spots. Almost every day it’s something – something not quite right.

    “Is it ever going to feel the same way it did before?” Stamkos said. “It may never. I’m hoping one day it’s, you wake up and there’s no little pain and there’s no discomfort. It just feels like a regular leg. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

    “You kind of …

    “Your body has a new norm now, and that’s been an adjustment.”

    Stamkos has 10 goals, one off the NHL lead. He has 16 points in 15 games. Tampa Bay has 23 points, tied for the league lead. Yet Stamkos is still recovering and hasn’t been happy with his performance. The Lightning is on a six-game winning streak and has gone 11-3-1 without him at his best.

    “Best” is relative. Stamkos isn’t back to where he was before the injury because he set such a high standard and the injury was so brutal.

    Cooper didn’t finish the sentence. It was almost like he couldn’t say it.

    It was a broken tibia.

  • Three Periods: Voracek's sleek start; Fleury risk & reward; NHL notes

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 17 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Jakub Voracek’s hot start; Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract extension; and notes on Vladimir Tarasenko, the Washington Capitals, the Colorado Avalanche and the quotable Dallas Eakins.

    FIRST PERIOD: Voracek loses pounds, adds points for Flyers

    Jakub Voracek is not getting carried away, and neither should we. The Philadelphia Flyers winger ranked second in the NHL in scoring entering Thursday night, one point behind Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the reigning MVP. But it’s November. Early November.

    “I wouldn’t get too confident,” Voracek said. “It’s only the beginning, and we can talk about 55 games in.”

    Yet this hot start highlights a player who has been good – and is capable of getting better. Voracek has 18 points in 12 games. When we talk about 55 games in, at least we should be talking about an impact player who is on pace for career highs.

    “He’s faster, and he’s got more gas from start to finish,” said general manager Ron Hextall. “It’s made a huge difference for him.”

    “He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Giroux said. “With that kind of confidence and skill, it’s dangerous.”