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Friday's FTB: New Year, New Leafs – Pension Plan Puppets

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In the proud tradition of New Years resolution-ers around the globe, I have decided to start 2020 by completely disregarding the failings of the previous year(s), and pretend that the goals that the Toronto Maple Leafs have for 2020 are brand new, and not at all even a little bit a retreading of their 2019 goals.

Make the playoffs? Hell yeah we’re on track to make the playoffs, and that definitely was not something that we were deeply worried about for a significant potion of the fall!

Facing the Bruins in the first round? First time we’ve ever discussed it! A brand new and not at all nauseating possibility! Zero history there to even begin to think about!

Sign all of our players to great value contracts? I mean, did you see the Holl signing?!

Execute a killer powerplay? For sure bud, the Leafs powerplay is sitting at 23.89%, fifth in the league! Successful from the start! No bumps along the way!

And of course all of this with our fearless head coach Sheldon Keefe in charge, just as he always has been!

ICYMI

Falling behind on the Marlies? Don’t worry, we’ve got you, with a recap of their last three games from Hardev Lad:

Report card time!

January always feels like a good time to take a look back at how players on the Leafs performed over the first half of the season. From the reasonable to the comical, here’s who’s handed out grades (and superlatives) so far:

Offside Toronto:

The Toronto Sun:

The Athletic:

And if you’d prefer to know what a random selection of people on twitter think, twitter user @rahef_issa has the results of her annual polling of the people:

Elsewhere

CBS Sports has the Leafs rising four spots in their power rankings – and also took the opportunity to suggest New Years resolutions for every team:

An inside look at what the Leafs get up to on road trips:

Kristen Shilton breaks down Keefe’s recent experimentations with the Leafs’ lines:

And finally…

The best goals of December to enjoy alongside your morning coffee:

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Happy Friday everyone! Vote for Mitch as the last man in for the Atlantic Division for the 2020 All-Star Weekend!

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Stu Cowan: New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes a breath of fresh air – Montreal Gazette

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Montreal native and former player agent calls new job job “the chance of a lifetime” on an emotional day filled with pride and excitement.

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Jeff Gorton wanted to make it clear that Kent Hughes is not his best friend.

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“Nobody would want any of my best friends to be running the Montreal Canadiens, so I would never do that to you,” Gorton, the Canadiens’ executive vice-president of hockey operations, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bell Centre to introduce Hughes as the team’s new general manager.

“No offence, but Kent is not my best friend.”

Gorton explained that his relationship with Hughes dates back to when he was an assistant GM with Boston and was negotiating an NHL entry-level deal for Patrice Bergeron after the Bruins selected their future captain in the second round of the 2003 draft. Hughes was Bergeron’s agent and he impressed Gorton.

Over the years, Gorton and Hughes — both living in the Boston area — kept in regular contact, talking on the phone a couple of times a week because Gorton trusted the agent’s opinion on hockey matters and respected him as a person. Gorton called it a professional relationship and added they never socialized together, although Gorton did meet Hughes’s wife, Deena, a couple of times.

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As GM of the New York Rangers, Gorton also selected Hughes’s son Riley in the seventh round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

While they might not be best friends, there’s no doubt Gorton wanted Hughes to join the Canadiens. During Wednesday’s press conference, we learned why.

For someone not used to being in the public spotlight, Hughes shone on the stage set up on the ice at the Bell Centre for him, Gorton and team owner/president Geoff Molson. Hughes answered a variety of hockey-related questions thoughtfully and intelligently for 50 minutes and looked like the GM of a billion-dollar NHL franchise in a sharp blue business suit with a red tie. The 51-year-old was also very, very comfortable speaking French.

Hughes’s life changed dramatically when he walked onto the stage just after 4 p.m. in front of the TV cameras, photographers and journalists. He will never walk the streets of Montreal unrecognized again.

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Hughes said it was an emotional day for him, one filled with pride and excitement, adding he grew up dreaming of playing for the Canadiens but that this was the second-best option. He called this the “chance of a lifetime.”

“Certainly, from an agent perspective I was more of a behind-the-scenes type of agent,” Hughes said. “Having said that, I’m more excited about not who I am publicly, rather the challenges that lie ahead.

“I would describe myself as a hockey junkie,” he added. “I always have been. I’ve worked in the sport, I’ve coached in the sport. I’ve coached without my own children as part of it and my wife will tell you that if I’m not coaching or working in hockey I’m talking about hockey. So for me the public part of it is what it is. The excitement is the hockey piece.”

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Eleven candidates were interviewed for the job, but Gorton was hoping Hughes would be willing to leave his lucrative player-agent business to become GM of the team he grew up cheering for. Gorton approached Hughes at the beginning of the search process and he needed time to think about it. Near the end of the process Gorton went back to Hughes and then it was a matter of “leaving him alone and letting him come back to me.”

As GM of the Rangers, Gorton had tried to get Hughes to join him in New York, but the timing wasn’t right for him from a business or a family standpoint. While pondering whether to take the Canadiens job, Hughes got a call from his friend Bill Guerin, who is GM of the Minnesota Wild.

“Kent, it’s the New York Yankees, it’s the Dallas Cowboys, it’s the Montreal Canadiens,” Hughes said Guerin told him. “Come on! You don’t have a decision.”

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Now Gorton and Hughes can start the very difficult job together of rebuilding a franchise with a record 24 Stanley Cups that sits in last place in the overall NHL standings. Hughes is going to take some time getting to know the players both on and off the ice ahead of the March 21 trade deadline.

Hughes said the choice of words — rebuild, retool, reset — isn’t important. He noted the team that wins the Stanley Cup every year isn’t necessarily the one with the most talented players. He wants to create an environment people want to be a part of and build a team culture where everyone is pulling in the same direction. He’s not looking to win for just one or two years, but to create an environment where the team can compete for many years to come.

“I think when we set out, ultimately I wanted somebody … our committee wanted somebody that was a really good hockey person that would complement my skills or my skill set as well as we could and I think that’s what we’ve done,” Gorton said. “I’m really confident in that.”

I can see why — even if Hughes isn’t his best friend.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Kent Hughes, centre, listens to Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens' executive vice-president of hockey operations, left, as owner Geoff Molson looks on.

    New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes passes first test with the team

  2. Kent Hughes walks across the Bell Centre ice after a news conference introducing him as the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager in Montreal on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

    What the Puck: Canadiens turn page with Kent Hughes

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Soccer-USMNT embrace the cold as World Cup qualifying heats up

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Bone chilling conditions are forecast for the next three U.S. men’s national team World Cup qualifying matches and the players on Wednesday said they were excited to battle the elements and their opponents.

Snow, frigid wind and sub-zero temperatures will likely greet the USMNT when they host El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27, take on Canada in Ontario three days later, and close out the window against Honduras in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Feb. 2.

Defender Walker Zimmerman said the prospect of cold weather brought back memories of the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in March 2013’s Snow Clasico in Colorado.

“I’m really excited,” Zimmerman told reporters on a call.

“I was talking to my wife over the break and I was saying, I want it to be freezing, I want it to be cold, I want it to snow. I want to be part of something so iconic, something like that game that I really remember seeing when I was growing up.

“And I think the guys are ready to embrace it.”

Forward Paul Arriola said he and his team mates have played in cold weather before and trust in their support staff to help them get ready.

“The staff on the national team do a tremendous job, and we have full confidence in them to prepare us,” he said.

“And we have our own duties as professional players and players on the national team to be ready for every possible condition.

“We’ll embrace the cold, and it will be a really good environment for the fans as well.”

The U.S. are second in the standings for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers with 15 points, a point behind Canada and one ahead of rivals Mexico.

The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.

The team are eager to put behind them the humiliating loss they suffered at the hands of Trinidad and Tobago in 2017, which prevented them reaching the World Cup in Russia and led to a complete rebuild.

 

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sportsnet announces revised schedule for postponed NHL games – Sportsnet.ca

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Sportsnet and the NHL have announced changes to the broadcast schedule for the 2021-22 NHL season. The changes account for a large number of games that were postponed in recent weeks due to a surge of COVID-19 cases across the league.

As a result, the following updates have been made to Sportsnet’s national and regional broadcast schedules. Please note that all times are Eastern.

For the most up-to-date broadcast schedule, please visit our TV Listings page.

For a complete list of every game rescheduled by the NHL on Wednesday, click here.

National

January

Monday, Jan. 31
New Jersey at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., Sportsnet

February

Monday, Feb. 7
Carolina at Toronto, 7 p.m., Sportsnet (Rogers Hometown Hockey)
New Jersey at Ottawa, 7 p.m., Sportsnet ONE (Rogers Hometown Hockey)

Wednesday, Feb. 9
Chicago at Edmonton, 8 p.m., Sportsnet (Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey)
Vegas at Calgary, 9:30 p.m., Sportsnet ONE

Saturday, Feb. 12
Columbus at Montreal, 12:30 p.m., Sportsnet (Hometown Hockey)
Boston at Ottawa, 12:30 p.m., Sportsnet ONE (Hometown Hockey)
Toronto at Vancouver, 7 p.m. (Hockey Night in Canada and Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi)
Winnipeg at Nashville, 7 p.m. (Hockey Night in Canada)
NY Islanders at Calgary, 10 p.m. (Hockey Night in Canada)

Sunday, Feb. 13
Buffalo at Montreal, 12:30 p.m., Sportsnet (Hometown Hockey)
Ottawa at Washington, 12:30 p.m., Sportsnet ONE (Hometown Hockey)

Monday, Feb. 14
Toronto at Seattle, 9 p.m., Sportsnet
Chicago at Winnipeg, 9 p.m., Sportsnet West
Edmonton at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Sportsnet ONE

Tuesday, Feb. 15
Edmonton at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 16
Minnesota at Winnipeg, 7 p.m., Sportsnet (Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey)
Anaheim at Calgary, 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 17
Anaheim at Edmonton, 9 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 19
St. Louis at Toronto, 7 p.m., Sportsnet and CityTV (Hockey Night in Canada and Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi)
Boston at Ottawa, 7 p.m., Sportsnet ONE (Hockey Night in Canada)
Seattle at Calgary, 10 p.m. (Hockey Night in Canada)
Anaheim at Vancouver, 10 p.m. (Hockey Night in Canada)

Sunday, Feb. 20
Minnesota at Edmonton, 8 p.m., Sportsnet ONE

Monday, Feb. 21
Toronto at Montreal, 7 p.m., Sportsnet
Seattle at Vancouver, 10 p.m., Sportsnet

Wednesday, Feb. 23
Buffalo at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

March

Monday, March 7
Toronto at Columbus, 7 p.m., Sportsnet
Edmonton at Calgary, 9:30 p.m., Sportsnet

April

Monday, April 4
Toronto at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m., Sportsnet

Monday, April 18
Calgary at Chicago, 8 p.m., Sportsnet (Hometown Hockey)
Dallas at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m., Sportsnet (Hometown Hockey)

Wednesday, April 27
Montreal at NY Rangers, 7:30 p.m. (Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey)

Regional

February

Tuesday, Feb. 8
Vegas at Edmonton, 9 p.m., Sportsnet West (Oilers region)
Arizona at Vancouver, 10 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific (Canucks region)

Wednesday, Feb. 9
NY Islanders at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific (Canucks region)

Thursday, Feb. 10
Toronto at Calgary, 9 p.m., Sportsnet West (Flames region)

Friday, Feb. 11
NY Islanders at Edmonton, 9 p.m., Sportsnet West (Oilers region)

Tuesday, Feb. 15
Columbus at Calgary, 9 p.m., Sportsnet West (Flames region)

Thursday, Feb. 17
Pittsburgh at Toronto, 7 p.m., Sportsnet Ontario (Maple Leafs region)
Vancouver at San Jose, 10:30 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific (Canucks region)

Saturday, Feb. 19
Edmonton at Winnipeg, 4 p.m., Sportsnet West (Oilers region)

Monday, Feb. 21
Winnipeg at Calgary, 4 p.m., Sportsnet West (Flames region)

Tuesday, Feb. 22
Toronto at Columbus, 7 p.m., Sportsnet Ontario (Maple Leafs region)

April

Tuesday, April 19
Calgary at Nashville, 8 p.m., Sportsnet West (Flames region)
Ottawa at Vancouver, 10 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific (Canucks region)

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