All posts by Matt Teague

Sharks owner backs GM Doug Wilson amid trying season

Despite a difficult 2019-20 campaign, it doesn't appear San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is on the hot seat.

"While we are all very disappointed in the team's performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success," Sharks majority owner Hasso Plattner said Thursday.

Entering the All-Star break, the Sharks sit third from the bottom in the Western Conference. The team already fired head coach Pete DeBoer in December and replaced him with Bob Boughner.

"The last time we failed to meet our winning standards in the 2014-15 season, we were able to quickly rebound and re-establish a winning culture for the next several years," Plattner added. "I am supportive of Doug's plan to get our team back on track."

The Sharks made a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16 and have qualified for the playoffs in every season since. However, the club is currently 11 points back of a wild-card berth with 32 games remaining and will likely miss the postseason for just the second time since Wilson's hiring in 2003.

Wilson has made several key moves in recent years to keep the Sharks' Stanley Cup window open, but a dramatic drop-off on the offensive end combined with weak goaltending has resulted in the unsuccessful campaign to date.

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Marc Methot: ‘I’m probably done playing hockey’ due to knee injury

Former NHL defenseman Marc Methot says his playing career is likely over.

Methot underwent knee surgery last January during the final year of his contract with the Dallas Stars, and the 34-year-old doesn't expect to play again.

"I haven't made any final or official announcement, but it's looking like I'm probably done playing hockey," Methot told TSN Radio Ottawa 1200 on Thursday.

Methot played just nine games for the Stars last season before the surgery. After attempting to return, the Ontario native doesn't believe it's worth enduring the physical toll it took on him again.

"I really tried to make an effort and get back and I just weigh the options and whether it's worth putting my body through that kind of mental and physical excretion and it's just not worth it," he said

Methot added that "it's probably best for myself and the family that I step back from the game."

He played 13 NHL seasons, spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, and Stars while recording 22 goals and 123 points over 624 career games.

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Maple Leafs send Muzzin to Marlies on conditioning loan

The Toronto Maple Leafs have loaned defenseman Jake Muzzin to the AHL's Toronto Marlies for a conditioning stint, the team announced Thursday.

Muzzin suffered a fractured foot on Dec. 27 against the New Jersey Devils and has missed the club's last 10 games.

The loan could give the 30-year-old rearguard an opportunity to see game action during the NHL All-Star break, which runs from Jan 23-26. The Marlies play a pair of contests in Cleveland on Friday and Saturday.

Muzzin skated on Jan. 15 for the first time since the injury, and the team hopes he'll be NHL-ready when they return from the break, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Ontario native leads the team in hits (87) and ranks second in blocks (69) despite missing extended time, and he plays a key role on the penalty kill. Offensively, Muzzin has contributed 13 points in 38 games this season.

Toronto is back in action against the Nashville Predators on Monday.

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Report: Penguins continue to pursue Zucker

The Pittsburgh Penguins remain interested in acquiring Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

However, the Wild "aren't yet ready to concede anything," Friedman adds.

Zucker was reportedly the main return in a potential deal between the two clubs that would have sent Phil Kessel to Minnesota last May. Kessel reportedly nixed the trade, however, and was ultimately dealt to the Arizona Coyotes at the end of June.

Minnesota has just three wins over its last 10 games and sits seven points back of the second Western Conference wild-card spot.

Zucker, 28, has hit the 20-goal mark in four of the last five campaigns and is on pace for 24 tallies this season despite missing 10 games with an injury. He ranks second among Wild forwards with 0.69 points per game through 39 contests.

The 5-foot-11 winger has three years remaining on his current deal beyond this season and carries an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. Pittsburgh has 1.9 million in projected cap space this season, but the Penguins could move Jake Guentzel's $6-million hit to long-term injured reserve in order to create more financial flexibility ahead of the playoffs.

Zucker's speed and skill could boost a Penguins team that owns one of the league's top offenses despite losing several key players to injury at various points this season. Pittsburgh sits seventh in league scoring with 3.30 goals per game and ranks third in both expected goals for and high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

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Quenneville expecting ‘fun night’ in return to Chicago

It's been quite a few years since Joel Quenneville found himself behind the visitors' bench at the United Center.

The Florida Panthers head coach is looking forward to Tuesday's matchup in Chicago, his first game there since serving as Blackhawks bench boss from 2008 until his dismissal in November 2018.

"I think it's going to be a fun night. The memories are so great - the moments, the people, the staff, the organization," Quenneville told NBC Sports Chicago.

He added, "You couldn't ask for a better 10 years of our life, or our coaching experience, or our families, or the opportunity to work with some of the best players to ever play the game."

Quenneville is the only coach in franchise history to capture multiple Stanley Cups, having won in 2010, 2013, and 2015. His 452 regular-season wins with the Blackhawks rank second in club history.

"Chicago's a special place to play and we had one of those memorable runs," said Quenneville, who previously served as head coach of the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. "It was a privilege to be there. The franchise was the team of the decade and was very deserving."

When asked what he remembers most from his time with Chicago, Quenneville said it was the journey to each championship.

"Obviously the championships were significant achievements, and when you look back how each one was accomplished and how hard they were," the 61-year-old said. "All the things - the ups and downs of winning each one were the things that stand out the most."

In his first year with Florida, Quenneville has led the Panthers to a 27-16-5 record. The team occupies third place in the Atlantic Division entering Tuesday's action.

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Akim Aliu signs contract with Czech league’s HC Litvinov

Former NHL defenseman Akim Aliu inked a deal for the remainder of the season with HC Litvinov of the Czech League, he told Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt on Tuesday.

Aliu will fly out Wednesday to join the team and plans to play Friday. The club has 14 games remaining in its season.

Born in Nigeria, Aliu opened up in November about the racial abuse he faced from former coach Bill Peters while the two were together in the AHL in 2009-10.

The now 30-year-old claims Peters "ruined and deterred" his career, and has since met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly about creating a change in hockey culture.

Aliu was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the 56th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, but appeared in only seven professional contests.

Since being drafted, the 6-foot-3 journeyman has suited up for 23 different teams across seven leagues and five countries outside of the NHL. He most recently played with the East Coast Hockey League's Orlando Solar Bears in 2018-19.

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Coyotes’ Tocchet to replace Gallant as Pacific Division coach

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet has been selected to replace Gerard Gallant behind the bench for the Pacific Division during the 2020 All-Star Game, the league announced Thursday.

Gallant was fired by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday and replaced by Peter DeBoer. Vegas had lost four straight games and sat outside of a playoff position when Gallant was relieved of his duties.

Tocchet's in his third year behind the Coyotes' bench and has helped turn the club into a contender since his arrival. Arizona is on pace to improve its win total for the third straight season and occupies the top seed in the Pacific Division entering Thursday's action.

Following Thursday's announcement, the 55-year-old bench boss poked fun at Coyotes forward Phil Kessel, whose sister, Amanda, is slated to play in the first-ever women's three-on-three event during All-Star weekend.

"I might try to coach one of the women's teams so at least there will be a Kessel that will listen to me," Tocchet quipped, according to the Vancouver Sun's Patrick Johnston.

The Coyotes don't have a player representative in the All-Star Game after netminder Darcy Kuemper was forced to withdraw due to injury.

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DeBoer: Coaching Vegas ‘like meeting an ex-girlfriend when it didn’t end well’

Peter DeBoer admits it's been an awkward 24 hours as he transitions into his new role as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The former San Jose Sharks bench boss, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Wednesday, is just nine months removed from a bitter feud with Gallant and the Golden Knights stemming from the teams' opening-round playoff series last spring.

“It was a little shocking. But a good shock,” DeBoer said during Thursday's introductory press conference, according to TSN's Ian Mendes. He added: "We'll get through it. It'll be a little awkward - like meeting an ex-girlfriend when it didn't end well."

DeBoer accused Gallant of chirping at his players during last year's thrilling seven-game series. The latter responded by calling the former "a clown" for making such claims.

The ongoing feud between Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves and Sharks winger Evander Kane was also on full display during that series, and Reaves didn't downplay his rocky history with DeBoer.

"I wouldn't say I have the best track record with him," Reaves said, according to TSN's Brent Wallace. "I'm going to have to have a smile when I introduce myself, for sure, maybe a hug."

Reaves continued: "We are going to move forward and listen to what he has to say and embrace the change."

Sharks forward Timo Meier admitted Wednesday "it's going to be weird" facing Vegas with DeBoer behind the bench, and teammate Tomas Hertl called the development "kind of shocking."

DeBoer will make his debut behind the Golden Knights' bench Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. Barring a playoff matchup, Vegas and San Jose won't meet until next season after already facing each other four times in 2019-20.

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Flames and Oilers fans battle to fundraise for rival city’s charities

Edmonton Oilers fans and Calgary Flames faithful are trying to kill each other with kindness.

The Battle of Alberta fan bases responded to the latest case of bad blood between Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Oilers winger Zack Kassian by donating money to charities in their rival team's city.

The exchange began after Flames fan Mohamed Elsaghir started a GoFundMe page to have Tkachuk's face put on billboards in Edmonton. When Calgary radio station CJAY92 pledged to cover the cost of the billboards, the money raised from the fundraiser was instead donated to ALS research.

In response, Oilers supporter Samantha Costa decided to launch her own initiative, donating to a Calgary charity in Kassian's name so that "kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk."

Costa donated $25 to Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids, a local charity that makes lunches for underprivileged children.

The movement was taken to the next level when local entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star Brett Wilson got on board. Wilson pledged to match up to $10,000 of whatever Oilers fans raise by Friday at noon. He also said he'd give an additional $5,000 to an Edmonton shelter chosen by Costa.

Before 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids announced $16,199 had been raised.

The Flames and Oilers are set to meet again Jan. 29 in Edmonton.

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Canucks’ Motte reveals battle with depression, wants to end stigma in sports

Tyler Motte hopes his story can inspire others in need.

The Vancouver Canucks forward revealed he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in an inspirational video posted by the team Wednesday.

Motte opened up about feeling "lower and lower" during his second pro season until he couldn't find the energy to get out of bed and to the rink. Growing frustrated by the way he was feeling, Motte took his girlfriend's advice and sought psychological help.

"It's not necessarily about telling my story," Motte said. "It's about to help that one person or those handful of people that need to know they're not alone in it."

The 24-year-old understands he's been given a unique platform as a professional athlete and is pushing to end the stigma surrounding mental health in sports.

"In sports and hockey there's this mindset that we've come to adapt to where it's all about being mentally strong and not showing weakness," Motte said.

He added, "For me, just accepting and saying out loud that I was diagnosed with depression and had a mental health issue, that was the first weight off my shoulders."

Hockey Talks is a mental health initiative that was launched in 2013 following the death of former NHL forward Rick Rypien, and Motte is optimistic about its potential to turn sport into a space where these important discussions can be facilitated.

"With the support of individuals, teams, communities, I think the stigma is going to shrink drastically. It'll turn it into an opportunity where people can come to fully understand what some people go through, and I think that's really the purpose of Hockey Talks."

The Canucks will host their seventh annual Hockey Talks game Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes.

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