San Jose’s Roy Sommer becomes winningest coach in AHL history

Jared Clinton
Roy Sommer

Roy Sommer’s AHL coaching career spans 18 seasons and Wednesday night in San Jose, the longtime Sharks AHL bench boss became the league’s all-time winningest coach.

When Sommer’s San Jose Barracuda defeated the Ontario Reign 4-2 Wednesday, Sommer, 58, picked up the 637th win of his career, surpassing Fred ‘Bun’ Cook’s record 636 wins. Cook, who spent 19 seasons as an AHL coach, finished his coaching career in 1956 and his wins record has stood since then.

Cook’s mark of 636 games has stood for 60 years, but he’s held the all-time coaching wins record for 72 years. He moved into first place with his 153rd victory on Nov. 13, 1943, according to the AHL. While Sommer completed the feat in fewer seasons than Cook did, Sommer has coached 217 more games than Cook did due to an increased schedule and larger league size. Read more

Prospect Need to Know: Max Lajoie has stepped up in Swift Current

Max Lajoie (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Boston College won its 20th Beanpot tournament in 64 years last night, with Minnesota prospect Alex Tuch firing a seeing-eye shot in overtime for the only goal in a 1-0 overtime win over archrival Boston University. On the international scene, two Five Nations tournaments kick off this week – Finland hosts the under-18s and the U.S. hosts the under-17s. Needless to say, these will be marquee events and a lot of good evaluations will come from there. Here’s a look at some of the other kids making noise in the prospect world right now:

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Three up, three down: Rangers improving puck possession numbers make them contenders

New York Rangers  (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the end of the all-star break, the NHL season has reached it’s unofficial halfway point, making a great time to look at which teams have been hot (or not). Most people would take that to mean who got the most points during January, but with the NHL’s new numbers movement we can dig a little deeper than that. What’s more interesting to me is which teams actively improved (or degraded) their game regardless of results and identifying which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction.

Most people generally use shot rates to measure that as they’re good indications of a teams true talent level. They do fluctuate a bit throughout the year and that movement is worth keeping an eye on. That’s what this trend report is all about because how a team is playing lately is usually a good indication of what’s to come in the future.

With that being said, here are three teams that are going in the right direction, and three teams that are trending the other way.

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Sharks’ AHL coach ties wins record

Daniel Nugent-Bowman
Roy Sommer

Fred ‘Bun’ Cook has some company atop the AHL’s coaching wins list.

Roy Sommer tied Cook with 636 career AHL victories when his San Jose Barracuda defeated the San Antonio Rampage 4-3 on Saturday.

Sommer, a former minor-league center, is in his 18th season as an AHL bench boss. All have been spent with the San Jose Sharks organization, who hired him on May 28, 1998. He previously led the Kentucky Thoroughblades, Cleveland Barons and Worcester Sharks before the team moved to San Jose in time for the 2015-16 season.

Sommer needed 1,385 games to tie Cook, who required 1,171 to reach the same win total.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” Sommer, 58, told Sports Illustrated days before tying the record. “You know, I was talking to my wife about it. She said someone tweeted ‘he’s got the most losses, too.’ But when you look at it, Babe Ruth had seven hundred-something home runs and 1,400 strikeouts. When you put it in perspective, it’s hard to win games. To win 636 of them, you have to look at it as if it’s pretty good.”

Sommer can pass Cook on Friday when the Barracuda take on the Ontario Reign, affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Former Atlanta Thrashers coach John Anderson is next on the active list with 412 wins, putting him fifth overall. Anderson runs the bench of the Chicago Wolves, whose NHL parent club is the St. Louis Blues.

Canadiens’ Subban and Sharks’ Burns display breakaway flair

Brent Burns (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The breakaway challenge at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition was designed to get players to show off some personality, have a little fun and display some niffy moves.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, San Jose Sharks blueliner Brent Burns, Nashville Predators left winger James Neal and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene got the memo.

Subban won the fan-driven Twitter vote after he put on a No. 68 Florida Panthers jersey, a long-flowing mullet-esque wig and an old-school Jofa helmet. He completed his homage to future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr by giving the Jagr salute after he tucked a chance by Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

His first attempt wasn’t too shabby either as he bounced the puck on his stick, kicked the disc behind his back and eventually batted it towards Rinne.

Burns’ most hilarious attempt came after he put on a mask of Star Wars character Chewbacca – a reference to his unruly facial hair. Burns skated in, ripped a slapshot past New Jersey Devils netminder Cory Schneider and raised his arms much like Chewie.

Neal got a little help from country music star Dierks Bentley, an appropriate linemate since the event was in the Music City. Neal set up Bentley on a 2-on-0 rush.

For his part, Duchene probably had the prettiest try. He cradled the puck back and forth with one hand on his stick. He also scored with one hand on his stick, using a between-the-legs move.

Stars, Kings, Panthers headline best of 2014-15 non-playoff teams

Tyler Seguin rises to fourth in the rankings. (Getty Images)

The NHL All-Star weekend mostly gives players and teams a reprieve from the rigors of a long, tough season.

But as soon as it ends Sunday evening, it’s back to reality.

That signals crunch time, especially for teams that were on the outside of the playoff picture last April.

Each team has between 29 and 35 games remaining – those at the top of the standings are probably feeling pretty confident about a return to the post-season, while those on the outside know the margin for error is minute.

Here’s a quick look at the non-playoff teams from 2014-15 that have greater than a 50 percent chance making the dance, courtesy of sportsclubstats.com. It’s worth noting that the first four on this list are in the top six overall in terms of likelihood of making the playoffs.

Dallas Stars – 31-14-5, 99.8 percent
Led by the dynamic all-star duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, the Stars are near locks to continue playing after the regular season ends. While they’ve cooled off since winning 19 of their first 24 games by the end of November, they remain second in the Central Division. The Stars are three points behind Chicago, but with three games in hand. They are the league’s highest-scoring team with 160 goals for.

Los Angeles Kings – 30-16-3, 99.6 percent
The 2014 Stanley Cup champions were squeezed out of the playoffs last season, allowing the Calgary Flames to sneak in as the Pacific Division’s third season. They’re not taking any chances in 2015-16. Darryl Sutter’s crew has been the class of the division for the entire way. Backed by a league-high 56 percent Corsi, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Los Angeles holds a seven-point lead over second place San Jose.

Florida Panthers – 29-15-5, 99.1 percent
Only twice since the turn of the century has Florida reached the playoffs – in 2000 and 2012. Barring a massive late-season collapse, there will be one more appearance to add to that list. Buoyed by a recent 12-game winning streak, the Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division with a five-point lead on their intrastate rivals, the 2015 Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning.

San Jose Sharks – 26-18-4, 94.2 percent
The Sharks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003. That led to a coaching change. Peter DeBoer came in. Todd McLellan went out. The Sharks also have a new starting goaltender. They acquired Martin Jones in the hours before the NHL draft. The former Calgary Hitmen goalie is 23-13-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Boston Bruins – 26-18-5, 80.9 percent
Coach Claude Julien was said to be on the hot seat after the Bruins missed the playoffs last season. However, he survived and has guided Boston to the fourth seed in the Atlantic Division at the break. They’re holding down the first wild card position with a three-point advantage on Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

Colorado Avalanche – 27-22-3, 61.4 percent
Patrick Roy was the beneficiary of Semyon Varlamov’s .927 save percentage as well as some good luck when he had to pull him early in 2013-14. But the bubble burst and the Avalanche tumbled from first to last in the Central Division. Colorado won five of its final six games heading into the All-Star Game and sits fourth in the division. The first wild card spot is in the Avs’ possession, too.

In honor of Thornton and Luongo’s major achievements, five other milestones to watch for post-break

Jaromir Jagr (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo will both say the most important thing about Tuesday’s games were that their respective clubs picked up victories, but both veteran stars added to their Hall of Fame resumes.

In the Sharks’ victory over the Avalanche, Thornton extended his point streak to 10 games and racked up two assists in the 6-1 win. Thornton’s helpers were the 1,299th and 1,300th points of his career, as he moved became just the 33rd player in league history to reach the 1,300-point mark for their career.

As for Luongo, his milestone wasn’t as round as Thornton’s but it continued the Panthers netminder’s climb up the all-time ranks. The Panthers’ convincing 5-1 victory over the Maple Leafs gave Luongo 423 wins in his career, putting him into a tie for seventh-place all-time with longtime Chicago Blackhawks netminder Tony Esposito. He’s now 14 wins back of Jacques Plante and 24 wins away from reaching a tie for the top-five alongside Terry Sawchuk.

With the all-star break upon us, there’s not much time left in the season for others chasing down major career milestones: Read more

Suspend him or not: Sharks’ Brown hits Kings’ Doughty high

Jared Clinton
Mike Brown hits Drew Doughty (via Streamable)

San Jose Sharks winger Mike Brown doesn’t get much ice time, so when he does take a shift, he wants to make an impact. Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings, Brown saw his chance to make his mark on the Pacific Division leaders by throwing a big hit on all-star blueliner Drew Doughty. The problem with Brown’s hit, though, was that he may have come too high with his attempt and it could put him on the sidelines.

Brown’s hit on Doughty came in the third period of the Sharks’ Sunday tilt against the Kings, with San Jose leading 1-0. After a neutral zone faceoff, the puck was worked across to Doughty, who skated it through the neutral zone before flipping it into the Sharks’ zone. As Doughty was going to dump the puck, Brown, who was chasing the Kings defenseman, caught Doughty with a shoulder that caused his head to snap back: Read more