Is Ted Nolan a victim of racism or his own reputation?

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There aren’t many head coaches who are wallflowers. After all, it’s their jobs to wear suits and make split second decisions and yell at people who either could be close to their own age or young enough to be their sons. This is not a career path for the meek, weak-willed or shy.

Still, even within that strain of hockey society, few coaches can match the tumultuous path taken by former Sabres and Islanders coach Ted Nolan. He’s dealt with ownership squabbles, personality clashes and widespread rumors regarding him sleeping with the wife of one of his players. In the mean time, he also managed some impressive results with some wildly mediocre teams in only four scattered years of NHL coaching.

Yet, the one thing that makes him truly unique – his First Nation* Native American heritage – is what Nolan claims is holding him back. In a sport better known for its European diversity than (necessarily) its racial diversity, Nolan says that racism explains why he cannot find another head coaching job in the league.

“I’m different. I didn’t go to their hockey schools, I don’t look like them. Racism, when I was younger, was in your face. And I almost preferred that. When you become an adult it is less pronounced but it’s there, just not to your face. It’s hard to deal with.”

As usual, the truth is likely somewhere in between when it comes to Nolan. There’s certainly something odd about the fact that Nolan went a decade (96-97 season with the Sabres, then 06-07 campaign with the Islanders) before he received another opportunity. After all, Nolan won the Jack Adams award as coach of the year during the 96-97 season.

But you can’t completely blame NHL teams for hesitating to hire him, either. He’s known for being combative. His career 147-140-19-21 record isn’t going to get him in the Hall of Fame. While some teams show the stones to make visionary moves, most teams take the sheep mentality with their decisions. Hiring Nolan is risky while making a bland decision such as giving the keys to Mike Keenan will keep the sharks from circling (even if Keenan will also keep your name off the Cup, unless you find another Mark Messier).

So what do you think? Is Nolan the victim of racism or his own renowned temper? Will he get another chance to turn a team around? Does he deserve one? Feel free to discuss this issue in the comments.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner)

* Thanks to Justin Megahan for catching that factual error.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.