NHL coaching is now about relationships as much as it is Xs-and-Os

Adam Proteau
Evgeni Malkin (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

New Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Johnston traveled to Russia this weekend to talk with star center Evgeni Malkin about the team’s new direction in the wake of sweeping change to management and the playing roster. The trip is a must for Johnston, because, now more than ever before, relationships can mean the difference between coaches winning and losing at hockey’s highest levels.

The days of autocrat bench bosses barking orders at their charges are long-gone. Just ask the short-gone John Tortorella and his former employers in Vancouver who can’t do enough to distance themselves from that awful experiment. The Canucks replaced Tortorella with Willie Desjardins, an affable, considerate man who paid his dues in the hockey world, but who also has a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in social work. Desjardins may not succeed in his new gig, but his well-rounded background will serve as the template for NHL coaches in the years to come.

Seeing the continued evolution of the coaching profession brings to mind something former Leafs executive Dave Poulin told THN a few years back: he believed the label “coach” didn’t accurately describe what the men who served in the role did every day. He thought baseball had it right in calling their coaches “managers”, because so much of the average NHL coach’s job today is about managing: managing on-ice strategic adjustments – in-game and game-to-game – and, more importantly, managing the personalities of players as they attempt to form a cohesive unit. Read more

Ryan Kennedy’s Top 10 2015 NHL draft prospects

Ryan Kennedy
Connor McDavid (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The 2015 draft has been hyped for quite some time now and the crazy thing is, the season hasn’t even started yet.

Potentially franchise-changing names lie at the top with Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin, but it’s also shaping up to be a deep draft.

Here’s a look at 10 players to watch for, but also keep in mind University of Michigan commit Zach Werenski, Chicoutimi’s Nicolas Roy and Ottawa’s Travis Konecny.

1. CONNOR MCDAVID
C, 6-0, 185 LBS, Erie (OHL), 56-28-71-99-20
Can create offense within the blink of an eye. Has been a phenom for years already.

2. JACK EICHEL
C, 6-1, 191 LBS, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 53-38-49-87-28
Big, fast and talented, the Boston University commit will keep McDavid on his toes.

3. NOAH HANIFIN
D, 6-2, 201 LBS, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 45-8-24-32-34
All-around force would be No. 1 in most draft years. Quebec or Boston College next.

4. OLIVER KYLINGTON
D, 6-0, 174 LBS, Farjestad (Swe.), 32-2-4-6-6
Incredibly fast skater was too valuable to send to under-18s. Farjestad needed him in playoffs.

5. MATT BARZAL
C, 5-11, 171 LBS, Seattle (WHL), 59-14-40-54-20
Brilliant playmaker skates well and made an impact for Canada at the under-18s.

6. PAVEL ZACHA
LW, 6-3, 201 LBS, Liberec (Cze.), 38-4-4-8-10
Incredibly, played most of the season against men. Power forward can wire the puck, too.

7. COLIN WHITE
C, 6-0, 179 LBS, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 47-33-30-63-81
Boston College commit is a complete player and leader who can really motor.

8. DYLAN STROME
C, 6-2, 178 LBS, Erie (OHL), 60-10-29-39-11
Great frame, excellent hockey IQ. He’ll produce even more once older Otters move on.

9. KYLE CONNOR
C, 6-1, 170 LBS, Youngstown (USHL), 56-31-43-74-12
Michigan commit is a preternatural scorer. Ranked second in league. Dazzled at under-18s.

10. DANIEL SPRONG
RW, 5-10, 177 LBS, Charlottetown (QMJHL), 67-30-38-68-20
Potent shot, strong on his skates and whip-smart. Sprong was a force for the Islanders.

FAVORITE FOR 2016: It’s not easy to fly under the radar when you play for Team USA’s National Team Development Program, but an early season injury had some folks missing out on Auston Matthews. Luckily, he did his best to jog their memories by putting a big stamp on 2013-14 at the world under-18s.

The Arizona native rang up seven points in seven games en route to the gold medal. Only Jack Eichel and Sonny Milano beat him among Americans. And Matthews did it from the third line.

“He’s unbelievable,” said one scout. “Smooth skating, incredibly skilled two-way guy. You notice him every time he’s on the ice.”

A late-born 1997, Matthews is one of the few major NTDPers yet to make a college commitment, making him a hot commodity coming out of his star turn in Finland.

TOP STUD IN 2017: Famous bloodlines continue to dot the prospect map and one name to watch for is big right winger Nolan Patrick of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.The nephew of former NHLer-turned-coach James Patrick, Nolan is already 6-foot-3, even though he doesn’t turn 16 until September. He was taken fourth overall in the 2013 bantam draft. He has already played 12 games (including the playoffs) for the Wheaties and prides himself on playmaking.

“I have pretty good vision out there,” he said. “I try to use that to my advantage.”

And when he needs advice, Uncle James is always available.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a phone call that wasn’t about hockey,” Nolan said.

Dominic Moore’s charity event for wife & brother a “smashing” success

The Hockey News
Moore & Seguin (courtesy of NHLPA

By Matt Cosman

Players put down the sticks and picked up the paddles Thursday, as host Dominic Moore and a handful of other NHLers came together for a night of ping-pong at Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto to raise money and awareness for two causes that have greatly affected Moore’s life.

This year’s Smashfest raised $140,000 for concussions and cancer research. That’s in addition to the $100,000 raised at last year’s event.

“Rare cancers are definitely underrepresented in terms of funding,” said Moore. “And concussions – there’s so much room to go in terms of understanding how they work, and treatments and awareness.”

Fans had the opportunity to interact with players, while some were lucky enough to play alongside an NHLer in the doubles tournament.

Money raised goes toward The Katie Moore Foundation for rare cancers and The Steve Moore Foundation, dedicated to Dominic’s brother Steve, who suffered a career-ending concussion in March 2004. Dominic’s wife, Katie, passed away last year from a rare form of liver cancer. Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 21: Toronto Maple Leafs

Matt Larkin
MapleLeafsMain

Sacred cow, meet slaughterhouse.

How dare we slot an Original Six team 21st overall in our logo rankings? A healthy faction of Leaf haters will stand up and cheer at this decision. Those who bleed blue and white, however, have likely fallen off their chairs already.

The easiest way to understand our logic: the voting process awarded more weight to aesthetics than to anything else. “But it’s so OLD!” is not a strong enough defense. Cultural significance and understated classiness are desirable qualities, but how good does the emblem actually look? Toronto’s simplistic design fails the eye test in its modern form. it earns points for its iconography – what’s more Canadian than a Maple Leaf? – but it’s rigid, almost too symmetrical, creating a coldness that robs it of its classic feel. The leaf on Canada’s flag looks more like an actual leaf. Toronto’s earlier logos, which often featured “veiny” leaves (leafs? ugh), were warmer, more organic, and far more pleasing to the eye.

Also, covering the symbol in big, blocky writing robs it of its romanticism. There’s no danger of mistaking you for another team, Toronto. A leaf like the one adorning center ice at Maple Leaf Gardens would be far prettier.

Are you brave enough to carve up the famous Maple Leaf logo and design a new one for Toronto? Send your best work to editorial@thehockeynews.com. At the end of our ranking process, we’ll publish our favorite submission for every team. If you enjoy drawing Toronto’s, keep the fun going and try one for all 30 NHL teams.

(All logos below are from Chris Creamer’s website.)

HISTORY OF THE MAPLE LEAFS LOGO

The Leafs weren’t always the Leafs, of course. They began as the Torontos, a.k.a. the Blueshirts, a.k.a. The Arenas in their early NHL days from 1917-1919. The crest was as simple as it gets, but featured an elegant shield and the blue and white we’ve come to know so well.

 

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NHL 15 promises dangles galore with Superstar Skill Stick

Matt Larkin
NHL 15

If you’re a hardcore fan of EA Sports’ NHL video game series, you remember the transition from button deking to joystick deking vividly. It was like taking the training wheels off. It felt weird and wobbly at first, but once you got the hang of it, there was nothing holding you back anymore.

The Skill Stick, popularized in NHL 07, turned the right analog portion of a controller into your hockey stick, with the left analog functioning as your body. You could deke and improvise like never before. You could shame your friends by undressing their goalies on breakaways and there was a new degree of “ownership” to your goals, as they reflected your ability to maneuver the stick.

Flash forward to the upcoming NHL 15, which launches on PlayStation 4 and XBox One Sept. 9 (Xbox 360 and PS3 as well, but the hype is all about how the game will look in a new generation of consoles). Early footage of the game suggests new leaps in graphics, facial detail, hitting and general gameplay. The latest teaser trailer unveils the Superstar Skill Stick, which takes dangling to a whole new level. Check it out:

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New deal for Lars Eller is another reasonable gamble by Habs GM Marc Bergevin

Adam Proteau
Lars Eller (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Canadiens locked up center Lars Eller to a four-year, $14-million contract extension Thursday, avoiding a Friday arbitration date that could’ve poisoned the waters between the team and the 25-year-old center. It’s not a bargain signing at this stage in Eller’s career, but it’s another one of GM Marc Bergevin’s reasonable gambles.

Eller’s $3.5 annual average value is a massive raise on the $1.325-million he earned in each of the previous two seasons – and far more than the $1.65 million salary the Habs suggested he receive prior to the arbitration meeting – but Bergevin had to do it if he was going to buy the first two years of unrestricted free agency away from Eller. Bergevin has given Eller the same contract he gave to Montreal center David Desharnais last summer and is clearly projecting bigger and better things for the Danish native, who struggled during the regular season (12 goals and 26 points in 77 games) but was a solid contributor for the Canadiens in the playoffs, finishing second in points (13) behind P.K. Subban.

Once again, an NHL team has shown arbitration is a true last resort. It would’ve been more financially prudent to put Eller through an emotional wringer and come away with a smaller salary for him, but the damage it would’ve inflicted on his psyche wouldn’t be worth it. Now they have a happy player determined to atone for his poor regular season – and if he doesn’t fit into their long-term plans, the contract isn’t outrageous enough for him to be untradeable. Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 22: Ottawa Senators

Matt Larkin
SensMain

The Ottawa Senators check in at No. 22 in THN’s logo rankings. This franchise has never fielded a truly winning crest, and maybe the name deserves the blame. When you’re called the Senators, your logo is doomed to be boring or innaccurate – or both.

The original logo of the modern (1990s-born) Senators was about as exciting as a stack of Premium Plus crackers, which is what you’d expect for a team called the Senators. The latest incarnation mostly elicits guffaws in the THN office. We can’t take the character seriously. Maybe it’s the fact he’s dressed in battle gear like a Spartan or, more accurately, a Roman soldier, when his government title is Senator. If we subscribe to the idea of a general from the Roman senate, as the franchise originally described this logo, the armor isn’t what most Senators wore in ancient Rome. This is. And it would’ve been awfully tough to win wars or hockey games wearing that. Also, nothing about the logo connects to the Canadian, Ottawa-based idea of a senator in the Canadian Parliament.

The disconnect between team name and image puts the Ottawa logo at an immediate disadvantage. Also not helping: the cartoony look. It’s almost too detailed, too comic booky, to place on a hockey sweater. The poor, overly serious fella attracts teasing. You want to swipe the helmet off his head and run circles around him until he complains you’ll get him in trouble with his manager at the Caesar’s Palace casino.

Think you can improve on the Senators design? Submit your artwork to editorial@thehockeynews.com. When we complete our logo rankings, we’ll share our favorite redesigns from readers. You can submit a drawing for all 30 NHL logos if you desire.

(All logos below are from Chris Creamer’s website.)

HISTORY OF THE SENATORS LOGO

The Ottawa Senators existed as a franchise in the late 1800s and lasted a few decades before folding, but they aren’t technically the same franchise as today’s version.

The “new” Ottawa Senators were founded in 1990, and a pre-launch logo popped up on T-shirts and hoodies all over the city by 1991. It was accurate, with the two Ts forming a representation of the Peace Tower. But it wasn’t pretty. Think for a moment how plain and ugly the logo is… then stop and realize what the Washington Capitals have gotten away with for years.

 

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NHL defenseman Cory Sarich seriously injured in B.C. cycling accident

The Canadian Press
Cory Sarich (Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Free-agent NHL defenseman Cory Sarich is recovering in a Calgary hospital after a cycling accident this week.

His agent, Tim Hodgson, released a statement Wednesday saying that Sarich was airlifted to the hospital after being hit by a motor vehicle in Invermere, British Columbia. The release said the extent of Sarich’s injuries isn’t known, but were not considered life-threatening. He remains in stable condition.

The 35-year-old Sarich said it’s been “a rough couple of days and I’m grateful for the support I’ve been receiving.” There’s no timeline for his recovery. Read more