Stan's Java Jive: 2/10/21

Burke, Hextall headed to Pitt; Lafreniere struggling in the Big Apple; Keeping an eye out for the Hawks and Yotes


THE JIVE: Mario Lemieux & Company wasted no time replacing the exited Jim Rutherford. No question, both Brian Burke and Ron Hextall are excellent hires based on past performances. And if you don't believe me, listen up to Pens President-CEO, David Morehouse. "We have two of the best minds in hockey and two of the most respected. It's part of our history -- Bob Johnson, Scotty Bowman, Jim Rutherford and on to today." Hextall was no surprise. He's been hunting for a gig and became the favorite after the likes of Chris Drury refused the opportunity. Burke is a shocker. He loved his tv gig; loved Toronto and seemed set for life as an analyst. But, as BB puts it: "This is a no brainer. This is not a run of the mill team. The Penguins are in the 'Cadillac' class." Hexy puts it another way: "If you told me two years ago that this would happen, I wouldn't believe it; but here we are and I'm with a first-class organization."


THE JIVE: Vince Comunale has been following the Penguins more than most Pitt journalists and points out why the double-dip hire was a must.

"It's an excellent move," Vince insists. "The Penguins recognize the club needs a change in the business model and management structure. The franchise did not have a President of Hockey Operations and needed one and now they have one. Just a guess; but perhaps that's one reason why Jim Rutherford left the team. Jim was a hands-on guy being questioned by non-hockey people -- other than Mario Lemieux who, basically was 'Hands Off.' Hockey people want to report to hockey people and that may explain why Burke was added to the equation. Brian is a 'No-Nonsense' guy. The Penguins needed a personality like him. In this case two voices are better than one."


THE JIVE: It's a given that heads will roll off the roster; the questions remain: 1. Which heads? 2. When will it happen? The Twin Titans need time to settle in and evaluate before any moves are made. Author Burke in his new book, "Burke's Law," plainly states that he never likes to make instant cuts when he gets a new gig. "I like to survey the scene and know what's what." That, for example, is why he waited longer than expected before firing Ron Wilson in Anaheim, among many others. It means that Mike Sullivan is only safe until the season is over and you can bet that the onus is on Sully to get past the first playoff round; at a very minimum. Hexy, of course, will play an equal part in the decision-making. But, remember, we're talking about two of the most headstrong guys in NHL annals. How will they handle a clash of opinions when it comes to an issue like should Evgeni Malkin be traded? A Burke vs. Hexy bout is not out of the question considering their notorious low boiling points. For sure, one of the best "Coming Attraction" clashes will pit the "I'll Punch You" Brian against the media. There are some tough cookies among the Pitt press but nobody tops Burke when it comes to challenging something said or written that riles this good man. As one Canadian analyst sagely notes about Burke-Hextall working together: "It's going to be a delicate balancing act."


THE JIVE: That's the price one has to pay when you're a First Overall and under a Manhattan microscope. And the Post's Larry Brooks' has taken a look  and finds Able Alexis getting little key ice time lately, late in the third period. Not to worry, the likes of Habs Hall of Famers, Jean Beliveau and 

Guy Lafleur floundered in the beginning and, well, you know the rest. If there's any reason for concern on Seventh Avenue, it's the Flatwheel Express that's Mika Zibanejad's game so far. He of the 41 goals in 57 games last year. (Meanwhile, Alexis will get another shot at key ice time -- he hopes -- tonight against the Bruins.)


THE JIVE. Maybe it's because the Yotes have been down so long. Or maybe it's because they're in a Phoenix suburb called Glendale. Whatever the reason it's time to get Rick Tocchet's outfit out of the publicity shadows. Even without the vagabond Taylor Hall, this Arizona gang plays exciting hockey. And with some compelling characters. On Monday night their Clayton Keller tied the game with exactly .07 left in the game. The goal was courtesy of an extraordinary backhand pass delivered by Christian Dvorak. Then Dvorak, the pride of Palos, Illinois, put the topper on the Yotes win with a Shootout surprise that still has the defeated Blues stunned. (Let's not forget that the Yotes not only made the playoffs last season but knocked off Nashville in five. Also, let's not forget that not a single Arizona ace is listed under The Hockey News' Top 50 Players in the NHL. That said, I like Darcy Kuemper's goaltending -- 40 saves the other night -- and the gutsy efforts produced by the very gutsy coach Tocchet.)


THE JIVE: The terrific twosome added lustre to women's hockey including a Gold Medal stint for Uncle Sam at the Pyeong Chang Olympics. Monique Lamoureux-Morando and twin, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, 31, announced their retirement. "It's the time," they say and, to that, I say THANK YOU for your multiple contributions to American hockey. (Especially that 3-2 win over Canada.)

HEADLINE: ANOTHER CHANCE FOR PATRIK LAINE: If the ballyhooed Columbus newcomer gets benched again by John Tortorella, what will that mean? As the eminent Craig Button notes, all Patty-Cake has to do is show some "effort." One unconfirmed report has it that Laine said something not-so-nice to one of Tort's aides and that led to the benching. (Now,I ask you, is it really that hard to be nice and to make an "effort" considering the kind of dough Laine is making? Well, for the well-spoiled Laine, maybe it is.)


JIVE: The Hockey News predicted that the Blackhawks would be the fifth-worst team in the NHL. And that's before anyone knew that captain Jonathan Toews would be out for who-knows-how-long. Not to mention the boot given Corey Crawford and the deal that sent Brandon Saad to Colorado. The club's 0-3-1 start made The Hockey News prediction look good -- at least for the moment -- but look at the Windy City's sextet now. After last night's 2-1 win over Dallas, coach Jeremy Colliton has his skaters at 6-4-4 thanks to surprises galore. Finnish goalie Kevin Lankinen -- he was low man on the netminding totem pole pre-season -- won his second straight game and Swiss center Pius Suter has been a revelation. Granted, he had a poor giveaway during regulation but compensated at the end by scoring the OT winner. Special teams have become "Special." Swedish left wing Mattias Janmark scored a key PP goal against his former team to tie the game, 2-2 while rookie Ian Mitchell continues to star on defense. Mitch was Denver University's team captain and second leading scorer before turning pro. He displays strong leadership skills. My Blackhawks reporter, Coby Maer, goes against The Hockey News original prediction and tells me, "The way the Hawks are moving now they could be a playoff team!" (To that I say, good for my pal, Stan Bowman.)


THE JIVE: When one of Detroit's top scorers, Anthony Mantha, becomes a healthy scratch, which happened in Florida during the first of the two-game Wings-Panthers set, it sets off tremors. Already on shaky ground, coach Jeff Blashill called the benching "performance related" and didn't seem too happy to discuss it. My man in South Florida, Alan Greenberg, reports that Detroit's coach was a bit softer after the Wings 2-1 loss last night. The benching comment was: "When Anthony skates, he's great. When he's not skating he's not as good."  Last night Blashill followed up with what Greenberg labelled a "condescending" observation about Mantha's game. "Anthony did things that make him good." All this tells me is that there's a Tortorella-Laine thing going with the Wings. Which may not be good for Blashill. Greenberg bluntly tells me, "Blashill is not Torts. This battle of the wits is not good for Jeff." (I wonder what Stevie Yzerman is thinking. New coach, perhaps?)


* DEVILS NIX PITT BID FOR FITZ: In a very short time Tom Fitzgerald has established a solid rep as New Jersey's g.m. No surprise then that the Penguins had him as a top candidate to move into the Rutherford vacancy. Also no surprise that the Devils refused permission for the Pitt group to talk with Fitz. 

* JEFF PETRY BEING MENTIONED FOR THE NORRIS TROPHY. I say, good-stuff for the hustling Hab from Ann Arbor. Talk about a late starter, the guy's come into his own at age 33. (I envy him.)

* JOHN TAVARES HAS POINTS, BUT WHAT'S THE POINT? It's not just me but my Toronto Sun buddy, Steve Simmons, agrees that with all the points JT has amassed, his game can best be described as eh! (Who cares with human howitzers like Marner and Matthews around, the heats off Johnny Pajamas.)

* C'MON, CANUCKS: My pal Travis Green watched his B.C. boys play a strong game in Toronto and still lose. Hopefully they can use it as a springboard to get back on track. (I'm allowed to root, ain't I?)

*REFORMED RADKO: The Panthers are loving Radko Gudas. Once a wild-swinging, suspension-suspect on D, he's become a model backliner in Sunrise. He's second in the NHL in hits and boasts a Plus-4 in the Plus-Minus Department. So far he has had only one minor penalty. Gudas is a good reason why the Cats are playing like CATS!




GREAT QUOTE FROM THE PAST:"Winning is the name of the game. The more you win, the less you get fired!" Bep Guidolin, former Bruins coach.


Bill Stewart who guided the 1938 Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup!