Rangers Fallout -- and what's next at MSG?
Rangers slapped with a $250,000 fine. Carter pots four; Pens look playoff-ready. Wayne Gretzky on ESPN? McDavid and Matthews shine again.
The dust-up has cleared at Madison Square Garden, alias The OK Corral of Hockey, but the questions linger on -- well-sprinkled with guesses galore.
John Davidson now is Rangers history but could wind up in his home town of Calgary where all signs indicate that a new general manager would freshen -- maybe even ignite -- the playoff starving Flames.
Seventh Avenue's newest g.m., Sir Christopher Drury, escaped unhurt from his first media scrum without seriously addressing his club's coaching situation.
If Drury decides that David Quinn is not his cup of coaching, there's a long line of potential candidates on 33rd Street ready for an interview.
(Hey, Rangers fans, how would you like Gerard Gallant behind the Blueshirts bench? Of course you would. Or, perhaps Cup-winner Claude Julien.)
Then again, Glen (The Goatee Man) Sather is going to have a big Slats say in the matter. After all, he's not listed as "Senior Advisor" for nothing.
If some of the Rangers had the combative streak that Glen exhibited during his NHL career, there's be no need for Drury to sign a grit guy or three.
Some fans -- and that includes crack hockey photographer David Perlmutter -- have been quick to put the rap on MSG boss, Jim Dolan, as some sort of guillotine operator in this Rangers passion play.
(Hot Tip:) I've known Jim -- my former employer -- for almost a lifetime. So, I offer two thoughts to his critics. "Jim ignores the zingers, the way you would a light snowfall; and Mr. Dolan wants to win more than ten Rangers cheerleaders put together.
Actually, Jimmy's changing of the guard reminds me of Lou Lamoriello's philosophy, "Do what's right and do it now." Translated: being proactive ain't the worst thing in the world.
Dolan came right out and faced the music in an exclusive interview with the New York Post's Larry Brooks. And speaking of music, Dolan -- he's had his own successful band for years -- struck a musical theme. In fact, it reflected one of the all-time Broadway tunes, "You Gotta Have Heart -- Miles And Miles of Heart."
In effect, MSG's boss asserted that his hockey club needs a culture reset.
"I saw a weakness in the team that was not being addressed and I knew it needed to be," is what Dolan told Brooks. "I knew we were missing a key component for us to be a Stanley Cup contender. And that's the overall spirit and culture that goes with being a team."
Dolan allowed that he perceived the problem weeks before he cut the cord on Davidson and Gorton. "I started thinking about it 20 to 25 games ago when the team needed to show heart. We clearly had nothing close to our best effort."
That last quote is directly linked to the two most important games of the season; the pair of heartless losses to an Islanders team that owned what the Blueshirts lacked.
That -- and the other earlier disappointing performances -- is what triggered Dolan's ultimate decision.
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: RANGERS SLAPPED WITH $250,000 FINE
THE JIVE: The Blueshirts' harsh, personal and emotional response to the NHL's Department of Player Safety following L'Affaire Tom Wilson can be summed up two ways: 1. A quarter-million dollar fine; 2. The reason, as articulated by Commissioner Bettman. To wit:
"Public comments of the nature issued by the Rangers that were personal in nature and demeaning of a league executive will not be tolerated. While we don't expect our clubs to agree with every decision rendered by the Department of Public Safety, the extent to which the Rangers expressed their disagreement was unacceptable.
"It is totally unfair to question George Parros professionalism and dedication to his role and the Department of Public Safety."
Esteemed author Alan Greenberg -- "Confessions of a Government Man -- offers the best summation of the episode: You don't bite the hand that feeds you and violate every business protocol imaginable.
Case closed; vault open!
HEADLINE: BEWARE OF THE PEERLESS PENGUINS
THE JIVE: The championship window in Pittsburgh gets wider by the day. Granted that their core stars -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang -- are aging. But they're doing it like young colts. Now, after two successive post-season failures -- and losing to Montreal in the qualifying round -- they've added Jeff Carter. That may be one of the best trade deadline moves of the campaign. Carter's four goals last night against Buffalo in the 8-4 romp is proof positive that Pitt has an offense that's downright scary. Think about it, if Crosby, Malkin, Carter and Jake Guentzel are zooming on all cylinders, that's a team you wouldn't want to face in any round.
HEADLINE: SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE CHAMPS ARE SHAPING UP
THE JIVE: I'm delighted that "The Master Blaster" -- alias broadcast-journalist Larry Hirsch -- is zipping along with Lightning news for us. After attending a Bolts practice, Hirsch reports that Steven Stamkos is skating and Nikita Kucherov is expected to be getting playing-ready soon. "Steven and Nikita will be the keys to the Bolts' power play," Larry notes. "What's noticeable is that in the win over Dallas, coach Jon Cooper used four lines. Expect that to be an important asset during the playoffs. Although he doesn't get the ink he deserves, Alex Kilorn has become one of the genuine leaders of the Champs."
HEADLINE: WILL WAYNE GET "MIKED?"
THE JIVE: According to The Athletic, The Great One -- Wayne Gretzky -- has been offered a broadcasting gig by the NHL's next, prime US. network carrier, ESPN. The info has it that Gretz -- a titular member of the Oilers organization -- has neither accepted nor rejected the offer. What matters is that ESPN is taking a no-kidding-around gung-ho approach to its format.
I assume that if he takes the offer -- hope he does -- he'll be an occasional commentator. And if not, expect ESPN to pursue other Hall of Famers. Certainly, Mark Messier would be a natural.
HEADLINE: WHO'S BETTER THAN MCDAVID AND MATTHEWS?
THE JIVE: Connor McDavid collected three assists while his Oilers were defeated last night by Vancouver. The Con Man now has 96 points, a mere four short of the coveted century mark. With four games left, the 100 figure is in the bag. Meanwhile, in another part of the Dominion of Canada, Auston Matthews tallied his 40th goal -- in his 49th game no less -- as Toronto beat Montreal, 5-2. A majority of critics unofficially would rate McDavid the best player in the league. Fair enough. But there's also the suggestion that Matthews' mania with goals somehow makes him "The Best American-Born Player Ever." To that I reply, gimme a break. Put it this way, The Kid's phenomenal, no question, but there are two caveats. 1. He's illuminating his red lights in arguably the weakest NHL division: 2. Let's see what the whizbang can do about getting Toronto out of the first playoff round. (In other hockey words, I'll have my decision on Matthews upon further review.
HEADLINE: KAPPING ONE HECK OF A ROOKIE SEASON
THE JIVE: The no-brainer of this award-voting season has to be Kirill Kaprizov. The ultra-skilled ace of the Wild was signed by g.m. Bill (Very Good Man) Guerin to a two year entry level contract with the 2019-20 season. He had been a fifth round pick in 2015. So the question -- as the ink dried on his contract -- was whether Double K could live up to his billing as "NHL ready shot, with super skilled shoot first mentality." Well, folks, The Rapid Russian has 26 goals in 52 games. His 0.50 goal average is the best of any rookie since the start of the 2006-07 season. (Give him two more years and he may be better than Matthews.)
HEADLINE: FLYERS GOT A BEAUTY FROM MICHIGAN
THE JIVE: I was there when Gordon (Red) Berenson left his starry days as the University of Michigan's contribution to the NHL. Red went on to play for the Habs, Rangers and then St.Louis. He once scored six goals against Philadelphia making Berenson the first Expansion superstar. As an NHL talent producer, Michigan has come a long way since then as proven by the Flyers recent signing of Wolverine defenseman Cam York. After a cup of coffee in the AHL, York will make his Philly NHL debut tomorrow. My Michigan scout, Henri Kolb, offers this note: "York will handle the jump to the NHL quite well. He'll be able to take his defensive skill to the offense as well. I expect that he'll be fine, quarterbacking the Flyers power play."
By the way, York's debut also will bring the Michigan-to-the-NHL total up to 101 overall. (Berenson, who went on to a hugely successful career as Michigan coach, would be proud.)
Which actor who played a boxer three times and a football player once, also portrayed a goalie named Jumbo in the movie, "King of Hockey?"
CLASSIC QUOTES OF YESTERYEAR: "You can drive a truck on this kid's backbone."
-Brian Burke on Eric Lindros' toughness.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The actor was Western star Wayne Morris.