Top 10 players/coaches on The Hot Seat

Rick Nash (Photo by Rebecca Taylor/NHLI via Getty Images)

The most daunting challenge when it comes to forming a list of people on The Hot Seat™ for 2014-15 is keeping the list to just 10. Heck, you could have 30 just by placing every coach in the league on there. Because as your trusty correspondent recently pointed out, coaches and GMs are getting whacked at a dizzying rate these days.

But some, obviously, are feeling the heat a little more than others. You wouldn’t think the Los Angeles Kings would be too concerned about Darryl Sutter if they don’t get off to a great start this season. And during football season, is anyone going to notice if Bill Peters can’t turn the moribund Carolina Hurricanes around?

With that in mind, we’ve kept our list to 10, evenly divided between coaches and players. These are people who will be under pressure to produce results or face either (a) the prospect of being fired, in the case of coaches; or (b) the prospect of feeling shame, in the case of players.

So, here we go:

10. Ken Hitchcock: The St. Louis Blues coach has done everything right with this team, with the exception of win a playoff series. Since he took over in 2011-12, the Blues have won just one playoff series and compiled an 8-13 record in the post-season. There were rumbles that Hitchcock was in jeopardy after the Blues lost in the first round to Chicago, but they were quelled by GM Doug Armstrong. But if Hitchcock can’t find a way to get his team over the Chicago/Los Angeles hump, there might be no choice but to make a change.

9. Ryan Johansen: Even though they appear to be playing hardball with him, the Columbus Blue Jackets will sign Johansen at some point. But after an acrimonious summer in which Johansen felt his team’s offer was a “slap in the face,” there will be pressure on Johansen to prove he was worth all the off-season angst, particularly if he misses training camp or some of the regular season. Johansen is at a critical point in his development as a player and he has every right to sit until he gets what he feels is a fair deal. But with that comes the pressure of living up to it.

8. Bruce Boudreau: The Anaheim Ducks coach is quickly becoming known as The Man Who Can’t Win Game 7. The Ducks won the Western Conference regular season title last season, but the fact they didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the regular season cost them in the playoffs. Boudreau will have to do the delicate dance between being good enough to compete in the west, while not burning his team out for the time when the games get really important.

7. Alex Ovechkin: How does a 50-goal scorer end up on the list of players on the hot seat? By piling up points on the power play, being an uninspired player 5-on-5 and not leading his team to the playoffs, that’s how. Ovechkin might be one of the least-feared 50-goal scorers in the history of the game, primarily because he does precious little other than feast when the Capitals are on the man advantage. He’ll also have to adjust to a new coach in Barry Trotz who will demand more defensive accountability. For real.

6. Todd McLellan: There were rumors the Sharks coach was on his way out of San Jose and to Toronto after last season, but GM Doug Wilson opted to keep him after his team blew a 3-0 lead in the first round to the Kings. Instead of firing the coach, which would have been the convenient thing to do, the Sharks instead emasculated Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. If the Sharks stumble out of the gate, McLellan might be an easy target.

5. P.K. Subban: The Montreal Canadiens defenseman became the first player in NHL history to reach a contract agreement after an arbitration hearing and before a decision was rendered. And what an agreement! Subban will undoubtedly face pressure to justify his $9 million-per-season cap hit, but he will be courting trouble if he internalizes it and tries to do so every time he touches the puck.

4. Paul MacLean: There were rumblings that MacLean lost his golden touch last season with his players and mismanaged his players last season. Not surprisingly, he was not able to coax the results out of his team that he got in 2013. Even though the Senators are closer to being a lottery winner than a playoff team, expectations are always high in Canadian markets. And if the Senators get off to a disastrous start, the only guy at the Canadian Tire Centre with a bushy moustache will be MacLean’s doppelganger in the first row.

3. David Clarkson: The Toronto Maple Leafs winger is a classic example of expectations gone awry because of a huge contract. Clarkson was never going to be able to live up to the deal he signed with the Maple Leafs, but even by those standards, his 2013-14 season was an unmitigated disaster. Clarkson’s best course of action would be to forget the contract and resist the temptation to be something he’s not.

2. Randy Carlyle: Clarkson’s coach with the Maple Leafs is undoubtedly on the shortest leash of any coach in the NHL right now. With analytics gaining more prominence in the game, the Leafs cannot afford to continue getting Corsi-ed to death on a regular basis. The Leafs have significantly improved their bottom six, but if they don’t tighten up defensively, Carlyle will likely become the first coach looking for work this season.

1. Rick Nash: The New York Rangers winger led the team in goals with 26 last season, but Nash simply can’t produce when his team needs him most. Including all his NHL playoff games and the two Olympics in which he has participated, Nash has seven goals in 54 games. There was a time when Nash seemed to be able to carry players on his back on his way to the opposing net. It seems now he can’t even get himself to the net, which is why he finds himself on the periphery so much.

Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more

Weekend odds and ends: Stamkos’ unsatisfactory explanation; Brodeur in Montreal; and young Ducks goalies

Steven Stamkos (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

On the first weekend in September, here are a few medium-sized hockey thoughts for your consideration:

Lightning star Steven Stamkos addressed the media in Tampa Bay Thursday and talked in greater detail about his adventures on social media this summer. Stamkos said he mistakenly pressed the favorite button on a Tweet from THN’s account linking to my story on him potentially coming to his hometown Maple Leafs when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

“You press the favorite button by accident and an hour later Twitter blew up,” Stamkos said. “But you live and learn and I’ll be more careful on the favorite button the next time around.

Sounds reasonable, right? Who among us hasn’t made a similar slip? And here’s the thing – if it was only one tweet, I’d be inclined to take Stamkos at face value. But Stamkos didn’t just favor one tweet. He subsequently favorited a second tweet linking him to the Leafs.

Now, one mistaken favorite, I understand. Two? And both just happen to be about the same topic? Sorry, but I’ve yet to hear a satisfactory explanation of how that happened. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would any RFA not sign be season’s start?

Ryan Johansen (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The start of NHL training camp, on Sept. 18, is less than two weeks away, but there’s little progress to report on contract talks involving several restricted free agents. Among the unsigned notables are Columbus’ Ryan Johansen, Minnesota’s Darcy Kuemper and Nino Niederreiter, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz, Anaheim’s Devante Smith-Pelly and Boston’s Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun cites two sources who claim there’s been no dialogue between the Johansen camp and the Blue Jackets for some time. The two sides are reportedly $3 million apart per season on a two-year deal.

Johansen could receive an offer sheet from a rival club, but Blue Jackets management insisted earlier this summer they would match any offer. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline claims trading Johansen isn’t a consideration. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Would a Boychuk-Yakupov trade solve two problems?

Johnny Boychuk (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins need to shed salary and address their logjam on defense remains a hot topic in this summer’s NHL rumor mill.

Much of the speculation centers on Johnny Boychuk, who will be eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. The 30-year-old blueliner will earn $3.6 million this season, while his cap hit is more than $3.3 million. Brooks Orpik signed a five-year deal this summer with the Washington Capitals worth $5.5-million annually and Boychuk could seek a comparable salary.

If Boychuk becomes a UFA, the Edmonton Oilers could be very interested in his services. He’s an Edmonton native with a strong all-around skill set that would benefit the Oilers’ rebuilding defense corps.

Boychuk, however, told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson his preference is to remain with the Bruins, calling them “my hockey family.” Considering the Bruins remain a legitimate Stanley Cup contender three years after their last championship, his reluctance to leave Boston is understandable. His future with the Bruins, however, will depend upon their cap space beyond this season. Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 9: Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks

Before we begin discussing our No. 9-ranked logo in the NHL, it’s worth pointing out again that this list was compiled by a group of seven THN staffers who debated each one. OK? Let’s go.

Somehow, the Anaheim Ducks ended up in the top 10. Actually – somehow they didn’t end up in the bottom five. The idea behind doing these rankings was to look at each one again for the first time, not taking into consideration how long it’s been in use. This list is supposed to be all about the aesthetics.

But each time I look at this one again for the first time, I still just see a duck-footed D with boring colors. Sure, there’s a little orange in there – and I like it when orange is used – but it’s buried beneath the muck. No bonus points for this one.

In our group, though, this logo got enough support to land it in the top 10. When you rank logos there is no right or wrong answer – it’s all about personal tastes and preferences. And this process showed that even this Ducks logo has its supporters. Where do you stand?

Now, someone must be able to design a better look for the Ducks, right? Please. Somebody. Anybody. Try your hand at creating a new Ducks logo, using whichever color scheme you wish, and submit your work to editorial@thehockeynews.com. We’ll share our favorite reader redesigns at the conclusion of our logo rollout after next week.

All logos from Chris Creamer’s website.

HISTORY OF THE DUCKS LOGO
In 1993, the Ducks were mighty. Literally. Originally called the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (or Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), the Disney-owned team leveraged the popularity of their hit hockey movie and used the logo for the NHL team. The Mighty Ducks movie introduced “The Flying V” and the Knucklepuck, but this team took the cartoony name and logo to the big leagues.

Overall, I’m not a fan of cartoon logos. I like a crisp bare-bones look that has sharp colors, preferably a combination not used by many other teams. Though the first Ducks logo was certainly cartoonish, the colors really stand out from the pack. And, hey, it gave us this most incredible (awful?) jersey that will always be a part of NHL history. You know what? This is the best logo the Ducks have ever used. And if they’re not going to use this logo anymore, at least stick with the green!

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

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Should these five aging NHL veterans hang in there or hang ‘em up?

Daniel Alfredsson (Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

As we approach late summer, a handful of older NHL veterans remain unsigned. And that begs the question: are they not listening to Father Time telling them they’re due to retire, or are they right to hold out in the hope a job opens up for them? Let’s take a look at five such players and offer an opinion on whether they should hang in there or hang ‘em up:

Saku Koivu, C: At age 39, Koivu had 11 goals and 29 points for Anaheim last season. His Corsi-for number has fallen steadily since 2012 and his ice time has been reduced by an average of more than three minutes a game (to just 15:02 last year) since 2011-12, but remember, he’s been on a deep Ducks team that didn’t need to rely on him. In the right environment – in other words, on a playoff-bound franchise – he can provide help down the middle and on faceoffs. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there

Martin Brodeur, G: Nobody questions why Brodeur wants to continue playing. When you’ve accomplished as much as he has and is considered one of the greatest goaltenders in hockey history, it’s only natural you’d want to stick around for as long as possible. But anyone who’s seen the decline in his game in recent years wouldn’t hold it against him if he retired. The lack of interest in him as a starter is telling. If the 42-year-old is willing to play a backup role on a contender, he might have a little bit left in the tank. If not, the writing is on the wall. Hang in there or hang ‘em up? Hang in there as a backup; hang ‘em up as a starter. Read more

Would you pay Teemu Selanne $5 million to just play home games?

Ryan Kennedy
Teemu-Selanne-DD

Finland’s Jokerit club is embarking on a brave new adventure in 2014-15, leaving the Nordic nation’s Liiga in favor of the Russian-based KHL. It’s an odd fit, considering the origins of the Molotov cocktail, but the Helsinki squad is going for it. And according to some Finnish authorities, Jokerit is trying to lure icon Teemu Selanne back into the fold more than two decades after he left for Winnipeg.

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