NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 19, 2023
The fallout from Mike Babcock’s resignation as Blue Jackets coach, the Blues will name their new captain today, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets ownership released a statement yesterday confirming that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson will remain in their jobs for the coming season.
This comes in the wake of Mike Babcock stepping down as head coach following an investigation by the NHL Players’ Association over allegations he violated the privacy of Blue Jackets players.
Ownership indicated it was “deeply frustrated and disappointed” over the events of the past week. Nevertheless, it does not anticipate making further changes to its hockey leadership “at this time.”
Davidson and Kekalainen met with the media yesterday with both men admitting their hiring of Babcock was a “major misstep.” Davidson said that they “got it wrong, and that’s on us.” He vowed they would learn from this going forward, adding that they understood the criticism they were receiving. “It is deserved,” he said.
Kekalainen said he met with the Blue Jackets players on Monday to apologize for any inconvenience or awkward situation that the hiring of Babcock may have placed on them. He insisted that the club did its thorough due diligence before hiring Babcock. Kekalainen felt that he deserved another chance to coach. “Obviously, that was a mistake, and that responsibility is mine.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers are wondering why Kekalainen isn’t losing his job over the Babcock situation. While ownership is standing by their general manager, I think this incident puts his future with the club in jeopardy. He could lose his job by the end of this season if the Jackets fail to make a significant improvement on the ice.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues will announce a new team captain this afternoon, filling the role left vacant after Ryan O’Reilly was traded to Toronto in February. Brayden Schenn is considered the favorite to land the job as he’s been an alternate captain for the past three seasons. Robert Thomas could also be a contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford also named Schenn and Thomas as possible candidates. Others that he mentioned included Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko and Pavel Buchnevich. The Hockey News’ Lou Korac reports Thomas is believed to have emerged as the front-runner.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: David Pastrnak is prepared to take on more of a leadership role following the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand are considered the favorites to be named the next Bruins captain but Pastrnak will still play a large role among the club’s leaders.
TORONTO SUN: Ryan Reaves believes he’ll bring the grit to the Maple Leafs lineup that’s been missing in recent years. He indicated that he won’t stand for rival players gloating at his teammates the way Radko Gudas did to Leafs goalie Joseph Woll in last spring’s playoffs. “I hope he tries that,” said Reaves. “That would be interesting, that would be fun. I doubt there would be any of that here.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs received some criticism for signing the 36-year-old Reaves to a three-year contract this summer. We’ll soon find out if that was a worthwhile investment by the cap-strapped club.
BUFFALO HOCKEY NOW: Promising forward Matthew Savoie suffered an upper-body injury during the Sabres prospect game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be reevaluated and could miss the opening days of training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2022 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old Savoie is expected to challenge for a full-time roster spot. This injury could hamper those efforts.
DAILY FACEOFF: The San Jose Sharks signed Justin Bailey to a professional tryout offer. Bailey last played in the NHL in 2021-22 with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Dallas Stars signed goalie Christopher Gibson to a PTO. He last played in the NHL in 2020-21 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins named John McLean as a new assistant coach. McLean spent last season as their skills and skating consultant.
TWINCITIES.COM: Former NHL forward Henry Boucha passed away on Monday at age 72.
Boucha won a Minnesota state championship in 1969 and a silver medal with Team USA in the 1972 Winter Olympics.
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1971, Boucha spent six seasons in the NHL with the Wings, Minnesota North Stars, Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies from 1971-72 to 1976-77 until his career was prematurely ended by an eye injury. In 247 NHL games, Boucha tallied 53 goals and 102 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Boucha’s family, friends and former teammates.