NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 18, 2023

Mike Babcock steps down as Blue Jackets head coach plus the latest on Paul Stastny, Calen Addison and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger reports Mike Babcock has resigned as head coach of the Blue Jackets following an NHL Players Association investigation into allegations that he violated his players’ privacy during offseason meetings.

Associate coach Pascal Vincent has taken over as head coach, signing a two-year contract. Training camp opens on Sept. 20.

Mike Babcock steps down as Columbus Blue Jackets coach (NHL Images).

Babcock, 60, was hired by the Blue Jackets in July. He released a statement that continuing as their head coach was becoming too much of a distraction, expressing his disappointment that he couldn’t continue in the role and wishing the team well.

Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen also released a statement calling Babcock’s resignation a necessary move to refocus the club on the upcoming season. Kekalainen thanked him for his “hard work and professionalism.”

Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast co-host Paul Bissonnette revealed last week that he’d been told Babcock was demanding to see players’ cellphones to scroll through photos. Babcock and Jackets captain Boone Jenner quickly released statements refuting Bissonnette’s version of events. Jenner and teammates Johnny Gaudreau and Zack Werenski indicated they had no problem with Babcock’s request, claiming it was being blown out of proportion.

The narrative changed after the NHLPA met with Blue Jackets players to conduct an investigation into the matter. A source told Hedger that one player felt Babcock was using his phone for an “uncomfortable length of time,” leaving him concerned that Babcock may have been searching through his text messages. Hedger cited a report from Sportsnet indicating multiple sources mirrored what he had been told.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes this is the end of Babcock’s coaching career in the NHL. He felt that this incident, and the allegations that surfaced in 2019 that Babcock bullied players and staff during his tenures with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, irreparably tarnished his otherwise impressive NHL coaching career.

THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline believes Babcock’s resignation raises troubling questions about the Blue Jackets organization.

If they knew about the extent of his interactions with the players when first revealed by Bissonnette and tried to cover it up, it doesn’t look good for those who run the team like Kekalainen and president of hockey operations John Davidson.

If they didn’t know, Portzline suggests the club’s ownership must start asking questions about why the players felt more comfortable talking to Bissonnette and the NHLPA than with those in charge.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fallout from this will hang over the Blue Jackets during training camp and the upcoming start of the season. This situation isn’t a good look for the franchise, especially for Kekalainen and Davidson. They were responsible for bringing in Babcock in the first place despite his baggage. They gave him a chance to redeem himself as an NHL coach and it blew up in their faces before he coached a single game for them.

The issue here is invasion of privacy. A person’s cell phone often contains personal information that they might be reluctant or unwilling to share with somebody else. That’s why we have password protection on our phones. It would be like someone asking to go through your personal computer or to visit your home to dig through your personal effects.

Portzline believes Bissonnette may have done the Blue Jackets a favor by breaking this story as it allowed the team to confront this issue as quickly as possible. Bissonnette is a colorful and brash personality. However, he’s willing to talk about issues that some in the media may be reluctant to cover for fear of losing access to team contacts.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski also points out that the NHLPA, under new executive director Marty Walsh, deserves credit for its swift handling of this situation with its proactive investigation. He also noted that the NHL has its “whistleblower” apparatus yet the Blue Jackets players felt more comfortable talking to Bissonnette and the PA.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman recently reported that long-time NHL center Paul Stastny isn’t interested in signing a professional tryout offer with NHL clubs. The 37-year-old unrestricted free agent is only interested in contract offers. He’s coming off a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening on Wednesday and Thursday, Stastny might have to accept a league minimum deal (one year, $775K) if he hopes to skate with an NHL team this season. He could end up waiting until injuries strike a club during training camp.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild reached an agreement with forward Jujhar Khaira on a one-year, two-way contract worth $775K at the NHL level. He’d spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

THE ATHLETIC: Speaking of the Wild, Michael Russo reports a new contract for restricted free-agent defenseman Calen Addison should be coming within the next few days.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs play-by-play man Joe Bowen and his long-time broadcast partner Jim Ralph will be returning to radio this season. It will be the 72-year-old Bowen’s 42nd season covering the Leafs.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Future Hockey Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr recently confirmed he’ll be playing for the Kladno Knights in the Czech Extraliga. It will be his 35th professional hockey season, which began when he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91. Jagr, 51, last played in the NHL in 2017 and has been skating with Kladno ever since.

Second Round Predictions – 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Second Round Predictions – 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

The first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs is history.

We saw the defending champion Colorado Avalanche upset by the underdog Seattle Kraken.

The Florida Panthers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to knock off the record-setting Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.

For the first time in 19 years, the Toronto Maple Leafs won a playoff series by eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I went four-for-eight with my opening-round predictions. Let’s see how I fare with my second-round picks.


The intro explained how these two got here. With 111 points, the Leafs finished 19 points ahead of the Panthers in the Atlantic Division, who overcame a shaky first half to qualify for the playoffs on the last week of the season. Both clubs aren’t that far apart in terms of offense and goaltending but the Leafs have better penalty-killing and faceoff win stats.

Led by their core of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly, the Leafs pack a potent scoring punch. They’ve received reliable goaltending from Ilya Samsonov while two-way center Ryan O’Reilly has provided a steadying influence.

The Panthers, however, aren’t to be taken lightly. Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour can light the lamp while the tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Alex Lyon backstopped them past the Bruins.



The Oilers advanced by eliminating the Los Angeles Kings from the first round for the second straight year. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights made short work of the Winnipeg Jets.

Getting two-way winger and team captain Mark Stone back in the lineup for the postseason provided a big boost for the Golden Knights in the first round. Jack Eichel has played well thus far in his first NHL postseason as Vegas sits fourth among playoff scorers.

The Oilers remain the offensive juggernaut they were in the regular season, leading all playoff clubs in scoring and power-play percentage. Superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl remain in top form and could feast on a Golden Knights penalty kill that was 15th among the 16 first-round clubs.



This battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division came about as the Hurricanes despatched the New York Islanders in six games while the Devils overcame a 2-0 series deficit to eliminate the New York Rangers in seven games.

The Hurricanes got this far on the strength of their goaltending depth and their solid defensive game, including a playoff-best penalty-killing percentage. They’ve got plenty of postseason experience led by stars such as Sebastian Aho and Brent Burns.

While the Devils are near the bottom in postseason scoring, they’re loaded with swift-skating young talent led by Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. They also got a shot of confidence from the solid play of rookie goalie Akira Schmid. They could be poised to pull off an upset here.



The Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild in the opening round in six games while the Kraken as noted in the intro upset the Avalanche in seven games.

Dallas still has veteran leaders in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski but younger stars like Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen and goalie Jake Oettinger played key roles in eliminating the Wild. They’ve got the lowest goals-against per game in this postseason thus far.

The Kraken’s upset of the Avalanche shows they’re a club not to be taken lightly. They got clutch goaltending from Philipp Grubauer, a strong forecheck and penalty kill, plus they can spread their scoring throughout their lineup. However, it may not be enough to defeat the Stars.


Tales of NHL Halloween Horror 2022

Tales of NHL Halloween Horror 2022

It’s Halloween again, folks, when kids prepare for trick or treating while we entertain ourselves with scary stories involving ghosts, ghouls, and other macabre creatures.

With the NHL finally returning to a normal regular-season calendar for the first time since 2019, it’s also a time when struggling teams face the horrifying prospect that their playoff dreams could be coming undone.

We start with the Vancouver Canucks, whose strong second-half performance after stumbling through the first two months of last season saw them remain in the playoff chase until the final week of the schedule. Any hope of building on that effort entering this season has quickly fallen apart after going winless in their first seven games.

The Canucks’ woes sparked grumbling among their followers, with one fan tossing a jersey on the ice in disgust during a loss at home to the Buffalo Sabres. It also sparked speculation over the future of head coach Bruce Boudreau, as well as reports of management warning some players that any changes could be with the roster rather than behind the bench.

Moving on to Columbus, the Blue Jackets made headlines this summer by signing superstar Johnny Gaudreau and re-signing winger Patrik Laine. Despite those moves, the Jackets have won just three of their first nine games.

The gifted but oft-injured Laine missed six games with an elbow injury. Gaudreau, meanwhile, has held up his end with eight points but it hasn’t been enough to improve his club’s anemic offense and porous goaltending.

In Nashville, the Predators kicked off the season with back-to-back wins over the San Jose Sharks in Prague. Since returning from their European excursion, they’ve managed just one win in their last seven contests.

Led by Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen, the Predators finished 13th last season in goals-per-game (3.20). As of Oct 29, they tumbled to 2.44 and 30th overall. Perhaps that jaunt overseas did more harm than good.

The Minnesota Wild enjoyed a franchise-best 113-point performance in 2021-22. Expectations were high that this season’s version could become a Stanley Cup contender. Instead, they’ve played sub-.500 hockey with a 3-4-1 record through their first eight games.

Inconsistent goaltending and defense were big issues early on. Veteran starter Marc-Andre Fleury was horrible in his first two games but has steadily improved since. The defense also got better after veterans Alex Goligoski and Jonas Brodin saw more playing time. Time will tell, however, whether these are signs of genuine improvement.

The St. Louis Blues were off to a fast start by winning their first three games. They’ve since dropped their last four, including blowing a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadiens in a 7-4 loss on Oct. 29.

A lack of discipline and focus has dogged the Blues in recent games. They’re taking undisciplined penalties and are making uncharacteristic mistakes with the puck that end up costing them on the scoreboard.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have also dropped four straight following a red-hot start that saw them tally six goals in each of their first four wins. Their offense has since dried up as they managed just one goal in each of their last three defeats.

Losing sniper Jake Guentzel to a head injury for four games certainly didn’t help, but a team with superstars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin managed just six goals during those four losses while giving up 16. Their special-team play was terrible during that stretch.

And then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. Entering this season with their fans hopeful of an end to their long Stanley Cup drought, they’ve lurched to a 4-4-1 record. Three of those losses came to lesser teams like the Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.

Led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander, the Leafs are usually among the league’s highest-scoring teams. Thus far, their goals-per-game average of 2.67 ranks 28th overall. Matthews, the two-time Richard Trophy winner and last season’s Hart Trophy winner following his 60-goal performance, has just two goals thus far.

There’s enough time remaining in this season for these teams to reverse their sagging fortunes and climb up the standings. For some of them, however, what we’re seeing now could foreshadow what could become a disappointing outcome to this season.

NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2021

NHL Rumor Mill – June 15, 2021

A look at possible destinations for Dougie Hamilton plus the latest Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin examined some potential destinations for Dougie Hamilton if the 27-year-old defenseman departs the Carolina Hurricanes via free agency.

The Carolina Hurricanes will allow Dougie Hamilton to speak with other teams (NHL Images).

Larkin cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting yesterday the Hurricanes will allow Hamilton to speak with other teams before the free-agent market opens on July 28. Friedman suggested that could set the stage for a sign-and-trade but didn’t rule out the blueliner returning to the Hurricanes if he doesn’t receive better offers elsewhere.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets could be aggressive suitors given their need for a top-four right-side defenseman. Other possibilities include the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The latter would have to be willing to swap left-side defender Morgan Rielly for a righty like Hamilton.

Larkin included the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings under the category of too soon in their rebuild for the soon-to-be 28-year-old Hamilton. He also proposed the possibility of a hockey trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones or the New Jersey Devils for P.K. Subban if half of his salary was retained.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with Larkin’s take on the Blackhawks, Flyers and Jets among the aggressive suitors. If it’s a sign-and-trade scenario, there would be some salary heading to the Hurricanes in the deal. The Flyers might have to shed more with Cap Friendly showing them carrying $69.2 million invested in 17 players. They could get that if the Seattle Kraken select James van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft.

The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples is skeptical of the Oilers’ pursuing Hamilton because they have bigger needs than an offensive right-side blueliner, especially if Evan Bouchard is ready for full-time promotion. The Leafs could shake things up and a Rielly-for-Hamilton trade would certainly do that. However, Hamilton’s new contract for next season will be more expensive than Rielly’s $5 million. The Leafs can’t pull this off if they’re unwilling to move one of their high-salaried forwards.

I’ll be surprised if Hamilton ends up with the Wings or Kings. As Larkin points out, he might not be keen to join a rebuilding club at this stage in his career. The same applies to the Blue Jackets and Devils.


EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reported contract talks between the Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins agent, Rick Valette. He speculates general manager Ken Holland could be open to more term in exchange for a more affordable annual average value. Leavins suggests something beyond six years would be risky for the Oilers as that would take him up to age 35 or 36 when his skills would be in decline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons suggested the Oilers let Nugent-Hopkins walk and pursue a more affordable center like Montreal’s Phillip Danault. Holland might have to go that route if he can’t get Nugent-Hopkins signed to a contract that fits within his budget. Nevertheless, the fact talks are resumed suggests the Oilers GM would prefer keeping him in the fold.

Leavins also speculates the Oilers could be interested in Toronto’s Zach Hyman if he goes to market but they’ll face competition from many suitors. Other options could include Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn if the Lightning needs to shed salary, Boston’s Jake DeBrusk or perhaps Taylor Hall if he doesn’t re-sign with the Bruins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The most realistic of that bunch for the Oilers would be DeBrusk given his affordable $3.675 million contract. Killorn has a 16-team no-trade list and the Oilers could be on it.

I may be wrong but I can see Hyman accepting less than market value to stay in his hometown of Toronto. He’s got a good gig with the Leafs so why screw that up? Sure, Hall could return to Edmonton but that doesn’t mean a reunion with the Oilers will happen. I see him staying with the Bruins.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 4, 2021

Recaps of Wednesday’s games and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Edmonton Oilers 6-1 to sweep their three-game series. Jimmy Vesey scored two goals, Jason Spezza collected three assists and Fredrik Andersen made 26 saves in his return to action after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Auston Matthews also returned after missing two games with a wrist injury but was held scoreless.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 in their three games, including back-to-back shutouts. They held Oilers captain Connor McDavid scoreless while Leon Draisaitl managed just one assist.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their fourth straight victory by taming the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves while Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch and Colin Stephenson each had a goal and an assist. Wild winger Zach Parise was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career with the club owing to an overextended shift during Monday’s overtime loss to Vegas.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury has bounced back well from last season’s inconsistent performance. He’s among the league leaders with 11 wins, a .939 save percentage, 1.71 goals-against average and three shutouts. The 36-year-old netminder could become a Vezina Trophy finalist if he can maintain that level of play.

Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog each had four-point performances as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the San Jose Sharks 4-0. Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for the shutout. It was a costly win for the Avs as center Nathan MacKinnon left the game in the third period after a hit to the head from Sharks winger Joachim Blichfield, who received a match penalty and could face supplemental discipline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avs coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon seemed to be doing okay following the game. We should find out today or tomorrow if he avoided serious injury.

A shootout goal by Jakub Vrana lifted the Washington Capitals over the Boston Bruins 2-1. David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins while Lars Eller replied for the Capitals. The Bruins honored former captain Zdeno Chara with a video tribute as he returned to Boston for the first time since signing with the Capitals in the offseason. Before the game, the Bruins announced center Charlie Coyle was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.

The St. Louis Blues got power-play goals from Oskar Sundqvist, Brayden Schenn and Zach Sandford to hold the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington kicked out 27 shots. The Ducks have dropped eight straight games.

Arizona Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta stopped 40 shots as his club nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Two goals 40 seconds apart in the second period by Nick Schmaltz and Johan Larsson gave the Coyotes the win. The Kings have dropped three straight.


MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said his decision to fire goalie coach Stephane Waite during Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Ottawa. He said he consulted interim head coach Dominique Ducharme beforehand but not with netminder Carey Price, who learned of the move following the game. The Habs hired Sean Burke as their new director of goaltending.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin said the move was made to help Price improve his performance, which has fallen off over the past four seasons. The Habs GM is not expected to make any further organizational changes this season after firing coaches Claude Julien and Kirk Muller last week. However, Bergevin could face losing his job if his moves fail to improve the Canadiens,

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter was fined $5,000.00 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros on Tuesday. Saros is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

CBS SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve yesterday.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said league revenue for 2021-22 could be affected by Canada’s slow vaccine rollout. While admitting it is premature to make predictions, Daly hinted it could affect everything from revenue to competition, including division alignment, travel and trades. He also said the league remains optimistic that its trajectory remains on pace toward a normal work environment for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadian government maintains the COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all its citizens who want one by September. Recent reports suggest the distribution of those vaccines could speed up in the coming months. Nevertheless, we won’t know for certain until the start of next season what the effect will be on Canadian teams and league revenue.

Have The Toronto Maple Leafs Turned The Corner At Last?

Have The Toronto Maple Leafs Turned The Corner At Last?