The Fischler Report: 1/13/21

The NHL is set to open; A Goodbye to John Muckler; USA Captures Gold in the WJC...

OBSERVATIONS:

THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE season is about to begin in a manner never before imagined. To suggest that Commissioner Gary Bettman is steering the Good Ship NHL through uncharted waters comes off like the Understatement of the Century. 

World-wide, these are the most challenging times. For a business such as the NHL, it's more than challenging when one considers the obstacles to be surmounted between now and season's end.

The encouraging news is that the Commissioner, his Deputy, Bill Daly, and crew have extended themselves above and beyond the call of duty and now -- going forward -- we can only hope that this unique season proves as successful as the well-planned close of the 2019-20 campaign. 

To one and all we wish you a Happy, Healthy New Season!


JOHN MUCKLER, who recently passed away, could accurately be described as "The Hockey Man's Hockey Man." The native of Midland, Ontario paid his dues at every level of the game with special emphasis on a long tenure in the old Eastern League as a player first and then manager of the Long Island Ducks.

Many forget that the Ducks planted pro hockey on Long Island, setting the stage for the upcoming Islanders. As Ducks G.M. and coach, John became a legendary sports figure on the Island before moving on to yet bigger and better things in the NHL.

Working in the Bigs, Muckler became one of the most successful and respected executives in several areas. One, in particular, was Edmonton. The Oilers’ press release detailed it more:

Muckler enjoyed his first Stanley Cup win in 1984 as an assistant coach on the Oilers staff and another in 1985 before being promoted to assistant head coach under Sather. Following two more Cup wins with the club in 1987 and ’88, Muckler was handed the head coaching reins in 1989 and led the club to its fifth NHL title in seven years in 1990.

After two years as head coach in Edmonton compiling a 75-65-20 record, Muckler departed for the Buffalo Sabres in 1991 as the team’s director of hockey operations. It wouldn’t be long however until his coaching expertise would be tapped into again as he guided the Sabres for 268 games over parts of four seasons recording 125 wins, 109 losses, and 34 ties.

After a year away from coaching, Muckler was back at it in 1997 taking on head coaching duties for the New York Rangers. His final three years as an NHL head coach saw him earn another 70 wins pushing his all-time win total to 276 over 648 games behind the bench.

Joining the Ottawa Senators as general manager in 2001, Muckler’s hockey expertise helped propel the club to its most successful period after rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1992. Under Muckler’s leadership, the Sens steadily developed into an Eastern Conference power and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007 before falling to the Anaheim Ducks.

A rugged defenceman who spent 13 years in the Eastern Hockey League before embarking on a remarkable coaching and managerial career which spanned five decades and more than 2,000 games at the NHL level, Muckler also served as a coach for three NHL All-Star Games as well as Team Canada’s 1984 and 1987 Canada Cup-winning teams.”


STAN’S JAVA JIVE

HEADLINE: NBC HIRES MIKE BABCOCK.

THE JIVE: I've known Babcock since the Ducks-Devils 2003 Cup Final. The man has brains and can talk hockey with the best of them. How far he'll go in the controversy department remains to be seen. In terms of personalities available, Babs is as good as NBC can get.


HEADLINE: MATTHEW TKACHUK SAYS FLAMES 'SERIOUS CONTENDER.'

THE JIVE: Is he serious? Doubtful until proven otherwise. But Matty is right-on when he says it's time for the Calgary six to rid the "sour taste" from past failures.


HEADLINE: PREDATORS CLAIM LUCA SBISA

THE JIVE: There are some players -- through the years -- you just have to like for their names. Luca is my new fave and I hope he helps Nashville. (My all-time best [long] name from the past is Hall of Famer Maxwell Herbert Lloyd "Max" Bentley of Blackhawks, Maple Leafs and Rangers fame.)


HEADLINE: HURRICANES ARE 'SLEEPER' THREAT ONCE MORE

THE JIVE: Gotta give credit to Don Waddell, the most under-the-radar -- yet superb -- general manager in the NHL. I remember when the media mocked his hire in Raleigh something awful. Don's thriving; his rippers are, well, not heard from anymore.


HEADLINE: BOB BOUGHNER SAYS EVANDER KANE IS 'ON BOARD.'

THE JIVE: For Boughner's sake; for the Sharks sake; for Kane's sake, I sure hope that this sparkling personality actually is on board!


UNDERDOG U.S. OUSTS CANADA AT 2021 IIHF WJC

The IIHF pulled off a successful and entertaining tournament despite the complications presented by the pandemic conditions. TFR’s Emma Miller provides a look back at the 2021 World Junior Championship.

This year’s Team Canada roster will go down as the best team in World Junior Championship history -- to not win the gold medal.

Headed into the championship match, Team Canada had outscored its opponents by a margin of 41-4 in six wins. Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens had produced eight goals and eight assists, and the Canadians did not allow a 5-on-5 goal. Goalie, Devon Levi was selected as the tournament’s best player in a “soft vote” before the final matchup began.

It seemed that only Team USA knew the potential it had to overtake the highly-favored opponent. Trevor Zegras, a first-round pick by the Ducks, boldly asserted to NHL Network before the game: “I honestly don't think (Canada's) been tested with a real team yet and I think we're kind of going on all cylinders right now. I think we're gonna catch them by surprise and I think we'll go from there.”

The eventual tournament MVP could not have been more spot-on in his prediction.  The championship game saw Team USA implement solid possession, particularly 5-on-5, and that became the deal-breaker.

The goalie matchup between the rival squads was one of the pinnacles of the tournament. Team Canada’s Levi was nearly unbeatable with a GAA of 0.67 in his first six games -- but the levee broke at an inopportune time for the Canadian goaltender.

Kings prospect Alex Turcotte netted the game-winning 1-0 tally, calling it the “biggest goal of his life” to ESPN. Zegras lit the lamp for the seventh time in seven games to make the final score 2-0. The latter is finishing his WJC career tied with Jordan Schroeder for Team USA’s all-time scoring leader (27 points). Both players are now jetting off to California to report to their respective NHL training camps.

Netminder Spencer Knight, a first-round pick by the Panthers in 2019, was impenetrable in the gold medal game with a record-breaking three shutouts in the tournament. To Team Canada’s credit, USA was granted a handful of lucky bounces, and Knight was sharper than ever. But Team USA’s aggressive puck play, outstanding goaltending, and defensive zone coverage were impossible to beat, resulting in America’s fourth gold medal in eleven years.

Next year’s tournament will take place in Edmonton and Red Deer beginning Dec. 26, 2021.


GOSSIP:

  • With Zdeno Chara moving on, it seems BruinsCam Neely is asking the same questions as everyone else: “We’ve got some guys that have played a lot of good hockey for us, a lot of years for us. Their careers are somewhat winding down and we have to really take a hard look at where we are as an organization. Can we compete for a Stanley Cup, and if we can, what do we have to do to our roster to do that?” Four of the most iconic modern-day Bruins are 33 or over now: Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand. Torey Krug, 29, would have easily been the team’s top D-man especially with Chara’s departure, but Krug ultimately signed a seven-year contract with the Blues in Oct. 2020. Big changes could be brewing in Beantown as this could potentially be the last season we see the Bruins core intact.

  • The Western Hockey League has publicly committed to putting on a season in the year 2021. The league will first need approval from the proper authorities in each province, but Commissioner Ron Robison assured that a 24-game season will take place. Details must be ironed out, as the WHL is also an international league with 17 Canadian teams and five U.S.-based squads.


DEVILS TIDBITS -- COREY CRAWFORD’S RETIREMENT, AHL UPDATES & MORE

TFR’s Emma Miller gives a run-down of recent Devils’ headlines, including the retirement announcement from goalie Corey Crawford.

Corey Crawford will hang up his skates as a career Blackhawk, forgoing the two-year contract he signed with the New Jersey Devils this past offseason.

“I wanted to continue my career, but believe I've given all I can to the game of hockey, and I have decided that it is time to retire. I would like to thank the New Jersey Devils organization for understanding and supporting my decision. I would like to thank the Chicago Blackhawks organization for giving me the chance to live my childhood dream,” the statement continued. “I am proud to have been part of winning two Stanley Cups in Chicago. Thank you to all of my teammates and coaches throughout the years. Also, thank you to the fans who make this great game what it is. I am happy and excited to move on to the next chapter of my life with my family."

Though he never suited up for the Devils, the ripple of Crawford’s retirement is nevertheless being felt in New Jersey. Crawford was expected to report to Devils training camp on Jan. 1. Flares went up when the 35-year-old goaltender was not seen on the ice during any practices or scrimmages.

The exact circumstances are still unclear, but Crawford’s would-be teammates are fervently protecting his privacy. Kyle Palmieri told Corey Masisak of The Athletic: “Obviously, you want to give him his space. I think it’s between him and his family, and making the best decision for himself and his family right now. So I think you’re there to support him as a teammate and as a guy who, obviously I have a ton of respect for, for what he’s done in his career.”

Devils head coach Lindy Ruff reassured that Crawford’s decision was not a snap judgment and does not leave the team scrambling for a replacement. As of now, Scott Wedgewood has re-joined the Devils as a back up to starter, Mackenzie Blackwood.

AHL’S DEVILS RELOCATE TO NEWARK FROM BINGHAMTON: Hockey fans in and around Newark will be treated to double the action as the AHL’s Binghamton Devils will be joining their big-league affiliate in New Jersey for the duration of the season.

The club cited “the impact of COVID-19 on the AHL schedule and the subsequent limits it imposed” as the main reason for the relocation.

“This decision was made in the best business interests of Binghamton while allowing the organization to continue to develop its prospects,” said Jake Reynolds, President of the Devils. “Being based out of New Jersey also allows consistency with testing, monitoring and training to be in-line with our protocols on the NHL level.  All of these factors influenced the move to minimize concerns and allow the organization to have a team this year.”

The focus of the Devils organization, as evidenced by this decision, is not only on salvaging this whirlwind of a season but also on player safety. The benefits are two-fold: inter-league transactions like call-ups can be completed with more ease, and it also preserves the health of all players on both squads.


THERESA FEASTER MAKING HISTORY ALONGSIDE TEAM USA

TSN’s Frank Seravalli recounts Thersa Feaster’s journey from NHL manager’s daughter to hockey fan to video coach and Team USA staff.

Nate Leaman says his first request to general manager John Vanbiesbrouck after being selected Team USA’s head coach for the 2021 World Junior Championship was easy. Leaman wanted Theresa Feaster, who serves as his director of hockey operations at Providence College, by his side in Edmonton as video coach.

That Feaster would become the first female assistant coach at the World Juniors – and the first female assistant in USA Hockey’s history at any major men’s championship – well, that was not a factor in Leaman’s thought process. In a two-week, pressure-packed tournament, the only focus is on gold.

“It was a no-brainer,” Leaman said Tuesday while quarantining in Edmonton. “We needed her. Being male or female didn’t have anything to do with it. It was entirely based on her being overqualified for this job, her making us better, her making our country better.”

Feaster said she was “over the moon” when Leaman asked her to join the team in a tournament that she described as the “gold standard” in hockey. It may just be a stepping stone in a blossoming career that Feaster hopes one day leads her to become the NHL’s first female general manager.

“I want to be an NHL G.M. someday,” Feaster said. “I want to win a Stanley Cup. I think that’s every little kid’s dream. Mine isn’t any different.”​

You could say that the 28-year-old Feaster, the oldest child of Stanley Cup-winning GM Jay and his wife, Anne, was born to work in hockey. Jay helped introduce Theresa to Leaman at the 2012 NHL Draft, while she was enrolled at Providence as a student.

The full article can be found here: TSN on Feaster

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