It’s been a while since we discussed the Columbus Blue Jackets at Pro Hockey Talk, and really, it’s with good reason. They stunk up the joint during the 2009-10 season, causing Ken Hitchcock to get canned and Steve Mason to wonder if he really belongs in the NHL.
The team is trying to bounce back and one of the first calls to action is hiring a new coach. TSN reports that GM Scott Howson extended an offer for the head coaching gig to Hamilton Bulldogs coach Guy Boucher. They’re still waiting for a decision from Boucher as of this time.
NHL sources told the Dispatch that Boucher is sitting on the offer this weekend with plans to give his response to Blue Jackets’ general manager Scott Howson sometime next week.
In his first year in the AHL, Boucher guided the Bulldogs to a first place finish in the Western Conference with 115 points. The team was upset by the Texas Stars in the Conference Finals last month.
If Boucher accepts, it will continue a growing trend of NHL teams hiring successful AHL coaches rather than going for retreads such as Mike Keenan. For instance, Bruce Boudreau helped the Washington Capitals go from frustrating to explosive while Dan Bylsma won a Stanley Cup during his first half-season coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins. While I believe that it’s good to give people a second chance – especially if they were working in a hopeless pit of puck despair like Florida – there’s also a point where you know someone cannot “cut it.”
One interesting tidbit is that Howson was once the general manager of the Hamilton Bulldogs when the team was an Edmonton Oilers affiliate (right now, they’re an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens). One can assume that Howson still has some ties with that organization, and only heard good things about Boucher.
Again, Boucher is still mulling the offer over, so this is far from a done deal. We’ll let you know when (or if) it is.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.