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Simmer’s Sunday Skate: Kuemper Starts, Former Canucks Forward an MVP

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Vancouver Canucks, Josh Leivo
Former Vancouver Canucks forward Josh Leivo was named 2022 Calder Cup playoffs most valuable player.

It’s been a busy week for the Vancouver Canucks organization, with some new hires, a little restructuring, and a minor league signing. But later today, the club’s attention, like that of the rest of the NHL, will turn towards the action on the ice.

It’s always remarkable to see the level of ferocity that NHL players can exhibit when Lord Stanley’s Cup is on the line. Game-5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday night, won by the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 to keep the series alive, was impressive to watch in its intensity. It’s a given every year and it’s always a pleasure to be reminded.

I very rarely complain about officiating, having seen calls go with or against every franchise at some point in big moments over the decades. It’s a difficult, high pressure gig for the men in the orange bands, and let’s face it, the calls/non-calls even out over time.

That said, there was one blatant infraction I would have liked to have seen called last game, only because it seemed obvious on an exquisite effort by this year’s Norris Trophy winner. Down a goal late in the second period, Avalanche D-man Cale Makar burst through neutral ice, flew into the Tampa zone, zipped past a backchecking forward and a defenceman and cut to the net. He was blatantly slashed on the hands by Alex Killorn, severely limiting a scoring chance.

It was surprising to see Makar actually complain about it right afterwards, but that’s how obvious it was. Why it didn’t get called? Colorado was already on the power play and he ended up getting a shot off anyway. Two poor excuses. Those types of exemplary individual efforts, essentially in a spotlight, should be rewarded.

Meanwhile, although he gave up a first period goal that he should have stopped to Tampa defenceman Jan Rutta and took the loss in Game-5, it appears Darcy Kuemper will get the start in net for the Avalanche on Sunday evening. Pavel Francouz is the viable option.

The Next Toughest Cup

The Chicago Wolves won the Calder Cup on Saturday night, becoming American Hockey League champions with a five-game final series victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds. Former Vancouver Canucks forward Josh Leivo took home playoff most valuable player honours with 15 postseason goals, the last one into an empty net to seal the 4-0 series clinching victory.

Oddly, it was the second consecutive Calder Cup win for the Carolina Hurricanes organization, but with two different teams over a three year gap. The Hurricanes minor league Charlotte Checkers won the cup in 2019, followed by no AHL championship for two years because of Covid, and then this victory by the Wolves, Carolina’s latest affiliate.

Big Bucks for Forsberg

But is it enough? Going public with negotiations didn’t necessarily help Nashville Predators general manager David Poile get the job done with his offer to unrestricted free agent (UFA) forward Filip Forsberg. In what has been a contentious process apparently, Poile said Thursday that the club had offered their third leading scorer the maximum eight-year deal. Forsberg hasn’t yet leapt at it.

“I’ve said that since day one, the goal is to come back here,” Forsberg said two weeks ago. “The business side is completely different than the on-ice side. [We’ll] just kind of have to wait and see and play it out.”

If he hits the open market on July 13th, seven years is the longest deal a non-incumbent club can offer him, but it seems for now Forsberg might be willing to forego that eighth year.

I wrote a stream of consciousness article during the Stanley Cup Final on Friday night, fantasizing about landing the winger from the Vancouver Canucks perspective.

Fantasy will at some point become a reality for Forsberg, as he tries to cash in on his career best season with a potential change of scenery.

Big Zed

As captain of the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, he’s not the most popular guy with Vancouver Canucks fans to say the least, but current NHL UFA Zdeno Chara is a phenom at age 45. Last season he passed Chris Chelios for most career games played by a defenceman, and ‘Big Z’ is considering giving it one more go.

His agent Matt Keator told the Boston Globe on Saturday that the tallest player in NHL history and future Hockey Hall of Famer will make a decision on his playing future in September.

Game On!

A little after 5 pm pacific, Game-6 of the Stanley Cup Final this afternoon and evening.

Enjoy the Hockey Action!!

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