While the Vancouver Canucks have a couple key contract negotiations on the horizon to navigate — with young stars Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko entering the last years of their current deals — GM Jim Benning has another to sort out off the ice as well.
Head coach Travis Green, who’s manned the team’s bench for the past three years, heads into 2020-21 in the final year of his own contract as well. Though no extension has been agreed upon yet, Benning told Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre Sunday that the club intends to keep Green in the fold.
“Travis has done an excellent job coaching this group of players. I think, from a development standpoint, our young players have continued to get better under him every year. We think he’s the right fit for this group and our group moving forward,” Benning told MacIntyre during a press conference Sunday as the Canucks opened training camp.
“We want to kind of take a look at the financial landscape of the whole business here as we keep moving forward, but our intention is to sign Travis to an extension so he’s part of our group here moving forward.”
Green took over the Canucks bench in 2017 and has led them to a 102-103-28 record through three seasons. However, with the organization bringing along a number of young stars, they’ve continued to progress in each of those campaigns, finishing seventh, fifth and third in the Pacific Division over that span.
That progress culminated in a trip to the second round of this past post-season in the bubble, before Vancouver eventually fell to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Canuck right now, whether you’re a fan, player, someone that works in the organization. It really is,” Green said. “And I’m part of that — I’m excited as well, and I haven’t hidden that I want to be here long-term. I think we’ve just started to scratch the surface of what we are as a team and where we’re going. And with our conversations with Jim, I’m fine with where we’re at right now, and hopefully we can work things out and I can be here for a while.
“But as of starting today, I’m just worried about today, I’m worried about our team and getting them prepared for Game 1. But it is no secret that I love coaching here, and I want to win here.”
Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers to sweep series – Sportsnet.ca
Rookie Alexander Romanov and Arttuti Lehkonen also scored for Montreal (2-0-1), which beat Edmonton (1-3-0) for the second time in three nights.
The Habs also trounced the Oilers 5-1 on Saturday.
Goalie Jake Allen made 25 saves in his debut for the Canadiens
Montreal’s penalty kill was key in the victory, shutting down Oilers snipers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on seven power plays.
Mikko Koskinen stopped 31-of-34 shots for Edmonton.
He conceded a short-handed goal 12:15 into the third period after Lehkonen broke up a pass in his own zone and sprinted up the ice with the puck on his stick. He put a quick snap shot past Koskinen for his first of the season, and put Montreal up 3-0.
Edmonton clawed a goal back with just over two minutes to go, though, with Devin Shore popping a snap shot past Allen for a short-handed tally.
Koskinen allowed one to get past earlier in the game on a Montreal power play with seconds to go in the second period.
Edmonton had the man advantage when McDavid was called for hooking, leading to 1:20 of 4-on-4 hockey before the Habs got a 40-second power play to close out the frame.
With about 11 seconds left on the clock, Montreal’s Jeff Petry drove through the slot and Shore careened into Koskinen.
Meanwhile, Weber launched a shot from the side of the net and Koskinen made the initial stop. He couldn’t control the rebound, though, which bounced back out to Weber. The defenceman batted it in off Koskinen’s back as he lay in the crease with Shore underneath him.
The goal was instantly called off, with the official saying Petry caused goalie interference when he sent Shore crashing into his netminder.
Montreal coach Claude Julien elected to challenge the call and, upon review, the officials agreed, giving Weber his first goal of the season and a 2-0 lead for Montreal.
Montreal already had a first-period tally from Romanov, who opened the scoring 9:53 into the game with a shot from just below the blue line. The puck rocketed through traffic and past Koskinen stick side for the Russian rookie’s first NHL goal.
Montreal selected Romanov, 21, 38th overall in the 2018 draft.
The Canadiens scored on one of its five power plays.
Montreal had to kill off three penalties in the first period alone, including more than 30 seconds of 5-on-3 play.
Edmonton had some promising opportunities across the stretch — including a big shot from McDavid that ricocheted off the knob of Allen’s stick — but the Habs didn’t surrender a goal.
As a crucial part of the penalty kill, Weber played 9:10 in the first frame alone.
Montreal will open a three-game series with the Canucks in Vancouver on Wednesday. The Oilers will be in Toronto the same night to battle the Leafs.
Maple Leafs ride dominant second period to down Jets – Sportsnet.ca
Frederik Andersen made 27 saves for Toronto (3-1-0) in first of 10 meetings between the North Division rivals in the abbreviated 2020-2021 season. Marner added his second of the night into an empty net with 22.6 seconds left.
Kyle Connor replied for Winnipeg (1-1-0), which got 35 stops from Connor Hellebuyck inside an empty Scotiabank Arena because of COVID-19 protocols.
The Jets were minus sniper Patrik Laine, who sat out with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Following an even first period that saw both teams force good saves from Hellebuyck and Andersen, the ice tilted heavily in Toronto’s favour in the second.
The Leafs got the game’s first goal at 5:28 at the tail end of a power play when Hellebuyck kicked Jake Muzzin’s point shot out to William Nylander, who quickly fed Tavares in the slot for him to bury his third of the season with the Jets goalie out of position.
Toronto, which dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, led 13-0 on the shot clock after that goal, and 19-1 midway through the period with the Jets appearing to be asleep at the switch. Winnipeg looked to get some momentum on a man advantage of its own later in the period, but Hellebuyck was forced to stop two short-handed chances off the stick of Ilya Mikheyev.
The Leafs were finally rewarded a second time with 1:21 left when Auston Matthews carried the puck into the offensive zone before finding Justin Holl. His one-timer hit the post behind Hellebucyk, and Marner was there to poke home his second of the year.
Toronto appeared primed to take a feel-good 2-0 lead into the intermission, but got running around in the defensive zone following a Muzzin giveaway, with Connor providing Winnipeg some life by snapping his second past Andersen with under a minute remaining on the clock.
The Leafs finished the period with a 22-5 edge in shots and 36-11 in attempts directed towards goal, but only led by the slimmest of margins on the scoreboard.
Winnipeg got an early third-period power play after Muzzin took a holding penalty, but Andersen was there at every turn _ including a great stop on Mark Scheifele that would have had the fans inside Scotiabank Arena chanting “Freddie! Freddie!” in a normal season.
The Jets continued to make their push as the period wore on, and got a power play with 5:15 left in regulation when Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly cleared the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game infraction, but Andersen and the penalty killers did the job as the home side held on before Marner bagged the empty netter.
The Leafs rebounded from Friday’s disappointing 5-3 loss to the Senators in Ottawa with a 3-2 victory in the rematch on the same ice 24 hours later, while Winnipeg opened its season with Thursday’s 4-3 overtime victory at home against the Calgary Flames.
Next up for the Jets are three straight games against Ottawa — Tuesday and Thursday in the nation’s capital before the teams travel to Winnipeg for a Saturday tilt — as part of a gruelling stretch of six contests in nine nights that began Monday.
The Leafs host the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday and Friday before embarking on a four-game road trip through Alberta beginning Sunday.
Toronto announced before the game rookie winger Nick Robertson will miss at least four weeks with a knee injury, which forced the team to put both third-string goalie Aaron Dell and veteran forward Jason Spezza on waivers for salary cap purposes. Dell was claimed by the New Jersey Devils on Monday, while Spezza made it through and dressed against Winnipeg.
Notes: Mikko Lehtonen, who led all KHL defencemen in scoring last season, made his NHL debut for Toronto… Jets blue-liner Logan Stanley made his NHL debut for Winnipeg with Tucker Poolman still on the league’s COVID-19 list.
72 players now in quarantine amid COVID-19 issues before Australian Open – Yahoo Canada Sports
The Canadian Press
CLEVELAND — On their wild ride of an unforgettable, almost unimaginable 2020 season when Zoom calls, masks and contact tracing were daily fixtures, the Browns discovered two things that point to a bright future for an awakened franchise. They’ve got the right coach and the right quarterback. After years of being beaten and beaten down, the Browns have climbed back. While Sunday’s 22-17 loss in the divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs — and Rashard Higgins’ costly fumble on a controversial play at the goal line — felt like so many other painful playoff moments and losses for the Browns and their fans, this one is different. Not an ending but a beginning. “We’ll be back,” quarterback Baker Mayfield claimed after the Browns, who won 11 games in the regular season and their first playoff game in 26 years, pushed the defending Super Bowl champions to the limit. “We aren’t done yet, and that is the best part.” Mayfield’s maturity in his third NFL season, and first working with rookie coach Kevin Stefanski, gives the Browns reason to believe they have entered a period when they should contend for years. Mayfield improved as much as any player in the league, ending any discussion about whether the Browns should commit to him long term. “He’s continued to grow as a player and as a person and as a leader,” Browns centre JC Tretter said Monday. “That’s what you need, and Baker’s growth is not yet done. He’s not a finished product and he’d be the first one to tell you that.” The Browns are expected to exercise Mayfield’s fifth-year contract option this off-season, and the team will explore an extension over the next few months with the 25-year-old quarterback who finished with 30 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and 4,030 yards in 18 games. Stefanski’s role in Mayfield’s development while guiding the Browns (12-6) through a season shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, can’t be overstated. One of his first objectives after coming to Cleveland was to connect with Mayfield, knowing the QB/coach dynamic is essential to success. Stefanski bonded with Mayfield right away and they grew tighter as the year progressed. Stefanski brought out the best in his young QB, who threw 20 TD passes and only three picks in his last 12 games. “Once he started getting comfortable with what we were doing and once I was using more concepts that he was comfortable with, he really started playing at a high level,” said Stefanski, among the leading candidates for Coach of the Year honours. “I am proud of the progress he made.” Stefanski, perhaps knowing negotiations will be upcoming, stopped short of calling Mayfield a franchise QB. “He did the things we asked him to do,” he said. “He definitely led this football team from Day 1. We have a bunch of ball games to look at with him and find out ways that he can get better, but in terms of the ‘franchise quarterback’ thing, I do not even know necessarily what that means.” It means everything for a team that went through 29 starting QBs before Mayfield arrived. Before landing Stefanski, the Browns cycled through six coaches in the past decade. But the unflappable 38-year-old Stefanski seems perfectly suited for a team with young core stars — Mayfield; defensive end Myles Garrett; running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt; left tackle Jedrick Wills; and cornerback Denzel Ward are all 25 or younger — who appear primed to make a long run together. In Cleveland, there’s hope, not hopelessness. DEFENSIVE HOLES The Browns’ defence needs an overhaul. Co-ordinator Joe Woods spent the season plugging holes after injuries to rookie safety Grant Delpit (torn Achilles tendon) and cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder) in training camp, and run stuffer Andrew Billings’ decision to opt out due to COVID-19, costing Cleveland three projected starters. The linebacking corps needs an upgrade and end Olivier Vernon probably won’t be re-signed as a free agent. Cleveland, which normally picks at the top of the draft, has the No. 26 selection to find help. BECKHAM’S FUTURE The Browns’ emergence and playoff run happened without star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 25 in Cincinnati. While Beckham’s talent isn’t debatable, there’s no denying Mayfield played his best when Beckham wasn’t around. His $12.8 million salary for next season becomes guaranteed in March, so it may be tough for Cleveland to trade Beckham while he’s rehabbing. For now, Stefanski made it sound like he wants OBJ in his offence in 2021. “I’m excited to get him back here,” Stefanski said. “I know it was not easy for him being away from his teammates, especially as these games got bigger and into the playoffs. I know he definitely wanted to be a part of it.” OTHER BUSINESS Browns general manager Andrew Berry has some other decisions to make with several free agents, including defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, linebacker B,J. Goodson and Higgins. The 30-year-old Vernon tore an Achilles tendon in the Browns’ regular-season finale and probably won’t return. Ogunjobi’s been solid, but the Browns have depth in the middle with Billings, Sheldon Richardson and rookie Jordan Elliott. Goodson emerged as a leader in his first season with Cleveland. Then there’s Higgins, a fan favourite and go-to target for Mayfield. He had five catches for 88 yards on Sunday, but his fumble while reaching for the goal line before halftime was a major turning point in a game the Browns could have won. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Tom Withers, The Associated Press
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