1. I won’t tell this to Ray Shero, but if I had my way, I’d bring Patrik Elias back for one more season as a Devil. He’d be just fine as a third-liner.
2. Hard To Believe Department: Mike Babcock in Toronto is the highest-paid coach in the NHL and Edmonton’s Todd McLellan is right behind in the Cash Cow line. So, what can they show for it? Both missed the playoffs by two miles.
3. Jaromir Jagr’s season has been amazing-to-the-radical-50. But the most astonishing aspect of Double J’s career is that he always was defensively deficient. But not anymore; The Bionic Panther finished the regular season PLUS-23.
4. Who’s your “Surprise Hero” of the playoffs? Before the postseason started, my choice was Patrick Sharp of Dallas.
5. How Do Superstars Get That Way Department: The Chicago Tribune‘s Chris Kuc checked back to Patrick Kane’s Junior hockey days in London, Ontario. His billet “Dad” remembers: “After games, Pat would go through the tapes, fast-forward to his line, watch what he did right, watch what he did wrong and talk about it.”
6. The Maven’s Moral is that no team wins two Cups in a row. My Chicago buddy and Blackhawks-watcher, Joe Breu, agrees. “The Hawks will not do it,” Breu asserts. “I wouldn’t even be surprised if they get knocked out of the first round.”
7. Pardon me if I get another plug-in for injured Dan Girardi, but I’m disappointed in the Rangers defenseman’s critics. Hey, Dauntless Dan finished the regular season with a plus-18. Only one teammate topped him, captain Ryan McDonagh at plus-26.
8. If Claude Julien is the fall guy for Boston’s playoff-missed season, then the real culprits in the high command – Cam Neely and Don Sweeney – are getting off easy.
9. You Don’t Find This Happening Often Department: In Phoenix, the general manager (Don Maloney) gets sacked, but the coach (Dave Tippett) survives. Moral of the story: Person on general staff who has owner’s ear is more likely to keep his job.
10. A Devils booster, Dan Marsiglia, picks his New Jersey three stars of the season: “Cory Schneider kept them in playoff contention until he got hurt. Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique each had 30-goal seasons. ‘Nuff said.”
11. Speaking of superstars-as-front-office-flops, Colorado’s Joe Sakic ranks up – or should I say down – there.
12. The next Hall of Famer as GM who bears watching is Ron Francis in Raleigh where the Hurricanes “For Sale” sign is awaiting a buyer.
13. Here’s a trophy I’d like to see minted, but it never will happen: BEST REFEREE.
14. Who’s the best coach not in the NHL who should be? My choice is Travis Green. The ex-Islander has redefined fabulous, getting an average Utica Comets team into the AHL playoffs.
15. The best, early, media wisecrack centers on the fact that no Canadian team is in the playoffs. “Now there’s no need to clear customs!”
16. Sure, the Lightning continue to physically hurt with Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman out. But never overlook the fact that the Bolts boast one of the best coaches in Jon Cooper.
17. One fellow who could use a good press agent is Blues goalie Brian Elliott and not because he pitched a shutout to open the Blues-Blackhawks series.
18. According to analytics ace, Rob Vollman, who produces “Quality Starts,” Elliott led all NHL net minders at 70.3% of his starts over the regular sked.
19. Home ice “advantage” ain’t what it used to be and I’m beginning to think there’s hardly any advantage to it at all.
20. While every hockey savant in South Florida was focusing on Jagr, along comes Reilly Smith to steal The Senior Citizen’s spotlight.
21. I wonder which genius in the Bruins high command made the egregious mistake of allowing Smitty to slip down to Sunrise.
22. Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn is another who flies under the regular season radar and then emerges to become a playoff hero.
23. LETTERS: Writing from South Florida, Alan Greenberg sees nothing wrong with cheap-shots. He figures it’s part of playoff hockey and you do what you have to do to win games.
24. Dylan McIlrath is making a good case for becoming one of the Rangers Top-4 defensemen next season.
25. If you’re wondering why San Jose is leading Los Angeles on the Left Coast remember that the Sharks have one of the smartest coaches around, Peter DeBoer.
26. It was Pistol Pete who outwitted John Tortorella in the 2012 Devils-Rangers playoff and his New Jersey six might have beaten L.A. in the Final if a certain referee had not handled the last game.
27. So the Canadiens are putting P.K. Subban on the trading block – or so they say – well, the line of potential buyers extends around the block and down to Air Canada Centre.
28. Among the overlooked reasons for the Panther success, you have to give kudos to Brian Campbell, the defenseman’s defenseman.
30. “If they keep paying me, I’ll keep playing for them.” Shawn Thornton, the Panthers hit man among hit men.
31. One of my all-time stage managers, J.Townsend, picks Wayne Gretzky as the best player he ever saw with Denis Potvin in second place.
32. MSG Network’s Rick DiPietro tells me that the best two players he ever faced were Mario Lemieux and Peter Forsberg.
33. Panthers broadcaster and ex-Ranger, Randy Moller counters with Wayne Gretzky and Lemieux.
34. Bill Torrey, who built the Islanders dynasty and now the ultra-competitive Panthers, picks Billy Carroll and Gord Lane among his unsung Isles dynastic heroes.
35. Then again, Panthers radio ace and ex-NHLer, Bill Lindsay, goes with Patrick Roy and Mario Lemieux as best he’s ever played against.
36. Overheard in the Barclays Center press room prior to Game 3: “Which was the only team that ever held a wake for its favorite bar that had just burned down?”
Answer: In 1975, the Philadelphia Flyers, after their beloved South New Jersey tavern, Rexy’s, went up and down in flames inspired the Broad Street Bullies to hold the wake.The next day at practice, all the Flyers players wore black arm bands!
37. This from my buddy, Larry Hirsch, in Tampa Bay: “Jonathan Drouin is getting good publicity, here and everywhere. Along with Steven Stamkos in the off-season, Drouin will be big news. I believe that Stamkos will sold to the highest bidder. And aside from Toronto, the Red Wings will be in the hunt. Maybe, the Rangers?
Finally, Drouin is the real deal. He reminds me of John Tonelli/Mike Bossy. Shoots like Bossy, and is as intense as Tonelli. How about that for a player, only two years removed from Juniors!