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Gaudreau rises to Sutter’s challenge to help Flames snap four-game skid –



Many believed the hiring of Darryl Sutter would mark the beginning of the end for Johnny Gaudreau as a Calgary Flame.

On Saturday, the new coach added credence to that theory.

Or did he?

Hours before the 27-year-old Flames winger was slated to suit up for his 500th NHL game, Sutter was asked for a cursory quote on the struggling star’s milestone.

“If you’re just basing it on his 500th game tonight, hopefully he has more energy than in his 499th game,” said Sutter.

Next question.

In terms of background, it must be pointed out that Sutter has long used the media as a tool to take regular shots like that to try firing up players.

This one felt cheap though.


So much so the Flames omitted it when rebroadcasting the coach’s Zoom call on their website.

It wasn’t a good look.

But, pardon me for asking, did it work?

By night’s end, Gaudreau had his first assist (he had a second one taken away after the game) since Sutter joined the team ten games ago.

He drew a penalty, set linemate Brett Ritchie up for two great scoring chances and looked like his old, freewheeling self as the game progressed and the Flames broke a 2-2 tie to snap a four-game losing skid with a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

While he would never come out and say the coach’s comment motivated him, he certainly admitted it caught his attention.

“Ya, I heard it — didn’t think much of it,” shrugged an unusually talkative Gaudreau, clearly proud of his game log.

“I’ve been playing hockey for 24, 25 years now, and I know when I haven’t played well and when I have played well. Personally, I’ve been going up and down throughout the season and obviously not finding the net sometimes. I try to work as hard as I can each night for the 23 guys in that locker room. I played for a long time with a lot of those guys in that locker room and I’m sure a lot of them are really happy for me after tonight. It was a special night. It was a great night to win, playing my 500th game.”

It’s no secret the struggles Gaudreau has had this season and last have been compounded by Sutter’s arrival.

The growing pains were inevitable given Sutter’s demand for defensive details and dreaded dump-ins.

He’s taken just as many hellacious hits (two, thanks to Neal Pionk and Justin Holl) as he has scored goals since Sutter was hired, albeit in three minutes less ice time nightly than Geoff Ward afforded him.

The coach has urged him to shoot it more, which has proven to be troublesome in a tighter defensive system the five-foot-nine, 165-pound winger has been uncomfortable adapting to.

He admitted as much last week while being a good soldier by adding that regardless of his obvious adjustment period, the coach’s word is gospel.

Give him credit, as a gifted playmaker who has accrued the bulk of his 472 points from the perimeter, he seems focused on trying to satisfy the coach in ways he hasn’t before.

“All coaches are different — whether you tell me personally or the way I heard it tonight, I take a lot out of my game,” said Gaudreau.

“I look at it and try to play as hard as I can each night. I’m an offensive guy and sometimes the numbers aren’t there and that looks bad on me. But I try to be smart defensively. I try to do the right things and I feel like I’ve been getting better at that throughout my years here. Tonight was a big win for us and that’s what I can take out of it.”

Where the relationship goes from here is anyone’s guess, as Sutter has a long track record of being unrelenting on his top players, forever insisting they need to give more.

How Gaudreau responds may play a role in his fate this summer.

But then, it might not.

When asked after the game about his pre-game suggestion Gaudreau lacked energy his last outing, Sutter doubled down.

“I didn’t suggest it – it was a fact,” said Sutter, who regularly lit similar fires under Jarome Iginla.

“He was much better tonight. His pace was better. Quite honestly it was his best game he’s played since I joined the team. He’s an elite-level player in this league, so he has to try to have his best game every game for us.”

Message received.

Response delivered.

Midway through the first period, Gaudreau earned stick taps from his teammates as the undersized fourth-round pick was saluted on the Jumbotron for a half-century of games that have him sitting tenth in NHL scoring since the Hobey Baker winner joined the Flames in 2014 with a goal on his very first shot.

His victim? Jacob Markstrom, for you trivia buffs.

He’s since had 30 game-winners, posted a 99-point season, won a Lady Byng and proved countless doubters wrong.

It certainly seemed he deserved better than to have his accomplishments brushed aside Saturday morning by a coach whose only focus was getting the most out of his marquee man.

Or was it exactly what he needed?

NOTES: Juuso Valimaki and Dillon Dube were made healthy scratches for Saturday’s game. “They’ve got to be better players. Okay’s not okay in this racket,” he said of the young duo. They were replaced by Brett Ritchie and Michael Stone. The Flames host Winnipeg Monday night.

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Coyotes trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland to Canucks – Arizona Sports



Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at Gila River Arena on October 30, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 4-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes traded captain and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks, as well as forward Conor Garland, the team announced Friday.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro first reported talks of the deal.

In return, the Coyotes will get forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft that was used to select Dylan Guenther. Arizona also receives a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 seventh-round selection.

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Oliver for everything that he has done for the Coyotes the past 10 years,” Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said in a press release. “He is a tremendous player and person and we wish him and Conor the best of luck in the future.

“We are very pleased to acquire the ninth overall draft choice in this year’s NHL Draft along with Loui, Antoine and Jay. Loui and Jay are both Stanley Cup champions and along with Antoine, they are all solid veterans who will provide us with great leadership and experience.”

Ekman-Larsson, 30, has spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Coyotes after being selected sixth overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. The defenseman has 128 goals and 260 points over his Arizona career, for a total of 388 points.

Last season, Ekman-Larsson recorded three goals and 21 assists in 46 games. He has been the captain of the team for the last three seasons.

The Coyotes signed Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year, $66 million extension in the summer of 2018, a deal that has six more seasons left on it for $8.25 million each year. According to Gambadoro, Arizona will pay for roughly $1.2 million of that salary each of the next six years.

The 25-year-old Garland has been one of the Coyotes’ primary goal scorers in the previous two seasons. The winger had a team-high 22 goals in the 2019-20 season and 12 last season.

Garland is a restricted free agent this offseason.

Beagle, 35, had five points in 30 games last season while the 31-year-old Roussel contributed four points in 35 games. Lastly, the 36-year-old Eriksson played in only seven games.

Roussel is on an expiring deal worth $3 million next year, as are Beagle ($3 million) and Eriksson ($6 million).

The 2021 NHL Draft takes place on Friday.

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Sabres select Owen Power with No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft –



The NHL draft turned Michigan maize and blue Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.

The Buffalo Sabres opened the draft by selecting Wolverines defenceman Owen Power with the top pick, and were immediately followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken choosing Michigan centre Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.

Three picks later, the Wolverines became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Michigan winger Kent Johnson fifth.

“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. Its’ already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.

That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenceman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.

Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.

Ontario junior centre Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.

The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.

On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenceman’s heir apparent. Power is listed at six-foot-six and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.

From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.

“Not thinking about it too much right now, trying to enjoy the night. That’s something I’ll worry about later,” Power said of his future, while surrounded by his family and friends in his backyard.

As for a message to Sabres fans, he said: “I’m super excited to be part of the franchise and ready to get going.”

Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenceman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.

Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.

Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.

In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.

The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenceman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.

The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.

The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.

The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.

The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenceman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.

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More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing



In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:

On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.

And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).

If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.

That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).

In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.

[John Ourand on Twitter]

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