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Tag:Coaching Carousel
Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 12:32 pm
 

Burke made decision after fans chants



By: Adam Gretz


During a recent loss to the Florida Panthers, fans at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, voiced their frustration by chanting "Fire Wilson," their way of demanding the team replace head coach Ron Wilson.

It's not the first time fans -- for any team, in any sport -- have taken part in a such a chant, but it's not often you hear a general manager admit that it played any kind of a role in the decision to dismiss the coach, as Brian Burke did on Friday evening.

During Saturday's press conference to introduce Toronto's new head coach, Randy Carlyle, Burke admitted that his decision to make the move came, in part, after the fans chants last week.

“After the last home game it occurred to me it would be cruel and unusual to let Ron coach another game in the Air Canada Centre,” said Burke. "I don't fault the fans. If you buy a ticket and you want to boo, you can boo. Fans show their emotions in many ways. But the deadliest thing is when a fan votes [with] their feet and they don't come."

It's not hard to think back to the old Marv Levy quote about how, "the minute you start listening to fans, you'll be sitting next to them." Perhaps Carlyle better hope the fans don't quickly turn on him if things don't get turned around instantly.

The Leafs enter Saturday's game in Montreal in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot. They've also lost 10 of their past 11 games.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:25 am
 

Pregame Skate: Randy Carlyle's Toronto debut

Carlyle

By: Adam Gretz

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

CanadiensMaple Leafs7 ET, Toronto at Montreal: Well, it is still technically a game in the playoff race, at least for Toronto, even though their chances appear to be hanging on be the tiniest of threads. And if the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, long-time bitter rivals, have anything in common this season it's that they both seem to be a complete, dysfunctional mess at the present time. Their meeting on Saturday night in Montreal will be the debut for new Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle after he was announced as the new bench boss on Friday evening, replacing Ron Wilson.

Is it a needed move to give the Maple Leafs a boost to get back into serious playoff contention? Or is it simply too little, too late for this season, and rearranging deck chairs on what looks to be a sinking ship?

Toronto has lost 10 of 11 entering Saturday's game, and suddenly finds itself behind Tampa Bay and Buffalo in the standings. The Maple Leafs haven't made the playoffs since the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005-06, and the only other team that can make that claim is the Florida Panthers, and their drought looks like it has a pretty good chance to come to an end this year.

CanucksSabres10 ET, Buffalo at Vancouver: Thanks to wins in five of their past six games, and a 10-3-3 mark in their past 16 games, the Buffalo Sabres are another team that's found a way to work their way back into the playoff picture, and a lot of that, at least recently, is due to the play of goaltender Ryan Miller.

The veteran netminder has had his share of struggles this season, but over the past couple of weeks he has been playing like he did back in 2010 when he was the best goalie in the league -- and the Olympics -- and at no time has he looked better than he has over his past two games, recording back-to-back shutouts in wins over Anaheim and San jose.

Over their past wins, which have been by a combined score of just 3-0, the Sabres have allowed Miller to be peppered by 82 shots (that's 41 per game), many of them quality chances, and he's turned aside every single one of them.

Over his past six starts he's allowed just seven goals.

The only thing at stake for the Canucks on Saturday night is ... well, pretty much nothing. Even if they lose they're still going to be the top team in the Western Conference.

DucksKings10:30 ET, Anaheim at Los Angeles: Just 24 hours after picking up a huge two points thanks to a 3-2 win against Calgary, due to a last-minute goal from Ryan Getzlaf, the Anaheim Ducks have to jump right back into it on Saturday night in Los Angeles against one of the many teams they're still chasing in the standings.

The Ducks enter the game four points behind Los Angeles, and still seven points behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West, and as has been the case for the past couple of months, and will be for the remainder of the regular season, this is a game the Ducks pretty much have to win if there is going to be any chance to complete this late-season comeback.

At least Friday's game finally moved them ahead of one team -- the Minnesota Wild -- putting them at 12th place in the West.

The Kings, meanwhile, are fresh off a 4-0 win in Minnesota and need the two points just as much as Anaheim does. After Saturday the Kings hit the road for five of their next six games, and it looks to be a brutal stretch of games that includes matchups with Nashville, Chicago, Detroit (twice) and another game with Anaheim.

Others worth watching
7 ET, Tampa Bay at Carolina: After knocking off the New York Rangers on Friday the Lightning have an opportunity to continue their own late season playoff push in Carolina, and just to show how completely bonkers the playoff race currently is, the Lightning still have an outside chance of winning the Southeast.

8 ET, Columbus at Phoenix: Another tight divisional race is out west in the Pacific, as the white-hot Coyotes enter Saturday's game against Columbus two points ahead of the San Jose Sharks. The Blue Jackets recently played the role of spoiler by blanking the Avalanche in Denver, and the Coyotes are coming off what was their first regulation loss since the end of January.

10:30 ET, St. Louis at San Jose: And the team chasing Phoenix, San Jose, has an important -- and tough -- home game against the toughest team in the league to score against, the St. Louis Blues. Good news for the Sharks: for as good as the Blues record is, they've been pretty mediocre away from home.

Your promised miscellany
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:40 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 10:31 pm
 

Randy Carlyle replaces Ron Wilson in Toronto

Wilson

By: Adam Gretz


Toronto fans spent the better part of February demanding it, and on Friday evening the Maple Leafs front office made it happen.

The team announced that head coach Ron Wilson has been fired and will be replaced by former Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. The move comes less than three months after Wilson received a contract extension from the team, and after a stretch of games that has seen the Maple Leafs lose 10 of their past 11, including six in a row, to fall outside of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“This was not an easy decision for me to make,” said General Manager Brian Burke in a statement released by the team. “I want to thank Ron for all of his hard work and dedication to our organization over the past four seasons.”

During Wilson's four seasons in Toronto the team compiled a record of 130-135-45 and never qualified for the postseason, as the Leafs and their fans continue to ride out what is one of the longest active playoff droughts in the NHL.
More On Maple Leafs

Wilson had been facing mounting criticism in recent weeks for the teams collapse after such a fast start, and "Fire Wilson" chants could be heard throughout the Air Canada Centre during a recent loss to the Florida Panthers. The Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

His firing will be the eighth coaching change in the NHL this season (including Carlyle's dismisal from Anaheim), and of the seven previous changes only one of those teams (the St. Louis Blues) is in what would be a playoff posiiton in the standings as of Friday night.

If nothing else the hiring of Carlyle adds a potential storyline -- and perhaps some awkwardness -- early on due to his history with current Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul.

Anaheim traded Lupul to Toronto last season, when Carlyle was still the coach, and they didn't exactly have the best breakup, dealing him shortly after he returned to the lineup after a serious back injury. Earlier this season, before a meeting between the Leafs and Ducks, Lupul talked about his bitterness toward Anaheim and Carlyle saying, via the Toronto Sun, “I know the opportunity I’m getting in Toronto, I never would have had in Anaheim. Randy Carlyle just did not see me as that type of player.”

Carlyle was the head coach of the 2006-07 Anaheim team that won the Stanley Cup. Burke was also the general manager of that team.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:52 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:00 pm
 

Scott Arniel fired by Blue Jackets

Arniel1By: Adam Gretz

On Monday morning the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled the trigger on a move that had been anticipated for some time now.

The team fired head coach Scott Arniel following a 7-4 loss in Anaheim on Sunday that dropped the Blue Jackets to a league-worst 11-25-5. Arniel will be replaced on an interim basis by former Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards.

It seems like this is a move that probably should have taken place some time ago given how bad the Blue Jackets were from the start of the season, roaring out of the gate by losing their first eight games and 10 of their first 11. It was a massive hole that was (and still is) too deep to overcome, and it's getting deeper by the day. Right now there are only seven teams in the NHL that are more than five points out of a potential playoff spot. The Blue Jackets are 20 points back.

A couple weeks ago general manager Scott Howson refused to place the blame on the coaching staff, and talked about how the team was going to look to be active in the trade market.

Obviously, there were some problems in Columbus. Young, skilled players like Derrik Brassard and Ryan Johansen were relegated to fourth-line duty, or even the press box on some nights, with Brassard's agent, Allan Walsh, putting the crosshairs on Arniel for, in Walsh's words, "a history of burying players and using them as scapegoats to mask his own lack of success on the ice."

Whether or not Arniel was a good or bad coach, or if a change needed to be made (it's pretty obvious something needed to happen), the situation in Columbus has been ugly in every possible way. Injuries have piled up, including the most recent one for summer acquisition Jeff Carter on Sunday, while the goaltending, particularly from former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason, has been among the worst in the league. The Blue Jackets currently have the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL at .893, narrowly ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On an individual level the only goalie with a worse mark than Mason's .883 is Dwayne Roloson.

Arniel ended up lasting just a season-and-a-half in Columbus as the team put together a 45-60-18 record during his time with the team. The Blue Jackets have won just eight games in regulation since November 24 ... of 2010.

His replacement for the time being, Richards, was the head coach in Minnesota during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and put together a 77-71-16 record. He was replaced this offseason by Mike Yeo.

Here is Howson talking to the media about the decision.



More on the NHL's coaching carousel

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Ron Wilson's contract and Toronto's fast start

By: Adam Gretz

Over the past month-and-a-half it's been the season for firing coaches in the NHL.

While we've already seen changes in Washington, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Montreal, not to mention St. Louis earlier in the year, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson went to his own personal Twitter account as the NHL went to its holiday break and asked for a certain piece of paper (a contract extension) in his stocking for Christmas.

And that's exactly what he received over the holiday weekend.

It's kind of a bold move for the Maple Leafs organization given that Wilson has been behind the bench for three full seasons and failed to make the playoffs in all of them, while compiling a 101-107-38 record entering this season. Through 35 games in 2011 Toronto owns an 18-13-4 mark and occupies the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's slate of games, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, the team that occupies the No. 9 spot (and first non-playoff spot).

The reaction from Toronto seems to be that the Maple Leafs haven't shown enough under Wilson's watch to justify any sort of a contract extension, and that general manager Brian Burke has put his own neck on the line by once again committing to Wilson.

Even if all of that is true (and it very well might be) something had to be done (and probably soon) as Wilson was in the final year of his current contract. Having a lame duck coach isn't really an ideal situation for anybody, and the Leafs certainly weren't going to dismiss Wilson at this point given Toronto's start.

And speaking of that start, it's been Toronto's best one in years, and has been driven almost entirely by the team's power play unit, currently clicking at a 21 percent rate, third best in the league, and the scoring of forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both of whom are in the top-10 in the NHL's scoring race. And that's about it. Scoring depth isn't great once you get beyond Kessel and Lupul, and the goaltending, whether it's been James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens, has struggled.

Unless you believe the Maple Leafs power play is going to continue to be one of the best in the NHL all season, after being one of the worst over the past two years with largely the same cast of characters, and that Kessel and Lupul are going to remain near the top of the points leader board, this has the chance of being a fourth-straight non-playoff season under Wilson if those two areas see any sort of a regression the rest of the way. And I'm not convinced either of those two positive developments will continue all season. They have the look of early season hot streaks and fast starts that aren't going to be sustainable over the long haul of the season.

The Maple Leafs power play, which generates one of the lowest shot rates in the NHL per 60 minutes of power play time, currently owns a shooting percentage in the 18-percent range, by far the best mark in the NHL and significantly higher than what it's managed to shoot at in recent seasons (over the past three years Toronto, as a team, has owned 5-on-4 shooting percentages of 13 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent). The only team to finish a season with a higher power play shooting percentage was the 2008-09 Flyers. The number of shots a team generates on the power play is usually the best indicator of future success, which could be bad news for the Leafs over the remainder of the season.

The playoffs are far from a lock at this point, and even though Wilson has his contract extension right now that's still not a guarantee that he'll be behind the bench next season if his team fails to qualify for the postseason for a fourth straight year with him behind the bench.

More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Looking ahead to 2012

CrosbyBy: Adam Gretz

The new year is right around the corner, and now that 2011 is almost in our rear view mirror, it's time to look ahead to what might be for the NHL in 2012.

1) What, if anything, will (or can) the NHL do about its concussion problem?

The NHL has a problem, and it's been highlighted throughout this season as some of the league's best and brightest players have been sidelined with head injuries at various times. And in many cases, an extended period of time.

Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, Milan Michalek, Mike Richards, David Perron, Marc Staal … the list goes on and on, and it doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. You can't go a week in the NHL, sometimes even a day, without hearing that another player has been diagnosed with a concussion or has been experiencing concussion-like symptoms.

With the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expiring after this season it's worth asking what the league and the NHLPA can do to help combat this problem. A complete banishment on all head shots will always be talked about it, but it seems unlikely to happen as long as the NHL's old guard remains in charge.

Perhaps my favorite suggestion, and one that would probably please most everybody, including the goaltenders, is to eliminate the ridiculous and nonsensical trapezoid rule and allow goaltenders to play more pucks in the corners. That would potentially reduce the number of times defensemen have to be subjected to violent hits from oncoming forecheckers in the corners.  Reintroducing the red line to slow the pace through the neutral zone has been brought up, as well as possible the addition of no-touch icing.

And speaking of player safety...

2) Will we get any closer to mandatory visors?

As we've talked about before, there are still enough players that view visors as their own personal choice (which it currently is) and something that they shouldn't be forced to wear.

But that was also once true for helmets and goalie masks, and they've now become an accepted (and common sense) piece of equipment. The issue seems to be getting more and more attention than it has in recent seasons, and the first reaction that comes up anytime somebody takes a puck or a stick near the face is to automatically look to see if said player is wearing a protective visor. Like the addition of helmets, it's likely a rule that will be grandfathered in. Perhaps making matters easier is the fact that many of the young players entering the league today are already wearing visors given that they're mandatory at the sports lower levels (the Canadian Junior Leagues, the American Hockey League).

3) Will the 2012 NHL season start on time?

The NFL went through a dreadful lockout that eliminated its offseason and threatened the start of its regular season, which was then followed by the NBA missing a large chunk of its regular season due to its own completely pointless work stoppage. Major League Baseball, suddenly the model of long-term labor peace in professional sports, quietly and quickly went about its business and had everything settled before anybody even realized their agreement was up for discussion.

And now it's the NHL's turn. Panic? Fire and brimstone?

Will the league and the NHLPA be able to come to some sort of an agreement like MLB did, or will it be more along the lines of the NFL and NBA where it's a long, drawn out process with maddening twists and turns that leaves fans pulling out their hair?

The last time we were in this position we lost an entire season and came back to a completely different league.

4) Will the Coyotes remain in Phoenix?

Until the team actually moves to a new home or a long-term, viable ownership situation is in place in Phoenix this question will not be going away. And if the former is what happens, what does that do to the NHL's new conference alignment?

The league went through a franchise relocation in 2011 that resulted in a radical realignment as the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, leading to the NHL overhauling its divisions and playoff format.

But what happens if the Coyotes, after surviving another season in the desert, don't remain in Phoenix and relocate, as has been talked about and expected for years? Do we have to go through another realignment discussion and re-do everything that was just settled?

5) How many more turns for the NHL's coaching Carousel?

Nearly half of the league went through some sort of head coaching change during 2011, and let's face it, with way NHL teams dismiss coaches there is no doubt the coaching carousel will continue to spin out of control. It's already kind of amazing that, with all of the changes that have taken place this season, Columbus' Scott Arniel has made it as long as he has given the worst start in franchise history. Toronto's Ron Wilson is in the final year of his contract and has recently taken to Twitter asking Santa Claus for a certain piece of paper (presumably a contract) for Christmas.

6) Will Nashville be able to keep its prized defensemen?

When Nashville signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to his massive contract extension earlier this season it produced one of two possibilities going forward: A) The team will now be a "cap team" and spend more money than it's ever spent before in an effort to keep its best homegrown players, or B) the signing of Rinne means one (or both) of their two No. 1 defenseman, Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, will eventually be lost to free agency.

Weber still has one more year before he hits the unrestricted market, and will once again be up for restricted free agency after this season. Suter, on the other hand, if he hasn't signed before July 1, will be eligible to sign with the highest bidder.

7) Who will host the next Winter Classic?

Technically this game won't be played until 2013, but the decision will be made long before then and every team wants an opportunity to host what has become the NHL's signature regular season event. Gary Bettman has already all but promised Washington D.C. the game in the very near future, so that's on the table.

I'm a fan of taking the game to Michigan, perhaps the Big House in Ann Arbor, for a Red Wings game, or even to the State of Hockey and allowing the Minnesota Wild to play host to the game for its passionate fan base at perhaps either Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) or TCF Bank Stadium (University of Minnesota stadium).

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Kings finally name Darryl Sutter new head coach

By Brian Stubits

It's been a little more than a week in the making, but Darryl Sutter is finally the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

The team made the announcement on Tuesday and Sutter will officially begin the coaching on Wednesday by leading the team practice. His first game comes on Thursday when the Kings face fellow SoCal underachievers, the Anaheim Ducks and their new midseason coach Bruce Boudreau.

No timeframe of the contract was released, but Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period points out that it's like Sutter's contract mirrors Lombardi's, which means it goes through 2012-13 and has an option for the following year.

The Kings, thought by many to be a true Stanley Cup contender this season, have been just a touch underwhelming. And by a touch we mean a lot. The Kings are just 15-14-4 and have scored only 72 goals, more than only the Islanders who have three fewer goals in three fewer games. It led to the Kings firing coach Terry Murray after 3 1/2 years on the job.

Sutter was target No. 1 as he and GM Dean Lombardi go way back to when they were together with the San Jose Sharks. So an agreement was reached in short order but visa/passport issues delayed the announcement and takeover, leaving John Stevens to hold down the job on an interim basis. Under his short watch, the Kings were 2-2-0.

With Sutter coming on board, the Kings will be hoping or the Ken Hitchcock effect in St. Louis. Out of the five new coaches (Hitchcock, Boudreau, Dale Hunter in Washington, Kirk Muller in Carolina and Randy Cunneyworth in Montreal), only Hitchcock has been able to turn around his team's misfortunes.

Interestingly enough, Sutter's resume is the closest to matching Hitchcock's as far as being an NHL coach is concerned. Sutter took the Flames to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 when they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 19, 2011 9:14 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 9:29 pm
 

Habs owner: Bilingual coach 'important factor'

By Brian Stubits

Ah yes, the best way to get a message through is to go after the wallet. As we all know, money talks.

As you already know, a nationalistic group in Quebec wasn't happy with the Montreal Canadiens' decision to fire Jacques Martin and replace him with interim coach Randy Cunneyworth. Their anger has nothing to do with the Habs' poor play and everything to do with Cunneyworth's lack of ability to speak French.

Apparently they don't understand the concept of an "interim" coach, as in a fill-in, a guy keeping the seat warm. Either way, the threat was put out there of a boycott on all Molson products. Of course, Geoff Molson (pictured) is the majority owner of the Habs and his Molson company makes some pretty popular beverages.

The chatter caught his attention (well, I'm sure Molson was already aware of the issue to begin with). Molson released a statement expressing the priorities and concerns for the organization when they hire a full-time coach. Here is a snippet.

"Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.

"Like all our fans we hope for the Montreal Canadiens to be among the top teams in the NHL and we are doing everything we possibly can to win."

More on Canadiens
Ray Ratto Ray Ratto
Storm will die down as Cunneyworth makes Montreal adjustments Read

Everything except hiring a coach that doesn't speak French, of course. That's what I'm led to conclude.

It would seem to exclude Cunneyworth from getting the job full-time if he proves worthy as a coach this season. That's unless he takes some classes in French and shows an effort to speak the local language. It would really be a shame if he didn't get the job primarily for this reason, but that's a long way away.

But with statements like this, it gives the feeling that Cunneyworth is a lame duck. You have to figure that the candidate pool is very limited and you can certainly expect to hear the name Patrick Roy come up a lot, as well as one-time Quebec Nordiques coach Marc Crawford. Funny enough, Crawford didn't speak French when he was hired in Quebec, but he learned. Of course it wasn't much help when the 'Diques moved to Colorado the next season.

But man it would be so delicious to see Roy come back to the Canadiens bench. Could he really complain if a player took exception to his managing and demanded a trade?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com