Sean Avery has four goals and five points in six games since rejoining the New York Rangers March 5. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
WINDS OF CHANGE BLOW SWEETLY
There are no official records kept on the best start by a coach who is a mid-season replacement, but you’d have to think Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins would be in the running for that mark.
Since Bylsma took over the Penguins in February, they have gone 10-1-3 and found themselves back in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. That’s great news for Bylsma and the Penguins, but bad news for coaches whose sense of job security is tenuous at the best of times.
People who run NHL teams are notorious for being copycats when it comes to a winning formula and this year the template has been set by teams that have replaced their coaches at some point during the season.
The Penguins were 27-25-5 when Michel Therrien was fired and they were out of the playoff picture. The Penguins had posted a .567 winning percentage under Therrien, but have taken 23 of a possible 28 points under Bylsma for an .821 winning percentage.
In Chicago, the Blackhawks were 1-2-1 (.375) under Denis Savard. Joel Quenneville has them playing at a 36-19-8 clip (.635). John Tortorella has led the New York Rangers to a 5-3-1 mark (.611) and back into the playoff picture after Tom Renney guided them to a 31-23-7 mark (.566).
The Ottawa Senators have experienced a remarkable, if not a little late, turnaround under Cory Clouston, going 11-6-3 for a .625 winning percentage, compared to the 17-24-7 mark (.427) they had under Craig Hartsburg.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been about the same since they fired Peter Laviolette after he guided the Hurricanes to a 12-9-4 start (.560). Since then, the Hurricanes have gone 24-19-3 for a .554 winning percentage. The Tampa Bay Lightning was slightly better under Barry Melrose than they have been under Rick Tocchet. Melrose got the Lightning off to a respectable 5-7-5 start (.441), while Tocchet has compiled a record of 18-25-9 (.433).
It’s a little too early to determine the results in Montreal as Bob Gainey has gone 1-1-1 since taking over for Guy Carbonneau, who had led the Canadiens to a 35-24-7 record and a .583 winning percentage, which is the best of any coach who has been fired this season.
A CONSISTENCY OF CONTRADICTIONS
Wow, talk about hypocrisy. For Sunday’s game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, viewers on NBC were treated to Sean Avery’s every move courtesy an isolated camera.
It was all Avery all the time for NBC. And given their unique partnership in the game of the week telecasts, you’d have to think the NHL head office would have been able to put the brakes on that idea if it had seen fit to do so.
After all, this is the same league that, just four months ago, banished Avery for six games and ordered him into anger management counseling for having a potty mouth. It almost derailed his NHL career and the suspension was triple what Randy Jones of the Philadelphia Flyers got for almost ending Patrice Bergeron’s career early last season.
Somehow, Avery needed anger management counseling for a comment that was clearly premeditated, but Steve Downie doesn’t for repeatedly taking illegal runs at opponents and swinging his stick at officials.
Now that Avery is back playing, of course, all those who condemned him are now happy to be along for the ride. Rangers coach John Tortorella, who as a television analyst called for Avery to be banished from the NHL for good, has the Rangers back in the thick of the playoff race in large part because Avery has played so well for New York since his return. Not surprisingly, he’s now singing Avery’s praises.
The league and hockey establishment that were so quick to condemn Avery for his comments are now more than happy to make him the center of attention.
The league is full of contradictions on this one. In defending his decision to give Avery such a harsh sentence and order him into anger management counseling, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he didn’t want fathers having to explain the meaning of “sloppy seconds” to their 12-year-old daughters. But, of course, it’s all right for parents to have to explain to their kids why guys only get a five-minute penalty for fighting when no other sport allows it.
And if you check out The Hockey Show on NHL.com, you’ll see a popular beer commercial that features a dog having sex with a balloon. Wonder what all the fathers will be telling their 12-year-old daughters about that one.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the new theme song for Hockey Night In Canada better than the old one.
More importantly, some eight months after CBC losing the ditty became a cause célèbre in Canada, the passage of time has proved that the HNIC theme is just a song, not a national institution, not a vital part of the broadcast, not anything more than a song that introduces the hockey game.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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