Before the All-Star break, only one team had made a coaching change in the NHL. Following the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles last weekend, it only took one night of action for the axe to drop on another head coach. The latest in the Islanders’ saga with the Barclays Center has the team’s future in Brooklyn in doubt, while a participant in this year’s All-Star game has found himself facing some criticism over the last couple of weeks, and the 500-goal club has its newest member in this week’s edition of Around The NHL.
ST. LOUIS BLUES FIRE KEN HITCHCOCK, PROMOTE MIKE YEO
Want proof that you’re only as good as your goaltending? At the start of the new year, the St. Louis Blues were comfortably in the top three teams in the Central Divsion, holding a record of 20-13-5 with 45 points. As the calendar flipped to February, the Blues were 25-21-15 with 55 points, barely hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The reason? The goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton had a horrendous month of January, and it ended up costing head coach Ken Hitchcock his job on Wednesday. Associate coach Mike Yeo, the former head coach of the Minnesota Wild who was brought on to be the head coach in waiting, will now assume the head coach’s role about four months sooner than planned, as Hitchcock had planned on retiring after this season. Or so he says. Hitchcock was fired just win shy of tying Al Arbour’s mark of 782 coaching wins, third-most in NHL history. Something tells me he’d like to have one more shot at moving up in that category and go out on his own terms instead of ending his career on such a sour note.
ISLANDERS COULD BE OUT OF BROOKLYN BY 2019
Since the New York Islanders moved into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall of 2015, there have been nothing but major problems for them and their fans. The arena wasn’t originally build for hockey, so the fans have complained about the sight lines. The players have repeatedly griped about the ice conditions. Not to mention, the team has just felt out of place in Brooklyn after spending over four decades on Long Island. That has been reflected in their attendance, which is the third-worst in the NHL at an average of 12,828 fans. According to a report by Bloomberg News, the arena wants the Islanders out by the end of the 2018-19, as their financial projections show the team making no contributions to the arena, a sign that they don’t expect the team to be around because they feel like concerts can bring in more money. There is an out clause that can be triggered by either the arena management or the Islanders. If the Isles trigger the out clause, they could be out by next season. If the arena ends the deal, the team would be out at the end of the 2018-19 season. There has been talk about an arena being build next door to Citi Field in Queens, but that is not certain. What is certain is that the team has no desire to go back to their old home on Long Island.
BRAD MARCHAND UNDER FIRE FOR RECENT ACTIONS
Over the course of two years, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins has evolved from a mega pest to one of the league’s top two-way players and one of its most underrated scorers. This season, he earned his first All-Star nod. But his reputation as a dirty player and cheap shot artist persists, and will continue to do so if he continues his recent actions. He was fined $10,000, the most allowed by the collective bargaining agreement, for what the league called a dangerous trip on Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, and if you’ve seen the replay of that incident, it was a very dangerous play. On Tuesday, he was criticized for a similar trip against Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman, although he wasn’t fined for that one, as it was deemed to be unintentional since he never altered his path to the puck. However, there have been a lot of calls for the league to crack down further on Marchand due to his history of four suspensions and four fines for slew-footing, elbowing, tripping, and low hits. At some point, the Bruins are going to have to sit him down and ask him to stop crossing the line because he’s too important a player to them for him to keep putting himself in these situations. The league will be watching him very closely from here on out.
SAN JOSE’S PATRICK MARLEAU NOTCHES HIS 500TH GOAL
On Thursday night in Vancouver, Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks scored his 19th goal of the season in a 4-1 San Jose victory, giving the long-time Sharks sniper the 500th goal of his NHL career. He is the 45th player in league history to reach that illustrious mark, and he continues to be a productive player in his 19th season, all of them with San Jose. Marleau became the first player in Sharks history to reach that milestone, and his goal is part of a current stretch that includes seven goals and an assist in five games. He scored four of those goals in the third period of a 5-2 win in Colorado on January 23rd, the first player since Mario Lemieux in January 1997 to score four goals in the third period of a game. Of all the players that recently joined the 500-goal club, Marleau might be the quietest to do so, as he’s played over on the west coast and has never been considered one of the elite players in the league. Regardless, he’s arguably the greatest player in Sharks history and he’s now part of a very exclusive club in NHL history.