NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2023
The Golden Knights beat the Stars in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, reaction to the Leafs firing GM Kyle Dubas, Clayton Keller’s agents meet with Coyotes management and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS DRAW FIRST BLOOD IN WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on an overtime goal by Brett Howden. William Karlsson scored two goals, Zack Whitecloud collected two assists and Adin Hill made 33 saves for the Golden Knights. Roope Hintz had a goal and two assists, Jason Robertson a goal and an assist and Jake Oettinger stopped 33 shots for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining game with plenty of scoring chances, some big saves and a good overall pace. Four of the six goals in regulation were scored in the third period when the Golden Knights would take the lead but the Stars rallied back twice to tie it.
Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa missed this game, perhaps due to a nagging lower-body injury. Colin Miller took his place.
Game 2 goes Sunday in Las Vegas at 3 pm ET.
LEAFS FIRE DUBAS, MARLIES COACHING STAFF SACK, SPEZZA RESIGNS.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Friday that they had “parted ways” with general manager Kyle Dubas.
DAILY FACEOFF: In a subsequent press conference, Leafs president Brendan Shanahan spoke candidly of the reasons behind the decision. He revealed that a framework for a contract extension was presented to Dubas prior to the latter’s emotional press conference on Monday where he voiced his uncertainty about returning to the job.
Shanahan explained the Leafs front office was caught off guard by Dubas’ remarks and started to rethink management’s plans. A meeting with Dubas on Wednesday, Shanahan said, left the latter with more questions than answers.
The Leafs president indicated that Dubas presented a new financial package for a contract extension on Thursday. By that point, however, Shanahan had felt differently about the club’s future with Dubas. On Friday, he drove to Dubas’ office and told him that he was fired.
Shanahan indicated that he’ll be open-minded when it comes to Dubas’ replacement. However, he will put an emphasis on experience.
TORONTO SUN: Prior to Shanahan’s press conference on Friday, Jason Spezza tendered his resignation as special assistant to the general manager. Spezza had been in the role for one season following his retirement as a player.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs AHL affiliate) announced the contracts of coaches Greg Moore, A.J. MacLean and John Snowden would not be renewed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After several seasons, the soap opera “As The Leafs Turn” has returned. This was a major front-office bloodletting that will have significant short- and long-term ramifications for the Maple Leafs.
This news made a number of Leafs followers nervous that the club could be returning to the front-office dysfunction of the recent past. Some have drawn comparisons to the dark days of team owner Harold Ballard. Those folks are overreacting or weren’t old enough to remember how horrible the Ballard years were. Nevertheless, the concerns over the front office are understandable.
Dubas’ firing gives the Leafs little time to find a suitable replacement before the NHL draft (June 28-29) and the opening of contract extension talks (July 1) with Auston Matthews and William Nylander, who are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.
The new general manager must also find a way to address the club’s roster needs with limited salary-cap space. That includes deciding whether to shake up the roster by trading one of their core players. They must also decide if head coach Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff will remain or be replaced.
Buckle up, Leafs fans, you’re in for what could be a very interesting summer.
IN OTHER NEWS…
SPORTSNET: Clayton Keller’s agents met with the Arizona Coyotes met with the club’s front office to discuss the team’s future. There was no trade request made by the 24-year-old winger’s representatives to seek clarity about the Coyotes’ direction after its Tempe arena proposal was rejected by a public referendum.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tying the franchise single-season record of 86 points, Keller is the Coyotes’ best player. He’s signed through 2026-27 and is a vital part of their current rebuilding program. The fact that he’s wondering about the club’s future should be a concern for the front office. If he’s not happy with their direction he could follow the example of former teammate Jakob Chychrun and request a trade.
NEW YORK POST: Connecticut governor Ned Lamont said he’s reached out to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for a meeting to discuss moving the Coyotes to Hartford, the former home of the Whalers before their relocation in 1997 to Carolina.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would be nice to see the NHL return full-time to Hartford. However, if the Coyotes relocate they’ll likely end up in a big Western market such as Houston or Salt Lake City.
SPORTSNET: Coyotes top prospect Logan Cooley intends to return to the University of Minnesota for his sophomore season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt that Cooley’s decision is tied to the Coyotes’ failed arena bid. Earlier this year, he indicated that he wasn’t in a hurry to make the leap to the NHL. U.S. College players tend to spend at least two seasons with their university clubs. Management isn’t in any hurry to rush Cooley into their lineup, preferring to let him develop and mature as a player in the college ranks.
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports four potential candidates for the Flames’ vacant general manager job visited Calgary this week for interviews. Among them were Dave Nonis, Stan Bowman and Marc Bergevin. Seravalli believes the favorite could be Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conroy seems to me to be the best choice. He knows the Flames well during his years in their front office.
THE ATHLETIC: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will reportedly meet with veteran coach Joel Quenneville after the playoffs to discuss his future with the league.
Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2021, following the investigation into the sexual assault of former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach by former Blackhawks video coach Bradley Alrich.
At the time of Quenneville’s resignation, Bettman said he would have to meet with the commissioner if he wished to re-enter the league at some point.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could mean that there’s a team interested in hiring Quenneville.