The TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun, Chris Johnston and Darren Dreger joined host Gino Reda to discuss what’s happening in Edmonton right now, the situation on Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, GM searches around the NHL, and much more.
There’s a lot of problems in Edmonton right now, what’s the latest?
Darren Dreger: Everyone associated with the Edmonton Oilers are feeling the heat [as] this club is 2-8-2 in their last 12. According to a source, [head coach] Dave Tippett is not imminently going to lose his job, at least not at the moment. Of course, he has to be feeling the heat, as I said, everyone is. But as we have the conversation tonight, there is no plan to fire the coach. If it gets worse, maybe it’s more seriously considered at that point.
Goaltending though is being looked at by [general manager] Ken Holland and the Oilers. Trade options that are available are certainly being considered. They [also] continue to search for a third-line centre, among some of the other things that could make this roster stronger. Pressure and frustration all mounting in Edmonton.
What’s the possibility of no Matthews vs. McDavid on Wednesday?
Chris Johnston: Blame COVID.
We’ve all heard enough of that, I know, but certainly with both Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid producing positive COVID-19 tests this week, there’s jeopardy that one or both could be ineligible for Wednesday’s game.
What I can tell you about the Matthews situation is that the Leafs think he’ll be okay to go on a trip next week when they go out to Vegas and his hometown when they play in Arizona. He should be fine for then, but he does have to produce a second negative PCR test on Wednesday prior to the game and then a determination will be made on his status. He missed two practices, so it’ll be partially down to [how] he feels if he passes.
As for McDavid, it’s all about whether he has a negative test because his most recent was positive.
With the Arizona Coyotes sitting in last place in the NHL, who are teams targeting as trade bait?
Darren Dreger: Defenceman Jakob Chychrun and that comes as no surprise as there has been speculation out there for the last several weeks. Teams are actively calling Bill Armstrong, the general manager of the Coyotes, and offers are being made. But I think something we can all understand and appreciate is his age [23-years-old], his level of production, and the fact that he’s on a terrific contract [$4.6 million until 2025]. The asking price, according to GMs with interest, is a very significant one.
There’s no rush as far as the Coyotes are concerned. I had one club tell me that the Coyotes are looking for a Jack Eichel type of return. You’re looking for an Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a top prospect, and a conditional first and second [round draft pick]. There’s also thinking that might not be enough so there’s no rush for the Coyotes.
Is there any progress on Jeff Gorton’s evaluation of the Montreal Canadiens?
Pierre LeBrun: The Canadiens, according to my sources, are set to begin general manager interviews this week. Now as I reported earlier, Roberto Luongo, Daniel Briere, and Mathieu Darche are among the candidates that are scheduled to get interviews after the Habs got the green light to speak to them. But the Habs are expected to talk to as many as 10 candidates during this first phase of interviews. So, there’s many more names in there, not just those first three that I’ve confirmed.
Meanwhile in Vancouver, new president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford, has already talked to a few GM candidates. He’s been at it for the past three weeks and I’ve been told that he’s hoping to speak to several candidates in this first phase, and then he’s going to cut it down to a short list and start the second phase from there. The Canucks hope to have a new GM in place if all goes well by February.
The Canadiens and Canucks aren’t the only teams looking for a new GM right now.
Pierre LeBrun: In Anaheim, they’ve had an opening ever since Bob Murray stepped down and they’ve finally put together a GM search committee that includes two hall of famers, Scott Niedermayer and Paul Kariya, who are joining a couple of Ducks front office executives, and of course [owners] Susan and Henry Samueli as well. They’re scheduled to start interviews as early as next week. Now they have in-house candidates for the GM job in Jeff Solomon, Dave Nonis, and Martin Madden. But they’re looking to talk to a number of outside candidates as well.
Bombers extend Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bighill – TSN
Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team.
Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.
A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.
The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.
Denis Shapovalov Australian Open third round Reilly Opelka – TSN
Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.
It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.
Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.
“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.
“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”
Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.
Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.
“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.
The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.
Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.
“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”
Sheldon Keefe calls Leafs 'soft and purposeless' after Rangers collapse – Yahoo Canada Sports
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.
Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.
“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said.
“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.
“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”
The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.
“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”
Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.
The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.
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