Lightning fire Rick Tocchet, Brian Lawton

bahahatocchet.jpgThe Tampa Bay Lightning fired head coach Rick Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton today, according to a TSN report. This completes a transformation from the Barrie-Koules era: in a single season (heck, in 2010) the team changed its owner, head coach and general manager.

Really, the impressive Rocket Richard Trophy run of Steven Stamkos – if anything – underscored how much the Lightning have squandered its considerable talent. Despite sporting a roster that includes world-class forwards (Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier), solid support guys (Ryan Malone, the corpse of Alex Tanguay), decent goalies and a few good defensemen, it’s hard to accept that the team missed the playoffs for the third season in a row. Especially considering how awful the Eastern Conference has become.

Honestly, it was always hard for me to understand why Tocchet was ever hired in the first place. The guy just came off some serious gambling allegations while he was Wayne Gretzky’s assistant coach and it’s not as if the pairing was a smash-hit in Phoenix either. The team went 53-69-12 with Tocchet, good enough to earn them Victor Hedman via the second pick last year and a sixth-to-last-place stance this year.

On the bright side, the team can take a great new direction with freshly minted owner Jeff Vinik (who wrote a letter to fans – H/T to Raw Charge for that link). The TSN story notes that the Lightning could very well land the draft’s second pick again and can go no lower than number seven. That means that in three years the team will have a first overall pick (Stamkos), a second pick (Hedman) and a 2-7 pick. Not to mention the benefits of getting better choices in the draft’s later rounds.

Who knows what other changes this team can make (I might take a look at the team’s salary cap situation to give you an idea), but all I know is that they made some huge steps forward today. Stay tuned with PHT in case other teams decide to clean house, too.

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    Coyotes GM ‘called right away’ on Hamonic

    Don Maloney
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    You can add Arizona to the list of teams that tried to get in on the Travis Hamonic sweepstakes.

    “[He’s] a talented player,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We certainly called right away, but we do not have a good fit for them right now.

    “That’s the bottom line. They’re looking for a ready-made complement player.”

    Hamonic, who requested a trade out of New York, is garnering plenty of interest across the league. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported five clubs — Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado and Minnesota — were in the mix, with Sportsnet floating potential trade chips like the Jets’ Jacob Trouba, and the Flames’ T.J. Brodie.

    It’s unsurprising the Coyotes didn’t have a fit for Isles GM Garth Snow.

    It’s hard to imagine — nearly impossible, really — to think Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be on the move, and the rest of the Arizona defense is comprised of unheralded youngsters (Michael Stone, Connor Murphy) or grizzled vets (Nicklas Grossmann, Zbynek Michalek).

    But Maloney’s remarks are still noteworthy, because he more we hear about the Hamonic situation, the clearer the asking price gets.

    Related: Hamonic willing to finish season with Isles

    Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

    Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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    Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

    Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

    In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

    John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

    And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

    The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

    Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

    Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

    Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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    Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

    He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

    “I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

    Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

    The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


    That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

    But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

    And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

    To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

    “I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

    Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

    Robin Lehner
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    Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

    Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

    (So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

    While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

    Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


    The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”