Wayne Gretzky has a career coaching record of 104-115-15. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Author: The Hockey News
Double OT: Gretzky bucks trend to become successful coach
By: Mike Brophy
Mar 12, 2008
The Great One is becoming a great coach.
While many predicted doom and gloom for Wayne Gretzky when he stepped in behind the bench of the Phoenix Coyotes – based largely on the fact very few star players in any pro sport have gone on to be successful coaches – Gretzky has fooled ’em all.
“The big thing is his ability to communicate; treating every individual differently,” says former Coyotes GM Michael Barnett, who was also Gretzky’s agent. “You have to be able to find their button and get them to respect you and want to play for you. He treats them with such respect that when Wayne defines their roles, they are very accepting of what he asks from them.
“Some of the players might not find their role particularly flattering, but they appreciate the way he treats them so they’ll go out and try to fulfill it.”
The Coyotes missed the playoffs in Gretzky’s first two years behind the bench, but that had as much to do with what he had to work with as it did the fact he was learning on the job. And even though they may miss again this year, there is no question Phoenix has become competitive and is a team to be reckoned with in the very near future.
Gretzky, who, along with Stars co-GM Brett Hull, is featured in the cover story in the March 25 issue of The Hockey News, admits one of the biggest hurdles is coming to the realization that, as the coach, you can only do so much.
In a league where good defense leads to success, the game’s most dominant offensive player of all-time has had to learn how to delegate responsibility and how to make his players understand the importance of playing strong at both ends of the rink.
And make no mistake about it, Gretzky makes his players accountable for their defensive play.
“He starts a lot of his instructions with, ‘I don’t know too much about defense, but what I do know is…,’ ” says Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris. “And it sounds really funny coming from him. He is one of those guys who watches video, really understands the game and what role a player should play.
“He doesn’t expect me to go out and score 50 goals, for instance. He expects our players to do what they have to do and to use their ability. He expects checkers to check and scorers to score. On defense he wants us to play hard and he wants the forwards to come back hard to help the D.”
Gretzky told The Hockey News he is in coaching for the long run and the more he does it, the more he likes it.
“It’s a hard job, but it’s a fun job,” Gretzky says. “It is the same as being a player. I have said over the years, for whatever reason the good Lord blessed me and I know that. But the other side is, I wasn’t the fastest player; I wasn’t the biggest player and I wasn’t the strongest player. I prepared hard for every game. I prepared hard for every team and every player I ever played against.
“I wasn’t the prototypical natural hockey player. I used to say, ‘Gosh, I wish I had that guy’s speed or that guy’s size.’ I had to prepare and work hard every night. As a coach I understand that. As a coach I am harder on the likes of Derek Morris or Shane Doan or Ed Jovanovski because if I can show the other players those guys can be better then it goes a long way in our locker room.”
Think there’s enough room on the Stanley Cup for coach Gretzky’s name? Yeah, we do to.
Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.
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Rumor Roundup: Goaltending decisions loom for Penguins, Red Wings and Lightning
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 17, 2016
The Penguins and Red Wings have capable goaltending duos, but the younger goaltenders are ready to take over for their veteran counterparts. Meanwhile, the Lightning have to decide how to proceed with free agent-to-be Ben Bishop.
Prior to the NHL Draft in late-June, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the subject of considerable trade speculation. Having lost the starter's job to Matt Murray in the playoffs, reports claimed the long-time Penguins netminder could hit the trade block. At one point, the 31-year-old was linked to the Calgary Flames.
The Flames, however, opted to acquire the more-affordable Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the draft. Over the course of the summer, Fleury's name largely faded from the rumor mill. However, Murray's rise to prominence and the fact the Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June's expansion draft will ensure Fleury's future remains a topic of interest in this season's trade market.
TSN's Bob McKenzie doesn't expect Penguins management will attempt to move Fleury before the start of the season. He feels they'll want more time, perhaps even up to the trade deadline (Feb. 28) to see how their goaltending shakes out.
Players carrying no-movement clauses must be protected in the expansion draft, unless they're willing to waive it. The Penguins are unlikely to leave the promising young Murray available, as he would be certain to be scooped up by the Las Vegas franchise. The preferable option is trading Fleury to a team of his choosing.
The Detroit Red Wings could also face a choice between two goalies in 2016-17. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will once again be their goalie tandem. The Wings have nearly $9.3 million invested in the duo, who struggled with inconsistency in 2015-16.
Howard, 32, was the subject of trade conjecture this summer. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports the Wings explored trading the veteran netminder, but his contract (three years remaining) and cap hit ($5.29-million AAV) proved difficult to move.
St. James expects the Wings will stick with their current goaltenders this season and perhaps leave Howard exposed in next June's expansion draft. If Howard shows improvement, it could also improve their efforts to trade him.
Sidelined forward Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million) will start the season on long-term injured reserve, providing Yzerman with some short-term cap relief. However, the Bolts GM be forced to clear some payroll before Callahan returns in late-November.
Bishop carries a $5.9-million cap hit for this season. He's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. With promising Andrei Vasilevskiy signed through 2019-20 and the high cost of re-signing the 29-year-old Bishop, he seems the likely trade candidate.
However, Yzerman has also suggested he could keep his goalie tandem intact for the coming season, as it could improve the Lightning's Stanley Cup chances. Smith also mentioned center Valtteri Filppula ($5-million cap hit, no-movement clause) and defenseman Jason Garrison ($4.6 million, no-trade clause) as other trade options.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
With the return of Carey Price in goal, and an improving forward group led by Alex Galchenyuk and the addition of Alexander Radulov, the Canadiens should make it back to the playoffs.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the Montreal Canadiens.
THN's Prediction: 3rd in Atlantic
Stanley Cup odds: 22-1
Key additions: Shea Weber, D; Andrew Shaw, LW; Alexander Radulov, RW; Al Montoya, G; Mikhail Sergachev, D
Key departures: P.K. Subban, D; Lars Eller, C; Tom Gilbert, D; Victor Bartley, D; Ben Scrivens, G
-Is Alex Galchenyuk a No. 1 center? Sweet lord, yes. It took the Habs long enough to figure out, but they got there eventually. Galchenyuk was one of the few bright spots in last year’s cratering, and a combination of skill and vision led the youngster to his first 30-goal NHL campaign. Galchenyuk still needs to improve on his faceoffs, but with a win percentage of 47.9 percent last season, he’s not that far off the mark. Should coach Michel Therrien attempt to claw back Galchenyuk’s development, the Habs would regress to being a team with three second-line centers, and that’s just not going to cut it.
-Will the Habs regret the Subban-Weber trade? Maybe not immediately, but eventually they will. Weber is older and appears to be declining in effectiveness. He’ll still be a No. 1 defenseman short term, but there will be diminishing returns from there. Plus, trading the charismatic Subban did nothing to change the image of the Canadiens as a cold, personality-killing franchise. In the meantime, enjoy Weber’s bomb point shots and surly corner work, Habs fans.
-What kind of impact can Alexander Radulov have? Based on his reputation, Radulov is probably a little underhyped right now. The mystifying veteran says he has matured since his curfew antics got him benched in Nashville a few years ago, and his numbers in the KHL haven’t tailed off one bit. At 30, he’s no youngster, but he knows how to put the puck in the net and how to operate on the NHL’s smaller ice surface, so there won’t be much of an adjustment period – assuming he stays in line discipline-wise.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Montreal Canadiens looked like the best team in hockey last October. Then Carey Price went down and suddenly they weren’t. They were a train-wreck, and it proved every doubter of the previous season right; the team was nothing without Price.
What was interesting though was that their underlying numbers were actually decent despite the tumble. The team got incredibly awful goaltending that consistently held them back, but the team in front wasn’t playing that bad, they just weren’t getting the results.
This year they’ve got Price back and that alone adds about seven points back to this team putting them right back into the playoff mix. They’ve still got two stars up front, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, a lethal duo that rivals almost any in the league.
The latter may not seem like a star-calibre player, but he’s been quietly putting up elite numbers for the Habs the last few seasons. He’s bred from the same cloth as super-pest Brad Marchand, who finally got noticed last season for the actual talent he has. Expect Gallagher to have a similar breakout this year into the public conscious.
The team made two big additions up front that should provide a spark to the rest of the forward group. Andrew Shaw is a moderate upgrade over Lars Eller and the addition of Alexander Radulov provides a big boost to the top six (if his talent translates well to the NHL and meshes with the team that is). Montreal actually has a decent ensemble of talent at forward, especially if Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto can get a bigger role.
The back-end on the other hand is mostly unremarkable and the big trade didn’t help. P.K. Subban is an all-world D-man in his prime while Shea Weber is a former all-world D-man no longer in his prime. He’s still good, but he’s lost a step over the past few seasons and isn’t the same player he once was. His influence on shot attempts continues to decrease and while he’s usually been good at getting the most out of those attempts, even his goals percentage is trending down.
The trade was a large misstep, especially with the age discrepancies, but Montreal definitely still has the talent to compete right now. They’ve got a very good shot at making it back to the playoffs this season, although if Price gets injured again or Weber declines any further that obviously changes.
Rumor Roundup: How the Blues can get Rick Nash from the Rangers
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 21, 2016
If the Rangers and Blues are still interested in a Nash-for-Shattenkirk trade, the Blues may have found a way to fit Nash's salary on to their books.
A contract dispute with the St. Louis Blues led center Vladimir Sobotka to spend the past two seasons playing in Russia. The 29-year-old reportedly intends to use his out-clause with KHL team Avangard Omsk to return to the Blues in 2016-17
Those plans, however, apparently hit a snag. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Avangard Omsk seeks a fee from Sobotka which he's yet to pay. His agent, Petr Svoboda, is still negotiating his release.
If Sobotka is unable to return to the Blues this season, Rutherford's colleague Jeff Gordon suggests the Blues use the savings to offset some of the cost of acquiring winger Rick Nash and his $7.8 million salary-cap hit from the New York Rangers. Gordon cites the Rangers rumored interest in Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who's an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The “Shattenkirk-for-Nash” rumor isn't anything new, frequently surfacing over the course of the summer. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong reportedly shopped the 27-year-old blueliner in late-June but didn't find any suitable offers. TSN's Darren Dreger still believes Shattenkirk is a trade target, but doesn't believe it's a “front-burner” issue right now.
For now, Armstrong appears intent on keeping Stattenkirk for the start of the season. Whether the puck-moving rearguard is moved depends upon the Blues roster needs over the course of this campaign and their position in the standings before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
If Shattenkirk hits the trade block, there will be considerable interest in his services. Along with the Rangers, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils could be among the suitors.
While Shattenkirk lacks a no-trade clause, his UFA status at season's end is a stumbling block. Rutherford claims interested clubs want to know if he'll agree to a contract extension before pursuing a trade. He said Shattenkirk's unwillingness to sign an extension with the Edmonton Oilers killed a possible deal that would've shipped left winger Taylor Hall to St. Louis. The Oilers instead dealt Hall to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.
OILERS HAVE INTEREST IN KRIS RUSSELL
The status of unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell is attracting interest in the rumor mill. The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites a TSN report claiming the Edmonton Oilers were discussing a short-term contract with the 29-year-old rearguard.
TSN's Bob McKenzie believes Russell could be a decent short-term fit with the Oilers, who still need experienced depth among their top-four blueliners. Earlier this summer, the shot-blocking specialist reportedly sought a five-year deal. McKenzie believes he'll accept a one-year contract, perhaps seeking between $4-$5 million.
The Oilers aren't the only club the Russell camp have spoken with in recent weeks. McKenzie claims they've talked to as many as eight NHL teams. It's rumored the Calgary Flames, who dealt Russell to the Dallas Stars at last season's trade deadline, would like to bring him back. However, they've also got to re-sign restricted free agent star winger Johnny Gaudreau.
It could cost around $7 million per season to get Gaudreau under contract. With $7.9 million in cap space, that won't leave much room for the Flames to pursue Russell unless they make a cost-cutting deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.