Tag:Doug Armstrong
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:15 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Hitchcock has pointed St. Louis in the right direction at each and every turn. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Races. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

When it comes to coaches, it feels like nearly half lost their jobs at some point this season. Truth is, it's actually one shy of a 1/3, which is still an astronomically high number.

The ones that have stuck around? It seems like they are all in the conversation for coach of the year.

However it's the guy who came in after the season started that is running away with the Jack Adams Award for the top coach. Like his style or not,

Ken Hitchcock has pretty much been a miracle worker since coming into St. Louis just 13 games through the season. What has he done since? Only put the Blues in the mix of about four teams vying for the Presidents' Trophy. As it stands on Thursday, the Blues are the West's top team and tied with the Rangers for the best point total in the league. Not too shabby.

While I see him as a clear front-runner, I'm not sure everybody feels the same. And that's where the Jack Adams conversation gets interesting. The list of coaches who could be considered is about 10 guys long. Paul MacLean will be on everybody's finalist list with what he has down in Ottawa. You can see the rest of my top 5 below. What you don't see is the guys who didn't make the cut and it's a hell of a group. Dan Byslma, Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, Kevin Dineen and Dave Tippett deserve mentions too.

When looking at the general managers, the architects, I think we have a much more defined group we're looking at. The nature of an award like this is that it's sometimes tough to gauge. If I were to pick the best GM in the game I might go with Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero or Mike Gillis. They have put together great teams over multiple years. But in just a one-year sense? It cuts it down.

So how do you not start with Dale Tallon in Florida? The Panthers have already eclipsed their point total from last season and they still have 17 games to go. While it's no guarantee yet, they do seem to be on their way to making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

And that's after going into the summer with hardly anybody on the roster. He went out and acquired nine players between the draft and the first few days of free agency. That's almost half the team! He continued by making a few trades including shipping David Booth to Vancouver. All the while he has done nothing to disrupt what looks to be a very promising future with a loaded farm system.

So here you go, this week's rankings. Remember, these are just one man's opinion and you can feel free to share yours below, I'm sure you will. As always, the rest of the races are below with a quick update.

Award watch
Jack Adams GM
Ken Hitchcock The Blues are 36-11-7 since he took over. All I have for that is Wow! He has helped make a borderline playoff team to a borderline Stanley Cup team. How can there really be any other choice? Dale Tallon Consider the monumental task it has proven to win in South Florida then consider that Tallon basically built a new team that is winning in one year. He was widely criticized for his team building this summer and while he did overpay for some players, it's tough to argue with the results so far.
Paul MacLean Bonus points for the mustache that makes Wilford Brimley blush. The majority of publications/panels had the Senators finishing dead last in the league this season. Oops. The difference between MacLean and Cory Clouston has been pretty clear and the players have responded, especially Erik Karlsson. David Poile Maybe this one is tough until the offseason when we find out the fates of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but Poile has done all he could to show the Predators are in it to win it. The re-signing of Pekka Rinne, the acquisitions at the trade deadline all while on a low budget. He's usually in this conversation and he is again.
John Tortorella Yes, the Rangers are good and that's not a great surprise. This good, however? Yes, I think that's surprising. Players have really bought in to what Tortorella is doing. Perhaps the sign of a good coach is how much the team takes on the coach's personality/style. Nobody has done better at that than Torts and Hitchcock. Don Maloney This was another team left for dead before the season began but as I write this, the Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and two points out of the Pacific Division lead. He has had so many obstacles to go through but has continued to bring in good guys and build a winner on a budget.
Peter DeBoer I feel like the Devils first-year coach is under the radar in this conversation, but why should he be? The Devils floundered last season and without changing a whole lot have been significantly better this time around. DeBoer definitely deserves some credit for Ilya Kovalchuk's evolution to a complete player, too. Doug Armstrong Brian Elliott on a two-way contract? Replacing Davis Payne with Hitchcock before anybody else could? Sneaky additions of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner? That's not a bad year, then add in that he's locked in many of his young core players. Hitchcock deserves a lot of attention for the Blues' success, but so does Armstrong.
Glen Gulutzan This was one hiring in the offseason that made people say "who?" but it has worked well. Despite the departure of Brad Richard and his offensive output, the Stars are in better position this season. In fact, they lead the Pacific Division. For a guy who is two seasons removed from coaching in the ECHL, that ain't bad. Glen Sather The headline grabber was obviously the addition of Richards this summer, but locking in his younger players might have been the better move. Plus, he has presided over a franchise that has stocked the shelves for the future, just look at the Columbus Blue Jackets' wish list for Rick Nash, a trade that didn't happen.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, David Backes

Calder: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:36 pm
 

Hockey Canada tabs Yzerman to lead for 2014

Yzerman led Canada to gold in 2010. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Things went so well the first time with Steve Yzerman at the helm, Hockey Canada is going back to the well and the Lightning GM for another go.

Yzerman, who was the man in charge of Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2010 Olympics Games was bestowed the right to do it again for the 2014 Games. It's up to him (and his large staff) to assemble the team that will compete at the Games in Sochi.

Joining Yzerman on the Hockey Canada contingent will be Blue GM Doug Armstrong, Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and then Hockey Canada executives Bob Nicholson and Brad Pascall.

Lowe will be responsible for handling the GM duties for the upcoming World Championships with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and Maple Leafs VP David Nonis assisting.

"I am very pleased with the group that we have assembled to lead us through the next two seasons," Nicholson said. "Steve, Doug, Ken and Kevin provide a great deal of experience gained from their involvement in 2010 and their long-time involvement with our program."

The question remains what will the team look like for Yzerman? More to the point, will it include any NHL players? That will be determined with the upcoming round of CBA negotiations because right now it's no guarantee. Don't expect the owners to be happy about it, but it should be a point that will be conceded. The players all enjoy the prospect of playing for their nation at the Olympics.

Either way, it's going to be up to Canada's latest golden boy to repeat the feat and hold the gold.

“I would like to thank Bob Nicholson and Hockey Canada for the opportunity to return to this role of executive director,” said Yzerman. “While winning in Vancouver was something unique and extraordinary, I am as excited about taking on another great challenge. I look forward to working with Doug, Ken, Kevin, Peter and Dave and the Hockey Canada staff to put a plan in place to bring Canada success internationally.”

The contingent that will head USA Hockey has yet to be announced.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 6:06 pm
 

Brian Elliott signs 2-year extension

By: Adam Gretz

The St. Louis Blues signing of Brian Elliott this offseason wasn't the most exciting acquisition of the summer. A reclamation project that was brought in on a one-year deal worth a $600,000 cap hit, nobody could have possibly expected that at the NHL's halfway point he would be one of the league's best goaltenders this season and headed to the All-Star game.

On Wednesday, the Blues decided to reward his stellar play this season (while also keeping him from hitting the unrestricted free agent market this upcoming summer) by signing him to a two-year contract extension that is reportedly worth $1.8 million per season.

“Brian came in here and helped stabilize our goaltending and make it one of the top tandems in the NHL,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong in a team-released statement. “Having Brian and Jaro (Jaroslav Halak) signed through the '13-14 season our goaltending is set. Along with Ben Bishop and Jake Allen in Peoria, our depth at goaltender has never been stronger.”

It's not a bad price for Elliott as far as the Blues concerned, as a $1.8 million cap hit would be in a tie for 30th in the league among goalies, and it is a nice raise, not to mention some stability, for Elliott, a player that has now played for three different teams (Ottawa, Colorado and St. Louis) since the start of last season.

The Blues have been one of the toughest teams in the league to score against this season, not only due to the play of Elliott and Halak, but also because they're a team that limits opponents shots on goal better than any other team in the league. The goalies have probably definitely been the beneficiaries of that strong defensive play, as well as the influence of new head coach Ken Hitchcock who took over early in the season for Davis Payne.

In 22 appearances this season Elliott currently ranks second in the NHL in goals against average with a 1.68 mark, and third with a .937 save percentage. Being realistic about it, you have to imagine that eventually those numbers are going to come back down to earth a little bit, as Elliott has never demonstrated an ability to play at this high of a level on a consistent basis. But again, it's not like the Blues spent a fortune to keep him around.

Between he and Halak St. Louis has $5.5 million in cap space tied up in its goalies over the next two seasons.

It also has to be disappointing news for teams that were going to be in the market for a goaltender in free agency after this season as this signing crosses another name off of what was already a relatively short (and uninspiring) list.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Blues' David Perron to return Sat. after 97 games

By Brian Stubits

David Perron is finally back for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues announced that the forward will return to the game action with Saturday's game vs. the Chicago Blackhawks. Including missing Friday's game in Colorado, that will make it 97 games since Perron last played.

"It's been a long road obviously," Perron said Friday (courtesy of Jeremy Rutherford of St. Louis Post-Dispatch). "I didn't expect it to be that long. But I'm really excited to get back into the lineup."

Optimism picked up that Perron was nearing a return to game action when he was cleared for off-ice workouts on Sept. 26. Then he was given the OK for participating in full-contact drills on Nov. 19. A couple of setback-free weeks later, and his return is finally set to happen.

"It's the end of a long journey for David Perron and we're excited to get him back in a Blues' uniform," GM Doug Armstrong said. "One thing that never wavered was [Perron's] passion to get back on the ice."

He's been out since taking the following brutal hit to the side of his head from the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton on Nov. 4 of 2010.

Before the injury, Perron had scored five goals with two assists in 10 games for the Blues last season. For his career, the 23-year-old has 53 goals and 78 assists in 235 games, including highs of 20 goals in 2009-10 and 35 assists in 08-09.

The next question becomes how will Perron fit in with new coach Ken Hitchcock's lines? Andy Strickland at True Hockey says it's most likely that Perron will return to a top-six forward role right away and will likely spent most of his time with Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart. There will likely be a little more line juggling, but this one can be filed under the "good problems" file.

I think I speak for a lot of hockey fans when I say it's great to see Perron back, it's been too long.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 5:20 pm
 

Blues' Chris Stewart suspended three games

By Brian Stubits

Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues was suspended three games for his boarding hit on Niklas Kronwall in Tuesday night's 2-1 Blues win.

Here is the video from Brendan Shanahan explaining the decision.

When the hit was made, everybody immediately jumped to the question of how many games? There didn't seem to be much if on the suspension question, just how much. Now we have our answer.

In Shanahan's explanation he notes the primary fact that Stewart saw Kronwall's number for some time before delivering the hit. Heading into the boards with a player on his back, Shanny said it was his belief that Kronwall was defenseless and it was then on Stewart to avoid or at least minimize the hit. Instead, he shoved Kronwall, resulting in a dangerous-looking colision with the wall.

"It's a situation that we accept and we move on with," Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a statement. "But I just want to be 100 percent crystal clear that our support for the type of player Stewart is hasn't wavered. He's a very honest, hard player. This is a hockey play that went awry."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock defended his player, explaining that Stewart was anticipating a reverse check from Kronwall on the play and that there was no intent for him to injure Kronwall. That's not how the sherriff saw it.

In an interesting twist, Kronwall actually took blame for the hit from Stewart. According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free-Press, Kronwall absolved Stewart of blame on the play.

"I think it was more of an accidental thing than anything," Kronwall said after practice this afternoon at HP Pavilion. "I think everyone knows that he is not that kind of player. He is an honest, hardworking guy.

"I put myself a little bit in a bad spot. I think he was anticipating me doing something else. But it was bad, absolutely."

The other big points that Shanahan has taken into consideration in the past -- i.e. whether or not an injury resulted from the hit and any past record of the offender -- weren't even met in this case. Kronwall was OK after the hit and Stewart has nothing to speak of in his past to qualify him as a repeat offender. Yet he still received three games.

Imagine if Stewart did have any priors on his resume or if Kronwall were hit from the check. We could have been looking at more than five games for this same act. The call for three games is right where I thought it'd be. It was a bad hit from start to finish and not even a clean record was going to save Stewart here.

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 3:55 pm
 

Protection of goalies hot topic at GM meetings

By Brian Stubits

What better time than after the Hall of Fame ceremony for the GMs to gather and discuss the issues of the day? After all, most of them are already in town for the festivities anyway.

The item on the morning agenda of the meetings? It truly was the top issue of the day: goaltender safety. Spurred by the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, the rules regarding goaltenders outside the crease have been a hot topic. While the rulebook clearly states a goalie is not fair game anywhere on the ice, it has been a muddy conversation.

From the sounds of Blues GM Doug Armstrong, it was more a matter of clarification than anything else for the GMs.

“Just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, that when they’re out on the open ice, that they’re going to be protected,” Armstrong said. “We do want continued play in front of the net, but we want to make sure that when they’re outside the [blue] ice, that they’re protected.”

The best way that people are describing the protection of goaltenders is to draw the parallel to football and the quarterback. In football, the QB has become like an endangered species, seemingly any affront to his safety has been squashed. Drives a QB into the ground after a pass? Personal foul. Same goes for when a scrambling QB slides to the ground.

“In my opinion, I think we have to [protect goalies like QBs],” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “I’m not talking about plays around the crease, because there will be incidental contact ... We’re talking about a regular season game, we’re talking about the incident with Lucic and Ryan Miller. You get into a playoff series and if these guys are going to be coming out to play pucks, and you can run them over and get a two-minute penalty, then I think you’re going to open up a pretty dangerous set of circumstances.

“Several of the general managers just brought up the fact there’s only 60 goaltenders in the league, and we have to be pretty careful in terms of, if they’re going to play puck outside the crease, what should be fair,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to look at it, and probably talk about it much more at the March meeting, as well.”

Is it a bit reactionary? Of course. The Lucic/Miller incident is fresh and was pretty uncommon. But the reactions after the hit proved the need for some clarification on the matter, even if it was as simple as getting rule 69.4 spread around for everybody to see.

This is where Brendan Shanahan's decision not to suspend Lucic, for the hit comes into play a bit. Many, myself included, believed that if nothing else a token suspension was called for against Lucic, something to make it clear that goalies can't be run over. But Shanahan believed Lucic did not intend to hit Miller and that it was more of an unfortunate collision. He reiterated the point to the GMs that goalies will be protected and offenders could still be suspended. From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com:

"Shanahan told GMs that players should NOT read into Lucic ruling that goalies are fair game. Quite the opposite, Shanahan warned GMs."

The GMs don't want to see more incidents like it and want to nip it in the bud now before frontier justice like that alluded by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knocks another goaltender out for a period of time. I believe for most GMs it's a matter of self-preservation if anything else (in this case self being their team's interests).

“That’s going to be the message to our team -- the goalies are not fair game,” Shero said. “If the guy’s going to play it outside the crease, you have to be pretty careful.”

Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I believe the root of that statement from Shero comes out of the fear of losing Marc-Andre Fleury for some time.

As for rest of the meetings, also on the schedule was the 1-3-1 trap that caused such a stir last week after the bizarre scene between the Flyers and Lightning which led to a stalemate. To that, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman gave a reasonable response, saying they don't want to overreact to something that has only happened once. Perhaps Flyers GM Paul Holmgren put it best: "I'd like to see us attack the situation a little bit differently than we did last game."

The other big item on the docket was realignment, something Flyers chairman Ed Snider brought up again in Toronto. But right now that's all just chatter among the GMs. The decision on realignment will made at the Board of Governors meeting in December.

All of these conversations and more will get hashed out again in March the next time the GMs gather.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 9:13 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 11:14 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

By Brian Stubits

Talk about coming out of the Blue: the St. Louis Blues fired their coach Davis Payne on Sunday night and hired Ken Hitchcock to replace him. Hitchcock's contract is signed through the 2012-13 season with St. Louis.

The first reaction: Huh? What did Payne do to get fired? His Blues are just one game below .500 on the season at 6-7. Granted, it's not an ideal start, but it's not awful. For his career in St. Louis, Payne was 67-55-15. Again, doesn't really scream fireable offense.

Payne certainly didn't seem to have the safest seat in the NHL, no doubt, but if bets were to be placed on the first coach to be fired this season, I don't think many would have put their money down on Payne.

"Success should be right there for them," Payne told Craig Custance of ESPN.com after the firing.

Then you look at the fact that Hitchcock was hired to replace him. Did the Blues just beat the Blue Jackets to the punch to get Hitchcock? You will remember that last week the rumor was that Scott Arniel was going to be ousted in Columbus and Hitchcock was going to return to the bench. Not now.

However, the fit does seem good for St. Louis. It is a big, physical team. Hitchcock likes to play a physical, defensive style of hockey. Also, there is a connection between Blues GM Doug Armstrong and Hitchcock. They worked together with the Stars and Hockey Canada.

Hitchcock also has a nice track record having won the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars and has a career winning percentage of .588.

So while the timing is surprising, it makes a little more sense when you think of how Hitchcock and the Blues could be together. St. Louis might have seen the urgency to jump on Hitchcock before he could return to the bench in Columbus, where he was still under contract.

It will be interesting to see how the Blues respond to this. Often, coaching changes bring about a renewed energy in a team, and the Blues have talented players that could use a nice kick in the rear. A guy like Chris Stewart, who had 28 goals each of the last two seasons but only two this year, could be better. They have been trying to find a way to get him going all season. No player on the team has double digits in points so far.

Another player that a change could be helpful for is Jaroslav Halak. To be polite, he has stunk this season. In seven starts, he has a 3.35 goals against average and a .856 save percentage. Ouch. Maybe a new defensive philosophy will help. Then again, the Blues were already doing an excellent job at preventing shots, giving up just 26.2 per game this season, the second-lowest level in the NHL. Bad goaltending from Halak has been the Achilles' heel this season. When he turns it around, so will the Blues.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter

Posted on: August 17, 2011 10:01 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:09 pm
 

New OT, short-handed rules talk of RDO Camp Day 1

By Brian Stubits

Day 1 of the NHL Research and Development Camp, or Camp Shanny as everybody likes to call it, is in the books. It's a time testing, tweaking and experimentation while general managers also get an up-close look at some of next year's draft prospects -- where GMs came away impressed with the defensemen.

Brendan Shanahan, getting settled into his new role as the NHL's next master disciplinarian, is running the show again this year as the league tries out a few ideas, some that will hit, some that will miss.

"This is research and development, it's what many companies do, what many corporations do," Shanahan said after the session. "It's what we do. It's not a knee-jerk reaction to anything we feel is wrong with the game.

"One of the things, maybe a misconception, was that we had to go out and test 30 new things. Quite honestly there were about 20 things that were repeating because we needed to get more information, more data. We love the way the game is being played by our players. We think the game is an entertaining game for the fans and we think it's a great time to study it. If for any reason, a year, two years, three years, four years down the road we see some trend that we don't like, we're going to have many of information to back it up."

Perhaps the most talked-about testing item after the first day was the suggestion to the overtime rules. It's no secret that the shootout debate has divided fans, with many feeling it ruins the game while others enjoy games having a clear winner and loser. To try and alleviate the argument of shootouts, one proposal is to lengthen overtime to seven minutes, going to 3-on-3 after four minutes.

"A couple of years ago we thought too many games were being undecided in overtime," Shanahan said. "Without changing many of the rules, that seemed to straighten itself out last year. This isn't about any sort of knee-jerk reaction, this is about being pro-active."

"I think it's certainly interesting to get to the 3-on-3," Blues GM Doug Armstrong told NHL.com. "I think if we want less games ending in the shootout, it's certainly an avenue we should explore, going right to the 3-on-3 and eliminate the 4-on-4."

But Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was singing a different tune.

"I prefer 4-on-4," Yzerman told NHL.com. "I'd like to keep 4-on-4. If we're going to extend it, keep it at 4-on-4. Three-on-three is not enough players on the ice, in my opinion."

The other big-discussion piece involved the removal of icing during man-down situations. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, on the bench, decided to take that as an opportunity to explore.

Knowing the other team couldn't launch the puck the length of the ice, he pulled his own goalie to create a 6-on-4 situation. I can't imagine you would see that during the season (unless it's late in the game) as the danger of the opposing team getting the puck out of the zone is at least slim. But in Camp Shanny? Why not?

Wouldn't you know it, Bylsma's team did surrender a goal at that time when a player fell down, allowing the other squad, coached by Phoenix Coyotes head man Dave Tippett, to score.

"I was really interested in this session that when a team is short-handed they can't ice the puck," Shanahan said. "I'd like to see more of that ... the coaches were curious about and wanted to play around with. That was a good one."

This is one of the proposed rules I am not a big fan of. I understand the concept of the penalty being something a team should suffer for, but I think it handicaps them too much. I would expect power play numbers to increase significantly and my feeling it's too strong of a change. But that's why they test it.

Finally, one of the other items under examination is the reduced goal and the use of a green line to detect if the puck completely crossed the goal line. Dan Craig takes a closer look at the smaller net in this video.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com