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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    Report: Kings to announce John Stevens as next head coach

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    The Los Angeles Kings moved fairly quickly when it comes to replacing Darryl Sutter, and they did not have to go very far to do it.

    According to Pierre LeBrun and Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the team will be announcing on Sunday that John Stevens will be the next head coach of the Kings. He is expected to be formally introduced at a press conference on Monday.

    Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Kings since the start of the 2010-11 season and spent four games as an interim head coach with the team during the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired, and before Sutter was hired. Following the arrival of Sutter, Stevens went back to his role as an assistant, remaining in that position until now.

    Prior to his time with the Kings, Stevens served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006-07 and 2009-10, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2007-08 season.

    He has a 122-111-34 record as an NHL head coach.

    The fact the Kings are promoting from within (something they already did with the general manager role) is a pretty clear sign that even though they are seeking a different direction, they are maybe not quite prepared to go through a complete teardown of the organization.

    They have missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, and have not won a postseason series since 2014.

    Canadiens spent too much time getting tougher, not enough time getting better

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    For several years now the Montreal Canadiens have been a very good, but very flawed hockey team.

    Before this season their biggest issue was an overreliance on starting goaltender Carey Price, where they would be content to allow him to make as many saves as he had to make for the team to squeeze out a bunch of 2-1 or 2-0 wins. When he was healthy and on top of his game, his performance masked a lot of the flaws and the team won a lot of games (and he won a lot of awards). When he wasn’t there a year ago, the entire thing collapsed on itself and the Michel Therrien-led Canadiens were exposed for the house of cards they always were. If they were ever going to make the leap to serious Stanley Cup contender they were going to have to find a way to offer their All-Everything goalie some additional support and give him some help.

    Their apparent strategy in doing that for this season only seemed to create more flaws. They were on display in their six-game first-round exit at the hands of the New York Rangers.

    From the very start of the offseason the Canadiens’ plan for this season seemed to revolve around getting bigger, tougher, stronger, grittier and more difficult to play against. Before the start of the 2015-17 season they traded Lars Eller for draft picks. They traded different draft picks for Andrew Shaw and his playoff experience and “hate to lose” mentality. They traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber in a deal that will be dissected, analyzed and second-guessed for decades.

    To be fair, they also added Alexander Radulov during the offseason, and he not only proved to be the best free agent signing by any team this summer, he was almost certainly the most impactful move the Canadiens made. But even with that addition, the direction general manager Marc Bergevin and then-coach Michel Therrien wanted to take the team in was clear.

    It became even clearer at the trade deadline when almost every move the Canadiens made was centered around adding size and grit to the bottom six as opposed to some much-needed offensive punch. Along with adding Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson to their defense, they made the following changes to their forwards before the deadline.

    • They traded for noted cage-rattler Steve Ott, a fourth-line forward that has scored just six goals and recorded only 14 assists in 152 games over the past three seasons.
    • They traded for 6-4, 229-pound winger Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings.
    • They traded for 6-3, 220-pound winger Andreas Martinsen from the Colorado Avalanche

    After the deadline Bergevin talked about not being able to add offense because the price was too high, and that a lot of their goal scoring issues could be fixed by improved confidence from within and that because playoff hockey gets tougher there would not be as many goals scored anyway.

    From the Montreal Gazette:

    “For us, we felt we had a good start (and) we had four lines producing,” said Bergevin. “Of late, that hasn’t been the case but I feel comfortable that, as guys get more confidence as we move forward, they’ll be able to chip in. And down the road, there won’t be as many goals and there will be those one-goal hockey games 2-1, 3-2, 1-0. It’s a tight league.

    “I always say you can play with a bad shoulder or a bad foot but if you have no confidence, you can’t play,” said Bergevin. “Also down the stretch, it’s hard to score. You look at Columbus last night, one of the highest scoring teams in the league. You have to grind it out to score goals down the stretch.”

    In other words: We might as well just try to embrace continuing to win every game 2-1.

    As for the players they did add, those three forwards (Ott, King, Martinsen) combined to score 15 goals this season. These were their big trade deadline acquisitions.

    The Canadiens played two games in this series where all three of them played in the same game. They lost one 2-0. They were 18 seconds away from losing the other one if not for some late-game (and overtime) heroics from Radulov to set up the tying goal in the closing seconds then score the winner early in overtime.

    When it came to the decisive Game 6, when Martinsen and Shaw were out of the lineup (and Torrey Mitchell, who had played well in his limited action in this series was, also scratched) Brian Flynn and Michael McCarron (seven combined goals between the two this season) were inserted in.

    The Canadiens were basically playing as a (at best) three-line team when it came to creating offense, and that is simply not good enough, especially when the whole mindset of the team seemed to be focussed on getting bigger and tougher. It runs counter to most everything the NHL’s most successful teams have done in recent years. The Pittsburgh Penguins are 20-9 the past two seasons with one of the NHL’s smallest, least physical rosters. When the Chicago Blackhawks had their mini-dynasty they were consistently one of the smallest, least physical teams in the league. Even the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that reached the NHL’s final four in two of the past three seasons, did it with a collection of forwards that can be described as “undersized.”

    It is a speed, skill league, and you can’t beat teams anymore by simply grinding them down with bigger, stronger players (you could argue there was never a time that was possible, but that’s a different argument for a different day). The Canadiens seemed to lose the plot on that one from the start, and then doubled down on it later in the season just before the playoffs began.

    The Canadiens added their size and grit. But the end result was the same as we have seen from them in recent years: A flawed team that couldn’t produce anywhere near enough offense to make a deep playoff run with arguably the NHL’s best goalie playing at a high level.

    2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule for Sunday, April 23

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    Only two series remain in the first-round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both of them continue on Sunday.

    First, the Boston Bruins look to push their first-round series to a seventh game after their double overtime win on Friday when they host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon. That game will be followed by Washington Capitals trying to, as Barry Trotz wants to see, push the Toronto Maple Leafs off the cliff.

    Here is everything you for Sunday’s games, both of which will be shown on the NBC networks and streamed online.

    Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

    Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

    Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

    Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

    Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

    Video: Oilers showed off depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks

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    As the Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy frontrunner, there’s no doubt that Connor McDavid is the catalyst for the Edmonton Oilers.

    Still, the scary thing for opponents is that, while he created chances against the San Jose Sharks, McDavid wasn’t exactly lighting them up for points.

    Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.

    Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.

    (A fully healthy Hampus Lindholm would increase their odds, mind you.)

    Either way, the Oilers’ “other guys” deserve some credit, and they get it in the video above.