One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

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One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history on Thursday. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman fought back tears as he made the announcement. "My drive and motivation are not where they need to be to play at this level," Lidstrom said. The 42-year-old set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts. "I've been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. Lidstrom had 264 career goals with 1,142 points. After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu. "That didn't sway me one way or another," Lidstrom said. "A couple of weeks after the season is over, you start working out. Once I started doing that I didn't have the push I need and I can't cheat myself." He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings. "Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," said Lidstrom, whose oldest of four sons went to Sweden two years ago to attend school and play ice hockey. Lidstrom was named the NHL's best defenseman last year for a seventh time, matching Doug Harvey's total and trailing Bobby Orr's record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. Defenseman Brad Stuart, who was his teammate for the past four-plus seasons, said he was amazed at Lidstrom's ability to make the right play on almost every shift game after game. "I've played with great players who made mistakes, but I can't think of one game when I thought, Nick just didn't have it tonight,'" Stuart said during this year's one-series postseason. "He's that same, steady, amazing defenseman every night. I think I've seen him out of breath maybe three or four times in a few years because he's so smart, he gets himself in the right position to make a play." The four-time Olympian also scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in 2006. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. He has a chiseled body thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food. Lidstrom's teammates call him "The Perfect Human," in part because he's as humble as he is successful on the ice. "It's one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at a packed news conference that included a slew of team employees wearing Lidstrom's No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas earns All-NBA team votes

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Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas earns All-NBA team votes

BOSTON – Isaiah Thomas was among the breakout performers in the NBA this past season, earning the Celtics guard his first All-Star appearance in the process. 

And when the league announced its three All-NBA teams on Thursday, Thomas was among the contingent of players receiving votes.
 
Thomas, who averaged a career-high 22.2 points per game this past season, received a total of 20 points which was more than perennial standouts Pau Gasol (16 points) of Chicago, Dirk Nowitzki (8 points) of Dallas and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (2 points).
 
Golden State’s Stephen Curry was a unanimous first-team selection as he was named to the first team on all 129 ballots submitted for a total of 645 points. Points for first, second and third team nominations were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis.
 
Joining Curry on the first team was LeBron James who was named to the first Team for the 10th time in his 13 NBA seasons; San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
 
The second team includes Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland’s Damian Lillard.

On the third team, there’s Paul George of Indiana, LaMarcus Aldridge of San Antonio, Andre Drummond of Detroit, Klay Thompson of Golden State and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry.
 

Report: 3 owners unhappy with Kraft's amicus brief on behalf of Brady

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Report: 3 owners unhappy with Kraft's amicus brief on behalf of Brady

Three NFL owners have expressed “extreme disappointment” in Robert Kraft and the Patriots filing an amicus brief on behalf of Tom Brady in the quarterback’s appeal of the Second Circuit Court’s reinstatement of his Deflategate suspension, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. 

The Patriots filed the brief on Wednesday. 

The owners see the move as a publicity stunt done to appease Brady and the Patriots fans, Cole said, and they don’t believe Kraft did it any seriousness because the issue speaks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to punish players and undermines the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players.

If Kraft thought it mattered, he wouldn't have done it, Cole said one owner told him.