Lightning hire two assistant coaches, won't fight their way to victory

stevedownieTBL.jpgThis is probably long since forgotten, but when it was rumored that Guy Boucher would become the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (and he did indeed become the coach) it was said that he would be bringing two of his assistants from his former job with Hamilton in the AHL. Fast forward to today’s news out of Tampa Bay and it turns out that initial speculation was true. Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times gives up the info.

The Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday named Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond assistant coaches. Both were assistants to coach Guy Boucher last season at AHL Hamilton. A third assistant is expected to be named in the next day or two.

The moves make clear that associate coach Rick Wilson will not be back. He already has been rumored a candidate for an assistant job with the Wild. Unclear is the status of roving goaltenders coach Cap Raeder.

Not only did Steve Yzerman get his man in Guy Boucher, but now Boucher gets to bring his staff from Hamilton with him. That should help in figuring out coaching roles and game plans for what could prove to be a very exciting and non-pugilistic brand of hockey.

And an argument can be made the team hasn’t really had an enforcer-type since Andre Roy. But is that really an issue? We know captain Vinny Lecavalier can take care of himself as can Ryan Malone and Steve Downie, though you don’t really want your top-six guys fighting. And there is still plenty of time to fill out the roster if general manager Steve Yzerman wants to go that way. 

But conversations with Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher didn’t make it sound as if adding an enforcer was a burning desire.

“We’d like to have some toughness, but I believe a lot more in team toughness,” Boucher said. “If we have the puck, more often than the other team, we’ll nee d a lot less toughness. The other team will be running after us instead of us running after them.”

Sound familiar at all? It should because that smacks of puck-possession style hockey and avoidance of on-ice brawling of any kind. That sure sounds like Red Wings kind of hockey to me. The Red Wings have been one of the least penalized teams for fighting in recent years but you’d be hard-pressed to call them a weak team. Team toughness, indeed.

Now if Boucher can get Steve Downie to calm down to the point where he again becomes a useful tough guy for the Lightning, they’ll really be cooking. If he reverts back into being a cheap-shot delivering side show, perhaps the Lightning will have an enforcer in their midst whether they want him or not.

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    ‘Hawks sign goalie Glass, an expansion draft option

    GRAND FORKS, ND - JANUARY 4:  Jeff Glass #33 of Team Canada skates during the gold medal game against Team Russia at the World Junior Hockey Championships at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on January 4, 2005 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Canada defeated Russia 6-1 to win the gold medal. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
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    Chicago has signed journeyman netminder Jeff Glass to a two-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.

    Glass, 31, has never played in the NHL. A third-round pick by Ottawa in 2004, he spent a few years with the organization before heading overseas, and carving out a successful KHL career.

    Last summer, he returned to North America by signing on with Toronto’s AHL affiliate, the Marlies. But he was released in January, then quickly caught on with Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford, where he’s played well — Glass is 5-4-0 this year, with a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage.

    His signing, as mentioned in the headline, could be related to the expansion draft. Corey Crawford is the only Chicago goalie under contract beyond this season and, because of his no-movement clause, is required to be protected — meaning GM Stan Bowman needs someone to expose.

    Bowman has said he’d like to bring back backup Scott Darling, but Darling’s a UFA at the end of the year. What’s more, he could be in line for a starting gig — Crawford himself talked up Darling as a potential No. 1 — and that opportunity probably won’t come in Chicago.

    The other goalies currently in Rockford, Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson, are pending RFAs and UFAs, respectively. Carruth could also qualify as a goalie to expose, per CapFriendly, but the ‘Hawks would need to make him a qualifying offer first.

    Glass’ two-year deal is for the remainder of this season and the next, meaning it expires in July of ’18.

    Streit and Del Zotto could get Flyers something at deadline

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 09:  Mark Streit #32 of the Philadelphia Flyers completes a pass against the Carolina Hurricanes on April 9, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
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    With just three wins in their last 10 games, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to need one heck of a finish to make the playoffs.

    In fact, according to Sports Club Stats, they’ll need to go around 14-5-3 in their remaining 22 games to grab the second wild-card spot in the East.

    Oh, and by the way, the second wild-card team is probably going to match up with the Washington Capitals in the first round, so even if the Flyers do somehow make it, their postseason appearance would likely be a quick one.

    Looking ahead to the March 1 deadline, the Flyers have a couple of pending unrestricted free agents that GM Ron Hextall could turn into draft picks or prospects. D-man Mark Streit can still run a power play, and Michael Del Zotto could add depth to a good back end. Veteran Nick Schultz is unlikely to bring much of a return, but he’s a pending UFA too.

    Up front, only fourth-liners Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would be pure rentals. The Flyers also have a couple of goalies on expiring contracts in Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth; however, neither netminder is enjoying a strong season, and that’s an understatement.

    Philadelphia plays twice more before the deadline, Saturday in Pittsburgh and Tuesday at home to Colorado.

    “I believe 100 percent we’re capable of making the playoffs,” Streit said, per the Courier-Post. “In saying that, it’s out of our control. It’s up to Hexy. We have such a great group. I know it’s going to be a huge challenge, but I think we’re up to the task.”

    Trade: Pens acquire d-man help, get Hainsey from Carolina

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 29: Ron Hainsey #65 of the Carolina Hurricanes yells at the referee after receiving two minor penalties in the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 29, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Pittsburgh has added another veteran presence on the blueline in advance of a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

    Ron Hainsey, the 35-year-old ‘Canes rearguard, has been acquired in exchange for a second-round pick and AHLer Danny Kristo, per TVA. Hainsey, a pending UFA, is in the last of a three-year, $8.5 million deal with a $2.83M average annual cap hit. Per Sportsnet, Carolina will retain 50 percent of his salary.

    The Hainsey acquisition comes with the Pens down several key d-men. Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz are sidelined with a hand injury and concussion, while Trevor Daley suffered a lower-body injury on Tuesday night.

    UPDATE:

    And that makes the trade all the more important.

    Hainsey — who holds the current active record for most regular-season games played (891) without appearing in the playoffs — makes a lot of sense for the Pens.

    He played under GM Jim Rutherford in Carolina, has decent offensive capabilities (14 points in 56 games) and can log some significant minutes. Hainsey played over 22 per night this year for the ‘Canes, a carryover from last year when he averaged 22:19.

    Schultz and Daley, you’ll recall, were two of Rutherford’s key defensive upgrades last year that helped put Pittsburgh over the top. The season prior, Ian Cole was acquired from St. Louis and turned into an important blueline piece.

    So the hope, obviously, is that Hainsey can replicate some of that success.

    For the ‘Canes, this deal allows them to further stockpile picks for the ’17 draft. The club now has 10 selections overall, including six in the first three rounds. Kristo, 26, was at one time considered a prospect but now is pretty much a career AHLer. He scored 11 points in 32 games this year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

     

    NHL on NBCSN: Jonathan Toews looks to stay hot against Coyotes

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 07:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates with the puck against the Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes in the second period at Jobing.com Arena on February 7, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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    NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes at 8:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

    From an offensive perspective, October through December was a relative quiet time for ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. But when the calendar turned to 2017, something changed in his game.

    He’s coming off an incredible five-point effort (three goals and two assists) in a win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night and he’s now up to 24 points in 20 games since Jan. 5.

    “I think for me the biggest change in my approach to the game is just my expectations,” Toews said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Just try to go into every game with no expectation, focus on the process, focus on playing well, playing the right way, staying in the moment, especially if things don’t go in or things don’t go your way. You’re just building one game after another to try and follow up good efforts and put weeks together, multiple games back to back.”

    Toews has had the opportunity to play with guys like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, but believe it or not, he’s doing all this damage with Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz on his wings.

    The Blackhawks dropped their first game out of the bye (a 3-1 loss to Edmonton), but they’ve been able to rattle off impressive wins over Buffalo and now Minnesota.

    Despite the win over their division rival, Chicago is still five points behind Minnesota for the Central Division crown. If the ‘Hawks are going to make a push up the standings, it’ll have to be sooner than later.

    Arizona is in a completely different situation. They’re 15 points out of a Wild Card spot, so expect this team to look significantly different by next week’s trade deadline.

    Pending unrestricted free agent Michael Stone was the first player to be moved, but Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata might all find themselves on new teams by the start of next month.

    On the ice, the Coyotes have actually been much better of late. They come into tonight’s game having won five of their last six contests.

    Their latest victory came on Monday night, when they took down the Ducks 3-2.

    The Coyotes had to overcome adversity in that one, as they lost goalie Mike Smith, who blasted the NHL’s concussion protocol after that game, to injury.

    Arizona might not have anything to play for, but that’s what often makes teams more dangerous down the final stretch of the season. We’ll find out if Chicago and their red-hot captain can overcome the team trying to play spoiler.