Every now and then, a should-be slow night brings about the week’s biggest news.
That happened two weeks in a row, actually. The Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets made the best “deadline deal” on a Thursday (Feb. 23) in the Jeff Carter trade (who scored his first two goals for the Kings this weekend, by the way) – much like the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche topped anything that would happen in the 2011 trade deadline with the Chris Stewart-Erik Johnson swap.
As big as that Carter deal was a couple weeks ago, this weekend’s big change dwarfed Dean Lombardi’s gamble. In case you went into complete hockey hibernation during the last few days, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke bit the bullet and fired his good buddy/head coach Ron Wilson.
If that development seemingly breaks the trend of Burke being fiercely loyal, relax; he turned around and hired the last guy who coached for him in Anaheim to take Wilson’s place. That would be vague Benny Hill look-alike Randy Carlyle, who took a bit longer to find a job than his Ducks replacement Bruce Boudreau did but still managed to get a new gig before the 2011-12 season ended. Impressive.
Of course, Carlyle isn’t just a fellow who shares a moderate resemblance to a British comedian who used to chase co-eds around to ridiculous music. He won a Norris Trophy as a defenseman in 1981 and coached the Burke-fueled Ducks to a dominant Stanley Cup-winning run in 2007.
To some, this decision carries the undeniable scent of desperation. The most tangible criticism is that Burke pulled the trigger with precious little time left in the season. Many would argue that perhaps he bowed to the masses and fired Wilson to save his own job.
Those criticisms are all worthy of fun debate, but the bigger question for our purposes is how much of a fantasy impact Carlyle might have on the Leafs. It's too early to draw a ton of wide-ranging observations, but let me give you a few thoughts.
THROWN FOR A LUPUL
Joffrey Lupul and Carlyle didn’t exactly part on great terms. Even just a full year ago, that wouldn’t have been all that great of a concern since Lupul seemed to be in a perpetual state of tradeability, yet Lupul has flourished this season and ranks right behind Phil Kessel among Toronto’s biggest success stories.
Personally, I’m not overly worried about the situation for a simple reason: Carlyle is smart. He should know that the Lupul-Kessel combo is where the Buds’ bread is buttered and it certainly seemed that way in his first game behind the bench; Lupul received a little more than 20 minutes of ice time despite going pointless. Maybe it's not the greatest situation for Lupul, but I doubt it'll be a big problem for fantasy owners - especially in the short-term.
If anything, the biggest difference might be found in players who have been “liberated” from frosty relationships that naturally come about when things aren’t going well.
Mikhail Grabovski hasn’t had a horrific season by any means, but he was really struggling lately. It’s foolish to put too much weight in a single game, but it’s undoubtedly promising that he factored into all three of Toronto’s goals in a 3-1 win over Montreal on Saturday.
The most promising figure of all – to me, at least – was the Maple Leafs’ 42-22 shot advantage. Lighting a short-term fire under these players is just fine because, ultimately, there’s barely more than a month left in the season. Then again, this win came against the lowly Canadiens, so don’t get too excited, either.
This weekend seemed to provide a steady stream of concern when it comes to injuries. With that in mind, it might just be easier to summarize even the bigger ones in rapid-fire fashion:
Niklas Backstrom looks like he’ll miss 2-4 weeks after making an awkward save on Friday. That’s bad news for the Minnesota Wild, unless your name is Josh Harding (Matt Hackett stole a start from him on Sunday, though) … Tuukka Rask also seemed to get hurt making a save, but there isn’t a window for recovery just yet … It’s quite possible that Zach Parise broke his hand on Sunday, although the details are pretty murky at this time – he said that he hopes to avoid even getting an X-ray. Honestly, that sounds like a recipe for disaster, but he is a hockey player in a contract year … Jimmy Howard got hurt again, but the good news might be that it’s a lower-body issue instead of another problem with his broken index finger from earlier this season. The nature of the injury only matters so much if he's out of action, after all, so keep an eye on Joey MacDonald … Jonathan Toews’ concussion (or concussion-like) symptoms don’t seem to be subsiding. Not good … In a rare bit of good concussion news, Victor Hedman doesn’t appear to have one of his own ... In more mysterious concussive news, Kris Letang’s issues aren’t “dramatic” according to the Penguins. Take that as you will … Nicklas Lidstrom’s ankle issues are lingering … James van Riemsdyk’s broken foot apparently will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Can’t blame you for dropping him if you don’t have the space on your IR … Ryan Callahan continues to miss time with a foot injury. Perhaps that’s the drawback to his commendable, hard-driving style … Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros appear to be out indefinitely with lower-body injuries … Zach Bogosian is struggling with a wrist ailment. (Click here for the full injury list.)
The New Jersey Devils really want Martin Brodeur to be their starter, but he’s beginning to struggle again while Johan Hedberg just shut out the Washington Capitals. It’s unlikely that fudging around on this will cost the Devils a playoff spot, but it could mess things up seeding-wise if the Ottawa Senators gain on them … Speaking of backups climbing the ranks, Ray Emery has compiled three wins – all while allowing a single goal in each contest. Maybe he won’t take the job over the long haul, but he might be worthy of a short-term look if you’re piecing together goalie numbers … Zack Kassian scored but couldn’t beat his old team as the Buffalo Sabres topped the Vancouver Canucks – even if Cody Hodgson remains pointless in three games for Buffalo … Two up-and-down Russian goalies had shutouts on Sunday as Ilya Bryzgalov (34 saves) and Semyon Varlamov (30 saves) won for their respective teams.