Where Are They Now: 1999 Dallas Stars
Game recaps, Bruins and Jets clinch playoff berths, Bruins re-sign Zdeno Chara, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins clinched a postseason spot by thumping the Florida Panthers 7-3. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had a big day, becoming the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to reach 200 career goals and re-signing a one-year contract extension. The new deal is worth $2 million in base salary plus $1.75 million in performance bonuses. Meanwhile, the Bruins got some bad news earlier in the day when it was revealed Sean Kuraly will be sidelined a month with a fracture in his right hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara’s new contract is a reasonable one for both sides. The Bruins keep their captain in the fold for another season to maintain stability and leadership on their blueline. Chara gets a fair deal for a player of his declining (but still effective) skills.
The move also provides the Bruins with salary-cap flexibility. With over $68.6 million invested in 19 players, that should provide sufficient room to re-sign restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen, who are all coming off entry-level contracts.
The Winnipeg Jets (94 points) secured a playoff berth by blanking the Nashville Predators 5-0. Kyle Connor netted a hat trick while Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 33 shots for the shutout. The Jets also hold a four-point lead over the Predators for the top spot in the Central Division.
Mark Giordano had a goal and two assists to give the Calgary Flames a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Giordano now has points in seven straight games. The Flames (101 points) have a six-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and the overall Western Conference standings.
The Colorado Avalanche (80 points) moved ahead of the Arizona Coyotes into the final Western Conference wild-card berth by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2. Colin Wilson had a goal and an assist for the Avs, while the Blackhawks (74 points) slip six points behind Colorado. The Avs played without winger Mikko Rantanen, who sat out the game with an undisclosed injury and will miss today’s contest against the Hawks.
The Arizona Coyotes (79 points) dropped one point out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference by falling 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils in a shootout. Pavel Zacha tallied the winner for the Devils. The Coyotes are winless in their last four contests.
Josh Bailey scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, as the New York Islanders doubled up the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. The Islanders (93 points) move within one of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division while the Flyers (80 points) are seven points out of a playoff berth in the East.
The Carolina Hurricanes (89 points) remain two ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for the first wild-card spot in the East by defeating the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, while the Wild (79 points) slip one behind the Avalanche in the Western Conference wild-card chase. Wild winger Zach Parise missed the game with a lower-body injury.
Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi, and Tomas Tatar each had three-point performances as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-4. With the win, the Canadiens (87 points) hold a three-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern wild-card spot. Gallagher tallied his career-high 33rd goal of the season. The Sabres are now officially eliminated from postseason contention.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn each had a goal and an assist as the St. Louis Blues held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. With 88 points, the Blues sit two back of the Predators for second in the Central Division. Lightning center Brayden Point scored his 40th of the season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (93 points) remain tied with the Islanders for second in the Metro Division after nipping the Dallas Stars 3-2. Jared McCann scored twice for the Penguins, including the game-winner in the third period. The Stars (82 points) sit two points above the Avalanche in the first wild-card spot in the West. Stars center Jason Spezza was a healthy scratch for the second time in a week.
The New York Rangers upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on an overtime goal by Ryan Strome. Despite the victory, the Rangers are officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Leafs (94 points) have won just four of their last 10 games.
Anthony Mantha scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Detroit Red Wings surprised the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2, snapping the latter’s four-game winning streak. Vegas sits five points behind the Sharks in the Pacific Division. Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson missed the game with a lower-body injury.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 26 saves to pick up his first victory since Dec. 17 by edging the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Brady Tkachuk tallied two goals, including the winner in overtime. The Oilers (74 points) are six points behind the Avalanche for the final Western playoff spot. A lingering back injury prevented Senators forward Zack Smith from playing in this game.
Speaking of the Oilers and Senators, Ken Hitchcock is receptive to the idea of returning behind the Edmonton bench next season. Meanwhile, the Senators confirm their intention to hire a president of hockey operations to provide assistance to general manager Pierre Dorion, who continues to have the full support of team owner Eugene Melnyk.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Remains to be seen if the eventual new Oilers general manager wants Hitchcock back. He might prefer bringing in his own bench boss. As for a new hockey ops president for the Senators, that move will take some of the burdens off Dorion, allowing him to focus on rebuilding the roster.
The Los Angeles Kings downed the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 on a shootout goal by Anze Kopitar.
NBC SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been dealing with an upper-body injury that’s been bothering him for a while. His status for today’s game against the Vancouver Canucks remains unclear.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bad enough for the Blue Jackets to be slumping when they’re trying to secure a wild-card spot. Having their starting goalie hampered by an injury makes matters potentially worse.
DENVER POST: NHL referee and Colorado native Brad Watson has retired after 23 seasons. He worked 214 playoff games and eight Stanley Cup Finals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Watson in his retirement.
Of note in the story: Vrana triggered a $212,500 bonus in his contract (still his entry-level) with 20 goals. He could get another one if he finishes in the top six for ice time among forwards. If you look at aggregate, he’s currently sixth.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) March 23, 2019
Game recaps, injury updates, Canadiens and Flyers swing a four-player trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Philadelphia Flyers rookie goaltender Carter Hart collected his eighth straight win backstopping his club to a 6-2 drubbing of the Anaheim Ducks. Hart tied Jocelyn Thibault as the only two goalies in NHL history to win eight straight games before their 21st birthday. Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher confirmed Hart would remain with the club for the remainder of the season. While the Flyers have points (9-0-1) in their last 10 games, the Ducks have just two victories in their last 21 contests, sending them tumbling to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart’s the biggest reason behind the Flyers’ recent resurgence, providing them with the quality goaltending that was lacking earlier in the campaign.
As for the Ducks, injuries and a lack of scoring depth have crippled them this season, but I also believe general manager Bob Murray’s reluctance to fire head coach Randy Carlyle is another contributing factor. It’s apparent the players have tuned out Carlyle. Big changes are required in Anaheim and they should start behind the bench as soon as possible.
**UPDATE** The Ducks fired Carlyle this afternoon. Murray will take over as the coach on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.
John Tavares’ overtime goal gave the Toronto Maple Leafs (71 points) a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, opening a two-point lead over the latter for second in the Atlantic Division. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens shipped David Schlemko and Byron Froese to the Philadelphia Flyers for Christian Folin and Dale Weise, placed defenseman Karl Alzner on waivers, and placed Paul Byron (forearm) on injured reserve as winger Andrew Shaw returned to the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A bit of tinkering here for both clubs, with Schlemko and Weise as the notable players in this deal. By moving Schlemko to the Flyers, the Canadiens shed his $2.1 million salary-cap hit through next season while bringing back Weise ($2.35 million through 2019-20), who was a popular checking line forward during his previous tenure in Montreal.
The Canadiens sent Weise to their AHL affiliate but there’s talk they’ll try to bring him up into the roster soon. Schlemko, meanwhile, is expected to skate alongside promising Philippe Myers on the Flyers’ blueline.
The St. Louis Blues picked up their fifth straight win by nipping the Nashville Predators 3-2. Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington picked up his ninth win in 11 starts and teammate Vladimir Tarasenko stretched his points streak to seven games. The Blues (57 points) maintained their grip on the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton collected two assists to tie Gordie Howe (1,049) for ninth on the all-time list in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Kevin Lebanc tallied a hat trick for the Sharks. Following the game, Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock criticized his players’ performance. “At this time of year, the coaches can’t want it more than the players,” he said. The Oilers (53 points) are four points out of a playoff berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players are a disheartened bunch right. They’ve tried their best since the All-Star break but their lack of depth is hampering those efforts and hurting morale. Scolding them won’t overcome those issues.
Jacob Markstrom made 44 saves and Elias Pettersson scored the winner in a shootout to give the Vancouver Canucks a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames. Pettersson also collected two assists in regulation. Flames winger James Neal lost some teeth after being struck in the mouth by the stick of Canucks defenseman Alex Biega but he was able to finish the game. Biega received a double-minor penalty. Earlier in the day, the Canucks revealed sidelined winger Sven Baertschi is dealing with post-concussion syndrome.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby surpassed Mario Lemieux for most games played in franchise history (916) in a 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Penguins (63 points) have dropped four straight and cling to the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
An overtime goal by Patrice Bergeron gave the Boston Bruins a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Before the game, the Bruins honored Bergeron for recently playing his 1,000th career NHL game. The Kings also activated forward Trevor Lewis off injured reserve.
Third-period goals by Conor Sheary, Connor Mittelstadt, and Kyle Okposo carried the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Sabres (61 points) sit two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Minnesota Wild snapped their four-game losing skid by doubling up the New Jersey Devils 4-2, handing Devils goalie Cory Schneider his 20th consecutive loss. With the win, the Wild (59 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Ryan Pulock scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the New York Islanders edged the Colorado Avalanche 4-3. It was the Avs’ sixth straight defeat, putting them three points behind the St. Louis Blues (57 points) for the final wild-card berth in the West.
Ottawa Senators goaltender Anders Nilsson made 44 saves as his club downed the Winnipeg Jets 5-2. Mark Stone scored twice against the Jets, who’ve dropped three straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe the Jets’ recent slump puts more pressure on GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to swing a deal before the trade deadline.
The Arizona Coyotes ended a five-game losing skid by holding off the Dallas Stars 3-2. Alex Galchenyuk scored twice for the Coyotes (53 points), who sit four points out of a Western Conference wild-card spot. Stars defenseman Roman Polak left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Mike Hoffman’s overtime goal gave the Florida Panthers a 5-4 victory over the Washington Capitals, giving the Panthers their sixth win in their last eight contests. Brett Connolly scored twice for the Capitals.
Cam Atkinson scored the game-tying and winning goals as the Columbus Blue Jackets rallied to down the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3.
Something that really pisses me off as a hockey fan is watching a once-proud franchise being run into the ground by mismanagement or ownership indifference. So you can imagine my disgust over what the Edmonton Oilers have become under Daryl Katz’s ownership.
To be fair, the Oilers’ glory days were already well behind them before Katz took over. But in his decade of ownership, they’ve jumped the track, crashed over an embankment and exploded into a fireball of blunders.
In the days following last week’s firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli last week, pundits were already speculating about his full-time replacement while offering suggestions on how to improve the roster.
None of that will matter, however, if instability persists in the front office and behind the bench.
In 11 seasons under Katz, the Oilers went through eight head coaches and four general managers.
Among the coaches were respected bench bosses like Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, and Todd McLellan. They did their best with the rosters provided to them. Management impatience and incompetence, however, did in most of them before they had a reasonable chance to make any sort of positive imprint.
Following their sputtering start to this season, Ken Hitchcock was lured out of retirement in November to replace McLellan as a stopgap measure to get them back on track. For while, it worked, until their roster weaknesses caught up with them despite Hitchcock’s efforts.
Fortunately for Hitchcock, his reputation among the league’s greatest coaches won’t be too badly tarnished by what could be his brief tenure with the Oilers.
The widely-hailed hirings of former Hockey Canada honcho Bob Nicholson as team CEO and Peter Chiarelli as GM was supposed to end the Oilers’ culture of losing while removing the supposed influence of an old boys network of former Oilers.
Chiarelli, who built the Boston Bruins into a Stanley Cup champions, failed to do the same for the Oilers. He deserves the criticism he received for his lousy trades but those deals also had the stamp of approval by his employers.
In a press conference following Chiarelli’s firing, Nicholson was trying to be optimistic over the Oilers’ playoff hopes. Most observers instead saw an executive trying to sell hope in a season where little can be found.
Something is definitely wrong when respected hockey men end up chewed up and spat out, some with their reputations in tatters, while the team remains mired in mediocrity.
The Oilers’ ongoing follies could soon take its toll upon the long-suffering fanbase. Perhaps a drop in season-ticket sales might spur Katz into reconsidering how he and his staff are running this franchise.
There’s also dark mutterings among some fans and pundits suggesting the Oilers are wasting the best years of McDavid’s career.
McDavid is currently in the first season of a new contract that runs through 2025-26. So far, the young Oilers captain is expressing defiance of his team’s critics. He’s defended his teammates, believes they can still make the playoffs and wants to be part of the solution.
But if the Oilers fail to turn things around it could eventually take its toll on McDavid, perhaps to the point where he reconsiders his long-term future in Edmonton.
The Oilers are expected to announce a long-term replacement for Chiarelli in the offseason. They could also end up replacing Hitchcock if the new GM wants his own guy behind the bench.
With the fans growing restless and questions being raised over the future of their franchise player, the Oilers better get it right this time.
If they don’t, they will remain the graveyard of careers for coaches, general managers, and perhaps, even the NHL’s best player.
The Edmonton Oilers fired head coach Todd McLellan, replacing him with Ken Hitchcock.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the eighth time in 10 years, the Oilers make a coaching change. McLellan joins Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, and Todd Nelson on the growing list of bench bosses who, for the most part, paid for the sins of management over the years.
McLellan had his critics and their evaluations weren’t without merit. Still, he coached the Oilers in 2017 to their first 100-point season in 30 years, which also ended a decade-long playoff drought.
McLellan didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Rather, he paid the price for a starting goalie (Cam Talbot) who failed to regain his stellar 2016-17 form, for a defense that never really recovered from Andrej Sekera’s lengthy injury-related absences, for a lack of checking-line depth and right-wing scoring, for a once-intimidating power forward (Milan Lucic) whose best seasons are now behind him, and for a series of bad trades by general manager Peter Chiarelli that did more harm than good.
So now it’s Hitchcock’s turn to try and succeed where so many have failed. He ranks fifth all-time in NHL games coached. In 20 years with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues, Hitchcock has a record of 823-506-88-119. He guided the Stars to a Stanley Cup in 1999 and won the Jack Adams Award with the Blues in 2012.
Hitchcock has an impressive resume but there’s no certainty he can overcome the Oilers’ roster weaknesses and get them back on track this season. His hiring has the whiff of desperation from a general manager trying to keep his job. If Hitchcock fails, Chiarelli will be next out the door.
Playoff game recaps, Ken Hitchcock retires from coaching, Nazem Kadri suspended and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Erik Haula scored in double overtime to give the Vegas Golden Knights a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings and a 2-0 lead in their best-of seven opening-round series. It’s the first playoff overtime win in Golden Knights history. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 54 saves in a losing cause. Game 3 goes Sunday night in Los Angeles.
After being crushed 7-0 by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of their opening-round series, the Philadelphia Flyers bounced back with a convincing 5-1 victory in Game 2. Goaltender Brian Elliott made 34 saves while Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists. The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
Patrik Laine and Tyler Myers each had a goal and an assist as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series. It was a dominant performance by the Jets, outshooting the Wild 44-17. The series moves to Minnesota for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock is moving from behind the bench into an adviser role with the club, bringing his 22-season NHL coaching career to an end. “Hitchcock, 66, finishes third in all-time NHL coaching wins with 823 and fourth all-time in NHL games coached with 1,536. He also is the Stars’ franchise leader in games coached (585), wins (319), playoff games coached (80) and playoff wins (47).”
Hitchcock guided the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999 and also coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues. Hitchcock also won the Jack Adams Award in 2012 and was part of the coaching staff for Canada’s gold medalist Men’s Olympic hockey team in 2014.
SPECTOR’S NOTE Hitchcock retires as one of the most respected and successful coaches in NHL history. As per The Hockey News, his possible replacements could include former NHL head coaches Alain Vigneault, Willie Desjardins, Dave Tippett, Kirk Muller and Paul MacLean.
NHL.COM: The NHL department of player safety has handed a three-game suspension to Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri for boarding Boston Bruins forward Tommy Wingels in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some Leafs fans are furious over the length of this suspension, as well as Wingels going unpunished for elbowing Leafs forward Mitch Marner in the face leading to Kadri’s retaliatory action. Of greater concern for the Leafs is how to replace Kadri in the second-line center role over the next three games. Failure to address that void could be a deciding factor in this series.
BOSTON HERALD: Speaking of the Bruins, forward Riley Nash will likely miss his sixth straight game since suffering an ear injury on March 31.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Barry Trotz won’t commit to Philipp Grubauer returning as their starter in Game 2 of their series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Grubauer was in goal for their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1.
NATIONAL POST: For the first time in nearly five decades, long-time Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Bob Cole isn’t calling an NHL playoff series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It seems weird not hearing Cole’s distinctive voice calling a playoff game. He’s been the soundtrack of playoff hockey for most of my adult life. Looks like Sportsnet is trying to nudge the 84-year-old broadcaster into retirement.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk cries “fake news” on threats of moving the club, its attendance problems and its limited budget despite consider evidence that he made those comments.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes donated $250,000.00 to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.