Category:NHL
Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:40 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 10:31 pm
 

Randy Carlyle replaces Ron Wilson in Toronto

Wilson

By: Adam Gretz


Toronto fans spent the better part of February demanding it, and on Friday evening the Maple Leafs front office made it happen.

The team announced that head coach Ron Wilson has been fired and will be replaced by former Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. The move comes less than three months after Wilson received a contract extension from the team, and after a stretch of games that has seen the Maple Leafs lose 10 of their past 11, including six in a row, to fall outside of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” said General Manager Brian Burke in a statement released by the team. “I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons.”

During Wilson's four seasons in Toronto the team compiled a record of 130-135-45 and never qualified for the postseason, as the Leafs and their fans continue to ride out what is one of the longest active playoff droughts in the NHL.
More On Maple Leafs

Wilson had been facing mounting criticism in recent weeks for the teams collapse after such a fast start, and "Fire Wilson" chants could be heard throughout the Air Canada Centre during a recent loss to the Florida Panthers. The Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

His firing will be the eighth coaching change in the NHL this season (including Carlyle's dismisal from Anaheim), and of the seven previous changes only one of those teams (the St. Louis Blues) is in what would be a playoff posiiton in the standings as of Friday night.

If nothing else the hiring of Carlyle adds a potential storyline -- and perhaps some awkwardness -- early on due to his history with current Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul.

Anaheim traded Lupul to Toronto last season, when Carlyle was still the coach, and they didn't exactly have the best breakup, dealing him shortly after he returned to the lineup after a serious back injury. Earlier this season, before a meeting between the Leafs and Ducks, Lupul talked about his bitterness toward Anaheim and Carlyle saying, via the Toronto Sun, “I know the opportunity I’m getting in Toronto, I never would have had in Anaheim. Randy Carlyle just did not see me as that type of player.”

Carlyle was the head coach of the 2006-07 Anaheim team that won the Stanley Cup. Burke was also the general manager of that team.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 5:22 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 9:05 pm
 

Sharks coach McLellan returns to ice

SharksBy: Adam Gretz

It seems that nobody in the NHL is safe from concussions or concussion-like symptoms these days, and that includes head coaches.

Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks was the second coach over the past month to miss time due to a head injury (Edmonton's Tom Renney was the other) after he was hit in the head with a stick during last Sunday's game against the Minnesota Wild. He hasn't been back behind the bench since then, but was able to join the team on the ice for practice on Friday, which should be seen as a step in the right direction.

According to Kevin Kurz of CSNBayarea, his status for Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues is not yet known.

During his absence the Sharks have split a pair of 1-0 decisions, beating the Flyers on Tuesday and then losing to the Buffalo Sabres by the same score on Thursday night.

“It was a positive sign, first off, to have our leader back on the ice,” said Sharks assistant coach Jay Woodcroft, via CSN. “It’s a step in the process, and that’s all it is right now, a step in the process. We’ll move forward under the plan of him just trying to get better every day, and we’ll go from there.”

The Sharks are currently in the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference with 73 points, three points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, the team occupying the No. 9 spot. They're also just two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the top spot in the Pacific Division.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:45 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 4:08 pm
 

City of Saskatoon joins relocation hopefuls

(Motifake.com)

By Brian Stubits

Since the Phoenix Coyotes situation still hasn't found a resolution, there has been plenty of discussion where the team could potentially relocate to if it doesn't remain in the desert. The most of the focus in that conversation has centered around Seattle and Quebec City with Kansas City and even Las Vegas being mentioned on the periphery.

Well just as long as we're discussing the options, might as well add Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to the list. Really.

The prairie city in the middle of one of Canada's two provinces that shares a border with the United States but don't have a team (New Brunswick the other) would like to change that. Here's the initial report from TSN's Bob McKenzie.

But interested parties in Saskatoon have contacted the league and suggested there are individuals or parties in Saskatoon who would be willing to ante up the required purchase fee while various levels of government in Saskatchewan would make necessary arrangements to expand and make NHL-suitable the 15,800-seat Credit Union Centre.

Now the city of Saskatoon only has a population around 250,000 and doesn't have many cities nearby that could help. Saskatchewan's capital of Regina and its population of nearly 200,000 is three hours away.

Yet I have no doubt that even with a population of just 250,000 the city would likely have no problems filling the arena on a nightly basis. We're talking about a Canadian city in a province that produces a lot of NHL talent. In fact, Saskatchewan is responsible for 9.1 percent of the Canadian talent in the NHL today, a slight ways behind British Columbia with 10.6 percent and ahead of Manitoba.

It's all the other factors that you wonder if they could compete, such as corporate sponsorships, television deals, etc.

But they do have an arena that would work, at least temporarily until renovations could be finished. If Winnipeg's MTS Centre with 15,000 seats was approved, that size shouldn't be a problem.

The mayor of Saskatoon, Don Atchison, told the StarPhoenix on Friday that this is a little more than just idle chat.

“They’re exceedingly serious, make no bones about that,” Atchison said. “But it doesn’t matter how serious the ownership group is. We have seen that once before when Mr. [Bill] Hunter bought the team and was ready to move it here.

“It will be up to the NHL what occurs in the end.”

What he is referring to is Bill Hunter's attempt to buy and move the St. Louis Blues to Saskatoon in 1987, obviously an attempt that was felled by the NHL.

Obviously we're looking at a super long shot here. If the city failed the first time who’s to say the NHL would approve it on the second try? The population has to be a concern from an available money standpoint even though I think it would work, it's taking a leap of faith.

Just a little food for thought. In closing I'll leave you with this.

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

Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:49 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 3:03 pm
 

James van Riemsdyk out 4-6 weeks (foot fracture)

JVR has 11 goals and 13 assists this season in 43 games. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

James van Riemsdyk is having a tough season in Philly. It was made tougher on Friday when the team announced that he is going to miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken foot suffered when he blocked shot on Thursday.

"James will have surgery on Mar. 6 to repair a broken bone in his left foot," general manager Paul Holmgren said in a team release. "Dr. Steven Raikin will put a plate in to help with the healing process. James will be out 4-6 weeks."

Last summer after the Flyers traded away franchise pillars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, they had a lot of reshaping to do with the team. Part of that was getting players to fill the void left by those two in the scoring department.

One of the ways they attempted to do that was by showing a big commitment to van Riemsdyk with a new six-year contract calling for $4.25 million annually despite two seasons with numbers that you wouldn't think fit the bill.

The hope though was that he would build on it. It was a deal given out more for potential, for their belief in his growth than what he had achieved in his two seasons. Some of that had to be based on his playoff performance where he had seven goals in the 11 games the Flyers played.

It's just that this season hasn't gone exactly as planned in taking the next step. He's battled injuries a few times this season already -- including a concussion -- as well as plenty of trade rumors. His name was suggested a lot as one that could be sent out of town to help with the Flyers' other needs.

In the 43 games he has played thus far he has 11 goals and 13 assists. If he is out for the six-week time span within that recovery timetable, that could take him all the up to the end of the season. Then it becomes a question of what kind of shape will he be in for playoff hockey.

Now here is video of the play that caused the injury. Ouch.

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

Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:01 pm
 

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Toronto hasn't been very good lately to put it mildly. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

At one point this season, things were good in Toronto. Really good. General manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson were having some fun with the media it seemed by announcing a new contract extension for Wilson on Christmas Eve.

Now? Not so much. The fans that have actually been patient for years in Toronto began serenading Wilson with "Fire Wilson!" chants at the Air Canada Centre in their most recent home loss, a 5-3 defeat to the Panthers.

"It’s frustrating, but understandable," Wilson said. "Everybody’s frustrated right now."

As good as the month of February was to the Phoenix Coyotes, it was almost as bad to the Maple Leafs. They went 4-9-1 in the month but 1-9-1 in their final 11 games including the current six-game losing streak.

Maybe this better illustrates how tough it has been for them recently. After their Feb. 4 win against the Oilers, the Leafs had a 90.05 percent chance of making the playoffs per Sports Club Stats. As the month of March began? The odds were down to 11.07 percent. 

At the heart of the struggles of course has been goaltending, something they hoped was fixed in Toronto with James Reimer's emergence a season ago. Well, he has fallen on rough times too, including being thrown under the bus more or less by Wilson after Toronto's recent 4-2 loss to the Capitals in what was a huge game in the playoff hunt.

“The two goals early in the game were stoppable chances,” said Wilson. “They [the Capitals] got saves at one end, we didn’t. We dug a hole because of that. And we’re kind of always waiting now for something bad to happen. We’ve got to find a way to get over that.

“You can pull a goalie. I thought tonight I’ll call a time out, tell everybody to relax, that we can get out of this hole. Then you start playing tentative hockey. That’s what happens. With all the other stuff that bubbles around at the outside like trade deadlines, those little things that affect players.

“You worry you’ll be the one moved. It affects a young team.”

It sure would seem Reimer is affected by a lot right now. He has just one win in his last seven starts. He has surrendered a whopping 26 goals in those seven starts, two of which he didn't even finish. And it's not like Jonas Gustavsson has been the knight in shining armor behind him. Let me put it this way: There is a reason why Burke was open before the trade deadline in saying his team was seeking a goaltender via trades. Obviously it didn't happen.

Nothing like a vote of confidence for your goaltenders, eh?

"Yeah, you do get exasperated, and you get frustrated," Wilson said. "But tomorrow’s a new day. The sun will probably come up. We’ve got to pull up our bootstraps and get going."

If they don't, the playoff drought is going to extend into a seventh straight season, pretty remarkable for a market like Toronto with the assets they have at their disposal.

They have already been leaped in the standings by the once-buried Buffalo Sabres and are just one point ahead of the similarly previously dismissed Tampa Bay Lightning. They're currently five points back of that eighth spot they had been holding for some time.

Now they are as close to the East's basement as they are the playoffs. If that isn't saying something, nothing is.

But hey, there is good news, Toronto. The Leafs do actually have their first-round draft pick this summer.

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

Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:05 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 3:56 pm
 

Pregame Skate: Caps have to take care of home ice

The Caps' next four games are at Verizon Center. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

7 ET, New Jersey at Washington

You might think the Washington Capitals are in a good position to make the playoffs this season either as the eighth seed in the East or the Southeast Division championship. They are, they still have as good of a shot as any team in the hunt.

But it is pretty amazing how slim the margin of error is for this team at home. Considering they have been below .400 on the road and have nine more games away from home to go that include some very tough stops, winning at home is almost a must. They come into Friday night with 69 points on the season and have 10 home games left against the nine on the road. To get to a conservative estimate of reaching the playoffs of 90 points, you'd realistically think they need 15 or so points at home. Six more from the road gets them to 90, and that's no guarantee of getting in either.

So you can see that winning on home ice is imperative. And here in the second game of a crucial five-game homestand come the New Jersey Devils who, good news for the Caps, haven't been having a world of success lately. They have lost four in a row while the Caps have run off three consecutive wins.

The question coming into this game specifically is how much if any carryover Washington's win over the Islanders this week will have. Trailing 2-0 with less than four minutes left, the Caps came roaring back before Alex Ovechkin scored a classic Ovi snipe in overtime. It really might prove to be a season-saving comeback. But not if they don't keep the good things going from that.

It's worth noting that the Caps should be well-rested having not played since Tuesday while the Devils are on the back end of a back-to-back, losing to Boston in overtime on Thursday.

9:30 ET, Dallas at Edmonton

The Stars maintained their leg up on the rest of the playoff-chasing pack through Thursday's game and continue to hold eighth place by themselves. In fact, if they can get the win tonight against the Oilers, they will tie the Sharks for seventh in the West (but will remain eighth by virtue of games played).

But they can't just waltz into Edmonton thinking that two points are theirs for the taking. When you look at the potential spoiler teams across the league in the stretch run, the Oilers might be the scariest of the admittedly limited number of teams.

They have supreme young offensive talent and the problem with young talent is that it is so often inconsistent. You never know when the Oilers are going to score four or more on you. The point is, the Stars aren't guaranteed anything tonight.

If the Stars do come away with two points they will create a little buffer between themselves and the pursuers, potentially taking a three-point lead.

10 ET, Calgary at Anaheim

In what might have been a make-or-break game for the Flames on Thursday night in Phoenix, they became the first team in literally a month to beat the Coyotes outright. On the road no less. Consider the hope alive for the Flames.

But they get no rest in trying to keep it going by visiting the Ducks tonight. I still do have a tough time with the fact that the Flames are right here, but they are. A win and a Stars loss would actually put the Flames into a tie with Dallas (albeit with one more game played).

Their opponent, meanwhile, is losing its grip fast on their hopes. There is no room for error for the Ducks right now if they hope to overcome longs that seem longer than Toronto's Stanley Cup drought. The night begins with them seven points back of the Stars, who we already detailed are in action. So at best they are five points back of a playoff spot at the end of the night, at worst they're nine back and you can pretty much officially write them off at that point.

That's what makes this time of season so fun to watch. You have some serious desperation in most of the games being played and this one will be no different. Makes for some exiting hockey.

Others worth watching

7:30 ET, Rangers at Tampa Bay: This has little to do with the Rangers (except the Presidents' Trophy race). They pretty much already have the East's No. 1 seed wrapped up already. The question is if the Lightning can do what Buffalo has done and crawl back into the conversation.

7:30 ET, Minnesota at Detroit: Detroit is not only fighting for the Presidents' Trophy but the Central Division crown. The Wild though are one of those desperate teams trying so hard to right now hang on to hope.

7:30 ET, Chicago at Ottawa: A tricky important game. But teams are in the playoffs slightly comfortably at the moment but at the low side in each conference and a failure to pick up points starts to make things a little more interesting. And there is the little subplot of Ray Emery's return to Ottawa.

Your promised miscellany

  • Thursday's Winners & Losers
  • Great news: Jean Beliveau's wife says the Habs legend is progressing well in his stroke recovery. (NHL.com)
  • The Wings are going to be without Nicklas Lidstrom in their two games this weekend. (NHL.com)
  • It's been rough for James van Riemsdyk since he got that extension last summer. Now he has a broken foot after blocking a shot. (@NHLFlyers)
  • There wasn't much Florida could take out of a 7-0 trouncing by the Jets last night. But at least Erik Gudbranson delivered one heck of a check.

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:37 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:57 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Jagr, Jets, Krejci

Jagr

By: Adam Gretz


There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Another milestone for Jaromir Jagr: After a slow start against the New York Islanders on Thursday night, the Flyers roared back to earn a 6-3 win against their divisional rival, and leading the way was seemingly ageless veteran Jaromir Jagr with a goal and an assist, a two-point performance that moved him into sole possesion of eighth place on the NHL's All-Time scoring list (ahead of Joe Sakic) with 1,642 career points.

Next up on the list: his former linemate, Mario Lemieux, with 1,723 points.

The win for the Flyers moves them into the No. 5 spot in the East as they jump over the idle Ottawa Senators. The Flyers still have two games in hand on the Senators.

[Related: Flyers 6, Islanders 3]

Winnipeg Jets: Yeah, games between the Jets and Panthers are still important now that we're into March, and this is still only possible in the Southeast Division.

The Jets continued their home dominance this season with a complete and thorough destruction of the Panthers, rolling over them by a 7-0 margin at the MTS Centre. The win puts them back into the top-eight in the Eastern Conference and brings them to within two points of the Panthers for the top spot in the division.

[Related: Jets 7, Panthers 0]

David Krejci and the Bruins: David Krejci hasn't been having the best season in Boston, but he had a huge game on Thursday night during the Bruins 4-3 overtime win against the Devils, recording a hat trick, including the game-winning goal 2:59 into the extra period. The Bruins have been alternating wins and losses for a month-and-a-half now and on Saturday against the Islanders they will have a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since the middle of January.

Pretty amazing for a team that is still second in the conference to that long without any sort of a winning streak. Even one as short as two games. Speaks to how dominant they were earlier in the season.

[Related: Bruins 4, Devils 3]

Losers

Florida Panthers: The Panthers no-show performance in Winnipeg can be described to perfection with one replay. This Brian Little goal in the third period that is scored on a 5-on-1(!) rush.



[Related: Playoff Race]

Colorado Avalanche: If the Colorado Avalanche miss the playoffs by one or two points, this might be the game they look back at and ask what the heck happened.

Hosting the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and going up against a struggling netminder in Steve Mason, the Avalanche were blanked in their own barn by a 2-0 margin. Even though the Avs generated over 30 shots on goal for the night, they created very few scoring chances and never really gave Mason much of a test.

Not a good performance, and a not a good loss.

[Related: Blue Jackets 2, Avalanche 0]

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:40 pm
 

Devin Setoguchi and his failed shootout attempt

By: Adam Gretz

Erik Christensen is one of the best shootout participants in the NHL, and the Minnesota Wild probably could have used him on Thursday night in Montreal.

Christensen was a scratch for Minnesota's 5-4 loss -- a game that turned out to be a total gong show -- as the Wild ended up dropping the game in a shootout after overcoming a 4-1 deficit with less than four minutes to play in regulation.

Minnesota didn't score in the shootout, and after David Desharnais gave Montreal a 1-0 lead in the tiebreaking competition, all eyes focussed on Devin Setoguchi, the final shooter for the Wild. He needed to score to keep the game going, and ... well. Let's just say he didn't score.



Is this the worst shootout attempt ever? That's the question some will be asking, and while it's certainly in the discussion, we still have to keep in mind Dennis Wideman, then a member of the St. Louis Blues, and what is perhaps the most comical failed shootout attempt in the history of the event (Watch here).

Also at Eye On Hockey

Video: Emelin hip checks teammate Cole

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