Insider Trading: Does the NHL support an international best-on-best competition?
The world watched as Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout to push Japan to the World Baseball Classic title, but it was also a grim reminder to hockey fans who have been starved from best-on-best play since 2016. Does the NHL have any plans to bring back the World Cup, or Olympic participation? What have been the hurdles to make it possible? TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun discuss this and more.
The World Baseball Classic produced some terrific theatre this weekend. It only reminded hockey fans just how ripped off we've been for nearly a decade. Dregs [Darren Dreger], what did you learn from polling NHL general managers on this topic?
Darren Dreger: Well, it was a nasty reminder – and let's call it an unofficial flash poll. Because only 26 of the 32 NHL general managers cared to participate, but 23 of them, Glenn [Glenn Schiiler], 23 said they support the World Cup of Hockey – and the Olympics, by the way, if you want to go down that path. The three that said that they are not interested say that because of fear of injury. They don't want additional play outside of the National Hockey League because they believe that NHL players have enough going on. Now here's something interesting: Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders says he favours the World Cup of Hockey but during the off-season, so that there can be a training camp, which again might curb injury. Interesting to note that the majority of the general managers who favour the return of the World Cup also want it in September. Not in February, because of the trade deadline, because of the looming playoffs, and we know Pierre [Pierre LeBrun] that the NHL Players' Association seem to be focused on February 2025.
Pierre LeBrun: Yeah, and they do want to have a World Cup, Dregs, as you know. But the circumstances that existed when they postponed the 2024 World Cup still exist now, which is the war in Ukraine with Russia. And because of that, this is going to lead to this decision – I think – if the players truly want to push ahead for a World Cup of Hockey, they're going to have to have a best-on-best tournament without Russia because the European Hockey Federations aren't going to want to take part [in] the tournament with Russia.
The (Colorado) Avalanche just locked up Jared Bednar to that three-year extension. Where does that put them on the list of highest-paid coaches, and who might be next in line for a contract in the coaching world?
PL: That extension, when it kicks in in the fall of ' 24, pays just under $5M a year [and] puts some top five right now. But in the meantime, the NHL is down with just three head coaches who were on expiring deals at the end of the season. Dallas Eakins in Anaheim, Peter Laviolette in Washington, as well as Lindy Ruff in New Jersey. And that's really an interesting situation where Lindy Ruff, who could be a Jack Adams Award finalist when the voting comes in, is up at the end of the year. The [New Jersey] Devils have maintained all along that they're not going to deal with that decision until after the playoffs. They hired Andrew Brunette last year to be an assistant coach, he was nominated for the Jack Adams from last year. And Lindy Ruff told me last November, he still wants to coach past this year at the age of 63, he still very much enjoys it. So we'll see where that goes. Peter Laviolette was talking about an extension at the start of the year, but those talks went quiet.
Some other high-profile coaches, Pierre, also only about one year away from needing a new deal. What can you tell us about that?
PL: Yeah, there's a whole whack of them. There's eight coaches that will enter the last year of their deals starting next season. Some of them will be extended by that, I believe. For example, Todd McLellan. I think the L.A. Kings will try to extend him this summer after the season. I believe that the Seattle Kraken will try to extend David Hakstol after the season before he enters next year on the final year of his deal. And then you got a lot of interesting situations. Let's face it: in Ottawa, who knows? With new ownership coming in what that means for the front office, what it means for D.J. Smith, but obviously, he's got a good, young team on the rise there and, of course, Sheldon Keefe one year left on his deal. The playoffs have a huge impact on what's going to happen with Sheldon Keefe, and I think a lot of people in the Leafs [Toronto Maple Leafs] organization.
Newly-appointed NHLPA boss Marty Walsh still learning the ins and outs of his new role but has a clear No. 2 emerged under Walsh, helping him through this process?
DD: Well, not officially, Glenn. But a lot of people around the hockey world are talking about former player Ron Hainsey. We know how involved he was in the process of finding Marty Walsh, the new executive director of the NHL Players' Association. Many believe that Hainsey is in line for promotion, but I think we need to pump the brakes a little bit here. Marty Walsh will make his way to Toronto early next week. He hasn't met all of the staff of the Players' Association yet. So it might be a little early to say that key roles or figures are going to change, but Hainsey will be a high-ranking executive.