Wideman, Babcock highlight need for more powerful concussion spotters

Ken Campbell
Justin Abdelkader and Zach Bogosian (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)

If nothing else, Dennis Wideman and Mike Babcock have proved that the NHL’s protocol desperately needs to be equipped with more teeth than it now has. Well, they haven’t specifically, but the contingencies they represent have made things crystal clear.

One is a member of the NHL playing fraternity; the other is one of the 30 men who coach the best players in the world. And as it turns out, neither can be trusted to put the player’s long-term well-being ahead of winning when it comes to injuries that could lead to concussions.

Read more

Blue Jackets coach Tortorella taken to hospital after collision in practice

Jared Clinton
John Tortorella (via Lori Schmidt/Twitter)

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Columbus Blue Jackets were cursed. The morning after potentially losing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to yet another groin injury, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was knocked down following hard collision with winger Rene Bourque and went to hospital for precautionary reasons.

The collision occurred during practice at the Blue Jackets’ Winter Park, an outdoor rink across from Columbus’ Nationwide Arena. According to The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline and Shawn Mitchell, Tortorella suffered an apparent back injury after Bourque, who was skating up ice, got a piece of Tortorella and sent him falling to the ice. Bourque said the collision happened in large part because he “hit a rut” in the ice.

Tortorella, 57, was able to leave the ice under his own power and headed back into the arena with Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who later said that Tortorella had been transported to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons. Read more

Blues coach Hitchcock doing great work, but future likely relies on playoff success

Jared Clinton
Ken Hitchcock (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock won’t win the Jack Adams Award this season. The Florida Panthers’ 12-game winning streak and likely post-season appearance has made Gerard Gallant the early frontrunner for the award, while Barry Trotz’s outstanding Washington Capitals have put him in the conversation and Lindy Ruff has earned a spot in the conversation for turning the high-flying Dallas Stars into division leaders.

So, all that considered, there’s really not much chance Hitchcock earns himself a second Jack Adams in St. Louis. That’s all right, really, because Gallant, Trotz and Ruff would all be deserving of the award, as would a few other bench bosses in the league. But it’s hard not to be impressed with the work Hitchcock has done this season, especially because there may not be a single coach in the league who has had to deal with as much pressure — and as many tough breaks — as Hitchcock this season. Read more

Blackhawks’ Quenneville inks three-year extension as he eyes second all-time in wins

Jared Clinton
Joel Quenneville (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is one win away from tying Al Arbour as the second-winningest coach in NHL history and could record his 782nd win Tuesday against the Nashville Predators. If that wasn’t enough to excite Quenneville Tuesday, he also inked a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Chicago until the 2019-20 season.

“We’ve got a great situation going here,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said of the extension. “We’re fortunate to have Joel on board and he’s been a huge part of what we’ve accomplished as a group. There’s no one you’d want behind the bench more than Joel.”

No financial terms of the deal have been released, but Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported Quenneville will get a raise in salary for the final year of his current deal, and the three-year extension is “in ballpark of $18 million” over the span of the contract. Read more

Big, strong Russians put the boots to Team USA

The Russians celebrate against Team USA  (Photo by Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – In a classic Cold War battle, the Russians had the better strategy, beating Team USA 2-1 in a grinding war on ice. The Americans’ top line of Auston Matthews, Colin White and Matthew Tkachuk was held off the scoreboard, despite an inordinate amount of ice time given to them by coach Ron Wilson. And while Tkachuk, a top prospect for the 2016 draft, hit a crossbar and came close on several other great chances, the crease in front of goalie and Washington Capitals prospect Ilya Samsonov was largely a no-go zone for Americans.

Read more

Jeff Blashill on replacing a rock star: “I believe I belong here”

Ken Campbell
Jeff Blashill (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

DETROIT – Jeff Blashill’s office at the Joe Louis Arena is spartanly decorated, but it’s interesting to note that on the shelf directly behind where he sits, there are pictures of Vince Lombardi and Abraham Lincoln. The former reminds Blashill what it takes to win, the latter reminds him of the importance of perseverance. But if you want to know what really makes Blashill tick, he suggests you read Desiderata, a poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann. The poem provides a guide for living well and includes the following passage:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Read more

Boudreau calls out ‘best players’ as Ducks continue to struggle

Jared Clinton
Ryan Getzlaf (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It was believed the Anaheim Ducks would turn their season around at any point in the past month. It was expected in November after their October struggles, and it was believed that, after a rocky November, December would be the month the Ducks really turned it on.

Instead, Anaheim remains in the NHL’s basement with an 11-14-5 record through 30 games and have lost six of their past 10 contests. They sit in 28th place in the league, but are tied in points with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets for the honor of least points in the league. Worst of all, the Ducks offense hasn’t just been missing, it’s been near non-existent to a befuddling extent.

Through 30 games, the Ducks have 56 goals. The next closest teams, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, each have 68. Anaheim has the third-worst goal differential at minus-20. And with struggles like this, coach Bruce Boudreau has seen just about enough. Following Thursday’s game — a 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres — Boudreau voiced his displeasure with the team. Read more

Mike Johnston firing: did Pittsburgh hire the wrong Portland coach?

Ryan Kennedy
Travis Green (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The Mike Johnston era came to an end on the weekend, as Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford dismissed the coach after less than a season and a half of duty behind the Penguins bench. During his tenure, Johnston got Pittsburgh to the playoffs and had them in within striking distance to return this season, but a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury cannot simply vie for a spot in the post-season – it should be contending for the Stanley Cup.

This was not the case during Johnston’s run and while a lot of the blame is to be shouldered by Rutherford (the Simon Despres trade, so far the Phil Kessel trade, etc.), there’s no reason a team with as much talent as Pittsburgh should have one of the worst power plays in the NHL (they currently rank 27th overall) and struggle to score.

So yeah, the hiring was a bust. Perhaps the Penguins didn’t do their research deeply enough: Johnston made his name with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, but there is more to that story than what you’d glean from skimming the surface.

Read more