NHL Up and Down the Boards: Boucher Tops Ducharme on Habs Coaching Odds
Game recaps, Senators fire head coach Guy Boucher, plus injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators fired head coach Guy Boucher, naming Marc Crawford as interim coach for the remainder of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having purged their roster of their top pending unrestricted free agents, the Senators are getting an early start on shaking up the coaching staff. This move marks the sixth coaching change since 2009.
Given the Senators’ decline since the start of last season, it’s unsurprising Boucher got the boot. While a lot of their issues weren’t of his making, his coaching style seems to have a short shelf life. The players buy in for the first season or two and then they start tuning him out.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders welcomed John Tavares back with a 6-1 beatdown of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Islanders fans jeered and booed Tavares (who signed with the Leafs last summer) at every opportunity, including during the Isles’ video tribute to their former captain.
Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk avoided serious injury after being cut under his chin by the skate blade of Leafs winger Mitch Marner. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced defenseman Travis Dermott will be sidelined four weeks with a shoulder injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most fans will jeer and boo their departed stars when they play their first home game against their former team, but usually put that aside to applaud during the video tribute. Not so for Tavares, as Isles fans feel he betrayed them by signing with Toronto.
This could also be the result of over three decades of pent-up anger and frustration among a fan base whose team put them through a lot of embarrassment and humiliation prior to this season. Tavares’ departure was just one more kick in the teeth for Islanders’ supporters, making his return an easy outlet for their emotions. The fact the Isles are exceeding expectations and sit atop the Metropolitan Division made taunting their former franchise player more cathartic for their long-suffering fans.
Brad Richardson tallied four goals to lead the Arizona Coyotes (67 points) to a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks, moving to within one point of the final Western Conference wild-card berth. The Canucks now sit five points out of contention.
Seth Jones’ overtime goal gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. With the win, the Blue Jackets (75 points) rose to third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Three third-period goals scored within a minute and 28 seconds powered the Boston Bruins to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins extended their points streak to 15 games while halting the Lightning’s win streak at 10 games.
The Dallas Stars moved into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with a 4-3 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings, handing the latter their 10th straight loss. Roope Hintz tallied the winner in the extra frame
Reilly Smith scored twice while Shea Theodore tallied the game-winner in a shootout as the Arizona Coyotes edged the Florida Panthers 6-5. Panthers winger Mike Hoffman also scored twice and teammate Jonathan Huberdeau had a four-point performance.
Goaltender Mikko Koskinen made 35 saves as the Edmonton Oilers doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2, handing the latter their sixth straight defeat. Connor McDavid scored his 33rd goal of the season as the Oilers (61 points) sit seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Earlier in the day, the Oilers announced winger Jesse Puljujarvi will undergo season-ending hip surgery.
SPORTSNET: New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall under arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this week but it’s unclear if he’ll return before the end of the season.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton is questionable for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins after “tweaking” a lower-body injury during practice yesterday. Forward Vladimir Sobotka (upper-body) and defenseman Marco Scandella (lower-body) are listed as day-to-day.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price recently spent several minutes with a young fan whose mother promised to do everything she could to help the young boy meet his hero but who passed away from cancer before it could happen. Price comforted the youngster with a long hug, signed his jersey and gave him two autographed sticks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Carey Price: class act.
Carey Price showing he is one of the classiest athletes in all of sports. The young man (Anderson) idolizes Price and his mother, before dying of cancer, promised she would try to help them meet. It finally happened. Both feel the emotion as Anderson’s dream finally comes true. pic.twitter.com/19EjIH2NNe
— Goalie Gear Nerd (@GoalieGearNerd) February 28, 2019
Earlier this month, I looked at several NHL coaches thought to be at risk of losing their jobs. Since then, the St. Louis Blues fired Mike Yeo while Todd McLellan was relieved of his duties by the Edmonton Oilers.
Yeo was among those on my previous list. Given the Blues ongoing struggles since then, it wasn’t surprising when his firing was announced last week.
McLellan wasn’t on my list because the Oilers at that time had recently overcome a slow start and seemed to be surging in the Western Conference standings. Their resulting slump led to his dismissal.
Given these recent developments, it’s time to revisit and revise the listing. Some who were on the original compilation have seen an upturn in their fortunes while others could still be feeling the heat.
Dave Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers. While many of the Flyers faithful remain disenchanted with Hakstol, GM Ron Hextall remains patient with his coach and his roster. They’re playing .500 hockey right now as their performances continue to blow hot and cold. Their inconsistency continues to cast a harsh spotlight upon Hakstol.
Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators. He’s in the final season of his contract and there’s no certainty he’ll be back after this season. Though the Senators defied expectations earlier this season, they’ve sunk in recent weeks toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference. With the club seemingly at the mercy of their unpredictable owner Eugene Melnyk, it wouldn’t be surprising if Boucher was handed his walking papers before the new year.
Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers. With a knee injury sidelining goaltender Roberto Luongo for the opening month of the season, the Panthers got off to a sputtering start. They’ve shown some improvement since Luongo’s return and aren’t out of playoff contention yet but remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. If they don’t gain ground in the standings soon, speculation could grow over Boughner’s job security.
Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Penguins sitting outside the Eastern Conference standings, GM Jim Rutherford is shopping around for trades to bolster his struggling roster. Sullivan can’t be faulted for injuries sidelining several key players, goalie Matt Murray’s shaky start and the lack of skilled depth among his checking lines. But if there are no season-saving trades on the horizon, perhaps Rutherford will consider a coaching change.
Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks. Despite losing top defensemen Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm to recent injuries, the Ducks entered this week holding onto third place in the Pacific Division. Despite critics suggesting Carlyle’s tactics no longer work in a league trending toward youth and speed, Ducks general manager Bob Murray is sticking by his coach. Their recent improvement could reduce some of the heat Carlyle’s felt in recent weeks.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. After one of the worst starts in franchise history, the Red Wings rallied back in recent weeks. They’re now within striking distance of a wild-card berth, silencing Blashill’s critics. The Wings aren’t going to part with him now.
One month into the 2018-19 NHL campaign, two head coaches – Los Angeles’ John Stevens and Chicago’s Joel Quenneville – lost their jobs within 48 hours of each other. Stevens was fired by the Kings last Sunday while the Blackhawks axed Quenneville the following Tuesday.
That’s quite a contrast to 2017-18 when no coaches were fired during the regular-season schedule. Stevens and Quenneville join Alain Vigneault and Dave Tippett among several noteworthy former NHL bench bosses currently on the sidelines.
Some of them could end up behind an NHL bench in the near future.
Several struggling teams could opt for a coaching change later this season. Here’s a look at the current coaches on the hot seat.
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. The Wings haven’t shown much improvement under Blashill, wallowing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Granted, they’re still a rebuilding club with a mix of youngsters who’ve yet to reach their full potential and past-their-prime veterans. However, Blashill was supposed to advance the development of their young talent. For the most part, that hasn’t happened as quickly as hoped. The Wings could be willing to just let Blashill’s contract expire at the end of this season but the opportunity to bring in someone like Quenneville might hasten his departure.
Guy Boucher, Ottawa Senators. From owner Eugene Melnyk’s cantankerous ways to the trading away of veterans Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Derick Brassard amid rumors of a divided dressing room, to several current players being secretly filmed recently mocking assistant coach Martin Raymond, the Senators have lurched from one disaster to another over the past 13 months. In the middle is Boucher, who’s in the final year of his contract trying to guide a retooled roster back to respectability. While the Sens are off to a better-than-expected start, Boucher still faces an uncertain future in Ottawa.
Bob Boughner, Florida Panthers. After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2017-18, the Panthers were expected to take a serious step toward playoff contender status during Boughner’s second season behind the bench. So far, however, they’ve stumbled out of the gate and find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. A big reason was the absence of starting goalie Roberto Luongo for over a month with a knee injury. Boughner can’t be faulted for the poor play of backups James Reimer and Michael Hutchinson, but he could start feeling the heat if the Panthers fail to reverse their fortunes soon.
Randy Carlyle, Anaheim Ducks. With the Ducks transitioning toward youngster talent, they’re still struggling to adjust as the league shifts toward a faster-paced offensive style. That could cast Carlyle, who tends to favor a more physical defensive game, into a harsh spotlight. It hasn’t helped that aging forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry have been sidelined by injuries, with Perry out until March with a knee injury. Nevertheless, with the Ducks tumbling down the standings following a hot start, Carlyle could be on thin ice.
David Hakstol, Philadelphia Flyers. Hakstol’s success in the US college ranks hasn’t carried over into his NHL tenure. Under his coaching, the Flyers reached the playoffs in two of the last three seasons but failed to advance beyond the opening round. To be fair, Hakstol hasn’t had an established NHL starting goaltender and the defense is made up largely of still-developing youth. Still, the Flyers continue to struggle to find consistency. GM Ron Hextall is staying patient with Hakstol but he could be a lengthy losing streak away from losing his job.
Mike Yeo, St. Louis Blues. After bolstering their offense last summer, the Blues were expected to return to Stanley Cup contender status. Instead, they’re stuck near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Following a 7-4 loss to Columbus, Yeo suggested his efforts could be in question, prompting speculation he’d be the first coach fired this season. Management has stuck by Yeo so far but if the Blues don’t improve soon, he could be out of the job by the end of November.
Salary cap could be over $79 million, the latest on Mike Hoffman, recent contract signings and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHL salary cap for 2018-19 could come in between $79 million to $80 million, depending upon how much of a salary-cap inflator the NHLPA votes for later this week. The cap inflator can go as high as five percent but the PA membership could once again approve 1.35 percent, the same as last season. The escrow withholding from players’ salaries would be below 10 percent for the first time since 2011-12.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the PA approves the full five percent the cap ceiling would rise to around $82 million. However, it appears the players prefer lower escrow claw-backs from their salaries. As Seravalli notes, however, even with the lower inflator number the cap will make its biggest increase since 2013-14.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo and center Aleksander Barkov welcomed their club’s addition yesterday of winger Mike Hoffman, acquired yesterday as part of a three-team deal with the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks. Despite the personal baggage dogging Hoffman in Ottawa regarding allegations of cyberbullying levied against his fiancee by Erik Karlsson’s wife, the players believe he’ll be a good fit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not everyone agrees with this. Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde believes it’ll take more than GM Dale Tallon saying this lurid story about Hoffman’s fiancee is “in the past” to make it so. He feels this trade will either be seen as a smart trade for a scorer by a team in need of a lucky break or a desperate one other clubs wouldn’t make.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings won’t give forward Martin Frk a qualifying offer, making him eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray has been sober for nearly a year after seeking treatment last year for an addiction to painkillers. Souray admitted he had difficulty adjusting to life after his playing career ended.
Jets and Capitals net thrilling Game 3 victories, Senators retaining their coaching staff and Hurricanes hire new senior VP of hockey ops. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Nashville Predators 7-4 in Game 3 of their second-round series. The Jets erupted for four unanswered second-period goals, including two by Dustin Byfuglien. Predators forward Filip Forsberg tied the game in the third but the Jets replied with three more goals (two by Blake Wheeler) for the win. Paul Stastny also collected three points for Winnipeg. Game 4 is slated for Thursday night with the Jets leading the series 2-1.
Alex Ovechkin scored with 67 seconds remaining in the third period to give the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of their second-round match-up. Washington leads the series two games to one. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom collected three assists while Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel each had a goal and an assist for the Penguins.
For the second straight game, Capitals winger Tom Wilson had another controversial hit on a Penguins player, leaving forward Zach Aston-Reese with a broken jaw and a concussion. In Game 2, Wilson knocked Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin out of the contest, though he returned to play in Game 3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Odd-man rushes are killing the Penguins while sloppy defensive play has been the Predators’ undoing. As for Wilson, it remains to be seen if he’ll face any supplemental discipline. No penalty was called for his hit on Aston-Reese.
TAMPA BAY TIMES/THE BOSTON GLOBE: Undersized forwards Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson came up big for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Game 2 win over the Boston Bruins. Meanwhile, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is looking for a better forecheck and puck possession from his secondary forwards.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL/THE MERCURY NEWS: The Vegas Golden Knights jokingly refer to themselves as the “Golden Misfits” to create a sense of camaraderie. As for their second-round opponent, the San Jose Sharks will be without winger Joonas Donskoi (lower-body injury) for Game 3 tonight.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That “Golden Misfits” nickname provides some insight into why the Vegas players bonded so quickly into a strong team during their inaugural season. Left exposed by their former clubs in last year’s expansion draft, they have an “us against the world” mentality.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday announced head coach Guy Boucher and his staff will return next season. The club’s struggles in 2017-18 prompted some speculation of possible coaching changes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After this season’s difficulties, Boucher and company must change their system if they wish to remain with the Sens beyond 2018-19.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes named Rick Dudley as their senior vice-president of hockey operations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good hire by the Hurricanes, as Dudley has decades of front-office experience. This move should help to muffle the questions being raised of late over the club’s inability to find a new general manager.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers reached an agreement with KHL goaltender Mikko Koskinen to a one-year, $2.5-million contract. The deal will be officially signed on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Koskinen will spend next season backing up Cam Talbot.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Russ Brandon resigned yesterday as managing partner and president of the Pegula sports empire, which includes the Buffalo Sabres.