Nichols’ Notes

Nichols’ Notes: Kucherov’s ‘Fork-In-the-Road Moment’ for Lightning

Nichols’ Notes: Kucherov’s ‘Fork-In-the-Road Moment’ for Lightning
Chris Nichols

Excellent look here at the evolution of 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov since last year’s rookie season.

“Kuch had that fork-in-the-road moment last year because when he came up, you could see the talent, but he always found himself on the wrong side of pucks,” said bench boss Jon Cooper. “He and I had some battles. I told him, ‘Kuch, you can be a kid in this league that just gets by, or you can be a star.’ And he came back this year, we weren’t sure where he would fit into the lineup or if he would make our team and send him back. We just didn’t know how he was going to come back.”

“The one thing about Kuch, he understands now his offense can come from playing D,” added Cooper. “He’s always on the right side of pucks now, he’s backchecking. Sure, does he make plays that makes you a little nervous? Yes, but he can make those plays and he’s earned the leeway to do it. That’s the thing, he earns the coach’s trust.”

Source: LeBrun/ ESPN

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Morgan Rielly is certainly one of the bright spots for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and head coach Peter Horachek explained what he sees in the young rearguard’s game.

“He’s so dynamic,” Horachek said. “Most nights, his skating ability and elusiveness is exceptional. Any time he runs into problems, it’s decision making, when he has the puck and where he is on the ice. That’s experience. That comes as he continues to play.”

“He can do a lot of things most people can’t do. His development is really ahead of the curve.”

Source: McGran/ Star

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Interesting subtext in a piece on the Nazem Kadri disciplinary drama emanating out of Toronto, where a coach texted, “This happens more often than you think. The coaches are constantly trying to protect the players, but also have accountability… which is a very, very hard balance.”

Source: Friedman/ Sportsnet

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Ted Nolan doesn’t know what the future will hold as far as his job with the Buffalo Sabres headed into next year, but he does believe he’s a better coach today than when he won the Jack Adams for the ’96-97 campaign.

“I think I am,” Nolan said. “I think we all change. I have a little bit more understanding of how the game is played outside the game, No. 1. Being aware of traits of different players of different parts of the world and understanding of those traits, having the experience of going to Latvia really solidified that with me, particularly coming from a small First Nations community.

“You just learn to adapt and adjust and learn to adapt to your surroundings.”

Source: Vogl/ News

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Bo Horvat has made noticeably huge strides in his game over the past few months, and perhaps at least a tip of the cap may have to go to dad.

“He came home for Christmas because he had three days off,” Tim Horvat recalled. “I told him I was proud of him because just being there (in the NHL) was a special honour. But I said: ‘Bo, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes.’

“He has always been known for his (defensive) game and I think he uses that sometimes as a crutch because I know, deep down, he has tremendous upside in his offensive game, too. He’s got great hands, a great shot, he sees the ice real well. I said: ‘It’s OK to make mistakes because that’s how you learn.’ I think that’s the biggest thing — he’s not scared to make that mistake now.”

Source: MacIntyre/ Sun

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Washington Capitals defenseman Tim Gleason has taken to sitting on the bench before games and doing some visualization exercises.

“It’s a little bit more of a mental thing, seeing plays happen, plays that I make, I’m familiar with, gets me more into the game, things like that,” he said. “This is the first year I’ve tried to do it. Switch things up, things like that. I think it helps. Once you sit there, visualize certain things that you can do on the ice and you will be doing, it comes naturally. Overall, I think it’s helped my game throughout the year.

“I had to change something up. The last year or two had kind of been up and down years for me, so I had to do something different and I think that helps along the way. At the end of the day, whether you’re up or down, or playing well, or playing not, you’ve got to stick to your routine overall.”

Source: Prewitt/ Post

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One of the many areas of concern for the Philadelphia Flyers moving forward into next year will be not making it four straight seasons where the team begins with a poor record.

“It’s bothersome because it’s not only the hole you put yourself into, it’s kinda the energy that you create at the start of the year,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That is something we’ve talked about and we’ll continue to talk about and continue to look at because we’ve got to reverse that trend.

“Getting off to a good start is huge. Again, it’s just the energy that you get among the team in the locker room, the good feeling that you have moving forward right from the start. Again, it’s tough to get out of holes.”

Source: Panaccio/ CSN

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Johan Franzen has been sidelined more than two months with concussion symptoms, although he has at least skated some on his own.

“I just feel really bad for him,” teammate Jonathan Ericsson said. “He hasn’t been able to do anything without getting symptoms back. It’s good to see him here again. I don’t know that much about his progress. I know he’s been up and down. I know he’s not close to playing right now.

“I’m kind of hoping he’s going to take the rest of the year off just because of how it’s been right now. I’m more concerned about his future than playing hockey right now and getting it worse. He has a life after hockey as well, so he has to take care of that.”

Source: Khan/ MLive

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Derrick Pouliot’s play stood out for the Pittsburgh Penguins on the team’s recent Western road trip.

“He’s controlled the ice with his puck movement,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “He’s made quicker decisions. Where he got caught before was just waiting that extra second with the puck. He knows where he was supposed to move it. He’s quick enough and deceptive enough. At the NHL level, you just have to learn that.

“Through this whole trip he was right there at the top of our defensive core. He’s shown a lot of poise in key situations. That’s going to help him in playoff hockey.”

Source: Yohe/ Tribune-Review

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Bob Mason has been managing the goaltending of the Minnesota Wild for 13 seasons now, and he reflected on his interview for the job with Jacques Lemaire.

“When I interviewed with Jacques, I met him in his office, where he put in a couple tapes of Manny,” Mason recounted. “We talked about five minutes, me describing what Manny was doing and what he could have done better.

“Jacques said, ‘You know what you’re talking about.’ I got hired a day later.”

Source: Murphy/ Pioneer Press

Nichols’ Notes
Chris Nichols

Chris has written about both hockey and fantasy hockey for a number of media outlets over the last 14 years, including a combined decade with Sportsnet.ca and ESPN.com. He launched NicholsOnHockey.com in February of 2014. An aversion to wearing socks sparked a move from his hometown of Edmonton to San Diego, California in the mid-’90s, and the Oilers have not won a Cup in his absence.

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