• It’s feast or famine – beat them or beat it – for NHL coaches these days

    Peter Laviolette (Getty Images)

    The coaching business in the NHL is about to get crazier thanks to the pending free agency of Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock, who almost assuredly will set a new record for a coach’s salary whether he stays in Detroit or moves on to a new place of employment. So, that has to mean better times are ahead for all coaches, right? A whole, “rising-tide-lifts-all-boats” thing, right?

    Not so fast. Because although Babcock’s pending spike in pay may very well result in higher salaries for more members of the coaching fraternity, there’s other forces at play here: the increasingly rapid turnover of coaches at the NHL level – and this year, the early success of most off-season coaching changes.

    There were six such changes in hockey’s best league this summer. Let’s take a brief look at how they’re working out: In Nashville, Peter Laviolette has the Predators off to a 5-0-2 start (including a big 3-2 win over Chicago Thursday) that makes them the last team in the league without a loss in regulation. In Washington, former Predators coach Barry Trotz has steered the Capitals to a strong showing out of the gate (just one loss in regulation in six games) and his relationship with star winger Alex Ovechkin is beginning on the right foot. In Pittsburgh, Mike Johnston is working with a significantly rejigged roster, but the Penguins have points in four of their first six games and should be fine. In Vancouver, Willie Desjardins has reinvigorated a Canucks squad that had been wholly deinvigorated under John Tortorella.

    Things aren’t working out that well for all the new coaches. Read more

  • Zdeno Chara’s knee injury puts major strain on Bruins’ already thinned-out defense corps

    Adam Proteau
    Zdeno Chara (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    (NOTE – This post has been updated twice. See below.)

    The Boston Bruins’ blueline took a salary cap-related hit prior to the season with the trading of veteran Johnny Boychuk – and it got another scare with potentially bigger ramifications Thursday when captain Zdeno Chara left the team’s game against the Islanders with an undisclosed injury. His final shift of the game ended with 8:12 remaining in the first period, and Bruins coach Claude Julien offered no update on his condition after Boston’s 3-2 loss to the Isles.

    On his last shift Thursday, Chara laid into Isles captain John Tavares with a solid check, but didn’t give any indication he was injured on the play: Read more

  • Corey Perry: a root canal at the DMV for opponents – and a worthy Hart candidate

    Adam Proteau
    Corey Perry (Getty Images)

    In posting two hat tricks already this season, Ducks right winger Corey Perry is reminding NHL fans the Hart Trophy-winning season he had in 2010-11 was not mere chance occurrence. He and center Ryan Getzlaf have already combined for 10 goals and 20 points, and having two consistent Hart Trophy candidates in the lineup is, of course, one of the key reasons (if not the key) to their team’s success.

    But what Perry has that sets him apart – what gave Anaheim one of the little extra edges it needed to win the Stanley Cup in 2007 – is the simple, unmistakable fact he’s fresh out of damns to give, and that includes giving a damn about having his supply of damns restocked. And at 29 years of age, he looks to be more dangerous than ever and primed to challenge his career-best 50-goal, 98-point, Rocket Richard-winning ’10-11 campaign. Read more

  • THN Analytics: Visualizing the Trade

    The Hockey News
    Boychuk, Okposo and Tavares

    By Benjamin Wendorf – special to THN

    Midseason trades are a bit of a curiosity in the NHL; they’re usually, at least on one side, expressions of immediate purpose – though intuitively both teams are getting someone they want. From a player’s perspective, it’s revolutionary, even if the results don’t show it: a new home, new fan base, new teammates.

    Analytically, a trade is an immediate sliding of variables for both teams, as all at once depth and deployment are affected. In the past, a player trade was often discussed as a matter of whether a player “catches on” with their new team, the idea being that when a player catches on, they score more points. Think of how successful the Minnesota Wild’s trade for Guillaume Latendresse looked in 2009-10, when he put up 37 points in 55 games, or Colorado’s 2010-11 acquisition of Tomas Fleischmann that yielded 21 points in 22 games. Read more

  • Can Nicklas Backstrom become the highest-scoring Swede of all-time?

    Ken Campbell
    Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Patrick Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Nicklas Backstrom quietly scored his 500th career point against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night.

    He did it quietly because Backstrom does everything quietly. That has something to do with the fact that he’s Swedish and, remarkably like almost all his countrymen, is singularly unimpressed with himself. It also has something to do with the fact that he plays alongside Alex Ovechkin, a larger-than-life figure who is comfortable in the spotlight. Backstrom is more than happy to allow Ovechkin to soak up all the adulation, and have to handle the pressure that comes with being an NHL superstar. Read more

  • Enraged Sudbury Wolves coach to reporter: “F— you!”

    Matt Larkin
    Sudbury Wolves coach Paul Fixter lost it on a reporter after his team's 10th straight loss.

    If you’re a football fan, you know the best coach tirades don’t always come from the professional ranks. Ask Mike Gundy. And while the likes of John Tortorella get the headlines in the NHL, major junior can provide us with gems, too.

    Tuesday night was a tough one for the Sudbury Wolves, who lost 7-2 to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyounds. The season has been nothing short of hellish for the Wolves, who are 1-10-0 and have lost 10 straight since winning their opener. They’ve been outscored 49-19.

    Coach Paul Fixter decided he was simply fed up while answering post-game questions from reporters. The first interviewer, CTV’s Lincoln Louttit, grinds his way through few awkward silences, trying to get Fixter’s thoughts on the obvious: that he’s frustrated with his team’s play. But the real fireworks start around the 0:55 mark when off-camera interviewer Peter Ruicci of the Sault Star questions the team’s work ethic:

    Read more

  • PK Subban’s Halloween costume is a Thriller

    Jared Clinton
    P.K. Subban (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

    In a lot of ways, PK Subban could remind you of a young Michael Jackson: they’re both incredible at what they do, they’re both almost unanimously loved, and they have similar dance moves.

    All right, fine, we can’t be sure about that last part, but chances are the young Canadiens defenseman at least busted out a few of his finest MJ impressions at the Habs Halloween bash, where the young superstar donned his finest Thriller attire: Read more