USA Hockey’s decision to make John Vanbiesbrouck one of its most prominent faces and forces by hiring the former Rangers (and Islanders and Devils) goaltender as assistant executive director of hockey operations is, at best, a tone-deaf call and, at worst, a willfully ignorant one.
Just over a year ago, the patriarchy faced a boycott from the national women’s team over the administration’s separate and unequal treatment. Now, to replace the beloved, late Jim Johannson as the organization’s grassroots ambassador, this same body has selected an individual whose considerable accomplishments on the ice have been overshadowed by his conduct as the OHL Sault Ste. Marie general manager-coach 15 years ago, when he called his team captain, Trevor Daley, the N-word on more than one occasion and was forced to resign from his post in 2003.
We are told that the homogenous operation did a certain amount of due diligence in making the hire, though it has been confirmed that USA Hockey never reached out to Daley, the 34-year-old, 14-year NHL veteran defenseman who has two years remaining on his contract with the Red Wings.
Vanbiesbrouck has admitted his “mistake,” though something like that might be characterized as a mistake coming from a teenager and as more of a character deficiency coming from a 40-year-old that the 1986 Vezina winner was at the time of his resignation.
“It was a racial slur. I was absolutely 100 percent wrong,” Vanbiesbrouck said on Friday’s media conference call. “There’s not a lot of days that go by that I don’t feel remorse for that. I’m extremely sorry for it. It’s not who I am.”
Perhaps Vanbiesbrouck will demonstrate who he’s become these last 15 years by making inclusion and diversity priorities of his tenure. Perhaps this move by USA Hockey will be celebrated in retrospect as a progressive one. But now, the celebration is decidedly muted and the choice extremely questionable. The administration has explaining to do.
Not likely Alain Vigneault can be held at fault, but it seemed odd that Lightning coach Jon Cooper never reunited J.T. Miller with first-line mates Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov over the final two games of the conference finals in which Tampa Bay was shut out twice and was thus eliminated by Washington.
Stamkos and Kucherov split Game 6 with Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn on the left while Miller skated primarily with Anthony Cirelli and Killorn or Yanni Gourde. It was Killorn-Stamkos-Kucherov and Miller-Cirelli-Gourde in Game 7. Miller played a combined 56 seconds with Stamkos and a sum of 48 seconds with Kucherov, his linemates pretty much from the first game after the trade deadline through the first two playoff rounds and the first two games against Washington.
Miller, an arbitration eligible Group II one year away from outright free agency, will likely command a five- or six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million to 5.4 million per. Unless, that is, GM Steve Yzerman convinces the 25-year-old to give the team its no-tax state discount it flaunts.
Ryan McDonagh, who provided second-pair support for Victor Hedman, was surrounded by better players and operated within a more coherent structure in Tampa Bay than in New York. But No. 27 did not quite make the 180-turnaround on his game the Lightning probably had anticipated.
Maybe he will get his mojo back next year, following an offseason in which to stabilize. But McDonagh peaking in 2013-14, whether due to the succession of injuries he sustained as a consequence of taking consistent battering and/or the burden of the captaincy, was one of the most significant factors in the Rangers leveling off sooner than necessary. Add Derek Stepan’s failure to progress following 2013-14 to the core issues the core could not overcome before it was split at the deadline.
Rangers spoke to Rickard Gronborg during their search to replace Vigneault, with the coach of the Swedish National Team remaining as a potential, albeit long-shot, candidate to join David Quinn’s staff as an assistant. We’re told that Gronborg has attracted interest as an assistant from Buffalo and Carolina.
If Neal Pionk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo (in no specific order) are the top three right defensemen in training camp and the Rangers reach out for a journeyman like Roman Polak to fill minutes instead of allowing Pionk or DeAngelo time to develop in a top-four role, that’s one way you’ll know management doesn’t have the stomach for a rebuild.
McDonagh and Miller to Tampa Bay? Evander Kane to San Jose? Rick Nash to Boston? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Because of all the pre-deadline trades, the Caps’ below-the-radar acquisition of Michal Kempny from the Blackhawks seems to have been the most impactful. Obtained for a third-rounder, the 27-year-old Czech defenseman has moved into a top-four role paired primarily with John Carlson while sealing a vacancy Washington had sought to fill most of the year with freshman Madison Bowey.
The deal between the Islanders and Maple Leafs that allowed Lou Lamoriello to talk with John Tavares even while the exec was still under contract as a senior adviser to Toronto was orchestrated by ownership, Slap Shots has learned.
It is believed that neither Islanders’ then-president and apparently still-GM Garth Snow nor the Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan was aware of the agreement. In fact, we’re further told that Snow and coach Doug Weight were kept out of the loop regarding ownership’s talks with Lamoriello while the two men were scouting at the World Championships in Denmark.
At least they didn’t have to hail a cab to get home.
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