Ahead of Game Seven between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals, this year’s finalists for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award were announced by NBC Sports, including ’Canes captain and “Mr. Game Seven” himself, Justin Williams. Williams joins Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano and Nashville Predators forward and former Philadelphia Flyers fan favorite Wayne Simmonds as the three players being considered for the honor. An award unlike any other in sports, these finalists are determined by input from fans, team officials, and league executive alike, but the winner is ultimately determined by Mark Messier himself. Messier, considered one of the best leaders in league history, chooses the candidate “who best exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice”. The list of past winners of the award, dating back to its origins in 2007, include some of the most recognizable leaders in the game, many of whom remain active, such as Sidney Crosby, Zdeno Chara, Jonathan Toews, and Shea Weber. Williams, Giordano, and Simmonds are all great candidates to join their ranks.
- The Chicago Blackhawks and assistant coach Don Granato have “mutually agreed” to part ways. Granato was hired by Joel Quenneville in 2017, but does not appear to have been a fit for Jeremy Colliton’s staff. The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus writes that Granato specifically worked with younger players as a go-between for Quenneville, but that role was redundant under the younger Colliton. Granato has been coaching since the early 90’s and should be able to find a new gig in no time. In fact, he very likely has an open invitation to return to the University of Wisconsin to coach under brother Tony Granato with a Badgers squad that has their eye on a National Championship next season.
- Speaking of the college ranks, the University of North Dakota received an intriguing commitment today in the form of a legacy player. 15-year-old Jackson Blake, son of long-time NHLer and former Fighting Sioux standout Jason Blake, announced that he would be following in his father’s footsteps by joining the program – in 2022. Blake currently plays for powerhouse Shattuck St. Mary’s and finished the season in second on the U-15 team in per-game scoring with 24 points in 27 games. As one would imagine about a young teenager, Blake is still small at 5’5″; however if he reaches or exceed’s his dad’s 5’10” frame, Blake should be more than capable of making an impact at the college level down the road.