Stan's Java Jive: 3/5/21
Darryl Sutter is back behind the bench in Calgary; Leafs fall; Penguins suffer from the dreaded 3-goal-lead!
HEADLINE: DARRYL SUTTER NEW FLAMES COACH
THE JIVE: As I had written earlier in this space, Geoff Ward had been on the coaching hot seat for weeks. His 11-11-2 record just didn't cut it; not after he'd been 24-15-3 last season as interim coach. Hopes soared on opening night and plummeted as the campaign unfolded. The Flames 7-3 win last night over Ottawa was too-little-too-late. As for Sutter, this is one tough Darryl dude. He's tougher than Torts -- just ask the media -- and, I predict, will rally Calgary into a playoff team. (You can write that down and see me after the season ends.)
HEADLINE: MAYBE THE MAPLE LEAFS REALLY AREN'T THAT GOOD
THE JIVE: Or, to put it another way, perhaps coach Travis Green's Canucks are finally finding their groove in a delayed yet determined playoff quest. This much is certain, everyone -- including my newest reporter, Levi Horton -- pegged Toronto after the three-game Edmonton blitzing as the greatest thing since Gordie Howe's Red Wings. Nay. NAY! The Boys From B.C. showed Marner, Matthews, Ltd. what "Ltd." is all about. Vancouver limited Sheldon Keefe's kings of Ontario to one measly goal. Final Score, 3-1, Canucks. (One more loss, and the cry you'll hear all the way from Toronto will be: "What's wrong with the Leafs?")
HEADLINE: IS ALEX OVECHKIN UNFAIRLY ABUSED?
THE JIVE: It's a reasonable question because The Great Eight has become a target of nasty -- some would say "Dirty!" -- pests such as the Bruins' rarely-scoring fourth-liner Trent Frederic. In the last Boston-Capitals game, Frederic launched his Anti-8 abuse campaign by pushing Ovie into the boards, then tossing off his gloves, inviting a fight. As Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell notes, "Alex showed remarkable restraint" Frederic continued his invitation to mayhem until the Caps' captain finally took matters into his own hands and speared the Big, Bad Bruin in the jewels. That bit of frontier justice cost him a five-grand fine from the NHL for "slashing." Abuse of stars is nothing new. It happened to Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, and Mike Bossy, just to name a few. Howe either would have punched Frederic into the Charles River and/or done some jewelry probing a la Ovie. Ditto, the Rocket. Whether referee Pierre Lambert correctly handled the Ovie episode -- the zebra saw it all -- is a moot point. Campbell thought not. Alex believed that retaliation was necessary and that's that. (P.S. The teams meet again tonight. Yikes! I wanna be there. Frederic may not!!)
HEADLINE: THE 'DREADED THREE-GOAL LEAD' LIVES
THE JIVE: Memo to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan: When you were in New York, as assistant coach of the Rangers, you should have paid attention to The Maven's warning -- "Beware The Dreaded 3-Goal Lead” -- and learned to act accordingly. Last night your Fly-less Birds led Philly 3-0. That should have flashed an "S.O.S." in your head. Then, you had to follow-up with the Anti-Dreaded-3-Goal-Lead medicine. Play every gosh darn second as if it was the third period of Game 7 of the Final Round. But you didn't listen. Result, last night Claude Giroux reaffirmed my lesson by scoring his second goal of the game with 2:08 left in the third. Ergo: Flyers 4, Pitt 3. (Mike: The lesson still is free.)
HEADLINE: DOES HABS' JAKE ALLEN NEED A NEW GOALIE COACH TOO?
THE JIVE: Canadiens g.m. Marc Bergevin fired competent goalie coach Stephane Waite and imported Sean Burke as Carey Price's new baby-sitter. Fair enough. But where does that leave the very able back-up -- and often better than Price -- Jake Allen? After last night's Habs 4-3 OT loss to the Jets, Jake The Rake had every right to ask Marc-My-Word to bring Waite-A-Minute back to the Habs crew as HIS goalie-sitter; doncha-think? (Obviously, The Maven does.)
HEADLINE; THE MOST OVERLOOKED VERY GOOD TEAM IS IN WINNIPEG
THE JIVE: No kidding around, the immortal Paul (Call Me Moe) Maurice is coaching one heckuva hockey club in the Province of Manitoba. With six wins out of their last seven games, the Jets boast such a fine forward brigade that The Moe Man can mix and match blindfolded should the spirit move him. Right now the trio, featuring Paul Stastny, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, has just about everything going for it except a good nickname. And since Wheeler is the balance wheel of the unit, how about "The Wheeler Dealers?" (No? Yes? YES!)
HEADLINE: LEADERSHIP ISSUES FOR MCDAVID
THE JIVE: If any single challenge was raised by the Oilers hat trick debacle against Toronto, it focused on Edmonton's captain. While most of the civilized world agrees that Connor McDavid is a consummate individual virtuoso, his failure to rally his troops in Game One, Two or Three strongly indicates that The Man lacks qualities that have enabled Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Victor Hedman to orchestrate Stanley Cup-winners. For now at least, McDavid is a superior soloist-but-without-leadership portfolio. Whether this can change for the better remains a moot point. (See me on this topic at playoff time.)
HEADLINE: PRESCRIPTION FOR THE ONE-LINE OILERS
THE JIVE: The mauling stopped but the misery lingers on for an Edmonton team still reeling from a three-game 12-1 drubbing by the Maple Leafs. No amount of beating up on the Senators or Flames or Canucks can heal the wounds. There's fixing to be done if Dave Tippett's Oilers expect to get out of the first playoff round. Let's face it, Toronto exposed the weak underbelly of the McDavid-Draisaitl armored car. Our team repair doctor, Gus Vic, offers this analysis and prescription. "Without secondary scoring, it's easier for teams to concentrate on McDavid," Vic notes. "There was enough there in the pack mentality that enabled the Leafs to make it difficult for McDavid to make plays. I recommend that Tippett reunite Connor and Leon for the upcoming games with Calgary."
THE HEADLINE: EDMONTON COLUMNIST NAMES NAMES, RIPS THE OIL
THE JIVE: The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones doesn't fool around. After Tippett's troops ignominiously left the ice following the Maple mauling Jones bluntly accused the home team of needing "guts and grit." He added that McDavid, Inc. should rely "more on will than skill." As for those who Terry recommends for dumping, he suggests that g.m. Ken Holland eschew James Neal, Gaetan Haas and Kyle Turris. (And that was just for starters.)
HEADLINE: THE BUFFALO CONUNDRUM
THE JIVE: There's no quick fix for the Sabres. The trade Jack Eichel suggestions are just to the left of absurd. Right now, opposing general managers will do embattled Buffalo boss Kevyn Adams no favors. Demands that Ralph Krueger get canned are to be expected but they remind me of a very interesting item Bill Hoppe wrote before the season began. It was a bit of clever insight about the Sabres general staff. "Krueger clearly has greater influence under Adams than he did with (previous g.m.) Jason Botterill," Hoppe asserted in The Hockey News Annual. "A rookie g.m. working with a small staff needs advice and a sounding board. Three of the first five free agents the Sabres signed had connections to Krueger." But that was then -- "Sabres look like a playoff contender," Hoppe wrote -- but this is now. Last night the Islanders beat them, 5-2, at Nassau. Rookie goalie Jonas Johansson made 40 saves. (My son, Simon, who watched the game reports that were it not for Johansson's fine play, the score could have been much higher. One bright Buffalo spot, Taylor Hall scored. "He also played a really good two-way game," Simon adds. (They meet again in Nassau tomorrow night.)
HEADLINE: THE TRADE DEADLINE IS APRIL 12
THE JIVE: Already La Rue de Rumeur is alive with gossip. The hopefully playoff-bound Kings are on the lookout for a defenseman. Names mentioned include Zack Werensky and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. And naturally, Jack Eichel. The Eichel-dreamers in this case reportedly are the Kings and Rangers. As noted above, the Oilers should be searching for grit-guys. (Pronto!)
* ANOTHER 'JETHROE' ON THE ISLAND? Matty Martin's two-goal effort for the Nassaumen last night suggests to me that M&M is The Poor Man's Clark (Jethroe) Gillies.
* REDOUBTABLE ROD: Always a sleeper as Coach-Of-The Year, Rod Brind'Amour racked up his 100th win -- 5-2 Canes over Detroit -- last night.
* G.M. OF THE YEAR: That's always a fascinating race. The way Chicago has become a playoff contender, Stan Bowman has to be in the mix.
* OBVIOUS QUESTION DEPARTMENT; TSN asks, "Did the three-game sweep indicate that there are bigger issues on the Oilers?" (I answer that query with a question: Does the sun rise in the East?)
FAREWELL TO A FAN AND A FAN-MAKER
When Toronto-based author Rob Del Mundo's father, Gerry, emigrated to Canada from the Philippines, he didn't know a hockey puck from a Social Tea Biscuit. But once settled in Canada, he learned the ice game faster than you can say Conn Smythe. In time he passed that passion along to his son, Rob. First, Kid Del Mundo played minor hockey, all the time, being driven to games by Dad while getting good lessons before and after the games. On March 11, 1978, Pop Del Mundo took Rob to his first Leafs game and 21 years later they were there to close Maple Leaf Gardens. A retired realtor and previously lab technician, Gerry guided his lad to a journalistic career as well as a fine book author. The senior Del Mundo recently passed away but Rob's memory of his mentor lingers on. "He was the greatest man I've ever known," says Rob. "My hero!" R.I.P. Gerry Del Mundo.
TRIVIA CORNER: DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF THE 1930S, THE OTTAWA SENATORS WERE MOVED TO A STATE-SIDE CITY. WHERE DID IT HAPPEN AND WHAT WAS THE NEW TEAM CALLED?
FUNNY LINES FROM YESTERYEAR: "WHY NOT? HE'S A GOOD DOG.”
-Clark Gillies on his dog drinking from the Stanley Cup.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The Senators moved to St. Louis in 1934 where the franchise was called the Eagles. It folded a year later.