“There were moments of clarity for me in speaking with Jim that we just really connected on a hockey level,” said Linden. “Our beliefs on how success is built in the National Hockey League were very aligned.”
The Canucks enter the off-season with two UFAs and five RFAs off the NHL roster and about $11.7 million in cap space. But more than that, they have an indentity crisis to fix. After a miserable failure of a season under John Tortorella, can they somehow recover to former glory? Who will be the next coach?
The good thing for the Canucks is that Benning will start right away. The Bruins hadn’t made clear if they would give up Benning for the draft, but Linden mentioned they would have their new GM for the June 27-28 event.
“Jim recognizes that there’s a lot of work to do and I think we’ve got some big decisions to make heading into the draft and certainly the summer,” Linden said. “We’re going to get to work on that, obviously the combine is next week and the great thing about this situation is Jim is able to start immediately with us, so he’ll be in Toronto for the combine with us.”
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
Jack Capuano couldn’t turn things around fast enough in New York, and the Islanders announced Tuesday afternoon that he has been let go and replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight.
The New York Islanders have rattled off five wins in their past 10 games and picked up 12 of a possible 20 points, but it hasn’t been enough to get the club out of the Eastern Conference basement. And with the season officially more than halfway through, the club has seen enough to determine that a change is necessary, announcing Tuesday that coach Jack Capuano has been let go.
Capuano’s firing comes the day following the Islanders’ 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins and during a season in which everyone from GM Garth Snow to captain John Tavares has gone to bat for the coach. With Capuano out from behind the bench, interim coaching duties will now fall to assistant GM and coach Doug Weight.
"The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as Head Coach," Snow said in a release. "His leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons. He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward."
The 2016-17 campaign was an almost complete disaster from the very start of the season. The Islanders started off flat, dropping six of their first 10 games and completing the first quarter of the schedule with just six wins to their name. Frustrations mounted throughout the first two months of the season as the offense struggled, the power play was flat, the penalty kill was porous and the Islanders struggled to find any positive in the way they were playing.
The timing, however, is a bit strange. Besides the fact it comes immediately following one of the Islanders’ more impressive wins of the season, it also comes during a time when the team is in one of its best stretches of the season. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, though, Snow said the reason for relieving Capuano of his duties now had little to do with the performance of the team at the moment and more to do with the fact the Islanders didn’t see Capuano as their coach for next season.
Despite the difficult season, Capuano will leave the organization as one of the best coaches the franchise has ever seen. Though no one will likely ever reach the heights that legendary Islanders bench boss Al Arbour did, Capuano finishes his tenure with New York having coached the second-most games in franchise history (483), collected the second-most wins (227) and became the only coach since Arbour in 1992-93 to coach the franchise to a post-season series victory.
That playoff series victory, one that was 22 seasons in the making, was cause for hope entering this current season, which is a major reason the Islanders’ performance this season was so disappointing. However, Capuano can take solace in the fact that he led the franchise to the post-season in three of his six full seasons behind the bench and helped the club to two of its best seasons in the modern era in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league at the time of his firing.
"It's an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans," Capuano said in a release. "I'd like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Islanders. I'd also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work.”
According to LeBrun, Snow said there’s no timeline for the Islanders to name their next bench boss, and there’s certainly a chance the Islanders enter the off-season with Weight remaining the bench boss. Weight, who played the final three seasons of his career with the Islanders, has been an assistant coach with New York since 2011-12.
The Penguins and Capitals were involved in a modern classic on Monday night, combining for 15 goals, including nine in the second period, in a game that had just about everything.
Washington rolled into Pittsburgh on Monday night riding a nine-game win streak, but the Capitals’ run of dominant play was snapped in incredible fashion with the Penguins picking up an 8-7 overtime victory in a game that will likely go down as one of the more fun contests of the season.
The game had just about everything a fan could ask for. There were comebacks, a goalie change, a hat trick, a nine-goal (!) second period, tallies coming at 4-on-4, 5-on-5, on the power play and shorthanded, reviewed tallies and, from where Capitals fans are sitting, there were even a few missed calls. The game had it all, save a shootout to decide the winner. No one captured that as succinctly as Washington’s Justin Williams, who had a goal in the game.
"All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, I think,” Williams said post-game.
That’s a fairly accurate assessment of the outing, too, because during the high-scoring 1980s, there were more than 130 games where both teams scored at least seven goals.
If you missed the action, check out all 15 goals and a recap of the game:
The game was highlighted by Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick, which was the 11th of his career and puts him into second all-time among Penguins players. Malkin has no chance when it comes to taking over top spot, though. That record is held by Mario Lemieux, who scored 40 hat tricks — not a typo — with Pittsburgh. All of Malkin’s goals came in the second period across a span of 10:51, and the second frame featured five goals — three for Pittsburgh, two for Washington — in 3:32.
The Penguins rode Matt Murray for the entire outing, but he finished with an ugly 21 saves on 28 shots, good for a .750 save percentage. The Capitals, however, switched it up in goal after Braden Holtby allowed five goals in little more than eight minutes in the second. He finished his night with a .808 SP, which was the best mark of any goaltender to suit up Monday. Philipp Grubauer stopped eight of the 11 shots he faced for a .727 SP.
The eventual game winner came from Conor Sheary, and it was his first career regular season overtime-winning goal. It should be a familiar feeling for Sheary, though, considering he has two post-season OT goals, including one against the Capitals in the second round of the past playoffs.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.