Lightning hire Benoit Groulx to coach AHL team, Rob Zettler relieved of duties

Jared Clinton
Benoit Groulx coached Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Scratch another name off of the list of potential NHL bench bosses.

The Syracuse Crunch announced Tuesday that they’ve relieved coach Rob Zettler of his duties as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate, and Benoit Groulx, who was considered a candidate for one of the NHL openings, will take over behind the Crunch bench.

Zettler had coached the Crunch for the past four seasons after taking over behind the bench during the back half of the 2012-13 campaign. Under Zettler, the Crunch had a 108-90-41 record, but after he led the team to the Calder Cup final in his first year behind the bench after taking over from Jon Cooper, the Crunch had failed to recapture the same level of success. Syracuse missed the playoffs in 2013-14, exited in the first round in 2014-15 and missed the post-season again this past season.

His replacement, Groulx, comes on as Crunch coach after six successful seasons as coach and GM of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques, as well as a gold medal as coach of Team Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship. Read more

How the Dallas Stars gambled on Mattias Janmark – and won

Mattias Janmark (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Before the season began, Mattias Janmark had a pretty heavy choice ahead of him. According to his contract, he could head back to Sweden if the Dallas Stars couldn’t find a roster spot for him. Sure, Janmark was familiar with AHL Texas from a brief visit the previous season, but the ball was in his court and it was either Frolunda or The Show.

Luckily for Dallas, Janmark earned his way into The Show.

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AHL’s Portland Pirates unexpectedly announce sale, relocation of franchise

Jared Clinton
Matt MacKenzie and Rocco Grimaldi (Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Less than a week after being eliminated from the AHL post-season, the Portland Pirates announced they’ve signed a letter of intent to pack their bags and head elsewhere.

The Pirates, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers, announced on their website Wednesday that the franchise has signed a letter of intent to relocate the franchise to a new city. No details of the sale were disclosed, and it won’t be final until it’s approved by the AHL Board of Governors, but it appears the franchise could be gone before next season. All season tickets that have been sold will be refunded, the team said.

Portland’s relocation announcement caught nearly everyone off guard, and that includes the team’s players. Veteran goaltender Mike McKenna, who has spent his past two seasons with the Pirates, told the Portland Press Herald that it was a “complete shock.”

“Just the worst news I’ve ever gotten in my life,” McKenna told the Press Herald. Read more

If this is the first few chapters of The Jonathan Drouin Story, we can’t wait for the rest of the book

Thomas Hickey (left) and Jonathan Drouin  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN – Nobody really knows how this Jonathan Drouin saga with the Tampa Bay Lightning is ultimately going to play out. But wouldn’t it be neat if 10 years from now, when Drouin is a star in the NHL and the lynchpin of the Lightning, we’re all sitting around talking about how his 2016 winter of discontent might have been the best thing that could have happened to him?

To be sure, nobody would be terribly surprised, given all the twists and turns this story has taken. But one thing is sure, the same player who was maligned for a lack of maturity when he left the Lightning in a snit earlier this season is emerging as a player who seems to have learned his lessons with, ahem, Lightning speed. And in a playoff season where the Lightning are missing their most dynamic offensive player, Drouin just might be proving to the organization that there could be life after Steven Stamkos.

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Prospect Need to Know: Wade Allison is burning up the draft charts

Wade Allison (Photo courtesy of the Tri-City Storm)

As the season begins to wind down, we’re starting to see some hardware handed out in the prospect ranks. Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Mitch Marner, for example, just won the OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player for his work with the London Knights. Another OHL award-winner is featured below in my weekly wrap-up. Elsewhere in the hockey world, the USHL is in the middle of its two-stage draft. During Phase 1 (for 2000 birthdays), Sioux Falls landed competitive center Gavin Hain with the No. 1 pick. Phase 2 (for 1999s and earlier) happened today. And speaking of the USHL, let’s get to this week’s round-up:

 

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Patrik Laine gives Winnipeg the best problem in all of hockey

Ryan Kennedy
Patrik Laine (Photo by RONI REKOMAA/AFP/Getty Images)

Must be horrible to be Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff right now. After all, his team moved up to second from sixth in the draft order thanks to this weekend’s lottery, enabling the team to pick Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi this summer. But the Jets already have one of the deepest pools of young talent in the NHL, with Nikolaj Ehlers already a year in and Kyle Connor recently turning pro after one incredible college season.

Oh, the terrible choices Winnipeg will be forced to make in camp this fall.

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Sorry haters, but hockey in Arizona is continuing to grow

Ryan Kennedy
Arizona's Anthony Duclair and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Stories about Arizona’s arena saga are rarely fun to read. The latest development in Glendale has AEG Facilities taking over as managers of Gila River Arena. The company is an offshoot of the firm that owns the Los Angeles Kings and has vast experience in arena management. As always, hope is high in some corners and not so high in others. But guess what? This is a minor development in a state on the rise in the hockey world.

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AHL’s Griffins score two goals that go through net, including series winner

Jared Clinton
Brian Lashoff's shot goes through the net (via Grand Rapids Griffins/YouTube)

The Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, are heading to the second round of the post-season thanks to a series sweep of the Nashville Predators-affiliated Milwaukee Admirals, but they should also be thankful for the keen eye of the officiating crew working Game 3 of their first-round series.

The Griffins fell behind early on a goal by Admirals winger Adam Payerl, but stormed back on two goals in the first three minutes of the second period by defenseman Brian Lashoff and winger Anthony Mantha. The Griffins may have been lucky to get both goals up on the scoreboard, though, given that both pucks were shot hard enough to burst through the net in almost the exact same spot.

Lashoff’s goal, especially, caught some off guard. The goal isn’t shown in the AHL-provided game highlights, and it’s only thanks to the Griffins that there’s footage of the puck breaking through the net at all. Take a look: Read more