NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 11, 2023
The Panthers defeat the Blackhawks, the Ducks upset the Flames, the reaction to the Flyers firing general manager Chuck Fletcher, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: An overtime goal by Brandon Montour gave the Florida Panthers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists for the Panthers (33-27-6), who moved to within two points of the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 72 points. Petr Mrazek made 39 saves for the 22-37-6 Blackhawks.
The Anaheim Ducks upset the Calgary Flames 3-1. Max Comtois had a goal and an assist while John Gibson stopped 36 shots for the 22-35-9 Ducks. Mikael Backlund scored for the Flames, who dropped to 29-24-13 and remain four points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot with 71 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gibson surpassed Guy Hebert for the most saves (11,837) in franchise history.
PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Philadelphia Flyers fired general manager Chuck Fletcher on Friday. Fletcher is also out as president of hockey operations. Daniel Briere takes over as GM on an interim basis.
In his four-plus years on the job, Fletcher’s Flyers reached the playoffs once (2020). The last straw for ownership appeared to be his inability to trade pending free agent winger James van Riemsdyk before the March 3 trade deadline.
Fletcher also faced criticism for his draft record, his trades and free-agent signings, and difficulties in coping with injuries to key players like Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson.
Sam Carchidi speculates Ray Shero could be a candidate for the general manager or president of hockey ops position. The former GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils is currently a senior advisor with the Minnesota Wild.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Jordan Hall suggests Fletcher’s inability to suitably replace Matt Niskanen following the blueliner’s sudden retirement in 2020 may have been most fatal to his tenure as GM.
THE ATHLETIC: Charlie O’Connor believes firing Fletcher could be just the start of changes within the Flyers’ front office, citing the dysfunction of hockey operations under his tenure. There appeared to be a disconnection between the two sides of the organization, as well as between hockey ops and ownership.
In his statement announcing Fletcher’s firing, Flyers governor Dave Scott confirmed the roles of general manager and president of hockey ops would be separated. No longer will one person hold both positions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have been mediocre for over a decade now. Fletcher’s firing seemed inevitable even before the trade deadline debacle.
Fletcher wasn’t responsible for what happened under his predecessor but he deserves the burden of blame for the Flyers’ failure to improve under his watch. They were stubbornly resistant to a much-needed roster rebuild, ignoring a fan base eager to embrace change.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski cited multiple sources claiming the GM job is Briere’s to lose. Given that he’s taken over on an interim basis it’s apparent he’s the front-runner to take over on a full-time basis. He could have a hand in whoever is hired to fill the hockey ops role.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has taken a leave of absence to return to his native Latvia due to an illness in the family. The club has recalled Daniil Tarasov on an emergency basis.
MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The Canadiens revealed yesterday that sidelined forward Kirby Dach remains sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Winger Brendan Gallagher remains with a lower-body injury for another three to four weeks. Defenseman Arber Xhekaj underwent successful shoulder surgery on March 1 and is expected to be fully recovered for the start of training camp in September.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dach is also likely done for the season. Gallagher could return before the end of the regular season but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still sidelined by that point.
THE ATHLETIC: Two men were arrested this week and charged in the May carjacking involving Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner and his fiancee. Marner was glad to have closure to the incident. “It’s a moment you don’t want anyone to be a part of,” he said yesterday.
For all that the Blackhawks have gone through this season, since January 1 they have demonstrated the biggest turnaround compared to their record up to December 31.
To that point they were dead last in the league after 36gp with an 8 24 4 20 points record, scoring 79 while giving up 137 – a pathetic .278% pace.
Since January 1 they have played 29 games, going 14 13 2 for 30 points, scoring 85 while giving up 106 – a .517 % pace.
Last night, Mrazek was chiefly responsible for their earning an OT point in the 4-3 loss to Florida, facing 43 shots.
Some of the youngsters are playing for jobs next season. You’re right, George. Very positive group coming together yet wrecking their odds for the #1 pick in the draft.
Although their record has improved, Shoreorrpark, yhey’re still very much in the mix for the Bedard Sweepstakes.
On December 31, the Bottom 10 for a % chance at # 1 were, in order from 1 to 10 (based on points %):
Chicago – .278
Anaheim – .324
Columbus – .343
San Jose – .397
Arizona – .443
Philadelphia – .446
Montreal – .446
Florida – .474
Vancouver – .486
As of today the order is:
Columbus – .367 – up .024
San Jose – .379 – down .018
Chicago – .385 – up .107
Anaheim – .402 – up .078
Arizona – .431 – down .012
Montreal – .446 – same pace
Philadelphia – .454 – up .008
Vancouver – .461 – down .027
St. Louis – .477 – were at .500 Dec 31
Detroit – .523 – were at .557 Dec 21(could still pass both Buffalo & Washington)
So, pretty much the same contingent since Dec 31 with negligible % differences – except for Chicago and Anaheim – but both remain very much in the mix.
I appreciate the time you put into your posts, George. Thx!
Panthers Still holding on….
Panthers a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks keep them in the playoff race for a wild card spot with the Sen’s following..
one or both of these team are going to get in with a wild card spot, Sen’s biggest challange is Goaltending as usual….
using there 3rd & 4th string goaltenders for the Push..❗️
I think the Pens are going to miss the playoffs this year and the NYI are a 50-50 chance to make it❓
67-GP,- 76 pts NYI
64-GP, -74 pts, Pen’s
66-GP, -72 pts, Florida,
64-GP, -70 pts, Sen’s
The Senators may be stuck with playing out the season with 2 rookies in net … but Florida has the costly and enigmatic “feast-or-famine” Bobrovsky, while Pittsburgh and Buffalo’s goaltending are both spotty and unreliable (in terms of consistency).
Only the Islanders have 2 generally reliable goalies and with their smothering style of fore-checking and concentration on defense-first, they’re likely the only lock. Washington has shot their bolt.
Just to add, I am not counting out Detroit. They have 67 pts in 64gp, 5 back of Florida with 2 games in hand and 9 back of NYI with 3 games in hand.
Tough row to hoe, though, with 5 teams to climb over – a task made even more difficult by those damned 3-pt games.
And losing today to the Bruins, 3-2, makes it even tougher. They made a game of it, even taking a 2-0 lead in the 1st. But Helberg, although he played extremely well, couldn’t hold back the Bruin surge. Not many can.