Struggling Blackhawks Have Fascinating Future
A look at the general managers and coaches potentially on the hot seat in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
GENERAL MANAGERS POTENTIALLY FEELING THE HEAT
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle recently listed Detroit’s Ken Holland, Toronto’s Lou Lamoriello, Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, Montreal’s Marc Bergevin, the New York Islanders’ Garth Snow, Arizona’s John Chayka, Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher, Colorado’s Joe Sakic, Columbus’ Jarmo Kekalainen and Chicago’s Stan Bowman as the 10 NHL general managers potentially on the hot seat as this NHL season winds down.
Holland was linked to Vancouver (before Jim Benning was re-signed) and Seattle’s expansion franchise. Mirtle also speculated Holland could be moved upstairs to a president’s role with the Wings or they could maintain the status quo. It’s expected Lamoriello will be moved out of the role as Maple Leafs’ GM at the end of this season, though he has a strong connection with Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
There’s been rumors Chiarelli “is a man on an island in the front office as Wayne Gretzky exerts some influence,” while Oilers fans are “fed up”. Bergevin’s been given a vote of confidence by Canadiens ownership but Mirtle feels he’ll be on a short leash.
Snow has long had ownership support and contract talks with John Tavares could complicate any change before July 1. Still, Mirtle thinks the tide is shifting against the long-time Islanders GM. After two seasons with little improvement by the Coyotes under Chayka, a management change wouldn’t be surprising. Another early playoff exit by the Wild could prove costly to Fletcher.
Mirtle thinks this season’s improvement by the Avalanche means it’s safe to assume Sakic will be staying put. Kekalainen, meanwhile, could feel the pressure for Columbus to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Bowman likely isn’t going anywhere in the offseason but Mirtle wonders about his future if the Blackhawks get off to a poor start next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve summarize the main points from Mirtle’s piece. Holland’s contract is up at the end of this season and I think the Wings are ready for a management change. Lamoriello is expected to move aside to make way for assistant GM Kyle Dubas. I can see him taking another role in the organization.
I don’t think Chiarelli will be fired but, like Bergevin in Montreal, he’ll be under pressure to turn things around this summer. Maybe Snow will be replaced, but I don’t think that’s a certainty. I certainly don’t see it happening while he’s negotiating with Tavares. If Snow can’t get his captain under contract, that could spell the end of his long tenure as Isles GM.
The Coyotes have had a rough season, but they’ve played better in the second half of this season. That could justify keeping Chayka around for another season. I agree with Mirtle that another disappointing playoff for the Wild could lead to major changes, which could include firing Fletcher. I don’t see Sakic, Kekalainen or Bowman going anywhere.
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
USA TODAY: Kevin Allen lists the New York Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, Edmonton’s Todd McLellan, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, Washington’s Barry Trotz and Carolina’s Bill Peters as six coaches on the hot seat.
The Rangers are committed to a rebuild but Vigneault has a reputation for being tough on young players. The justification for replacing Blashill could be the need for the younger players to hear a different voice. After Edmonton’s disappointing season, McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli could be vulnerable.
Quenneville could be replaced if the Blackhawks’ front office believes the roster needs a fresh approach behind the bench. Allen feels the fact the Capitals haven’t extended Trotz’ contract speaks to tension between the coach and the organization. A new GM in Carolina could want to bring in his own coach, while could spell the end of Peters behind the Hurricanes’ bench.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been an unusual season as no NHL head coach has lost a job…yet. Vigneault is under contract through 2019-20 so perhaps the Rangers will keep him around for next season. The fates of Blashill and McLellan could be tied to those of their respective general managers.
The Blackhawks’ struggles this season are of management’s making but it’s usually the coach who pays the price. If the Capitals make another early playoff exit, Trotz is a goner. With Francis out as the Hurricanes’ GM, his replacement will likely want to bring in his own staff.
Ducks win Game 2 of Western Conference Final, plus updates on Carl Hagelin, Kris Russell & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Ryan Getzlaf collected three assists as the Anaheim Ducks overcame an early 2-0 deficit to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-3 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final. The series is now tied at one game apiece.
Following the game, Predators center Ryan Johansen was critical of how Ducks center Ryan Kesler was playing against him in the faceoff circle.“It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While I understand Johansen’s frustration over Kesler’s style of play, he’s allowed the cagey Ducks center to get inside his head. He cannot let Kesler drive him to distraction in this series and must find a way to overcome his chippy tactics. The Ducks also achieved something in this game that the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues couldn’t earlier in this postseason: score four goals on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (day-to-day, undisclosed injury) skated in practice yesterday but remains uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup. The Penguins face off tonight against the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators forward Viktor Stalberg (undisclosed injury, day-to-day) could be ready to play in Game 2 against the Penguins.
EDMONTON SUN: Pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell hopes to re-sign with the Edmonton Oilers.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman dismissed the notion that his recent firing of assistant coach Mike Kitchen was done as a warning to head coach Joel Qunneville following the club’s swift opening-round elimination by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said there’s no deadline to replace Kitchen but claims Qunneville will play a significant role in the process.
Game recaps, injury updates, Havlat retires and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jonathan Toews power-play goal in overtime gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild, snapping an eight-game losing streak against the Wild. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 35 saves for the win.
VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks forward Sven Baertschi suffered a concussion following a blindside hit by Nashville Predators forward Cody McLeod. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety ruled it was an “accidental” collision.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That wasn’t an accidental collision. Yet another puzzling decision from the league’s disciplinary arm.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard felt a slight tweak in his right knee during his rehab stint with the club’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. Wings GM Ken Holland said he’s encouraged that it wasn’t serious.
NHLPA: After 14 NHL seasons, winger Martin Havlat has called it a career. In 790 games with the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues, Havlat tallied 242 goals and 594 points, along with 21 goals and 52 points in 75 playoff games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Injuries hampered Havlat for much of his NHL career. When healthy, he was a creative offensive forward. He exceeded 20 goals and 50 points six times. He netted a career-high 31 goals with the Sens in 2003-04 and a career-best 77 points in 2008-09 with the Blackhawks.
OTTAWA SUN: Legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman has been named to the Order of Hockey Canada.
NBC SPORTS: A report out of Glendale, Arizona claims representatives from the Arizona Coyotes have toured the KeyArena in Seattle and the Moda Center in Portland over the last three months. Team officials have denied the report.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This puts me in mind of the rumor in early 2011 claiming Atlanta Thrashers officials toured the MTS Centre. Those rumors were denied too, but five months later the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg. The Coyotes’ situation is different, as they supposedly have stable ownership but need a new arena. Maybe this is simply baseless speculation, as we’ve heard plenty of relocation rumors about the Coyotes in the past. Still, given this ongoing arena saga, it could be reaching a critical stage.
NHL.COM: The Washington Capitals fulfilled a dream of 27-year-old Fatima Al Ali of Abu Dhabi, as she had the opportunity to join them during practice yesterday and meet her favorite player, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. Al Ali plays for the United Arab Emirate’s women’s national team.
Joe Thornton reaches a points milestone, Shawn Horcoff suspended, Craig Adams retires and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. (more…)