The outlook for the 'rest' of the West

redwingsthrash.jpgEarlier this evening I discussed the five Eastern Conference teams who are battling for the last three playoff spots. The Western Conference has a similar situation in its bottom playoff ranks, although those teams are notably stronger. (Also, Calgary is the only squad with a realistic chance to make the four Western underdogs sweat for a playoff spot)

Much like that last post, I’ll break down each team’s advantages, upcoming schedule and how well they’ve been playing lately. Just to be friendly, I’ll even throw in the long shot Flames for good measure. The teams are listed in order of current (9:50 pm ET) playoff position.

Nashville

Notes: The Predators have the most wins among the five teams (43). They have played 76 games, though, so they may risk being leapfrogged by Detroit and Los Angeles. Current points: 92

Thoughts on their schedule: They have a fairly reasonable schedule: three games at home and three on the road with one back-to-back set of games. They will also have one game against Detroit and one against Los Angeles, so they can “control their destiny” to some point.

Streak: Hot. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and even had a six game winning streak recently. The team just won’t take “snore” for an answer.

Detroit

Notes: Have you ever seen that moment in “The Thing” (the awesome ’80s version that is) in which everyone is having their blood tested to see who isn’t human? I think that Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver are encountering similar emotions when considering the possibility of a first round tilt with Detroit. Then again, I guess losing in the first round of the playoffs isn’t as bad as dealing with … this (warning: ridiculous horror movie gore in that video).

Current points: 91

Thoughts on their schedule: The Red Wings face a relatively easy schedule, with two games against Columbus, one against Edmonton and four out of seven at home.

Streak: Red Hot. Since March 11, the Red Wings collected a staggering 17 out of 18 possible points. They are currently on 5 game winning streak.

The rest on the other West lower seed hopefuls can be found after the jump.


avskings.jpgLos Angeles

Notes: The Kings are sliding quite a bit right now, but they have a fairly safe lead over the Flames. We’ll have to wait and see if they can keep the seventh seed from Colorado; who knows, though, they’re not that far behind Nashville and Detroit either. Current points: 90

Thoughts on their schedule: The Kings have four out of eight games on the road with two back-to-backs. They play once in Nashville and once in Colorado. Despite some tough patches, they get two games against Anaheim (not a cakewalk but the Ducks are struggling), one against Edmonton and one against Minnesota. I’d say that is a nice amount of “winnable” games.

Streak: Cold. They’ve lost three in a row and have generally been looking a little out of sorts lately. You have to wonder if they’re wearing Jonathan Quick out since he rarely gets more than one game off per month.

Colorado

Notes: The Avalanche are running into their own issues of possibly over-extending a starting goalie. They’ve leaned heavily on Craig Anderson all year and you have to wonder if the first-time No. 1 can handle such a huge workload. He’s played all but one game since January 9, 2009.

Current points: 89

Thoughts on their schedule: It’s a mixed bag. The good news is that they are playing five of their last seven games in Colorado. The bad news is that they will play against powerhouse teams like San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and lost four of their last five.

Calgary

Notes: The Flames’ playoff hopes are on life support right now. They only have six games left this year and are four points behind eighth-seed Colorado.

Thoughts on their schedule: While the road/home split is even at 3 of six for both, they play 5 playoff caliber teams plus Minnesota to finish the year. That’s not good at all.

Streak: Their last ten games’ record is 5-5. That record might be a microcosm for Calgary’s entire season; it’s just been a series of frustrations for the Flames. 

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    To be young: Coyotes to hire 26-year-old as GM, give Tippett more say

    Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett watches his team play the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.  (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
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    It sounds like the Arizona Coyotes’ youth movement won’t merely be seen on the ice.

    ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that the Coyotes will promote 26-year-old assistant GM John Chayka to GM. The team teased a major press conference for Thursday, when that news is likely to be made official.

    The presser could be useful for more than the usual quotes and mission statements, as the Coyotes seem like they may parallel the Toronto Maple Leafs in combining an experienced executive, a young up-and-coming thinker and a more empowered head coach.

    Dave Tippett is expected to have more of a say in personnel decisions while the Coyotes hope to bring in a Lou Lamoriello-type to assist Chayka, according to Custance.

    (Custance’s ESPN Insider article [subscription required] goes in much greater depth, including a comparison to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors rather than the Maple Leafs.)

    It’s possible that Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson might come in to help Chayka, although an earlier report suggests that Jackson might stay in Dallas.

    Multiple reporters including Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper back up Custance’s report.

    Considering Chayka’s age – he’s primed to become the youngest GM in NHL history – it’s no surprise that people are churning out jokes.

    (This post’s author comes with six more years of [life] experience and a resume stacked with impressive video game and fantasy hockey team-building, by the way.)

    Marc Crawford coaching in Detroit? Hey, could happen…

    Marc Crawford
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    Former Avs bench boss Marc Crawford was one of the central figures in the legendary Detroit-Colorado rivalry of the 90s, largely remembered for his screaming match with (well, more like screaming match at) Scotty Bowman.

    With that in mind, consider what MLive wrote on Wednesday with regards to Detroit’s search for a new assistant coach.

    GM Ken Holland declined to reveal which candidates he and Jeff Blashill have contacted about replacing Tony Granato, who left the Wings for the University of Wisconsin job.

    But Holland did say “we lost a guy with a lot of experience in [Granato],” adding, “we want to replace him with someone with a lot of experience.”

    MLive then went on to publish a list of potential candidates… starting with Crawford.

    Based on the criteria Holland wants, Crawford makes a lot of sense. He’s got a truckload of experience — 15 years in the NHL, to be exact — won a Cup with the Avs, and his 549 wins put him 18th all time.

    Crawford also wants back in the NHL.

    He left Swiss League club Zurich this offseason after a successful four-year stint — which included the 2014 league title — to try and land a gig. Per the Ottawa Sun, he’s already interviewed for the vacant Sens position.

    And per MLive, Crawford said he’s willing to take an assistant’s position if he can’t become a head coach.

    That last bit of information is key. The coaching market is flush right now as Bruce Boudreau, Mike Yeo, Bob Hartley, Travis Green, Paul MacLean , Randy Carlyle and Kevin Dineen are all considered viable and quality candidates.

    Thing is, there are only a handful of jobs available.

    Calgary, Anaheim and Ottawa are entirely vacant, while Minnesota is still unclear with what it wants to do with interim bench boss John Torchetti.

    Add it all up, and Crawford’s NHL return might have to come by way of an assistant’s position.

    But in Detroit?

    Sure, it might look weird.

    It also might fit the bill.

    Report: AHL’s Portland Pirates moving to Springfield

    Portland Pirates goalie Mark Visentin makes a save during an AHL hockey game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/The Citizens' Voice, Andrew Krech) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    Looks like the AHL isn’t finished shuffling around teams.

    From the Portland Press Herald:

    The Portland Pirates are leaving Maine.

    Mitch Berkowitz, chair of the board of trustees for county-owned Cross Insurance Arena, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that “the Pirates will be headed to Springfield” Massachusetts, but that he did not know further details.

    The city of Springfield has been searching for a team to replace the AHL Falcons, sold last month – although yet to be approved – to the parent Arizona Coyotes, who announced plans to move the franchise to Tucson.

    The Pirates are the AHL affiliates of the Florida Panthers. They’ve been in Portland since 1993, when they started out as the Capitals’ farm team and were coached for a number of years by Barry Trotz.

    Travis Green: ‘I think I’m ready’ to coach in the NHL

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    Travis Green has never coached in the NHL, not even as an assistant.

    But a lengthy career as a player, followed by success as a head coach in the WHL and AHL, has left him feeling prepared to take the next step.

    “I think I’m ready,” Green told Postmedia yesterday. “Every job in the NHL is worth its weight in gold, and I would have 100 per cent interest at options with every team in the league. You hope all your qualities are enticing for one of them.”

    After the Flames fired Bob Hartley yesterday, many are wondering if Green could be a candidate to take over in Calgary. Other head-coaching vacancies exist in Anaheim and Ottawa, and potentially Minnesota.

    For the past three seasons, Green has been the head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, the Comets made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals, an accomplishment that Green found particularly rewarding since “it wasn’t like we had an all-star team.”

    While some GMs won’t risk hiring a coach without any NHL experience — they’d prefer a guy who’s been there before and knows what to expect — it’s worth noting that Jon Cooper didn’t have an NHL track record before he took over in Tampa Bay, and he’s done OK. Heck, Dave Hastol hadn’t even coached professionals before he landed the job in Philadelphia, and the Flyers seem pretty happy with him.

    Green is under contract for one more season in Utica, but reportedly has an out-clause to pursue an NHL job.

    Related: Will the Sens take a run at Kevin Dineen?