"Lucky for me, unlucky for you."
- Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk on why he wears No. 13.
"Lucky for me, unlucky for you."
- Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk on why he wears No. 13.
There's little doubt Shane Doan has the character to be a great addition to a team looking to win, but we're not sure he has what it takes on the ice anymore.
It would certainly make for a great headline, and even a better story, to watch Shane Doan skate off in a sultry night in June with the Stanley Cup lifted over his head. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see one of the great guys in the game get rewarded with the ultimate prize before calling it a career?
So when Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, one of the best news breakers in the business, said on the weekend that Doan might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender, it undoubtedly conjured up a lot of sentiments among those looking for a feel-good story. No question it would be that.
But would it make sense? Well, it certainly would have last year at this time when Doan already had 15 of his 28 goals and looked like he still had a lot left in his tank. This season? Not so much. Doan has only four goals in 42 games and is playing less and certainly contributing less than he has in years. One big reason for his dip in production is his shooting percentage, which has plummeted to just 4.4 percent this season. Doan is shooting the puck almost as much as he used to despite getting about two fewer minutes of ice time per game, but is not finding the back of the net.
All of which makes you wonder whether a trade deadline deal for Doan would make any difference, either for the team getting Doan or the Coyotes. To be sure, the Coyotes would not be getting much in return for Doan. If he were traded on Feb. 28, which is deadline day, he’d still have about $883,000 of cap hit remaining, half of which could be obtained by the Coyotes. So the price to acquire Doan for the stretch run and the playoffs would not be a high one. (If you listened to our podcast, you heard me say there would be $1.8 million remaining after the deadline. Mea culpa on that one.)
But would it be a good move in a practical sense? Well, there are a couple of variables there. First, do you believe that Doan is simply having bad puck luck, something that could very well change with a new team? Or have the hands that have served him for 1,500 games and seen him score 400 goals abandoned him for good? If you’re a true contender, would Shane Doan really be the player to put you over the top?
Perhaps Doan could play on a strong team’s fourth line and add that certain intangible ingredient to a team that needs a veteran presence. But with the game going more in the direction of speed and skill on all four lines, do you really want a 40-year-old guy having to play every other night and keep up with the best players in the world? Let’s put it this way. Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but in the past couple of playoffs in which he’s participated, he’s looked older and slower and less capable of accomplishing things than he has in the regular season. If you get Doan, the danger is you might be paying as much as $800,000 in cap space for a very good cheerleader, the way Ed Olczyk was for the New York Rangers in 1994 and Denis Savard was for the Montreal Canadiens two years later. They both held up the Stanley Cup in street clothes.
It seems to these eyes that Doan might just have waited one year too long to play this particular card, if indeed he’s willing to move from the desert to be a rental. (A call to his agent, Terry Bross, was not returned.) There were so many years previously that Doan had this very opportunity and he turned it down, which might give you the impression that winning a Stanley Cup wouldn’t be all that important to him. So has anything really changed this season?
There were years, even most recent ones, when Doan would have and could have been a difference maker for a team looking for that extra piece to put it over the top. Now, though, that ship appears to have passed. As wonderful as it would be to see, it’s difficult to believe there would be a string of suitors at the Coyotes’ door leading up to the trade deadline.
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.
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Petr Mrazek has struggled mightily for the Red Wings this season, and that’s going to make Detroit GM Ken Holland’s decision about the future of his crease all the more difficult.
Before the season started, the Detroit Red Wings’ goaltending situation was a no-brainer. Veteran netminder Jimmy Howard had done his part, but with a sizeable cap hit and diminishing play, his time was up. Howard’s younger counterpart, Petr Mrazek, was the starter of both the present and the future, inked to a two-year, $8-million extension. It seemed like only a matter of time — be it by trade or by expansion draft — that Howard would find himself with a new home.
A lot can change over the course of a few months, however.
Though Howard has spent nearly a month on the sideline, he was, through the early part of the season, the lone bright spot for a Red Wings team more destined to finish with a shot at the first overall pick than at keeping their post-season streak alive. Across his 17 games, he posted a 1.96 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and, of goaltenders who have seen at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5, Howard ranks sixth with a .936 SP.
Meanwhile, Mrazek, the Red Wings’ expected goaltender of the future, has looked like anything but. Through 25 appearances, he has an unsightly .893 SP and 3.19 goals-against average, and in six of his 21 starts, he’s finished the game with a sub-.850 SP. Among the same grouping of netminders as Howard, Mrazek ranks 43rd out of 49 goaltenders with a .909 SP at 5-on-5. Those are far from starter calibre numbers.
The wildcard in all of this has been that with Howard out and Mrazek struggling, the Red Wings have turned to 25-year-old Jared Coreau, who has been their undisputed best option in goal as of late. An undrafted goaltender out of the NCAA’s Northern Michigan University, Coreau played his way into a job as an ECHL starter with the Toledo Walleye in 2013-14, turned that into an AHL starting gig by 2015-16 and has now gotten the call in seven of the past 11 games in Howard’s absence. Over that time, Coreau’s .915 SP and 2.48 GAA are leagues ahead of the .868 SP and 3.70 GAA Mrazek is sporting, and that’s not to mention the two shutouts Coreau has posted along the way.
All of this poses a major question for Detroit moving forward, too, and that’s how to approach their goaltending situation come this off-season because, no matter what, something has to give. The choice for GM Ken Holland won’t be an easy one, either, with pros and cons for each netminder he currently has in his stable.
When it comes to Howard, the clearcut veteran of the group, Holland will no doubt take a look at what the netminder has done for the team this season. Were it not for Howard, the minuscule glimmer of hope the Red Wings have at making something that even resembles a run up the standings would have been snuffed out by the time December rolled around. He’s got the experience in goal and has proven in several seasons that he can be an average-or-better starter in Detroit.
What works against Howard, though, is that his game has been littered with inconsistency over the past several years. His best seasons, with .920-plus SPs in 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2016-17, have bookended a three-year period in which he boasted an average SP of .909. And even when he has been at the top of his game, Howard has battled injury, missing 47 games in the past six seasons. Six of those absences have been knee or groin related, which has to be somewhat worrisome. None of this is to mention that Howard’s $5.292-million cap hit is the biggest reason many saw him as the odd-man out in the Detroit crease. It was too much money and too much term, with another two seasons remaining after 2016-17, for a goaltender who had been mediocre in the run up to this season.
As for Mrazek, the worry comes in understanding which goaltender the Red Wings are going to get. There have been two versions of Mrazek, and the current one isn't the one Holland or the Red Wings faithful had hoped they'd see this season. Rather, the hope was they'd be getting the Mrazek who stood on his head for a two-month period from December 2015 to February 2016, posting a 13-6-1 record, .942 SP and three shutouts in 21 games. Instead, he's been more like the Mrazek who went 6-6-1 with a .886 SP in his final 16 appearances during the 2015-16 regular season and lost the starting job to start the post-season. Mrazek has dealt with a continuation of his struggles from the end of the past season, though it could simply be a matter of the 24-year-old netminder trying to regain his confidence after having it shaken.
Regardless of the play in goal, Mrazek holds a decided edge when it comes to cap management. He’s nearly $1.3-million cheaper than Howard and comes off the books following the 2017-18 campaign. For a Detroit team that’s projected to have a mere $4.653-million in cap space at season’s end, any extra spending money under the cap could be huge. Right now, though, Mrazek is effectively a third-string netminder behind Coreau and Howard, whenever he's able to return. Is that enough to have Holland and the Red Wings' brass change their mind when it comes to Mrazek as the future in goal?
As far as the lock to stick around in Detroit, the only option in that regard is really Coreau. His $612,500 cap hit makes him a no-brainer for the backup role, especially if he can continue to push the starting netminder, be it Mrazek or Howard, with his own exceptional play. It’s not as if there’s a bluechip prospect on the way that will push Coreau out of the way, either. None of the 10-best prospects in the Detroit system are netminders, and unless there’s a dynamite signing to shore up the goaltending, Coreau looks like the best thing the Red Wings have going in terms of strong, second-string goaltending down the road. Even if he’s a flash in the pan who fizzles out at some point soon, Detroit would likely only be looking for him to be a serviceable backup next season.
The solution, of course, likely still lies in playing to the cap and hoping Mrazek turns it around. Despite what Howard has done this season, the Red Wings aren’t going to do all that much with top-tier goaltending, even if that’s what Howard winds up providing wherever he goes next. If Mrazek has difficulty again in the starting role next season or there are down years due to poor goaltending, the Red Wings can look at other options for the future. For the time being, though, Detroit’s a team in transition and it serves the organization better to put their faith in the pair of Mrazek and Coreau, hoping one or both push for the starting job and lay claim to the crease when the time comes for the Red Wings to contend again.
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Jake Allen’s recent struggles could have Blues GM Doug Armstrong scouring the trade market for help in goal as the post-season approaches. Meanwhile, trade talk surrounds the Flyers and Coyotes.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen's recent performance has left much to be desired. After a strong effort through the opening two months of the season, the 26-year-old's play declined through December and into January.
After reeling off eight straight wins from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, Allen has only four victories his last 13 starts. He had a save percentage below .900 in eight of those games and was pulled early in his last two starts.
Appearing on Montreal's TSN 690 last Thursday, NHL insider Bob McKenzie said the Blues are worried about Allen's decline this season. He thinks they could keep an eye on the trade market for a goalie, though they must be careful over what they afford in dollars and return.
In late-December, McKenzie's colleague Darren Dreger suggested the Blues should consider acquiring Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury carries a no-movement clause and the Penguins must move him in order to protect Matt Murray in the expansion draft. If Allen fails to snap out of his current funk and Fleury's willing to waive his clause, perhaps Blues GM Doug Armstrong might come calling.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop could be another option. The 30-year-old began his NHL career with the Blues. He's eligible for UFA status in July and isn't expected to be re-signed by the Lightning.
The Bolts need a top-four defenseman and the Blues have a pending UFA blueliner in Kevin Shattenkirk. While that seems like a perfect fit for both clubs, Armstrong appears in no hurry to move Shattenkirk. He'll likely remain patient with Allen for the time being, but could consider other options if the netminder fails to improve.
SLIDING FLYERS NOT KEEN ON MOVING YOUNG BLUELINER
A 10-game winning streak by the Philadelphia Flyers from late-November through mid-December had them comfortably in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Since the streak ended on Dec. 17, however, the Flyers dropped 11 of their past 14 games. Entering this week, they're on the verge of tumbling out of the last wild-card spot in the East.
CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio reports Flyers GM Ron Hextall said he'll only swing a deal if it'll significantly help the club. Given the Flyers poor performance of late, Panaccio feels a trade might be Hextall's only option to improve things.
Finding a suitable deal won't be easy. Panaccio acknowledges Hextall carries “only a few marketable commodities” that might fetch a good return. Rival GMs could have more interest in the Flyers' crop of promising young defensemen.
Hextall won't part with established young blueliners Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. Panaccio suggests prospects Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg and Phillipe Myers have potential to become franchise defensemen. Hextall might not be keen to part with any of them, but it might be necessary if one or two could fetch a return that helps right the Flyers' sinking ship.
The Colorado Avalanche are in the market for good young defensemen and reportedly entertaining offers for left wing Gabriel Landeskog and center Matt Duchene. The Flyers limited salary-cap space, however, would complicate things.
DESPITE DOWN YEAR, DOAN COULD DRAW INTEREST
The ongoing struggles of the Arizona Coyotes makes the club a frequent topic for media trade chatter. Most of the speculation concerns center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Michael Stone. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July and could be moved by the March 1 trade deadline.
In recent years, right wing Shane Doan usually surfaced in the rumor mill, though the conjecture was always quickly quelled by Doan or Coyotes management. This year, however, might be different.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Coyotes might consider moving Doan before the deadline. He believes if management approaches the 40-year-old with an opportunity to play for a winner, he might consider waiving his no-movement clause. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch doubts Doan's movement clause will prevent some rival clubs from making inquiries. He claims the San Jose Sharks attempted to land the veteran forward over the last two years.
With only 12 points in 42 games, the aging Doan is on pace for 24 points, his lowest output in a non-lockout season since his 22-point campaign in 1998-99. Still, the 6-foot-1, 223-pound winger has good size, years of experience and leadership ability. He also netted 28 goals and 47 points last season, so perhaps he might regain his scoring touch on a deeper club.
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.).
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