ON THE MARC
What once looked certainly like a season-ending concussion may not be that after all for the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard, who was infamously clocked by the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Cooke in a regular-season game back in March, which prompted the NHL to adopt an in-season rule change to protect vulnerable players from hits to the head. Savard skated on his own Wednesday after passing a neuropsychological test the day before, the first two steps towards returning to the Bruins' lineup. And while no return date is set, with Boston poised to advance to the second round, Savard could potentially get back playing next series, which is shaping up as a meeting with - you guessed it - those wily Penguins and the villainous Cooke. Could be fireworks either way; moreso if Savard actually does get back playing again this season.
JUST ONE OF THOSE YEARS
For the Philadelphia Flyers' Jeff Carter, who missed eight games towards the end of the regular season recovering from a broken left foot and then broke his right foot Tuesday night when he was hit by a Chris Pronger slapshot on a five-on-three power play. The carom went off Carter into the net, a pivotal goal in the Flyers' Game 4 victory over the New Jersey Devils, a night in which they also lost a second top-six forward, Simon Gagne, also with a broken right foot. Both were scheduled for surgery yesterday; and Carter's - described by general manager Paul Holmgren as the more complex of the two - was expected to be on crutches for about six weeks, meaning he is effectively out for the season, no matter how deep the Flyers go. Gagne is expected to miss about three weeks, so he could be available if Philadelphia advances to the third round.
THE OIL WATCH
Not sure if it's just a marketing ploy or the Edmonton Oilers really truly believe demand for season tickets will stay as strong as ever, despite the team finishing 30th overall, but this past week, the NHL team announced that it was increasing the number of tickets available to season ticket holders by 500. Previously, the Oilers capped their season-ticket base at 13,000, making the rest available in game packs and on a game-by-game basis. For next year, an extra 500 will be up for grabs. Presumably, the Oilers are counting on the presence of either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin in the lineup to coax the more wary subscribers back … The conundrum for the Oilers scouting staff: Hall is probably the more NHL ready of the two, but many believe Seguin's long-term upside may be greater. As one NHL GM put it to me recently: It's a hard thing to do to select the player that will mean more to you three years down the road, knowing that you'll almost certainly be subject to a season of second guessing in their respective rookie years. But Seguin's bona fides - plays centre and is a right-handed shot - make him attractive for a team that can think big-picture thoughts.
One long-time member of the Oilers' front office, assistant GM Kevin Prendergast, won't be sitting at the draft table this year. After 20 years in the organization, Prendergast was relieved of his duties by general manager Steve Tambellini. Under Prendergast's watch, the Oilers did some good things (Ales Hemsky, 13th overall in 2001, was probably his most astute pick), but also wasted first-rounders on Alexei Mikhnov (17th overall in 2000) and Jesse Niinimaki (15th in 2002). Brooks Orpik, Alexander Frolov, Anton Volchenkov, Brad Boyes, Steve Ott, Justin Williams, Niklas Kronwall were all still on the board after the Mikhnov pick. The 2002 draft class didn't yield a lot of gold, but Duncan Keith was still available in the second round. Arguably, that exceptional 2003 draft class represented the Oilers' biggest miss. They took Marc-Antoine Pouliot at 22; Ryan Kesler (Vancouver) went next at 23 and then Mike Richards (to Philadelphia) was the 24th player selected. Either would look awfully good in an Oilers' uniform right about now.
MISLEY WAITING IN THE WINGS?
If the Oilers replace Prendergast, one of the names they may consider is Johnny Misley, a former vice president of Hockey Canada who resigned after the Olympics. Misley and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini worked together on a number of Hockey Canada projects, including the 2002 men's Olympic hockey team, which won gold in Salt Lake City.
WILD MAN GONE
The Minnesota Wild also parted ways with a long-time employee, Tom Thompson, who was one of former GM Doug Risebrough's key people from the early expansion days. Thompson was planning to leave anyway, but could resurface in the NHL if Risebrough gets the Tampa Bay Lightning job as expected.
TAMPA OPPORTUNITY AWAITS
Is there a better opportunity for a prospective GM than the one in Tampa, where the presence of Steve Stamkos and Viktor Hedman, selected in back-to-back drafts, gives the Lightning an impressive starting point on their road back to respectability. The fact that Martin St. Louis remains a premier forward after all these years doesn't hurt - nor does the presence of Vincent Lecavalier. With the correct adjustments, in the comparatively thin Eastern Conference, Tampa should be a playoff team again next year.