Playing Fact or Fiction with the Biggest Rumors, Speculation Around the NHL

Al DanielCorrespondent IIMay 22, 2013

Playing Fact or Fiction with the Biggest Rumors, Speculation Around the NHL

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    Almost exactly a full decade after he announced his retirement from playing, Patrick Roy is popping up in multiple contexts and multiple NHL cities.

    The franchises in both of those cities are subject to hot-button buzz with regards to their coaches and crease custodians. As of Wednesday evening, nothing was certain either way and, theoretically, a credible case can be made in predicting the fruition of forecasted events or lack thereof.

    There are three other storylines of note that revolve around players possibly donning new attire next season or when their current contracts are up. They, too, can be interpreted from virtually any angle at the moment, but with varying degrees of confidence.

    The items in this slideshow were chosen based on merit for multiple arguments. Therefore, the likes of the Vancouver Canucks post-mortem is absent as there is very little reasonable cause to believe there will not be any major shake-ups to that team's roster and/or coaching staff.

    Based on what local reporters are touching upon as well as some important, but overlooked aspects of the sagas in question, here is what to make of five of the freshest nuggets of speculation in the NHL. Final rulings range between any combination fact or fiction and possibility or probability.

Patrick Roy to Coach the Avalanche? Possibly Fact.

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    Stephane Roy, brother of Colorado legend Patrick Roy, reportedly told Denver Post writer Adrian Dater that the former netminder was on the cusp of filling the Avalanche coaching vacancy.

    But, Dater cautioned, “The Avalanche would not confirm a deal is in place. Patrick Roy could not be reached for comment, nor could Avalanche vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic.”

    Additionally, Stephane has since retracted his proclamation. Still, that’s not the be-all, end-all.

    Roy’s coaching transcript consists of eight seasons with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. Therefore, if he does assume the post in Colorado, he should draw parallels to Dale Hunter, a prominent former Washington Capital who briefly left his job in London to coach his old employers.

    Granted, Hunter promptly returned to major junior after last season, but the success he brought to the Caps is proof that good coaches can smoothly transition from directing amateurs to professionals. Furthermore, Dater notes that there is reason to believe Roy would handle this prospective opportunity differently.

    Dater writes, “Roy was offered the Avs’ coaching job in 2009 but turned it down, citing family as a top reason. But his sons, Jonathan and Frederick, who once played under him with the Remparts, are no longer there, and Roy has said he would consider an NHL job if it were offered.”

    Throw in the familiarity and history of success between Roy and the new V.P. Sakic and this prospect leans in the direction of fact, though not as far as it previously seemed to.

Pavel Datsyuk Going Home After His Contract Expires? Probably Fiction.

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    Is Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock’s frank and forthright refutation enough to neutralize the idea that Pavel Datsyuk will finish his professional hockey career in his native Russia?

    Technically, no, but Babcock is likely correct nonetheless.

    As reports have understandably noted, the NHL lockout last autumn unveiled Datsyuk’s love for his native country and how he embraced the chance to play there.

    But as long as he is maintaining a decent degree of individual and team success, as he generally has for more than a decade, Datsyuk ought to remain a Detroit player. He is once again a Selke Trophy nominee and playing no small role in a longer, more successful 2013 postseason than most people probably expected out of the Wings.

    Even if they spill their current 2-1 series lead and bow to the Blackhawks, the Red Wings will have something to build on going into the final year of Datsyuk’s contract. Even if his own best years are behind him, he along with Henrik Zetterberg should be tasked with helping to build a smooth bridge to the next offensive generation, piloted by Gustav Nyquist.

    Franchise pride should prevail for this Russian import and, as Babcock says to the Detroit News, a new deal should be in place even before the current one evaporates in 2013-14.

    File any rumors of Datsyuk bolting for the KHL under fiction. He might do that someday, but do not expect it to happen in 2014. More like when he is pushing 40, a la Sergei Fedorov.

Buyouts for Briere and Bryzgalov? Possibly Fiction and Probably Fact.

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    Citing their hefty cap hits, Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News pointed to veteran forward Daniel Briere and erratic goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov as potential buyouts by the Philadelphia Flyers. Randy Miller of the Courier-Post seconded that suggestion regarding Briere in a column posted on May 11.

    As ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun noted April 22 while recounting an interview with Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, the Flyers can exercise “two compliance buyouts the NHL offered up in the new CBA which don't count against the cap.”

    They will have to shed some money somehow.

    Indeed, as of Wednesday, the Philadelphia cage on has the Flyers committing $70,737,262 in cumulative salary next season. That is more than $6.4 million above next year’s $64.3 million maximum limit and Briere is the only individual whose cap hit ($6.5 million) could single-handedly remedy that.

    However, unlike Briere, it is indubitably desirable for the Flyers to part with Bryzgalov. Despite what Holmgren intimated in his LeBrun interview, the backstop is beyond a boiling point and clearly cannot withstand the pressure of a media market like Philadelphia.

    Conversely, Briere can still be useful in terms of offering tangible depth and a veteran presence on offense. That is to say nothing of his perennial propensity for playoff production. Just look at his postseason output each year between 2006 and 2012.

    This looks like half-fact, half-fiction. This author, for one, would not be surprised to see the long-injured Chris Pronger, rather than Briere, join Bryzgalov as a copious cap hit removal.

Ales Hemsky Leaving Edmonton This Offseason? Possibly Fact.

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    When TSN analyst Craig Button spoke with the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, he assessed some potential complications if the Oilers attempt to move Ales Hemsky.

    Button told Matheson, among other things, “I don’t know if they can get something tangible in return for Hemsky. Andrew Cogliano got the Oilers a second-round draft (pick). I don’t know if they can get that for Hemsky.”

    Button later added, regarding Hemsky’s health history, “He’s not reliable (to possible trade suitors).”

    Indeed, Hemsky has missed no fewer than 10 games per season since 2009-10, that 10-game minimum falling during the truncated 2012-13 campaign. That trend is one worry that a change of scenery would not readily cure, unlike a standard recession in productivity by a consistently healthy player.

    Nonetheless, near the conclusion of a column published on May 7, Matheson’s Journal colleague, David Staples, had this to say of Hemsky, who is due to hit free agency in 2014:

    “Any team hungry for skill and for a boost to their power play would be wise to investigate a trade. And if somehow Hemsky does return to good health — never a likely prospect for an older NHLer, but not an impossibility as Sheldon Souray has most recently demonstrated — that team could be making a helluva good pickup.”

    The Hemsky trade talk can be fact or fiction, depending on the finer points. It looks less than feasible this summer, despite what Matheson’s lead sentence in the Button interview suggests, but is a much sounder possibility at mid-to-late season in 2013-14.

Ryan Miller Leaving Buffalo? Probably Fact.

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    The name “Patrick Roy” comes full circle now with the buzz in Buffalo concerning long-time Sabres stopper Ryan Miller.

    As part of his account of Miller’s performance in an 8-4 loss to the Rangers late in another non-playoff campaign, Dave Ricci of the New York Hockey Journal drew this lofty historical parallel: “It conjured up images of Patrick Roy’s final night as a Montreal Canadien in 1995, when he yielded nine goals and gave the Habs’ faithful a snarky wave as he left the ice.”

    Meanwhile, Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News has gone ahead and cited Anaheim, Colorado and St. Louis as teams who might crave Miller’s services.

    Miller, who will turn 33 in July, has been a pro for 11 seasons and a full-time NHLer for eight. In the last three, since winning the Vezina Trophy and a Northeast Division title in 2010, his output has lagged and so have the Sabres.

    Buffalo has already parted with another franchise mainstay, head coach Lindy Ruff, in 2013, which was their fourth playoff no-show in the last six years.

    Add the rising stock of 24-year-old Jhonas Enroth, who has coincidentally been waiting in the wings for Miller’s three post-Vezina years, and the various assumptions that Miller is going elsewhere look nothing short of factually accurate.

    If nothing else, Buffalo needs to finish revising its identity. Aside from its first coaching change since 1997, dealing its masked face of the franchise is the most impactful way of going about that.