Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
Around The NHL: Another Head Coach Sent Packing
Another week gone by, and another head coach has been served his walking papers in the NHL. This is starting to become a trend in our weekly look at some of the biggest stories in the NHL. A week ago, we took a look at the firing of Ken Hitchcock by the St. Louis Blues, who promoted assistant coach Mike Yeo to take his spot. So far, it has worked out very well for St. Louis, as they’ve gone 4-1-0 with Yeo behind the bench. This week, it was the Boston Bruins who canned Claude Julien and made assistant Bruce Cassidy the interim head coach. We’ll dive into that story and more in this week’s edition of Around the NHL.
BRUINS CUT JULIEN LOOSE
Since taking over as the head coach of the Boston Bruins in 2007, Julien became the franchise’s all-time leader in coaching victories at 419, which is pretty remarkable considering the long and storied history of this Original Six franchise. He also was behind the bench for the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship and led the team to an appearance in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. However, all of that wasn’t enough to save his job, as the Bruins fired him on Tuesday at around the same time the New England Patriots were holding their Super Bowl championship parade. Julien is the fourth head coach to lose his job this year, with Florida’s Gerard Gallant, the Islanders’ Jack Capuano, and Hitchcock being the others. Boston has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and are not a lock to make it to the postseason this year. You can hardly fault Julien for that, as management hasn’t adequately addressed the team’s issues on the blue line or at backup goaltender, while the gap between the team’s top six and bottom six forwards is as wide as any in the NHL. Julien will be unemployed for as long as he wants to be, as there won’t be a shortage of suitors to come calling. The Panthers come to mind as a strong destination, while the Colorado Avalanche and the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will be front-runners as well.
COYOTES’ PROPOSED ARENA DEAL WITH ASU SHOT DOWN
Back in November, the Arizona Coyotes announced their intention of teaming up with Arizona State University to build a new arena in Tempe, AZ that would also house an attached arena for ASU athletics. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, ASU has decided not to proceed, and as reported by the Arizona Republic, the deal is now dead:
“Arizona State University said in an email Friday evening that the university “has no intention of proceeding to sign a development agreement or an option to lease or any other agreement with the Coyotes.”
ASU’s master developer, Catellus Development Corp., had negotiated with the Coyotes since November on a development plan that would have included ice rinks for the Coyotes and Sun Devil Athletics.
ASU did not say in its statement why it was ending negotiations.
But legislation recently introduced at the Capitol to create a funding mechanism to build the ice rinks quickly drew opposition.”
Well, that was fun while it lasted. Just when it looked like the Coyotes’ ongoing arena saga in the desert was going to come to an end, this monkey wrench has been thrown in. And now there have been rumors the team has sent officials to tour arenas in Portland and Seattle, according to a report by the Glendale Star. Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc denied the report, issuing the following statement:
“Recent reports by the Glendale Star that the Coyotes ownership group has explored arena options outside the Arizona market are completely false. The Star referenced an anonymous arena source and an anonymous Coyotes source, and these are a fabrication.
“The Coyotes are focused on creating one of the most taxpayer friendly facilities in the country here in the Valley. This new arena will pay for itself, create jobs and generate millions of dollars of revenue for the state, county and municipality where it’s built. We are fully committed to Arizona.”
CAPITALS REMAIN SCORCHING HOT
Last season, the Washington Capitals ran roughshod over the entire league en route to a Presidents’ Trophy and promptly followed it up with another postseason failure. Even though the Caps appear to be poised to finish with the most points in the league at again, this Caps team has a different feel from past Capitals teams that breezed through the regular season only to hit a wall in the playoffs. While Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeni Kuznetsov are leading the way offensively, the team has gotten contributions from their bottom six forwards as well. Combine that with the goaltending they’ve gotten from Braden Holtby, and the rock solid play of their blue line, led by the likes of John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Karl Alzner, and this has the look of a team that could be this year’s version of last year’s Sharks and make a deep playoff run. Maybe even win the Stanley Cup. Since the calendar flipped over to 2017, Washington has gone a ridiculous 17-2-1. They have scored at least five goals in six out of their last nine games and 11 times in their last 15 games. They have won five in a row overall and 11 in a row at home. Thursday’s 6-3 win on home ice over the Detroit Red Wings marked the 10th straight home game in which they’ve scored at least five goals. The only other time that has happened in NHL history was in 1970-71, when the Boston Bruins scored at least five goals in 11 consecutive home games. This is a team that probably wishes the playoffs could start right now instead of April.