Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
With all due respect to Andy Williams and, well Christmas, we all know that this really is the most wonderful time of the year. For hockey fans, there is no better two weeks on the calendar than the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The pace is frenetic. There are always a couple of shocking upsets. Overtime games abound. Pacing yourself and dealing with little sleep, particularly on the nights when the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings play, is paramount.
When the league came up with its current playoff format that puts more of an emphasis on divisional play and geographical rivalries, this is exactly what it had in mind. And I wouldn’t be surprised if NHL chief operating officer John Collins, the marketing genius who has transformed the league into a big-time, event-driven cash cow, wasn’t in on the planning.
Because what the NHL has done has taken a page from March Madness with its new playoff bracket system. Who had ever heard of a playoff bracket before this season? Prior to this spring, doing playoff brackets were too unwieldy because you always had to wait until the rounds were over to untangle the seedings and move on to the next round. Now it’s nice and tidy. We know that regardless of upsets, the winner of the Boston-Detroit series will play the winner of the Montreal-Tampa first round set, and so it goes.
Jeff Blashill and Jon Cooper are really close friends and it will only be a matter of time before they’re both living out their dreams as NHL coaches. You know all about Cooper now that he’s working his magic with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And sooner or later, you’ll learn about Blashill, who was named the American League’s coach of the year for his work with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
It may not be this summer, but Blashill will be an NHL coach very soon. And who knows? With all the coaching opportunities that figure to be opening up this summer, perhaps someone will take a chance on a 40-something AHL coach of the year and Calder Cup winner, the way the Tampa Bay Lightning did with Cooper. It’s not without its precedent. Since 2009, Cooper, Guy Boucher and Scott Arniel went directly from being AHL coach of the year to the head man behind an NHL bench.
“Personally, I think he needs another year or two to get more of a base of experience,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who hired Blashill as an assistant in Detroit before making him the Griffins head coach in 2012-13. “But I think he’s an NHL coach in the making, there’s no doubt about that.”
Talk about the luck of the Irish. On his first day on the job, Brendan Shanahan was handed a gift in the form of Barry Trotz being fired by the Nashville Predators.
And there is no move that Shanahan, the new president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, could make that would create as much excitement and give this team the boost it so desperately needs than to fire current coach Randy Carlyle and replace him with Trotz. It’s been speculated that Shanahan had his eye on Peter DeBoer, but the New Jersey Devils coach still has a year on his contract and will soon sign an extension. John Tortorella if he loses his job in Vancouver? Well, this crew of defensive misfits could do worse, but that might just be a little too toxic.
The Nashville Predators decided not to renew Trotz’s contract because it was time for a new voice. With 1,196 games and just two playoff series victories to his credit, Trotz cannot say he is being hard done by in losing his job. Hockey is a results-oriented business and the tandem of GM David Poile and Trotz did not deliver.
For those of you keeping score, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks have just handed the keys to their kingdoms to two men who have – just a second while we add it up – um, zero experience at their new positions.
So in hiring Brendan Shanahan as their president and Trevor Linden as their president of hockey operations, the Leafs and Canucks have accomplished absolutely nothing to this point aside from winning the news conference. And if that was the intention here, to try to assuage the fan base by hiring a big-name personality, it runs the risk of providing them with nothing more than more of the same. Read more
After a rocky patch, the Anaheim Ducks are back for end of the regular season where they started it – as the No. 1 team in thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. Now can we just get on with the playoffs already?
And while we’re at it, do you think there’s any way we can lobby the NHL head office to put all the first-round games between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings to 4 p.m. local time so we can all watch them at a reasonable hour? It’s a shame that one of those teams will be out after the first round, but we can all enjoy it while it lasts. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.) Read more
According to a source close to the situation, former Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson is at his home in Penticton, B.C., this evening and is negotiating with the Vancouver Canucks to become the next president of the team. It’s expected he’ll accept the job and there is mounting speculation that he’ll name former Canuck legend Trevor Linden to replace Mike Gillis as the team’s GM.
Nicholson did not respond to a voice and text message left for him by thn.com Tuesday night, but a source said he has been negotiating with Francesco Aquilini, the chairman of the Canucks, about becoming team president.
As soon as Nicholson announced his resignation from Hockey Canada last week, NHL teams were reportedly immediately in hot pursuit of him. He had reportedly already turned down the presidency of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment before the job was given to Tim Liewicke in 2013, and there is speculation that the Washington Capitals quickly made him an offer, which he also turned down. Read more
In the last moments of his last news conference at the Sochi Olympics, Canadian coach Mike Babcock had the following observation: “Does anybody know who won the scoring race? Does anybody care? Does anybody know who won the gold medal? See ya.”
And with that he left for the closing ceremonies, having coached Canada to its second straight gold medal. It bears mentioning that most of us still remember who won the scoring championship in Sochi. Phil Kessel had five goals and eight points for Team USA, finding the back of the net more often than Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Marleau, Martin St-Louis, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares, Matt Duchene and Chris Kunitz combined. Read more
There will be no need for Hockey Canada to give Bob Nicholson a golden handshake or a gold watch when he officially announces his departure on Friday. Nicholson already has approximately as much gold as Fort Knox.
Under his watch as president and CEO of Hockey Canada, his country has won seven Olympic gold medals (three men, four women), five World championship golds, 12 World Junior golds and 10 World Women’s gold medals. And speaking of gold, he has presided over Hockey Canada becoming a money-making monolith, both in terms of attracting sponsorship money and generating revenues from events. For example, the WJC in Montreal and Toronto could make a profit of up to $30 million, 50 percent of which goes to Hockey Canada. Read more